Category Archives: Books

UW Press book receives NEH Open Book Award

Cover image shows a portrait of Sofia wearing a brown fur hat, green jacket, yellow collared shirt, and maroon tiee.

We are pleased to share that Citizen Countess: Sofia Panina and the Fate of Revolutionary Russia by Adele Lindenmeyr is the recipient of a National Endowment of the Humanities Open Book Award, a special initiative for scholarly presses to make recent monographs freely available online.

“I am very grateful to both the University of Wisconsin Press and the NEH. This grant ensures that my story of one of the 20th century’s most remarkable women will reach a wider readership,” says Lindenmeyr.

Books on a wide range of topics, written with previous support from one of many NEH fellowship programs, will be made available through this award. Per the organization, “During a time when so many of us are doing research remotely, the value of digital editions like these that can be freely accessed from anywhere in the world is more apparent than ever. All awardees will receive $5,500 per book to support digitization, marketing, and a stipend for the author.”

Our warmest congratulations to Adele, and all involved!

Butternuts and Maple Sugar Candy

In the Midwest, unmistakably crisp mornings and golden leaves herald the arrival of a new season. Today we share a charming excerpt about the autumnal butternut harvest from Farm Girl by Beuna Coburn Carlson.

Butternut trees grew in several areas in the woodlot and pasture on our farm. We watched the nuts develop during summer and waited for them to ripen in fall. While they were still green, they were soft enough to cut with a knife; when ripe, a hammer or a special nutcracker was necessary to crack the hard shell and extract the meat. Dad used his jackknife to slice through a green nut to show us the complex structure of the nut, and allowed us to taste the bitter, unripe nutmeat. How different they would be after the nuts had ripened and dried, their rich, creamy, buttery taste a perfect flavor in maple sugar candy!

Our farm in west central Wisconsin was at the western and northern limits of the range of the butternut tree. Sometimes called white walnut, it produces nuts that are extremely hard shelled, much like black walnuts. Butternut trees grow to sixty feet in height, rarely higher. The wood was prized for carving and, before metal items were readily available, for maple sap spiles. Dad was skillful also in making wonderful wooden whistles for the kids in spring before the new growth in the tree hardened.

We knew which of the trees produced the most and the best nuts. One special tree on a sunny knoll in the pasture bore a great crop. Whereas butternuts generally are oval in shape, the nuts from this tree were nearly round, more like walnuts. It was easy to fill a bucket with these gems! Another tree, growing in the woodlot near the edge of the pasture, produced long, oval nuts, huge and choice. It was important to gather them as quickly as possible before the butternut poachers found them. The tree was near the road, with only a two-strand barbed-wire fence between the woodlot and road. People from as far away as St. Paul and Minneapolis combed the countryside and took butternuts wherever they found them.

Black and white photo of a farm with trees in the background showing four children: Neva sitting on the left with short curled hair and a gingham dress, nest to her Beuna sits with short parted hair and a checkered dress with a bow on the neckline, Burr is seated wearing a shirt and trousers, and Add is seated on the right wearing overalls.
Coburn kids. L to R: Neva, Beuna, Burr, Add.

Gathering the nuts on a sunny day in fall after the butternut shells had hardened and the outer husks had dried involved the whole family. Little kids could pick up nuts from the ground where they had fallen while Mother and Dad harvested the ones still on the tree. They carried buckets filled with nuts to the granary and spread them on the floor to finish drying.

On cold, dark winter days when no outdoor work was possible, Dad often got a pail of butternuts, now dried and ready to use, from the granary. He took them to a warm spot in the cellar near the furnace, sat down with a hammer in hand, placed a butternut upright on a special piece of wood, and cracked it. If he hit it just right, it would split into two pieces and the nutmeat would come out easily. That was a rarity. Most often it required several blows of the hammer to shatter the shell and expose the meat. When Dad had cracked a goodly amount, he brought them upstairs to the kitchen, where anyone willing to do so attacked them with a nutpick.

