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Archive for October, 2013

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Philip Kitcher on Luchino Visconti’s Morte a Venizia

Deaths in Venice

This week our featured book is Deaths in Venice: The Cases of Gustav von Aschenbach by Philip Kitcher. Today, we have a couple brief excerpts from Deaths in Venice, in which Kitcher discusses Luchino Visconti’s film version of Mann’s novella, focusing particularly on the film’s ending and on the ways that the film differs from the novella and Britten’s opera. We’ve included a couple of clips from and about Visconti’s film, as well.

Be sure to enter our Book Giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Deaths in Venice!

“Luchino Visconti’s film Morte a Venezia ends with Dirk Bogarde as Aschenbach, hair dye and makeup streaming down his face, apparently suffering cardiac arrest on the beach–from which he is carted unceremoniously away by two attendants, The slow zoom out, with the figures becoming ever smaller and more anonymous, adds an ironic touch of Visconti’s own, a homage to Mann’s manner, even though both the ungainly configuration of the body–more like a heavy sack of fertilizer than the remains of a respected visitor–and the reduction of Aschenbach to a small speck seem quite at odds with the writer’s regained dignity in the novella’s final sentence.” — Philip Kitcher

Final scene


Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Tributes to the Life and Work of Arthur Danto

Arthur Danto

Earlier this week we had a short post on the death of Arthur Danto, the influential philosopher and art critic. Not surprisingly, a variety of tributes to and assessments of Danto has poured forth. The following are just a few we’d like to highlight.

Akeel Bilgrami, Sidney Morgenbesser Professor of Philosophy. Bilgrami gives an overview of Danto’s career along with a look back on what he meant to philosophy, art criticism, and the department of philosophy at Columbia. In this excerpt, Bilgrami identifies what made Danto’s art criticism for the Nation so extraordinary and considers his distinctiveness as a philosopher:

The special quality of Arthur’s reviews in the Nation is that they are unmistakably the writings of a philosopher, revealing often how a line or image or stone was the stimulus or the station of some idea, even sometimes of an argument. The Nation has, as a result of his essays, managed to become something of a philosophical magazine, and that is no bad thing. And conversely, in philosophy, what he managed to assert in public ways in these last thirty years was a personality that made him quite unusual, if not almost unique, among analytic philosophers —a genuinely cultured man. Not just someone grabbing every week the offerings of a prodigious metropole, but someone whose ideas and perceptions are tuned by a daily awareness of how the city and its arts have come to be what they are, and how it stands among the productions of other cities in America and the world. Culture, in Arthur’s philosophical thinking was perhaps more important than anything else, and this emerged in ways that were sometimes amusing – and appalling. I remember once how Isaac Levi and I were struck dumb when we asked him, after his visit to Calcutta, how he had managed to cope with the awful condition of its suffering, and he replied in a trice: “Oh that was nothing, you see poverty is part of the culture of Calcutta.”


Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Philip Kitcher on Benjamin Britten’s Opera

Deaths in Venice

This week our featured book is Deaths in Venice: The Cases of Gustav von Aschenbach by Philip Kitcher. Today, we have a brief excerpt from Deaths in Venice, in which Kitcher discusses the opera, Death in Venice, by Benjamin Britten, followed by a couple of videos showing key parts of the opera.

Be sure to enter our Book Giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Deaths in Venice!

“Most obvious is the sensuality of the music, the opulent orchestral coloring and the lushness of some important motifs (prominent examples are the “Serenissima” and “View” themes). This musical backdrop creates a context in which Aschenbach’s fascination with Tadzio cannot be heard as anything other than erotic. The possibility of a disciplined artistic perception of beauty is never present: from the moment he encounters Tadzio and we hear the exotic vibraphone motif that accompanies the boy, Aschenbach must be understood to be in the grip of passions he refuses to acknowledge.” — Philip Kitcher, Deaths in Venice


Aschenbach’s Final Aria

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Steven Cohen on the Lessons of Superstorm of Sandy

Steven Cohen, Superstorm Sunday

“In the long run, the key lessons from Superstorm Sandy are that we must face the reality of climate change and adapt to it.”—Steven Cohen

In an essay for The Huffington Post , Steven Cohen, author of Sustainability Management: Lessons from and for New York City, America, and the Planet and executive director of The Earth Institute, examines what has been and what should be learned a year after Superstorm Sandy.

