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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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“All that great writing, trapped in mediocre books!”

September 22, 2010
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“All that great writing, trapped in mediocre books!”

The September 14th issue of the London Review of Books features an extended, combative review by Elif Batuman of a recent book from Harvard University Press, Mark McGurl’s The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing. Though Batuman takes issue with many of McGurl’s points, her essay is the sort of review any author ought to be happy to get, one that takes the book seriously enough to engage deeply with its ideas. Ultimately, however, Batuman is simply much more critical of university writing programs and the fiction they’ve spawned than McGurl is, arguing, among other things, that their ahistorical approach to fiction is a short-sighted, narcissistic mistake. “Literary scholarship,” writes Batuman, “may not be an undiluted joy to its readers, but at least it’s usually founded on an ideal of the collaborative accretion of human knowledge.” Batuman’s essay brought to mind one of our books, D. G. Myers’s The Elephants Teach: Creative Writing since 1880, which takes a longer view than McGurl’s book, surveying and analyzing more than a century of debate over how—and even whether&#8212creative writing should be taught. Myers draws on a wide range of writers—including Longfellow, Emerson, Frost, John Berryman, John Dewey, Lionel . . .

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Cops, the brass, and politicians: a neverending battle

September 15, 2010
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Cops, the brass, and politicians: a neverending battle

In the wake of Mayor Daley’s surprise announcement that he wouldn’t be seeking a sixth term in office, a long-simmering dispute between the Chicago Police Department’s rank and file and its leadership—specifically Superintendent Jody Weis—has erupted into a full-fledged public war of opinion. Even as Daley continued to vouch for his hand-picked superintendent last week, at least one prominent candidate for Daley’s job said that he’d fire Weis if given the chance—and today the Fraternal Order of Police joined the fray, organizing a demonstration that criticized Weis for everything from his handling of police brutality cases to his decision to dress in uniform. The CPD is far from alone: tensions between the rank and file and the departmental brass are common in big-city departments, where street-level officers often feel that they are misunderstood, underappreciated, and even undermined by those back at headquarters. For a fine-grained look at that fraught relationship, you can’t do much better than Jennifer Hunt’s new book Seven Shots: An NYPD Raid on a Terrorist Cell and Its Aftermath. Hunt recounts the dramatic story of a daring raid that foiled a bombing planned for the New York subway in 1997—and then she goes on to tell how, . . .

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In Which the Chicago Blog Makes an Important Announcement about the Mayoral Race

September 8, 2010
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In Which the Chicago Blog Makes an Important Announcement about the Mayoral Race

In the day since Mayor Daley’s surprise announcement that he won’t be seeking another term, speculation has run rampant and the rumor mill has been pulling twenty-four-hour shifts. So we thought we should be clear: unlike seemingly every other resident of our fair city, the Chicago Blog will not be running for mayor. Sure, we’ve got more than a century of accumulated knowledge about the City That Works (and how it works). And no candidate can come close to matching our backlist. But the rough and tumble of politics just isn’t for us. We’re more contemplative. Bookish, you might say. That doesn’t mean we don’t have some recommendations for those who are throwing their hats in the ring. First up are some good starting points for assessing Daley’s legacy—if you want to replace the king, you ought to take a close look at the crown first. Larry Bennett’s brand-new . . .

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