Very rarely, a perfectly cracked nut would yield a perfect nutmeat—two halves shaped like fat pantaloons. Finding a “pair of pants” among the butternuts was comparable to finding a four-leaf clover in the grass and gave the finder special bragging rights.

Helping pick out the pieces of meat from the shells with a nutpick entitled one to snack on them too, but wise children waited until Mother made a batch of maple sugar candy. She made it by boiling a saucepan of maple syrup, beating in cream, adding a handful of butternut meats, and pouring the thick, smooth mass into a buttered pan. When Mother decided it was cool enough, she cut it into squares and we tasted the wonderful candy. I believe we could taste in every bite the sap from the trees gathered on a frosty spring morning, the steaming syrup from the big, black kettle, the sunny afternoon of gathering the nuts, and the triumph of getting pieces of nuts from the rough shells. We knew where it came from and what effort it took to produce it. It was our candy and we loved it.

Beuna Coburn Carlson is a writer based in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

From Farm Girl by Beuna Carlson Coburn. © 2020 by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. All rights reserved.

30th Annual Midwest Book Award win for Dairylandia

We are thrilled to announce a Midwest Book Award winner from the University of Wisconsin Press! These awards from the Midwest Independent Publishing Association (MIPA) recognize quality in independent publishing in the Midwest (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin).

Book cover showing Mona Lisa in Wisconsin Rose Bowl shirt painted on side of barn with cows in front.

Dairylandia: Dispatches from a State of Mind by Steve Hannah won the travel category. This book recounts Hannah’s love for his adopted state through his long-lived column, “State of Mind.” He profiles the lives of the seemingly ordinary yet quite (and quietly) extraordinary folks he met and befriended as he traveled the main streets and back roads of Wisconsin. From Norwegian farmers to a CIA-trained Laotian fighter to a woman who kept her favorite dead bird in the freezer, Hannah was charmed and fascinated by the kind and authentic folks he met. These captivating vignettes are by turns humorous, touching, and inspiring.

Congratulations again to the author and all involved! 

What Changes Us

This month marks the publication of The Change: My Great American, Postindustrial, Midlife Crisis Tour by Lori Soderlind. In this week’s guest post, Lori reflects on journeys, crisis, and connection.

My mission for the road trip that became my book The Change was to visit the most depressing, god-forsaken, ruined little places I could find on a loop through this country and try to get to know them. It couldn’t get hard enough for me: guns, drug addiction, unemployment, mean dogs, religious zealotry, isolation, family tragedy, untreated mental illness, fouled drinking water, industrial waste, unresolved race wars, labor wars, civil war, merciless tornados, abandonment, crop failure, deindustrialization: bring it.

Cover showing a grey building with a blue sign and yellow letters next to a red building with a sign reading Croatia Club with a blue sky full of clouds

All of it.

I wanted to look it in the face and take it in.

Everywhere on the map, there it was: cities large and small and innumerable towns that had lost the energy they’d grown up from, and that now presented an inventory of pain in a country that had changed and did not understand why, and was suffering for these changes. I lived in New York City, where the view of the other 320 million people in this country can be very narrow, sadly. But I have traveled through the country with curiosity all my life and I loved exploring it, and I had become aware in the past decade of a real gloom out where I’d always wandered carelessly, and I wanted to know what had changed. Much of the visible evidence of the change was its ruins. All the old factories that cities grew up around, gutted; all the downtowns that had given places their identities now swallowed by sprawl or just plain abandoned. I wondered why all that could have happened and how it felt to see that pain, if you lived there, every day.

Much of the change had to do with a huge shift out of the American industrial age, and the loss of manufacturing. One example: Gloversville, New York, had been a great, bustling place back when it made gloves for the world; now, go there and you’ll find all the social ills you can name without encountering a single scrap of leather or a sewing machine. Change has come to American places through countless other evolutions: the rise of the interstate highway system, the decline of family farms, the advent of malls, the new cyber economy. What the changed places had in common was the grief they felt for what they’d lost. Once, each place existed for some reason that was an established reality, just like, once, newspapers were an established reality or train travel was an established reality or my cousin’s first marriage was an established reality. Change had come and so much established reality had been upended and people and places were grieving what was lost, as if it were all meant to last.   

