Monthly Archives: May 2008

Two discourses on modern social identity

May 20, 2008
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Two discourses on modern social identity

The May 8 edition of the Times Higher Education ran several noteworthy reviews of Chicago books including Scott Herring’s Queering the Underworld: Slumming, Literature, and the Undoing of Lesbian and Gay History and Suzanne Stewart-Steinberg’s The Pinocchio Effect: On Making Italians, 1860-1920. Both books focus on the subject of social identification in the early twentieth century, the former delivering an insightful critique of American “slumming literature” and the gender stereotypes that the author claims the genre simultaneously acknowledged, yet undermined, while the latter gives an equally penetrating analysis of the re-making of Italian cultural identity in the wake of WWI. Read Denis Flanery’s review of Queering the Underworld: Slumming, Literature and the Undoing of Lesbian and Gay History. You can find Steven Gundle’s review of The Pinocchio Effect: On Making Italians, 1860-1920 in the same issue. A book published by Liverpool University Press, one of our distributed clients, was also reviewed in the May 8 THE. Read Martin Conreen’s review of SK-INTERFACES: Exploding Borders in Art, Science and Technology. . . .

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“A Salacious Era of New York City Sleaze”

May 19, 2008
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“A Salacious Era of New York City Sleaze”

Writing for last Tuesday’s Village Voice, none other than Tom Robbins has given Patricia Cline Cohen, Timothy J. Gilfoyle, and Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz’s new book, The Flash Press: Sporting Male Weeklies in 1840s New York an approving thumbs-up for its revealing look at New York City’s “flash papers”—the nineteenth-century weeklies that covered and publicized New York’s extensive sexual underworld. All but forgotten after the era’s burgeoning censorship and obscenity laws shut them down, as Robbins notes, the author’s recent discovery of a cache of these papers held by the American Antiquarian Society sheds new light on the magazines’ lurid tales of libidinous lechery. Robbins writes: Sex has always sold well. Most of us just assumed it took the likes of Larry Flynt, Al Goldstein, and the rest of that merry band of porn purveyors to finally get it openly on the newsstands. But now comes news that more than a century before them, an earlier breed of devilish publishers delighted readers with similar publications right here in New York. That discovery was no small thrill for historians of American smut when they unearthed copies of long-forgotten sex rags that flared briefly in the early 1840s. These Dead Sea Scrolls of . . .

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Google’s laser beam

May 19, 2008
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Google’s laser beam

Forty-eight years ago last Friday, Theodore Maiman demonstrated the first laser at the Hughes Research Laboratory in California. We could have written a blog post about that. Turns out we didn’t have to. Last Friday Google had a special logo to mark the anniversary. A click on the logo executed a web search for “first laser” and the first search result was a book excerpt we created five years ago for A Century of Nature: Twenty-One Discoveries that Changed Science and the World. The ensuing traffic was incredible. Our website had almost half a million visitors last Friday, more than 25 times the traffic of the previous Friday. The uptick in traffic actually began about 6pm CDT on Thursday, as the clock turned to Friday in the Far East, and continued into the first few hours of Saturday. A “Google day” appears to last about 44 hours. Numbers like this are, of course, a testament to the worldwide reach and popularity of Google. They also testify to the boundless extent of human curiosity. . . .

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Early laurels weigh like lead

May 16, 2008
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Early laurels weigh like lead

Writing in the May edition of The Atlantic, Christopher Hitchens delivers a knowing synopsis of Cyril Connolly’s classic memoir Enemies of Promise, the new release of which is scheduled to hit bookstores later this month: Like a centaur, or perhaps a bit more like a pantomime horse, Enemies of Promise divides into two halves: the critical and the autobiographical. In the first half, Connolly surveys the literary scenery of his day and employs as his scaffolding and Waste Land surrogate George Crabbe’s bleak and sarcastic poem The Village. This, with its vividly negative bucolic imagery of “the blighted rye,” “the blue Bugloss,” “the slimy Mallow,” and “the Charlock’s shade,” allows him a special taxonomy of weeds and thistles as well as of growth without roots. In the second half, titled “A Georgian Boyhood,” he gives a lavishly detailed account of his education between the ages of 8 and 18, and shows an extraordinary confidence in the likeli­hood that this narrative will not prove ephemeral. The best-known phrase from this section is his “theory of permanent adolescence” as a description of the marination process of the English upper class.… “It is the theory that the experiences undergone by boys at the . . .

