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Archive for December, 2012

Friday, December 21st, 2012

Andrew F. Smith on the Future of Drinking in America

Andrew Smith, Drinking History

In the epilogue to Drinking History: Fifteen Turning Points in the Making of American Beverages, Andrew Smith points to some of the more recent trends in American’s consumption of beverages namely, the popularity of bottled water and coffee.

Looking back at the history as well as pointing to recent trends, Smith also speculates on what the future might look like:

* Lacking a dominant beverage tradition, Americans have developed a taste for diversity and experimentation.

* Experimentation has led to a large number of small beverage producers, but the past century has seen consolidation of some industries, such as soft drinks, brewing, coffee roasting, water bottling, winemaking, and distilling. In each of these fields, just a few corporations now control most of the market.

* At the opposite end of the spectrum, a backlash against food industry giants has spawned a large number of smaller, often artisanal, competitors. Microbreweries, local wineries, and small coffee roasters, for instance, offer a wide variety of alternatives.

* The American beverage titans, including the Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo, and Starbucks, have gone global; simultaneously, foreign firms have acquired large segments of some traditional American industries, such as beer. Even some “all-American” beverages, such as orange juice, now originate in other countries (in the case of orange juice, in Brazil). Other beverages, such as sake from Japan and wine from Australia, are now available in the United States, and the availability of beverages from other countries will continue to proliferate.

* For the past decade, per-capita soda consumption has been decreasing as other beverages have emerged. With health authorities campaigning against sugar-sweetened sodas as a major factor in America’s obesity epidemic, it is likely that soda consumption will continue to decrease.

* It is unlikely that Prohibition will ever return; nevertheless, Americans have cut down on alcohol consumption during the past three decades, largely due to stricter enforcement of drunk-driving laws. Alcohol consumption may not drop further, but neither is it likely to rise.

* And what of the long-term future for American beverages? With our well-known national thirst for the new and the novel, it is likely that the future will be as full of surprises as the past.

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

Andrew Smith on How Beverages Have Changed American History (He Also Talks About Tuna)

Earlier this fall, Andrew Smith talked about his book Drinking History: Fifteen Turning Points in the Making of American Beverages at a special event sponsored by the Culinary Historians of Chicago.

In the talk, Smith considers why Americans drink what we drink, how beverages — alcoholic and non-alcoholic — have changed American history and how Americans have invented, adopted, modified, and commercialized tens of thousands of beverages. Additionally, Smith also discusses his other new book American Tuna—the Rise and Fall of an Improbable Food.

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

Siddharth Kara Interviewed in The Economist

Siddharth Kara

The Economist blog Feast and Famine: Demography and Development recently interviewed Siddharth Kara about his new book Bonded Labor: Tackling the System of Slavery in South Asia .

In the interview Kara explains how people become trapped and exploited in the system of bonded labor in a desperate attempt to get credit:

Bonded labour, or what’s often called debt-bondage, is a form of feudal servitude, where credit is exchanged for pledged labour. The class in power will often coercively extract and extort far more labour out of the debtor than the fair value of the credit they received. Sometimes an entire family can endlessly work off a meagre loan taken years before. More than half of the world’s slaves are bonded labourers and the products made by them permeate the global economy.

Bonded labor is a particular problem in South Asia where there are high rates of poverty and a caste system which allows the unfair system to persist. In addition to the caste system and poverty, bonded labor also continues to exist and grow because of corruption, social apathy, and the fact that it has become part of the global economy. In the following excerpt from the interview, Kara explains how bonded labor has become part of the global economy, though it is often hidden within its complex processes:

Q: Are there any sectors that seem particularly prone to use the products of bonded labour?

A: Well, yeah. Often times the supply chains for these products can be very complex, so sometimes a company that’s importing goods may not realise exactly what’s going on on the far side of their supply chain. The industries that have the highest prevalence included products like rice, tea, coffee, but also things like frozen shrimp and fish, granite for your counter tops, cubic zirconia, hand woven carpets, sporting goods, apparel, the list goes on and on. Construction is another one, including office buildings for international companies, or major road construction and infrastructure projects.

Q: To what extent does bonded labour a problem of globalisation?

