At Sea with Captain Joshua Slocum

The Hard Way Around> , by Geoffrey Wolff. Alfred A. Knopf, 2010. 218 pages. Hardback, $25.95

A confession: I love sea stories, but until a few weeks ago, I had never read one of the great, true-life adventure books ever written — Sailing Alone Around the World, by Capt. Joshua Slocum, originally of Nova Scotia and at the end of his life from a farm he called Fag End in West Tisbury.

Exploring Roots by Way of the Stomach

HIGH ON THE HOG: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America. By Jessica B. Harris. Bloomsbury, January 2011. 304 pages, photographs. $26, hardcover.

It amazes new students of ar chaeology that the most essential insights into a bygone community may be found in the humble section of rubble called the kitchen midden. It’s here that broken plate ware is examined, along with iron pots and pans and broken ceramic jars containing trace elements of oil from which experts reassemble the daily fabric of a past society’s life.

Vineyard Bookshelf

BUSING BREWSTER: By Richard Michelson, illustrated by R.G. Roth, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, N.Y. 2010. $16.99, hardcover.


No Mercy for Victims is Pure Pleasure for Fairstein’s Fans

To us Islanders Linda Fairstein is, first and foremost, one of our best known summer Chilmark residents. To the rest of the world, she’s the best-selling author of the Alexander Cooper series, featuring Assistant D.A. Cooper of the Special Victims Unit in Manhattan.

In actual life Ms. Fairstein served as the Assistant D.A. in the Special Victims Unit in Manhattan. So when her fictional character files a particular brief or points out that it’s a point of law that the public is entitled to attend a court hearing she knows whereof she speaks.

Fleshing Out the Softer Side of Iago

No contest, Iago, the evil genius of William Shakespeare’s Othello, is the most brutal villain in any of the bard’s productions. The play was first presented in 1604 during what literary historians have deemed Shakespeare’s period of despair, when the struggle for good and evil in the human soul preoccupied him.

But what made Iago so ruthless yet so ostensibly above-reproach that he could win a loving and well-bred wife like Emilia and the trust and promotion of a great general such as Othello?

Book Review: Barbecue Maestro Cooks Up New Dish, Chappy Love Story

In an afterward to Steven Raichlen’s love story that takes place on our own beloved little island off the big Island, locally known as Chappy, the author frets, in a witty way, that he might have presented the small, water-enveloped moraine as too much of a Shangri-la: What if too many readers are persuaded to move there, and Chappaquiddickers suddenly lose their much-cherished peace and quiet?

New Book Rekindles Lore of 1884 Shipwreck off Aquinnah

It is 128 years since the worst maritime disaster in these waters, yet the story of the sinking of the City of Columbus, one half mile off Aquinnah, gains new life by the release of a book by Thomas Dresser.

Shipwrecks and the events that surround them never seem far from the public eye. Last month, there was observance of the centennial of the sinking of the Titanic. And in January, there was the sinking of the 952-foot cruise ship Costa Concordia, a story that is still unfolding.

Spare the Humor, Spoil the Father

Leave it to Boomer; A Look at Life, Love and Parenthood by the Very Model of the Modern Middle-Age Man, by Jerry Zezima, iUniverse, Inc., New York, Bloomington, 2010, 154 pages (paperback, $15.95)

Jerry Zezima is a funny guy. You may have read some of his columns in the Vineyard Gazette over the years. In his first book, Leave it to Boomer, he traces his life as a middle-age father and husband. When someone tells his wife and daughter that Jerry is “very witty,” they both respond: “We just ignore him.”

Book Profiles Post Civil War Era Architect

Robert Taylor (1868-1942) graduated from M.I.T. in 1892 with a professional architecture degree, becoming the first fully accredited black architect in America.

His father, Henry Taylor, a freed slave from Wilmington, North Carolina, had turned his expertise with naval supplies into a thriving business that led to his reputation during the era immediately following the Civil War as “the wealthiest black landowner in the state.” His success enabled him to send all five of his children, girls and boys, to college.

Carly Simon Biography, Talent and Determination

Carly Simon, especially for those who live on or visit Martha’s Vineyard, is a bold-faced name. In fact, she has been famous for so long it is as if she were born famous; biding her time in the womb, say, by humming the first bars of Anticipation. Such is the price of fame, this distorted view by those on the outside looking in. We see only the finished product, the glamorous stage presence, so natural, again as if she had rocked her own delivery room with a chorus of You’re So Vain. But this is a false picture, one that does not include the shy stutterer who achieved her success the old-fashioned way, with a lot of very hard work.