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An excerpt from America’s Snake by Ted Levin

May 4, 2016
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An excerpt from America’s Snake by Ted Levin

“Diamond Dave and the Porcupine Hollow” An excerpt from the Prologue to America’s Snake by Ted Levin *** Why would Alcott Smith, at the time nearly seventy, affable and supposedly of sound mind, a blue-eyed veterinarian with a whittled-down woodman’s frame and lupine stamina, abruptly change his plans (and clothes) for a quiet Memorial Day dinner with his companion, Lou-Anne, and drive from his home in New Hampshire to New York State, north along the western rim of a wild lake, to a cabin on a corrugated dirt lane called Porcupine Hollow? Inside the cabin fifteen men quaffed beer, while outside a twenty-five-inch rattlesnake with a mouth full of porcupine quills idled in a homemade rabbit hutch. It was the snake that had interrupted Smith’s holiday dinner. Because of a cascade of consequences there aren’t many left in the Northeast: timber rattlesnakes are classified as a threatened species in New York and an endangered species everywhere in New England except Maine and Rhode Island where they’re already extinct. They could be gone from New Hampshire before the next presidential primary. Among the cognoscenti it’s speculated whether timber rattlesnakes ever lived in Quebec; they definitely did in Ontario, where rattlesnakes inhabited the sedimentary . . .

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Our 2016 Fall Books catalog has arrived!

April 29, 2016
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Our 2016 Fall Books catalog has arrived!

Our 2016 Fall Books catalog has arrived—at 427+ pages, it’s our biggest yet. Click here to download a PDF and read up on its 759 titles, or visit Edelweiss for up-to-the minute, detailed bibliographic information for each book. Phew! . . .

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Mary Cappello on mood for NPR

April 27, 2016
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The above video was recorded at the American Academy in Berlin, where Mary Cappello presented a selection of lyric essays and experimental writings on mood, the subject of her forthcoming book Life Breaks In: A Mood Almanack, which we’re psyched to publish later this fall. You can hear more about the project in an interview Cappello did with NPR/Berlin. From our catalog copy for the book: This is not one of those books. This book is about mood, and how it works in and with us as complicated, imperfectly self-knowing beings existing in a world that impinges and infringes on us, but also regularly suffuses us with beauty and joy and wonder. You don’t write that book as a linear progression—you write it as a living, breathing, richly associative, and, crucially, active, investigation. Or at least you do if you’re as smart and inventive as Mary Cappello. And, to whet your appetite, an excerpt from “Gong Bath”: Swimming won’t ever yield the same pleasure for me as being small enough to take a bath in the same place where the breakfast dishes are washed. No memory will be as flush with pattering—this is life!—as the sensation that is the sound of . . .

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2016 American Academy of Arts and Sciences new members

April 25, 2016
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2016 American Academy of Arts and Sciences new members

Congratulations to the new members elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, including an impressive array of current, former, and future University of Chicago Press authors: Horst Bredekamp Andrea Campbell Candice Canes-Wrone Thomas Conley Theaster Gates Sander Gilman David Nirenberg Jahan Ramazani Kim Lane Scheppele Michael Sells David Simpson Christopher Wood The Academy “convenes leaders from the academic, business, and government sectors to address critical challenges facing our global society.” This year’s cohort marks the 235th class of inductees, stemming from an inaugural selection of members in 1781, including Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, and Beyoncé, who is a spectre as ageless as Melisandre from Game of Thrones. . . .

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Sandra M. Gustafson on the 2016 State of the Union address

January 20, 2016
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Sandra M. Gustafson on the 2016 State of the Union address

“The Four Questions” by Sandra M. Gustafson *** On January 6, 1941, Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered the State of the Union address known as the “Four Freedoms” speech. Then recently elected to an unprecedented third presidential term, Roosevelt had run on a platform that included the promise to “not send American boys into any foreign wars.” In the days leading up to his speech, Nazi Germany had begun a bombing campaign on the coal port at Cardiff, Wales, and the Roosevelt administration had announced the Liberty Ship Program to build freighters for the war effort. A few days after the address, thousands of Jews were killed in a pogrom in Bucharest, Romania, and over the next several weeks, anti-Jewish measures spread across Eastern Europe. This was the state of things that prompted Roosevelt to articulate “four essential human freedoms” as a basis for a secure world: freedom of expression; freedom of religion; freedom from want, which, he explained, “translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants everywhere in the world”; and freedom from fear, focusing on dramatic reductions in armaments to eliminate the possibility of wars of aggression. . . .

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Of Beards and Men

December 14, 2015
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Of Beards and Men

From Matthew Schneier’s review of Christopher Oldstone-Moore’s Of Beards and Men: The Revealing History of Facial Hair for the New York Times Book Review: Oldstone-Moore, a lecturer in history at Wright State University (and, at least as recently as his faculty head shot, a beard-wearer), approaches facial hair as an index of the vertiginous roil of masculinity itself. “Whenever masculinity is redefined, facial hairstyles change to suit,” he writes. “The history of men is literally written on their faces.” In considering the subject, Oldstone-Moore is in good company. The Supreme Court, the Roman Catholic Church, Rousseau and Plutarch have all weighed in on the subject. He is monomaniacal in his attentions, charting the course of human history in the reflection of a razor. Like Zelig, at any given moment in history, beards were (or, as suggestively, weren’t) there. ­Oldstone-Moore finds them (and their corollary, mustaches) everywhere: in ancient Sumer and ancient Rome; in the Bayeux Tapestry, the plays of Shakespeare and the poems of Whitman; in the courts of Europe as well as its festering proletarian dens. (One of the book’s acknowledged shortcomings is the demographic limit of its ­focus, largely on Western Europe and the United States.) Even in our current beard­ophile . . .

