13
Oct 17

Writing Girl after Girl after Girl: Women Poets, Permission and Risk

The poet Lucille Clifton once said that with her poetry, “I hope to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” When I wrote the poems in my new book Girl after Girl after Girl, I thought often of Clifton’s words. In fact, I wrote them on an index card and taped it on the wall above my desk.

I love Clifton’s quote because it speaks to both poetry’s intimacy and the work it can do in the world. Here, Lucille Clifton explains most accurately why I both write and read poetry.

In my new book Girl after Girl after Girl, I was writing about being a daughter in the 70s and 80s, about my own daughters, about raising young girls in the dangerous world in which we live. I was writing about female bodies, and the damage the world inflicts upon them. I was afraid of much of what I wrote in my first drafts of poems: stories of addiction, stories of violence, stories of fear and danger.  I kept Clifton’s words close as I worked.

And then one day as I struggled through the poems in my new book, I recalled Emily Dickinson’s famous dictum—“Tell all the truth but tell it slant.”  I wrote those words beside Clifton’s above my desk.  To “tell it slant,” as Dickinson suggested, I turned to objects to tell the stories of mothers and daughters and girlhood—I read books of recipes, I visited doll and miniature museums, I studied the history of the breast pump, the cocktail, the mourning dress.

In different ways, Clifton and Dickinson gave me permission to write my poems. And as I read and reread their words and wrote my own poems, I also I remembered my second daughter, and how when she was younger and I left the house to give reading, she would stand at the front door, face pressed to the glass panes, as I closed the door between us, and shout, “Don’t go to poetry!” It was heartbreaking to leave her, but it also struck me that her exhortation also gave me a way to think about poetry.

My daughter was right. Poetry is a place I go. Sometimes it’s a deep, cold river where I sink down in darkness alone. Sometimes it’s a site of solace, more interior, a quiet and safe room, and a reminder that others have felt as I have felt. Sometimes it’s a geographical journey—I travel with Muriel Rukeyser to Gauley Bridge, West Virginia or with CD Wright to Angola Prison. I read poems both to come closer to myself and to enter a whole new world.

Most of all, I read poems that give me permission to take a risk, poems that make me wonder, How did she do that? She is not supposed to be able to do that! I want to learn to do that!

So sometimes, in search of poets who give me permission to take risks, I go out with a poetry book as I would with a new friend. I take a collection of poems out for coffee and spend a few hours with the book. The book and I sit together and I write in my notebook and we talk.

I have taken many books out for coffee, and I look to many women poets as guides to poetry. Here, below are six books of permission and risk that I have taken out for conversation many times, six books that I kept—and keep—on my desk as I wrote my poems in Girl after Girl after Girl, six books that I return to again and again.


Anya Krugovoy Silver, From Nothing (LSU Press, 2016). From Nothing is a book that illustrates to me how poetry takes you both from yourself and back into yourself all at once. These poems document the experience of life-threatening illness and the deep love of a mother for a son; these poems elegize dead and dying friends. And they show us the magical worlds of fairy tales and the rituals of Lent and prayer that sustain us. I love the fearlessness of Silver’s book.

CD Wright, One Big Self (Copper Canyon Press, 2013). CD Wright was my first poetry teacher in college, at Brown University. Two years ago, with time off from teaching, I spent days walking around my town listening to her read from One Big Self (on the Penn Sound Archive) and soaking up the poems in this book. She shows us new worlds—the landscape of southern Louisiana and the lives of prison inmates and their families. CD Wright died suddenly last year, and now I return again and again to the book to remember her.

Lucille Clifton, The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010 (Boa Editions, 2015). I may be cheating by including a poet’s Collected Poems here, but when it comes to Lucille Clifton I can’t help myself. Clifton’s poems offer, in my mind, the ultimate permission to writing about the things in the world that most compelled me while I wrote the poems in Girl after Girl after Girl and that most compel me now—the female body, mothers and daughters, race and identity, religion and place.

Muriel Rukeyser, The Life of Poetry (Paris Press, 1996). Muriel Rukeyser published so much, in so many genres, and her life spanned the twentieth century, but I love this book most. The Life of Poetry is a book that teaches us how to live in and with poetry. Muriel Rukeyser is my favorite poet and most of all my poetry-mother. I teach her poems, I read them nearly every day, and I keep them close to me. As she says in this book, “For the last time here, I wish to say that we will not be saved by poetry. But poetry is the type of the creation in which we may live and which will save us.”

