Books for the News

War’s Waste: Rehabilitation in World War I America

July 28, 2014
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War’s Waste: Rehabilitation in World War I America

On the one-hundredth anniversary of World War I, it might be especially opportune to consider one of the unspoken inheritances of global warfare: soldiers who return home physically and/or psychologically wounded from battle. With that in mind, this excerpt from War’s Waste: Rehabilitation in World War I America contextualizes the relationship between rehabilitation—as the proper social and cultural response to those injured in battle—and the progressive reformers who pushed for it as a means to “rebuild” the disabled and regenerate the American medical industry.

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Rehabilitation was thus a way to restore social order after the chaos of war by (re)making men into producers of capital. Since wage earning often defined manhood, rehabilitation was, in essence, a process of making a man manly. Or, as the World War I “Creed of the Disabled Man” put it, the point of rehabilitation was for each disabled veteran to become “a MAN among MEN in spite of his physical handicap.” Relying on the breadwinner ideal of manhood, those in favor of pension reform began to define disability not by a man’s missing limbs or by any other physical incapacity (as the Civil War pension system had done), but rather . . .

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Philosophy in a Time of Terror

July 22, 2014
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Philosophy in a Time of Terror

Giovanna Borradori conceived Philosophy in a Time of Terror: Dialogues with Jürgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida shortly following the attacks on September 11, 2001; through it, he was able engage in separate interviews with two of the most profound—and mutually antagonistic—philosophers of the era. The work they labor here unravels the social and political rhetoric surrounding the nature of “the event,” examines the contexts of good versus evil, and considers the repercussions such acts of terror levy against our assessment of humanity’s potential for vulnerability and dismissal. All of this, of course, prescient and relevant to ongoing matters today.

Below follows an excerpt published on Berfrois. In it, Jacques Derrida responds to one of Borradori’s questions, which asked if the initial impression of US citizens to 9/11, “as a major event, one of the most important historical events we will witness in our lifetime, especially for those of us who never lived through a world war,” was testifiable:

Whether this “impression” is justified or not, it is in itself an event, let us never forget it, especially when it is, though in quite different ways, a properly global effect. The “impression” cannot be dissociated from all the affects, interpretations, and rhetoric . . .

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In praise of Eva Illouz

July 17, 2014
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In praise of Eva Illouz

Let’s begin with a personal aside: during our sessions, my therapist invokes Eva Illouz more often than any other writer. At first I was largely deaf to this phenomenon, though eventually I acknowledged that excerpts from her work had come to function as a sort of Greek chorus alongside my own rambling metastasization of anecdotes from my early thirties. After weeks of failing to make the connection, I recognized her as one of our authors, read her book, and spent some hours poking around the corners of the internet digesting interviews and think pieces—later I picked up a few more books, and finally reflected on how and why a sociologist who studies changing emotional patterns under capitalism might elucidate my own benign/not benign driftlessness and failure to thrive.

The conclusion I reached is one that has been rattling around the zeitgeist—I tend to think of these pronouncements of grand-mal cultural tendencies as wheezing parakeets: often they are the equivalent of a clicking sound you can’t quite place, one insistently audible because it’s both so foreign and so obvious.

The background to Illouz’s ideas is a mainstream media that produces this (a now well-circulated blog post at . . .

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Advanced praise for The Getaway Car

July 9, 2014
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Advanced praise for The Getaway Car

On our forthcoming The Getaway Car: A Donald Westlake Nonfiction Miscellany, from Kirkus Reviews (read the review in full here):

Westlake (1933–2008), who wrote under his own name and a handful of pseudonyms, was an award-winning writer of crime, mystery and detective novels; short stories; screenplays; and one children’s book. University of Chicago Press promotions director Stahl thinks this collection of Westlake’s nonfiction will please his fans; it’s likely these sharp, disarmingly funny pieces will also create new ones. The editor includes a wide range of writing: interviews, letters, introductions to Westlake’s and others’ work, and even recipes. “May’s Famous Tuna Casserole” appeared in the cookbook A Taste of Murder. May is the “faithful companion” of Westlake’s famous protagonist John Dortmunder, “whose joys are few and travails many.” Another of his culinary joys, apparently, was sautéed sloth. One of the best essays is “Living With a Mystery Writer,” by Westlake’s wife, Abby Adams: “Living with one man is difficult enough; living with a group can be nerve-wracking. I have lived with the consortium which calls itself Donald Westlake for five years now, and I still can’t always be sure, when I get up in the morning, which of the . . .

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Winnifred Fallers Sullivan on the impossibility of religious freedom

July 8, 2014
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Winnifred Fallers Sullivan on the impossibility of religious freedom

 

The impossibility of religious freedom

by Winnifred Fallers Sullivan

In the last week the US Supreme Court has decided two religious freedom cases (Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and Wheaton College v. Burwell) in favor of conservative Christian plaintiffs seeking exemptions from the contraceptive coverage mandate of the Affordable Care Act. Liberals have gone nuts, wildly predicting the end of the world as we know it. While I share their distress about the effects of these decisions on women, I want to talk about religion. I believe that it is time for some serious self-reflection on the part of liberals. To the extent that these decisions are about religion (and there are certainly other reasons to criticize the reasoning in these opinions), they reveal the rotten core at the heart of all religious freedom laws. The positions of both liberals and conservatives are affected by this rottenness but I speak here to liberals.

You cannot both celebrate religious freedom and deny it to those whose religion you don’t like. Human history supports the idea that religion, small “r” religion, is a nearly ubiquitous and perhaps necessary part of human culture. Big “R” . . .

