Literature

By Way of Beginning: Read an Excerpt from “Dark Lens” by Françoise Meltzer

November 25, 2019
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The year 2020 will mark seventy-five years since the Second World War came to an end. In her new book, Dark Lens: Imaging Germany, 1945, Françoise Meltzer draws on her childhood memories of post-war Germany to consider how we construct our memories of war. Analyzing a collection of photographs taken by her mother, Jeanne Dumilieu, Meltzer confronts the ruins, wreckage, and ghosts that the war left behind. My mother, who was French, had been in the Resistance in Paris during the war. I never learned this from her (I found out from her friends, and by accident, in my late twenties); nor did she speak much about the occupation of Paris. The only thing she talked about was how hungry she and the Parisian population were throughout the war. When I asked her why she had never told me that she was in the Resistance, she retorted with some contained anger, “Today, everybody was in the Resistance. I have nothing to say about it.” But it must be said that this was a particularly tight-lipped genera­tion: my father never spoke of having been in the London Blitzkrieg, nor my uncle of surviving Buchenwald, nor my aunt of having hid­den my . . .

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It’s Time to Finally Write that Novel

November 1, 2019
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November is National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo), a time when writers of all stripes set out on the audacious task of bringing to completion a novel of 50,000 words. Of course, we know that one of the best ways to become a good writer is to be a good reader, taking in the work of others to feed our own writing appetite and offer inspiration in the writing process. As we head into November and the month’s celebration of the novel, we’ve put together a list of some of our favorite fiction for you to enjoy. And, for tips and tricks to guide you on your own novel-writing adventure, be sure to check out Janet Burroway’s Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft, a go-to sourcebook for fiction writers. Bealport: A Novel of a Town by Jeffrey Lewis. From Haus Publishing. In the shadow of a failing shoe factory, Bealport, Main is one of the forgotten towns of America. Jeffrey Lewis takes us inside the town, deploying a large cast of characters and revealing the intertwining threads of industry, livelihood, self-respect, and community. Bealport has been called “a hugely satisfying read” by the Evening Standard, “a moving and humane . . .

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Remembering David Bevington

August 9, 2019
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On August 2, the Press lost a dear friend and author, David Bevington (1931–2019). David was not only a preeminent Shakespeare scholar at the University of Chicago and the author of such books as This Wide and Universal Theater: Shakespeare in Performance, Then and Now, but he, along with his wife Peggy, was a generous supporter of the Press and its authors through the Bevington Fund. In memory of David, Press Editorial Director Alan Thomas offered this tribute. David Bevington’s influence as an editor and interpreter of medieval and Renaissance literature is plain to see: his Bantam paperback editions of Shakespeare’s plays are classroom favorites, and several of his scholarly books have become critical classics. But the fond reminiscences that filled social media after David’s death highlighted a different theme: his extraordinary generosity toward younger scholars. He continued to attend conferences and campus talks well past his retirement, following the work of the latest generation and dispensing encouragement. In 2006, David and his wife Peggy, who for three decades had been a teacher at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, offered the University of Chicago Press a $100,000 gift to support the publication of authors’ first books. David recalled that . . .

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Tough Enough by Deborah Nelson Receives the 2019 Laing Award

April 26, 2019
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Tough Enough by Deborah Nelson Receives the 2019 Laing Award

We are pleased to announce that Tough Enough: Arbus, Arendt, Didion, McCarthy, Sontag, and Weil  by Deborah Nelson is the recipient of the 2019 Gordon J. Laing Award. The award was presented by University of Chicago President Robert J. Zimmer during a gala reception on April 25 at the University of Chicago Quadrangle Club. The Gordon J. Laing Award is conferred annually by vote of the Board of University Publications on the faculty author, editor, or translator whose book has brought the greatest distinction to the list of the University of Chicago Press. Books published in 2016 and 2017 were eligible for this year’s award. The prize is named in honor of the scholar who, serving as general editor from 1909 until 1940, firmly established the character and reputation of the University of Chicago Press as the premier academic publisher in the United States. Published in April 2017, Tough Enough focuses on six brilliant women who are often seen as particularly tough-minded: Simone Weil, Hannah Arendt, Mary McCarthy, Susan Sontag, Diane Arbus, and Joan Didion. Aligned with no single tradition, they escape straightforward categories. Yet their work evinces an affinity of style and philosophical viewpoint that derives from a shared . . .

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Write That Book: Exercises for Creative Thinking from Janet Burroway

April 12, 2019
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In 1972, Janet Burroway was assigned to teach a “narrative techniques” class at Florida State. But when she went to find a text to use with the class, she could not find anything that spoke to fiction writing. “There were (it is difficult now to imagine) virtually no books to serve as guidance,” she explains in the introduction to the tenth edition of Writing Fiction, which publishes at the end of April. “Strunk and White’s Elements of Style was a mainstay, but it took, as White notes, a barking tone toward its writer novices. I reread E. M. Forster’s lovely Aspects of the Novel, but it was mostly too abstract and too advanced for my Florida eighteen-year-olds. I combed Eric Bentley’s The Life of the Drama for clues to plot. I read another how-to, the name and author of which I no longer remember, but which memorably assured me that women use a lot of exclamation points but men should not.” So Burroway, a writer of novels herself, decided to create a guide of her own. Three decades later, Writing Fiction has sold more than a quarter million copies and remains the go-to book for aspiring writers. And despite the . . .

