Blog Archives

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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Those powerful images of the national parks

October 4, 2009
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Those powerful images of the national parks

If you saw just one episode of the PBS series The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, or if you saw them all, you saw certain images repeatedly: brown bears catching salmon at Brooks Falls, a wolf loping across a meadow in Denali, bison lumbering through the snow of Hayden Valley, and Mt. McKinley rising to improbable heights above a cloud bank. These signature images are like a visual glue that Ken Burns used to hold together the multitude of places and people covered in the National Parks series. These indelible character of these signature images, and all the magnificent images in the series, attest to the remarkable power that photographic images of natural scenery have to create a compelling story and and establish cognitive and emotional connections with the parks as well as with the people who have preserved them. The National Parks series becomes the latest in a long chain of photographic imagery, including the work of Ansel Adams and New Deal filmmakers, to picture nature as a place of grace for the individual and the nation. This is the subject of a book we published a few years ago, Natural Visions: The Power of Images in American Environmental . . .

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John Keats, Fanny Brawne, and “Bright Star”

September 25, 2009
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John Keats, Fanny Brawne, and “Bright Star”

Bright Star, the new film written and directed by Jane Campion, opened in the Chicago area yesterday. Bright Star weaves a story of the romantic love and poetic longing of John Keats and Fanny Brawne during the last three years of Keats’ too-short life. Campion’s script was, according to today’s review in the Chicago Tribune, “inspired by the exceptional Andrew Motion biography Keats,” which we published in paperback in 1999. Motion’s biography is an interesting choice for a filmmaker. Andrew Motion is a poet above all; he served as Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 1999 to 2009. He has numerous books of poetry to his credit, as well as criticism and several other biographies. Keats is a poet’s biography of a poet; it is steeped in the words of the poet, shaped primarily by Keats’ letters and punctuated by Keats’ poems. It is as textual as you can get. Keats has come down to us, Motion writes, as a poets’ poet: the champion of truth and beauty, a sensualist, the archetype of the Romantic poet, who poured out words in a frenetic rush, writing all the poems we know him for in the space of a month or . . .

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Leszek Kolakowski, 1927–2009

July 22, 2009
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Leszek Kolakowski, 1927–2009

Philosopher Leszek Kolakowski died in Oxford on July 17 at the age of 81. Kolakowski earned his doctorate at Warsaw University and taught there until 1968. Early on Kolakowski embraced Marxism and joined the Polish communist party, but a trip to Moscow in 1950—sponsored by the party for promising young intellectuals—instead convinced him of “the enormity of material and spiritual desolation caused by the Stalinist system.” After Stalin’s death Poland (as elswehere) bubbled with conflict. By that time Kolakowski was a leading revisionist and an inspiration to those calling for more democracy. He was expelled from the party in 1966 and dismissed from his professorship two years later. He went into exile, but his writings, circulating underground in Poland, continued to shape the Polish intellectual opposition. His greatest work, Main Currents of Marxism: Its Rise, Growth and Dissolution, appeared in the late 1970s, a three-volume history, analysis, and critique of the system he famously called “the greatest fantasy of our century.” Kolakowski was, above all, a critic of dogmatism and prevailing opinion, who delivered his critiques with incisive intelligence, erudition, and humor. Kolakowski taught at a number of universities in the West and was most-closely associated with Oxford University. From . . .

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