Monthly Archives: February 2009

Allen Grossman wins 2009 Bollingen Prize in Poetry

February 18, 2009
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Allen Grossman wins 2009 Bollingen Prize in Poetry

This spring, the University of Chicago Press will proudly publish True-Love: Essays on Poetry and Valuing by revered poet-critic Allen Grossman. In advance of this publication, we are very excited to announce that Professor Grossman has been awarded Yale University’s Bollingen Prize in American Poetry. A three-judge panel—composed of Frank Bidart, poet and winner of the 2007 Bollingen Prize in American Poetry, Peter Cole, poet and visiting professor at Yale University, and Susan Stewart, poet and professor of English at Princeton University (and Press author of the National Book Critics Circle award-winning Columbarium and, more recently, Red Rover, among many others)—described Grossman as “a profoundly original American poet whose work embraces the co-existence of comedy and tragedy, exploring the intersection of high poetic style and an often startling vernacular.… A distinguished teacher of poetics and literature, Grossman has influenced three generations of American writers. He has characterized the lyric poet as an individual who, ‘by means of this art, seeks to speak with the utmost seriousness about the totality of what he experiences,’ and Grossman himself has been refreshingly restless in that pursuit.” Reached for comment, Judith Grossman responded: “Allen feels deeply honored by this award. The Bollingen is the . . .

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Art on TV

February 17, 2009
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Art on TV

The latest issue of ArtForum magazine contains an interesting review of Lynn Spigel’s new book, TV by Design: Modern Art and the Rise of Network Television. The review, which builds upon the positive assessment given by Andy Battaglia in his recent article for the magazine’s sister publication BookForum, praises the work for “contradicting our peculiar amnesia” regarding TV’s early links to the urbane world of modern art. As Spigel aptly demonstrates, from the 1940’s through the ’60s TV served as an exciting new platform for the arts, inviting the participation of architects and designers like and Eero Saarinen and Saul Bass, to fine artists like Andy Warhol. Offering a stark contradiction to former FCC chairman Newton Minow’s characterization of the medium as a “vast wasteland,” Spigel’s account even suggests that their work actually profited from their relationship with the “vulgar medium.” As ArtForum‘s Matthew Brannon writes, “since advertisers take it for granted that their job is to sell, they are denied that most dangerously available solipsistic avenue that fine art borders: I don’t care what you think.…” Thus Brannon concludes that advertising offered these artists a lesson in visual communication: “how to say much with little how to persuade . . .

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Voices from Shanghai

February 17, 2009
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Voices from Shanghai

NPR aired a story last week about the impending destruction of Shanghai’s Little Vienna, a Jewish neighborhood that arose in the 1930s as almost 20,000 refugees fled from Europe to Shanghai during Hitler’s rise. According to the story, the Chinese government plans to knock down several buildings in this district to make way for a widened road. As conservationist Ruan Yisan told NPR, “Normal people all want these buildings knocked down, the government wants to knock them down, the developers want to knock them down. It’s only us conservationists who want to keep them.” Whether or not the physical record of this community survives, its written record lives on in such volumes as Voices from Shanghai, a remarkable collection of the letters, diary entries, poems, and short stories composed by Jewish refugees in the years after they landed in China. Recovered from archives, private collections, and now-defunct newspapers, these fascinating accounts make their English-language debut in this new volume. . . .

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Brooks and Dionne on Niebuhr

February 16, 2009
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Brooks and Dionne on Niebuhr

The Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University recently hosted a very engaging discussion between David Brooks and E.J. Dionne on Reinhold Niebuhr, the impact of Niebuhr’s writings on Barack Obama, and relevance of Niebuhr’s thought for our current situation. Niebuhr’s ideas, especially those contained in his influential work The Irony of American History, have circled back into public discourse, primarily because of Obama’s acknowledgment of Niebuhr’s profound influence on his world view. In the conversation Brooks and Dionne discussed Niebuhr’s liberalism, his simultaneous appeal to both liberals and conservatives, and the significance of his resurgence in popularity on the American political scene. The program was moderated by Krista Tippett, host of the American Public Media program Speaking of Faith. Her crew also created an excellent website for the event, which has complete audio and video of the discussion, plus much more. Also read an excerpt from The Irony of American History, “The Ironic Element in the American Situation.” . . .

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Happy Birthday, Ernst Haeckel

February 16, 2009
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Happy Birthday, Ernst Haeckel

As the cacophonous celebrations of Darwin’s bicentenary wind down, another important, though less well known, evolutionary theorist celebrates a milestone birthday. Today marks the 175th anniversary of the birth of Ernst Haeckel (1834—1919), the eminent German biologist, naturalist, philosopher, and artist. A great champion of Darwin, Haeckel helped popularize the theory of evolution in Germany; indeed, prior to the First World War, more people learned of evolution from Haeckel’s voluminous writings than through any other source, including the writings of Darwin himself. In addition, Haeckel gave currency to the idea of the “missing link” between apes and man, formulated the concept of ecology, and promulgated the “biogenetic law”—the idea that the embryo of an advanced species recapitulates the stages the species went through in its evolutionary descent. But, with detractors ranging from paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould to modern-day creationists and advocates of Intelligent Design, Haeckel is better known as a divisive figure than as a pioneering biologist and today, Haeckel remains obscured by the shadow of the man whose theories he worked so tirelessly to promote. Last June, University of Chicago historian of science Robert J. Richards delivered an early birthday present for Haeckel, The Tragic Sense of Life: Ernst . . .