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Excerpt: House of Debt

June 27, 2014
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Excerpt: House of Debt

From House of Debt: How They (And You) Caused the Great Recession, and How We Can Prevent It from Happening Again

by Atif Mian and Amir Sufi

A SCANDAL IN BOHEMIA

Selling recreational vehicles used to be easy in America. As a button worn by Winnebago CEO Bob Olson read, “You can’t take sex, booze, or weekends away from the American people.” But things went horribly wrong in 2008, when sales for Monaco Coach Corporation, a giant in the RV industry, plummeted by almost 30 percent. This left Monaco management with little choice. Craig Wanichek, their spokesman, lamented, “We are sad that the economic environment, obviously outside our control, has forced us to make . . . difficult decisions.”

Monaco was the number-one producer of diesel-powered motor homes. They had a long history in northern Indiana making vehicles that were sold throughout the United States. In 2005, the company sold over 15,000 vehicles and employed about 3,000 people in Wakarusa, Nappanee, and Elkhart Counties in Indiana. In July 2008, 1,430 workers at two Indiana plants of Monaco Coach Corporation were let go. Employees were stunned. Jennifer Eiler, . . .

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The Summer of Hillary Chute

June 24, 2014
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The Summer of Hillary Chute

Not a bad summer for Hillary Chute, so far. The University of Chicago’s reigning doyenne of the history of comics and cartooning, Chute earned several nods from Stephen Burt in a recent Artforum piece (from a summer feature on graphic content, see print issue), for her work in Outside the Box: Interviews with Contemporary Cartoonists, which offers unprecedented access into the life-stories and processes of cartooning’s pantheon, including Lynda Barry, Alison Bechdel, Joe Sacco, Art Spiegelman, and Chris Ware.

In that same issue, Chute reviews the work of indie-feminist cult cartoonist Julie Doucet, unsparingly delving into the fantastical materiality “Heavy Flow,” while placing Doucet at the helm of a movement that usurped the comics form for the purposes of feminist art:

Doucet’s darkly witty comics offer an aesthetic at once loose and dense. Her stylish line is controlled and masterful, while the rich spaces of her frames, with their heavy inking and deep perspective, teem with details and seething objects that seem as if they are about to burst out of the picture. The bodies in her work are simultaneously exuberant and seething. In the classic “Heavy Flow” (collected in Twisted Sisters: A Collection of Bad Girl Art ), the Julie character at . . .

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Lawrence Summers on House of Debt

June 9, 2014
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Lawrence Summers on House of Debt

From Lawrence H. Summers, former Secretary of the Treasury and president emeritus of Harvard University, in the Financial Times:

“Atif Mian and Amir Sufi’s House of Debt, despite some tough competition, looks likely to be the most important economics book of 2014; it could be the most important book to come out of the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent Great Recession. Its arguments deserve careful attention, and its publication provides an opportunity to reconsider policy choices made in 2009 and 2010 regarding mortgage debt.”

House of Debt takes a complicated premise—unraveling the threads of the 2008 financial crisis from a tangle of Federal Reserve policies, insolvent investment banks, predatory mortgage lenders, and private label securities—and delivers a clean-cut conclusion:  the Great Recession and Great Depression, as well as the current economic malaise in Europe, were caused by a large run-up in household debt followed by a significantly large drop in household spending. Recently, in addition to Summers’s endorsement in today’s Financial Times, the book has been profiled at the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, and the Economist, among others; Paul Krugman, writing for the NYT, noted that  its associated House of Debt blog has “instantly become must . . .

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Q & A with Mary Louise Roberts

June 6, 2014
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Q & A with Mary Louise Roberts

June 6, 2014, marks the 70th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy, France: one of the most iconic moments of World War II, which resulted in an unprecedented loss of life and quite literally shifted the tide in the Allies’ favor, leading to a restoration of the French Republic. Yesterday, to commemorate the event, we ran an excerpt from historian Mary Louise Roberts’s D-Day through French Eyes: Normandy 1944, which approaches the battle for Normandy from the perspective of French civilians, bearing witness in their homes and as part of their everyday life. Today, we’re following up with a brief Q & A, via which Roberts expands on how our understanding of that single day in history—June 6, 1944—has changed a much larger story.

You can read more from Roberts on revisiting the other side of D-Day’s history at Medium here, and check out more from her book here.

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On the 70th anniversary of D-Day, how would you say our perspective of the event has shifted since June 6, 1944?

The memory of any important event like D-Day undergoes change over time. If you read a novel such as Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, you’ll see an . . .

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Excerpt: D-Day through French Eyes

June 5, 2014
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Excerpt: D-Day through French Eyes

As World War II continued to rage, and though they yearned for liberation, by late spring 1944, the French in Normandy nonetheless steeled themselves for war, knowing that their homes and land and fellow citizens would have to bear the brunt of any incoming attack. The result of events that took place that June 6th—the largest seaborne invasion in history—led to a restoration of the French Republic and in story familiar to many, shifted the tide in favor of the Allied Forces. In D-Day through French Eyes, historian Mary Louise Roberts turns those usual stories of D-Day around, taking readers across the Channel to view the invasion from a range of gripping first-person accounts as seen by French citizens throughout the region. And as we approach the 70th anniversary of one of the most iconic military events of the twentieth century, we’ll be running an excerpt from the book (today) accompanied by a Q & A with Roberts (tomorrow), to honor, expand upon, and reinvigorate the story we thought we knew.

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CHAPTER ONE

THE NIGHT OF ALL NIGHTS

For Normans, the invasion began with noise. Just before midnight on Monday night, the fifth of . . .

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