Author Archives: uwpress

Talking about civilian complicity with the Pinochet regime’s violence

Civil Obedience: Complicity and Complacency in Chile since Pinochet by Michael J. Lazzara is published this week in the series Critical Human Rights. We spoke with Lazzara about issues raised by his book.

Q. Why is it so important to talk about civilian complicity now, more than forty years after the September 11, 1973, coup that put General Augusto Pinochet in power?

A. In the midst of the Cold War, the Pinochet regime (1973-1990) came to power as a violent reaction against democratically elected President Salvador Allende’s “Peaceful Road to Socialism.” Pinochet’s seventeen-year dictatorship resulted in the murder, disappearance, and exile of thousands of Chilean citizens who longed to build a more just and equitable society, as well as the torture of tens of thousands more. Throughout the 1990s, the early years of Chile’s transition to democracy, people almost exclusively attributed the Pinochet regime’s human rights violations to the military, the most egregious perpetrators. Yet we know that dictatorships are always supported behind the scenes by a cast of complicit civilians who play roles—major or minor—in perpetuating the violence and who, through complex processes of rationalization, manage to turn a knowing blind eye to the torture and murder of their fellow citizens.

The stark reality is that many of those who supported the Pinochet regime “behind the scenes” in the 1970s and 1980s remain active in politics, business, and other sectors today. Victims, their families, artists, academics, journalists, lawyers, and concerned citizens have struggled for decades to fight for memory and create a culture of respect for human rights. To a great extent, they have succeeded. But we can’t easily forget that memory and human rights constantly find themselves under attack from political and economic forces that still perpetuate certain violent attitudes fostered under dictatorship.

Q. Is the public discourse of these civilian accomplices relevant for thinking about the “post-truth” era in which we’re living?

A. Definitely! My book is not only about civilian complicity in Chile but also about how civilian accomplices remember and justify their past actions and commitments. I use the phrase “fictions of mastery” to talk about the vital lies (or partial truths) that such accomplices spin, both publically and privately, in order to live with themselves or to convince others that they were acting in the “best interest” of the country or out of a sense of patriotic duty.

Clearly, our contemporary scene is full of individuals who spin stories to advance particular agendas or maintain their hold on political and economic power. My book deconstructs and “outs” such self-serving fictions—and actors—while also advocating for a need for accountability (moral, ethical, and even judicial, when applicable).

Q. Your work provocatively suggests a relationship between complicity and complacency. How are these two concepts linked?

A. The question is important because it forces us to ask: Who is complicit? My book answers this question boldly, even somewhat controversially. It asserts that the spectrum of complicity is vast—that it includes not only those who participated directly in the dictatorship’s crimes but also those who knew what was going on but stood by and did nothing. Even more assertively, I argue that the vast spectrum of complicity in Chile may very well include certain people who years ago fought for revolutionary change and social justice and who now, decades later, wholeheartedly embrace the neoliberal model that the General and his civilian economists espoused. I call these revolutionaries-turned-neoliberals “complacent subjects” and wonder if their political stance, interested in protecting their own status and wealth, might be construed as a form of complicity with the dictatorship’s legacy.

Q. The Chilean dictatorship ended nearly three decades ago. Many analysts praise the country’s transition to democracy as highly “successful.” Why is it important that we continue thinking today about the legacies of the Pinochet regime?

A. Many people, especially economists outside of Chile, have called Chile an “economic miracle” because its economy did relatively well when compared to other countries in the region. This may indeed be true by some measures. But we cannot forget that Chile’s economic strength has its origins in a dark history of torture, disappearances, and murders. We also can’t forget that, despite its economic growth, Chile remains one of the most unequal countries in the world. Moreover, socioeconomic inequality has sparked massive protests and deep disenchantment with political elites from across the ideological spectrum.

The past does not go away. Anyone who goes to Chile today can see and feel signs of the dictatorship’s legacy everywhere. It’s palpable! The political and economic class that sympathized with the dictatorship is now back in power, and the dictatorship’s constitution, penned in 1980, remains in effect. There are still families who have not located their disappeared loved ones. And despite the valiant efforts of those who have struggled to create a culture of human rights and justice, every so often people in positions of power appear in the media denying past human rights violations or explaining them away. Schools avoid talking about the recent past, particularly at the primary and secondary levels. Lots of families remain politically divided. For all of these reasons, it is just as important now as it was in the 1980s and 1990s that we continue the fight for accountability, truth, and justice.

