Commentary

Jonathan Ames on Anthony Powell

August 27, 2015
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Jonathan Ames on Anthony Powell

The novelist and occasional raconteur Jonathan Ames was asked by the Big Issue to name his “Top 5 Books for American Anglophiles.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, he named a cadre of authors instead, Anthony Powell among them, and Ames had this to say, in particular, about Powell and his work: About 15 years ago some snobby writer in New York told me he was reading Powell’s epic 12-novel series, A Dance to the Music of Time, and wanting to be this writer’s intellectual peer (a hopeless endeavour), I set out to read it as well. I spent nearly a year absorbing all 12 books, and especially enjoyed the beautiful edition that had been put out by the University of Chicago Press—the spines of the books, when all lined up, formed the painting of the same name by Nicolas Poussin, which had been, in part, Powell’s inspiration for the work. A lot of Dance was rather boring but it was also quite wonderful to follow Powell’s characters over 70 years, and I saw resonance in my own life—how we keep re-encountering the same people over and over, how we keep struggling with the same issues over and over. Powell certainly intended this, as he wished to . . .

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Culture War? What Is It Good For?

August 19, 2015
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Culture War? What Is It Good For?

An excerpt from Jacqui Shine’s review of Andrew Hartman’s A War for the Soul of America: A History of the Culture Wars at the LA Review of Books: Though the allegiances of the culture wars tend to fall along predictable political lines, Hartman gives special attention to surprising moments of reversal and repetition. He notes, for example, that colorblind conservatism actually marks something of a reversion to an earlier colorblind liberalism, rather than the invention of a new ideological stance from whole cloth. After 1965, Hartman argues, a “reconstructed racial liberalism favored a proactive government that would guarantee black Americans not only ‘equality as a right and a theory’ but also, as the nation’s leading liberal Lyndon Johnson famously put it, ‘equality as a fact and a result.’” The fruit of this strategy was the rise of affirmative action, and “the line that divided opponents in the affirmative action debate … was the line between an older colorblind racial liberalism and a newer color-conscious racial liberalism that had incorporated elements of Black Power into its theoretical framework.” Thus, when conservatives took up the rhetoric of colorblindness to oppose racial quotas, they were repurposing an earlier liberal position. Hartman likewise stresses the . . .

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Sexual Exploitation of Teenagers: A Postscript

August 10, 2015
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Jennifer Ann Drobac’s Sexual Exploitation of Teenagers: Adolescent Development, Discrimination, and Consent Law—which focuses on the precarious positions, legal and otherwise, occupied by developing adolescents when sexually harassed by adults, including supervisors, teachers, and mentors—will publish in January 2016.  Following a recent change to California civil law spurred by Drobac’s scholarship, the following serves as postscript to the book. In November 2014, after I completed this manuscript, I spoke with Karen Foshay, a news reporter who was covering a case involving a California middle school student. Los Angeles School District lawyers used the girl’s consent to sex with her teacher to defend a civil action filed by her family. Then, after Arun Rath interviewed me on All Things Considered, I received calls from several California legislative aides regarding possible changes to California civil law. In July 2015, Governor Jerry Brown signed S.B. 14, effective January 1, 2016. This bill creates California Civil Code section 1708.5.5, which will prohibit the use of a minor’s consent in a civil action against an adult in a position of authority. It is not clear how this law will affect California civil cases involving adults who do not occupy positions of authority. Additionally, one cannot tell how this new . . .

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The crisis in non-fiction publishing

June 26, 2015
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The crisis in non-fiction publishing

Bolder. More global. Risk-taking. The home of future stars. Not a tagline for a well-placed index fund portfolio (thank G-d), but the crux of a piece by Sam Leith for the Guardian on the “crisis in non-fiction publishing”—ostensibly the result of copycat, smart-thinking, point-taking trade fodder that made Malcolm Gladwell not just a columnist, but a brand. As Leith asserts: We have a flock of books arguing that the internet is either the answer to all our problems or the cause of them; we have scads of books telling us about the importance of mindfulness, or forgetfulness, or distraction, or stress. We have any number about what one recent press release called the “always topical” debate between science and religion. We have a whole subcategory that concern themselves with “what it means to be human.” Enter the university presses. Though Leith acknowledges they’re still capable of producing academic jargon dressed-up in always already pantalettes, they are also home to deeper, more complex, and vital trade non-fiction that produces new scholarship and nuanced contributions to the world of ideas, while still targeting their offerings to the general reader. If big-house publishers produce brands, scholarly presses produce the sharp, intelligent, and individualized contributions that later (after, . . .

