Monthly Archives: November 2008

Collections of something

November 19, 2008
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Collections of something

A mid-week, off-radar publicity round-up: William Davies King, author of Collections of Nothing, continues to write about collecting and one of his other obsessions, Eugene O’Neill, in an essay just published in ZYZZYVA, the journal of West Coast writers and artists. “Hammerman’s O’Neill” profiles the prodigious O’Neill collector, Dr. Harley Hammerman. Read the essay here, and check out an excerpt from King’s book here. King may be obsessed with collecting and Eugene O’Neill, but the king of obsession around here is Lennard Davis, author of Obsession: A History. Listen to a podcast with the author from Psychjourney. And if the rise of podcasts have you reminiscing about the good old days around the wireless, listen in on Inquiry as Marcel Chotkowski Lafollette discusses her book Science on the Air: Popularizers and Personalities on Radio and Early Television. And speaking of radio, retired Army Lt. Col. John Nagl, author of Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam and author of a foreword to The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual, dropped by NPR’s All Things Considered to discuss a “new spirit” of determination to eradicate counterinsurgency in Afghanistan. Finally, a shout-out to Cristina Henríquez, the . . .

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The future of conservatism, legally speaking

November 18, 2008
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The future of conservatism, legally speaking

In the aftermath of the Democratic Party’s broad success on Election Day, David Brooks argued last week, “the battle lines have already been drawn in the fight over the future of conservatism.” In her op-ed in yesterday’s National Law Journal, Ann Southworth explains that these rifts extend to lawyers. Drawing on the research she conducted for Lawyers of the Right: Professionalizing the Conservative Coalition, Southworth argues that while “lawyers might be expected to help unite the coalition … class and cultural conflict inhibits cooperation among lawyers for the various constituencies of the conservative alliance. These lawyers are fundamentally divided by social background, values, geography and professional identity.” Lawyers of the Right, published this month, provides a rich portrait of this diverse group of lawyers who represent conservative and libertarian nonprofit organizations. Featuring insights based on in-depth interviews with more than 70 lawyers, it explores their values and identities and traces the implications of their shared interest in promoting political strategies that give lawyers leading roles. “It remains to be seen,” Southworth points out, “whether the Republican Party will rebuild a winning coalition and what role lawyers might play in efforts to forge common ground within the party’s ranks.” But, in . . .

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Famous slogans on BookTV

November 18, 2008
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Famous slogans on BookTV

Jan Van Meter was recently interviewed on CSPAN’s BookTV on the topic of his new book Tippecanoe and Tyler Too: Famous Slogans and Catchphrases in American History—a fascinating historical analysis of various catchphrases and slogans, from FDR’s “speak softly and carry a big stick,” to King’s “I have a dream,” that have become an indelible part of American public culture. In the interview Van Meter addresses not only the slogans and catchphrases of the past, but also those of the present with Barak Obama’s campaign mantra “Yes we can” topping his list. Watch the interview online at the CSPAN website or catch the rebroadcasts on BookTV, Saturday, November 29, at 2:00 PM; Sunday, November 30, at 4:00 AM; and Sunday, November 30, at 3:00 PM. Also read a web feature on contemporary slogans that we’ll remember and listen to another interview with Van Meter for the Chicago Audio Works podcast. . . .

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A Dance to the Music of George Plimpton

November 17, 2008
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A Dance to the Music of George Plimpton

Graydon Carter, in his review of the new book honoring George Plimpton that led the Sunday Times Book Review, began with musings about a rather different book: “It can reasonably be said that A Dance to the Music of Time, Anthony Powell’s monumental 12-part novel about English manners, society, politics and power, still begs for an American counterpart. Lush and majestic, the book traces the years from 1921 to 1974—pretty much the period we like to romanticize as ‘the American century.’” Carter goes on to posit that Plimpton’s life may be the American analog to Powell’s novels. But if you wish to fact check Carter’s theory, we want to remind you that the University of Chicago Press is the place to go for all your Dance lessons. Powell’s universally acclaimed epic encompasses a four-volume panorama of twentieth century London. Hailed by Time as “brilliant literary comedy as well as a brilliant sketch of the times,” A Dance to the Music of Time opens just after World War I. Amid the fever of the 1920s and the first chill of the 1930s, Nick Jenkins and his friends confront sex, society, business, and art. In the second volume they move to London . . .

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Automobility—addiction or affliction?

November 17, 2008
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Automobility—addiction or affliction?

I’ll be honest, I drive to work nearly every day. But every time I see a politician’s stump speech or an oil industry executive advocating the expansion of drilling into the Alaskan wilderness, or beneath the rapidly diminishing polar caps, I can’t help but cringe—simultaneously in outrage at what the long term environmental effects of such actions might be, and guilt for my own complicity. But according to Brian Ladd, author of Autophobia: Love and Hate in the Automotive Age I’m not alone. In fact, as the NYT‘s Tom Vanderbilt points out in the Sunday Book Review, Americans have had quite a conflicted relationship to the automobile almost since its very inception, and in his new book, Ladd gives some insightful reasons why: the car has certainly lost some of its luster, lending credence to the words of an English observer: “From being the plaything of society,” the car “has come to dominate society. It is now our tyrant, so that at last we have turned in revolt against it, and begun to protest against its arrogant ways.” The only problem with this incipient revolt is that these words actually date to 1911, the shaky toddler years of American . . .

