Tuesday, January 26, 2010

"Liberal Republican" didn't used to be an oxymoron

Rest in peace, Charles Mathias.

WUMB #120: Kate Rusby

She should be higher on the list--and probably would be if Boston were in England, instead of New England.
Last week, I listened to her 2005 album, "The Girl Who Couldn't Fly." Very pretty folk music, mostly her arrangements of traditional music.

Monday, January 25, 2010

No Sellers

My neighborhood--reasonably affluent; heavily Jewish and otherwise ethnically diverse; and populated with a lot of academics (near two big research universities)--lost its only general-interest bookstore at the end of 2009 as a major chain pulled out. The rumors are that they were losing too much business to the Internet on the one hand and to a bigger store in their own chain down the road and a competitor up the road in two shopping areas with (gasp!) better parking.

Anyway, the blog for the local Jewish paper put up this photo taken by a local resident.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Difdafti January 2010

What I browsed last week, from the new book shelves in Hillman Library and from some new books from other libraries brought by PALCI.

A festschrift for Eric Zimmer, edited by Gershon Bacon, Daniel Sperber, and Aharon Gaimoni, title in English: Studies on the History of the Jews of Ashkenaz; title in Hebrew (all the articles are in Hebrew): Meḥkarim be-toldot yehude ashkenaz. (Bar Ilan University Press, 2008) Almost all the articles are on the history of various Ashkenazic minhagim or on conceptualizations of minhagim in halakhic literature. Most of the studies seem to combine fine-grain textual analysis with an attention to larger socio-cultural historical questions.

Last week, I saw the new list of National Jewish Book Awards: Congratulations to Judy Klitzner for the scholarship prize. (I will send you the commemorative trophy.) The next day, I saw her book on the shelf: Subversive Sequels in the Bible: How Biblical Stories Mine and Undermine Each Other (Jewish Publication Society, 2009).

Add to the growing literature on time and calendars in early modern Europe an English translation of Max Engammare, On Time, Punctuality, and Discipline in Early Modern Calvinism (Cambridge University Press); this is an expansion of the French original published in Geneva in 2004 (L’ordre du temps. L’invention de la ponctualité au XVIe siècle.)

Laura Lunger Knoppers and her colleagues have put together an impressive Cambridge Companion to Early Modern Women’s Writing. I just wish they had added “in England and Britain” to the title.... Seems to me I’ve mentioned this problem before. To my good friends (who would never make this mistake) and to their colleagues (who might) in English literary and cultural studies, I wish to remind you that England was not the only place to have a “medieval” or “early modern” period or to have (possibly) had a “Renaissance” or “Reformation.”

Elliot Wolfson’s new study of the messianism of Menahem Mendel Schneerson, in Open Secret: Postmessianic Messianism and the Mystical Revision (Columbia University Press, 2009) is an impressive close reading of the writings of the late Habad rebbe. Wolfson also has interesting methodological comments on the role that textual analysis can play in studying contemporary religious movements. And it may be the first scholarly work on Kabbalah in which texts by Ronald Reagan are cited.

More on semi-secret messianic movements: Marc David Baer, our sometime colleague at the University of Pittsburgh, has published The Dönme: Jewish Converts, Muslim Revolutionaries, and Secular Turks (Stanford University Press, 2010). This book is getting lots of attention.

In the history of the book, Adrian Johns placed the issue of trust and authority between readers, printers, and authors on the agenda. So when I saw a new collection on the shelf with the title eTrust: Forming Relationships in the Online World (ed. Karen S. Cook et al; Russell Sage Foundation, 2009), I thought some book historian might want to look at this. It’s part of a series “The Russell Sage Foundation Series on Trust” with 13 previous volumes. But brush up on your math before you tackle it.

I notice that the philosopher Thomas Nagel has a new collection of essays, Secular Philosophy and the Religious Temperament (Oxford 2010), including the one that led one philosophy blog to ask whether he has “jumped the shark.”

If you think on-line discussions about religion can get heated, check out sixteenth-century French “literature of vituperation” studied by Antónia Szabari, Less Rightly Said: Scandals and Readers in Sixteenth-Century France (Stanford University Press, 2010).

“Real” religious violence in the past: Jill N. Claster, Sacred Violence: The European Crusades to the Middle East, 1095-1396 (University of Toronto Press, 2009) looks like a very readable survey.

