Author Essays, Interviews, and Excerpts

Heat Wave

June 29, 2015
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Heat Wave

Below follows a brief excerpt from “Heat Wave,” Chicago magazine’s excellent, comprehensive oral history of the week of record-breaking temperatures in July 1995 that killed more than 700 people, became one of the nation’s worst disasters, and left a legacy of unanswered questions about how civic, social, and medical respondents were ill-equipped and unable to contend with trauma on such a scale. *** Mark Cichon, emergency room physician at Chicago Osteopathic Hospital I remember talking to friends at other hospitals who said, “Man, we’re in the middle of a crisis mode.” It was across the city. Our waiting room and the emergency departments were packed. We were going from one emergency to another, all bunched together, almost like a pit crew. The most severe cases were the patients with asthma who were so far into an attack we couldn’t resuscitate them. I remember a woman in her early 30s. The paramedics had already put a tube into her lungs. We were trying to turn her around, but there was nothing that could be done. Eric Klinenberg, sociologist and author of the 2002 book Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago (to the Chicago Tribune in July 2012) did . . .

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The Culture Wars Are Over?

June 15, 2015
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The Culture Wars Are Over?

From an interview between Micah Uetricht and Andrew Hartman, author of The War for the Soul of America: A History of the Culture Wars, at In These Times: You write about people on the Left realizing that, in addition to restrictive ideas about gender and race, perhaps the whole American project is rotten to the core, and they need a different way to define themselves. And so there increasingly was no unifying project for the Left to feel a part of anymore—while the average American still probably wanted to be a part of that kind of project. There were some people from the ‘60s onward who saw the whole American project as irredeemable: racist, sexist, imperialist. But for the most part that was a very small minority. Multiculturalists, the people who Schlesinger was arguing against, just wanted the U.S. to reflect what it actually was: a very multicultural society. People wanted to stop the U.S. from thinking of itself as better than others, reject American exceptionalism. But most of these people weren’t giving up the project of the U.S., they just wanted the project to look different. Derrick Bell, the critical race theorist and law professor who I write about in the . . .

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Revisiting Paul R. Ehrlich’s Population Bomb

June 12, 2015
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Revisiting Paul R. Ehrlich’s Population Bomb

Earlier this month, the New York Times revisited Paul R. Ehrlich—through both his cult favorite 1968 work The Population Bomb, and as a doomsday-advocating talk show guest, who spent much of the 1970s and years since advancing the notion that it was just a matter of time before the strained resources of our overcrowded planet could no support humanity. Though the years since might have seeded us with a kinder, gentler apocalypse, Ehrlich remains (mostly) resolute: But Dr. Ehrlich, now 83, is not retreating from his bleak prophesies. He would not echo everything that he once wrote, he says. But his intention back then was to raise awareness of a menacing situation, he says, and he accomplished that. He remains convinced that doom lurks around the corner, not some distant prospect for the year 2525 and beyond. What he wrote in the 1960s was comparatively mild, he suggested, telling Retro Report: “My language would be even more apocalyptic today.” And yet, in a second Times piece, an op-ed, “Paul Ehrlich’s Population Bomb Argument Was Right,” by statistics professor Paul A. Murtaugh, Ehrlich’s ideas are framed less as nostalgia for a time of reasonable doomsday bets, and more as the inevitable catastrophic . . .

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2015 Robert Motherwell Book Award

June 8, 2015
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2015 Robert Motherwell Book Award

Fresh off an embargo of the news, we’re delighted to announce that Megan R. Luke’s Kurt Schwitters: Space, Image, Exile is the recipient of the 2015 Robert Motherwell Prize from the Dedalus Foundation. The Motherwell Prize, accompanied by a $10,000 award, “honors an outstanding publication in the history and criticism of modernism in the arts.” Luke’s book contextualizes, for the first time, the multidisciplinary work produced by one of modernism’s foremost innovators during the last years of his life, both during the Nazi regime and while in exile in Western Europe. From the official announcement: The Dedalus Foundation is pleased to announce that Megan R. Luke is the winner of the fourteenth annual Robert Motherwell Book Award, for Kurt Schwitters: Space, Image, Exile, published by The University of Chicago Press. The award, which carries a prize of $10,000, honors an outstanding publication in the history and criticism of modernism in the arts for the year 2014. German artist Kurt Schwitters (1887–1948) is best known for his pioneering work in fusing collage and abstraction, the two most transformative innovations of twentieth-century art. Considered the father of installation art, Schwitters was also a theorist and a writer whose influence extends from Robert Rauschenberg and . . .

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Free e-book for June: Prospero’s Son

June 1, 2015
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Free e-book for June: Prospero’s Son

Our free e-book for June: Prospero’s Son: Life, Books, Love and Theater by Seth Lerer *** “This book is the record of a struggle between two temperaments, two consciousnesses and almost two epochs.” That’s how Edmund Gosse opened Father and Son, the classic 1907 book about his relationship with his father. Seth Lerer’s Prospero’s Son is, as fits our latter days, altogether more complicated, layered, and multivalent, but at its heart is that same problem: the fraught relationship between fathers and sons. At the same time, Lerer’s memoir is about the power of books and theater, the excitement of stories in a young man’s life, and the transformative magic of words and performance. A flamboyantly performative father, a teacher and lifelong actor, comes to terms with his life as a gay man. A bookish boy becomes a professor of literature and an acclaimed expert on the very children’s books that set him on his path in the first place. And when that boy grows up, he learns how hard it is to be a father and how much books can, and cannot, instruct him. Throughout these intertwined accounts of changing selves, Lerer returns again and again to stories—the ways they . . .

