HicksS15Author Michael Hicks will be signing copies of his book The Mormon Tabernacle Choir:  A Biography at BookExpo America on Thursday, May 28 at 11am EDT.

BookExpo America (BEA) is North America’s largest gathering of book trade professionals attracting an international audience. It is organized with the support of association partners including the Association of American Publishers (AAP) and the American Booksellers Association (ABA).  BEA is recognized for the media attention it brings to upcoming books as well as for the notable authors it attracts to the convention itself.   

A first-of-its-kind history, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir tells the epic story of how an all-volunteer group founded by persecuted religious outcasts grew into a multimedia powerhouse synonymous with the mainstream and with Mormonism itself.

Drawing on decades of work observing and researching the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Michael Hicks examines the personalities, decisions, and controversies that shaped “America’s choir.”  Here is the miraculous story behind the Tabernacle’s world-famous acoustics, the anti-Mormonism that greeted early tours, the clashes with Church leaders over repertoire and presentation, the radio-driven boom in popularity, the competing visions of rival conductors, and the Choir’s aspiration to be accepted within classical music even as Mormons sought acceptance within American culture at large.  Everything from Billboard hits to TV appearances to White House performances paved the way for Mormonism’s crossover triumph.  Yet, as Hicks shows, such success raised fundamental concerns regarding the Choir’s mission, functions, and image.

“The anecdotes alone are worth the price of the book.”
—Alex Beam, The Wall Street Journal

boutin3Aimée Boutin teaches French literature and culture in the Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics at Florida State University. She answered some questions about her book City of Noise: Sound and Nineteenth-Century Paris.

Q: What might one hear while walking down a 19th-century Parisian street?

Aimée Boutin: Nineteenth-century Parisian streets were very noisy. One might hear the rattle and clank of horse-drawn vehicles on rough stones, the calls of coachmen amid traffic noise, barking dogs, church bells ringing, boys shouting out the news, but some of the most distinctive sounds of Paris were the cries of small-scale tradespeople and the clamor of street musicians. Old-clothes-men sold second-hand clothing, glaziers peddled window panes, costermongers hawked fruits and vegetables, water-carriers and milkmaids broke the morning silence, violet sellers and chickweed vendors crooned meekly. Each had a distinctive cry designed to soar above the city din. Peddlers’ traditional cries were known as the Cris de Paris and had been celebrated as Paris’s sonorous blazon for centuries.
What one might hear would depend on the neighborhood where one strolled. In the medieval core of the old city, tradespeople peddled goods and services and their soaring voices could be heard equally well at street level or in top-floor garrets. On the Pont neuf, in the theater district along Boulevard du Temple, or on the Champs Élysées, one would be more likely to be deafened by street entertainers, organ grinders, and buskers. Boulevards were full of commotion and the calls of the orange seller or the grinding of the barrel organ would assault the ears of passersby. Continue reading

The University of Illinois Press, like most academic and small publishing concerns, faces an uncertain fiscal environment that depends on many factors—politics, capitalism, snack machine revenue—beyond our control. Throughout the AAUP, indeed throughout the academy, managers and staffers alike incessantly search for ways to cut costs. It’s not easy, what with everything going up in price all the time. But the conscientious women, men, and very bright lemurs who staff university presses manage to save countless dollars as they bring the public the knowledge it needs to keep America a barely functioning democracy.

For a moment, let’s turn our backs on the red ink and look into the black.

Seven words: new revenue streams to bring in funding.

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For the tenth consecutive year, the University of Illinois Press will have a large presence at the Chicago Tribune Printers Row Lit Fest.  Festival goers can visit the University of Illinois Press tent on Dearborn Street, between Congress and Polk. Press staff will sell Chicago- and Illinois-themed books from 10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. on June 6-7.

The Lit Fest program committee has invited multiple University of Illinois Press authors to speak about their recent books held at Jones College Prep, adjacent to the exhibit area.

Sensing Chicago - Adam MackAdam Mack, author of Sensing Chicago: Noisemakers, Strikebreakers, and Muckrakers, will speak at the Chicago Tribune Printers Row Lit Fest program “Chicago Living,” with Joseph Schwieterman and Dean Jobb on Saturday, June 6 from 3:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m in Classroom #5010.

Robert Marovich, author of A City Called Heaven: Chicago and the Birth of Gospel Music, will join Wilbert Jones in a conversation with Mark Guarino titled “Chicago Blues and Jazz” on Sunday, June 7 from 11:00 a.m.-11:45 a.m. in Classroom #5034.

Laurent Pernot, author of Before the Ivy: The Cubs’ Golden Age in Pre-Wrigley Chicago, will join Jeff Katz and Phil Rogers in conversation with Tim Bannon entitled “Play Ball” on Sunday, June 7 from 11:00 a.m.-11:45 a.m. on Center Stage.

