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

Burman ’75 Shares His Expert Knowledge of the U.S. Tax System

Leonard Burman ’75

Respected tax scholar Leonard Burman ’75 is the co-writer (with Joel Slemrod) of Taxes in America: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford University Press), a clear, concise explanation of how the U.S. tax system works, how it affects people and businesses, and how it might be improved. This highly accessible book, organized in a question-and-answer format, describes the intricacies of the modern tax system in an easy-to-grasp manner.

Book by Leonard Burman ’75

The book starts with the basic definitions of taxes and then examines more complicated and controversial issues. They address such questions as: How much more tax could the IRS collect with better enforcement? Why do corporations pay so little tax, even though they earn trillions of dollars every year? And what kind of tax system is most conducive to economic growth?

In his Forbes magazine review, Howard Gleckman says that the book “is no polemic for tax reform, but it is a powerful brief for such an effort. [The authors] are satisfied to describe how the law works, what taxes do to those who pay them and the economy at large, and how today’s revenue system was created. That design will make it a well-thumbed resource in the upcoming tax reform debate.”

Burman is Daniel Patrick Moynihan Professor of Public Affairs at Maxwell School of Syracuse University.

Shapiro Translates de Noailles’ French Poetry Collection

Book translated by Norman Shapiro.

Book translated by Norman Shapiro.

Norman Shapiro, professor of romance languages and literatures, translated Comtesse Anna de Noailles’ A Life of Poems, Poems of a Life. The poetry collection was published by Black Widow Press in 2012.

A poet whose reputation has lasted beyond the popularity of her actual works, de Noailles was respected and beloved by France’s literary and lay population alike, counting among her admirers such figures as Proust, Cocteau, Colette and many others. Seemingly unconcerned with the tenets of this or that poetic school, she tuned the traditional elements of French prosody to her personal lyrical use, refusing however to be straitjacketed by their limitations. Without abandoning its meters and rhymes, she was not against taking liberties with both when the flow of her inspiration demanded; an inspiration often lush and musical, often visual, now synesthically sensual and even erotic, as much at home in evoking the eternal as in rhapsodizing briefly on the Parnassian plasticity of her cat. Noailles’ technique and talent transcended her gender. When an article in the London Times, in 1913, called her “the greatest poet that the 20th century has produced in France-perhaps in Europe,” and when the poet Leon Paul-Fargue supposedly referred to her as “our last inspired poet,” neither saw fit to modify the word “poet” with the word “woman.”

Yamashita ’71 Travels to Tibet for a New Photo Collection

Michael Yamashita ’71

Acclaimed National Geographic photographer Michael Yamashita ’71 has just published a new book of photographs Shangri-La: Along the Tea Road to Lhasa (White Star Publishers). His latest photography collection is a rare, intimate look into the Tibet’s changing world—both ancient and modern, sacred and commonplace, the rarefied and the gritty—before the legends and mysteries of the Chamagudao, the Tea Horse Road, disappear into the Tibetan mist.

Book by Michael Yamashita ’71

Yamashita captures stunning images of the Tea Horse Road, which winds through dizzying mountain passes, across famed rivers like the Mekong and the Yangtze, and past monasteries and meadows in a circuitous route from Sichuan and Yunnan provinces in western China to the Tibetan capital city of Lhasa. As modern-day Chinese culture merges with and even absorbs Tibetan traditions, the Tea Horse Road is a relic of a vastly different time. The Chinese are rapidly paving dirt roads to make highways for cars and trucks. Soon there will be little evidence of this once vital trade route.

Yamashita recently talked about his book at the Asia Society in New York City. You can hear his talk here and see a slide show of his work here.

Read more on Yamashita’s blog.

Sumzanling Monastery in today’s Shangri-La. Photo by Michael Yamashita ’71

Visting Writer Hoffman ’89 Receives New Literary Prize

Adina Hoffman ’89

The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University recently announced that Visiting Writer in English Adina Hoffman ’89 is one of the inaugural winners of the Windham Campbell Prizes. This new global writer’s award was created with a gift from the late Donald Windham and his partner, Sandy M. Campbell, and is now one of the largest literary prizes in the world.

