Monday, December 31, 2012

Author Spotlight, Ted Geltner

Last King of the Sports Page by Ted Geltner
Part crusader, part comedian, Jim Murray was a once-in-a-generation literary talent who just happened to ply his trade on newsprint, right near the box scores and race results. During his lifetime, Murray rose through the ranks of journalism, from hard-bitten 1940s crime reporter, to national Hollywood correspondent, to the top sports columnist in the United States. In Last King of the Sports Page: The Life and Career of Jim Murray, Ted Geltner chronicles Jim Murray’s experiences with twentieth-century American sports, culture, and journalism.

Q: Why did you choose to write about Jim Murray?
If you talk to 10 working sports writers in America, nine of them will tell you that Murray was their hero. He’s the patron saint of sports writing. Everybody who cares about sports journalism can quote their favorite Murray line. One writer told me that if there was a Bartlett’s Book of Quotations for sports, Murray would own 75 percent of the lines.  
Another reason that Murray is a great story is the length and breadth of his career. He wrote for 60 years, and by the time he started writing his famous sports column for the L.A. Times, he had already spent 20 years in the business. He’d covered famous crimes, Hollywood stars and starlets, and helped launch Sports Illustrated. And that was all before he typed his first sentence for the Times.

Q: What were the challenges you faced?
Well, Murray wrote over 10,000 columns. At first I thought I would read all of them, but pretty quickly I realized that it would take several years and eventually cause my head to explode. It illustrated to me what an incredibly prolific writer Murray was. For decades, he was writing six sports columns a week, every week. And he rarely missed a column.

Q: What was your favorite part of writing the book?
I loved digging into Murray’s old files and discovering material about his early career. I knew a little about his sports writing, but not much about his work for Time, and the old Los Angeles Examiner. He kept everything, so I would find 60-year-old memos to Time editors about Marilyn Monroe and Marlon Brando, or stories about small-time fights he covered, never published. And since Murray always wanted to be a screenwriter or a playwright, it was interesting to find the unpublished screenplays and television pilots that he must have labored over in between baseball and football games.

Q: What was Murray’s favorite sport?
It’s difficult to say, but it would probably be golf. Early in his career, baseball was the most popular sport in America by far, so he wrote about it all the time. But golf was the one sport he both covered and played, so he had a different perspective on it, and incredible admiration for it stars. He always said Ben Hogan was his favorite athlete. He must have really loved the sport, because all his friends said he was a terrible player, but it was his only real form of recreation. He wrote dozens of columns making fun of his own ineptitude.  

Q: What would Murray think about today’s media environment?
He would hate it. Murray never liked change. He didn’t want to switch from manual to electric typewriters, and then he didn’t want to give up his typewriter and work on a computer. He had to be dragged into the modern era. But he always managed to adapt, and he might have flourished in the age of Twitter. Most of his best lines come in at well below 140 characters.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Old-Time Fiddlers in Missouri Part I

By Howard Wight Marshall

In February 2001, KOPN 89.5 FM radio in Columbia, Missouri, hosted a house concert featuring the legendary Moberly fiddler, Leroy Canaday.          

Mr. Canaday is a well-known old-time fiddler and contest champion, who won the Missouri state title at a contest held in Columbia's Missouri Theatre in 1961, and many contests subsequently.  Canaday's Voyager Records fiddle CD was being celebrated on this lovely evening in Missouri in 2001.  Called "Old Dan Tucker Was a Fine Old Man," the CD is available at  Mr. Canaday now lives in retirement in LaPorte, Texas, with his daughter and family.         

At the house concert in 2001, Mr. Canaday was accompanied by celebrated musicians and old friends Forrest Rose (bass) and Kenny Applebee (guitar), as well as Howard Marshall (banjo, and producer of Leroy's CD).  Dr. Sharon Graf, a fiddling anthropology professor from Springfield, Illinois, recorded the video and kindly allowed us to use it here (thanks, Sharon!); Graf produced most of the transcriptions of fiddle tunes published in the book, "Play Me Something Quick and Devilish."             

