Monthly Archives: December 2007

Maps to close the year

December 31, 2007
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Maps to close the year

The exhibition Maps: Finding Our Place in the World will be at the Field Museum in Chicago only until January 27. Then it moves to the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, where it opens on March 16. The book with the same name, though, can be visited at any time for as long as you want. Like a map of a city or river or mountain range that you once visited, or dream of visiting, the book fixes the memory or fills in the imagination.

Patrick Reardon reviewed the book in Sunday’s Chicago Tribune. He called the book “a meaty work that sweeps back and forth across the centuries and millenniums, spans the continents and ranges from the micro-details of a 19th Century London neighborhood to an ancient Aztec rendering of the cosmos.” It is also a thing of beauty.

Our web feature for the book presents some unusual maps. A couple of those maps recently caught the attention of a few bloggers, like the Edge of the American West, Matthew Yglesias, and Metafilter.

Resolve to see the exhibit and get the book.

. . .

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A groovy pad in Bombay

December 27, 2007
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A groovy pad in Bombay

William Grimes reviewed Kirin Narayan’s memoir of growing up in India, My Family and Other Saints, in yesterday’s New York Times:

Families can be so embarrassing. Imagine the agonies of an adolescent girl whose house has become infested with India-besotted hippies from all over the globe, whose sarcastic father stumbles around in an alcoholic haze and whose mother kneels at the feet of every swami she meets. And let us not forget grandma, who holds long conversations with her cow and once met a 1,000-year-old cobra with a ruby in its forehead and a mustache on its albino face.

Gods, gurus and eccentric relatives compete for primacy in Kirin Narayan’s enchanting memoir of her childhood in Bombay (present-day Mumbai). The title, which alludes to Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals, originated as an act of revenge. Ms. Narayan, fed up with the family penchant for ashrams and spiritual quests, turned to her mother and warned, “When I grow up I’m going to write a book called My Family and Other Saints and put you in it.” And so she did.

Narayan’s memoir captures a time and place when nearly everyone, it seemed, was embarked on some sort of . . .

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An embarrassing primate book

December 26, 2007
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An embarrassing primate book

Last Saturday Michael Bywater had an interesting take on Macachiavellian Intelligence: How Rhesus Macaques and Humans Have Conquered the World by Dario Maestripieri in the Daily Telegraph:

Primate books are good for us. They remind us that we’re primates, too. And the embarrassing primate books are best. Macachiavellian Intelligence is an excellently embarrassing primate book, and just the thing to make us blush and shuffle our feet.

How to write an embarrassing primate book? Focus on “the notorious ‘weed monkey’, the rhesus macaque.”

Rhesus macaques, in short, are sods. They are despotic and nepotistic; their power structures are matrilineal. The males hang around sullenly, get into fights, emigrate to other groups, get into more fights and lead lives of violence and aggression which, as Maestripieri explains, is because they want raw power. Power gets you everything. It’s worth the price.

Rhesus macaques are—after homo sapiens of course—the most successful primates on the planet, judged by population size and distribution. Is violence and aggression the reason for our success? Maestripieri’s understanding of rhesus society has much to say to our own.

(Bywater also gives a passing mention to another book on primates, Baboon Metaphysics: The Evolution of a Social Mind by . . .

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The life under the snow

December 21, 2007
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The life under the snow

“You don’t have to travel to the Brazilian rain forest to luxuriate in the biodiversity at our feet,” says Adrian Higgins in a Washington Post review of James B. Nardi’s Life in the Soil: A Guide for Naturalists and Gardeners. Even now, under that blanket of snow outside the window, a veritable holiday feast is underway: “organisms that can be seen by us, such as wood lice, and those that cannot, such as bacteria, set into motion a hidden, primal banquet featuring hordes of revelers and many courses.”

It’s the first day of winter and life in the soil is teeming. “We as a species,” says Higgins, “have been largely ignorant of this universe for so long.” Nardi’s book “is a must-read for anyone who wants a better understanding of this world and how to protect it.” Even creatures grubby and small.

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Harold J. Leavitt, 1922-2007

December 21, 2007
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Harold J. Leavitt, 1922-2007

Tell someone unfamiliar with the business of book publishing (and this of course describes almost everyone you meet) that you work at a university press, and you almost inevitably hear: “Oh, you publish textbooks then?” Well, no, we don’t—our scholarly publishing mandate is to publish new research, which rarely describes the contents of a textbook.

Except sometimes. One of those times was in 1958 when we published a textbook called Managerial Psychology by a youngish professor at Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh. The book brought the field of organizational behavior into the business school curriculum, a revolutionary idea at the time. New enough at any rate, that the book was turned down by the typical publishers of business school textbooks. But business and industry was changing rapidly in 1958 and Managerial Psychology quickly found a market.

The author of that book was Harold J. Leavitt, who died on December 8 in Pasadena, California. He was the Walter Kenneth Kilpatrick Professor of Organizational Behavior, Emeritus, at the Stanford Graduate School of Business at the time of his death. His work changed what business schools taught and how business and industry motivate and evaluate their personnel.

We published the fifth and . . .

