Book Reviews: California Babylon, Kangaroo Dreaming, The Art of Money, Tribal Arts
Published: April 2009
By H. Scott Jolley
Guides to Hollywood houses will never be the same now that we have California Babylon (St. Martin's Griffin, $13.95). Sandwiched between standard tourist fodder like Walt Disney's first workshop are tawdry nuggets that appeal to the tabloid voyeur in us all. See where RFK was shot! Gawk at Richard Simmons's gym! Ogle the auditorium where Michael Jackson's hair caught fire! And who could resist driving by the corner where Hugh Grant had a little Divine intervention?
Naturalist Edward Kanze fancies himself a modern-day Odysseus on a quest to explore Australia in Kangaroo Dreaming (Sierra Club Books, $25). Kanze's wife tags along on this lively cross-country trek during which the pair encounter quirky locals and real-life monsters such as the small but fierce Tasmanian devil.
Bankers, travelers, and design nuts alike will love the lighthearted The Art of Money (Chronicle Books, $19.95), in which writer David Standish examines the intricate drawings, watermarks, and holograms on currency around the world. Standish's cheeky text confirms at least one suspected fact: despite their recent makeover, U.S. bills are a snooze compared with the vibrant Op Art patterns on Dutch guilders or the neon-green lizard on a note from Suriname.
In Tribal Arts (Vendome Press, $39.50), art historian and archaeologist Bérénice Geoffroy-Schneiter delivers a sometimes dense commentary on the spiritual and social significance of art in the aboriginal cultures of Oceania, Africa, and Southeast Asia. The lush photographs—Hawaiian feather effigies with mother-of-pearl teeth; bronze busts of Nigerians whose faces are marked by ritual scarification—are what prevents this 400-page volume from feeling like a textbook.