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Archive for November, 2011

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

Stalking Nabokov, by Brian Boyd

Brian Boyd, Stalking NabokovThis week we will be featuring Stalking Nabokov, by Brian Boyd. Here is an excerpt from the chapter A Centennial Toast.

That seems to me the key to Nabokov. He was a maximalist: someone who appreciated, as much as anyone has, the riches the world offers, in nature and art, in sensation, emotion, thought, and language, and the surprise of these riches, if we animate them with all our attention and imagination. Yet at the same time he felt that all this was not enough, because he could readily imagine a far ampler freedom beyond the limits within which he feels human consciousness is trapped.

He celebrates with unique precision and passion the delights of the visible and tangible world, the tenderness and force of human feelings and relationships, the treasures of memory: the thetic pleasures of life, if you like. He planned to call his first novel Happiness—until he realized that might perhaps be just a little too unguarded.


Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

Columbia Journalism Review Books

Columbia Journalism Review BooksA recent article in Publishers Weekly highlighted the launch of our new series Columbia Journalism Review Books, which coincides with the fiftieth anniversary of the Columbia Journalism Review. The series will be edited by Victor Navasky, Evan Cornog, Mike Hoyt, and the editors of the Columbia Journalism Review.

As the article explains, the first book in the series Second Read: Writers Look Back at Classic Works of Reportage, edited by James Marcus and the Staff of the Columbia Journalism Review has just been published and several other titles are in the work.

In describing the rationale behind the series, Philip Leventhal, the editor for journalism at Columbia University Press, said:

Columbia University Press was looking to build upon its list in journalism, and we felt that working with Columbia Journalism Review would be an excellent way to do this, given its extraordinary reputation and relationship with some of the most innovative and astute commentators and critics in journalism…. The past few years have witnessed many changes in the business and practice of journalism, but these subjects are often treated in a hyperbolic or superficial way. A series in conjunction with the Columbia Journalism Review would offer much needed perspectives on these issues.

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

New Book Tuesday: Asia’s Space Race

Asia's Space RaceAsia’s Space Race: National Motivations, Regional Rivalries, and International Risks
James Clay Moltz

The Priority of Events: Deleuze’s Logic of Sense
Sean Bowden

Explorations into Arab Folk Literature
Pierre Cachia

Let the Right One In
Anne Bilson

Witchfinder General
Ian Cooper

Friday, November 11th, 2011

Jacques Ranciere: “It is writing’s poverty that accounts for literature’s capacity for resistance.”

Jacques Ranciere

Fittingly enough, we conclude on week-long feature on Jacques Ranciere’s Mute Speech with Ranciere’s concluding paragraphs:

And yet, strangely, it is writing’s poverty that accounts for literature’s capacity for resistance. The weakness of the means at its disposal to measure up to its glorious image as the language among languages is what taught it to tame the myths and suspicions that separated it from itself, to invent the fictions and metaphors of a skeptical art in the strict sense of the term: an art that investigates itself, that makes fictions from this investigation, that plays with its myths, challenges its philosophy, and challenges itself in the name of this philosophy. The inconsistent art of literature has in the end been more capable than the others of resisting what our contemporaries call the “crisis of art.” For what is this so-called “crisis of art” if not the inability of certain arts—more precisely the plastic arts with their too great wealth of means—to become skeptical, to fictionalize their limits and their hyperboles? A non-skeptical art is an art that is subject to the burden of its own “thought” and is obliged to pursue the interminable task of manifesting this thought and demonstrating itself until it reaches its own suppression. It is an art that cannot live off of its own contradiction because it never encounters its contradiction. Such is the both felicitous and infelicitous fate of the arts of the visible. They were the best endowed in the aesthetic configuration of the arts, the most apt to unite the two contradictory principles of Romantic poetics: the principle that proclaims the absolute character of style, seizing hold of every subject and every material, and the principle that affirms the universality of the doubling by which every thing becomes language. Every matter is poetic provided that one of its properties can stand for the mark of writing, the hieroglyph by which it presents itself. Every form is artistic provided that it can stand as the manifestation of pure artistic intention.