Solmaz Sharif, Look (Graywolf Press, 2016). Often, I can’t separate out what I read from what I teach, and I have taught this amazing book twice in the past year. Look is a collection that makes me think differently about history, language and what poetry can do. Sharif uses a Defense Department Dictionary as a text that splits open and refashions again and again to show the horrors of war, the devastation of the Middle East, and the violence we do to one another’s bodies.

Gertrude Stein, Tender Buttons: Objects, Food, Rooms (City Lights Publishers, 2014). I chose one of the epigraphs to Girl after Girl after Girl from this book, originally published in 1914, because Stein revolutionized the way I think about language. In Tender Buttons, Stein gives us portraits of ordinary things. Coffee. Milk. Beads. Dresses. Every time I read it I wish I could go to a yard sale with Gertrude Stein and talk about objects.  Stein shows us the magic of the things around us that we take for granted.


Nicole Cooley. Credit: Lisa KollbergNicole Cooley is the author of Breach, Milk Dress, The Afflicted Girls, and Resurrection. A native of New Orleans, Cooley directs the MFA Program in Creative Writing and Literary Translation at Queens College–CUNY, where she is a professor of English.

Buy your copy of Girl after Girl after Girl today and don’t forget to follow LSU Press on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook!


06
Oct 17

Six Cookbooks that Capture Louisiana’s Unique Flavor

There’s a cornucopia of Louisiana cookbooks out there. Some, like The Fonville Winans Cookbook, the one I co-authored with Melinda Winans, not only have good recipes, but they give the cook an overall idea of what makes the cuisine of south Louisiana so unique.

I’ve been a food writer for the Newcomb College Culinary Writers Group and the Baton Rouge and New Orleans Advocate newspapers, and I’m currently editor of the LSU Press cookbook series “The Southern Table.” I thumb through a lot of cookbooks, and I’m always amazed at how much I learn from those mouthwatering pages. Remarkably, in this digital age, readers still find physical cookbooks entertaining. I, for instance, am the type who’d rather get lost in a cookbook at night instead of a novel. I like turning a page to find someone’s family’s favorite soup, or a new chef’s innovative desserts. There’s also something about a clever recipe title or a heartwarming header that is, well, exciting.

While with the Newcomb group, we were writing a scholarly book on food, and I was instructed to scour that institution’s massive cookbook library for my research. Wow! I was in heaven. At my fingertips were copies of some of the first cookbooks published in Louisiana. From them, I figured out how gumbo evolved over the years, how calves foot jelly was once popular, and that now-hip quenelles, egg-like shapes of forcemeat, were common on nineteenth-century New Orleans tables. All it took was a little detective work, and I had the basis for my work. It was also at this time that I realized that the popular cookbooks of bygone eras had two things in common: their recipes were relatively easy to make, and reading them made you want to rush out to your stove. Both of these distinctions still separate extraordinary cookbooks from the rest.

I met Melinda Winans at an Herb Society meeting in Baton Rouge, and we instantly connected based on one thing—we both love everything about food. Like me, she has an extensive home cookbook library, where there are books she turns to time and time again. Also, her late father-in-law, the internationally famous photographer, Fonville Winans, liked to cook, and he wrote down a mountain of his recipes. One day while browsing through Fonville’s scribbles, we realized we were not only reading a cherished family keepsake, but we had the foundation for an outstanding cookbook.

To make things interesting and to put things in perspective, we made The Fonville Winans Cookbook a compilation of recipes, his photographs, and his biography. He spent most of his youth in Texas, and is most famous for his photographs of the impoverished Depression-era Cajuns who lived on Grand Isle on Louisiana’s coast. During those years, when he was in his early twenties, he became good friends with many of his subjects, and they taught him how to cook what became his favorite cuisine, Cajun.

Fonville later settled in Baton Rouge, where he raised a family, became a sought-after portrait photographer, an inventor, and a pilot. He was also a cook who incessantly experimented. And it is from the many, many versions of his recipes that we get a glimpse of what families were eating in mid-century south Louisiana.Fonville adored both Creole and Cajun food, but his natural curiosity led him to experiment with cuisines such as Mexican and Chinese, creating dishes that were mostly unheard of in the region at the time. His notes tell us that he studied cookbooks, too. He was especially enamored of a book called The Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook by Gloria Bley Miller. In our cookbook, we include many of Fonville’s interpretations of what was, for him, exotic fare. These creations give insight into a man who was definitely ahead of his time, and who was often credited with introducing many new dishes to the Baton Rouge mainstream.

