Arts & Culture

Book Reviews: April 2016

The latest work from Margaret Guroff and Benjamin Warner.

The Mechanical Horse
Margaret Guroff (University of Texas Press)

In 1819, a man named James Stewart displayed a device he’d built at a Baltimore concert hall. It had two wheels, and a handlebar-like contraption, and was called a draisine—a precursor to the bicycle. From these humble beginnings, Guroff writes, the bicycle grew to become a worldwide phenomenon, bringing change to many facets of our history—­women’s liberation, exercise, and warfare among them. Guroff, who was once Baltimore’s managing editor and now teaches writing at The Johns Hopkins University, has penned a fascinating account of how such a seemingly simple invention could have such a global impact.

Benjamin Warner (Bloomsbury USA)

If you’ve ever caught yourself pondering a post-apocalyptic “what would happen if” scenario, you’ll feel at home in this novel. Warner, a Towson University creative writing professor, brings us into a world where water has disappeared mysteriously, and survival forces his characters in what appears to be suburban Maryland to behave in ways they wouldn’t have dreamed. They resort to violence and threats while combating dehydration, which Warner relays in terrifying detail. Thirst is transportative and enveloping, so much so that you’ll feel relieved when you can shut the book and reach for a glass of water.