Friday, November 11th, 2011

Obesity, the Greek Crisis, and Trollope: A University Press Blog Roundup

Our occasional feature looking at noteworthy and interesting posts from university press blogs:

Duke University Press offers free access to an article from George Papandreou, the recently resigned Greek Prime Minister, on strategies for recovery in the Eurozone.

For the gift-giving season, Martha Stewart recommends New York’s Golden Age of Bridges, from Fordham University Press.

Michael Meng, author of Shattered Spaces: Encountering Jewish Ruins in Postwar Germany and Poland, discusses a series of sites that reflect the past in different ways on the Harvard University Press blog.

The Indiana University Press blog interviews David M. Jordan author of FDR, Dewey, and the Election of 1944.

“In God We Trust”? The NYU Press blog examines the surprising history behind the U.S. national motto and the Founding Fathers’ apprehension about a theistic motto.

John Bowen looks at the connections between the News Corp. scandal and the novels of Anthony Trollope on the Oxford University Press blog.

Follow Robert Frank on tour via the Princeton University Press blog.

Listen to an interview with Julie Guthman, author of Weighing In: Obesity, Food Justice, and the Limits of Justice on the University of California Press blog.

The University of Chicago Press pays tribute to its former director Morris Philipson.


Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Udi Aloni on Israeli Apartheid

Udi Aloni, What Does a Jew Want?“A couple of years ago I approached my ardently Zionist mom, a woman who carried a weapon for the Jewish community of Jerusalem in 1948, and asked her a simple question: ‘Mom, is all this apartheid?’

With the sigh of a betrayed lover she indicated that, yes, this is apartheid. My heart broke.”—Udi Aloni

In an essay for Salon, Udi Aloni, author of What Does a Jew Want?: On Binationalism and Other Specters , challenged a recent New York Times op-ed by South African jurist Richard Goldstone denying the practice of apartheid in Israel.

Aloni, who grew up in Israel and whose parents adhered to a humanistic Zionist ideology, ultimately came to the realization that Israel practiced a form of apartheid in its treatment of Palestinians. Apartheid in Israel however, is different than it was in South Africa as Aloni explains:

The two states embody different sets of interests and power structures, and while in some ways it has been crueler in Israel, in others it is more liberal. The main difference between the two is that in South Africa apartheid was an explicit tenet of the judicial system, while in Israel the entire judicial system conceals and cleanses the praxis of government-led apartheid.


Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

Mute Speech: New Directions in Critical Theory

Jacques Ranciere, Mute Speech

Mute Speech: Literature, Critical Theory, and Politics, by Jacques Ranciere, is part of the series New Directions in Critical Theory.

Below is an excerpt from an interview with Amy Allen, the series editor:

Q: What does New Directions in Critical Theory “mean” as a whole? That is, what do you think the most important strains and themes emerge in the series?

Amy Allen: My vision for the series was to provide a forum for re-envisioning the project of critical social theory. Traditionally, this project has been rooted in the work of the Frankfurt School, a group of German philosophers and social theorists whose best-known members are Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, and Jürgen Habermas. The general impetus that drives the work of these thinkers is the goal of developing a theoretically informed, empirically grounded critical theory of society that takes as its practical aim the overcoming of domination. But this general impetus also motivates a number of other closely related theoretical approaches, including poststructuralist theory, feminist and queer theory, post-colonial and critical race theory, and so on. So the idea for the series was that it should be rooted in the project of critical theory as that has been understood in the Frankfurt school tradition, but that it should also publish works that push the boundaries of that tradition by engaging intellectually with alternative critical approaches.


Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

Santiago Zabala on the Dangers of Analytic Philosophy

“Being is challenged in the university today by the hegemony of analytic philosophy.”—Santiago Zabala

Santiago Zabala, most recently the co-author, with Gianni Vattimo, of Hermeneutic Communism, recently published an article in Purlieu entitled Being in the University: Philosophical Education or Legitimations of Analytic Philosophy?. In the essay, Zabala discusses the emphasis on analytic philosophy in U.S. universities and its implications for philosophy and philosophy education. Zabala argues that philosophy has been compromised and that analytic philosophy has privileged clarity, results, and a scientific method. What is lost in this approach is the study of larger issues, including “the meaning of life after death, the value of democracy, or the ethical consequence of science, all of which request deep historical research and ontological perspectives.”