When I began researching Civil Obedience, eight years ago, almost no one was talking about civilian complicity with the South American dictatorships. The topic was complete public taboo. Over the past five or so years, important works of journalism have started to address the subject, and it is now commonplace to hear people in Chile use the term “civilian-military dictatorship” (dictadura cívico-militar). I hope that my book will help fuel an honest debate about the uncomfortable ways in which Chile’s brutally violent past still maintains a hold on the present.

Michael J. Lazzara is a professor of Latin American literature and cultural studies at the University of California, Davis. His several books include Chile in Transition: The Poetics and Politics of Memory and Luz Arce and Pinochet’s Chile: Testimony in the Aftermath of State Violence.

Critical Human Rights
Steve J. Stern and Scott Straus, Series Editors 

 

UW Press & UW Libraries collaborate on Folksongs of Another America

Today’s guest blogger is James Leary, author of Folksongs of Another America. An award-winning multimedia publication, it is now available in a paperback from UWP, with accompanying audio and video online, as explained below. Leary will also be speaking about this project, and related folk music projects, at the annual Great Libraries of UW–Madison event on May 17.

The original publication of Folksongs of Another America (FSOAA) ambitiously combined a hardbound book, five compact disks, and a DVD in an elegant yet bulky single package weighing nearly four pounds. The years of research, writing, sound and film restoration, and overall production that underlay its existence were matched by hard-won grants to bring retail costs within an average buyer’s reach.

The response was exhilarating: stellar reviews from far and wide, awards that included a Grammy nomination, events in Minnesota and Wisconsin featuring new performances of old songs culled from FSOAA, and a sold-out press run before a year elapsed. But with neither copies in the warehouse nor likelihood of new grants for reprinting, we faced the sad prospect of FSOAA’s disappearance just as interest was building.

A new paperback edition of the book with companion website is our best solution. Trimmer in heft and price than its predecessor, the paperback book swaps the accompanying costly disks for free online access to the music and video. Sound files for all five original CDs—plus the film/DVD Alan Lomax Goes North, coproduced with the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress—are now accessible online in the Folksongs of Another America Collection through a partnership of the University of Wisconsin Press and the University of Wisconsin–Madison Libraries.

Hats off to Dennis Lloyd, director of University of Wisconsin Press, and Ed Van Gemert, director of the UW–Madison Library System, for partnering to create the two companion pieces. The songs and tunes in Folksongs of Another America had been hidden for too long to let them vanish once again. May their persistence spur new understandings and performances, along with ongoing recognition and appreciation of the many peoples, tongues, and sounds that—whether past or present, from mainstream or from margin, deservedly acknowledged or unjustly ignored—have always made America great.

But wait, there’s more! FSOAA necessarily focused on a relatively small yet representative set of songs, tunes, and recitations from the hundreds collected by fieldworkers Sidney Robertson, Alan Lomax, and Helene Stratman-Thomas from 1937 to 1946. I worked with many experts to sonically restore the selected tracks and to transcribe and translated lyrics. From my research, I provided new contextual, biographical, and comparative background. But the rich fund of other recordings by Robertson, Lomax, and Stratman-Thomas have raw sound and spare documentation. They await future researchers who will discover, ponder, and pursue them.

So I’m delighted that this new FSOAA website complements several three other sites that further reveal the complexity and diversity of

Helene Stratman-Thomas

the Upper Midwest’s folk musical traditions. The first is the Wisconsin Folksong Collection, produced by the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Mills Music Library and Digital Collections Center, which presents field recordings made by Robertson and Stratman-Thomas.

Alan Lomax

The second related site is the Library of Congress’s Alan Lomax Collection of Michigan and Wisconsin Recordings from 1938, , offering his sound recordings “in their raw form, as full disc sides without speed correction or other digital processing.”

The third site is a digital repository called Local Centers/Global Sounds. It offers post–World War II home and field recordings featuring diverse Upper Midwestern folk/vernacular musicians. It also includes digitized tracks of 78 rpm recordings that were performed by or that influenced regional musicians. This repository is a collaborative project of the Mills Music Library, the Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures, and the Digital Collections Center, all at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

We encourage readers and listeners to roam these sites. In the realm of 78s, many will be familiar with widely available classic recordings made in the 1920s by performers in the “Race” and “Hillbilly” series of American record labels. Yet we cannot fully grasp the richness of American roots music without also experiencing such stellar Upper Midwestern Germanic, Nordic, and Slavic “Foreign” series performers as the Swedish comic vaudevillian Olle i Skratthult, the Norwegian Hardanger fiddler Gunleik Smedal, the Finnish accordion virtuoso Viola Turpeinen, the singing Polish mountaineer Karol Stoch, the trumpet-playing Bohemian bandleader Romy Gosz, or the German concertinist Hans “Whoopee John” Wilfahrt.

