Monthly Archives: November 2012

In praise of Dangerous Work

November 30, 2012
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In praise of Dangerous Work

From the New York Times Book Review:

A riddle: What does Captain Ahab have in common with Sherlock Holmes?

Answer: Both characters were created by writers who sailed on whaling vessels, who knew firsthand the heft of a harpoon, the bite of raging gales and the blisters raised by oars.

. . .

A second riddle: What does Dangerous Work have in common with Moby-Dick?

A few of a hundred possible answers: Both books disguise great depth beneath the cloak of an adventure story. Both offer accounts of what was once a major industry, comparable in relative terms to today’s oil industry. Both should be read from cover to cover, shared with friends and revisited in front of a warm fire. And both, for different reasons, are books to treasure, the kind that kindle and rekindle a love of words and a feeling of irredeemable debt to the men behind them.

Read more from Bill Streever’s review here.

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David Ferry: National Book Award winner

November 15, 2012
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David Ferry: National Book Award winner

Where did you go to, when you went away?

It is as if you step by step were going

Someplace elsewhere into some other range

Of speaking, that I had no gift for speaking,

Knowing nothing of the language of that place

To which you went with naked foot at night

Into the wilderness there elsewhere in the bed,

Elsewhere somewhere in the house beyond my seeking.

I have been so dislanguaged by what happened

I cannot speak the words that somewhere you

Maybe were speaking to others where you went.

Maybe they talk together where they are,

Restlessly wandering, along the shore,

Waiting for a way to cross the river.

—”That Now are Wild and Do Not Remember,” from Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations

In 1983, the Phoenix Poets series published its inaugural volume—Strangers: A Book of Poems, by longtime Wellesley College professor David Ferry. Strangers was Ferry’s second book of his own poems; his first published work was a study on Wordsworth (The Limits of Mortality, 1959), soon followed by his debut collectionOn the Way to the Island (1960). What had Ferry been doing the . . .

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Scott Esposito on Wayne Booth

November 14, 2012
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Scott Esposito on Wayne Booth

Why do university presses matter? That’s what’s at stake for AAUP’s University Press Week, a celebration of the Association of American University Presses’ 75 years of commitment to promoting the work and interests of nonprofit scholarly publishers. At some point, the answer to that question was more or less obvious; in 1937, when the AAUP was founded, it’s mission was inferred from a decade’s worth of cooperative activities—a joint catalog, shared direct mailing lists, cooperative ads, and an educational directory. Since then, scholarly publishing has become tantamount to the production of knowledge it chooses to disseminate—it’s diverse in its platforms; complex in its shepherding and inclusion of disciplines; rich in its roster of scholars, critics, editors, and translators; and acute in its responses to the shifting parameters of technology, the auspices of funding, and the risk of institutionalization. No static thing, this.

We asked editor, writer, and literary critic Scott Esposito, whose online journal the Quarterly Conversation bears significant responsibility for the discovery of Sergio De La Pava’s self-published debut novel A Naked Singularity (republished by the University of Chicago Press in 2012), to help us fly our flag. Over conversation at a . . .

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Braided Worlds: I had a dream last night

November 13, 2012
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Braided Worlds: I had a dream last night

#UPWeek continues—Why do university presses matter? How do they conceive themselves and their role in publishing’s none-too-subtly shifting domain?

Today’s highlights:

MIT Press editorial director Gita Manaktala discusses adapting to changes in scholarship and knowledge production—and how collaboration and timeliness remain key.

At the University of California Press blog, library relations manager Rachel Lee emphasizes the importance of university press publishing to research libraries, as they confront industry-wide shifts, as well as the changing role of the humanities as a key discipline.

University of Hawai’i Press editorial board member Barbara Watson Andaya takes on the importance of specialist knowledge in our increasingly fragmented yet globalized world.

R. Bruce Elder blogs for Wilfrid Laurier Press on “the state of humanity in a society dominated by technology, unearthing the heart of academic publishing and its impact on an ever-conforming world.”

