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26. An interview with Jessa Crispin at T + L


From Molly McArdle’s interview with Jessa Crispin about The Dead Ladies Project at Travel + Leisure

“Though they are not all ladies, her subjects took part in what could be called the creative life, whether they made, published, or fed great works of art. Crispin’s book mixes criticism, memoir, and travel writing into a collection of essays that is brutal and empathetic, languorous and impatient, smart and, well, smart.”


What are the responsibilities of a travel writer? How do they differ from the responsibilities of a traveler? Do travelers have any responsibilities at all?

“Of course travelers have responsibilities! You have the responsibility not to be an asshole! Not to see this country as being laid out on a platter for your taking. You are a guest—you have to respect that this place has nothing to do with you. Too often you see travelers looking at a landscape and asking, “What can I take from this?” Even the obnoxious dudes who make a big deal about the difference between the “traveler” and the “tourist.” Travel writers have an even greater responsibility, because then they are telling stories about this place that has nothing to do with them, and there is a very long history of travel writers doing and saying terrible things. Acting like colonialists, lying about what happened, trying to make themselves look like the conquering hero, bringing their home land’s assumptions and value systems to a place where they don’t belong. Just for example, Paul Theroux scanned all of Asia and only found sexually available, complacent, totally submissive women (shocker) in an essay he wrote called “China Dolls.” Or, that guy who claimed he discovered Machu Picchu even though people were living right by there! So as a contemporary travel writer, it is your job to know the sins of your fathers and carry them and not repeat them.”

To read more about The Dead Ladies Project, click here.

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27. The First World War at Slate

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Carl De Keyzer’s The First World War reproduces newly restored glass-plate images (scratches and flaws meticulously removed, which involved De Keyzer’s pursuit of the original glass plates from international archives, private collections, and museums), depicting the experience of WWI from vantages and perspectives previously lost to history. A recent post at Slate‘s history blog, The Vault, featured several images from the book taken by the photographer Arthur Brusselle, who was commissioned by the Belgian government to travel to those sites that had seen the most devastation and document his encounters (these particular plates are held in the archive of the City of Bruges).

From Rebecca Onion’s post at Slate, with a couple of accompanying images below:

Two of the towns in the photographs below—Diksmuide and Nieuwpoort—were the sites of the Belgian Army’s final stand against the invading German Army, in October 1914. Pushed to the coast, the Belgians, accompanied by British and French troops, created a 22-mile defensive line from Nieuwpoort to a village named Zuidschote. The nearly monthlong Battle of the Yser, during which the Belgians purposefully flooded part of this landscape in order to deter German advances, ended in defeat for the Germans and allowed Belgium to keep a small percentage of its land under its own control.



Arthur Brusselle, Diksmuide (1918–19). Photo copyright: City of Bruges.



Arthur Brusselle, Diksmuide (1918–19). Photo copyright: City of Bruges.

To read more about The First World War, click here.

To see more sample images from the book, click here.

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28. RIP Paul Laffoley (1940–2015)


Paul Laffoley, Thanton III, 1989.

We’ve long been set to publish the closest volume yet to a catalogue raisonné for the visionary artist Paul Laffoley (1940–2015) in Spring 2016, and thus, were all the more saddened to hear of Laff0ley’s death last week. If you’re unfamiliar, even the tone and pitch of his NY Times obituary should offer a lens into his work—it’s titled, “Paul Laffoley, Painter Inspired by Time Travel and Aliens, Dies at 80.”

Although working in what practically redefines the nature of “liminal space”—engaging in visual and textual inquiries positioned someplace between New Age theology, mathematical abstraction, mystical systems, and all senses of the term extraterrestrial (he claimed to have seen the film The Day the Earth Stood Still 873 times)—Laffoley’s work was also uncannily prescient, as you can note from the NYT obit below:

“It is kind of like taking money out of a bank machine, when you’re looking at a screen and you’re called upon to touch the screen,” he said of “Thanaton III,” a painting from 1989, in a 1999 interview shown on “Disinformation,” a television series on Channel 4 in Britain. “You know that you can’t go through the screen, but you do also know that there’s something behind the screen that’s organizing the experience that you have, only in this case the payoff is not money but a type of knowledge.”

The Essential Paul Laffoley contains almost 100 of his paintings, reproduced in full color, each accompanied by a “thought-form,” or text specific to their making, in addition to an introduction by editor and gallerist Douglas Walla, a biography by fellow artist Steven Moskowitz, and essays by scholars Linda Dalrymple Henderson and Arielle Saiber.

To read more about The Essential Paul Laffoley, click here.


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29. An interview with Richard H. King on Arendt in America



Richard H. King’s Arendt and America considers a unique reception history—that of America on Hannah Arendt, and not the other way around. Situating Arendt within the context of US intellectual, political, and social history, King examines how time spent in her adopted homeland and the relationships she formed while living there allowed her the necessary time and space to develop some of her most compelling contributions to critical thought, including the idea of the modern republic as an alternative to totalitarian rule, and the concepts behind the “banality of evil.” Recently, Kind engaged in an hour-long interview with Lillian Calles Barger, for the New Books in Intellectual History series.

From that interview’s header:

Her interests were neither social nor cultural, but the political sphere. In Cold War America, she became part of a moral center of the New York intellectuals and forged relationships with people such David Reisman, Dwight MacDonald, Irving Howe, and Mary McCarthy. Arendt expressed a continual concern with the nature of political action, the possibility of new beginnings and the idea of the “banality of evil,” introduced in the controversial 1963 book Eichmann in Jerusalem.  Difficult to categorize ideologically, Arendt sought a “worldly” politic, rather than politics based in idealism or pragmatism. Her thought influenced post-war thinking on political participation, civil disobedience, race, the Holocaust and the meaning of republicanism and liberalism. King has given us a portrait of a complex, and often ironic, relationship of a seminal thinker with America as a place and a set of ideas and institutions.