This brings us back to the question of what makes a cookbook exceptional. To me and Melinda, any cookbook tells a story. But many, such as the ones listed below, are encyclopedic, not so much for their girth, but for what their recipes tell us. Importantly, they give a broad spectrum of what folks in Louisiana think is good food. Most of those recipes have a history, some that can be traced back hundreds of years. These recipes also work in a home kitchen and, above all, our modern palates think they still taste great. Once you start reading through them, you’ll pick up on recipe titles, ingredients, and cooking techniques that are found nowhere else. Like The Fonville Winans Cookbook, they capture the local food experience, and any meal made from them would put something authentically Louisiana on the table.


Six Cookbooks that Explain Louisiana’s Unique Flavor:

River Road Recipes: The Textbook of Louisiana Cuisine (The Cookbook Marketplace,1950) – This “textbook of Louisiana cooking” was published by the Junior League of Baton Rouge, and has sold over 1.3 million copies. Recipes were contributed by home cooks and run the gamut from roux to courtbouillon to the now-world-famous Spinach Madeleine.

The Encyclopedia of Cajun and Creole Cuisine (Chef John Folse & Company Publishing, 2004) – This is the first of Chef John Folse’s gigantic cookbooks. Along with a healthy dose of culinary history, he includes 700 recipes for cooking traditional south Louisiana cuisine.

Cooking up a Storm: Recipes Lost and Found from the Times-Picayune of New Orleans (Chronicle Books, 2015) – In 2005, Hurricane Katrina washed away many a recipe collection. Times-Picayune food editor Judy Walker and food writer Marcelle Bienvenu came to the rescue with this cookbook based on treasured local favorites.

Chef Paul Prudhomme’s Louisiana Kitchen (William Morrow Cookbooks, 1984) – Chef Paul Prudhomme shook up traditional New Orleans Creole cooking with his down-home, rustic Cajun cooking. This cookbook is classic Cajun.

A Confederacy of Dunces Cookbook: Recipes from Ignatius J. Reilly’s New Orleans (LSU Press, 2015) – Cynthia LeJeune Nobles turned the food found in John Kennedy Toole’s Pulitzer-prize winning novel into a cookbook that reflects what was popular on tables in New Orleans in the 1950s and 1960s, before south Louisiana cooking was all the rage.

Lift Your Spirits: A Celebratory History of Cocktail Culture in New Orleans (LSU Press, 2016) – Elizabeth Williams, Director of the Southern Beverage Museum, and Chris McMillian, co-founder of Museum of the American Cocktail, teamed up to write a detailed history of New Orleans’s varied cocktails. Authentic recipes are included. If you’re interested in cocktails, this book is a must.


Cynthia LeJeune Nobles, series editor for “The Southern Table” from LSU Press, is the author of A Confederacy of Dunces Cookbook: Recipes from Ignatius J. Reilly’s New Orleans (LSU Press, 2015) and The Delta Queen Cookbook: The History and Recipes of the Legendary Steamboat (LSU Press, 2012).

With Melinda Risch Winans, Nobles co-authored The Fonville Winans Cookbook, which was published by LSU Press earlier this week. You can read more about their cookbook in The Advocate and SIBA News. Take 30% off select Louisiana titles, including this one, during the month of October with offer code 04LBF! Buy your copy while it’s still hot off the press by clicking here.

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02
Oct 17

September Roundup: News, Events, Reviews

September was quite a month here at LSU Press! Blood Work: Imagining Race in American Literature, 1890—1940 by Shawn Salvant won 2016 C. Hugh Holman Award; Galaxie Wagon: Poems by Darnell Arnoult won the Thomas and Lillie D. Chaffin Award for Appalachian Writing; and Slim Harpo: Blues King Bee of Baton Rouge won both a Certificate of Merit from the Association of Recorded Sound Collections Awards and the 2017 Blues Book of the Year from Living Blues magazine. Lee Upton, Kathryn Fontenot and Trent Brown wrote fantastic posts for the LSU Press Blog. And we published new books by Jennifer Atkins, Trent Brown, Nicole Cooley, Kathryn Fontenot, Earl J. Hess, and Gordon C. Rhea.

