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July 24th, 2014

Thursday Fiction Corner: An Interview with Paul Emond, author of The Dance of a Sham



The Dance of a Sham

Welcome back to the Thursday Fiction Corner. As always, we are proud to be distributing Dalkey Archive Press, the leading publisher in avant-garde fiction and literature in translation! This week we feature an interview with Belgian author Paul Emond, conducted and translated by Becky McMullan. What happens when narrators transgress the “implicit pact” between readers and themselves? Paul Emond discusses below this possibility and its consequences, explored more fully by his unique styling in The Dance of a Sham.

Paul Emond interviewed by Becky McMullan. Translated from the French by Becky McMullan.

The Dance of the Sham is a book in a sentence, the reader does not have time to stop and process what he or she has just read; instead, one is compelled to read until the end, and without stopping. Did you work in this way when writing the book? That is to say, did you compose it in one “breath”?

No, it’s not at all “automatic writing” in the sense of the surrealists, for example. Despite the breathless pace of the words, it’s a very constructed novel in which the essential narrative template is the rivalry between the narrator and Caracala, the protagonist of his tale, or more so of his memories, or his most likely imagined memories.

The narrator is fascinated by the way in which Caracala was capable of telling stories, including eccentric and untrue stories, and of keeping his audience in suspense. Therefore for him, the narrator, it’s about doing the same thing with the reader of the novel: taking him or her along on a long story (the novel), to make the reader lose footing right from the beginning (as one might say of a swimmer), en route toward the ocean with no way of getting off the ship. Read the rest of this entry »

July 24th, 2014

Conventional vs Alternative Medicine — An Excerpt from Shadow Medicine by John Haller



“In addressing the standoff between the dueling protagonists of conventional and unconventional medicine, the placebo has served as both mediator and judge….” —John S. Haller Jr.

We continue our week-long feature on Shadow Medicine: The Placebo in Conventional and Alternative Therapies by John S. Haller Jr. by presenting an excerpt from the book . In the introduction, Haller examines the debate between proponents of conventional and alternative medicine and the role in which the placebo plays in challenging both positions.

July 23rd, 2014

An Interview with John Haller, author of Shadow Medicine



“The question at hand is not only whether conventional and unconventional therapies can stand on their own self-authenticating authority, but whether it is possible to modify the context of these two opposing camps into something both can benefit from sharing. To date, there is no hard-wired connection, but the bridge between them is nowhere as long, nor is the chasm beneath them as deep as it once appeared.”—John S. Haller Jr.

John Haller, Shadow MedicineThe following is an interview with John S. Haller Jr, author of Shadow Medicine: The Placebo in Conventional and Alternative Therapies. For more on the book, read John Haller’s essay The Medical Challenge:

Q: In Shadow Medicine, you use the term conventional medicine. What do you mean by that?

John Haller Jr.: Conventional (or reductionist) medicine identifies statistical baselines against which to measure its therapies, looking to physiological, pathological, biochemical, and molecular processes derived from physical matter and to treatment based on the calculus of probabilities. That is to say, conventional medicine draws its authority from the clinical trials and laws embedded in the natural sciences. At its best, conventional medicine encourages a healthy skepticism and urges various forms of sampling, followed by repeated experimentation to reaffirm a hypothesis. Its identity is thus based on the unambiguous application of normative science whose laws interpret the body as a materialistic system that can be reduced and analyzed according to its component parts.

Q: You seem to suggest, however, that conventional medicine has limits? How so?

JH: While conventional medicine continues to provide the most credible information for justifying a clinical judgment, its ultimate value remains uncertain because much of what happens in a clinical trial fails to capture the myriad of variables that affect the physician/patient encounter. For this and other reasons, the clinical trial remains an imperfect tool.

Calibrating the outcome of a medical procedure or the efficacy of a pharmacologic treatment defies certitude insofar as the organic side of medicine tends to be infused with psychotherapeutic interventions—some intended and, others, hidden. This suggests that conventional medicine has overestimated the value of the clinical trial in resolving the challenges presented in medicine and that more creative efforts are needed that compare “whole treatments.”

