Blog Archives

The Oldest Living Things in the World

April 23, 2014
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The Oldest Living Things in the World was a labor of love for artist and photographer Rachel Sussman—the project, to document and photograph continuously living organisms 2,000 years old and older, has been around in one form or another since 2004. The result is a stunning collection of images that function as much more than eye candy in the realm of flora and fauna—Sussman’s work quietly, and with unimpeachable integrity, makes a case for the living history of our planet: where we’ve come since year zero, what we stand to lose in the future if we don’t change our ways, and why we should commit to a more intuitive relationship with the natural world.

Above you can view a trailer for the book, which hints at the spectacular flora with which Sussman comes into contact: an 80,000-year-old colony of aspen in Utah and a 43,600-year-old self-propagating shrub in Tasmania, among them. Sussman continues to make a name for herself as part of a new wave of interdisciplinary artist-researchers, and was recently named a 2014 Guggenheim Fellow, as well as an inaugural Art + Technology Lab awardee from LACMA.

To explore a bit of the meaning behind the images in the book, here’s a brief . . .

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Revisiting Norman Maclean

April 21, 2014
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Revisiting Norman Maclean

The Daily Beast recently dredged the archive of zeitgeist-engaged writings as a feature for its recurring column “The Stacks.” What they turned up was novelist Pete Dexter’s wickedly astute profile of Norman Maclean—his first publication for a national magazine when it ran in the June 1981 issue of Esquire—and a piece of writing that is equal parts discomfiting and elegiac, not unlike the work of one Norman Maclean.*

*Caveat: I realize it is part of my job to endorse Norman Maclean, but this is wholly sincere. Maclean’s fascination with toughness was couched under two veils of redemption: his prose is pained in its evocation of loss and its struggle to both narrate and literate the tragic confines of human behavior; and what comes through a work such as Young Men and Fire (which is a World Book Night selection this April 23rd), is the bored patience and cautiously learned excavation of a natural teacher, of someone who cares to rescind the relationship between art and life, and then recast it in a more vigilant if forgiving light. That book is spectacular.

Anyhow, Dexter’s profile is weird and narratively disjointed—it reads like a Barry Hannah short story without the lustful reproach and . . .

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2014 International Book Industry Excellence Awards

April 18, 2014
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2014 International Book Industry Excellence Awards

Last week, we were humbled to learn that we received the inaugural International Academic and Professional Publisher Award from the London Book Fair, among a ridiculously esteemed group of nominees across multiple categories. The award, part of a new industry-wide pool of honors, furthers the LBF’s mission to “celebrate the role of the book and the written word at the heart of creative content across all formats.”

More from the press release:

These unique new awards, celebrating achievement across the entire business of publishing, will provide a truly global industry vision.  They represent the UK’s recognition of international publishing industry excellence, and take place within the calendar’s most important global publishing event.

LBF and The Publishers Association have selected an group of UK  judges, working at the heart of each category, whose international or discipline-specific expertise qualifies them to judge their peers’ work.

For a full list of winners, visit Publishing Perspectives, who mention in their write-up of the awards ceremony:

The global book industry saw the birth of something new on Tuesday night, something that will surely grow to become a fixture on the international publishing calendar, something that seemed so right one wondered why it had . . .

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Where the North Sea Touches Alabama

April 17, 2014
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Where the North Sea Touches Alabama is a strange book—I’ve been describing it to strangers (note the relationship between adjective and noun) as an ethnography of mourning, but really it’s a peculiar hybrid of sociological exegesis, lyric essay, and phantasmagorical travelogue. I believe author Allen C. Shelton might consider it a novel, just as Walter Benjamin certainly must have plucked a term from the atmosphere to describe the Arcades Project as he carried its pages in a suitcase like fake currency.

The book considers the tragic life and death of the artist Patrik Keim, a friend of the author’s, and a theoretical muse or Betelgeuse ostensibly traveling between this world and another. That’s the stuff of Western philosophy in the wake of Hegel, or a battered Platonic ideal we repeat to ourselves—the absolute idealism that marks being as an all-inclusive whole: not subject without object, and vice-versa. Shelton takes on this canon—Marx, Foucault, Weber, and especially, Benjamin—and arrives at someplace not entirely recognizable. Maybe that’s because the rest of the landscape he renders—via an epistolary immersion in northeastern Alabama—is so unavoidably specific. Anyhow: not to give too much away. The above trailer should be enough to get you started—like the book, . . .

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Congratulations to the 2014 Guggenheim Fellows

April 11, 2014
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Congratulations to the 2014 Guggenheim Fellows

Congratulations to the 2014 class of Guggenheim Fellows, announced this week by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. The Guggenheim, a “mid-career award” (PS: Clare Vaye Watkins, knocking it out of the park for the younger generation), which honors scholars, scientists, poets, artists, and writers, extends its fellowships to assist with research and artistic creation. As we’ve noted in the past, the fellowship possesses some tortured origins—(John) Simon Guggenheim, who served as president of the American Smelting and Refining Company and Republican senator from Colorado, seeded the award (1925) following the death of this son John (1922) from mastoiditis (Guggenheim’s second son George later committed suicide, and more infamously his older brother Benjamin went down with the Titanic).

We’re delighted to see included among the “professionals who have demonstrated exceptional ability by publishing a significant body of work in the fields of natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, and the creative arts,” a roster of fellowship winners affiliated with the University of Chicago Press:

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Susan Bee, Fine Arts; contributor of cover images to With Strings: Poems, My Way: Speeches and Poems, Girly Man, and Recalculating, all by Charles Bernstein

Susan Bernofsky, Translation; contributor to The Sound of Poetry/The Poetry . . .

