Monthly Archives: May 2010

Harvey Cohen on BBC’s Nightwaves

May 18, 2010
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Harvey Cohen on BBC’s Nightwaves

Harvey G. Cohen, author of Duke Ellington’s America was recently interviewed by Philip Dodd on the BBC Radio 3 program Nightwaves. In the program Cohen discusses the profound influence Ellington and his music had on American culture and the complex role he played in America’s civil rights movement. You can find the archived audio from the interview on their site. (You’ll want to fast forward to about 17.10 for the beginning of Cohen’s interview.) Read an excerpt. . . .

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Made in America gets the Page 99 Test

May 17, 2010
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Made in America gets the Page 99 Test

Marshal Zeringue strikes again! Claude S. Fischer’s Made in America: A Social History of American Culture and Character is featured this week on Zeringue’s literary blog, the Page 99 Test. On the blog Zeringue asks authors to flip to page 99 of their books, summarize it, and then give a brief explanation of how it relates to the rest of the work. One of the central arguments in Fischer’s book is that American “voluntarism,” or as Molly Worthen put it in a recent article for The New Republic, “an enthusiasm for community as long as membership is always by choice rather than obligation,” has been, since the days of the first European colonists, one of the defining forces shaping American culture. Page 99 of Fischer’s book takes up his discussion of this topic. Click over to the Page 99 Test to read. To read some pages other than page 99, see our excerpt. . . .

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Kenneth A. Manaster on Justice John Paul Stevens

May 14, 2010
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Kenneth A. Manaster on Justice John Paul Stevens

In all of this week’s hubbub surrounding Elena Kagan—President Obama’s nominee to replace John Paul Stevens on the U. S. Supreme Court—the articles and op-eds praising retiring Justice Stevens have fallen below the radar. Here’s one by Kenneth Manaster, author of Illinois Justice: The Scandal of 1969 and the Rise of John Paul Stevens from the SCOTUS blog: Like a few others invited to write for this series about Justice Stevens, I believe an invitation was extended to me more because of my long friendship with him than because of my scholarly interests or our professional association. As principally an environmental law teacher, I have already written elsewhere about John’s work on the Court in that subject. As one of the small, lucky group of young Chicago lawyers who worked under him in the 1969 Special Commission investigation of the Illinois Supreme Court, I also have written a history of that remarkable, pivotal chain of events. In the ensuing forty-plus years, my friendship with John has been a great joy, but reflections on simply a personal connection cannot be presumed to be of much interest or benefit to others. What, then, might I offer to readers who follow Justice Stevens’ . . .

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“A fine excercise in quiet iconoclasm”

May 14, 2010
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“A fine excercise in quiet iconoclasm”

The New Republic‘s online review, The Book, posted an interesting critique of Claude S. Fischer’s Made in America: A Social History of American Culture and Character yesterday, praising its provocative challenge to some of sociology’s most entrenched preconceptions concerning contemporary American culture. As TNR‘s Molly Worthen writes: Fischer’s book is a fine exercise in quiet iconoclasm. His thesis—that over the past three centuries, economic growth and widening perimeters of social inclusion have enabled more people to share a uniquely American collective identity—may sound like heresy to many scholars. In most academic circles, one must avoid phrases like “American mainstream,” “American exceptionalism,” and “grand narrative” at all costs. These words have become code for a jingoistic history of privileged white men, the Anglo-Saxon haves who oppressed the multi-ethnic have-nots and tracked superpower footprints heedlessly across the globe. Since the 1960s, new social historians have asserted the primacy of “history from the bottom up” over the traditional tales of statesmen and generals, and have crusaded under the banner of hyphenated Americans and identity politics. They have condemned any attempt to chronicle a single history shared by all as a racist and classist illusion, a conservative maneuver in the culture wars. Only a . . .

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Duke Ellington’s America in the New Yorker

May 13, 2010
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Duke Ellington’s America in the New Yorker

Duke Ellington’s influence on the world of music is well documented, but less so his impact on race relations in twentieth century America. In his new biography, Duke Ellington’s America, cultural historian Harvey G. Cohen shows how, as Ellington’s music propelled him to international fame, he was able to harness his unique social status and artistic genius to influence issues of race, equality and religion. A recent article on Ellington in the New Yorker draws on Cohen’s biography to offer a glimpse into Ellington’s life and his strategies for manipulating American cultural attitudes towards race. In the article, Claudia Roth Pierpont paints a picture of Ellington as a man constantly struggling to maintain a broad appeal, (even in the American south where he occasionally played for segregated audiences), while making his music the front on which he waged war against the racism that inevitably shaped his compositions, performances, and his life. Read it online at the New Yorker website. Also read an excerpt from the book. . . .

