Five Questions with Joseph Calamia, Senior Editor for Science

May 5, 2020
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Joseph Calamia recently joined the Press as senior editor in the Books Division, acquiring new titles in the physical sciences, mathematics, oceanography, and digital studies. Joe came to us from Yale University Press, where he spent ten years, most recently, as senior editor for science and technology. We’ve been excited to welcome him not only to the Press but to Chicago, and by way of introduction, we put together some questions about his interests. What are you looking for in a book, and what kind of project gets you excited? Editors are excitable—I want to get excited. But, when pursuing a book for publication, I must answer two questions. First, what’s new? Second, who will read this? The first question considers originality; the second, audience. I should say that my answer to this question is not original. When reading a proposal, I hear these questions in my head. At commissioning meetings, I hear them from colleagues. I should also say that the two questions are connected. One of the many great things about working at a university press is the encouragement to create a program that includes books for different audiences, including popular, course, and academic readers. For public-facing or . . .

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Join the #ReadUCP Book Club: Read the Opening Extract from “The Safe House: A Novel”

April 30, 2020
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Friends, we have your quarantine reading right here: The Safe House: A Novel by Christophe Boltanski and translated from the French by Laura Marris. In Paris’s exclusive Saint-Germain neighborhood is a mansion. In that mansion lives a family. Deep in that mansion. The Bolts are that family, and they have secrets. The Safe House tells their story. The Safe House was a literary sensation when published in France in 2015 and won the Prix de Prix, France’s most prestigious book prize. With hints of Oulipian playfulness and an atmosphere of dark humor, The Safe House is an unforgettable portrait of a self-imprisoned family. We invite you to read with us throughout May and June and then join us for our virtual book club meeting with translator Laura Marris on Twitter on June 25 at 2PM CT. Follow #ReadUCP and @LauraMarris on Twitter for all the latest. CAR: 1 I never saw them walk outside alone. Or even together. Never saw them so much as stroll the length of a block. They only ventured out on wheels. Sitting pressed against each other, shielded by the body of the car— behind some cover, no matter how slight. In Paris, they drove around in a Fiat 500 Lusso, a white one. It was a . . .

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Price V. Fishback on Werner Troesken’s “The Pox of Liberty” and Our Current Tradeoffs between Quarantines and Economic Freedom

April 21, 2020
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Economist and Press author Price V. Fishback shared with us recently his thoughts on a previous Press book that speaks to our current situation and looks at the political and economic history of how the US government has responded to other pandemics. The current crisis has brought into focus the tradeoffs between quarantines and economic freedom.  For an excellent book about the history of these tradeoffs in the United States, read Werner Troesken’s The Pox of Liberty:  How the Constitution Left Americans Rich, Free, and Prone to Infection (University of Chicago Press, 2015). Werner traces the history of how governments at all levels of the American federal system dealt with three deadly and recurring diseases:  smallpox, yellow fever, and typhoid. All of the issues the world is facing today to avoid horrid deaths are discussed in Werner’s book:  inadequate testing, the absence of vaccines, attempts to develop vaccines, tradeoffs between economic losses and quarantines, the uncertainties that the disease might return in the future, and inadequate medical facilities.  The situations developed in the nineteenth-century societies when there were much higher death rates, lower incomes, and at best rudimentary medical care.  In his preface, Werner says that he started out trying to . . .

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Zachary Dorner, author of “Merchants of Medicine,” on the Coronavirus and Black Americans

April 15, 2020
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The death of black Americans due to coronavirus at a disproportionately high rate recalls the ways differential mortality reflects and has shaped ideas of inherent bodily difference in the past. Zachary Dorner discusses this connection using ideas and examples from his book Merchants of Medicines: The Commerce and Coercion of Health in Britain’s Long Eighteenth Century (available in May). Data recently collected by The Washington Post (link) point to stark disparities in morbidity and mortality during the current pandemic between black and white Americans. While upsetting, such a finding does not come as a particular surprise to a historian of medicine and empire. (Nor, for that matter, does it to scholars of race or to people whose lived experience is one of unequal health). Such health outcomes are often the result, intended and not, of longstanding policies and practices used to construct the economic and political realities we live with today. Notably, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams has attributed his own cardiovascular issues, and therefore susceptibility to the virus, to the “legacy of growing up poor and black in America.” Structural disparities not only contribute to disparate health outcomes as starkly demonstrated this year by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, but historically . . .

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“Poetry Month Will Come a Little Late This Year”: Charles Bernstein on That April Ritual

April 13, 2020
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Nearly two decades ago, poet Charles Bernstein offered a contrarian and spirited take on the April ritual of poetry month, “Against National Poetry Month as Such.” Curious whether he still shares the same opinion, we reached out to Bernstein for his current perspective, which we’re excited to share here as “Poetry Month Will Come a Little Late This Year.” Poetry’s freedom, which to say poetry’s essential contribution to American culture, is grounded in its aversion of conformity and in its resistance to the restrictions of market-driven popularity. Indeed, contemporary American poetry thrives through its small scale and radical differences of form. There is no one sort of American poetry and certainly no right sort—this is what makes aesthetic invention so necessary. Free verse is not a type of non-metrical poetry but an imperative to liberate verse from the constraints of obligatory convention and regulation. In that sense, free verse is an aspiration and its stuttering breathlessness is a mark of its impossibility. I want not just a politics of identity but an aesthetics of identity. While some may choose the straight path of self-righteousness, do not give up hope that they will return to the crooked roads that have no . . .

