31
Aug 15

Around the Press in 80 Books: Painting a Hidden Life

In celebration of LSUP’s 80th anniversary the staff selected 80 of our most memorable titles. Adding to our “Around the Press in 80 Books” blog series, Editor Neal Novak writes about Painting a Hidden Life.

Painting a Hidden Life

When I first started to paint several years ago, I sought out the advice of my uncle, a wonderfully talented artist who has been paying the bills for years through gallery sales. “Don’t find your voice too soon,” he cautioned as he handed me a ragged book full of Richard Diebenkorn’s abstract landscapes. After a year of struggles, false starts, and gentle admonishments from my supportive my wife—“I love your work, but do you have to drip dioxazine purple on the dog?”—I finally began to understand just what he meant: be patient and enjoy becoming an artist.

Reading any and every art book I could get my hands on, I was thrilled when I learned the Press planned to publish Mechal Sobel’s Painting a Hidden Life: The Art of Bill Traylor. A sharecropper in rural Alabama for the better part of his life, Traylor moved to Montgomery in 1928, where for ten years he often sat on a street corner and created spare but powerful paintings that offered narratives of black life in the time of Jim Crow. Traylor’s work can be downright grim: rabid dogs, gun-toting hicks, and violent lynchings all figure prominently. At the same time, I can’t help but see a playful side in Traylor that evokes Matisse’s dancers and Miró’s surrealist figuration. It’s doubtful Traylor ever saw the work of these masters—Montgomery does bus boycotts better than modern art—but like all great artists, Traylor created a unique visual language that tells a complex story of a particular time and place.

I’m finally finding my voice as a painter. And though I might skew more Diebenkorn than Traylor, any progress I’ve made has come from a fuller appreciation of folk art and its ability to express ideas that are rarely found inside the walls of any gallery.

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26
Aug 15

Around the Press in 80 Books: The Earl of Louisiana

In celebration of LSUP’s 80th anniversary the staff selected 80 of our most memorable titles. Adding to our “Around the Press in 80 Books” blog series, Executive Editor Rand Dotson writes about The Earl of Louisiana.

The Earl of LouisianaA. J. Liebling, the celebrated New Yorker journalist, came to Louisiana in 1959 like dozens of other writers to cover the strange saga of the state’s governor, Earl K. Long, whose recent confinement to a state mental institution was making national news. Whether he had gone mad or not, Earl Long was sure to make a great story: like his brother Huey, he was a wildly entertaining populist and a master politician who rarely lost an election and was frequently at the center of one controversy or another. Elected three times to the governorship, Earl Long was already a Louisiana legend—“the last of the red hot papas” he dubbed himself—when his wife and political foes tried to curtail his reign by having him locked up in a Texas hospital for the mentally unstable. Their scheme ended in failure after Long arranged a transfer back to a Louisiana facility, fired the head of the state hospital system, and appointed an ally who immediately ordered his release.

At that point, most of the reporters covering this bizarre story departed. Liebling stayed, and over the following year, he wrote a series of dispatches about Long’s final days that chronicled an era of politics and political behavior so divorced from today’s political status quo that it is barely recognizable. Long was not just flamboyant, self-destructive, and outlandish; he was also someone that Liebling and his fans grew to admire as a serious advocate for array of progressive social issues, including black suffrage rights.

A year after Liebling’s stories about Long appeared in the New Yorker, he turned them into a book. Published initially in 1961, The Earl of Louisiana was nearly forgotten by 1970, when LSU Press republished it with a foreword by T. Harry Williams, an LSU historian and the author of the definitive biography of Huey Long. In print ever since, the book has gone on to garner national and international acclaim for both its subject matter and style, which is commonly cited as one of the first and finest examples of the sort of “new journalism” practiced later by writers like Tom Wolfe and Hunter S. Thompson.

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24
Aug 15

Around the Press in 80 Books: Mosquito Soldiers

In celebration of LSUP’s 80th anniversary the staff selected 80 of our most memorable titles. Adding to our “Around the Press in 80 Books” blog series, Managing Editor Lee Sioles writes about Mosquito Soldiers: Malaria, Yellow Fever, and the Course of the Civil War.

9780807135617One of the great things about working for a university press is that . . . you learn things. Our authors are experts: They know about hunting Nazis in Franco’s Spain or how animals were used by the military in World War II. They can tell you how to build a playground from scratch or what the word “gumbo” means (and several of them can tell you how to make one). They can explain why nudism had such a big vogue in France or why the secret southern society called the Knights of the Golden Circle failed in its attempt to annex Mexico. In fact, sometimes I find myself speaking with authority about something or other—and I almost can’t figure out where I got all this information on what seems a random topic.

Take mosquitos and the Civil War.

I think it’s fair to say I had never before thought much about this subject. If I had thought about it, I suppose I would have guessed that mosquitos might be an annoyance for troops sleeping in tents—or marching, on top of having to carry heavy rifles and wear wool uniforms.

But thanks to my work on Andrew McIlwaine Bell’s Mosquito Soldiers, I now know that, of the 620,000 soldiers who perished during the Civil War (still our most costly war ever), the overwhelming majority died—not from gunshot wounds or saber cuts—but from disease. And the most deadly of those diseases were two terrible mosquito-borne illnesses: malaria and yellow fever.

Bell’s slim, highly focused study contains a trove of amazing detail. The South’s huge mosquito population operated as a sort of mercenary third force that could work for or against either side, depending on the circumstances. The diseases could wipe out a whole army in a matter of weeks. Smart commanders took the threat into account in their planning, while others were taken completely by surprise by this menace. Bell reinterprets famous battles from this epidemiological perspective—and proves that the course of the Civil War would have run far differently without the massive presence of these tiny buzzing pests.

And now I know about this fascinating, frightening subject—and am ready to liven up any cocktail party by introducing the topic of mosquitos in combat, perhaps igniting a discussion of how environmental factors have acted, and will continue to act, as agents of change in history.

