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Archive for October, 2008

Friday, October 31st, 2008

Paul Offit on the Today Show

Yesterday, Paul Offit appeared on the Today Show to talk about Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure.

Friday, October 31st, 2008

Halloween Reading and Horror Films

For some readers what might be most scary about university press books is the sometimes seemingly inscrutable writing of the authors. However, here at Columbia University Press we have a few legitimate books that make for perfect Halloween reading.

First off is Ueda Akinari’s Tales of Moonlight and Rain, a collection of Japan’s finest and most celebrated examples of literature and the occult which was first published in 1776. The tales subtly merge the world of reason with the realm of the uncanny and exemplify the period’s fascination with the strange and the grotesque. The tales were also the inspiration for Mizoguchi Kenji’s brilliant 1953 film Ugetsu. In writing about this edition of the book, Japan’s English newspaper, the Daily Yomiuri writes, “Japan scholars and people who just like weird, spooky stuff should enjoy this new edition of Akinari’s classic.”

For those interested in horror films, there are several books that look at the genre, including: Shocking Representation, Historical Trauma, National Cinema and the Modern Horror Film, by Adam Lowenstein;  The Horror Genre: From Beelzebub to Blair Witch, by Paul Wells; The American Horror Film: An Introduction, by Reynold Humphries; The Cinema of John Carpenter: The Technique of Terror, edited by Ian Conrich and David Woods; The Cinema of George A. Romero: Knight of the Living Dead, by Tony Williams; and Deleuze and Horror Film by Anna Powell.

And just for fun and to give you a taste of the atmosphere in Tales of Moonlight and Rain, here is the Japanese trailer for the film Ugetsu:

Friday, October 31st, 2008

The New York Times Asks You to Test Your New York Trivia Knowledge

The Almanac of New York CitySince the New York Times‘s  City Room blog has devoted a post to The Almanac of New York City, edited by Kenneth T. Jackson and Fred Kameny, we’ll wait until next week to post some more facts and figures. (You can view earlier posts about the book here, here, and here.)

The New York Times calls the book, “[A] compendium of fascinating facts and statistics that is a must-have for New Yorkers who think they know their city well.”

The Times also offers a quiz based on facts from the book and if you are really keen on testing your NYC knowledge, you can also take our quiz.

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

Interviewing Cixous

Helene Cixous

The recently published White Ink: Interviews on Sex, Text, and Politics includes a variety of interviews with Hélène Cixous, providing rich, new perspectives on her work and her influential ideas. The book also includes dialogues with Derrida and Foucault.

Interview topics include: feminine writing, writing and politics, race, autobiography, and painting, music, and poetic memory.

You can also watch a video of a Cixous interview (see below). (For us non-Francophones, don’t worry, the interview is in English.) In the interview Cixous discusses how the concept of intellectual has been masculinized, the idea of universalism, and more.

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

New York City Crime and Punishment

Continuing our look at New York City via The Almanac of New York City, edited by Kenneth T. Jackson and Fred Kameny, here are some facts and figures relating to crime and punishment in New York City.

(And don’t forget you can save 30% on The Almanac of New York City. Click here for more information about our special sale on New York City titles.)

As has been widely reported New York City is a far safer place than it was in the recent past. Here’s how 1990 crime statistics compare to those of 2006. These figures reflect the number of crimes reported:

Murder: 2,262 (1990) vs. 597 (2006)
Rape: 3,162 (1990) vs. 1,500 (2006)
Robbery: 100,280 (1990) vs. 23,559(2006)
Grand larceny auto: 146,925 (1990) vs. 15,370 (2006)

How does New York City compare to the rest of the country? Looking at statistics from 2005, violent crimes are higher in New York City than the rest of the United States. There are 673.1 violent crimes per 100,000 people in New York City as compared to 469.2 for the United States. However, reports of rape are lower in NYC (17.4) vs 31.7 for the rest of the nation. Property crime is also less of a problem in New York with 2,002.4 reports per 100,000 people in New York City as compared to 3,429.8 in the United States.

In terms of punishment, from 2003 to 2006 the average daily inmate population dropped from 14,533 to 13,497 while the average length of stay in days for sentenced inmates also dropped from 40.7 days to 30.7 days.