Below you’ll find a list of our October titles, upcoming events with our authors, and some selected publicity from September. And if you want to keep up with LSU Press in real time, follow us on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook.


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Selected Publicity and Praise

Blackout Starlight: New and Selected Poems, 1997-2015 by Bruce Bond

Blackout Starlight is a milestone release. . . One can certainly read Bond for the sheer delight of beholding a thing well done. Fellow poets, however, will benefit from a deep consideration of his ambition, vision, and delivery.”—Colorado Review

Girl after Girl after Girl: Poems by Nicole Cooley

“. . . this collection, her fifth, is attempting something special in its unconditional study of mothers, daughters, and sisters—of all ages. That she employs time travel in her poems is impossible to explain, so we’ll just enjoy the experience.”—Foreword Reviews

The Cemeteries of New Orleans: A Cultural History by Peter B. Dedek

“Four stars. . . . An excellent primer on some of our city’s most important cultural treasures.”—New Orleans Magazine

Black Labor, White Sugar: Caribbean Braceros and Their Struggle for Power in the Cuban Sugar Industry by Philip A. Howard

Howard makes some of the strongest arguments for the development of a black class consciousness that crossed ethnic lines.”—World Sugar History Newsletter

Schooling in the Antebellum South: The Rise of Public and Private Education in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama by Sarah L. Hyde

“. . . Sarah Hyde treats us to a long-due examination of white education in the antebellum South.”—The Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth

The Language of Vision: Photography and Southern Literature in the 1930s and After by Joseph R. Millichap

“His purposes in this slim volume are synthetic and, in the best sense of the word, provocative: to bring together two rich artistic and critical traditions in ways that demonstrate the mutually enlivening creative interplay at work, and that inspire further investigation.”—Modernism/Modernity

William & Mary commissioned a poem from Brenda Marie Osbey. You can watch her performance here:

Damn Yankees! Demonization and Defiance during the American Civil War by George C. Rable

“Award-winning Professor Emeritus George C. Rable has once again added to the historiography of the Civil War with his outstanding Damn Yankees! Demonization and Defiance during the American Civil War. . .”—H-War

On to Petersburg: Grant and Lee, June 4-15, 1864 by Gordon C. Rhea

“Unparalleled. . . .”—New York Journal of Books

From Nothing: Poems by Anya Krugovoy Silver

“In these poems, bracing honesty coincides with the quiet transformations of language. Especially moving are the expressions of praise that take shape in the absence of consolation.”—The Cresset Journal

The Richmond Times-Dispatch published an article on Ron Smith’s poetry.

Extreme Civil War: Guerrilla Warfare, Environment, and Race on the Trans-Mississippi Frontier by Matthew M. Stith

“Stith has researched his subject well and produced an engaging and well-balanced book. It deserves the attention of all Civil War historians.”—Kansas History


29
Sep 17

Sexuality and the South: Recommended Reading

Sex and Sexuality in Modern Southern Culture is a collection of twelve essays that seeks to show how fundamentally questions of sexuality have shaped recent southern history. I decided to put this book together because I feel not only that the topic merits close study, but also because it seemed to me that an interdisciplinary approach might encourage new answers to familiar questions. I hope that the book encourages more work on these topics and on the subject generally.

Scholars in a variety of disciplines are producing exciting work on sex and sexualities in the American South. Much of that work sheds new light on long-standing issues, such as race, religion, and the law in the South. The field promises to remain vital and growing, as some of the best scholarship on southern sexualities is currently being produced in graduate programs in history, literature, and gay and lesbian studies.

For anyone interested in reading further in this field, I can recommend several excellent books, although this list could be much longer. I would start by pointing people back to Tennessee Williams, a writer with profound things to say about sexuality and longing, as well as the way those tensions manifest themselves within southerners and their communities.


Here are other books that I admire:

Alecia Long, The Great Southern Babylon: Sex, Race, and Respectability in New Orleans, 1865-1920 (LSU Press, 2004). An outstanding study of sex and commerce, especially the ways in which New Orleans promoted the sex trade.

Martha Hodes, White Women, Black Men: Illicit Sex in the Nineteenth-Century South (Yale University Press, 1997). A powerful work of scholarship on a topic that remains of perennial interest to southern scholars.

