Blog Archives

The Ballad of the Lonely Marketeer

December 10, 2010
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The Ballad of the Lonely Marketeer

‘Twas the night before editing class, when all through the house,Not a Tumblr was stirring, not even about Leo Strauss.Our Manual was hung by the Craigslist chair with care,In hopes that substantive freelance projects soon would be there. Its semicolons were nestled, all snug in their beds,While visions of in-line text citations danced in their heads.And yoga instructor partner in his ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,Had just settled our auto-insurance claim before a between blogging nap. When from the publicist in Reference Division there arose such a clatter,I sprang to The Chicago Manual of Style to see what was the matter.Away to my (still standing!) 2006 MacBook Core-Duo I flew like a flash,Tore open my freeware version of Word and threw up the sash. The moon on the breast of Chicago’s (seriously?) ten inches of snow,Gave lustre to the bags of Fiery Hot Cheetos on the sidewalk below.When, what to my wondering eyes should appear?But a miniature CMoS, available for download here. With such masterful copyediting (what symphonic soundtrack? Mahler?),I thought for certain it must be trademark Carol Fisher Saller.More rapid than in our Online Q & A, the pithy one-liners came,And mini-CMoS whistled, and shouted, and called them . . .

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TRAFFIC: W. J. T. Mitchell and Tzvetan Todorov, Part III (Final Installment)

December 8, 2010
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TRAFFIC: W. J. T. Mitchell and Tzvetan Todorov, Part III (Final Installment)

W. J. T. Mitchell (Cloning Terror: The War of Images, 9/11 to the Present) and Tzvetan Todorov (The Fear of Barbarians: Beyond the Clash of Civilizations) finish their discussion, focusing on Nick Ut’s iconic image of the Vietnam War, the duty of humanities scholars, and the changing face of liberal democracies. ** Dear Tzvetan: I have located the picture from the October 23rd New York Times, and it is, as you suggested, quite appalling. The little girl, having seen her parents killed in front of her by U.S. soldiers, is wailing in grief, while the figure of a soldier stands in the shadows outside the illuminated area where we see the blood-spattered child. I sometimes wonder how an embedded photographer can bear to take such a picture, which was clearly done at very close range in the immediate aftermath of this event. The picture also raises the question of the ethics of beholding. As James Agee put it so memorably in his commentary on Walker Evans’s photographs of destitute sharecroppers: “Who are you who will read these words and study these photographs, and through what cause, by what chance and for what purpose, and by what right to you qualify . . .

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TRAFFIC: W. J. T. Mitchell and Tzvetan Todorov, Part II

December 7, 2010
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TRAFFIC: W. J. T. Mitchell and Tzvetan Todorov, Part II

Welcome to Part II of our inaugural exchange, between Tzvetan Todorov, author of The Fear of Barbarians: Beyond the Clash of Civilizations (one of the Guardian’s 2010 Books of the Year) and W. J. T. Mitchell, whose Cloning Terror: The War of Images, 9/11 to the Present, just published. Join Todorov and Mitchell as they discuss international media coverage of WikiLeaks and more below. Dear Tzvetan: Your linking of my image repertoire to Goya is very shrewd. The Hooded Man on the box curiously reminds some people of Goya’s executioners and inquisitors—a strange reversal of the roles of torturer and victim. But I wonder what you think of the Christological echoes in this figure? To me, they seem unavoidable, but certain people have expressed resistance and skepticism, based on ethical concerns that this turns us away from the reality depicted in the picture. My answer is that there is a reality produced by the pictures in their reception that also needs study. But the question I am most eager to ask you has to do with the concept of the the “historical uncanny,” which to me is the spark that leaped between our two books. First, a purely personal thrill . . .