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Free e-book for December: Dangerous Work by Arthur Conan Doyle

December 11, 2015
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Free e-book for December: Dangerous Work by Arthur Conan Doyle

Our free e-book for December: Dangerous Work: Diary of an Arctic Adventure by Arthur Conan Doyle *** This e-book features the complete text found in the print edition of Dangerous Work, without the illustrations or the facsimile reproductions of Conan Doyle’s notebook pages. In 1880 a young medical student named Arthur Conan Doyle embarked upon the “first real outstanding adventure” of his life, taking a berth as ship’s surgeon on an Arctic whaler, the Hope. The voyage took him to unknown regions, showered him with dramatic and unexpected experiences, and plunged him into dangerous work on the ice floes of the Arctic seas. He tested himself, overcame the hardships, and, as he wrote later, “came of age at 80 degrees north latitude.” Conan Doyle’s time in the Arctic provided powerful fuel for his growing ambitions as a writer. With a ghost story set in the Arctic wastes that he wrote shortly after his return, he established himself as a promising young writer. A subsequent magazine article laying out possible routes to the North Pole won him the respect of Arctic explorers. And he would call upon his shipboard experiences many times in the adventures of Sherlock Holmes, who was introduced in . . .

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An excerpt from W. J. T. Mitchell’s Cloning Terror

November 17, 2015
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An excerpt from W. J. T. Mitchell’s Cloning Terror

An excerpt from W. J. T. Mitchell’s Cloning Terror: The War of Images, 9/11 to the Present One further thought on the unspeakable and unimaginable: as tropes, they are turns in the stream of discourse, swerves in the temporal unfolding of speech and spectacle. The unspeakable and unimaginable are, to put it bluntly, always temporary. Which means they exist in historical time as well as the discursive time of the unfolding utterance, or the temporality of personal experience. What was once unspeakable and unimaginable is always a matter of becoming, of a speech and an image to come—often rather quickly. If I tell you not to think of the face or name of your mother, you will not be able to prevent yourself from conjuring up her image and name. Declare that God is unrepresentable, and you also declare yourself a representative of the truth about him; you make a representation, an authoritative declaration, of his unrepresentability. Declare that something is invisible, accessible to visual imaging, and someone (usually an artist or scientist) will find a way to depict it. Prohibit something from being shown, hide it away from view, and its power as a concealed image outstrips anything it could have achieved . . .

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Timing and Turnout on 538

November 5, 2015
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Timing and Turnout on 538

In a piece for FiveThirtyEight, “How Democrats Suppress the Vote,” Eitan Hersh connects the dots between low voter turnout, off-year elections, and the pursuit of (often municipal) policy goals. Arguing that off-cycle elections inherently yield a decreased number of voters disinterested in having to vote multiple times or engaging in local-level politics, Hersh turns to Sarah F. Anzia’s Timing and Turnout: How Off-Cycle Elections Favor Organized Groups to explain why: Political scientist Sarah Anzia, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, gives a compelling explanation in an outstanding book published last year. The first point that Anzia makes is that the off-cycle election calendar is not a response to voter preferences; voters do not like taking multiple trips to the voting booth. Anzia asked a nationally representative sample of Americans if they prefer elections held at different times for different offices “because it allows voters to focus on a shorter list of candidates and issues during each election” or all at the same time “because combining the elections boosts voter turnout for local elections.” Voters of all political stripes prefer consolidated elections, and by wide margins. But that’s especially true for people who identify as Democrats, who prefer consolidated elections 73 percent to 27 . . .

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Unexpected Justice: John Paul Stevens

September 18, 2015
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Unexpected Justice: John Paul Stevens

Kenneth A. Manaster’s Illinois Justice: The Scandal of 1969 and the Rise of John Paul Stevens tells the story of the “Scandal of 1969,” in which citizen-spur Sherman Skolnick accused two Illinois Supreme Court justices, Ray Klingbiel and Roy Solfisburg, of accepting bank stock bribes  an influential Chicago lawyer in exchange for their decision in his pending criminal case. The resulting investigation by commission and later trial, helmed by then-unknown Chicago litigator and chief counsel John Paul Stevens, was conducted in under six weeks with a measly budget, and ultimately led to not only the resignation of both judges, but also significant reforms to the Illinois legal system—as well as Stevens’s own rise to appointments on the US Court of Appeals and later, the Supreme Court. Fifteen years after publication and now the subject of the documentary Unexpected Justice: The Rise of John Paul Stevens, which premieres this week on Chicago’s WTTW, the book contextualizes the road to power for one of the twentieth century’s foremost judicial minds, as well as provides an account of a less familiar but crucial chapter in Illinois history, written by someone who experienced events first hand. (Manaster served on the commission that investigated the case). Watch Unexpected Justice on Friday, September 13, at 7:30PM and Sunday, September 15, . . .

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