Q: How does conventional medicine contrast from complementary and alternative medicine?

JH: Today’s complementary and alternative healers focus their attention on forces or energies that, although undetectable by the tools of science, are thought to be real. Such phrases as “paradigm change,” “probability waves,” “string theory,” “chaos theory,” “new physics,” “ectoplasm,” “chakras,” and “spirit-release therapy” are used to anoint beliefs wholly distinct from empirically-based laboratory science. Challenging the discrete boundaries between objectivity and subjectivity by including consciousness in the reframing of reality, today’s unconventional healers insist that “life forces” can be transmitted or channeled into the patient to mediate physical, mental, or emotional needs. This secularized notion of body, mind, and spirit forms the basis of homeopathy, psychic healing, crystal healing, reiki, light therapy, acupuncture, qigong, aromatherapy, distant healing, transcendental meditation, therapeutic touch, and other paranormal healing systems.

Read the rest of this entry »

July 23rd, 2014

Pierre Bourdieu’s Photographs of Algeria



In today’s post, we are re-posting some of the photographs from Picturing Algeria (now available in paper). The extraordinary photographs were taken during the years of 1957-1960 when Bourdieu was working there as a university lecturer. Taken during the Algerian War, Bourdieu’s photography offer a sympathetic and insightful portrait of a country and a people, who were ostensibly the enemies of France.

For more on the book, you can read an interview with Pierre Bourdieu about his time in Algeria or read Craig Calhoun’s foreword to Picturing Algeria.

Pierre Bourdieu, Picturing Algeria

Pierre Bourdieu, Picturing Algeria

Pierre Bourdieu, Picturing Algeria

Pierre Bourdieu, Picturing Algeria

Read the rest of this entry »

July 22nd, 2014

The Medical Challenge — A Post by John S. Haller Jr.



Shadow Medicine, John S. Haller Jr.The following post is by John S. Haller Jr., author of Shadow Medicine: The Placebo in Conventional and Alternative Therapies:

“The placebo has undermined the positivist model of biomedicine by interjecting subjectivity, uncertainty, and ambiguity into the clinical encounter. It suggests that a specific disease or illness does not exist apart from the manner in which the society conceptualizes it and addresses it.”—John S. Haller Jr.

Conventional medicine is founded on the belief that the body is the outcome of material forces. Given this assumption, it looks to physiological, pathological, biochemical, and molecular processes derived from physical matter to diagnose and treat disease. Its basic tool is the randomized clinical trial, guided by the fact that its active pharmaceutical substances “work” (even when the patient is unaware of their administration) and that their effects can be demonstrated, measured, and replicated. As authority figures, conventional physicians not only project a certain level of scientific legitimacy but purport to have legal authority, political privilege, and cultural acceptance—entitlements that also come with obligations that include standardized training, accreditation, licensing, and regulation.

While the randomized clinical trial provides the most credible information for justifying a specific treatment, its ultimate value remains uncertain because much of what happens in a trial fails to capture the myriad of independent and/or related variables that affect the physician/patient encounter. For all its hype, the randomized clinical trial remains an imperfect tool. Although it informs individual clinical expertise, it does not (and should not) replace it. Conventional medicine has overestimated the value of its clinical trial and more creative methods are needed that compare “whole treatments” rather than just the normative components which biomedicine is most acquainted.

In contrast to conventional medicine, complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) defines health in psychological and spiritual terms and emphasizes patient individualization and self-healing. It is founded on a philosophy of organism known as “vitalism” which explains life not by the laws of physics and chemistry but by a principle, force, or spirit-like power that comes from beyond the material world to animate organic matter. Consisting of a mixture of religion, mysticism, cosmic energy, disbelief in Western reductionism, and an increased fascination with Eastern philosophies, CAM encourages a more metaphysical encounter with the world, one that questions the basic assumptions about the nature of reality. In this new setting the patient’s experience becomes intensely personal and compares strikingly to certain types of spiritual awakening. In its intuitive approach to healing, the goal of the healer is to assist the individual in finding harmony with nature.