In this clip from the 2001 house concert at KOPN, Canaday plays a great old country rag called "Whistling Rufus," one of his his favorites, and a tune discussed in "Play Me Something Quick and Devilish." Canday's performance style well represents the hard-driving "Little Dixie style" of Missouri fiddling. 

"Whistling Rufus"
"Play Me Something Quick and Devilish": Old-Time Fiddlers in Missouri by Howard Wight Marshall is available the University of Missouri Press.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Day 5 of University Press Week blog tour

The University Press Week blog tour continues today at the following presses:
New York University Press author Constance Rosenblum is featured on the NYU Press blog.

Columbia University Press has a post from the editorial director.

University of North Carolina Press director John Sherer writes on the UNC Press blog.

University of Alabama Press treats us to a post from author Rick Bragg.

University of Virginia Press presents author Catherine Allgor

Jessica Kibler, the George P. Griffis Publishing Intern at Oregon State University Press, wraps up the tour.

Thanks for following the tour during University Press Week! Follow the discussion with the hashtag #UPWeek on Twitter.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Day 4 of University Press Week blog tour

Up-week-logoThe University Press Week blog tour continues today at the following presses:

Over at the Princeton University Press blog, Labyrinth Books co-owner Dorothea Von Moltke discusses how her bookstore puts university press titles on the shelves.

Hear what former intern Nico Perrino has to say over at the Indiana University Press blog.

Fordham University Press treats us to a post by director Fredric Nachbaur.

At the Texas A&M University Press blog, author and Houston Chronicle columnist Loren Steffy discusses the lasting impact of TAMU Press on the field of nautical archaeology.

Georgetown University Press publicist Jackie Beilhart gives us some insight into university press and Less Commonly Taught Languages.

Look for some more great content during University Press Week! Follow the tour with this schedule or the hashtag #UPWeek on Twitter.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Day 3 of University Press Week blog tour

The University Press Week blog tour continues today at the following presses:

Critic and editor Scott Esposito kicks off today's tour at the University of Chicago Press blog with a post on Wayne Booth and his legacy.

Jason Weidermann, senior acquisitions editor at the University of Minnesota Press, writes about lecturing on publishing in Cape Town.

University of Illinois Press author Stephen Wade discusses the importance of university presses to democracy.

Tom Swanson, Bison Books Manager at the University of Nebraska Press, presents a personal piece about how a small-town guy ended up in the books business.

Syracuse University Press author Laurence M. Hauptman talks about his positive experience working with a university press.

Look for some more great content during University Press Week! Follow the tour with this schedule or the hashtag #UPWeek on Twitter.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Day 2 of University Press Week blog tour

Up-week-logoWe hope you enjoyed our post on why we need university presses yesterday. (Thanks, Ned Stuckey-French and Bruce Miller!)

The University Press Week blog tour continues today at the following presses:

MIT Press editorial director Gita Manaktala kicks off day two.

Rachel Lee, University of California Press library marketing manager, discusses why university presses matter to libraries.

Barbara Watson Andaya, author and University of Hawai'i Press editorial board member, talks about how university presses extend the global boundary of knowledge.

Wilfrid Laurier University Press features a post from author R. Bruce Elder.

University Press of Florida lets us hear from several interns: Alia Almeida, marketing and sales intern; Claire Eder, design and production intern; and Samantha Pryor, acquisitions intern.

Look for some more great content during University Press Week! Follow the tour with this schedule or the hashtag #UPWeek on Twitter.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Why Do We Need University Presses?

As part of the University Press Week blog tour, we have a post today from UMP author Ned Stuckey-French and sales representative Bruce Miller Ned and Bruce have collaborated often over the past several months, mobilizing the campaign to save the University of Missouri Press after the announcement of a phase out. Those plans have been superseded by a transition from the University of Missouri system to the University of Missouri's Columbia campus.

The tour continues tomorrow at the MIT Press blog with a post from editorial director Gita Manaktala. A complete blog tour schedule is also available here.

Why Do We Need University Presses?
by Ned Stuckey-French and Bruce Miller

Over the last five months we have learned a lot about what people don’t know about university presses. Sometimes, even the people who are charged with the job of promoting scholarship, disseminating research, and protecting academic freedom don’t understand the importance of an academic press.

