Reviews

A close confrontation with the horror of the Nazi state

March 15, 2010
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A close confrontation with the horror of the Nazi state

As James Srodes writes in his recent review of Jews in Nazi Berlin for the Washington Times “all significant historical events—even the ghastly Holocaust—tend to flatten and diminish as time draws us away from the moment they occurred.” Thus the importance of Beate Meyer, Hermann Simon, and Chana Schütz’s archival portrait of Jewish life in the shadow of Nazi Germany—as Srodes writes, a book which “forcibly yanks us back with a fresh, close confrontation with what it was like to face the full horror of the Nazi state’s extermination campaign—and to survive it.” Srodes continues: This book chronicles the… harrowing story of what it was like to live in the heart of the Nazi beast and what one faced in the simple, instinctive struggle to stay alive, to protect one’s loved ones, to bargain with and finally evade the Nazi killing machine. The book itself is a compilation of an exhaustive archival research project shared by two postwar institutions dedicated to gathering, preserving and making sense of the personal documents, photos, diaries, letters and government records of a once great Jewish community that had flourished in the capital of what was believed to be one of the most cultured, civilized . . .

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Piratical acts and the shaping of modern IP law

March 10, 2010
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Piratical acts and the shaping of modern IP law

Toronto’s The Globe and Mail published a review of Adrian Johns’s Piracy in Monday’s edition of the paper. In the review Grace Westcott takes special note of Johns’s unique approach to the history of intellectual property debates— a feat he accomplishes by focusing his narrative away from the victims of piracy, to the look more closely at the roles of the pirates themselves. As Westcott writes: Why is Johns talking about a history of piracy, as opposed to a history of intellectual property law? According to him, the modern concept of intellectual property did not even exist prior to the mid-19th century, by which point, he says, there had already been 150 years of piracy. More pointedly, he argues that virtually all the central principles of intellectual property were developed in response to piratical acts. It is conflict over piracy, and the measures taken against it, he says, that forces society to define and defend, adapt or abandon, strongly held ideals of authorship, public discourse, science and dissemination of knowledge. Piracy is, from this perspective, central to the emergence of the modern information society. Read it online at The Globe and Mail website. Also read an excerpt from the book. . . .

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Piracy—a definitve history of intellectual property

February 10, 2010
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Piracy—a definitve history of intellectual property

In a recent book review in last Saturday’s Weekend Australian Roy Williams begins by acknowledging intellectual property disputes as one of he most pressing issue of the twenty-fist century. As Williams writes: The laws of copyright, patents and related regimes are notoriously arcane; they are a mystery to most lawyers, let alone the public. Yet intellectual property is integral to some of the curliest issues of the early 21st century: the regulation of biotechnology, the digitisation of news and books, and freer access for the Third World to life-saving drugs, to name just three. To understand contemporary geopolitics, a working knowledge of intellectual property is mandatory. Enter Adrian Johns’s, Piracy: Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates, offering readers the definitive historical account of every important IP dispute from the advent of print culture all the way to the present day, augmented by the unparalleled insights of its author. Noting one particularly fascinating example Williams writes: Especially compelling is the detailed account of the emergence of the modern notion of copyright. analyses the central role played by London book traders of the 17th and 18th centuries. Based around Stationers Hall near St Paul’s Cathedral, they made their living selling . . .

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Piracy and the history of intellectual property disputes

February 3, 2010
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Piracy and the history of intellectual property disputes

Offering some fascinating insights on one of the most contentious issues in publishing right now, a review of Adrian John’s Piracy: The Intellectual Property Wars from Gutenberg to Gates appeared in the January 21 edition of Abu Dhabi’s The National. Reviewer Caleb Crain writes “by making words, music and images easy to copy and share, the internet may seem to have fractured trust between producers and consumers of culture around the world in a novel way. But in fact, producers and consumers have been in conflict for centuries.” In his new book Johns offers a detailed account of this conflict, from the advent of print culture in the fifteenth century, to the reign of the Internet in the twenty-first. In his review Crain briefly summarizes the history of intellectual property disputes detailed in Johns’s book, and picks out a few details he finds most salient to current debates. From The National: When literary property was abolished in Paris after 1789, cheaply printed, timely, derivative literature flushed everything else out of the marketplace—imagine the final triumph of the Huffington Post over the New York Times. Moralistic bullying failed when 19th-century American reprinters tried to agree not to pirate one another’s piracies. . . .

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The modern afterlives of the bodies in the bog

January 29, 2010
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The modern afterlives of the bodies in the bog

According to Wikipedia, recorded discoveries of bog bodies—human bodies which have been found remarkably preserved by the unique conditions of the sphagnum bogs in which they are found—go back as far as the 18th century. The mystery surrounding the significance of these bodies and the nature of their demise has for centuries provoked a macabre fascination in the public mind, but until the mid-twentieth century, no one even knew how long the bodies had lain in their muddy graves. As Philip Hoare notes in a recent book review in the Telegraph, it was not until Danish archaeologist PV Glob’s 1969 book The Bog People, that many of these bodies were revealed to be human sacrifices dating back to the early iron age. As Hoare writes “sentenced to death for worldly crimes but slain to propitiate the terrible deities, they were strangled with leather nooses or were pinned face down with wooden struts to drown in the mud.” Hoare continues: As a young girl in Copenhagen, Karin Sanders, , was also a fan of Glob’s book. But hers is a decidedly post-modern account, one which seeks . . .

