Thursday, April 17, 2014

Two UPM Books Nominated For Eisner Awards

Nominations for the 2014 Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards have been announced and two UPM titles are being considered in the category of Best Educational/Academic Work. The nominated titles from UPM are Drawing from Life: Memory andSubjectivity in Comic Art, edited by Jane Tolmie and The Superhero Reader, edited by Charles Hatfield, Jeet Heer, and Kent Worcester.

The nominees, chosen by a blue-ribbon panel of judges, reflect the wide range of material being published in comics and graphic novel form today, from crime noir to autobiographical works to cartoon adventures.

Drawing from Life: Memory and Subjectivity in Comic Art is collection of essays about autobiography, semi-autobiography, fictionalized autobiography, memory, and self-narration in sequential art, or comics. The book engages with well-known figures such as Art Spiegelman, Marjane Satrapi, and Alison Bechdel; with cult-status figures such as Martin Vaughn James; and with lesser-known works by artists such as Frédéric Boilet.

The Superhero Reader is a groundbreaking collection that brings together essays and book excerpts by major writers on comics and popular culture that explore the history, politics, and aesthetics of the superhero genre. The volume offers readers a rather large sampling of the most sophisticated commentary on superheroes.

Also nominated in the educational/academic category is John A. Lent for editing the International Journal of Comic Art. UPM is pleased to be publishing a forthcoming volume from Lent -- Asian Comics. Available in January 2015, this book will be a comprehensive overview of Asian comic books and magazines, graphic novels, newspaper comic strips and gag panels, plus cartoon/humor magazines. 

This is the third straight year UPM has seen multiple nominees in the Educational/Academic category. Last year, Susan Kirtley’s Lynda Barry: Girlhood Through the Looking Glass (now available in paperbackreceived the award. And in 2012, Hand of Fire: The Comic Art of Jack Kirby by Charles Hatfield shared the award with Cartooning: Philosophy & Practice, by Ivan Brunetti (Yale University Press).

The Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards are considered the “Oscars” of the comics world. Named for acclaimed comics creator the Will Eisner, the awards are celebrating their 25th year of highlighting the best publications and creators in comics and graphic novels. 

The results of the voting will be announced in a gala ceremony on Friday, July 25 during Comic-Con International: San Diego. A full list of nominees can be seen here

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Conversation with Bruce West, Author of The True Gospel Preached Here

Bruce West’s color photographs in
The True Gospel Preached Here document the spiritual and creative work of Reverend H.D. Dennis, and his wife, Margaret, a self-proclaimed preacher, artist, and architect in Vicksburg, Mississippi.

The product of twenty years of labor and multiple site visits, West's photographs are both intimate and transparent, tenderly revealing the Reverend and Margaret's love of God and for one another, their commitment to their work, and their shared transformation while aging together. The images offer unique insights into the role of spirituality in southern folk art and creativity and the joys and demands of an ascetic and inspired life.

The True Gospel Preached Here is available this month from UPM.

You are from the Midwest, what inspired you to photograph in Mississippi?

In 1993, I was in desperate need of a good idea for my upcoming sabbatical proposal at Missouri State University. It was my first sabbatical proposal and I was not quite certain how to proceed. I decided to submit a very opened-ended proposal about photographing the landscape and culture of the American South. I came up with this idea because the South was the only region of the United States in which I had never traveled. It was unknown territory for me and, as such, held great intrigue for me.

I was also inspired by recent photographic books by Birney Imes and Keith Carter as well as my ex-wife’s love of southern literature. When I commenced my project in 1994, I thought I would be traveling and photographing throughout the entire South. My first two trips to Mississippi, however, convinced me that I did not need to travel any further. And it was during my second trip to Mississippi, that I met Reverend H.D. and Margaret Dennis in Vicksburg.

How did you first meet The Reverend and Margaret Dennis?

I was driving along business route 61 along the Mississippi River in Vicksburg and saw Margaret’s Grocery for the first time. I was immediately awestruck by its raw beauty; the brilliant color scheme (red, white, blue, and green), the numerous hand-painted signs displaying quotes from Bible, and the various towers (some more than two stories tall) surrounding the Grocery.