The Change has been released, now, in the midst of the global Covid-19 pandemic that has us aghast at how helpless we humans are, truly. We like reality to be a manageable and predictable thing, but we are reminded always—and now profoundly—that the living world is not so easily tamed. We of the country long regarded as exceptional, who felt all through the past century so breezily powerful: we hit full stop and faced daily the feeling of powerlessness. Nine weeks of quarantine as I write this, and we are, many of us, on our knees in a new posture that feels permanent, though this too will change. My city—New York City—has been hit worst of all, and is suffering. Our fear is much deeper than a fear of getting sick, of death by virus. We fear the collapse of systems we are utterly dependent on. We fear, in the midst of this unparalleled helplessness, that nothing of what we once knew and counted on will ever be the same. We see how vulnerable these structures we have built may truly be, and we are grieving before our house is even gone—because we are shocked to believe that all we have built really could fall down around us. That is how shaken we are, in New York City, in May of the year of Covid-19.

As I write this, a storm has taken the power out and I am alone in the dark in my house; lately, any respite from this sense of plunging into darkness is brief. We are shaken, but only as shaken as others in our country have been for a long, long time now. We are as shaken as a small steel-making town south of Pittsburgh where none of the kids pass standardized tests, and all of the storefronts are empty. We are as shaken as a broken mining town, or a rural desert. We know the country is divided, but to really know the sides is to measure their pain: Some have not worked in years, some lost their homes long ago, and then, too, some are simply Black in America. Others, meanwhile, have felt oddly invulnerable, and believed their fortune to be the norm. From where I sit today, it seems we are all, at once, saying foxhole prayers and hoping simply to survive.  

It could be really good for us. It’s good to know this fear deeply, and to understand that our longing to survive is what, at core, connects us. It is basic, and human. If we can know that connection to each other, and see all of ourselves as beings trying to survive, we will have changed.

Not all of us, but enough of us will change. We’ll know what it is to watch the promises we’d built our lives on collapse, or to fear that they will and to hate this fear. We will know that really, such promises don’t exist. We have only ourselves, which is to say, each other. The same. The one thing we should learn to count on.

Photo of Lori Soderlind

Lori Soderlind is an award-winning essayist and journalist, and author of the memoir Chasing Montana: A Love Story.

Be Careful What You Write About

This week, we celebrate the publication of Half! Author Sharon Harrigan shares how life can imitate art.

One of the joys of publishing a novel—unlike my first book, a memoir—is that I can tell anyone who sees herself in one of my characters: It’s not you! I made the whole thing up. What a relief to hide under the cover of fiction. But the truth is, like many novelists, I drew inspiration from my life to write Half. The intimacy between the identical twin sisters is based on the close bond I had with my brother, a year and a half older than me. And the girls’ larger-than-life, part hero/part monster father has a passing resemblance to my own.

Orange book cover with twin faces partially shown.

Here’s the surprising thing: recently my life seems to draw inspiration from my book, not the other way around. I can’t tell whether this turn of events is delightfully magical or just plain creepy. Maybe both.

In my novel, two siblings are so close they speak in one voice, until they can’t. They discover a secret that breaks their collective voice in half.

At the end of 2019, the advance readers’ copies had just gone out. My brother was visiting for Christmas, and we were walking my dog to the playground when he said, “I have something to tell you.” His voice hushed, even though no one but my cockapoo was anywhere near enough to overhear us. My brother is a professor, used to giving lectures and speeches, and usually words flow easily from him. But on that night, they came slowly. One. At. A. Time. He told me about a terrible event he hadn’t shared with anyone. I could hear, in his hesitation, how much it hurt.

I felt his pain. People use that phrase all the time, but they don’t usually mean a physical sensation. I do. Stress gives some people headaches; in others, it causes tight shoulders or a churning stomach. For me, stress stabs me in the throat. I developed a flu that resulted in a damaged nerve, paralyzing one of my two vocal cords. I posted the diagnosis on Facebook. “So funny,” my friends said. “You wrote a book about a voice breaking in half and then it happened to you!”