We don’t mean to posture here. Our campaign to educate administrators, faculty, readers, and potential supporters taught us a lot about university presses as well. Just as teaching a book helps a teacher understand that book all that much more clearly, so does organizing a campaign help one clarify the issues in one’s own mind. Here are some reasons we need university presses.

1. University presses preserve and disseminate knowledge. They publish books and journals that are read by other scholars and by general readers. These books are held in libraries and archives so other scholars can access them and build on the understandings they contain. Many are taught in classrooms where they help preserve and shape our culture. Last June, ten of the editors of the 16-volume
Collected Works of Langston Hughes explained that their work on that the leading figure of the Harlem Renaissance (who was born in Joplin) “contributes to the larger, ongoing project among scholars of African American literature to recover texts by black American writers that have been historically marginalized from the American literary canon. This large-scale process of textual recovery and publication, begun on the heels of the Civil Rights Movement when students and scholars were advocating for representation of African American literature, history, and culture in American universities, is truly one of academe’s most important success stories. Without the work of scholars engaged in this project, African American literary studies in the academy simply would not exist.”

2. University presses are defenders of free speech, academic freedom, and spirited discussion. A vibrant, healthy democracy thrives on debate and the free exchange of ideas. Readers and scholars of all political persuasions have supported the University of Missouri Press because they know that its catalog is diverse and its books are an essential part of the public sphere. The Press has published books about everyone from Satchel Paige to Laura Ingalls Wilder, from Democratic President Harry Truman to Mary Louise Smith, the first and only woman chair of the Republican National Committee.

3. University presses serve a readership outside the university. University presses are committed first to scholarship, but they reach out to a wider audience as well. Certainly, the UMP does this, for example, with series that focus on the American Military Experience or Sports and American Culture, but they also publish local history, memoirs, fiction, and creative nonfiction. Blue Highways Revisited, Edgar I. Ailor III’s mix of photography and text that retraces William Least Heat-Moon’s famous drive across America, is an example of a book with a more general readership.

4. University presses have a special role in land-grant institutions. The UMP has a special responsibility to preserve and celebrate the people, history, and culture of the Show-Me State. The Missouri Biography Series, edited by William Foley, publishes biographies of important and famous Missourians–everyone from baseball great Stan Musial to the notorious political boss Tom Pendergast. Tens of thousands of Missouri children and adults have learned about their state’s places, folklore, food, land, and culture by reading the Missouri Heritage Readers, which are adopted by schools and available in local libraries across the state. And finally, the UMP is rightfully the center for the study of our country’s greatest writer—Mark Twain. Under the expert editorship of Tom Quirk, the Mark Twain and His Circle Series has become the undisputed leader in the field.

5. University presses play an essential role in developing and evaluating faculty. At university presses, professional acquisitions editors review manuscripts, decide whether they are worthy of consideration, find the best outside reviewers for those manuscripts, evaluate the responses of the outside reviewers, work with the author to revise the manuscript incorporating the reviewers’ suggestions, and present the reviewed manuscripts to the Press’s Editorial Board for final approval. This process is absolutely essential not only to make sure that the Press is publishing the best books possible, but also to help universities nationwide evaluate faculty.

If poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world, university presses are the uncelebrated record-keepers of world history and culture. Just as the journalism business has always been extremely competitive, from the days of the first penny newspapers to the present, university presses vie with each other to find path-breaking works of scholarship and books that do a double duty, educating the lay reader while contributing to scholarly discourse.

University press books are not usually bestsellers. Book publishing is roughly a $27 billion a year industry, and university presses account for just one percent of that, but the influence of books published by university presses is deep and long lasting. These books do not have midnight launches at chain stores where tens of thousands of teenagers show up in costume, and they are rarely optioned by Hollywood, but they do stay on shelves for years, get taught in our schools, and change the way we think.

