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Jeremy Wang-Iverson

(c) Andrew Lichtenstein 2016 from MARKED, UNMARKED, REMEMBERED (WVU Press)

The Mysterious Death of Karen Silkwood

By | West Virginia University Press | No Comments

On November 13, 1974, the whistleblower and nuclear activist Karen Silkwood died at the age of 28 in a one-car crash. Late that evening, she was driving to meet a reporter for the New York Times, allegedly with a folder of documents that revealed safety problems at the Kerr-McGee plutonium plant where she worked in Cimmaron, the northwestern part of Oklahoma. A private investigator found evidence that suggested her car may have been pushed off the road – and the documents were never found – but an autopsy also revealed alcohol and sedatives in her blood, according to an article in Time that was published on the 40th anniversary of her death. Regardless of the exact circumstances surrounding the crash, her actions had an impact as Kerr-McGee was closed down the following year, anti-nuclear activists rallied after her death, and her story was made famous by the 1983 Mike Nichols film Silkwood starring Meryl Streep, Kurt Russell, and Cher.

The site of the crash is seen in this photograph from Andrew Lichtenstein in the new book Marked, Unmarked, Remembered: A Geography of American Memory, published last month by West Virginia University Press. Lichtenstein shot his photo from the side of the road that Silkwood must have been driving on, just a few feet from the culvert wall that her car barreled into. A stream runs through a tunnel underneath the road and in the distance we see vehicles passing by in the opposite direction, with drivers unlikely to know what happened on this stretch of highway. The middle section of the book – Unmarked – captures areas of the country like this, sites of dark moments from our history that remain un-commemorated, yet continue to be passed by, lived on, perhaps even appreciated for a pretty landscape.

With captions from Andrew’s brother Alex Lichenstein – professor of history at Indiana University and editor of American Historical Review, who also wrote the introduction and gathered essays from leading historians including Douglas Egerton, Julie Reed, and Kevin Boyle – we are able to see these innocuous photos, and then imagine the places at some point in the past, soaked in blood, and the site of grave injustice. Many of the photos document sites in the struggle for Civil Rights, Native American displacement, and labor history. As Lichtenstein said on the making of the book “I was equally, if not more, fascinated with sites I came across where there was nothing, no sign, no marker, no candle lit vigil…”

For more on Marked, Unmarked, Remembered there are features in the Atlantic, Smithsonian, and the New York Times Lens. Both Alex and Andrew will be featured speakers at the Miami Book Fair this weekend on Saturday November 18 at 2:30pm, appearing with Michael Carlebach, for an event called America Through the Lens: Photography.

Congresswoman DeLauro’s Fall Tour

By | The New Press | No Comments

Rosa L. DeLauro, who has represented Connecticut’s third district as a Democrat since 1991, begins a national book tour today to discuss The Least Among Us. Tour dates are below. The book, published by The New Press earlier this year, details her legislative battles, while weaving in the personal stories and family history which have influenced her admirable career fighting for important causes that affect the lives of Americans: food stamps, early childhood education, improving healthcare, infrastructure, affordable higher education, and more. When Congresswoman DeLauro appeared on Meet the Press Daily in early June soon after The Least Among Uswas published (clip below), Chuck Todd called the book “a progressive populist manifesto.”

As she writes in the introduction, Congresswoman DeLauro was inspired by her mother Luisa, who served on New Haven’s Board of Aldermen for 35 years, in her work to help the vunerable: “Neighbors came to our house to discuss all manner of problems, while Luisa served coffee and baked cream puffs. Our kitchen table was my parents’ office and nobody gave a second thought to dropping by.” Mrs. DeLauro lived in New Haven all her life and passed away earlier this month, September 9, at the age of 103.

In his eulogy as reported in the New Haven Register, former Senator Christopher Dodd – for whom Congresswoman DeLauro served as campaign manager in 1980 and then later as his Chief of Staff – said about Mrs. DeLauro: “She never stopped championing the cause of those who were less fortunate.”

9/19 Roosevelt Institute – New York, NY.

10/3 SKDKnickerbocker – Washington D.C.

10/4 Georgetown University, Institute of Politics – Washington D.C.

10/5 R.J. Julia at Wesleyan University – Middletown, CT.

10/6 La Grua Center (co-sponorored by Bank Street Books) – Stonington, CT.

10/7 Barnes and Noble – Waterbury, CT.

10/16 University of Chicago, Institute of Politics – Chicago, IL.