“I know,” I responded. “Be careful what you write about.”

Half ends in 2030, when climate change has resulted in a world that didn’t seem possible in the Before Times. It snows endlessly for months, the sky a white out.

In real life 2020, we muse wistfully about the pre-pandemic universe, a place we know will never exist in quite the same way again. It might as well be blizzarding for months, because we act as if we’re snowed in, barely ever leaving our houses.

In my fictional near future, “a fault line from Portland to Seattle caused the biggest earthquake in recent history. Sea levels rose and coastal houses, once worth millions, couldn’t be sold for scraps.” Will something like this happen in ten years? No one knows what the future will hold.

At least I don’t know. But my book—in its own magical or creepy or artfully mysterious way—just might.

author in black shirt with green background

Sharon Harrigan teaches at WriterHouse, a nonprofit literary center in Charlottesville, Virginia. She is the author of Playing with Dynamite: A Memoir. Her work has appeared in the New York Times (Modern Love), NarrativeVirginia Quarterly Review, and elsewhere.

PLOT LINES AND ADAPTATIONS: MARKETING BOOK CLUB (APRIL)

For National Poetry Month, we read Gloss by Rebecca Hazelton, part of the Wisconsin Poetry Series. Our book club consists of Alexis Paperman, publicity assistant and grad student studying library information science; Morgan Reardon, marketing assistant studying English literature and American Indian studies; and Julia Knecht, exhibits and data manager.

Hand holding a book with a pink cover, background is sandy beach and waves crashing behind.

Morgan’s favorite poem was “Recast, Again,” in the first section of the book, “Adaptations.” The poem beautifully captured the feeling of a child’s helplessness and how we can be observers in our own lives. She interpreted this poem to be describing the speaker’s childhood of witnessing a failing parental relationship and how the speaker wants to shield their own child from its effects. The imagery really brought the reader in, as though they too were lying on the ground watching the rest of the world float by: “I spent most of my childhood watching / the clouds / revolve while I stayed still.” The way the poem is structured, in short stanzas spread across the page, evokes the drifting of the clouds. This poem also explores how our memories can shift and trick us into believing in things that never happened, but the point is that it doesn’t matter. The speaker is looking toward the future, toward the person listening to these words.

Julia especially enjoyed the poems “Group Text” and “Why I Don’t Believe.” “Group Text” is a nuanced portrayal of modern friendship in a digital age, detailing a group text exchange between friends that bounces seamlessly between philosophical queries and poop emojis. It explores how a digital medium influences our social exchanges, such as how the speaker is “just three dots, shimmering.” She is a witness, always on the cusp of contribution. “Why I Don’t Believe” takes a painful look at the fading relationship between mother and young son, best summarized by the line “I am in an unequal relationship / with a toddler.” The poem is a startling portrayal of motherhood that strays from the straightforward narrative of limitless motherly love to consider socialized conflict that arises as children age.

Alexis wanted to say the whole collection was her favorite, however, when pressed, she decided on “Recast” and “Largest Hands.” The idea of “Recast” is not exactly new. It is the description which Rebecca Hazelton utilizes that illuminates roles of women: “the glaring lights of a delivery room after she’s moved the story along.” Indeed, there are times when that line has resonated with Alexis—that what she is doing is simply moving the story or plot of someone else’s life forward. She thinks that many of the moments presented in Hazelton’s collection will resonate with women. Strong imagery is one of the things that appeals to Alexis in poems. Hazelton’s poem “Largest Hands” is filled with such imagery as it describes the functioning of the dollhouse. Underneath the first layer of “Largest Hands” is again the questioning of what forces in life create a fragile ideal that leaves the soul wanting. It is hard to properly do justice to the poem in a simple excerpt; however, here is the line that drew Alexis in: “Where are the children? They were too expensive.” It is the fourth line in, and, without the context of the poem as a whole, may not mean much. Still, Alexis hopes you take the time to read both poems as well as the rest of Rebecca Hazelton’s collection.

