During winter break, the Los Angeles Review of Books covered our new book on Paul Thomas Anderson by film scholar George Toles, himself a figure of distinction in the moviemaking dream factory. Martin Woessner guides you through a deep delve into Toles’s take on the director that kicks off with a little old fashioned compare-and-contrast:

As I read Toles’s intriguing new book on Anderson—part of the increasingly influential Contemporary Film Directors series published by the University of Illinois Press—I began to realize that he and I value the film for very different, perhaps even incommensurable reasons. A film that had me thinking about history and geopolitics had him thinking about psychology and personal trauma. What had me thinking of Walter Benjamin—“there is no document of civilization which is not at the same time a document of barbarism”—had him thinking about Freud, and not necessarily the Freud of Civilization and Its Discontents, either.

Overall, a fascinating article on Anderson the director, Toles the film scholar, and the just-published union of the two. Read the rest here.

bennett hague and garnerThe neoliberal philosophy of fiscal austerity aligned with reduced economic regulation has transformed Chicago. As pursued by mayor Rahm Emanuel and his predecessor Richard M. Daley, neoliberal thinking has led officials to gut regulations and social services, privatize everything from parking meters to schools, and promote gentrification as their default neighborhood development tool.

The essayists in Neoliberal Chicago explore an essential question: how does neoliberalism work on the ground in today’s Chicago? Contextual chapters explore race relations, physical development, and why Chicago embraced neoliberalism. Other contributors delve into aspects of the neoliberal vision, neoliberalism’s impact on three iconic city spaces, and how events like the 2008 foreclosure crisis and the bid to attract the Olympic Games reveal the workings of neoliberalism.

The UIP blog will be on break until January 3, 2017.

When we return, it’ll be all hot new books on how neoliberal politicians sold, and sold out, the city of Chicago; excerpting an astonishing new book on how the Atlantic slave trade turned Africans into a commodity; the works of controversial science fiction master Alfred Bester; and the career of now-forgotten pop culture phenomenon May Irwin.

In the meantime, whatever you do for the holiday season: enjoy.

GuebertS15Alan Guebert’s book The Land of Milk and Uncle Honey may have been inspired by a little homemade wine.

Guebert, has been writing his nationally syndicated column “The Farm and Food File” since 1993. The first seed of what would become The Land of Milk and Uncle Honey was planted with a column written around 30 years ago.

A departure from his usual beat of covering the agribusiness issues facing farmers and consumers, Guebert’s holiday-themed column that week was a personal story. It began as follows…

The Christmas tree was a scrub cedar hacked from the edge of the woods that bordered our farm. Big-bulbed lights, strung in barber pole fashion, generated almost as much heat as the nearby woodstove. Yellowed Christmas cards, saved over the years and perched like doves on the untrimmed branches, served as ornaments.

“I believe this is the prettiest tree I’ve ever had,” Howard proclaimed as we stood in its glow. “And its smells good, too.”

The only scent evident to me was a mixture of wood smoke and the remains of a fried pork supper. But I lied and said, “Sure does.”

Howard beckoned me to sit. We had shared this Christmas Day in the dairy barn and it was his request that we share a bit of the night, also. He knew I was alone because my family, his employer, was visiting relatives in town. I knew he was alone because he was always alone, a bachelor for nearly forty years.

“I’ll get us some Christmas cheer,” he offered as I sank into the sofa. In untied work shoes, he shuffled toward the kitchen. A minute later, he returned with two water glasses filled with rhubarb wine. We raised them to the day.

The remembrance of Christmas with Howard, a hired hand on his family’s farm, saw twice the reader response that Guebert usually received. Over the years other personal stories made their way into “The Farm and Food File” as well, including some of the adventures of Guebert’s Uncle Honey, a force of both joy and destruction on the southern Illinois dairy farm.

In the video below the author talks about that first column with the personal touch, and about the simple joys found on the farm during the holidays.