Cohen begins by recognizing the extraordinary efforts of both first responders and ordinary citizens in banding together to help those in need. The effort to bring relief to those affected by the storm even brought New Jersey Republican governor Chris Christie and Barack Obama together in a rare example of bipartisanship. Cohen writes, “One key lesson learned: [America] is a place capable of enormous generosity and humanity.”

New York and New Jersey have also installed plans to help protect their shore communities in the case of another superstorm, which, according to Cohen is likely to happen due to global warming. Building codes have been changed and dunes, engineered barriers, and green infrastructure are being put into place which will absorb the energy from the next storm.

However, more needs to be done. Cohen argues we need to better prepared. Generators must be at the ready, underwater tunnels need to be closed, and power lines need to be shored up. Moreover, a kind of trust fund needs to be created to avoid having to pass legislation to provide emergency relief. Too many people, particularly those in the middle- or working-classes, have had to wait to have their houses rebuilt. Cohen argues:

It remains obvious that we need to develop a new national tax to create a trust fund exclusively devoted to community reconstruction after natural or human-made disasters. Funding must be provided to everyone meeting specific, predetermined, criteria. We need to end the degrading and disgusting spectacle of Congress struggling to pass a new funding bill after every disaster… With climate change, increased urbanization and increased population, we are going to see more frequent, intense, and destructive storms. This is a new situation that requires a new funding stream—a new tax—to handle it.

Climate change, Cohen warns, means more storms like Sandy necessitating that we must find ways of adapting. He concludes by writing:

Sandy was a transformative event that changed our view of how the world works. We now have a mental model of what can happen when our shoreline defenses are overwhelmed. The next time we are tracking a storm on the Weather Channel, we’ll know what we need to do if the eye of the storm is aimed at us. Moreover, we know that the reason this is happening is because our planet is getting warmer and the probability of more intense and frequent storms is growing. In the long run, the key lessons from Superstorm Sandy are that we must face the reality of climate change and adapt to it.

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

Philip Kitcher on Thomas Mann and Gustav von Aschenbach

Deaths in Venice

This week our featured book is Deaths in Venice: The Cases of Gustav von Aschenbach by Philip Kitcher. Today we have an excerpt from “Discipline,” the first chapter of Deaths in Venice, in which Philip Kitcher looks at the works of Thomas Mann leading up to Death in Venice and discusses how Mann came to write the character of Gustav von Aschenbach.

Be sure to enter our Book Giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Deaths in Venice!

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

New Book Tuesday: The Great Plains, Daoist Philosophy, the Underside of Bangladeshi Film, and More New Titles!

This Place, These People: Life and Shadow on the Great Plains, David StarkThis Place, These People: Life and Shadow on the Great Plains
David Stark, Photographs by Nancy Warner

An Introduction to Daoist Philosophies
Steve Coutinho

Cut-Pieces: Celluloid Obscenity and Popular Cinema in Bangladesh
Lotte Hoek

Cinematic Appeals: The Experience of New Movie Technologies
Ariel Rogers

Security and Profit in China’s Energy Policy: Hedging Against Risk
Øystein Tunsjø

Decision Cases for Advanced Social Work Practice: Confronting Complexity
Terry A. Wolfer, Lori D. Franklin, and Karen A. Gray

Contemporary Romanian Cinema: The History of an Unexpected Miracle
Dominique Nasta

Radical Democracy and Political Theology (Now available in paper)
Jeffrey W. Robbins

Monday, October 28th, 2013

Book Giveaway! Deaths in Venice: The Cases of Gustav von Aschenbach, by Philip Kitcher

Deaths in Venice

This week our featured book is Deaths in Venice: The Cases of Gustav von Aschenbach by Philip Kitcher. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Deaths in Venice. To enter our Book Giveaway, simply fill out the form below with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select one winner on November 1st at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!

