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Archive for July, 2011

Friday, July 29th, 2011

Anat Pick on the BBC’s The Big Questions

The following is a panel discussion on animal rights that appeared on the BBC which included Anat Pick, author of Creaturely Poetics: Animality and Vulnerability in Literature and Film:

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

Mari Ruti asks Why Fall in Love?

The Summons of LoveMari Ruti, author of The Summons of Love, also writes a blog for Psychology Today called The Juicy Bits: Love, lust, and the luster of life, recently wrote a post exploring the reasons why it is important to fall in love.

For Ruti, love “ushers us to frequencies of human life that we might find difficult to access otherwise,” and allows us a break from the pragmatic preoccupations that dominate our everyday life. Drawing on the ideas of Julia Kristeva and Alain Badiou, Ruti writes that love, “adds a layer of luster to our mundane existence, making us feel empowered and self-connected even as it ‘decenters’ us from our customary concerns.”

In considering the potential for disappointment and disillusion that comes with love or love’s failure, Ruti writes:

The problem, of course, is that we can’t access the depths of love without opening ourselves to its risks – that the price of allowing ourselves to experience love’s mystery is utter vulnerability. This is why it’s easy to refuse love’s summons, to decline its invitation to self-transformation. And those who have already been burned by love may find this invitation even more challenging. This is why I have been arguing that it might help to stop thinking about love’s disenchantments as the antithesis of love and see them, instead, as an essential part of love’s trajectory. It might help to conceive of romantic failures as love’s way of teaching us the kinds of lessons we might never otherwise learn. When it comes to love, our so-called failures are often (not always, but often) merely new opportunities for growth, new opportunities for singularizing our character. Those who understand this are more likely to welcome love’s summons because they know that the happily-ever-after is only one aspect of love – that to love is, among other things, to accept the possibility of disappointment.

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

Brent Stockwell on the Future of Medicine

“Over the last 15 years, the annual number of approved new drugs has been declining dramatically. Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical industry, as well as academic and government researchers, have dramatically increased the amount of money spent on drug discovery and development. Why is the large increase in funding not translating into new medicines?”—Brent Stockwell

In an essay for Rorotoko, Brent Stockwell, author of The Quest for the Cure: The Science and Stories Behind the Next Generation of Medicines, examines the challenges confronting scientists and pharmaceutical companies. Stockwell explains, “Drugs function by interacting with, i.e. attaching to, specific proteins within the body, which are called ‘drug targets.’ However, only 2% of the proteins found in humans have been targeted with drugs.” He continues, “The majority of proteins are considered undruggable. These proteins control nearly every disease process, from many types of cancer to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Lou Gehrig’s, to many other diseases.”

In an effort to spur the development of new medicines the Obama administration has created a new center within the National Institutes of Health. While this is encouraging and will help bridge the gap between expensive research and commercial use, Stockwell warns that there are challenges:

But there is a more significant challenge to discovering new medicines than simply bringing basic discoveries to market. So if the new NIH center were to focus on a simple catalyst role, it would represent a lost opportunity.

The more fundamental challenge to discovering new drugs involves the basic science issue of protein druggability. It is this that could have a far more significant impact on the number and type of future medicines.

It is possible that new technologies and approaches could solve the challenging problem of protein druggability. However, if we abandon the undruggable proteins, we abandon the hope for truly transformative medicines. We must be able to translate the vastly detailed molecular networks emerging from basic science studies into therapeutics.

Currently, many of the root causes of diseases are considered undruggable and cannot be addressed directly with medicines. If we could solve the mystery of protein druggability, we could open up a vast number of possibilities for new medicines, and ultimately end the drug discovery crisis.

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011

New Book Tuesday: Gertrude Stein & The Vichy Government

Gertrude SteinUnlikely Collaboration: Gertrude Stein, Bernard Faÿ, and the Vichy Dilemma
Barbara Will

Sufi Bodies: Religion and Society in Medieval Islam
Shahzad Bashir

Sibling Relationships in Childhood and Adolescence: Predictors and Outcomes
Avidan Milevsky

Meillassoux: Philosophy in the Making
Graham Harman

Monday, July 25th, 2011

Publishers Weekly Reviews “Unlikely Collaboration: Gertrude Stein, Bernard Fay, and the Vichy Dilemma”

Gertrude SteinGertrude Stein has been making a comeback of sorts. She appears in Woody Allen’s new movie Midnight in Paris has spurred sales of her books. Her children’s book To Do: A Book of Alphabets and Birthdays was also recently published.