Zabala opens the essay writing,

Being is challenged in the university today by the hegemony of analytic philosophy. The teaching of how to measure the quality of philosophical argumentation through formal logic is squeezing out ontological accounts of existential problems from the history of philosophy. An increasing number of departments all over the world are funded and rewarded only as long as they follow the secure path of modern science; in other words, if they adopt a problem-solving approach that assures objective results. In classrooms, the transmission of logical notions prevails over fruitful dialogues with the aim of educating students according to certain metaphysical assertions. While this transmission might be useful for being at the university, it definitely is not useful for Being in the university—an institution where it is possible to question the fundamental concepts of philosophy and also of oneself. If, as Hans-Georg Gadamer explained, “we understand only when we understand differently,” then much more than the transmission of information happens during a lecture; there is also the possibility to disclose to students (and professors) their interpretations, differences, or even existence. Philosophy does not stand together with other disciplines, such as medicine or architecture, in legitimizing practices; rather, its practice is questions whose answers have never been legitimized or settled. Answers to the question of Being can only come from devotion to thought. Unlike economics or chemistry students, who are often motivated by the jobs their discipline guarantees, philosophy students are primarily motivated by the questions the discipline of philosophy will invite them to confront…. Philosophy is not wisdom but rather “love of wisdom,” where truth is sought and questioned instead of analyzed and applied.


Wednesday, November 9th, 2011

Columbia University Press Books on Display at Harvard Book Store

Thanks to Harvard Book Store for their great front window display of Columbia University Press books:

Harvard Book Store

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

Mute Speech: Gabriel Rockhill on Why Jacques Ranciere Matters

Jacques Ranciere, Mute SpeechIn his introduction to Mute Speech: Literature, Critical Theory, and Politics, by Jacques Ranciere, Gabriel Rockhill enumerates some of the most important facets of Ranciere’s book.

Rockhill writes:

For the reader who agrees to try and shelve the doctrines of modernism in the name of following Rancière into unchartered territory, the rewards are innumerable. The strengths of his project are too numerous to be summarized, but here is a partial list:

* He approximates a radical historicist position that avoids blindly positing art as a transhistorical absolute.

* He jettisons both continuous and discontinuous modes of history in order to propose a unique account of overlapping poetics.

* He avoids reducing rival poetics to homogenous epistemes and instead argues that axioms from the same poetics can come into contradiction, and that there can be overlap and tension with other poetics.

* Far from proposing a purely descriptive account of history, he advocates an interventionist and polemical approach that attempts to simultaneously restage the singularity of the past and have it come to bear on the present.


Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

New Book Tuesday: The Novel After Theory, Best American Magazine Writing, and American Force

The Best American Magazine Writing 2011
Edited by Sid Holt for the American Society of Magazine Editors; With an Introduction by Jim Nelson

The Best American Magazine Writing 2011The Novel After Theory
Judith Ryan

American Force: Dangers, Delusions, and Dilemmas in National Security
Richard K. Betts

The Celluloid Madonna: From Scripture to Screen
Catherine O’Brien

Critical Cinema: Beyond the Theory of Practice
Edited by Clive Myer

Hyping Health Risks: Environmental Hazards in Daily Life and the Science of Epidemiology (Now available in paper)
Geoffrey C. Kabat

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

David Brotherton and Luis Barrios Discuss “Banished to the Homeland: Dominican Deportees & Their Stories of Exile”

David Brotherton and Luis Barrios authors of Banished to the Homeland: Dominican Deportees and Their Stories of Exile were recently on the Brian Lehrer Showon what they learned having followed thousands of Dominicans deported following the 1996 U.S. Immigration Reform and Responsibility Act.

