Sunday, March 2, 2014

Mini-Reviews: Assorted Nonfiction of the Last Several Months

Time Before History: The Archaeology of North Carolina by H. Trawick Ward & R.P. Stephen Davis, Jr. (1999)
Fantastic overview of prehistoric and early historic indigenous North Carolina archaeology; just the bibliography is a great resource for further research. This is a scholarly work intentionally written at a good level for the public - it's meant to be a comprehensive survey of excavations and research that will be accessible to a wide audience. Only issue is that it will eventually have to be updated and revised as more stuff is uncovered and written up.

Life in The Family: An Oral History of the Children of God by James D. Chancellor (2000)
COG, or The Family, is a Christian communal new religious movement ("cult") formed in 1968 that is still around today. Chancellor's work is drawn from reading the group's literature and visiting their communities and members around the world in the mid-1990s, the result being a pretty sympathetic view of the movement (an interesting contrast to the typically anti-cult stuff one sees in the media). It's a fascinating read, also quite accessible to non-academic audiences. For a memoir by a former member, see Heaven's Harlots.

Story, Performance, and Event: Contextual Studies of Oral Narrative by Richard Bauman (1986)
I wasn't particularly interested in the main topic of Bauman's book, coonhunters' tales from Texas. I found his highly academic language difficult to read, and I felt like he did a lot of analysis that is only useful to a small audience. I didn't give the book a very high rating on other sites, but I did think that, hidden amid all the boring stuff, Bauman sets up a really good framework for studying certain kinds of oral narratives.

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