David Low

David Low '76 writes about arts and culture for the Wesleyan magazine and Wesleyan Connection. He is associate director of publications in the Office of University Communications. He is also a published fiction writer. E-mail: dlow@wesleyan.edu

Novak MA ’99 Explores Underground Music Genre

David Novak MA '99

David Novak MA ’99

For his new study Japanoise (Duke University Press), David Novak MA ’99 has conducted more than a decade of research in Japan and the United States to trace the “cultural feedback” that generates and sustains Noise.

Noise is an underground music—made through an amalgam of feedback, distortion, and electronic effects—that first emerged as a genre in the 1980s, circulating on cassette tapes traded between fans in Japan, Europe, and North America. This unusual kind of music has captured the imagination of a small but passionate transnational audience, characterized by its cultivated obscurity, ear-shattering sound, and over-the-top performances. For its dedicated listeners, Noise always seems to be new and to originate from elsewhere: in North America, it was called “Japanoise.”

Book by David Novak MA '99

Book by David Novak MA ’99

Novak’s book is a lively ethnographic account of live performances, the circulation of recordings, and the lives and creative practices of musicians and listeners. The author examines the technologies of Noise and the productive distortions of its networks. He also describes musical circulation through sound and listening, recording and performance, international exchange, and the social interpretations of media. Chapters are devoted to “Scenes of Liveness and Deadness,” “Sonic Maps of the Japanese Underground,”  “Genre Noise,” “Feedback, Subjectivity, and Performance,” “The Future of Cassette Culture,” and more.

Novak is an assistant professor of music at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

5 Questions With . . . Resident Writer Kit Reed on New Books

Kit Reed (Photo by Beth Gwynn)

Kit Reed (Photo by Beth Gwynn)

In this issue of the Wesleyan Connection, we speak with Kit Reed, resident writer in the English Department. Reed recently published two new books, Son of Destruction (Severn House), in which a reporter searches for his father and winds up investigating cases of human spontaneous combustion; and The Story Until Now (Wesleyan University Press), a rich collection of 35 stories that displays the range and complexity of her work.

In a recent review of Reed’s two books in The New York Times, thriller writer Chelsea Cain wrote: “Reed finds humanity in the most fantastic places. She does it without pretension. And she does it with a sense of humor and no apologies. In my Museum of American Writers, I’d have a statue of Kit Reed in the lobby.”

Q: You’ve described yourself as “transgenred.” Would you talk about that?

A: Mother Isn’t Dead She’s Only Sleeping, my first novel, was a comic novel, set in Fort Jude, Florida. At War As Children, my second, was elegiac; both were drawn immediately from life. The third, The Better Part, was drawn from life but included one imagined detail: The narrator was the daughter of a man who ran the world’s largest correctional school for troubled teens. I’ve always been interested in dystopias, which makes some editors believe it’s SF—that is, speculative fiction, where writers can expand their imaginations beyond the seen world. The novels have, variously, been marketed accordingly, and the short fiction goes where editors who like a particular story take them, which means they’ve been in The Yale Review, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, The Kenyon Review, Asimov’s SF, Missouri Review, New Haven Review, and… and… You get the idea. And I’m described as a “literary” writer (The Norton Anthology)!

George Saunders and Karen Russell came that route somewhat later. Editorial territory is less hostile now, and few reviewers have picked up on the fact that they are writing (shhh) SF, but that’s what they’re doing. It’s a friendlier climate for, OK, works that expand the imagination.

Literary, sometimes comic, always reality-based, but sometimes SF, oh right, and a couple of psychothrillers in the ’90s. In short, I’m “transgenred” because I don’t belong anywhere.

Q: What inspired your latest novel?

Novel by Kit Reed

Novel by Kit Reed

A: A spectacular instance of spontaneous human combustion in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Northcutt ’97 Co-Edits College Advice Guide

Frances Northcutt '97

Frances Northcutt ’97

Frances Northcutt ’97 is the co-editor with Scott Silverman of the newly revised 5th edition of How to Survive Your Freshman Year (Hundreds of Heads Books), which offers tips and advice directly from students on today’s campuses. This guide for those heading off to college was compiled from interviews with hundreds of students at more than 120 colleges across the country. Northcutt, who most recently has been an honors advisor and admissions reader for Macaulay Honors College of the City University of New York, contributes her expert guidance and helpful commentary.

College guide edited by Frances Northcutt '97

College guide co-edited by Frances Northcutt ’97

Chapters of the book are devoted to such topics as what to take to college, leaving home, roommates, choosing classes, how to study, working and finances, fashion and laundry, food issues, dating and sex, vacations and study abroad, and keeping in touch and setting boundaries with family members.