(To download a copy of the copy of Banished to the Homeland: Dominican Deportees and Their Stories of Exile, “rent” a copy of the book for a month, or buy individual chapters, please visit Columbia University Press Online Access.)

David Brotherton and Luis Barrios on the “Brian Lehrer Show”:

Monday, November 7th, 2011

Jacques Ranciere: Mute Speech: Literature, Critical Theory, and Politics

Jacques Ranciere, Mute SpeechThis week’s featured book is Mute Speech: Literature, Critical Theory, and Politics, by Jacques Rancière, with an introduction by Gabriel Rockhill and translated by James Swenson.

In the book, Rancière argues that our current notion of “literature” is a relatively recent creation, having first appeared in the wake of the French Revolution and with the rise of Romanticism. In its rejection of the system of representational hierarchies that had constituted belles-letters, “literature” is founded upon a radical equivalence in which all things are possible expressions of the life of a people. With an analysis reaching back to Plato, Aristotle, the German Romantics, Vico, and Cervantes and concluding with brilliant readings of Flaubert, Mallarmé, and Proust, Rancière demonstrates the uncontrollable democratic impulse lying at the heart of literature’s still-vital capacity for reinvention.

Here are the opening paragraphs of Mute Speech:

From One Literature to Another

There are some questions we no longer dare pose. Recently an eminent literary theorist said that one would have to have no fear of ridicule to call a book What is Literature? Sartre, who did write a book with that title in a time that already seems so far from us, at least had the wisdom not to answer the question. For, as Gérard Genette tells us, “a foolish question does not require an answer; by the same token, true wisdom might consist in not asking it at all.”


Monday, November 7th, 2011

Cindy Crawford Reads “Uncreative Writing,” by Kenneth Goldsmith

We thought we’d share this photograph by Lawrence Schwartzwald of Cindy Crawford reading Uncreative Writing: Managing Language in the Digital Age, by Kenneth Goldsmith:

Cindy Crawford reads

Friday, November 4th, 2011

Second Read: Ted Conover on Stanley Booth’s The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones

Second Read

We conclude our focus on Second Read: Writers Look Back at Classic Works of Reportage, edited by James Marcus, with some excerpts from Ted Conover’s essay on Stanley Booth’s reporting on the Rolling Stones during their 1969 tour, collected in his book The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones. One of the issues Conover explores in the essay is Booth’s efforts to balance his closeness with the band, particularly Keith Richards, and maintaining a necessary journalistic distance.

Here are some excerpts from the piece:

What Booth captures so well is the particular energy of the time. The style is sometimes Beat, Kerouacian—there’s a sense of experimentation under way. And in that, True Adventures achieves true oneness with its subject: like the Stones, Booth is full of aspiration, trying something new, unsure where it will take him. And that, in retrospect, is I think the book’s great resonance for me, and its promise for any young writer: take these chances, it has continued to tell me, and some of them will pay off.

The Random House cover photo of the author, apparently taken years later, showing him neatly groomed and wearing coat and tie, made you wonder how on earth he hung out with the Stones. But a much better shot of Booth and Keith Richards at the end of the new edition shows him long-haired and modish, bandanna around his neck, perhaps backstage somewhere, looking like maybe Keith’s brother. (Throughout True Adventures he seems to connect more readily with Keith, and, indeed, years later he published another book about only him: Keith: Standing in the Shadows.)

This photo is a valuable addition because it lets you see how close Booth got to the band, how much he identified with them. And by contrast, how little common ground he felt with other journalists on the Stones’ trail. Take, for instance, Booth’s descriptions of the Stones’ press conferences and interviews with the correspondents of various well-known media. The distance between these accomplished people and the author is fascinating. Instead of participating in these scenes, he simply observes cannily, letting the reporters’ superficial questions and the Stones’ sound-bite answers speak for themselves. It’s all summed up by a sentence which, when he wrote it, must have given Booth great pleasure: “When the Newsweek talk ended and the reporter left, we all decided to have lunch together on the Strip.”….


Friday, November 4th, 2011

James Powell: Is There a Case Against Human Caused Global Warming in the Peer-Reviewed Literature?

