Blog Archives

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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The perfect writer

November 10, 2008
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The perfect writer

Chicago Tribune cultural critic Julia Keller reviewed The Norman Maclean Reader last Saturday. Maclean published only one book, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories, during his lifetime, but that one book—published when he was 74—assured his place in American literature. Keller talks about why he didn’t publish more: Whether living in Illinois or Montana, though, Maclean wrote constantly; it was his perfectionism that kept him from publishing until he was in his seventh decade, his sense that a work could always be made better, the ideas sharper, the images more telling. Because he cared so much about getting it just right, writing never came easy for him. In a 1986 interview reprinted in The Norman Maclean Reader, he said of literature, “It’s a highly disciplined art. It’s costly. You have to give up a lot of yourself to do it well. It’s like anything you do that’s rather beautiful.” We have a website for Norman Maclean. . . .

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The Economist on Obsession

October 31, 2008
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The Economist on Obsession

In a review titled “The double face of single-mindedness” The Economist yesterday reviewed Obsession: A History by Lennard J. Davis. In our own age, notes the review, obsession is both a common mental illness and a cultural ideal. The two are connected, thinks Mr. Davis: twin results of a single process, and perhaps the inevitable consequence of modernity. In just a few decades “obsessive-compulsive disorder’ has gone from extremely rare—affecting one person in 2,000 according to a 1973 estimate—to extremely common, affecting two or three people in 100. Obsessiveness as an ideal has been with us for several centuries at least. The reviewer takes note of Davis’ chapter on “graphomania—the madness of incessant writing.” Nineteenth-century novelists like Balzac and Zola devoted themselves to “the continuous, cumulative production of words.” In the words of the reviewer: “These writers knew they were sacrificing their lives to obsession, but they accepted the price and others lionized them for it.” A bit like some bloggers we know. Read an interview with Davis or listen to a podcast episode. . . .

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The Nobel laureate everyone knows

October 13, 2008
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The Nobel laureate everyone knows

The Nobel prize in economics (or to be exact, the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel), like most of the Nobels in the sciences, is typically won by an economist little known outside the academic world, or even outside the discipline. Paul Krugman’s Nobel is different. He is that rare species, the public intellectual, the well-known academic, the economist with an audience. The University of Chicago Press has published three books edited by Paul Krugman for the National Burea of Economic Research: Currency Crises, Empirical Studies of Strategic Trade Policy, and Trade with Japan: Has the Door Opened Wider? These are books that will never be bestsellers—or anywhere near it—but contain the sort of research that creates prize-winning careers. Our warm congratulations to Paul Krugman. . . .

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The Mexican Dream by JMG Le Clézio

October 9, 2008
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The Mexican Dream by JMG Le Clézio

The Swedish Academy announced today that French writer Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio is the recipient of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Literature. Among the dozen works by Le Clézio translated into English, the University of Chicago Press published The Mexican Dream: Or, The Interrupted Thought of Amerindian Civilizations. Unlike most of Le Clézio’s work, The Mexican Dream is nonfiction. “What motivated me,” Le Clézio said, “was a sort of dream about what has disappeared and what could have been.” Many dreams unfold in the book: the dream that was the religion of the Aztecs, the dream of the conquistadores, and a dream of the present—a meditation on the ways that Amerindian civilizations move the imaginations of Europeans. The translator of The Mexican Dream is Teresa Lavender Fagan, who also works here at the Press. Teresa has this response to the news: I am delighted—but not at all surprised!—that Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio has won the Nobel Prize in Literature. When I read Le rêve mexicain—The Mexican Dream—for the first time, I was transported by Le Clézio’s language and message. The author imagined how the thought of early Indian civilizations might have evolved if not for the interruption of European conquest. . . .

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Our podcast debut

October 8, 2008
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Our podcast debut

We now do mp3. Chicago Audio Works is our new Press podcast, currently featuring interviews of our authors and certain to include archival audio, author readings, and other items of aural interest as we go along. Episode 1 is an interview with William Graebner, author of Patty’s Got a Gun: Patricia Hearst in 1970s America. Graebner takes us back to that queasy decade of the ’70s, an unstable age when an heiress could become an weapon-wielding revolutionary—and back again—in a matter of months. Graebner is interviewed by Gordon Buffonge. Chicago Audio Works is produced by Chris Gondek of Heron & Crane and the Invisible Hand. Episodes of Chicago Audio Works are available from iTunes and other digital media aggregators. See all audio and video available from the University of Chicago Press. . . .

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