In her biography at the end of the book, Northcutt notes that “it was her work-study job at the Wesleyan University campus post office that first inspired her to seek a career in student affairs. She loved working at the post office window, where she explained all the complicated postage options to students, faculty, and staff … During her senior year, she made the move from the post office to the registrar’s office. She also helped to start a peer advising program.”

Hessekiel ’82 Co-Writes Guide to Mixing Social Causes and Commerce

David Hessekiel '82

David Hessekiel ’82

David Hessekiel ’82 is co-author with Philip Kotler and Nancy Lee of Good Works! Marketing and Corporate Initiatives that Build a Better World … and the Bottom Line (John Wiley and Sons), a guide that offers actionable advice on integrating marketing and corporate social initiatives into broader business goals. The book suggests that purpose-driven marketing has moved from a nice-to-do to a must-do for businesses and explains how to balance social and business goals.

Book by David Hessekiel '82

Book by David Hessekiel ’82

The book’s introduction explores why some marketing and corporate social initiatives fail and others succeed and then looks at six social initiatives for doing well by doing good. Other chapters consider how corporate managers and staff can choose the most appropriate issues, best partners, and highest potential initiatives. A final section devoted to nonprofits and public sector agencies seeking corporate support offers advice on how to create mutually beneficial partnerships.

The authors provide guidance on the effective execution of marketing campaigns, including persuading consumers to join your company in supporting a good cause; supporting product sales and consumer engagement by linking them to donations; changing the way you do businesses to achieve a worthwhile social outcome; and dealing with cynics and critics.

Hessekiel is president of the Cause Marketing Forum (www.causemarketing forum.com). A blogger for Forbes, MediaPost and the Huffington Post, he is a frequently quoted industry analyst and speaks regularly about cause marketing and corporate social responsibility to business and NGO audiences.

Igler ’88 Writes History of Pacific World Travels During 1770s–1840s

David Igler '88

David Igler ’88

David Igler ’88 has written the new history book, The Great Ocean: Pacific Worlds from Captain Cook to the Gold Rush (Oxford University Press), the first book to combine American, oceanic, and world history in a vivid portrayal of travels in the Pacific world. He researched hundreds of documented voyages to explore the commercial, cultural, and ecological upheavals following Captain Cook’s exploits, and concentrated on the eastern Pacific in the decades between the 1770s and the 1840s.

Book by David Igler '88

Book by David Igler ’88

Igler starts with the expansion of trade as seen via the travels of William Shaler, captain of the American Brig Lelia Byrd. Soon he reveals a world where voyagers, traders, hunters, and native peoples met one another in episodes often marked by violence and tragedy. Some of his accounts tell how indigenous communities struggled against introduced diseases that cut through the heart of their communities; how the ordeal of Russian Timofei Tarakanov typified the common practice of taking hostages and prisoners; how Mary Brewster witnessed first-hand the bloody “great hunt” that decimated otters, seals, and whales; and how James Dwight Dana rivaled Charles Darwin in his pursuit of knowledge on a global scale.

In an article about Igler’s book on Verso, the blog of the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, Matt Stevens writes: “Igler has made excellent use of the rare books and manuscripts at The Huntington, but he came to appreciate all the material that tends to fall outside the definition of ‘special collections’—that is, published journals and other reference materials that occupy the general stacks.

“ ‘Whenever I was jotting down notes at The Huntington,’ says Igler, ‘I would often stop and look up a source. Sure enough, the book was here, and I would go grab it. So being on site was instrumental to my ability to complete my book.’ ”

Igler is associate professor of history at the University of California, Irvine. His books include Industrial Cowboys: Miller & Lux and the Transformation of the Far West, 1850–1920 and The Human Tradition in California.

Heller ’04 Writes First Biography of Architect Edmund Bacon

Gregory Heller '04

Gregory Heller ’04

Gregory Heller ’04 is the author of Ed Bacon: Planning, Politics, and the Building of Modern Philadelphia (University of Pennsylvania Press), the first biography of the controversial architect and urban planner.

A book launch will be held on Thursday, May 16 at the Center for Architecture in Philadelphia (1218 Arch Street) at 6 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. Go to http://hellergreg.ticketleap.com/edbacon/ for more information.

In the mid-20th century, Edmund Bacon worked on shaping urban America as many Americans left cities to pursue life in suburbia. As director of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, Bacon forged new approaches to neighborhood development and elevated Philadelphia’s image to the level of great world cities. He oversaw the planning and implementation of dozens of redesigned urban space, including the restored colonial neighborhood of Society Hill, the new office development of Penn Center, and the transit-oriented shopping center of Market East.