10/17 Town Hall Seattle – Seattle, WA. (with Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal)

10/18 University of Southern California, Unruh Institute of Politics – Los Angeles CA.

11/10 National Press Club Book Fair – Washington D.C.

11/17 Tattered Cover – Denver, CO.

11/18 Miami Book Fair – Miami, FL.

FAMILY VALUES by Melinda Cooper (University of Sydney) and PORTFOLIO SOCIETY by Ivan Ascher (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee), published by Zone Books in the Near Futures Series and designed by Julie Fry.

2017 Projects (Part I)

By | The New Press, West Virginia University Press, Zone Books | No Comments

This year I have been pleased to collaborate with authors and publishers releasing new books that I greatly admire. A selection of my non-fiction projects are highlighted below (another post will soon follow featuring the two novels and a memoir I am publicizing):

For The New Press (founded in 1992 by Andre Schiffrin whose The Business of Books I read a year or two ago and thought a lot about since) I have been working with Arlie Russell Hochschild on her recent book Strangers in Their Own Land, a New York Times bestseller and finalist for the National Book Award, continuing a publicity campaign begun by Angela Baggetta. Also for The New Press, I have been the publicist on the latest entry in their stats series – LGBTQ Stats by David Deschamps and Bennett Singer – an exhaustive almanac-style guidebook that M.V. Lee Badgett calls “the most comprehensive portrait of LGBTQ life around.”

Zone Books, a scholarly publisher in the humanities and social sciences with an office in Windsor Terrace, Brooklyn, recently launched the Near Future Series, edited by Wendy Brown and Michel Feher, and I am helping to promote the second and third volumes: Ivan Ascher’s Portfolio Society and Melinda Cooper’s Family Values. The series is looking at the effects of neoliberalism in the past 30 years, with Ascher analyzing the role of finance and Cooper arguing that neoliberalism aligned with social conservatism towards the end of the 20th century.

I’m also very much looking forward to the publication of Marked, Unmarked, Remembered (West Virginia University Press) this fall, what promises to be a beautiful book of photographs by Andrew Lichtenstein with an introduction and essays by leading historians edited by his brother Andrew Lichtenstein, chronicling historical sites of American social conflict. I have known Derek Krissoff, the director of the press, for many years now and glad to have an opportunity to work with him and his colleagues on their lead title this fall.

“MARKED, UNMARKED, REMEMBERED is startling and extraordinary…this book is a true gift. It both unsettles our sense of who we thought we were, and it makes us see the imperative of forging a more just future for all.” -Heather Ann Thompson, author of Blood in the Water, winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for History.

Who is Vesto?

By | Film | No Comments

For an astronomy class our senior year of college in 2001, my friend Tom Keefe and I made a short film called In Vesto’s Legacy about the American astronomer Vesto M. Slipher (1875-1969). For over thirty years, Slipher was the director of the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, where Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto. (A moment nicely fictionalized by Michael Byers in his novel Percival’s Planet, with Slipher in a supporting role.) Slipher was also responsible for discoveries that Edwin Hubble built upon to find galaxies beyond the Milky Way. Tom and I were surprised we hadn’t heard of Slipher so we wrote a film – an extended sketch, really! – where Vesto’s great-grandson visits campus to discuss his ancestor’s work. Our friends in the class who were also uninterested in taking a final exam played all the roles. (This was in the days before YouTube, so the film isn’t online and hopefully Tom, who now runs his family’s real estate business in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, is too busy to change that.) Tom and I later made another short film on 16mm called Pretender’s Dance under the Vesto Productions banner and when I began my publicity consultancy in 2012 my first thought was to call it Vesto PR. As well as remembering our creative collaboration, a type of work I’ve been lucky to continue, the name seemed right given Slipher’s role in astronomy – helping others achieve greater heights in a more concealed role.That’s what I hope to do for my clients. For many years, I held staff jobs while taking on the occassional project, and now I’m thrilled to turn toward my consultancy full-time starting in 2017. This video below shows my girlfriend Isabel Brito-Farre on a Vandercook press at The Arm in Brooklyn, NY in December 2016, making postcards to advertise my business.