A: The global economy is a powerful force [that creates] demand. A company can scour the globe for under-regulated labour markets in order to benefit from cheap wages. Labour is almost always the highest cost component in a business, so if you can minimise or virtually eliminate labour costs you are saving a lot of money. The global economy does look for and demand and feed on these systems, which stimulates their persistence.

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

Beer — Another Turning Point from “Drinking History”

Andrew Smith, Beer

Yesterday, we posted on the history of youth drinks from Andrew Smith’s Drinking History: Fifteen Turning Points in the Making of American Beverages. Today, we turn to the more adult beer, which skyrocketed in popularity in the 1840s thanks in large part to German immigrants. You can read the full chapter on beer, The Most Popular Drink of the Day and below is an excerpt from that chapter in which Smith discusses saloons and the role of breweries in promoting their growth:

Beer’s rise to stardom was closely associated with the rise of the saloon. The American saloon emerged from English tavern and public house traditions. The name derived from salon, a French term meaning an ornate spacious hall that was often used for large public gatherings. The first American saloons were established in swank hotels in approximately 1840; they catered mainly to the upper class. Saloons provided various entertainment and usually contained a bar, which served whatever alcoholic beverages were in vogue at the time. To cash in on the upper-class cachet, grog shops, taverns, public houses, and lower-class dives renamed themselves as saloons. The upper class then launched private clubs where they could socialize with their own kind and drink their own beverages.

In popular mythology, the classic American saloon is the western establishment popularized in Hollywood cowboy movies, complete with swinging doors, rampant fighting, gambling, gunfights, and prostitution. As George Ade, an American writer and newspaperman, wrote in 1931:

The truth is that the average or typical saloon was not a savory resort. . . . Nine-tenths of all the places in which intoxicants were dished out affected a splendor which was palpably spurious and made a total failure of any attempt to seem respectable. The saloon business was furtive and ashamed of itself, hiding behind curtains, blinds and screens and providing alley entrances for those who wished to slip in without being observed.

As immigrants flooded into American cities beginning in the late 1840s, saloons catered to their needs. Ethnic saloonkeepers were magnets for the newly arrived. Many saloons were closely connected with political power in cities and towns. This upset temperance advocates, who concluded that saloons fostered “an un-American spirit among the foreign-born population of our country.”


Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

The Making of Lee Boyd Malvo Selected as Best Book of 2012

Writing for The Atlantic, Andrew Cohen named The Making of Lee Boyd Malvo: The D.C. Sniper , by Carmeta Albarus and Jonathan H. Mack, as one of The Best 2012 Books About Justice.

Here’s what Andrew Cohen wrote about the book:

I read and wrote about this book in early October, around the same time that Malvo gave a series of well-publicized media interviews on the 10th anniversary of the Beltway shootings. There are young people everywhere in the world who endured worse from their parents than Malvo did, but who did not become the killer he did. But if you want a sense of the damage a broken life can create for innocent victims decades later, read this book.

For more on The Making of Lee Boyd Malvo, here is a recent interview with the authors on Due Process:

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

The History of Youth Drinks from Kool-Aid to Red Bull — A Turning Point in America’s Drinking History

Kool Aid

For much of American history kids drank what their parents did, including alcohol, which was sometimes diluted and sometimes not. Beginning in the 1920s beverage-makers began producing and marketing drinks to kids. In the chapter “Youth Beverages” from his new book Drinking History: Fifteen Turning Points in the Making of American Beverages, Andrew F. Smith traces the history of youth drinks from Kool-Aid to Red Bull. Here are a couple of excerpts that explore the genesis of these two products and their popularity:

In 1920, Edwin Perkins—head of the Perkins Products Company of Hastings, Nebraska—marketed a new drink mix called Fruit Smack—a bottled syrup to be combined with water and sugar. The product did fairly well, but the heavy bottles were expensive to mail and they often broke in transit, dismaying customers and costing Perkins money to replace. In 1927, he came up with the ideal alternative: inspired by the tremendous success of Jell-O dessert powder, Perkins devised a powdered concentrate to be sold in paper packets. Customers still just had to add water and sugar, but with paper packets instead of bottles, they were much less likely to receive a soggy, drippy package when they ordered the product by mail. Perkins created six flavors—cherry, grape, lemon-lime, orange, raspberry, and strawberry—and sold the packets by mail for 10 cents apiece. He called the product Kool-Ade, which he trademarked in February 1928.

