Tag Archive for alumni publications

Goldman ’81 Heads Small Press That Publishes a Pulitzer Prize Winner

Erika Goldman '81 is editorial director at Bellevue Literary Press, which published Tinkers.

This year’s Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction, Tinkers by Paul Harding, was a bit of a surprise. The book had gotten excellent reviews (though it wasn’t reviewed by The New York Times) and was pushed by independent book sellers. But it was far from a slam dunk for a prestigious literary prize.

Even more surprising is the publisher, Bellevue Literary Press, where Erika Goldman ’81 is editorial director. This is the first small publisher to release a Pulitzer fiction winner since Louisiana State University Press published A Confederacy of Dunces. Bellevue Literary Press is part of New York University’s School of Medicine and specializes in works that explore the convergence of science and the arts, with a publishing schedule of eight books per year, or four a season, three being non-fiction and one a novel. The full-time staff consists of Goldman, a veteran editor who previously worked at Scribner and Simon & Schuster, and an assistant.

According to the Wall Street Journal, “a Pulitzer was not something Goldman campaigned for or expected, and she’s still digesting what the award will do for Bellevue. ‘I hope it means when we publish book, people will take a closer look,’ she said. ‘It’s great to get this recognition but we’re still modest in our means. We’re not going to be playing high stakes with the big guys.’ “

Shapiro ’87 Edits Book of Rejection Letters

Book by Bill Shapiro '87.

Bill Shapiro ’87 has edited an entertaining and often fascinating book, Other People’s Rejection Letters (Clarkson Potter), in which he has collected 150 rejection letters sent to famous and ordinary people and presented exactly as they were written.

The letters included are surprisingly varied, sent by text message, e-mail and by the U.S. Postal Service, and messages are handwritten, typed, illustrated and scrawled in lipstick and crayon. Alongside letters rejecting Gertrude Stein, Andy Warhol and Jimi Hendrix, readers can peruse notes from former lovers, relatives, would-be bosses, potential publishers, universities, Walt Disney Productions, the pope and even “the Private Office of His Majesty the King.”

At the end of the book, Shapiro offers the stories behind several of the letters and an update on some of the recipients. Some of them serve as lessons and inspirations.

Shapiro is currently editor-in-chief at LIFE.com.

Bloom ’75 Named to New Writer-in-Residence Position

Amy Bloom '75, appointed as the Kim-Frank Family University Writer in Residence, read from her latest book, Where the God of Love Hangs Out, April 13 in New York City at "A Conversation with Amy Bloom '75 and President Michael Roth '78." The event was sponsored by the Wesleyan Club of New York and the Wesleyan Writing Programs. (Photo by Bill Burkhart)

Amy Bloom ’75, a distinguished writer of novels, short stories, nonfiction, and projects for television, has been named the Kim-Frank Family University Writer in Residence at Wesleyan University. Her appointment takes effect July 1.

Bloom will have an office in the Shapiro Creative Writing Center.

Bloom will enhance Wesleyan’s curricular offerings in writing by offering two courses per year, and she will serve as a senior thesis advisor. She will have an office in the Shapiro Creative Writing Center.

“Amy Bloom is one of the most accomplished writers in the United States today,” says President Michael S. Roth. “Her insight, her creativity, and her deep understanding of the craft of writing will be a great benefit to our students. The writing community at Wesleyan is prolific and strong, and Amy Bloom’s presence will add to that vitality.”

Bloom is the author of two novels, three collections of short stories, and a nonfiction book. She has been a nominee for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her stories have appeared in The Best American Short Stories, Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards, and numerous anthologies here and abroad.

Almond ’88 Shares His Inner Rock Star in Latest Book

Book by Steve Almond '88.

Growing up, Steve Almond ’88 secretly desired to live the life of a rock star but after taking piano lessons he realized he had no musical talent. Though he didn’t become a musician, he became the next best thing: an obsessive music fan, particularly of rock and roll—or what he calls “a drooling fanatic.”

Almond’s new book, Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life (Random House), recounts his love for music from his earliest rock criticism to his devotion to obscure bands to his meeting with Erin, a former heavy-metal “chick” who became his wife. As he has shown in his essays, fiction, and best-selling nonfiction book Candyfreak, Almond is a highly entertaining and very funny writer. This time, he shares his interviews with some of America’s finest songwriters, a recap of visiting Graceland stoned, an examination of why depression songs can make us feel better, a reluctant exegesis of the song “Africa” by Toto, and much more.

Almond also offers his readers a free soundtrack mix at his web site www.stevenalmond.com.

Earlier this month, Vanity Fair interviewed the author. When asked why vinyl is so superior to digital music, Almond responded: “The sad thing is, it’s impossible to talk about anything related to music and technology anymore and not sound old. You bring up CDs and most people are like, ‘What are those?’ Pretty soon even talking about the iPod is going to be like ‘C’mon, Gramps. Get out of the basement, man. It’s 2013. Nobody listens to those anymore!’ Technology has made fogies out of everyone. But when it comes to LPs, I think the real complaint from purists is that we don’t listen to music in the same way anymore. I remember listening to Songs in the Key of Life or Mind Games, whatever it was, while sitting on the floor of my parents’ living room and reading the lyrics from the album sleeve and just being immersed in those songs. There wasn’t any other narrative going on. It was just me and whatever the music was making me feel, period.”

