Robert E. Wright discusses The First Wall Street on NPR

February 22, 2006
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Robert E. Wright discusses The First Wall Street on NPR

Earlier this week, Robert E. Wright talked to NPR’s Cheryl Glaser about his new book The First Wall Street: Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, and the Birth of American Finance. When Americans think of investment and finance, they think of Wall Street—though this was not always the case. During the dawn of the Republic, Philadelphia was the center of American finance. The first stock exchange in the nation was founded there in 1790, and around it the bustling thoroughfare known as Chestnut Street was home to the nation’s most powerful financial institutions. The First Wall Street recounts the fascinating history of Chestnut Street and its forgotten role in the birth of American finance. An audio file of the program is on NPR’s Marketplace Web site. Read an excerpt. . . .

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Forbes interview with Peter Bearman

February 22, 2006
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Forbes interview with Peter Bearman

Last week, Forbes interviewed Peter Bearman, author of Doormen. Combining observation, interviews, and survey information, Doormen provides a deep and enduring ethnography of the occupational role of doormen, the dynamics of the residential lobby, and the mundane features of highly consequential social exchanges between doormen and tenants. From the Forbes interview: To me, money is…Because I am a sociologist, I conducted a survey to get the answer to this question. Twenty-three percent of my respondents said that money was a "mixed blessing." Eleven percent thought that money was "potent." The rest of the people I talked to—pretty much everyone in New York City—thought that money is always a better choice than cookies for their doorman’s holiday bonus. Read more about the Christmas Bonus in an excerpt from Doormen. Read the New Yorker feature on Bearman and Kieran Healy’s review of Doormen. . . .

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Review: Matt Houlbrook, Queer London

February 22, 2006
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Review: Matt Houlbrook, Queer London

Matt Houlbrook’s Queer London: Perils and Pleasures in the Sexual Metropolis, 1918-1957 has received the Longman-History Today Book of the Year 2006 award. History Today Editor Peter Furtado described it as "not a story of persecution, but a lucid, sane and fascinating account of how gay people negotiated space for themselves within a hostile cultural environment, dealing with policing, housing, geography, identity and politics." The current edition of the Times Higher Education Supplement features a review of Queer London by Matt Cook: "A ground-breaking work. While middle-class lives and writing have tended to compel the attention of most historians of homosexuality, Matt Houlbrook has looked more widely and found a rich seam of new evidence. It has allowed him to construct a complex, compelling account of interwar sexualities and to map a new, intimate geography of London.… There is a nostalgia here for a world lost. This brings a rare warmth to the book: Houlbrook has a genuine affection for the men and places he describes. Occasionally his spectacles feel just a little too rose (or lilac) tinted. He is right to suggest that some of our understandings of queer life have narrowed since the war, but I find it . . .

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Review: Carlo Rotella, Cut Time

February 22, 2006
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Review: Carlo Rotella, Cut Time

Carlo Rotella’s Cut Time: An Education at the Fights, chronicles his immersion in the fight world, from the brutal classroom of the gym to the spectacle of fight night. Cut Time was recently reviewed in the Columbus Dispatch: "Like venerable boxing writer W. C. Heinz (The Professional), Rotella studies the ring event to discover its meaning rather than burying it under a load of preconceived significance in the manner of Norman Mailer (Advertisements for Myself). Even so, Rotella remains aware that fight writing is not primarily ‘an account of what happened’ but ‘an expression of what a fight or fighter means to a writer.’" Read an excerpt. . . .

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Shoot! featured on BBC Radio Four

February 21, 2006
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Shoot! featured on BBC Radio Four

Luigi Pirandello’s Shoot!: The Notebooks of Serafino Gubbio, Cinematograph Operator was recently featured on the BBC Radio Four program "Open Book." Originally published in Italian in 1915, Shoot! is one of the first novels to take as its subject the heady world of early motion pictures. Based on the absurdist journals of fictional Italian camera operator Serafino Gubbio, Shoot! documents the infancy of film in Europe—complete with proto-divas, laughable production schedules, and cost-cutting measures with priceless effects—and offers a glimpse of the modern world through the camera’s lens. Listen to an archive of the program by following the link on the Open Book Web site. . . .