The celebration of University Press Week is especially apt in 2012, as we honor the role of university presses in our culture and offer thanksgiving with cheers for the resurgence of the University of Missouri Press.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

25 presses kick off University Press Week with a blog tour

This month, the University Press WeekAssociation of American University Presses will celebrate University Press Week from November 11-17. This week started back in the summer of 1978 when President Jimmy Carter proclaimed a University Press Week “in recognition of the impact, both here and abroad, of American university presses on culture and scholarship.”

In the spirit of collaboration that pervades the university press community, 25 presses will come together for a blog tour during University Press Week. This tour will highlight the value of university presses and the contributions they make to scholarship and our society. Bloggers include authors, book review editors, university press staff members, interns, booksellers, and university press advocates--including Bruce J. Miller and Ned Stuckey-French on our own blog Monday, November 12.

Harvard University Press kicks off the tour on Monday, November 12, and it continues coast-to-coast with stops in Canada and Hawaii before ending on Friday, November 16, at Oregon State University Press.

See a complete University Press Week blog tour schedule here.

In addition to the blog tour, the AAUP and other member presses are planning several features and events for University Press Week. For more information, visit

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Author Spotlight, Edgar I. Ailor III

Have you seen the lead book review in Reader's Digest? (Hint! Hint! It's Blue Highways Revisited!)

interview conducted by former sales intern, Sarah Mason

Edgar I. Ailor III began his photography career on a high school yearbook staff. With a camera always nearby, he honed his skills through several decades of practicing otolaryngology. On retirement in March of 2005 he started Ailor Fine Art Photography in Columbia, Missouri, with Edgar I. Ailor IV. 

What inspired you to consider making Blue Highways Revisited (as opposed to only sticking with your photography business)?

I started reading Heat-Moon's Blue Highways on a cold winter's night in January 1983--I was hooked. The thought of getting in a van or even a car and traveling the back roads of America for three months was just so incredible that I decided then that someday I'd make that trip. In 1983, I was just three-plus years into my otolaryngology practice, and I had a wife in medical school and two precious children, ages eight and five, so that thought had to be put on hold for a few decades. I've been an avid photographer since high school; and in the five years before retiring from medicine, I knew my second career would be photography. Susie, my wife and most enthusiastic supporter, encouraged me to retire soon enough to be able to hike up those mountains and along those streams--before I was too old to do it. So on the last day of February 2005, after 27 years of practice, I saw my last private practice patient and started Ailor Fine Art Photography the next day.

Sometime in that first year, the seed that Heat-Moon's book planted in my cerebrum began to sprout. (I don’t think it would show up on a CT or MRI scan, but who knows?) The thought, once again, of traveling the back roads of America was now a possibility. In the spring of 2006, at Addison's Cafe in downtown Columbia, I pitched the idea to Heat-Moon about my son (Edgar IV) and I retracing his Blue Highways journey and capturing it photographically. Several things are most memorable from that conversation. Heat-Moon had originally planned to photograph the route in 1978, but he said he had trouble switching back and forth from left brain to write and right brain to photography. He ended up photographing mainly the characters he interviewed--the wonderful portraitures we see in his book. He also told me that the most common question from his readers was, "When are you going to take the trip again to see how things have changed?" So fortunately, he liked the idea. Years later he would confide in me that he didn't expect anyone, including me and my son, to retrace the entire 13,889 miles and put it into book form.

To combine the pure joy of photography with the several decades-old dream of retracing Blue Highways seemed to me to be the ultimate. It could only have gotten better if Susie could have made the entire trip with me. The result of combining the joy of photography and a dream is Blue Highways Revisited.

Who are your personal favorite photographers?

My favorite photographer since childhood has been Ansel Adams who set the gold standard for American landscape photography. Adams at age 14 took his first photographs with a Kodak Box Brownie on a family vacation to Yosemite National Park in 1916. That visit to Yosemite triggered a career of capturing America’s wilderness that lasted almost six decades. Many of the National Parks and wilderness areas we enjoy today were preserved because of his and the Sierra Club’s influence. He introduced America to the vast beauty of our wilderness areas though his photography and helped convince multiple generations that it was worth preserving.

