Monthly Archives: March 2010

Literary rejections

March 19, 2010
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Literary rejections

Lapham’s Quarterly reprints two rejection letters, illustrating the perils of publishers everywhere. Back in 1912, the London publisher Arthur Fifield channeled the author to reject the manuscript for Three Lives by Gertrude Stein. Droll. “Hardly one copy would sell here.” Nearly a century later, the book remains in print. And in another month or two, we will bring back into print lectures that Stein delivered at the University of Chicago in 1935 as Narration. And, one of the best-crafted (and probably best known) rejection letters in literary history, Norman Maclean rejects an entreaty by an editor at Alfred A. Knopf. We can’t help but re-read that one every time. There but for the grace of Allen Fitchen . . . . . .

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Gerhard Richter’s Life in Painting now in video

March 19, 2010
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The University of Chicago Press’s narration of the artistic life of German painter Gerhard Richter is now in video form as well. From YouTube and, for higher quality, in a Quicktime version. Enjoy. . . .

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Chicago Audio Works Podcast—Gerhard Richter: A Life in Painting

March 18, 2010
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Chicago Audio Works Podcast—Gerhard Richter: A Life in Painting

The latest installment of the Chicago Audio Works Podcast narrates the high points in the artistic life of German painter Gerhard Richter, adapted from the just-published Gerhard Richter: A Life in Painting by Dietmar Elger. (Open in Quicktime to see an accompanying set of images from the book.) Despite Richter’s status as one of the most popular artists of the post-war era, Elger’s book is the first biographical account of his life and work. Written with full access to Richter and his archives, Elger explores Richter’s childhood in Nazi Germany; his years as a student and mural painter in communist East Germany; his time in the West during the turbulent 1960s and ’70s, when student protests, political strife, and violence tore the Federal Republic of Germany apart; and his rise to international acclaim during the 1980s and beyond. Richter has always been a difficult personality to parse and the seemingly contradictory strands of his artistic practice have frustrated and sometimes confounded critics. But the extensive interviews on which this book is based disclose a Richter who is far more candid, personal, and vivid than ever before. The result is a book that will be the foundational portrait of this artist . . .

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Lambda Literary Awards Nominate Three UCP Books

March 17, 2010
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Lambda Literary Awards Nominate Three UCP Books

The finalists for the Lambda Literary Awards, which celebrate the best lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans books available in the United States, were announced yesterday, and the University of Chicago Press has three titles among the nominees. The “Lammy” is the most prestigious award given to books of interest to the LGBT community, and we’re honored to have our books recognized. And the nominees are…: For the category of LGBT Studies, we have two contenders: Deborah B. Gould Moving Politics: Emotion and ACT UP’s Fight against AIDS In the late 1980s, after a decade spent engaged in more routine interest-group politics, thousands of lesbians and gay men responded to the AIDS crisis by defiantly and dramatically taking to the streets. But by the early 1990s, the organization they founded, ACT UP, was no more—even as the AIDS epidemic raged on. Weaving together interviews with activists, extensive research, and reflections on the author’s time as a member of the organization, Moving Politics is the first book to chronicle the rise and fall of ACT UP, highlighting a key factor in its trajectory: emotion. Surprisingly overlooked by many scholars of social movements, emotion, Gould argues, plays a fundamental role in political activism. . . .

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Massimo Pigliucci on “radical life extension”

March 16, 2010
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Massimo Pigliucci on “radical life extension”

The New York Times has posted a video from Bloggingheads.tv featuring Mike Treder of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies and Massimo Pigliucci, professor of philosophy at CUNY and author of the forthcoming Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk in an fascinating debate about “radical life extension.” A skeptic, perennial critic of creationism, and outspoken advocate of science education, Massimo Pigliucci is the author of many books and articles on science and its role in society, frequently engaging in heated debate with “deniers of evolution” and “intelligent design proponents.” (Though I don’t believe Mr. Treder is either of these, sorry.) Click the link above for more on his forthcoming volume or find out more about his previous work published by the press, Making Sense of Evolution: The Conceptual Foundations of Evolutionary Biology. Also check out Pigliucci’s blog Rationally Speaking at http://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.com/. . . .

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On the Origins of Altruism

March 15, 2010
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On the Origins of Altruism

Sure, evolution explains how modern humans have come to look as we do, but can it explain how we act? What can Darwinian thought tell us about altruism and morality? This is the question posed this week by the Guardian as part of its fascinating “The Question” series. Is merely a trick played on us by our genes? Or is that in turn an incoherent idea? Can science naturalise morality, and show that there are certain good ends which come naturally to the sort of animals we are? Where, in that case, is the belief that we are free too choose our own ends? Does an evolutionary account of human nature challenge liberalism as much as it challenges conservatism? The first respondent is University of Chicago Press author Michael Ruse, a philosopher of biology, who writes that morality is a product of natural selection: Morality then is not something handed down to Moses on Mount Sinai. It is something forged in the struggle for existence and reproduction, something fashioned by natural selection. It is as much a natural human adaptation as our ears or noses or teeth or penises or vaginas. It works and it has no meaning over . . .