Lerer ’76 Receives Literary Criticism Award

Seth Lerer '76

Children’s Literature: A Reader’s History from Aesop to Harry Potter (University of Chicago Press) by Seth Lerer ’76 has been honored with the 2010 Truman Capote Award for Literary Criticism in Memory of Newton Arvin. The $30,000 award, the largest annual cash prize in English-language literary criticism, is administered for the Capote Estate by the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Lerer, dean of arts and humanities at the University of California San Diego, where he is distinguished professor in the Department of Literature, will receive the award in a free, public event at 4 p.m. Thursday, May 6, in the Senate Chamber of the Old Capitol on the University of Iowa campus. Lerer will speak on “Criticism and the Classroom.”

Book by Seth Lerer ’76.

The book previously won the 2009 National Book Critics Circle Award. The study is a scholarly volume aimed at a broader reading audience, but it also is a kind of intellectual autobiography, touching on Lerer’s own youthful passion for reading and his experience as a parent.

Halliday ’83 Offers a Sweeping History of Habeas Corpus

Paul Halliday '83. (Photo by Tony von Thelen)

Paul Halliday '83. (Photo by Tony von Thelen)

Habeas corpus has been known as the Great Writ of Liberty but history shows us that it is actually a writ of power. In Habeas Corpus: From England to Empire (Harvard University Press), Paul D. Halliday ’83, a history professor at the University of Virginia, provides a sweeping revisionist account of the world’s most revered legal device and changes the traditional way people understand the writ and democracy.

The author examined thousands of cases across more than five hundred years to write this history of the writ from the 15th to the 18th centuries.

Beginning in the 1600s, English judges used ideas about royal power to empower themselves to protect the king’s subjects. The key was not the prisoner’s right to liberty but the possible wrongs committed by a jailer or anyone who ordered a prisoner detained. This focus on wrongs gave the writ the force necessary to protect ideas about rights as they developed outside of law. This judicial power carried the writ across the world, from Quebec to Bengal.

Halliday’s research has been cited extensively in two Guantanamo detainee cases and a death penalty review case now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Bloom ’75 Talks in The Guardian about Writing

Amy Bloom '75. (Photo by Dan Callister)

Amy Bloom '75. (Photo by Dan Callister)

Fiction writer and essayist Amy Bloom ’75 was interviewed on March 13, 2010 by Emma Brockes in The Guardian, UK. Bloom’s third collection of short stories, Where the God of Love Hangs Out (Random House), was published in January to general critical acclaim.

In the interview, Bloom talks about her previous career as a psychotherapist, growing up with parents employed as writers, writing novels vs. short stories, reviews (she doesn’t read them), writing for television, and her personal life.

Bloom was asked why in an era of withering attention spans, short stories aren’t in greater demand. “It’s a question of commitment, Bloom says. ‘There is a big category of not very well-written but extremely readable novels – books you take to the beach, to the airport, the genre novels that don’t require much of you but fill a few hours. There are very few short stories like that: big, badly written, eminently readable. Those novels require absolutely nothing. It’s like watching television.’ Even the literary magazines she writes for reject stories that have more than one strand. ‘The short story in the modern magazine is an extended anecdote.’ ”

Read the entire Guardian UK interview with Amy Bloom.

Rotella ’86 Profiles Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

Carlo Rotella ’86 (Photo by Lee Pellegrini/BC Chronicle)

Carlo Rotella ’86 (Photo by Lee Pellegrini/BC Chronicle)

In the Feb. 1 issue of The New Yorker, Carlo Rotella ’86, the director of the American Studies Program at Boston College, profiles U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Rotella points out that President Obama has allotted Duncan more than 70 billion dollars in federal economic-stimulus funds to hand out to the states—more money than any Secretary of Education has had before him. Duncan has exceptional leverage with this stimulus money and his close relationship with Obama, which dates back to when Duncan worked in Chicago.

Rotella writes about Duncan’s childhood on the South Side of Chicago, his passion for basketball, and the after-school program his mother ran and continues to run in North Kenwood-Oakland. Duncan attended Harvard and then played professional basketball in Australia before returning to Chicago.

Rotella examines Duncan’s working career in Chicago and his tenure as C.E.O. of the Chicago Public Schools, and he interviews several critics of his policies. He also considers the rules by which the stimulus funds will be awarded to states and considers the legacy of No Child Left Behind.

Rotella writes: “Many people who voted for Obama are finding out that on education, as on other issues, he is more of a centrist than they ever imagined. They are realizing, too, that Duncan, for all his idealism, is also the guy who got along just fine with Mayor Daley.”

