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Soundings

Published July 26, 2004

Recent books by Dartmouth authors

Red Sox vs. Yankees: The Great Rivalry

By Harvey Frommer, Visiting Professor of Liberal Studies, and Frederic J. Frommer
Sports Publishing, L.L.C.
2004
Reviewed by Amanda Weatherman

Father-and-son team Harvey Frommer and Frederic J. Frommer have produced a book on the bottomless rivalry between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees, examining it from the points of view of players, politicians, managers, journalists and fans. A telling example comes from a man who moved to New Jersey: "I always tell people I am a Red Sox fan. It's almost like a religion - you're born into it, and first place, or last place, or whatever place - you're in it.... But it's hard to hate the Torre Yankees - they're such a great bunch of mostly solid professionals. Who could not love the way Derek Jeter plays the game? As a baseball fan, I respect the Yankees for what they have accomplished. But I will never, ever, root for them, ever." A 15-page timeline chronicles a century of Red Sox/Yankees encounters, with the following entry near the beginning: "1901: April 26 - Boston's American League team, which will later be known as the Red Sox, makes its debut against Baltimore, a team that will later relocate to New York and become the Yankees. The Boston team loses that day, 10-6." How prophetic. Chapters examine Boston's dark age as Babe Ruth was sold to the Yankees, the 1978 season, the 2003 playoffs, the respective fan cultures, the ballparks and other topics. A chapter on the contrast between the Red Sox's Ted Williams and the Yankees' Joe DiMaggio describes, on the one side, the mutual resentment between Williams and the press, and sometimes between the brash Williams and Red Sox management. On the other side, the soft-spoken DiMaggio one time let his ambition get in the way, as seen in the following excerpt.

A winter operation had severely handicapped Joe DiMaggio after the '46 season, and he saw very limited action the following spring training. Driven to make up for lost time, he spent many hours taking extra batting practice. Asked by Yankee management to pose for some Army recruiting posters, Joe D refused. He claimed he could not spare the time. He was fined $100 - the first and only fine of his career. "What are you trying to do, Joe," Williams said supposedly, "steal my act?"

God? A Debate Between a Christian and an Atheist

By Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Hardy Professor of Legal Studies and Professor of Philosophy, and William Lane Craig
Oxford University Press, 2004
Reviewed By Jeremy Presser '04

In their new book, titled God? A Debate Between a Christian and an Atheist, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and William Lane Craig have published an adaptation of several debates between the two philosophers that took place at Dartmouth in 1999 and in Minnesota in 2000 about whether or not God exists. The final product takes the form of a written conversation, with the two philosophers alternating chapters, with each of two parts beginning with an opening essay, followed by a rebuttal by the other, then a rebuttal by the original essayist. Craig opens the book by providing five reasons for God's existence, including that God makes sense of the origin of the universe, and that God makes sense of the world's objective moral values (one example of an objective moral value is that unjustifiable murder is always wrong). Sinnott-Armstrong responds to each of Craig's arguments in his rebuttal, titled "There Is No Good Reason to Believe in God." The rest of the book continues in this manner, with the authors keeping their prose at once intellectual but at the same time lively and accessible. This straightforward approach to a complicated topic can be seen in Sinnott-Armstrong's first chapter, excerpted below, in which he attacks the idea that the fact that so many people have had religious experiences provides good reason to believe in God:

Religious beliefs are sometimes based not on testimony by others but on religious experiences of the believer. The question then is whether personal religious experiences provide adequate reasons to believe in God. There is no doubt that many people have experiences that seem to them to come from a higher power outside of themselves. The problem is that too many people have such experiences. Different people with different religious beliefs have different experiences that seem to come from different gods, even though the experiences seem quite similar from the inside. The resulting beliefs conflict, so they cannot all be right. Indeed, the majority of them must be wrong, if only Christian experiences are correct, as traditional Christians claim. It follows that religious experience in general cannot be reliable, according to the Christian perspective itself.

A History of African American Theatre

By Errol G. Hill, John D. Willard Professor of Drama and Oratory, Emeritus and James V. Hatch
Cambridge University Press, 2003
Reviewed by Jeremy Presser '04

In their book A History of African American Theatre the late Errol Hill and James Hatch provide the first definitive chronological and geographic survey of African American theater. The book covers the entire spectrum of African American theater, ranging from the first black theaters in the early 1800s to the status of black playhouses at the dawn of the new millennium. Hill and Hatch have split up the chapters, allowing each author to focus his writing significantly. As a result, the book takes care not to omit even the slightest achievement in African American theater, and can be read as both a historical narrative and an extended encyclopedia entry. Hill, who is responsible for more of the book's information about before 1900 than after, writes in a style that is academic enough to cover an enormously broad topic, but that is comprehensible to the average reader. This approach is apparent in Hill's chapter entitled "The African Theatre to Uncle Tom's Cabin," in which he examines the effects of stage productions of Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel Uncle Tom's Cabin. Hill writes:

One result of th[e] debasement of the "Uncle Tom" drama was to fix in the public mind for decades the black performer's role on the professional stage as a song-and-dance entertainer or a comic buffoon. Many serious artists and actors resented this stereotyping and attempted to set up their own black theatre companies, where they would be free to play dramatic roles. When they succeeded in doing so, the problems of securing a proper playhouse and of attracting a literate and supportive audience proved overwhelming. In their frustration, resentment festered against the Tom-show as the principal cause of their troubles.

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Last Updated: 12/17/08