Monday, October 28th, 2013

Arthur Danto, 1924-2013

Arthur DantoWe were saddened to learn of the death of Arthur Danto this past weekend.

Danto was the Johnsonian professor emeritus of philosophy at Columbia University and one of the leading art critics of the past fifty years. (Incidentally, Danto’s death occurred the same weekend as Lou Reed’s. Both men’s lives and careers were also profoundly shaped by the work of Andy Warhol.) In describing Danto’s work, Lydia Goehr, a professor of philosophy at Columbia University, was quoted as saying, “His project, really, was to tell us what art is, and he did that by looking at the art of his time. And he loved the art of his time, for its openness, and its freedom to look any way it wanted to.”

Danto was the author of some 30 books of philosophy and art criticism, most famously Beyond the Brillo Box and After the End of Art, and Columbia University Press was fortunate to publish four of his books as well as the edited collection, Action, Art, History: Engagements with Arthur C. Danto, edited by Daniel Herwitz and Michael Kelly.

Wendy Lochner, publisher for philosophy and religion, was Danto’s editor at the press and shared the following personal recollections of working with him:

Arthur Danto was one of the very first faculty members whom I met when I started at the press in 2001. He emailed me to introduce himself, and we had the first of many delightful meals together. Over the next 10 years we worked closely, preparing new editions of some of his major books, including Narration and Knowledge, Nietzsche as Philosopher, and The Philosophical Disenfranchisement of Art. He also served on the advisory board of our series Columbia Themes in Philosophy, Social Criticism, and the Arts and was instrumental in establishing it as a leading venue for publishing in aesthetics.

Arthur was unfailingly gracious and helpful as author, reader, and friend. With his lovely wife Barbara we enjoyed more than a few elegant dinners, spiced with wit and gossip (gentle gossip!). I will never forget the brilliance and humor he exhibited in talks at APA, on campus, and in other venues.

Arthur Danto was a major figure in contemporary American philosophy. His voice will be missed. I am lucky to count him as an author, adviser, and friend.

Friday, October 25th, 2013

University Press Roundup

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

The 2013 gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia are fast approaching, and, in a guest post at the UNC Press Blog, Jaime Amanda Martinez argues that the absence of other political races means that these state elections will be viewed as “indicators of where the Republican Party, and indeed the entire country, will head in 2014 and beyond.” Martinez compares this year’s gubernatorial races to the North Carolina election in 1864, though she thinks it’s unlikely that “the 2013 the 2013 gubernatorial elections will provide such a clear signal.”

It’s Open Access Week, and the MIT Press Blog is running a short series of posts in honor of the occasion, two of which are currently up. First of all, Charles Schweik has a guest post in which he discusses data that shows how open source software projects succeed. Second, Peter Suber has a post about his experiences writing and publishing a book that actually became open access.

The New York Times recently ran an article on the growing practice of authors accepting the censorship of the Chinese government in order to sell their books in China. At the Harvard University Press Blog, Ezra Vogel, whose recent book on Deng Xiaoping’s role in modern Chinese history was mentioned in the article, takes issue with the idea that his accepting censorship to get his book in the hands of Chinese readers was done for commercial reasons.

Want to learn more about penguins? Of course you do. Gerald L. Kooyman’s recent post on penguins as a part of the JHU Press Blog’s Wild Thing series is a fascinating look at the author’s experiences studying the majestic Sphenisciformes. As Kooyman notes, “[w]e are truly blessed to be able to observe and learn about such a hybrid group that lives at the interface of land and sea.”

