30
Jun 15

Around the Press in 80 Books: Under Stately Oaks

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 Under Stately Oaks.

080713211XGrowing up in Baton Rouge with parents who are LSU alums, I always knew that I would make LSU my home during my college years.  Like most tigers-in-training, I donned the purple and gold proudly, watched football and baseball games with my dad, and learned all the cheers and chants that fill the air on game day.  However, LSU is more than just purple and gold and sports.  It has a rich history that is intricately tied with the history of Louisiana and the nation.

Under Stately Oaks details LSU’s growth over the years, from its military roots to its academic achievements.  I have always thought that one of the unique characteristics of LSU students and alumni is their dedication to service of others, whether through ROTC and the military or through public service and volunteer opportunities.  This book explains how that culture came to be.  LSU’s roots in military service and its status as a land grant institution intricately tied it to the community around it.  Education was no longer reserved for the rich or devoted to classical studies.  Land grants and funding from the government allowed the university to grow and offer more classes in emerging fields related to agriculture and industry.  The educational connection to Louisiana’s needs continues at the university today, with classes and research facilities dedicated to studying the coast or preparing students for careers in the entertainment industry.

This revised edition carries LSU’s history through the university’s response to Hurricane Katrina.  Soon after the hurricane swept through Louisiana, LSU became the center of many relief efforts.  The Pete Maravich Assembly Center housed emergency medical operations, the Parker Coliseum served as the temporary home for many displaced animals, and many students and staff members volunteered to help the hurricane victims.  I started working at LSU Press in April 2005, about four months before the hurricane.  The atmosphere at the university after the hurricane was strange.  We often heard helicopters flying overhead, breaking the peace in our usually quiet offices on the lake.  However, I think most would agree that, although it was a bit hectic around the university at that time, we couldn’t imagine doing anything else but giving back to those in need.  It made me even more proud to be an LSU tiger.

This book serves as a sort of family photo album, highlighting the highs and lows of LSU over the years.  Readers will enjoy learning more about the people, buildings, and traditions that make LSU the great university that it is.

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


25
Jun 15

Around the Press in 80 Books: Alive Together

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 Alive Together.

UntitledAlive Together by Lisel Mueller was published in 1996 and won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry.  Lisel’s poetry touches so many people and the number of requests the press receives to reprint her poems doesn’t seem to diminish with each passing year.  This is one of my favorite poems:

Monet Refuses the Operation

By Lisel Mueller

Doctor, you say there are no haloes

around the streetlights in Paris

and what I see is an aberration

caused by old age, an affliction.

I tell you it has taken me all my life

to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,

to soften and blur and finally banish

the edges you regret I don’t see,

to learn that the line I called the horizon

does not exist and sky and water,

so long apart, are the same state of being.

Fifty-four years before I could see

Rouen cathedral is built

of parallel shafts of sun,

and now you want to restore

my youthful errors: fixed

notions of top and bottom,

the illusion of three-dimensional space,

wisteria separate

from the bridge it covers.

What can I say to convince you

the Houses of Parliament dissolve

night after night to become

the fluid dream of the Thames?

I will not return to a universe

of objects that don’t know each other,

as if islands were not the lost children

of one great continent.  The world

is flux, and light becomes what it touches,

becomes water, lilies on water,

above and below water,

becomes lilac and mauve and yellow

and white and cerulean lamps,

small fists passing sunlight

so quickly to one another

that it would take long, streaming hair

inside my brush to catch it.

To paint the speed of light!

Our weighted shapes, these verticals,

burn to mix with air

and change our bones, skin, clothes

to gases.  Doctor,

if only you could see

how heaven pulls earth into its arms

and how infinitely the heart expands

to claim this world, blue vapor without end.

Lisel Mueller, “Monet Refuses the Operation” from Second Language

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


23
Jun 15

Around the Press in 80 Books: Eldest Daughter

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 Eldest Daughter.

HaymonELDESTcovfrontEven devoted readers of poetry are often unaware of the complexities of the sestina. Many well-known poets (Ezra Pound, Algernon Charles Swinburne, Elizabeth Bishop) have written memorable sestinas, but for me no one can top sestinas written by Ava Leavell Haymon.  And in Eldest Daughter, Haymon gives us some of her finest sestinas in print.

Attributed to a 12th century troubadour, the sestina presents a strict pattern for poets to follow, similar to its more straightforward cousin, the sonnet. Briefly, sestinas repeat the initial six end-words of the first stanza through five more six-line stanzas, and then end in a final three-line stanza.

