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Archive for April, 2015

Thursday, April 30th, 2015

Burton Watson Named Winner of 2015 PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation

Burton Watson

Congratulations to Burton Watson, winner of the 2015 PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation for his work as a translator of Chinese and Japanese literature! As the PEN America Translation Committee’s citation states, “Burton Watson is the inventor of classical East Asian poetry for our time.” Watson studied at Columbia University as both an undergraduate and a postgraduate, and taught at Columbia for many years. He has translated prose, fiction, and poetry from both Chinese and Japanese into English, and the list of his translations published with us speaks for itself. We here at Columbia UP could not be prouder to have worked with Professor Watson over the years.

More from the PEN announcement:

Credited with making many classical Chinese and Japanese works accessible to the English-reading public for the first time, Watson’s translations also span a wide array of genres, from poetry and prose to histories and sacred texts. The committee’s citation continues, “For decades his anthologies and his scholarly introductions have defined classical East Asian literature for students and readers in North America, and we have reason to expect more: even at his advanced age, he still translates nearly daily.”

In 1982, Watson was a recipient of the PEN Translation Prize for his translation of From the Country of Eight Islands: An Anthology of Japanese Poetry by Hiroaki Sato (Anchor Press/University of Washington Press), and in 1995 for his translation of Selected Poems of Su Tung–p’o (Copper Canyon). PEN is thrilled to now recognize Watson for his valued and longstanding commitment to the art of translation, bringing great creativity and precision to his work and introducing exceptional works of literature to a wider audience.

Watson will be honored, along with all 2015 PEN award winners, at the PEN Literary Awards Ceremony on June 8 at The New School in New York City.

Thursday, April 30th, 2015

Thursday Fiction Corner: David Foster Wallace on Ironism

Freedom and the Self

“Wallace’s insight on irony is this: when worn as a mask, irony helps one cast a striking figure, but it is privately, personally destructive.” — Nathan Ballantyne and Justin Tosi

This week our featured book is Freedom and the Self: Essays on the Philosophy of David Foster Wallace, edited by Steven M. Cahn and Maureen Eckert. In the concluding essay in the collection, Nathan Ballantyne and Justin Tosi argue that David Foster Wallace’s “writings suggest a view about what philosophers would call the good life.” In today’s post (an intersection of this week’s feature and our weekly Thursday Fiction Corner), we’ve excerpted the section of Ballantyne and Tosi’s essay in which they discuss DFW’s conception of irony as a source of unhappiness in contemporary culture.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Freedom and the Self!

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

Read Steven Cahn and Maureen Eckert’s Introduction to Freedom and the Self

Freedom and the Self

This week our featured book is Freedom and the Self: Essays on the Philosophy of David Foster Wallace, edited by Steven M. Cahn and Maureen Eckert. Today, we are happy to present Cahn and Eckert’s Introduction, in which they explain their hopes for Freedom and the Self, and discuss the essays contained in the volume.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Freedom and the Self!

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

David Foster Wallace as a Philosophy Student and a Philosopher

Freedom and the Self

This week our featured book is Freedom and the Self: Essays on the Philosophy of David Foster Wallace, edited by Steven M. Cahn and Maureen Eckert. Freedom and the Self follows up on Fate, Time, and Language: An Essay on Free Will, our recent publication of David Foster Wallace’s critique of Richard Taylor’s philosophical work, with essays examining DFW’s philosophical views in more depth.

To set the stage for the week’s feature, today we are featuring the afterword from Fate, Time, and Language, written by Jay Garfield, a professor who worked with Wallace at Hampshire College, as well as a set of “Brief Interviews with Philosophy Students” in video form, explaining and delving into different aspects of Wallace’s work. Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Freedom and the Self!

David Foster Wallace as a Philosophy Student

Brief Interviews with Philosophy Students

On DFW the Philosopher:

Tuesday, April 28th, 2015

New Book Tuesday! Warm Croissants, The Thirteenth Step, The Seventh Sense, and More New Titles!

