Monthly Archives: December 2006

Review: Gross, Shylock is Shakespeare

December 14, 2006
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Review: Gross, Shylock is Shakespeare

With his unsettling eloquence and his varying voices of protest, play, rage, and refusal, Shylock—the Jewish moneylender in The Merchant of Venice who famously demands a pound of flesh as security for a loan to his anti-Semitic tormentors—remains a source of perennial fascination for Shakespearian critics and audiences. As Robert Fulford, reviewer for the Canadian daily, the National Post, remarks, “the character of Shylock is so compelling that it seems he, not Antonio, must be the merchant in the title, so abrasive in his bitterness that audiences go home thinking only of him and forgetting all the people around him.” But of the dozens of books exploring the mystery and motivations of this fascinating character, Fulford notes Shylock is Shakespeare distinguishes itself from the rest, arguing that the figure of Shylock is so powerful because he is, in fact, the voice of Shakespeare himself. Fulford writes: Kenneth Gross, a virtuoso critic, identifies the moneylender with the playwright, making Shylock a character into whom the greatest of all writers poured his own ambivalence, anger, and insecurity. Gross argues that Shakespeare found in Shylock a way to “articulate his own doubt, desire and rage, his troubled solitude.” Gross imagines Shakespeare speaking to . . .

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Susannah Heschel in Newsweek

December 12, 2006
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Susannah Heschel in Newsweek

“The first Christians were Jews, and thought of themselves as Jews; it is therefore impossible to understand Christianity without tracing its Judaic roots” writes Chicago author Susannah Heschel in her essay for the December 18 edition of Newsweek. Herschel’s essay, just in time for the holiday season, stresses the influence of the Jewish nativity of Jesus and “the Jewish values of education and social responsibility that his parents inculcated in him” in shaping the contemporary values held by much of the western world today. Heschel’s essay is part of the Newsweek holiday season cover story on understanding the world of the nativity: the moral and religious world into which Jesus was born and raised. Heschel is the Eli Black Chair of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College and the author of Abraham Geiger and the Jewish Jesus. . . .

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Review: Zaloom, Out of The Pits

December 12, 2006
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Review: Zaloom, Out of The Pits

In a recent review for Time Out Chicago Ruth Welte writes that Caitlin Zaloom’s Out of the Pits: Traders and Technology from Chicago to London “is half fascinating cultural portrait and half in-depth academic text.… but what emerges from the mix is a nuanced, bottom up picture of Chicago’s economic importance in the world market, and how our city’s working class swagger has shaped derivatives trading from the inception of the market.” But what is “working class swagger” really worth in the market of the new millennium where “floor traders are being phased out as online trading becomes the norm,” and “the need to be seen” is no longer relevant? According to Welte, Zaloom’s got the answer. Out of the Pits considers the implications of this sea change for everyone involved, from the traders and brokers on the floor of the former Chicago Board of Trade, to the market as a whole. Documenting how Chicago is responding to the digital transition and how its traders are remaking themselves to compete in the contemporary marketplace, Out of the Pits is a must read for business buffs or anyone concerned about the future of the American marketplace. Read an excerpt from the . . .

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Podcast: Paul Lewis on NPR

December 11, 2006
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Podcast: Paul Lewis on NPR

On Point, a public radio program produced by WBUR in Boston, recently ran this hour-long segment featuring a discussion with Paul Lewis, author of Cracking Up: American Humor in a Time of Conflict. Debating and expanding on the topics of his book, Lewis engages Gideon Evans, a former Daily Show producer, and Jack Beatty, a senior editor at the Atlantic in a fascinating conversation about the ways humor is changing our cultural and political landscapes. Lewis was also recently the featured guest on a short spot for the ABC Radio National show Saturday Extra. To find out why Cracking Up is generating so much attention pick up a copy for yourself! . . .

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Review: Stow, Oceans

December 7, 2006
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Review: Stow, Oceans

Writing for the December issue of Oceanography, the official magazine of the American Oceanography Society, columnist Tom Garrison notes that it’s not often one comes across a text as comprehensive and versatile as Dorrik Stow’s newest book Oceans: An Illustrated Reference. Garrison writes: Here is a very rare book: a skillfully written, current, and unusually attractive presentation of ocean science that does not talk down to the audience unapologetically uses genus names and the SI system of measurements.… has integrated contributions from experts in interlocking fields to produce a book that accomplishes the near-impossible: It could be used as a text (it has a useful glossary and index); it could grace anyone’s coffee table (the cover photo demands one pick up the book); it could sit happily on a reference shelf (where its charts and tables would be in considerable demand). Lavishly illustrated and filled with current research, Oceans is a rich, magnificent, and illuminating volume for anyone and everyone who has ever heard the siren song of the sea. We previously posted an essay by Stow, “Oceans and Sustainability”. . . .

