Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Letter from a Radical Hag

Dear Reader,

Octogenarian Haze Evans believes that curiosity is the collagen of the mind, staving off mental sags, droops, and wrinkles. She doesn't care that Society reserves its pompom waving and back flips for those who've yet to cross the 40-year line; as a newspaper columnist, she's got people to listen to, stories to write, thoughts to share. She feels privileged to write about the drama, comedy, tragedy, romance, mystery, and intrigue that exist—in varying degrees—in everyone's life, including her own.

Haze began writing her columns in 1954 and to school myself on past current events, I occasionally Googled "What was happening in the year 19-- or 20--?" More often, I relied on a reference book called The Time Tables of History and just now, to make sure I got the title right, I pulled the book off its shelf and randomly turned to the year 1977 and in the "History, Politics" column, read "President Carter warns that the energy crisis in the U.S. could bring on a 'national catastrophe'; Americans must respond with the 'moral equivalent of war,' making 'profound' changes in their oil consumption." (Whoa, talk about prescient!) That's the lesson that was reiterated while writing this book: history can teach us valuable lessons, if we're only willing to listen.

I don't want to give much of the story's plot away, preferring that you buy the book by the caseload (happy to provide an answer to all your gift-giving needs!), but one of the last columns Haze writes before she's felled by a stroke (from which she may or may not recover) is about the upcoming 2016 presidential election. Her own mother's generation wasn't allowed to vote until 1920 (less than a hundred years ago!), and that Haze might help elect the first American female president thrills and humbles her.

In her columns, Haze writes from the perspective all of us have: as a citizen in our own small world and in the big world at large. The Vietnam War doesn't come close to touching her in the way it touches grieving parents who listen over and over to the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds because it was the favorite album of their killed-in-action son. In an '80s column about the emerging AIDS epidemic, she writes about Richard, a cherished childhood friend whose sexuality is ridiculed and mocked by other classmates. Her perspective endears her to many readers, but not to one particular Joseph Snell, whose world-view is rarely in focus with her own and who writes letters to the paper complaining about her work being "nothing more than the chronicles of a radical hag." After one column in which she ruminates on the practice of taking the husband's name after marriage, she receives criticism from him and others, and she ends a rebuttal column with a favorite cookie recipe. That begs a different kind of question: how many male columnists would feel the need to mollify irate readers by sharing recipes?

The online world we're living in now hosts "trolls" who are literally underground (seeing as many of them write from their basement) and who criticize/excoriate/threaten anonymously, which of course is cowardly. At least pre-cyber, those writing in to fulminate against old-school bloggers—columnists—had the courage to sign their names. Of course, the sexism and ageism was most often directed at women (would Snell ever call a male columnist a radical old coot?).

Sam, the fourteen-year-old son of the newspaper's publisher scoffs at the idea that "an old lady's columns" could interest him. Given (he'd say forced into) a summer job at the paper, he's tasked with going through archives and reading Haze's words as well as letters from readers. His evolution was satisfying to write about; he not only lets go of his own sexism and ageism but also leads his classmates in recognizing the worth of the words of Haze the person.

Chronicles of a Radical Hag (with Recipes) is a book about the value of all of our stories and of the voices that tell them. I hope it will make you laugh, cry, gasp, think, wonder, get miffed, get riled, and get inspired. And remember when making the almond crescents, a light touch works best. I would offer that as all-around good advice, except not to professional masseuses or boxers.

In Radical Hagginess,
Lorna Landvik

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Lorna Landvik is the author of twelve novels, including the bestselling Patty Jane’s House of Curl, Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons, Oh My Stars, Best to Laugh (Minnesota, 2015), and Once in a Blue Moon Lodge (Minnesota, 2017). She has performed stand-up and improvisational comedy around the country and is a public speaker, playwright, and actor most recently in the one-woman, all-improvised show Party in the Rec Room. She lives in Minneapolis.