To read more about Arendt and America, click here.


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30. From Aristotle to South Park: An online seminar with Randy Olson


In Houston, We Have a Narrative, consummate storyteller—and Hollywood screenwriter and former scientist and communications expert—Randy Olson, conveys his no-nonsense, results-oriented approach to writing about science, the stuff of some of our greatest plots. On December 1, 2015, at 2PM, Olson will be leading an hour-long, online seminar for the AAAS (the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world’s largest general scientific society). In addition to conveying the fascinating journey of how he left a tenured professorship in marine biology to write for the movies, Olson will let you know why—and, but, therefore—how.

From the AAAS’s description:

He had a single goal — the search for something that might improve the communication of science. He found it in a narrative template he crafted and labeled as “The ABT.” The ABT is adapted from the co-creators of the Emmy and Peabody award-winning animated series, South Park. In a 2011 documentary about the show, they talked about their “Rule of Replacing” which they use for editing scripts. Their rule involves replacing the word “and” with “but” or “therefore.” From this Olson devised his “And, But, Therefore” template (the ABT). This has become the central tool for his new book, “Houston, We Have A Narrative,” his work with individual scientists, and his Story Circles Narrative Training program he has been developing over the past year with NIH and USDA. In this webinar, co-sponsored by the Society for Conservation Biology and the American Geophysical Union/AGU’s Sharing Science program, he will present what he has termed “The ABT Framework” which refers to “the ABT way of thinking.”

You can sign up for the webinar (12/1 at 2PM, EST) here.

To read more about Houston, We Have a Narrative, click here.


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31. An excerpt from W. J. T. Mitchell’s Cloning Terror


An excerpt from W. J. T. Mitchell’s Cloning Terror: The War of Images, 9/11 to the Present

One further thought on the unspeakable and unimaginable: as tropes, they are turns in the stream of discourse, swerves in the temporal unfolding of speech and spectacle. The unspeakable and unimaginable are, to put it bluntly, always temporary. Which means they exist in historical time as well as the discursive time of the unfolding utterance, or the temporality of personal experience. What was once unspeakable and unimaginable is always a matter of becoming, of a speech and an image to come—often rather quickly. If I tell you not to think of the face or name of your mother, you will not be able to prevent yourself from conjuring up her image and name. Declare that God is unrepresentable, and you also declare yourself a representative of the truth about him; you make a representation, an authoritative declaration, of his unrepresentability. Declare that something is invisible, accessible to visual imaging, and someone (usually an artist or scientist) will find a way to depict it. Prohibit something from being shown, hide it away from view, and its power as a concealed image outstrips anything it could have achieved by being shown. We should always say, then, this is unspeakable or unimaginable—up till now. The law against the representation of something in words or images must, in effect, always break itself, because it must name, describe, define—that is, represent—the very thing that it prohibits. That is why the law is so parsimonious and discreet in representing that which it prohibits from representation. Laws against pornography (unspeakable, unimaginable acts of lust, sadism, and animality) thus fall back on the “I know it when I see it” formula, to avoid specifying (and thus inspiring) the prohibited acts. Both the divine and the demonic, the ultimate good and the ultimate evil, inhabit the extreme zones of the human imagination of which we cannot or should not speak, and which we certainly should not depict in visual images.

I hope it is becoming clear what all this has to do with terror, which fuses the divine and the demonic in a single unspeakable and unimaginable compound. The terrorist is a holy warrior or a devil, depending upon your point of view, or your historical positioning (yesterday’s terrorist is today’s hero of the glorious revolution). Terror is also the deliberate combining of the semiotics and aesthetics of the unimaginable with those of the unspeakable. You can’t imagine anyone doing this, going this far? You think the unnamable horror, the indescribable, unspeakable act cannot be named, described, and reenacted? Terrorists speak the language of the unspeakable. They perform and state the unimaginable. Their acts as producers of words and images, symbolic forms of violence, are much more important than their acts of actual physical violence. Strategic forms of violence such as war or police action are not essential to their repertoire. The main weapon of terror is the violent spectacle, the image of destruction, or the destruction of an image, or both, as in the mightiest spectacle of them all, the destruction of the World Trade Center, in which the destruction of a globally recognizable icon was staged, quite deliberately, as an icon of its own right. The people consumed with the image are collateral damage, “enemies of God” who are of no interest. Or they are holy sacrifices, whose innocence is precisely the point. From the standpoint of the terrorist, their innocence makes them appropriate sacrificial victims. From the standpoint of counterterror, their innocence confirms the absolute, unspeakable evil and injustice of the terrorist cause. (There is, of course, the intermediate, compromise position common in state terrorism known as “collateral damage,” which expresses regret for the loss of innocent life, but claims nevertheless a statistical kind of justice in [often] unverifiable claims about the number of guilty terrorists killed; see the previous chapter on the very high percentage of innocent civilians killed by bombing and drones.) Either way, the point of terrorist violence is not the killing of the enemy as such, but the terrorizing of the enemy with a traumatizing spectacle. “Shock and awe” are the tactics that unite nonstate with state terrorism, and in both cases the traumatic spectacle can be rationalized as a humane act of restraint. Instead of killing large masses of people, it is sufficient to “sent them a message” by subjecting them to shocking displays of destruction.