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David E. Apter, 1924—2010

May 13, 2010
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David E. Apter, 1924—2010

David E. Apter, professor emeritus of comparative political and social development at Yale University and author of many books on the political and social struggles of developing nations including The Politics of Modernization published by the Press in 1965, passed away last Tuesday at the age of 85. According to this obituary in the New York Times: on social science and political theory and his own forays into impoverished lands, where he encountered peasants, politicians and sometimes terrorists.… In his travels, he interviewed colonial bureaucrats, nationalist leaders, generals, foot soldiers, tribal chiefs, trade unionists, farmers, fishermen and merchants in the bazaar. “He was a tireless field worker, learning the fine grain of life out on the surfaces of the world where people actually live, and had a remarkable capacity to make broader theory out of it,” Kai T. Erikson, a former president of the American Sociological Association, said in an interview. “It’s hard to pin him to the wall as a political scientist or a sociologist,” Professor Erikson said. “He had huge influence in both fields, bringing them together as an inventor of interdisciplinarity—almost the coiner of the term.” David E. Apter is survived by his wife . . .

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Write a New Parker Heist, Win Parker Novels

May 12, 2010
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Write a New Parker Heist, Win Parker Novels

He’s stolen diamonds. He’s robbed casinos. He’s even gone under the knife and changed his face to avoid a mob hit. But he’s never knocked over a bookstore. Yet. You’ve read the books, but can you write the next great Parker heist? That’s the challenge put forth by the venerable Chicago independent, 57th Street Books. They’ve orchestrated a contest, you see, 350-word flash-fiction job to determine who can write the best bookstore heist story starring Parker. All you have to do is send your entry in the body of an e-mail to contest@semcoop.com before midnight on June 14th, 2010. The take for the winning heists? A set of all twelve gorgeously designed Parker reissues from the Press and publication on The Front Table, the webzine of The Seminary Co-op Bookstores. Need inspiration? Or need a little background on Parker (he’s very evasive)? Check out all of our titles in the series, and read an interview with Parker’s puppeteer, the master mystery writer Donald Westlake (who wrote the series under the pseudonym Richard Stark). For more information on the contest, check out the announcement here. Now get writing! . . .

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The Wagon in the Wall Street Journal

May 12, 2010
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The Wagon in the Wall Street Journal

A new review of Martin Prieb’s The Wagon and Other Stories from the City that ran in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal begins: Police thrillers are so widely read and police dramas so commonplace on television that many people think they have a good understanding of what a cop’s world is like. But in truth that world is seldom revealed with anything approaching verisimilitude. We get it with “The Wagon.” Commenting on the first story in the collection the review continues: As with police work itself, the book is only sporadically about gunfights, car chases and collaring criminals. Any television show that depicted the tedium of a police officer’s typical day wouldn’t draw much of an audience. In truth, most cops go through their entire careers without firing their weapon except on the practice range, but almost all of them are sooner or later called to deal with a dead body. Every cop, no matter how many he has encountered since, remembers his first one. But few cops are able to describe that rite of passage as convincingly as Mr. Preib does in “Body Bags.” And if won’t take the WSJ‘s word for it you can see for yourself by navigating . . .

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E-book Q&A with press director Garrett Kiely

May 12, 2010
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E-book Q&A with press director Garrett Kiely

Over the past few years e-books have been gradually finding their way into the mainstream with new digital devices entering the marketplace that make downloading and reading even titles hard to find in print, as easy as a few clicks of a mouse button. Many have been struggling to keep up with this new technology and the new sets of obstacles and opportunities it offers the world of publishing. The University of Chicago Press, for one, has become somewhat of a guinea pig in the academic and scholarly publishing community, already distributing thousands of our titles electronically through digital library subscription services and direct to the public via Amazon’s Kindle Reader and the like—as well as implementing a monthly free e-book giveaway. On Monday the Chronicle of Higher Education caught up with Press director Garrett Kiely to find out more about the Press’s pioneering e-books program and how the free e-books offered by the Press have stimulated interest in electronic reading. Here’s a short excerpt: Q. Why give away a free e-book every month? Where did the idea come from? A. Chicago has an E-Books Working Group that meets regularly and discusses all aspects of our e-publishing program. When we . . .

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Michael Forsberg on FORA.TV

May 11, 2010
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Michael Forsberg on FORA.TV

Michael Forsberg whose stunning photographs of some of America’s last untamed prairies grace the pages of his new book Great Plains: America’s Lingering Wild recently delivered a fascinating lecture on his work and the importance of conservation efforts on the great plains at the California Academy of the Sciences. FORA.TV is currently hosting video of the entire lecture, which features images from Forsberg’s book including some behind the scenes shots of the photographer in action, demonstrating the painstaking lengths to which the author went to photograph the lingering wild that still survives in America’s heartland. View the video below or watch it at FORA.TV. Also, see a gallery of photographs and sample pages from the book in PDF format (4.2Mb). . . .

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