Monthly Archives: November 2007

My Family and Other Saints, a bicultural memoir

November 7, 2007
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My Family and Other Saints, a bicultural memoir

Kirin Narayan’s new book My Family and Other Saints is the author’s captivating memoir of growing up in a culturally diverse household in India. With an American mother eagerly attempting to adopt an Indian lifestyle and an Indian father who is skeptical of it, Narayan’s memoir focuses on her family’s attempt to find peace of mind even while torn between the often conflicting ideologies of east and west. Narayan’s story revolves around her brother’s decision to quit school and leave home to seek enlightenment with a guru. As a recent review in Shelf Awareness notes, Narayan “sees this event (which bemused rather than alarmed her family) as setting the entire family in a slow-forward motion along their own spiritual journeys.” The review continues: She describes the next few years with fine impressionistic prose, weaving together her parent’s disintegrating marriage, her father’s descent into alcoholism and her brother’s departure for the U.S. with visits to ashrams, friendhips with gurus and tales from her paternal grandmother, Ba, who was regularly visited by Hindu dieties.… Some of their stories end sadly or without resolution (“Who knows why I became a drunkard?” her father asks at the end of his life), but Narayan, a . . .

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Why do we drink orange juice?

November 6, 2007
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Why do we drink orange juice?

In an article appearing in the “Burning Questions” column in today’s edition of Newsday Erica Marcus cites Pierre Laszlo’s new book Citrus: A History to help her answer one reader’s burning question about the origins of orange juice. From Newsday: I can’t drink cold orange juice first thing in the morning, but I am curious as to when and where this practice began. I don’t think it’s European. —Rhoda Greenberg, Islip Drinking orange juice at breakfast is indeed a peculiarly American custom, one whose story recalls those quintessentially American values: marketing and technological innovation. In his just-published book, Citrus: A History, retired chemistry professor Pierre Laszlo recounts the providential hook-up of the California Fruit Growers Exchange (an organization that was later to become Sunkist) with advertising copywriter Albert D. Lasker. In the early years of the 20th century, oranges were consumed principally as fresh, whole fruit. In 1916, when California growers were stuck with an overabundance of oranges, Lasker came up with the slogan: “Drink an orange.” This, according to Laszlo, was the moment at which juice consumption began to outstrip fruit consumption. Read the rest of the article on the Newsday website. Also, see our special Citrus site that . . .

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Review: Zaloom, Out of the Pits

November 5, 2007
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Review: Zaloom, Out of the Pits

Caitlin Zaloom’s Out of the Pits: Traders and Technology from Chicago to London was recently given an interesting review in the November 1 London Review of Books. Writing for the LRB, Donald Mackenzie begins with a description of his own experiences on the trading floor of the Chicago Board of Trade in 2000—while they were still bustling with traders, runners, and clerks vying for bids: At the Board of Trade, orders were still carried to the pits on pieces of paper by runners and clerks, and then shouted out by traders or ‘flashed’ to others in the pit using the hand signal language known as ‘arb’—an abbreviation for arbitrage, the exploitation of discrepancies in prices.… But as Mackenzie’s article notes, at the turn of the millennium the digital age was already poised to radically transform the way that modern traders conduct business. Chicago’s open-outcry trading, a way of life stretching back to the grain futures pits of the 19th century, was on the brink of disappearing when I visited the Board of Trade in 1999 and 2000. There were already signs that technology was encroaching: headsets were increasingly used instead of runners to communicate between the pits and the booths . . .

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Press Release: Meldahl, Hard Road West

November 5, 2007
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Press Release: Meldahl, Hard Road West

The discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in 1849 triggered the largest overland migration in the world since the Crusades. Overnight, it seemed like everyone was heading west. Though they knew next to nothing about what they’d find along the way, or even at their destination, thousands of families piled their belongings onto wagons and set out, dazzled by visions of a life of wealth and ease. As Keith Meldahl recounts in Hard Road West, it didn’t take long before the trail disabused the settlers of those notions. Drawing heavily on the diaries and letters of the emigrants, Meldahl reveals their astonishment at their first encounters with the harsh, breathtaking Western landscape, so much less hospitable than the Eastern forests or Midwestern prairies. Meldahl marries that historical and personal perspective to the equally dramatic underlying story of the geology of the West, peeling back the layers of sediment and history to show how centuries of geological activity had a direct effect on the routes taken by the travelers—and the resources and aid available to them along the way. Read the press release or an excerpt from the book. . . .

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Press Release: Lausen, Design for Democracy

November 5, 2007
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Press Release: Lausen, Design for Democracy

Our entire voting process, from registering to vote to following instructions at the polling place, can be almost as confusing as those infamous Florida ballots. Tackling this grave problem head-on, Design for Democracy presents adaptable design models that can improve almost every part of the election process by maximizing the clarity and usability of ballots, registration forms, posters and signs, informational brochures and guides, and even administrative materials for pollworkers. This handsome volume also lays out specific guidelines—covering issues like color palette, typography, and image use—that anchor the comprehensive election design system devised by the group of specialists from whose name the book takes its title. Part of a major AIGA strategic program, this group’s prototypes and recommendations have already been used successfully in major Illinois and Oregon elections and, collected here, are poised to spread across the country. Read the press release. . . .