Nine $150,000 prizes were awarded for outstanding achievement in fiction, nonfiction, and drama and recognize writers from all stages of their careers. The recipients range in ages from 33 to 87. Writers were considered from around the world. The prize jury in each category chose five finalists, from which the nine recipients were selected to receive awards.

Book by Adina Hoffman ’89 & Peter Cole

Hoffman’s prize citation reads: “In a land where even the most cautious nonfiction can draw howls of protest, Adina Hoffman combines fastidious listening, even-handed research, and prose so engaged that it makes the long-vanished visible again.”

Hoffman is the author of House of Windows: Portraits from a Jerusalem Neighborhood and My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness: A Poet’s Life in the Palestinian Century. She is also the author, with Peter Cole, of  Sacred Trash: The Lost and Found World of the Cairo Geniza, which was awarded the American Library Association’s Brody Medal for the best Jewish book of 2011. Hoffman has been a visiting professor at Middlebury, and NYU, as well as a Franke Fellow at Yale’s Whitney Humanities Center. The recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship, she divides her time between Jerusalem and New Haven. She is currently at work on Where the Great City Stands: A Jerusalem Triptych, forthcoming from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Rotella ’86 Publishes New Essay Collection

Carlo Rotella ’86 (Photo by Lee Pellegrini/B.C. Chronicle)

In his new nonfiction collection Playing in Time: Essays, Profiles, and Other True Stories  (University of Chicago Press), acclaimed journalist Carlo Rotella ’86 explores a variety of characters and settings, His writing has been praised for going beneath the surface of the story as he sympathetically dwells in the lives of the people and places he encounters.

The two dozen essays in this volume deal with subjects and obsessions that have characterized his previous writing: boxing, music, writers, and cities. “Playing in time” refers to how people make beauty and meaning while working within the constraints and limits forced on them by life.

Book by Carlo Rotella ’86

Besides his compelling writing on boxing, Rotella shares his engaging and insightful reportage on crime and science fiction writers, movie production, a megachurch, urban spaces, and more. Some of the essays appear in print for the first time.

Rotella is the author of Good with Their Hands: Boxers, Bluesmen, and Other Characters from the Rust Belt; October Cities: The Redevelopment of Urban Literature; and Cut Time: An Education at the Fights, the last also published by the University of Chicago Press. He writes regularly for the New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post Magazine, and the Boston Globe, and he is a commentator for WGBH FM in Boston.

A professor of English at Boston College, Rotella is director of the American Studies Program and director of the Lowell Humanities Series.

Winston Translates German Author’s Starlight Terrace

Book translated by Krishna Winston.

Book translated by Krishna Winston.

Krishna Winston, the Marcus L. Taft Professor of German Language and Literature, is the translator of Patrick Roth’s Starlight Terrace, published by Seagull Books in 2012.

In a rundown Los Angeles apartment building—the titular Starlite Terrace—Roth unfurls the tragic linked stories of Rex, Moss, Gary and June, four neighbors, in a sort of burlesque of the Hollywood modern. In each of their singular collisions with fame, Roth’s dark prose presages a universal and mythical fate of desperation.

In “The Man at Noah’s Window,” Rex shares the story of his father, a supposed hand double for Gary Cooper in High Noon. In “Eclipse of the Sun,” Moss, who lives in fear of the next holocaust, awaits a visit from the long-lost daughter he has tracked down. In “Rider on the Storm,” Gary, a rock drummer and born-again Christian, who “almost played” on the Turtles’ 60s-hit “Happy Together,” strives to find escape from his personal guilt. And in “The Woman in the Sea of Stars,” June, a former Hollywood studio secretary whose husband once cheated on her with Marilyn Monroe, makes the best of a disconnected life until she emerges reborn through ashes strewn in the illuminated swimming pool of the Starlite Terrace.

