Reviews

Lose your academic innocence early

November 17, 2009
By
Lose your academic innocence early

Like other recent analyses of academic careers, Joseph Hermanowicz’s Lives in Science: How Institutions Affect Academic Careers delivers some rather brutal news for all those wanna-be tenure track professors out there hoping to leave their mark on their discipline—it probably ain’t gonna happen. As Beryl Lieff Benderly writes in a recent review of Hermanowicz’s book for Science Career Magazine: Many aspirants to research careers lack an accurate idea of where they’re headed. In fact, Hermanowicz writes, accepting an unrealistically rosy image of one’s future is a basic step on the road to becoming an academic scientist. That image traditionally includes a pantheon of the greats of one’s discipline, faith in the high intrinsic value of research, and belief that recognition by the scientific community is a valid measure of worth. This image also implies that, with talent and dedication, any young scientist has a chance of making a distinguished contribution.… as the great majority of faculty members learn … the opportunity to do important science and gain major recognition only ever exists for a relative few—overwhelmingly those educated and employed at the most prestigious universities. Yet, as Benderly points out, this certainly isn’t the most surprising revelation Hermanowicz has . . .

Read more »

The birth of environmentalism in the Lake District

November 16, 2009
By
The birth of environmentalism in the Lake District

Seemingly but one of the many placid bodies of water carved out of the glaciated rock that inhabits the heart of England’s Lake District, the man-made Thirlmere—which since the late nineteenth century has been supplying water to the city of Manchester more than 160 km away—was once the focus of one of the first conflicts pitting industrial progress against a burgeoning conservation movement. In her new book, The Dawn of Green: Manchester, Thirlmere, and Modern Environmentalism, Harriet Ritvo offers the fascinating tale of Thirlmere’s construction and the struggles to stop it, all while delivering an insightful analysis of how this conflict can inform modern environmental and conservation campaigns. In a recent review of the book for The Independent, Emma Townshend writes: Ritvo’s account of this confrontation between industrial commerce and early environmentalism is clear and utterly readable. Thirlmere was the first modern conflict between these two camps, so difficult to reconcile. Ideas about natural beauty versus the need for modern utilities were discussed here in detail for the first time. But the consequent history of big-dam making has proved equally controversial—such as at Hetch Hetchy in the US, a parallel turn of the century project to bring water supplies to . . .

Read more »

Up-close and personal with a bobcat

November 12, 2009
By
Up-close and personal with a bobcat

Ever wondered about the techniques the pros use to produce such seemingly impossible images as the one above? In a recent article for the Omaha World-Herald staff writer Rick Ruggles offers some insights into those used by Michael Forsberg, author of the new book Great Plains: America’s Lingering Wild—a fascinating photographic journey through some of the last remaining natural landscapes of the Great Plains. In his new book, Forsberg—whose work has also appeared in such publications as Audubon, National Geographic, Natural History, and National Wildlife—has captured a number of amazing images of natural landscapes and wildlife. But as the World-Herald article reveals, the intimacy with which Forsberg is able to approach his subject matter is, perhaps ironically, due to the fact that much of the time, he’s not even there when the shutter opens. As Ruggles writes: Wildlife photographers like Michael Forsberg, who just published the book Great Plains: America’s Lingering Wild, now have the ability to capture close-ups of wary creatures that can hear or sniff out a person from hundreds of yards away. Forsberg intended to deploy that strategy this bright-blue October day just west of the headquarters of the National Audubon Society’s Rowe Sanctuary. The sanctuary is . . .

