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Oak Park Public Library Warrior Librarians take the gold

July 14, 2009
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Oak Park Public Library Warrior Librarians take the gold

We first saw the Oak Park Public Library’s book cart drill team at a local Fourth of July parade a few years back. It was a revelation—a display of precision choreography never seen in the stacks. The team has come a long way since then and last Sunday, as reported by NPR, the Oak Park Public Library Warrior Librarians, as they are now known, reached the pinnacle of book cart drill team competition and grabbed the Gold Book Cart Award at the Chicago convention of the American Library Association. Cognotes A brief clip of their winning moves is available with the NPR story. Also see a video on Youtube of an earlier version of the team’s routine at the Illinois Library Association conference last fall. The OPPL Valkries are, apparently, headed for Disneyland. . . .

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Animals can tell right from wrong

May 29, 2009
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Animals can tell right from wrong

The research reported in Marc Bekoff and Jessica Pierce’s provocative book Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals is getting coverage around the world. Bekoff and Pierce argue that animals can act with compassion, altruism, and empathy. Rats, for instance, will not take food if their actions will cause visible pain to another rat. In a chimpanzee group in a Florida zoo, a chimp handicapped by cerebral palsy is rarely subjected to displays of aggression by other males. Elephants help injured or ill members of their herd, and have even show such compassion for members of other species. Feature articles about the claims made in the book have appeared recently in Australia in The Age (“Puppies may share our moral conscience“), in the UK (from whence we took our title) in the Daily Telegraph and in the Daily Mail, and closer to home in the less-whimsical Denver Post (“Canine emotions raise theological questions.”) Read an excerpt from the book and treat the animals you meet with new respect. . . .

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Maclean’s strange artistry

March 16, 2009
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Maclean’s strange artistry

Writer Philip Connors reviews The Norman Maclean Reader in the March 30 issue of The Nation. Connors, who acknowledges that his life has certain similarities with Maclean’s, recounts Maclean’s life and literary works: the one book published in his lifetime (A River Runs Through It and Other Stories) and another published posthumously (Young Men and Fire). “His career,” writes Connors, “is one of the strangest in American letters.” He relates some of the memorable moments of Maclean’s publishing history, including the letter he wrote to a publisher who was trying to court the writer after the publication of A River Runs Through It. Connors continues: It’s not as if Maclean didn’t know his stories were strange. He often said he wrote them in part so the world would know of what artistry men and women were capable in the woods of his youth, before helicopters and chain saws rendered obsolete the ancient skills of packing with mules and felling trees with crosscut saws. Artistry, specifically artistry with one’s hands, was for him among life’s most refined achievements. Read the whole review; there are some interesting reflections on the religious resonances of Maclean’s works. We have a website for Norman Maclean. . . .

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Seth Lerer wins the NBCC

March 12, 2009
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Seth Lerer wins the NBCC

We have a winner. The National Book Critics Circle announced the winners of their 2008 awards today and we are happy to congratulate Seth Lerer on his win in the criticism category for Children’s Literature: A Reader’s History from Aesop to Harry Potter. A few days ago NBCC board member Carlin Romano described, in a posting to Critical Mass, the achievements of the book and the fairy-tale-like spell it cast on the committee: Lerer brought to his subject both the critical acuity and unlimited openness it deserved. He insisted on placing a complex literature within the history of childhood, a story both contested and blessedly clear. He took into account the cavalcade of publishing history, without permitting it to trample the imaginative “transformations” wrought by the books. He understood that his terrain included not just books written for children, but books read by them, driving home the critical spine signaled by his subtitle. Lerer accomplished much else in his fairy-tale feat of levitating a University of Chicago Press study, despite its small type, to a possible national prize from critics beleaguered by eye strain.… Members of the NBCC Board swallowed whole this splendid meditation on the literature that changes us . . .

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Happy Birthday Kate Turabian!

February 26, 2009
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Happy Birthday Kate Turabian!

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Shortlisted for the Diagram Prize

February 20, 2009
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Shortlisted for the Diagram Prize

We are bemused to note that our book Baboon Metaphysics is shortlisted for the Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year, an annual competition conducted by The Bookseller in the UK. The Diagram Prize, perhaps the least-coveted award in the publishing industry, began at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 1978 when it was won by the memorable Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice. Close to thirty books have since been honored. The Press is usually named as the publisher of the 1988 winner, Versailles: The View From Sweden, though we only distributed that book for its publisher, the Cooper-Hewitt Museum. (And, no, the book was not about high-powered telescopes.) Previous winners of the Diagram Prize have tended toward the obscure (The Theory of Lengthwise Rolling), the suggestive (The Joy of Sex, the Pocket Edition), and the obscurely suggestive (Oral Sadism and the Vegetarian Personality). The current competition is no exception, including shortlisted titles such as The Large Sieve and its Applications, Strip and Knit with Style, and Curbside Consultation of the Colon. The winner of the Diagram Prize will be decided by a public vote on The Bookseller website. Please vote early and vote often. . . .

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Writing on deadline

January 23, 2009
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Writing on deadline

Each day is another deadline. Then there is that ultimate deadline at the end of our lives. Our sense of the passage of time, and how our experience is shaped by the complexities of multiple deadlines, is the subject of Harald Weinrich’s book, On Borrowed Time: The Art and Economy of Living with Deadlines. John Gilbey reviewed the book for the Times Higher Education: Any tome that starts with a discussion of Hippocrates, Socrates, and Plato and ends with an analysis of the 1998 film Run Lola Run has to be worthy of closer study. This one does not disappoint. Weinrich gives himself a very broad canvas—the impact that shortness of time has had on humanity across history—and he fills it well. He uses an unhurried, easy, and assured narrative style to tease out the complex nature of how we perceive time in natural and contrived situations. Gilbey goes so far as to venture: I believe that the structure and style of this book would lend itself well to being adapted for the screen, either as a single banquet or as a selection of very tasty snacks. If there is anyone out there looking to produce a high-quality, slightly quirky . . .

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Donald Westlake, 1933-2008

January 2, 2009
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Donald Westlake, 1933-2008

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Conor Cruise O’Brien, 1917-2008

December 19, 2008
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Conor Cruise O’Brien, 1917-2008

Conor Cruise O’Brien, Irish intellectual, politician, diplomat, writer, critic, professor, journalist, historian, and playwright, died yesterday in Dublin at the age of 91. He had been in ill health since suffering a stroke in 1998. The scope of O’Brien’s life and career can only be gestured at in this space. He was a special representative to Dag Hammarskjöld, secretary-general of the United Nations, in the Congo crisis of 1961. He was chancellor of the University of Ghana as well as the Albert Schweitzer Professor of Humanities at New York University. He was Ireland’s Minister for Posts and Telegraphs. He was editor-in-chief of the London-based newspaper the Observer. At the age when most retire from work, he taught and lectured at numerous universities around the world. And throughout he wrote many books. The University of Chicago Press is honored to have published: The Great Melody: A Thematic Biography of Edmund Burke, which historian Paul Johnson described as “a book by the greatest living Irishman on the greatest Irishman who ever lived.” The Long Affair: Thomas Jefferson and the French Revolution, 1785-1800, which critic Richard Brookhiser said “should be read by anyone interested in Jefferson—or in a good fight.” Ancestral Voices: Religion . . .

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Blue latkes and red hamantashen

November 24, 2008
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Blue latkes and red hamantashen

The 62nd annual Latke-Hamantash Debate takes place tomorrow evening, November 25, at 7:30 pm at Mandel Hall, 1131 E. 57th Street on the University of Chicago campus. This year the affair takes on something of the flavor of a presidential debate: . . .

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