James Powell, The Inquistion of Climate ScienceOn Skeptical Science: Getting Skeptical About Global Warming Skepticism, James Powell, author of The Inquisition of Climate Science, is beginning a study of the peer-reviewed articles that “take a negative or explicitly doubtful position on human-caused global warming”.

Part of Powell’s project includes a database of the articles and their abstracts. In describing the aims of the project, Powell writes:

Climate skeptics give the impression that there is a substantial case against human-caused global warming. But is it true? One way to shed light on the question is to review the peer-reviewed literature…

Instead of starting with the literature, I began with a list of over 100 skeptics who have or give the impression they have scientific expertise. For example, Christopher Monckton, despite his lack of scientific credentials, gives talks in which he takes on the guise of a scientist. Anthony Watts, a former TV meteorologist, blogs about complicated scientific matters. George Will, in contrast, while acting as though he knows more than scientists, does not pretend to be one. I include Monckton and Watts, but not Will….

The point of this exercise is not just the number of papers, but what they say and whether they make a case against human-caused global warming. In subsequent posts, I will offer what I regard as the “takeaways” from these papers.

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

Interview with David Celani, author of Leaving Home: The Art of Separating From Your Difficult Family

David Celani, Leaving Home: The Art of Separating From Your Difficult FamilyThe following is a Q&A with David Celani, author of Leaving Home: The Art of Separating From Your Difficult Family. (You can download this book, rent it, or purchase individual chapters via Columbia University Press Online Access)

Question: Your book is now available in paperback. What kind of feedback have you received since its initial publication in 2004?

David Celani: I think the book has sold well because it appeals to three different constituencies. The first group of readers who have shown interest in this book are parents or siblings of adult children who remain living at home well into middle age and who are not succeeding in the world. These relatives are concerned for the welfare of the individual and want to find out how to help them. The second group are mental health professionals who want a general introduction to the way that I have used Object Relations Theory (the psychoanalytic theory that my treatment is based upon) in the treatment of dependent, developmentally delayed patients, while the third—and perhaps largest group—are patients in therapy who have read the book upon the recommendation of their therapists. Many patients also buy the book as a result of a number of very positive patient reviews they read on Amazon.com. I frequently get calls from patients who have read Leaving Home and who are interested in other books that I have written.

In general, readers report that Leaving Home is understandable and approachable, due to the numerous examples that I use to illustrate the many faces of excessive dependency on family members. I aimed to write a book that would both entertain and inform the reader about the sources of adult developmental dysfunction, using patients from my twenty-six years of clinical practice as a psychologist. Every developmental principle that is described is then illustrated by an example that reads like a description of someone you know.


Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

Second Read: Miles Corwin on Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “The Story of a Shipwrecked Soldier”

Second Read: Writers Look Back at Classic Works of Reportage

In his essay for Second Read: Writers Look Back at Classic Works of Reportage, Miles Corwin discusses Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s career of a journalist and how it shaped his later work as a novelist. Marquez’s journalistic work The Story of a Shipwrecked Soldier exposed the Colombian government’s role in covering up the circumstances behind the death of sailors aboard the Velasco. Here are some excerpts from his essay:

By the time the series ended, El Espectador’s circulation had almost doubled. The public always likes an exposé, but what made the stories so popular was not simply the explosive revelations of military incompetence. García Márquez had managed to transform Velasco’s account into a narrative so dramatic and compelling that readers lined up in front of the newspaper’s offices, waiting to buy copies.

After the series ran, the government denied that the destroyer had been loaded with contraband merchandise. García Márquez turned up the investigative heat: he tracked down crewmen who owned cameras and purchased their photographs from the voyage, in which the illicit cargo, with factory labels, could be easily seen.

The series marked a turning point in García Márquez’s life and writing career. The government was so incensed that the newspaper’s editors, who feared for the young reporter’s safety, sent him to Paris as its foreign correspondent. A few months later the government shut El Espectador down. The disappearance of his meal ticket forced García Márquez into the role of an itinerant journalist who sold freelance stories to pay the bills—and, crucially, continued to write fiction.