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19
Aug 15

Around the Press in 80 Books: The Herb Society of America’s Essential Guide to Growing and Cooking with Herbs

In celebration of LSUP’s 80th anniversary the staff selected 80 of our most memorable titles. Adding to our “Around the Press in 80 Books” blog series, Assistant Marketing Manager Kate Barton writes about The Herb Society of America’s Essential Guide to Growing and Cooking with Herbs.

9780807132555The Herb Society of America’s Essential Guide to Growing and Cooking with Herbs is a book that truly lives up to its name. Readers will find everything from growing tips to recipes, all in one handy resource. For the brave souls interested in starting their own herb garden, the gardening section offers information about where certain herbs thrive, when to pick them, and how they are best used. The sketches also help the inexperienced gardeners identify what the plant should look like.

I love browsing through the recipe section of the book and selecting recipes I would like to try. Herb Society members from all over the country contributed recipes, giving it the warmth and variety of a family cookbook where favorite recipes are shared. Readers can find all sorts of recipes for appetizers, salad dressings, soups, entrees, beverages, and desserts. The Pesto and Cream Cheese Round and the Rosemary Fizz punch are ones that I have earmarked for future parties. The Grilled Corn Dip would be great for those fall football tailgates. And Nannette’s Greek Orzo Salad sounds refreshing on these hot summer days. If you are thinking about starting an herb garden, or maybe just committing to using more fresh herbs in your cooking, this book is for you.

Buy this book now for 20% off and get free shipping on all orders over $50; use code 0480FAV at checkout. 


14
Aug 15

Around the Press in 80 Books: Dirtdobber Blues

In celebration of LSUP’s 80th anniversary the staff selected 80 of our most memorable titles. Adding to our “Around the Press in 80 Books” blog series, Senior Designer Michelle Neustrom writes about Dirtdobber Blues.

Dirtdobber BluesWhile doing jacket design research for Cyril Vetter’s novel about his almost-famous singer/songwriter friend Charles “Butch” Hornsby, I was surprised to find out that Butch was also an avid artist. Once he left the music business, Butch focused on creating paintings, sculptures, and collages using found objects from the woods or people’s trash. He used anything and everything: newspaper clippings, bottles, records, sign remnants, appliance parts, clothing, license plates, and other random discarded items. His chaotic collages are a stark contrast to his soulful guitar-playing musicians, but both strike a chord of authenticity.

Record BidnessWhen it came time to design the book cover, his painting titled Mommy, Look, The Man is Crying was chosen because it instantly conveyed music and emotion. And there was a nice open space in the top right corner for the title (always a plus). For this book, I didn’t want to just pick an appropriate typeface to go with the painting. Instead, I wanted to be like Butch and make something from nothing. I wanted to go out into the woods and gather materials and get my hands dirty!

Mommy Look, the Man is CryingWell, I didn’t make it as far as the woods–I searched around my office, found an old box, tore off the flaps, and painted the title Dirtdobber Blues on it with a pallet knife. It was not an exceptional piece of art, but it was more about the process and about being authentic. As a graphic designer, the majority of my time is spent on the computer. The physical process of making something is lost. Butch’s artwork prompted me to break from my normal routine and look at my surroundings in a different way.

I keep that poorly painted cardboard sign on top of a bookcase in my office (right next to a Goudchaux’s hat box, but that’s another story for another blog post). I see it everyday, and it reminds me to stop, observe, and get my hands dirty every once in a while.

Buy this book now for 20% off and get free shipping on all orders over $50; use code 0480FAV at checkout. 


12
Aug 15

Around the Press in 80 Books: Accalia and the Swamp Monster

In celebration of LSUP’s 80th anniversary the staff selected 80 of our most memorable titles. Adding to our “Around the Press in 80 Books” blog series, Associate Financial Operations Manager Leslie Green writes about Accalia and the Swamp Monster.

Creepy. That’s what I thought the first time I saw some of Kelli Scott Kelley’s work from this series at a gallery. But cool, and surreal. Very surreal. And then, after hearing her talk about the work, I thought, yep, very creepy and brilliant!

Not only is this work open to interpretation, that’s the whole point. It invites interpretation. And once one goes down the rabbit-hole of consciously thinking about interpretation, one must come to grips with the realization that this artwork, better than many, forces a person to see how his or her own experiences color everything in daily life. The other brilliant part of this book is that the images are very accessible, easy to read yet full of depth: simple drawings and paintings embellished with intriguing textiles.

It was exciting when this book project was presented to us at LSU Press. I knew the artist and had seen some of this work in person. While LSU Press is better known for its history lists, many of the staff here are keenly interested in contemporary art. We go to galleries and museums, and some of us are visual artists in addition to being editors and designers. And we’re proud of our fellow Louisiana artist.

I wholeheartedly recommend losing yourself in the experience that is Accalia and the Swamp Monster.

Buy this book now for 20% off and get free shipping on all orders over $50; use code 0480FAV at checkout. 


10
Aug 15

Around the Press in 80 Books: Casanova Was a Book Lover

In celebration of LSUP’s 80th anniversary the staff selected 80 of our most memorable titles. Adding to our “Around the Press in 80 Books” blog series, Assistant to the Director Erica Bossier writes about Casanova Was a Book Lover: And Other Naked Truths and Provocative Curiosities about the Writing, Selling, and Reading of Books.

Unlike many others at the Press, the focus of my work is on our books after they are printed, since subsidiary rights and permissions inquiries for scholarly books usually intensify after reviews of the books appear.

Working with our agents and the authors on these subrights is exciting, especially for translations. Think about all the countries around the world with books originally published by LSU Press!

Casanova Was a Book Lover: And Other Naked Truths and Provocative Curiosities about the Writing, Selling, and Reading of Books by John Maxwell Hamilton, which we published in 2000, provided me with some of my favorite subrights experiences in over 20 years working at the Press.  Publishers from many countries wanted to translate and print editions of this funny, informative, and accessible book, and that gave me the opportunity for new experiences with foreign publishers.

This book is definitely a book for people who love books and want to know about their history, so so it was especially satisfying to be involved and see the amazing range of positive responses and praise it earned.