Read the rest of this entry »

July 22nd, 2014

New Book Tuesday! Lectures by Koolhaas; Pictures by Bourdieu; and Poems by Salmun!



Preservation is Overtaking Us, Rem KoolhaasOur weekly listing of new titles now available:

Preservation is Overtaking Us
Rem Koolhaas; with a supplement by Jorge Otero-Pailos

The Lives of Erich Fromm: Love’s Prophet (Now available in paper)
Lawrence J. Friedman

Picturing Algeria (Now available in paper)
Pierre Bourdieu; Foreword by Craig Calhoun

The Right to Justification: Elements of a Constructivist Theory of Justice (Now available in paper)
Rainer Forst; Translated by Jeffrey Flynn

Modernism at the Barricades: Aesthetics, Politics, Utopia (Now available in paper)
Stephen Eric Bronner

Soy Realidad: Poems
Tomaž Šalamun

Metropolisarchitecture
Ludwig Hilberseimer

Ink, or “V is for Vermilion as described by Vitruvius”: An A to Z of Ink in Architecture
Michelle Fornabai

The Expendable Reader: Articles on Art, Architecture, Design, and Media (1951-79)
John McHale

In Extremis: Landscape Into Architecture
Erieta Attali

Wine in Old and New Bottles: Critical Paradigms for Joseph Conrad
Edited by Wiesław Krajka

July 21st, 2014

Book Giveaway! Win a Free Copy of Shadow Medicine, by John Haller



The Collapse of Western Civilization

This week our featured book is Shadow Medicine: The Placebo in Conventional and Alternative Therapies, by John S. Haller Jr.

In addition to features on our blog, we will also be posting about the book on twitter, and facebook.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Shadow Medicine to a lucky winner. To enter the contest please e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu and include your name and address. The winner will be selected Friday, July 25 at 1:00 pm.

“This provocative book is aimed at challenging the research community, and the questions it raises are important for patients and doctors alike.” — Publishers Weekly

Read the introduction to Shadow Medicine:

July 18th, 2014

University Press Roundup



Welcome to our weekly roundup of the best articles from the blogs of academic publishers! As always, if you particularly enjoy something or think that we missed an important post, please let us know in the comments.

The issue of tenure for teachers has been hotly contested recently. Writing at the Voices in Education blog of Harvard Education Publishing, Dale S. Rose argues that improving teacher hiring processes is a better bet for improving education quality than is eliminating teacher tenure.

Jacques Derrida would have turned 84 this past Tuesday, and in honor of the occasion, Cary Wolfe has an article up at the University of Minnesota Press Blog reflecting on Derrida’s legacy and the continuing resonance of his work.

Is new film Maleficent a feminist fairy tale? At From the Square, the blog of NYU Press, Jessie Klein and Meredith Finnerty argue that the movie attempts to “reverse the damage of the common fairy tale motif.”

The 2014 World Cup is now over (congratulations to our German readers), and at the University of Toronto Press Blog, Kirk Bowman provides a post-tournament summary of the politics and identity issues at play in the world’s most popular sporting event.

This week, the OUPblog is running a fascinating four-part series of posts on the epistemology of Christianity, by John G. Stackhouse, Jr. Stackhouse is particularly interested in the interplay between radical faith and radical doubt in the modern “Information Age.”

At the Harvard University Press Blog, Daniel Matlin looks back at a key figure in the attempts by African American intellectuals to help white America understand and appreciate black urban life: psychologist Kenneth B. Clark.

How should we view the place of religion in Rembrandt’s art? At Mercer University Press News, John I. Durham has a guest post explaining the role of faith in Rembrandt’s life and work, and argues that for Rembrandt, The Bible was “a real book more than it was a holy book.”

World War I had a profound impact on literary culture, and in particular on poetry. At the temporarily renamed nineteenfourteen blog of Cambridge University Press (usually fifteeneightyfour), Paul Sheehan looks at the role of pity and pathos in World War I poetry.

