Blog Archives

Stuart Brent, 1912-2010

June 26, 2010
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Stuart Brent, who for fifty years personified independent bookselling in Chicago, died Thursday at the age of 98. He attended the University of Chicago where he earned a degree in education before service in the Army in World War II. After the war he opened a small bookshop on Rush Street that he called the Seven Stairs, for the number of steps it took to descend to its door. A few years later he moved to a larger space at 670 North Michigan Avenue which became the Chicago readers’ destination Stuart Brent Books. The ground floor was stocked with a well-crafted selection of literary fiction, art books, and essential non-fiction, with a tilt toward titles in psychology and psychoanalysis. The lower level was devoted to children’s books. He was a bookseller of the most independent sort: well-read, opinionated, and willing (or more) to shape his customers’ reading habits. Over the course of his fifty years in the business, bookselling became ever more concentrated in the mall stores, superstores, and virtual stores of billion dollar corporations. The books stocked in Stuart Brent Books were chosen by a personality, not an algorithm. Brent was also an author: of Seven Stairs, a memoir . . .

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Living Keynes and reading Hayek

June 9, 2010
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Living Keynes and reading Hayek

Back in 1965, it was Milton Friedman’s phrase: “We are all Keynesians now.” He uttered it in the same spirit as Richard Nixon repeated it in 1971: Like it or not, we are in a time when economic and political circumstances dictate that the government take a larger role in trying to steer the economy. In the last half of 2008, the phrase regained currency while the economy hemorrhaged it. We may collectively be living Keynes, but that doesn’t mean we individually believe it. On this blog, we have previously noted the continuing intellectual warfare between Keynes and Hayek. That war is nowhere near closure, thanks to a prominent Hayek cheerleader, Glenn Beck, who devoted a segment of last night’s show to talking about Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom. The manuscript that would become The Road to Serfdom came to the Press in 1943. It was evaluated by two University of Chicago academics to assess its scholarship and potential. Ironically, the economist supporting free-market capitalism, Frank Knight, concluded: “‘the book is an able piece of work, but limited in scope and somewhat one-sided in treatment. I doubt whether it would have a very wide market in this country, or would . . .

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Spiders of Louise Bourgeois

June 1, 2010
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Spiders of Louise Bourgeois

Longtime Chicagoans may recall the 1983 retrospective of the work of sculptor Louise Bourgeois that came to the Museum of Contemporary Art (back when the museum was on East Ontario Street). It was an exhibit best seen, perhaps, in the company of a psychotherapist: primal and dark, layered with pain, abuse, betrayal, and brutality. This retrospective left one looking forward—warily—to further work from this provocative sculptor. There was more work, much more, all suffused with psychic confession. Bourgeois may be best known for her series of giant spiders, which she associated with her mother. The extensive installation Spider (1997) is the subject of a book by Mieke Bal, Louise Bourgeois’ Spider: The Architecture of Art-Writing, which comes into close engagement with the work and the issues of biography and autobiography which are never far away. The New York Times has an obituary and a slideshow of some of her works. . . .

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Michael Camille honored by the Dedalus Foundation

June 1, 2010
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Michael Camille honored by the Dedalus Foundation

The Dedalus Foundation, founded by Robert Motherwell to promote understanding of modern art and modernism, recently announced the winner of the annual Robert Motherwell Book Award, Cézanne’s Other: The Portraits of Hortense by R. Bruce Elder, published by the University of California Press. The foundation also announced a special commendation award for the posthumously published book by Michael Camille, The Gargoyles of Notre-Dame: Medievalism and the Monsters of Modernity, which we released last year. In announcing the special commendation, the Dedalus Foundation said: This study of the ‘monsters’ of the cathedral restored by Viollet-le-Duc in the nineteenth century explores the complex position of these creatures between past and present. Narrating their conception and realization on the basis of impressive archival research, Camille proceeds to track their impact in shaping the modern imagination—not only in the arts but in science, politics, and popular culture as well—from Victor Hugo and Jules Michelet to Disney and the Internet. These are our monsters. The Gargoyles of Notre-Dame is an expansive, interdisciplinary cultural analysis that questions defining assumptions of modern history and art history. Michael Camille (1958–2002) was professor of art history at the University of Chicago and we were pleased to also publish his . . .