Biography by Gregory Heller '04

Biography by Gregory Heller ’04

Heller traces the career of Bacon’s two-decade tenure as city planning director, which coincided with a transformational period in American planning history. He was a larger-than-life personality, and Heller argues his successes owed as much to his savvy negotiation of city politics and the pragmatic particulars of his vision.

In a recent interview with the Philadelphia Weekly Press, Heller revealed that he became interested in Bacon while completing an internship with the Philadelphia City Planning Commission while he was attending Wesleyan. Heller was able to meet with Bacon, who asked him to write his memoir. Heller took a year off from college to complete it and was then approached by a publisher to write a biography about Bacon. The author wrote his college thesis on Bacon and brought the architect to campus his senior year.

In his introduction, Heller writes: “We study history to understand the past but also to glean lessons for the present and the future. … Despite his shortcomings, Bacon’s ability to bridge the worlds of the visionary and active political actor was rare in 1949 and remains perhaps rarer today.”

Heller is a practitioner in the fields of economic development and urban planning. He is senior advisor at Econsult Solutions, Inc. in Philadelphia. His writing on city planning has appeared in Next American City, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and Imagining Philadelphia: Edmund Bacon and the Future of the City, also available from the University of Pennsylvania Press.

Behar ’77 Writes New Memoir

Ruth Behar '77 (Photo: Gabriel Frye-Behar)

Ruth Behar ’77 (Photo: Gabriel Frye-Behar)

Storyteller and cultural anthropologist Ruth Behar ’77 is the author of Traveling Heavy: A Memoir Between Journeys (Duke University Press), in which she recounts her life as an immigrant child and later, as an adult woman who loves to travel but is terrified of boarding a plane. Behar shares moving stories about her Yiddish-Sephardic-Cuban-American family, as well as the kind strangers she meets on her travels. The author refers to herself an anthropologist who specializes in homesickness and repeatedly returning to her homeland of Cuba. She asks the question why we leave home to find home.

Kirkus Reviews writes: “A heartfelt witness to the changing political and emotional landscape of the Cuban-American experience.”

Memoir by Ruth Behar '77

Memoir by Ruth Behar ’77

Behar is the Victor Haim Perera Collegiate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Michigan. She is the author of many books, including An Island Called Home: Returning to Jewish Cuba; The Vulnerable Observer: Anthropology That Breaks Your Heart; and Translated Woman: Crossing the Border with Esperanza’s Story, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Behar also is a poet, a fiction writer, and a documentary filmmaker. She wrote, directed, and produced Adio Kerida (Goodbye Dear Love), a film that has been shown at film festivals around the world. She has received many prizes, including a MacArthur “Genius” Award.

Ruth Behar website

First Novel by Pye ’82 Is Set in China

Virginia Pye '82 (Photo by Terry Brown)

Virginia Pye ’82 (Photo by Terry Brown)

Virginia Pye ’82 has published her first novel, River of Dust (Unbridled Books), which begins on the windswept plains of northwestern China not long after the Boxer Rebellion. Mongol bandits kidnap the young son of an American missionary couple. As the Reverend sets out in search of the child, he quickly loses himself in the rugged, drought-stricken countryside populated by opium dens, nomadic warlords, and traveling circuses. Grace, his young wife, pregnant with their second child, takes to her sick bed in the mission compound, and has visions of her stolen child and lost husband. The foreign couple’s dedicated Chinese servants, Ahcho and Mai Lin, accompany and eventually lead them through dangerous territory to find one another again.

Novel by Virginia Pye '82

Novel by Virginia Pye ’82

This novel was inspired in part by journals of Pye’s grandfather, who was himself an early missionary in China. The author’s father was born and raised in China and became an eminent political scientist and sinologist.

Pye holds an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and has taught writing at the University of Pennsylvania and New York University. A three-term president of James River Writers, a literary nonprofit in Richmond, Virginia, she writes award-winning short stories that have appeared in numerous literary magazines, including The North American Review, Tampa Review and The Baltimore Review. She currently lives in Richmond.

For more information see the Virginia Pye website.

Junger ’84 Directs HBO Documentary about Photojournalist Tim Hetherington

Tim Hetherington in Afghanistan (Photo courtesy of HBO)

Sebastian Junger ’84 has directed a new documentary, Which Way Is the Front Line From Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington, which premiered on HBO this month.

The film covers Hertherington’s career as a war photographer, from his earliest days covering the civil war in Liberia to his final days in Misrata. He was killed in 2011 at age 40 in the siege of Misrata during Libya’s civil war. Junger pays tribute to Hetherington’s video and still photography and how he engaged himself on a personal level with his subjects.

