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Archive for April, 2008

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

The Wright/Obama Controversy: Perspectives from Houston Baker and Todd Gitlin

In a very interesting post yesterday, Salon asked a panel of political and cultural experts, including Houston Baker and Todd Gitlin, to weigh in on the debates surrounding Rev. Wright’s remarks and what Obama should respond.

Todd Gitlin defended Obama offering the following advice:

“Obama should say that he no more associates himself with Wright’s remarks than John McCain (by his own say-so) agrees with John Hagee about Satanic Catholics or righteous Armageddon. He should remind his interlocutors that McCain went looking for Hagee’s endorsement while he, Obama, did not do the same with Wright. He should also repeat that he’s running for president, and that therefore he wants to talk about the awful Iraq war, the awful economy, the awful Bush years and the danger of extending them with McCain. He should say all this with a smile and his customary grace.”

Offering a different and more critical (of Obama) perspective, Houston Baker, writes:

Sen. Obama was concise enough about Wright when the problem first arose: “Get off the bus, Gus!” However, not long after—and, to my best knowledge, after calls from African-American pastors across America—Obama piously said he had often been in Trinity’s congregation when Rev. Wright verbally assaulted the United States under the guise of black “liberation theology.” Yet, he still claimed he found his pastor’s more militant views unacceptable, wished to distance himself from them. Then, in political footwork faster than Ali’s jabs, he said he could not disavow his intimate, familiar connection with Rev. Wright. It was him throwing Wright under the tires again. Sen. Obama’s “race speech” at the National Constitution Center, draped in American flags, was reminiscent of the Parthenon concluding scene of Robert Altman’s “Nashville”: a bizarre moment of mimicry, aping Martin Luther King Jr., while even further distancing himself from the real, economic, religious and political issues so courageously articulated by King from a Birmingham jail. In brief, Obama’s speech was a pandering disaster that threw, once again, his pastor under the bus…. There is now very little of a corrective nature that the racially elusive senator from Illinois can say to get rid of his pastor.

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

Barbara Mensch, “South Street,” and the Fulton Fish Market

Barbara Mensch, South StreetIn the posting Loaders, Lumpers and the Smell of Fish the New York Times blog the “City Room” writes about South Street by Barbara Mensch. The post coincides with a new exhibition of Barbara Mensch’s photographs of the Fulton Fish Market at the South Street Seaport Museum.

The Times has also posted a slideshow of images from the book and the exhibition detailing life at the Fulton Fish Market during the late 1970s and early 80s—the years right before gentrification started to take hold and the mob influence was swept away by then New York district attorney, Rudolph Giuliani. Now that the fish market has moved to Hunts Points section of the Bronx, Mensch’s photographs offer an extraordinary portrait of a New York City that is rapidly disappearing. “City Room” writes:

Ms. Mensch is fascinated—and saddened—by what she views as the “profound change in the urban landscape of New York,” a change that is sweeping away so much of the city’s past. Yet, she insisted, “It’s not about nostalgia. It’s about what do we replace all these things we’re destroying with? Where are we going as a culture — as a civilization – when we walk around and everything looks like interchangeable?”

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

Kim Sowôl, Korean Poetry, and the Boston Red Sox: A Blog Posting from David McCann

Kim Sowol, David McCann, AzaleasAs national poetry month comes to a close and the Pen World Voices Festival set to begin we are fortunate to have a posting from David R. McCann a translator and scholar of Korean poetry. McCann is also the Korea Foundation Professor of Korean Literature at Harvard University and most recently the translator of Azaleas: A Book of Poems by Kim Sowôl.