James P. Leary is professor emeritus of folklore and Scandinavian studies, and cofounder of the Center for the Study of Upper Midwestern Cultures, at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. His many books and documentary productions include Wisconsin FolkloreSo Ole Says to LenaPolkabillyAccordions in the CutoverDownhome Dairyland (with Richard March), and Pinery Boys (with Franz Rickaby and Gretchen Dykstra).

The Seeds of a Story

Our guest blogger today is Patricia Skalka, author of the Dave Cubiak County Mystery Series. The fourth book in the series, Death Rides the Ferry, comes out today.

Ideas are like plants. Some seem to come out of nowhere and burst into full bloom. Others hibernate for months or even years before they cautiously reach up toward the light of day. And like plants, ideas can be grafted, one to the other. Which is what happened in Death Rides the Ferry.

The “aha, full-bloom” idea was suggested by my eldest daughter Julia on a bright summer day several years ago. We were in Door County riding the ferry across the Porte des Morts strait between Washington Island and the Door peninsula. By then, I’d written the first two books in the Dave Cubiak Door County mystery series and was working on the third. “How about a death on the ferry?” Julia said, citing the obvious. Until that moment the thought had never occurred to me. Of course! I thought, as the ferry plowed through the water. What a great idea!

There was one problem: I had nothing with which to nurture this terrific suggestion. Who dies? How many victims? Why are she/he/they traveling to the island? Who’s the killer? What’s the motive?

For days, I struggled to fill out the storyline. After rejecting one plot after another, I was ready to shelve the fledging project. That’s when the magic happened and an idea that had been lurking beneath the surface for decades emerged from the fog of memory.

Twenty years ago—at least—a friend who was also a professional musician told me about the viola da gamba, a stringed instrument popular in the Renaissance and Baroque periods. The term meant nothing to me, but I was intrigued. The more she talked about the kinds of viols played in early music, the more interested I became. At the time, however, I was a nonfiction writer working on assignments for the Reader’s Digest and other national magazines. There were no opportunities to write a story featuring something as esoteric as the viola da gamba, so I filed away the information, hoping that someday I could use it. In effect, I’d sent the idea into hibernation.

Fast forward several decades to the recent past when I was mulling over Julia’s suggestion about a death on the ferry. To create a story from that nugget I needed an event that would draw people to Washington Island. A music festival would do it. But why not a festival with something different or unusual as the focus? Like magic, the memory of that long-ago conversation with my musical friend awakened.

Immediately, I knew that the island event in my book would be a viola da gamba festival. As soon as I made the decision, the pieces started to fall into place. I linked the current festival to a previous event, one held forty years earlier that ended in catastrophe and left important questions unanswered. The tragic events of the past would be mirrored in the present; the victims (more than one, I decided) and the killer would be tied to both. My protagonist Dave Cubiak would solve not just the current mystery but he would discover the solution to the puzzle that had haunted the festival organizers for years.

In short order, Death Rides the Ferry grew from two seeds or ideas that I grafted together. The newly formed hybrid story had to be tended and nurtured and allowed to grow. And while there was plenty of work left to do, I was off to a solid start on book four.

Patricia Skalka is the author of Death Stalks Door CountyDeath at Gills Rock, and Death in Cold Water, winner of the Edna Ferber Fiction Award from the Council for Wisconsin Writers. She is president of the Chicagoland chapter of Sisters in Crime and divides her time between Chicago and Door County, Wisconsin. A former staff writer at Reader’s Digest, she presents writing workshops throughout the United States. Her nonfiction books have been published by Random House, St. Martin’s, and Rodale.

Author website: www.patriciaskalka.com

 

Tips for Reading in Your Midwestern Hometown         

Today’s blog post is inspired by Courtney Kersten’s appearance at The Local Store in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where she read from her recently published debut memoir Daughter in Retrograde.

