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July 11th, 2014

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.

Religious freedom and what it entails has been at the forefront of the American consciousness over the last few weeks, as the Supreme Court has considered two important religious freedom cases. In both Burwell v. Hobby Lobby and Wheaton College v. Burwell, the Supreme Court decided “in favor of conservative Christian plaintiffs seeking exemptions from the contraceptive coverage mandate of the Affordable Care Act.” This week, the Chicago Blog of the University of Chicago Press featured an article by Winnifred Fallers Sullivan on the “rotten core at the heart of all religious freedom laws”: what she calls the difference between “small ‘r’ religion” and “big ‘R’ Religion.” In explaining this difference, Sullivan demands that we consider what religious freedom is really designed to protect.

Another important recent Supreme Court case was Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, in which the Court upheld Michigan’s ban on race- and sex-based affirmative action in public hiring and education. Writing at the UNC Press Blog, Marc Stein discusses the case, and in particular the divide between the opinions written by Associate Justice Sonya Sotomayor and Chief Justice John Roberts.

The World Cup is drawing to a close, with only the third place game and the Final still to be played. Duke University Press has continued their series on the Cup with a couple of fascinating posts from Orin Starn and Marc Hertzman. Starn is watching the games from “a shantytown in desert Peru,” and he explains how the World Cup both isn’t (“There’s little pan-Latin American solidarity in football fandom”) and is (the Neymar-style haircuts of some of the children, for example) a big deal in the poor areas of Peru. Meanwhile, Hertzman focuses instead on the gender issues at play in Brazil at the moment. One notable example: while the aforementioned Neymar got the great majority of the press as the best Brazilian player, Hertzman points out that the most decorated current Brazilian player has not been mentioned much at all. Marta is the star of Brazil’s women’s team, and has “on or finished second as FIFA’s women’s Player of the Year an amazing nine times.”

While the World Cup has, once again, been a wildly popular spectacle, Susan Kneebone points out that it has also put the spotlight firmly on the problematic preparations for the 2022 World Cup scheduled to take place in Qatar. Writing at the OUPblog, Kneebone looks at the plight and frequent mistreatment of the estimated 500,000 migrant workers Qatar is depending on to build the infrastructure necessary for the World Cup to take place. She is particularly careful to point out that this dependency on migrant workers is not unique to Qatar during their preparations, but that it is a fairly common practice throughout the Gulf States region, and, indeed, throughout the world.

At the University of Minnesota Press Blog, Eric Avila argues that, while “freeway and the automobile, after all, were built upon a uniquely American premise of freedom,” the ways that freeways were planned and constructed in cities in the 1950s and 1960s sometimes divided and hurt poor, nonwhite communities, even while offering convenient and ostensibly democratic means of transportation.

How far can ISIS go? At the JHU Press Blog, Mark N. Katz takes a close look at the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, pointing out that, while nobody saw them expanding so quickly, they are encountering three problems common to most revolutionary movements (and these problems are exacerbated by the fact that they did expand so quickly): “1.) regional opposition; 2.) reaction to repression; and 3.) rifts among the radicals.”

“In India’s recent national elections, a single party gained the majority of the seats in the lower house of parliament for the first time since 1984.” The Bharatiya Janata Party that controls that majority, is a consistently Hindu nationalist party, and, at the Stanford University Press Blog, Narendra Subramanian believes that the BJP is likely to “vigorously promote Hindu hegemony” and support unequal economic growth at the expense of the poorer elements of the population, and that these policies “may damage democratic citizenship that much more as the constraints they face are rather weak.”

How did the tradition of sports teams with names referencing Native American culture begin? Using the current furor over the name of the Washington Redskins as a jumping-off point, Kate Buford, in a post at the University of Nebraska Press Blog, looks at the history of Native Americans as team names and mascots. She traces the practice back to the famous football coach Glenn S. “Pop” Warner, whose Carlisle Indian Industrial School football team (the Indians) was hugely successful in the early 1900s, led by Jim Thorpe. Buford also, however, looks at the history of the fight against demeaning sports team names, and in particular the successful 1972 petition by Native American students at Stanford that led to the university changing its mascot from the Indians to the Cardinal.