Kim Sowôl (1902-1934) remains one of Korea’s favorite twentieth-century poets, even though he published just one book, Azaleas. The title poem is his best known, and it continues to draw readers, admirers, and other fans through such reincarnations as the singer Maya’s song version on her CD Born to Do It in 2006. The first of Sowôl’s poems that I read, memorized, and began to try to translate, though, is a short one titled “The Cricket,” Kuiddurami. I first encountered it in a book of Sowôl’s selected poems translated by Kim Dong Sung, back when I first went to Korea in 1966, as a Peace Corps Volunteer. I suppose one of the things that appealed to me about the poem was its shortness: I was able to memorize it quickly, and would recite it, or write it on paper table covers when the teachers and I went somewhere for an evening of food and makkôlli rice wine, songs and stories.

Sound of mountain winds,
sound of cold rains falling.
On a night you talk of life’s changes,
the fire at the country tavern dies down, a cricket cries.

I later came to realize that the poem might have been an experiment with the traditional vernacular verse form known as the sijo. The standard sijo is three lines, each line in four phrases, with a syllable count of 3 4 3 (or 4) 4 for the first and second lines, then 3 5 4 3 in the final line. That final line also has a bit of a twist at the beginning, a turn in a different direction, rhetorically, or toward a new image. What Sowôl did was to take the three-line form and break the first into two parts, one below the other on the printed page, and then in the original, step inside that country tavern for the twist. English grammar didn’t let me do it that way when I translated it, but the poem still has a sijo feel to it.

What’s curious is that only after translating this modern sijo in the collection Azaleas, as well as a number of others in the anthology Early Korean Literature: Selections and Introductions, did I begin to try writing sijo in English. I’ve been doing nothing but sijo for the past six or seven months, now, and have come to like its spare qualities, the refreshing demand that I get it down in three lines, when I’ve revised some poems to fit the sijo form, or just to see where it goes, when I write sijo from the very start.

I’ve even started to discover found sijo, like this one from a story last month about the Red Sox and their visit to Tokyo, which I read while I was in Seoul.

Found in the News

I had a peanut butter sandwich
for Easter and something I wasn’t sure
what it was. We’re in a different city,
but it could just as well be San Francisco.
Doesn’t matter. I come to the ballpark,
I wake up, I go to the ballpark.

(Terry Francona, Manager of the Boston Red Sox, in Tokyo. Jungang Daily. March 24, 2008)

Friday, April 25th, 2008

Party at the Tribeca Film Festival!

TCM International Film Guide

Join Wallflower Press and Columbia University Press for a party to celebrate the official North American launch of the TCM International Film Guide 2008 and Film & Festivals magazine during the Tribeca Film Festival on Tuesday, April 29th.

Frances Ford Coppola writes, “[The International Film Guide] remains invaluable as a guide to world cinema,” and Gilles Jacob, president of the Cannes Film Festival calls it, “An indispensable manual for everyone who loves and frequents the gamut of world cinema.”

We will be officially presenting the Film Guide to fans of international cinema as well as all industry delegates and members of the international press attending the festival.

Where: Bar 13 at 35 East 13th Street, Second Floor Lounge and Roof Deck (private entrance on University Place)

When: Tuesday April 29th, 6:00pm-9:00pm. Open bar to 7:30pm.

Drinks and snacks will be on offer and Wallflower’s editorial director, Yoram Allon, will be in attendance to present the publication. We hope you’ll be able to make it along!

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

James Millward on How China Can Improve Its Image Abroad

James Millward; Eurasian Crossroads: A History of XinjiangIn a recent post titled “China’s story: putting the PR into the PRC” on opendemocracy.net, James Millward, author of Eurasian Crossroads: A History of Xinjiang lays out six public relations ideas on how China can repair its image with the outside world:

▪ Remember that what you say to a Chinese audience is heard by the world audience
▪ Consider how your statements sound in English
▪ Don’t employ ancient or strained historical arguments about territorial questions
▪ Do consider more recent and more realistic historical precedents
▪ Don’t deny that China has problems; instead, see how they resemble those of other countries
▪ Let reporters report: transparency engenders credibility

To read the entire post.