Overall, we thought this book was an enjoyable and thought-provoking read. The way Hazelton plays with structure really adds to the depth of her poems. She weaves the concept of people portraying themselves in different ways to themselves and others throughout each piece. She comments on this using the metaphor of Hollywood, describing people as actors who perform on and off set. Along with discussing the sense of self, these poems also examine sexuality, relationships, and power. The cover image, lipstick smudged off of a pair of slightly agape lips, feeds into the idea that we cultivate an image for ourselves in the public eye, but that the way we cover and disguise our inner selves cannot be easily taken off. These poems fit well together, and though some of them stood out for us personally, it felt like they were a part of a cohesive collection. A reader with any level of experience reading poetry will be able to connect with Hazelton’s words.

On the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day

Earth Day was a resounding success because the organizers didn’t try to shape a uniform national action. They empowered ordinary people to express their passion for the Earth in whatever way they chose from wherever they were. . . . It was a moment of rare political alignment that elicited support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, city slickers and farmers. . . . Never could [my father] have imagined that a day dedicated to the environment would inspire millions to action and alter the course of history.

—Tia Nelson, from the preface of Gaylord Nelson’s Beyond Earth Day: Fulfilling the Promise

In 1970, an estimated 20 million Americans celebrated the first Earth Day. Founded by former Wisconsin senator and governor Gaylord Nelson (1916–2005), the event increased public awareness of conservation work, helped spur the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and led to the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. We asked our authors and editors what Earth Day means to them.

Brian DeVore, author of Wildly Successful Farming

Brian DeVore

To me, Earth Day means community. As Aldo Leopold’s land ethic reminds us, we are all part of a larger community, one that includes plants, animals, watersheds, and soil microbes. If we are to do right by that community in this age of the Anthropocene, it will require working with nature as a not-so-silent partner. I’ve been on many farms that have done this by blending the “wild” and the “tame”—such boundary-blurring doesn’t produce the clean precision we Homo sapiens believe we want, but it most certainly generates the messy resiliency that we need.

John Hildebrand, author of Long Way Round

John Hildebrand

Fifty years ago, I sat in Crisler Arena at the University of Michigan listening to Gaylord Nelson and others at the first Earth Day and promptly forgetting everything they said. But I still remember the music—Gordon Lightfoot’s “Black Day in July,” a song about the 1967 Detroit riot. I’d worked on a Ford assembly line that summer and a year later rode a bus to classes through Motown’s gutted streets. So Earth Day is forever linked in my mind to a burning city. Why? Because to love the earth means loving all of it, not just the pretty parts.

Dr. Steven Love, editor of Native Plants Journal

Dr. Steven Love

My celebration of Earth Day typically looks like any other workaday. The fact is, I generally pay very little attention to this one-day environmental event. Not that I reject principles of conservation. In fact, I think we should all adopt lifestyles in which we conserve water and other natural resources,  create habitat for creatures whose world we share, make decisions that reduce human impact, protect our pristine natural areas, and generally make the world a better and more sustainable place to live. My problem with Earth Day is that I believe we should live these principles every day, not celebrate them once a year.

Arthur Melville Pearson, author of Force of Nature

Arthur Melville Pearson

For George Fell, every day was Earth Day. For all he accomplished, he seldom if ever stopped to celebrate because there always remained so much more to do. This Earth Day, marking a milestone anniversary, I plan to stop and think of all The Nature Conservancy has accomplished over the last half century. And the Illinois Nature Preserves Commission. The Natural Land Institute. And the many organizations and individuals of the Natural Areas Association. Thanks to George. The next day, I’ll get back to work for all the challenges and opportunities that yet lie ahead.

National Poetry Month: Poetry for the Present

April is National Poetry Month—and we could all use a little extra poetry lately. Five University of Wisconsin Press poets share a poem from their recently published collections.