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Carol Kasper receives the 2015 AAUP Constituency Award

June 25, 2015
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Carol Kasper receives the 2015 AAUP Constituency Award

Carol Kasper, our very own marketing director, was recently honored by the Association of American University Presses (AAUP) with their 2015 Constituency Award. The Constituency Award is unique, in that it involves an open-call nomination process from one’s peers, and focuses not only on individual achievement, but also on the spirit of cooperation and collaboration that marks the measure of integrity and success within the scholarly publishing community. From the official press release: The Constituency Award, established in 1991, honors an individual of a member press who has demonstrated active leadership and service, not only in service to the Association but to the scholarly publishing community as a whole. In addition to a term on the Association’s Board of Directors from 2009 to 2011, Kasper has been a member of numerous committees and panels throughout the years, including the Marketing Committee, the Bias-Free Language Task Force, and Midwest Presses Meeting Committees. . . . In addition to her formal service to the Association, and her leadership in the university press and international scholarly publishing worlds, Kasper has hosted numerous Whiting/AAUP Residents over the years. One of the nominating letters added: “Carol has dedicated all this time and energy to the AAUP in her . . .

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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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Douglas Mitchell on Donald Levine

June 5, 2015
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Douglas Mitchell on Donald Levine

When sociologist Donald Levine (1931–2015) passed away this April, the Chicago Tribune asked University of Chicago Press executive editor Douglas Mitchell to offer up some remarks on his decades long personal and professional relationship with the longtime University of Chicago professor and former dean of the College. With Mitchell’s permission, they follow, in full, after the jump. *** Don Levine and I go back a ways. In fact, the Chicago Tribune plays a role in my memories because of a “First Person” feature the Trib did about me on June 22, 1986 (you probably remember these full-page bio-vignettes in the Sunday magazine, usually on or near the back page—inspired no doubt by Studs Terkel’s Working, the reporters would sniff out interesting occupations, usually stuff like pizza delivery guy, parking lot attendant, hotel housekeeper, and the like, but then they got the idea of doing a white-collar type). I told the story of how I had been leafing through old files and found a one-paragraph sketch of a book on precision vs. ambiguity in language, and how the worship of precision actually disrupts understanding and relationships. It turned out to be Donald Levine’s book idea. I was smitten. I called him (we had no . . .

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2015 Laing Prize

April 23, 2015
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2015 Laing Prize

Each year, the University of Chicago Press,  awards the Gordon J. Laing Prize to “the faculty author, editor or translator of a book published in the previous three years that brings the Press the greatest distinction.” Originated in 1963, the Prize was named after a former general editor of the Press, whose commitment to extraordinary scholarship helped establish UCP as one of the country’s premier university presses. Conferred by a vote from the Board of University Publications and celebrated earlier this week, the 2015 Laing Prize was awarded to Mauricio Tenorio-Trillo, professor of history at the University of Chicago, and associate professor at the Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas, Mexico City, for his book I Speak the City: Mexico City at the Turn of the Twentieth Century.  University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer’s presented the award at a ceremony earlier this week. From the Press’s official citation: From art to city planning, from epidemiology to poetry, I Speak of the City challenges the conventional wisdom about Mexico City, investigating the city and the turn-of-the-century world to which it belonged. By engaging with the rise of modernism and the cultural experiences of such personalities as Hart Crane, Mina Loy and Diego Rivera, I . . .

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Our Fall 2015 catalog has arrived

April 22, 2015
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Our Fall 2015 catalog has arrived

We’ve gone mimetic and we’re not coming back; executive editor Doug Mitchell models our new on-brand lookbook. We call it Informcore. In the meantime, here’s a link to what’s on offer for Fall 2015. . . .

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Alan Shapiro: Pulitzer Prize finalist

April 21, 2015
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Alan Shapiro: Pulitzer Prize finalist

Hearty congratulations to Alan Shapiro, whose collection of poems Reel to Reel was recently shortlisted for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in poetry. Shapiro, who teaches at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has published twelve volumes of poetry, and has previously been nominated for both the National Book Award and the Griffin Prize. The Pulitzer Prize citation commended Reel to Reel‘s “finely crafted poems with a composure that cannot conceal the troubled terrain they traverse.” The book, written with Shapiro’s recognizably graceful, abstracting, and subtle minimalism, was one of two finalists, along with Arthur Sze’s Compass Rose; Gregory Pardlo’s Digest won the award. From the jacket copy for Reel to Reel: Reel to Reel, Alan Shapiro’s twelfth collection of poetry, moves outward from the intimate spaces of family and romantic life to embrace not only the human realm of politics and culture but also the natural world, and even the outer spaces of the cosmos itself. In language richly nuanced yet accessible, these poems inhabit and explore fundamental questions of existence, such as time, mortality, consciousness, and matter. How did we get here? Why is there something rather than nothing? How do we live fully and lovingly as conscious creatures in an unconscious universe with no . . .

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