Monthly Archives: December 2008

Press Release: Sparagana, Sleeping Beauty

December 16, 2008
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Press Release: Sparagana, Sleeping Beauty

With the publication of Sleeping Beauty: A One-Artist Dictionary, the University of Chicago Press is proud to announce Project Tango, a new series of experimental collaborations between artists and writers. Exploding the traditional dynamic of the artist’s relationship with the critic, Sleeping Beauty inaugurates a genuine dialogue, in which the interlocutors have equal agency. This conversation tests the limits of creative collaboration, bringing new ideas to the process of making books and expanding the possibilities of the medium. Here, for example, Mieke Bal contributes twenty-six essays—one for each letter of the alphabet—which borrow their organizing principle from the dictionary but reach far beyond the utilitarian purpose of a reference work. Each one enters deeply into John Sparagana’s art, illuminating concepts from Abstract to Zestful that inform, underlie, and lend meaning to the exquisitely ruined images he creates by crinkling glossy images from fashion magazines until their sheen disappears and they become soft and elastic. The images, for their part, speak back through Sparagana’s unique process of subtraction, which physically rubs away not only ink and material, but also transience and commercial usefulness. The result is an extraordinary first step in Project Tango’s unchoreographed dance. We can’t wait to see where . . .

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The Dark Legacy of War

December 15, 2008
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The Dark Legacy of War

More than 300,000 veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan report symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or other major depression and an estimated 550 to 650 commit suicide every month. In the fall issue of The Virgina Quarterly Review, Ashley Gilbertson, award-winning photographer and author of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot: A Photographer’s Chronicle of the Iraq War , zooms in on one young man who comprises part of that terrifying statistic. “The Life and Lonely Death of Noah Pierce” examines the suicide of a twenty-three-year-old Iraq vet who took his life with a handgun in July 2007. VQR‘s Waldo Jaquith interviewed Gilbertson about what it’s like to write about and photograph difficult topics. The audio can be heard here. Gilbertson’s reporting is not the only notable achievement in that issue of the VQR. Time magazine recently announced its list of the top ten magazine covers of 2008 and the Fall issue, featuring Gilberston’s portrait of Pierce’s sister’s tattooed shoulder, made the cut. The art director of Time, Arthur Hochstein, had this to say about the cover: Often cited by professional organizations for its content, The Virginia Quarterly Review also has consistently inventive covers. One of its secrets is the simple, . . .

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The “rogue colony” of New Orleans

December 12, 2008
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The “rogue colony” of New Orleans

The December 10 edition of the Nation contains a fascinating article about the long and colorful history of New Orleans that enlists Shannon Lee Dawdy’s new book Building the Devil’s Empire: French Colonial New Orleans to help explain how New Orleans acquired it’s “rogue character” and became the unique, multicultural city we know today. Joshua Jelly-Schapiro writes for the Nation: Effectively abandoned by the French crown in 1731, the colony was governed from that time by local elites, its levee becoming a bustling free-for-all of traders peddling everything from Mississippi furs to Martinique sugar and Mexican ceramics and maize. New Orleans’s reputation as a low swamp of race-mixing and sin was present from the start and—as Shannon Lee Dawdy shows in Building the Devil’s Empire, her penetrating study of the colony’s founding—cited frequently as the explanation for its “failure.” In French New Orleans, “smuggling not only helped fill the gaps of collapsed mercantilism,” Dawdy writes, “it was the basis of the local political economy.…” Dawdy shows clearly how Nouvelle-Orléans—with its intra-American trade and tenuous ties to the metropole—became, by the 1740s, a self-consciously Creole place.… That Creole identity informed France’s decision to let the estranged colony go, as Louis XV . . .

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Remember the Steven Chu controversy?

December 11, 2008
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Remember the Steven Chu controversy?

The New York Times reports today that president elect Barack Obama has chosen Steven Chu, director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, for the position of energy secretary in his new administration. The Times article quotes Scott Segal, director of an industry group called the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council saying: “ experience seems to dovetail perfectly with the president-elect’s commitment to bringing new energy technology to market in a timely fashion… An understanding of the art of the possible in energy technology will be critical to the development of a cost-effective climate change policy.” But while Chu might be garnering positive publicity now, it wasn’t so long ago that he was at the center of a heated controversy at Berkeley concerning his support of a deal with British Petroleum to provide partial funding for a new Energy Biosciences Institute that would grant the company unprecedented rights to the intellectual property it produces. A 2007 article about the deal for the Chronicle of Higher Education quotes Daniel S. Greenberg, author of Science for Sale: The Perils, Rewards, and Delusions of Campus Capitalism saying “universities have been so eager to enter into business deals with industry, they will do quite stupid things.” . . .

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Yes, there is justice in Illinois

December 11, 2008
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Yes, there is justice in Illinois

Perhaps the only person mentioned as frequently as Rod Blagojevich in the deluge of news about our governor’s alleged political crime spree is Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. attorney prosecuting the case. Most recently in the news for prosecuting Dick Cheney’s former aide I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Fitzgerald’s investigation of Blagojevich has made him the subject of several recent profiles, which refer to him in such terms as a “folk hero in a state beleaguered by official crime” and “totally and completely dedicated.” Some of the stories even speculate that Fitzgerald could become the chief of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, the deputy attorney general, or the next FBI director after Robert Mueller’s term ends. All this reminded us that in addition to (and probably because of) its now-worldwide reputation for political corruption, our state also has a long history of launching the prominent careers of corruption fighters. Illinois Justice: The Scandal of 1969 and the Rise of John Paul Stevens tells the story of one such rise to fame. Expertly narrating this dramatic tale, Kenneth Manaster begins in 1969, when citizen gadfly Sherman Skolnick accused the chief justice and another Illinois Supreme Court justice of accepting valuable bank stock from . . .