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Martin Gardner, 1914-2010

May 24, 2010
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Martin Gardner, 1914-2010

Martin Gardner died on Saturday, May 22, in Norman, Oklahoma. A prolific author and critic, Gardner was best know for his monthly column “Mathematical Games” which he wrote for Scientific American for twenty-five years. Beginning in 1983 he contributed a regular column “Notes of a Fringe Watcher” to Skeptical Inquirer where he debunked pseudo-scientific claims. Gardner attended the University of Chicago in the 1930s and graduated in 1936. After a short stint in his native Tulsa as assistant oil editor of the Tulsa Tribune he returned to Chicago to work in the University’s public affairs office. His semi-autobiographical novel The Flight of Peter Fromm is set on the U of C campus—in the Divinity School and its chapels in particular. The Press was privileged to keep a number of Gardner’s seventy-some books in print for many years, including The Annotated “Casey at the Bat,” Logic Machines and Diagrams, Hexaflexagons and Other Mathematical Diversions, The Second Scientific American Book of Mathematical Puzzles and Diversions, Martin Gardner’s New Mathematical Diversions, and Martin Gardner’s Sixth Book of Mathematical Diversions. In 1989 we published Gardner’s Why and Wherefores, a collection of his essays and reviews, including the excoriating review, under a pseudonym, of one . . .

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Literary rejections

March 19, 2010
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Literary rejections

Lapham’s Quarterly reprints two rejection letters, illustrating the perils of publishers everywhere. Back in 1912, the London publisher Arthur Fifield channeled the author to reject the manuscript for Three Lives by Gertrude Stein. Droll. “Hardly one copy would sell here.” Nearly a century later, the book remains in print. And in another month or two, we will bring back into print lectures that Stein delivered at the University of Chicago in 1935 as Narration. And, one of the best-crafted (and probably best known) rejection letters in literary history, Norman Maclean rejects an entreaty by an editor at Alfred A. Knopf. We can’t help but re-read that one every time. There but for the grace of Allen Fitchen . . . . . .

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Gerhard Richter’s Life in Painting now in video

March 19, 2010
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The University of Chicago Press’s narration of the artistic life of German painter Gerhard Richter is now in video form as well. From YouTube and, for higher quality, in a Quicktime version. Enjoy. . . .

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The Supreme Court vindicates John Samples

January 21, 2010
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The Supreme Court vindicates John Samples

This morning the Supreme Court invalidated the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (the McCain-Feingold Act) as well as overturning its previous decisions upholding restrictions on corporate spending in political elections. An article in the New York Times states: “The ruling was a vindication, the majority said, of the First Amendment’s most basic free speech principle—that the government has no business regulating political speech.” Back in 2004 we published The Fallacy of Campaign Finance Reform by John Samples which made exactly that argument about campaign finance laws generally and the McCain-Feingold Act in particular. Samples argued that restrictions on campaign contributions not only inhibit the exercise of the constitutional right to speech, but that there is little to no evidence that campaign contributions really influence members of Congress. And that so-called negative political advertising improves the democratic process. And that limits on campaign contributions make it harder for new candidates to run for office, thereby protecting incumbents. Back in 2004 our copywriters wrote that The Fallacy of Campaign Finance Reform “defies long-held assumptions and conventional political wisdom.” Let’s now add that it accurately predicted the future. We have an excerpt from the book. . . .

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What you can do for Haiti

January 15, 2010
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What you can do for Haiti

What you can do right now: Donate $10 to the American Red Cross—charged to your cell phone bill—by texting “HAITI” to “90999.” . . .

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The Child in the Tribune

December 29, 2009
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The Child in the Tribune

Heidi Stevens wrote about The Child: An Encyclopedic Companion in last Sunday’s edition of the Chicago Tribune. Stevens quotes editor-in-chief Richard A. Shweder who handily sums up the book: “It’s everything you ever wanted to know but never even thought to ask.” Everything in this case being more than 500 articles in a 1,144-page book that was 10 years in the making. Stevens also interviewed Mary Laur, senior project editor for reference books at the Press. A sidebar to the article notes five things learned from The Child, including this arresting fact: “Children in the U.S. are more likely to grow up with a pet than with both parents.” Sample pages, articles, and more is on our website for the book. . . .

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