Not content to sell his product by mail, Perkins soon began a campaign to distribute Kool-Ade through grocery stores. It was promoted in newspapers, magazines, and on the radio—a very novel way to promote products at the time. The campaign brought Kool-Ade to the attention of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which claimed that “-ade” meant “a drink made from.” Because most Kool-Ades were named after fruit, such as oranges, grapes, and lemons, this implied (according to the FDA) that it should be composed of fruit juice; however, Kool-Ade was artificially flavored and colored. The company renamed its product to Kool-Aid in 1934.

During the Depression, Perkins lowered the price of Kool-Aid to a nickel per packet and launched a national advertising campaign aimed at children. The company placed advertisements in children’s magazines; like promotions for other children’s products, Kool-Aid ads promised readers a gift, such as a pilot’s cap, in exchange for empty Kool-Aid packages.


Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

New Book Tuesday: Investing, Reforming Democracies, and More!

Our weekly list of new titles from Columbia University Press and Columbia Business School Publishing:

Howard Marks, The Most Important Thing Illuminated
The Most Important Thing Illuminated: Uncommon Sense for the Thoughtful Investor
Howard Marks

Investing: The Last Liberal Art, Second Edition
Robert Hagstrom

Reforming Democracies: Six Facts About Politics That Demand a New Agenda
Douglas Chalmers

The Utopia of Film: Cinema and Its Futures in Godard, Kluge, and Tahimik
Christopher Pavsek

Killer Images: Documentary Film, Memory and the Performance of Violence
Edited by Joram Ten Brink and Joshua Oppenheimer

Tolerance, Democracy, and Sufis in Senegal
Edited by Mamadou Diouf

Monday, December 17th, 2012

Mike Chasar — Jingle All the Way: Saint Nick and the Poetry of Santa’s Ring Toss

Mike Chasar, Everyday Reading, Christmas

In the following post, Mike Chasar, author of Everyday Reading: Poetry and Popular Culture in Modern America, explores the ways in which a poem related to a Coca-Cola holiday promotion exposes how the commercial and non-commercial aspects of the holidays are intertwined. (This post was cross-posted on Mike Chasar’s blog Poetry and Popular Culture (P&PC))

Nothing dogs the Christmas season at P&PC so much as the clash between the holiday’s commercial and non- commercial aspects—between shopping and spirit, getting and giving, worldliness and wonderment, materialism and, well, something more. This clash dogs the season’s poetry, too, as the oftentimes utopian (or at least not uniformly materialist) sentiments voiced by the season’s popular verse forms get standardized, mass produced, boxed, wrapped, shipped, and sold in and on any number of greeting cards, ornaments, advent calendars, and novelty items like the funky oversized matchbook from Hallmark (see above). For every excuse that the season offers to poetically express feelings one might view as suspect or inappropriate the rest of the year—you know, faith in ideals like love, peace, family, compassion, giving, forgiveness, and the pursuit of something other than the cynical status quo—there’s some Grinch waiting to package, market, and profit from it all.

But because we all know that the commercial and non-commercial aspects of the holidays aren’t inevitably partnered with each other—that’s not the way is has to be, right?—the marketplace has to continually entangle and re-entangle them, making the contradictions between them seem natural (even at times, like, totally fun), or else so interweaving them that it becomes nigh impossible.

SantaIt’s easy, perhaps, to see this logic at work in the big picture (“Welcome to the Spirit of Christmas Online Store!”), but it’s remarkable how much it sometimes governs—to quote Robert Frost, who for nearly thirty years partnered with printer Joseph Blumenthal to make Christmas cards for friends and associates—in a thing so small as the little artifact pictured here: a Santa “ring toss” game issued as a holiday giveaway by Coca-Cola in the 1950s that contains the following poem on its handle:

I am a Jolly old
So, if you want a Kick,
Be the first to make
A “Hit – Smash”
By swinging the Ring
That’s on the String
on Santa’s Mustache


Monday, December 17th, 2012

Book Giveaway: Drinking History by Andrew Smith

Drinking History: Fifteen Turning Points in the Making of American Beverages

This week our featured book and giveaway is: Drinking History: Fifteen Turning Points in the Making of American Beverages by Andrew F. Smith

Throughout the week we will highlight aspects of Drinking History: Fifteen Turning Points in the Making of American Beverages on our blog, our Twitter feed, and Facebook page. We are also offering a FREE copy of the book to one winner.