Most people view Harvey Milk’s lasting political influence primarily through the lens of his work with LGBT progress. However, at North Philly Notes, the blog of Temple University Press, Miriam Frank claims that this ignores a significant part of Milk’s platform: his vision was one of connected union involvement and LGBT activism.

Those who love air conditioning in the summer take note: July 17 marks the birthday of air conditioning! At the Fordham Impressions blog, Salvatore Basile has a guest post looking at the early history of air conditioning and questioning its future in a “green” society.

Want to write an epitaph but just don’t know how? Fear not! Michael Wolfe, writing at the JHU Press Blog, has broken the epitaph-writing process down to it’s simplest components. Once you’ve mastered the art of the epitaph, he invites you to enter his “epitaph writing contest” on Goodreads!

Finally, we’ll wrap things up this week with a guest post by essayist Sam Pickering (perhaps best known for being the inspiration for Robin Williams’ innovative teacher character in the film Dead Poets Society) at the University of Missouri Press blog. In his post, Pickering ruminates about a life of writing essays about life.

Thanks again for reading this week’s roundup! Have a great weekend, and leave any thoughts in the comments!

July 18th, 2014

Carlos DeLuna, Carlos Hernandez, and Wanda Lopez: the Story in Pictures



The Wrong Carlos

This week our featured book is The Wrong Carlos: Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution, by James S. Liebman and the Columbia DeLuna Project. Today, see the story of Carlos DeLuna, Carlos Hernandez, and the murder of Wanda Lopez through images in our Pinterest board for The Wrong Carlos.

Be sure to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of The Wrong Carlos!

View the story of the case of Wanda Lopez’s murder here:
Follow Columbia University Press’s board The Wrong Carlos: Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution on Pinterest.

Read the rest of this entry »

July 17th, 2014

Thursday Fiction Corner: An Interview with Andrej Blatnik



Law of Desire: Stories

“After the new Central European literature managed to achieve a new freedom – the freedom to be ‘just’ literature, without any political ambition – it got back the chance to say something political without losing dignity. But instead of great political and social topics, which can motivate masses, now the politics of everyday life is something we encounter every day – and here the individual is the battlefield.” — Andrej Blatnik

We are proud to be distributing Dalkey Archive Press, one of the leading publishers of avant-garde fiction and literature in translation! In today’s Thursday Fiction Corner, we present an interview with Slovenian writer Andrej Blatnik, as he discusses his newest short-story collection, Law of Desire, and the tragic impact of desire on the human condition.

Andrej Blatnik with Dalkey Editor West Camel

This collection seems to suggest that the overarching ‘law’ of desire is that it is always accompanied by doubt or pain. Did you set out to write all or some of these stories with this in mind – or was it something you discovered in writing them?

In all of my collections of short stories, I try to put together the stories that fit within a specific frame. In You Do Understand, published by Dalkey Archive in 2010, the frame was formal – all the stories were shorter than 500 words. (At least in my native Slovenian, not all the translations managed to achieve that.) In Law of Desire, after writing the first stories, I discovered the “fil rouge” of desire in them, but not just any desire – a demanding one, and in addition to that, a demanding desire that brings also pain, not only pleasure. It goes without saying that the desire fulfilled seems not to be our desire anymore – isn’t that alone enough for doubt or pain?

However much your characters want to escape their desires, they seem ineluctable, despite the negatives associated with them. Is this the reason for the final tragedy of a story such as Electric Guitar ?

