In the Media

Bloom’s ‘Lucky Us’ is Reviewed

Lucky Us, a new novel by Amy Bloom, distinguished university writer-in-residence and director of the Shapiro Center for Creative Writing, received a positive review in The New York Times. “Ms. Bloom does not write deep-dish, straightforward yarns for readers who enjoy conventional drama. She writes sharp, sparsely beautiful scenes that excitingly defy expectation, and part of the pleasure of reading her is simply keeping up with her,” begins the review. “You won’t know where ‘Lucky Us’ is headed until, suddenly, it’s there.”

Set in the 1930s and ’40s, the story follows Eva Logan, a girl who finds herself living with her father after discovering he has another secret, much wealthier family. With her new-found family, Eva criss-crosses the country, experiencing glamorous parties in Hollywood and more humble life in Long Island. The review calls Lucky Us a “short, vibrant book about all kinds of people creating all kinds of serial, improvisatory lives. Changes occur because characters fall in and out of love, trouble and, yes, luck.”

Lucky Us was also reviewed in Entertainment Weekly and Popmatters.

Rutland on Malaysian Airlines Crash in Ukraine

Writing in the Mirror (UK), Peter Rutland, Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, responded to the downing of a Malaysian Airlines plane in Ukraine, the third aircraft to go down in the region in recent days.

Rutland writes:

If the Malaysian Airlines plane is confirmed as having been shot down, then that is three aircraft shot down in the space of three or four days.

The escalation in violence may possibly be a deliberate strategy by Russia, not a random event. Sadly today’s incident appears to have been a tragic and terrible error.

[...]

The question is whether the escalation in the force, in the weaponry used, was a deliberate policy by Putin – or whether some parts of the Russian military are operating on an almost freelance basis – out of the control of Moscow?

Rutland is also professor of government, professor of Russian and Eastern European Studies, and a tutor in the College of Social Studies.

Jacobs ’98 Discusses His Popular Fitness App

Jason Jacobs ’98, creator of the RunKeeper smartphone fitness app, sat down recently with The Boston Globe to chat about his business. The article notes that Jacobs, a government major at Wesleyan, proves that “you don’t have to be a techie to start a successful tech firm.”

“I didn’t study a whole lot,” Jacobs tells the Globe, “but when I did, American government was my major. I got out in the late ’90s, and I came to Boston and started working in small, high-growth technology. I’m not trained as an engineer. The plumbing of the Internet is very important but it’s not something that I could relate to a ton.”

Read more of Jacobs’ secrets to his success here.

Croucher’s Middletown Dig Featured in Courant

The Hartford Courant featured an excavation at the historic Beman Triangle site in Middletown by Sarah Croucher, assistant professor of anthropology, archaeology, and feminist, gender and sexuality studies, and her students.

According to the story:

The dig focuses on 5 acres of land known as the Beman Triangle, a historically significant African American community, enclosed by Vine Street, Cross Street and Knowles Avenue.

The project aims to find household items that will illuminate the daily lives of the area’s 19th century inhabitants…

Read more about the Beman Triangle archaeology project in this 2012 story in the Wesleyan magazine.

Read past Wesleyan Connection stories about the project here, and see an interview with Croucher about the project here.

See the project’s website here.

Lensing Writes Cover Story in Times Literary Supplement

Leo Lensing, professor and chair of German Studies, professor of film studies, wrote the cover article in this week’s issue of the Times Literary Supplement. The article, titled, “Pillar of Fire,” is about a new biography of the Austrian writer Ingeborg Bachmann. The Times Literary Supplement describes the story as “How to assess the ‘stations’ of Ingeborg Bachmann’s self-destructive life from childhood constant reader to modernist ‘Fräuleinwonder’… Lensing counsels caution when dealing with Bachmann’s own accounts of her experiences, including those of her childhood which ‘ended when Hitler troops marched into her hometown’ of Klagenfurt. Sometimes the ‘primal scene’ can ‘look more like a scenario.’”

The article, available to subscribers, can be found here.

Botched Plastic Surgery and Victim Blaming

Victoria Pitts-Taylor, Wesleyan’s new professor and chair of Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies and a specialist in body image, spoke to The Atlantic magazine about the latest reality TV show, Botched, to focus on plastic surgery gone bad. The two doctors who star in the show are frequently seen castigating patients who suffer unfortunate after-effects from botched plastic surgery. Pitts-Taylor says the show exposes “blame games and accusations toward victims” that are common from the plastic-surgery establishment, in which surgeons eager for a profit often behave unwisely, resulting in disaster.

“Who is blamed in the narrative for the situation that they’re in?” Pitts-Taylor says. “I think we’re all being a little bit too willing to accept these narratives of blame of individual patients for being too crazy, or being too careless, and there’s certainly not enough critique of the industry as a whole.”

Read the whole article here.

Rose’s ‘The Shelf’ is Editor’s Choice

The Shelfa new book by Phyllis Rose, professor of English, emeritus, was featured as an “Editor’s Choice” in The Chicago TribuneThe review praises Rose’s “brilliant, generous counterintuitive voice” in this literary experiment, through which Rose attempts to “un-curate her reading life” and bring back the joy of random discovery that was lost with the extinction of the library card catalogue.

The reviewer explains: “The beauty of her idea lay in its arbitrary quality, the uniqueness appealed to her — that no one else in the history of the world had read this particular set of novels. She wanted a mix of new and old, women and men, and maybe a classic she had been meaning to read. In books, and in life, Phyllis Rose was after spontaneity, inclusiveness and uniqueness.”