To read more about Cloning Terror, click here.

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32. More from 2015 UP Week



As we near the end of the 2015 University Press Week blog tour, here’s a shorthand of what our fellow esteemed presses have in the works today under the umbrella, “Conversations with Authors,” in addition to all of the great posts other presses have contributed so far:

To read more about 2015 University Press Week—and see what you might have missed—click here.

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33. 1991 University Press Week



An old University of Chicago Press printer’s block (date unknown), with the original 1891 logo. Photo by: Isa Leshko.

How did we get from here to there? How do we go from here to there? How was it that we went from here to there? Where are we going? How? These kinds of questions are excellent pontifications on/interrogations of the nature of time and space, those blaring abstractions, as we perform them through acts of mechanical reproduction and ongoing technological developments. Maybe a better question is, then, What carries us where? When the University of Chicago Press was founded in 1890, it wasn’t printing knowledge. It was a press in the literal sense of the term, a printer:

The University of Chicago Press was one of three original divisions of the University when it was founded in 1890. Although for a year or two it functioned only as a printer, in 1892 the Press began publishing scholarly books and journals, making it one of the oldest continuously operating university presses in the United States.

This isn’t a critical history of the University of Chicago Press, but one wonders about the relationships between scholarship, technology, and the academic institution that engendered that turn from printing materials to printing ideas.

Fast forward a century. In 1991, building off a wave of enthusiasm for the fax machine, John Warnock initiated the Camelot Project. It attempted the development of an Interchange PostScript, a new language of “operations and conventions” with regard to digital data. It wanted to live the dream (the 1991 dream):

Imagine if the IPS viewer is also equipped with text searching capabilities. In this case the user could find all documents that contain a certain word or phrase, and then view that word or phrase in context within the document. Entire libraries could be archived in electronic form, and since IPS files are self-contained, would be printable at any location.


animated GIF of Adobe Acrobat (TM) PDF download-in-progress, sourced via Google

The Camelot Project launched what turned into the PDF. This technology remained proprietary to Adobe until it was released as an open standard in 2008 (Fascinatingly enough, citing the article that footnotes this development requires use of the Internet Archive, a non-profit institution dedicated to “preserving the internet.”). Could we have anticipated how much that new programming language would change the way we store and retrieve information, and in turn, how we circulate scholarship online? Probably not. But the seed of the PDF was already there. It was present in the gesture that led the University of Chicago Press to publish its first scholarly work, Robert F. Harper’s Assyrian and Babylonian Letters Belonging to the Kouyunjik Collections of the British Museum in 1891. The contingency—or better, the interrelations between the production of new knowledge and the production of new technology—isn’t accidental. It’s how we get from here to there. That one sphere may occasionally take the lead and develop with greater speed isn’t the heart of the matter—it’s that they are co-evolutionary, and the getting from here to there is a movement. How we organize ourselves institutionally contributes to and affects how we change our perceptions, which in turn contributes to and affects how we mobilize technology. We might not have been dreaming of JSTOR when we invented the PDF, but JSTOR might have been dreaming of us.

Today, 24 years later, in 2015, our publicity director flew to Rome to accept an award on behalf of one of our authors. The prize? A 3D-printed trophy fashioned after a piece of sculpture. As described in the press release:

Italian sculptor and architect Davide Prete specializes in urban-scale works using stainless steel, forged steel, and small-scale sculptures combining traditional metalsmithing techniques and 3D printing and laser scanning.

In the smithy’s work, we have the theory of the laser printer. The stories it could tell.


The inaugural Bridge Award (Non-Fiction), a collaborative project between several non-profit institutions in the US and Italy, was awarded to Robert Pogue Harrison’s Juvenescence: A Cultural History of Our Age. The award itself is a 3D-printed sculpture.


Next up in the UP Week blog tour is the University of Manitoba Press Blog, with images of some of the books (and book launch photos!) they’ve published over the course of the past 48 years.

To read more about University Press Week, click here.

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34. The First World War



Lost German Zeppelin, slightly hovering above a field of French peasants, October 1917. Photo by: Albert Moreau. Credit: ECPAD/France/Albert Moreau.


The first Armistice Day, which celebrated the one-year anniversary of the end of hostilities on the Western Front, and ultimately, the conflict-based dissolvement of World War I, took place on November 11, 1919, and marked that moment a year earlier, the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918. Fast forward nearly a century. Desensitized via the ubiquity of war photography and new forms of media circulation to the strangeness, the horrors, the portrayal of foreign terrain, and the shocks of bearing witness to conflict, we can point to any number of examples of now classic photojournalism that portray the terror of warfare in the twentieth and twenty-first century, including work by Robert Capa, Joe Rosenthal, Nick Ut, Gary Knight, Benjamin Lowy, and Ashley Gilbertson.

The First World War: Unseen Glass Plate Photographs of the Western Front is different. Carl De Keyzer’s meticulous reconstruction of photographs—including many authentic color images, the result of early autochrome technology—makes available glimpses of the First World War, as never seen before. We’re accustomed to grainy, scratched, blurred images in monochrome of the devastation of trench warfare, but these images, taken by some of the war’s most gifted photographers producing glass plate images in lieu of film from crude cameras, offer more distinct moments: from Belgian soldiers in training to African colonial troops on the Western Front, from the everyday minutiae of civilians’ lives to women making 75mm shells on the assembly line in the factory in Saint-Chamond, all accompanied by an Introduction from Geoff Dyer and an essay by historian David Van Reybrouck.