Friday, October 25th, 2013

Watson on Jeopardy! And IBM’s Decision to Put Him There

Of course one of the most prominent examples of congitive computing is Watson’s famous victory on Jeopardy!. Below is a video produced by Engadget that documents Watson’s appearance with Ken Jennings, Alex Trebek, et al. And below that is an excerpt from Smart Machines: IBM’s Watson and the Era of Cognitive Computing, by John E. Kelly and Steve Hamm. In the excerpt Kelly and Hamm reveal the fascinating story behind the creation of Watson and the decision to put it on Jeopardy!

Excerpt from Smart Machines:

The Watson project got its start in a surprising way. In the fall of 2004, IBM’s head of computing systems soft­ware, Charles Lickel, traveled from his home in Tucson to spend the day with a small team he managed at an IBM facility in Poughkeepsie, New York. At the end of the workday, the team gathered at the nearby Sapore Steak-house for dinner. They were bemused when, at seven p.m. sharp, many of the diners abruptly got up from their tables, rushed into the bar, and clustered excitedly around the TVs. One of Charles’s guys explained that they were watching long-time champion Ken Jennings defend his title on Jeopardy!

Charles hadn’t followed Jeopardy! for years, but the scene made an impression on him. A few months later, research director Paul Horn asked his lieutenants to think up a high-profile project that the lab could take on that would demonstrate IBM’s scientific and technological prowess. The company calls these its “grand challenges.” The previous grand challenge had been a huge success: IBM’s Deep Blue computer had beaten the world’s top chess grand master in a highly publicized match in the mid-1990s. But a lot of time had passed since that victory.

During one of the brainstorming sessions aimed at picking the company’s next grand challenge, Charles suggested building a computer that could compete on Jeopardy! IBM has long used man-versus-machine games to moti­vate scientists, focus research, and engage the public. In the early 1960s, IBM researcher Arthur Samuel, the AI pio­neer, created one of the first computer programs capable of learning when he wrote a checkers-playing program designed to run on the 701, IBM’s first commercial com­puter. Samuel challenged one of the top U.S. checkers champions to a match—and won. IBM researcher Gerry Tesauro in the late 1980s developed a program called TD-Gammon, which used a technique called temporal differ­ence learning to teach itself how to play backgammon. It was competitive in matches with some of the world’s top backgammon players.


Thursday, October 24th, 2013

South Asian Studies Titles on Sale!

South Asian Studies Titles on SaleFrom Bollywood and Buddhism to Bonded Labor and the Bomb, we are offering a wide range of titles in South Asian religion, politics, and culture during our special sale.

Use the coupon code SASIA and save 30% on dozens of titles in South Asian Studies. Here are some highlights:

Bollywood: Gods, Glamour, and Gossip
Kush Varia

Bonded Labor: Tackling the System of Slavery in South Asia
Siddharth Kara

Commerce with the Universe: Africa, India, and the Afrasian Imagination
Gaurav Desai

India, Pakistan, and the Bomb: Debating Nuclear Stability in South Asia
Šumit Ganguly and S. Paul Kapur

Satyajit Ray on Cinema
Satyajit Ray

Theos Bernard, the White Lama: Tibet, Yoga, and American Religious Life
Paul G. Hackett

Yoga, Karma, and Rebirth: A Brief History and Philosophy
Stephen Phillips

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

Steve Hamm on Smart Machines and the Era of Cognitive Computing

Yesterday we heard from John E. Kelly III in a lengthy conversation about his experience as a researcher at IBM and his take on the history of computing as well as his vision of its future. Today we hear from the co-author of Smart Machines: IBM’s and the Era of Cognitive Computing, Steve Hamm.