A current photographer, equally talented, is Tim Palmer. He is an outstanding and prolific wilderness photographer. My favorites of his 20 photography books are Trees and Forests of America, California Wild, and Rivers of America. His most recent book, just released, Field Guides to California Rivers, will make it even more difficult to keep driving over every bridge I cross in California. When you look at Tim’s books, you want to grab your cameras, pull on your hiking boots, and head for those distant wilderness trails through mountains and beside streams that only a few individuals will ever visit.

If you could read a book for the first time again, which one would it be?

Naturally, for me, it would be Blue Highways. Only one other nonfiction book, Undaunted Courage, captured my imagination like Blue Highways. Heat-Moon gives such powerful descriptions that you visualize and often feel the scene--experience the grit--and no one else spins a yarn as well as he since Mark Twain. That explains why a pair of photographers would spend years photographing the journey, cafes, and taverns; spend years tracking down the book characters; and then spend the time to write Revisited some thirty years later.  

Do you hope to do another book in the future? Any themes you’d like to explore?

Yes! I’ve got lots of ideas. The most exciting and perhaps daunting would be to photograph Heat-Moon’s water route from New York Harbor to the mouth of the Columbia River in Astoria, Oregon--River-Horse. Does anyone have a boat they want to loan me?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Author Spotlight, Doug Feldmann

Doug Feldmann is the author of Gibson's Last Stand: The Rise, Fall, and Near Misses of the St. Louis Cardinals, 1969-1975. He is an Associate Professor in the College of Education at Northern Kentucky University and a part-time scout for the Cincinnati Reds. He is the author of nine books, including El Birdos: The 1967 and 1968 St. Louis Cardinals, and is our current Author Spotlight!

by Brittney Warrick, Publicity Intern

In what ways do you feel the game of baseball has changed the most since Gibson’s last day on the field to present day?

This, ironically, was one of the themes of the book; both Gibson and the Cardinals owner, August Busch Jr., were bemoaning what they envisioned – separately, and for separate reasons – changes that were occurring in baseball by the early to mid-1970s.  For Gibson, it was the dissipation of what he called the “rancor” between the pitcher and the batter… that is, the ability for the pitcher and the batter to resolve on-field disputes themselves, without the umpire constantly jumping in with a warning for a pitch too close, a warning for a threatening tone from the batter, etc.  For Busch, he saw the typical player of the mid-1970s as one of a new breed – that of greed and ungratefulness.  It truly soured his love for the game, and hastened his retreat from running many of the day-to-day operations of the club.

  How would you personally describe the Golden Era of baseball?

In my opinion, the “Golden Era” of baseball would begin in the Great Depression, through World War II and the 1950s, and into the 1960s.  It was a time when ballplayers not only loved and respected the game, but had to watch their money carefully.  For example, in 1934, Cardinals shortstop Leo Durocher was asked to take a 40% salary cut due to the economic times – from $8,500 a year down to $5,000.  Could one imagine a player today accepting a 40% pay cut? (at least without a lot of whining and moaning?)  Likely not!  What is more – the fact that the players during the Great Depression, like so many others in the society, had to fight for any extra nickel they could earn; what this produced was a hard-fought World Series in 1934 (for example) between the Tigers and the Cardinals, in which each player on the winning side would receive an extra $5,800 – money that was desperately needed, even by major leaguers, during this time.  Therefore, fans were thus treated to a hard-fought World Series, with players on both sides giving everything they had.

As a part time scout for the Cincinnati Reds can you explain the process of scouting?

As a part-time scout, I assist full-time scouts in covering some of their geographical area.  With the cuts that many clubs have made to their full-time scouting staffs, some scouts now have to cover the equivalent of two states or more.  If there is a player in my area that the full-time scout would like for me to see, I do so, fill out a report on the player, and send it in to the club.  So, I serve as an extra “set of eyes” in evaluating the given player, helping the organization decide if it would like to select the player during the June amateur draft.

Who are your favorite major leagues sports teams?

