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Edmund S. Morgan, 1916-2013

July 10, 2013
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Edmund S. Morgan, 1916-2013

We are saddened to hear of the passing of award-winning historian Edmund S. Morgan (1916-2013) this week. Over his sixty-year career, Morgan authored many books on the history of colonial and Revolutionary America that became required reading for students of history. The University of Chicago Press has been proud to publish one of these, The Birth of the Republic, 1763-89, since 1956. Now in its fourth edition, The Birth of the Republic remains the classic account of the beginnings of American government. This edition features a foreword by Joseph J. Ellis, who lauded Morgan’s achievements in the book and in his impressive career: Apart from its uplifting argument, part of the appeal of The Birth of the Republic is its prose style, which is blissfully bereft of academic jargon, sophisticated but simple in a way that scholarly specialists find impressive and ordinary readers find comprehensible. Morgan makes the story he is telling take precedence over the note cards he has assembled. He regards narrative as the highest form of analysis, and he has a natural gift for telling a story, silently digesting mountains of historical evidence to produce the distilled essence of the issue at stake. He is fond of . . .

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Earth Day

April 22, 2013
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Earth Day

As Adam Rome’s new history of Earth Day–recently reviewed in the New Yorker–reminds us: Earth Day has been around for a long, long time now. And while progress certainly has been made, from the big (the establishment of the EPA) to the small (the fact that when Don Draper casually chucks a beer can into the park in Mad Men, it feels as old-timey as anything in the whole series), the overall project–of conservation, preservation, and restoration–is never done. Given the strength of our list in science and conservation, it’s no surprise that we’re big Earth Day fans over here–we’d be fans of Earth Year, Earth Millennium, or even Universe Eternity if it could be worked. But you start with what you know, so here we are for Earth Day, with a reminder about some of our best recent conservation photography books, perfect for inspiring and educating people about the importance of biodiversity and conservation. The best way to appreciate David Liitschwager’s A World in One Cubic Foot is to check out the slideshow at National Geographic‘s site. There you’ll see Liittschwager’s breathtaking portraits of the stunning variety (and quantity) of living things that passed through a single cubic foot . . .

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Parker knows where the money is: Hollywood!

January 24, 2013
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Parker knows where the money is: Hollywood!

One of the reasons that the master heister Parker is still with us fifty years after pulling his first job is that he’s very good at keeping quiet. He knows better than to plan a job in the town where he’s going to pull it, and he certainly doesn’t encourage advance attention. That’s too bad, because the job he’s pulling this weekend is getting a lot of publicity. Tomorrow night sees the premiere of Parker, a new movie starring Jason Statham and Jennifer Lopez—the first adaptation to actually use Parker’s name—and that’s brought a spate of attention to Parker in all his incarnations. In the Village Voice, Nick Pinkerton runs through the long (and, let’s be honest, checkered) history of adaptations of Parker. Statham’s English accent is a first for Parker, but Pinkerton points out that the movies have always found him mutable: e has been black—Jim Brown, too gentle in 1968’s wasted opportunity The Split —and (sort of) a 25-year-old Danish girl. Made in U.S.A. (1966), with a trench-coated Anna Karina in the lead, is ostensibly based on Stark’s The Jugger, though it’s really but one element in Jean-Luc Godard’s mulligan stew of American pulp references. . . .

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We enlist poetry to help us bid farewell to a friend from Poetry

January 3, 2013
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We enlist poetry to help us bid farewell to a friend from Poetry

“The art of losing isn’t hard to master,” wrote Elizabeth Bishop. But that doesn’t preclude a wistful desire that we could somehow, quantum-style, both let people go and keep them where they’ve so long seemed to belong. (“Time present and time past / Are both perhaps present in time future”?) That was our thought, shared, we suspect, by countless fans of poetry, when we heard that Christian Wiman would be leaving his post as editor of Poetry magazine at the end of June. He’ll be joining the faculty of the Yale Institute of Sacred Music and Yale Divinity School, which seems like a good home for a writer who, as the copy describing his forthcoming book, My Bright Abyss: Meditations of a Modern Believer, puts it, “has had two constants in his life, two things that have defined him and given him solace in his times of need: faith and verse.” Wiman will leave behind a magazine that he and coeditor Don Share have shepherded to unprecedented prominence and success. Under their stewardship, Poetry tripled its circulation and won two national magazine awards, the first in its history. And then there was the centennial–which is where Chicago comes in. We . . .

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A reminder before you rake

October 20, 2010
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A reminder before you rake

As the autumn leaves begin to pile up in backyards everywhere, perhaps what all of us who groan at the hours of raking ahead could use is a reminder of the pleasures that those leaves brought us through the summer. Fortunately, as Julia Keller of the Chicago Tribune pointed out on Sunday, we’ve got just that: The Book of Leaves: A Leaf-by-Leaf Guide to Six Hundred of the World’s Great Trees. Keller, after admitting that she has “lost her head and is swooning” under the influence of The Book of Leaves, writes: This big, beautiful, shiny, sumptuous and informational volume will enhance your appreciation of the natural world, but it does something else as well. It reminds you that wonderful things are often right under your nose. The most familiar entity—in this case, the leaves on the trees—often are the most enchanting, but we overlook them because they’re so common. So ordinary. The print edition of Sunday’s Tribune shared some of the visual glories of the book with readers, but those of you reading the article on the Web need not be left behind: we’ve got a gallery of images from The Book of Leaves to entice you, too. Check . . .