In the interview, Hamm considers how congnitive computing represent the third stage in the evolution of computers. He also explains how these new “smart machines” are different than their predecessors and particularly equipped for the age of big data:

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

Sera Young, author of Craving Earth, wins 2013 Margaret Mead Award

Craving Earth, Sera Young

Columbia University Press is pleased to announce that Sera Young, a research scientist in the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University, is the recipient of the prestigious Margaret Mead award for her book, Craving Earth: Understanding Pica–the Urge to Eat Clay, Starch, Ice, and Chalk.

This year, Young was selected as the winner for addressing a unique topic of pica which revolves around the consumption of atypical foods such as clay, chalk and ice and how this affects our bodies. Through Young’s multidisciplinary research, she discovered that eating such earthy foods transcends borders and cultures. In addition, these foods may aid the body in some respects of detoxification but also lead to problems such as anemia.

Apart from writing about pica, Young is currently researching the effects of food insecurity among HIV-infected families in sub-Saharan Africa. The Cornell Chronicle also highlights the significance of this award with respect to its namesake, Margaret Mead. “The award celebrates skills similar to those displayed by Margaret Mead, who had a talent for fine scholarship and for making anthropology accessible to a wider general audience.”

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

Video: John Kelly Discusses Cognitive Computing and Watson at the Computer History Museum

John Kelly III, co-author of Smart Machines: IBM’s Watson and the Era of Cognitive Computing, discusses IBM’s Watson and cognitive computing as well as other topics ranging from his background and the path that led him to IBM and the history of research there to the newest lab in Nairobi, Kenya.

The discussion was part of an event at the Computer History Museum:

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

Interview with Steve Hamm, coauthor of Smart Machines: IBM’s Watson and the Era of Cognitive Computing

Smart Machines, Steve Hamm and John KellIn the following interview, Steve Hamm coauthor of Smart Machines: IBM’s Watson and the Era of Cognitive Computing, discusses cognitive computing and how it is changing the work and research being done at IBM and elsewhere:

Q: What is the era of cognitive computing?

Steve Hamm: John Kelly and other leaders at IBM believe that we’re on the cusp of a new era in computing. Scientists at IBM and elsewhere are creating machines that sense, learn, reason and interact with people in new ways. These machines will help people overcome our mental biases and penetrate complexity so we can make better decisions.

You can think of a cognitive system as a truly intelligent assistant that helps individuals live and work more successfully, and that helps organizations become more efficient and effective. The implications are huge for individuals, businesses and society as a whole. With these technologies, we will be able to make the world work better and more sustainably.

Q: Is IBM Watson a cognitive computer?

SH: Scientists in IBM Research see Watson as a transitional technology. Using machine learning, natural language processing and statistical techniques, they were able to achieve an amazing feat: to beat two past grand-champions at the TV quiz show Jeopardy! Watson represents a major first step toward the era of cognitive systems—and, in fact, the Watson technology of today is much improved over the technology that was showcased on Jeopardy!

However, scientists at IBM and elsewhere are working on advances in a wide range of technology fields, including learning systems, information management, and hardware systems design, which will ultimately produce computers that are very different from today’s machines. They will operate more like the human brain works, though they will be by no means a replacement for human intelligence. They’ll be extremely powerful yet also extremely power efficient.


Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

New Book Tuesday: Catch a Wave, Smuggle Pot, Go to the Movies, Read a Magazine

Our weekly list of new titles now available:

Thai Stick, Peter MaguireThai Stick: Surfers, Scammers, and the Untold Story of the Marijuana Trade
Peter Maguire and Mike Ritter; With a Foreword by David Farber

Finding Ourselves at the Movies: Philosophy for a New Generation
Paul W. Kahn

Best American Magazine Writing 2013
Edited by Sid Holt for The American Society of Magazine Editors; Introduction by James Bennet, editor in chief of The Atlantic

A Korean War Captive in Japan, 1597–1600: The Writings of Kang Hang
Edited and translated by JaHyun Kim Haboush and Kenneth R. Robinson

Fountain House: Creating Community in Mental Health Practice
Alan Doyle, Julius Lanoil, and Kenneth J. Dudek