To enter our book giveaway, simply e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu with your name and address. We will randomly select one winner on Friday at 1:00 pm. Good luck and spread the word!

For more: Read the chapter on beer The Most Popular Drink of the Day, listen to Andrew Smith discuss the book on NPR, read the table of contents and reviews Drinking History.

Friday, December 14th, 2012

University Press Roundup

Welcome to our weekly roundup of the best posts from the blogs of academic publishers! The holidays are fast approaching, but the blogs of academic publishers are as active as ever. As always, if you particularly enjoy something or think that we missed an important post, please let us know in the comments.

As Superstorm Sandy came ashore in New Jersey and New York, people used social media to tell the story of what was happening around them. At the OUPblog, oral historian Caitlin Tyler-Richards talks about this new phenomenon: multi-media documentation of natural disasters taking place in real time and viewable all over the world.

Charles Rosen passed away this past Sunday. Both the OUPblog and the Harvard University Press Blog have posts honoring his life and impressive career as a pianist, musicologist, and critic.

Chinese writer Mo Yan recently accepted his Nobel prize in literature, and in his acceptance speech he argued that some level of censorship is necessary, which did not endear him to those (including Salmon Rushdie, Ai Weiwei, and Liu Xiaobo, among others) who had already accused Mo of being, among other things, a “patsy of the régime.” However, the Harvard University Press Blog looks at Perry Link’s discussion of the award and Mo’s career, and finds that his critics might be missing part of the story.

At the JHU Press Blog this Wednesday, Janine Barchas celebrates the 237th birthday of Jane Austen, but also wonders whether “the new Cult of Jane challenging the iconic status that The Bard has long held in our culture.” Contrasting Austen’s anonymity in her life with the Hollywood star status her works enjoy today, Barchas marvels at the twists of fate that turn writers into one-name legends. (Also worth checking out on the JHU Press Blog: the ongoing The Doctor Is In series, where JHU Press authors discuss the latest developments in health and medicine. This week, the topic is epidurals.)

It’s now been over a year since the Occupy Wall Street movement first started to make headlines. The MIT Press blog has collected a year’s worth of articles from TDR, October, and The Baffler on OWS. Taken together, these pieces help clarify and explain the deeds, causes, and effects of the Occupy movement.


Friday, December 14th, 2012

Key Moments in Peanut Butter History via Jon Krampner’s “Creamy and Crunchy”

Creamy and Crunch, Jon Krampner

In the appendix to Creamy and Crunchy: An Informal History of Peanut Butter, the All-American Food, Jon Krampner offers a timeline of the history of peanut butter. Here are some key moments from that timeline:

1894: George Bayle allegedly begins to manufacture peanut butter in St. Louis.

1895: John Harvey Kellogg files the first patent on a peanut butter-like substance.

1904: C. H. Summer sells peanut butter from a booth at the St. Louis World’s Fair, where many Americans taste it for the first time.

1904: Beech-Nut becomes the first national brand to sell peanut butter.

1923: Heinz becomes the first major brand of peanut butter to be stabilized by hydrogenation, using the Frank Stockton patent for full hydrogenation.

1933: Joseph Rosenfield begins to produce Skippy peanut butter at the Rosenfield Packing Company in Alameda, California.

1942-1945: Peanut Butter is included in the rations of American soldiers fighting overseas during World War II. GIs acquire a taste for it, return home and feed it to their baby-boom children.


Thursday, December 13th, 2012

Listen to The Marathons, Watch Peanut Butter Being Made

On the website for the book Creamy and Crunchy: An Informal History of Peanut Butter, the All-American Food, Jon Krampner includes some links to various songs about peanut butter and peanuts. We could hardly resist posting a video here as well, so here’s “Peanut Butter,” by The Marathons. The song is great and the video documents the process of making peanut butter.