Avoid flippancy as you pack your bag in California. Yes, you really will need wool socks. No, despite any Midwestern fantasy of that one spring where it hit 82º, it won’t happen again. Yes, do bring pantyhose if you’re really going to wear that skirt. Bring your reading glasses. Bring that chamomile tincture. Don’t leave the door without deodorant.

Embrace the urge to ask the flight attendant on your flight from San Jose to Minneapolis for another Biscoff cookie. She’ll hand you three and tell you to stash them quickly. You do. You take her generosity as an omen of good luck. You realize you forgot your book.

When you arrive in your old home, embrace the brown leather jacket your father found in his closet that might be a forgotten leftover from his ex-wife. You look at the tag. You smell the armpits. You dig in the pockets and find a creased receipt. It’s dated from February 2001, a Gordy’s grocery store purchase of one rotisserie chicken. You’re not sure what this means. You decide to wear the coat. You may even take it home with you.

While strolling around your hometown before your reading, avoid the westside Dairy Queen where you once locked yourself in the bathroom as a child and screamed until you heard your mother’s voice on the other side. If you were to return, it would feel metaphorical. Avoid the park where you and your mother once threw bread to the ducks. This wouldn’t feel metaphorical, but it would smear your mascara. Avoid the mall where you and your mother spent hours shimmying in and out of jeans. Avoid the streets around the hospital and the entirety of downtown Chippewa Falls. These places would derail you entirely.

Avoid eating all three Biscoff cookies still stashed in your bag before reading. You’ll fantasize about their sweet snap. You’ll desire their powder on your fingers. You anticipate that it would be reassuring—they were your omen of good luck, weren’t they? You eat all of them five minutes before you’re supposed to read.

Now, embrace the water fountain. Embrace drinking slow. Embrace the book your Aunt Delores offers to let you read from. Embrace the heat shuddering through the vents, causing you to sweat—maybe this is your Midwestern fantasy come true. Maybe you didn’t need those wool socks after all . . .  Embrace the familiar sight of slush near the door reminding you that, yes, you really did need them. Embrace the nostalgia that blossoms within you upon seeing this dirty snow. Embrace turning to the podium and opening your book.

Avoid the quavering that wants to creep in your voice. Avoid that old tick of rocking back and forth in your shoes. Avoid channeling your nervousness into your hands that want to grip the sides of the podium—this may seem bizarre. You don’t want to seem bizarre, but calm and confident—though every sensation pulsing through your body assures you that, indeed, you are not. Avoid fixating on this.

Embrace the silence of an audience listening. Embrace your friends and family who clap for you. Embrace their hugs and congratulatory words whispered into your ear. Embrace the knowledge that the only reason you are here, in your hometown, reading a book you wrote, is because of their role in your life. Embrace this gratitude. Allow it to sit with you like a kitten curling up next to you, snug and purring. Allow this to glide you home and lull you to sleep. Embrace this tranquility.

Courtney Kersten is an essayist and scholar. A native of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, she teaches creative writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her essays can be found in River TeethHotel AmerikaDIAGRAM, The Sonora ReviewBlack Warrior Review, and The Master’s Review.

 

New Books & New Paperbacks, May 2018

We’re pleased to announce the following books to be published this month.

May 8, 2018
Death Rides the Ferry
Patricia Skalka

“An intricate, intriguing plot in which Door County Sheriff Dave Cubiak can stop a ruthless killer only by finding the link between a spate of murders and a forty-year-old mystery.”—Michael Stanley, author of the Detective Kubu series

“Skalka is equally skilled at evoking the beloved Door County landscape and revealing the complexities of the human heart, as Sheriff Cubiak’s latest case evokes personal demons. This thought-provoking mystery, set in a beautiful but treacherous environment, is sure to please.”—Kathleen Ernst, author of The Light Keeper’s Legacy

 

May 15, 2018
Civil Obedience: Complicity and Complacency in Chile since Pinochet
Michael J. Lazzara

Critical Human Rights

“Original, engaging, and direly needed. Lazzara, one of the leading scholars writing on human rights, memory, and trauma in Chile and Argentina, looks at the many ethical positions civilians have latched onto to save face in the decades since the Pinochet dictatorship.”—Greg Dawes, author of Verses Against the Darkness

“Provocative, conceptually powerful, and fluidly expressed, Lazzara’s book forces a reckoning with the active, ample ways Chileans violently transformed politics, the economy, and the social fabric to lasting effect and amid ongoing denial. The arguments and implications extend well beyond Chile to our own politics and societies.”—Katherine Hite, author of Politics and the Art of Commemoration