In 1991, Mount Pinatubo, a volcano located about 90 kilometers from Manila in the Philippines that had not been thought of as active, produced the largest volcanic eruption in living memory–the ash from the explosion formed a mushroom cloud that grew to an area the size of France. At the nineteenfourteen blog (the temporarily renamed version of Cambridge University Press’s fifteeneightyfour blog), Clive Oppenheimer writes about the immense eruption and about what its aftermath can teach us about disaster management and climate change.

Finally, we’ll wrap things up this week with an article from Beacon Broadside Press about a very different kind of ecological disaster. Instead of looking at a single moment of environmental trauma like the eruption of Mount Pinatubo, Brad Tyer looks at the history of the Clark Fork, “one of the most badly abused rivers in the United States.” Tyer walks readers through the river’s history, from the harm done by copper mining to the strange industrial accidents that have damaged the river (including multiple Boeing airplane fuselages and harmful collections of chemicals), and warns of the potential for enormous environmental disaster if the contaminated waters of the “Yankee Doodle tailings” above the river were allowed to escape into the river.

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

July 11th, 2014

Bangladesh, New York, and Florida after the Great Collapse of 2093

We conclude our week-long feature on The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway with three maps from 2393 that illustrate the ravages of climate change on Bangladesh, New York, and Florida. The commentary comes from a twenty-fourth century historian looking back at how twenty-first century leaders failed to react to the growing threats to the environment:

The Collapse of Western Civlization
Bangladesh Among North Americans, Bangladesh—one of the poorest nations of the world—served as an ideological battleground. Self-described “Climate Hawks” used it to levy moral demands for greenhouse gas reductions so that it would not suf­fer inundation, while so-called “Climate Realists” insisted that only economic growth powered by cheap fossil fuels would make Bangladeshis wealthy enough to save themselves. In reality, “unfettered economic growth” made a handful of Bangladeshis wealthy enough to flee. The poor were left to the floods.

The Collapse of Western Civilization, New York City
New York City in the twenty-fourth century Once the financial capital of the world, New York began in the early twenty-first century to attempt to defend its elabo­rate and expensive infrastructure against the sea. But that infrastructure had been designed and built with an expectation of constant seas and was not easily adapted to continuous, rapid rise. Like the Netherlands, New York City gradually lost its struggle. Ultimately, it proved less expensive to retreat to higher ground, abandoning centuries’ worth of capital investments.

Read the rest of this entry »

July 10th, 2014

Thursday Fiction Corner: A Conversation with Danilo Kiš

Danilo Kiš

“Art is the terrain where you are absolutely free and where you can explore all life’s beauties and all life’s vices without being punished. There’s a simple explanation for this: art is a replacement for real life. Art is the opposite of life. A normal person doesn’t write books.” — Danilo Kiš

We are proud to be distributing Dalkey Archive Press, one of the leading publishers of avant-garde fiction and literature in translation! Today we continue our series of Thursday Fiction Corner posts highlighting conversations from the Dalkey Archive backlist (so far we’ve featured Nicholas Mosley and Carlos Fuentes) with a conversation with Danilo Kiš and Brendan Lemon, which took place in 1984. Kiš was a Yugoslavian and Serbian writer known for combining narrative experiment and humor with the deadly serious realities of life in Eastern Europe in the mid and late twentieth century. In their interview, Lemon and Kiš discuss Kiš’s reading habits, his love of the technical aspects of writing, and “the problems of ethics and aesthetics.” Read the full conversation on the Dalkey Archive Press website.

Brandon Lemon: The act of reading is very important in Hourglass, especially the relationship between reading and dreaming. At one point you write that in The Interpretation of Dreams Freud didn’t pay enough attention to the reading we do before sleep. Do you read a great deal? What kinds of books do you read at bedtime?

