Do Your Holiday Shopping this Saturday at the Humanities Texas Book Fair

flyer_email-copyBooks make great gifts, especially for those “hard to buy for” people on your list. So take a break from the mall and head on over to the Humanities Texas annual Holiday Book Fair this Saturday, Dec. 10 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the historic Byrne-Reed House.

Twenty-one authors will be available to visit with the public and sign copies of their latest books, which Humanities Texas will offer for purchase at a discounted price. Proceeds will go to the Bastrop Public Library, which suffered losses to its collection during the September wildfires.

The lineup includes:

H.W. Brands, the Raymond Dickson, Alton C. Allen and Dillon Anderson Centennial Professor

1Brands_GreenbackPlanetIn “Greenback Planet,” Brands charts the dollar’s astonishing rise to become the world’s principal currency. Telling the story with the verve of a novelist, he recounts key episodes in U.S. monetary history, from the Civil War debate over fiat money (greenbacks) to the recent worldwide financial crisis. In The Murder of Jim Fisk for the Love of Josie Mansfield, Brands traces the downfall of a notorious New York City figure and brings to life New York’s Gilded Age. More…

Oscar Casares, associate professor of English

1Casares_Amigoland“Amigoland,” set on the South Texas border with Mexico, is the story of estranged brothers Don Fidencio Rosales—querulous, nearly 92 years old, and living in a nursing home—and Don Celestino, twenty years his junior and newly widowed, who finds himself somewhat ambivalently involved with his young cleaning woman, Socorro. The housekeeper is a catalyst for the brothers reconnecting, and the improbable trio takes off on a bus trip into Mexico, where the siblings hope to settle a long-standing dispute about how their grandfather arrived in the U.S. and Socorro hopes to find clarity in her unlikely romance. The trip stirs up powerful issues of family and pride and about how we care for the people we love. More…

Don Graham, the J. Frank Dobie Regents Professor of American and English Literature

1Graham_StateofMindsIn “State of Minds,” Graham brings together and updates essays he published between 1999 and 2009 to paint a unique picture of Texas culture. In a strong personal voice—wry, humorous, and ironic—Graham offers his take on Texas literary giants ranging from J. Frank Dobie to Larry McMurtry and Cormac McCarthy and on films such as “The Alamo,” “The Last Picture Show,” and “Brokeback Mountain.” More…


James Pennebaker, the Regents Centennial Liberal Arts Professor and chair of the Department of Psychology

1pennebaker_james“The Secret Life of Pronouns” examines how and why pronouns and other forgettable words reveal so much about us. Partly a research journey, the book traces the discovery of the links between function words and social and psychological states. Written for a general audience, the book takes the reader on a remarkable and often unexpected journey into the minds of authors, poets, lyricists, politicians, and everyday people through their use of words. More…

Jeremi Suri, the Mack Brown Distinguished Professor for Global Leadership, History, and Public Policy

1Suri_JeremyNation-building is in America’s DNA. It dates back to the days of the American Revolution, when the founding fathers invented the concept of popular sovereignty—the idea that you cannot have a national government without a collective will. The framers of the Constitution initiated a policy of cautious nation-building, hoping not to conquer other countries, but to build a world of stable, self-governed societies that would support America’s way of life. In “Liberty’s Surest Guardian,” Suri looks to America’s history to see both what it has to offer to failed states around the world and what the nation should avoid. More…

L. Michael White, the Ronald Nelson Smith Chair in Classics and Christian Origins and the director of the Institute for the Study of Antiquity and Christian Origins

1White_ScriptingJesusIn “Scripting Jesus,” White challenges us to read the gospels as they were originally intended—as performed stories of faith rather than factual histories. White demonstrates that each of the four gospel writers had a specific audience in mind and a specific theological agenda to push, and consequently wrote and rewrote their lives of Jesus accordingly—in effect, scripting Jesus to get a particular point across and to achieve the desired audience reaction. More…

Park for free in the St. Martin’s Evangelical Lutheran Church’s large lot on the northwest corner of 15th and Rio Grande Streets, and enjoy coffee and a bake sale of donated and homemade treats. Go to this website for more information about the authors and their books!

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Alumnus Shares Insight into How Titanic Corporations Sank the U.S. Economy

TheAquisitorsBookCover-1A book about the Great Meltdown written before the Great Meltdown, “The Acquisitors: Too Titanic to Let Sink” (BookSurge Publishing, Jan. 2010) offers a jarring account of the negligence and greed that pushed the country into a financial crisis.