Lorna has two upcoming launch events:
  • 7:00 PM, Tuesday, March 26th, 2019. Hosted by Valley Bookseller at Trinity Lutheran Church (115 4th St. N., Stillwater, MN 55082). Tickets are $15 with $5 going toward the purchase of the book, and are available in person at Valley Bookseller or at www.valleybookseller.com.
  • 7:00 PM, Wednesday, March 27th, 2019. Hosted by Excelsior Bay Books at Trinity Episcopal Church (322 2nd St., Excelsior, MN 55331).  Tickets are $15 with $5 going toward the purchase of the book, and are available in person at Excelsior Bay Books or by calling 952-401-0932, or at https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/4021530.
A full list of Lorna's events can be found here.

"A comic love letter to journalism and literature, Lorna Landvik’s newest novel is smart, funny, and intimate, with a terrifically memorable cast of small-town characters. Read the book, then head for the kitchen and start baking. Delicious!"—Julie Schumacher, author of The Shakespeare Requirement

"Landvik uses wisdom and her trademark humor to encourage readers to have a thoughtful response to the world and the people with whom they share it. A pleasure to read."—Kirkus Reviews

"At a time when local newspapers are nearing extinction, and reporters are deemed enemies of the people, Landvik’s smart and lovely paean to journalists is a welcome reminder of the important role they play in the lives of those who depend on newspapers for more than just information."—Booklist




Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Greetings from the London Book Fair!

Hello from London! I arrived yesterday in the city along with my colleague, press director Doug Armato. Once we have a cuppa and a bacon butty, we'll be ready to represent the University of Minnesota Press at this year's London Book Fair.

We have a long-standing and active international rights and translations program, with press titles routinely translated and published by diverse publishers from around the world. But this is actually the first time the University of Minnesota Press has attended the London Book Fair. This year, we are showcasing a diverse list to international publishers (mainly from Europe) that includes our cutting edge scholarly and theory titles alongside our curated lists of commercial fiction, children's and young adult fiction, and cookbooks.

I would like to draw your attention to a handful of titles, included below, that we feel will receive significant attention in London:

What God Is Honored Here?
Writings on Miscarriage and Infant Loss for Native Women and Women of Color
Shannon Gibney and Kao Kalia Yang, editors

A literary collection of voices from indigenous women and women of color who have undergone miscarriage and infant loss

World rights all languages
October 2019

A Cook's Guide to Using Honey and Maple Syrup
Beth Dooley and Mette Nielsen

A beautiful, delicious celebration of two natural sweeteners in irresistible recipes

World rights all languages
April 2019

A Critical Guide to the Future of the Galaxy
Dan Golding

Politics, craft, and cultural nostalgia in the remaking of Star Wars for a new age

World rights all languages
March 2019

Jacqueline Briggs Martin 
Illustrated by Larry Day

An irresistible read-aloud picture book, in which a little odd-duck-out discovers her unique strengths

World rights all languages
February 2019

A PDF of our full rights catalog can be see here.

You'll be able to find us under the beautiful glass arches of Olympia in London at the AUPresses Pavillion, Stand #7D14. 

Hope to see you there!

Jason Weidemann, Editorial Director

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

The Big Surreal


BY JOANNA FRUEH

Surrealism is an art and literary movement in the early twentieth century. Its best-known work is a painting by Salvador Dali, The Persistence of Memory, in which clocks look like they’re melting in a bleak and blank terrain. In Surrealist painting, distortions of everyday reality, in scale, shape, and space give surreal as an adjective its definition of strange, disorienting, and off kilter. Dreamlike but not dreamy, an experience of surreality takes one aback and dislocates her: where am I? A terminal cancer diagnosis can be a surreal experience.

I received such a diagnosis at Christmastime 2016.

Where am I? I really don’t know.
I am lying on the living room couch, I’m reading in the gray leather chair, I’m mopping the floor, I buy groceries and drive a car. I walk the dog and brush her.
I am in the material world.

Where am I?
I lose my bearings but not my mind.

I am not here at all.
My mind is gossamer and huge
And clear unlike ever before. Its clarity astounds me.
“Mind” is inaccurate, and that I continue to use “I” is abundantly disappointing.
I cannot constitute any self. I am not me, not I. Nothing is mine, and “mind” is absurd.
This no place and nothing, a unity, has neither shape nor parameters. It is composed of myriad scintillae, random in their activity, and not the least chaotic, arising and passing, changing in instants, combining, recombining, disappearing. The epitome of speed and stillness.  
The no place is nothing in particular. It wants not a thing. It needs no witness. It is essenceless present.
I am bodiless. What is in, on, and through the gossamer is not contained or containable, and it keeps changing, quicker than in instants. “Floating” and “high speed” do not seem compatible, but in the no place they are. It offers nothing to see, smell, touch, taste, or hear. “Gossamer” and “transparency” are miserable descriptions.

