Monthly Archives: February 2014

Andrew Piper on aging and writing

February 25, 2014
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Andrew Piper on aging and writing

Above: Goethe’s published poems, color-coded by genre. From Andrew Piper’s striking analysis of Goethe’s shifting vocabulary, with its turn in later years to an increased degree of generic heterogeneity, part of a larger digital humanities project on aging and writing, which can be found here. . . .

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The Democratic Surround

February 24, 2014
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The Democratic Surround

The jacket copy for Fred Turner’s The Democratic Surround summarizes the book: In this prequel to his celebrated book From Counterculture to Cyberculture, Turner rewrites the history of postwar America, showing how in the 1940s and ’50s American liberalism offered a far more radical social vision than we now remember. One of the tricks of writing jacket copy, of course, is condensing the voluminous particularities of scholarship into an affable soundbite that neither undermines the intelligence of its reader nor offends the sensibilities of its author, who is most often the expert on her particular topic. The copy for Turner’s book is a classic example of this—and the excerpt below, from a recent post at Public Books, demonstrates just how much depth informs that single, sparse sentence. This is nothing new: the marketing of scholarly works has been around at least as long as the 1771 edition of  Encyclopedia Brittanica and parallels roughly the development of industrial capitalism. Maybe it is because I’m a fan of Turner’s work that I find the pantomime between what’s printed on the jacket and what informs that encapsulation so fascinating—or perhaps it is a much more unwillingly narcissistic positioning of myself as a consumer—either way, you . . .

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Q & A with Peggy Shinner

February 21, 2014
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Q & A with Peggy Shinner

Peggy Shinner is a lifelong Chicagoan and author of the forthcoming collection You Feel So Mortal: Essays on the Body. A Q & A about bodies, the book, and Shinner’s process follows below. *** What led you to write a collection of essays about the body?  The first piece I wrote was about knives. At the time I was a practicing martial artist, and we trained with them in class. We called them practice knives; they were fake—rubber or wood. “Go get a knife,” the teacher would say. And so there we were, a room full of students stabbing and slashing each other. The purpose, of course, was to learn to defend ourselves against them. But I found the whole thing odd and disconcerting. Here I was learning to stab someone. From knives I went on to autopsies. I’d authorized one for my father, and for a long time after I’d been uncomfortable with that decision. Knives, autopsies. It didn’t take long for me to see that I was on to something, and from there the essays seemed to emerge. You reveal very personal things about yourself in your essays. How is your collection of essays different from a memoir?  . . .

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College Art Association (2014)

February 20, 2014
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College Art Association (2014)

Some images from behind the scenes by sleuth photographer and marketing director Carol Kasper: *** . . .

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Q & A with Paddy Woodworth

February 18, 2014
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Q & A with Paddy Woodworth

Paddy Woodworth is an investigative reporter and journalist whose most recent book, Our Once and Future Planet, considers the case for environmental restoration. Woodworth recently participated in a Q & A with our promotions director, Levi Stahl; you’ll find the full transcript below: Let’s start with the story of how you came to this subject, because (as I have the advantage of knowing) it’s a good one—and it involves a a couple of other writers. By a happy accident! In 2003, I had recently published Dirty War, Clean Hands, a book on the very different subject of terrorism and state terrorism in the Basque conflict. On the back of that book, I was invited onto the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa. Weary of writing about why people kill each other, I was looking for a happier subject in natural history, but I found myself adrift, ignorant, and lost. Then the great American novelist and naturalist Peter Mathiessen led us on a prairie restoration field trip and discussion. I had never heard this word, ‘restoration’, applied to anything other than houses or paintings. The idea that an ecosystem might be restored, that we could reverse some of the damage . . .

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A Naked Singularity and the Folio Prize

February 17, 2014
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A Naked Singularity and the Folio Prize

The Folio Prize is the first major English-language book prize open to writers from around the world—an alternative to the Booker Prize (UK) and the National Book Award (US), featuring an international cast of nominees, that aspires, “to celebrate the best fiction of our time, regardless of form or genre, and to bring it to the attention of as many readers as possible.” On Monday, the Folio committee announced their shortlist for the inaugural 2014 Prize, which followed rounds of nominations from their Academy and requisite letters of support from publishers. We could not be more delighted (truly!) to see Sergio De La Pava’s debut novel A Naked Singularity (published in the UK by Maclehose Editions) among the finalists, praised by Lavinia Greenlaw, chair of the judges, for its “detonating syntax.” Here’s the whole list, which certainly constitutes good company: Red Doc by Anne Carson Schroder by Amity Gaige Last Friends by Jane Gardam Benediction by Kent Haruf The Flame Throwers by Rachel Kushner A Girl Is A Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava Tenth of December by George Saunders The winner will be announced March 10. Congrats to all the finalists—but we know . . .