Since it was late in the day, and the Grocery was largely in shadow I waited until the next morning to visit and ask permission to photograph. the Reverend immediately started praying, blessing me, and thanking God for my coming to the Grocery. After thanking him for his blessing, I asked permission to photograph.

The Reverend assured me I could photograph but that he should first discuss “some of his symbolism.” The Reverend insisted that the eastward orientation of the Grocery was auspicious, since all wisdom and knowledge comes from the East. He showed me the tallest tower designed to hold the Ark of the Covenant and the Ten Commandments and elaborated on the significance of various Masonic symbols.

His explanations went on and on, for hours, meshing accounts about his own life, the re-telling of numerous Bible stories, his understanding of ancient history, his assessment of current politics, and more preaching for the betterment of all mankind. I tried to be patient and polite, not wanting to interrupt the flow of the Reverend’s conversation by picking up my camera.

Finally, with an incredulous look on his face, the Reverend stared and asked why I was not taking pictures. I suddenly realized he would never stop preaching and lecturing. I realized that this situation would be the modus operandi for all of my photographic work at the Grocery. I picked up my camera and started working, trying to be attentive and responsive to the rush of words, stories, questions, and prayers.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

New Book: Conversations with William Gibson

"I was tired of America-as-the-future, the world as a white monoculture, the protagonist as a good guy from the middle class or above. I wanted there to be more elbow room. I wanted to make room for antiheroes. I also wanted science fiction to be more naturalistic.”

"After reading Neuromancer for the first time," literary scholar Larry McCaffery wrote, "I knew I had seen the future of [science fiction] (and maybe of literature in general), and its name was William Gibson." McCaffery was right. Gibson's 1984 debut is one of the most celebrated SF novels of the last half century, and in a career spanning more than three decades, the American Canadian science fiction writer and reluctant futurist responsible for introducing "cyberspace" into the lexicon has published nine other novels.

In Conversations with William Gibson editor Patrick A. Smith has assembled 23 interviews drawn from a variety of media and sources—print and online journals and fanzines, academic journals, newspapers, blogs and podcasts. Myriad topics include Gibson's childhood in the American South and his early adulthood in Canada, with travel in Europe; his chafing against the traditional SF mold, the origins of "cyberspace," and the unintended consequences (for both the author and society) of changing the way we think about technology; the writing process and the reader's role in a new kind of fiction. 

Gibson also takes on branding and fashion, celebrity culture, social networking, the post-9/11 world, future uses of technology, and the isolation and alienation engendered by new ways of solving old problems. The conversations also provide overviews of his novels, short fiction, and nonfiction. 

Readers come to Gibson’s work with an expectant, almost religious fervor. His fiction mirrors the cacophony of light, energy, and uncertainty inherent in technological progress. Perhaps the most influential chronicler in fiction of technology and its possibilities (as well as its discontents) working today, he draws on influences as wide-ranging as Beat literature and the Counterculture, Golden Age and New Wave science fiction, punk rock, and film to examine a future that, Gibson reminds us, is already now.

Conversations with William Gibson is now available from UPM.
. . .
Patrick A. Smith is professor of English at Bainbridge State College in Bainbridge, Georgia. His previous books and edited collections include "The true bones of my life": Essays on the Fiction of Jim Harrison; Tim O'Brien: A Critical Companion; and Conversations with Tim O'Brien (published by University Press of Mississippi), among others.

Friday, April 4, 2014

12 Things You Might Not Know about Fred Zinnemann

Fred Zinnemann directed some of the most acclaimed and controversial films of the twentieth century from The Seventh Cross and The Search to High Noon, From Here to Eternity, and Julia.

J.E. Smyth is the author of Fred Zinnemann and the Cinema of Resistance which offers a compelling history of the director’s films dealing with war and resistance. Smyth reveals the intellectual passion behind some of the most powerful films ever made about the rise and resistance to fascism and the legacy of the Second World War. This book is the first to draw upon Zinnemann's extensive papers at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and brings Fred Zinnemann's vision, voice, and film practice to life.

Below, Smyth shares some little-known facts about Fred Zinnemann.

1. He is the only director to win best short film (Benjy), best documentary (Benjy), best director (twice, From Here to Eternity and A Man for All Seasons), and best film (A Man for All Seasons). 

