Nagl in Wall Street Journal

March 20, 2006
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Nagl in Wall Street Journal

The front page of today’s Wall Street Journal features an article on books that are "changing the military’s views on how to fight guerrilla wars." Several books are discussed but clearly the most influential is Lieutenant Colonel John A. Nagl’s Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam, which we recently republished with a new preface. In Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife, Colonel Nagl, "who served a year in Iraq, contrasts the U. S. Army’s failure with the British experience in Malaya in the 1950s. The difference: The British, who eventually prevailed, quickly saw the folly of using massive force to annihilate a shadowy communist enemy." According to the WSJ, "the tome has already had an influence on the ground in Iraq." Last winter, General George Casey, the top commander of U. S. forces in Iraq, opened a training center so that U. S. commanders could help officiers "adjust to the demands of a guerilla-style conflict in which the enemy hides among the people and tries to provoke an overreaction." General Casey attributes the idea for the training center partly to Colonel Nagl’s book, which depicts how the British in Malaya used a . . .

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Guthrie in the New Mexican

March 20, 2006
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Guthrie in the New Mexican

Last week, the New Mexican featured an article about R. Dale Guthrie’s new book, The Nature of Paleolithic Art. Guthrie’s book has been eliciting media attention because of his theory that many Paleolithic era cave paintings were done by "testosterone-laden" young boys. From the Associated Press article by Dan Joling: Most books on Pleistocene art focus on the best of the era, images produced by highly skilled hands. The Mammoth Steppe, the portion of the northern hemisphere that stayed ice-free while much of the Earth was covered by Ice Age glaciation, was rich in deposits of earth pigments, such as red, orange and yellow iron oxides. Paleolithic artists sometimes applied them by brush, sometimes by chewing and spitting in a fine, dry spray, producing a stipple. "Most prehistorians think of adults doing all these things," Guthrie said. Many scholars also contend that most of the art was done by shamans for religious purposes—pictures to please the gods, or bless a hunt or dramatize a shaman’s vision. Overlooked, Guthrie said, are thousands of less sophisticated drawings that he believes have a more mundane origin. More than half the population was teenage or younger. With artists tools available, Guthrie said, it’s highly . . .

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Wayne Booth tribute on Chicago Public Radio

March 20, 2006
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Wayne Booth tribute on Chicago Public Radio

On March 9, Chicago Public Radio’s "Eight Forty-Eight" program aired a nice tribute to Wayne Booth (1921-2005). David Thompson, Associate Dean for Planning and Programs at the University of Chicago, shared memories of Booth and discussed the impact of Booth’s 1961 classic The Rhetoric of Fiction, on literary criticism. Listen to the tribute on Chicago Public Radio’s Web site. This May, the University of Chicago Press will publish The Essential Wayne Booth. Read an excerpt from For the Love of It: Amateuring and Its Rivals. See all our books by Wayne Booth. . . .

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Into the Cool

March 17, 2006
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Into the Cool

Scientists, theologians, and philosophers have all sought to answer the questions of why we are here and where we are going. Finding this natural basis of life has proved elusive, but in the eloquent and creative Into the Cool: Energy Flow, Thermodynamics, and Life, Eric D. Schneider and Dorion Sagan look for answers in a surprising place: the second law of thermodynamics. This second law refers to energy’s inevitable tendency to change from being concentrated in one place to becoming spread out over time. In this scientific tour de force, Schneider and Sagan show how the second law is behind evolution, ecology,economics, and even life’s origin. Authors Eric Schneider and Dorion Sagan have created a wonderful Into the Cool Web site. It features an in-depth look of each chapter, illustrations, reviews of the book, and a blog. Read an excerpt. . . .

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Author event: Gail Mazur, Zeppo’s First Wife

March 16, 2006
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Author event: Gail Mazur, Zeppo’s First Wife

On March 27 at 8:00 p.m., Los Angeles Times Book Prize nominee Gail Mazur will read from Zeppo’s First Wife: New and Selected Poems at the Blacksmith House (56 Brattle Street, Cambridge, MA). The event is part of the Blacksmith House Poetry Series, which Mazur founded in 1973. Zeppo’s First Wife, which includes excerpts from Mazur’s four previous books, as well as twenty-two new poems, is epitomized by the worldly longing of the title poem, with its searching poignancy and comic bravura. In his review of Zeppo’s First Wife, former United States Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky wrote, "Audacity and modesty: In Mazur’s work, those apparent opposites reveal their secret kinship: Modesty from its place on the sidelines can see through the conventional sham of the rules, and audacity has the confidence to embrace the plain, ordinary truth. In the face of demons or emptiness, Mazur offers a song." Read a poem from Zeppo’s First Wife. See all our books by Gail Mazur. . . .