I had an interesting experience with that story. When I write about a specific topic, I look for advice from people who know more about this topic than I do. And when I finished Electric Guitar, I sent it to a friend of mine who is a social worker and a specialist in child abuse. She called me immediately: “Who told you about this story?” Well, nobody told it to me, it’s an act of imagination, I tried to explain, but she continued: “You need to tell me who told you about it, it’s absolutely unprofessional that this very sensitive story leaked since it could destroy even more lives if the media got to it.” It took quite a bit of effort to convince her that I really made the whole story up and that it was pure coincidence that it was very similar to another story — alas a true one — of a father and a child that her office wanted to keep as discreet as possible. We sometimes hear that no invented tragedy in literature, movies, etc., can compete with the tragedies of life itself – this story seems to prove it again. Read the rest of this entry »

July 17th, 2014

The Wrong Carlos: Video Testimony



The Wrong Carlos

This week our featured book is The Wrong Carlos: Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution, by James S. Liebman and the Columbia DeLuna Project. These compelling video interviews shed light on Carlos DeLuna’s childlike nature, as well as Carlos Hernandez’s consistently violent behavior. All four subjects, despite their disparate backgrounds, strongly attest to DeLuna’s innocence.

Be sure to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of The Wrong Carlos!

Rose Rhoton, Carlos DeLuna’s sister, speaks to his mild character and his innocence in this emotional interview.
Read the rest of this entry »

July 16th, 2014

Do we execute innocent people?



The Wrong Carlos

“Our book challenges readers to consider the evidence we have carefully arrayed—and to test each phrase in the book against all of the relevant evidence on the point to which readers can quickly link on the web site—and decide for themselves whether our criminal and capital justice systems are reliable enough to keep innocent people from being executed.” — James S. Liebman

This week our featured book is The Wrong Carlos: Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution, by James S. Liebman and the Columbia DeLuna Project. In today’s guest post, James S. Liebman gives an account of the origin of The Wrong Carlos as a research project and book, and explains how he hopes readers will read and react to the story of Carlos DeLuna’s execution.

Be sure to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of The Wrong Carlos!

Do we execute innocent people?
James S. Liebman

Do the three dozen American states that authorize death as a punishment for murder execute innocent people? That is the fundamental question at the heart of The Wrong Carlos: Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution, a book coauthors and I published last week with Columbia University Press.

I began thinking about this question in 2000 and 2002, when colleagues and I issued two studies of rates of serious error found by courts in U.S. capital cases: Broken System I: Error Rates in Capital Cases, 1973-1995 and Broken System II: Why Is There So Much Error in Capital Cases and What Can Be Done About It?. The studies and a follow-up article documented judicial findings of serious error in over two-thirds of all U.S. capital cases that courts reviewed between 1973 and 1995. Nearly all of those findings involved the kinds of legal errors known to undermine the accuracy of the determination that the defendant committed the crime and that he or she deserved to die for it. Read the rest of this entry »

July 15th, 2014

The Death of Wanda Lopez



The Wrong Carlos

“Forty minutes after Wanda’s call, the police closed the case with an arrest. They caught Carlos DeLuna in a residential neighborhood a few blocks east of the Sigmor.” — James S. Liebman and the Columbia DeLuna Project

This week our featured book is The Wrong Carlos: Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution, by James S. Liebman and the Columbia DeLuna Project. Today, we are taking a look at the crime that started it all: the murder of Wanda Lopez. In this excerpt from The Wrong Carlos, Liebman et al. lay out the scene of the crime and give the information that the police had received from various witnesses.

Be sure to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of The Wrong Carlos!

July 15th, 2014

New Book Tuesday: Interspecies Ethics, Esoteric Buddhist Rituals, and New Fiction from Dalkey Archive!



Interspecies Ethics

Our weekly list of new titles now available:

Interspecies Ethics
Cynthia Willett

Spells, Images, and Mandalas: Tracing the Evolution of Esoteric Buddhist Rituals
Koichi Shinohara

Metamorphosis
Nicholas Mosley

The Tree with No Name
Drago Jančar. Translated by Michael Biggins

Ballerina, Ballerina: A Novel
Marko Sosič. Translated by Maja Visenjak Limon

July 14th, 2014

Book Giveaway! The Wrong Carlos, by James S. Liebman and the Columbia DeLuna Project



The Wrong Carlos

This week our featured book is The Wrong Carlos: Anatomy of a Wrongful Execution, by James S. Liebman and the Columbia DeLuna Project. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its authors on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

“A masterful deconstruction of the Lopez murder and police investigation followed by the prosecution and execution of the wrong man. Given the number of men already exonerated from death row and the unacceptable incidence of innocent men convicted of capital crimes, there can be no doubt that innocent men have been executed by the state. Liebman’s command of the facts and intellectual precision, ultimately infused with a moral urgency, makes a compelling claim that Carlos DeLuna is one of those innocent men.” — Peter J. Neufeld and Barry Scheck, directors, Innocence Project

We are also offering a FREE copy of The Wrong Carlos. To enter our book giveaway, simply fill out the form below with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select our winners on Friday, July 18th at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!