Read more »

Tutorials with Becker and Posner

November 10, 2009
By
Tutorials with Becker and Posner

Before Freakonomics there was the Becker-Posner blog. Started in 2004 by Nobel Prize-winning economist Gary S. Becker and renowned jurist and legal scholar Richard A. Posner, the Becker-Posner Blog was unique in the still-developing blogosphere of the mid-aughts in that it offered a reliable source of lively, thought-provoking commentary on current events, its pithy and profound weekly essays highlighting the value of economic reasoning when applied to unexpected topics. Now in their new book Uncommon Sense: Economic Insights, from Marriage to Terrorism Becker and Posner collect some of their best work from their blog, offering uncanny analyses on everything from gay marriage to proposed bans on trans fats. Recently reviewer John Kay summarized their analysis of New York’s 2006 trans fat ban for a review of the book in the Financial Times, detailing Becker’s insightful economic critique of the issue and Posner’s libertarian counterargument. In the end, as Kay notes, Becker and Posner may not deliver easy answers—especially when these two intellectual powerhouses go head to head on an issue—”but the book is like a series of tutorials from a good teacher, and the object of a good tutorial is not to tell the student the answers.… The objective is . . .

Read more »

Traveling with the Graham family—dispatches from Lisbon

November 9, 2009
By
Traveling with the Graham family—dispatches from Lisbon

The Chicago Tribune‘s cultural critic Julia Keller has yet another quotable review of a great new title from the University of Chicago Press. This time Keller offers an insightful critique of Philip Graham’s new travel memoir documenting his year-long sojourn in Portugal with his family in The Moon, Come to Earth: Dispatches from Lisbon. Originally published as a series of dispatches that first appeared on the McSweeney’s website as “Philip Graham Spends a Year in Lisbon,” his new book is an expanded version of those essays that, as Keller writes, offers readers “the chance to travel alongside the Graham family as they explore a city, a language, a culture and, of course, themselves.” Keller’s review begins: Ask me to peruse your vacation snapshots and I’ll probably do so, but reluctantly, and not without an inward wince. Ask me to listen to your vacation stories—or better yet, to read them—and I’ll happily oblige. Photos are simple and static and crudely bullying; they force you to see things from a single, inert perspective. Stories, though, are complex, supple and surprising. That’s why The Moon, Come to Earth: Dispatches from Lisbon is so enchanting: It dances and sighs. It twitches and hums and . . .

Read more »

Creating a public debate about ‘Honor Killing’

November 2, 2009
By
Creating a public debate about ‘Honor Killing’

As an article in the November London Review of Books points out, the term “honor killing” is relatively new to the western legal system, but in recent years it has increasingly come into play as cases of filicide in Middle Eastern immigrant communities—often motivated by inter-generational culture clashes over arranged marriages—become more common. To explore this topic the LRB article cites several recent books on the subject including Unni Wikan’s In Honor of Fadime: Murder and Shame—the tragic tale of Kurdish emigre Fadime Sahindal, murdered in Uppsala, Sweden in 2002 by her father because of her relationship with a man outside of their community—a tragedy compunded by her efforts to avoid such a fate by bringing the issue to the public’s attention. As Jacqueline Rose writes for the LRB: Fadime is remarkable for the way she went public. She secured convictions against her father and brother for threatening to kill her, and then again against her brother for seriously assaulting her during a return visit to Uppsala: he was given a five-month prison sentence.… Fadime’s successes in court gave her every reason to believe that her boldness was paying off. A month before her father and brother were due to . . .

Read more »

Seminary Co-op reveals the inner workings of “The Child”

October 21, 2009
By
Seminary Co-op reveals the inner workings of “The Child”

Last summer, the legendary Hyde Park Seminary Co-op Bookstores launched a new “web magazine” called The Front Table. Just like the stores themselves, the blog is eclectic, intellectual, and full of fascinating reads. One of our favorite features is “The Editors Speak,” a semi-regular look behind the scenes at what goes into the making of a book. The Press’s editorial staff have contributed three times to the column, and, indeed, our own Rodney Powell inaugurated the series with his inside look at the genesis of Scorsese by Ebert. In the piece, Powell discusses his trepidation about contacting the great director, his admiration for the professionalism of the great critic, and his appreciation for the sometimes-overlooked contributions of our design staff. Executive Editor Christie Henry also wrote on her experience with Bigfoot—the book, not the imaginary beast. In her piece, she admits “the irony of a university press publishing a book on Bigfoot” but defends its very serious intentions. Just this week, the Front Table published Mary Laur’s reflections on the herculean task of compiling the monumental The Child: An Encyclopedic Companion. Ten years in the making and consisting of 570 articles, The Child is a logistical feat as well as . . .