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Podcast: Against Prediction

December 7, 2006
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Podcast: Against Prediction

Bernard Harcourt, author of the recent Against Prediction: Profiling, Policing, and Punishing in an Actuarial Age, gave a talk last month for the Chicago’s Best Ideas series at the University of Chicago Law School exploring and expanding on the topics he discusses in his new book. According to the Law School’s Faculty Blog, “the talk was a very interesting look at law enforcement profiling and whether it works. Professor Harcourt approached this empirically, discussing whether it works on a practical level, injecting a new element in a debate that is traditionally about morals and ethics.” You can listen to the podcast of Harcourt’s talk and follow along with the slides from his PowerPoint presentation. You can find his book on our website. Either way it would be ill advised to overlook his timely and revealing critique of the methods underlying our modern law enforcement policy. Update: Chicago Public Radio’s 848 also recently interviewed Harcourt about his new book. The audio can be found on the 848 website. Enjoy! . . .

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Press Release: Moser, Wondrous Curiosities

December 6, 2006
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Press Release: Moser, Wondrous Curiosities

You’ll never look with the same eyes at the British Museum’s legendary Egyptian collection—or any other exhibition, for that matter—after going behind the scenes with Stephanie Moser to explore not only the objects on display in the collection’s early years, but also the fascinating story of how and why they got there. Revealing the surprising extent to which these artifacts have defined ancient Egypt in the West, Moser argues here that museums don’t just transmit knowledge—they actually create it. Drawing on guidebooks and archival documents, Moser explains the specific strategies—such as using pattern and symmetry, juxtaposing different types of objects, and singling out particular items—that the British Museum and others used, and still use, in representing other societies and historical periods. Far from being passive receptacles for unchangeable facts, museums emerge in Moser’s hands as dynamic hotbeds for new wisdom and ideas, profoundly affecting the way we think about everything from art to science to the deep mysteries of our past. Read the press release. . . .

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Book of the Year: Zamora, The Inordinate Eye

December 5, 2006
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Book of the Year: Zamora, The Inordinate Eye

Towards the end of each year the Times Literary Supplement solicits the opinions of some of their favorite authors and critics to recommend their personal picks for the Books of the Year. This year we are pleased to note that Marina Warner—a prolific novelist, historian, and critic—has chosen Lois Parkinson Zamora’s The Inordinate Eye: New World Baroque and Latin American Fiction as one of her picks. Warner says: It has been a lift to read Lois Parkinson Zamora’s The Inordinate Eye: New World Baroque and Latin American Fiction, beautifully produced by the University of Chicago Press. She argues exhilaratingly that an aesthetic of fusion, adornment and exuberance rose phoenix-like in the aftermath of the conquest, shaping an influential mode of fantasy, as in the art and architecture of Mexico and the marvelous fictions of Borges. The first study of its kind in scope and ambition, The Inordinate Eye is an extraordinary critique of the arts in Latin America. . . .

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Press Release: Applebaum, Aguecheek’s Beef, Belch’s Hiccup, and Other Gastronomic Interjections

December 5, 2006
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Press Release: Applebaum, Aguecheek’s Beef, Belch’s Hiccup, and Other Gastronomic Interjections

With commentators weighing in on everything from the metastasizing organic movement to the ubiquity of celebrity chefs, food is all over the news these days. But even as the vibrancy of today’s food culture is widely recognized, its deep roots in the early modern period—which gave birth to such everyday staples as coffee houses, restaurants, diet books, and, yes, celebrity chefs—are often overlooked. In his rollicking tour of this revolutionary chapter in food history, Robert Appelbaum paints a captivating picture of the delightfully unfamiliar cultures that gave rise to such enduring inventions. Drawing on an array of writers including Shakespeare and Rousseau, as well as the rich historical records of England, France, Italy, and the Americas, Appelbaum’s vivid narrative deftly weaves together a variety of perspectives, ultimately showing that food was never only food—it was an icon of cultural life and a cause for social struggle. Read the press release. . . .

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Review: Brown, Haltiwanger, and Lane, Economic Turbulence

December 4, 2006
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Review: Brown, Haltiwanger, and Lane, Economic Turbulence

As noted by a recent review in the Wall Street Journal, in Economic Turbulence: Is a Volatile Economy Good for America? Clair Brown, John Haltiwanger, and Julia Lane have come up with a surprising answer to the titular question. In their revealing new book, the authors argue that contrary to popular belief “job turnover and firm disappearance” may actually “have positive effects, in the aggregate.” Summarizing their argument for the WSJ, Tyler Cowen writes : As workers lose jobs in one niche or sector, they gain in another, moving on to better jobs and higher pay. In the software sector new businesses are more productive, over a five-year period, than the firms they replace. This new business productivity gain, the authors show, is true generally across sectors—generating efficiency, products, and most importantly jobs. The book has been the centerpiece of some recent discussions around the blogosphere as well. Free Exchange, an opinion forum moderated by the Economist, features a posting on the book, as does Cowen’s own blog, Marginal Revolution—with the latter posting generating some commentary and controversy. If you’d like to find out more we’ve posted an excerpt from the book online, check it out and join the debate! . . .

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