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

When Principles Pay: Corporate Social Responsibility and the Bottom Line

Geoffrey Heal, When Principles Pay: Corporate Social Responsibility and the Bottom LineContinuing on our Earth Day theme, today we’d like to draw your attention to the newest book in the Columbia Business School Publishing imprint , Geoffrey Heal’s When Principles Pay: Corporate Social Responsibility and the Bottom Line. Heal argues that socially responsible behavior, such as reducing your environmental impact, can make a company more profitable.

Here are five ways companies profit from socially responsible behavior other than from the PR value:

1. Wall Street punishes socially irresponsible companies by lowering their stock market value.
2. It reduces a firm’s exposure to costly lawsuits.
3. Employees who know about their company’s good deeds are more productive.
4. A proactive stance can preempt intrusive government legislation.
5. Consumers will often pay more for a product they believe will do some social good.

Find out more in this interview with Geoffrey Heal on the Ideas at Work Web site.

You can also read an excerpt from When Principles Pay.

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

Earth Day 2008

Walter Dodds, Humanity's FootprintEarth Day, founded in 1970 to raise awareness about the nation’s environmental concerns, is today, and we’d like to take this opportunity to highlight some of our recent ecology and environmental sciences titles.

American Environmental History: An Introduction by Carolyn Merchant is an illustrated reference that is an essential companion for anyone interested in the ongoing transformation of the American landscape and the conflicts over its resources and conservation. The author provides insight into humanity’s unique relationship with nature as well as the origins of our current environmental crisis. Beginning with the precolonial land-use practice of Native Americans and concluding with our twenty-first century concerns over our global ecological crisis, this book addresses contentious issues such as the preservation of the wilderness, the expulsion of native peoples from national parks, and population growth. The volume also includes a compendium of significant people, concepts, events, agencies, and legislation, and an extensive bibliography of films, books, and Web sites.

In Humanity’s Footprint: Momentum, Impact, and Our Global Environment, Walter Dodds paints a lively but ultimately sobering picture of our environmental predicament. For the first time in history, humans have exceeded the sustaining capacity of Earth’s global ecosystems, and our expanding footprint has tremendous momentum, threatening ecosystems worldwide. The author uses clear, nontechnical terms to explain the root causes and global environmental effects of human behavior and describe trends in population growth, resource use, and global environmental impacts of the past two centuries. His topics include greenhouse effects, ozone depletion, water pollution, and species extinctions and introductions, as well as less familiar developments, such as the spread of antibiotic resistant genes in bacteria and the concentration of pesticides in the Arctic and other remote ecosystems. Dodds calls for a consilient approach to socioenvironmental restoration that draws on new thinking from across disciplines to develop sustainable solutions to global environmental problems. You can also read Walter Dodds previous blog posting here and an excerpt from the chapter, “Searching for Answers: Can We Achieve Sustainability or Are We Screwed.” (pdf)

The Hudson: America’s River by Francis F. Dunwell is a richly illustrated book that tells the history of the “magical alchemy between a river, its people, and the ideas of the times.” Consulting diaries, maps, books, and letters, the author looks at the Hudson through the lenses of the Revolutionary War, the perspective of the Knickerbocker writers and the Hudson River school painters, the “bare-knuckle” era of the robber barons, the industrial age, and the environmental movements launched after the first Earth Day. The history of the Hudson embodies much of what is significant about America-our culture and military, our innovations in manufacturing and transportation, and our artistic, recreational, and environmental heritage. All royalties from the sale of this book will be donated to conservation of the river. Frances Dunwell has also written a post for the CUP blog “The Nature of the Hudson.

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

Tough Liberal: Albert Shanker and the Battles Over Schools, Unions, Race, and Democracy

Richard Kahlenberg, Tough Liberal: Albert Shanker and the Battles Over Schools, Unions, Race, and DemocracyRichard Kahlenberg’s biography of Albert Shanker the former head of the American Federation of Teachers was recently lauded in two different publications. In the New Republic, John Judis cited Tough Liberal: Albert Shanker and the Battles Over Schools, Unions, Race, and Democacray as one of the best books on labor and American School listed it as a top education book from the past year.