Long ’89 Studies the Politics of African American Medical Care in Slavery and Emancipation

Gretchen Long ’89

In her illuminating new book, Doctoring Freedom (University of North Carolina Press), Gretchen Long ’89 shares the stories of African Americans who fought for access to both medical care and medical education, as she reveals the important relationship between medical practice and political identity. Even before emancipation, African Americans recognized that control of their bodies was an essential battleground in their struggle for autonomy, and they devised strategies to retain some of that control.

Book by Gretchen Long ’89

During her research, Long, an associate professor of history at Williams College, closely studied antebellum medical journals, planters’ diaries, agricultural publications, letters from wounded African American soldiers, WPA narratives, and military and Freedmen’s Bureau reports. Within these documents, she was able to trace African Americans’ political acts to secure medical care: their organizing of mutual-aid societies, their petitions to the federal government, and, as a last resort, their founding of their own medical schools, hospitals, and professional organizations. She also writes about the efforts of the earliest black physicians who worked in times of slavery and freedom.


Shmuger ’80, Junger ’84, Dosa ’05, Shane ’05 and Wilson ’05 Work on Documentaries Screened at Sundance

Five alumni have contributed to exceptional documentaries that were shown this January at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.

Julien Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, in “We Steal Secrets.” Marc Shmuger ’80, producer. (Photo: Focus World)

Marc Shmuger ’80 is one of the producers of We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks, which had its premiere at Sundance. Directed by Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney, the film is an in-depth study of all things related to WikiLeaks and the larger global debate over access to information. It tells a compelling story of what happens when a small group of people decide to break open the intelligence vaults of the world’s most powerful nation. The director uncovers a tangled web of incredible bravery, high ideals, questionable ethics, and stunning hypocrisy.

In his Hollywood Reporter review, David Rooney writes: “Unfolding like an espionage thriller but with a methodical journalistic skill at organizing a mountain of facts, the film raises stimulating questions about transparency and freedom of information in a world in which governments and corporations have plenty to hide. It should be a magnet for op-ed coverage when it goes out mid-year theatrically and on digital platforms from Focus World.”

Tim Hetherington, center, subject of “Which Way Is The Front Line from Here?” Sebastian Junger ’84, director and cinematographer.

Sebastian Junger ‘84 is the director and co-cinematographer of Which Way Is the Front Line from Here?: The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington which also had its premiere at Sundance. The late photojournalist and filmmaker Tim Hetherington always searched for the humanity within wartime conflict, as seen in his award-winning body of work.

He and Junger spent a year filming a platoon of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan in their Academy Award–nominated and Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winning film Restrepo. Hetherington died from a mortar blast in Libya in 2011.

Junger artfully combines footage of Hetherington at work and interviews with his family, friends and colleagues to capture his compatriot and friend’s unique perspective, compassion, and intense curiosity about the human spirit.

In his Hollywood Reporter review, David Rooney writes: “Junger’s facility for sharp journalistic prose is an ideal complement to Hetherington’s instinctual visual sense. The director points out that war provides a unique experience of male camaraderie not reproducible in society. Eloquent illustrations of that are seen in Hetherington’s tender images of the platoon in Afghanistan, notably the incongruously idyllic ‘Man Eden’ and the ‘Sleeping Soldiers’ series, which unmasked the heavily inked tough guys as vulnerable boys. …The film seems very much an extension of Hetherington’s own complex internal dialogue concerning war, seeing conflict as something hardwired into young men that gets co-opted to become part of the political process.”

The film will air on HBO on April 18.

Robert Reich on the set of “Inequality for All.” Sara Dosa ’05, associate producer. (Photo courtesy Sundance Institute)

Sara Dosa ’05 is associate producer for Inequality for All, directed by Jacob Kobluth, which was screened as part of the U.S. Documentary completion and received the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award in Filmmaking at Sundance.