Sometimes subsidiary rights can be frustrating, since we receive a lot of requests for consideration that fall through, but working on Casanova Was a Book Lover was exhilarating.

Buy this book now for 20% off and get free shipping on all orders over $50; use code 0480FAV at checkout.


05
Aug 15

Around the Press in 80 Books: Journalism’s Roving Eye

In celebration of LSUP’s 80th anniversary the staff selected 80 of our most memorable titles. Adding to our “Around the Press in 80 Books” blog series, Director MaryKatherine Callaway writes about Journalism’s Roving Eye: A History of American Foreign Reporting.

Journalism's Roving EyeOne of the joys of scholarly book publishing is bringing out a truly magisterial volume. The research, reflection, and rewriting that goes into such works is evident, and publishers know that another book on the topic cannot possibly eclipse the words in front of you.

Journalism’s Roving Eye fits this description. At 680 pages, its heft alone indicates a trove of information that, combined with Hamilton’s lively writing style, offers the definitive history of America’s foreign correspondents.

Lauded with a trifecta of prizes—the AJHA Book of the Year Award, the AEJMC Tankard Book Award, and the Goldsmith Book Prize—Hamilton’s book sweeps across history’s events and those who reported them, from Benjamin Franklin Bache (grandson of the other Benjamin Franklin) to Dorothy Thompson (one of the first female foreign correspondents) to David Halberstam (noted Vietnam reporter). Hamilton recounts the stories behind the reports to give us a complete history of foreign news-gathering, and creates a book that will stand as definitive for generations to come.

Buy this book now for 20% off and get free shipping on all orders over $50; use code 0480FAV at checkout.


03
Aug 15

Around the Press in 80 Books: Traditional Music in Coastal Louisiana

In celebration of LSUP’s 80th anniversary the staff selected 80 of our most memorable titles. Adding to our “Around the Press in 80 Books” blog series, designer Barbara Neely Bourgoyne writes about Traditional Music in Coastal Louisiana: The 1934 Lomax Recordings.

My friend Joseph said to me that Louisiana’s French culture is a mosaic like no other. He speaks fluent French beautifully. He is also a passionate advocate for preserving Louisiana’s history, culture, and language for future generations. Ask him anything on this subject and he will present a well-informed, impassioned answer. Without him, I’m not sure I would fully realize what a treasure we have in this book.

The French language in Louisiana has not always been cherished—quite the opposite actually. So it astounds me that in 1934, during the height of the Great Depression, John Lomax and his son Alan travelled around the Acadiana parishes with a 300–pound aluminum disk recorder collecting whatever traditional music they could find. The music they captured is typically described as Cajun or Creole, but what they actually found is a diverse amalgam of old medieval lays, Continental pop songs, blues ballads, round-dance songs, traditional ballads in French, a Scottish jig, and much more.

Luckily, a copy of those recordings was obtained by the Cajun and Creole Folklore Archives at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. That’s where Joshua Caffery came across this collection as a graduate student. He meticulously studied, transcribed, and translated every song, every snippet. Everything was treated with equal importance, and you can find them all in Traditional Music in Coastal Louisiana.

Alan Lomax believed that certain areas of the country had unique cultural resources that should be conserved for future generations,” Caffery has said. “I plan to continue that vision.” It’s a good vision.

Thank you, Joseph, for helping me see it.

Buy this book now for 20% off and get free shipping on all orders over $50; use code 0480FAV at checkout.


31
Jul 15

Around the Press in 80 Books: New Orleans on Parade

In celebration of LSUP’s 80th anniversary the staff selected 80 of our most memorable titles. Adding to our “Around the Press in 80 Books” blog series, Copy and Publicity Coordinator Jenny Keegan writes about New Orleans on Parade.

New Orleans on ParadeIf there’s one thing Louisianians love, aside from watching Drew Brees connect with Jimmy Graham for a fourth-quarter touchdown (sob), it’s pondering the historical forces that conspired to make us this awesome. I might actually make this a category in our seasonal catalogs from now on: Why Louisiana Is Better than Everyplace Else that Exists. Admit that you would read every book in that section and then passive-aggressively send copies of them to all your friends who moved out of state, in case they were in danger of forgetting what they’re missing.

Mark Souther’s New Orleans on Parade, first published in 2006, explores the development of the tourism industry in New Orleans, which moved along slightly different paths than in other southern cities that chose tourism over other forms of economic development:

New Orleans might have cut its tourist image wholly from the cloth of its historic architecture and Old South legacy, as did cities like Charleston and Savannah, had it not already become such a notorious magnet for hedonists.

Related: Please sign my Change.org petition to change the New Orleans city motto to A Notorious Magnet for Hedonists.

Souther explores the multitude of forces that shaped New Orleans and its tourist industry, from jazz to the space race, and from NFL football (I miss football so much, why is football season still so far away?) to the ever-expanding number of Mardi Gras krewes seeking street space during Carnival season. If you can’t get enough of learning what makes New Orleans so great (and a couple of ways in which it was and is not so great), New Orleans on Parade is for you.

(P.S. I can’t promise I won’t throw down with the first Seahawks fan I see wearing a Jimmy Graham jersey. Anyone want to pledge bail money for me?)

Buy this book now for 20% off and get free shipping on all orders over $50; use code 0480FAV at checkout.


29
Jul 15

Around the Press in 80 Books: Cruise of the Pintail

In celebration of LSUP’s 80th anniversary the staff selected 80 of our most memorable titles. Adding to our “Around the Press in 80 Books” blog series, Acquisitions Editor Margaret Lovecraft writes about Cruise of the Pintail.

WinansPINTAIL_jkt_sketchOn the pages of this book I met a captivating young man. Back in the early 1930s, he spent summers traveling through south Louisiana, filming a movie and taking photographs of the region’s waterway locales and peoples. Twenty-one years old, he and his two-friend crew drove to Louisiana in an old Model T from their home in Ft. Worth. Then, on a leaking, rudderless boat named Pintail, powered by the Model T’s battery, they navigated rivers and bayous from Morgan City to New Orleans to Grand Isle.