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TRAFFIC: W. J. T. Mitchell and Tzvetan Todorov

December 5, 2010
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TRAFFIC: W. J. T. Mitchell and Tzvetan Todorov

We’re kicking things off with a series of letters between Tzvetan Todorov, author of The Fear of Barbarians: Beyond the Clash of Civilizations and W. J. T. Mitchell, author of Cloning Terror: The War of Images, 9/11 to the Present on the visual imagery of the war on terror, our current global political climate, and the role of the historical uncanny, in everything from Abu Ghraib to Goya’s Disasters of War. Filled with insights into the culture of occupation, Todorov and Mitchell’s correspondence puts the two scholars in conversation for the very first time and we hope that you’ll join us for the next three days as we watch their exchange unfold.   Dear Tzvetan (if I may): First let me say how much I have enjoyed your new book, The Fear of Barbarians. I find your account of the rise of Islamophobia very compelling, and I am especially struck by your remark that “the fear of barbarians is what risks making us barbarians.” My favorite English poet, William Blake, put it this way: we “become what we behold,” by projecting a feared image of the Other as cruel and uncivilized, and then mirroring back exactly the behavior we deplore. This . . .

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The merits of Modern Language(s)

December 3, 2010
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The merits of Modern Language(s)

In 1883, an interdisciplinary advocacy group promoting the study of literature and modern languages was founded at Johns Hopkins University. In its one-hundred and twenty-seven year run, the Modern Language Association has grown to include more than 30,000 members in over 100 countries, fostered several major publications and a serialized radio show, and survived the changing mores and face of the academy (“Watch for our posters and leaflets!”—from a letter to the editor of the New York Review of Books in 1968 from Noam Chomsky, Frederick Crews, Florence Howe, and others, as to how the ’68 MLA meeting in NYC might work to make the organization more responsive to society—part of a fascinating exchange available here). One-hundred and twenty-seven years, though, is nothing to laugh at—and neither is the high regard with which the organization’s annual awards for book-length scholarship are held. Notices went out via the interweb yesterday and we couldn’t be more thrilled for several of our authors, who’ll be further commended at the 2011 annual meeting this January in Los Angeles. Laura Dassow Walls, author of The Passage to Cosmos: Alexander von Humboldt and the Shaping of America, garnered the forty-first annual James Russell Lowell Prize for . . .

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Our Gal Thursday: We’re wrapping her up

December 2, 2010
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Our Gal Thursday: We’re wrapping her up

“And if I loved you Wednesday, Well, what is that to you? I do not love you Thursday— So much is true.” We’re back from our Thanksgiving sojourns and ready to set the cornucopias ablaze; first, though, we’re busy using our Turing machine and Twitter algorithms to raise Anthony Powell from the dead. Have you downloaded your free copy of A Question of Upbringing yet? Susie Linfield’s The Cruel Radiance was equally on fire this week, with a review appearing in the Washington Post, a Holiday Reading shoutout at Design Observer, an exchange between Linfield and Ian Crouch at the New Yorker, and a sweeping and thought-provoking profile of the book by Frances Richard at the Nation. ** Andrew Piper, author of Dreaming in Books: The Making of Bibliographic Imagination in the Romantic Age, appeared as part of a roundtable on the future of—yes, you’re good—the book on the CBC. Listen to the podcast here. And don’t forget to check out the book’s amazing Appendix of not-quite-ready-for-primetime materials, Dreaming in Books: A Booklog. ** John H. Evans’s Contested Reproduction: Genetic Technologies, Religion, and Public Debate, which charts the claims made about reproductive genetic technologies (RGTs) . . .

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David Wojnarowicz: The Real Real Thing

December 1, 2010
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David Wojnarowicz: The Real Real Thing

We try to start off on the positive side of the street: with congrats to Press authors Matthew Jesse Jackson and Tom Vanderbilt for their Warhol Foundation / Creative Capital Arts Writers grants, which will spear a variety of projects, from art-curio blogging to short-form cultural criticism. And then we cross— A combination of sources broke the news yesterday about the exhibit “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture,” which opened on October 30th at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. The exhibit, the first at a major museum to focus on “sexual difference in the making of modern American portraiture,” drew some gnarling critique from the Catholic League and conservative politicians, aimed at the late artist David Wojnarowicz’s A Fire in My Belly. Wojnarowicz, a multidisciplinary artist, performer, and activist who died of AIDS-related complications in 1992, is known for work that mixed death and longing, simplicity and pathos. The work in question includes video footage of ants crawling on a crucifix, an image representative of the AIDS crisis. Soon to be Speaker of the House, Rep. John Boehner issued a statement that reads, in part, “American families have a right to expect better from recipients of . . .