Ganbatte by Sarah Kortemeier

Cover image for Ganbatte

Kortemeier: Most of my work means something different to me now than it did when I wrote it; this poem definitely does. Hold on. We need each other, all our collective strength, all our love.





春 [haru] Japanese. Spring.

The sun hides under
the days. Lift them away, like wet planks
from a storm-wrecked house.
One removed, two—a breath,
a cry, a light
strikes a smudged, thin face—
and there is the spring, broken, starving,
still alive. Hoist her out.


If the house by Molly Spencer

Cover image for If the House

Spencer: In these days of sheltering, I’ve been thinking a lot about Linda Gregg’s poem, “We Manage Most When We Manage Small.” It strikes me today—years after writing it—that “Love at These Coordinates” is about managing small in a particular place and in a time of bewilderment, much as we all are now. It’s about focusing on what’s concrete and at hand, and it’s about keeping at it, hanging in there, trying again in hope—with no guarantee of results, and despite the impermanence of everything.


Love at These Coordinates

Put the window here. No

put it here. Where
the leaves are about to burn
and blow away. Keep sweeping

over the bare place
where
you thought you left

your body—breezeway
strike plate
tread of the stair.

Here is the sill
where at the end of

every winter I have tried
to force the paperwhites
to bloom.


Fruit by Bruce Snider

Snider: In this time of social distancing, it’s easy for us to feel disconnected from one another. I wrote “The Average Human” thinking about the imperceptible ways we’re always connected, even across place and time.





The Average Human

breath contains approximately 1044 molecules, which, once exhaled,
in time spread evenly through the atmosphere


                so today I took
in the last breaths of James
Baldwin Marie Curie Genghis
Kahn my great great grandmother’s
breath entering me beside the breath
of a Viking slave boy immolated
on the flames of his master’s
burning corpse. I inhaled
African queens Chinese
emperors the homeless
man with the bright blue
coat down the street. If oxygen
is the third most plentiful
element in the universe, moving
through us like Virgil through
the underworld, how long
have I tasted the girl
drowned among cattails near
the murky shore? In ancient Egypt
a priestess packed a corpse with
salt but not before a breath
escaped that two thousand years
later entered me or at least
atoms of it, a molecule. Plato
theorized atoms in 400 BC
and this morning outside
Athens I took in his last breath,
my lungs damp crypts
where Charon’s oars dipped
into the black waters of the River
Styx, not knowing who would
pay the ferryman and
with what coin on what tongue.


No Day at the Beach by John Brehm

Brehm: I chose this poem because it speaks to the sense of shared vulnerability, as individuals and as a species, that we’re all feeling right now.





Field of Vision

Our survival cost us our happiness,
always scanning for lions
stalking us on the open

savannahs—is that
a panther or just wind
in the tall grass moving?

The carefree became
a big cat’s satisfied sleep.
The rest of us are here,

five million years of fear
hard-wiring our brains
to be on guard, to look

for trouble, for the one
thing wrong with this picture,
whatever the picture might be.

Now we do it out of habit,
even when there’s no reason,
when we’re perfectly safe,

walking out each morning,
naked, under the baobab trees,
into the lion’s field of vision.


Queen in Blue by Ambalila Hemsell

Hemsell: Almost every poem in my collection is in some way about the deeply intertwined nature of death and birth, violence and creation. This poem imagines the return to a vital and animalistic existence amidst the breakdown of capitalistic society. The poem posits that there is joy to be found somewhere in the alchemy of gratitude, love, and survival.



joy

joy spreads like blood on the sheets, love, and we are black
blooded thieves, turnip takers in our lucky rabbit skins.

whiskey makes the good heart powerful and we thump thump
our drums until sunup. chant ourselves hoarse through the smoking

wet cedar. the system of currency and want has lost its sway. I have now
only the natural sorts of hunger. with that in mind, let us feast.

with that in mind, let us cleave the river from the bank with the cosmic axe.
feed the deer from our pockets, the oatmeal we ourselves were raised on

and will raise our children on again. with that in mind, ravage me.
have you seen the quiet way in fog the dawn barely breaks? it is treason

for the day to enter with so little ceremony. I want fireworks. I want
the slaughter of lambs for our holy days, but each day is holier than the last.

as we plummet from our high banyan seat the short switch beats the rug,
the golden beets are slow to come and you, love, accept my hurricane

to your stout trunk, accept the natural uprooting. the bevel meeting of me to you,
god, speak on the smoothing of stone by water, and the fitting of stone to stone.

we are meek walkers on the once lush globe. now, among the perishing, we count
our blessings and shed our shoes.