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Upcoming events for Outside the Box

April 4, 2014
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Upcoming events for Outside the Box

Hillary L. Chute spent a significant portion of the past decade studying, hanging out with, and interviewing many of the artists whose iconic images have helped define contemporary graphic arts. In Outside the Box: Interviews with Contemporary Cartoonists, Chute collects these interviews in book form for the first time, delivering in-depth discussions with twelve of the most prominent and accomplished artists and writers in comics today, and revealing a creative community that is richly interconnected yet fiercely independent. The interviewees include Lynda Barry and Alison Bechdel, Charles Burns and Joe Sacco, and even a never-before published conversation between Art Spiegelman and Chris Ware.

In addition to unparalleled access into the cartooning world, Outside the Box also puts narrative power into the hands of this cast of masters—without whom our eyes (and ears) would not take in such gripping stories.

For Chicagoans, Chute will talk about the book and her experiences as documentarian and scholar of the cartooning community at two upcoming events:

A discussion at the Seminary Co-op Bookstore, 5751 S. Woodlawn, Thursday, April 10th, 6 PM

A talk and signing at Quimby’s, 1854 W. North Ave., Saturday, April 19th, 7 . . .

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An Orchard Invisible: Our free e-book for April

April 1, 2014
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An Orchard Invisible: Our free e-book for April

Just in time for garden prep, our free e-book for April is Jonathan Silvertown’s An Orchard Invisible: A Natural History of Seeds.

“I have great faith in a seed,” Thoreau wrote. “Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.”

The story of seeds, in a nutshell, is a tale of evolution. From the tiny sesame that we sprinkle on our bagels to the forty-five-pound double coconut borne by the coco de mer tree, seeds are a perpetual reminder of the complexity and diversity of life on earth. With An Orchard Invisible, Jonathan Silvertown presents the oft-ignored seed with the natural history it deserves, one nearly as varied and surprising as the earth’s flora itself.

Beginning with the evolution of the first seed plant from fernlike ancestors more than 360 million years ago, Silvertown carries his tale through epochs and around the globe. In a clear and engaging style, he delves into the science of seeds: How and why do some lie dormant for years on end? How did seeds evolve? The wide variety of uses that humans have developed for seeds of all sorts also receives a fascinating look, . . .

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Harry Collins on the case for gravitational waves

March 26, 2014
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Harry Collins on the case for gravitational waves

The detection of a slight swirling by scientists at the South Pole using the BICEP2 telescope makes a case for the existence of gravitational waves—and that, in turn, would point to the cosmic inflation of the Universe, support the theory of the Big Bang, and confirm another facet of Albert Einstein’s theory of gravity and general relativity. Though these observations are not yet confirmed, scholar and expert Harry Collins, author of Gravity’s Ghost and Big Dog: Scientific Discovery and Social Analysis in the Twenty-First Century, was kind enough to elaborate on the process, as well as what the experimental results might mean—and what then is at stake for different scientific communities. You can read his post after the jump.

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Gravitational waves and discoveries at the South Pole

On March 17, 2014, there was a huge fuss about the discovery of primordial gravitational waves that could tell us something about the Big Bang’s first tiny fraction of a second. Since I have spent most of my academic life studying the sociology of the—so far fruitless—direct search for gravitational waves, I received a lot of emails asking . . .

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Ted Cohen (1939–2014)

March 21, 2014
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Ted Cohen (1939–2014)

Ted Cohen, legendary professor at the University of Chicago and scholar of aesthetic philosophy, whose expertise included, “jokes, baseball, television, photography, painting and sculpture, as well as the philosophy of language and formal logic,” passed away last Friday at age 74.

From the University of Chicago News:

While some philosophers aim to construct large-scale theories, others “look with a very fine, acute eye at specific phenomena and work from the example outwards, beginning with the ordinary and exposing the extraordinary within it,” said Cohen’s longtime friend and colleague Josef Stern. “Ted was that kind of philosopher.” From the Chicago Maroon:

Many students remembered him as an expert in his field and an excellent professor, always welcoming others’ insight and connecting his rambling anecdotes back to the text. The “classic image” of him smoking outside of Harper Memorial Library wearing a red beret will also be a part of that memory, said fourth-year Julie Huh. “His presence exuded such nonchalance, and he always took his time with his cigarette outside Harper.”

We remember Ted Cohen as the author of Jokes: Philosophical Thoughts on Joking Matters (1999) and contributor to The Great Latke–Hamentash . . .

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University Presses in Space

March 20, 2014
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University Presses in Space

Welcome to the boundless third dimension: university presses—figuratively speaking—in space!

From the website:

“University Presses in Space” showcases a special sampling of the many works that university presses have published about space and space exploration. These books have all the hallmarks of university press publishing—groundbreaking content, editorial excellence, high production values, and striking design. The titles included here were selected by each Press as their strongest works across a variety of space-related topics, from the selling of the Apollo lunar program to the history of the Shuttle program to the future of manned space exploration and many subjects in between.

As part of the “University Presses in Space” program, we were geeked to select Time Travel and Warp Drives: A Scientific Guide to Shortcuts through Space and Time by Allen Everett and Thomas Roman, which takes readers on a clear, concise tour of our current understanding of the nature of time and space—and whether or not we might be able to bend them to our will. Using no math beyond high school algebra, the authors lay out an approachable explanation of Einstein’s special relativity, then move through the fundamental differences between traveling forward and backward . . .

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