The documentary is inspired by former labor secretary and current UC Berkeley Professor Robert Reich’s book Aftershock. Reich has argued passionately that widening income inequality poses one of the most severe threats to our economy and democracy.

Kornbluth and Reich examine such complex issues as wage stagnation, consolidated wealth, manufacturing, financial instruments, capital markets, globalization, and election politics. The film contains interviews with economists, politicians, and experts and documents the struggles of regular working people.

The film has been acquired by the Weinstein Company’s Radius label and was funded partly by individuals who gave money to Kickstarter.com.

A moment from “After Tiller,” directed by Martha Shane ’05 and Lana Wilson ’05.

Martha Shane ’05 and Lana Wilson ’05 are the directors of After Tiller, which was shown as part of the U.S. Documentary competition. Since the assassination of Dr. George Tiller in Kansas in 2009, only four doctors in the United States continue to perform third-trimester abortions; all colleagues of Dr. Tiller, they sacrifice their safety and personal lives in their unwavering conviction to help women. For some in the pro-life movement, these doctors are “murderers” who must be stopped.

After Tiller proovdes an upclose look into each of the four physicians’ private and professional struggles. The documentary includes wrenching scenes in the clinics, when they counsel distraught patients facing serious losses. Viewers are placed in the shoes of both practitioner and patient and are faced with the full complexity of each decision. Decades after Roe v. Wade, legalized abortion remains an extremely volatile issue in America.

At Sundance, Shane and Wilson received a $5,000 grant from Women in Film, as well as $1,000 worth of scheduling and budgeting software from Entertainment Partners. The two directors were recently interviewed about After Tiller at Democracy Now! and Indie Wire.


Garcia ’99 Has Debut Feature Film, The Lifeguard, at Sundance

Filmmaker Liz W. Garcia ’99

This January, Liz Garcia ’99 brought her first feature film, The Lifeguard, to Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah to be shown in the U.S. Dramatic competition. She directed, wrote, and co-produced the movie; her husband, Joshua Harto, is a co-producer and an actor in the film.

The Lifeguard follows a young woman (Kristen Bell, Veronica Mars) who leaves her job as an Associated Press reporter in New York City and returns to her hometown in suburban Connecticut where she last felt happiness. Complications arise as she rebels against adulthood by resuming her high school job as a pool lifeguard and hanging out with teenagers. In addition to Harto and Bell, the cast includes Mamie Gummer, Martin Starr, Alex Shaffer, Amy Madigan, and David Lambert.

Garcia recently talked to Indie Wire about the film.

Garcia said: “The film is about what it is to become an adult. How frightening it is when you realize you have only this one life, that the limitless possibilities and the freedom of childhood are through. And particularly, how frightening it is as a woman to realize what being a wife and being a mother, and being a mature woman in the eyes of society will mean….”

“I was raised in suburban Connecticut and that’s the setting that inspires me the most. Something about the seasons, the light, the false sense of immortality that comes along with growing up in an unsophisticated environment where you can’t get real drugs —

Emmy Award Winner Margolis ’93 Is Show Runner for Adult Swim’s Newsreaders

Jim Margolis ’93 (Photo courtesy Jim Margolis)

Jim Margolis ’93, a six-time Emmy Award winner, left his job last year as an executive producer for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to become the show runner for a new series, Newsreaders, which airs at midnight Thursday on Adult Swim, part of the Cartoon Network.

Co-created by Rob Corddry, Jonathan Stern and David Wain, Newsreaders is a sketch comedy show in the form of a fake TV news magazine and a spinoff of a successful Adult Swim series, Children’s Hospital, a parody of the hospital drama genre. The new series features both established and up-and-coming comic talents.

In a recent review in The New York Times, Mike Hale wrote: “The two shows [Newsreaders and Children’s Hospital] share a writing and performing style that is simultaneously over the top and dryly understated, as well as a funny quirk of showing us enticing excerpts of scenes or segments that don’t exist.”

Michael Heaton at the Cleveland Plain Dealer recently spoke to Margolis about his new position.