Here’s Krampner’s description:

This classic hit from 1961, almost a note-for-note copy of the version by the Olympics. It features a video from the Georgia Peanut Commission that shows the life cycle of peanut butter from the field to the factory. The standard peanut butter song. Recommended viewing and listening.

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

VIDEO: Interview with Andrew Nathan, author of China’s Search for Security

The following video is an interview with Andrew Nathan coauthor (with Andrew Scobell) of China’s Search for Security. The interview was done with China File, a project of the Center on US-China Relations at the Asia Society. (Apologies for the glitch with the formatting; it should be corrected soon):

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

Interview with Jon Krampner, author of Creamy and Crunchy

Jon Krampner, Creamy and Crunchy

The following is an interview with Jon Krampner, author of Creamy and Crunchy: An Informal History of Peanut Butter, the All-American Food.

Question: Why did you write a book about the history of peanut butter?

Jon Krampner: My first two books were biographies of tormented geniuses in the arts who lapsed into obscurity because of drinking problems. Peanut butter may make you fat, but it won’t give you cirrhosis of the liver.

I settled on a pop-culture history of peanut butter because I admired books like John McPhee’s Oranges, Mark Kurlansky’s Cod, and Steve Almond’s Candyfreak. Researching the field, I was surprised to learn that no one had already done one. There are brief illustrated pamphlets for children on how peanut butter is made. There are peanut butter cookbooks for adults. Andrew F. Smith, another Columbia author, has a very good chapter on the early history of peanut butter in his book about peanuts. But that was all – I saw a niche that hadn’t been filled, and I filled it.

Q: Is peanut butter really the all-American food?:

JK: Americans aren’t the only people who like it, but almost no one likes it more than we do. The two exceptions are Canadians and the Dutch, who eat more peanut butter on a per capita basis than we do. The Dutch like it because Indonesia was their colony for centuries, and it’s just a short step from peanut-based satay sauces to peanut butter. My theory is that the Canadians picked up the habit from us. They like it more for breakfast, though, whereas Americans generally eat it for lunch.

In terms of sheer volume, though, we’re the champs: Americans eat more than a billion pounds a year. According to the Southern Peanut Growers, a trade organization, that’s enough to coat the floor of the Grand Canyon (although they don’t say to what depth). Americans have a primordial fondness for peanut butter. During the Peanut Corporation of America Salmonella debacle of 2008-09, Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa thundered, “What’s more sacred than peanut butter?”


Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

The Future of University Presses

The Future of University Press Publishing

There are, to be sure, many challenges ahead for university presses but as a recent panel suggests, there are also many exciting opportunities to find new readers and disseminate important new ideas.

The panel, which consisted of university press heads Peter Dougherty (director, Princeton University Press), James Jordan (president, Columbia University Press), John Donatich (director, Yale University Press), and Niko Pfund (president, Oxford University Press), was recently covered in Publishers Weekly. The panelists discussed university press performance in the past decade, the future of the book, and what it means to own an idea, and answered questions from a small group of journalists.

In particular, the participants stated the importance of university presses in investing over the long-term in readership and in spreading scholarship and important ideas to both an academic and a non-scholarly audience. Turning to the future, the heads of the presses stressed the importance of adapting to the digital future, improving on metadata to maximize searchability, and seeking out new readers particularly in India and China.

As noted in the Publishers Weekly article:

Several comments picked up on ideas from Dougherty’s July 23 article for the Chronicle of Higher Education, entitled “The Global University Press.” As he wrote: “University presses can become an even larger and more influential force in the global theater of ideas by capitalizing on two converging trends: the growth of global scholarship and the expansion of digital communications networks.” Though university presses reach a smaller audience of readers, in difficult economic times and rapid technological change, they remain committed to their authors and, as Jordan said, will pursue the “new digital reader” and “champion the spirit of innovation.”

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

The New Yorker on Creamy and Crunchy

Crunchy and Creamy, Jon KrampnerBooks like Creamy and Crunchy: An Informal History of Peanut Butter, the All-American Food, by Jon Krampner, seem to invite a reviewer to insert their own opinion.

