What Obama Can Learn from FDR

The Feb. 12 issue of The New York Review of Books highlights a selection of new works about Franklin Roosevelt’s presidency, including “Traitor to His Class” by UT Historian H.W. Brands.

In the story “A Revolutionary President,” Russell Baker suggests the blooming of FDR books “…probably has a lot to do with Barack Obama’s assuming the presidency at a moment of economic breakdown just as Roosevelt did seventy-six years ago.”

The New York Review of Books isn’t the only media outlet to take note of the Obama-FDR connection. Brands has spoken about the lessons FDR’s presidency holds for the Obama administration in a number of commentaries and interviews.

Check some of the stories:
• CNN: “When a black man was invited to the White House,” Nov. 6.
• NPR: “What Obama Can Learn from FDR and Reagan,” Nov. 20.
• PBS NewsHour: “Lincoln, Roosevelt Presidencies Offer Lessons for Obama,” Nov. 27.
• MarketWatch: “In Obama’s inaugural speech, crisis is opportunity,” Jan. 16.
• Detroit Free Press: “Nation has high expectations for Obama,” Jan. 17.

PBS Airs “The Polio Crusade” Based on Professor’s Book

Tune in to your local PBS station next Monday for an in-depth look at one of the biggest public health crises of the 20th century.

Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) will air “The Polio Crusade,” a one-hour television documentary based in part on History Professor David Oshinsky’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, at 8 p.m. (CST) Feb. 2.

Oshinsky won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize in history for “Polio: An American Story” (Oxford University Press, 2005) which details America’s obsession with the disease.

“The Polio Crusade,” produced by the PBS history series “American Experience,” chronicles the 20th-century effort to eradicate polio and includes interviews with historians, scientists, polio survivors and Julius Youngner, the only surviving scientist from the research team that developed the Salk vaccine.

Learn more about Oshinsky’s book in the feature “More Than a March of Dimes.”

PBS Airs "The Polio Crusade" Based on Professor's Book

Tune in to your local PBS station next Monday for an in-depth look at one of the biggest public health crises of the 20th century.

Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) will air “The Polio Crusade,” a one-hour television documentary based in part on History Professor David Oshinsky’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, at 8 p.m. (CST) Feb. 2.

Oshinsky won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize in history for “Polio: An American Story” (Oxford University Press, 2005) which details America’s obsession with the disease.

“The Polio Crusade,” produced by the PBS history series “American Experience,” chronicles the 20th-century effort to eradicate polio and includes interviews with historians, scientists, polio survivors and Julius Youngner, the only surviving scientist from the research team that developed the Salk vaccine.

Learn more about Oshinsky’s book in the feature “More Than a March of Dimes.”

Professor Discusses the Economic Crisis and the Road Ahead

Last August, LBJ School of Public Affairs Professor James K. Galbraith’s prescient book “The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too” was published by Free Press.

Less than a month later, the collapse of Lehman Brothers and AIG stunned a nation already reeling from the government takeover of mortgage lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Galbraith, who will discuss his book tonight in an event co-sponsored by the College of Communication Senior Fellows honors program and the LBJ School, answered a few questions for ShelfLife about his book, the ongoing financial crisis, his opinion on the Obama stimulus plan, and what we can expect for the future.

Q: In light of economic developments that have arisen since the publication of “The Predator State,” what do you think you got right?

A: Basically everything. I basically called the crisis and the cause of the crisis quite accurately. Not to say that it was by any means accidental. I was quite prepared for the crisis and saw it coming.

Q: What are your thoughts on President Obama’s proposed stimulus plan?

A: I think the bill should pass and it should pass quickly. However, people shouldn’t look to it to solve the crisis by itself. I think it would be a good step taken in short order by Congress, but we are going to need a much deeper faction on a broader scale to solve this problem.

Q: If you were to write a sequel to “The Predator State,” what would the central themes be?

A: I think it probably will be the great crisis we are experiencing now and the dismal science of economists and their professional definitions of economics. Also, I want to answer the question of why they were all so totally out to lunch when all of this was taking place.

Galbraith will discuss his book and the current economic outlook tonight at 7 p.m. at the Thompson Conference Center. Visit the calendar for more information.

Book Chronicles Liberation of Nazi Concentration Camps

Sixty-four years ago today, Soviet soldiers liberated Auschwitz, one of the largest concentration camps established by the Germans during World War II. The United Nations now recognizes January 27 as an International Day of Commemoration for victims of the Holocaust.

Allied forces would liberate many other camps that spring, revealing photos and stories of atrocity that stunned the world.

Historian Robert H. Abzug chronicles American soldiers’ eye-witness accounts in the seminal work “Inside the Vicious Heart: Americans and the Liberation of Nazi Concentration Camps” (Oxford University Press, 1987).

The book combines historical analysis with personal testimonies, and includes many of the photos of unimaginable suffering that later appeared in magazines and newsreels. As the last World War II veterans pass away in the coming years, the significance of books that preserve their experiences, like “Inside the Vicious Heart,” will only continue to grow.

At the time of its publication, the book earned numerous accolades. Newsday proclaimed it “forceful and riveting,” and The New York Times praised Abzug’s “excellent job sifting both the testimony itself and the reactions of Americans back home.”