Bringing Fossils to Life, Third Edition: An Introduction to Paleobiology
Donald R. Prothero

Love in Motion: Erotic Relationships in Film
Reidar Due

The AIDS Conspiracy: Science Fights Back (Now available in paper)
Nicoli Nattrass

The Shining Beacon of Socialism in Europe: The Albanian State and Society in the Period of Communist Dictatorship, 1944-1992
Tadeusz Czekalski

The Lemko Region in the Second Polish Republic: Political and Interdenominational Issues 1918–1939
Jarosław Moklak

Monday, October 21st, 2013

Book Giveaway! Win a Free Copy of “Smart Machines: IBM’s Watson and the Era of Cognitive Computing”

Smart Machines: IBM’s Watson and the Era of Cognitive Computing

“We are at the dawn of a major shift in the evolution of technology,” write John E. Kelly III and Steve Hamm in their new book Smart Machines: IBM’s Watson and the Era of Cognitive Computing,

The victory of IBM’s Watson on Jeopardy! revealed how scientists and engineers at IBM and elsewhere are pushing the boundaries of science and technology to create machines that sense, learn, reason, and interact with people in new ways to provide insight and advice. These changes are explored in Smart Machines: IBM’s Watson and the Era of Cognitive Computing, which we be featuring throughout the week on our blog, twitter, and facebook.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Smart Machines to a lucky winner.

To enter our Book Giveaway, simply e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select one winner on Friday, October 25 at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!

Friday, October 18th, 2013

University Press Roundup

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

In case you didn’t know, last week saw the conclusion of the annual Frankfurt Book Fair, where publishers and book industry professionals from around the world convene to promote their products, buy and sell translation rights, discuss new strategies and developing trends, and just generally get a feel for the industry climate as it varies from country to country. This week, the University of Toronto Press writes about their own experiences there, reflecting on both the event itself and some takeaways on the state of publishing in Latin American, Asian, and Arab markets.

The University of Texas Press has a few thoughts on the Frankfurter Buchmesse as well, particularly Latin American markets, which, by most accounts, are currently thriving, and which UT Press considers “some of the most important…not only for ebooks in Spanish and Portuguese, but in English, as well.” The post goes on to discuss the growing profusion of opportunities for English language publishers in other emerging markets and poses important questions for those looking to pursue them.

R.K. Ramazani, University of Virgina Press author and the “dean of Iranian foreign policy,” examines the United States’s relations with Iran over the P5+1 meeting, in which representatives for the program’s six members–the U.S., Russia, China, France, Britain, and Germany–assembled to diplomatically negotiate the future of Iran’s nuclear program.

Over at Island Press Field Notes, Alison Springer from the Worldwatch Institute argues one jarring point: Sustainable consumption is a myth. Environmental problems, Springer says, should not rest on consumers, but on the institutions and policymakers, both private and governmental, that promote a paradigm of unfettered consumption. Be sure to read the whole article here.

Instructors and students alike have argued for years that formal education should be more engaging for students while promoting critical thinking, rather than the historical and often criticized pedagogical model of informational retention and regurgitation. George Greenstein, a Cambridge University Press author of science textbooks, adds his voice to mix of dissenting opinions that challenge the ways in which science is delineated in textbooks.

Beacon Press author Rafia Zakaria discusses the impact of Malala Yousafzai, co-author of recent Nobel-hopeful biography I Am Malala, as well as the efforts of progressive Muslim feminists everywhere toward improving the situations of millions of women in Islamic cultures. Malala was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen in 2012 for deciding to continue her education despite threats from the Islamic fundamentalist movement. She continues to push for women’s rights today.