On Christmas Eve, 1880, an Arcola painter-illustrator and his wife welcomed John Gruelle to the family. John sank roots into the professional illustration trade himself at age 25 when he sold cartoons to an Indianapolis newspaper. In 1911, young John’s fortunes took an upward turn that changed his life. He won the New York Herald‘s cartooning contest and embarked on drawing a feature cartoon called Mr. Twee Deedie for the paper.

raggedy ann joyful songsOne of the characters, a little girl, dragged a rag doll around throughout her adventures. As the doll acquired a personality and agency, she helped pioneer a funny pages tradition: the supporting character who, like Nancy or Popeye, became the star and a pop culture merchandising colossus. More than a hundred years after her creation, Raggedy Ann remains iconic, despite being a mere rag doll in an age of whiz bang gadgets and media-powered characters bred in the giggling and gurgling bubble gum-colored cauldrons at Disney and Nickelodeon.

Gruelle’s heirs kept Raggedy Ann and her brother Andy thriving via dozens of illustrated books, films, toys, TV, stage productions, and the dolls themselves. There was even a museum in Arcola at one time. A spot of controversy arose in the Eighties when Macmillan, publisher of Raggedy Ann books, tried to update the look at attitudes of the stories. That included revising the racist and sexist elements in the Raggedyverse. It also meant trimming the word count for the limited attention spans of modern readers. Lately, the poor dolls have been drafted into anti-vaccination conspiracy theories due to false stories surrounding Ann’s origins.

Nonetheless, Ann and Andy have stuck their triangular noses to the grindstone and powered on into a second century. This weekend, a great many children will receive one or the other or both dolls, while legions of collectors may score some much-desired memorabilia.


I am fortunately immune to nostalgia about past celebrations of the yule, with one exception: the Christmas tree. Not a tree in the abstract, but the Christmas tree I grew up with, a monstrosity of fakery laden with all the menace American manufacturing could muster in the era before the Bureau of Consumer Protection.

What an ugly, mismatched object. But it was of our family, every bit of it, indeed represented us, for better and for worse, from our mother’s (perhaps too-) fierce love for her young to the unnecessary risk-taking that frequently complicated our lives.

As my parents had only one Christmas together without kids, the tree went into service right away—both as a beacon of hope for gift-greedy children and as a threat to their well-being. The trunk was a green wooden cylinder, about the width of those cheap wooden closet rods we all have in our closet at one time or another.

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Every December since 2007 we have posted an annual list of our pop culture favorites. The University of Illinois Press Best of 2016 edition is in alphabetical order by staff member’s last name.


Jenn Barbee, Accounts Payable
Best Book that I read this year:
The Midwife’s Revolt by Jody Daynard
Favorite CD/LP/music download: “Stay” by Tyler Ward (feat. Cody Johns)

Favorite Film seen this year:  Zootopia
Favorite TV Show: The Walking Dead & Game of Thrones
Favorite live performance:  Didn’t get to see any this year
Website I visit every day: Pinterest

Angela Burton, Rights & Permissions Manager
Favorite Book: I finally read the first Harry Potter book. And, yes, it is very good.
Favorite CD: Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Favorite Film: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Favorite TV Show: Difficult People; Later with Jools Holland
Favorite live performance: The C-U Penguin Project’s production of Aladdin Jr.; C-U Theater Company’s production of Oklahoma
Website I visit every day: New York Times

Marika Christofides, Assistant Acquisitions Editor
Favorite Book: Marjorie Liu – Monstress (comic book series)
Favorite CD: Frank Ocean – Blonde
Favorite Film: The Wailing

Favorite TV Show: a tossup between Difficult People, You’re the Worst, and Crazy ex-Girlfriend
Favorite live performance: The Minotaur at the Krannert Center
Favorite Podcast: The Secret Ingredient
Website I visit everyday: The Financial Diet (a love-hate relationship)

Kevin Cunningham, Copywriter and Catalog Coordinator
Favorite Book: Simon Sebag Montefiore – The Romanovs
Favorite live performance/TV show: World Series, Game 7

Favorite Film: Arrival
and the first 2/3rds of Birdman; for inspiration by insane people: Jodorowsky’s Dune

Leslie DeLucia, Database Administrator
Book: Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamache mystery series
Artist: JJ Grey & Mofro, “The Sweetest Thing” featuring Toots Hibbert
TV show: Chance, with Hugh Laurie

Live performance: “A Christmas Carol,” American Conservatory Theatre, San Francisco (excellent), Lupe Fiasco, Canopy Club, Urbana, IL, October, 2016

Dawn Durante, Acquisitions Editor
Favorite Fiction Book: Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad (Doubleday, 2016)
Favorite Non-Fiction Book: Wendy Gamber’s The Notorious Mrs. Clem: Murder and Money in the Gilded Age (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016)
Catchiest music download: Drake’s “Hotline Bling”
Favorite Film: Can I just say that Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising was SO MUCH better then Neighbors.