Read more »

The Great Plains you’ve never seen

October 21, 2009
By
The Great Plains you’ve never seen

An article in today’s Omaha World-Herald begins by quoting photographer and author Michael Forsberg as he describes one one his initial experiences with the midwestern landscapes that inspired his newest book, Great Plains: America’s Lingering Wild. The World-Herald‘s David Hendee writes: Laid out prone in South Dakota’s Badlands, wildlife photographer Michael Forsberg focused on burrowing owls in the prairie dog town far down the prairie. During weeks spent hunkered in Dakota dirt, Forberg’s aim shifted. “I was amazed day after day at all the wildlife I saw,” he said. “Not just the amount, but the diversity. Everything from dragon flies to pronghorn and a bunch in between. But I knew that people in cars screaming by off in the distance were looking over this landscape and thinking there wasn’t anything there.” Forsberg set out to challenge the notion that the Great Plains is a place to drive through or fly over by revealing the region in ways rarely seen or thought about. And with Great Plains: America’s Lingering Wild Forsberg has accomplished just that. Revealing a midwestern landscape alien even to many of those who live in its midst, Forsberg’s book demonstrates the surprisingly diverse natural communities that still exist . . .

Read more »

Max as Migrant

October 15, 2009
By
Max as Migrant

Tomorrow, the highly-anticipated big-screen collaboration between Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers, the feature film adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, opens in theaters across the country. Your correspondent has been eagerly awaiting the live action rumpus since the Arcade Fire-soundtracked trailer hit the web back in April, and now that the big day is nearly here, I thought I’d call on Press author Seth Lerer to see what he made of Max in the mutiplex. Lerer, the National Book Critics Circle award-winning author of Children’s Literature: A Reader’s History from Aesop to Harry Potter, offers here his thoughts on Sendak, Jewish literary tradition, Kafka, immigration and much, much more. The year Where the Wild Things Are came out, I turned eight. In the long afternoons between the end of school and dinner, I would kill time along the quiet Brooklyn street on which we lived. Sometimes, I would find a stickball game, and in the waning light my friends and I would hit the ball and run between the cars. One day I hit it into our landlord’s window, and his wife came out—a woman probably no older than I am now, but at the time, someone . . .

Read more »

Chicago’s biography

October 13, 2009
By
Chicago’s biography

Several new reviews of Dominic Pacyga’s Chicago: A Biography have popped up on the radar recently, one in the Chicago Sun-Times and another on Drexel University’s online magazine The Smart Set. Both focus their attention on Pacyga’s book for reversing the usual top-down approach to the telling of Chicago history, letting the stories of ordinary people narrate this “biographical” account of city life. Thomas Frisbie quotes Pacyga in his review for the Sun-Times: “I try to look at everyday people as much as I can, at people in neighborhoods, how they build their community, how they survive, how they prosper or don’t prosper,” said Pacyga, who grew up in the Back of the Yards, attended De La Salle Institute and worked at the Union Stockyards when he was in college. There are sections, for example, on “Ted Swigon’s Back of the Yards” and “Angeline Jackson’s neighborhood.” Swigon was an altar boy at St. John of God’s Church and attended Quigley Preparatory Seminary before transferring to De La Salle. Jackson came from Mississippi to Chicago, eventually moving to Englewood. “ tells a lot about how that neighborhood went through racial change and how it went through physical change,” Pacyga said. . . .

Read more »

Search for books and authors