More of De Keyzer’s process is explained in an interview between Getty curator Nancy Perloff and De Keyzer at Places:

My team and I searched all over Europe — all over the world, in fact. We discovered that original negatives are available for fewer than five percent of the existing images. Most were destroyed during or after the war; some were recuperated for the silver used in the old collodion process, and many were simply badly treated or lost.

We made a list of about fifty different museums and collections worldwide, which over the course of several years we visited or contacted. These included the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Hoover Institution, in the United States; the War Office/National Archives, in the United Kingdom; the Musée Albert-Kahn, in Paris; the Bundesarchiv, in Berlin; and many places in Belgium. I spent weeks hunting through wooden boxes with dust-covered glass plates and containers packed with old prints, and poring through old albums. Most museums have not even begun to archive and digitize these collections.

We posed two key questions to the archival institutions. Could we scan the originals? And then would they allow me to restore the originals according to my own professional standards and personal perspectives? Only a few museums responded affirmatively to both questions.

And from a recent profile of the book in the Telegraphwhich teases some of the book’s content:

These images were taken between 1914 and 1921, in places of which we have likely never heard, by photographers – Tournassoud, Aubert, Moreau, Antony, Gimpel, Castelnau – whose names are unfamiliar. Here, male and female factory workers weld fins to mortar grenades, or stack thousands of mess tins. Red-trousered regiments bathe almost leisurely in a pond, in a scene that recalls the pastoral idylls of Giorgione or Manet; a bugle hangs on a nearby tree. Elsewhere, children look on as soldiers parade in country fields, or play at airmen and prisoners on the streets of Paris.

To read more about The First World War, click here.

To see sample pages from the book, click here.


Also, today we continue the 2015 University Press Week blog tour. Read up on previous contributions from member presses here, and in the meantime, look for some great posts on the history of university press design from Northwestern University Press, Princeton University Press, MIT Press, the University of Kansas Press, Georgetown University Press, Syracuse University Press, Stanford University Press, Harvard University Press, Athabasca University Press, and finally, Yale University Press.

To read more about 2015 University Press Week, click here.

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35. 2015 University Press Week


From the headquarters of the American Association of University Presses (AAUP), here comes everyone’s favorite week in November, besides that one about colonialism—just kidding, this week is, of course, de facto, the pride of November because it celebrates the prescience, diversity, and commitment to knowledge exemplified by the university press in the twenty-first century. Here’s a fine sampling of the breadth and depth offered by these presses, presented as a series of infographics, which play with the collective numbers produced by member presses from 12 nations, 41 of the United States, and 7 Canadian provinces.

From Monday, November 9th, through Friday, November 13th, in particular, you’ll be able to virtually participate in a blog tour, featuring posts from over 40 AAUP member presses. We’re up on Thursday, but in the meantime, here’s what in the horizon for the next few days:

Today, Monday, 11/9, you’ll find posts from: the University of Florida Press (on how scholarly cookbooks have changed the Sunshine State), the University Press of New England (on the serendipitous timing of their book Winning Marriage, released within days of the Supreme Court’s recent verdict), the University Press of Missouri  (on their statewide partnership and collaboration to create the “Mississippi Books” page at the Clarion Ledger), the University Press of Kentucky (coming thru with some surprising facts on AAUP presses), the University of Nebraska Press (showcasing some staff profiles), the University of California Press (on new publishing platforms), the University of Wisconsin Press (on mystery fiction and scholarly publishing), and posts by both the University of Kansas and University of Michigan Presses.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, 11/10, look for posts courtesy of: Indiana University Press (from IUP director Gary Dunham), Oxford University Press (from editorial director Sophie Goldsworthy), George Mason University Press (by Mason Publishing on the future of digital tools), University Press of Colorado (on their 50th anniversary—and what’s up ahead), a second blog from the University Press of Kansas (by director Chuck Myers), University of North Carolina Press (from director John Sherer, on the necessity of financial support), West Virginia University Press (on the value of acquisitions work in the digital age), and John Hopkins University Press (with commentary from editorial director Greg Britton).

And, for general information about this week, here follows a synopsis from the AAUP website:

The AAUP community uses the #ReadUP hashtag to highlight on social media the best of what UPs are publishing all year long. It beautifully captures what we celebrate when celebrate University Press Week: the scholarship, writing, and deep knowledge that is shared with the world through our books and publications.

During UP Week, post a #UPshelfie (a photo of your university press and AAUP member books) to Twitter with the tags #UPshelfie and #ReadUP for a chance to win one of five Surprise! University Press Week book bags! We’ve collected an exciting, but mysterious, group of surprising books and items from our members to share with 5 lucky UP-readers. (Don’t forget both tags—that’s how we’ll know you want to be included in the drawing!)

Two online panels featured during University Press Week:

Opening Access: The Reinvention of the Academic Press
A wide-ranging discussion of the future of the academic book, in tandem with Academic Book Week
November 10, 3PM Eastern

It’s Not Scary: The Art of Getting Published with a Scholarly Press
Get insight into the life of your future book, from proposal to publicity
Friday, November 13, 12PM Eastern

The UP Week Roundup      

A bulletin of events and news for University Press Week: subscribe now!

To read more about AAUP Week and the campaign behind #readUP, click here.

