Monthly Archives: April 2010

Seth Lerer wins the 2010 Truman Capote Award

April 15, 2010
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Seth Lerer wins the 2010 Truman Capote Award

Seth Lerer, author of Children’s Literature: A Reader’s History from Aesop to Harry Potter has won the 2010 Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism. Lerer’s book—a comprehensive survey of children’s literature, from Aesop’s Fables to Harry Potter—offers a fascinating exploration of the various ways that tales like these have helped shape the Western literary imagination. According to the award press release: “The book is also a kind of ‘intellectual autobiography,” touching on Lerer’s own youthful passion for reading and his experience as a parent. “I thought about it from a personal view, watching how my son grew into a reader,” he said. Maria Tatar of Harvard University called the book “a breathtakingly powerful and complex history of children’s literature that energizes rather than depletes.” “Lerer gives us the facts” Tatar said, “but he also weaves experiences and stories into an account that moves in registers ranging from the ecstatic to the elegiac. An ideal guide for students new to the field of children’s literature as well as for scholars familiar with the territory.” The award, administered by the Writers Workshop at the University of Iowa, will be presented during a public event at 4 p.m. Thursday, May 6, in the . . .

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Press Release: Yuill, Medicine Show

April 15, 2010
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Press Release: Yuill, Medicine Show

In Medicine Show, inner conflict is wonderfully realized in the clash of down-home plain speech and European high culture utterances. Tom Yuill’s book mirrors an old-style hawking of wares, with all the charm and absurdity that results when high culture meets pop, when city meets small town, and when provincialism confronts urbanity. ”Medicine Show lives up to both halves of its title: a vivid, exhilarating imagination show that is also strong medicine. Tom Yuill examines the grief and desperation underlying postures and ruses of self-deception. The book’s brilliant adaptations and imitations of Hikmet and Villon cast a raking, skeptical light on Texas versions of the quasi-Byronic hero. Yuill’s sardonic, clear-eyed comedy is humane and antic: a born talker on a serious mission.“—ROBERT PINSKY “This is strong medicine: tough, dysphemistic at times, at times brilliantly rude, Yuill is a poet of praise but also a poet of the lowdown and the takedown, cutting in where other writers fear to go: ‘Your dead are real,’ he warns, ‘They’re on your shoulders, picking at your meals.’ Yuill is ready to see disgust, or violence, but even more ready to praise where praise is deserved. He’s tough on himself but kind to his great . . .

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The ruins of the U.S.

April 15, 2010
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The ruins of the U.S.

Nick Yablon, professor of American studies and author of Untimely Ruins: An Archaeology of American Urban Modernity, 1819-1919 was given a short interview this morning on NPR’s Marketplace to discuss his book and the modern “ruins” that now dot the American landscape in the wake of the great recession. Navigate to the Marketplace website to listen to the archived audio. About the book: American ruins have become increasingly prominent, whether in discussions of “urban blight” and home foreclosures, in commemorations of 9/11, or in postapocalyptic movies. In this highly original book, Nick Yablon argues that the association between American cities and ruins dates back to a much earlier period in the nation’s history. Recovering numerous scenes of urban desolation—from failed banks, abandoned towns, and dilapidated tenements to the crumbling skyscrapers and bridges envisioned in science fiction and cartoons—Untimely Ruins challenges the myth that ruins were absent or insignificant objects in nineteenth-century America. Unearthing evocative sources everywhere from the archives of amateur photographers to the contents of time-capsules, Untimely Ruins exposes crucial debates about the economic, technological, and cultural transformations known as urban modernity. The result is a fascinating cultural history that uncovers fresh perspectives on the American city. . . .

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Everything you ever wanted to know about children

April 14, 2010
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Everything you ever wanted to know about children

Probably the most comprehensive book on children ever conceived, The Child: An Encyclopedic Companion contains more than 500 articles written by experts in their fields covering, as editor-in-chief Richard Shweder remarks in this recent article, “everything you ever wanted to know but never even thought to ask.” Shweder continues: “we wanted it to be authoritative, balanced, clear, lacking in jargon and appealing to a very broad group—everyone from parents to grandparents to lawyers to pediatricians to educators to social workers.” And indeed with entries providing concise and accessible synopses of the topics at hand, alongside over forty highly readable “Imagining Each Other” essays that focus on the particular experiences of children in different cultures, The Child is the definitive resource for all who work with children. To find out more read the article on the website of the State Journal Register, or navigate to this special website for the book offering a video of Shweder talking about the book, sample articles, and more. . . .

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Take a Swim with the Fishes of the Open Ocean

April 14, 2010
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Take a Swim with the Fishes of the Open Ocean

A few years ago, the Press made a big splash with The Deep, a collection of extraordinary images of unseen sea monsters lurking in the briny abyss. But what about the fishes who spend their lives closer to the surface? These creatures at last get their due in Julian Pepperell’s Fishes of the Open Ocean: A Natural History and Illustrated Guide. The first book to comprehensively describe these fishes and explore the complex and often fragile world in which they live, Fishes of the Open Ocean will be the definitive book on the subject for years to come—and, with over three hundred color images, the most lavishly produced as well. In it, Pepperell details the environment and biology of every major species of fish that inhabits the open ocean, an expanse that covers 330 million cubic miles and is the largest aquatic habitat on the Earth. Discover magazine recently launched an online gallery of images from the book. Though these species might be more familiar to us than the oddities of the deep sea, they are nonetheless still magnificent. Check out the oarfish, the creature likely mistaken for sea serpents by mariners of the past. Or take a closer look . . .

