Monthly Archives: April 2009

Will Dunne joins the conversation

April 30, 2009
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Will Dunne joins the conversation

The City of Chicago’s annual Great Chicago Places & Spaces festival takes place in May, featuring “an incredible line-up of free tours, events and activities downtown and at community sites throughout Chicago.” For the second year the festival includes our Conversations Within Communities reading series featuring Press authors Cathy J. Maloney, Will Dunne, Ann Durkin Keating, and Joel Greenberg.

Tomorrow (Friday) at 12:15 pm at the Chicago Cultural Center and again at 6:30 pm at Second City, Will Dunne will speak about his new book The Dramatic Writer’s Companion: Tools to Develop Characters, Cause Scenes, and Build Stories—a handbook to script writing that draws on the author’s own extensive experience as a world renown playwright and teacher, having led over fifteen hundred workshops through his San Francisco program, and authored such plays as How I Became an Interesting Person and Hotel Desperado. Dunne is resident playwright at Chicago Dramatists.

Other upcoming readings will feature Anne Durkin Keating, speaking about her new book Chicago Neighborhoods and Suburbs: A Historical Guide on May 8, and Joel Greenberg author of Of Prairie, Woods, and Water: Two Centuries of Chicago Nature Writing on the 15th.

For more information see our author events listings. Also . . .

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Lawrence Rothfield on the Book Bench blog

April 30, 2009
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Lawrence Rothfield on the Book Bench blog

The New Yorker‘s books blog yesterday inaugurated “a regular feature in which academics explain their work.” First up? Lawrence Rothfield, author of the new The Rape of Mesopotamia: Behind the Looting of the Iraq Museum.

In addition to explaining the many factors that led to looting of the Iraq Museum—and the “even more disastrous” pillaging of thousands of Mesopotamian sites—Rothfield discusses the research that allowed him to identify those causes.

The interview includes Rothfield’s revealing descriptions of the the most memorable interview he conducted in researching the topic, and the the most interesting fact he uncovered that didn’t make it into the book.

And, for a taste of the research that did make it into the book, this excerpt is a good place to start.

(Also, see this recent review of the book by Chicago Tribune cultural critic Julia Keller.)

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More on the horseman of the academic apocalypse

April 29, 2009
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More on the horseman of the academic apocalypse

On Monday we alerted you to Mark C. Taylor’s op-ed in the Sunday New York Times. Since then, it has been the number one most emailed story at nytimes.com for three days running. And, as we noted on Monday, reaction has been shift and vocal. The Chronicle of Higher Education ran a rebuttal of Taylor’s call to action by mid-morning Monday (which engendered a lively debate that played out in the comments), and Michael Bérubé chimed in on Crooked Timber yesterday afternoon. Elsewhere in the blogosphere, responses have been sprouting up hourly.

Whether you are with him or against him, Taylor has long been known for his provocative approach to emerging network culture. Over a long career, Taylor has argued that everything from art to religion can be viewed through and better understood through this lens. The University of Chicago Press has long published Taylor‘s interdisciplinary works, and there is no better place to begin to understand Taylor’s philosophy and criticism than with these primary resources. If his New York Times piece got you thinking, imagine what his books can offer!

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A lighthearted but scholarly guide to the lingual dimension

April 28, 2009
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A lighthearted but scholarly guide to the lingual dimension

In his On Language column for Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, William Safire features Carol Fisher Saller’s The Subversive Copy Editor in a survey of new langlit.

Applauding Saller’s “good advice,” Safire notes that “the editor of The Chicago Manual of Style Online‘s Q&A has written a book out of her Web experience, in contrast to those who take to the Web to blog-flog a book.” That said, Saller’s famous (among editors, at least!) online presence stretches from long before to, we hope, long after her new book’s appearance.

But this is The Subversive Copy Editor‘s moment, and we, like Safire, can’t help but give her the last witty word: “There’s no end to the amount of fussing you can do with a manuscript, whereas there’s a limit to the amount of money someone will pay you to do it. At some point it has to be good enough, and you have to stop.”

(Before we stop, though, we should point out that at our Web site you can sample and listen to Saller read from the book. And, if you happen to be in Minneapolis, Chicago, or Paris next month, you can hear her talk about the book in . . .

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Press Release: Page and Jacobs, Class War?

April 28, 2009
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Press Release: Page and Jacobs, Class War?

“Some people are vengeful, calling for jail, public humiliation, or even revolution,” the New York Times reported in March, adding to innumerable accounts of outrage at the news that insurance giant A.I.G. planned to use millions of federal bailout dollars for employee bonuses. Punctuated by such anger, the economic crisis has shone a stark light on the growing chasm between America’s haves and have-nots. Striking a timely note of unity, Class War? reveals that both sides of this class divide actually agree to a surprising—and heartening—extent about what government should do to close it.

In fact, Benjamin Page and Lawrence Jacobs argue that at every income level and across geographical and ideological lines, most Americans favor public intervention to narrow the gap between rich and poor and create equal economic opportunities for all. Drawing on more than 70 years of opinion studies, they show that majorities support not only higher minimum wages, improved public education, and greater access to healthcare, but also the use of taxation to fund such programs.

As lawmakers battle over how to heal our ailing economy, Class War? provides undeniable proof of the popular consensus their constituents have been building for decades: that our government . . .