John Howard, Men Like That: A Southern Queer History (University of Chicago Press, 1999). A magnificent work of historical reconstruction that drew scholars’ attention to queer lives in the rural South.

Benjamin Wise, William Alexander Percy: The Curious Life of a Mississippi Planter & Sexual Freethinker (UNC Press, 2012). A splendid biography that provides a compelling reading of a memoir that historians have long known, but not in the ways that Wise demonstrates.

Gary Richards, Lovers and Beloveds: Sexual Otherness in Southern Fiction, 1936-1961 (LSU Press, 2005). A provocative reading of same-sex desire in a particularly rich period of southern letters.


Trent Brown, professor of American Studies at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, is the editor of Sex and Sexuality in Modern Southern Culture (LSU Press, 2017). He is the author or editor of several other books on southern history, including White Masculinity in the Recent South (LSU Press, 2008), and (with Rev. Ed King) Ed King’s Mississippi: Behind the Scenes of Freedom Summer (University Press of Mississippi, 2014).

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22
Sep 17

A Budding Gardener’s Library

Gardening is dear to my heart and I practice constantly—growing vegetables in the children’s garden at the LSU AgCenter Botanic Garden, conducting vegetable trials across the state and playing in my own home herb and vegetable gardens with my husband and children.

It is the perfect hobby for all ages. Whether you are a professional grower, a child in school, someone who likes to cook or wants to learn how to cook with fresher ingredients, I love helping people make their harvest more bountiful.

Gardening releases tension, and this time of year, allows us to enjoy the outdoors in near perfect temperatures. All it takes is one container and you’ll be hooked. This fall, try planting a single broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, or kale plant… you’ll be surprised by how fun it is to watch it grow. The Louisiana Urban Gardener is specifically geared toward beginners, but as you grow your garden you can grow your gardening library as well. In addition to my new book, I would suggest picking up the titles I’ve listed below.


Louisiana Home Vegetable Gardening (LSU AgCenter, 2014) is a great read, catering to medium to larger sized vegetable gardeners.

Dan Gill’s Month by Month Gardening (Cool Springs Press, 2001) reminds us of seasonal garden chores that take landscapes from blah to wow!

Gardening in the Humid South (LSU Press, 2004) authored by two very intelligent and funny men, Dr.’s Ed O’Rourke and Leon Standifer is a must read for anyone who missed out on their charming yet informative Country Roads garden column,  LSU classes, or garden tips shared over morning coffee.

Heirloom Gardening in the South: Yesterdays Plants for Today’s Gardeners (Texas A&M University Press, 2011) by William Welch and Greg Grant. Interested in heirlooms plants and vegetables? Then William and Greg’s book is a must read. It includes excellent stories and beautiful pictures.

And finally, every gardener needs a cookbook to help determine how to cook store and share our abundant produce. Chef John Folse nailed his last cookbook, Can You Dig It: Louisiana’s Authoritative Collection of Vegetable Cookery (Chef John Folse and Company, 2015), when he dedicated it to vegetables. This new cookbook will make veggies everyone’s favorite part of the meal.


Kathryn Fontenot is assistant professor and extension specialist with the LSU AgCenter’s School of Plant, Environmental, and Soil Sciences. She specializes in farmer’s markets and in home, community, and school gardens.

You can read more about Fontenot in 225 Magazine or do one better and buy her new book, The Louisiana Urban Gardener: A Guide to Growing Vegetables and Herbs.

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15
Sep 17

Eight Works of Fiction That Make the Impossible Appear Possible

Writing fiction is impossible: that was my earliest impression, and in some ways that impression has remained with me.  How is it possible to make a world on paper or on a laptop screen, to create characters, moving those characters through space and time in convincing ways? How can words build something that will live on its own and, if we’re lucky, mean something to someone else? Each time I begin to create an imagined world I’m both excited and daunted by that lingering sense of impossibility.

The stories in Visitations deal with what I find particularly bedeviling: obsession, betrayal, addiction, denial—and so much yearning, including yearning for something a character can’t even begin to name.  From the start, I hadn’t intended to write a book with a unified set of concerns. Nevertheless, I soon realized that my stories often addressed a common subject: books. A love of actual physical books, their weights and textures. The appetite for reading books. Or a character’s loss of the ability to read books without summoning rage. How childhood reading may shape an entire life. How we are in debt to the books that have been our most loyal companions.