A number of University of Illinois Press authors will be signing books at the UIP tent booth space on Saturday, June 6:

Thomas Gradel and Dick Simpson (Corrupt Illinois: Patronage, Cronyism, and Criminality)- 11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.

Cynthia Clampitt, (Midwest Maize: How Corn Shaped the U.S. Heartland) –  12:00 p.m-1:00 pm.

Alan Guebert and Mary Grace Foxwell (The Land of Milk and Uncle Honey: Memories from the Farm of My Youth) – 1:00 pm.-2:00 p.m.

Brian Dolinar (The Negro in Illinois: The WPA Papers) – 2:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m.

The Printers Row Lit Fest was founded in 1985 by the Chicago Near South Planning Board to attract visitors to the Printers Row neighborhood (once the city’s bookmaking hub).  It is considered the largest free outdoor literary event in the Midwest-drawing more than 125,000 book lovers to the two-day showcase.

In recent days the big sports media news revolved around ESPN’s Bill Simmons, one of its most popular personalities. Simmons started years ago as the independent Sports Guy, a bro-friendly, pop culture-drenched writer who gained eyeballs handicapping pro tennis’s foxiest female players and interrupting discussions of the NBA to add thousand-word footnotes on Dennis Hopper’s suit coat in Hoosiers. At ESPN, he became a multimedia superstar and the tip of the conglomerate’s spearhead into prestige products like the web site Grantland (founded by Simmons) and the award-winning documentary series 30-for-30 (suggested and exec-produced by Simmons).

Well, now Simmons is out. ESPN canned him late last week and announced that he would no longer contribute to any of the various platforms and properties in his portfolio.

vogan espnWhat did Simmons mean to ESPN’s efforts to cultivate a high-brow, sports-for-smart-people ‘tude that garnered the network plaudits and key advertisers?

Plenty. Travis Vogan’s upcoming book ESPN: The Making of a Sports Media Empire, available this fall, lays out just what the former Sports Guy brought to the table. Below Vogan discusses Simmons’s vision for Grantland, the most high-profile of the properties he developed for the network:
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threatIn observance of International Nurses Day, an excerpt from Nursing Civil Rights: Gender and Race in the Army Nurse Corps, by Clarissa J. Threat.

Before 1941 African Americans did not ignore the military’s call for nurses. Hoping to participate, black nurses rushed to the nearest Red Cross recruitment location to join the nurse corps. The vast majority, however, faced outright rejection during the first few years of the war and a less-than-welcoming acceptance during the final years of the war. From one black nurse, [activist Mabel K.] Staupers learned: “In reply to your letter of Sept. 27, 1940, I regret to tell you that your application for appointment in the Army Nurse Corps cannot be given favorable consideration as there are no provisions in Army Regulations for the appointment of colored nurses in the Nurse Corps. . . . It is regretted that circumstances preclude a more favorable reply.”

After receiving several similar letters from disheartened black nurses, Staupers pleaded with the president to “do something to remove this stigma from the Negro nurse.” Staupers, like A. Philip Randolph, hoped that her direct appeal to Roosevelt about the role of African Americans in the war might pressure him to take decisive action against the blatant discrimination. Further, Staupers also let the president know that the fight to secure the full admission of black nurses into the ANC would not go away: “We have prepared ourselves . . . and can see no reason why we should be denied service in the Army Nurse Corps.”

Less than a week after Staupers wrote to the president, the surgeon general’s office notified Staupers of two important decisions. First, the use of “colored nurses in the Medical Department of the Army as reserve nurses” was under consideration in the War Department. This meant that the War Department at least recognized that there would be a need for black nurses.

Second, together with the release of the War Department’s “plan for use of colored personnel,” the surgeon general and Medical Department of the army proposed the use of a small number of African American female nurses to care solely for black soldiers in locations dominated by segregated troops.

In this way, General George C. Marshall believed the War Department was protecting “the social relationship between negroes and whites which has been established by the American people through custom and habit.” The army could avoid, or at least lessen, any fears or protest about race mixing in its medical department; black nurses would be concerned primarily with nursing black American soldiers, leaving white nurses to care for white soldiers. The military had no intention, Surgeon General Magee later declared, of allowing “colored nurses or colored physicians” to “be engaged in the care and treatment of military personnel other than colored.”