Human Kindess and the Smell of Warm Croissants

Our weekly listing of new titles now available:

Human Kindness and the Smell of Warm Croissants: An Introduction to Ethics
Ruwen Ogien; Translated by Martin Thom

The Thirteenth Step: Addiction in the Age of Brain Science
Markus Heilig

The Seventh Sense: How Flashes of Insight Change Your Life
William Duggan

Plato’s Republic: A Dialogue in 16 Chapters (Now available in paper)
Alain Badiou; Translated by Susan Spitzer

The Homoerotics of Orientalism (Now available in paper)
Joseph A. Boone

Hitchcock Annual: Volume 19
Edited by Sidney Gottlieb and Richard Allen

Monday, April 27th, 2015

Book Giveaway! Freedom and the Self: Essays on the Philosophy of David Foster Wallace

Freedom and the Self

“In the last decade, Wallace scholarship has often confined itself to very narrow corridors, covering and re-covering excursions that have become increasingly familiar. This collection opens up a new wing of the critical mansion, building up not only our understanding of Wallace’s important early engagement with Taylor, but also pressing his investigations toward lively new dialogues with John McFarlane, David Lewis, Archilochus, Richard Rorty, and many others.” — Stephen J. Burn, University of Glasgow

This week our featured book is Freedom and the Self: Essays on the Philosophy of David Foster Wallace, edited by Steven M. Cahn and Maureen Eckert. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book, its subject, and its editors on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Freedom and the Self. To enter our book giveaway, simply fill out the form below with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select our winners on Friday, May 1st at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!

Friday, April 24th, 2015

University Press Roundup

University Press Roundup

Welcome to our weekly roundup of the best articles 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. (And look back at our University Press Roundup Manifesto to see why we do this post every Friday.)

Writer and sustainability adviser E. Friya Williams writes about our favorite companies this week, including Chipotle, Sweet Green, Warby Parker, and other “green” businesses on AMACOM Books, detailing the increasing incentive for companies to go Earth friendly.

“Let us honor the Earth on Earth Day by reflecting upon its current state and the choices we might make on its behalf.” The University of California Press celebrated Earth Day with an environmental survey put together by Linda Weintraub, art writer and curator. See how well you consider the planet!

As you already know, the beloved romantic critic M.H. Abrams died this past Tuesday on April 21, 2015. Read about his long career as a professor at Cornell and his position on the Cornell University Press editorial board from 1947-51.

Ever wonder about the history of the avocado and its recent increased popularity? Read writer Amanda Harris’ guest post on The Florida Bookshelf about the origin and price histories of avocados, mangoes, lemons and other fruits from all over the world centered around the fruit exploits of one man, David Fairchild.

Do you have a traumatically embarrassing experience being forced to sing in elementary school? “Why do we want children to sing?” asks Martin Ashley, head of research in the Faculty of Education at Edge Hill University this week for Oxford University Press’ blog.

John Gibbons, a Visiting Fellow in Astronomy at the University of Sussex, has a new and improved account of the Hubble Telescope and its true place in scientific history this week for Yale Books Unbound.

At Princeton University Press Blog this week, NYU professor Catherine Robson, author of Heart Beats: Everyday Life and the Memorized Poem, writes about her journey confronting and embracing poetry recitation in schools for National Poetry Month. Read about her experience as a judge at the “Poetry By Heart” festival in Cambridge where British teenagers ages 14-18 compete for the best poetry recitation.

Thanks for reading! As always, we hope that you enjoyed the links. Please let us know what you think in the comments!

