The University of Illinois Press wishes you a great Independence Day holiday.

Today our 1915: Whatta Year! series turns to musician Willie Dixon, born on this date 100 years ago. Dixon brought the term “Hoochie Coochie man” to the mainstream and, oh, yeah, along with Muddy Waters shaped postwar Chicago blues.

The pride of Vicksburg, Mississippi, Dixon traveled north in 1936, had a successful interlude as an amateur boxer (he sparred with Joe Louis and won the state Golden Gloves competition), and started in as a musician using–so the legend tells us–a bass made of a tin can and one string. There would be no peace in the barnyard ever after as Dixon became a cornerstone of the Chess Records dream team in the 1950s, and thus mightily influenced the blues-driven rock and/or roll the kids embraced in the next decade.

Dixon worked with or knew next to everyone. That included pioneering African American disc jockey and political activist Richard E. Stamz, co-author of UIP’s Give ‘Em Soul Richard!, the memoir of Stamz’s life and times. Stamz called Dixon “the straightest son-of-a-bitch I have ever met” and the two became close friends. As Stamz recalled:

Willie never did quit writing. He wrote everywhere. In a joint he’d go into the toilet and write. Willie had a great big garden at his house, and we would be out there picking up fruit or whatever, and Willie would stop and sit up on the front porch and go to writing. That’s the way he wrote.

And wrote, and wrote:

Willie gave everybody songs, and he rehearsed them anywhere he was. Willie at one time told me that with the numbers he had given away, the numbers that he had predominantly helped on, and the numbers that were in his name alone, he had helped produce or write over eight hundred songs for Leonard Chess. I believe that because he never quit.

Cover for PERNOT: Before the Ivy: The Cubs' Golden Age in Pre-Wrigley Chicago. Click for larger imageFor the month of July 2015, to coincide with the Major League Baseball All Star Game, we have lowered the e-book list price of three baseball titles in the University of Illinois Press catalog to $2.99.

Before the Ivy: The Cubs’ Golden Age in Pre-Wrigley Chicago by Laurent Pernot
All Cub fans know from heartbreak and curse-toting goats. Fewer know that, prior to moving to the north side in 1916, the team fielded powerhouse nines that regularly claimed the pennant. Before the Ivy offers a grandstand seat to a golden age.  Rich with Hall of Fame personalities and oddball stories, the book opens a door to Chicago’s own field of dreams and serves as every Cub fan’s guide to a time when thoughts of “next year” filled rival teams with dread. Buy the Kindle version here. Buy the Kobo version here. Buy the Google Play version here. Buy the Nook version here.

Cover for Grow: Baseball on Trial: The Origin of Baseball's Antitrust Exemption. Click for larger imageBaseball on Trial: The Origin of Baseball’s Antitrust Exemption by Nathaniel Grow
The controversial 1922 Federal Baseball Supreme Court ruling held that the “business of base ball” was not subject to the Sherman Antitrust Act because it did not constitute interstate commerce. In Baseball on Trial, legal scholar Nathaniel Grow defies conventional wisdom to explain why the unanimous Supreme Court opinion authored by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, which gave rise to Major League Baseball’s exemption from antitrust law, was correct given the circumstances of the time. Using recently released documents from the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Grow analyzes how the Supreme Court reached this seemingly peculiar result by tracing the Federal Baseball litigation from its roots in 1914 to its resolution in 1922, in the process uncovering significant new details about the proceedings. Buy the Kindle version here. Buy the Kobo version here. Buy the Google Play version here. Buy the Nook version here.

Cover for roberts: Before the Curse: The Chicago Cubs' Glory Years, 1870-1945. Click for larger imageBefore the Curse: The Chicago Cubs’ Glory Years, 1870-1945 edited by Randy Roberts and Carson Cunningham
Before the Curse: The Chicago Cubs’ Glory Years, 1870–1945 brings to life the early history of this much beloved and often heartbreaking baseball club. Originally called the Chicago White Stockings, the team immediately established itself as a powerhouse, winning the newly formed National League’s inaugural pennant in 1876, repeating the feat in 1880 and 1881, and commanding the league in the decades to come. The legendary days of the Cubs are recaptured here in more than two dozen vintage newspaper accounts and historical essays on the teams and the fans who loved them. The great games, pennant races, and series are all here, including the 1906 World Series between the Cubs and Chicago White Sox. Buy the Kindle version here. Buy the Kobo version here. Buy the Google Play version here. Buy the Nook version here.