Photographer Fonville Winans (1911-1992) and his pictures are legendary in Louisiana (see also the LSU Press book Fonville Winans’ Louisiana, by Cyril E. Vetter).  A journal he kept for two of those summers gives voice to the artist as a young man, revealing a multitalented, spirited adventurer who with equal parts ease and effort made mechanical repairs, shot  photographs, played the sax, read literature, wrote eloquently, caught and cooked seafood,  cut a rug, charmed the girls, and marketed his film, Cruise of the “Pintail.” This book puts together his words and his pictures, the two completing each other.

Like “stills” that add up to “moving” pictures, Fonville’s journal entries constitute the flow of experience and thought.

Tuesday, June 13th:

Took on gas and oil at noon and got under way for New Orleans. Travelled the rest of the day through tropically beautiful cypress swamps and spent the night in a canal which hugged the State highway.

Thursday, June 15th:

This morning we pulled across the bayou under a giant oak that grew on a clam shell mound. A little way up the shore was an ancient graveyard. The land back of the tree spread away in tropical softness and in that softness nestled a rambling old plantation house. . . . Pretty soon a small party of girls came frolicking along the bank and as they were all comely, we lost no time in getting acquainted. We spent several pleasant hours with them and bid them goodbye with the promise to look them up in Gretna, where they lived. . . .

Monday, June 26th:

We got up at 4:30 and watched the sun rise in glorious beauty through the piled up clouds over the island. . . . At noon we all gathered on the porch of the lighthouse keeper’s home and had our lunch, and after that we scattered again, some to fishing, others to exploring, and I with camera on shoulder, to stalk the pelicans that had settled in great numbers on a sand bar up the beach. I made some telephoto pictures of them, using a pair of binoculars mounted on the lens of the camera.

In the afternoon we all boarded the “Pintail” and returned to Grande Isle with our handsome strings of trout and sheephead, and tonight we had the fish fry of our lives. We simply gorged. After that I drove to the boat and returned with my saxophone. Bob, Mrs. Farquar, Don and Marian danced while I played what tunes I knew.

Wearied, we returned to the boat late and battled mosquitoes while erecting the net. Even then several dozen of them got trapped inside and gave us a restless night.

As an acquisitions editor, I was immediately won over by Cruise of the “Pintail.”  A double exposure of south Louisiana and Fonville Winans in the 1930s, it depicts the origins of a reciprocal love affair.

Buy this book now for 20% off and get free shipping on all orders over $50, use code 0480FAV at checkout. 

 


24
Jul 15

Around the Press in 80 Books: The Cachoeira Tales

In celebration of LSUP’s 80th anniversary the staff selected 80 of our most memorable titles. Adding to our “Around the Press in 80 Books” blog series, Associate Financial Operations Manager Leslie Green writes about The Cachoeira Tales.

UntitledMarilyn Nelson has been publishing with LSU Press since 1978 and is one of our most popular poets. Her poems are regularly reprinted in literary studies textbooks and collections. Ten years ago we published her fourth poetry collection, The Cachoeira Tales. The word cachoeira is Portuguese, meaning waterfall, but it is also a place name, an inland town of Bahia, Brazil. (As for pronouncing it, she told her editor, “Think of a man whose name is Cash O’Era.”) In this collection she writes about traveling to many places, including an adventure in Brazil. She is a very funny, entertaining person to be around and it shows in her poetry. I wish I could spend a week traveling with her, but this book is the next best thing!

Buy this book now for 20% off and get free shipping on all orders over $50, use code 0480FAV at checkout. 


20
Jul 15

Around the Press in 80 Books: Mencken on Mencken

In celebration of LSUP’s 80th anniversary the staff selected 80 of our most memorable titles. Adding to our “Around the Press in 80 Books” blog series, Marketing Manager Erin Rolfs writes about Mencken on Mencken.

9780807135921I think the vast majority of people immediately go to Edgar Allen Poe when you string the words “writer” and “Baltimore” together. Then a few of us with a tighter grip on contemporary pop culture might point to The Wire’s David Simon or the newly released memoir Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. In fact, many notable authors—Edna St. Vincent Millay to John Waters spring to mind—have called Baltimore home at some point in their lives. But with all due respect to this fine company of crab cake–eating wordsmiths, the Baltimorean writer I re-read the most is H. L. Mencken.

My first introduction to him was in high school—back when I was sure I was going to be a journalist—and the teacher who oversaw the student newspaper passed out Mencken’s editorial on the Scopes Monkey Trial, published in the Baltimore Sun in 1923. His summary contained the following:

 

The Scopes trial, from the start, has been carried on in a manner exactly fitted to the anti-evolution law and the simian imbecility under it. There hasn’t been the slightest pretense to decorum. The rustic judge, a candidate for re-election, has postured the yokels like a clown in a ten-cent side show, and almost every word he has uttered has been an undisguised appeal to their prejudices and superstitions.

 

Once I found my way around Mencken’s penchant for swift verbal jibes and the parlance of the 1920s—this alone required a dictionary and an encyclopedia (it was 1997 after all, and I still had to crack a spine to “search” for something)—I was shocked. I didn’t know you could be so brutal in print, especially when treading the thin topical ice of religion and science, and I certainly didn’t think anyone in the entire era of the typewriter ever published anything so scathing in a mainstream newspaper.

Later, as I pursued a journalism minor in college, Mencken popped up again in a lecture on op-eds. I was captivated by both his grumpy, unforgiving attitude and his sharp observations. He seemed enlightened and despondent, empathetic and critical, progressive and bigoted. For instance, in his 1918 book, In the Defense of Women, he writes:

 

The truth is that neither sex, without some fertilization by the complementary characters of the other, is capable of the highest reaches of human endeavor. Man, without a saving touch of woman in him, is too doltish, too naive and romantic, too easily deluded and lulled to sleep by his imagination to be anything above a cavalryman, a theologian or a stock-broker. And woman, without some trace of that divine innocence which is masculine, is too harshly the realist for those vast projections of the fancy which lie at the heart of what we call genius. Here, as elsewhere in the universe, the best effects are obtained by a mingling of elements.