This deceptively simple but extremely difficult poetic form has defeated many poets, whose sestinas simply limp along until they stop.

Not so in Haymon’s poems. Her lively sestinas move the action along at a brisk pace, and reward re-readings.

Anyone can enjoy Eldest Daughter without giving the sestina a thought, but finding them and watching them unfurl in well-crafted stanzas can increase your delight as you read these fine poems.

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


22
Jun 15

Around the Press in 80 Books: Late Wife

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 Late Wife.

UntitledDifferent poems appeal to different readers, and our diverse poetry list offers everyone a range of styles, forms, subject matter, and voices.  But occasionally poems come along that seem to resonate with readers universally, and Late Wife by Claudia Emerson is one such collection. Intense, funny, mystical, and always wise—Emerson’s much admired and appreciated poems have garnered broad praise, including the 2006 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry.

We so enjoyed witnessing her receive this honor:  the luncheon in the august library at Columbia University in New York, the thrill when she was awarded the prize, and the delight of Claudia’s beaming smile throughout that day.

Happily, she visited Baton Rouge soon after the Pulitzer event and read from this remarkable and often-lauded book. Her words soared out across the audience that night, and when she finished there was a beat of silence–as listeners sat awed and spellbound–before the rapturous applause began.

Every day, we miss this gifted poet, who passed away in December 2014, but we are fortunate to have her collections to pore over, and we still hear her poetic voice on page.  Late Wife will continue to offer its gifts to readers 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. 


19
Jun 15

Around the Press in 80 Books: Shaking Up Prohibition in New Orleans

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 Shaking Up Prohibition in New Orleans: Authentic Vintage Cocktails from A to Z.

LeonhardtSHAKING_covfront(HR)Imagine going through your long-deceased grandmother’s artwork and coming across a paper-clipped manuscript from the late 1920s titled “Letters from a Shaker.” Inside are twenty-six pen-and-ink illustrations—one for each letter of the alphabet—and accompanying each letter is a typed poem and one or more cocktail recipes. The vivid drawings depict drunkenness and debauchery and . . . wait . . . your grandmother is the illustrator!

Well, that is exactly what happened to Gay Leonhardt. In 1978, Gay inherited loads of her late grandmother’s original artwork and papers. She kept them in storage for thirty years before moving them to her basement about a decade ago. Not long after, her basement flooded and she frantically removed all the artwork from the boxes. That’s when she discovered this manuscript written by Olive Leonhardt and Hilda Phelps Hammond.

After doing some digging, Gay discovered that both Olive and Hilda attended Newcomb College, worked together in the New Orleans suffrage movement, and moved in the same social circles. They were both considered independent, outspoken, and well-read. Olive was an established artist, and Hilda was a natural leader with a master’s degree in English. At some point in late 1929 or early 1930, they collaborated to create this humorous look at Prohibition. The poems and illustrations poke fun at drunkenness, prohibition, doctors prescribing alcohol, drinking games, speakeasies, hangovers, homemade brew, and social norms. The recipes they included require quite an extensive list of alcoholic ingredients. It’s certainly ironic this collection was written during Prohibition, but it must not have been too challenging to obtain liquor in the Big Easy.

Olive and Hilda most likely never intended to publish this work; it was just something fun to do, a creative outlet. One can only hope that they shared the drawings at a party with close friends and made some of the forbidden cocktail recipes. Now, eighty-five years later, Shaking Up Prohibition in New Orleans has been published by LSU Press for all to read and enjoy. So grab a copy and shake up your favorite speakeasy-era cocktail. Cheers Olive and Hilda!

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


18
Jun 15

Around the Press in 80 Books: The Strict Economy of Fire

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 Strict Economy of Fire.

UntitledI have known Ava Leavell Haymon for many years. When I first met her, she was already a notable poet on the ascent. She was always a delight to be around, partly due to the way she constantly analyzed and explored the life around her.

In the early 1990s, Ava had just returned from her trip to Nepal and I remember how very excited she was about it. She had just picked up her slides from the photo shop and was a bit overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of them. Another friend and I immediately volunteered to view the slides with her. For us it was out of a selfish desire to enjoy the scenery and hear the narration but I like to think we may have helped her process things a little, too.