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Excerpt: Edible Memory

May 22, 2015
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Excerpt: Edible Memory

An excerpt from Edible Memory: The Lure of Heirloom Tomatoes and Other Forgotten Foods by Jennifer A. Jordan *** “Making Heirlooms” How could anything as perishable as fruits and vegetables become an heirloom? Many things that are heirlooms today were once simple everyday objects. A quilt made of fabric scraps, a wooden bowl used in the last stages of making butter, both become heirlooms only as time increases between now and the era of their everyday use. Likewise, the Montafoner Braunvieh—a tawny, gorgeously crooked-horned cow that roams a handful of pastures and zoos in Europe, a tuft of hair like bangs above her big brown eyes—or the Ossabaw pigs that scurry around on spindly legs at Mount Vernon were not always “heirlooms.” Nor were the piles of multicolored tomatoes that periodically grace the cover of Martha Stewart Living magazine or the food pages of daily newspapers. What happened to change these plants and animals from everyday objects into something rare and precious, imbued with stories of the past? In fact, food has always been an heirloom in the sense of saving seeds, of passing down the food you eat to your children and your children’s children, in a mixture of the . . .

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Free e-book for May: Don’t Look, Don’t Touch, Don’t Eat

May 7, 2015
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Free e-book for May: Don’t Look, Don’t Touch, Don’t Eat

Our free e-book for May, Valerie Curtis’s Don’t Look, Don’t Touch, Don’t Eat: The Science behind Revulsion, considers the narrative history and scientific basis behind the psychology of disgust. *** Every flu season, sneezing, coughing, and graphic throat-clearing become the day-to-day background noise in every workplace. And coworkers tend to move as far—and as quickly—away from the source of these bodily eruptions as possible. Instinctively, humans recoil from objects that they view as dirty and even struggle to overcome feelings of discomfort once the offending item has been cleaned. These reactions are universal, and although there are cultural and individual variations, by and large we are all disgusted by the same things. In Don’t Look, Don’t Touch, Don’t Eat, Valerie Curtis builds a strong case for disgust as a “shadow emotion”—less familiar than love or sadness, it nevertheless affects our day-to-day lives. In disgust, biological and sociocultural factors meet in dynamic ways to shape human and animal behavior. Curtis traces the evolutionary role of disgust in disease prevention and hygiene, but also shows that it is much more than a biological mechanism. Human social norms, from good manners to moral behavior, are deeply rooted in our sense of disgust. The . . .

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University of Chicago Spanish–English Dictionary app [SALE]

May 5, 2015
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University of Chicago Spanish–English Dictionary app [SALE]

Coinciding with the celebration of Cinco de Mayo and for a very limited time, the good folks behind the University of Chicago Spanish–English Dictionary (Sixth Edition) app have dropped the price to $0.99 (usually $4.99). You can a basic screenshot of the app’s functionality above—from breezing through recent reviews, it seems like the app’s ability to generate words lists, along with its word-by-word notetaking feature, has proven especially popular. From the App Store description: The Spanish–English Dictionary app is a precise and practical bilingual application for iPhone® and iPod touch® based on the sixth edition of The University of Chicago Spanish–English Dictionary. Browse or search the full contents to display all instances of a term for fuller understanding of how it is used in both languages. Build your vocabulary by creating Word Lists and testing yourself on terms you need to master with flash cards and multiple choice quizzes. Whether you are preparing for next week’s class or upcoming international travel, this app is the essential on-the-go reference. You can watch a demo of the app here:   The app is, of course, a companion to the (physical book) sixth edition of the University of Chicago Spanish–English Dictionary, praised by Library Journal as, . . .

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INFESTEDBOOK.COM

May 4, 2015
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Brooke Borel’s Infested: How the Bed Bug Infiltrated Our Bedrooms and Took Over the World, a history, is the kind of book that can make you squirm—and not in a way that reassures you about the general asepsis of your mattress, hostel accommodations, luggage, vintage sweater, sexual partner, electrical heating system, duvet cover, trousseau, or recycling bin. Consider this excerpt from the book, recently posted at Gizmodo, about the plucky bed bug’s resistance to DDT (read more at the link to learn about how it—yes, the insect—was almost drafted in the Vietnam War): Four years after the Americans and the Brits added DDT to their wartime supply lists, scientists found bed bugs resistant to the insecticide in Pearl Harbor barracks. More resistant bed bugs soon showed up in Japan, Korea, Iran, Israel, French Guiana, and Columbus, Ohio. In 1958 James Busvine of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine showed DDT resistance in bed bugs as well as cross- resistance to several similar pesticides, including a tenfold increase in resistance to a common organic one called pyrethrin. In 1964 scientists tested bed bugs that had proven resistant five years prior but had not been exposed to any insecticides since. . . .

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N. D. B. Connolly on “Black Culture is Not the Problem”

May 1, 2015
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N. D. B. Connolly on “Black Culture is Not the Problem”

N. D. B. Connolly, assistant professor of history at Johns Hopkins University and author of A World More Concrete: Real Estate and the Remaking of Jim Crow South Florida, on “Black Culture is Not the Problem” for the New York Times: The problem is not black culture. It is policy and politics, the very things that bind together the history of Ferguson and Baltimore and, for that matter, the rest of America. Specifically, the problem rests on the continued profitability of racism. Freddie Gray’s exposure to lead paint as a child, his suspected participation in the drug trade, and the relative confinement of black unrest to black communities during this week’s riot are all features of a city and a country that still segregate people along racial lines, to the financial enrichment of landlords, corner store merchants and other vendors selling second-rate goods. The problem originates in a political culture that has long bound black bodies to questions of property. Yes, I’m referring to slavery. To read more about A World More Concrete, click here. . . .

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