My father played for the Cubs and the White Sox in the minor leagues in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and our family was raised mostly Cubs fans on the north side of Chicago (my mother is a Cubs fan as well – even though she was raised in Joliet, Illinois – definitely more of a White Sox town, south of Chicago).  Additionally, my father was raised in southern Illinois, which is Cardinals territory (and my mother was born in St. Louis) – so, we have some Cardinals connections within our family as well.

 What are your hobbies and interest outside of your profession?

I also work part-time for the Major League Baseball web site, – I enter the play-by-play on a laptop for the Cincinnati Reds games from the ballpark press box, so that people can follow the game if they are at a computer, but perhaps away from a television or radio.  I also like to run, read historical biographies, and hang out with my wonderful wife Angie, and our playful dog Dizzy! (who, incidentally, is named after former Cardinals pitcher Dizzy Dean – the subject of my first book from 2000).

 As the author of nine books, where do your main ideas and thoughts come from and how do you go about pursuing the research for them?

Most of my nine books have dealt with a particular team in a particular baseball season; for example, I have written books on the 1934 Cardinals, the 1967-68 Cardinals, and the 1985 Cardinals (in addition to Gibson's Last Stand, which looks at the team from 1969-1975).  Part of my reasoning for choosing a particular topic is "selfish," and the other part is "practical."  The selfish part means that I select  years or teams that were personally meaningful or interesting to me; the practical part means that I select years or teams with an especially-compelling story to tell, arising from the given baseball season or that era/year in society.  The "selfish" part is what drives me (and is, I am sure, what drives many authors); the "practical" part helps me finish the job, as I attempt to create associations in the story that others will understand and find interesting.

  Where has been one of the most interesting places you have traveled to?

Speaking of my dog, Dizzy... when I was conducting the research for my first book, I traveled to the last home of Dizzy Dean in Wiggins, Mississippi - a small town on U.S. 49, and one of the last stops on the way to the Gulf Coast at Biloxi and Gulfport.  Bond - the community next to Wiggins - was the hometown of Dizzy's wife Pat, whom he had met during one of Dizzy's minor league stops back around 1930.  They decided to retire there in the 1960s, and their home is now an orphanage known as "Deanash" (a combination of Dizzy's last name and Pat's maiden name, which was Nash).  Also, there is now the "Dizzy Dean Rest Area" off of U.S. 49 in Wiggins, with pictures from his career with the Cardinals.  Diz and Pat are buried in the Bond Cemetery, which is tucked away through some back country roads in a quaint, remote, and peaceful area.

Who do you predict to be the winner of the next World Series?

I don’t like making predictions; however, I do see the Cardinals having another strong year!  I believe some people are writing them off, simply because of the loss of Albert Pujols; however, with the return of Adam Wainwright to the pitching staff, as well as the development and acquisition of other certain players, I think the 2012 Cardinals could be even better this year than their World Series-winning club of a year ago.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Author Spotlight, Darryl Dickson-Carr

By: Sarah Mason, Sales Intern

Dickson-Carr is Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in English at Southern Methodist University, where he teaches courses in twentieth-century American literature, African American literature, and satire. He is the author of The Columbia Guide to Contemporary African American Fiction (Columbia UP, 2005), which won an American Book Award in 2006, and African American Satire: The Sacredly Profane Novel (2001). He is completing Spoofing the Modern: Satire in the Harlem Renaissance and is our latest author spotlight!

What inspired you to write “African American Satire”?

The genesis of African American Satire may be found in work I did early in my graduate school career many years ago. I'd planned to study the history of satire when I began my program, and did so enthusiastically. I simultaneously found my interest in African American literature growing as another generation of scholars—Houston A. Baker, Jr., Hazel Carby, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Bernard W. Bell, Trudier Harris, Arnold Rampersad, Frances Smith Foster, among others—opened up numerous possibilities for studying the tradition from a myriad of critical perspectives. As I studied these two fields, I found it curious that very little information could found on African American satirical literature. A few people had written critically about African American humor, but seldom about satire, much less literary satire. With the supervision of my advisors and the help of research assistants, I started researching and writing what would eventually become African American Satire to fill that gap.

"African American Satire" is about looking at some authorss' writings in others ways. What ideas or events do you encourage readers to reconsider and think differently about?