A little over a decade later my career path led me to work at LSU Press. Lo and behold, Ava had just signed a publishing contract with LSU Press for her first book, The Strict Economy of Fire. It was her collection of poems about her experience in Nepal. We were both thrilled for each other. She gave me a framed copy of the photo she wanted for the jacket the week I started work, confident that I would keep it safe and ready for action. It sat on my desk for several months before it was time to start production on that aspect of the book. It was a joy to see that image every day.

And now, nearly a quarter of a century later, the country of Nepal has experienced a shattering natural disaster. The Nepali people know a thing or two about survival. We here in Louisiana are familiar with the loss and difficulty that natural disasters can bring and how human beings can impact the recovery in both positive and negative ways.

Ava will be reading a selection of poems from that collection at an event intended to support relief and rebuilding efforts in Nepal on Thursday June 25 from 5:30pm-7:30pm: A Bridge to Nepal.  This event will be located at The Guru @ Circa 1857 on 1857 Government Street, Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70806.

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


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.

SimsNEXT_jktfront(HR)

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.

50fea306f1090

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. 


03
Jun 15

Around the Press in 80 Books: Wings of Paradise

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 Wings of Paradise: Birds of the Louisiana Wetlands.

9780807134504LSU Press is proud to publish the work of many great photographers, recording Louisiana’s varied landscape and architecture, its flora and fauna, in gorgeously produced volumes. One of my favorites—and the coffee table book that sits on my actual coffee table—is Wings of Paradise: Birds of the Louisiana Wetlands, by Charlie Hohorst, Jr., with Marcelle Bienvenu.

This handsome book, which I had the privilege to edit, contains the work of the great outdoorsman and bird photographer Charlie Hohorst, who passed away in 2012. I’m a birder myself, which is probably why I love turning these pages again and again. Hohorst found exquisite beauty among Louisiana’s birds: the intense colors of a painter’s palette, breathtaking poses of a prima ballerina, spectacular gymnastic leaps, and small, tender domestic moments. A picture is worth a thousand words, so I won’t waste any more. Here are a few of Charlie’s birds:

hohorst5

Great blue heron

hohorst6

Great egret, preening

Reddish egret

Family of roseate spoonbills

White pelican

Black-necked stilts

hohorst2 Buy this book now for 20% off and get free shipping on all orders over $50, use code 0480FAV at checkout. 


01
Jun 15

Around the Press in 80 Books: Building Playgrounds, Engaging Communities

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 Editor Alisa Plant writes about Building Playgrounds, Engaging Communities.

Marybeth Lima is intense. She talks fast. She holds your gaze. She’s a small woman, but she can haul a eighty-pound bag of concrete. That last fact is important because for the past seventeen years, Lima—the Cliff and Nancy Spanier Alumni Professor of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at LSU—has spearheaded the LSU Community Playground Project, building playgrounds for elementary school kids in East Baton Rouge Parish.

As a newbie professor, Lima came up with the idea of building playgrounds as a way to engage her first-year engineering students by designing something “real.” Thirty playground builds later, she has partnered with many local principals, teachers, and schoolchildren eager to have fun and safe playgrounds at their schools. She’s written a zillion grants for funding support. She learned to keep asking until she got the “Texas no”—“Hell, no, and don’t ask me again!” And over and over, she and her students have seen the joy of children as they play on their brand-new equipment.

In Building Playgrounds, Engaging Communities, Lima reveals the hard work, the hits and misses, and the many dedicated people behind the LSU Community Playground Project. Convinced that we can accomplish extraordinary things when we do ordinary things together, she has become a tireless advocate not only for the importance of play, but also for the importance of playground safety. Her heartfelt and hopeful stories testify to both.

Read this book. You’ll be charmed. You’ll be moved. You may even be inspired to engage in community service yourself. Nothing would make Marybeth Lima happier.

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


29
May 15

Around the Press in 80 Books: Swamper

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 Swamper: Letters from a Louisiana Swamp Rabbit.

When I was growing up, my friends who lived down the street had a bunny. If you had asked me back then what the habitat for a rabbit was, I probably would have said that they lived under the sofa, which is where my friend’s rabbit spent most of its pampered life as it enjoyed lazy afternoons in the air-conditioned house. But after reading Amy Griffin Ouchley’s Swamper: Letters from a Louisiana Swamp Rabbit, I realized that some rabbits live far more exciting lives than I would have imagined.