Finding their way into Visitations are echoes or plot elements from a number of books, including The Turn of the Screw, Wuthering Heights, The Odyssey, Robin Hood, and Edgar Allan Poe’s stories. In Visitations the goddess Venus and her son float in a field toward a lonely woman who grew up reading myths. One character joins the world’s laziest book club.  Another character tries to find the last book that her mother read before her mother’s sudden death. The first sentence of Visitations’s first story is a partial, distorted echo of the opening sentence of Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway.  Here’s Woolf:  “Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself.” In homage to Woolf, here’s the first sentence of my story: “Tiffany’s mother is swearing at the flowers again.”

When I was a child I thought writers must be strange creatures, entirely unlike anyone I knew. Maybe more like unicorns. As I worked hard at learning to write fiction I found that re-reading the books I loved—re-reading with hunger and re-reading more than twice—taught me what I’d never have learned otherwise. My attempts at fiction grew out of emulation. Probably most writing does.

New books teach me new possibilities—and I’m grateful for that widening of possibilities. At the same time, I’m especially indebted to those books that first introduced me to a special sort of energy, an infectious possibility, right when I was feeling writing was most impossible. Below are some of those books.  I don’t want to suggest that any of the books I’ve listed make writing look easy—no, it’s just that they’re so daring and fully imagined that they gave me enough heart to hope I could attempt to do that seemingly impossible thing: write a story.


Lucky Jim (New York Review Books Classics, 2012) by Kingsley Amis. Crisp and wildly funny, this novel contains unforgettable descriptions of a hangover, stage fright, and defensive actions in academia. It’s true to its era and yet a comic novel that deserves to live forever. Who doesn’t recognize the put-upon Jim Dixon, steaming with resentment?

Talking to the Dead: Stories (Anchor, 1993) by Sylvia Watanabe. Among my favorites in this luminous collection is “A Summer Waltz”–just shy of four full pages, and each of those pages is perfect.  Two little girls, Sachi and Meg, wander together and wind up at a clubhouse bar. What happens when those little girls meet a bartender is wonderful.

Loitering with Intent (New Directions, 2014) by Muriel Spark. Written with vigor, wit, and comic sternness,  Loitering with Intent is practically a guidebook for writing a novel. Spark’s hilarious narrator recounts her efforts to compose her first novel and offers plenty of advice along the way. Writing, the character tells us, “took up the sweetest part of my mind and the rarest part of my imagination; it was like being in love and better.” Whenever I reread any of Spark’s novels I’m refreshed by her bracing, crafty, idiosyncratic intelligence.

Mrs. Caliban (Harvard Common Press, 2009) by Rachel Ingalls.  A short novel that does something next to impossible: create a compelling contemporary love story about a lonely woman and a sea creature. The ending never fails to make my throat close. When I first read Mrs. Caliban, I experienced a soaring sensation: the wish to write something unexpected, to write a story that opened up a new vista on our inner worlds.

Hotel du Lac (Vintage, 1995) by Anita Brookner. How to describe this quiet novel with its undercurrents of deep feeling? Brookner was an art historian, and her sensibility is informed by her academic discipline. Parts of this novel, a study in melancholy and moment-to-moment realizations, are practically painted in delicate shades of gray. The wounded protagonist is a stoic in some ways, yet she nearly throws her life away. A novel so beautifully written, you could frame each sentence in gold leaf.

The Awakening (Dover, 1993) by Kate Chopin. Enacting the pressure a culture bears upon a woman’s burgeoning sense of herself and her own self-ownership, Chopin creates exalted, gorgeous romantic scenes and then punctures romance with realistic intrusions: “She was having a good cry all to herself. The mosquitoes made merry over her, biting her firm, round arms and nipping at her bare insteps.” The sensual particulars, the escalation toward tragedy, the complexities of embodiment: this 1899 novel is still one we’re coming to terms with.

The Haunting of Hill House (Penguin Classics, 2006) by Shirley Jackson.The portion of this strange, nearly hallucinogenic novel that I return to most often: Eleanor’s drive to Hill House, that winding, fever dream of a journey in which we readers, and Eleanor, gently lose our grip. And then there are Jackson’s short stories. Among my favorites: “The Witch.” Jackson dramatizes how evil may enter a scene casually, and how children may see and name what we’d rather not.