Drawing from his experiences as a counsel to the House Antitrust Subcommittee, Winslow (B.A. History ‘56/JD Law ’60) based the book upon the findings of the committee’s investigation of unbridled corporate takeovers. And, in the wake of the Meltdown of 2008-09, he decided to revise the book and give it a new title to show exactly how and when corporations become so big that the meltdown became unavoidable.

“[I wanted] to show that it and our committee findings clearly forecast the Great Meltdown: if its warnings against inordinate corporate amalgamation are ignored again, the Meltdown is certain to recur,” says Winslow, a former Federal Energy Regulatory Commission attorney who has served on Congressional and regulatory legal staffs and has written on economic regulation for The Nation and The Washington Monthly.

We spoke with Winslow about “The Acquisitors” and his conviction that “we threw away antitrust protection that would have prevented the Great Meltdown.”

You inveigh against giant corporate takeovers in your book. What’s wrong with them?

If we had restrained giant corporations’ takeovers of other corporations we’d have no companies too big to fail. Hence, no Great Meltdown.

After you left the University of Texas, how did you end up in Washington, writing about the evils—as you say—of corporate takeovers?

No entertainment was better than my history courses in Garrison Hall. Lectures on

John Winslow

John Winslow

late 19th-century robber barons especially intrigued me. When I graduated from the University of Texas Law School, Chairman Emanuel Celler, of the House Judiciary Committee, was about to subpoena documents to see whether Congress should expand the Celler-Kefauver Act—forbidding mergers of competing companies—so that it would outlaw mergers of any two major corporations even if not competitors. The soaring merger rate alarmed the committee.

So you joined the Judiciary Committee staff?

Eagerly, as a legal counsel. But the giants weren’t eager to open up their takeover files to us. They weren’t always glad to see the co-counsel and me. But when we’d find a document that raised eyebrows, we’d know what other documents to search for. Then we’d have more threads to pull to unravel the flimflam.

Flimflam?

International Telephone & Telegraph Co. (ITT), for one, claimed that it strengthened the hundreds of companies it acquired by infusing them with ITT management ability. But its documents showed plots to shift its debts incurred from prior takeovers to its future takeovers – thus to gain money from them for more takeovers. You hardly strengthen a company by loading it with needless debt. The book seeks to explain those parasitical gimmicks. After you scrape off the camouflage, the gimmicks appear easy and simple. They have to be simple to work.

We don’t hear much about ITT now. Is your book still relevant?

Do you ask if your medical history is relevant? We do hear about JP Morgan Chase and Citigroup, each bailed out with $45 billion, only because they made themselves too titanic to let sink through takeovers—by employing other camouflaged gimmicks our investigation uncovered. Now we read that both banks, thanks to anticompetitive mergers, sold their customers grossly over-valued securities so that the banks could sell them short and cheat those customers out of hundreds of millions.

Your book’s back cover cites a comment from Peter F. Ward, assistant director of the Federal Trade Commission: “With all the corporate and regulatory horrors dredged up in this book, and no effort by Congress to remedy them, perhaps Mr. Winslow will consider a sequel.” Are you writing a sequel?

“The Acquisitors” is the sequel. The original book published by Indiana University Press, “Conglomerates Unlimited: Failure of Regulation” predates the Great Meltdown, and “The Acquisitors” revises that book to show that other companies, such as Bank of America, grew too big to fail (i.e., exempt from bankruptcy) by employing the parasitical gimmicks our investigation uncovered years before. Bank of America took over a thousand banks then ruined them by forcing them to underwrite subprime mortgages. AIG ballooned into a trillion-dollar megalith requiring a $175 billion bailout.

Why didn’t your investigation prevent the Great Meltdown?

The Judiciary Committee was ready to act upon our revelations and prepare legislation to halt mergers between giant corporations even though they weren’t competitors (thus not threatening to monopolize any industry). But at that moment the Justice Department announced it would create that very prohibition with judicial precedent – by suing to prevent ITT from taking over Hartford Fire Insurance Co. It would be the largest merger then of all time. ITT plotted to create such a mass of employees from acquired companies (Sheraton Hotels among them). It would use them as its own customers, insulating itself from the rigors of a free market.

Did the Justice Department win the case and establish that precedent?

It never even tried. Though sure of victory in the Supreme Court, it settled the case. It announced it couldn’t penalize ITT by prohibiting the Hartford merger because that would send its stock down and ITT was so big American investors would suffer massive losses. The government said in effect, “ITT is so titanic any penalty against the acquisitor is a penalty against America.” Thus was born the syndrome of too-titanic-to-let sink or penalize, that plagues us now.

What legislation did Congress enact based on your investigation?

None. The Justice Department had pulled the rug out from under the Judiciary Committee by promising that, thanks to its suit against ITT to create legal precedent, new legislation to curb corporate bigness wouldn’t be needed.

