Press release: Lawrence Weschler, A Wanderer in the Perfect City

March 28, 2006
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Press release: Lawrence Weschler, A Wanderer in the Perfect City

"There is something both marvelous and hilarious," writes Lawrence Weschler, "in watching the humdrum suddenly take flight. This is, in part, a collection of such launchings." Indeed, the eight essays collected in A Wanderer in the Perfect City do soar into the realm of passion as Weschler profiles people who "were just moseying down the street one day, minding their own business, when suddenly and almost spontaneously, they caught fire, they became obsessed, they became intensely focused and intensely alive." With keen observations and graceful prose, Weschler carries us along as a teacher of rudimentary English from India decides that his destiny is to promote the paintings of an obscure American abstract expressionist; a gifted poker player invents a more exciting version of chess; an avant-garde Russian émigré conductor speaks Latin, exclusively, to his infant daughter; and Art Spiegelman composes Maus. But simple summaries can’t do these stories justice: like music, they derive their character from digressions and details, cadence and tone. And like the upwelling of passion Weschler’s characters feel, they are better experienced than explained.… Read the press release. . . .

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Review: Robert E. Wright, Financial Founding Fathers

March 27, 2006
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Review: Robert E. Wright, Financial Founding Fathers

Library Journal recently reviewed Robert E. Wright and David J. Cowen’s Financial Founding Fathers: The Men Who Made America. From the review: "The early financial history of the United States merits additional popular and scholarly attention, and Wright and Cowen provide biographical information on nine founders of America’s financial and economic systems, from Alexander Hamilton to Andrew Jackson and Nicholas Biddle.… The book emphasizes biographical information with limited explanation of financial and economic arguments.… This book is useful for large public libraries so that general readers may understand formative economic ideas in American history." Robert E. Wright and David J. Cowen chronicle how a different group of founding fathers forged the wealth and institutions necessary to transform the American colonies from a diffuse alliance of contending business interests into one cohesive economic superpower. From Alexander Hamilton to Andrew Jackson, the authors focus on the lives of nine Americans in particular—some famous, some unknown, others misunderstood, but all among our nation’s financial founding fathers. Read an excerpt. Visit Wright and Cowen’s Financial Founding Fathers Web site. . . .

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Press release: Jeffrey C. Goldfarb, The Politics of Small Things

March 27, 2006
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Press release: Jeffrey C. Goldfarb, The Politics of Small Things

Entering the 2004 Democratic Party presidential primary, Howard Dean’s candidacy figured to be a brief one. For one, Dean had zero experience in national politics and emerged, at least politically-speaking, from a relatively inconsequential state. Worse, he was viewed as an outsider by major donors to the party, all but ensuring that his would be a minimally funded venture. Yet, powered by grassroots Internet initiatives like MoveOn.org and Meetup.com, Dean, in a remarkably short period of time, would not only generate an unprecedented amount of campaign donations, but emerge as the party’s frontrunner. Given what we thought we knew about presidential politics, Dean’s ascent as a viable candidate was not only improbable, but also revelatory and inspiring. How did this rapid accumulation of political momentum occur? For Jeffrey Goldfarb, the secret to the Dean campaign was its recognition of power latent in the "politics of small things"—the human interactions that take place within our homes, workplaces, schools, churches, and elsewhere in our everyday lives.… Read the press release. . . .

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Revising the Suburbs

March 24, 2006
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Revising the Suburbs

In an article in the March 24 edition of the Chronicle of Higher Education, reporter Jennifer Howard sees a new wave of scholars challenging the usual wisdom about sprawl and urban growth. Three of our books are discussed in the article. Places of Their Own: African American Suburbanization in the Twentieth Century by Andrew Wiese is cited as an example of new work being done in suburbs populated by people other than the white middle-class. Wiese says that his project “challenges historians to think and write about suburbs in a different way.” We have an excerpt from his book. Howard notes that “in 1961 the urban historian Lewis Mumford indicted suburbia as a leveler of the worst order” and that Mumford’s critique is subjected to analysis in our forthcoming collection The New Suburban History (July), edited by Kevin M. Kruse and Thomas J. Sugrue. “The contributors to The New Suburban History focus on the role of African-Americans, other ethnic minorities, and immigrants in the history of suburbanization, as well as on the legal and economic mechanisms that shaped suburban identities and geographies in post-World War II America.” Not surprisingly, a lot of room is given over to Robert Bruegmann’s Sprawl: . . .