If this was not enough to drive home the command’s belief about “race mixing,” the inferiority of African Americans, and the limited use of blacks in the war effort, General Marshall also noted that “either through lack of educational opportunities or other causes the level of intelligence and occupational skill of the Negro population is considerably below that of the white.”69 Yet the decision by the War and Medical Departments and the new policy concerning the use of black nurses brought up some troubling issues for nurses and civil rights activists; the army implemented segregated medical care for soldiers and the segregated stationing of black nurses where no historic precedent existed.

rein2Jonathan Reinarz, author of Past Scents: Historical Perspectives on Smell, recently wrote a piece on his love of books and his work in sensory history for Books Combined, the blog of the UIP’s representative in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Obsession and olfaction: scent and the seduction of books

I have an unusually short attention span. This is not a good thing, especially for anyone contemplating a PhD, as I was in the mid-1990s. ‘You don’t need to be smart to do a PhD’, my supervisor initially advised me, ‘you just need to work hard’, and I soon grasped what she meant by that somewhat backhanded comment. From the outset, students have to work hard not to be distracted by the university environment, not least campus life. Those studying in the 1990s were particularly vulnerable to all those books and journals they’d stumble across while scouring libraries in a way few students do in today’s digital age. Put more evocatively by my late grandfather, ‘books are more addictive than drugs’.

Read more…

The recent Hollywood Issue of Vanity Fair features a long story by Josh Karp on Orson Welles’s Quixotic quest to finish The Other Side of the Wind, referred to ever after as his lost masterpiece.

A great deal more insider detail on Wind can also be found in the recent UIP release, The Magic World of Orson Welles, James Naremore’s examination of the director’s career and itself a film studies classic.

The Karp article offers the usual hilarious/bizarre anecdotes we expect of any piece of writing on Welles. Like the chair fight with Ernest Hemingway.

It was May 1937 and Welles entered a Manhattan recording studio to narrate a Spanish Civil War documentary whose script had been written by Ernest Hemingway—who happened to be in the sound booth when Orson arrived.

Only 22, Orson was not yet the Orson Welles, but he was on his way as a talented voice actor earning $1,000 a week during the Depression and a Broadway wunderkind who’d had the audacity to stage an all-black Macbeth.

Looking at Hemingway’s script, Welles suggested a few changes, as he recalled to a reporter decades later. Wouldn’t it be better, for instance, to eliminate the line “Here are the faces of men who are close to death,” and simply let those faces speak for themselves?

Hemingway was outraged that anyone would dare tamper with his words and went after Orson, implying that the actor was “some kind of faggot.” Welles responded by hitting Hemingway the best way he knew how. If Papa wanted a faggot, Orson would give him one.

“Mr. Hemingway, how strong you are!” Welles said, camping it up with a swishy lisp. “How big you are!”

Grabbing a chair, Hemingway attacked Orson, who picked up a chair of his own, sparking a cinematic brawl between two of the great creative geniuses of the 20th century, who duked it out while images of war flickered on a screen behind them.

With today the seventieth anniversary of V-E Day, we tie in the end of that conflict with our Orson Welles Week celebration. In this trivia question, the great director meets another of the, uh, notable figures of his time:

Movie director Orson Welles spent part of his teens in Germany. In the 1920s, a German teacher took him to an early Nazi rally and sat his student next to a then-obscure Adolf Hitler. What did Welles later say of his encounter with the future dictator?

a. “The man hogged all of the strudel without apology”
b. “Hitler carried his own plasticware with him at all times”
c. “I can only remember that he chewed with his mouth open”
d. “He had no personality whatsoever”


Answer: d

This morning our scandal-addled zeitgeist turns its attention to professional football, where the New England Patriots stand accused, and more or less convicted, of deflating balls for a playoff game versus the arch-rival Indianapolis Colts. Why deflate a football? It makes it easier to grip, and thus easier to throw with accuracy. The most immediate beneficiary: Pats quarterback Tom Brady. The Patriots demolished the Colts and advanced to the Super Bowl, an event better known as the Puppy Bowl of sports.

The report issuing from league offices does not blame Brady for the underinflated footballs. Instead, the league throws a flag at a couple of mooks employed by the Patriots, while letting the evidence heavily suggest that Brady knew about the practice.

Which seems more impossible: rule-bending in pro sports, or cheating by a guy as good-looking as Tom Brady? We don’t have the bandwidth to settle that kind of philosophical quandary. But we do publish Sport, Play, and Ethical Reflection, Randolph Feezell’s acclaimed analysis of the nature, the attraction, and—appropriate to this post—the limits of sport. Let’s go to Feezell for the kind of discussion you will not hear on sports talk radio:

Leaman and Lehman have argued persuasively that deliberately violating a written rule is not necessarily morally wrong, may be part of the game, and does not entail that one is not playing the game. However, by including in the analysis of cheating a reference to the customs of shared latent agreements surrounding a sport, what I have called the prescriptive atmosphere of a sport, we must conclude that they have not been able to show that cheating can be equated with “deliberately violating a written rule.” Because cheating involves the attempt to gain an unfair advantage over your opponent by violating the agreements underlyig the game, cheating is morally impermissible, can never be part of the game, and disqualifies the cheater from competing and thus winning.