Have you published any other book on corporate or government misdeeds?

I have published “The Accurst Tower,” a novel based on my work with regulatory agencies, hoping to show that government regulation of industry is no substitute for natural regulation by free competition among companies not too big to fail.

Do you side with the Marchers Against Wall Street?

They’re not marching far enough. They rail against corporations too big, but never think to ask how they got that way. They’re demanding only monetary penalties against megabanks and reduction of giant bank accounts. But we know too well the government will protect those banks because they’re too big. So what’s the point of monetary penalties? The answer is to break them back into their premerger parts. Then competition would control them. That’s the message of “The Acquisitors.” I first heard it in Garrison Hall.

American Studies Alumnus Tunes In to Early 70s Radio

276868_276530712369652_702603388_nDo you ever wonder why radio stations play the same tired songs over and over again? Or why we’re forced to listen to talk shows while we’re stuck in rush-hour traffic? In “Early ‘70s Radio: The American Format Revolution” (Continuum, July 2011), University of Texas at Austin alumnus Kim Simpson (Ph.D. American Studies, ‘05) shares insight into how commercial music radio evolved into what it is today.

Providing a comprehensive analysis of a transformative era in pop music, Simpson describes how radio stations began to develop “formats” in order to cater to their target audiences. As industry professionals worked overtime to understand audiences and to generate formats, they also laid the groundwork for market segmentation. Audiences, meanwhile, approached these formats as safe havens where they could reimagine and redefine key issues of identity.

In his book, Simpson describes the era’s five prominent formats and analyzes each of these in relation to their targeted demographics, including Top 40, “soft rock,” album-oriented rock, soul and country. The book closes by making a case for the significance of early ’70s formatting in light of commercial radio today.

Simpson recently sat down with ShelfLife@Texas to talk about this time of transformation in commercial radio, his fascination with Billboard’s top music charts – and what’s next.

What motivated you to write Early ‘70s Radio?

First of all, I’ve been a pop music junkie as long as I can remember and keep updated Billboard chart reference books at my bedside. My wife can verify this. When my idea hatched sometime in the late 90s to explore this subject, I’d been keeping “factoid” notes on various hit songs – even the ones I hated. Once I’d gathered up notes about every Top 40 song in 1972, I realized there was much more going on during the much-maligned pop music era of the early 70s than mere silliness.

I had also made the discovery around the time that the radio pages of Billboard during the early ‘70s crackled with commentary and general unrest in a way you didn’t see in other eras. Researching Record World and Cash Box, the other two big music biz trades of the day, bore me out. I’d discovered that the early ‘70s represented a very distinct “moment” in both radio history and American culture that certainly deserved its own book.

How did you conduct the research for Early ‘70s Radio?

Because Billboard had such an impact on how I was now hearing the music of the era, I felt it was a good time for someone to incorporate the trades a bit more aggressively into pop music historiography. Their absence probably has to do with factors like their glaring business orientation, mistrust in the chart ranking process, and their unfashionable “top down” aura in a field more geared toward social history. Another definite factor is that they’re a real pain to find. I had to go to the Library of Congress to leaf through an uninterrupted early ‘70s run of Record World, and luckily the Dallas Public Library was one of few places that held Cash Box.

The ephemerality of so much music business source material can really be maddening, so I’m hoping that this book can demonstrate its usefulness, to some extent.

What’s next?

Something that requires more record listening, which is where the energy is for me. An encyclopedia-type companion guide to the hit songs of the early ‘70s would be the logical next step. This would allow me to take full advantage of all of my notes and geek out in a way I couldn’t really with “Early ‘70s Radio.” I could shine the spotlight on songs I love but didn’t talk about, like Liz Damon and the Orient Express’s “1900 Yesterday” and Sailcat’s “Motorcycle Mama.” Think anyone would buy it?

(From left)  KUT's Rebecca McInroy, Jay Trachtenberg, and Kim Simpson at the Early '70s Radio "Views and Brews" event at the Cactus Cafe on October 24.

(From left) KUT's Rebecca McInroy, Jay Trachtenberg, and Kim Simpson at the Early '70s Radio "Views and Brews" event at the Cactus Cafe on October 24.

About the author: Kim Simpson is a radio show host for KUT’s Sunday Folkways. A critically acclaimed singer-songwriter and guitarist, Simpson taught university courses in pop music and published articles in American Music and Pop Matters. In 2007, he served as a consultant for the Peabody Award-winning rockabilly radio documentary “Whole Lotta Shakin’”. His 2009 CD Mystery Lights: Solo Guitar has appeared in national TV shows and commercials, and his song “Looking for That Girl” (credited to The Mad Dukes) charted in a number of radio trade papers in 2006. Simpson also works in the administration department in The University of Texas at Austin’s School of Law. For more about his work, read his blog Boneyard Media.