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36. Timing and Turnout on 538


In a piece for FiveThirtyEight, “How Democrats Suppress the Vote,” Eitan Hersh connects the dots between low voter turnout, off-year elections, and the pursuit of (often municipal) policy goals. Arguing that off-cycle elections inherently yield a decreased number of voters disinterested in having to vote multiple times or engaging in local-level politics, Hersh turns to Sarah F. Anzia’s Timing and Turnout: How Off-Cycle Elections Favor Organized Groups to explain why:

Political scientist Sarah Anzia, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, gives a compelling explanation in an outstanding book published last year. The first point that Anzia makes is that the off-cycle election calendar is not a response to voter preferences; voters do not like taking multiple trips to the voting booth. Anzia asked a nationally representative sample of Americans if they prefer elections held at different times for different offices “because it allows voters to focus on a shorter list of candidates and issues during each election” or all at the same time “because combining the elections boosts voter turnout for local elections.” Voters of all political stripes prefer consolidated elections, and by wide margins. But that’s especially true for people who identify as Democrats, who prefer consolidated elections 73 percent to 27 percent.

Democrats, Hersh suggests, who have long championed full participation as central to the democratic process, are in fact enabling and endorsing these off-cycle elections because of what they are able to offer constituent groups mobilized around specific issues.

Hersh appropriates Anzia again on what’s at stake in utilizing that strategy:

Anzia shows that off-cycle elections lead to higher salaries and better health and retirement benefits for teachers and public employees. Anzia studies these effects in many different ways. The simplest way is by looking at eight states that allow local governments to set their own election dates. She compares school districts that hold school board elections on-cycle and off-cycle within the same state. Controlling for factors that might make districts different from one another — like their population size, income, racial composition, partisan leanings and how urban or rural they are — Anzia found that the maximum base teacher salary is over 4 percent higher in districts with off-cycle elections.

Despite these advantages, by resisting consolidated elections, which a vast majority of their constituents endorse, Democrats are de facto suppressing the vote and inadvertently contextualizing how off-cycle elections, like more traditional barriers to voting,  are “imposing a cost on political participation.” This, in turn, is one Anzia’s core arguments: how mundane matters of scheduling are ultimately tactics that distribute political power.

To read more about Timing and Turnout, click here.

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37. Jessa Crispin on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight

Jessa Crispin, author of The Dead Ladies Project: Exiles, Expats, and Ex-Countries and editor-in-chief at Bookslut and Spolia magazine(s), recently appeared on an episode of WTTW’s Chicago Tonight, her former stomping grounds as book reviewer.

Along with video of Crispin’s conversation (not Dorothy Gale, 2:12; running away to Romania, 6:00; “Don’t Do It, Harper Lee,” 7:58), there’s an excerpt from the book on William James and Berlin, and some quotes from the interview, if digital players leave you cold.

You can read more about The Dead Ladies Project, here.

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38. Free ebook for November: Duke Ellington’s America


Our free ebook for November:
Harvey G. Cohen’s Duke Ellington’s America


Few American artists in any medium have enjoyed the international and lasting cultural impact of Duke Ellington. From jazz standards such as “Mood Indigo” and “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” to his longer, more orchestral suites, to his leadership of the stellar big band he toured and performed with for decades after most big bands folded, Ellington represented a singular, pathbreaking force in music over the course of a half-century. At the same time, as one of the most prominent black public figures in history, Ellington demonstrated leadership on questions of civil rights, equality, and America’s role in the world.

With Duke Ellington’s America, Harvey G. Cohen paints a vivid picture of Ellington’s life and times, taking him from his youth in the black middle class enclave of Washington, D.C., to the heights of worldwide acclaim. Mining extensive archives, many never before available, plus new interviews with Ellington’s friends, family, band members, and business associates, Cohen illuminates his constantly evolving approach to composition, performance, and the music business—as well as issues of race, equality and religion. Ellington’s own voice, meanwhile, animates the book throughout, giving Duke Ellington’s America an intimacy and immediacy unmatched by any previous account.

By far the most thorough and nuanced portrait yet of this towering figure, Duke Ellington’s America highlights Ellington’s importance as a figure in American history as well as in American music.

To read more about Duke Ellington’s America, click here.

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39. Beth Linker on War’s Waste in new documentary


On Tuesday, November 10, 2015, at 9PM EDT, Debt of Honor, a new documentary by acclaimed filmmaker Ric Burns will air on WHYY-TV. The film “takes an unflinching look at the reality of warfare and disability,” and features footage and interviews with prominent disabled veterans, including Representative Tammy Duckworth and former Georgia Senator Max Cleland. In addition, Debt of Honor also relies on the scholarship of some of our leading figures in disability studies, and to this end, includes an interview with Beth Linker, associate professor in the Department of History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania and author of War’s Waste: Rehabilitation in World War I America

Linker’s War’s Waste contextualizes decisions made by the US government before entering World War I to avoid paying pensions to injured soldiers, a fiscal burden it had endured since the Revolutionary War. Instead, the idea of “rehabilitation,” charged with the potential of recent developments in social welfare and medical science, which sought to “rebuild” disabled soldiers and return them to civilian life, was pushed forward. Though this culminated in the postwar establishment of the Veterans Administration, one of WWI’s most lasting legacies, the story of how and why we got there—from the professional development of orthopedic surgeons and other medical professionals to curative workshops, in which disabled soldiers learned how to repair automobiles as well as their own artificial limbs—remained buried in the background, until Linker’s intervention. As the Bulletin of the History of Medicine put it, “This book is not merely the latest contribution to the ever-growing body of scholarship on disabled soldiers and their rehabilitation. It is one of the most important and readable studies to appear in recent years. . . . War’s Waste plainly deserves to become core reading among scholars and to be read by a wider, nonacademic audience interested in learning about the social and cultural history of America during the Great War.”

To read more about War’s Waste, click here.