Danilo Kiš: I read a great deal. And I generally dream about what I read more than about what I experience otherwise. I think that that would also have been the case for the father in Hourglass. Reading is also depicted in Garden, Ashes in the passage where the child reads a fragment from a novel about love. I like novels that work in bits of other books. It’s reassuring to those of us who spend most of our lives reading. It seems perfectly normal to me not only to dream about what one reads but also to insert what one reads into one’s life and one’s work. The relationship of reading to writing and of both to the rest of life is something that I’ve very consciously included in my work.

BL: Let’s get back to your reading.

DK: You know, I’m very lazy. I write little and rarely. But I read all the time, all kinds of things. I’m a big reader of poetry because I consider myself something of a poet manque. Technically, I know exactly what to do, and I like translating poetry. But I realized that I can better express myself in prose. Read the rest of this entry »

July 10th, 2014

Naomi Oreskes on Why We Should Trust Scientists

In the following TED Talk, Naomi Oreskes, coauthor (with Erik M. Conway) of The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future, discusses why we should trust scientists.

From the TED description:

Many of the world’s biggest problems require asking questions of scientists — but why should we believe what they say? Historian of science Naomi Oreskes thinks deeply about our relationship to belief and draws out three problems with common attitudes toward scientific inquiry — and gives her own reasoning for why we ought to trust science.

July 9th, 2014

Erik M. Conway on The Role of Neoliberalism in Climate Change

“Market fundamentalism allows us to continue believing that we’re not responsible for climate change or its impacts.”—Erik M. Conway

Erik M. Conway, The Decline of Western CivilizationThe following post is by Erik M. Conway, the coauthor (with Naomi Oreskes) of The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future

One of the important intellectual underpinnings of the American refusal to undertake significant efforts to mitigate climate change has been the economic doctrine of neoliberalism. The term is rather amorphous, and means different things to different people. Naomi Oreskes and myself use it in the sense of what George Soros called market fundamentalism. Market fundamentalists believe in the perfection of economic markets as they currently exist, and that only markets “free” of government interference can protect individual liberty.

There are many things wrong with market fundamentalism, but the aspect of it that’s preventing us from dealing with climate change effectively is that markets as they currently exist don’t account for the cost of pollution. It’s free to dump carbon dioxide and methane and many other things into the atmosphere. In other words, we use the atmosphere as an open sewer, and don’t charge anyone for dumping stuff into it. In economic terms, pollution is an “externality,” a thing that exists outside the market system.

Market fundamentalists like to speak of the “magic of the market place.” Somehow, they think, markets will magically fix these externalities. But markets can’t fix problems that are external to those markets, no matter how hard we wish they would. That sums up the problem. Market fundamentalism is a form of magical thinking. And unfortunately, otherwise reasonable people routinely engage in this sort of magical thinking.

The good news is that, at least in principle, it’s fairly easy to fix this externality. In the 1970s, economists interested in reforming environmental regulation away from what they called “command and control” restrictions towards more market-friendly policies revived an old idea, the idea of pollution pricing. Emissions trading, what we now refer to as “cap and trade,” was one way to establish a price on pollution. Pollution taxes are another (economists often call this kind of tax “Pigovian,” after their inventor, Arthur Pigou). Both are simply ways of extending the market system to cover air and water pollution as well.

Read the rest of this entry »

July 8th, 2014

Interview with Naomi Oreskes, author of The Collapse of Western Civilization

Interview Naomi OreskesThe following is an interview with Naomi Oreskes, coauthor of, with Erik M. Conway, The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future:

Question: In The Collapse of Western Civilization you approach climate change as a fictionalized future historian of science. How does science fiction in this form provide a new way to look at climate change?

Naomi Oreskes: Scientists keep talking about disruptive climate change as something in the future, but the reality is that it is already underway. The post hoc voice (ironically) gives us a powerful way to talk about the present. It also allows us to convey what is at stake, not just for polar bears, or people in Bangladesh, but for us—our safety, our security, our way of life, even our national identity.

Q: You and Erik are both historians of science, how does an historical perspective help citizens and policymakers better understand the issues surrounding climate change?

Oreskes: In contrast to scientists, historians reject reductionist approaches. Viewing climate change as historians, we are able to consider not just the scientific dimensions, but also the political, the cultural, and the ideological aspects.