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The New Republic‘s The Book website reviews Chicago

January 26, 2010
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The New Republic‘s The Book website reviews Chicago

The New Republic has just debuted its new online book reviews site, and in the midst of clicking around we were pleased to note that The Book as it’s called, is featuring one of our titles amongst its inaugural reviews. In an article posted to the site last Wednesday, Harvard economist Edward L. Gleaser reviews Dominic A. Pacyga’s Chicago: A Biography—a thoroughly detailed and uncommonly intimate portrait of the city and its inhabitants written by a native Chicagoan. In his piece Glaeser inventories a few of the main topics in the book including Chicago’s rapid industrial growth in the early 20th century, the city’s role in the invention of the skyscraper, and Pacyga’s unique focus on the stories of the city’s working class. Navigate to TNR‘s The Book to read the full review and see a gallery of photographs from the book. . . .

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Chicago through the eye of a poet

January 8, 2010
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Chicago through the eye of a poet

The Tribune‘s Julia Keller recently penned an article about a man who knows the city “like the back of his hand,”—and is one of its most prominent writers—Reginald Gibbons, whose evocative collection of writing about our fair city in Slow Trains Overhead: Chicago Poems and Stories comes out April 2010. Though a native of Houston, Gibbons’ new collection reveals that his muse is clearly the city of Chicago, where he has lived and taught for many years as a professor of English at Northwestern University. As Keller writes: It was coming to Chicago—a place in which, to Gibbons’ eye, the past and present commingle in rackety yet luminous profusion—that truly set fire to his imagination, he says. “I got such a powerful feeling in Chicago, a feeling I’ve never gotten in New York—the historical echo of the spaces downtown, the feeling that everyone who has ever worked here is still here. There’s a profoundly good feeling of being connected with the generations.” And in Slow Trains Overhead Gibbons combines this connection to the city of Chicago with his inimitable command of language to capture what it’s really like to live in this remarkable city. Embracing a striking variety of human . . .

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A Rescue Plan for America’s Public Universities

January 6, 2010
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A Rescue Plan for America’s Public Universities

As Patricia Cohen recently wrote in the New York Times reviewing two new books on higher education, “champions of the market can turn up in the oddest places. At the same time that bankers and businessmen are acknowledging the downsides of unregulated capitalism, college and university reformers are urging the academy to more closely embrace the marketplace.” And one of the reformers Cohen reviews is our author. In Saving Alma Mater: A Rescue Plan for America’s Public Universities James C. Garland draws on more than thirty years of experience as a professor, administrator, and university president to argue that a new compact between state government and public universities is needed to make these schools more affordable and financially secure. As Cohen writes: Mr. Garland is concerned with putting public university systems on a solid financial footing. Although they educate 80 percent of the nation’s college students, public institutions have seen their quality sapped by shrinking government aid, changing demographics and growing income inequality. In Saving Alma Mater, Mr. Garland argues that government should end subsidies altogether and allow supply and demand to rule. Let public universities compete for students and set their own tuitions. To ensure that poor students can . . .

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The Child in the Tribune

December 29, 2009
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The Child in the Tribune

Heidi Stevens wrote about The Child: An Encyclopedic Companion in last Sunday’s edition of the Chicago Tribune. Stevens quotes editor-in-chief Richard A. Shweder who handily sums up the book: “It’s everything you ever wanted to know but never even thought to ask.” Everything in this case being more than 500 articles in a 1,144-page book that was 10 years in the making. Stevens also interviewed Mary Laur, senior project editor for reference books at the Press. A sidebar to the article notes five things learned from The Child, including this arresting fact: “Children in the U.S. are more likely to grow up with a pet than with both parents.” Sample pages, articles, and more is on our website for the book. . . .

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‘Pictures which are interpretable… are bad pictures’

December 17, 2009
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‘Pictures which are interpretable… are bad pictures’

Bookslut contributor Guy Cunningham has recently posted a review of Dietmar Elger’s biographical account of one of the most important and influential artists of the post-war era, Gerhard Richter: A Life in Painting. In his review, Cunningham notes how Richter’s work strikes a profoundly ambivalent note somewhere between literal representation and the abstraction of concern to most of his modernist contemporaries, and takes special note of Elger’s biography for its ability to duplicate this aspect of Richter’s work in the telling of the artist’s life. As Cunningham writes: “The great accomplishment of Gerhard Richter: A Life in Painting is the way it captures ambivalence, which runs throughout much of the artist’s work. This detachment emerged early in Richter’s career, beginning with his ‘photo’ paintings—paintings based on and evocative of particular photographs—in the 1960s. As Elger explains, ‘Working from a photo eliminates the artifice of form, color, composition… The intention is to give paintings the most unartistic, impersonal, and distanced character possible.…'” Accordingly, Cunningham continues, “any details that could influence our view of Richter’s work are intentionally played down… in keeping with Richter’s stated belief that ‘Pictures which are interpretable, and which contain a meaning, are bad . . .

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