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GradelS15It’s Friday, so it must (again) be time for the Illinois Congressional indictment story of the week.

The news of June 26, 2015 brings a familiar face back into the ignominious circle of Illinois politicians under either investigation or indictment.

Federal investigators have announced that that former U.S. Rep. Mel Reynolds has been indicted for failing to file federal income tax returns.

As Thomas J. Gradel and Dick Simpson write in Corrupt Illinois: Patronage, Cronyism, and Criminality, Reynolds has had good reason to keep his attorneys on speed dial since early in his political career.

Mel Reynolds has a rare distinction in the chronicle of Illinois corruption: he was convicted in both state and federal courts in the United States and overseas in Zimbabwe. In 1992 he was convicted in Cook County Criminal Court of criminal sexual assault, child pornography, and obstruction of justice for having sex with a volunteer campaign worker when she was only sixteen.

Reynolds had served less than three years in Congress when he was convicted. Facing a move by his congressional colleagues to oust him, he resigned his seat. But it wasn’t the end of his troubles, and it wasn’t the last time a congressman from the Second District would be accused of campaign and sexual misconduct. Democrat Jesse L. Jackson Jr., who later would be convicted of a felony and resign from Congress, won a special general election in 1995 to serve out the remaining thirteen months of Reynolds’s second term.

In related news, Jesse L. Jackson Jr. was released this week from Baltimore halfway house to serve the remainder of his Federal sentence on fraud charges in home confinement.  In 2013 Jackson was convicted for taking around $750,000 from his campaign funds and spending that money on personal items including a cashmere cape.


Sensing Chicago - Adam MackAdam Mack is assistant professor of History in the Department of Liberal Arts at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He recently answers some questions about his Studies in Sensory History series book Sensing Chicago: Noisemakers, Strikebreakers, and Muckrakers.

Q: What new dimensions can sensory studies bring to our historical understanding of urban life?

Adam Mack: I think sensory studies can change our understanding of the history urban experience. One insight that I hope readers take from Sensing Chicago is that people cared deeply about the sensory landscape of the city—the way Chicago looked, sounded, smelled, and felt. One infamously stinky example is the Chicago River, which served as a repository for the city’s human and industrial waste in the industrial age. The river reeked, but the complaints about the smell involved more than aesthetic objections or simple discomfort. Many Chicagoans feared that the river stinks spread deadly diseases; they thought that the dirty water would discourage personal cleanliness; and they worried that moral and cultural decay would follow. Part of the reason that the city tried to “reverse” the river’s flow in 1871 was because they associated the foul smells with civic danger. Continue reading

jack1Congratulations to Jordynn Jack, who received the 2015 RSA Book Award from the Rhetoric Society of America (RSA) for Autism and Gender: From Refrigerator Mothers to Computer Geeks.

In Autism and Gender, Jack offers new insights into the ways rhetorical inquiry can and does contribute to conversations about gender and disability. In the book Jack analyizes how people employ highly gendered theories to craft rhetorical narratives around stock characters such as “fix-it dads” and “heroic mother warriors” that advocate for ends beyond the story itself while also allowing the storyteller to gain authority, understand the disorder, and take part in debates.

The award RSA Book Award is given to the best work in rhetorical study for the year. The author received the award at the RSA Summer Institute in Madison in early June.

Meet the UI Press is a recurring feature that delves into issues affecting publishing. Today, industry advice columnist The Bolshevik answers your questions.

bolshevikDear Bolshevik,
The other day I caught up with a science story that reported baboons keep dogs as pets. Does it seem to you that animals increasingly act like humans these days? I don’t mean dancing bears or other Vegas-related indignities. I mean creatures in the wild picking up habits that made Homo sapiens the toast of the planet. Tool use. Expressing grief. Collective intelligence. Scorning humans who did their friends wrong. My question: will the press I work for soon replace me with a colony of bees? —Signed, Worried at Wayne State

Dear Worried,
Probably not bees, as they are vanishing for unknown reasons, and employers get enough of that from their human drones. But you are wise to be concerned. Job-stealing robots get all of the headlines, but our austerity-obsessed neoliberal ruling class cannot wait for artificial intelligence to deliver cheap labor. That being the case, baboons offer a tempting short-term solution. These Old World monkeys are trainable and willing to work for kibble. That far outweighs their penchant for violent outbursts against recalcitrant copy machines. True, they attack anyone who makes eye contact with them, but we all work with people like that already.