And finally: three University Press of Florida interns (Claire Eder, Samantha Pryor, and Alia Almeida) write about how their time at the Press shaped—and challenged—their direction.

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One of the ways in which scholarly publishing continues to matter is in offering a home to interdisciplinary . . .

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Winold Reiss: Painter of the Harlem Renaissance

November 12, 2012
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Winold Reiss: Painter of the Harlem Renaissance

And Bid Him Sing: A Biography of Countée Cullen by Charles Molesworth considers the extensive body of work and unpublished correspondence, as well as the life of Harlem’s legendary poet-citizen. Cullen’s volume Color (1925) was a watershed moment for the Harlem Renaissance; his translation of Euripides’ Medea was the first by an African American of a Greek tragedy; and his tumultuous existence, which included distant ties with his mother, a short-lived marriage to the daughter of W. E. B. Du Bois, and an untimely death at the age of forty-two, shadowed his role as one of the chief voices of his generation.

A complicated life often demands more than simple illustration. This is evident in Molesworth’s biography, but also in the unattributed cover image gracing the book. The sketch of Cullen, credited to the National Portrait Gallery at the Smithsonian, is by German–American artist and designer Winold Reiss (1884–1953), who painted over 250 images of Native Americans (most notably the Blackfeet), traveled to Mexico to portray Aztec revolutionaries, and contributed dozens of portraits of Harlem Renaissance figures during the first-half of the twentieth century, when racial prejudice and tensions undermined much of American culture. His interior designs ranged from cafes . . .

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Jane Addams: Citizen

November 6, 2012
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Jane Addams: Citizen

On Election Day, it’s never a bad idea to revisit the larger consequences and historical stakes behind our democratic sweepstakes. Jane Addams (1860–1935)—sociologist, author, philosopher, suffragette, Nobel Peace Prize–winner, and founder of Hull House—felt frustration during the Progressive Era, in part because of the conditions affecting the working class, women, and children, but also because of the moral failings of industrial capitalism, which she attributed less to the system and more to the foibles of individual capitalists. She strove to view the labor movement not as a one-armed political struggle, but as a lens through which we might attempt to unify our sympathies for the suffering of others. In this excerpt from Citizen: Jane Addams and the Struggle for Democracy, Louise W. Knight explores how Addams’s experience with the Pullman Strike in 1894 led her to question—and later, so eloquently articulate—the dangers of moral absolutism to democratic citizenship.

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Jane Addams’s contribution to Maps was her essay “The Settlement as a Factor in the Labor Movement.” Her intention was to give a history of Hull House’s relations with unions as a sort of case study and to examine why and how settlements should be engaged with the . . .

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Carlo Rotella, “The Greatest”

November 2, 2012
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Carlo Rotella, “The Greatest”

Carlo Rotella grew up on Chicago’s South Side. His native-son meets hometown-boy-makes-good panache is evident in the essays he writes, several of which are gathered in his recent collection Playing in Time: Essays, Profiles, and Other True Stories. At times lyrical, engaged with its subjects as a take-home assignment on interpersonal craft, and always formidably on-point in the swings it takes at our inimitably fallible humanity, Rotella’s writing is immediately recognizable, as branded to the writer as to the cities, personages, complaints, and edification he elucidates. Who else would mix fencing clubs with the middle-aged white baby boomer homes of the blues, cigar-smoking CEOs of Focus Features with child-rearing crime writers, Homer with Muhammad Ali? Even his accompanying playlist for the internet blog Largehearted Boy is charged with the same frisson: you can take the boy out of the city, but you can’t take the William DeVaughn out of the boy. His prose is “crisp,” as the outlets say, and the connections he makes jostle and reify our own naked encounters with the world. We’re lucky enough to run one of the essays published in the book—a riff on boxing, the Iliad, the comp-lit trafficking of a tagline, . . .

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