 

That’s a really bold stance to take even today—let alone prior to women winning the right to vote—as we grapple with the meaning of gender. Point Mencken. One is tempted to keep reading his work, lured in by his frank embrace of equality. “I believe in complete freedom of thought and speech,” he pronounced, “alike for the humblest man and the mightiest, and in the utmost freedom of conduct that is consistent with living in organized society.” But, low and behold, eventually you will get snagged on the gratuitous use (which could be anything above zero, but for him ranks in the dozens) of the word “darkie,” a pretty strong tinge of anti-Semitic language, and numerous disparaging remarks regarding the tastes of the poor, the rural, and the undereducated. Demerit Mencken. I continue to struggle with my affinity and disgust for him. I don’t know that I’ll ever make up my mind to love or loathe him.

In LSU Press’s book Mencken on Mencken, edited by S. T. Joshi, we can delve into the writer’s life in Baltimore, his work as a journalist and author, and his world travels. In the process, we gain a lot of insight into the man and the humanity that surrounded him in his own words. Throughout, you can neither avoid his direct, witty, and socialist take nor his capacity for both perception and pitilessness. But you do have to wrestle with the fact that he has trouble perceiving his own privilege. At times he allows his talent for “calling it like it is” to interfere with a deeper introspection that could have produced a more meaningful story. But a book like Mencken on Mencken allows us to explore the mind of a controversial figure without applying the bias he was so fond of espousing.

What we gain as a result is, if not unconditional admiration, an appreciation for the tradition of debate in America over sexism, religion, nationalism, modernization, and politics. Without the beautifully outspoken and albeit irritating lot like Mencken, these topics would remain taboo discussions in the mainstream and, all thoughts on Creationism aside, decidedly less evolved.

Buy this book now for 20% off and get free shipping on all orders over $50, use code 0480FAV at checkout. 


15
Jul 15

Around the Press in 80 Books: Shadow Box

In celebration of LSUP’s 80th anniversary the staff selected 80 of our most memorable titles. Adding to our “Around the Press in 80 Books” blog series, Digital Initiatives and Database Manager Bobby Keane writes about Shadow Box.
Untitled“Poetry is meant to be read aloud.” That is what I was taught in the 8th grade. I still remember my teacher, Mrs. Chadwick, standing in front of the classroom, punctuating each word for emphasis. A few days later, she had us bring a poem of our choice and read it to the class. I selected lyrics to a song by Megadeth. It was poetry to my thirteen-year-old ears. The memory sticks out because I caused a minor scandal—the lyrics contained an objectionable word (another name for a female dog). I read it aloud with relish and enjoyed my classmates’ reactions.

By the time I was in college, I understood that poetry was more than just setting lyrics to music. I had come to think of poetry as a form of drama—something to be performed, not just read aloud. I was particularly attracted to unconventional poetry—like that of E. E. Cummings—and the challenges and surprises that came with figuring out how to read it aloud.

The poems in Fred Chappell’s Shadow Box are definitely meant to be heard. Because of their unique style, however, they also must be seen—each poem in the collection contains a poem within a poem.

The description on the book jacket explains it best:

“Like the shadow box in the volume’s title, each piece consists of an inner world contained, framed, supported by an outer—the two interdependent, sometimes supplementary, often contrary.”

“In the Retirement Home: Revenant”

Cleaning her comb, she finds a remnant trace—
and sighs. She lays this single hair, this one
revenant that gives lie to truth, a lone
survivor, across the palm of her hand; her gaze
transfixed conjures in near despair to erase
from mind the glory that was Youth, this sun-
shine thread, the grandeur that was Blonde, now done:
one golden strand among the thousand grays.

Read it aloud once all the way through. Then read it again, focusing on just the italicized parts. Then again, reading only the unitalicized text. With each reading you find yourself being drawn into the image of this elderly woman, so much so that you feel you are standing with her as she makes this discovery.

A lesser poet might attempt to shoehorn words together to make this poem-within-a-poem technique work. However, Chappell’s poems-within-poems feel natural, never forced. As brilliant as this technique is, it wouldn’t be nearly as impressive if it weren’t for the profundity of his words.

“Shadow Box” (stanza 2)

Poor Ghost, you are no more than a guess
Of priest and sage, no more than nothingness dressed out
In cobweb rhetoric, wherein the mind in doubt
To calm itself must try to find its nakedness
A mortal sheltering for a time so brief
On earth its grave distress is its whole life.

I am not a poet and I fear that I cannot sufficiently state how amazing this book is. So, instead, I will conclude with poet Sarah Lindsay’s thoughts on Shadow Box:

“Fred Chappell’s poems-within-poems are serious play, verbal origami in dimensions of heart, mind, and spirit. They engage our brains whole, that we may delight in their skill as we dwell on their weight.”

Buy this book now for 20% off and get free shipping on all orders over $50, use code 0480FAV at checkout. 


13
Jul 15

Death of a Civil Rights Icon: D’Army Bailey

Upon hearing the sad news of Judge D’Army Bailey’s death, executive editor Rand Dotson reflects upon the publication of his 2009 memoir, The Education of a Black Radical.

Occasionally all acquisitions editors receive a gift in the form of a manuscript that they start reading and cannot put down. In my case, that happened when Judge D’Army Bailey’s memoir landed on my desk. I remember taking it to lunch, then later to coffee, only putting it down to attend a meeting, and finishing it by the close of day. The Judge had phoned me earlier that week to gauge my possible interest in his work. I remember politely explaining that LSU Press rarely publishes memoirs, and then trying to recall his role in the well-known Hollywood films that he mentioned appearing in. Mostly I remember the Judge telling me that I would want to publish his life story and me thinking that this was highly unlikely. I am not often wrong, but when I am, I am wrong spectacularly.