I advise you to frequently remind university administrators of the many downsides of employing Earth’s more intelligent fauna, i.e. chimps enjoy getting blasted on tree sap and drunkenly riding unicycles while smoking, dolphins prefer mating (and mating) over keeping deadlines, pigs will eat everyone’s yogurt out of the refrigerator etc.

Dear Bolshevik,
What are your thoughts on the Oxford comma? The other day I submitted a press release that included the snippet “…with lawyers, guns, and money.” I received a strong reprimand from Editorial—no less than two frowny faces—and a lecture on house style. I tried to explain that using the term “…with lawyers, guns and money” would’ve caused my fourth grade teacher Sister Lorraine to rise from the grave and thump me with a Pius XI snowglobe, but to no avail. —Comma Tose in Barrington

Dear Tose,
Leave it to those snobs at Oxford to claim an entire piece of punctuation for themselves. What’s next, the Harvard apostrophe? The Mercedes-Benz ellipsis? Unfortunately, I fear you must adhere to house style. It is to publishing what The Collected Recipes of Joseph Stalin was to the USSR, though nowhere near as obsessed with potatoes. I admit it will be difficult to reason with the aggrieved spirit of a persnickety nun. I also admit abbesses are a bit too quick to label “explanations” as “sassy-talk.” But, if possible, remind the sister that she would be even more disappointed if you ended up jobless after she did so much to form your character and grammatical skills. Jesus sympathized with the poor, but the man made a proper career as a carpenter.

SeymourS13We are pleased to announce that Strange Natures: Futurity, Empathy, and the Queer Ecological Imagination by Nicole Seymour has received the 2015 ASLE Ecocriticism Book Award from the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (ASLE).

The official presentation of the award and a $500 cash prize will take place during the Authors’ Reception at the 2015 ASLE Biennial Conference at the University of Idaho, Wednesday, June 25, 2015.

The award committee noted that “Nicole Seymour’s Strange Natures: Futurity, Empathy, and the Queer Ecological Imagination is an ambitious, intelligent, and subtle intervention on the longstanding division between queer theory and the ‘natural.’ Building on a deep appreciation of how the natural has historically been deployed against sexualities and identities outside the heteronormative, and the links between that violence and environmental degradation, Seymour identifies vitally important tradition of queer environmentalism in contemporary literature and film from the Americas. Strange Natures is a major contribution to the queering of ecocriticism and the greening of queer theory.”


The second in our series of posts on how university presses and other small publishing concerns can enjoy greater financial security by creating new revenue streams. The introductory post is here.

Strategy No. 2: Charity single
Which charity, you ask? Your press, of course. It’s a nonprofit. It feeds starving minds. What better way to continue this essential mission than recording a fantastic single for immediate release?

The average U press staff includes numerous former/current musicians. In fact, music is one of the most common side lines in the greater AAUP community, with guitarists, singers, DJs, and flautists all supporting their tuneful jones with a daytime publishing gig. An all-points email to the rest of the staff will recruit most of a band and at least two singers. From there, you get that song out of your hearts and onto some form of digital media, and wait for the cash—uh, the donations—to flow into press coffers.

As Band Aid showed us in the Eighties, your best bet to raise funds is to pen a song about the crisis in question. Actually, your best bet is to get together a bunch of famous people, since they could sing the menu of that Chinese place across the tracks and get attention. But your press may have trouble convincing pop stars to contribute their talents to the project, even Eighties pop stars, though maybe it’s worth a phone call, I mean, Paul Young, Pere Ubu, and Bananarama don’t seem to have a lot else going on right now.

Anyway, the song should address the crisis, a true write-what-you-know piece of art that gets across your desperate situation. Can’t find a melody? Go the Weird Al route and throw down a little parody (with apologies to Carly Simon):

Your dissertation,
Your disserta-a-tion is making us late
It’s gonna cost us a lot in freightin’

GradelS15Scandal and indictment have kept Corrupt Illinois authors Thomas J. Gradel and Dick Simpson busy.

The investigation of Rep. Aaron Schock and indictment of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert have not only kept the authors phone ringing but the scandal-plagued headlines have reinforced the perception that Illinois has been sending bad apples to Washington, D.C.

But as the authors recently told CAN TV’s Chicago Newsroom host Ken Davis, there is just so much more corruption in Illinois to talk about.

“We found corruption at the state level, we found aldermanic corruption, we found city and county employee corruption,” says Dick Simpson, “We found significant suburban corruption. We found nearly 200 cases of suburban officials who are corrupt and have been convicted by the federal government.”

The authors discussed the history and variety of corruption they’ve documented on the program, which can be viewed below.