How have I gotten to the no place? I can’t be at all certain.
Taxotere? A very potent chemotherapy I experienced in 2017 that seemed to veil my forehead, both outside and in.
Whole brain radiation? A treatment I chose in early 2018 that I feared was deranging my mind and causing cognitive losses. The radiation oncologist said that if I chose not to proceed, I could be dead within a few weeks.
A meditation technique that I’ve practiced for nearly ten years in which the meditator does her best to be still, scan her body, and be as attentive as possible to bodily sensations? Equanimity is a goal.
Each one has taken me far away from the accepted reality of domestic and work life. I’ve returned from the treatments both diminished and expanded, and I continue the meditation, a practice that is intended to create equanimity. The second time I was flying home from one of the ten-day retreats, in 2010, I was meditating and my arm closest to the plane window disappeared. It was only scintillae. I was very scared, but a teacher of the method who I contacted once I was home assured me that nothing unusual had occurred.

I am completely inadequate in describing the no place. It is not a vision, nor a fantasy. I’m not trying to paint a picture.

I am living and dying. In the Living with Cancer Support group that I have often gone to, we say that everyone is dying, but they don’t know it like we do. Smack up against it. A terminal diagnosis and the many MRIs and PET scans that I’ve had over the months and years, the follow-ups with medical and radiation oncologists, the infusions, the blood work that shows whether I’m sickening from medications, the lingering fatigue, the shorter walks that I must take so that I don’t get so tired that I risk falling. I used to walk easily and happily from the Metropolitan Museum to SoHo—a distance of 4.6 miles. I used to be elated when MRIs and PET scans were clear. Metastatic breast cancer has no cure, but an all-clear result may seem like stasis regarding the cancer, a kind of cure. I said to the acupuncturist I see that some people would find it weird that I’m not elated at the latest MRI result, from February 2019, and she said, “You’re realistic.” I’m so glad you said that,” I smiled.

We think of ourselves as who we were. Who we were is normal, and comfortable through familiarity with the past. Normal is a constant. So people opt for procedures that purport to keep them looking young, though often they look surreal, like Dolly Parton at the 2019 Grammys. Ants, symbols of decay, crawl on one of the clocks in The Persistence of Memory. The material world moves towards entropy, but the bodies of celebrities must not succumb to deterioration. No matter. They are icons of deterioration.

Cancer treatments, like dermal fillers and cosmetic surgery, try to reverse time. I look for beauty in the surreal disarray of my life. Clocks melt, time softens into nothingness. Beauty in scintillae, in utter impermanence.

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Joanna Frueh is a writer, performance artist, scholar, art critic and historian, and teacher whose work expands into photographic, video, and audio pieces. She received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Women’s Caucus for Art in 2008. Her books include Erotic Faculties, Monster/Beauty: Building the Body of Love, Swooning Beauty: A Memoir of Pleasure, and Clairvoyance (For Those in the Desert): Performance Pieces, 1979–2004. She has performed and lectured in the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom and is professor emeritus of art history at the University of Nevada, Reno.

"Unapologetic Beauty is a downright necessary meditation on women’s wisdom and beauty in aging. Joanna Frueh and Frances Murray—in writing and image—call out the fact that our ‘hyperbeauty’ culture relies on stereotypical ‘taboos’ to make individuals unique or edgy, when we must rather recognize that ‘real flesh, real love: they are the taboos.’ And the world needs more of both."—Maria Elena Buszek, University of Colorado, Denver

"Joanna Frueh develops her earlier strands: body image; representation of self; relationships between image, text, and body; body work; illness and healing. Starting with friendship and creativity, she draws these themes in her work together in a powerful invocation of moving toward self-love through self-acceptance. It will always be the right time to read this, no matter the body one inhabits."—Hilary Robinson, editor of Feminism Art Theory: An Anthology, 1968-2014 

"A wonderful, evocative depiction of a woman in all her glory."—Susan Love, author of Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book