Q: What is the relationship between our current market-based economy and climate change? Is it the problem or can it offer a solution?

Oreskes: Both. A major point of the story is that the climate change was a market failure, but one that could have been fixed had people not been gripped by magical thinking.

Q: What are the threats to democracy and personal freedom posed by climate change and its effects?

Oreskes: Disruptive climate change threatens democracy—threatens democratic institutions—and personal freedom, because natural disasters require massive governmental responses, and invite the federal government to usurp local and individual authority.

Q: Recently, we’ve seen movements on college campuses to divest from fossil fuels gaining momentum. Do you think this will likely have an impact on climate change and the politics surrounding it?

Oreskes: Absolutely. It’s having an impact already.

Q: Finally, do you think climate change will be a prominent issue in the 2016 presidential campaign?

Oreskes: We’re historians. We don’t predict the future. At least, not unless it’s in fiction.

July 8th, 2014

New Book Tuesday: Roberto Bolano and A Daughter’s Memoir of Burma

Roberto Bolano's FictionOur weekly list of new titles now available:

Roberto Bolaño’s Fiction: An Expanding Universe
Chris Andrews

A Daughter’s Memoir of Burma
Wendy Law-Yone

July 7th, 2014

The Nature of Value Allocation

The Nature of Value

“We organize our lives and resources “economically”, but what does that mean? Where is it all heading and how can one allocate those resources better? These are big questions, on which The Nature of Value seeks to provide perspective.” — Nick Gogerty

Last week our featured book was The Nature of Value: How to Invest in the Adaptive Economy, by Nick Gogerty, and, since last week was a short one with the July 4th holiday, we are keeping things rolling today with one final post. Today, we have an excerpt from the fifteenth chapter of The Nature of Value, “The Nature of Value Allocation,” as well as a list of the six things Nick Gogerty hopes that you will get out of his book:

New ideas. The Nature of Value should provide fresh ways to consider how innovation, economies, and investing work.

We organize our lives and resources “economically”, but what does that mean? Where is it all heading and how can one allocate those resources better? These are big questions, on which The Nature of Value seeks to provide perspective. Areas of exploration include but aren’t limited to:

-New economic concepts (panarchies, possibility spaces, inos, value based diversification, and much more)
-The dangers of price/value confusion
-Mental models of how economies work like nature, evolving and adapting
-A theory of portfolio allocation based on the credit money cycle to value flow relationship
-Sustainable value creation: who wins and why?
-The role of energy and information in ecology and economics

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for The Nature of Value by 1 PM Monday, July 7th (today)!

July 7th, 2014

Book Giveaway! The Collapse of Western Civilization, by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway

The Collapse of Western Civilization

This week our featured book is The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future, by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway.

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

We are also offering a FREE copy of The Collapse of Western Civilization to a lucky winner. To enter the contest please e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu and include your name and address. The winner will be selected Friday, July 11 at 1:00 pm.

“A chilling view of what our history could be. Ignore it and it becomes more likely. Read this book, heed its warning, and perhaps we can avoid its dire predictions.” — Timothy Wirth, vice chairman, United Nations Foundation, and former U.S. Senator and Member, U.S. House of Representatives

Read the introduction and the first chapter, “The Coming of the Penumbral Age”:

July 3rd, 2014

The Value of Moats

The Nature of Value

“The investor’s job is to make a judgment about intrinsic value based on faith in the underlying capabilities to maintain the moat relative to the cluster and economy on a go-forward basis.” — Nick Gogerty

This week our featured book is The Nature of Value: How to Invest in the Adaptive Economy, by Nick Gogerty. In today’s excerpt from The Nature of Value, Gogerty explains the concept of “moats,” and argues that identifying a moat is an extremely lucrative pursuit for any business.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for The Nature of Value by 1 PM Monday, July 7th!

July 2nd, 2014

The Nature of Value, as Illustrated Through Pins

The Nature of Value

This week our featured book is The Nature of Value: How to Invest in the Adaptive Economy, by Nick Gogerty.