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A love affair with Naples

February 13, 2009
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A love affair with Naples

Offering a tale of passion, vivacity, and beauty appropriate for some Valentines weekend reading, Shirley Hazzard’s new book The Ancient Shore: Dispatches from Naples eloquently recounts the author’s love affair with a city, which, ironically, has recently gained more notoriety for the proliferation of both its crime, and its trash. But as reviewer Judith Martin notes in her article for this Sunday’s NYT Book Review, while acknowledging the city’s more contemporary conundrums, Hazzard’s insight into Naples’ rich history and culture is more than enough to redeem its romantic soul. From Martin’s review: Shirley Hazzard, the noted Australian writer, lives in New York but has spent long stretches of time in a house on Capri. She counts herself as one of the few living Anglo-Americans with a lifelong crush on Naples, rather than the usual Italian cities: Florence, Rome or (as in my case) Venice. In Ancient Shore: Dispatches from Naples, she writes poetically about the lure of an intimate daily relationship with the architectural remains of Naples many rich historical epochs.… She loves visiting other centuries, a lure that every history-hungry traveler will recognize, and beautifully describes the wonders strewn everywhere about the region. Her sense of the presence of . . .

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Lincoln and the Great Depression

February 12, 2009
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Lincoln and the Great Depression

As Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday is celebrated everywhere from Illinois to Australia, Barry Schwartz’s Abraham Lincoln in the Post-Heroic Era takes on a special resonance. Charting the rise and fall of Lincoln’s status as an unquestioned American hero, Schwartz explains how Americans have looked at Lincoln differently as our circumstances and attitudes have shifted. Schwartz starts his story at the beginning of the Great Depression, because “if every era sees itself in Abraham Lincoln and reveals itself in what it says about him, the Lincoln of the Depression and World War II was unique. This Lincoln was the last of its kind, taking American history’s heroic genre as far as it would ever go. He must be the benchmark against which imaginations of subsequent Lincolns are gauged.” As we live through a period that many people have compared to the Depression under a president who identifies with and often speaks of Lincoln, it’s particularly interesting to consider, in light of Schwartz’s insight, what our era is saying about itself right now by way of what we say about the 16th president. And it’s hard to imagine that we’ll ever say more than what we’ve collectively said today—at least until 2109. . . .

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Press Release: Schwartz, Abraham Lincoln in the Post-Heroic Era

February 12, 2009
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Press Release: Schwartz, Abraham Lincoln in the Post-Heroic Era

George W. Bush has just left office in the midst of widespread public disapproval. But how will his presidency be viewed decades from now? It’s hard to know: the reputations of American presidents, including such recent ones as JFK and Richard Nixon, fluctuate remarkably in the years following their tenure. And as we prepare to celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s bicentennial, it’s important to realize that even a figure as eminent as our sixteenth president is not immune to the vicissitudes of public memory. As Barry Schwartz reveals in Abraham Lincoln in the Post-Heroic Era, in the years between his assassination and World War II, Abraham Lincoln became a sort of secular saint, held up as a model for all Americans. But, Schwartz explains, that was the apogee of Lincoln’s popularity; over the ensuing decades, changes in American culture inexorably diminished Lincoln’s standing. Disenchantment with government, a growing understanding of the plight of racial minorities, and a new focus on diversity all contributed to a climate in which no single figure, including Lincoln, could be comfortably held up as a symbol for all Americans—thus, even as the nation grew ever-closer to living the ideals for which he had served as a symbol, . . .

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Love is in the Air: A Valentine’s Day Reading List

February 11, 2009
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Love is in the Air: A Valentine’s Day Reading List

The second week of February offers much to celebrate for the presidential historians and evolution scholars among us. But, in addition to marking the bicentennial of both Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin’s birth, this week also has something for the romantics at heart. This Saturday is Valentine’s Day, and, as you are frantically arranging last minute dinner reservations, ordering flowers for your beloved, and selecting decadent chocolates to satisfy his or her sweet tooth, the University of Chicago Press offers this Valentine’s Day reading list that celebrates love in all its forms. For the poetry lover, may we suggest the poetry of love of the absurd? Sure, love poetry includes descriptions of the beloved and images of a fantastic idyll complete with falling stars, the sound of the sea, and beautiful countryside. But, in the hands of Surrealists, love poetry also includes gravediggers and murderers, dice and garbage, snakeskin purses and “the drunken kisses of cyclones.” Surrealism, the movement founded in the 1920s on the ashes of Dada’s nihilism, embraced absurdity, contradiction, and, to a supreme extent, passion and desire. From André Breton’s battle cry of “Mad Love” to the quiet lyricism of Robert Desnos, Surrealist writers and artists obsessively . . .

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What does a publicist do? An interview with Levi Stahl

February 11, 2009
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What does a publicist do? An interview with Levi Stahl

Nigel Beale, author of the Nota Bene Books blog, recently posted the audio from an interesting interview he conducted with the press’s publicity manager, Levi Stahl. The interview offers a rare insider’s perspective on book marketing and publicity, touching on everything from coordinating book tours and dealing with the media, to writing promotional copy, to the industry’s shift towards online marketing strategies. The pair top off the interview with a discussion of Stahl’s recent efforts in getting the UCP to re-issue the Parker novels, Richard Stark’s famous hardboiled noir mystery series. Listen in on the discussion at Nigel Beale’s Nota Bene Books blog. . . .

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