Monthly Archives: May 2013

Andrew M. Greeley (1928-2013)

May 30, 2013
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Andrew M. Greeley (1928-2013)

Saddened today to note the passing of Andrew M. Greeley  (1928–2013)—priest, sociologist, journalist, prolific critic, novelist, and philanthropist. Father Greeley (his preferred moniker) was a priest’s priest—while at the same time an ardent and impassioned critic of established Catholic authority. His writings spanned academic treaties—ecumenical and secular, ethnographic and sociological—weekly newspaper columns, literary potboilers, and vehemently outspoken diatribes against the hypocrisy of the Church in which he was ordained. Among these, the University of Chicago Press was fortunate to publish two works, Priests: A Calling in Crisis (2004) and The Truth about Conservative Christians: What They Think and What They Believe (coauthored with Michael Hout; 2006). A longtime affiliate of the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, Greeley also gifted the school with a 1.25 million dollar endowment in 1984 (despite three denials of his own tenure while a professor), which was formerly used to endow a chair of Catholic studies. “I’m a priest, pure and simple,” he once said, “albeit a priest with a condo in the John Hancock Building and a home in Arizona.” Chicago Sun-Times obituary New York Times obituary . . .

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“Playing Watten” by Thomas Bernhard

May 21, 2013
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“Playing Watten” by Thomas Bernhard

Oh, Thomas Bernhard! Bringing the thunder, bringing the classism—an excerpt from “Playing Watten” (translated by Kenneth J. Northcott), from Three Novellas: We often maintain, to ourselves above all, and in so doing justify ourselves to ourselves, that we know something through and through, that we have completed something, only so as not to have to bother ourselves with this thing (this person), because we are afraid that we shall be embarrassed by this preoccupation and that this preoccupation will make us totally unreliable with regard to ourselves, dear sir, because we fear the nuisance, something that we have to regard as fatal, caused by occupying ourselves with this matter (this person!), because we despise ourselves. Nothing is indubitable, dear sir. Were I to go and play watten again, I say to the truck driver, the whole thing would be nothing but an elementary disorder and nothing but sorrow, which is basically nothing but wretchedness, which is more or less nothing but madness. We are at the peak of concentration when we are playing. Playing watten. In the theater, dear sir, even the impossible is entertainment, and even the monstrous, as the improbable, is an object of study, everything in the . . .

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The Book of Barely Imagined Beings

May 17, 2013
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The Book of Barely Imagined Beings

A recent review from the New Yorker—and more about the book here. “The wings of the pterosaur take us to the Wright Brothers, the pinhole eyes of the nautilus to the invention of the daguerreotype. In fact, the linkage is pointed: it’s not nature’s story or ours but both together. Divorcing human achievements from their relations in natural life means that Homo sapiens, too, is only ‘barely imagined.'” . . .

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Recalculating (“Poetry is beautiful and important”)

May 10, 2013
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Recalculating (“Poetry is beautiful and important”)

From Josh Cook’s review of Recalculating by Charles Bernstein, in the May issue of Bookslut: With translations, imitations, and homages, and with poems of poetry’s motion, and manifestos of politics and poetics, Bernstein has gone beyond a personal anthology of poetics to write a book I struggle to categorize. If you could remove all the term’s negative connotations, all the personal and cultural associations with boredom and restriction, if you could extract the term from the worst of academics and education, you could call Recalculating a textbook. It is the syllabus, the required reading, the example, the supplemental critical exploration, and the challenge. It is a shiv tearing at the fabric of poetry for a glimpse of the poetic future. It is the wall, the empty cans of spray paint, and the graffiti. It is the schematics for every part of the bomb but the fuse; the reader is the fuse. But as explosive as Recalculating is, the image of a bomb isn’t right, for, ultimately Bernstein is not a destroyer but a motivator. At the end of Recalculating, Bernstein wants you to believe poetry has not met its potential. The “recalculating” moment happens when we go off course, miss . . .

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On The Subject of Murder

May 9, 2013
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On The Subject of Murder

From the Introduction  The Subject of Murder: Gender, Exceptionality, and the Modern Killer by Lisa Downing: “Serial killers are so glamorized . . . as to tempt other to . . . revere them as the prophets of risk and individual action, in a society overwhelmed and bogged down by the dull courtiers and ass-kissers of celebrity culture.”—(Ian Brady, The Gates of Janus, 2001) “ share certain characteristics of the artist; they know they are unlike other men, they experience drives and tensions that alienate them from the rest of society, they possess the courage to satisfy these drives in defiance of society. But while the artist releases his tensions in an act of imaginative creation, the Outsider–criminal releases his in an act of violence.”—(Colin Wilson, Order of Assassins, 1976) “Jack the Ripper, along with many of his followers, has achieved legendary status. Such men have become world famous, awesomely regarded cultural figures. They are more than remembered; they are immortalized. Typically, though, their victims, the uncounted women who have been terrorized, mutilated, and murdered are rendered profoundly nameless.”—(Jane Caputi, The Age of Sex Crime, 1987) As reflected in the epigraphs above—the first written by an incarcerated serial killer; the . . .

