Tag Archive for alumni publications

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.

New Book by Goode ’91 Focuses on Racial Theories in Spain

Book by Joshua Goode '91.

Book by Joshua Goode '91.

In Impurity of Blood: Defining Race in Spain, 1870–1930 (LSU Press), Joshua Goode ’91 traces the development of racial theories in Spain from 1870 to 1930 and explores the Spanish proposition that racial mixture, rather than racial purity, was the bulwark of national strength.

He begins his study with a history of ethnic thought in Spain in the medieval and early modern era, and then details the formation of racial thought in Spain’s nascent human sciences. He examines the political, social and cultural manifestations of racial thought at the dawn of the Franco regime and, finally, discusses its ramifications in Francoist Spain and post–World War II Europe.

Goode analyzes the findings of Spanish racial theorists working to forge a Spanish racial identity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when race and racial sciences were most in vogue across Europe. The goal of Spanish social sciences was to trace the history of racial fusion, studying both the separate elements of the Spanish composition and the factors that had nurtured them. Ultimately, Goode finds that national identity based on mixture—the inclusion rather than the exclusion of different peoples—did not preclude the establishment of finely wrought and politically charged racial hierarchies.

His book should prove useful to scholars of Spanish and European history, racial theory, historical anthropology and the history of science.

Goode teaches history and cultural studies at Claremont Graduate University in California.

He ’02 Co-Authors Book on Filmmaker Tim Burton

Jenny He '02

Jenny He '02

Jenny He ’02 is the co-author, along with Ron Magliozzi, of a new book Tim Burton, published by the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York City to accompany a major career retrospective that is currently on view at the museum. The publication considers Burton’s career as an artist and filmmaker, the evolution of his creative practices and the influence of popular culture and Pop Surrealism on his work. The book traces the path of his visual imagination from his earliest childhood drawings through his mature works, which includes his films Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

The publication offers a fresh look at Burton’s career and presents previously unseen works from the artist’s personal archive. Among the 64 illustrations in the book are works on paper, moving-image stills, drawn and painted concept art, puppets and maquettes, storyboards, and examples of his work as a graphic artist.

Jenny He contributes an essay in the book, “An Auteur for All Ages.” In the essay, she discusses Burton’s unique visuals, specific themes and his embrace of character. She points out that despite working on major studio productions, Burton has been able to maintain his “uncompromised aesthetic” by usually working with the same creative team.

TimBurtonCoverHe is currently a curatorial assistant in the department of film at the Museum of Modern Art and the co-curator of the Tim Burton exhibition, which is on view at the museum until April 26, 2010.

In conjunction with the exhibition, she curated the film series “Tim Burton and the Lurid Beauty of Monsters,” highlighting movies that have influenced, inspired, and intrigued the director. She previously curated MOMA exhibitions on the films of the Coen brothers, George Romero, and James Mangold.

Her essay on actress Lillian Gish is forthcoming in an anthology published by MoMA on women artists in the museum collection; she will also curate an exhibition of Gish films.

Fraser ’54 Offers a Cast of Characters in His Poems

Sanford Fraser TouristIn his third poetry collection, Tourist (NYQ Books, 2009), Sanford Fraser ’54 reveals a mastery of the lyric form and plainspoken language. The collection is divided into three sections: Strangers, Roles and Connections. In the first section, the narrator and/or characters in the poems are strangers isolated from and emotionally detached from others; in the second, they play various roles in the world beyond themselves; and finally in the last section, they experience emotional attachments with others.

Frasier shares the following observations about his new book:

“The busloads of tourists who ride and walk through the streets of my neighborhood each day, often remind me of myself arriving in France years ago, of experiencing again what it is to be a stranger in a strange world. In many of my poems, which are usually short character studies, I recreate this experience. The first section of Tourist is devoted to strangers who do not relate to others, who remain outside of the community they live in or visit. Some take home things, souvenirs—not memories; others remain strangers because they are illegal or simply newly arrived immigrants, speaking a strange language; still others isolate themselves from the world in various ways with their obsessions and imaginary barriers.

“Various roles these characters play in order to fit into society are explored in the second section of the collection, such as the role of the tough guy, or the roles of blind obedience and passive aggression. The ability to reach out beyond oneself and connect with others is explored in the last section: through desire or empathy, and finally, through art and imagination.”

Fraser’s interest in poetry began at Wesleyan in a class taught by George Creeger, professor of English emeritus. He did not begin writing poetry until the age of 50 in New York City, where he now lives. His first collection of poems, 14th Street, was published in the New School Chapbook Series, and his second, a French/English bilingual collection, Parmi les étrangers que j’ai connus toute ma vie/ (Among Strangers I’ve Known All My Life, Tarabuste Editions), appeared in France in 2007. This second book will be republished in 2010 by NYQ Books.