Subjects

Twenty years after the Challenger

January 24, 2006
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Twenty years after the Challenger

A piece by John Noble Wilford in the New York Times is occasioned by the anniversaries of the destruction of the space shuttles Challenger (twenty years ago on January 28, 1986) and Columbia (three years ago on February 1, 2003) and the fire that killed three Apollo astronauts (thirty-nine years ago on January 27, 1967). Ten years ago we published The Challenger Launch Decision: Risky Technology, Culture, and Deviance at NASA by Diane Vaughan which put forth the view—now widely accepted—that the Challenger accident was not the result of bad engineeering but of a management culture that normalized deviance: that flew missions even when presented with evidence of serious problems. The Columbia accident showed how difficult it is to change the patterns of organizational life. Another author brought a different sensibility to the shuttle; you can read Howard Nemerov’s two poems on the space shuttle. . . .

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Review: William Howland Kenney, Jazz on the River

January 23, 2006
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Review: William Howland Kenney, Jazz on the River

"The romance, the misery and the music of migration are all captured in William Howland Kenney’s Jazz on the River, a book that narrates a history that couldn’t be captured merely by doting on scratchy records, tattered scores and old reviews. It was commonly known that jazz was born in New Orleans and made its way up the Mississippi, but until Kenney no one had investigated the makers of the boats and the conditions of the musicians who worked on them. And no study before this one ever charted that northern migration so that we can appreciate the artists and how their musical communities were formed, giving us new ways to appreciate the Pittsburgh of Billy Strayhorn, Art Blakey, and Mary Lou Williams, the St. Louis of Miles Davis…. ntil Kenney’s book we never got to feel what…the riverboat gig was actually like. What we get in this book, with lucid prose and meticulous research, is a geographical and cultural context for the figures who would eventually become canonical, providing a vital new backdrop for music and anecdotes that had seemed well trodden…. As for actually placing jazz in its historical and cultural context in America, Kenney is among the . . .

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Lawrence Weschler, Artistic Director

January 21, 2006
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Lawrence Weschler, Artistic Director

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Lawrence Weschler has been named the first artistic director of the Chicago Humanities Festival. The University of Chicago Press has published and reprinted a number of Weschler’s books over the past few years, including A Miracle, A Universe: Settling Accounts with Torturers, Boggs: A Comedy of Values, and Calamities of Exile: Three Nonfiction Novellas. In March we will bring back into print Weschler’s A Wanderer in the Perfect City: Selected Passion Pieces. . . .

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Press release: Mary Ann Caws, Surrealist Love Poems

January 21, 2006
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Press release: Mary Ann Caws, Surrealist Love Poems

Love poetry includes, yes, descriptions of the beloved. And images of a fantastic idyll complete with falling stars, the sound of the sea, and beautiful countryside. In the hands of Surrealists, though, love poetry also includes gravediggers and murderers, dice and garbage, snakeskin purses and "the drunken kisses of cyclones." Surrealism, the movement founded in the 1920s on the ashes of Dada’s nihilism, embraced absurdity, contradiction, and, to a supreme extent, passion and desire.… Read the press release. Read three poems from the book. . . .

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Press release: Charles Harrison, Painting the Difference

January 20, 2006
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Press release: Charles Harrison, Painting the Difference

Charles Harrison is one of the world’s most renowned teachers and theorists of modern art. In this, his latest work, he brings his finely tuned eye, encyclopedic knowledge, and keen philosophical intelligence to a fundamental question in the history of art: is there a relationship between the representation of women and the modernist project? Harrison’s answer is an emphatic yes…. Read the press release. . . .

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Press release: Luigi Pirandello, Shoot!

January 20, 2006
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Press release: Luigi Pirandello, Shoot!

Before Jean-Luc Godard, Ingmar Bergman, and Michelangelo Antonini—as well as contemporary auteurs such as Quentin Tarantino and Paul Thomas Anderson—there was Luigi Pirandello (1867-1936). The Nobel Prize-winning Sicilian writer recognized and explored, long before art cinema of the 1960s, the permeable boundary between reality and illusion. As the Wall Street Journal put it on the centennial of his birth, Pirandello "was one of the first moderns to insist that the theater itself is an art form, something to be reshaped according to the requirements of the twentieth-century imagination." And reshape it he did…. Read the press release. . . .

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Press release: Lindsay Allen, The Persian Empire

January 20, 2006
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Press release: Lindsay Allen, The Persian Empire

The British Museum exhibition "Forgotten Empire: The World of Ancient Persia" opened recently to the delight of critics and museumgoers alike. Taking full advantage of unprecedented loans from the National Museum of Iran, the Persepolis Museum, and the Louvre, the exhibition provides, in the words of the Guardian, a "first-rate" encounter with another culture. The Daily Telegraph called it "a triumph on many levels." The Persian Empire, Lindsay Allen’s beautifully illustrated companion volume to the exhibition, is also, in its own right, a triumph…. Read the press release. . . .

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Press release: Ted Brader, Campaigning for Hearts and Minds

January 20, 2006
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Press release: Ted Brader, Campaigning for Hearts and Minds

It’s no secret that politicians at every level aim to appeal to voters’ emotions with campaign television ads. Indeed, as gubernatorial and local races intensify in communities across the country, and as congressional representatives begin to prepare for next year’s midterm elections, campaign officials are surely crafting new emotionally evocative ads, following in the tradition of presidential, congressional, and local campaigns before them. Yet little is known about how these ads work, or even whether they work at all. This is where Ted Brader comes in…. Read the press release. . . .

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Press release: Lee Clarke, Worst Cases

January 20, 2006
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Press release: Lee Clarke, Worst Cases

Lee Clarke explores the consequences of terror and catastrophe for our future as a civilization. A leading expert on disasters and a consultant to the federal government on disaster response strategies, Clarke argues that the time has come to devote more energy to preventing not just the improbable, but the unimaginable. Things that have never happened before happen everyday, and it is the worst cases that we fail to anticipate that pose the greatest threat to our way of life…. Read the press release. We have an interview with Clarke and his lists of past and future worst case scenarios. . . .

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Press release: Philip Smith, Why War

January 20, 2006
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Press release: Philip Smith, Why War

Philip Smith presents the simple theory that we make sense of certain situations, threats, and risks such as war by telling stories: stories about what form of involvement is necessary in conflict, what the outcome might be, who the heroes and villains are. Taking the cases of three broadly comparable conflicts—Suez, the Gulf War, and the Iraq War—Smith exposes the stories told by respective politicians in Washington, London, Paris, and Madrid. Storytelling, he shows, makes it easier to assemble confusing information into comprehensible scenarios…. Read the press release. Read an excerpt on Britain and the war in Iraq. . . .

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