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"Acting white"

February 21, 2006
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"Acting white"

"Go into any inner-city neighborhood, and folks will tell you that government alone can’t teach kids to learn. They know that parents have to parent, that children can’t achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white." —Barack Obama, Keynote Address, Democratic National Convention, 2004 Ron Netsky, a writer for City (Rochester, NY), observed that the term "acting white" has been appearing in the media a lot lately (most recently in The Philadelphia Inquirer and the New York Times) . Signithia Fordham and John Ogbu popularized the term in a study published in Urban Review in 1986. Fordham is also the author of Blacked Out: Dilemmas of Race, Identity, and Success at Capital High, a book which explores academic achievement within the Black community and the price students pay for attaining it. Earlier this month, Netsky interviewed Fordham about Black education issues and what it means to "act white." City: In Blacked Out, you write that one of the things that seems to make the education process difficult is generational. Fordham: After the Brown decision and the Civil Rights act—in the 1960s . . .

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Review: Harry Collins, Dr. Golem

February 21, 2006
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Review: Harry Collins, Dr. Golem

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries praised Harry Collins and Trevor Pinch’s Dr. Golem: How to Think about Medicine: "This gem of a book is well written, thought provoking, and an enjoyable read. Highly recommended." A creature of Jewish mythology, a golem is an animated being made by man from clay and water who knows neither his own strength nor the extent of his ignorance. Like science and technology, the subjects of Harry Collins and Trevor Pinch’s previous volumes, medicine is also a golem, and this Dr. Golem should not be blamed for its mistakes—they are, after all, our mistakes. The problem lies in its well-meaning clumsiness. Dr. Golem explores some of the mysteries and complexities of medicine while untangling the inherent conundrums of scientific research and highlighting its vagaries. Driven by the question of what to do in the face of the fallibility of medicine, Dr. Golem encourages a more inquisitive attitude toward the explanations and accounts offered by medical science. Read an excerpt. . . .

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Cowboys and Presidents

February 20, 2006
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Cowboys and Presidents

What did Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Richard Nixon have in common? They both loved the Wild West. Roosevelt, a native New Yorker, molded himself into a cowboy. In his twenties, he worked as a cattle rancher in the Dakotas. He spent thirteen-hour days in the saddle, breaking in wild cow ponies, and fighting off cattle thieves and roaming gangs. Why did he do this? According to Sarah Watts, author of Rough Rider in the White House: Theodore Roosevelt and the Politics of Desire, sensed that ordinary men needed a clearly recognizable and easily appropriated hero who enacted themes about the body; the need for extremity, pain, and sacrifice; and the desire to exclude some men and bond with others. In one seamless cowboy-soldier-statesman-hero life, Roosevelt crafted the cowboy ethos consciously and lived it zealously, providing men an image and a fantasy enlisted in service to the race-nation. Nixon, it turns out, was the type of man who believed in such heroes. Mark Feeney, author of Nixon at the Movies: A Book about Belief, writes that Nixon screened fifty-six Westerns during his five year tenure in office. Twenty of these Westerns were directed by John Ford. In an interview on . . .

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James Frey and Norman Maclean

February 20, 2006
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James Frey and Norman Maclean

A passage about the truth-telling power of fiction, from the closing paragraphs of Norman Maclean’s novella A River Runs Through It, is being cited in commentary about James Frey and his apparently fictionalized memoir A Million Little Pieces. (For example, this piece by John MacDonald in the Arizona Republic.) Near the end of the story, Norman’s father speaks to him: “You like to tell true stories, don’t you?” he asked, and I answered, “Yes, I like to tell stories that are true.” Then he asked, “After you have finished your true stories sometime, why don’t you make up a story and the people to go with it? “Only then will you understand what happened and why.” We have an excerpt from the opening pages of the novella. . . .

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Stuart Dybek’s "Long Thoughts"

February 17, 2006
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Stuart Dybek’s "Long Thoughts"

Today Zulkey.com features an interview with Stuart Dybek, author of Childhood and Other Neighborhoods. In the interview, Dybek talks about one of the stories from the book, titled "The Long Thoughts": Have any of the characters in your stories had impact on your real life relationships? Meaning that, if somebody recognizes themselves in one of your stories, how has that impacted his relationship with you? Despite the fact that I’m writing fiction and have taken the liberties that fiction allows for, people have at different times recognized themselves in some of the characters. Mostly the reaction has been favorable. I had one old friend who appeared in a story called "The Long Thoughts," who would give the book that story appeared in to people as gifts so that they could read about him. There was an instance however when a dear friend who saw himself in one of my stories—a version of a story that he told to me—was offended not by his portrayal but that I would use a story he’d told to me in private. I should add that the story he told to me was fantastical and I changed it further and made still more fantastical. Still, . . .

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