Blog Archives

Nancy Drew needs you!

September 1, 2010
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Nancy Drew needs you!

Last night my wife, as she often does, was reading an old Nancy Drew mystery, The Invisible Intruder (1969), when she started laughing. “Nancy’s investigating the theft of a shell collection,” she said, “and every single person she meets turns out to know a lot about shells!” For example, Mr. Kittredge, a lawyer, on being shown a shell “the shape of a pyramid and … about five inches high” says, “This is very interesting. Its nickname is the Fraud Shell. The right name is Epitonium scalare.” The lawyer explained that the shell was a rather rare type found in deep water off the coast of China. Then there’s a policeman, Detective Peron, who, on seeing Nancy inspecting a Crusader shell, says, “That’s a beautiful specimen,” and then, reminding us that we’re in midcentury American suburbia, continues, “My wife has a set of those scalloped shells. She uses them to serve salads in and sometimes creamed dishes.” All of which is a roundabout way of getting to this question: Why haven’t you bought a copy of our big, beautiful new Book of Shells yet? It’s 600-plus oversized pages of life-sized photos of stunning shells, alongside information about their range, distribution, abundance, . . .

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Literary Lives on Display

August 30, 2010
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Literary Lives on Display

Fans of National Book Award–winning novelist Shirley Hazzard and her late husband, Francis Steegmuller, a literary critic, translator, and biographer, are in for a treat if they can make it to New York before January 31st: the New York Society Library is featuring an exhibition of photos, manuscripts, correspondence, and literary ephemera from the couple. Given the pair’s long careers, great success, and wide-ranging literary friendships and contacts, the exhibition promises to be fun for any fans of twentieth-century literature. Us Chicago folks, of course, will be looking out in particular for any documents relating to the couple’s longtime second home, Naples—the subject of the one Hazzard and Steegmuller book that we’re proud to have on our list, The Ancient Shore: DIspatches from Naples. A highly literary account of a love affair with a complicated, rebarbative, but enchanting city, the book is perfect reading for late summer, when vacation is but a memory and the responsibilities of autumn loom. “The world of Francis Steegmuller and Shirley Hazzard has been defined by high civility, grace and an enduring dedication to literature,” writes the New York Society Library. We couldn’t agree more. . . .

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A parting

August 27, 2010
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On the Chicago blog, we usually stick to news of our books and authors—that, after all, is what a publisher’s blog is for. Today, however, we’d like to break from that for a moment to offer thanks and good wishes to the colleague who has been an eloquent voice on this blog for the past few years, Stephanie Hlywak. Stephanie is leaving us today after seven years, and she’ll be missed, perhaps nowhere more than in this very space, where her inventiveness, eye for a story, and ready wit have been responsible for giving the Chicago blog much of its panache. We wish her the best of luck as she takes up a job at the Poetry Foundation, where she’ll continue the good work of promoting books and literature to the world at large. At times like these, people have turned for centuries to the Ancients, and we would be remiss if we did any less. So as we wave goodbye, we’ll let Seneca have the floor, in an excerpt from a letter of advice to young Nero Caesar, as translated by Robert A. Kaster in our new volume, Anger, Mercy, Revenge: You can boldly make this declaration, Caesar: all . . .

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Royko writes of love

August 25, 2010
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Royko writes of love

Last week, we pointed you to a piece by Michael Miner in the Chicago Reader about Mike Royko’s early work. But Miner wasn’t done writing about Royko: on his “News Bite” blog, he also talked with Mike Royko’s son, David, about our book Royko in Love, a new collection of letters from Mike to the woman who would become his wife, Carol Duckman. Miner writes, Mike Royko’s letters burn with the passion and obsession of the moment. It is a state older men remember as happiness because they would be so happy to feel anything that intensely again. . . . . The letters begin in February 1954 with Royko, 21, still in the air force but home from Korea and stationed now in the state of Washington. The first letter is a nonchalant note to the Duckmans, the friends down the block back in Chicago that “Mick” somehow avoided dropping in on during a recent leave. He shrugs off his absence. Writing back, Carol Duckman, 19, drops the news that her brief marriage didn’t work out—she and her husband have separated. The information hits Royko like a miracle. “Writing this letter is going to be the toughest thing I’ve . . .

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William James, 100 years gone

August 23, 2010
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William James, 100 years gone

This Thursday, August 26th, will mark the centenary of the death of William James, and to mark that date the online literary site The Second Pass has declared this William James Week. In an introductory post, the site’s editor, John Williams, writes, I read The Varieties of Religious Experience for the first time about four years ago, and I quickly became a James fanatic.… I’ve found since discovering his work for myself that fellow fans share my affection for him, my sense that he is almost a real friend—a remarkable feeling to have for any author, much less one who has been gone for a century. It’s a feeling that is far from uncommon from those who read James—in many ways he is the opposite of his brother Henry, warm where Henry is cerebral, accessible where Henry is occluded, open and even friendly where Henry is stand-offish. On a recent episode of Melvyn Bragg’s BBC show “In Our Time,” philosopher Jonathan Ree described James in similar terms: First of all, I think William James is one of the greatest philosophers ever, and he’s untypical. Twentieth-century philosophers, I think, fall into two groups: they’re either nitpicking, pettifogging bureaucrats or else they’re . . .

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