Favorite TV Shows: Westworld (HBO), Luke Cage (Netflix Original), Conviction (ABC)
Favorite live performance: “A Conversation with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor” at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts

James Engelhardt, Acquisitions Editor
Favorite live performance: Taste of CU (my first, if you will, taste of CU as a festive place)
Favorite podcasts: Stuff You Missed in History, Backstory, Garrett’s Games and Geekiness
Favorite parks: Fox Ridge State Park, Eisner Park
Favorite games: Scythe, Via Nebula, Oh, My Goods!

Julie Laut, Acquisitions Associate
Favorite Books: Nutshell by Ian McEwan, and Swing Time by Zadie Smith
Favorite CD: Leonard Cohen, You Want it Darker

Favorite Films / Comedy: Ghostbusters / Sci-Fi: Arrival / Drama: Queen of Katwe
Favorite TV Shows / For the whole family: Stranger Things (Netflix) / For the older members of the family: Westworld (HBO)
Favorite classic recipe newly discovered: Creamy Mac and Cheese
Favorite podcast: Hidden Brain
Favorite podcast episode: This American Life #599 (Oct. 23) “Seriously?”
Favorite new local business: Riggs Brewery, Urbana

Danny Nasset, Senior Acquisitions Editor
Favorite Book: A couple histories I enjoyed were The Power and Independence of the Federal Reserve and Just around Midnight: Rock and Roll and the Racial Imagination. While no 2016 novel thoroughly impressed me (Cathleen Schine’s They May Not Mean to, But They Do was the closest), I read Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano for the first time and now count it among my favorites.
Favorite album: Angel Olsen’s My Woman. A handful of Thelonious Monk records I was lucky enough to stumble across during a conference trip to Minneapolis have been one of 2016’s great pleasures. Thank you Electric Fetus.

Favorite Film: I narrowed it down to four of my favorites: Youth, Certain Women, Embrace of the Serpent, and The Wailing.
Favorite TV Show: Westworld (and to continue the HBO streaming lovefest, Vice News has become part of my routine)
Website I visit every day: The Guardian and NY Times mark my everyday stops, but I really like Brain Pickings, especially as an antidote to the depressing state of the year’s headlines. (Here’s to 2016…)

Michael Roux, Marketing and Sales Manager
Favorite CD: Michael Kiwanuka – Love And Hate

Favorite Film: Don’t Think Twice
Favorite TV Shows: Westworld, All In With Chris Hayes
Favorite live performance: Father John Misty, Champaign, IL, April 17, 2016
Website I visited every day leading up to the election:  538

santinoToday we venture into the vaults to shed light on a Nineties UIP release. All Around the Year surveys the American year to delve into how and why we celebrate the holidays we observe.

Jack Santino tackles the classics, and also the new classics that maybe weren’t around so much when you were a kid. The Laotian Rocket Festival? Santino knows. Super Bowl Sunday? Would any book of American holidays be complete without Super Bowl Sunday? No, and for good measure Santino even ties it into The Golden Bough. Groundhog’s Day, Laskiainen, and of course celebrating Easter with the Egg Tree all get their own fascinating analyses.

Santino also ventures afield to look at how communities may put their own twist on the ancient traditional festivities like Christmas. Las posadas, for instance:

Another example of performing from house to house at holiday time, this Mexican tradition is growing throughout the United States, especially in Southern California and the Southwest. For nine nights prior to Christmas, groups of friends and neighbors arrange among themselves to visit each other’s holes, carrying homemade candles that are also known as las posadas. The result is a candlelit procession through the city streets. The visits recreate the journey of Mary and Joseph as they searched for a place where Mary could give birth to the Baby Jesus, el Nino Jesus….

