Monthly Archives: June 2008

Richard Wright Centenary

June 19, 2008
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Richard Wright Centenary

This year is the 100th anniversary of the birth of African American author Richard Wright, whose famous novels Black Boy and Native Son redefined race relations in the 20th century. Appropriate to the occasion, the press released a new paperback edition of the authoritative biographical account of Wright’s tumultuous life and literary career, Richard Wright: The Life and Times by Hazel Rowley. An illuminating article in the June 11 edition of the Times Literary Supplement references Rowley’s book as it delivers a short biography of Wright, describing his rise and fall as one of the “stars” in the early twentieth century’s “literary firmament,” his complicated relationship to the civil rights movement, and the “hazards of his expatriation to France in the late 1940’s.” You can read the full article by James Campbell at the TLS Online. And then navigate here to find out more about Rowley’s biography. . . .

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Press Release: Chappell, Chicago’s Urban Nature

June 19, 2008
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Press Release: Chappell, Chicago’s Urban Nature

New in Paperback—Chicago. In the early twentieth century, the mere mention of the name conjured images of stockyards and steel mills, industry and immigration—a sooty mecca for industrialists and laborers who invented and built the American city. Fast-forward one hundred years and you find Chicago at the forefront of another revolution—this time leading the charge to green city spaces. Since 1989, hundreds of thousands of trees have been planted, miles of historic boulevards renovated, and “green roofs” built on over two hundred buildings. Through these efforts and others, Chicago is now known as an innovative force in a global urban greening movement. Chicago’s Urban Nature is a beautifully illustrated guide to the evolution of this green city. At the heart of “urban nature,” Sally A. Kitt Chappell demonstrates, is the idea of connection, bringing together buildings and landscapes, culture and nature. With Chicago’s Urban Nature in hand, you’ll see those connections woven through the fabric of the city. Read the press release. . . .

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“The pocket-worlds of childhood”

June 18, 2008
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“The pocket-worlds of childhood”

In today’s edition of the New York Sun Eric Ormsby reviews two new histories of children’s literature including Seth Lerer’s new book, Children’s Literature: A Reader’s History from Aesop to Harry Potter. In the review Ormsby praises Lerer for his ability to capture the special role the iconic books of childhood play in the lives of young readers. Ormsby writes: In Children’s Literature: A Reader’s History from Aesop to Harry Potter Seth Lerer notes that the history of children’s books is a study “of books as valued things, crafted and held, lived with and loved.” This fundamental insight gives a human touch to what might otherwise have been a dusty foray into long forgotten hornbooks and primers. But Mr. Lerer, a philologist by training — and professor of English at Stanford — loves words, as well as the books made from them, and he is an impassioned reader. Whether he’s discussing the grim New England Primer of 1727 or the decisive impact of Darwinism on late-19th-century children’s fiction, he has a keen sense of what he nicely calls “the pocket-worlds of childhood.…” As Mr. Lerer says, “the adventures of the child go on in secret spaces: in the purses, pockets, . . .

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Interview with Mary Pattillo on WNYC

June 17, 2008
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Interview with Mary Pattillo on WNYC

Mary Pattillo, author of Black on the Block: The Politics of Race and Class in the City was interviewed yesterday on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show to discuss the gentrification of urban African American communities. Pattillo’s book is an eye-opening sociological exploration of Chicago’s North Kenwood–Oakland neighborhood and the community’s embattled process of revitalization, where the often conflicting interests of the black middle-class, their less-fortunate neighbors, and the established centers of white economic and political power frame a dramatic tale of the transformation of black communities in the twenty-first century. In the interview Pattillo touches on many of the issues discussed in her book and fields some interesting questions from WNYC listeners. Listen to the audio on the WNYC website. Also read an excerpt from the book. . . .

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Press Release: Hogan, Spiral Jetta

June 17, 2008
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Press Release: Hogan, Spiral Jetta

As we’ve been reminded by the recent outcry over the threat of destructive drilling near Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, the monumental works of land art in the American West have a powerful hold on fans of contemporary art. To Erin Hogan, their very remoteness and precariousness is a crucial part of their appeal—and she knew that to fully understand and appreciate the questions about scale, permanence, and the limits of human activity raised by such works, she would have to actually go see them in person. So in the autumn of 2004, Hogan threw some sunscreen and some sketchy directions into her Volkswagen Jetta and hit the road, leaving the comforts of the city behind and plunging headlong into the vast expanse of the great American desert. Spiral Jetta is the story of that 3,000-mile journey. Read the press release. Also read an excerpt and an interview with the author. . . .