While there are no longer any executions in New York City for criminal activity from 1639 to 1890 96 people were executed for murder. Other offenses that led to the death penalty included: Robbery (31 executions), Conspiracy and sedition (30), Piracy (15), Highway Robbery (8), Horse stealing (5), Buggery (1), Slave Revolt (1)

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

Eastern European Literature

The Columbia Literary History of Eastern Europe Literature Since 1945It is not very often that international literature is covered in the seemingly ever-shrinking space allowed for book reviews in newspapers, so it was especially nice to see Carlin Romano’s review of Harold Segel’s The Columbia Literary History of Eastern Europe since 1945 in Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer.

While there has undoubtedly been a lot of interest in Czech literature thanks to the recent brouhaha about Milan Kundera’s alleged activities as an informant, too much of the literature from this part of the world has been ignored by U.S. readers. Here’s what Romano had to say about the book:

[The Columbia Literary History of Eastern European Literature] is a one-man show, the magisterial synthesis of a Columbia University professor emeritus of Slavic literatures whose 14 books display the same synoptic touch shown here…. If you have a taste for serious European writing, you’ll find yourself constantly marking Segel’s brisk accounts of scores of remarkable books and writers—many accompanied by sharp commentary and contextualization—so you can hunt them down in translations.”

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

Real Estate — More from The Almanac of New York City

Whether it is during financial crises or periods of economic prosperity, real estate is frequently on the minds of New Yorkers.

According to The Almanac of New York City, New York City has the most expensive average rents in the world, followed by London, Chicago, Frankfurt, and Geneva. Here are some other stats to chew on particularly those considering a move to or from New York City:

* In 1997 the average sale price for a 2-bedroom apartment in Manhattan was $488,246 by 2006 it had shot up to $1,571,807

* If you are looking for a 2-bedroom apartment to rent, Chelsea has the most expensive average monthly rent of $4,638 (based on 2005 figures), followed by Murray Hill ($4,267), Soho Tribeca ($4,165), Battery Park City/Financial District ($3,786), and Midtown East ($3,759)

* The highest sale price for a residential property in 2006 was $53.0 million for what must be a modest abode at 4 East 75th Street.

* Residents looking to buy their homes or apartments have found Staten Island to be most hospitable. Staten Island has an ownership rate of 67.7%. Rates for other boroughs include Queens (46.4%), Brooklyn (29.2%), Manhattan (23.6%), and the Bronx (22.1%)

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

Autism’s False Prophets in Newsweek

Autism's False ProphetsNewsweek recently published “Stomping Through a Medical Minefield,” which focuses on Paul Offit and his recent book, Autism’s False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure.

The article discusses the book as well as how Offit has often found himself at the center of the vaccine-autism controversy. Newsweek has also posted a video interview with Paul Offit along with a video of Kristina Chew, a parent of a child with autism and the author of the very good blog Autism Vox. Kristina Chew talks about her own initial concerns that vaccines might have caused her son’s autism but after doing reading and research concluded that genetics was the cause.

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

The Almanac of New York City

Almanac of New York CityOver the next few days we will be posting some interesting facts and figures (see below) about our fair city that can be found in the recently published The Almanac of New York City, edited by Kenneth T. Jackson and Fred Kameny.

You can also test your knowledge of the city by taking this quiz.

While Italian, Irish, and Russian continue to be the most common ancestry of New Yorkers, the following is a list of the fastest-growing ancestries. It measures percent change from 1990 to 2000:

1. Albanian (266.7 percent change)

2. Sub-Saharan African (263.4%)

3. Nigerian (137.7%)

4. Ukrainian (94.2%)

5. Trinidadian and Tobagonian (94.2%)

And what are the most widely spoken languages in New York City besides English ?


Monday, October 27th, 2008

Interview with Laurent Cohen-Tanugi

The Shape of the World to Come, by Laurent Cohen-TanugiAs part of his recent visit to the United States, which included talks on the West Coast, and in Chicago, and New York City, Laurent Cohen-Tanugi, author of The Shape of the World to Come: Charting the Geopolitics of a New Century, was interviewed for Conversations with History at the University of California at Berkeley.

You can watch a video of the interview here.

In the interview Laurent Cohen-Tanugi discusses globalization and its impact on the geopolitics of the twenty-first century. Because of the interface between globalization and geopolitics, Cohen-Tanugi argues that there is a resurgence of the global struggle for power not its demise. In the conversation, Cohen-Tanugi reflects on the relative decline of the West, the failure to integrate the Islamic world, and the emergence of new centers of power such as China and India. He also analyzes the major challenges to global order and stability in the new century.

Friday, October 24th, 2008


The New York Public Library’s exhibition, Yaddo: Making American Culture opens today at the main branch at 42nd and Fifth Avenue. There is also a review of the exhibition in today’s New York Times. For those of us who cannot make it to the exhibition, we’ve just published the accompanying book for the exhibit, edited by Micki McGee.

Residents of Yaddo, included a wide range of twentieth-century writers, artists, composers, and intellectuals: Hannah Arendt, James Baldwin, Saul Bellow, Leonard Bernstein, Truman Capote, John Cheever, William Gass, Philip Guston, Langston Hughes,  Denise Levertov, Sylvia Plath, Henry Roth, Clyfford Still, and William Carlos Williams.

The book is chock-full of reproduced letters, papers, art, and ephemera produced by the residents of the artists’ colony and its administrators. The book showcases the spirit of creativity that infuses Yaddo, its lush surroundings, and opulent trapping. Famous romances also blossomed at Yaddo — Newton Arvin and Truman Capote, and Henry Roth and Muriel Parker — while John Cheever’s romances at Yaddo seemed to be of the shorter, one-night variety.

The book also highlights some of the controversies that have dotted its history. Most prominently, the chapter, “The Longest Stay,” focuses on Robert Lowell’s efforts to rid Yaddo of those he suspected of being communist party members and in the case of Agnes Smedley, a communist spy.

Below are some images from the book:

Yahoo Building


William Gass as painted by Philip Guston

William Gass as Painted by Philip Guston

Truman Capote

Truman Capote at Yaddo

Robert Lowell's Letter

Robert Lowell’s letter about suspected Communists at Yaddo

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

Op-Ed Art from the New York Times

Jerelle Kraus, the former art director at the New York Times, and author of the just published All the Art That’s Fit to Print (And Some that Wasn’t): Inside The New York Times Op-Ed Page, reveals the true story of the world’s first Op-Ed page. Not only did the New York Times‘s nonstaff bylines shatter tradition, but the pictures were revolutionary. Unlike anything ever seen in a newspaper, Op-Ed art became a globally influential idiom that reached beyond narrative for metaphor and changed illustration’s very purpose and potential.

As we mentioned, the book is now available and for more information including a gallery of many of the images found in the book you can visit jerellekraus.com.

Here are some sample images from the book:


Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

Frederick Douglass Opie Discusses Soul Food on NPR

Frederick Douglass OpieIs soul food healthy? What was the connection between soul food and the Black Power movement of the 1960s? How did European exploration affect West African food?

These are just some of the questions that Frederick Douglass Opie, author of Hog and Hominy: Soul Food from Africa to America, discussed in his interview on NPR yesterday.

For more on the book you can also read an excerpt from the chapter, “The Chitlin’ Circuit: The Origins and Meanings of Soul and Soul Food.

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

Hard-Boiled Sentimentality in the Los Angeles Times

But what if that standard [of the hard-boiled narrative] had less to do with Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe than with Ellen Montgomery, the naive young heroine of Susan Warner’s 1850 bestseller “The Wide, Wide World”? What if the walk down mean streets was less about an alienated lone wolf and more about the search for home and domesticity?

Leonard CassutoSarah Weinman asks this question in her Los Angeles Times review of Leonard Cassuto’s just published Hard-Boiled Sentimentality: The Secret History of American Crime Stories.

Weinman praises Cassuto’s ability to show the surprising connections between hard-boiled works by authors such as Dashiell Hammett, Ross Macdonald, and Robert B. Parker and the sentimental novels of the nineteenth century.

You can also read more at Sarah Weinman’s blog and you can read Leonard Cassuto’s post Rooting for Serial Killers: The Strange Case of Dexter.

Monday, October 20th, 2008

Don Hollenbeck: A Pioneer in Media Criticism

Don HollenbeckOver the weekend, the New York Times ran an article about Don Hollenbeck and Loren Ghiglione’s new biography, CBS’s Don Hollenbeck: An Honest Reporter in the Age of McCarthyism.

The book and the article come on the heels of the fiftieth anniversary of Edward Murrow’s famous speech to the Radio-Television News Directors Association in which he called upon the news media to be more critical of itself. Don Hollenbeck, working for Murrow’s CBS news division before his suicide, was one of the only news critics at the time. His program, “CBS Views the Press,” which ran for four years offered trenchant critiques of media bias often earning him the enmity of advertisers and fellow journalists, particularly those on the right.

In the NYT article, Loren Ghiglione claims that Murrow “knew that Hollenbeck would say what had to be said about those newspapers, and his own fate be damned.”

Friday, October 17th, 2008

The Authors of Gastropolis Answer Your Questions

As we mentioned earlier this week, Annie Hauck-Lawson and Jonathan Deutsch, authors of Gastropolis: Food and New York City, have been fielding questions from readers of the New York Times City Room blog.

Yesterday was the second round and they provided answers to questions such as: “Will the oyster makes a comeback?” “Will New York City bagels go extinct?” and “What makes New York City pizza unique?”

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

Rooting for Serial Killers: The Strange Case of Dexter


The following post is by Leonard Cassuto, professor of English at Fordham University and author of the recently published Hard-Boiled Sentimentality: The Secret History of American Crime Stories:

The last chapter of my book, Hard-Boiled Sentimentality: The Secret History of American Crime Stories, is about serial killers.  In a footnote toward the end,  I mention that there’s one place that serial killer novelists won’t go, and that’s the torture of children.

Real-life serial killers don’t adhere to the conventions of fiction, of course, and some of them do target kids.  (John Wayne Gacy, the Chicago sex-murderer of more than thirty young men and boys, is a famous example.)  I read some first-person accounts of child murder by serial killers while I was researching Hard-Boiled Sentimentality, and even though I encountered them mostly in abbreviated form, I found them absolutely unbearable, as painful as anything I’ve ever read.

Which brings me to Dexter, the most interesting serial killer story to come out in years.  Now a popular Showtime television series beginning its third season, Dexter is based on characters devised by novelist Jeff Lindsay, whose first book, Darkly Dreaming Dexter (2004), provides the trunkline plot for the first season of the show.

The serial killer story formula is mostly pretty tired and played-out these days.  New entries occupy themselves mostly with imagining increasingly extravagant indiginities to visit upon the human body.  Not Dexter.


Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

Reflections on Amazon’s Kindle

Carolyn Kellog’s Los Angeles Times‘ blog Jacket Copy features a post about Ted Striphas and his take on Amazon’s Kindle. Striphas is an assistant professor at Indiana University and the author of the forthcoming book The Late Age of Print: Everyday Book Culture From Consumerism to Control. The book is due out this Srpring, so we don’t have the book’s Web page up yet but for now you can find out more about his work and the book at his very good blog Differences and Repetitions.

In the Los Angeles Times post, Kellog discusses Striphas’s book and his paper, “Kindle: The New Book Mobile or the Labor of Reading in an Age of Ubiquitous Bookselling.” (You can read a very rough draft of the paper here.) One of the issues Striphas considers in the paper is how the debate about the extent to which the Kindle reproduces the experience of reading neglects other issues. Striphas writes:

A fixation on Kindle’s paradoxically imitative qualities deflects attention from the ways in which Amazon aspires to transform the act of reading itself into an economically lucrative, value-generating activity.

As Striphas suggests the Kindle’s two-way connection to Amazon gives the company the unprecedented opportunity to measure the nitty-gritty details of how and what we read.

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

Save on Titles in Paleontology and Evolution Titles

Sale on Titles in Paleontology and EvolutionIn conjunction with the annual meeting for the Society for Vertebrae Paleontology, which begins today, we are offering a SPECIAL SALE on selected titles in paleontology and evolution. All books will be discounted 20% and free shipping is available for customers in the lower 48 states. Sale lasts until December 1.

Titles range from  bestselling titles such as Donald Prothero’s Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters and Edmond Mathez’s  The Earth Machine: The Science of a Dynamic Planet to books aimed at experts and novices alike including Dogs: Their Fossil Relatives and Evolutionary History by Xiaoming Wang and Richard H. Tedford.

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

Gastropolis: Food and New York City

Gastropolis: Food and New York CityAre you interested in the origins and story behind egg creams, bagels, and the distinctive New York City coffee cup? (Who isn’t!?) If so, head over to the New York Times blog the City Room where Anne Hauck-Lawson and Jonathan Deutsch, editors of the soon-to-be released Gastropolis: Food and New York City will be fielding questions this week.

The questions are already flooding in and the authors will be answering them beginning on Wednesday. We’ll post again when the answers go up but in the meantime here is a sampling of some of the questions being asked:

“The blue & white coffee cup with greek art / architectural designs is typical to NY. But how did it start?”

“How did ‘coffee regular’ come to mean coffee with cream and sugar in New York?”

“What has happened to bagels? When I grew up in NYC, they were much smaller and had a firm chewy texture and good flavor.”

“How did New York become so famous for the wonderful drink known as the ‘egg cream’? And why are there no eggs in it?”

“Can you kindly tell us about the different versions of the Ruben, and what is contents should be?”

“What defines New York pizza?”

“When did sushi catch on in New York and what were the forces behind its popularization?”