Ed Garvey and the tradition of Wisconsin Progressivism

Today is the 2020 Wisconsin Spring Election (for more information on voting, visit MyVote Wisconsin). Author and local journalist Rob Zaleski shares his motivation for writing Ed Garvey Unvarnished: Lessons from a Visionary Progressive.

In 2011, shortly after Republican Scott Walker was elected Wisconsin’s governor, Ed Garvey, a dynamic and widely respected progressive activist from Burlington, and I had 17 in-depth interviews. We discussed a myriad of issues related not only to Walker’s victory but to Garvey’s remarkable life—including his sterling accomplishments as an environmental crusader and three failed attempts at public office. Those interviews, we figured, would make for an engrossing, thought-provoking book.

In our final interview, Garvey revealed that he was about to seek a publisher for a second book he’d been working on about his time as the executive director of the National Football League’s players union. Fascinating guy that he was, I doubted there was a market for both his book and the one I was writing about him.

After Garvey succumbed to Parkinson’s in February 2017, I was taken aback by the many glowing tributes to him—not only from his many friends and admirers throughout Wisconsin but from media voices and politicians across the country.

“Ed Garvey was a hero to progressives in this state,” my colleague Natasha Kassulke pointedly noted over lunch. “And progressives have never needed a hero more than now. Rob, you’ve got to finish your book.”

She was right. So I went back to work, and in September of this past year—some eight years after Garvey and I met at his suburban Shorewood Hills home for our first interview—UW Press published Ed Garvey Unvarnished.

The Garvey name, I’ve discovered, still resonates. A number of readers have expressed their amazement at how candid and brutally honest Garvey was in our interviews. Several were intrigued by the access he afforded me—and the fact that he trusted me with many of his deep, personal feelings on a variety of issues.

But, as anyone who knew Garvey well can attest, brutal honesty was his trademark. It’s who he was. As for trusting me with his most sensitive inner-thoughts, I believe it had to do with the sense of urgency he felt from the moment we sat down for that first interview: he was fully aware that the clock was running out.

First and foremost, Garvey wanted to remind people of what he had stood for his entire life. But he also felt he hadn’t received his due for his work on behalf of the National Football League Players Association—a view that is shared in the book by two former NFLPA players’ reps: Pat Richter, who went on to become athletic director at the University of Wisconsin, and Mark Murphy, now president of the Green Bay Packers.

Prior to Garvey’s hiring as the NFLPA’s executive director in 1971, most players worked part-time in the offseason. They had virtually no job security. Then, the average NFL salary was $24,000. Today it’s about $2.7 million.

“Look at what players have now,” Murphy marveled. “This was Ed’s dream. People thought we were crazy when the players went on strike in 1982 and demanded a percentage of the league’s gross [profits]. Our rallying cry was, ‘We are the game,’ which of course is true. Now the players do get a percentage of the gross, and everybody views it as a great system that’s working well for everybody. And it’s mainly because of Ed.”

Much as I admired what Garvey had accomplished in his NFLPA days, it’s not the main reason I wanted to do this book. I have interviewed thousands of people during my 30-plus years in the newspaper business. But no one quite like Ed Garvey.

Yes, he had a hair-trigger temper. And yes, he could be viciously sarcastic. In heated debates, he wouldn’t hesitate to go for his rival’s jugular. But I’ve never met a public figure—certainly never a politician—who was as decent, as forthright, and as determined to speak the truth as Ed Garvey. And I wanted people to know what a fascinating and unique person he was.