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Higher learning as a “complex adaptive network”

April 27, 2009
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Higher learning as a “complex adaptive network”

Since the onslaught of the financial crisis, the federal government has bailed out Wall Street and Detroit. But at least one more venerable institution now needs saving, according to polymath and long-time UCP author Mark C. Taylor: the University. In an op-ed contribution published yesterday in the New York Times, Taylor lays out a six-point plan for restructuring higher education in this country. Among the many controversial recommendations Taylor offers—including dissolving academic departments and abolishing tenure—is a prescriptive that affects the publishing community in general and the academic press world in particular: the publication of dissertations. Taylor suggests that graduate students produce “analytic treatments in formats from hypertext and Web sites to films and video games” instead of traditional “books modeled on the medieval dissertation, with more footnotes than text.” Whether or not that evolution comes to pass, Taylor’s call to critically examine the state of the modern university has been met with vociferous debate in the Times’ online comment forum.

Many of the ideas that Taylor espouses in the piece, especially that of complex adaptive networks, have been explored in books ranging from The Moment of Complexity: Emerging Network Culture to Confidence Games: Money and Markets in a World . . .

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Swine flu—infectious disease in a global age

April 27, 2009
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Swine flu—infectious disease in a global age

The rapid migration of the potentially deadly strain of H1N1 flu virus, recently discovered to have originated in Mexico, is a potent reminder of the new and pressing challenges to public health in the global age. With documented cases already appearing in the U.S. and Europe, and over 1800 suspected cases worldwide, health officials—including the World Health Organization—are still waiting to assess the potential of the swine flu to transform itself into a pandemic.

Among the factors most concerning to those monitoring the outbreak is the virus’s relatively high mortality rate among the cases documented in Mexico, and, as the Washington Post recently noted, its tendency to affect “relatively young adults, presumably among the population’s most healthy”—a feature which some already are connecting to the 1919 Spanish flu pandemic. Caused by a strain of influenza that killed via a cytokine storm (overreaction of the body’s immune system), victims of the Spanish flu were also younger and healthier than those normally thought most susceptible. The strong immune systems of young adults ravaged the body, whereas the weaker immune systems of children and middle-aged adults caused fewer deaths.

But while the 1919 pandemic resulted so many fatalities, it has also provided scientists . . .

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The wild man in academe

April 24, 2009
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The wild man in academe

So if the Gold Leaf Lady can prove to be a fruitful subject for academic inquiry, why not Bigfoot as well?

As a recent article in the The Chronicle of Higher Education notes, Joshua Blu Buhs, author of Bigfoot: The Life and Times of a Legend, doesn’t make any arguments about the existence of the legendary Sasquatch, but as a cultural phenomenon, Bigfoot, the author shows, proves a substantial subject. Summarizing Buh’s fascinating account “of how the trope of the wild man has figured culturally since ancient times,” Nina C. Ayoub writes for the Chronicle:

travels deep into the Himalayas where Bigfoot’s Asian cousin, the Yeti, has been pursued. He describes how even seasoned mountaineers could be taken in by high-altitude conditions of sun and “sublimated” snow that can turn a fox print into a sprawling hominid-like track and explores the creature’s appeal to the nonindigenous. “The Yeti was untouched by the materialism of modern life,” he writes. Years after conquering Everest, Edmund Hillary led an expedition with a side goal of investigating the Yeti. He concluded that the beast was a myth. “Snowman melted,” said The New York Times in 1961.

Yet even as Yeti stock went . . .

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Who is the Gold Leaf Lady?

April 23, 2009
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Who is the Gold Leaf Lady?

On a slow day in Northampton, Mass., after they had seen the only movie in town, Stephen Braude’s friends convinced him to play “this game called table-up”—or, in other words, to have a seance. Thus began the “sordid and complicated tale” of Braude’s exploration of the paranormal in everyday life—-a story whose most recent chapter is The Gold Leaf Lady and Other Parapsychological Investigations.

In a conversation this week with his colleague Rennie Short—currently airing on the University of Maryland Baltimore County YouTube channel—Braude discusses his evolution from a hard-nosed materialist to a president of the Parapsychological Association. Along the way, he discusses some of the most fascinating case studies from The Gold Leaf Lady—including, of course, the book’s namesake. After watching the video, you can learn even more in this excerpt.

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Everything old is new again

April 23, 2009
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Everything old is new again

The “Home & Garden” section of today’s New York Times features a story on a group of horticulturalists who have dedicated themselves to a unique gardening project that combines antiquarianism, botany, and a bit of banditry to preserve the heirloom roses of New York City.

According to the article, roses “captured the hearts of early New Yorkers” prompting many amateur rosarians in the city to breed and cultivate their own varieties, many of which gained world wide popularity during the late nineteenth century. But while horticulturalists one hundred years ago took the availability of a wide variety of cultivars for granted, more recently the mass production of the more profitable “hybrid tea roses,” to the exclusion of everything else, has drastically decreased the available selection. Now, rose enthusiasts like Douglas Brenner, Stephen Scanniello, and Betty Vickers—the so called “rose rustlers” featured in the NYT article—have made it their task to seek out and re-propagate the antique species, often by raiding old estates and cemeteries and to take cuttings of feral plants.

Back in 2002 we reprinted the classic story of antique rose collectors and their crusade in Thomas Christopher’s In Search of Lost Roses. Detailing the heritage of 2,500 . . .

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