“No author’s use of autobiography has been more powerful than that of the early slave narrators.” African American history and literature scholar Mitch Kachun is pleased to relate his excitement and concerns over the upcoming film 12 Years a Slave, a slave narrative based on the memoirs of Solomon Northup. One of many individuals whose life story was collected and disseminated to promote the abolitionist movement, Northup was a free black man from New York who was kidnapped and sold into slavery at 31 years old. And while some critics have already begun criticizing the historical accuracy of both the film and memoir, Kachun states that questions over the authenticity of slave narratives are nothing new, and, more importantly, do not detract from the fact that such stories “represent one of the earliest and most profound genres of African American literary expression.”

Thanks again for reading this week’s roundup! Have a great weekend, and leave any thoughts in the comments!

Friday, October 18th, 2013

Lynne Huffer’s Open Letter to Sheryl Sandberg on her Advice to Working Women


In an essay for Al Jazeera , Lynne Huffer, author of Are the Lips a Grave writes an open letter to Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook corporation.

Huffer considers the suggestions to rise up the corporate ladder from Sandberg’s new book, Lean In and charts the trajectory of feminism that has dramatically improved the lives of working women over the past few decades.

Four decades ago, radical feminists launched a gender revolution because they recognised the value of what the Chinese call “speaking bitterness”. They honoured women’s feelings of discontent about fathers who raped them, boyfriends who abused them, doctors who sterilised them, and employers who paid them less than they were worth.

In her letter, Huffer highlights the key problem with Sandberg’s advice to women to succeed in positions of corporate power in capitalistic America— the inherent profit maximization goal of capitalism.

As any student in Econ 101 will tell you, our profit-driven economic system is shaped like a pyramid, with workers at the bottom and Chief Operating Officers like you at the top. I don’t doubt you’re sincere in wanting success for every woman: more female CEOs and Presidents, more Hillary Clintons. As 1970s’ liberal feminists used to put it: you want a bigger piece of the pie for all of us. Which means, as the second-wave feminists you so admire used to put it: feminism is not about getting a bigger piece of the pie. It’s about seeing that the whole pie is rotten.


Thursday, October 17th, 2013

Huffer: The New Normal Not Good Enough


This week our featured book is Are the Lips a Grave? by Lynne Huffer. This whole week, we will share interesting articles related to the book and its author, Lynne Huffer.

In a piece for the Huffington Post, Huffer writes about the issues in promoting the grand image of marriage for everyone as a one-size-fits all solution, especially, for members of the LGBTQ community. She emphasizes on how the “abnormal” individuals who deviate from the classic image of being in love and in harmonious wedlock are ignored when the government provisions are only for those who are in blissful marital union with each other.

She begins with Obama’s 2012 Democratic National Convention speech where he endorses the idea that love transcends all barriers of race, gender and sexual orientation, in support of gay marriage.

To be a Democrat is to love. Barack’s love for Michelle is the personal expression of a larger political love that includes in its embrace not only all races and all religions but also gays and lesbians.

Huffer points out how our right to love eventually boils down to the topic of marriage and the biggest agenda from supporters of the LGBTQ community has been to vouch for equality in marriage. However, Huffer sheds light on how marriage equality alone cannot address issues as there needs to be a more comprehensive, political outlook on love and relationships across any criteria or background.

Ever since Obama’s declaration in May that “same-sex couples should be able to get married,” we’ve been basking in the warmth of that presidential affirmation. But same-sex marriage to the exclusion of other issues is a narrow vision of politics and an impoverished vision of love.

To that extent, Huffer cites a few examples of couples who may be left out in the debate to enforce marriage equality and the associated framework of laws that come with it. She states that they will be ignored because they do not fit the “normal” image projected of couples who are happily married.

How does marriage benefit two gay men in their 60s, both single all their lives, who decide to live together not as an expression of romantic love but to make ends meet? What about the single lesbian mother who finds herself homeless with her two children after escaping her lesbian partner’s domestic abuse? Or the F-to-M transgender teenager who tries to commit suicide by swallowing a bottle of pills after his parents kick him out because they cannot accept his inability to conform to gender norms? Is marriage going to save his life?