Abzug directs the university’s Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies. Learn more about his research on the Holocaust, antebellum America, and religion and psychology in American culture.

Barry Unsworth to Discusses “Land of Marvels” at the HRC

In the first of the Harry Ransom Lectures, writer Barry Unsworth discusses his new book “Land of Marvels,” at 7 p.m., Monday, Jan. 26 at the Ransom Center. The program will be webcast live. A book signing will follow.

The Ransom Center holds the papers of the celebrated writer who won the Booker Prize in 1992 for “Sacred Hunger”, a novel about the 18-century slave trade widely considered his masterpiece.

His other acclaimed works include “Morality Play,” “Pascali’s Island” (which was adapted into a film starring Ben Kingsley and Helen Mirren), “The Ruby in Her Navel,” “The Songs of the Kings,” “After Hannibal” and “Losing Nelson.”

The Harry Ransom Lectures honor former University of Texas Chancellor Harry Huntt Ransom and highlight the Ransom Center’s vital role in the university’s intellectual and cultural life. The program, made possible by support from the University Co-operative Society, brings internationally renowned writers, artists and scholars to Austin for public events and conversations with university students.

Barry Unsworth to Discusses "Land of Marvels" at the HRC

In the first of the Harry Ransom Lectures, writer Barry Unsworth discusses his new book “Land of Marvels,” at 7 p.m., Monday, Jan. 26 at the Ransom Center. The program will be webcast live. A book signing will follow.

The Ransom Center holds the papers of the celebrated writer who won the Booker Prize in 1992 for “Sacred Hunger”, a novel about the 18-century slave trade widely considered his masterpiece.

His other acclaimed works include “Morality Play,” “Pascali’s Island” (which was adapted into a film starring Ben Kingsley and Helen Mirren), “The Ruby in Her Navel,” “The Songs of the Kings,” “After Hannibal” and “Losing Nelson.”

The Harry Ransom Lectures honor former University of Texas Chancellor Harry Huntt Ransom and highlight the Ransom Center’s vital role in the university’s intellectual and cultural life. The program, made possible by support from the University Co-operative Society, brings internationally renowned writers, artists and scholars to Austin for public events and conversations with university students.

What's on Your Nightstand, Tom Gilligan?

For Thomas Gilligan, recently appointed dean of the McCombs School of Business, reading is like breathing.

“I’m not sure I can think of myself as existing apart from reading—it’s an integral part of life,” Gilligan says. “Reading was a big salvation for me when I went into military service right out of high school. It’s the way I educated myself before I ever went to college.”

Prior to joining academia, Gilligan served as a Russian linguist in the United States Air Force and was a staff economist for President Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers.

Keep reading to find out what’s on his nightstand this winter. Continue reading

The Ultimate Product Placement

Michener Center alumnus Philipp Meyer (MFA ’08) has earned an amazing plug for his debut novel from crime writer Patricia Cornwell. The best-selling author mentioned it in “Scarpetta,” the latest in her popular coroner-detective series.

The unprecedented endorsement caught the attention of both The New York Times and the UK’s Guardian this week.

Meyer and Cornwell share an agent, who gave the best-selling author an advance copy of Meyer’s “American Rust,” due out from Spiegel and Grau (a division of Random House) this February.

Cornwell apparently liked the book. Not only did she provide a glowing jacket blurb, she compared Meyer’s style to Hemingway and suggested he should win a Pulitzer Prize.

Cornwell and Meyer have never met, but Meyer plans to read “Scarpetta” right away. “I’m flattered,” Meyer said of Cornwell’s support, “and proud.”

Meyer will read and sign copies of “American Rust” at 7 p.m., March 12 at BookPeople Bookstore.

Professor Translates Novel about Iran-Iraq War

In the United States, translations make up only a small percentage of books published each year, and very few of them are from the Middle East. But translators have been working steadily over the years to alter this picture.

Among them is UT Professor of Persian and Comparative Literature Mohammad Ghanoonparvar, translator of “Fortune Told in Blood,” a novel about the Iran-Iraq War by Iranian author David Ghaffarzadegan.

The Center for Middle Eastern Studies, in partnership with University of Texas Press, published the translation last year.

Though Ghanoonparvar has translated numerous novels, short story collections and plays during his 30 years of experience, he finds the process of translation is always fraught with tough decisions.

There are several schools of thought about the best way to translate, the scholar says.

Professor Ghanoonparvar

Professor Ghanoonparvar

Some argue a translation should reflect the original language as literally as possible, while others believe it should read as though it had originally been written in the target language. Ghanoonparvar has found that striking a happy medium between these two extremes has served his projects well.

While translation is no easy feat, finding a publisher presents an even greater challenge. However, Ghanoonparvar has seen improvement in recent years and says continuing political focus on the Middle East has spurred interest in literature from the region.

The Center for Middle Eastern Studies at The University of Texas at Austin has published literature in translation from the Middle East for more than 20 years. Find more books from the series at www.utexas.edu/utpress/subjects/cmes.html.

This post was adapted from the story “The Art of Translation” by Wendy Moore, which appeared in the Center for Middle Eastern Studies’ 2008-09 Newsletter. Moore is the editor of the Middle Eastern Studies publication series.