July 11th, 2014

University Press Roundup



Welcome to our weekly roundup of the best articles from the blogs of academic publishers! As always, if you particularly enjoy something or think that we missed an important post, please let us know in the comments.

Religious freedom and what it entails has been at the forefront of the American consciousness over the last few weeks, as the Supreme Court has considered two important religious freedom cases. In both Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and Wheaton College v. Burwell, the Supreme Court decided “in favor of conservative Christian plaintiffs seeking exemptions from the contraceptive coverage mandate of the Affordable Care Act.” This week, the Chicago Blog of the University of Chicago Press featured an article by Winnifred Fallers Sullivan on the “rotten core at the heart of all religious freedom laws”: what she calls the difference between “small ‘r’ religion” and “big ‘R’ Religion.” In explaining this difference, Sullivan demands that we consider what religious freedom is really designed to protect.

Another important recent Supreme Court case was Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, in which the Court upheld Michigan’s ban on race- and sex-based affirmative action in public hiring and education. Writing at the UNC Press Blog, Marc Stein discusses the case, and in particular the divide between the opinions written by Associate Justice Sonya Sotomayor and Chief Justice John Roberts.

The World Cup is drawing to a close, with only the third place game and the Final still to be played. Duke University Press has continued their series on the Cup with a couple of fascinating posts from Orin Starn and Marc Hertzman. Starn is watching the games from “a shantytown in desert Peru,” and he explains how the World Cup both isn’t (“There’s little pan-Latin American solidarity in football fandom”) and is (the Neymar-style haircuts of some of the children, for example) a big deal in the poor areas of Peru. Meanwhile, Hertzman focuses instead on the gender issues at play in Brazil at the moment. One notable example: while the aforementioned Neymar got the great majority of the press as the best Brazilian player, Hertzman points out that the most decorated current Brazilian player has not been mentioned much at all. Marta is the star of Brazil’s women’s team, and has “on or finished second as FIFA’s women’s Player of the Year an amazing nine times.”

While the World Cup has, once again, been a wildly popular spectacle, Susan Kneebone points out that it has also put the spotlight firmly on the problematic preparations for the 2022 World Cup scheduled to take place in Qatar. Writing at the OUPblog, Kneebone looks at the plight and frequent mistreatment of the estimated 500,000 migrant workers Qatar is depending on to build the infrastructure necessary for the World Cup to take place. She is particularly careful to point out that this dependency on migrant workers is not unique to Qatar during their preparations, but that it is a fairly common practice throughout the Gulf States region, and, indeed, throughout the world.

At the University of Minnesota Press Blog, Eric Avila argues that, while “freeway and the automobile, after all, were built upon a uniquely American premise of freedom,” the ways that freeways were planned and constructed in cities in the 1950s and 1960s sometimes divided and hurt poor, nonwhite communities, even while offering convenient and ostensibly democratic means of transportation.

How far can ISIS go? At the JHU Press Blog, Mark N. Katz takes a close look at the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, pointing out that, while nobody saw them expanding so quickly, they are encountering three problems common to most revolutionary movements (and these problems are exacerbated by the fact that they did expand so quickly): “1.) regional opposition; 2.) reaction to repression; and 3.) rifts among the radicals.”

“In India’s recent national elections, a single party gained the majority of the seats in the lower house of parliament for the first time since 1984.” The Bharatiya Janata Party that controls that majority, is a consistently Hindu nationalist party, and, at the Stanford University Press Blog, Narendra Subramanian believes that the BJP is likely to “vigorously promote Hindu hegemony” and support unequal economic growth at the expense of the poorer elements of the population, and that these policies “may damage democratic citizenship that much more as the constraints they face are rather weak.”

