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The emergence of a very different Twain

July 13, 2010
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The emergence of a very different Twain

One hundred years after his passing Mark Twain is about to reinvent himself. Though published in redacted form several times already, Twain’s autobiography will finally be released later this year by the University of California Press in an unexpurgated edition that includes all the controversial material left out of earlier editions. Seeming radically different from the personality that penned his classic and beloved depictions of nineteenth-century American life, a recent article in the New York Times notes that in the Autobiography of Mark Twain the author “emerges more pointedly political and willing to play the role of the angry prophet” than ever before. From the NYT: Twain’s opposition to incipient imperialism and American military intervention in Cuba and the Philippines, for example, were well known even in his own time. But the uncensored autobiography makes it clear that those feelings ran very deep and includes remarks that, if made today in the context of Iraq or Afghanistan, would probably lead the right wing to question the patriotism of this most American of American writers. In a passage removed by Paine, Twain excoriates “the iniquitous Cuban-Spanish War” and Gen. Leonard Wood’s “mephitic record” as governor general in Havana. In writing about . . .

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“How relevant is [Hayek] to Glenn Beck’s America?”

July 12, 2010
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“How relevant is [Hayek] to Glenn Beck’s America?”

Still causing quite a stir almost a month after Glenn Beck’s endorsement pushed it to the top of Amazon’s sales rankings, F. A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom was the subject of an essay by Jennifer Schuessler in the July 11st edition of the New York Times Sunday Book Review. In her essay Schuessler explores the book’s “long history of timely assists from the popular media,” and, interestingly, asks how relevant the book really is to Glenn Beck’s America. Read it online at the NYT. Also, read an excerpt from the book. . . .

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Duke Ellington’s America reviewed in the Telegraph

July 12, 2010
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Duke Ellington’s America reviewed in the Telegraph

The Telegraph recently ran a review of two new books on two of the greatest names in twentieth century jazz. In his review Ian Thomson sets Harvey G. Cohen’s Duke Ellington’s America alongside a new book on Thelonious Monk, both of which, Thomson argues, eloquently demonstrate how these “two giants of jazz … reinvented black American music.” The review begins: At a funeral in New Orleans in 1901, Joe “King” Oliver played a blues-drenched dirge on the trumpet. This was the new music they would soon call jazz. A century on, from the hothouse stomps of Duke Ellington to the angular doodlings of Thelonious Monk, jazz survives as an important musical voice of America. Ellington was the first jazz composer of real distinction. No other bandleader so consistently redefined the sound and scope of jazz. As a classically trained pianist he fused the hot, syncopated sounds of Jazz Age Harlem with an element of dissonance to produce something unique: a dance music of trance-inducing charm, originality and attack. Continue reading at the telegraph.co.uk and read this excerpt from Cohen’s book. . . .

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Alex Kotlowitz reviews The Wagon

July 9, 2010
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Alex Kotlowitz reviews The Wagon

A recent review of Martin Preib’s The Wagon and Other Stories from the City for barnesandnoblereview.com begins by citing the some of the recent media coverage involving the Chicago Police Department—from the conviction of former commander Jon Burge “for lying about having tortured scores of suspects over a twenty-year period in the 1970s and ’80s,” to the recent death of officer Thomas Wortham IV, shot as a gang of thugs tried to steal his motorcycle, and, of course, the re-escalation of homicides in the city. The review continues: Martin Preib’s The Wagon and Other Stories from the City is a welcome, albeit at times maddening, effort to fashion a narrative that reflects the reality of this messy, yet vital American city. Preib has been a Chicago cop for eight years, but he’s not defined by his police work. He greatly admires Walt Whitman and William Kennedy, writers who despite having seen the worst in mankind were (in the case of Kennedy, still is) capable of maintaining a faith—admittedly quivering at times—in the human spirit. Before his police work, Preib worked as a doorman at a downtown hotel, and there witnessed the grueling and often humiliating labor of those in the . . .

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Last Words of the Executed on the NYR Blog

July 8, 2010
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Last Words of the Executed on the NYR Blog

The New York Review of Books‘ NYR Blog has a review of Robert K. Elder’s Last Words of the Executed, posted yesterday by NYRB contributor Charles Simic. In the review Simic reprints a few of the quotations from the soon to be executed prisoners featured in the book, but remarks: Often more interesting than the final thoughts of some of these men and women are the short descriptions Elder provides of their backgrounds and the crimes they committed. Over the years, a few of them became the basis of novels and films, but there are plenty of others in the book that are just as tantalizing. Most likely, some of the executed were innocent, while others, who were guilty, had complicated and awful lives; one tends to feel sorry for them and wishes to know more about their stories. It’s when it comes to true monsters, and there are plenty of them here, that even someone like me, who opposes capital punishment, begins to wonder if there ought to be an exception now and then.… Navigate to the NYR Blog to read the full review. Also, read these excerpts from the book. . . .