Last month, we pinned many of the most profound illustrations from the book on CUP’s Pinterest profile.
As one can see below, Gogerty takes a completely original approach to explaining the relationship between intrinsic value and price. As the intrinsic value of a golden-egg-laying goose may not be obvious at a quick glance, neither is the value of a firm’s unique capabilities. View the full The Nature of Value board here.

Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our CBSP Twitter feed.
Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for The Nature of Value by 1 PM Monday, July 7th!
Additionally, you can read an excerpt from the first chapter here.

July 1st, 2014

A Glimpse into The Nature of Value, by Nick Gogerty

The Nature of Value

This week our featured book is The Nature of Value: How to Invest in the Adaptive Economy, by Nick Gogerty. Today, we are happy to present an excerpt from the first chapter of The Nature of Value, “The Problem with Price? It’s Not Value,” in which Gogerty illustrates the concept of intrinsic value as a golden-egg-laying goose. After seeing these original graphics, you won’t be able to confuse “price” for “value” again!

Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our CBSP Twitter feed.
Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for The Nature of Value by 1 PM Monday, July 7th!

July 1st, 2014

New Book Tuesday: A New Book from Amartya Sen, New Fiction from Dalkey Archive, and More!

The Arrow Impossibility Theorem, Amartya SenOur weekly list of new titles:

The Arrow Impossibility Theorem
Eric Maskin and Amartya Sen

The Sarashina Diary: A Woman’s Life in Eleventh-Century Japan
Sugawara no Takasue no Musume

Law of Desire: Stories
Andrej Blatnik

Antoine Volodine

Another View: Tracing the Foreign in Literary Translation
Eduard Stoklosinski

From Microfinance to Business Planning: Escaping Poverty Traps
Roberto Moro Visconti

June 30th, 2014

Book Giveaway! The Nature of Value, by Nick Gogerty

The Nature of Value

This week our featured book is The Nature of Value: How to Invest in the Adaptive Economy, by Nick Gogerty. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our CBSP Twitter feed.

The Nature of Value explores the function of economic value in the context of evolution’s processes to explain how investors can improve their allocation decisions. View the book trailer here:

We are also offering a FREE copy of The Nature of Value. 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 Monday, July 7th at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!

June 27th, 2014

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.

Last weekend, university presses from around the country convened in New Orleans for AAUP—the yearly conference of the Association of American University Presses. John Hopkins University Press editorial Director Greg Britton shares his thoughts on the event, and provides a few links to additional resources and social media for those curious to know more.

With “football”—or “soccer” in American English—mania now sweeping the nations, Cambridge University Press’s blogpost on the global sport may teach readers a little something about it. From the first international encounter in 1872 Scotland-England to the Brazil 2014 stadiums, football maintains steady position as world’s most popular sport. Evidently the 2010 South African World Cup attracted viewership of 46.4 per cent of the whole world’s population, and with the spike in interest from the USA , who knows how much this percentage has increased for this 2014 Brazil World Cup? (Our chunk of the world population pie is clearly BIGGER and BETTER. USA!) The excerpt celebrates the local tribalism of the sport, its drama, its elegant simplicity, and its international appeal. Take a look here.

Speaking of soccer, tribalism, and the World Cup, Duke University Press’s Seth Garfield, author of Indigenous Struggle at the Heart of Brazil, reflects on his last experience in Brazil during a World Cup. He’s writing, of course, about 1994, during which he found himself a welcomed participant in a native Xavante song and dance celebration. Garfield juxtaposes the past with the present—indigenous history with globalization and industrialization—citing the cultural preservation of Xavante life against a backdrop of abandoned agribusiness offices. His recollection is somewhat bittersweet, complicated further by the natives’ cause for celebration—a Brazilian victory in the World Cup.

In an instance of academic publishing getting the “scoop” before newspaper headlines, Beacon Broadside’s blogpost by Fran Hawthorne on the founder and CEO of American Apparel Dov Charney reveals that his ethical misconduct was known long before the story made newspaper headlines. In her book Ethical Chic: The Inside Story of Companies We Think We Love (March 2013), Hawthorne argued, “To earn a social-responsibility badge, American Apparel would have to take a major step: dump Charney.” Thankfully, the company heeded her recommendation.