2. He worked with famed photographer Paul Strand and the socialist government in Mexico to make a film about a successful workers' strike, only to move on to the shorts department at MGM the next year. 

3. He was fired from All Quiet on the Western Front (as an extra) because he talked back to an assistant director.

4. His film Behold a Pale Horse got Columbia a three-year ban in Spain for being too critical of the government.

5. He introduced Rod Steiger, Montgomery Clift, and Marlon Brando to the screen, but said Vanessa Redgrave was his favorite performer.

6. His production Man's Fate (about the Chinese communist revolution) was cancelled after three years of pre-production and a few days from the first shoot.

7. He said publicly that the auteur theory was nothing but a gimmick.

8. John Wayne called his western, High Noon, "The most un-American thing I've ever seen."

9. He made the first international co-production about the aftermath of the Holocaust, featuring real child survivors in the cast.

10. His first A-feature film, made during the war, was about the first anti-Nazi resistance movements in Germany (and authored by a known communist refugee, Anna Seghers).

11. He had the guts and sense of humor to make a British-produced film about assassinating French president Charles de Gaulle when France had just banned the UK from the Common Market.

12. The US Navy banned its servicemen from seeing From Here to Eternity because of its critical portrait of the US Army.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

On the Horizon: Delta Dogs

Delta Dogs is a a new collection of photographs from Maude Schuyler Clay (Delta Land) that capture the simple, desolate beauty of the Mississippi Delta. This book will be available from UPM in June.

For the past fifteen years, Clay has been driving the back roads photographing her native Delta. In the darkroom of her hundred-year-old family homestead in Sumner, she has developed hundreds of images of eroding architecture, misty bayous, small stands of woods, endless rows of crops. And dogs.

Maude has spotted and captured the elemental spirit of dogs eking out existences from this majestic landscape. In her iconic book Delta Land, Clay introduced the “Dog in the Fog,” the muscular lab standing watch in the mist and trees of Cassidy Bayou. This photo became widely recognized, and Clay wanted to further explore the relationship between the land and the numerous dogs populating its fields, bayous, and abandoned spaces.

Featuring 70 duotone photographs, Delta Dogs celebrates the canines who roam this most storied corner of Mississippi. Some of Clay’s photographs feature lone dogs dwarfed by kudzu-choked trees and hidden among the brambles adjacent to plowed fields. In others, dogs travel in amiable packs, trotting toward a shared but mysterious adventure. Her Delta dogs are by turns soulful, eager, wary, resigned, menacing, contented.

Writers Brad Watson and Beth Ann Fennelly ponder Clay’s dogs and their connections to the Delta, speculating about their role in the drama of everyday life and about their relationships to the humans who share this landscape with them. In a photographer’s afterword, Clay writes about discovering the beauty of her native land from within. She finds that the ubiquitous presence of the Delta dog gives scale, life, and sometimes even whimsy and intent to her Mississippi landscape.

Bank Dogs
Dalmatian Dog
Dog on a Log
Farm Shed Dog
Guard Dog
Noble Dog

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


The following is a guest post from Fred C. Smith, author of Trouble in Goshen: Plain Folk, Roosevelt, Jesus, and Marx in the Great Depression South. This book chronicles three communitarian experiments, both the administrative details and the struggles and reactions of the clients. Smith covers the Tupelo Homesteads in Mississippi, the Dyess Colony in Arkansas, and the Delta Cooperative Farm, also in Mississippi.

Below Smith outlines one of the (not so) plain folk characters he encountered during his research Delta Cooperative Farm, a product of the active cooperation between the Socialist Party of America and a cadre of liberal churchmen led by Reinhold Niebuhr. The Delta Co-op  attempted to meld the pieties, passions, propaganda, and theories of Jesus and Marx. A. James McDonald captured Smith’s attention to the point his curiosity outran the available research materials. 

Trouble in Goshen: Plain Folk, Roosevelt, Jesus, and Marx in the Great Depression South is now available

A. James McDonald’s letter of introduction to William R. Amberson of Delta Cooperative Farm must have seemed to be an answer to somebody’s prayer. It would take a while to discern just on which side A. James Macdonald—Mac to the cooperators and bosses at Delta Cooperative Farm—would lend his sentiments and considerable skills. 