Offering a different and more complicated picture of Stein emerges in the forthcoming Unlikely Collaboration: Gertrude Stein, Bernard Fay, and the Vichy Dilemma, by Barbara Will. In the book, Will describes Stein’s life under Vichy rule in France during World War II, which included her role as a translator of Pétain’s speeches into English, including those outlining the Vichy policy barring Jews and other “foreign elements” from the public sphere while calling for France to reconcile with Nazi occupiers.

The book was recently reviewed in Publishers Weekly:

What was Gertrude Stein, that inimitable Jewish-American doyenne of experimental writing, doing translating for American audiences the speeches of Marshal Philippe Pétain, the head of the WWII collaborationist Vichy regime? In this brilliant and fascinating study, Stein specialist Will (Gertrude Stein, Modernism, and the Problem of “Genius”) answers this question through a close reading of Stein’s writings, a detailed examination of Stein’s and Bernard Faÿ’s attraction to Pétain’s conservative politics, and Stein’s friendship with Faÿ, a Frenchman who moved in both artistic and far right-wing circles and collaborated with the Nazis. Will demonstrates that the pair were reactionary modernists who believed that the democratic ideas of the French Revolution ushered in the decadence characteristic of the early 20th-century French Republic and that the U.S. was going through a similar decline. Pétain captured the pair’s imagination and allegiance by articulating a program for returning France to the vitality and pioneering spirit of its pre-Enlightenment agrarian roots. Will shows that Stein never publicly affiliated herself as a Jew, especially after she moved to Paris in 1903. This exceptional study provides new insights into previously hidden corners of Stein’s life.

Friday, July 22nd, 2011

The Summons of Love

Mari RutiWe end this week by looking at love. Specifically, Mari Ruti’s new book The Summons of Love.

In the book, Ruti portrays love as a much more complex, multifaceted phenomenon than we tend to appreciate—an experience that helps us encounter the depths of human existence. Love’s ruptures are as important as its triumphs, and sometimes love succeeds because it fails. At the heart of Ruti’s argument is a meditation on interpersonal ethics that acknowledges the inherent opacity of human interiority and the difficulty of taking responsibility for what we cannot fully understand.

Below are some excerpts from the introduction of the book. You can also follow Mari Ruti’s blog on Psychology Today, The Juicy Bits: Love, lust, and the luster of life or follow her on twitter:

Romantic love summons us to become more interesting versions of ourselves. It speaks to those dimensions of our being that reach for enchantment—that chafe against the mundane edges of everyday existence. If much of life entails a gradual process of coming to terms with the limitations imposed on us by our mortality (by the tragically fleeting character of human experience), love boldly pursues the immortal. This does not mean that it grants us everlasting life. It cannot, unfortunately, rescue us from the relentless march of the clock. But to the extent that it rebels against the undertow of everything that is trite or prosaic about the world, it touches the transcendent; it ensures that we do not completely lose contact with the loftier layers of life….

Traditionally, the sublime has been envisioned as what inspires awe while resisting our ability to fully fathom its scope or power. The most common examples of the sublime—stormy oceans, rugged mountains, immeasurable deserts, starry skies, the darkness of night, absolute solitude, or some misfortune of soul-shattering magnitude—possess an enormity, force, or mysterious depth that escapes human control. We can neither tame them nor capture them within the folds of our imagination. Yet the very fact that we feel inadequate in the face of the sublime induces us to stretch our minds so that we can at least draw closer to what eludes us; it invites us to activate a greater range of our conceptual capacities so that we come to fill up more of the space between ourselves and what we cannot attain. This is why the sublime stirs us: it speaks the language of the immortal giant within us.

(more…)

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

Recommendations for Digital Journalism from “The Story So Far”

Digital JournalismEarlier this week we posted an interview with Bill Grueskin and Lucas Graves about their book, co-authored with Ana Seave, The Story So Far: What We Know About the Business of Digital Journalism. The book examines the practices of news organizations as they grapple with the changes to business models brought about by the advent of digital journalism.

One of the key adjustments news organizations must make in terms of making digital journalism viable from a business standpoint is to embrace the unique attributes of the Internet rather than trying to adapt Web offerings to legacy business models. Below is a list of other recommendations the report makes:

* Digital platforms should not simply repurpose existing news content. They should feature unique, high-value content designed specifically for digital media.