When he took a stance on a particular issue, he never checked the opinion polls or conferred with a bunch of high-falutin’ consultants. He did it because he believed it was the right thing to do. While he felt the Republican party was controlled by selfish, bigoted, wealthy old men, he routinely criticized the Democratic party for catering to the same well-heeled special interests as Republicans.

Ed Garvey, I came to realize, truly was one of a kind. My hope is that younger Americans who read his words will be inspired to seize his mantle.

Rob Zaleski is a freelance writer and award-winning columnist. He spent twenty-six years writing for The Capital Times in Madison.

A Cinema of Obsession

In honor of global celebrations for International Women’s Day, we share a guest post from Mariah Larsson. Her recent book, A Cinema of Obsession, is the first to focus on the life and career of notable Swedish director and auteur Mai Zetterling.

As representations of women in film have been heatedly debated, Mai Zetterling’s life and career provide important perspectives. When Zetterling’s first feature film, Loving Couples, premiered in 1964, she was one of very few women filmmakers in the world. After having worked as an actress for more than twenty years, she entered into the European art cinema scene and struggled to claim a space as an auteur, a film director who was also considered a great artist. During the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, she would break a long and winding path, beginning in the male-dominated art cinema institution, continuing into television and documentary, feminist film festivals and filmmaking, and commercial television as well as feature films, ending with ceaseless struggles to finance various projects during the final years of her life.

Provoking controversy and scandal on several occasions until her untimely death in 1994, Zetterling was prolific in her work on documentary, short film, feature fiction films, and television, while also writing novels and short stories. Politically, she claimed to belong within a leftist intellectual tradition, and she was for a while under investigation by the MI5 (the United Kingdom’s counterintelligence and security agency). Nevertheless, the ideology expressed in her films dealt with a deep romanticization of cultures on the margins of mainstream Western society. Her films are visually striking and their narratives often controversial, focusing on gender relations and alienation. Representations of sexuality and gender were both conservative and radical at the same time; paradoxical, often strongly symbolic.

Zetterling made many of her films in her native land of Sweden, though for the majority of her life she lived abroad. She is associated with the country of Ingmar Bergman and films with adult material. Her years as a film star in Sweden were brief, as she moved to England in 1947 shortly after a successful guest appearance playing the titular role in Basil Dearden’s Frieda (1947). In contrast to Ingmar Bergman, with whom Zetterling had worked (starring in Music in Darkness in 1948) and with whom she was often compared, there has been very little or even near to nothing written about her for an international audience.

One reason for Zetterling’s overlooked position in film history is that her work, to a large extent, seems to have fallen between the stools. It is no coincidence that the feature films she made within her native art cinema institution are the ones of her oeuvrebest recorded in film history: Loving Couples, Night Games (1966), The Girls (1968). Feature films were for a long time considered the highest form of moving image storytelling, and European art films were categorized in accordance to nationality. In addition, as the women’s movement in film began to highlight Zetterling’s work in the 1970s and 1980s, her films featuring female protagonists were the ones that were screened and remembered. However, Zetterling’s career was independent of national borders—as well as independent of genres and formats. She worked in Denmark, Greenland, the UK, France, and Canada. Her various productions focus alternately on male and female protagonists and Doctor Glas (1968), Vincent the Dutchman (1972), or her contribution to the 1972 Munich Olympics documentary, Visions of Eight (1973), are no less engaging than The Girls or Scrubbers (1983).

Zetterling navigated the changing industrial and contextual structures of the film and television industries during her career, sometimes successfully, at other times less so. Her path was, indeed, winding, but it mirrors the experiences of several other women directors, even today.

[Note: A collection of Mai Zetterling’s films with English subtitles is now available in a DVD box set: Mai Zetterling’s samlade verk, released by Swedish Studio S Entertainment (region 2).]

Mariah Larsson is a professor of film and literature at Linneaus University. She is the author of The Swedish Porn Scene: Exhibition Contexts, 8mm Pornography and the Sex Film, and the coeditor of Swedish Cinema and the Sexual Revolution: Critical Essays.