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40. Judy Wacjman on digital serfdom and the future of work



In a piece for Pacific Standard, as part of their Future of Work series, in collaboration with the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, Judy Wacjman tackled themes from her recent book Pressed for Time: The Acceleration of Life in Digital Capitalismwhich accounted for our paradoxical desire to interpret our experience of digital technology as bound up with the hastening of everyday life:

Such anxieties are based on a fundamental misreading of the relationship between humans and machines. I have been researching technological change for 30 years, and one thing I’ve learned is that technology never simply speeds things up. Rather, every major technological innovation comes hand in hand with new activities and experiences, creating new ways of working and socializing. Indeed, often as not, its effects are counter-intuitive and contradictory, surprising even the designers. So the very same devices that can make us feel overworked and harried also enable us to work more efficiently and take more control of our time.

In other words, the notion that we are all cyber-serfs, technologically tethered workers, is far too one-dimensional. It attributes too much power and agency to technology itself. While it is true that we have all become “networked workers” equipped with computers, tablets, smartphones, and landlines, how we deploy these devices crucially depends on what kind of work we do, where, and with whom. While I was being driven to Edinburgh airport recently, the taxi driver proceeded to have an argument with his son on his hands-free phone. His occupation, unlike mine, involves a lot of waiting and I imagine that the quality and utility of that time has been much improved by mobile connectivity.

Pressed for Time furthers this exploration by accounting for technological change as a tool for navigating accompanying societal changes, rather than a prism through which our desire to move faster, quicker, and better is refracted. You can read more about the book here.

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41. Ellen Berrey on diversity for Salon


Ellen Berrey’s The Enigma of Diversity: The Language of Race and the Limits of Racial Justice problematizes “diversity” for the twenty-first century, employing years of fieldwork, case studies, and historical research to document just how ubiquitous and weakened the term has become, courtesy of its championing by a plethora of causes, each to often symbolic and distinctly competitive ends.

In a recent op-ed for Salon, you can read a teaser for the arguments Berry further substantiates in her book, as she addresses the word’s specific usage by discomfited white people confronted by/with the topic of race:

Here’s what I’ve learned: diversity is how we talk about race when we can’t talk about race. It has become a stand-in when open discussion of race is too controversial or — let’s be frank — when white people find the topic of race uncomfortable. Diversity seems polite, positive, hopeful. Who is willing to say they don’t value diversity? One national survey found that more than 90 percent of respondents said they valued diversity in their communities and friendships.

The term diversity has become so watered down that it can be anything from code for black people to a profit imperative. Consider the cringe-worthy experience I had sitting in on a corporate diversity training, where initiates learned that diversity could mean our preferences for working at daytime or at night, or our favorite animal. As a Deloitte study showed, many Millennials take it to simply mean one’s unique culture and perspective. (Apparently they are listening to their diversity trainers).

However much it might feel good, though, diversity talk is not enough. At this paradoxical time, when we are at once commemorating fifty years of civil rights gains while questioning racism in policing and prisons, it allows us to sidestep persistent, alarming racial inequalities. Its appeal makes it downright pernicious. It lets white people off the hook from doing something about our own culpability in the problem — like our inclination to live near people like us (i.e. white) or to put in a good word with the boss about our friends (i.e. probably white).

To read more about The Enigma of Diversity, click here.


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42. Richard B. Primack on Thoreau



In their October 19, 2015 issue, the New Yorker published a piece by staff writer Kathryn Schulz on Henry David Thoreau’s legacy. “Who was this cold-eyed man who saw in loss of life only aesthetic gain, who identified not with the drowned or the bereaved but with the storm?,” one of its takeaway lines, evidences Schulz’s polemical intent: “Pond Scum,” as the piece is titled, resituates Thoreau as a narcissistic control freak churning out our earliest instances of “cabin porn” and doling out misanthropic moral judgments as if they were fodder for page-a-day self-help calendars. One point she does concede, though: Thoreau was “an excellent naturalist and an eloquent and prescient voice for the preservation of wild places.”

Richard B. Primack, author of Walden Warming: Climate Change Comes to Thoreau’s Woods, responded in an op-ed for the Boston Globe, “Sorry, New Yorker, Thoreau is more relevant than ever,” which addressed Thoreau’s contributions to our understanding of species extinctions, the value of education, the dangers of consumer culture, and even, climate change.

As Primack argues:

Everyone knows that Thoreau was an unusually perceptive observer of nature who wrote eloquently and passionately about the need to preserve wild spaces. He also kept a voluminous journal — 2 million words by the time he passed away. But few know about his detailed notes on the emergence of leaves and flowers on hundreds of plant species and the arrival of migratory birds and the departure of ice on Walden Pond. These notes were so overlooked that the editors who first published his journals cut them to save space; they were left as scraps on the editing room floor as it were.

Thoreau recognized their value. He pulled the observations from his journals and created neatly organized tables (well, sort of neat, except for his incredibly bad handwriting) listing the leaves, flowers, birds, and other natural events he saw on each day for eight years between 1851 and 1858. He was creating a nature calendar.

These tables have been invaluable tools for investigating the impact of climate change on New England’s flora and fauna. His observations have been the foundation for a line of work and insights that has involved numerous students and researchers from many universities and countries and is still growing and expanding today.

To read more about Walden Warming, click here.

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43. 57 Ways to Screw Up in Grad School


Kevin D. Haggerty and Aaron Doyle’s 57 Ways to Screw Up in Grad School generated quite a buzz. The book, written by two former graduate directors, covers the rookie mistakes made by new graduate students and delivers a how-to guide that sets would-be PhDs on the right track and off the path to failure—which these days includes a only 50 percent completion rate. The authors’ have a bang-up website, the aptly named gradscrewups.com, and the book has recently been profiled by Inside Higher EdScience, and CBS News’s Money Watch. To whet your appetite, here’s an excerpt from a recent piece at the THE, after the jump.