Blow-Up and Other Stories (Pantheon Books, 1985) by Julio Cortázar, translated by Paul Blackburn. Has the art of the reversal ever been manipulated in more dexterous hands? Just when you’re about to wake from the tricky plot of any of these stories, another startling revelation occurs and a new question hovers. Who’s alive? Who’s dead? Has the narrator of the story become what he’s observed? A profound recognition of suffering animates this collection. Cortázar told a Paris Review interviewer that he wished “to go beyond the possible.” In the same interview, published in 1984, the year of his death, he said: “These days, my notion of the fantastic is closer to what we call reality. Perhaps because reality approaches the fantastic more and more.” That gap, it may seem to plenty of us, has now closed even more.


Lee Upton’s short story collection, Visitations, was released on August 16, 2017 in the Yellow Shoe Fiction Series, LSU Press.  Her stories recently appeared in Bennington Review, Notre Dame Review, Cincinnati Review, and World Literature Today.

You can read more about Upton and Visitations on the AGNI blog, on the Story Prize blog, and in Kirkus Reviews or do one better and buy your copy of Visitations today! Take home Upton’s poignant and luminous words.

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23
Aug 17

Event: Why Are We Still Fighting the Civil War? A Conversation


20
Feb 17

3 Things I Learned from The Photojournalism of Del Hall

One of the pleasures of working for a university press is the perpetual discovery of pockets of knowledge that I never knew existed before. The Photojournalism of Del Hall is a passion project for geographer Richard Campanella, who found himself entranced by Hall’s stories of growing up in New Orleans, the son of a Mexican immigrant, and ultimately becoming a pioneer in the world of photojournalism.

This February, take 30% off (plus free shipping) The Photojournalism of Del Hall and many more of LSU Press’s most beautiful books. Shop our CURATE sale today!

In addition to being an absolutely gorgeous collection of photos covering five decades of American history, The Photojournalism of Del Hall taught me plenty about

Civil Rights Protestors Weren’t the Only Ones Arrested in Sit-Ins

Woolworth’s and other major establishments were pressured into changing their segregationist policies by teams of black activists staging sit-ins. Arrests on charges of disturbing the peace were common. As Campanella reveals, one of the things that deeply worried the management at Woolworth’s was the presence of TV media. Del Hall and his fellow cameraman Roddy Mims were arrested at a 1961 sit-in that spanned several shops along Canal Street. They were charged with “disturbing the peace by creating a scene” and even blamed by one police officer for the protestors’ presence at the stores.

Neither Mims nor Del Hall was convicted. Participants in the sit-ins were, and often served jail time, as well as facing job loss, death threats, and other forms of retaliation from the community.

Del Hall Worked on a CBS Series Inspired by John Steinbeck

As a poodle owner myself, I’ve always been fond of John Steinbeck’s book Travels with Charley, which details a cross-country road trip Steinbeck took with his standard poodle, Charley. Charles Kuralt hired Del Hall for his famed CBS series On the Road, which was inspired by John Steinbeck’s travelogue.

Filming “On the Road” with Charles Kuralt. Del films from top of ladder while Kuralt walks by below. Del Hall Collection / CBS News

Del Hall’s work on On the Road would earn him an Emmy for Best Cinematography for News and Documentary Programming, in 1974.

Del Hall Low-Key Set Michael Jordan’s House on Fire

Okay, he didn’t set the house all the way on fire, but the lighting set-up was so hot that it melted parts of a plastic doorframe in Michael Jordan’s Chicago mansion. As you would probably expect, Michael Jordan was very cool about it.

Michael Jordan demonstrates a slam dunk for 60 Minutes’s Diane Sawyer. Del Hall Collection / Del Hall Video

Over the course of his career, Del filmed celebrities from the Beatles (he sat down at Ringo’s drumset!) to the Dalai Lama, but throughout his career he maintained a quiet presence and courtesy. When he stopped by the LSU Press office in the run-up to this book’s publication, he posed and photographed each of the staff members he met, although a lot of us are rather camera-shy. You’ll have to live without those photographs, though! Instead, buy this gorgeous book at 30% off at our website, and take home a piece of American history.


13
Feb 17

Designing The Golden Band from Tigerland

In honor of our February CURATE sale, I spoke with Senior Designer Michelle Neustrom about the process of designing one of our most gorgeous books, Tom Continé and Faye Phillips’s The Golden Band from Tigerland.