Margolis said:  “I still work with incredibly funny and talented people, but creating a new show and producing a single season of a scripted comedy show is wildly different from producing a daily late-night comedy show. …

“I was amazed at all of the great people we got. People really wanted to do the show. It was kind of a who’s who of comedy, along with an actual bond girl (Jane Seymour) and a New Kid on the Block (Joey McIntyre).”

About leaving The Daily Show, Margolis said: “It was a very difficult decision, but it was a great opportunity to create something completely new and collaborate with people I really like and respect. It was also a great opportunity to have no job security. I think what you’re really asking is what was I thinking? A lot of people have asked that question.”

Read more

Feiffer ’07 Is Star and Co-Writer of Comic Film Shown at Slamdance

Halley Feiffer ’07 (right) and Michael Churnus in “He’s Way More Famous Than You”

Halley Feiffer ’07 is the star and co-writer (with Ryan Spahn) of the feature film of He’s Way More Famous Than You, which premiered in the dramatic competition at the Slamdance Film Festival in Park City, Utah in January.

The film is directed by Michael Urie, the star of Ugly Betty and Partners, and co-stars Urie, Spahn, Jessie Eisenberg (with whom Feiffer appeared in The Squid and the Whale), Natasha Lyonne, Mammie Gummer, Tracee Chimo, and Ralph Macchio.

Feiffer plays a struggling actress will stop at nothing to get her movie made in this sharp, satiric comedy about the film industry, which features some absurdist moments and a brave lead performance.

After being shown at the festival, the film was acquired by Gravitas Ventures. Plans are to show the film on VOD (video on demand) beginning April 8 followed by a theatrical run on May 10.

Halley Feiffer ’07 in “He’s Way More Famous Than You”

Feiffer sent a dispatch to Cinema Blend about her experiences while at Slamdance:

She wrote: “When I wrote the film with my friend Ryan Spahn, it felt very clear to us that we were writing a parody of our younger selves—two self-absorbed, insecure actors trying desperately to throw themselves against every wall, hoping something will stick. ‘Hahahaha!’ we thought – ‘It’s so funny how sad we used to be! And how not like that we are, now!’

“And yet, here I am in Park City, trying to drum up interest for my film amidst the avalanche of press being generated for the literally hundreds of other films being screened here, and suddenly it seems so tempting to let myself become that character I wrote again. Walking down Main Street here feels to a film fan how walking through Times Square must feel to a tourist, his first time in New York—everywhere you look there is something mind-blowingly exciting and so glittery and high-octane that it almost hurts to think about it.”

In an early review of the film at Twitch, Ben Umstead wrote: “The self-referencing and meta humor comes thick and fast, the cavalcade of A-listers, B-listers, and all the way down to Z-listers, comes stampeding in, game to blow up their egos with either cartoonish glee or straight-man sobriety. … He’s Way More Famous Than You does what it needs to do to make its audience happy. It makes them laugh. Quite a lot.”

Winston Translates Günter Grass’s From Germany to Germany

Book translated by Krishna Winston.

Book translated by Krishna Winston.

Krishna Winston, the Marcus L. Taft Professor of German Language and Literature, is the translator of Günter Grass’s From Germany to Germany, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2012.

In January 1990, just months after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Günter Grass made two New Year’s resolutions: the first was to travel extensively in the newly united Germany and the second was to keep a diary, to record his impressions of a historic time. Grass takes part in public debates, writes for newspapers, makes speeches, and meets emerging politicians. He talks to German citizens on both sides, listening to their bewilderment and their hopes for the future. Ideas for stories take root—his novels The Call of the Toad and Too Far Afield.

From Germany to Germany is also a personal record. Grass reflects on his family, remembers his boyhood, and comments on the books he is reading, the drawings he is making, and the sumptuous meals he cooks for family and friends. The picture that emerges—not only of the two Germanys struggling for a single identity but of a changed world after the end of the Cold War—is engrossing, passionate and essential for anyone who wants to understand Europe’s new leading nation.