 

May 29, 2018
Heinrich Himmler’s Cultural Commissions: Programmed Plunder in Italy and Yugoslavia
James R. Dow

“Unshrouds folklore’s manipulation by Nazi leaders, and thank goodness for that, even if it is uncomfortable to confront. Dow has unearthed, and deftly explained, an incredible storehouse of material from Himmler’s cultural commissions, probably the largest organized field collecting project in history. The lessons he astutely draws are critical for understanding the Nazi era and are relevant to today’s cultural politics. A great achievement.”—Simon J. Bronner, author of Explaining Traditions

“Dow analyzes the motives of the protagonists of Himmler’s Cultural Commissions, and his treatment of the ideological preconditions for the field investigations is compelling. A major contribution to our understanding of Nazism.”—Konrad Köstlin, University of Vienna

 

May 31, 2018
Folksongs of Another America: Field Recordings from the Upper Midwest, 1937-1946

Now in Paperback
James P. Leary

Languages and Folklore of the Upper Midwest

• Grammy Nominee
• Winner, Association for Recorded Sound Collections Award for Best Historical Research in Folk or World Music

“A stunning work of curation and scholarship. . . . Whether you’re a music-maker or just a listener, reader, and thinker, there’s a surprise on every track and every page.”Huffington Post

“A treasure. . . . Leary’s deep knowledge of the subject matter is demonstrated by thought-provoking facts placing the dance tunes, ballads, lyrics songs, hymns, political anthems, and more in historical context.”Library Journal

“A landmark. . . . Attains the highest standards of folklore studies.”Journal of Folklore Research

Hunting New Coverts

Today’s guest blogger is Mark Parman, whose new book of hunting essays, Among the Aspen, we published this week.

The publication of my book Among the Aspen has been a bittersweet experience. Between the writing and editing of my manuscript, we moved from our longtime home in Wausau to a small cabin 160 miles away in northwestern Wisconsin. Not only were we leaving behind our friends and home, but all of the coverts I had discovered, cultivated, and hunted for the past 25 years. These places were old friends, and I wasn’t ready to say farewell.

The book is organized around the places I hunt. Each chapter focuses on one of my coverts, special places where I had gained so much and also left behind a part of myself. As a much younger man, I shot my first grouse in New Wood and my first woodcock at Swanda’s. At that time, I didn’t even have a dog since we were renting an apartment. The dogs would come later and create an even stronger connection to my coverts. So, when my new book arrived in the mail and I cracked open its stiff spine and crisp pages, what struck me first was what I had left behind.

On the other hand, it’s immensely satisfying to hold one’s own just-published book. It’s the culmination of a lot of hard work and long hours, but for me it is also a concrete record of some of the things that happened in those places, which nobody can take away. I could always turn to these pages and revisit these sweet lands. When my dogs Fergus and Jenkins are gone, I will still have this, a record of my roaming through the autumn woods with them doing what we love best—hunting grouse and woodcock.

A few of the essays in Among the Aspen are drawn from experiences near our new home in Seeley. As I write this in April of 2018, the Triangle, which I pass by several times each day, is still buried under a foot of snow. No woodcock are performing the sky dance there—yet. This past October, I was almost home and could smell the wood smoke from our chimney when Fergus slammed into a point. We were walking an old logging road that’s slowly reverting to balsam fir, white pine, and birch. It’s not really ideal cover, so I was surprised when a woodcock twittered up and flushed to the north. Several more times this past season, the dogs pointed woodcock here, surprising me each time, so I’ve dubbed this place Woodcock Surprise.

I hunted new cover with my dogs on nearly every outing last season. I’m learning new landscapes and finding new coverts. More important, I’m making fresh memories and creating new stories, like the nine snow-roosting grouse that surprised Jenkins and me . . . Well, that’s a story for another book!

Mark Parman is the author of A Grouse Hunter’s Almanac and a contributor to A Passion for Grouse. He is a member of the Ruffed Grouse Society, American Woodcock Society, and Loyal Order of Dedicated Grouse Hunters. He taught English for many years at the University of Wisconsin–Marathon County in Wausau. He lives near Seeley, Wisconsin.

J.D. SALINGER, NAZIS, AND VEDANTA HINDUSIM

Eberhard Alsen’s new book, J.D. Salinger and the Nazis, is published today. We interviewed Alsen about his work.