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Mahler Mania!

October 13, 2010
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Mahler Mania!

Saturday’s Wall Street Journal featured a lengthy appreciation of the work of Gustav Mahler, tied to a new book by Norman Lebrecht, Why Mahler?. In the article, Leon Botstein points out that this year and next offer two Mahler anniversaries, first of his birth and then of his death, But even without an anniversary to celebrate, Mahler’s music dominates the symphonic repertoire all over the world. Indeed, we have been experiencing Mahler mania for almost four decades now. Fortunately for Mahler fans, Mahler mania extends to books as well, and Botstein’s article comes with a useful sidebar listing of key works on Mahler’s life and music. One of those is our own Mahler: A Musical Physiognomy, by Theodor Adorno, which Botstein calls “the most challenging interpretation of the music.” Given the depth of Adorno’s engagement with music throughout his career, it’s no surprise that his writings on Mahler are challenging—nor that they’re insightful enough to be worth the trouble. For Adorno, writes Botstein, “Mahler’s music was unsentimental: a reaction against Romanticism and a harbinger of Modernism. . . an exercise in the use of art as an instrument of ethics.” For more information about Adorno’s book, go here. And if . . .

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Carla Cohen, 1936–2010

October 11, 2010
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We were saddened this morning to hear of the passing of Carla Cohen, longtime co-owner of Washington, DC bookstore Politics and Prose. An obituary in the Washington Post called Ms. Cohen, “an exuberant force behind the evolution of Politics and Prose from a simple storefront into an institution that defined Washington’s literary scene,” and those of us who work in publishing will miss her energy, commitment, and love of good books. The Politics and Prose Web site has details about an upcoming memorial service, as well as a page for longtime customers and friends to leave condolences, tributes, and remembrances. . . .

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Into the future with the Chicago Manual of Style

October 6, 2010
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Into the future with the Chicago Manual of Style

The new 16th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style has once again assured that Chicago is at the forefront of the publishing world, our advice and instructions fully up to date with the latest publishing practices—and sometimes even beyond, as this question posed to the the all-seeing, all-knowing CMOS Q&A demonstrates: Q. Dear Chicago Manual of Style, If, by using a time machine to go back in time, I’ve inadvertently changed the future, is there a way to make that clear with my verb tenses when I write my note of apology to the universe? For example, how do I refer to an event that happened in the recent past (Mars mission, Cubs’ world championship), but, because I messed up the time stream in the more distant past, now didn’t happen and won’t ever happen? (This is purely hypothetical: I would never jeopardize all of history merely to save myself from a particularly unfortunate high school haircut.) A. As it happens, because this question is so frequently asked, CMOS is currently developing the “temporal transitive” for the 17th edition of the Manual. In consultation with the linguists and physicists of the Chicago Hyper Tense Committee, led by Bryan Garner, . . .

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Blair Kamin, out and about

September 29, 2010
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Blair Kamin, out and about

With his much-anticipated new book, Terror and Wonder: Architecture in a Tumultuous Age, finally here, Chicago Tribune architecture critic Blair Kamin is making the rounds, in Chicago and beyond. Kamin appeared on Fox Chicago News last night to talk about the book, which explores architecture both here in Chicago and throughout the world. You can watch that appearance at the Fox site. And Kamin will also be making a slew of public appearances in the coming weeks, speaking about the book and meeting readers. He’s got full details on those events at his Cityscapes blog (which, if you’re at all interested in architecture or Chicago, you should already be reading anyway!). Come out and see him—find out what he thinks of green architecture, the housing boom and bust, the Trump Tower, the legacy of Daley, and much, much more. . . .

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Congratulations to this year’s MacArthur Foundation award winners!

September 28, 2010
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Congratulations to this year’s MacArthur Foundation award winners!

There are your everyday, humdrum grants and awards and prizes, and then there are the MacArthur Foundation’s “genius awards.” They’re special. They’re an event. It’s not just that they’re valuable, or that the money comes with no strings attached. It’s that they’re shrouded in secrecy: recipients receive a phone call out of the blue informing them that they’ve won—in other words, that, unbeknownst to them, someone has been quietly paying attention to their work and thinks it worthy. Whether an honoree is famous or obscure—and this year’s list includes both—surely there’s a moment, holding the phone, when they feel like they’ve fallen into a fairy tale? Today’s MacArthur-sponsored fairy tale features a University of Chicago Press author as one of its characters. Shannon Lee Dawdy, an anthropologist here at the University of Chicago, was honored for her work combining archaeological scholarship with historical preservation to reveal the dynamics of intellectual and social life in New Orleans from its establishment as a French colony to the present day. That research is the basis of her book Building the Devil’s Empire, a fascinating, picaresque account of the early years of New Orleans that traces the town’s development from its origins in 1718 . . .

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