Last week I was also reading P.D. James, Talking about Detective Fiction, where she stresses the importance of the inter-war period as the “Golden Age” of [British] detective fiction. She also suggests that reading novels from this period gives as good a sense of post-WW 1 British anxieties as any social history. But one could look at Richard Overy, The Twilight Years: The Paradox of Britain between the Wars (Viking Press, 2009) for an account of Britons trying to grapple with a sense of impending doom. His starting off point Eric Hobsbawm and friends at Cambridge in 1939 grappling with the idea that they might all die soon.

To the burgeoning literature on the Catholic Church and the Holocaust (in the news this week), one can add Derek Hastings, Catholicism and the Roots of Nazism: Religious Identity and National Socialism (Oxford UP 2010). Hastings threads a fine needle--perhaps anticipating the kind of controversy his book might arouse: “In striving to characterize accurately the activities of early Nazi Catholics in and around Munich, the distinction between the internal-ideal and external-historical perspectives helps to navigate around a central conundrum: avoiding the appearance of indicting Catholicism (as an institutional entity or in ideational terms) for the tragic excesses of the Nazis while at the same time recognizing the important and very real role played by Nazi Catholic clergy and laypeople who, acting as Catholics and in pursuit of what they perceived to be a legitimate form of Catholic identity, were indeed central to the stabilization and spread of the early Nazi movement.” (p.179)

Finally, more theoretical food-for-thought for the study of religion. and history in G.E.R. Lloyd, Disciplines in the Making: Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Elites, Learning, and Innovation (Oxford University Press 2009). People in Religious Studies departments spend a lot of time debating how to define “religion” and often assume that it’s our special cross to bear and that those lucky folks in other fields know just what their subject is. Lloyd argues that folks in philosophy, mathematics, history, medicine, art, law, and science all have to think about this also.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Eating in Pittsburgh.

I've been telling you about places I enjoyed eating on my two trips to LA last fall, but I haven't mentioned any recent hometown dining experiences. (That may tell you how often we eat out at home...)

Had dinner last night at the Quiet Storm Cafe in the Garfield/Friendship/Bloomfield Lawrenceville border region (on Penn Avenue).
We head there with good friends and our several offspring once every six months or so for dinner. The kids like the mac and cheese, the board games, and the pinball machine. The grown-ups love the vegetarian and vegan offerings. My personal favorite is the Cubano sandwich. But I also tried the Reuben last night and enjoyed that as well.

Blog for the Study of the Jewish Book

This is the "personal" blog. When I see information that might be useful for Jewish historians with an interest in the history of the book, I post to the "Blog for the Study of the Jewish Book."

WUMB #119: Tim Buckley

Tim Buckley, “Live at the Folklore Center, NYC, March 6, 1967”; released in 2009.
The first time I listened through this last week, I didn’t pay attention to the date and thought he sounds like he’s going for a sound like 1960s folk. And then I looked at the date of the concert and realized that he wasn’t "going for" it, he was in it. Think early Bob Dylan. Particularly striking song on this album: “No Man Can Find the War.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Parents, Children, and Professions

A few years ago at a meeting of the American [YYY] Association, my wife spoke on a panel of children of practitioners of [YYY] about their experiences growing up around [YYY]. Her twist was the she went into [YYY] like her father and attributes her early interest in the subject to his influence (and that of her mother who studied a cognate field). She also feels that as she gravitated toward this field in her undergraduate and graduate studies she had a better idea of what she was getting into than some of her peers. So this article at Inside Higher Education reporting on a panel of parent-child pairs of historians at the American Historical Association caught my eye. (It might have caught my eye anyway because I know one of the child historians featured, Adam Davis.)

An interesting commonality is that children of [YYY]-ists and children of historians who go into these fields often specialize in different aspects of the field than the parent. This is the case for my wife (we joke about her limited sense of rebellion).

I certainly don't expect that any of my children will become historians, but it is interesting to think that they would have a better sense of what it's all about than I did.

More Historian Detectives

A couple of years ago I noted that many fictional detectives had backgrounds as historians. At that point, apparently, I hadn't read enough Donna Leon to know that Guido Brunetti had studied history at university (see The Death of Faith.)