The relatively spare prose of the Velasco series bears little resemblance to the poetic, multilayered, sometimes hallucinatory language that would mark García Márquez’s maturity as a novelist. Still, the articles—which were published in book form as The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor in 1970, and translated into English sixteen years later—represent a milestone in his literary evolution. “This is where his gifted storytelling emerges,” says Raymond Williams, a professor of Latin American literature at the University of California, Riverside, who has written two books about the author. Prior to the series, he suggests, García Márquez had been writing somewhat amateurish short stories. Now, says Williams, he was rising to the challenge of constructing a lengthy narrative: “The ability he has to maintain a level of suspense throughout is something that later became a powerful element of his novels.”


Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Second Read: Tom Piazza on Norman Mailer’s The Armies of the Night

Second Read: Writers Look Back at Classic Works of Reportage

The Armies of the Night remains one of the most enlivening, and most deeply American, testaments ever written.”—Tom Piazza

We continue our focus on Second Read: Writers Look Back on Classic Works of Reportage with an excerpt from Tom Piazza’s appreciation of Norman Mailer’s legendary work The Armies of the Night: History as a Novel, the Novel as History.

When Mailer died, commentators lined up to bemoan the dearth of serious writers who, like Mailer, were willing to match their own egos, their own perceptions and sensibilities, against large contemporary events. We suffer from no shortage of gutsy reporters eager to cover trouble spots around the world. But rarely does that kind of journalistic impulse coexist with a personally distinct literary style, an ability to use one’s own point of view as an entry into the reality of a subject. For Mailer, that subjectivity was not just a stylistic trait but a kind of ethical tenet, the door into a larger—he would call it novelistic—truth.

Mailer brought this approach to its peak in The Armies of the Night. His journalistic mock epic of the 1967 March on the Pentagon first appeared in Harper’s, occupying the cover and taking up practically the entire issue, and came out in book form in the spring of 1968. By that time, the so-called New Journalism was in full bloom; Tom Wolfe, Gay Talese, Hunter S. Thompson, Joan Didion, George Plimpton, Truman Capote, and others had already done significant work, bringing highly individual styles and sensibilities to a form that had stubbornly held to its conventions of objectivity.

The Armies of the Night stood out from all their work in some important ways. Most New Journalism focused on a subculture—motorcycle gangs, hippies, Hollywood celebrity—and, by rendering it vividly, attempted to make inductive points about the larger culture. Mailer had a different approach. He got as close as he could to the gears of power, and then used his own sensibilities as a set of coordinates by which to measure the dimensions of people and events on the national stage: presidents and astronauts, championship fights and political conventions….


Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Denis Lacorne: Secularists or Christian? The Religious Lives of American Political Candidates in the Public Sphere

Denis Lacorne, Religion in America“What is certain is that the primary season has reopened a three century old battle of narratives opposing Enlightenment secularists to Neo-Puritan and evangelical believers.”—Denis Lacorne

In an essay for the Huffington Post, Denis Lacorne, author of Religion in America: A Political History, argues that the current presidential campaign continues a schism in the United States that has persisted since its founding. As Lacorne explains, U.S. history has been dominated by two political trends: a religious tradition that invites politicians to talk openly about their religion and another which champions the separation of church and state. Lacorne explains:

These two traditions are based on rival narratives of the origin and essence of the American democracy: (1) the narrative of a secular Republic, defended by the Founding Fathers at the end of the 18th century and (2) the Neo-Puritan narrative of a government based on Christian roots, defended at the beginning of the 19th century by New England historians and politicians, among them John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster and George Bancroft.

Among the current Republican candidates, Conservatives like Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry believe the nation was founded on Christian principles and that it should abandon the “myth” of the secular narrative. Mitt Romney likes to have it both ways, deploring references to religion in debates but also decrying “a new religion in America — the religion of secularism”.

Likewise, Obama, whom Lacorne sees as preferring the “secular narrative,” still” refuses to side with the ‘secularists” against the ‘believers.’” As Lacorne points out, Obama, in a 2006 speech, argued “Secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door when they enter the public square.”