University of Texas at Austin Faculty Authors Discuss their Books on C-SPAN2 Book TV

This weekend, be sure to tune in to C-SPAN2 Book TV to watch two University of Texas at Austin professors discuss their books.

American Studies Professor Julia Mickenberg will discuss her book “Tales for Little Rebels” on Sunday, Nov. 13 at 12:45 p.m., and on Monday, Nov. 14 at 12:45 p.m.

Little_Rebel_webSynopsis: Rather than teaching children to obey authority, to conform, or to seek redemption through prayer, 20th century leftists encouraged children to question the authority of those in power. “Tales for Little Rebels” collects 43 mostly out-of-print stories, poems, comic strips, primers, and other texts for children that embody this radical tradition. These pieces reflect the concerns of  20th century leftist movements, like peace, civil rights, gender equality, environmental responsibility, and the dignity of labor. They also address the means of achieving these ideals, including taking collective action, developing critical thinking skills, and harnessing the liberating power of the imagination.

Sanford Levinson, professor of law, will discuss his book “Constitutional Faith” on Sunday, Nov. 18 at noon and 7:15 p.m., and on Monday, Nov. 19 at 12 p.m.

Constitutional_Faith_cover

Synopsis: In this intriguing book, Levinson examines the history and the substance of our ‘civil religion’ of the Constitution. Echoes of this tradition are still heard in debates over whether the constitutional holy writ includes custom, secondary texts and history or is restricted to scriptural fundamentalism. Of equal age and intensity is the battle over the proper role of the priests. Is the Constitution what the Justices say it is or does it have a life of its own?

Interviews scheduled for broadcast the following weekend include:

· Steven Weinberg, professor in the departments of physics and astronomy, will discuss “Lake Views” on Sunday, Nov. 20 at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., and on Nov. 21 at 12 p.m.

· Lewis Gould, professor emeritus of history, will discuss “My Dearest Nellie” and “Theodore Roosevelt” on Sunday, Nov. 20 at 10:30 a.m., and on Nov. 21 at 12:30 p.m.

· Robert Auerbach, professor of public affairs, will discuss “Deception and Abuse at the Fed” on Nov. 20 at 10:40 a.m., and on Nov. 21 at 12:40 p.m.

A C-SPAN film crew interviewed the faculty members in the university’s Main Building on Oct. 24 following a weekend of covering the annual Texas Book Festival in Austin. Broadcast dates and times for the other faculty members interviewed for the C-SPAN2 Book TV program will be announced later.

The other faculty members are:

Martha Menchaca, professor  in the Department of anthropology, discussing “Naturalizing Mexican Immigrants”
James Galbraith, professor in the Department of Government and the LBJ School of Public Affairs, discussing “The Predator State”
Jeremi Suri, professor in the Department of History and the LBJ School of Public Affairs, discussing “Liberty’s Surest Guardian”
Ami Pedahzur, professor in the Departments of Government and Middle Eastern Studies, discussing “The Israeli Secret Services and the Struggle Toward Terrorism”
Neil Foley, professor in the Departments of History and American Studies, discussing “Quest for Equality”


Michener Center Hosts New York Times Book Review Editor

SamheadshotSamT Tanenhaus has the dream job of many bibliophiles:  editing the New York Times Book Review. He not only gets access to all the latest, he’s in a position to influence what may become the greatest books of his time.

Luckily, the job has fallen to man of voracious intellectual curiosity, who has written widely on politics, literature and culture.  His 1997 biography of Whittaker Chambers was a finalist for the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, and a new volume, The Death of Conservatism, is winning great acclaim.  UT Michener Center for Writers’ Director James Magnuson, who has invited Tanenhaus to campus to work with writers in the MFA program, calls him simply, “a person who knows everything about everything.”

That Tanenhaus produces remarkable prose and brilliant criticism of his own is even more impressive in light of the fact that the NYTBR receives as many as 1000 new books each week,  20 to 30 of which will get reviewed.  Deciding just who gets that coveted coverage involves a massive and highly subjective winnowing which he has overseen since 2004, when he took over as editor-in-chief after having been on its staff for several years, a former editor at Vanity Fair, and a long-time freelance journalist and author. Eight to ten pre-reviewers, each working in an area of specialization — literary or experimental fiction, poetry, economics, geopolitics, children’s literature, etc. — cull the hundreds down to perhaps a few dozen which are assigned to on-staff and outside reviewers who write what eventually appears in the Sunday section each week.