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Terry Teachout on How to Stage Greek Tragedy Today

December 20, 2007
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Terry Teachout on How to Stage Greek Tragedy Today

In a book we published a few years back, British classicist Simon Goldhill explained the Greek and Roman roots of everything in contemporary Western culture, from our political systems to the quest for the perfect body. Still, we have traveled some ways from those classic roots, which perhaps accounts for why the works of Greek dramatists can seem so ancient and foreign when performed on a modern stage. Most of the action takes place offstage, the characters do more speechifying than dialogue, and a chorus shuffles on and off.

Goldhill’s latest book, How to Stage Greek Tragedy Today, tackles this problem. Writing in a Commentary magazine blog, the Horizon, drama critic Terry Teachout discussed the book last week. Teachout noted that “most contemporary productions of Greek tragedy are exercises in theatrical futility” and summed up Goldhill’s contribution:

His approach is at once deeply informed by the best academic scholarship and no less deeply rooted in a commonsense understanding of what works on stage. The result is one of the most instructive and lucidly written books about theater to have been published in recent years. No one whose interest in drama is more than merely casual should pass it by.

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Youth Without Youth

December 19, 2007
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Youth Without Youth

Francis Ford Coppola’s newest film, Youth Without Youth, opened on both coasts last Friday. The film is based on the book of the same name written by Mircea Eliade, who was a professor in the history of religions at the University of Chicago. The first paperback edition of Youth Without Youth features a new foreword by Coppola.

Bookforum has an interview with the director that makes some interesting comparisons between the film and the book. Coppola discusses his decision to adapt the book for the big screen:

Originally, for another project, I had been thinking about the twin challenge of cinematic language, which is the expression and manipulation of time while finding ways to try and tap into our unique human consciousness. It’s hard to explain it, but we all kind of know what it is: that little thing in your head that seems to be you, through which you see all your experience and feel your emotion. A lot of filmmakers in the past, even the great Sergei Eisenstein, had thought about the representation of human consciousness. He wrote about it in the second of his books , I think. A friend of mine who was an . . .

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A holiday tipping how-to

December 18, 2007
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A holiday tipping how-to

The City Room blog on the New York Times website ran a guide to holiday tipping yesterday that draws much of its advice from Peter Bearman’s Doormen—a book the NYT‘s Sewell Chan says contains one of “the most sophisticated discussion of holiday tipping City Room has encountered.” Chan’s article continues:

fraught with meaning. “is both a gift, a way of saying thanks, an obligation, and yet also a sign of expected reciprocal attention and an expression of social power,” Professor Bearman writes. “These contradictory meanings make the bonus difficult to talk about, and tenants often squirm in their seats (or cognitively) as they try to describe just what it means.”

Professor Bearman writes that the holiday bonus is most often construed in one of two ways. “On the one hand, the Christmas bonus is often represented as the acknowledgment of all of the assistance received during the past year,” he notes, adding later, “On the other hand, the Christmas bonus is often represented as a pre-payment or down payment for the next year, an advance on the services to be received.”

He distinguishes the bonus from a mere tip, a payment for . . .

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Best books for 2007

December 17, 2007
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Best books for 2007

Every year about this time many magazine and newspaper book reviewers take a break from their regular routine to pick their “best books of the year.” Thus here for your gift giving edification, are some of the UCP titles that appear on the lists for the 2007 season.

The Philadelphia Inquirer is running a list of recommended coffee table books for the holiday season that includes both Clarie Nouvian’s photo journey to the bottom of the sea, The Deep, and Marcia Lausen’s insightful critique of ballot design in Design for Democracy. The Inquirer praises both books for being “more nuanced coffee-table winners, for a variety of tastes.” —See our special site for The Deep.

Playboy magazine is also currently running a best of the year section in the January edition of the magazine. Playboy asked contributor and NYU professor of sociology Eric Klinenberg to name his picks for 2007. On his list was David Grazian’s new book On the Make: The Hustle of Urban Nightlife, a fascinating exposé of the various illusions that make up Philadelphia’s thriving nightlife scene.

In the December 14 Wall Street Journal “Holiday Book Guide,” under the subheading “Photography,” you can also find Mark Jacob . . .

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Science and money

December 14, 2007
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Science and money

An interesting review of Daniel S. Greenberg’s Science for Sale: The Perils, Rewards, and Delusions of Campus Capitalism is currently running in the January-February issue of the American Scientist. Reviewer Robert L. Geiger praises Greenberg’s book for its lucid and balanced look at the influence of corporate funding on American academic institutions:

Science for Sale, ventures outside the Beltway to scrutinize the state of academic science and its supposed burgeoning ties with the corporate world. Although the somewhat fraught title would seem to place this work with an abundance of books condemning university ties with industry, Greenberg has provided a more nuanced analysis and offers some different conclusions.…

He begins with an iconoclastic portrayal of corporate-sponsored research. Far from dominating or corrupting universities, it has been a marginal and (since 2000) shrinking portion of the research they conduct. Academic research has great value for industry, but companies prefer to let the government pay for it. “Not many corporations are besieging universities to take their money,” Greenberg says. “Eagerness for even more business is strongest on the university side of the relationship.” Moreover, he sees little scope for industry to take advantage of this hunger: “In the current era . . .

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