“Step #7,” from an adaptation on “10 Steps to PhD Failure,” at the Times Higher Ed:

7. Cover everything

Students eager to screw up should remember that their thesis is their defining personal and professional achievement. The thesis is everything. Therefore, it should contain everything. Approach your topic from every conceivable angle. Use a diverse set of methodologies. Explore the topic from every theoretical framework conceivable. Aim to produce an analysis that spans the full sweep of human history. This will ensure that in 30 years you will be asking whether you are eligible for pension benefits as a graduate student.

While working on my master’s degree, I bumped into one of my professors and summarized my thesis topic for him. I was doing research on the sex trade, so I detailed how I expected to conduct a feminist analysis of prostitution in Toronto. It would address economic issues and incorporate recent theoretical work on ethnicity and identity. My methodology involved an ambitious plan for a lengthy period of first-hand observation in the field, combined with dozens of interviews with female street prostitutes, police officers, politicians and local activists. When I stopped talking, he smiled wryly and said, “Well, you certainly have your work cut out for you.”

As we parted, I thought to myself: “He’s right. This is insane. I will never be able to do all of this.” The project was massive, unfocused, and had to be radically reduced in scope and ambition or I would never finish. I slept horribly that night, but my fear motivated me to transform my thesis into something more feasible. Master’s and PhD students tend to set overly ambitious parameters for their research, mistakenly thinking that their thesis has to be a monumental contribution to knowledge.

The jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie famously said that it took his whole life to learn what not to play. The same is true for designing and writing academic works. You need to identify what not to cover in your research, and you must remove tangents peripheral to your analysis or argument. You might have to cut major sections or even chapters. This will hurt. I cut many pages of material in the final stages of writing my master’s thesis, including a number of chunks that I loved but which did not quite fit with my final structure and arguments. A thesis, like any written work, is always stronger when you omit unnecessary sections. Simply place those parts in a separate file and work them up later for a submission to a journal.

To read more about 57 Ways to Screw Up in Grad School, click here.

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44. The Dead Ladies Project on tour

Appropriated from the Spolia Mag Tumblr, here are some upcoming readings and release events surrounding Jessa Crispin’s The Dead Ladies ProjectAll are free and open to the public, except where indicated.



The Dead Ladies are going on tour!

September 29, New York 
A conversation with Laura Kipnis
at Melville House
46 John Street, Brooklyn

October 1, Chicago
Good old-fashioned house party (open to the public)
1926 W Erie

October 5, London
at BookHaus
70 Cadogan Place, Knightsbridge

October 12, Paris
Reading, champagne, and launch party
at Berkeley Books
8 Rue Casimir Delavigne

October 15, Leipzig
Cabaret! With opera singer Jennifer Porto! Details T/K

(Image: Maud Gonne. Or me, in my traveling hat, I’m not sure.)


To read more about The Dead Ladies Project, click here.

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45. Is Robert Pogue Harrison the most significant writer in the humanities?


Robert Pogue Harrison’s Juvenescence: A Cultural History of Our Age explores the history of culture, from antiquity to the present, in order to frame how neotony, the retention of juvenile characteristics through adulthood, has become central to our youth-obsessed, yet historically entrenched civilization. Mired in the past, and at the same time, forced to look forward, the way in which we frame life and death errs heavy on the side of protracting the cusp of adulthood. “While genius liberates the novelties of the future,” Harrison writes, “wisdom inherits the legacies of the past, renewing them in the process of handing them down.”

From the Southern Humanities Reviewwhich considers Harrison one of our foremost academics working today:

Robert Pogue Harrison, an intellectual steeped in the philosophical and literary traditions of the Western world, may be the single most significant writer in the humanities today. In three of his previous booksForests: The Shadow of Civilization, The Dominion of the Dead, and Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition—he developed a particular style of writing that takes readers on a journey through time, tracing a particular concept or trope as it manifests itself in a wide array of literary and philosophical works. . . . In each of his books, Harrison demonstrates that responses to the most fundamental human questions often appear in the most unlikely places and that it takes a formidable intellect and an Auerbach-like memory to be able to discern a particular thread that runs through the tradition. To read Harrison, therefore, is to be reminded of texts that you may have read years ago, or the texts that you may be studying or even teaching at this time, only to discover that you have never carefully read them.

And, as the SHR piece concludes:

In Juvenescence, Harrison fashions himself as a type of philosophico-literary renouvelant, a young adherent to a long tradition, one who affirms his faith in the meaning-producing capacities of texts that are both all too familiar and long forgotten. In doing this, Harrison has written a book that enacts what it describes, one which boldly explores new ideas through revitalizing the past.

To read more about Juvenescence, click here.

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46. Free e-book for October: Black Patriots and Loyalists


Our free e-book for October:
Alan Gilbert’s Black Patriots and Loyalists: Fighting Emancipation in the War for Independence

We commonly think of the American Revolution as simply the war for independence from British colonial rule. But, of course, that independence actually applied to only a portion of the American population—African Americans would still be bound in slavery for nearly another century. Alan Gilbert asks us to rethink what we know about the Revolutionary War, to realize that while white Americans were fighting for their freedom, many black Americans were joining the British imperial forces to gain theirs. Further, a movement led by sailors—both black and white—pushed strongly for emancipation on the American side. There were actually two wars being waged at once: a political revolution for independence from Britain and a social revolution for emancipation and equality.
Gilbert presents persuasive evidence that slavery could have been abolished during the Revolution itself if either side had fully pursued the military advantage of freeing slaves and pressing them into combat, and his extensive research also reveals that free blacks on both sides played a crucial and underappreciated role in the actual fighting. Black Patriots and Loyalists contends that the struggle for emancipation was not only basic to the Revolution itself, but was a rousing force that would inspire freedom movements like the abolition societies of the North and the black loyalist pilgrimages for freedom in Nova Scotia and Sierra Leone.