The Unfinished Business of Family Leave

By | Penguin Random House | No Comments

This past year, family leave laws were passed in New York and Washington D.C. In New York, the law will take effect in 2018 and allow workers 12 weeks of paid leave from their jobs to care for new babies or ailing relatives. The DC law, which was passed just last week, extends 8 weeks. It is also worth mentioning the private companies that made strides in this direction in 2016 to offer generous leave policies for their employees. This was legislation and policy that Anne-Marie Slaughter was thinking very much about as the President and CEO of the New America Foundation and author of the recent book Unfinished Business: Women Men Work Family, which was published in paperback this past fall.  When we began working together in March, Dr. Slaughter was interested in exploring the ideas surrounding care in the book, how we could better value care, and achieve gender equality surrounding care – and how these ideas can be implemented in practical ways when it came to raising a family and the challenges of balancing with a career. One of the great panel discussions Dr. Slaughter hosted in the spring (video above) invited Her Excellency Solveig Horne to New York City to speak on the domestic policies in Norway, where she serves as the Minister of Children, Equality, and Social Inclusion. 

In a podcast interview with Sophia Amoruso for Girlboss Radio, Dr. Slaughter expands on her ideas and reflects on her upbringing, education and journey that brought her to this point and helped form her values.

Publisher and editor Sigrid Rausing introduces recent Granta contributors from issues 132 and 133. BookCourt, September 2015. (Photo by Isabel Brito-Farré).

Farewell, BookCourt

By | Granta Magazine | No Comments

BookCourt at 163 Court Street in Cobble Hill closes its doors tomorrow after 35 years in business. By all indications, this is an instance of the owners stepping away while the business is thriving and retiring after a successful run that transformed a neighborhood. With a great collection of contemporary and classic fiction, children’s books, non-fiction in a variety of disciplines (and store bestseller’s for 30% off), the store will be missed.  A bright and airy space larger than most shops, it was also one of the best places in New York City to host a book launch. I was glad to help organize two launches for Granta at the store in 2014 and 2015 as the NYC-based publicist and events coordinator for the magazine.

Granta event April 2015 at BookCourt. l-r: Eric Ozawa, Yuka Igarashi, Rachael Allen.

In April 2014, Granta 127: Japan was published, edited by Yuka Igarashi and she was joined by poetry editor Rachael Allen to host contributors Tao Lin, Kimiko Hahn, and translators David G. Boyd and Brian Bergstrom. A year later, in September 2015, BookCourt hosted Granta again, with publisher and editor Sigrid Rausing introducing readings from recent contributors Jesse Ball, Tracy O’Neill, Greg Jackson, A.M. Homes, and Peter Gizzi.

Tao Lin at Granta 127 launch (Bookcourt, April 2015) from Vesto PR on Vimeo.

Granta event September 2015 at BookCourt. l-r: Greg Jackson, Peter Gizzi, Jesse Ball, A.M. Homes, Sigrid Rausing, and Tracy O’Neill. (Photo by Isabel Brito-Farré.)

M. Evelyn McCormick, Old Washington Hotel-Monterey (1903). Collection of Trotter Galleries.

Evelyn McCormick

By | Green Rock Books | No Comments

Evelyn McCormick was an impressionist painter who lived during the turn of the 20th century in Monterey, California. Her art is slowly being rediscovered today and can be found in museums and galleries on the west coast. Just last month, McCormick was the focus of the Art of the Adobes Festival, where Nelda Hirsh was a featured speaker to discuss her biography of McCormick, A Bohemian Life, published earlier this year by Green Rock Books. Relying on newspaper accounts and secondary sources (McCormick did not write a memoir or keep a diary), A Bohemian Life traces McCormick’s life from her youth in Paris with the painter Guy Rose, one of her early lovers, with whom she visited Giverny, which Claude Monet had already made famous by the 1880’s with his haystacks and waterlilies. Monet was doubtlessly an influence on McCormick’s work, but as Hirsh explains, even early in her career she set herself apart, before returning to the Northern California where she chronicled the landscapes, adobes, and community near her home.  As Hirsh writes about the painting seen above:

The Old Washington Hotel (1903) is an example of Evelyn’s conscious endeavor to create a chronicle of Monterey’s past…At the turn of the century, Evelyn and others not only contemplated how their own little world ranked in the panorama of history, but they made conscious decisions about where they wanted to be.

For more about A Bohemian Life, please read this piece Hirsh wrote for The Toast. And Kevin Starr, the esteemed California historian, called A Bohemian Life:

Inspiring….a valuable contribution to the history of American art in California and to the concurrent story of women artists in the late 19th and first half of the 20th century.