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A map to the seamy corners of New York City

June 16, 2008
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A map to the seamy corners of New York City

In last Saturday’s edition of the Daily Telegraph Robert Douglas-Fairhurst reviewed The Flash Press: Sporting Male Weeklies in 1840s New York. In his review Douglas-Fairhurst gives a short overview of the social and historical significance of the “flash” papers—the nineteenth-century weeklies that covered and publicized New York City’s extensive sexual underworld—touching on their appeal to readers in the UK and taking an amusing jab at one of the Telegraph‘s competitors: “Flash” newspapers offered a titillating guide to the pleasures of urban life that had hitherto been spoken of only in hushed whispers: brothels, pornography, dog fights, playhouses, bare-knuckle boxing and more. Crammed into a handful of closely printed pages was up-to-date gossip, sexual scandal, handy tips on how to avoid picking up a prostitute with a glass eye (the key, it seemed, was to avoid women wearing veils), and blustering attacks on anyone, such as immigrants or “sodomites”, who might have threatened the developing group identity of these cocky young men about town. By 1842, four rival publications in New York “squawked in competition” for their custom. Adventurous readers could use the Flash, the Whip, the Rake or the Libertine as a map to the seamy corners of a city . . .

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Newton Minow signs books virtually this Saturday

June 12, 2008
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Newton Minow signs books virtually this Saturday

Newton Minow will be signing books and answering questions at a virtual booksigning this Saturday, June 14th, at 12 noon CDT. Minow is co-author with Craig L. LaMay of the recently released Inside the Presidential Debates: Their Improbable Past and Promising Future. The booksigning will be webcast from the Abraham Lincoln Book Shop at 357 West Chicago Avenue in Chicago. You may attend in person or online. The webcast will be available from VirtualBookSigning.net. On our own site we revisit some of the memorable moments from presidential debates, supplemented with images and links to online videos where available. Nixon sweating, “I knew Jack Kennedy,” presidential scowls and more. We also have an excerpt about the first televised debate between Nixon and Kennedy. If you’re interested in how a virtual booksigning works, take a look at this program from Book-TV. . . .

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The transformation of Harlem

June 11, 2008
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The transformation of Harlem

Derek S. Hyra, author of The New Urban Renewal: The Economic Transformation of Harlem and Bronzeville, was interviewed today on the BBC Radio 4 program Thinking Allowed. Host Laurie Taylor, on the ground in Harlem, interviewed Harlem residents and neighborhood leaders, as well as Hyra and other authors to understand both the history of Harlem and the “Second Harlem Renaissance” that is renewing and stressing the neighborhood. Does gentrification bring upheaval or stability? Is change always good? Who are the winners and who are the losers? The archived audio is available from the BBC. . . .

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The Messiah can wait

June 10, 2008
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The Messiah can wait

Jonathan Rosen, editorial director of Nextbook, wrote an appreciative review of Robert Pogue Harrison’s Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition for the June 7 edition of the Wall Street Journal. Titled “Paradox Among the Petals,” the review begins: The rabbis of the Talmud counseled that if you are planting a tree and someone tells you that the Messiah has come, you should finish planting your tree and then go out to investigate. Robert Pogue Harrison implies something similar in his rich and beguiling Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition. Gardens, though they offer peace and repose, are islands of care, he writes, not a refuge from it. That is why they are important, since care is what makes us human. This is the third book by Harrison that we have published and each has been a meditation on humanity and the natural world. As a professor of Italian literature, Harrison’s work is steeped in classical and modern literature, but as the quote above suggests, he also draws deeply from the religious and philosophical traditions. His previous books include The Dominion of the Dead and Forests: The Shadow of Civilization. Update June 11: Gardens was also reviewed in today’s . . .

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How to be alone, get lost, and find art

June 9, 2008
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How to be alone, get lost, and find art

“Whither goest thou, America, in thy shiny car in the night?” asked Jack Kerouac. Erin Hogan was going on a solitary tour of the monumental land art of the American West. She says in an interview Saturday in the Salt Lake Tribune that she re-read Kerouac and “definitely felt like I was involving myself in the Great American Road saga.” Reporter Julie Checkoway wonders: why visit land art? Land art is this arena you walk into, and it changes your sense of space and time. The people who made it were trying to set up a different experience, giving us something. I wanted to experience that, a surprising built environment. But really, the book is mostly a road book. Yeah, I meditate on Michael Fried and the theatricality of landscape, but I’d like to think that someone who didn’t study art history like I did would encounter something very beautiful in Spiral Jetty. Update June 11: Erin Hogan is also interviewed today on ArtInfo. We have an excerpt from the Spiral Jetty section of the book as well as our own interview with Hogan. . . .

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