* Media companies should redefine the relationship between audience and advertising. Journalists must better understand their existing and potential audiences, and strive to ensure deeper loyalties.

* Media companies ought to rethink their relationships with advertisers and gain a fuller appreciation for how advertisers now reach their customers via social media, new-media ads and search engine optimization.

* News and marketing companies should move beyond the impression-based pricing systems that dominate online advertising, and forge new models that integrate digital ads and social-media outreach.

* Media companies must restore content value to digital advertising and move beyond the decades-old relics that convey little information or appeal to consumers.

* News organizations must balance vigilance about content theft with the realization that most aggregators operate within the bounds of copyright law. They should accept the fact that this generates value for readers, and develop thoughtful approaches to understanding what topics best lend themselves to aggregation.

* Integration of a legacy division—news content or ad sales—with new media is not for everyone. Larger enterprises should consider creating separate digital staffs, particularly on the business side.

* Any news site that adopts a pay scheme now should have very limited expectations for its success—at least on the Web. Requiring digital readers to pay may help to slow circulation losses, but that is hardly a long-term solution. A pay plan merged with an ambitious strategy to improve users’ experience on mobile platforms has a much better chance to succeed.

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

Keith Roberts Offers an Investment Strategy Based on Ancient History

The Origins of Business, Money, and MarketsWhat had a greater impact on business, the Iron Age or the invention of coinage? What might these developments tell us about more recent historical changes such as globalization or the computer revolution? These are the issues that Keith Roberts, author of The Origins of Business, Money, and Markets, explores in a recent op-ed in Forbes.

Roberts argues that an understanding of Ancient History gives us a better understanding of the impact of change over time and its effect of business and economies. While the political importance of the Iron Age cannot be denied, Roberts suggests that its impact on business, despite its ability to create wealth, was limited.

Roberts compares this with the invention of coinage in Ancient Greece during the late seventh century. Roberts writes:

As sales for money replaced barter, economic exchange became faster and more frequent. Monetary prices improved information about values and supply and demand, reducing risks for traders and vendors. Their wares then became more available, stimulating consumer demand. An entrepreneurial market economy became a defining feature of Greek urban life. Later, the conquests of Alexander the Great and the Romans brought market economies to towns and cities throughout the western world.

The difference between the impact on business of the Iron Age and of coinage cautions us to ignore the “shock and awe” of change as a general proposition and focus on the practical details of exactly how a change works in reality.

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

Interview with Anat Pick, author of Creaturely Poetics

Creaturely PoeticsThe following is an interview with Anat Pick, author of Creaturely Poetics: Animality and Vulnerability in Literature and Film.

Question: Your title, Creaturely Poetics, does not explicitly mention humans or animals. What or who is “creaturely” and how does speaking about creatures differ from speaking about humans and animals?

Anat Pick: There are a number of reasons for speaking about creatures instead of humans and animals. The creaturely includes both human and nonhuman life. Creatureliness is intended to replace the so-called human condition, which implies the “inhuman condition” as somehow inferior and excluded from life’s existential adventure and, most significantly, excludes animals from the moral community. The creaturely is primarily the condition of exposure and finitude that affects all living bodies whatever they are. The materiality of life turns us all into creatures sharing in a common embodiment and mortality. Recent scholarship, especially in the area of biopolitics, has turned its attention to the state of bodily exposure. But unlike Giorgio Agamben’s bare life or Judith Butler’s precarious life, which remain within the confines of human life, creatureliness applies across the range of living beings and draws on the predicament of animals as in some sense exemplary of precarity as such.

There is, furthermore, a kind of provocation in the term “creature” because it hints at a certain animalization (or—to use a loaded term—“dehumanization”) of the human, and, conversely, a certain humanization of the animal. It is an egalitarian term that refrains from simply extending moral consideration to animals based on capacities similar to our own that we grant they possess and which therefore entitle them to (certain limited) rights. Instead of extending such consideration to animals, I wanted to contract humanity. This is a recurring idea in the book, and it is partly achieved by thinking of human beings as creatures. The creature speaks universally, without erasing or flattening out the differences that clearly exist between different living beings. The question is an ethical one: what value do we attach to the differences between humans and animals and what are the moral consequences of such differences? Contrary to some work in animal ethics, I do not concede a moral difference between humans and animals; I do not recognize a difference in the intrinsic value between human and nonhuman life.