Contrary to Barbara Tuchman’s claim that August 1914 was the formative month in First World War history, historian Gordon Martel pushes the date earlier to July 1914 in his book The Month That Changed the World: July 1914. His blog post, however, narrates the events of Saturday, 27 June 1914, the day preceding Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination and provide s grounding historical context. Archduke Ferdinand paid visit to Sarajevo with his wife Sophie meant to glorify Austrian rule. Hindsight colors the narration with irony: “The royal couple remained blissfully unaware that they had almost come face-to-face with the young Serb who was planning to kill the archduke the next day.”

On a historical note, Yale University Press’s post on public speaking master class from Winston Churchill divulges the key ingredients for great oration: Diction, rhythm, accumulation, analogy, and extravagance are all necessary. Jonathan Rose translates Churchill as a literary figure, who was an inspirational and hugely charismatic rhetorician. Who better to take oration lessons from?

“At the end of the day, oral history is complimented by technology,” says OUP author Juliana Nykolaiszyn. Besides her status as a self-proclaimed technology geek, Nykolaiszyn also works as an oral historian, interviewing subjects and recording the exchange for preservation and research. Google Glass, she reveals, may be the next remarkable technology to emerge in the evolution of the field. In her post, Nykolaiszyn details some of the draws of Google Glass and other products that promote more seamless interaction between people, and also touches their potential drawbacks.

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

June 27th, 2014

Jenny Davidson on the Glimmer Factor, Sentences, Chocolate, and More

Jenny Davidson, A Life in Sentences

“All sentences are not created equal. Some are more interest­ing, more intricate, more attractive or repellent than others.”—Jenny Davidson

The following is an excerpt from “The Glimmer Factor,” the opening chapter to Reading Style: A Life in Sentences by Jenny Davidson:

I’ve always been bothered by the notion that literature is worth reading chiefly for what it teaches us about life. Of course we learn things about life from literature: it’s self-evident that a book may make its reader wiser or more philosophical in some measure consequent upon the nature of the book itself, the timing and circumstances of the reader’s encounter with it and the reader’s openness to transformation. But there is also something intolerably banal about the idea that the main reward of reading a novel by Leo Tolstoy or George Eliot should be my becoming a slightly better person.

Partly I am troubled that the motive of pleasure recedes so far from view. This kind of emphasis on self-improvement also steals the limelight from a more stringently cognitive aspect of reading. Not the simple fact of transportation, of being lost in a book, but rather a form of intellectual play that seems to me ulti­mately as ethical as its lesson-driven counterpart: ethical in the sense of its developing one’s capacities of comprehension to the fullest, taking the jumbled furniture of the human mind (the meager apparatus of Lear’s “poor, bare, forked animal”) and teaching it to make meaning out of words. To make the idea that literature tells us about life the primary reason for reading Laurence Sterne, Jane Austen, Virginia Woolf and their like degrades the very thing that draws me to literature in the first place: the glimmer of the sentences, not first and foremost the wisdom contained in them. By stripping literary language down to its constituent parts, I perversely gain a sense of transcendence, an emotional as well as intellectual liberation that comes by way of the most precise consider­ation of details of language.

All sentences are not created equal. Some are more interest­ing, more intricate, more attractive or repellent than others….

Read the rest of this entry »

June 27th, 2014

Interview with Alfredo Morabia, author of Enigmas of Health and Disease

Enigmas of Health and DiseaseThe following is an interview with Alfredo Morabia, author of Enigmas of Health and Disease: How Epidemiology Helps Unravel Scientific Mysteries. You can also read Morabia’s blog post Michelle Obama and Epidemiology: An Inspiring Example

Question Your book offers a fascinating and frequently surprising history of epidemiology. How does our understanding of this history help us confront contemporary issues relating to medicine and public health?

Alfredo Morabia: If I have to isolate one key lesson of this historical voyage, it is that society’s success in confronting health issues depends on its ability to use epidemiology to identify medical and public health interventions that work. This was the great discovery of the 17th century, and it finally stopped and reversed the inexorable and millenary progression of the great epidemic diseases.