 

Praying for the Worst

“Isn’t it against the rules of religion to pray against another person?” Elizabeth McAlister, professor of religion, professor of American studies, professor of African American studies, asks in an op-ed in The Los Angeles Times. The answer: “Hardly.”

Imprecatory prayer–or praying for harm to befall another–is more common than many know, McAlister writes. She points to a Ghanaian traditional priest who is claiming credit for causing an injury to Portugal’s soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, whose absence, the priest hopes, may improve Ghana’s chances against Portugal in the World Cup this week. Closer to home, the American evangelical community for the last five years has led a chilling campaign praying for President Barack Obama’s death.

McAlister writes:

The Secret Service has taken note of the threat inherent in the prayer campaign. But without direct evidence that people were actually advocating acts of violence, the ACLU and the Anti-Defamation League have concluded that the campaign to “Pray for Obama: Psalm 109.8″ is a legal form of political speech.

In a way, though, that conclusion relies on secular logic. The ACLU and the ADL assume prayer to be ineffectual in causing harm. But many evangelicals believe negative forms of prayer can actually be efficacious weapons. This is why they use the term “spiritual warfare,” and why they think it is best left to the experienced “prayer warrior.”

The Cost of Climate Change

Gary Yohe, the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, was called on by The Associated Press to comment on a new analysis of the regional economic impacts of climate change. The report, commissioned by The Risk Business Project, made predictions including:

Between $66 billion and $106 billion in coastal property will likely be below sea level by 2050, labor productivity of outdoor workers could be reduced by 3 percent because extremely hot days will be far more frequent, and demand for electricity to power air conditioners will require the construction of more power plants that will cost electricity customers up to $12 billion per year.

 

While Yohe said the report’s general conclusions are “right on the money,” he noted that “There’s a whole litany of things not calculated in the assessment.”

Yohe added that this report is notable because of the business and financial experience of the people behind it, including former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, Jr., former hedge fund manager, Thomas Steyer, and former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, among others.

“These are people who have managed risk all their lives and have made an enormous amount of money doing so,” Yohe said.

 

Encuentro: Get Ready to Manifest

Associate Professor of Anthropology Gina Athena Ulysse writes in The Huffington Post about Encuentro, NYU’s Hemispheric Institute for Performance and Politics’ bi-annual gathering of academics, artists, activists, students and “enthusiasts of all kinds,” being held this year in Montreal. The theme of the conference-festival this year is “Manifest: Choreographing Social Movements.”

Mark Sussman, an associate dean at the host university, Université Concordia, spoke to the multiple significances of the gathering:

 “In Canadian higher education, the creative side of academic research has been gaining ground and visibility. It is an ideal moment for a gathering of artists, scholars, and researchers who work in both traditional and experimental forms of knowledge creation to come together under the banner of Performance Studies, a field more advanced in the U.S. but achieving momentum in Canada.” 

Bears, Donkeys ‘n’ Elephants

Peter Rutland, the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, was interviewed on Russia Today television. The discussion ranged from the recent deterioration of U.S.-Russian relations under President Obama to possible U.S.-Russian cooperation in fighting terrorism to the implications of the crisis on Ukraine, and other foreign policy issues, for American politics.

“For all of the ups and downs in the 1990s and 2000s, there was a kind of continuity in the parameters of the [U.S.-Russian] relationship,” said Rutland, who is also professor of government, professor of Russian and Eastern European Studies. “That really has fallen apart since 2008. Yes, there were some changes in Putin’s policy, but Putin had been around since 2000, so the main responsibility for the collapse in the relationship must like on the American side, unfortunately. There was a mindset of the Obama Administration coming in that thought that Putin was a man of the past…They put all their chips on the idea that Russia would return to democratization under President Medvedev, and that proved unfortunately to be a losing bet.”

In response to the interviewer’s assertion that Russia has continued down a road of democratization, Rutland said, “There are different types of democracy. Putin is certainly a popular leader and he’s certainly stayed within the loose parameters of democratic politics understood in the Russian context, but what the Obama administration had in mind was real, competitive Western-style democracy with parties competing for the presidency, competing for seats in the parliament, and also much more interaction of civil society organizations in Russia with Western organizations.”

Watch the entire interview here.

 

Closing Schizophrenia Program a Crippling Loss

Writing in The Hartford Courant, Matthew Kurtz, associate professor of psychology, chair and associate professor of neuroscience and behavior, rails against plans to close the 20-year-old Schizophrenia Rehabilitation Program at the Institute of Living in Hartford. Individuals with schizophrenia suffer from impairments that can make daily life a Herculean struggle for the entire family,” writes Kurtz. Moreover, people with schizophrenia represent a substantial proportion of the homeless population; have extremely have levels of unemployment; and, in the absence of treatment, all too often end up in prisons, which are ill-equipped to treat them and where they are highly vulnerable targets of other prisoners.

Kurtz writes: “The Schizophrenia Rehabilitation Program, internationally recognized for its treatments, is one of the very few treatment centers in Connecticut that can address the needs of this patient population and the only program, to my knowledge, to offer such a rich array of integrated services with such proven results. Indeed, despite the dire statistics, we know that evidence-based treatments can improve outcomes in schizophrenia and that many people with the disorder can live rich and fulfilling lives, even with residual symptoms.”

Read more here.