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Coastal cartography in context

May 15, 2008
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Coastal cartography in context

Writing for the May 15th edition of Nature, reviewer Deborah Jean Warner gives a nice summary of Mark Monmonier’s new book, Coast Lines: How Mapmakers Frame the World and Chart Environmental Change: Mark Monmonier, professor of geography at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University in New York, seeks to inform the public about how cartography and society intersect. He wishes us to look closely at maps, to recognize which features are shown or missing, and understand why. In Coast Lines, he offers an assortment of eclectic and fascinating information about how coastlines have been defined, determined and depicted, focusing on the United States in the twentieth century. Different maps and charts of the same coastal area show different cartographic coastlines. Monmonier calls our attention to four types, explaining that each is a human construct designed to serve a specific purpose, and the result of many observations and assumptions (the latter sometimes gaining the upper hand). One cartographic coastline is the high-water line visible from offshore. Another, introduced in the nineteenth century to aid safe navigation, is the low-water line. Two are more recent: storm surge lines are designed mainly for evacuation planning and flood insurance, and inundation lines describe the . . .

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Press Release: King, Collections of Nothing

May 15, 2008
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Press Release: King, Collections of Nothing

William Davies King makes no bones about it: he’s odd. And his collections are odder: loops of wire, skeleton keys, seafood tins, water bottle labels, envelope liners, strips of masking tape, canceled credit cards, boulders—and that’s just for starters. You might call it junk, but to King, it’s a very special sort of nothing. Suffice it to say, no one on earth has a garage quite like his. King’s unusual collections reflect his belief in the intrinsic value of the discarded, unwanted, and ephemeral—but as he makes clear in Collections of Nothing, the urge that drives his hoarding is not all that different from that which leads a more typical person to prize uncanceled stamps or pristine sets of baseball cards. Both an affecting memoir and an idiosyncratic examination of the desire to accumulate, Collections of Nothing takes us deep inside the soul of the solitary collector. King’s life story is deftly interleaved with his insightful meditations on the nature of the acquisitive mind; the result is a book that defies categorization, a unique hybrid that will speak to anyone who has ever found himself bitten by the collecting bug. Read the press release. . . .

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Press Release: Cohen, Gilfoyle, and Horowitz, The Flash Press

May 15, 2008
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Press Release: Cohen, Gilfoyle, and Horowitz, The Flash Press

If you think you’ve had your fill of malicious gossip, sex as a route to celebrity, and relentless sports and entertainment news, you might just be reading all about it two centuries too late. Under such headlines as “Whoredome in New York” and “Philadelphia Pimps of Fame,” New York’s 1840s flash papers served up with nonpareil style and irresistible wit all the news that wasn’t fit to print about the city’s underworld of brothels, wantons, unfortunate girls, and their all-too-eager customers. Ephemeral publications that also featured gossip about boxing, dog fighting, and the theater scene, the Rake, the Flash, the Whip, and the Libertine were must-reads for sporting men keen to learn about the city’s leisure activities and erotic entertainments. Now, in The Flash Press, these papers are once again in print—this time taking the more discrete form of a book that looks under Victorian-era New York’s buttoned-up surface to reveal the colorful (read: more interesting) characters teeming beneath. Read the press release. . . .

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The wartime experience in their own words

May 14, 2008
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The wartime experience in their own words

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Press Release: Spirn, Daring to Look

May 14, 2008
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Press Release: Spirn, Daring to Look

Despite the ubiquity of Dorothea Lange’s photographs, a surprisingly large number of them have languished in archives, more or less unseen, for decades. With Daring to Look, Anne Whiston Spirn brings nearly 200 of those photos to light, revealing new facets of Lange’s celebrated achievement. Daring to Look is far more than just a book of photos, however. Spirn presents the images—taken in 1939 in California, North Carolina, and the Pacific Northwest—alongside Lange’s own field notes and captions, which the photographer considered to be an essential component of her attempt to document the hardscrabble lives of her subjects. Spirn joins that work to an insightful account of Lange’s life, as well as a fascinating look at the current state of many of the locations Lange shot. Spirn’s own photographs of those towns and farms reflect the changes—and the surprising continuity—over decades, carrying Lange’s documentary project into a new century. Daring to Look brings to life a crucial moment in American history—and illuminates a missing period in the life of one of America’s greatest artists. Read the press release. . . .

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Press Release: Lewis, A Power Stronger Than Itself

May 14, 2008
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Press Release: Lewis, A Power Stronger Than Itself

Founded in 1965 and still active today, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) is an American institution with an international reputation. From its working-class roots on the South Side of Chicago, the AACM went on to forge an extensive legacy of cultural and social experimentation, crossing both musical and racial boundaries. The success of individual members and ensembles from Muhal Richard Abrams, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and Anthony Braxton to Douglas Ewart, the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, and Nicole Mitchell has been matched by the enormous international influence of the collective itself in inspiring a generation of musical experimentalists. George E. Lewis, who joined the collective as a teenager in 1971, establishes the full importance and vitality of the AACM with this communal history, written with a symphonic sweep that draws on a cross-generational chorus of voices and a rich collection of rare images. Read the press release. Also, read an excerpt from the book. . . .

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