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Martin Prieb’s “The Wagon” at Newcity magazine

April 13, 2010
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Martin Prieb’s “The Wagon” at Newcity magazine

Newcity magazine recently published an except from Chicago police officer turned author Martin Preib’s new book The Wagon and Other Stories from the City—a collection inspired by Preib’s daily life as a policeman and his other jobs working in the city’s service sector. The story begins: The dead seek the lowest places in Chicago: We find them in basements, laundry rooms, on floors next to couches, sticking out of two parked cars or shrubs next to the sidewalk. It is more than gravity that pulls them down, for in every dead body there is something more willfully downward: the lowest possible place, the head sunken into the chest and turned toward the floor. Read the rest of the story on the Newcity website or check out another story from the book on our website. . . .

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Exhuming American history

April 12, 2010
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Exhuming American history

While plenty has been written on the lives of such notable figures as Sitting Bull, John Paul Jones, Frank Lloyd Wright, Daniel Boone, Jefferson Davis, or Abraham Lincoln, in Digging Up the Dead: A History of Notable American Reburials Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Michael Kammen demonstrates that they have just as much to tell us after they are dead and gone. Examining the fascinating, surprising, and sometimes gruesome stories of exhumation and reburial of some of American history’s most influential dead people, Kammen shows how complicated interactions of regional pride, shifting reputations, and evolving burial practices can lead to public, often emotional battles over the final resting places of famous figures. As Drake Bennett writes in the lead-in to his recent interview with the author in the Boston Globe: The disputes that have broken out throughout American history over where and how to inter our most honored countrymen—and they have broken out often—are vivid, elucidating examples of how it is that history, in the most literal way, is argued over, made and then remade. Where someone is buried, what the ceremony entails, what the memorial looks like, these help determine which version of history is enshrined and who gets to tell . . .

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Charles Bernstein, Mainstream Poet

April 12, 2010
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Charles Bernstein, Mainstream Poet

T.S. Eliot may have been the first to call April the “cruelest month.” But Charles Bernstein made the famous line even more memorable when he wrote “April is the cruelest month for poetry.” That’s the first line of his classic screed, “Against National Poetry Month,” in which the seminal Language poet argues that in making poetry accessible, NPM “reinforces the idea that poetry is culturally irrelevant and has done a disservice not only to poetry deemed too controversial or difficult to promote but also to the poetry it puts forward in this way.” Presciently (the essay was written in 1999), Bernstein writes, “I also note this year that The New York Times is a major sponsor of National Poetry Month; but if the Times would take seriously the task of reviewing poetry books and readings, it would be doing a far greater service to poetry than advertising its support for National Poetry Month.” Well, it may have taken eleven years, but the Times, at long last, heeded Bernstein’s call when they published a review yesterday of his new book of selected poems All the Whiskey in Heaven. As the piece notes, this is his “first book not published by a . . .

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On the companionship of books

April 9, 2010
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On the companionship of books

With all the pessimistic prognostications about the demise of the book, it’s always refreshing and reassuring to read an essay that celebrates the transformative—and transportive—power of reading. Philip Graham, author of the book The Mooon, Come to Earth, offered us just that yesterday on the fantastic literary website The Millions. In “Every Day I Open a Book,” Graham chronicles his evolution—from his first years as a book-adverse elementary school student to his later childhood in which be became a reader so voracious his parents thought perhaps he was unwell. Books, for Graham, became a safe haven—an escape to a fantasy world—when his real world was too much to bear. He writes: Such books gave me my future, not so much my future as a writer, though of course there is that, but my future as a human, a fallible human engaged in the futile attempt to know oneself and others. Each new book, like Zeno’s arrow, gets closer to but never hits the target. There is no easy or final understanding, but without the attempt, who can bear to live the isolation that is the alternative? And the more I read, the more I think that all readers have secret . . .

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Where Justice Stevens comes from

April 9, 2010
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Where Justice Stevens comes from

Illinois is perhaps unique for having fostered the careers of both some of the most upstanding, and of course, most corrupt political figures the nation has ever known. This morning various papers are reporting that a member of the former camp, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, has announced his retirement. His long career in the nation’s highest court has spanned nearly four decades and seven presidencies, and though an appointee of the Ford administration, he is notable for having maintained a non-partisan and adaptable stance towards many issues from the right to choose to affirmative action. You can navigate to just about any news source for more on the final chapter in Justice Stevens’ Supreme Court career, but perhaps the more engrossing read is the story of its beginnings, embroiled the kind of dramatic struggle between darkness and light that only a city like Chicago can deliver. Kenneth A. Manaster’s Illinois Justice: The Scandal of 1969 and the Rise of John Paul Stevens takes readers behind the scenes of one of the most spectacular Illinois political scandals (and there have been many) to tell the tale of the beginning of Stevens ascension to the high court. In 1969, while . . .

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