Junger and Hetherington were co-directors of the acclaimed documentary Restrepo, which focused on an American platoon on a remote but extremely dangerous mountaintop in eastern Afghanistan. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for best documentary in 2011.

In a recent interview Junger gave to CBS This Morning, Junger said that when he worked on Restrepo, Hetherington told him that one of the least interesting things about covering war was combat and what Hetherington found more interesting was the emotions out there and the relationships between the men. After he found out about Hetherington’s death, Junger decided within an hour that he would no longer cover war–a topic he had covered since the early ‘90s in Bosnia.

In a review of the HBO documentary in The New York Times, Mike Hale writes: “The new film is a touching tribute … It’s consistently animated, though, by Hetherington himself, seen in excerpts from interviews. He’s larger than life, with leading-man good looks and a seriousness that’s earnest without being annoying. And the real revelation is his still photography… Less interested in chaos and graphic violence than other war photographers, he favored quiet, reflective, classically composed images; among his most celebrated photos was a series of portraits of American soldiers sleeping in their bunks.”

Interview with Junger on NPR

Junger talks to WSJ Live YouTube Preview Image


Roach ’81 Explores Alimentary Canal in Latest Book

Mary Roach

Mary Roach ’81 (Photo by Chris Hardy)

Best-selling author Mary Roach 81 has just published her latest gift to readers, Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal (W. W. Norton), in which she takes a memorable tour inside and outside of the body. Her fascinating book on the process of eating brings readers upclose with the bodily equipment that turns food into the nutrients and sustenance that keeps us ticking.

On her quest for knowledge of the digestive tract, Roach meets with professors and technicians, murderers, mad scientists, Eskimos, exorcists, rabbis and other unique characters. She is fearless in asking taboo and embarrassing questions with relish and humor. Questions such as: Why doesn’t the stomach digest itself? How much can you eat before your stomach bursts? Can constipation kill you?

Book by Mary Roach ’81

In her rave review in The New York Times, Janet Maslin writes: “Never has Ms. Roach’s affinity for the comedic and bizarre been put to better use. … Gulp is a big leap forward for Ms. Roach because it doesn’t require her to do any padding or stunt work. Simply thinking about the body and interviewing the most oddball experts she can find are enough to rivet interest. And the circumstances she describes are sometimes hilarious, sometimes repellent, never dull. She’s at her cheeriest in describing rectal smuggling of items into prison, which is a more creative enterprise than you might imagine.”

Mary Roach talks to The New York Times Dining Journal

Roach interview with NPR

Roach is a guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Shannon ’01 Co-Writes Vegan Cookbook

Dan Shannon ’01 and Annie Shannon

Betty Goes Vegan (Grand Central Publishing) by Annie and Dan Shannon ‘01 is one of the first comprehensive, everyday cookbooks for creating meals for today’s vegan family. This must-have guide features more than 500 recipes inspired by The Betty Crocker Cookbook, as well as hundreds of original, never-before-seen recipes that may also entice meat eaters. In preparation for the book, the authors attempted to cook all the Betty Crocker recipes vegan-style.

Cookbook by Annie and Dan Shannon ’01

The book offers insight into why Betty Crocker has been an icon in American cooking for so long—and why she still represents a certain style of the modern super-woman nearly 100 years after the nation first encountered her. Betty Goes Vegan introduces new classics for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert, including omelets, stews, casseroles, and brownies.

Dan and Annie Shannon live in Brooklyn, New York. Dan was previously the director of Youth Outreach & Campaigns for PETA and is now a senior strategist for the social movement strategy consulting company Purpose. He does the dishes. Annie has worked at the animal advocacy organization In Defense of Animals and as the fashion industry liaison for the Humane Society of the United States. She does most of the cooking.

Authors web site

Daynard ’79 Writes First Novel, Set During the American Revolution

Jodi Daynard ’79

Jodi Daynard ’79 recently published her first novel, The Midwife’s Revolt (Opossum Press), a work of historical fiction set during the founding days of America. The novel centers on midwife Lizzie Boylston from her grieving days of widowhood after Bunker Hill, to her deepening friendship with Abigail Adams, and finally to her dangerous work as a spy for the Cause. Daynard takes the reader into the real lives of colonial women patriots and explores human connections in a violent time.

Novel by Jodi Daynard ’79

According to Publishers Weekly, the book is “a charming, unexpected, and decidedly different take on the Revolutionary War.”

Daynard also is the author of The Place Within: Portraits of the American Landscape by 20 Contemporary Writers. Her essays have been nominated for several prizes and mentioned in Best American Essays. She has taught writing at Harvard University, M.I.T., and in the MFA program at Emerson College, and served for seven years as fiction editor at Boston Review.

Author website

Read an excerpt from The Midwife’s Revolt