This week in “1869,” Cornell University Press Marketing Director Martyn Beeny interviews Gordon Lafer, author of The One Percent Solution: How Corporations Are Remaking America One State at a Time. Unbeknownst to most Americans, highly organized corporate lobbies have systematically infiltrated state legislatures to advance their agenda, which may or may not be aligned with the interests of the populace at large. Fully one quarter of U.S. state legislators are currently members of ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, and partner with corporate lobbyists to write state laws that affect policies regarding minimum wages, paid sick leave, gun laws, and other areas of concern to citizens.
“There are nine different words for the color blue in the Spanish Maya dictionary,” writes Earl Shorris, “but just three Spanish translations, leaving six [blue] butterflies that can be seen only by the Maya, proving that when a language dies six butterflies disappear from the consciousness of the earth.”
Over 6,500 languages—with at least that many words for butterflies—are spoken in our fragile world. By the end of the century more than half will disappear. Our languages are melting like the icecaps. Continue reading “Treasure Language”→
The difference a t-shirt makes: That is a lesson about regional publishing that I learned in the course of editing our new book, from Peter Conners, about the Grateful Dead’s 1977 concert at Barton Hall on the Cornell campus. When the authors, artists, editors, and archivists who play key roles in developing a book live in close proximity, chance meetings that can change a book are more likely to occur. And, as I learned last summer, if you are at the right place at the right time, you would do well to be wearing the right item of clothing.
The Tompkins County Legislature, “in heartfelt recognition of the Fortieth Anniversary of their May 8, 1977, concert,” has officially proclaimed May 8, 2017, to be Grateful Dead Day in Tompkins County.
On October 2016, at the meetings of the American Folklore Society in Miami, I ran into Wolfgang Mieder, a professor of German and Folklore at the University of Vermont and the world’s leading expert on proverbs. He mentioned to me, as we shook our heads over the forthcoming election, that both candidates failed to take advantage of metaphors and colorful language in their campaigns. “Hillary Clinton,” he noted, “makes far more use of proverbs and metaphors in her books (It Takes a Village) than in her speeches.” He lamented that when she was asked about Obamacare, for instance, she didn’t have the proverbial sense to say, “Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.” “On the other hand,” he said, “Donald Trump, with his limited vocabulary, really does appear to speak basically without metaphors or proverbial phrases.”
Many great presidents, he pointed out, have provided the populace with enduring metaphors (Lincoln’s “A house divided against itself can not stand”) as well as proverbs and turns of phrase (Theodore Roosevelt’s “Speak softly and carry a big stick”). So what are we to make of a president with little or no feeling for poetry, language, or art? Metaphors connect ideas—and sometimes people—through language. We find we need poetry at occasions like weddings, where words can create union; funerals, where they ease separation—and politics, where they span divides. Instead of calling on language and poetry to connect, Trump instead traffics in power relations. Power is hierarchical, a vertical line that severs other patterns, connections, and meanings. Trump’s linguistic creativity has been limited to insults and name-calling—Pocahontas, Lyin’ Ted, Little Marco, Jeb “Low Energy” Bush. Continue reading “Donald and the Arts”→
Not only does CUP Marketing Director Martyn Beeny have that smooth, late-night FM voice some of us miss (while others can only wonder about), he’s the host of “1869,” a new podcast from Cornell University Press. He’ll be interviewing CUP authors, fellow members of the University Press tribe, and others whose opinions and insights are of interest to the academic publishing world. Take a listen to our inaugural podcast, an interview with Peter Conners, author of Cornell ’77: The Music, the Myth, and the Magnificence of the Grateful Dead’s Concert at Barton Hall. (With thanks to Publicity Manager Jonathan Hall, who composed and performed the theme music for 1869.)
I spend quite a bit of time thinking about the future of marketing books. The possibilities of what we can or might do fascinate me because that’s where the fun in marketing books really lies.
Which brings me to seasonal catalogs: the traditional linchpin of book marketing. Confining our book releases to two artificial seasons (for some reason we couldn’t even keep in line with nature and do four) seems archaic to many people. The artifice of the seasons and their accompanying catalogs have long been derided as old-fashioned and unnecessary in the modern Edelweiss, endless media, perpetual publishing and buying model. Even though almost all university presses continue with the seasonal model, some have done away with the printed version of the seasonal catalog entirely.
Big history is making a comeback in the subfield of early American history. Or perhaps I should say that bigger history is once again of interest to scholars and, as an acquisitions editor, I am seeing exemplary work that shows what can be accomplished when one takes on the challenge of offering a more grand and sweeping account of events.
The contrast here is with the more fine-grained, local, and sometimes fragmentary work that came to the fore in the decades-long rise of social and cultural history. Rightfully weary of the big histories of famous men, military conflicts, and affairs of state, historians turned to the particularities of events and personal experience. In so doing they did scholars and lay readers alike a great service by putting us in contact with the daily and intimate aspects of history (often using diaries and court records), the experience of lesser-known historical actors (often women and people of color), and informal practices that structured experience (often unregulated markets, social networks, and resistance movements). And, as a result, today no one can do legitimate research and write meaningful narratives while overlooking these rich dimensions of historical experience. Continue reading “Outbox: Trends in the History of Early New York”→
The work of the CUP team to acquire and publish this book is a perfect example of the way in which we are striving to help change the world one book at a time.
Mr. Kan’s book and lecture, part of the Distinguished Speaker Series from the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, focused on the events of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011. From our perspective, Mr. Kan’s visit, the lecture, the packed house, and the seemingly never-ending line of eager book buyers waiting for a signed copy and photo opportunity with the former prime minister can only be seen as an unqualified success. Continue reading “A Dignitary Visits”→
This is a crucial moment in the transformation of Cornell University Press. Never in our 148-year history have our books been more important, while the business model for the publication of primary scholarship has never been under greater siege. We are stuck between the bookends of mission and margin—embracing our role in the tenure certification process and publishing first books while exploring initiatives that will help us remain financially viable.