Friday, April 24th, 2015

The Drugs Do Work (Sometimes) — Nessa Carey on Junk DNA and Medicine

Junk DNA, Nessa Carey

“One day science will probably be able to interpret all the pos­sible epigenetic modifications that are found in the genome and predict precisely what their consequences will be for gene expres­sion. But unravelling the rea­sons behind the triumph of hope over experience in the investment community? Be realistic.”—Nessa Carey

In the final post for our week-long feature on Junk DNA: A Journey Through the Dark Matter of the Genome, by Nessa Carey, we’ve provided an excerpt from the penultimate chapter, “The Drugs Do Work (Sometimes). In the chapter Carey explains how drug companies are building on new discoveries relating to junk DNA to develop new drugs. However, as Carey points out, the time and money they’re willing to devote to research and development is not consistent and often results in slowing down progress:

Billions of dollars are spent every year by companies trying to cre­ate new drugs to treat human diseases. They hope to find ways to tackle unmet medical needs, a situation that is becoming ever more urgent with the increasing age profile of the global population. The breakthroughs in the understanding of the impact of junk DNA on gene expression and disease progression are triggering a slew of new companies seeking to exploit this field. Specifically, most of the new efforts are in using non-protein-coding RNAs as drugs in themselves. The basic premise is that junk RNA – long non-coding, smallRNAs or another form called antisense – will be given to patients, to influence gene expression and control or cure disease.

This is very different from the way we treat diseases at the moment. Historically, most drugs have been of a type known as small molecules. These are chemically created and are relatively simple in shape. More recently, we have learnt how to use proteins as drugs. Probably the most famous is insulin, the hormone that diabetics use to regulate their blood sugar levels. Antibodies are another very successful type of protein drug. These are engineered versions of the molecules we all produce to fight infections. Drug companies have found ways of adapting these so that they will bind to over-expressed proteins and neutralise their activities. The bestselling antibody is one that treats rheumatoid arthritis very effectively, but there are others that treat conditions as diverse as breast cancer and blindness.


Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

Nessa Carey Introduces Us to Dark Genomic Matter

Junk DNA, Nessa Carey

“It’s becoming apparent that junk DNA actually has a multiplicity of different functions, perhaps unsurprisingly given how much of it there is.”—Nessa Carey

We continue our week-long feature on Junk DNA: A Journey Through the Dark Matter of the Genome, by Nessa Carey, with an excerpt from the chapter “An Introduction to Genomic Dark Matter:

For years, scientists had no explanation for why so much of our DNA doesn’t code for proteins. These non-coding parts were dismissed with the term ‘junk DNA’. But gradually this position has begun to look less tenable, for a whole host of reasons.

Perhaps the most fundamental reason for the shift in empha­sis is the sheer volume of junk DNA that our cells contain. One of the biggest shocks when the human genome sequence was completed in 2001 was the discovery that over 98 per cent of the DNA in a human cell is junk. It doesn’t code for any proteins.

Let’s imagine we visit a car factory, perhaps for something high-end like a Ferrari. We would be pretty surprised if for every two people who were build­ing a shiny red sports car, there were another 98 who were sitting around doing nothing. This would be ridiculous, so why would it be reasonable in our genomes? While it’s a very fair point that it’s the imperfections in organisms that are often the strongest evidence for descent from common ancestors—we humans really don’t need an appendix —this seems like taking imperfection rather too far.

A much more likely scenario in our car factory would be that for every two people assembling a car, there are 98 others doing all the things that keep a business moving. Raising finance, keep­ing accounts, publicising the product, processing the pensions, cleaning the toilets, selling the cars etc. This is probably a much better model for the role of junk in our genome. We can think of proteins as the final end points required for life, but they will never be properly produced and coordinated without the junk. Two people can build a car, but they can’t maintain a company selling it, and certainly can’t turn it into a powerful and financially successful brand. Similarly, there’s no point having 98 people mopping the floors and staffing the showrooms if there’s nothing to sell. The whole organisation only works when all the components are in place. And so it is with our genomes.


Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

Thursday Fiction Corner: Sierra Nevada, by Tomaž Šalamun

The Fall of Language in the Age of English

Welcome to the Thursday Fiction Corner, where we highlight some of the excellent poetry, drama, and fiction from our list and the lists of our distributed presses. Two weeks ago, the 2015 Best Translated Book Award Poetry Longlist was announced, and Tomaž Šalamun’s wonderful Soy Realidad, translated by Michael Thomas Taren and Šalamun himself, and published by Dalkey Archive Press, was included! Given that April is also National Poetry Month, we thought that it would be doubly appropriate to use this week’s Fiction Corner post to feature “Sierra Nevada,” a poem from Soy Realidad, in honor of the (two) occasions.