(more…)

Monday, July 18th, 2011

Interview: Bill Grueskin and Lucas Graves on the Changing Business of News

The Story So Far, Bill Grueskin“Why does the New York Times website, which gets close to thirty million unique users, generate so much less revenue than the print newspaper, which has nine hundred thousand weekday subscribers? It just doesn’t make sense?”–Bill Grueskin

Bill Grueskin’s question is one that motivated his decision to write, with Lucas Graves and Ana Seave, The Story So Far: What We Know About the Business of Digital Journalism. The book is based on extensive interviews the authors conducted with news organizations, both old and new, and reveals how they allocate resources, what patterns are emerging in revenue streams, and what might generate revenue more effectively.

Throughout the week, we’ll feature elements of the book but we begin with an interview with Bill Grueskin and Lucas Graves in which they discuss the book. In the interview, Graves and Grueskin talk about the importance of their project and how it started. They also talk about how and why news organizations will have to change their relationship with advertisers to survive as well as vexing issues confronting digital journalism such as aggregation.

Here are some excerpts from the interview:

Question: In your conclusion section, you wrote that media companies should rethink their relationships with advertisers. Are those the kinds of things that you’re talking about?

Bill Grueskin: Right. Well what we also said, that we firmly believe in here at the journalism school is that this is not a way of saying that advertisers ought to be able to dictate coverage by journalism organizations. We believe that that’s a critical element to the credibility of reporters and editors everywhere. But we found that advertisers are much more aware of the many, many options available to them to reach consumers. If you start from the standpoint that advertising has historically generated the huge amount of revenue for most news organizations, what news organizations are facing, although a lot of them have not really dealt with the consequences of this, is that advertisers can reach out to consumers in ways that don’t require a media company.

One of the most interesting quotes that we got was from the vice president of The McClatchy Company, which is the third largest newspaper company in the country—his name is Chris Hendricks, and he said, basically, the idea of selling advertising adjacent to content, and expecting that’s going to make your media company work, is pretty much over. Or if it’s not over, it’s at least waning. Yet most media companies still operate that way—We’re going to produce a bunch of stories, we’re going to go to a bunch of advertisers, the advertisers will stick their ads next to the stories, and we’ll have twenty-five percent profit margins. Those days are really over; or if they’re not over, they’re certainly ebbing. And so, if you think that advertisers have a lot of different ways, whether it’s social media or direct outreach to their consumers, how can media companies become a part of that, rather than relying purely on the model that was so lucrative for so long?

(more…)

Friday, July 15th, 2011

Religious fundamentalism can only take hold in a modern society like our own

Rorotoko ran a great piece by William Egginton about his new book, In Defense of Religious Moderation, under the provocative headline above.

Egginton goes on to explain:

The current debate around religion in America has been dominated by fundamentalists and atheists.

The fundamentalists have managed to set a tone for political discourse in America in which no one can be elected without advertising his personal relation to God. The atheists, in turn, have disparaged religious belief in general as the root of all evil.

Neither of these positions adequately represents the beliefs of the majority of Americans: people who identify themselves as Christians, Jews, or Muslims without for a moment believing that those who believe differently are for that reason wrong.

Indeed, fundamentalists and atheists do not even represent truly opposing positions—unlike the moderately religious they are unified by their implicit belief in the code of codes.

Whether one is a fundamentalist does not depend on one’s commitment to a particular religious creed or, in fact, to any religion at all. Rather, fundamentalist thinking stems from an unconscious belief that the various codes we use to understand the world are all versions of a single, underlying master code, a code of codes that contains the ultimate truth of everything.
(more…)

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

More on Political Theology by Paul Kahn at The Immanent Frame


Let’s check in with The Immanent Frame today to see how the roundtable discussion about Paul Kahn’s new book, Political Theology: Four New Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty is going. Since we last looked at the debate three new posts have gone up:

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall by Gil Anidjar, which delves into the idea that
Political theology provides “a kind of mirror image of the political theory of liberalism.”

The Perspective of the Common by Bruno Gulli, dissects Kahn’s writing about sovereignty.

and
The Geopolitical Imperative? By Anders Stephanson explores American vs. European conception of sovereignty

To whet your appetite here is the introduction to Gil Anidjar’s essay:

Political theology, Paul Kahn tells us, following Carl Schmitt, provides “a kind of mirror image of the political theory of liberalism.” It is the mirror liberalism should be holding up to itself. For where liberalism sees reason, law, and contract, political theology recalls it to its true ground in will, sovereignty, and sacrifice. Political theology reveals the limits of the state as the rule of law, the liberal failure to subject will to reason and the political to the juridical (“political theology as a form of inquiry begins where law ends,” as Kahn puts it). Put in a global perspective, this means that whereas liberalism stands for soft cosmopolitanism and commerce (we are the world), political theology pushes for borders and for enemies (we are ruled by repressed desires, often construed as external threats).