The Times has run a book review section since 1896, and while there are dozens of equally prestigious reviews in the United States alone today, it remains the gold standard. A bad review in its pages can be, for an emerging author especially, as useful as a rave:  It at least brings a book into the public eye, not an easy feat in an industry that cranks out millions of titles each year, 1 percent of which are ever reviewed anywhere.  The power of any criticism to make or break an author’s fortunes and to influence what the reading public buys means that Tanenhaus’s tastes and predilections are parsed endlessly for clues to a marketplace that has always been chimerical, but is now shape-shifting as quickly as the technology and socioeconomic forces that fuel it.

Sam Tanenhaus will share his unique perspective on the book world in a lecture, “Does the Novel Still Matter?” at 7:30 pm on Thursday, November 3, 2011 at Avaya Auditorium, ACE 2.302.  He’ll discuss the state of the novel today and the authority of the novelist in what he calls a “post-literary” culture. The lecture is sponsored by the Michener Center for Writers, where Tanenhaus is in residence to work with students in Stephen Harrigans “Long-Form Journalism” seminar, co-taught by Texas Monthly editor Jake Silverstein.  While on campus, he’ll also hold a seminar with Plan II Honors students, “Recognizing Good Writing:  A Critic’s Criteria.”

The auditorium is located on the southeast corner of 24th and Speedway on campus.  Parking is available in the nearby San Jacinto Garage and the event is free to students and the public.

Author Dishes Up Stories of Race, Class, Gender and Place in Southern Food

barbecue1The South has always been celebrated for its food. From collard greens and okra to heaping plates of biscuits and gravy, Southern food is as much a state of mind as it is a matter of geography.

Combining the study of food culture with gender studies, Elizabeth Engelhardt, associate professor of American studies, explores the many hidden culinary contours of Southern life below and beyond the Mason-Dixon Line.

Digging deep into community cookbooks, letters, diaries, and other archival materials, Engelhardt describes the five moments in the Southern food story: Moonshine, biscuits versus cornbread, girls’ tomato clubs, pellagra as depicted in mill literature, and cookbooks as means of communication.

Engelhardt recently sat down with ShelfLife@Texas to discuss her new book “A Mess of Greens: Southern Gender and Southern Food” (University of Georgia Press, 2011), which she will be presenting at the Texas Book Festival this Saturday at 11:15 a.m. at the Capitol. Go to this website for more details.

How can the choice of serving cornbread or biscuits say a lot about a woman’s social standing?

As I was finishing my first book on Appalachia “Tangled Roots of Feminism,” I kept running across these references to something called the “Beaten Biscuit Crusade.” This was when 9780820340371judgments about Appalachian women were based solely on whether they made biscuits or cornbread for their families. And these judgments extended to a woman’s class, morals, hygiene and even religion. Biscuit baking demonstrated class consciousness, the ability to afford specialized ingredients, marble-top counters and stoves. Cornbread, however, symbolized ignorance, disease and poverty.

What caused this rift between cornbread and biscuits?

In the late 1800s, single women with college educations from the Northeast, Kentucky and other parts of the non-mountain South were coming into Appalachia to build communities and make lives for themselves. One of the sources of tension between the newcomers and the women who had been there a long time was over education reform. But the more I looked into it, the more I realized the women who were coming into that region wanted to start by reforming the food that Appalachian women were cooking.

With the idea of helping the less fortunate, they advocated better cooking standards and public health concerns began to surface about diet-based diseases. Cornbread, which was made from locally milled corn and cooked over an open fire, became a target. Ironically the beaten biscuit recipe, which uses finely milled white flower and very little milk, may have been less nutritious than the cornbread local women were cooking for their families back in the 1800s.

How did Tomato Clubs empower young women back in the early 1900s?

In 1910, Marie Samuella Cromer, a young rural schoolteacher in the western South Carolina town of Aiken, organized a girls’ tomato club so that the girls would “not learn simply how to grow better and more perfect tomatoes, but how to grow better and more perfect women.” The tomato clubs and the women who organized them wanted southern food to transform Southern society—but not from the top down.

The girls had to plant one-tenth of an acre of tomatoes, which would provide more tomatoes than they or their families could use in a year. This forced them to learn how to can, market and sell them – and they could do whatever they want with the money. Glass jars were scarce, so they had to use big pieces of equipment to can tomatoes in tin. In order to finish a year in the Tomato Club, they had to write a report about how they harvested, presented and sold their tomatoes. It was a real lesson in technology, science and entrepreneurship.

What chapter of the Southern food story often goes unnoticed?