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Dance Dance (to the Music of Time) Revolution: Free Anthony Powell!

December 1, 2010
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Dance Dance (to the Music of Time) Revolution: Free Anthony Powell!

If I were Cassandra and someone had asked me as an adolescent what noble passions would come to define the end of my twenties, I would have answered with certainty: the reading of encyclopedic novels, twentieth-century nostalgia, and the television series thirtysomething. And like C, I would have been doomed to disbelieve myself. I could have gone on and on about a world gone digital (now 3.0); electronic books; the decline and fall of James Frey and orange Crocs; FREE ELECTRONIC BOOKS; and the University of Chicago Press ebook release of all twelve volumes of Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time series, beginning with our free December ebook (Volume 1!), A Question of Upbringing. Here, Cassandra hits the trifecta. There are encyclopedic novels and then there is A Dance to the Music of Time, a series so macrocosmic in scope that it makes the legendary 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica seem a minor tome. There are the intersecting and changing lives and stories informed by minutiae and banal realities that inflect thirtysomething and then there is Dance. And there’s this minor epoch—the twentieth century. Pales in comparison to Dance. We’re talking Modern Library’s Top 100 Novels, Time’s Best 100 . . .

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What Is Happening to a Salon of One’s Own?

November 29, 2010
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What Is Happening to a Salon of One’s Own?

We’ve always has a soft spot for newsworthy (pun intended) online publications—so it’s no surprise that we read today’s headlines about Salon with a bit of chagrin. The San Francisco-based “Internet roundtable” has long been in the red—with losses of $15 million dollars in the past three years alone—but now the Wall Street Journal reports (a paid content item quickly picked up by the New York Observer) that the company is searching for a larger media company to partner with or to subsume its enterprises. While possible pairings that emerge during heroic acts of desperation (remember John Candy and Eugene Levy in Armed and Dangerous?) can be surprisingly generative (this past April, Salon formed a content-based micro-partnership with the popular literary independent McSweeney’s), it’s the changing circumstances, audiences, and even our clinical understanding around how we receive and are informed by the news that are applying pressure to traditional journalistic practices. Salon has transformed itself quite a bit during its twelve-year run, from an innovative online news site helmed by information-driven posts and public forum op-eds to a more lifestyle-inclusive, audience-driven . . . well, salon. Experiments with subscription-based content have faltered and pushed them further into the red, but . . .

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Top Five or Ten: Night of the Living Nixon

November 23, 2010
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Top Five or Ten: Night of the Living Nixon

We couldn’t help but notice a late-arriving review from last week’s NYT‘s Paper Cuts blog celebrating the coming of the newly leaked video game Call of Duty: Black Ops, which features a truly bipartisan dream team (largely resurrected from the dead)—John F. Kennedy, Robert McNamara, Fidel Castro, and yes, Richard Nixon—fending off the zombie apocalypse. Jennifer Schuessler (bless her!) took this fairly brilliant opportunity to pay homage to one of our very favorite Chicago titles, Mark Feeney’s Nixon at the Movies: A Book about Belief. As Schuessler notes, Nixon was voted to the White House the same year as the debut of George Romero’s classic Night of the Living Dead. Coincidence? Oh, who really knows about these things. But one thing we do know is that Nixon probably didn’t watch the film—at least, not cuddled up at home with Pat, arm protectively slung over a visiting Julie. How do we know, you ask? Thanks in part to the knockout Appendix (available on the book’s UCP site here) that accompanies Feeney’s masterful tome, culled from the pages of the Secret Service’s Daily Diary, which records the cinephile former president’s almost daily film consumption, from his 1969 inauguration through his resignation in . . .

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