After the manner of psychoanalysis, political theology reflects the larger, darker, contours that liberalism—the discourse of the modern nation-state—fails to see or imagine for itself. For, “just as Freud argued that the modern idea of the individual as a self-determining, rational agent mistakes a normative theory for the reality of lived experience, Schmitt argued that the modern, liberal understanding of the state mistakes a normative theory for the phenomenon of political experience.” In this new version, the mirror stage deals a double whammy. Ego recognizes itself, no doubt, but it also has to integrate a vastly broader field of meaning. We, citizens of the nation-state, may think ourselves children of the Enlightenment, but our inheritance is ultimately larger; it reaches back further—to Christianity. “This is Christianity not as source of religious doctrine,” Kahn pointedly clarifies in an earlier work, Putting Liberalism in its Place, “but as a form of understanding of self and community.”

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

Q&A with Brent Stockwell on the future of drug discovery

The following is an interview with Brent R. Stockwell, author of The Quest for the Cure: The Science and Stories Behind the Next Generation of Medicines.

Q: Why are so few new medicines being discovered?

Brent R. Stockwell: This is one of the big questions in drug discovery. Over the last 15 years, the number of new drugs approved each year has been declining. Meanwhile, the pharmaceutical industry, as well as academic and government researchers, has dramatically increased the amount of money spent on drug discovery and development. Yet this large increase in funding is not translating into new medicines. One explanation for this failure is that we are running out of tractable drug targets–drugs usually function by interacting with, i.e. attaching to, specific proteins within the body, which are called “drug targets.” However, only 2% of the proteins found in humans have been targeted to date with drugs. Most of the remaining proteins are considered “undruggable,” meaning it is difficult or perhaps impossible to make drugs that interact with these proteins. If this is true, it suggests that we are running out of drug targets, and therefore running out of drugs. This could be the explanation behind the challenging state of drug discovery, and the paucity of new medicines.

Q: What is it about these undruggable proteins that make them resistant to targeting with drugs?

B.R.S.: Proteins are large molecules with specific three-dimensional shapes. The more tractable proteins have large crevices, or pockets, on their surfaces into which small molecule drugs can snugly fit. When this happens, the drug alters the function of the protein, which can lead to a change in the course of a patient’s disease. Undruggable proteins generally don’t have large pockets on their surfaces. Instead, they look relatively smooth and featureless, from the perspective of a small molecule drug.

Q: Is there any hope of being able to make drugs that affect these proteins, and if so, what kind of diseases would these be useful for?

B.R.S.: The majority of proteins are considered undruggable, and they control nearly every disease process, from many types of cancer to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Lou Gehrig’s diseases, to many other diseases. In terms of trying to tackle these critical proteins with drugs, there are a number of ongoing efforts. One approach is to create huge collections of candidate drugs and to use advanced robotic systems to rapidly test thousands or even millions of them to see if any can be found that affect undruggable proteins. A second approach is to design drugs using sophisticated computer algorithms, trying to find a way to get a foothold on the surface of these proteins. Finally, another exciting strategy is to build larger molecules that have a better ability to interact with proteins, and then to solve the issue of how to deliver these larger molecules into a target tissue, such as a tumor. These are all current areas of active research. I am hopeful that some of these approaches will ultimately be successful.
(more…)

Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

Last day to enter our free book giveaway!

Today is the last day to enter our free book giveaway of film titles from our new imprint Wallflower Press, here are the details as previously posted:

Steven SpielbergDavid Cronenberg

In honor of the acquisition of Wallflower Press by Columbia University Press we are giving away 3 sets of Wallflower Press books on cinema! 3 lucky winners will be selected at random, and each winner will receive 3 books. To enter please submit by email your name and mailing address by 5 pm eastern time on Wednesday, July 13th to:
cup.publicityintern@gmail.com.