When we think about Southern food, we often think of abundance. But there’s also a story about lack of access, the absence of healthy eating, the vanished pieces. Back in the 1900s, pellagra – a disease caused by a vitamin-B deficiency – sickened tens of thousands of Southerners in poor communities. Described as the disease of the four Ds: dermatitis, diarrhea, dementia and death – pellagra made many of its sufferers suicidal or dangerous. It struck people in the rural South whose diets typically consisted of the “three Ms,” meat, meal and molasses. They were often described as “mill type ” or “white trash.”  Behind the stereotypes hid a hungry, tired and ill version of the South that even today is difficult to understand.

What message do you hope your readers will take away from this book?

I hope people leave the book with a resolution to ask family members (however they define family) about their own food stories. And I hope they learn a little about what is behind the final plate on the table, the messages in every meal about who we are as women, men, people of different races and ethnicities, and people of different classes. I hope readers join me in keeping the conversation going about the collective, collaborative and changing southern food stories that are all around us.

Do you have a favorite Southern dish?

Well, it’s early fall, and I come from a county in the North Carolina mountains that is famous for its heirloom apples. This time of year, I find myself most longing for fried apples, homemade applesauce, and apple spice cake. But only if the apples have come from one of those bent, almost forgotten, but still glorious trees on the edge of an old home site, where the fireplace is all that’s left standing but the bees have done their work and the apples are ugly but amazing.

About the author: Having grown up in western North Carolina and spent much of her life in the South, Engelhardt is dedicated to preserving Southern culinary heritage. Her other books include “Republic of Barbecue: Stories Beyond the Brisket” (University of Texas Press, 2009), “Beyond Hill and Hollow: Original Readings in Appalachian Women’s Studies” (Ohio University Press, 2005), and “Tangled Roots of Feminism, Environmentalism, and Appalachian Literature” (Ohio University Press, 2003). She is the coordinator of the Southern Foodways Alliance’s Texas branch of the Southern Barbecue Trail Oral History Collection.

Faculty Authors Showcase their Works at the 16th Annual Texas Book Festival

tbf_logo_brownBook lovers, foodies, artists and scholars will partake in an annual rite of fall here in Austin: The Texas Book Festival. The 16th annual Texas Book Festival will take place in and around the Texas State Capitol and nearby venues on Oct. 22-23.

The lineup includes more than 250 authors, an eclectic mix of top literary names, bestselling novelists, political and nonfiction notables, cookbook superstars, Texas writers, children’s authors and promising newcomers.

The talent pool also includes University of Texas at Austin faculty authors. Here are just a handful of professors who will be presenting their books this weekend:

H.W. Brands, the Dickson Allen Anderson Centennial Professor of History

0292723415“Greenback Planet: How the Dollar Conquered the World and Threatened Civilization as We Know It”
Saturday, Oct. 22, C-SPAN/Book TV Tent

In “Greenback Planet” (University of Texas Press, Oct. 2011), Brands recounts key episodes in U.S. monetary history, from the Civil War debate over fiat money (greenbacks) to the recent worldwide financial crisis. He concludes with a sobering dissection of the 2008 world financial debacle, which exposed the power – and the enormous risks – of the dollar’s worldwide reign.

030774325X“The Murder of Jim Fisk for the Love of Josie Mansfield: A Tragedy of the Gilded Age”
Sunday, Oct. 23, Lone Star Tent

In “The Murder of Jim Fisk” (Anchor, May 2011), Brands traces Fisk’s extraordinary downfall, bringing to life New York’s Gilded Age and some of its legendary players, including Boss William Tweed, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and the railroad tycoon Jay Gould. Go to the Texas Book Festival website for the full summary of both books.

0820340375“A Mess of Greens: Southern Gender and Southern Food,” by Elizabeth Engelhardt, associate professor of American Studies
Saturday, October 22, Texas State Capitol: Capitol Extension Room E2.030

Engelhardt’s “A Mess of Greens: Southern Gender and Southern Food” (University of Georgia Press, Sept. 2011) offers a different perspective, taking into account industrialization, environmental degradation, and women’s increased role in the work force, all of which caused massive economic and social changes. Engelhardt reveals a broad middle of Southerners that included poor whites, farm families, and middle- and working-class African Americans, for whom the stakes of what counted as Southern food were very high. Go to the Texas Book Festival website for the full summary.

1608194809“The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us,” by James Pennebaker, professor and chair, Department of Psychology
Saturday, October 22, Texas State Capitol: Capitol Extension Room E2.016

What do Quentin Tarantino and William Shakespeare have in common? They both write their men like men and their women like men. How can you tell when someone’s being straight with you? They use more verbs, more details (numbers, dates, figures) and more personal pronouns (I, me, etc.). And for the liars: more positive emotion words. These are only a few of the insights found in “The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us” (Bloombsbury, Aug. 2011), James W. Pennebaker’s far-ranging work on the use of life’s “forgettable words” and their many hidden meanings. Go to the Texas Book Festival website for the full summary.