Two distinct views co-created Delta Cooperative Farm.  The first view, held by the liberal Christian bunch led by Reinhold Niebuhr endeavored to “exemplify the return of Christianity to its prophetic mission of identification with the dispossessed.”  The second bunch were socialists affiliated with the Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union, and thus, with the Socialist Party of America, wanted to “take over all the damn plantations” and make cooperative farms of them.

A.  James McDonald brought with him business, literary, transcription, and legal skills.  Of course his status as an “on the run Louisiana lawyer” may have somewhat limited his effectiveness.  Nevertheless, Mac wrote a letter of introduction to William Amberson and told Amberson that he might be of use at Delta Cooperative Farm because of his experience as a member of the Llano Louisiana Colony.  There are more interesting hints about the Llano Colony in Trouble in Goshen, but that is one of the things I would like to know more about.  At any rate, Mac “threw in” with the socialist bunch and his work with the cooperators and his socialist agitation made him somewhat unattractive—even odious to Sam Franklin and the liberal/Christian wing at Delta Cooperative Farm.

All I know about Mac is what I have learned from his extensive correspondence with William Amberson (a most interesting not-so-plain-folk in his own right) and from the papers of the Delta Cooperative Farm and the Socialist Party of America.  Mac spoke little of the actual operations of Llano, but he became the office manager at Delta, wrote pieces for the Daily Call, and served as a sort of unofficial legal advisor for the colony.  He was “waiting on the disposition of his case,” he told Amberson in explaining why he was not more gainfully employed and his presence at Delta facilitated a near cooperator rebellion.

I would like to know what happened to Mac after the Delta Cooperative Farm was sold.  What was the “disposition” of his case, and the larger question, what was the nature of his case?  A. James McDonald was a lawyer and thus technically not a member of the plain folk.  Somehow, I suspect he was born one.

Friday, March 28, 2014

A Conversation with Bernard Dick

Bernard Dick is a prolific Hollywood biographer (he is the author Forever Mame: The Life of Rosalind Russell; Claudette Colbert: She Walked in Beauty; Hollywood Madonna: Loretta Young). His latest project, The President’s Ladies: Jane Wyman and Nancy Davis takes a unique look Ronald Reagan, a former actor and one of America's most popular presidents, who married not one but two Hollywood actresses. This book is actually three biographies in one and uncovers fascinating connections between Wyman, Reagan, and Davis. 

Below, Dick talks about his inspiration behind the book and surprising discoveries he made during his research. The President's Ladies is available in April. 

What was the inspiration behind such a unique, three-headed monster of a biography?

I had originally intended to write a biography of Jane Wyman. I know I must have seen her earlier than 1948, but that was my coming-of-age year.  I was in the seventh grade when I saw Johnny Belinda, for which she won an Oscar. I was amazed at her ability to play a hearing and speech impaired woman, who does not speak a single word in the entire film.  I cannot forget how shocked I saw by the rape scene, when Stephen McNally approaches Jane, whose pleading look indicates that she knew what will happen and cannot bear the thought of it.  Sexual violence was portrayed by suggestion then, but suggestion can leave a memory that time cannot erase.  I still cannot forget it. 

How did that memory morph into The President's Ladies?

I saw All About Eve on television, a film that I knew well and about which I had written.  In the
Ronald and Jane on their
wedding day
final scene, when Barbara Bates bows before a three-way mirror, I had an idea.  Jane's life is part of two other lives—she married Ronald Reagan, divorced him, remarried (not successfully), leaving Reagan to remarry happily to an aspiring actress, Nancy Davis.

Nancy was the mate for whom he was destined.  A competent actress but never a star, she found her place in the pantheon as First Lady. One doubts that there would ever have been a President Reagan, if it were not for Nancy. Both found their best roles at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.  I think of this book as a triptych, with Jane in the center flanked by Reagan and Nancy.
Nancy and Reagan were good actors.  Nancy could have been a fine character actress.  She excelled at playing wives, mothers, secretaries, teachers—the staples of TV sitcoms and series.  Reagan had a real flair for romantic comedy.  He could do drama when it was not psychological, failing only once when he went out of his element to play an epileptic in Night Unto Night


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