How did the tradition of sports teams with names referencing Native American culture begin? Using the current furor over the name of the Washington Redskins as a jumping-off point, Kate Buford, in a post at the University of Nebraska Press Blog, looks at the history of Native Americans as team names and mascots. She traces the practice back to the famous football coach Glenn S. “Pop” Warner, whose Carlisle Indian Industrial School football team (the Indians) was hugely successful in the early 1900s, led by Jim Thorpe. Buford also, however, looks at the history of the fight against demeaning sports team names, and in particular the successful 1972 petition by Native American students at Stanford that led to the university changing its mascot from the Indians to the Cardinal.

In 1991, Mount Pinatubo, a volcano located about 90 kilometers from Manila in the Philippines that had not been thought of as active, produced the largest volcanic eruption in living memory–the ash from the explosion formed a mushroom cloud that grew to an area the size of France. At the nineteenfourteen blog (the temporarily renamed version of Cambridge University Press’s fifteeneightyfour blog), Clive Oppenheimer writes about the immense eruption and about what its aftermath can teach us about disaster management and climate change.

Finally, we’ll wrap things up this week with an article from Beacon Broadside Press about a very different kind of ecological disaster. Instead of looking at a single moment of environmental trauma like the eruption of Mount Pinatubo, Brad Tyer looks at the history of the Clark Fork, “one of the most badly abused rivers in the United States.” Tyer walks readers through the river’s history, from the harm done by copper mining to the strange industrial accidents that have damaged the river (including multiple Boeing airplane fuselages and harmful collections of chemicals), and warns of the potential for enormous environmental disaster if the contaminated waters of the “Yankee Doodle tailings” above the river were allowed to escape into the river.

Thanks again for reading this week’s roundup! Have a great weekend, and leave any thoughts in the comments!

July 11th, 2014

Bangladesh, New York, and Florida after the Great Collapse of 2093



We conclude our week-long feature on The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway with three maps from 2393 that illustrate the ravages of climate change on Bangladesh, New York, and Florida. The commentary comes from a twenty-fourth century historian looking back at how twenty-first century leaders failed to react to the growing threats to the environment:

The Collapse of Western Civlization
Bangladesh Among North Americans, Bangladesh—one of the poorest nations of the world—served as an ideological battleground. Self-described “Climate Hawks” used it to levy moral demands for greenhouse gas reductions so that it would not suf­fer inundation, while so-called “Climate Realists” insisted that only economic growth powered by cheap fossil fuels would make Bangladeshis wealthy enough to save themselves. In reality, “unfettered economic growth” made a handful of Bangladeshis wealthy enough to flee. The poor were left to the floods.

The Collapse of Western Civilization, New York City
New York City in the twenty-fourth century Once the financial capital of the world, New York began in the early twenty-first century to attempt to defend its elabo­rate and expensive infrastructure against the sea. But that infrastructure had been designed and built with an expectation of constant seas and was not easily adapted to continuous, rapid rise. Like the Netherlands, New York City gradually lost its struggle. Ultimately, it proved less expensive to retreat to higher ground, abandoning centuries’ worth of capital investments.

Read the rest of this entry »

July 10th, 2014

Thursday Fiction Corner: A Conversation with Danilo Kiš



Danilo Kiš

“Art is the terrain where you are absolutely free and where you can explore all life’s beauties and all life’s vices without being punished. There’s a simple explanation for this: art is a replacement for real life. Art is the opposite of life. A normal person doesn’t write books.” — Danilo Kiš

We are proud to be distributing Dalkey Archive Press, one of the leading publishers of avant-garde fiction and literature in translation! Today we continue our series of Thursday Fiction Corner posts highlighting conversations from the Dalkey Archive backlist (so far we’ve featured Nicholas Mosley and Carlos Fuentes) with a conversation with Danilo Kiš and Brendan Lemon, which took place in 1984. Kiš was a Yugoslavian and Serbian writer known for combining narrative experiment and humor with the deadly serious realities of life in Eastern Europe in the mid and late twentieth century. In their interview, Lemon and Kiš discuss Kiš’s reading habits, his love of the technical aspects of writing, and “the problems of ethics and aesthetics.” Read the full conversation on the Dalkey Archive Press website.