 

Q. When did you first read any fiction by J.D. Salinger?

A. I became a Salinger fan in 1966 after reading “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” and the rest of his Nine Stories. After that I read the other six Glass Family Stories. Only much later did I read The Catcher in the Rye, the novel for which Salinger is best known.

Q. What is it about Salinger that led you to become a scholar of his work and life?

A. By following up on the many references to Vedanta Hinduism in Salinger’s stories I discovered that he had been taking courses at the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center in New York. I enrolled in a seminar similar to the one Salinger took, and I travelled from Cortland, New York, to New York City every Friday for six months. This was in 1977. In 1978, I was invited to a Ramakrishna Center retreat on an island in the St. Lawrence River where we did an intensive study of the Upanishads. Salinger had attended that same retreat a few years earlier. In short, Salinger inspired me to convert to Vedanta Hinduism.

My first Salinger book, Salinger’s Glass Stories as a Composite Novel, is an interpretation of the seven Glass Family Stories in terms of their Vedanta ideas. The impetus for that book came from Salinger’s inscription in a book he gave to his teacher Swami Nikhilananda. In that inscription, he says that he wrote Franny and Zooey “to circulate the ideas of Vedanta.”

Q. In your research on Salinger’s WWII experiences, what discoveries surprised you?

A. Everyone who has written about Salinger’s war experiences claims that the nervous breakdown he suffered after the end of the war was due to the stress of combat. But Salinger was not a combat soldier. He was an agent for the Counter Intelligence Corps. The daily reports of his CIC detachment in the National Archives show that he never fought the Germans in battle because he did his CIC work well behind the front lines.

Q. As a native of Germany, what special skills or insights were you able to bring to the research of this book?

A. First of all, I still read and speak German very well because, after I moved to the United States in 1962, I have regularly gone back to Germany, on three occasions to teach at German universities. I therefore had no problems evaluating German documents relating to Salinger’s activities in Germany.

Also I have a good understanding of the German military that Salinger faced because my father was an officer in the Wehrmacht and because I myself served in the post-war German Army.

And finally, I understand what Salinger’s problems were in rounding up old Nazis after the end of the war because my father was a Nazi, and I have many documents relating to my father’s denazification.

CIC officers at work

Q. Did Salinger participate in the Denazification Progam, and what did that program entail?

A. After his discharge from the U.S. Army in November of 1945, Salinger signed up for an additional six-month stint as a special investigator for the Counter Intelligence Corps. His task was to track down and arrest Nazis who had gone into hiding, so they could be brought before a Denazification Court. Even before Germany and Austria had been completely occupied, the Allies––the United States, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, and France––had created the Denazification Program. Its aim was to remove all Nazi officials from positions of influence and to punish all former members of the Nazi Party for having supported an evil regime.

Eberhard Alsen

Eberhard Alsen is a professor emeritus of English at Cortland College, State University of New York. He is the author of several books, including A Reader’s Guide to J.D. Salinger and Salinger’s Glass Stories as a Composite Novel.

New Books, April 2018

We’re pleased to announce the following books to be published this month.

April 10, 2018
Daughter in Retrograde: A Memoir

Courtney Kersten

“Set against the backdrop of casserole-heavy Wisconsin, Kersten’s memoir is pithy and hopeful; she writes with great wonder about human existence and the mysteries of life after death.”— Booklist

“Finds miracles in the mundane and illuminates the deeper truths of love. . . .
A finely written memoir that captures the sass and splendor of
two unforgettable women.”— Foreword Reviews

“Alternately comic and poignant, Kersten’s book is a coming of-age story about faith and a searching meditation on the mother-daughter bond. . . . A refreshingly quirky memoir of soul-searching and family.”— Kirkus Reviews

 

April 17, 2018
J. D. Salinger and the Nazis

Eberhard Alsen

“[A] concise narrative that enlightens a part of a dark and mysterious literary figure of our time.”New York Journal of Books

“A convincing documentary narrative providing an important record of Salinger’s life during the war. Alsen presents a great deal of compelling new evidence that needs to be available for readers and scholars.”—John Wenke, author of J.D. Salinger: A Study of the Short Fiction

“A question driving Alsen’s research and analysis of Salinger’s early stories is, What did Jerry Salinger think, feel, and write about Nazis?”—Sarah Elbert, editor of The American Prejudice against Color

 