African American Satire asks readers to recognize a couple of central ideas. First, I highlight where satirical modes—expressive approaches, if you will—may be found throughout African American literary and cultural traditions. Second, satire by African Americans has been ignored or dismissed because it challenges prevailing ideas of a particular time, whether within or without African American communities. In addition, since it is to misunderstand satire or to conflate satirical humor with racist, stereotypical views of African Americans' humorous expression, black and white observers alike have been reluctant to give satire its due as a powerful took against intolerance, bigotry and ignorance. Satire may not solve the world's problems, but it lets us know they exist, and that we're responsible for resolving them.

What is your favorite place you have travelled to and why?

That would have to be New York City. It's such an amazingly rich and complex center of culture and the arts. It's also the home of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, which is located in Harlem. Many of the authors I've studied lived, worked, and wrote in New York. I always find the city enriching and surprising.

What was your favorite book in high school or college?

When I was a junior in college, I read for the first time two books that changed the course of my life: Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift and The Autobiography of Malcolm X. I'd long enjoyed satire, but Swift's narrative offered the most devastating view of humanity I'd read until that point. Malcolm X lived an extraordinary life, but so many of his experiences were startlingly common. Like so many other young people, I found myself identifying with him on some levels and wrestling with the many challenges he posed to the way the average person thinks about American and world history. Together, Malcolm X and Swift helped me to become a more critical thinker.

Do you hope to do another book in the future? Any themes you'd like to explore?

I am currently working on "Spoofing the Modern: Satire in the Harlem Renaissance." I argue that satire was at the heart of the Harlem Renaissance movement. The most significant writers of the time employed satirical modes and called upon others to do the same. In fact, writers and intellectuals who held their peers respect—W.E.B. Du Bois, James Weldon Johnson, Wallace Thurman, Langston Hughes, Zora Neal Hurston, George S. Schuyler, and Rudolph Fisher—considered satire critical to the growth of African American culture. My book traces their perspectives and analyzes its effects upon subsequent literature.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Author Spotlight, Dave Fiedler

By: Sarah Mason, Sales Intern

David Fiedler, a former captain in the U. S. Army Reserve, is now an independent writer living in St. Louis, Missouri. He is currently working on his newest historical fiction and counter part novel My Enemy, My Love, is the author of The Enemy Among Us, and is our latest author spotlight!

Why was MO chosen as a place to host POWs?

Missouri was chosen as a place to host POWs since its relatively sparse population and distance from the coasts made government planners think that there would be less chance for successful escape and/or sabotage attempts.  Plus a heavy agricultural economy meant that their was a great need for POW labor.  Eventually German and Italian prisoners were housed in virtually every state in the continental US. 

What is (was?) your specialty or role in the U.S. Army Reserve?

In the U.S. Army Reserve, I served as an officer in a field hospital.  I was responsible for the non-medical side of hospital operations, i.e., hospital defense, vehicles, supply, food service, etc.  We joked that our job was to draw fire away from the doctors and nurses.

It was in training for this position that I first encountered physical traces of the POWs here in the U.S.  when I saw etched into the concrete of a well cover on a Texas army post the words, “Built by the German soldiers, 1945”  And at annual training (the two-week summer camp  duty that reservists perform) at Fort Leonard Wood, I saw a handful of black and white photos of German POWs working outside the post in towns nearby like St. James and Waynesville that drove my interest in this story here.

What is your favorite place you have travelled to?

Related to my interest in this story, I have had the good fortune to spend some time in Germany.  A summer language program in Goettingen in 1991 gave me useful skills in this research, and a two-week summer exchange with a German army medical unit in 1997 helped both develop valuable contacts and gave me real-life context for use in the fictional counterpart, a novel that is paired with The Enemy Among Us that came out this past fall.

What was your favorite book in college?

Anything that didn’t have heavy mathematics.

What other historical events fascinate you/spark your interest?