The aptly named Steve Almond interviewed Krampner for The Nervous Breakdown and identifies himself “who eats a tremendous amount of peanut butter,” In admiration of the book and its author, Almond writes, “I’ve never met Jon Krampner, which is lucky for him because if I ever did meet him I might very well kiss him on the mouth.”

Likewise, in his review for The New Yorker‘s blog Page-Turner, Jon Michaud declares himself “a Skippy Man.” He too, though in a less demonstrative way, praises Creamy and Crunchy, calling it “an enjoyable and informative new history of peanut butter.”

In his review, Michaud also recounts some of the history of peanut butter from its beginnings as a health food to the very wealthy to the rise of the “Big Three” (Skippy, Jif, and Peter Pan) to its recent surge in popularity during the recession, “Cheap and nutritious, [peanut butter] the perfect food for hard times.”

In the following excerpt, Michaud recounts the early days of peanut butter and how it became an “all-American food”:

Peanut butter, the everyman staple, which contains neither butter nor nuts (peanuts are legumes), originated as a health food of the upper classes. First created for sanitariums like John Harvey Kellogg’s Western Health Reform Institute, it satisfied the need for a protein-rich food that did not have to be chewed. Wealthy guests at those institutions popularized it among the well-heeled. But there were economic pressures to expand peanut-butter consumption more democratically. Once the boll weevil devastated cotton cultivation at the turn of the century, Southern farmers were encouraged by George Washington Carver and others to adopt the peanut as a replacement crop. A burgeoning market for peanut butter substantially increased demand for their harvests. While both Kellogg and Carver have been touted as “the father of peanut butter,” Krampner makes a case for George Bayle, a St. Louis businessman who, in 1894, became the first to produce and sell it as a snack food. Peanut butter was featured in the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis and soon thereafter Beech-Nut and Heinz introduced it nationally. By 1907, thirty-four million pounds of peanut butter were produced, up from two million in 1899.

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Whitney Strub — The Politics of Porn, Part 2: The Culture (Non-) Wars

“For that matter, Christian Grey of the Fifty Shades trilogy would be hard to pick out from a lineup of the ‘Opportunity Society’ wing of the GOP; I picture him with Scott Brown abs, Paul Ryan vocal inflection, and Romney hair.”—Whitney Strub

Perversion for Profit, Whitney StrubThis is the second post from Whitney Strub on porn’s place in America in 2012. In his first post, Strub focused on pornography’s place in politics, here he turns to popular culture. Whitney Strub is the author of Perversion for Profit: The Politics of Pornography and the Rise of the New Right.

I ended the first post with the suggestion that the political disinvestment in porn as a partisan issue had something to do with its cultural mainstreaming. And indeed, it’s hard to rail against obscenity when your suburban voting base is immersed in a trilogy full of spanking scenes and handcuffs and erotic shaving.

Of course, Fifty Shades of Grey isn’t the first time something vaguely smutty has carried mass appeal; Hugh Hefner was perfecting this trick over a half-century ago. And though occasional media stories highlight “new” aspects of the phenomenon, like the female audience (Candida Royalle was pioneering porn for women in the 1980s, not to mention those steamy Harlequin novels my good Catholic grandmother was always reading) or the central role of technology (Kindles and Nooks now, though VHS and Beta once before), probably the most interesting angle of the story was how Vintage Books managed to cash in on the free world of Internet fanfic that is often better written and more sexually explicit (full disclosure: it’s a pet peeve of mine when people pontificate about texts they haven’t actually read, so I bought Fifty Shades Freed, the third book and only one the South Philadelphia Target had, being sold out of the first two. I had every intention of reading it, and Reader, I tried, let’s leave it at that).

So this mainstream porn event is far from unprecedented. What’s more noteworthy is that the current scale of integration blurs boundaries until pornography itself becomes a less legible category (I can’t say less meaningful—it’s always been a semantic mess). If porn spent the last two decades of the twentieth century abandoning its outlaw status to learn the tricks of corporate capitalism, from product differentiation to branding, the twenty-first century mainstream cultural economy in turn simply absorbed pornography wholly. E.L. James’ Fifty Shades is only the most glaring recent example. Mainstream crossover, once rare, has grown commonplace enough to draw little mention. Where once Harry Reems lost a part in Grease on account of his smutty past, now porn phenom James Deen won a role alongside Lindsay Lohan in The Canyons precisely because of his. Of the two stars, he’s not even the most controversial.