April 17, 2018
Among the Aspen: Northwoods Grouse and Woodcock Hunting

Mark Parman

“Parman takes us along on these hunts, talking about the geography, geology, vegetation, hunting conditions, dogs dealing with the surroundings, and things that must go through a hunter’s and his dog’s minds when they are away from civilization.”Outdoor News

“Most hunters are lovers of nature—its smells, sights, sounds, and the feelings that wilderness evokes. Parman, in these well-crafted stories and thoughtful essays, teaches us that there is much more to hunting than shooting.”—Jerry Apps

“The best outdoors writers are always good storytellers, and Parman follows in that tradition. Reading his words, we’re smelling the sweet ferns, hearing the faint clank of a dog’s bell, seeing the sudden flush of birds.”—Jerry Davis

 

April 24, 2018
The Oresteia: Agamemnon, Libation Bearers, and The Holy Goddesses

Aeschylus
A verse translation by David Mulroy, with introduction and notes

Wisconsin Studies in Classics

First presented in the spring of 458 B.C.E. at the festival of Dionysus in Athens, Aeschylus’ trilogy Oresteia won the first prize. Comprising three plays—AgamemnonLibation Bearers, and The Furies—it is the only surviving example of the ancient trilogy form for Greek tragedies.

“Mulroy’s rendering could well become the standard text for students of classics in English, as pre-reading for those attempting the difficult Greek, and possibly as an acting version. . . . It is the best this reviewer has come across.”Classics for All

 

The Day that Baseball Died in Milwaukee

Our guest blogger today is Patrick Steele. His new book, Home of the Braves: The Battle for Baseball in Milwaukee, is published today.

For thirteen seasons, Milwaukee Braves fans had gathered to celebrate the opening of the baseball season with enthusiasm, hope, and lots of beer. The secular holiday, still celebrated today near the remains of old County Stadium, was the sign that winter was over and spring was finally at hand. But 1966 was different. Instead, the Braves celebrated Opening Day in Atlanta, Georgia, where they played the Pittsburgh Pirates before a crowd of little more than 50,000 at their new ballpark. One fan in the stands suggested that it was hard to get excited because they “had to go north and import a bunch of damn Yankees from Milwaukee” and that Atlanta “ought to have our own ball club.”[1] Most Milwaukee fans would have taken the team back in a heartbeat, but that was not to be.

It is hard to grasp in 2018 what it must have felt like in April 1966 when the major league baseball season began without Milwaukee represented among its ranks. County Stadium was ready for the new season, but the grandstands and concourses were empty. Stadium workers had groomed the infield and even went so far as to put the tarp upon it, in case of rain. William Anderson, the stadium manager told reporters that they could not risk leaving it off because if it rained, “you would have had mud. It’s just a normal precaution.”[2] The outfield padding was placed upon the walls and crews continued to prepare for games, and frankly, a season that would never come.

 

County Stadium employee Eugene Sabinash listens to

County Stadium employee Eugene Sabinash listens to a baseball game on his transistor radio while sitting in the grandstand on what was supposed to be the Milwaukee Braves’ 1966 home opener on April 12, 1966. Amid battling court orders, the Braves played in Atlanta instead. This photo was published in the April 12, 1966, Milwaukee Journal. (Photo: S.Niels Lauritzen/Milwaukee Journal)

Rather than live baseball at County Stadium, Milwaukee fans were to get their baseball fix through television. Twenty-five Saturday games were scheduled to be broadcast throughout southeastern Wisconsin on WTMJ television, in addition to three holiday games and the All Star game.[3] This was a sad consolation for an area that had supported baseball in record numbers. Even worse, this would be the first season without professional or minor league baseball since the late 1800s.

Milwaukee would miss out on Opening Day celebrations until 1970 when major league baseball formally returned to the city with the introduction of the Milwaukee Brewers. The team was greeted warmly when they arrived in Wisconsin, but they were not out of the shadow of the Braves. Many fans were excited about the prospects of the new team, but others still reminisced about the 1953 opener between the Braves and the St. Louis Cardinals. Even Milwaukee County Board chairman Eugene Grobschmidt opined that the crowd that greeted the Brewers when they arrived in Wisconsin was bigger than the crowds that had met the Braves after their arrival from Boston. He was optimistic that the team would draw at least one million fans in 1970 because the people are “sore, and they are going to show the world we are a baseball city.”[4]

Image result for Brewers opening day

It would not be until 1973, however, that attendance reached the million fans per year mark, although since then the Brewers have failed only twice to draw at least one million, in 1974 and in the strike-shortened year of 1981. But every year, regardless of the team’s standing the previous year, Opening Day has remained a special celebration across Southeastern Wisconsin. It will be celebrated soon, but one cannot escape the ghosts of the Milwaukee Braves that day. You will still see Braves caps emblazoned with the white “M” worn proudly amidst the sea of blue-and-gold Brewers gear.