Q: As you looked back at the history, were there particular events or moments that you found particularly surprising and perhaps changed the way you think about epidemiology?

AM: I had always associated the history of epidemiology mostly with the history of public health but this is not true. The history of epidemiology belongs just as much to the history of clinical medicine. Group comparisons were used to assess the efficacy of treatments by clinical doctors throughout the 350 years of existence of epidemiology.

Q: Your book stresses the importance of group comparisons. Why is this so central to epidemiology?

AM: Comparison is the basic tool of science. In epidemiology, by comparing groups of people we can learn whether a specific drug works, whether an exposure is beneficial or deleterious, or whether a screening test can prolong life. Groups are predictable and comparable; individuals are not.

Read the rest of this entry »

June 26th, 2014

Announcing Three Goodreads Giveaways!

We are happy to announce that we are hosting not one, not two, but THREE book giveaways on Goodreads over the next couple weeks! For those looking to learn more about Einstein, we are giving away Jeffrey Bennett’s intuitive introduction to Einstein’s ideas, What Is Relativity?. Interested in the sociology of atheism in the United States? Atheists in America, edited by Melanie E. Brewster, is the book for you! If your interests run more towards history of capitalism and finance, you should check out The World’s First Stock Exchange, Lodewijk Petram’s account of the 17th century development of Amsterdam as a dominant financial center. Look below for details on entering!

What Is Relativity?: An Intuitive Introduction to Einstein’s Ideas, and Why They Matter
Jeffrey Bennett

Goodreads Book Giveaway

What Is Relativity? by Jeffrey Bennett

What Is Relativity?

by Jeffrey Bennett

Giveaway ends July 07, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Atheists in America
Edited by Melanie E. Brewster

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Atheists in America by Melanie E. Brewster

Atheists in America

by Melanie E. Brewster

Giveaway ends July 07, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

The World’s First Stock Exchange
Lodewijk Petram

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The World's First Stock Exchange by Lodewijk Petram

The World’s First Stock Exchange

by Lodewijk Petram

Giveaway ends July 07, 2014.

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June 26th, 2014

Thursday Fiction Corner: Edouard Levé’s Works


“As a piece of writing, it challenges our notions of what literature is; each project is fictional, in that at the time of writing it had not yet happened and came from imagination. While some are absurd, many others would be easily realized, pushing them beyond fiction and into the realm of artistic actuality.” — Rosie Clarke

We are proud to be distributing Dalkey Archive Press, one of the leading publishers of avant-garde fiction and literature in translation! In today’s Thursday Fiction Corner post, Dalkey Archive intern Rosie Clarke takes a close look at Edouard Levé’s catalog of over five hundred proposed artistic projects: Works.

Edouard Levé — Works
Rosie Clarke

It is difficult to talk about Edouard Levé without speaking of his death. Unsurprisingly, this is the focus of most critical pieces that respond to his most famous book, Suicide, published in 2011. The inextricable relationship between this novel and Levé’s subsequent suicide, with many arguing that the narrative voice of the novel is the author’s own, makes the text all the more compelling. However, with the posthumous publication by Dalkey Archive Press of Works in July, we are exposed to a very different side of Levé – one not fixated on death, or depression, but rather on vibrant and almost obsessive creativity. Written when the author was a younger man, Works predates his other published novels, and offers enjoyable, entertaining insight into his patterns of thought.

The text is a collection of over 500 proposed artistic projects, ranging in length from a few lines to pages of detail. In addition to writing, Levé was a visual artist and photographer, and Works is a far-reaching amalgamation of his perspectives on art. As a piece of writing, it challenges our notions of what literature is; each project is fictional, in that at the time of writing it had not yet happened and came from imagination. While some are absurd, many others would be easily realized, pushing them beyond fiction and into the realm of artistic actuality. At times, Works seems to be poking fun at conceptual art, but with the knowledge and humour of someone involved in that scene. We are exposed to Levé as hyper-aware visionary, torn between an overwhelming need to create, and the consciousness of the art world’s trends, transience and self-imposed limitations.