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Press Release: Jacob and Cahan, Chicago under Glass

November 5, 2007
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Press Release: Jacob and Cahan, Chicago under Glass

So long, Chicago,“ read the headline when the Daily News ran its last edition on March 4, 1978. Winner of thirteen Pulitzers, the Chicago Daily News launched the careers of Carl Sandburg, Ben Hecht, and Mike Royko, just to name a few. It was also one of the first dailies to incorporate eye-catching illustrations, and soon thereafter, black-and-white photography. Chicago under Glass: Early Photographs from the Chicago Daily News is the breathtaking collection of photographs from those early years, 1901 to 1930. During those three decades, Chicago and America witnessed the invention of the airplane, the repeal of prohibition, and the Great War. Photographers at the Daily News covered these scenes, and then went beyond, capturing news as it broke in front of them. Read the press release. . . .

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Coming of age in Iraq

November 2, 2007
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Coming of age in Iraq

Alex Chadwick interviewed Ashley Gilbertson a few days ago for the NPR radio program Day to Day. The interview is not only about Iraq and the photographs that Gilbertson took there, but also about the ways that events in Iraq changed him, aged him, matured him—especially when he “crossed the line” in Falluja. The NPR site also has a brief gallery of Gilbertson’s Iraq photos. More photos are available in a feature that recently ran in the New Statesman. Gilbertson’s own website offers plenty of photos, too. But what better way to experience these dramatic images than in person? An exhibit of his Iraq photographs opened two weeks ago in New York. For more Gilbertson events see our author events page. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot: A Photographer’s Chronicle of the Iraq War not only includes over two hundred photographs, but also is a searing memoir of a photographer’s experiences documenting the military, political, and human dimensions of the conflict in Iraq. For an extended conversation about all these issues, see our video interview with Gilbertson online at our Whiskey Tango Foxtrot website. Update: Monday, Nov. 5: Julia Keller reviewed Whiskey Tango Foxtrot in the Chicago Tribune yesterday. . . .

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Press Release: Elliott, Custerology

November 2, 2007
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Press Release: Elliott, Custerology

On a hot summer day in 1876, George Armstrong Custer led the Seventh Cavalry to the most famous defeat in U.S. military history.The Seventh Cavalry lost more than half of the 400 men who rode into the Indian camp, and every soldier under Custer’s direct command was killed. It’s easy to understand why this tremendous defeat shocked the American public at the time. But in Custerology, Michael A. Elliott tackles the question of why the battle retains such power for Americans today. Weaving vivid historical accounts of Custer at Little Bighorn with contemporary commemorations that range from battle reenactments to the unfinished Crazy Horse memorial, Elliott reveals a Custer and a West whose legacies are still vigorously contested. He takes readers to each of the important places of Custer’s life, from his Civil War home in Michigan to the site of his famous demise, to show how more than a century later, the legacy of Custer still haunts the American imagination. Read the press release. Also read an excerpt from the book. . . .

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Press Release: Ekeland, The Best of All Possible Worlds

November 2, 2007
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Press Release: Ekeland, The Best of All Possible Worlds

Now available in paperback—Optimists believe this is the best of all possible worlds. And pessimists fear that might really be the case. But what is the best of all possible worlds? How do we define it? Is it the world that operates the most efficiently? Or the one in which most people are comfortable and content? Questions such as these have preoccupied philosophers and theologians for ages, but there was a time, during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, when scientists and mathematicians felt they could provide the answer. This book is their story. Ivar Ekeland here takes the reader on a journey through scientific attempts to envision the best of all possible worlds. He begins with the French physicist Maupertuis, whose least action principle asserted that everything in nature occurs in the way that requires the least possible action. This idea, Ekeland shows, was a pivotal breakthrough in mathematics, because it was the first expression of the concept of optimization, or the creation of systems that are the most efficient or functional. Tracing the profound impact of optimization and the unexpected ways in which it has influenced the study of mathematics, biology, economics, and even politics, Ekeland reveals throughout how . . .

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Press Release: Blunden, Undertones of War

November 2, 2007
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Press Release: Blunden, Undertones of War

As troops returning from Iraq begin to tell their harrowing stories of mindless violence, civilian casualties, and lives changed forever by the horrors of war, our society is reminded—yet again—of the psychological battle scars that endure long after a deployment ends. Although Edmund Blunden’s memoirs were first published in 1928, his unforgettable account of World War I trench warfare has never been more relevant. In steely-eyed prose as richly allusive as any poetry, Blunden tells of the endurance and despair found among the men of his battalion, including the harrowing acts of bravery that won him the Military Cross. Undertones of War, which also includes a selection of Blunden’s war poems that unflinchingly juxtapose death in the trenches with the beauty of Flanders’s fields, deserves a place on anyone’s bookshelf between The Naked and the Dead and The Things They Carried. Read the press release. . . .

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