After LSU Press published the Judge’s Education of a Black Radical: A Southern Civil Rights Activist’s Journey, 1959-1964, he came to Baton Rouge to speak at Southern University about his experiences there as well as to LSU to speak to students about the fight for racial equality. On both occasions, I was in the audience along with students and faculty, listening to the Judge’s description of leading protests against Jim Crow laws in downtown Baton Rouge and getting expelled from Southern for his actions, even though he was class president. In both instances, the Judge received standing ovations.

My initial thoughts upon hearing of the passing of Judge Bailey were that he was an absolute gentleman and that he was on the right side of history at a time when being so was a sure way to ruin your life.


17
Jun 15

Around the Press in 80 Books: The Next Elvis

In celebration of LSUP’s 80th anniversary the staff selected 80 of our most memorable titles. Adding to our “Around the Press in 80 Books” blog series, Assistant Production Manager and Designer Amanda Scallan writes about The Next Elvis.

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Yeah, I’m an Elvis fan and I have been one for as long as I can remember. I could blog on being an Elvis fan for hours, but I won’t do that now. I will mention that I have a lovely collection of Elvis memorabilia—my favorite is a velvet painting of the King himself. And I have taken my husband and son to Memphis to educate them on the history of Graceland and Sun Records.

So as a lifelong fan of the King and a professional book designer, I was beyond thrilled by the opportunity to design Barbara Barnes Sims’s The Next Elvis: Searching for Stardom at Sun Records. I was so impressed with the fact that Sims worked for Sam Phillips—the visionary who discovered and recorded Elvis Presley—at Sun. Her book relates not only what it was like to work as a woman in a male-dominated industry, it also tells the story of the musicians she met whose careers were then on the rise, including Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Charlie Rich, and Johnny Cash. Theirs was music I was familiar with, and I wanted to capture the feel of early 1960s Memphis—when rock and roll music reigned—as well as the iconic look of Sun Records. For the cover design I used background art that mimicked the Sun Records “sun rays.” The only image I felt appropriate was a lone microphone—a microphone similar to the one that many of the recording artists of the era used at Sun. It is placed in the center of a circle with a stark white background to convey the feel of a spotlight. The display fonts I chose for the title and subtitle are sans serifs to reflect the time period as well.

When I met Sims in person, I was speechless. She was a part of the legacy that was Sun Records. Though she was only employed there for three years, she was a participant in the creative force that helped establish the careers of so many famous and talented musicians. I really like the opening sentence in her preface: “Lighting doesn’t strike twice in the same place—everybody knows that. But they still came.”  There will never be another Elvis, but Barbara Barnes Sims tells of the many musicians who wanted to be. I am more than impressed. I am awestruck.

Buy this book now for 20% off and get free shipping on all orders over $50, use code 0480FAV at checkout. 


15
Jun 15

Around the Press in 80 Books: Gardening in the Humid South

In celebration of LSUP’s 80th anniversary the staff selected 80 of our most memorable titles. Adding to our “Around the Press in 80 Books” blog series, Assistant Director Laura Gleason writes about Gardening in the Humid South.

Gardening in the Humid SouthLeon Standifer and Ed O’Rourke made a great team. Leon once told me if you eat the plant, it’s his specialty but if it looks pretty, it’s Ed’s. So, these two self-proclaimed “crotchety old horticulture professors” embarked on a journey to co-write a book (at the pleadings of our former sales manager, Claudette) that utilizes both of their specialties. Gardening in the Humid South is the result, and it is packed with the wisdom they gained over many years teaching and practicing the art of horticulture.

In this book they write about everything you need to know from starting a garden and the tools of the trade to rooting, fertilizer, lawn care, and even how to make potting mixes. It is the kind of book that you can read through or skip around in to read just what you need at the moment. (There is even a small section on coffee—one of their favorite subjects.)

I am fond of Ed and Leon’s direct, no-nonsense style of writing. I love that the chapter on potted plants called “Pots ’n’ Plants” begins with: “We want you to know that there is no such thing as a green thumb. Be patient, give your plants consistent care, and recognize that the environment of a potted plant is substantially different from what it would be out in the flower bed. This chapter will help you to understand the differences. Make yourself a fresh pot of coffee, take a few sips, and read for a while.” This folksy, conversational approach to the subject is a welcome change from other gardening books I have read. It makes you want to do just that: get a cup of coffee, get comfortable, and read that chapter. No such thing as a green thumb! Tell me more!

These authors simplify their subject matter, and their encouragement makes you feel that you can accomplish anything you set out to do and that, despite the hard work, gardening is fun. If you love gardening—or even if you just have a few plants living with you that you want to keep alive—and if you live in the humid south, this book is for you.

Buy this book now for 20% off and get free shipping on all orders over $50, use code 0480FAV at checkout. 


12
Jun 15

Around the Press in 80 Books: Along the River Road

In celebration of LSUP’s 80th anniversary the staff selected 80 of our most memorable titles. Adding to our “Around the Press in 80 Books” blog series, Director MaryKatherine Callaway writes about Along the River Road.

SternbergRIVERROAD_covfrontOne day in 2003, not long after I moved to Louisiana, I got turned around leaving the maze of campus streets and found myself on an odd, lightly-traveled road: a mix of farms, historic buildings (some in an advanced state of decrepitude), industries, half-overgrown fields, neatly plowed fields, wild meadows—always with the Mississippi River’s levee running along one side.

Intrigued to know more, I was delighted to find on the Press’s list a remarkable book devoted to this historic roadway. Along the River Road is a perfect companion for exploring this area either in person or vicariously. Offering historically precise details combined with keen observations on its current attractions, this lively and informative book entertains and informs.

First published in 1996 and now in its third edition, Along the River Road offers accurate and thoroughly-researched information and insights into a crucial route for trade and travel. The Mississippi River provided the vital link between Northern and Southern towns in what was at one time “the West,” and the river still plays a key role in transporting goods. The fascinating stories of the many families who lived along Louisiana’s river road, the commerce of the area, and the inevitable disasters associated with such a powerful body of water provide compelling reading and a wonderful guide to the area. Get a copy now because you never know when you might find yourself there.