Check out the official book festival website for a complete schedule of book signings, panel discussions, author interviews, cooking demonstrations and more.

Suiting up for Wall Street, UT Alumna Shares Her Memoirs

Suits_coverNina Godiwalla’s memoir of working on Wall Street begins with a sweaty walk to work through New York City, catching her heel in a grate, begging for help from a nearby blood-soaked fishmonger and eventually arriving at the JP Morgan office only to discover that she was at the wrong building.

Little did she know that temperamental high heels would be the least of her troubles in the years ahead.

Godiwalla, BBA ’97, chronicles the rest of her harrowing finance career in her book, “Suits: A Woman on Wall Street” (2011, Atlas & Co. Publishers). Described by The New York Times as “The Devil Wears Prada” for investment banking, “Suits” details Godiwalla’s experiences at Morgan Stanley, where, as a second-generation Indian American woman from Texas, she fought daily to overcome her outsider’s position.

Godiwalla saw tremendous success on Wall Street, but found herself struggling with the consequences of her ambition and the choices it forced her to make. Critics praised the book as “heartwarming, heartbreaking” and “a must-read for anyone aspiring to a career in high-finance.”

What made you decide to write a book about your life on Wall Street?Nina_Godiwalla_3x4[1]

One of the courses I took [for my master’s degree in liberal arts] was a creative writing course and I wrote one short story about my experience on Wall Street and one short story about my family. [My professor] loved the writing. We ended up pulling [short stories] together to become a thesis for my degree. There was never an intentional “I’m going to sit down and write about this.” It was more that I had someone telling me that I had a lot of potential. The story was worth hearing and it was different. 

Growing up, did you consider yourself to be a good writer?

Before that I had a very big insecurity about my writing. I actually once failed a class with a writing component. I just avoided writing. What I didn’t realize until later is there is a big difference between research-type writing, where you’re just passing on information, and creative writing, where it’s really about story and narrative. I think we all just take for granted the word “writing.”

Did you keep a journal while you worked on Wall Street, or did you start completely fresh for this book?

I never went to the experience thinking that I would write about it, so I did have to start fresh. I kept a long document that had these notes, stories I remembered. If I had kept detailed notes of everything, it would have been harder to write that book because there would have been so much information. This was just what was memorable enough about the experience. If it didn’t stick in my mind, it didn’t get in the book.

Did you ask other people about their memories to help fill in the gaps?

At first I started to try that, but when you’re writing a memoir you start to realize that everyone remembers things a little bit differently. So then I started to get confused, specifically with a lot of the family stories. Everyone had a different version, but that wasn’t what I remembered and so in the end I just decided that it would be what I remembered.

Do you think the essence of a memoir is really more about that personal feeling rather than trying to get a 100 percent completely accurate retelling of events?

The only way you’re going to get that is if it’s recorded and everyone can go back and look and see exactly what happened. I think there’s a continuum of everyone’s idea of what you can do with memoir, but to me it’s really how you remember it, to the extent that you’re not completely making stuff up. It’s your interpretation of the situation; I think everyone interprets and remembers life differently.

Why did you choose to start the book the way you did, with your horrible walk to work on the first day of your internship?

For an East Coast reader, who’s so comfortable with all these things, they don’t have a sense for how different it is. For a New Yorker that’s just like, “Well, this is normal.” I was trying to give people an idea of how different the world I was coming from was, when you’re coming out of a suburb or something. I became part of that New York scene, but it very much wasn’t where I was from and it was all very new to me. I wanted to paint that picture for a start.

You share fairly intimate—and not always flattering—moments in the book, both personal and professional. How did your family and former coworkers respond?

I think from my colleagues, it was amusing because it was a very intense experience. Some of them were bad memories, some of them were just kind of funny to rehash and think about. My family was surprised that something like this was going to get published. They are fairly private, so they don’t really want information about them out there. At the same time, they saw the bigger picture and what the story is about. I think their first reaction was surprise. Then after that it was, “Yes. Go for it,” and “Hope it does well.”

In your opinion what is the bigger picture and the point of the book?

This process helped me redefine my idea of success. Part of the back story about my family is giving people an idea of how my idea of success and the American dream was formed; the epitome of it was being on Wall Street. I had to rethink my whole life’s idea of what success is, and that was a turning point for me.