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The Trials of an Editor

May 8, 2013
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The Trials of an Editor

We greet the spring with an annual rite, neither more nor less essential than the other invocations that usher in the season (woodpecker outside my window foxing with overzealous, semester’s-end induced sleep; big-leaved magnolia blossoms littering the street like well-boutonnièred toilet-paper folk art and norteño/Baby Bash productions looping over and under some dude’s fancy for the J. Geils Band). With this rite—the announcement of the recipient of any particular year’s Laing Prize—we drum up the legacy of Gordon J. Laing, former general editor of the University of Chicago Press. In February 1925, the same month that saw the New Yorker publish its first issue, Laing penned a satirical piece about university publishing for the in-house newsletter Press Impressions. Stravinsky strings on, and we reproduce it in its entirety below: *** The Trials of an Editor Some Experiences of the Man Intrusted with the Preparation of Manuscript for Our Publication By Gordon J. Laing, General Editor From Press Impressions, Volume 2, Number 5, February 1925 The editor of Press Impressions gave me the title of this article and I have let it stand. The fact, however, is that although I have been an editor for fifteen years, I have never had . . .

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Before We Loved the Buddha by Donald S. Lopez, Jr.

May 7, 2013
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Before We Loved the Buddha by Donald S. Lopez, Jr.

Before We Loved the Buddha by Donald S. Lopez, Jr. *** According to a famous Chinese legend, in 60 CE (or thereabout), the Emperor Ming of China had a dream. He dreamed that he saw a golden man flying through the sky, rays of light streaming from his head. The next day, he summoned his ministers to interpret the dream. They told him that the golden man was a sage from the west called the Buddha. The emperor immediately dispatched a delegation to find this sage. After a long journey, they returned with a scripture and a statue. And this is how Buddhism first came to China. In 1603, the famous Catholic missionary to China, Matteo Ricci, published a book, in Chinese, in which he explained that the golden man the emperor saw in his dream was not the Buddha; he was Jesus. If the emperor’s envoys had gone farther west, they would have arrived in the Holy Land, and would have returned with the Gospels. Bringing Buddhism to China had all been a terrible mistake. Among the “founders” of the world religions—Abraham, the Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad—perhaps the best loved (or at least the best liked) is the Buddha. He . . .

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Hack: Our free ebook for May

May 6, 2013
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Hack: Our free ebook for May

One of the taglines—the pithy paragraph-end to an initial piece of copy—for Dmitry Samarov’s Hack goes something like this: “And from behind the wheel of his taxi, Samarov has seen more of Chicago than most Chicagoans will hope to experience in a lifetime.” True words, Y/N? I’d argue, “partially.” Part of what makes Hack such an appealing read is that its characters—the back-seat inhabitants of Samarov’s daily commutes through Chicago and its environs—are immediately recognizable as the kind of fully formed Greek chorus that shuffles and barks its way through contemporary urban life. But what makes them memorable isn’t just that easy familiarity. It’s the combination of Samarov’s prose and illustrations (many made from inside the cab) and how they perform a sleight of hand with our most basic Nelson Algren-ism: “Lost people sometimes develop into greater human beings than those who have never been lost in their whole lives.” In Hack, these characters aren’t so much lost-on-the-verge-of-a-breakthrough as they are lost to the time and place of Chicago, inescapably caught up in strawberry-shake vomiting laps past McDonald’s drive-thrus and Marie’s Riptide Lounge; shapeshifting into an audience for tiny yapping lapdogs and overstuffed luggage stationed outside of mortgage-rarefied condo buildings . . .

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How Animals Grieve (for Howard Stern)

May 3, 2013
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How Animals Grieve (for Howard Stern)

Barbara J. King is having quite a week—at least in terms of traversing brave new (pop-cultural) frontiers for the scholarly pursuits of animal intelligence and emotion. First came an excerpt from King’s latest book How Animals Grieve in a recent edition of the New York Post—noteworthy enough; so noteworthy, in fact, that it led to a mention of the book and King’s work on an episode of Howard Stern’s syndicated SIRIUS radio show (Stern, who along with his wife, is an animal rights advocate, experienced the traumatic loss of his English bulldog Bianca just a year ago; he even gave the book a plug via his Twitter feed). As if all this weren’t enough to render a tear in academic publishing’s space-time continuum, King herself made an appearance on Stern’s show, evidencing some of the ideas surrounding animal mourning that her book draws upon. In How Animals Grieve, King considers a recent shift in anthropological attention to our companion species, which recognizes our long-chided tendency to anthropomorphize animal emotions might instead hold grains of truth. She tells of elephants surrounding their matriarch as she weakens and dies, and, in the following days, attending to her corpse as if holding a vigil. . . .

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You Were Never in Chicago

May 1, 2013
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You Were Never in Chicago

Last week the New York Times Book Review ran a review of three books about Chicago. The review generated an “epic backlash,” and got everyone talking about, well, everything but the books reviewed. We want to change that. For the first five days of May, we are making Neil Steinberg’s book You Were Never in Chicago available for download—free of charge—exclusively through the University of Chicago Press website at http://bit.ly/freebk.  It’s one of our bestsellers; it just won the Society of Midland Authors Award for Best Non-Fiction of 2012; and it has been critically acclaimed—even by the New York Times itself, who in September called it, “A strong case for Second City exceptionalism.” Why free? Because we are so certain people will fall in love with Steinberg’s distinctive, wry, and unpretentious take on Chicago that we think they’ll read it and want to buy it as a gift for themselves or someone else who loves Chicago. Or who loves any city of the broad-shouldered kind. Steinberg’s book takes its title from a Chicagoan’s outraged response to a New Yorker’s critique of Chicago—A. J. Liebling’s 1952 three-part essay in the New Yorker, in which he dubbed Chicago the “Second City.” From garbage collection . . .

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