For more on Tough Liberal you can read an excerpt from the book, watch a video of Richard Kahlenberg’s talk at the Century Foundation, listen to a podcast interview with Inside Higher Ed., read an interview with the author from the CUP site, or visit www.richardkahlenberg.com.

Monday, April 21st, 2008

The Green Press Initiative

Green Press Initiative

In honor of Earth Day tomorrow, we want to highlight The Green Press Initiative, which is an organization dedicated to helping the book and newspaper industries understand their environmental impact.

Columbia University Press joined the Green Press Initiative in April 2004 and has worked hard since then to reduce our environmental footprint as a book publisher. Some of the steps we have taken in the last few years include:

• We print 85% of all new titles on post-consumer recycled content and 50% of our reprints on PCW stock.

• We are continually working with our printers to commit to supplying us with good recycled stock at a comparable price to non-recycled stock.

As a result of using PCR paper in the period from July 2006 to July 2007 we saved 2,200 trees, 926,794 gallons of water, and 380,042 kilowatt hours of electricity. We also did not create 102,981 pounds of solid waste and 201,772 pounds of greenhouse gases. This more than doubles the reduction we made in the comparable time frame from 2005-2006.

Other ways in which we have reduced our environmental impact outside of the printing process include:

• We e-mail cover art for approval to our authors instead of printing and shipping it.

• Internally we have created a remote access cover blog that allows staff to view and comment on cover art without having to print out and distribute multiple copies of the document.

• We provide authors with the option to receive pages via e-mail as pdfs. This allows authors to see and comment on the copyediting of their works without creating gas emissions in the shipment of the same documents.

Columbia University Press remains committed to improving on the great start we’ve already made in reducing the environmental impact of our publishing activities.

Monday, April 21st, 2008

Review of Betrayal from the Los Angeles Times

Houston Baker, Betrayal: How Black Intellectuals Have Abandoned the Ideals of the Civil Rights EraFriday’s Los Angeles Times had a review of Houston Baker’s Betrayal: How Black Intellectuals Have Abandoned the Ideals of the Civil Rights Era.

The review offers a very good summary of Baker’s argument and his critiques of prominent Black intellectuals:

In his new book, “Betrayal,” the Vanderbilt University professor and civil rights veteran blasts what he sees as the tragically wrong turn that black intellectuals, both conservative and liberal, have taken since the ’60s by confusing prominence with leadership and their own inclusion in the white mainstream with justice. Such luminaries as Shelby Steele, John McWhorter, Stephen Carter and Henry Louis Gates Jr., through their relentless self-promotion and soft-pedaling or eliding of uncomfortable racial facts, have encouraged the confusion. More damning in Baker’s eyes, these figures have collectively and sometimes consciously betrayed the ideals of black advocacy practiced most diligently by King and, to a lesser extent, the proponents of black power. Baker believes that far from being antithetical (one of many racial myths he seeks to unravel in “Betrayal”), the movements drew on the same philosophy of black-first empowerment and together formed a crucial blueprint for progress.

Friday, April 18th, 2008

Fear of Freedom by Carlo Levi: An Event at the Italian Academy

Carlo Levi, Fear of FreedomWhile in exile during the Second World War, Carlo Levi, the famous painter, writer, and antifascist Italian from a Jewish family wrote the canonical essay “Of Fear and Freedom,” which was later published by Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux and in the intervening years went out of print. The essay, deeply embedded in the moment in history in which it was written, reflects on the moral and spiritual decline of man which results in a loss of creativity, identity, and the political self.