Some of the projects read like somewhat obscure aphorisms: ‘#10. A film scene is shown backwards to actors so they can learn to act it in reverse. Once they succeed, they are filmed anew. The new scene, in turn projected backwards, becomes strange: reversing the inversion doesn’t get you back to where you started.’ Some are silly: ‘#15. A leather jacket made from a mad cow.’ Some are simply funny: ‘#24. A house designed by three year olds is built.’ As I worked through the text, I noted down projects that have since been realized, independently of Levé’s proposals: ‘#Modern Ruins. Color photographs show modern places and objects that have become dilapidated without ever being used’ is akin to Tate Britain’s recent exhibition, Ruin Lust; a collection of art inspired by and capturing humanity’s obsession with ruins. ‘#84. Photographs catalogue an inventory of destroyed works’ reminded me of another Tate Britain exhibition, Art Under Attack, which explored the history of physical attacks on art. Similarly, ‘#157. Small photographs are laminated and rolled up. The photographer ingests them, expels them after they pass through the digestive tract in the normal way, and then exhibits them’ was enacted by two students at Kingston University with fascinating results. What this means in the context of Works is not clearly defined, as there is no connection between what Levé proposed and what other artists imagined independently, but highlights his portentous engagement with art.

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June 26th, 2014

Jenny Davidson Chooses the Best Books on Hoarding!

Reading Style

The following is a post by Jenny Davidson, author of Reading Style: A Life in Sentences:

The TV show Hoarders has brought a good deal of attention to what happens when our instinct to accumulate runs out of control; an inability to discard things when we are supposed to be done with them can ruin a hard drive, a book project, a house, a life.

In strictly literary terms, as long as the capacity to select and winnow remains, the accumulation of things can be a gift (the lists in Moby Dick, Homer’s catalog of ships, James Boswell’s lifelong practice of recording and storing the sayings of great men). But there is always the risk, with books like Richardson’s Clarissa or (in a very different vein) George R. R. Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice novels, either that the writing will proliferate to a volume that readers are unwilling to tolerate (Richardson) or that it will extend over a duration that creates a huge amount of frustration in readers hungry for the next installment (Martin). All of which is to say that hoarding seems to me one of the great literary topics of our time: I want to read a good nonfiction book about it, something roughly akin to Alice Flaherty’s fantastic account of hypergraphia in The Midnight Disease: The Drive to Write, Writer’s Block, and the Creative Brain.

For now, though, a list of five of my favorite books about hoarding:

Randy G. Frost and Gail Steketee, Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things
An essential guide to the disorder. Not at the literary level of Oliver Sacks, but then what is? Grippingly readable, full of fascinating observations and insights. Among other things, it caused me to look back on the house of family friends in childhood, a house that was astonishingly messy, and say, “Oh, that wasn’t ordinary mess, that was hoarding before there was really a name for it!” Full of useful suggestions and resources if you or someone you know is in need of help for hoarding or a related syndrome.

Jessie Sholl, Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother’s Compulsive Hoarding
A compelling memoir about what it means to be the adult child of a parent whose hoarding makes her house uninhabitable. Thoughtful, well-written, full of empathy.

Sara Ryan and Carla Speed O’Neill, Bad Houses
A brilliant graphic novel with a puzzle-like structure, this coming-of-age story considers the beauties and terrors of the estate sale, and more particularly what it lets us understand about people and their relationship with the objects that fill up their houses.

Karl Ove Knausgaard, My Struggle, vol. 1
There are other reasons to read Knausgaard, of course, but in addition to his startling reconfiguration of the relationship between experience and narration and his extraordinary way with sentences, he also gives us one of the best literary depictions I know of how the thing we call hoarding can destroy a lived environment.

Charles Dickens, Bleak House
Many of the characters in this novel suffer from one kind of cognitive or psychological disorder or another; the novel as a whole offers some kind of a theory of disorders of accumulation, and the writing speaks to that in all sorts of ways. But the scenes that describe something closest to what we would now call hoarding are those set in Krook’s rag-and-bone shop.