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Anahid Nersessian on Wordsworth: An Excerpt from “The Calamity Form”

April 7, 2020
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Today, on William Wordsworth’s 250th birthday, the poet will come in for his share of adoration. We offer a dissent from a critic who is nevertheless a passionate reader of Romantic poetry. In this excerpt from her forthcoming book The Calamity Form: On Poetry and Social Life, Anahid Nersessian asks why Wordsworth’s poetry leaves her cold. It’s not his politics or his narcissism, she writes, or anything else she cares to critique, but an “estrangement that cuts both ways. Why should Wordsworth fail me, and I him?” Read on, and look for The Calamity Form in June. Let me put it bluntly: I don’t like Wordsworth. I almost said I don’t care for him, but that’s not quite true. A day spent writing about Wordsworth is a good day; when he comes into the classroom with me, things inevitably go well. And yet the eye I cast on his section of my bookshelf is doubtful, disgruntled. Never could I imagine reading Wordsworth for pleasure, though it is with pleasure that I recall someone’s startled love for that cataract in the seventy-seventh line of “Tintern Abbey.” It is with pleasure, too, that I’ve been taught about Wordsworth by professors and colleagues, by lectures and book . . .

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Economist Claudia Goldin on the Origins of “Capital in the Nineteenth Century”

April 3, 2020
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Contemporary debate around inequality is centered on a common theme: capital. Capital, broadly speaking, is wealth. People who have capital enjoy more leverage, security, and flexibility in their economic lives. Capital in the Nineteenth Century is a history of how and where capital was originated and consolidated in the United States’ first century as an independent nation. It is an utterly original and painstaking work of economic history, one that illustrates the power of the field to inform our thorniest debates in the present. Here, the eminent economist Claudia Goldin recounts the origins of the project: an unexpected (and not entirely organized) mailing from the late Robert Gallman. In August 1998 a large envelope arrived from Bob Gallman, who was then a distinguished economic historian at the University of North Carolina. Inside was an unwieldy set of chapters that Bob was asking me to consider for the National Bureau of Economic Research monograph series, Long Term Factors in Economic Development, for which I served as editor for almost three decades. Bob and I had no prior discussions of the book he was proposing, which is not to say I was surprised by the manuscript’s arrival since I knew Bob had . . .

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A Message from University of Chicago Press Director Garrett Kiely

March 31, 2020
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As of April 13, the Chicago Distribution Center (CDC) has reopened and is processing and fulfilling orders normally. The decision to reopen the CDC was made after close consultation with Press and University leadership to find a solution that puts concerns for the health and safety of CDC staff at the center. The CDC will be operating for as long as necessary with a reduced staff and in adherence to strict safety guidelines. We are glad to be able to return to the work of supporting our community of readers and our partners, including students, booksellers, libraries, and scholarly institutions. We appreciate your patience and support during this challenging time.  The coronavirus pandemic has brought unprecedented changes to our lives. But what has not changed during this challenging time is our belief in the power of books and scholarship to both inform and comfort, and our dedication to the many constituencies—authors, students, professors, client publishers, libraries, society partners, and bookstores—who share this publishing landscape with us.   While our distribution center is temporarily closed out of concern for the health of our staff and community, we are working closely with libraries and universities to expand student access to vital digital course books and journal articles (an updated list of resources is available here). We are also making as many of our books as . . .

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Voting by Mail? Read an Excerpt from “Democracy in America?: What Has Gone Wrong and What We Can Do About It”

March 31, 2020
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Voting by Mail? Read an Excerpt from “Democracy in America?: What Has Gone Wrong and What We Can Do About It”

With fears of COVID-19 keeping some away from in-person polling areas, is it time for all elections to be held by mail? Would this increase overall voter turnout even during times that aren’t faced with a pandemic? Could it make voter turnout more representative? In Democracy in America?: What Has Gone Wrong and What We Can Do About It Benjamin I. Page and Martin Gilens examine how, even though mail-in voting can increase turnout in currently registered voters, it is not enough on its own to handle low, and often unrepresentative, voter turnout. REFORMS TO FACILITATE VOTING. It is easy to come up with reforms that would lower individuals’ costs of voting and thereby increase voter turnout. The best single reform would be universal, government-administered registration, about which we will have more to say in a moment. Short of universal registration, we could at least allow same-day registration at polling places when people show up to vote. Online registration and registration updating were shown in the 2012 California election to increase the number of voters, especially among young people. After more (preferably all) Americans are registered, we could make it much easier to vote by holding elections on a holiday . . .

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Five Questions with Chad Zimmerman, Executive Editor for Economics

March 26, 2020
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Chad Zimmerman recently joined the Press as executive editor in the Books Division, acquiring new titles in economics, business, and public policy. Chad came to us from Oxford University Press, where he worked most recently as a senior editor building a robust list in public health, including books in health economics and policy. We’ve been excited to welcome him not only to the Press but to Chicago, and by way of introduction, we put together some questions about his interests. What are you looking for in a book, and what kind of project gets you excited? Voice. That is a terribly nonspecific answer, but hear me out: Most people who write books are experts in what they’re writing about. Whether their book is any good depends on how they express (and in many cases, limit) their knowledge for the good of the reader. That expression takes the form of their writing voice. And writing voice comprises not just narration, but also how the work is structured.    Reading is a “what’s in it for me?” activity. It is the author’s job to respect their reader and meet them on their level, whether that’s expert or non-expert. Very few authors have the . . .

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