Monday, January 04, 2010

Books I read in 2009

# December, 2009:
# Dan Brown, The Lost Symbol
# Josephine Tey, The Singing Sands
# C.B. Greenfield, A Little Madness
# Josephine Tey, To Love and Be Wise
# Donna Leon, the Death of Faith
# Marissa Peisman, Unorthodox Practices

# November, 2009:
# Donna Leon, Acqua Alta
# E.L. Konigsburg, From the Mixed Up-Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
# Harry Kemelman, The Day the Rabbi Left Town
# Valerie Miner, Murder in the English Department
# Margaret Drabble, The Radiant Way
# Margaret Drabble, The Middle Ground
# Jeffrey Shandler, Jews, God, and Videotape
# Lucille Kallen, C.B. Greenfield: The Tanglewood Murder

# October, 2009:
# David Lodge, Deaf Sentence
# Michael Chabon, Manhood for Amateurs
# Cynthia Ozick, Heir to the Glimmering World
# Michael Chabon, Maps and Legends

# September, 2009:
# Robertson Davies, The Lyre of Orpheus
# Ruth Langer, To Worship God Properly
# Robertson Davies, What's Bred in the Bone

# August, 2009:
# Robertson Davies, The Rebel Angels
# P.D. James and T.A. Critchley, The Maul and the Pear Tree
# Bernard Malamud, Dubin's Lives
# Bernard Malamud, The Assistant
# Italo Calvino, If on a winter's night a traveler
# Margaret Drabble, Jerusalem the Golden
# Martha Grimes, Help the Poor Struggler
# Martha Grimes, Jerusalem Inn
# Martha Grimes, The Man with a Load of Mischief
# July, 2009:
# Robertson Davies, World of Wonders
# Robertson Davies, The Manticore
# Saul Bellow, Mr. Sammler's Planet
# Robertson Davies, Fifth Business
# Martha Grimes, The Dirty Duck
# Martha Grimes, The Dear Leap
# Margaret Drabble, The Realms of Gold
# Ellis Peters, The Confession of Brother Haluin
# Bernard Malamud, The Magic Barrel
# John Updike, A Month of Sundays
# Iris Murdoch, The Nice and the Good

# June, 2009:
# Judith M. Bennett, History Matters: Patriarchy and the Challenge of Feminism
# Mark Mills, The Savage Garden
# Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending, The 10,000 Year Explosion
# PD James, The Lighthouse

# May, 2009:
# PD James, Shroud for a Nightingale
# PD James, A Certain Justice
# Carlo Lucarelli, The Damned Season
# Giorgio Bassani, The Garden of the Finzi-Continis

# April, 2009:
# Daniel Lord Smail, On Deep History and the Brain
# Iris Murdoch, the Bell
# PD James, Unnatural Causes
# Robin Winks, ed. The Historian as Detective

# March, 2009:
# PD James, Death of An Expert Witness
# PD James, Cover Her Face
# Faye Kellerman, The Mercedes Coffin
# Eric Lax, "Conversations with Woody Allen"

# February, 2009:
# Umberto Eco, Postscript to the Name of the Rose
# PD James, The Black Tower
# Russell Miller, The Adventures of Arthur Conan Doyle
# Faye Kellerman, Street Dreams
# Josephine Tey, The Daughter of Time
# Faye Kellerman, The Forgotten
# Faye Kellerman, Serpent's Tooth

# January, 2009:
# Jonathan Boyarin, Jewishness and the Human Dimension
# Faye Kellerman, Prayers for the Dead
# David G. Roskies, Yiddishlands: A Memoir
# Georges Simenon, Maigret Stonewalled
# Jack Finney, Time and Again
# E.M. Forster, The Longest Journey
# Lee Goldberg, Mr. Monk is Miserable

Catching up with the WUMB Project

See earlier posts for an explanation.

#112 is Janis Ian. Remember Janis Ian? Listened to "God and the FBI" and "Breaking Silence" in late December. Good singer-songwriter-folksy political stuff. Nothing profound to say.

Also found a fairly recent CD by Eric Andersen (#109), "Blue Rain," recorded live in 2007 in Oslo. Yes, a famous folk singer (born in Pittsburgh according to Wikipedia) singing the blues in Scandinavia.

"Spring" Term?

Our semester begins Wednesday. I doubt I will be able to find the weather as congenial as I did at the beginning of the fall term.