Books in Brief

Lusitania: The Cultural History of a Catastrophe, by Willi Jasper, translated by Stewart Spencer (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press; 233 pp., $30.00).  Readers wanting a detailed narrative history of the torpedoing and sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 on the order of Walter Lord’s A Night to Remember about the loss of the Titanic should refer to the classic account of the disaster by A.A. and Mary Hoehling, first published in 1956.  Willi Jasper’s summary, almost sketchy, account of the Lusitania’s fatal voyage is confined to a single chapter, as indeed the primary focus of his book required.  (This does not excuse examples of the author’s apparent unfamiliarity with maritime matters, including his ignorance of the age-old nautical tradition whereby ships are referred to by the feminine pronoun and several serious factual errors, including statistical ones.  He describes Lusitania as “entirely comparable in size to Titanic,” though the former was 787' in length with a gross tonnage of 31,550, and the latter 882' 8", grossing 46,328 tons, and has an astounding reference to the White Star vessel as having capsized, when of course she went down by the bow after grazing the iceberg and upended to the vertical position before making her final plunge.)  Yet Jasper’s subject is the cultural and historical...

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