The friendly letters from Swamper the swamp rabbit allow young readers to get a first-hand account of how he lives in a way that is more organic than traditional biology texts. It’s as if a friend is sharing stories with you. Just as you might find in letter exchanges among people, Swamper shares stories about the events in his life. He talks about moving into his new “home,” a hollow log of a cypress tree that fell after a storm. He also teaches readers about the ecosystem of the swamp and how the animals and plants all play a role. He comes across many other creatures, from insects like spiders, butterflies, and beetles, to animals like birds, alligators, and foxes. I was surprised to discover how clever rabbits are too. When trying to elude a fox, Swamper used his fur as a camouflage, ran back over his own tracks to confuse the fox, and even jumped in the water to get away. I would never have expected rabbits to be such good swimmers.

The vivid pictures and beautiful line drawings are a great way to introduce readers to all of Swamper’s friends and foes who live in the swamp. It was fun getting to know more about this adventurous rabbit through Swamper’s letters.

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


27
May 15

Around the Press in 80 Books: White Masculinity in the Recent 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, Digital Initiatives and Database Manager Bobby Keane writes about White Masculinity in the Recent South.

LSU Press has a long tradition of publishing important books on race and gender in the American south. Books like The Civilian War: Confederate Women and Union Soldiers during Sherman’s March (Lisa Tendrich Frank), Radical Spiritual Motherhood: Autobiography and Empowerment in Nineteenth-Century African American Women (Rosetta R. Haynes), and We Have Raised All of You: Motherhood in the South, 1750–1835 (Katy Simpson Smith) have explored different aspects of the female experience—be that of white women or their African American counterparts—in the context of the old South. These books offer an invaluable resource for people like me who wish to understand the struggles and triumphs of women and people of color who have helped to shape today’s social environment.

While the aforementioned books offer insight into an experience that I cannot innately relate to, White Masculinity in the Recent South, edited by Trent Watts, offers perspectives on the experience that I am currently living. I read this book with great pleasure as I recognized in its pages not only myself but also family members, friends, and colleagues.

Ask someone who has never lived in the South to describe white southern males. There is a good chance that you will hear some of the following: they are good ol’ boys; they are racist; they are gun nuts; they wave Rebel flags; they are Bible-thumpers; their political views are extremely conservative; they are blissfully ignorant rednecks who talk funny.

Why does this stereotype exist? White Masculinity in the Recent South explores some of these misconceptions and traces their origins through essays on subjects like football in the South, southern wedge-issue politics, deer camps, religious camps, college fraternities, the novels of William Faulkner, and the music of Lynyrd Skynyrd. Most important, however, the essays in this book challenge the idea that all southern white men share the same beliefs and values. As Watts states in his introduction, “Beyond the stereotypes of patriarchs and bubbas, there are still many untold stories about white manhood and masculinity.” As a white southern male who doesn’t fit the good ol’ boy archetype, this is a welcome affirmation.

This book is perfect for those who wish to have a deeper understanding of the modern white southern male experience. The appeal of White Masculinity in the Recent South should not be limited to outsiders though. White southern males will also find this a valuable resource to explore the complexity of who we are now and how our recent history has shaped us.

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


22
May 15

Around the Press in 80 Books: A Creole Lexicon

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 and Design and Production Manager Laura Gleason writes about A Creole Lexicon.

There are not many books published by LSU Press that fulfill the Press’s mission better than A Creole Lexicon: Architecture, Landscape, People by Jay Edwards and Nicolas Kariouk. This book guides the reader through Louisiana’s uniquely evolved and specialized vocabulary for describing the region’s buildings, people, and cultural landscapes. It is a valuable reference, and I was fortunate enough to help shape the look of this book from its arrival at the Press until it was printed and bound.

Working on this title was both exciting and challenging. For me, one of the best parts was working with the authors and with Bill Brockway. I had the pleasure of knowing Mr. Brockway—long before the work on this book began—when I was involved in competitive muzzle-loading rifle shooting! Imagine my surprise and delight at seeing him in our first meeting about the project. He illustrated many of the book’s images along with two other talented artists, Charles Funderburk and Mary Lee Eggart. These wonderful drawings, diagrams, and maps—along with original reproductions—are peppered throughout the book and are essential to understanding the definitions and descriptions within its pages. They are functional and beautiful.

As someone with deep roots in south Louisiana, I value the books LSU Press publishes that preserve and define my heritage. This was a complicated book to produce with 104 illustrations, sixteen subject headings, sixteen topical indexes, and a two-column format, but when it was finished it was well worth the time and effort!