 

Patrick Steele

[1] “Braves Draw Light Yawn”, Milwaukee Sentinel, April 13, 1966.
[2] Alicia Armstrong, “Stadium Deserted”, Milwaukee Journal, April 12, 1966.
[3] “Area to Get Baseball TV”, Milwaukee Journal, April 13, 1966.
[4] “Games Expected To Draw Million”, Milwaukee Sentinel, April 7, 1970.

 

Patrick W. Steele is an associate professor of history at Concordia University Wisconsin. He is a member of the Milwaukee Braves Historical Association.

the grand experiment of embodied, earthly love

Today’s guest blogger is Erin White. Her book published today, Given Up for You: A Memoir of Love, Belonging, and Belief, is a candid and revelatory memoir  of her hunger for both romantic and divine love. Leni Zumas, author of Red Clocks, comments, “Reckoning with the rival claims of queer desire and Catholic faith, Erin O. White has written that rare and wonderful thing: an intimately personal page-turner that raises complex questions about the wider world and our future in it.” In this post, she writes about the representations of queer love in popular media.

Recently my wife and I watched “San Junipero,” an episode of Netflix’s dystopian anthology series, Black Mirror. “San Junipero” first aired in 2016, and is beloved enough to have a Spotify playlist with 50,000 followers. I hope that I’m not spoiling anything by mentioning that the episode is about queer love in the time of virtual reality.

When the show opens, it’s 1987 in San Junipero, a European seaside town where young people with big hair dance to T’Pau and play Top Speed, then drive around in jeeps on dark, sandy roads. San Junipero is perfect and beautiful, but it doesn’t exist. Or, more precisely, it exists only in people’s minds. It’s a simulated, virtual reality. Elderly people are allowed to spend five hours a week there, and before dying, can make the decision to go to San Junipero permanently, to spend eternity dancing to Robert Palmer.

“San Junipero” is essentially a love story, and what’s remarkable about it—what is still, in 2018, remarkable—is that it’s about two women. I recently read that the series creator, Charlie Brooker, originally wrote the episode for a heterosexual couple, but then decided to rewrite it for two women.

Brooker’s rewrite interests me.  Why did he decide to tinker with the protagonists’ sexual orientation? Part of me doesn’t want to overthink it, to just enjoy the women’s chemistry and banter and sex, and be grateful for the revision. Part of me wants to think that Brooker thought—as I do—that introducing complex queer characters into any narrative makes that narrative better (Brooker is quoted as saying it was “more fun” to write for two women.) But I can’t help but want to take a closer look.  After all, how, exactly, is “San Junipero” different than all the other movies and tv shows that employ the “bury your gays” trope?

As is so often the case when queer people are represented in the media, it’s complicated. Here’s a story about two funny, beautiful, clever women in love. Marvelous! But here’s what’s not so marvelous: their love exists entirely outside of time, outside the women’s actual bodies, and only in their minds. To add injury to insult, one of the women has been in a coma for forty years, ever since she crashed her car after, you guessed it, coming out to her restrictive and homophobic parents.

In order for these two women to live freely and be in love, they have to leave their bodies behind and enter a virtual reality. The Belinda Carlyle song “Heaven Is a Place on Earth,” plays over and over in San Junipero. But the problem is, for these women, heaven isn’t a place on earth.  It’s just to the side of earth, a parallel universe on another plane of time and space. The women of “San Junipero” are wildy in love, and that’s a treat to watch. But they’re not actually alive; they’re not engaged in the grand experiment of embodied, earthly love. Don’t get me wrong—it was an absolute pleasure to watch their love affair on my television screen. It left me wanting more. I’m just hoping that the queer TV and movie narratives that “San Junipero” is bound to inspire will tell queer love stories that unfold right here, on earth.

Erin O. White


Erin O. White
 is a writing instructor and author whose work has appeared in the New York TimesPortland Magazine, and several anthologies. A native of Colorado, she lives in Massachusetts with her wife and daughters. Her website is http://www.erinwhite.net.

Given Up for You is published in the UWP series Living Out: Gay and Lesbian Autobiographies.