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A close confrontation with the horror of the Nazi state

March 15, 2010
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A close confrontation with the horror of the Nazi state

As James Srodes writes in his recent review of Jews in Nazi Berlin for the Washington Times “all significant historical events—even the ghastly Holocaust—tend to flatten and diminish as time draws us away from the moment they occurred.” Thus the importance of Beate Meyer, Hermann Simon, and Chana Schütz’s archival portrait of Jewish life in the shadow of Nazi Germany—as Srodes writes, a book which “forcibly yanks us back with a fresh, close confrontation with what it was like to face the full horror of the Nazi state’s extermination campaign—and to survive it.” Srodes continues: This book chronicles the… harrowing story of what it was like to live in the heart of the Nazi beast and what one faced in the simple, instinctive struggle to stay alive, to protect one’s loved ones, to bargain with and finally evade the Nazi killing machine. The book itself is a compilation of an exhaustive archival research project shared by two postwar institutions dedicated to gathering, preserving and making sense of the personal documents, photos, diaries, letters and government records of a once great Jewish community that had flourished in the capital of what was believed to be one of the most cultured, civilized . . .

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Why Blair Kamin Matters

March 12, 2010
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Why Blair Kamin Matters

In a recent essay in the journal Places (part of the Design Observer group), Nancy Levinson argues against the recent trend of globe-trotting architecture criticism and proposes instead a return to local expertise. Of the current criticism, she writes: “You’ve got the editorial charge to be national and international, like the rest of the paper, and you’ve got the budget to roam. So you rack up the datelines: Los Angeles, Miami, Boston, Moscow, Stuttgart, Basel, etc. etc. But the view from the tower is broad not sharp, panoramic but not particular. The inevitable result is that you are writing at the thin edge of scant knowledge: you are critiquing places you know only as a tourist, and buildings you know only from brief and usually tightly programmed visits, often in the company of the watchful designer. This is no way to gain meaningful experience or serious knowledge of a building or landscape or how it fits within its local setting and larger environs. But of the future of criticism, she singles out several critics (including Michael Sorkin, whose Twenty Minutes in Manhattan we distribute for Reaktion Books) who are “ somehow… deglamorize the global, to make it . . .

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Science on Film

March 10, 2010
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Science on Film

The Smithsonian Institution has more than thirteen million images in some seven hundred collections throughout its network of museums, research centers, and the National Zoo. The Bigger Picture is a blog that takes a closer look at the Smithsonian’s holdings and invites readers to consider the impact of photography on our perception of history. In a recent post, Press author Marcel Chotkowski LaFollette considered images from the Smithosian’s Flickr commons of female physicists, including Marie Sklodowska Curie, Irène Joliot-Curie, Lise Meitner, and Herta R. Leng. The fascinating discussion, which looks at the intersection of publicity and politics in the world of physics, can be found here. Around here, LaFollete is known for her analysis of science in different media: her 2008 book Science on the Air: Popularizers and Personalities on Radio and Early Television transports readers to the early days of radio, when the new medium allowed innovative and optimistic scientists the opportunity to broadcast serious and dignified presentations over the airwaves. Lafollette chronicles the efforts of science popularizers, from 1923 until the mid-1950s, as they negotiated topic, content, and tone in order to gain precious time on the air. Offering a new perspective on the collision between science’s idealistic . . .

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Piratical acts and the shaping of modern IP law

March 10, 2010
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Piratical acts and the shaping of modern IP law

Toronto’s The Globe and Mail published a review of Adrian Johns’s Piracy in Monday’s edition of the paper. In the review Grace Westcott takes special note of Johns’s unique approach to the history of intellectual property debates— a feat he accomplishes by focusing his narrative away from the victims of piracy, to the look more closely at the roles of the pirates themselves. As Westcott writes: Why is Johns talking about a history of piracy, as opposed to a history of intellectual property law? According to him, the modern concept of intellectual property did not even exist prior to the mid-19th century, by which point, he says, there had already been 150 years of piracy. More pointedly, he argues that virtually all the central principles of intellectual property were developed in response to piratical acts. It is conflict over piracy, and the measures taken against it, he says, that forces society to define and defend, adapt or abandon, strongly held ideals of authorship, public discourse, science and dissemination of knowledge. Piracy is, from this perspective, central to the emergence of the modern information society. Read it online at The Globe and Mail website. Also read an excerpt from the book. . . .

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