Now, we’ve has reissued this classical work, along with the first English translation of Levi’s essay, “Fear of Painting”, and never before seen pieces of Levi’s artwork. With an introduction by Stanislao G. Pugliese that discusses the relevance of Levi’s work in contemporary times, the new edition titled, Fear of Freedom: With the Essay “Fear of Painting” is a must-have work. (You can also read an excerpt from the book.)

Come join us for a launch party on April 21st at 5:30 pm at Columbia University’s Italian Academy celebrating the new edition of this great work. The event is free and open to the public, please rsvp to wb2149@columbia.edu. Editor Stanislao G. Pugliese will launch the book with a round-table discussion featuring Peter Caravetta (Stony Brook) and Alexander Stille (Columbia).

Friday, April 18th, 2008

A Response to Stephen Burt’s “Against Argument” from The Valve

John Holbo of the always rewarding and interesting literary criticism site, The Valve has written on Stephen Burt’s post “Against Argument”.

Friday, April 18th, 2008

Review of One Hundred Poets, One Poem Each

Peter McMillan, One Hundred Poets, One Poem Each: A Translation of the Ogura Hyakunin IsshuComplete Review has a review of One Hundred Poems, One Poems Each: A Translation of the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu translated by Peter McMillan and with a foreword by Donald Keene.

The reviewer writes, “McMillan has none a nice job here. By not forcing the English to mirror the syllable- (or even line-) count he’s able to effectively capture and convey the ‘feel’ of many of the originals effectively, and the vast majority of the hundred poems do read very well.”

Also of interest: Donald Richie’s review in the Japan Times

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

Against Argument: A Posting from Stephen Burt

Stephen Burt, Columbia University PressStephen Burt teaches in the English Department at Harvard University. He is most recently the author of The Forms of Youth: Twentieth-Century Poetry and Adolescence and is the author of three books of poems, including Parallel Play. Recent articles by Burt have appeared in the Times Literary Supplement and the London Review of Books. Some of his newest poems can be found at Diagram and reactions to new poetry in Drunken Boat.

The academy thrives on argument, at least in the traditional humanities: arguments get us noticed. Travel guides and scientific discoveries may both sell books, but to get attention within the realms of the arts and the humanities now, one almost has to make an extended argument: to take issue with some dominant view, to explain why what we already knew was wrong, or (especially in literary studies) to demonstrate some big connection between features within some literature, and features of history or (more rarely) philosophy or natural science outside it.

There’s nothing wrong with making extended arguments, of course, and I spend much of my time (at least during the school year) teaching our students how to do just that. Yet our sustained interest in arguments might be making us keep at arm’s length, or under a cloud, the reasons why we care for the arts at all, the smaller-scale features that distinguish works of art from one another, the features which help us explain (if it can be explained—can it?) why we care for this one, not that one.

Perhaps ten years ago I heard David Bromwich, himself known for tenacious arguments (there’s a fine one in the current London Review of Books), asked to discuss the place of arguments in the academy; he said, if I remember rightly, that we now overestimate the relative value of argument, and underestimate the act of description. Some of us write books and essays in order to make arguments, to demonstrate causal or logical connections; others are happy to pursue such connections, but want primarily to describe: the causes and correlations that interest us most lie not between phenomena outside literature and phenomena inside it, but between the words and lines in a poem, or the shapes on a page. (more…)

Thursday, April 17th, 2008

Review of Betrayal

Houston Baker, Betrayal: How Black Intellectuals Have Abandoned the Ideals of the Civil Rights MovementThe blog Prometheus 6 has posted an interesting review of Houston Baker’s Betrayal: How Black Intellectuals Have Abandoned the Ideals of the Civil Rights Era.

There is also a video available of Houston Baker participating on a special panel with Richard King, Bob Moses and Ruth Turner Perot to examine Robert Penn Warren’s 1965 book Who Speaks for the Negro? as part of Vanderbilt University’s commemoration of the 40th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s death.