Download your copy of Black Patriots and Loyalists, here.

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47. The In$sane Chicago Way


John M. Hagedorn’s The In$ane Chicago Way mines the secret history of the attempt to form a Spanish Mafia by Chicago gangs in the 1990s—including why it failed—in order to examine and contextualize our current potential to intervene in and reduce gang-related violence. Hagedorn was recently interviewed by Milt Rosenberg (podcast in full here), and submitted his book to the scrutiny of the Page 99 Test, both of which you can access online, including an excerpt from Page 99 below. And, if you’re in Chicago, you can catch Hagedorn in person at the Great Cities Institute (412 S. Peoria, Suite 400) on Monday, October 19th, at 2:30PM.

From the Page 99 Test blog:

The In$ane Chicago Way tells a heretofore unknown story of how Chicago Latino gangs tried to create a Spanish mafia and why they failed. In$ane explains how a coalition of Latino gangs, Spanish Growth & Development (SGD), was created by gang leaders to control violence, organize crime, and corrupt police. Law enforcement and even most gang members were not aware of the 10-year existence of SGD which ruled the streets from the Illinois prison system. SGD was not destroyed from outside by arrests but by an internecine war of the families, or rival groups of gangs. The book follows SGD from its origins to its bloody demise in an assassination of the steps of a peace conference.

Chicago’s mafia, the Outfit, was not an uninterested observer to these efforts. They worked backstage through their minor league team, the C-Note$, to influence SGD, particularly to control violence in order to safeguard profits. The book follows the exploits of the five principal C-Note leaders, who my Outfit informant called “Two Dagos, Two Spics, and a Hillbilly.” In order to infiltrate SGD, the Outfit had to overlook their Italian C-Note leaders and push forth a Puerto Rican, Mo Mo, as their de facto representative. Page 99 is a small glimpse into Mo Mo and why he became the Outfit’s choice as their covert liaison to SGD.

To read more about The In$sane Chicago Way, click here.

To read the Page 99 Test post in full, click here.


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48. 2015 Frankfurt Book Fair

The 2015 Frankfurt Book Fair is, far and away, the world’s largest book fair. In fact, it’s the world’s largest _____ fair, period. Tallying in at just over “7,000 exhibitors from about 100 countries, more than 9,000 accredited journalists, and [including] 4,000 events, the 67th Frankfurt Book Fair is ‘the largest trading place for content worldwide.'”

With that scope in mind, here are a few candids snapped by the University of Chicago Press crew, distributed via social media, on the heels of today’s opening press conference:







To read more about the goings-on in Frankfurt, click here.


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49. The Union of Concerned Scientists on Randy Olson


Randy Olson was once a marine biologist, with one foot in academia, a screenwriting dream, and the uncanny ability to communicate complicated science via narratives that used the foundations of story to draw readers in and keep them engaged. Now one of our most revered interlocutors of how science is understood and appreciated, Olson recently published Houston, We Have a Narrative: Why Science Needs Story, which takes readers through his “And, But, Therefore” principle of writing. In addition to delivering a TED talk on the ABT method, Olson was recently the subject of a review/profile for the Union of Concerned Scientists, in a piece that details his book’s inspiration and operating themes.

From the Equation blog at the Union for Concerned Scientists:

Scientists who want to succeed with Olson’s methods will have to not only read and process what he has to say, but also commit to thinking about how to communicate their work more effectively over time. . . . This isn’t an add-on to doing good science, either, Olson argues. Scientists are born storytellers, trying to make sense of data. Olson writes that even the humble scientific abstract benefits from adhering to an ABT structure and he presents several convincing case studies to underscore this point.

He challenges readers to re-examine what a story really is in the context of science. For instance, he chronicles how Watson and Crick told a good story when they challenged the old model of what DNA looks like. He also tracks the history of IMRAD, the now-accepted standard for how one “tells a story” in the scientific literature: introduction, methods, results, and discussion. And he lays out how positive and negative results correlate to archetypal plot structures.

It’s heady stuff, for sure, but it’s also what scientists and science communicators need to hear: Effective communication and storytelling are not optional add-ons for research; they are inherent to the research process itself.

Video from Olson’s earlier appearance at TED:

To read more about Houston, We Have a Narrative, click here.

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50. Juvenescence wins inaugural Bridge Award for Non-Fiction

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Robert Pogue Harrison’s Juvenescence: A Cultural History of Our Age was recently announced as the inaugural winner of The Bridge Book Award for Non-Fiction, facilitated by  the American Embassy in Rome, Casa delle Letterature of Rome, Nation-al Italian American Foundation (NIAF), American Initiative for Italian Culture (AIFIC), and Federazione Unitaria Italiana Scrittori (FUIS).

From the award description:

“The Bridge” is aimed to reinforce the mutual understanding between Italy and the USA by exposing the reading public to the best works of fiction and nonfiction recently released in the two countries. The Award is meant to be a “bridge” that connects two cultures.

On the heels of the win, University of Chicago Press promotions director Levi Stahl traveled to Rome to accept the prize on Harrison’s behalf; images from the ceremony follow after the jump.





To read more about Juvenescence, click here.


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