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Press release: Michele de La Pradelle, Market Day in Provence

March 23, 2006
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Press release: Michele de La Pradelle, Market Day in Provence

An institution as old as time, the outdoor farmers’ market has experienced a renaissance in recent decades as consumers have sought an alternative to chain supermarkets and pre-packaged goods. For patrons of these street markets, the tomatoes are always redder, the lettuce greener, the melons larger, and the meat and fish more fresh. But are they? In Market Day in Provence, the late Michèle de La Pradelle (1944-2004) lifts the curtain behind the traditional farmers’ market once and for all in her award-winning study of the street market of Carpentras, France One of the oldest and most celebrated markets, Carpentras is the model for its more modern cousins. But they are all alike, according to de La Pradelle, in that above all else, money rules. On any Friday, several hours before dawn, trucks file in along the cobblestone streets of the city bearing goods not brought in from farmers but from wholesalers—many of whom supply the superstore chains surrounding the city. The vast majority of produce, meats, dairy products, and fruit here is of the same quality and price as elsewhere in the city. But the products at the market appear different, even fresher—a tribute to the market’s spectacle of . . .

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Review: Robert Bruegmann, Sprawl

March 21, 2006
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Review: Robert Bruegmann, Sprawl

The Weekly Standard recently praised Robert Bruegmann’s Sprawl: A Compact History. From the review by Vincent J. Cannato: "his book is a refreshing antidote to the avalanche of pessimism emanating from the so-called sprawl debate. As Bruegmann writes in his introduction, it seemed as if "so many ‘right-minded’ people were so vociferous on the subject that I began to suspect that there must be something suspicious about the argument itself." He approaches the topic with some much-needed skepticism toward these ‘right-minded’ critics and adds a healthy dose of nondogmatic libertarianism to the mix. The result is an eminently readable and rational book." In his incisive history of the expanded city, Bruegmann overturns every assumption we have about sprawl. Taking a long view of urban development, he demonstrates that sprawl is neither recent nor particularly American but as old as cities themselves, just as characteristic of ancient Rome and eighteenth-century Paris as it is of Atlanta or Los Angeles. Nor is sprawl the disaster claimed by many contemporary observers. Although sprawl, like any settlement pattern, has undoubtedly produced problems that must be addressed, it has also provided millions of people with the kinds of mobility, privacy, . . .

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Nelson Algren birthday party

March 21, 2006
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Nelson Algren birthday party

On March 25, at 8:00 p.m., the 18th Annual Nelson Algren Birthday Party will take place at Acme Art Works (1714 N. Western Avenue). Algren (1909-1981), author of Chicago: City on the Make, is being honored by the Nelson Algren Committee, a group dedicated to promoting interest in Algren, who "made Chicago his trade." The event will feature readings, music, a photographic exhibition, a drawing for Algren books and memorabilia, and of course, birthday cake. Ernest Hemingway once said of Nelson Algren’s writing that "you should not read it if you cannot take a punch." The prose poem, Chicago: City on the Make, filled with language that swings and jabs and stuns, lives up to those words. This 50th anniversary edition is newly annotated with explanations for everything from slang to Chicagoans, famous and obscure, to what the Black Sox scandal was and why it mattered. More accessible than ever, this is, as Studs Terkel says, "the best book about Chicago." We also publish H. E. F. Donohue’s Conversations with Nelson Algren, a collection of frank and often devastating conversations in which Algren reveals himself with all the gruff humor, deflating insight, honesty, and critical brilliance that marked his career. . . .

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Virginia Festival of the Book 2006

March 21, 2006
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Virginia Festival of the Book 2006

This week (March 22-26), Charlottesville hosts the Twelfth Annual Virginia Festival of the Book. This free event features readings, panels, and discussions with authors, illustrators, and publishing professionals. Four of our authors will participate: Joel Agee, translator of Hans Erich Nossack’s The End: Hamburg 1943 will appear on an "Individual Voices" panel on March 24, noon, at UVa Wilson Hall Auditorium, Room 402, (UVa Central Grounds) Johanna Drucker, author of Sweet Dreams will explore how artists draw inspiration and materials from popular culture on March 22, 2 p.m., at the UVa Art Museum, Pine Room (UVa Central Grounds) Louise W. Knight, author of Citizen: Jane Addams and the Struggle for Democracy will appear on the "19th Century Women: Biography" panel on March 25, noon, at New Dominion (404 E. Main Street) Lawrence Weschler, author of A Wanderer in the Perfect City: Selected Passion Pieces will interview comic artist Art Spiegelman on March 25, 8 p.m., at the Culbreth Theatre (UVa Central Grounds). Weschler will make a second appearance, lecturing on modern art on March 26, 1:30 p.m., at the Culbreth Theatre (UVa Central Grounds) Read an excerpt from The End. Read an excerpt from Sweet Dreams. Read an excerpt from . . .

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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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