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Massimo Pigliucci on how to tell science from bunk

July 7, 2010
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Massimo Pigliucci on how to tell science from bunk

The New York Society for Ethical Culture has posted an interesting video on Youtube of Massimo Pigliucci, author of Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk, speaking on the topic of his book. In his presentation Pigliucci discusses how to differentiate between science and pseudoscience, some of the culprits in the dissemination of pseudoscience in society, and the sometimes dire consequences when such ideas gain traction. Check it out below. . . .

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As temps rise in NY, remember the great Chicago heat wave

July 6, 2010
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As temps rise in NY, remember the great Chicago heat wave

As the temperature tops 100 degrees on the east coast many, especially in major urban centers, are bracing for the consequences. As history has shown, these consequences can include power failures, hospitalizations, and even deaths. Case in point: Chicago, 1995, when one of the most disastrous heat waves ever to strike the US killed over seven hundred people who succumbed to a week-long onslaught of 90-to-100 degree temperatures. Eric Klinenberg’s Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago documents this tragedy and attempts to answer the question of how, in a day and age where the simplest of technologies could have avoided such disaster, so many could have perished. Revealing the tragedy’s darker social dimension, Klinenberg shows how a number of surprising and unsettling forms of social breakdown—including the literal and social isolation of seniors, the institutional abandonment of poor neighborhoods, and the retrenchment of public assistance programs—contributed to the high fatality rates. As Klinenberg demonstrates in this incisive account of the contemporary urban condition, the widening cracks in the social foundations of American cities that the 1995 Chicago heat wave made visible have by no means subsided as the temperatures returned to normal. The forces that affected Chicago . . .

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Free e-book for July from the University of Chicago Press!

July 1, 2010
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Free e-book for July from the University of Chicago Press!

This month’s free e-book: Making Patriots by Walter Berns—a pithy and provocative essay that attempts to answer the question of how patriotism has flourished throughout America’s history, despite the culture’s veneration of individualism and self-interest. After expertly and intelligibly guiding the reader through the history and philosophy of patriotism in a republic—from the ancient Greeks through contemporary life—Berns locates the best answer in the thought and words of Abraham Lincoln, who Berns claims understood better than anyone what the principles of democracy meant and what price adhering to them may exact. The graves at Arlington and Gettysburg and Omaha Beach in Normandy bear witness to the fact that self-interested individuals can become patriots, and Making Patriots is a compelling exploration of how this was done and how it might be again. Download the complete e-book for free during the month of July or try a sample first with this excerpt. . . .

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Belonging in an Adopted World gets the Page 99 test

June 30, 2010
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Belonging in an Adopted World gets the Page 99 test

Barbara Yngvesson is our latest author to take Marshal Zeringue’s “Page 99 Test.” On his blog of the same name Zeringue asks authors to flip to page 99 of their books, summarize it, and then give a brief explanation of how it relates to the rest of the work. The latest post features Yngvesson discussing her book Belonging in an Adopted World: Race, Identity, and Transnational Adoption. Yngvesson’s post begins: Page 99 of Belonging in an Adopted World focuses on a central theme of the book: the ways that transnational adoption contributes to projects of nation-building by countries that “send” and “receive” children in adoption. Drawing on anthropologist Arturo Escobar’s (1995) understanding of development discourse as a “secular theory of salvation,” the first paragraph argues that narratives of rescue underpinning policies of transnational adoption can be mapped onto development theories of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s that positioned the developing world as “a child in need of guidance.” Click over to the Page 99 Test to continue reading or find out more about the book. . . .

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Michael P. Jeffries is sick of the pop formula

June 29, 2010
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Michael P. Jeffries is sick of the pop formula

Michael P. Jeffries, whose forthcoming Thug Life: Race, Gender, and the Meaning of Hip-Hop offers one of the most insightful examinations of contemporary hip-hop music by an academic in years, has an article on the website of The Atlantic that gives readers a chance to preview the kind of trenchant critique of the hip-hop hegemon he serves up in his new book. Jeffries’ article begins with a quote from rapper Drake on the pressures of the music industry: What if I don’t really do the numbers they predict? Considering the fact that I’m the one that they just picked To write a chapter in history, the shit has got me sick. —Drake, “9AM in Dallas” I’m sick too. Sick of the paint-by-numbers pop-formula used to construct Drake’s debut album, despite the success of his more adventurous mixtapes. Sick of major record labels’ self-fulfilling prophecies about which artists and images are marketable. But more than any of this, I’m sick of the notion that hip-hop needs saviors like Drake. Continue reading at The Atlantic or find out more about Jeffries’ book due out December 2010. . . .

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