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Review: Mario Biagioli, Galileo’s Instruments of Credit

March 15, 2006
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Review: Mario Biagioli, Galileo’s Instruments of Credit

The New Scientist recently praised Mario Biagioli’s Galileo’s Instruments of Credit: Telescopes, Images, Secrecy. From the review: " study presents a fresh and interesting view of the challenges faced by the 17th-century scientist." Galileo’s Instruments of Credit proposes radical new interpretations of several key episodes of Galileo’s career, including his early telescopic discoveries of 1610, the dispute over sunspots, and the conflict with the Holy Office over the relationship between Copernicanism and Scripture. Galileo’s tactics during this time shifted as rapidly as his circumstances, argues Mario Biagioli, and the pace of these changes forced him to respond swiftly to the opportunities and risks posed by unforeseen inventions, further discoveries, and the interventions of his opponents. Read an excerpt. . . .

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Now it’s hamantashen time

March 14, 2006
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Now it’s hamantashen time

The Latke-Hamantash Debate was born at the University of Chicago some sixty years. In Chicago the debate is traditionally held on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. On other campuses—Cornell University, for example—the debate takes place around the celebration of Purim. Purim, Hanukkah, or, heck, the Fourth of July, any time is an appropriate time for the intellectual and gastronomic delights of The Great Latke-Hamantash Debate, a collection of the best of nearly sixty years of brilliant University of Chicago oratory deployed on behalf of latkes and hamantashen. In the Jerusalem Report Matt Nesvisky writes, “Editor Cernea, herself an anthropologist and a former Hillel official, has done a creditable job of combing through the organization’s archives to come up with essays that are never quite hilarious but are usually at least moderately amusing. I for one confess to a fondness for Ralph Marcus’s charming couplet: ‘Though David admired Bathsheba’s torso/ He liked her hamantashen more so.’ A close second is when Lawrence Sherman has Mercutio remarking ‘Women who are cold, cold latkes/ Cannot warm a young man’s gatkes.’” Our online feature for the book includes the text and audio of Ted Cohen’s “Consolations of the Latke” as well as recipes . . .

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Author event: Lawrence Weschler, A Wanderer in the Perfect City

March 13, 2006
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Author event: Lawrence Weschler, A Wanderer in the Perfect City

On March 15 at 7:30 p.m., Lawrence Weschler, author of A Wanderer in the Perfect City: Selected Passion Pieces, will sign books at Skylight Books in Los Angeles (1818 N. Vermont Avenue). Lawrence Weschler was a staff writer at the New Yorker for twenty years, where his work shuttled between political tragedy and cultural comedy. A Wanderer in the Perfect City is a collection of his cultural forays, now republished with a new foreword by Pico Iyer. Read the new foreword. Read an excerpt on the Web site of the New York Times, from an earlier edition. See all our books by Lawrence Weschler. . . .

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Testing the theory of broken windows

March 10, 2006
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Testing the theory of broken windows

Malcom Gladwell, posting to his blog yesterday, discussed the book by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, Freakonomics, and the implications of the arguments in that book for his “theory of broken windows,” which Gladwell developed in The Tipping Point. Concludes Gladwell, “I prefer to think of Freakonomics not as contradicting my argument in Tipping Point, but as completing it.” Then he goes on to say: “Since Tipping Point has come out, there have been a number of economists who have looked specifically at broken windows—and tried to test the theory directly. Some have found support for it. Others—particularly Bernard Harcourt at the University of Chicago—find it wanting. If you crave a rigorous critique of broken windows, read Harcourt. He’s every bit as smart as Levitt.” Later this year we will publish Harcourt’s new book, Against Prediction: Profiling, Policing, and Punishing in an Actuarial Age which will include Harcourt’s argument against the theory of broken windows. We also published Harcourt’s book Language of the Gun: Youth, Crime, and Public Policy. . . .

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Zeppo’s First Wife shortlisted for Los Angeles Times Book Prize

March 10, 2006
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Zeppo’s First Wife shortlisted for Los Angeles Times Book Prize

Yesterday, nominees for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize were announced. We are happy to report that Gail Mazur’s Zeppo’s First Wife: New and Selected Poems is a nominee in the poetry category. Winners will be named on April 28. Widely acclaimed for expanding the stylistic boundaries of both the narrative and meditative lyric, Gail Mazur’s poetry crackles with verbal invention as she confronts the inevitable upheavals of a lived life. Zeppo’s First Wife, which includes excerpts from Mazur’s four previous books, as well as twenty-two new poems, is epitomized by the worldly longing of the title poem, with its searching poignancy and comic bravura. Mazur’s explorations of "this fallen world, this loony world" are deeply moving acts of empathy by a singular moral sensibility—evident from the earliest poem included here, the much-anthologized "Baseball," a stunning bird’s-eye view of human foibles and passions. Clear-eyed, full of paradoxical griefs and appetites, her poems brave the most urgent subjects—from the fraught luscious Eden of the ballpark, to the fragility of our closest human ties, to the implications for America in a world where power and war are cataclysmic for the strong as well as the weak. Gail Mazur’s books include Zeppo’s First . . .

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