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008

CIAO: Expert Analysis on Tibet

Columbia International Affairs Online, TibetDuring the month of April, Columbia University Press’s premier online database of international affairs, Columbia International Affairs Online (CIAO), opens its front page with an in-depth analysis of the anti-Chinese uprising in Tibet for free viewing to the public.

In the past month, Tibet has been in the front-page news in print and online as a wave of violence swept over its capital, Lhasa. The recent confrontations between Buddhist monks and the Chinese authorities are the most serious that Beijing is facing since the late 1980s and have already claimed dozens of lives. As the Dalai Lama actively seeks help from the United States, the ruling Communist party faces a major challenge of counteracting the negative publicity on the eve of the Olympic Games. (For more postings on Tibet from the CUP blog.)

CIAO offers everything from working papers, journal articles, course packs, and full text books to put all the tools of theory and research a scholar or journalist needs to understand a subject in one convenient site.

The front page on Tibet is only the tip of the iceberg. To dip into the full wealth of resources that CIAO offers, one must be a subscriber. Ask your librarian today if they subscribe!

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

The Nature of the Hudson: A Posting from Frances Dunwell

Frances Dunwell, The Hudson America's RiverIn spring, I am often reminded of the feminine nature of the Hudson. It is now, when the shad, herring, striped bass and sturgeon ascend the river to spawn that we witness how potently creative she is. Maternal and nourishing, the estuary is her womb, where new life springs forth in predictable cycles of birth and rebirth. Yet the river’s womanly disposition is always on display for those to take the time to look. Throughout the changing seasons she labors, she nourishes, she vents her rage. She is cunning, temperamental, and wise.

Our relationship to her is complex. She is a queen, a dress-up doll, a benevolent grandmother, and an abused and neglected wife. She is Ursula the sea witch, Aphrodite the love deity, and Scylla the siren. She carries a magic wand, casting spells. Men are courting her at every turn, performing feats of daring, dreaming of conquest, or engaging her in tender conversation. Women venture off with her on high adventures or protect her in a caring embrace. She is part goddess, part tramp. Adorned with pearls, wearing bangles and bracelets—the hand-me-downs of past lovers we find her beguiling, resplendent, flirtatious, and mysterious.

The river’s personality, energy, and resplendent beauty exert a kind of magnetism. She invites intimacy, nourishes ambition, induces thoughtful reverie, and forces contentious debate. The river nurtures those who are attuned to her voice, inspiring visions, passion and extraordinary acts.
Creative people speak back to the river, casting the relationship in their own terms. National leaders from many fields have found their muse on the Hudson, and their imagining sets America’s future on a different course. (more…)

Tuesday, April 15th, 2008

Monday, April 14th, 2008

White Sale

Columbia University Press White Sale

Take advantage of great savings during our White Sale. Save 20-80% off selected titles in all subjects.Choose from titles in:

Friday, April 11th, 2008


Edward Barnard, New York City Trees: A Field Guide for the Metropolitan Area24,132—that’s how many trees there are in Central Park according to a recent article in the New York Times. Employing GPS technology a company recently hired by the Central Park Conservancy surveyed the trees of Central Park.

For those interested in learning more about those 24,132 trees plus the 2,000 saplings budding in the Park, Edward Barnard’s New York City Trees: A Field Guide for the Metropolitan Area will allow you to identify and learn more about the various species and their natural history in the City. Barnard also suggests walks and the best places to see trees in all five boroughs. Where to find a Cedar of Lebanon? Travel to the 72nd Street entrance of Central Park or visit the south edge of the archery range in Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx. Interested in an Austrian Pine? Get over to Wave Hill in Riverdale or the corner of Shore Parkway and 96th Street in Queens.

Aside from New York City Trees, other books that will help you appreciate the natural offerings in this most urban of areas include Riverside Park: The Splendid Sliver by Edward Grimm and The Hudson: America’s River by Frances Dunwell.

It’s Spring! (kind of) so brush up on your knowledge of NYC greenery and head on out.