Recently, more public presentations of las posadas, open to community dwellers and tourists alike, have joined the home celebrations. For these, perhaps Mary will ride a real donkey, or a real goat might join in the procession. El Nino Jesus might be played by a real baby. In both cases, in the neighborhoods and at the larger events, the flow is from the procession, through the reenactment of the Nativity, to a fiesta. Children are very important in las posadas. Often they play the principal roles of Mary and Joseph. The fiesta is a party featuring holiday foods such as tamales, and children’s games.

Christmas in Illinois, by James BalloweFrom the UIP release Christmas in Illinois, edited by James Ballowe:

Before sitting on Santa’s lap in department stores became the way children let Santa and their parents know what they wanted for Christmas, letter writing was common, and often post-office employees volunteered to answer the letters that might otherwise have wound up in the dead letter file. Today many children e-mail Santa. These handwritten letters to Santa from children of Vermilion County were printed in the Fairmount Review, December 6, 1909.

Dear Santa,
I would like a football and a game of fishpond, a bugle horn, and a drum. If it is not too much, bring a tool chest, a little ship, some nuts and oranges.

Goodwin Maxfield

Dear Santa,
I have tried to be a good boy all summer. For Christmas I thought it was time to write now. I want an air gun and an overcoat, of course I like candy and oranges and nuts. I think it is time to close. My stocking will be on the chair.

Your friend,
Dale Delaney

Dear Santa,
I am seven years old. I wish you would bring me a doll with pretty black hair and some doll clothes and bed and dresser, this is all, for you have so many to give to, only don’t forget my cousin Goldie. She is bad sick.

Thelma Snow

Dear Santa Claus,
I will tell you what I would like to have. I want a tablet, a pencil and pencil box; but if you have anything else for me you can bring it.

Grace L. Britt

Dear Santa Claus,
I am a little farmer boy, and I want for Christmas: a horn, a sweater, a rocking horse and a story book and a pair of mittens. I want lots of fruit, candy and nuts. That is all for this time.

Your little friend,
Edward Cheuvront

Dear Santa Claus,
I am a little boy three years old. I have been real good and would like for you to bring me a box of blocks, a little drum, a wagon, doll, a new overcoat and some peanuts and candy.

Your little boy,
Paul Steenbergen

Dear Santa Claus,
I have been a good girl and go to school every day. I would like to get a doll dresser, a ring and a pair of rubbers to keep my shoes clean. Helen wants a doll, a teddy bear and a purse. Don’t forget the fruit and nuts. Dear Santa, this is all for today so I will close, hoping to see you at our school house for we are going to have a Christmas tree.

Good-bye from
Theresa Hart

Dear Santa Claus,
I have been sick ever since the thirteenth of August and am partly crippled yet. If you have any presents for me please bring them. I will be glad of anything you bring.
Bernie Robert Britt

Chicago alderman Willie Cochran received news of his impending federal indictment on corruption charges while attending a City Council meeting. You can’t say he skips out on work. You can say that the government is taking an interest in making Cochran the thirtieth alderman convicted of government-related crime since 1972. According to reports, the former Chicago police officer dipped into a fund meant to benefit seniors while also extorting bribes from a developer and threatening a liquor store owner.

gradel and simpsonLongtime observers note the telltale small-timedness of Cochran’s corruption. Seriously, a liquor store? But it’s par for the course with these people. There’s also the entertaining detail that Cochran replaced Arenda Troutman as rep from the 20th Ward. That would be the Arenda Troutman who recently spent four years as a guest of the People after a rap for tax and mail fraud.

Yesterday’s Chicago Tribune column on the Cochran revelations turned to one of our scholars of Illinois politician malfeasance, UIP author Dick Simpson:

“They keep going to prison because they keep breaking the law and they don’t think they’ll ever get caught at it,” said former reform Ald. Dick Simpson, now a professor who studies political corruption at the University of Illinois at Chicago. With Thomas Gradel, Dick Simpson has written many studies of corruption and books, including Corrupt Illinois: Patronage, Cronyism, and Criminality.

“They always think someone else will go but not them,” Simpson said of corrupt aldermen. “But let’s say only 1 in 10 are caught. Some never get caught. Many bribes take place between two parties.”

Simpson also noted that alderman, unlike mayors, lack the buffers that protect one from actually asking for the money. Big-timers know to send out cronies or stooges for that job but an alderman, even a Chicago alderman, has to take a self-starter attitude.