Tag Archive for Wesleyan University Press

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.

Wesleyan U. Press Donates Book to 850 Connecticut Libraries

A book published by Wesleyan University Press, titled, Making Freedom: The Extraordinary Life of Venture Smith, will be distributed for free to about 850 municipal, middle school and high school libraries statewide. The books are being donated through the generosity of an anonymous donor.

The book is about the life of Venture Smith, “an African slave who bought his freedom and became a prominent farmer and trader in 18th century Connecticut,” according to The Day of New London, Conn., which wrote about an event in Hartford announcing the book’s distribution.

At the event, Suzanna Tamminen, director and editor-in-chief of Wesleyan University Press, was joined by Connecticut’s Senator Richard Blumenthal, and Congressmen Rosa DeLauro, Joe Courtney, Jim Himes and Elizabeth Esty, as well as NAACP President Scot Esdaile and descendants of Venture Smith and of his owners.

Kaplan Fund Supports de Boer’s Forthcoming Book

Wesleyan University Press received a grant for $2,500 on Dec. 14 from the J.M. Kaplan Fund. The award will support of Jelle Zeilinga de Boer’s forthcoming book New Haven’s Sentinels: the Art and Science of East Rock and West Rock. de Boer is Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science, Emeritus at Wesleyan.

Wesleyan U. Press Publishes Lucier’s Notes on Experimental Music Book

Book by Alvin Lucier.

Book by Alvin Lucier.

Alvin Lucier, John Spencer Camp Professor of Music, Emeritus, is the author of Music 109: Notes on Experimental Music, published by Wesleyan University Press, 2012.

In this insider’s view, composer and performer Lucier brings clarity to the world of experimental music as he takes the reader through more than a hundred groundbreaking musical works, including those of Robert Ashley, John Cage, Charles Ives, Morton Feldman, Philip Glass, Pauline Oliveros, Steve Reich, Christian Wolff and La Monte Young.

Lucier explains in detail how each piece is made, unlocking secrets of the composers’ style and technique. The book as a whole charts the progress of American experimental music from the 1950s to the present, covering such topics as indeterminacy, electronics, and minimalism, as well as radical innovations in music for the piano, string quartet and opera.

Slate Book Review Praises Lucier’s Experimental Music Book

Book by Alvin Lucier.

Book by Alvin Lucier.

Wesleyan University Press’s Music 109: Notes on Experimental Music by Alvin Lucier was named an “Overlooked Book” of 2012 by the Slate Book Review. Lucier is the John Spencer Camp Professor of Music, emeritus.

In the article published Nov. 28, the Slate Book Review critics suggested “20 great books you never heard about—but should’ve.”

Slate editorial assistant J. Bryan Lowder writes, “Gleaned from Lucier’s long-taught contemporary music course (No. 109) at Wesleyan, Music 109 is, indeed, Lucier’s notes, clippings from a lifetime spent making, performing, and, most importantly, listening to the ‘classical’ music of our era. For John Cage and other post-WWII composers, what was in question was the arresting, awe-inspiring possibilities of sound itself. Why bother with full-blown symphonies when just as much beauty may reside in more intimate forms—amplified brain waves, for instance, or a darkened room filled with bat-like sonar clicks. Even four minutes and 33 seconds of so-called silence can have its own kind of harmony. Music like this rewards a childlike spirit of curiosity, an appreciation of nuance, and an openness to surprise; it is often deceptively simple, and unfortunately, as Lucier writes, ‘simple things often get misunderstood.’ For those with the ears to hear, however, Lucier’s warm prose will sound a few notes of welcome clarity.”

NEA Supports Wesleyan University Press’s Poetry Program

Wesleyan University Press received a $40,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts on Nov. 27 to support the Wesleyan University Press Poetry Program in 2013-14. Works by such poets as Kazim Ali, Rae Armantrout, Heather Christie, Brenda Coultas, Annie Finch, Peter Gizzi, Brenda Hillman, and Yusef Komunyakaa will be published and promoted. The Press will promote the books through organized reading tours for each author and new digital initiatives including custom e-book and print-on-demand anthologies and free online teaching guides.


Avant-Garde Music Composer John Cage Celebrated with Exhibit, App

John Cage in 1988. (Photo courtesy of Special Collections and Archives)

John Cage in 1988. (Photo courtesy of Special Collections and Archives)

Influential experimental music composer, writer and artist John Cage (1912-1992), famous for his avant-garde music, was affiliated with Wesleyan from the 1950s until his death in 1992. During his 37-year relationship with Wesleyan, Cage collaborated with members of the Wesleyan music faculty, composed and performed on campus, and was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in 1960–61 and 1969–70. Wesleyan University Press published several of his books.