Buy this book now for 20% off and get free shipping on all orders over $50, use code 0480FAV at checkout. 


10
Jun 15

Around the Press in 80 Books: The Opposite House

In celebration of LSUP’s 80th anniversary the staff selected 80 of our most memorable titles. Adding to our “Around the Press in 80 Books” blog series, Designer Barbara Bourgoyne writes about The Opposite House.

EmersonOPPOSITE_jktfront(HR)Part of our distinguished Southern Messenger Poets series, The Opposite House is Claudia Emerson’s sixth book of poems published by LSU Press. It is also the fifth book of Claudia’s that I had the privilege to design.

It’s difficult for me to write about Claudia’s work without writing about her. They are so intricately connected, one cannot exist without the other. Claudia was gracious and funny, and had such an exuberance for life that it was infectious. She brought out the best in everything that she touched, including the people around her. And during the time that she was working on this collection, when she was writing about the harsh realities of aging and the limitations of the human body, she was also experiencing them. She intensely felt the loneliness, fear, and anger that can accompany us as we live. She was dying, yet she wouldn’t give up writing—even when her own body betrayed her and she wasn’t able to hold a pen. She wrote.

I came across an interview she gave in the spring of 2013 with Susannah Mintz. In this interview (which can be found here in its entirety at http://poems.com/special_features/prose/essay_mintz_emerson.php), Claudia said a few things about her work that I feel resonate in The Opposite House, as well as in those collections before it.

“History is always a function of the present, whether a shared, cultural history or a personal one. Museums are filled with objects, artifacts that imply the narrative of a life, give evidence of the work or joy of a life—and most of us collect the stuff of our own museums, in attics and cellars, the objects that become catalysts for memory, for narrative.

“I am extremely aware of the passing of time, sometimes too aware! . . . My lens happens to be language, the highly ordered language of poetry. It’s a slow exposure, though, and a poem can take anywhere from days to years for me to bring it to its finest clarity. My forms have indeed been quite spare but can also become quite language-rich, with long dense lines. This could change, I know—but I sometimes find that the more personal and the more extreme the emotional subject or context, the more spare the form I choose, to distill the emotion, perhaps, and certainly to restrain what could so easily be overwritten.

“Yes! I am aware of the knife-edge we walk as artists when we realize that the compulsion to write the hard emotions refuses to be ignored. I am not alone in telling my students that when emotions are hard and overwhelming, the way to come at them is from the side, the “slant” that Emily Dickinson advocates, and to look “small”—to focus in on the object, the detail that might have just the metaphoric resonance you need. But I have also been accused of coldness for trying to exercise such restraint, and I suppose that will always be the risk, one I am obviously willing to take time and again.”

Buy this book now for 20% off and get free shipping on all orders over $50, use code 0480FAV at checkout. 


08
Jun 15

Around the Press in 80 Books: The New Orleans of Lafcadio Hearn

In celebration of LSUP’s 80th anniversary the staff selected 80 of our most memorable titles. Adding to our “Around the Press in 80 Books” blog series, Copy and Publicity Coordinator Jenny Keegan writes about The New Orleans of Lafcadio Hearn.

Known for his lively depictions of Gilded Age New Orleans and a vast array of writing about Japan, Lafcadio Hearn had a cartoonishly awful childhood. Ditched by both of his parents when they took off for (separate) warmer climes, then later sent off to America with good wishes by his aunt, whom he never heard from again, Hearn was ultimately plunked down in Cincinnati at the age of nineteen with $25 to his name.

Instead of giving up all hope and dying of hunger in a back alley as I would have done (I lack pioneer spirit), Hearn forged himself into a sensationalist journalist for the Cincinnati Daily Enquirer’s murder beat. In 1877 he upped sticks and moved to New Orleans, of which he said, “It is better to live here in sackcloth and ashes, than to own the whole State of Ohio.” Stop it, Lafcadio, you’re making everyone blush. (Except Ohio. Ohio’s over there sharpening pitchforks.)

But Hearn’s journalism about New Orleans was hardly panegyric. The New Orleans of Lafcadio Hearn, edited by Delia LaBarre, brings together a collection of Hearn’s 1880 satirical writing and cartoons for the Daily City Item. The collection gives us Lafcadio Hearn at his most curmudgeonly, as he waxes poetical about everything in New Orleans that draws his ire, from foot traffic—

And for the same reason that some folks walk four abreast with disgusting slowness so that busy and energetic people must go into the middle of the street to pass;—

So do wagon drives persist in slowly driving beside street cars on narrow streets instead of driving before or behind, and leaving the thoroughfares clear to others.

—to disrespectful house servants—

The naughty nurse maid hates quiet, respectable elderly looking people, and occasionally runs a perambulator over their toes just for the fun of “making them mad.”

—to the first electric lights in the city’s West End.

The insects hung about the lights like thin clouds about the face of the moon. . . . They entered Micholet’s restaurant uninvited, and pounced like Harpies upon the viands, spoiling what they could not carry away. . . . It seems not improbable that the electric lights exercise a certain fascination upon them, and perhaps also the sound of music; for mosquitoes have a fine ear for harmony.

Hearn brings the hazards and frustrations of the Gilded Age to vivid life in these vignettes, accentuated with meticulously carved woodcuts and endnotes by Labarre that clarify the political and social contexts for Hearn’s satire. A tribute to a long-lost—yet still familiar—iteration of the Crescent City, The New Orleans of Lafcadio Hearn offers a fascinating depiction of the frustrations and joys of life in New Orleans in the 1880s.

Buy this book now for 20% off and get free shipping on all orders over $50, use code 0480FAV at checkout. 


06
Jun 15

Around the Press in 80 Books: Loyal Forces

In celebration of LSUP’s 80th anniversary the staff selected 80 of our most memorable titles. Adding to our “Around the Press in 80 Books” blog series, Acquisitions Editor Margaret Lovecraft writes about Loyal Forces.