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

VIDEO: Nessa Carey Discusses Junk DNA

Courtesy of Icon Books, the British publisher of Junk DNA: A Journey Through the Dark Matter of the Genome, comes this excellent video in which Nessa Carey discusses her book and some of the most important challenges confronting the current study of genetics:

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015

Earth Day Video: Michael Mann on the Climate Wars

As today is Earth Day, we thought it worthwhile to feature this video featuring Michael Mann, author of The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines. The video is a powerful reminder of the continuing challenges faced by scientists and others to develop policies to protect the environment. In the video, produced by the Yale Climate Forum, Michael Mann discusses his work as a climate scientist as well as the political objections and obfuscations that have served to muddy scientific research and stymied efforts to create productive policies to combat climate change.

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

An Interview with Nessa Carey, Author of “Junk DNA”

Junk DNA, Nessa Carey

The following is an interview with Nessa Carey, author of Junk DNA: A Journey Through the Dark Matter of the Genome:

Question: Junk DNA explores the massive amount of excess DNA that do not directly create genes and make up proteins. Your last book, The Epigenetics Revolution focused on all of the different influences that can affect our genome as it is being written. Would you say you have a fascination with the imperfectness or the vulnerability of our own biology?

Nessa Carey: I think what I am drawn to are the areas of biology that are ambiguous. The ambiguity is both in terms of the biology itself, but also in how we view it. So I love that epigenetics is a discipline that takes us aware from genetic determinism and into situations where the genome can be affected by the environment but also by random fluctuations. With junk DNA I like that there is a vast network of subtly interacting factors that work together but are very hard to predict. But I am also drawn to what these areas tell us about the way scientists think—particularly how we create terms to describe things of which we have a very incomplete understanding, and then we get trapped in defending these inappropriate terms.

Q: In Junk DNA, you write that only 2% of our DNA is devoted to coding amino acids while the rest is “junk.” You ask the question, “What on earth is the other 98% doing?” Is this question and its prospect of the unknown ever terrifying to you? Or is it one that simply fuels more curiosity?

NC: That’s the fun bit. When I was choosing what to specialize in for my degree—biochemistry, microbiology or immunology—I chose immunology because it was the topic where my questions most often got the response of “we don’t know”.


Tuesday, April 21st, 2015

New Book Tuesday: Balibar, Contemporary Violence, Paul, and More New Books

Balibar, Violence and Civility

Our weekly listing of new titles:

Violence and Civility: On the Limits of Political Philosophy
Étienne Balibar; Translated by G. M. Goshgarian

Dangerous Trade: Arms Exports, Human Rights, and International Reputation
Jennifer L. Erickson

The Political Impossibility of Modern Counterinsurgency: Strategic Problems, Puzzles, and Paradoxes
M. L. R. Smith and David Martin Jones

Paul’s Summons to Messianic Life: Political Theology and the Coming Awakening
L. L. Welborn

The Tale of Genji: Translation, Canonization, and World Literature (Now available in paper)
Michael Emmerich

Prose of the World: Modernism and the Banality of Empire (Now available in paper)
Saikat Majumdar

Documents of Utopia: The Politics of Experimental Documentary
Paolo Magagnoli

Projects that Flow: More Projects in Less Time
Uwe Techt

Monday, April 20th, 2015

A Post for 4/20: Peter Maguire and Mike Ritter Discuss Pot Smuggling

In recognition of 4/20, we are re-posting Peter Maguire and Mike Ritter’s appearance on HuffPost Live to discuss their book Thai Stick: Surfers, Scammers, and the Untold Story of the Marijuana Trade In the interview, Maguire and Ritter discuss drug smuggling in Thailand in the 1960s and 1970s. Also joining them was Jim Conklin, the DEA agent who busted Mike Ritter for smuggling.