You could the win the following sets of titles:

Selected titles from the acclaimed 24 Frames series:
1) The Cinema of Japan and Korea
2) The Cinema of Latin America
3) The Cinema of Spain and Portugal

Another set of titles from 24 Frames series:
1) The Cinema of Russia and the Former Soviet Union
2) The Cinema of France
3) The Cinema of Central Europe

Titles from the popular Directors’ Cuts series:
1) The Cinema of David Cronenberg: From Baron of Blood to Cultural Hero
2) The Cinema of John Sayles: Lone Star
3) The Cinema of Steven Spielberg: Empire of Light

You will be alerted via email if you are a winner.

Books are “as is”, and might be missing jackets or have slight damage to cover or pages, but we tried not to include any with damage that would make them unreadable. Books can only be shipped to a U.S. or Canadian address, no P.O. boxes. The contest is not open to employees of Columbia University Press, Wallflower Press, Perseus Distribution, or their families.

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

New Book Tuesday: The Summons of Love and Civil Resistance

Why Civil Resistance WorksNew books now available:

The Summons of Love
Mari Ruti

Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict
Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan

Wearing My Tutu to Analysis and Other Stories: Learning Psychodynamic Concepts from Life
Kerry L Malawista, Anne J Adelman, and Catherine L Anderson

After Tobacco: What Would Happen If Americans Stopped Smoking?
Edited by Peter Bearman, Kathryn M Neckerman, and Leslie Wright

Acts of Conscience: Christian Nonviolence and Modern American Democracy (Now available in paper)
Kip Kosek

Meillassoux: Philosophy in the Making
Graham Harman


Music Video and the Politics of Representation

Diane Railton and Paul Watson

Monday, July 11th, 2011

The Trees of Central Park

Edward Barnard, author of New York City Trees: A Field Guide for the Metropolitan Area, recently teamed up with the birder Ken Chaya to produce a map of nearly every tree in Central Park.

Their efforts were recently the subject of a story on NPR’s Morning Edition. There are more than 20,000 trees in Central Park and Barnard and Chaya were able to map 19,933. In an effort to pinpoint the exact locations of all those trees Barnard and Chaya began to see the park in different ways, discovering new aspects of the park, and coming to a greater appreciation of Olmsted and Calvert Vaux’s design for the park.

For more, here is a video in which Barnard and Chaya talk about their two years of mapping Central Park:

Friday, July 8th, 2011

University Press Blogs: The Week in Review

Our occasional roundup of university press blogs:

A gay liberationist looks at gay marriage on the Cambridge University Press blog.

A video from the Harvard University Press blog: Serena Mayeri discusses her book Reasoning from Race: Feminism, Law, and the Civil Rights Revolution.

The Indiana University Press blog continues its excellent recap of the annual meeting of the American Association of University Presses with a look at discussions of governance practices.

Sarah Sobieraj, author of Soundbitten: The Perils of Media-Centered Political Activism, comments on the misguided emphasis activists often place on mainstream media attention via the New York University Press blog.

The Oxford University Press blog features Dario Salvucci on the multitasking mind.

Peter J. Dougherty, director of Princeton University Press, pays his respects to Herbert S. Bailey, who directed the press from 1954 to 1986.

Joe Mathews and Mark Paul, authors of California Crackup on the low expectations for the state budget on the University of California Press blog.

The University of Chicago Press blog looks at the forthcoming film adaptation of Ivo Andric’s The Bridge on the Drina.

The University of Hawai’i Press blog announces the launch of their new website!

An alternate universe of e-publishing is explored at the University of Illinois University Press blog.

An interview with Jennifer Gabrys, author of Digital Rubbish: A Natural of Electronics via the University of Michigan Press blog.

The University of Nebraska Press features an with Judy Muller about her book on rural newspapers.

Stanley R. Riggs on the Importance of Protecting North Carolina’s Coast on the University of North Carolina Press blog.

The University of Pennsylvania Press blog explains how a medieval studies book inspired a Philadelphia metal/hardcore punk/noise band.

Mr. Marilyn Monroe? The Yale University Press blog on Jerome Charyn’s new book on Joe DiMaggio.

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

Hemingway and Suicide

Ernest HemingwayFifty years ago this week Ernest Hemingway shot himself dead in his Idaho home. One of the Hemingway’s most astute critics and biographers is Scott Donaldson. Below is an excerpt from “Hemingway and Suicide” from his book Fitzgerald and Hemingway: Works and Days

Death was Hemingway’s great subject, and his great obsession. He wrote about it in his earliest stories and in his last ones. Of his seven completed novels, five end with the death of a male protagonist, and a sixth with the death of the heroine. Only in The Sun Also Rises, with its dying fall of an ending, do the characters survive to live and drink and fornicate another day. Yet that novel’s moral center is located not in the cafes of Paris and Pamplona but in the bullring where Pedro Romero confronts animals bred to kill and be killed with what Hemingway famously called “grace under pressure.” This confrontation—the drama, the ritual, the inevitable death—was also the subject of Death in the Afternoon, his 1929 book on bullfighting in Spain that remains, according to aficionados, the single best work in English on the subject. When the torero failed to kill properly, the bull was dispatched with the short knife, or puntilla. Women loved to see the puntilla do its work, Hemingway wrote. It was “exactly like turning off an electric light bulb” (“Soul”).

There was a trace of the macabre in that remark, and more than a trace in “A Natural History of the Dead”—where he reported in matter-of-fact detail the color change among unburied Caucasian corpses from white to yellow to yellow-green to black, as well as their tendency to swell up in the heat, in his diatribe against the Italian war against Ethiopia, where, he warned, the East African carrion birds would strike a wounded man as quickly as a dead one and tear his flesh from his bones as if he were a zebra or any other prey—and in the grisly “An Alpine IdyIl,” in which an Austrian peasant hangs a lantern from the jaw of his wife’s frozen corpse all one winter. An artist had to look at death squarely and without flinching, Hemingway believed.

But it was not only the demands of craft that drove him to concentrate his gaze on death, a creature he variously personified as “a beautiful harlot” and “the oldest whore in Havana” (qtd. in Baker, A Life Story, 432)—women worth knowing but expensive to go upstairs with. He had something to prove and was forever testing himself against danger. He climbed into the bullring during the amateurs, faced murderous animals in Africa, attended every war of his time. He put himself at risk and suffered the consequences. Hemingway was frequently and grievously hurt in an astounding series of blows to the head and arms and legs.

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Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Book Giveaway: Film Books from Wallflower Press

Steven SpielbergDavid Cronenberg

In honor of the acquisition of Wallflower Press by Columbia University Press we are giving away 3 sets of Wallflower Press books on cinema! 3 lucky winners will be selected at random, and each winner will receive 3 books. To enter please submit by email your name and mailing address by 5 pm eastern time on Wednesday, July 13th to:
cup.publicityintern@gmail.com.

You could the win the following sets of titles:

Selected titles from the acclaimed 24 Frames series:
1) The Cinema of Japan and Korea
2) The Cinema of Latin America
3) The Cinema of Spain and Portugal

Another set of titles from 24 Frames series:
1) The Cinema of Russia and the Former Soviet Union
2) The Cinema of France
3) The Cinema of Central Europe

Titles from the popular Directors’ Cuts series:
1) The Cinema of David Cronenberg: From Baron of Blood to Cultural Hero
2) The Cinema of John Sayles: Lone Star
3) The Cinema of Steven Spielberg: Empire of Light

You will be alerted via email if you are a winner.

Books are “as is”, and might be missing jackets or have slight damage to cover or pages, but we tried not to include any with damage that would make them unreadable. Books can only be shipped to a U.S. or Canadian address, no P.O. boxes. The contest is not open to employees of Columbia University Press, Wallflower Press, Perseus Distribution, or their families.

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

History News Network Reviews Reds at the Blackboard

Clarence TaylorWith the recent efforts to weaken teachers’ unions and corporate-led “school reform,” Clarence Taylor’s recently published Reds at the Blackboard: Communism, Civil Rights, and the New York City Teachers Union has taken on a new relevance.

The book was recently reviewed by Robert Parmet in the History News Network. Here is an excerpt from the review:

In his study, Clarence Taylor, professor of history and black and Hispanic studies at Baruch College, explores the nature and extent of the Communist influence. Relying on thorough research and presenting much detail, he finds that the Teachers Union (TU) indeed adopted policies of the Communist Party, but without abandoning the interests of the teachers they led. Though the TU was handicapped by its blind support for the Soviets and the American Communists, it advanced the cause of social unionism, and looked beyond teachers’ working conditions to eradicate such evils as racism and poverty and create a more just society. As the TU “blurred the line between its work on behalf of teachers and promoted Communist policies,” it drew sharp criticism, which in 1941 led to the revocation of the American Federation of Teachers charter it had held since 1916. Remaining committed to social unionism, it joined the Congress of Industrial Organizations, from which it would be ousted in 1950….

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