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“Chic” Chicago

November 14, 2008
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“Chic” Chicago

In 1926 a colorful new magazine appeared on newsstands and in magazine racks across Chicago. The Chicagoan was the Windy City’s attempt at an arts and culture magazine to rival the sophistication of the New Yorker, whose first issue was published only months before. But while the New Yorker would grow to reach a national audience, maintaining a wide circulation even in today’s anti-print climate, after nine short but exciting years that straddled “prohibition, the depression and the jazz age,” the Chicagoan folded and was forgotten—until now. Enter Neil Harris’s new book The Chicagoan: A Lost Magazine of the Jazz Age—a fascinating collection of articles, photographs, and illustrations that, as a recent review in the UK’s Spectator magazine notes, brings the heyday of the publication—and the city—back to life: Think quiz. ‘A crescent-shaped town, 26 miles by 15, along a great lake. An unchallenged murder record—a splendid university—hobo capital to the country—and the finest of grand opera. Altogether the most zestful spectacle on this earth.’ Where are we? In case of doubt, the city’s short-lived house magazine spelled out the answer in 48 point type, ‘Chi – CA – go.’ Actually the emphasis should have been on the Chic, because . . .

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Beyond Brangelina

November 13, 2008
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Beyond Brangelina

Yet another rumor has surfaced about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s adoption plans. Whatever else one might want to say about them, at least the reports are timely: Saturday, November 15, is National Adoption Day (part of National Adoption Month). And unlike some commemorative days and months (National Hamburger Month?!), National Adoption Day has serious goals and tangible results, including courtroom hearings (PDF) to finalize a projected 3,500 foster children’s adoptions across the US. All of this organized national support helps to create an environment far removed from that surrounding adoptions a century ago, when children were still transferred between households by a variety of unregulated private arrangements. What happened between then and the adoptions that will be finalized this Saturday? Few people (perhaps no people) know that history better than Ellen Herman, author of the brand new Kinship by Design: A History of Adoption in Modern America. The fullest account to date of modern adoption’s history, this book traces the dramatic evolution of Americans’ ideas about what constitutes a family. As Herman puts it in a description of her wonderful Adoption History Project, history is an indispensable resource for understanding the personal, political, legal, social, scientific, and human dimensions . . .

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Press Release: Shulman, Spring, Heat, Rains

November 13, 2008
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Press Release: Shulman, Spring, Heat, Rains

It’s a fairly common experience: before you visit a place, you read up on it, study its history and culture, plan ahead and prepare … and then when you get there, you realize that no amount of study could have prepared you for the reality that confronts you, the glorious surprises of travel at its best. But what happens when a true scholar, with peerless knowledge of a place and its people, arrives for a lengthy visit in a place he’s studied for decades? Well, if he’s as open and alive to wonder as David Shulman, the result is a travel diary like no other. Spring, Heat, Rains chronicles a seven-month sojourn in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, marrying Shulman’s lifetime of learning with his joyful astonishment at the details of daily life in one of the world’s most ancient societies. With Shulman, author of the critically acclaimed Dark Hope: Working for Peace in Israel and Palestine, as our guide, we meet betel-nut vendors, hear singers and epic poets, and clamber over ancient temples. We endure the crippling heat of summer and the desperately desired—but frustratingly inescapable—monsoon rains that follow. And we fall deeply, completely in love with an . . .

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A modern music missed by modern scholarship

November 13, 2008
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A modern music missed by modern scholarship

The Chronicle of Higher Education‘s Peter Monaghan has written several interesting articles recently about the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, “a celebrated avant-garde collective that began in the poorest neighborhoods of Chicago in the 1960s,” and the subject of George E. Lewis’s recent A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music. In both articles Monaghan notes the significance of Lewis’s book as the first academic treatment of the AACM and the highly influential experimental music it produced, and ponders the question, put forth in Lewis’s book, of why such a groundbreaking group of artists hasn’t received more attention by mainstream academics: In his book, both social history and critical study, Lewis makes a claim that devotees of the AACM have long embraced but that is discomforting some composers and critics: The jazz-related collective, which emerged from black, working-class areas of Chicago in the 1960s, became one of the most significant artistic forces of the 20th century—yet histories of American musical experimentalism almost never say so.… Lewis cites the historian Jon D. Cruz’s observation that criticism of the new music as “just noise” recalled many slave owners’ earlier obliviousness to the significations of slave songs. “Similarly,” . . .

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The economy is a confidence game

November 12, 2008
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The economy is a confidence game

Mark C. Taylor on the economic crisis: Now we can see that the economy is a confidence game. With markets spinning out of control and liquidity frozen, analysts and commentators repeat again and again that the problem is that investors have lost confidence. What they don't adequately stress is that this loss of confidence is fully justified. . . .

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