How did you design the cover for this book?

There are so many good photos, it was hard to decide! But this one, it reminded me of when I was a student, or coming back afterwards, to see a football game. You always go and wait for the band to come down the hill, and it brings out the emotion that you feel getting ready, getting psyched up for a game. It just sets the mood with that specific game-day feeling.

Type placement is another thing you have to look at for cover design. It’s not just picking which image is good; it’s also about whether you can work with it and place the type on it in a successful way. So it lent itself to lots of type.

I usually do the cover design first, and then whatever I do on the cover, I try to pull elements of it throughout the rest of the book. So the little baton element on either side of the “from” in the title, it’s obviously a baton, but it also evokes the lines of their uniforms, especially the buttons on some of the older band uniforms. And you can see that little graphic in different places throughout the book, but it began with the cover design!

How did you choose the shades of the interior purple and gold colors? The gold is very bright and cheerful, and then the purple is much more subdued. What goes into that decision?

I went with this very orange-gold color because the marching band uniform has that same kind of tone, and that printed very cheerful and bright. The purple is more subdued, almost more of a navy, but again it’s because if you look at their uniforms in the picture throughout the book, they do look a darker color. I didn’t want all the photos of them in their uniforms to look out of place next to the colors of the book.

What are some of the challenges in designing the interior of a photo-heavy book?

Getting all the photos to fit with the text in a pleasing way! You’ll have call-outs, where the text of the book makes references to a particular photograph, and those are not always evenly spaced. So it is a challenge: In some two-page spreads it would be very photo-heavy, and then in others you’ll have no photos at all.

I also wanted each chapter to have a pause, a break, like a new song is starting. I wanted to drive home that we were making the shift: Something new is happening! That’s why I chose to start each new chapter with this design element, to give it some grandeur. And there’s a different musical instrument at the bottom of each of the pages that begin a chapter. Because I started with the trumpet on the book cover, I wanted to follow that design element throughout the book.

What are some of the fun parts of designing the interior of a photo-heavy book?

I always like picking out the endpapers and the colors for the book cover! Not just for photo books, but with a book like this, you can choose a fun endpaper, which is the paper on the inside front and back covers. We have books where we pick out the colors, and I like paging through and choosing which ones are the best fit for that book. But we get to do that for every book!

It’s fun coming up with a look for the book, almost like a logo, an identity for it. Again, it all comes back to the cover: Whatever I do on the cover, I like to pull it throughout the book. You can embrace that as much as you want, too: You can really go all out and stick with the look of the cover very closely, or you can just be slightly inspired by it. You don’t have to commit to it.

For this book, though, I really pulled a lot of design elements from the cover. I really like the running feet, with the little baton. Something as simple as that — I tried probably ten different ways of doing this footer, and that’s the one I liked the most. It’s funny how a lot goes into such a tiny little detail. Good design doesn’t always have to be specifically noticed; it just feels right, even if maybe you can’t pin down exactly why.

Did the authors have any ideas/requests about the book’s layout that worked really well or didn’t quite work exactly the way you planned?

Well, at the end of each chapter, the authors wanted to include a series of photographs that would often come from more recent years in the band’s history. To me, it didn’t quite go with the historical chapters, and I had to figure out a way to set them apart and make it clear visually that these images weren’t from the historical eras the text had just been discussing. That’s why at the end of each chapter, there are photos on colored backgrounds: The reader understands that these images don’t go with the history but they’re here as a kind of visual punctuation, a break between each chapter.

Shop our CURATE sale today. Get 30% off, plus free shipping, on the most beautiful books we publish!


01
Feb 17

Happy Release Day, Kelly Cherry!

LSU Press is delighted to announce the release of Kelly Cherry’s new book, Quartet for J. Robert Oppenheimer, which explores in verse the life of the Father of the Atomic Bomb. In celebration of its release, we’re sharing an excerpt!

Scientists Flee Germany

Scientists began to flee Germany,
fearing for their future. For two years
Robert dedicated a portion of
his salary to their aid. If his psyche
mirrored his anxious alliance with his parents—
his craving to escape the shame he felt
at their uncertain efforts to assimilate—
if he himself had fully assimilated—
he saw that his gemütlich life was absurd
compared with lives of Jews in Europe, where,
window by window, lights were going out.

To order your copy, visit our website today!