As the three explained, surfers began smuggling marijuana from Thailand but in relatively small quantities, driven by a spirit of adventure as much as a thirst for profit. Initially, neither Thai or U.S. officials paid much attention to the smugglers, who were generally nonviolent and “laid-back”. It was only later in the 1970s when professional criminals became involved and the amounts began to grow that the drug crackdown began.

After discussing this fascinating history, the three consider current drug policy and the dangers of synthetic opiates:

Monday, April 20th, 2015

Book Giveaway! Junk DNA, by Nessa Carey

This week our featured book is Junk DNA: A Journey Through the Dark Matter of the Genome by Nessa Carey.

In addition to featuring the book and the author on the blog, we will also be posting about the book on twitter, and facebook.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Junk DNA to one winner. To enter the contest please e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu and include your name and address. The winner will be selected Friday, April 24th at 1:00 pm.

Junk DNA provides a cutting-edge, exhaustive guide to the rapidly changing, ever-more mysterious genome.”—Linda Geddes, New Scientist

Friday, April 17th, 2015

University Press Roundup

University Press Roundup

Welcome to our weekly roundup of the best articles 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. (And look back at our University Press Roundup Manifesto to see why we do this post every Friday.)

“Our nation’s tax system is badly broken. Everyone knows that.” Writing at Yale Books Unbound, Michael J. Graetz explains how the tax system in the U.S. has gotten so hopelessly complicated and proposes some reform possibilities that would allow the system to more accurately and simply represent financial realities.

The rehabilitation of Gas Works Park in Seattle is one of landscape architect Richard Haag’s most famous projects, and at the University of Washington Press Blog, Thaisa Way tells the story of how Browns Point was transformed from “a toxic wasteland” to a new type of public park.

At the University of Texas Press blog, writer Seamus McGraw uses Senator Jim Inhofe’s (in)famous snowball-throw Senate speech as a way to discuss the impacts of a changing climate on those whose work depends on environmental consistency: farmers and fishermen. (more…)

Thursday, April 16th, 2015

“Born to Chaos” — an Excerpt from Manchu Princess, Japanese Spy

We continue our week-long feature on Manchu Princess, Japanese Spy: The Story of Kawashima Yoshiko, the Cross-Dressing Spy Who Commanded Her Own Army, by Phyllis Birnbaum with an excerpt from the book. In the chapter “Born to Chaos,” Birnbaum opens with the last days of Kawashima Yoshiko, while looking back at her exploits, her troubled upbringing and her conflicting legacies in China and Japan:

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015

Interview with Phyllis Birnbaum, author of “Manchu Princess, Japanese Spy,” Part 2

Manchu Princess, Japanese Spy

The following is part one of our interview with Phyllis Birnbaum, author of Manchu Princess, Japanese Spy: The Story of Kawashima Yoshiko, the Cross-Dressing Spy Who Commanded Her Own Army:

Q: Why begin with Yoshiko’s execution?

Phyllis Birnbaum: I didn’t want to tell Yoshiko’s story chronologically, that is, I didn’t want to write she was born, she went to school, she grew up, she died etc. I wanted to be able to jump back and forth in time, and also wanted to digress to other side issues–about what was happening in Manchuria at the time; about Emperor Puyi; about Saga Hiro, the Japanese woman married to Puyi’s brother. So telling readers about Yoshiko’s death at the very beginning is a kind of announcement that the biography is not going to be told in a “this happened, then this happened” style.

Also, as a beginning to a book, her execution is dramatic and, hopefully, catches the reader’s attention!

Q: What was Yoshiko’s attitude towards her own fame? (more…)

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015

VIDEO: Peter Piot and the Science and Politics of AIDS

In the following video, Peter Piot, author of the just-published AIDS Between Science and Politics discusses with the Financial Times his experiences as an AIDS researcher and how communicable diseases can be prevented in the future: