eberlyOne might be forgiven for thinking that, given current political trends, a new public affection for censorship is in the offing. After all, history shows that the Americans who loudly proclaim their dedication to liberty seem to most enjoy that peculiar freedom to squelch ideas opposed to their worldview.

The mania for censoring literature comes and goes in public life. But, like rabies, it’s always lurking around. At times, a specific work will galvanize the busybodies. People begin to criticize, to ask what about the children?, to paint dreadful portraits of a nation descending into sin/violence/backwardness/communism/wrongthink.

Rosa A. Eberly explores four such moments in the United States, two surrounding censored books, and two surrounding books that escaped the Big Red Pen. She compares the outrage that attended the publication of Ulysses and Tropic of Cancer with the later, relatively quiet reception of the more violent and sexually explicit content between the covers of American Psycho and Mercy.

Through a close reading of letters to the editor, reviews, media coverage, and court cases, Eberly shows how literary critics and legal experts defused censorship debates by shifting the focus from content to aesthetics and from social values to publicity. By asserting their authority to pass judgments—thus denying the authority of citizen critics—these professionals effectively removed the discussion from literary public spheres. She also explores the impact a work of literature may have on the social polity if it is brought into public forums for debate rather than removed to the exclusive rooms of literary criticism.

mustakeemExcerpted from Slavery at Sea: Terror, Sex, and Sickness in the Middle Passage, by Sowande’ M. Mustakeem

The nature of slavery inflicted permanent scars as traders moved purchased captives off land, separating married couples, parents and children, siblings, and other relatives. A surgeon offered testimony on this prevalent practice, testifying that while embarked at Cape Coast Castle during his time within the trade, the captain he worked with ordered that he “choose eighteen Slaves out of the yard.” The number of bondpeople congregated and evaluated for purchase is unclear, yet the physician “objected to one that was meager, and put him aside” to focus on procuring those more potentially valuable. Taking note of the young man originally declined, the surgeon “observed a tear to steal down his cheek,” which he believed the boy “endeavoured to conceal.”

After the conclusion of sales, the physician’s curiosity about the young child persisted, and he inquired about the cause of the boy’s grief, relying on a coastal interpreter to learn the source of his pronounced sadness. He learned that the bonded boy’s somber feelings emerged because “he was going to be parted from his brother,” already selected for transport. Perhaps softened by the pain of the boy’s loss, the surgeon purchased him to provide an opportunity, even if temporary, to remain with his brother during the transatlantic crossing. Once sold offshore and under the control of their new captors, the fate of these siblings fades within the historical record; however, their case reveals the existence of familial connections within slaving voyages. Their lives were further ruptured once sold into different hands and exiled into distant locales; however, bearing the brutalities of captivity alongside their kin helped to lessen the blow for some bondpeople. Familial ties served as the most critical mechanism of survival, underscoring personal connections already in place prior to slaves’ displacement into plantation societies.

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Excerpted from the book Paul Thomas Anderson, by George Toles. The film discussed is There Will Be Blood.

Anderson briefly confuses us about which man has been struck down and about whether the accident has proven lethal. We are given an unusually long time to contemplate a man turned away from us, cowering from the tragedy in the well. His face hidden for a crucial interval, he becomes the missing term and possible source of deception in the image. His hoarse gasping recalls Daniel’s struggle for air in previous episodes. Finally we are granted a sustained view of Daniel’s eyes daring to peek out and confront the human wreckage next to him. There is no answering shot to exhibit what he sees. Daniel’s eyes transmit shock, and though much of his face remains concealed from us, we receive a sharp intimation of dread, as well. Daniel is illuminated here as a man afraid to look at certain things directly.

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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