Margaret and Game Theory

By | Open Book Publishers | No Comments

There’s a pivotal scene in the film Margaret, written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan, that bears a resemblance to the prisoner’s dilemma, when Lisa Cohen (Anna Paquin) talks to the police after witnessing a terrible bus accident that kills a pedestrian. The bus driver, Maretti (Mark Ruffalo), is interviewed separately, but as they make their statements to the police, he and Lisa are across the room from one another, making eye-contact, which heightens the tension. This isn’t a prisoner’s dilemma in the formal sense used by economists in game theory, the field revolutionized by John Nash in the early 1950’s: when two criminals are offered incentives by the authorities to confess to a crime (well-described by David Levine in his new book Is Behavioral Economics Doomed?) – but Lisa and Maretti are complicit in this accident, and in the scene I mention above, surely they are thinking very hard about what the other will say, particularly with regard to whether the light was red when the bus crossed the intersection and hit the pedestrian. (It was red, but they both claim otherwise. Later, Lisa tries to change her statement, and the film is driven by her awful guilt about the accident.) The discussions of game theory in Levine’s new book – and also Ariel Rubinstein’s Economic Fables – are excellent introductions to a complicated subject which studies how people interact when faced with conflicting interests. Many economists have worked to find practical applications of game theory, but Rubinstein, who has devoted his career to the field, is skeptical of these efforts:

[Game theory] enriches the discussion of economics and other fields of social sciences by focusing on strategic considerations, some of which we might not have been aware of. It is entertaining. And that is something; but it is not what people generally describe as useful. Incidentally, sometimes I wonder why we need to address the question of the usefulness of game theory at all. Does academic research have to be judged according to the immediate and practical benefit it brings?

Gilbert Rogin

By | Bloomsbury Publishing | No Comments

The New Yorker has been so good for so long that it’s not uncommon for the magazine’s forgotten writers to be discovered again. (At Bloomsbury, I publicized Backward Ran Sentences by Wolcott Gibbs, organizing this event at the New School with three Gibbs fans: Mark Singer, Kurt Andersen, and the anthology’s editor Thomas Vinciguerra.) In the new Lowbrow Reader anthology that has just been published by Drag City, founder and editor Jay Ruttenberg included pieces celebrating and written by Gilbert Rogin, now in his early 80’s, the novelist and longtime managing editor of Sports Illustrated. Rogin published over thirty (fiction) stories in The New Yorker, along with three books: a short story collection The Fencing Master (1965) and two novels, What Happens Next? (1971) and Preparations for the Ascent (1980). John Updike, Joyce Carol Oates, and Mordecai Richler were all fans of Rogin’s work, and in the Lowbrow Reader essay “Hidden Citizen: Rediscovering the Brilliant, Funny Novels of Gilbert Rogin,” Jay Jennings writes:

Read today, Rogin’s books seem fresh, the author possessed of a turn-of-the- 21st century comic sensibility more than a fundamentally Jewish one similar to his peers from the 1960’s and 1970s….the criticisms above – that Rogin is merely recording movements or that nothing changes in his books – are identical to descriptions of Seinfeld.

Rogin’s two novels were reissued by Verse Chorus Press as a single edition in 2010, featuring Jennings’s excellent piece as the introduction.

Flawless Masterpiece

By | Film | No Comments

Earlier this month at the Morgan Library, Martin Amis and Ian Buruma discussed some of their favorite films during a special event hosted by Antonio Monda, artistic director of the Le Conversazioni literary festival. Short clips of the films were shown, then the writers spoke about each, breaking into Siskel and Ebert-esque bickering on a few occassions. Amis picked The Godfather, Blade Runner, The Wild Bunch, and Raging Bull (Amis: “It just stares you in the face that it’s a flawless masterpiece.”), while Buruma chose Blue Angel, Once Upon a Time in America, Ikiru, and Sunday Bloody Sunday, which was directed by Buruma’s uncle, John Schlesinger. Buruma considered that 1971 film his uncle’s best, for its sensitive depiction of a gay romance. Amis recalled seeing Blade Runner with his father Kingsley, an early champion of science fiction, who believed Ridley Scott, in adapting Philip K. Dick’s novella Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? for the screen in 1982, was the first director to realistically create a futuristic, SF universe on film. As Kingsley Amis aged, however, he became easier to please at the cineplex, as Martin remembered in one of the many funny bits from his memoir Experience (2000):

I will promiscuously mention in this note that my father once told Christopher Hitchens and me to fuck off after we took him to Leicester Square to see Beverly Hills Cop. No: he liked it and we didn’t. And I think we must have curled our lips at him. Most uncharacteristically he walked away on his own and had to be coaxed into the next pub or cab.