Brandon Lemon: The act of reading is very important in Hourglass, especially the relationship between reading and dreaming. At one point you write that in The Interpretation of Dreams Freud didn’t pay enough attention to the reading we do before sleep. Do you read a great deal? What kinds of books do you read at bedtime?

Danilo Kiš: I read a great deal. And I generally dream about what I read more than about what I experience otherwise. I think that that would also have been the case for the father in Hourglass. Reading is also depicted in Garden, Ashes in the passage where the child reads a fragment from a novel about love. I like novels that work in bits of other books. It’s reassuring to those of us who spend most of our lives reading. It seems perfectly normal to me not only to dream about what one reads but also to insert what one reads into one’s life and one’s work. The relationship of reading to writing and of both to the rest of life is something that I’ve very consciously included in my work.

BL: Let’s get back to your reading.

DK: You know, I’m very lazy. I write little and rarely. But I read all the time, all kinds of things. I’m a big reader of poetry because I consider myself something of a poet manque. Technically, I know exactly what to do, and I like translating poetry. But I realized that I can better express myself in prose. Read the rest of this entry »

July 10th, 2014

Naomi Oreskes on Why We Should Trust Scientists



In the following TED Talk, Naomi Oreskes, coauthor (with Erik M. Conway) of The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future, discusses why we should trust scientists.

From the TED description:

Many of the world’s biggest problems require asking questions of scientists — but why should we believe what they say? Historian of science Naomi Oreskes thinks deeply about our relationship to belief and draws out three problems with common attitudes toward scientific inquiry — and gives her own reasoning for why we ought to trust science.

July 9th, 2014

Erik M. Conway on The Role of Neoliberalism in Climate Change



“Market fundamentalism allows us to continue believing that we’re not responsible for climate change or its impacts.”—Erik M. Conway

Erik M. Conway, The Decline of Western CivilizationThe following post is by Erik M. Conway, the coauthor (with Naomi Oreskes) of The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future

One of the important intellectual underpinnings of the American refusal to undertake significant efforts to mitigate climate change has been the economic doctrine of neoliberalism. The term is rather amorphous, and means different things to different people. Naomi Oreskes and myself use it in the sense of what George Soros called market fundamentalism. Market fundamentalists believe in the perfection of economic markets as they currently exist, and that only markets “free” of government interference can protect individual liberty.

There are many things wrong with market fundamentalism, but the aspect of it that’s preventing us from dealing with climate change effectively is that markets as they currently exist don’t account for the cost of pollution. It’s free to dump carbon dioxide and methane and many other things into the atmosphere. In other words, we use the atmosphere as an open sewer, and don’t charge anyone for dumping stuff into it. In economic terms, pollution is an “externality,” a thing that exists outside the market system.

Market fundamentalists like to speak of the “magic of the market place.” Somehow, they think, markets will magically fix these externalities. But markets can’t fix problems that are external to those markets, no matter how hard we wish they would. That sums up the problem. Market fundamentalism is a form of magical thinking. And unfortunately, otherwise reasonable people routinely engage in this sort of magical thinking.

The good news is that, at least in principle, it’s fairly easy to fix this externality. In the 1970s, economists interested in reforming environmental regulation away from what they called “command and control” restrictions towards more market-friendly policies revived an old idea, the idea of pollution pricing. Emissions trading, what we now refer to as “cap and trade,” was one way to establish a price on pollution. Pollution taxes are another (economists often call this kind of tax “Pigovian,” after their inventor, Arthur Pigou). Both are simply ways of extending the market system to cover air and water pollution as well.

Read the rest of this entry »