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Liam Heneghan interviewed on WBEZ’s Worldview

August 24, 2018
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Liam Heneghan interviewed on WBEZ’s Worldview

It is perhaps ironic that even the need to instill the next generation with a sense of connection to the natural world becomes increasingly important, the ability to nurture this type of connection and sense of responsibility in children has perhaps become more and more difficult in proportion. Mediated as we are by our technology and with the boundaries of the “real” wilderness receding ever further from our front doors, by what means can we best relate the importance of  protecting a seemingly alien ecology, upon which we nevertheless depend? With his recent book Beasts at Bedtime, University of DePaul Professor of Environmental Science Liam Heneghan offers one answer – one that is right under our noses, deeply infused in the tales that delight our children at bedtime. In his book Heneghan unearths the universal insights into our inextricable relationship with nature that underlie so many classic children’s stories from Beatrix Potter to Harry Potter, showing how kids (and adults) can start to experience the natural world in incredible ways from the comfort of their own rooms. Recently Heneghan stopped by WBEZ’s Worldview to discuss the vital environmental education children’s stories can provide with host Jerome McDonnell. The show aired Tuesday but the . . .

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Happy 200th Birthday, Henry David Thoreau!

July 12, 2017
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Happy 200th Birthday, Henry David Thoreau!

                  Henry David Thoreau was born on July 12, 1817. Laura Dassow Walls explains the trajectory of his life, which shaped his thinking about the world in every way: He was born on a colonial-era farm into a subsistence economy based on agriculture, on land that had sustained a stable Anglo-American community for two centuries and, before that, Native American communities for eleven thousand years. People had been shaping Thoreau’s landscape since the melting of the glaciers. By the time he died, in 1862, the Industrial Revolution had reshaped his world: the railroad transformed Concord from a local economy of small farms and artisanal industries to a suburban node on a global network of industrial farms and factories. His beloved woods had been cleared away, and the rural rivers he sailed in his youth powered cotton mills. In 1843, the railroad cut right across a corner of Walden Pond, but in 1845 Thoreau built his house there anyway, to confront the railroad as part of his reality. By the time he left Walden, at least twenty passenger and freight trains screeched past his house daily. His response was to call on his . . .

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Thoreau: A Life

June 12, 2017
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Thoreau: A Life

Coming this July. (A teaser, from Publishers Weekly: “The wonder is that, given her book’s richness, Walls still leaves the reader eager to read Thoreau. Her scholarly blockbuster is an awesome achievement, a merger of comprehensiveness in content with pleasure in reading.”) . . .

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Amitav Ghosh interview in BOMB

June 7, 2017
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Amitav Ghosh interview in BOMB

Amitav Ghosh, on climate change, Ray Bradbury, and “serious fiction,” in conversation with Curt Stager, at BOMB (excerpt after the jump). *** Curt Stager: You are primarily known as a novelist. What led you to write this nonfiction book? Amitav Ghosh: Climate change became a matter of personal urgency for me while I was writing my 2005 novel The Hungry Tide. The novel is set in the Sundarbans, the great mangrove forest of the Bengal Delta. While working on the book I realized that this region was already being impacted by rising sea levels and a retreating coastline. In the years after that, even though I was occupied with a project of a different kind (the Ibis trilogy), I found myself becoming more and more preoccupied with climate change—no doubt because the impact was increasingly obvious. After I finished the trilogy, I felt a great need to put down my thoughts on environmental change and its bearing on my practice as a writer. I might add here, that the distinction between fiction and nonfiction is itself beginning to look increasingly strained in this era of anthropogenic climate change. CS: What, exactly, do you mean by The Great Derangement? Is it related to . . .

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Jed Purdy on Henry David Thoreau (and our new bio!)

June 5, 2017
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Jed Purdy on Henry David Thoreau (and our new bio!)

Laura Dassow Walls’s Henry David Thoreau: A Life (forthcoming this July) is set to be one of 2017’s blockbuster literary events: years in the making (the first Thoreau bio in a decade+) and hitting the printer at just over 600 pages, the book has already garnered pre-publication superlatives, piped up by every outlet who could get their hands on a galley, from Publishers Weekly to the Chronicles of Higher Education. And now, even the think-piece heavies are starting to weigh in—here’s an excerpt after the jump from one of our favorites, Jedediah Purdy, in his long-form piece on appreciating Thoreau, fresh off his read of Walls’s powerhouse biography, at the Nation. *** I would bet that fewer Americans have read Walden than have heard that Thoreau’s mother did his laundry. Yet Thoreau persists. Laura Dassow Walls, who teaches English at Notre Dame, has written an engaging, sympathetic, and subtly learned biography that makes a strong case for Thoreau’s importance; she also seems a little baffled that anyone could fail to admire him. Her Thoreau was an abolitionist who brought Frederick Douglass to speak at the Concord Lyceum—a kind of community university—and participated in the Underground Railroad, to the point of risking charges of treason by helping enslaved people flee . . .

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