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Fulke the Obscure

December 10, 2008
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Fulke the Obscure

In early December, the Village Voice asked a panel of literary heavyweights (Ethan Hawke notwithstanding) to opine on their favorite obscure book. Robert Pinsky’s selection was a book called Caelica from “the greatest poet unknown to many readers,” Fulke Greville. In addition to being, as Pinsky notes, “an upper-class Englishman with a funny name,” (or, in your correspondent’s humble opinion, a moniker ripe for filching by a newly-formed indie rock band) Greville (1554–1628) was an important member of the court of Queen Elizabeth I. Although his poems, long out of print, are today less well known than those of Sidney, Spenser, or Shakespeare, Greville left an indelible mark on the world of Renaissance poetry, both in his love poems, which ably work within the English Petrarchan tradition, and in his religious meditations, which, along with the work of Donne and Herbert, stand as a highpoint of early Protestant poetics. Pinsky, who, in addition to his many and varied achievements, including a stint as United States poet laureate and a cameo on The Simpsons, is a University of Chicago Press author (his Thousands of Broadways: Dreams and Nightmares of the American Small Town will be published this Spring), will undoubtedly be . . .

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White Dog now on DVD

December 10, 2008
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White Dog now on DVD

Set in the tumultuous Los Angeles of 1968, Romain Gary’s novel White Dog is the French writer’s fictional memoir of his ill-fated attempt to re-train a lost police K9 programmed to respond visciously to the sight of black men. Offering a unique and insightful critique of racism in America, the book was originally published in 1970 and reissued in 2004 by the Press. The book was adapted for a 1982 feature film directed by Samuel Fuller. But due the controversial subject matter, it was initially withheld from release. Now the Criterion Collection has released a remastered DVD of the film it calls a “throat-grabbing exposé on American racism” and “a tragic portrait of the evil done by that most corruptible of animals: the human being.” To find out more about the film navigate to the Criterion Collection’s website, or experience Gary’s groundbreaking work in its purest form by picking up a copy of the book. . . .

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Sweet Child o’ Monomania

December 9, 2008
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Sweet Child o’ Monomania

On November 23, 2008, the long-awaited new album by Guns N’ Roses, Chinese Democracy, was finally released. Over its decade-and-a-half gestational period, the mythic album devolved into the butt of many jokes, and Axl Rose, the legendary GN’R front man, frequently corn-rowed and bloated, ascended to the high chair in the pantheon of monomania. We asked our resident expert on all things obsessional, Lennard J. Davis, author of the new book Obsession: A History where Axl ranks with the great obsessive artists of all time. Here’s what he had to say: The 15-year run of suspense is over. Guns N’ Roses fans, and anyone who has followed the release of “Chinese Democracy,” Axl Rose’s grand obsession, can now buy the album. But the general consensus is that after all the obsessive work, perfectionism, and endless tinkering Rose has brought forth an over-worked and over-produced misadventure, with a hash of lyrics and every instrument and musical style in the world rolled into one mediocre album. In the course of his compulsive perfectionism, Rose went through three recording studios, four producers, and a slew of musicians. In doing so he ran up more than $13 million in production costs, making his album . . .

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So how did we get in this mess in the first place?

December 9, 2008
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So how did we get in this mess in the first place?

If you’re busy trying to figure out how to survive the market meltdown, then at some point you might also begin wondering about how, and why, it all started in the first place. In a recent article for the Washington Monthly Greg Anrig takes note of Lawrence D. Brown and Lawrence R. Jacobs timely new book, The Private Abuse of the Public Interest: Market Myths and Policy Muddles for offering an insightful answer. Anrig writes: In the waning days of the Bush administration, as venerable Wall Street firms collapsed, credit markets froze, stocks crashed, and economic indicators deteriorated, free market, antiregulatory Republicans found themselves with no choice but to partially nationalize the banking industry. It was a Shakespearean denouement for the conservative movement. For nearly thirty years, the right had dominated political debate on the strength of the simple argument that government was the problem and free markets the solution.… as Lawrence D. Brown and Lawrence R. Jacobs demonstrate in The Private Abuse of the Public Interest: Market Myths and Policy Muddles, the era of conservative dominance has wrought a cyclical pattern: first comes the fervent advocacy of market-based policy ideas, followed by their implementation, which causes damage that . . .

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Chicago guides for weathering the recession

December 8, 2008
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Chicago guides for weathering the recession

With universities across the country slashing budgets and implementing hiring freezes, the job market for many PhDs seems to be, as the Chronicle of Higher Education recently put it, cloudy. But our career guides can serve as sturdy life rafts in this storm of bad news. Susan Basalla and Maggie Debelius’s “So What Are You Going to Do with That?”, for example, covers topics ranging from career counseling to interview etiquette to translating skills learned in the academy into terms an employer can understand and appreciate. A witty, accessible guide full of concrete advice for anyone contemplating the jump from scholarship to the outside world, “So What Are You Going to Do with That?” is packed with examples and stories from real people who have successfully made this daunting—but potentially rewarding—transition. Taking a more specific approach, The Chicago Guide to Landing a Job in Academic Biology is designed to help students and post-docs navigate the tricky terrain of an academic job search—from the first year of a graduate program to the final negotiations of a job offer. In the process, it covers everything from how to pack an overnight bag without wrinkling a suit to selecting the right job to . . .

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