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


19
May 15

Around the Press in 80 Books: C. C. Lockwood’s Atchafalaya

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 C. C. Lockwood’s Atchafalaya.

9780807132593

C. C. Lockwood had already made a name for himself by the time I began my book-designing career at LSU Press. I knew his work and remember the first time I browsed through Discovering Louisiana. I was amazed by and enamored with the beauty of Louisiana he captured on film. You see, I’m a Georgia transplant, but I have lived in Louisiana most of my adult life. I was thrilled to move here and make it my home. Growing up in Athens, Georgia, I remember thinking Louisiana must be a romantic place to live. There is something about the big open sky, the endless water ways, the cypress trees, the moss, the lazy Mississippi River, the old plantations, the history, and the swamps. Yes, the swamps. I have always been curious about swamps. Flora and water create a unique world where wildlife of all varieties live together—creatures flying in the air, moving on the ground, or swimming in the water. Even more unusual to me were the people that have made their living in the swamp for generations. I was intrigued, and I wanted to see more of all of this.

So imagine my joy when the opportunity arose to design a book by C. C. Lockwood overflowing with his Atchafalaya photographs. A book that would reveal the timeless beauty of a very special place I had yet to explore. Not many people have had an opportunity to see and experience deep inside a true Louisiana swamp, especially the Atchafalaya Basin, which is located in south-central Louisiana and is America’s largest swamp wilderness.

C. C. has explored the Atchafalaya for more than thirty years. The images he provided for this project were dazzling and breathtaking. He captured the varying moods of the swamp through the seasons, not to mention the unforgettable sunsets. In C.C. Lockwood’s Atchafalaya he reflects on the places he enjoys to visit most and recounts his conversations with the Basin’s inhabitants about the changes that have occurred over time—both the good and the bad. The photographs we chose for the book are so vivid you can almost feel the warmth of the sunsets, watch a great egret carefully preen its breeding plumage, and smell the spice of boiled crabs. After working closely with C.C. on this project I came away with a new respect, appreciation, and deeper love for this special untamed wilderness. With his artistic photography, I have a little more insight into what’s behind the moss-covered cypress trees I see from I-10.

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


15
May 15

Around the Press in 80 Books: New Roads and Old Rivers

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 Editor Catherine Kadair writes about New Roads and Old Rivers.

One of the least appreciated areas of Louisiana lies northwest of Baton Rouge, between the winding curves of the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers. This is Pointe Coupee, counted among the oldest settlements in the Mississippi Valley. For seven years I lived just across the parish line from Pointe Coupee. As my kids and I explored it by car and on foot, I became more and more impressed by its natural beauty, its significance in state history, and, perhaps most of all, by its warm, welcoming people. So I was delighted when I heard we were going to publish New Roads and Old Rivers, a journey by photo and word through Pointe Coupee Parish. Richard Sexton’s photographs are stunning, and Randy Harelson writes about so many different aspects of the parish—its long and interesting history; its vibrant, unique Creole culture; its longstanding Mardi Gras tradition; and much more. Harelson’s hand-drawn and delicately colored maps are a lovely bonus feature.

Some of my favorite photographs in New Roads and Old Rivers are those of the modest Creole cottages that dot the landscape, many of which I recognize from my drives through the area. The oak trees in this parish are truly ancient, some of them over 300 years old, and there are striking photos of several old-timers, including the Miss Jane Pittman Oak, the tree that inspired Ernest Gaines to write his most famous work. Most of the stately plantation houses in Pointe Coupee are still privately owned and lived in, rather than set off as museum pieces; and this book gives us an inside look at these beautiful homes not open to the public. There are photos of the oxbow lakes False River and Old River (“Pointe Coupee” means “cut-off point” in French); of the mounds built by Native Americans who lived in the area for millennia before Europeans arrived; of small-town main streets; of picturesque churches and cemeteries. Lovely images like those are balanced by photos of the people of Pointe Coupee—craftsmen planing cypress boards by hand according to local custom; workers packing homegrown pecans for shipping all over the world; women gathering weekly to sing and converse in Creole French. The traditions of Pointe Coupee are worth preserving, and as Harelson notes, the people who live those traditions are the most important preservationists of all. I’m proud that LSU Press is doing its part to preserve—and share—so many Louisiana traditions.

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