Rotella also writes about playing basketball with Arne Duncan on The New Yorker web site.

Litvak ’76 Takes a Fresh Look at the Hollywood Blacklist and McCarthy Era

The Un-Americans Joseph LitvakIn The Un-Americans: Jews, the Blacklist, and Stoolpigeon Culture (Duke University Press) Joseph Litvak ’76 offers a rethinking of the Hollywood blacklist and McCarthyite America by uncovering a political regime that did not come to an end with the 1950s or even with the Cold War, in which the good citizen is an informer, ready to denounce anyone who will not play the part of the earnest, patriotic American.

Litvak draws on the work of Theodor W. Adorno, Hannah Arendt, Alain Badiou, and Max Horkheimer to show how the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) conflated Jewishness with what he calls “comic cosmopolitanism,” an intolerably seductive happiness, centered in Hollywood and New York, in show business, and intellectual circles. He suggests that HUAC took the comic irreverence of the “uncooperative” witnesses as a crime against an American identity based on self-repudiation and the willingness to “name names.”

Litvak traces the outlines of comic cosmopolitanism in a series of performances in film and theater and before HUAC, performances by Jewish artists and intellectuals such as actors Zero Mostel and Judy Holliday, and screenwriter Abraham Polonsky. By analyzing the creative work of informers Broadway director and choreographer Jerome Robbins, film director Elia Kazan, and screenwriter/novelist Budd Schulberg, the author reveals the triumph of a “stoolpigeon culture” that still thrives in the America of the early 21st century.

Litvak is a professor of English at Tufts University.

Bluemel ’86 Edits Critical Essay Collection

Blumel Bookcover - Intermodernism

Kristin Bluemel ’86, a professor of English at Monmouth University, has edited a new essay collection, Intermodernism: Literary Culture in Mid-Twentieth-Century Britain (Edinburgh University Press). This volume of original critical essays encourages readers to accept a new term, new critical category, and new literary history for 20th-century British literature.

Its primary subject is the intriguing and typically neglected British writing of the years of the Depression and World War II, including the fiction, memoirs, criticism, and journalism of writers such as Elizabeth Bowen, Storm Jameson, William Empson, George Orwell, J. B. Priestley, Harold Heslop, T. H. White, Rebecca West, John Grierson, Margery Allingham, and Stella Gibbons. The book is divided into four sections—Work, Community, War, and Documents—and concentrates on qualities that distinguish these writers’ literary efforts from those of the modernists or postmodernists, clarifying the network of historical, institutional, and personal relationships that together define intermodernism.

This is a broad-ranging collection, discussing novels, journalism, manifestos, short stories, film, poetry, memoirs, letters, and travel narratives of the interwar, war, and immediately post-World War II years. More than 75 British intermodernists are covered.

Bloom ’75 Publishes New Story Collection

New book by Amy Bloom '75

New book by Amy Bloom '75

Acclaimed author Amy Bloom ’75 has published a new story collection, Where the Love of God Hangs Out (Random House), which has already received several fine reviews.

The book contains two sets of four related stories and four unrelated works in which the author explores love, loss, mortality, and other human predicaments with compassion and humor. The first quartet of stories concerns the love affair between middle-aged friends William and Clare who are married to others. The other set of interlocking tales explores the relationship over 30 years between Julia and her stepson Lionel who are introduced in the story “Sleepwalking” as they mourn the death of Lionel’s jazz musician father.

In her review of the book in The New York Times, Janet Maslin writes: “Ms. Bloom, who has worked as a psychotherapist as well as a creative writing professor, clearly has great gifts in both those realms. … She writes about characters who are stunning in their verisimilitude but never really predictable in their behavior … Ms. Bloom’s characters are uncommonly fully formed, seldom young, some of them well into old age. Yet they sustain the ability to surprise one another — and themselves.”

Bloom has previously published two story collections, a novel, and a book of essays, and she also created the Lifetime series, State of Mind. Her last book, the novel Away, was a New York Times best seller.

Flowers ’96 Examines the Politics and Power of Building 3 NYC Skyscrapers

Book by Benjamin Flowers '96.

Book by Benjamin Flowers '96.

In Skyscraper: The Politics and Power of Building New York City in the Twentieth Century (University of Pennsyvania Press), Benjamin Flowers ’96 explores the role of culture and ideology in shaping the construction of skyscrapers, as well as the way wealth and power have operated to reshape the urban landscape. He studies closely the creation and reception of three major architectural sites: the Empire State Building, the Seagram Building, and the World Trade Center.

Flowers wrote his new book using a broad array of archival sources, such as corporate records, architects’ papers, newspaper ads, and political cartoons. He reveals how architects and their clients employed a diverse range of modernist styles to engage with and influence broader cultural themes in American society, such as immigration, the Cold War, and the rise of American global capitalism. He also considers the personal, political, cultural, and economic agendas that motivate architects and their clients to build higher and higher.

Flowers teaches architecture at the Georgia Institute of Technology.