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Maxine Kumin (1926–2014)

February 14, 2014
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Maxine Kumin (1926–2014)

From Janet Burroway, editor of A Story Larger than My Own: We were shocked to learn of the death of Maxine Kumin, who in spite of a serious horse-riding accident, a year spent immobile in a metal “halo,” and permanent pain, continued to write fine poetry and prose and to exude essential vitality. Kumin at 88 was what Carol Muske-Dukes calls the last member of the “august sisterhood of poets,” which included Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, and Adrienne Rich. In one of her last published essays, Kumin traced her journey in “Metamorphosis: From Light Verse to the Poetry of Witness,” a kind of template for the writers in this book and for women of her generation, who began their careers in the fifties or early sixties and grew in stature as feminism grew. “I did not yet know that a quiet revolution in thinking was taking place,” she writes of her situation as a pregnant mother of two in 1956. “Of course motherhood was not enough. Perhaps I could become a literary critic?” She did that and much more. An excerpt from “Metamorphosis: From Light Verse to the Poetry of Witness”: Hoping to find direction, I subscribed to the Writer, . . .

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Scott Cutler Shershow on the right to die

February 13, 2014
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Scott Cutler Shershow on the right to die

Scott Cutler Shershow’s Deconstructing Dignity: A Critique of the Right-to-Die Debate employs Derridean theory to uncover self-contradictory and damaging assumptions that underlie both sides of the controversial discussion. In the  piece below that Shershow drafted for the Chicago Blog, he contextualizes two cases that generated recent headlines about how—and to which extents—we define life, especially in light of its termination. *** “Thinking and Rethinking the Right to Die” by Scott Cutler Shershow The vexed question of a so-called “right to die” pushes its way to our attention again. Hasn’t this all happened before, many times? An intimate family story is catapulted into the media spotlight; an unconscious being (once again, as is almost always the case, a female) becomes the figurehead for a protracted medical, legal, and political struggle; and each side accuses the other of being motivated by money. In one of the two cases that have recently occupied our attention, the family of California teenager Jahi McMath, declared by her doctors to be “brain dead” after routine surgery, were granted permission by a judge to keep the girl on what is commonly called “life support” (a respirator and feeding tube). In the other case, a pregnant Texas mother, . . .

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Nancy Holt (1938–2014)

February 12, 2014
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Nancy Holt (1938–2014)

From Spiral Jetta: A Road Trip through the Land Art of the American West by Erin Hogan: The morning after my Spiral Jetty foray, I was ecstatic. So far I was doing exactly what I had set out to do. I had left Chicago with some trepidation, but I had pushed through 1,664 miles and hit my first landmark. Flush with success, I spontaneously decided to try and find Nancy Holt’s Sun Tunnels (1976). Holt was Smithson’s wife, an artist in her own right, who shared his drive to marry the natural world with the personal artistic statement. The Sun Tunnels are four giant concrete tubes (eighteen feet long and about nine feet in diameter) in the middle of nowhere, positioned such that at dawn and sunset on the summer and winter solstices, the sun rises and sets in alignment with the tubes; they perfectly frame the sun. At other times, holes in the sides of the tubes form constellations in their interior when the sun shines through them. I liked the idea of this temporal precision—and the uncertain nature of the work’s existence for the thousands of minutes every year that it isn’t registering those specific astrological alignments. Like . . .

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2013 PROSE Awards

February 7, 2014
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2013 PROSE Awards

The PROSE Awards (or, the American Publishers Awards for Professional and Scholarly Excellence) are unique to the scholarly and professional publishing communities—not only prestigious, but selected from “over 535 entries of books, reference works, journals,and electronic products in more than 40 categories,” juried by a community of peer publishers, librarians, and academics. In addition to offering congratulations to all the winners, we are delighted to point you toward those books from our own list that received either a PROSE Award or honorable mention for general excellence: Art Exhibitions Home Front: Daily Life in the Civil War North By Peter John Brownlee, Sarah Burns, Diane Dillon, Daniel Greene, and Scott Manning Stevens Biological Sciences (Honorable Mention) The Ornaments of Life: Coevolution and Conservation in the Tropics  By Theodore H. Fleming and W. John Kress Earth Sciences The Lost World of Fossil Lake: Snapshots from Deep Time By Lance Grande Education Education, Justice, and Democracy Edited by Danielle S. Allen and Rob Reich Environmental Science (Honorable Mention) Our Once and Future Planet: Restoring the World in the Climate Change Century  By Paddy Woodworth Literature (Honorable Mention) Five Words: Critical Semantics in the Age of Shakespeare and Cervantes By Roland Greene Music and . . .

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