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With the recent observance of Memorial Day as well as V-E & D-Day anniversaries, our gratitude swells for those men and women who have served to keep our country safe and our freedom secure. Until working on the book Loyal Forces, though, I had no idea of the important role animals played in assisting American soldiers during the Second World War.

In 2010, the World War II Museum in New Orleans mounted an exhibit on this subject. When curators Toni Kiser and Lindsey Barnes gave me a tour, we saw the potential for a book that could reach people across the country and beyond. The World War II Museum and LSU Press partnered to bring Loyal Forces into being, with authors Toni and Lindsey expanding upon their existing research to offer even more information and images than were featured in the exhibit.

Dogs, mules, pigeons, horses, bats, and spiders aided the war effort in various capacities on battlefront and home front. Loyal Forces explores each species’s contributions in fascinating detail, including recruitment, training, deployment, care, achievements, and postwar life. Period images vividly capture these creatures and their activities, as do photos of their special equipment, certificates, medals, and other artifacts.

Take dogs: Over 10,000 were trained for duty, almost all of them volunteered by their civilian owners. Most served on the home front to patrol the borders, though some 3,000 were sent into combat as sled pullers, messengers, scouts, and mine detectors. Individual stories of bravery and heroism abound, including that of Smoky, a Yorkshire terrier who endured 150 air raids and a typhoon. Because of her small size, she was able to run a telegraph wire through a seventy-foot-long, eight-inch-diameter pipe within a few minutes—something that would have taken humans three days to accomplish. Another example is Caesar, a German shepherd who took a bullet close to his heart but survived and returned to duty three weeks later.

One of the running jokes at the Press is that given the popularity of cats and of the subject of the Civil War, if we could publish a book on “Cats of the Civil War,” we would have a guaranteed best seller. Well, there are cats in Loyal Forces! See them in the chapter on pets and mascots, those animals who provided companionship and moral support to the troops.

Words that come to mind regarding the American animal forces of World War II are respect and admiration: respect and admiration for their amazing and various abilities, for the human ingenuity to utilize those abilities in defense of liberty, for the trust between handler and animal, and for the dedication—sometimes unto death—in seeing a mission through to completion. Loyal Forces keeps alive the memory of these animals’ special service to our country.

Buy this book now for 20% off and get free shipping on all orders over $50, use code 0480FAV at checkout. 


05
Jun 15

Around the Press in 80 Books: My Bright Midnight

In celebration of LSUP’s 80th anniversary the staff selected 80 of our most memorable titles. Adding to our “Around the Press in 80 Books” blog series, Marketing Manager Erin Rolfs writes about My Bright Midnight.

RussellBRIGHT_covfrontHRTo be honest, I find debates about the merit of ebooks versus their wrinkly, smelly ol’ print counterparts tiresome, especially when the speculation revolves around qualitatively comparing the two in an effort to make one the victor. Save for the economic implications, once the “e” against “p” argument veers into claims of aesthetics, tactile experience, and portability, and starts to whiff of nostalgia or hyperneophilia I tend to tap out.

Yet despite my resistance to cheerlead for one format over the other, when I started writing this blog for my eightieth-anniversary pick I could not imagine selecting this title if I had read it digitally, and that made me question my neutrality a little bit.

Every time I glance at the cover of Josh Russell’s My Bright Midnight—which LSUP published as part of the Yellow Shoe Fiction series—and my eyes catch the cheery profile of a blonde in a turquoise bathing suit, flying over a checkerboard sea, I feel at once the panic, loneliness, excitement, and timidity of spending my twenty-eighth birthday alone on a six-hour train ride from Paris to Cannes.

In the summer of 2010, I was two weeks away from starting my job at the Press but had planned a vacation months prior, so I took a galley of Russell’s novel to read during my travels. I didn’t consider how the shadows of time and place would deposit themselves into this book, how I would look on Russell’s novel as a token that granted passage from one point in my life to another.

The main character in My Bright Midnight, Walter Schmidt, is a German immigrant living in New Orleans during World War II. Though he moved to the city over a decade before the war began and despite his efforts to acclimate, the memory of his father—who was presumably slain by U.S. troops in WWI—the bad blood with his cousin Andreas, and the growing American disdain for German heritage keep Walter suspended between two loyalties, between two visions of himself.

Many episodes where Walter is causally called a “kraut” at best or a “Nazi” at worst, are paired with moments in which he believes his American-ness is fully realized—a family trip to the beach, an Uptown home, and a demonstrated love of movies, baseball, and fried food. But you are never allowed to fully sympathize with Walter. He makes selfish, hurtful decisions perhaps out of jealousy for the man he isn’t and can’t ever become. So you’re stuck too, with Walter Schmidt, in a state of seemingly endless transition, much like being on a long train ride, in a foreign place, headed toward a destination you’ve never been to before, surrounded by strangers.

Walter’s life—composed of hardship, loss, confusion, and deceit—bears no resemblance to the privilege of traveling abroad or getting a new job. But that book, on a personal level, shook lose the fears of being unfit for your own ideal—whether in relationships or professionally—and on a bigger level, the consequences of humanity’s targeted prejudice. Now, every time I see this fair-haired variation of Ester Williams frozen in midair at the peak of excitement like Mardi Gras beads snagged on a tree limb, I’m reminded of the insidious nature of past, the volatility of the present, and the hopes we pin on the future. Those notions wouldn’t have had the opportunity to tap me on the shoulder if the book were buried inside my Kindle app. The omnipotent digital edition lacks the substance to carry such a weighty memory, and it could truly be never there, on that train with me, only on a server in Palo Alto or Seattle.

So I have to concede that physical books, for me, are mementos of the story therein as well as the time in which I read them. They represent the person who gave me the object or place I acquired it. They become diplomats returning from a particular episode in my life to negotiate what lies ahead. I know that Walter is still with me because I can still see him even when I’m not looking for him.

Buy this book now for 20% off and get free shipping on all orders over $50, use code 0480FAV at checkout.