To honor Cage’s time and achievements at Wesleyan, the university is celebrating the centenary of Cage by focusing on his understanding of music as a social process through a collection of events.

Wesleyan’s Special Collections and Archives is hosting an exhibition titled “John Cage Writes” Dec. 3-March 10, 2013. The exhibit, mounted in the museum cases on the first floor of Olin Library, focuses in part on the five books Cage wrote that were published by Wesleyan University Press: Empty Words, M, SilenceX, and  A Year from Monday Silence has been hailed as one of the most important works on music by a 20th century composer.

“Although he’s best-known as an avant-garde composer, John Cage also wrote pioneering books and this exhibition will spotlight his literary endeavors,” says Leith Johnson, university archivist, who is curating the exhibition with Suzy Taraba, director of Special Collections and Archives.

Wesleyan University Press released the 50th Anniversary edition of John Cage's "Silence" in 2011. The book includes Cage's lectures and writings.

Wesleyan University Press released the 50th Anniversary edition of John Cage’s “Silence” in 2011. The book includes Cage’s lectures and writings.

Cage donated the papers related to his writing to Wesleyan and the exhibition draws on these materials, the archival records of Wesleyan University Press, and other SC&A collections. Among the items included in the show are correspondence, notebooks, manuscripts, photographs, editions of Cage’s works, and examples of his influence on book artists.

There’s also an app for that.

Musician Jack Freudenheim ’79, working in conjunction with Larson Associates and the John Cage Trust, created an app that lets a user play the sounds of John Cage’s ‘prepared piano’ released in time to celebrate what would have been Cage’s 100th birthday. Learn more about the app in this past Wesleyan Connection story.

In addition, the Center for the Arts hosted three musical performances on “John Cage and Public Life” as part of its “Music & Public Life” series, a year-long campus and community-wide exploration, celebrating and studying the sounds, words, and spirit of music.

Influence Map Highlights Wesleyan U. Press Books World-Wide

The Wesleyan University Press Influence Map, released in November, depicts the depth of the press's work locally and world-wide.

The Wesleyan University Press Influence Map, released in November, depicts the depth of the press’s work locally and world-wide.

In honor of University Press Week Nov. 11-17, Wesleyan University Press released an Influence Map highlighting the scope of its work in the state, nation and world. University Press Week highlights the extraordinary work of university presses and their many contributions to culture, the academy, and an informed society.

Wesleyan University Press‘s editorial program focuses on poetry, music, dance, science fiction studies, film-TV, and Connecticut history and culture. The map, hosted by Google, displays many of the locations of where the press is carrying the name of Wesleyan University.

Click on a “pin” in Connecticut, and the map displays a poetry anthology, published by Wes U. Press, celebrating the Hill-Stead Museum’s Sunken Garden in Farmington, Conn. A pin in Texas links to a book on the Rock’n’Roll scene in Austin. A pin on Peru reveals a book on reviving African musical heritage in the black pacific; and a pin on Morocco pops up a Wes Press book on Moroccan Ghawa trance and music.

Wes Press publications cover topics in Denmark, Vietnam, Italy, Japan, Pakistan, Syria, the United Kingdom, Germany, Greece, Russia, and Canada, and there’s even a Wes Press-published book about the perils of living in a world of treacherous icebergs, fog and nor’easters in Greenland.

“Yes, we really do have a pin in Greenland,” says Wesleyan University Press Director Suzanna Tamminen. “In 1996, the press published a memoir by classic American graphic artist and author Rockwell Kent, whose adventure tale has no shortage of maritime excitement, survival struggles or arctic fjord-itude.”

The map also makes mention of any award-winning Wesleyan U. Press books, including Seven Controlled Vocabularies, by Tan Lin, which is the recipient of the 2012 Book Award in Poetry from the Association for Asian American Studies (AAAS).

Publishing in its current form since 1957, Wesleyan University Press has published an internationally-renowned poetry series, collecting five Pulitzer Prizes, a Bollingen, and two National Book Awards in that one series alone.


Willis Receives Winship/PEN New England Book Award

Book by Elizabeth Willis.

Elizabeth Willis, the Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing, professor of English, is the recipient of the 2012 Winship/PEN New England award for her poetry book Address, published by Wesleyan University Press.

The L.L. Winship/PEN New England Award was established by the Boston Globe in 1975 to honor long-time Boston Globe editor Laurence L. Winship. The awards celebrate best works of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction by New England authors.

PEN (Poets/Playwrights, Essayists/Editors, Novelists) New England is an organization of published authors, aspiring writers, and all who love the written word. PEN aims to advance a culture of literature in New England and defend free expression.