It’s far from a foregone conclusion that smut challenges social norms. Fifty Shades’ (rather light) BDSM content might give it an edgy quality to some readers, but as Margot Weiss’ recent analysis of the San Francisco BDSM scene in her book Techniques of Pleasure argues, transgression is tightly bound (so to speak) with hypercapitalist tendencies. New forms of desire are always also new opportunities for monetization, and the chicken doesn’t always follow the egg. For that matter, Christian Grey of the Fifty Shades trilogy would be hard to pick out from a lineup of the “Opportunity Society” wing of the GOP; I picture him with Scott Brown abs, Paul Ryan vocal inflection, and Romney hair.


Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

New Book Tuesday: Space Exploration, The Banality of Modernity, and More!

Our weekly list of new titles:

Mankind Beyond Earth, Claude A. PiantadosiMankind Beyond Earth: The History, Science, and Future of Human Space Exploration
Claude A. Piantadosi

Prose of the World: Modernism and the Banality of Empire
Saikat Majumdar

Animalia Americana: Animal Representations and Biopolitical Subjectivity
Colleen Glenney Boggs

Media of Reason: A Theory of Rationality
Matthias Vogel

Why Jane Austen? (Now available in paper)
Rachel M. Brownstein

The Quest for the Cure: The Science and Stories Behind the Next Generation of Medicines (Now available in paper)
Brent R. Stockwell

Young American Muslims
Nahid Afrose Kabir

Monday, December 10th, 2012

Book Giveaway: Creamy and Crunchy: An Informal History of Peanut Butter, the All-American Food

Creamy and Crunchy: An Informal History of Peanut Butter, the All-American Food

Yes, Peanut Butter. This week our featured book and giveaway is: Creamy and Crunchy: An Informal History of Peanut Butter, the All-American Food by Jon Krampner

Throughout the week we will highlight aspects of Creamy and Crunchy: An Informal History of Peanut Butter, the All-American Food on our blog, Twitter, and Facebook. We are also offering a FREE copy of the book to one winner.

To enter our book giveaway, simply e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu with your name and address. We will randomly select one winner on Friday at 1:00 pm. Good luck and spread the word!

For more: Browse the book, Read a review in The New Yorker, visit creamyandcrunchy.com, follow Jon Krampner on Twitter.

Friday, December 7th, 2012

Terry McDonell on the Importance of Long Form Journalism

The Best American Magazine Writing 2012We conclude our week-long feature on The Best American Magazine Writing 2012 where we probably should have started, namely Terry McDonell’s introduction. Terry McDonell has been an editor for many magazines and is currently editor of Time Inc. Sports.

In the introduction he discusses the excitement an editor feels when he receives a piece by a favorite author. He then tells the story behind the story of Chris Ballard’s article, Dwayne Dedmon’s Leap of Faith, published in Sports Illustrated and included in The Best American Magazine Writing 2012.

For all top editors there are many private and sublime thrills that no one else can borrow, such as opening a new piece by a favorite writer. You crack the file and you know, just reading the lede, that it will absolutely make your mix and give your entire issue a subtext that will echo how smart you want the magazine to be. I first heard this articulated by Robert Silvers of the New York Review of Books when he was explaining the joys of editing Zadie Smith. Graydon Carter no doubt felt the same way opening a piece from Hitchens. For me it has become a long list, especially where I work now at Sports Illustrated, which received a nomination for SI senior writer Chris Ballard’s profile of Dewayne Dedmon, a naturally gifted basketball player on his way to being seven feet tall.

Like every piece in this collection, “Dewayne Dedmon’s Leap of Faith” has a publishing story behind it. This is where to look for additional understanding of the author of a particular story and also the workings of the magazine. The idea for the Dedmon piece came, like many do, from the margins of the news. Ballard read an item, maybe one hundred words or so, noting that a seventeen-year-old from Antelope Valley, northeast of L.A., had signed to play basketball at USC but that he hadn’t played at all in high school “because of religious reasons.” Bingo.