I am interested in relatively recent Missouri history (i.e., 20th century) and how these events still influence us today.  For instance, the story of Harry Truman and his rise from relative obscurity into prominence and power in part thanks to the backing of the Pendergast political machine is very fascinating to me.  I have been reading about Charles Lindbergh a lot lately too with his ties to Missouri.  His flight across the Atlantic propelled him to a fame that he didn’t seem to enjoy and his fate as a private individual (who sometime expressed unpopular opinions) who was thrust very much into the spotlight is interesting to me as well.

How was it finding and interviewing people who experienced/knew about the POW situation for both of your books?

A very nice aspect about this story for me was in talking to people who were excited and usually glad to talk about their role in the POW history.  It didn’t hold the same difficult and tragic memories of wartime experiences that others faced who spent longer time in battle.  For many people, they saw it as a very positive dimension of the war, both surprising and touching that people could make these heartfelt connections and very pleasant memories when it was in fact the war that brought them together, initially as enemies, and if nothing else, as people inclined to be suspicious/distrustful/hateful toward the other.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Hog Butcher for the World, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat . . . and Host to 10,000 Writers

The Associated Writers  & Writing Programs (AWP) Annual Conference for 2012 was the biggest ever, so big it felt as if I were experiencing only the tiniest sliver of the event, even though I tried to schedule the four days carefully, plotting out all my panels, readings, parties, and receptions, and meetings over coffee, drinks, lunch, and dinner in advance.

I had a great time at the conference in Chicago last week, but am glad it was Spring Break at Florida State, where I teach, when I returned home this week, as I needed the time to recover.

For me, last week’s convention included the annual Pinch/Normal School party, meetings with editors, several great panels and readings, and dinners with old friends from FSU, Purdue and Iowa, and a book signing for my new book, Essayists on the Essay:Montaigne to Our Time (U of Iowa P), but the highlights were the two panels I was on.

Friday at noon, I participated in Why We Need a WPA for the 21st Century along with Miles Harvey, Kimberly Dixon and our capable convener and moderator Sandi Wisenberg. We talked about the history of the Works Progress (later Project) Administration, related New Deal programs such as the Federal Writers Project and Civilian Conservation Corps, Richard Wright, current challenges for arts administrators, and the many strikes, demonstrations, and marches to which Roosevelt and his Brain Trust were responding—working-class activity involving tens of thousands of workers and the rightwing backlash that cost dozens of them their lives. The Q & A was lively and productive, and Sandi has set up a blog where people can continue the conversation.

My research for the panel revealed to me that the WPA and New Deal have been constant, important, even essential parts of my own life. My high school was a New Deal project, so is my daughter’s. My hometown post office featured WPA murals, and the cover art for my book, The American Essay in the American Century (U of Missouri Press, 2011), is a painting titled “Subway 1934” by WPA artist Lily Furedi.

My second panel, The Lyric Essay: A Collapse of Forms or a Form of Collapse?, was scheduled for the final time slot, 4:30 on Saturday, and my fellow panelists and I had worried that we wouldn’t have much of an audience. We needn’t have. The Continental A ballroom of the Hilton was packed to overflowing, thanks in large part by the current kerfuffle about truth in creative non-fiction sparked by the release of Lifespan of a Fact, the new book by John D’Agata and John Fingal, which had been featured the previous weekend in both the New YorkTimes Book Review and Magazine.

I thought my fellow panelists – Jocelyn Bartkevicius, Steven Church, Colin Rafferty – and I were taking a measured and humorous, if finally critical, stand on D’Agata’s willingness to fudge the facts in the name of Art, but some in the audience thought otherwise. The Q & A was the most contentious I’ve ever seen at a conference. But, our estimable convener Wendy Rawlings did a tremendous job of moderating the discussion, which in the end forced us all to think more deeply about the issues of accuracy, truth, subjectivity, and the relationship between memory and imagination that have troubled essayists since Montaigne.

Audience members were tweeting from the ballroom during the tension-filled Q & A. In the last few days, many of them have posted about the panel on their blogs, including at the Brevity Blog, where Dinty Moore kindly posted my presentation in its entirety – a “Dear John” letter to John D’Agata.

This debate won’t be going away soon; in fact, I suspect there will be plenty of panels on the essay at next year’s AWP conference in Boston.