Sebastian Junger ’84 is a past recipient of the award for his book, A Death in Belmont.

According to Wesleyan University Press, Address draws us into visible and invisible architectures, into acts of intimate and public address. These poems are concentrated, polyvocal, and sharply attentive to acts of representation; they take personally their politics and in the process reveal something about the way civic structures inhabit the imagination. Poisonous plants, witches, anthems, bees—beneath their surface, we glimpse the fragility of our founding, republican aspirations and witness a disintegrating landscape artfully transformed. If a poem can serve as a kind of astrolabe, measuring distances both cosmic and immediate, temporal and physical, it does so by imaginative, nonlinear means. Here, past and present engage in acts of mutual interrogation and critique, and within this dynamic Willis’s poetry is at once complexly authoritative and searching: “so begins our legislation.”

Figure Foundation Supports 2012 Wesleyan U. Press Book

Wesleyan University Press received a $5,000 grant from the Figure Foundation on Jan. 5. The award will support the publication of the book The Time Ship: A Chrononautical Journey by Enrique Gaspar; Yolanda Molina-Gavilán, trans.; Andrea L. Bell, trans. Wesleyan University Press will publish the 240 page science fiction book in 2012.

More information on the book is online here.

Parker Smathers Selects Manuscripts, Edits Books at Wes Press

Parker Smathers is an acquisitions editor at Wesleyan University Press.

Q:  Parker, when did you join the staff at Wesleyan University Press, and what attracted you to Wesleyan?

A: I came to work at Wes Press in Fall 2007. As an aspiring poet, some of my favorite poets have been published by Wesleyan over the years. As an editor in academic publishing, it was a great chance to work for one of the best presses in the country.

Q: Please explain your role as an acquisitions editor? Do you select manuscripts that may be of interest to the Press, or do you help edit books? What do you look for?

A:  Both of the above, but mainly I select manuscripts. I look for projects that look like they would be a good fit for our press in the four areas I acquire books in: music, film, science fiction, and Connecticut-related titles. Suzanna Tamminen, our editor-in-chief/director, is in charge of the dance and poetry titles we publish. In all cases, the books need to be innovative and inherently unique, whether they be for scholars or general readers.

Q: How many books does Wes Press publish on an annual basis? Do you have any favorites or recommendations?

A:   We try to keep it at 28, but it’s really hard to draw the line with so many active lists and so much interesting work being done.  This spring we have two music books on the Free Jazz era that are really exciting: Always in Trouble is about the New York indie label ESP-Disk’ that put out ground-breaking jazz albums in the sixties as well as politically controversial albums by folk-rock bands like The Fugs. The second, Reel History, is unusual because it’s an enhanced ebook—the first such project I’ve worked on—and because it’s a work of nonfiction told in the form of a graphic novel.

Wesleyan University Press published Listening and Longing in 2011.

Another music book published recently is by Dan Cavicchi, an American studies scholar: Listening and Longing: Music Lovers in the Age of Barnum. Dan’s book is grounded in painstaking archival research, and uses the diaries kept by concert-goers in the 19th century to unpack their experiences and impressions of the nascent music scene when it was first becoming a lucrative, big-scale phenomenon. His chapter on Walt Whitman, music, and listening in New York City was particularly germane to me as a music lover who also has an MFA in poetry.

My favorite project I’m working hard on now is a book I’m editing for our poetry list, The Collected Poems of Joseph Ceravolo. Joseph Ceravolo is one my favorite poets ever, so this project is particularly special, something I never would have gotten to work on if I hadn’t come to Wesleyan.

Q: As one of only four staff members at WesPress, what is your interaction with the books and each other? Do all four of you work on each book collaboratively?

A: Very collaboratively. We each have our assigned task—Suzanna and I are the editorial team and Leslie Starr and Stephanie Elliott do the marketing and publicity —but most everything we do circulates in-house. We have impromptu meetings almost daily,

Hartford Foundation Supports Wes U. Press’s 2012 Publications

Wesleyan University Press received a grant from the Beatrice Fox Auerbach Foundation at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving in December 2011. The grant will support the publication of five books in 2012 including: Garnet Poems: An Anthology of Connecticut Poetry Since 1776, edited by Dennis Barone and Ella Grasso: A Biography by Jon Purmont, which are part of The Driftless Connecticut Series; and When Magoo Flew: The Rise and Fall of Animation Studio UPA by Adam Abraham; The Great Camouflage Writings of Dissent (1941–1945) by Suzanne Césaire; and A Guide to Poetics Journal Writing in the Expanded Field, 1982-98, edited by Lyn Hejinian and Barrett Watten.