One of the things for me was that there was kind of a silencing amongst women. I would see so many women have that embarrassing story, a story they’re not so proud of. I felt I kind of carried this story around like a secret. Here I am later, this very comfortable businesswoman, in control of situations, and I kind of cringe every time I remembered that experience. I saw a lot of women who had that shame. I wanted to bring a voice to that type of experience because I think so many people go through that early in their career. I wanted people to be more empowered if they were to go through a situation like that.

After nearly a decade working for Fortune 500 companies, Godiwalla founded MindWorks, which trains professionals in meditation, creating positive corporate culture and stress management.

“Liberty’s Surest Guardian” Author Draws New Model for Nation-Building

suri_newsreleaseSince the days of the American Revolution, nation-building has been deeply embedded in America’s DNA. Yet no other country has created more problems for itself and for others by pursuing impractical reconstruction efforts in war-torn nations, argues Jeremi Suri, professor in the Department of History and the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs.

In his new book “Liberty’s Surest Guardian: American Nation-Building from the Founders to Obama,” Suri examines more than 200 years of U.S. policy to explain the successes and failures of nation-building operations. From Reconstruction in the South after the Civil War, to Japan and Germany after World War II, to the ongoing rebuilding of Iraq, he draws lessons from past mistakes and offers a plan for moving forward.

According to his analysis, the key to successful nation-building is to follow five principles:

Partners: Nation-building always requires partners; there must be communication between people on the ground and people in distant government offices.

Process: Human societies do not follow formulas. Nation-building is a process which does not produce clear, quick results.

Problem-solving: Leadership must start small, addressing basic problems. Public trust during a period of occupation emerges from the fulfillment of basic needs.

Purpose: Small beginnings must serve larger purposes. Citizens must see the value in what they’re doing.

People: Nation-building is about people. Large forces do not move history. People move history.
Suri recently sat down with ShelfLife@Texas to discuss the book and its implications for American politics at home and abroad.

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Why is nation-building a part of American DNA?

The founding of the United States in the late 18th century was a radical nation-building project. A small group of people living in British North America sought to create a new kind of government in a vast territory that was representative, free and unified. Their success became the expectation for all American politics at home and abroad to this day. Americans continue to assume that others want to live with a similar kind of government. Americans continue to believe that a world with similar governments will be safer and more prosperous. From the late 18th century to the present, the basic American vision of change is nation-building on the American model.

In your book, you provide examples of ordinary people accomplishing extraordinary things. What do you hope your readers will take away from the concept of starting small to serve a larger purpose?

In a time of deep partisanship and difficult economic circumstances, too many people (especially students) believe that change is impossible. Too many people think they have to accept the world as it is. That is wrong! The record of history shows that people, especially young people, can improve the world by bringing diverse citizens together to work on common problems. This has been the American experience with nation-building, when it has worked best. We need serious nation-building at home and abroad today. I remain optimistic that our young citizens are poised to become another generation of nation-builders.

Could you give me an example of a mistake that is often repeated in America’s history of nation-building? And what we are getting right?

A common mistake is to seek simple shortcuts to nation-building. This often involves empowering a “good dictator” who Americans hope will push a society to change. That almost never works. “Good dictators” are quickly corrupted, they inspire resistance, and they always lose touch with the world of their citizens. Nation-building is a slow process, it requires the kinds of patience and institution-building that Americans often neglect.

Americans are idealists about cultural cooperation. Almost alone, Americans tend to assume that culture is not destiny; that diverse citizens can work together. Most other societies assume otherwise. Americans have consistently sought to build pluralistic nations of diverse peoples at home and abroad. That is the positive side of nation-building. It is the best alternative to cultural ghettoization.

In your book, you examine the failures of American nation-building in Vietnam during the Cold War. Which of the “Five Ps” (the five principles of nation-building) went missing during this turning point in history?

Many scholars, especially at The University of Texas at Austin, have written great books on Vietnam. I draw on their work to argue that Americans were intoxicated with their perceived power in the 1950s and 1960s. They thought they could change societies unilaterally. American efforts in Vietnam failed because Americans neglected the needs, desires and capabilities of the Vietnamese living in both the North and the South. This was nation-building doomed to failure.

As one of your “Five Ps,” you state that problem solving is an essential part of nation-building. How does this principle factor into the United State’s nation-building efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq after the 9/11 terrorist attacks?

In Afghanistan and Iraq the United States was not prepared to solve the problems that dominated the lives of most citizens. The people of both societies wanted security and an improved standard of living. The United States overthrew the oppressive governing regimes, but it did not improve security or living standards in the first years of both occupations. In fact, things initially got worse for most citizens in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Which principle do you think President Barack Obama should focus on as he works to extricate U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan?

As the United States withdraws from Iraq and Afghanistan it must build productive partnerships with local groups and regional powers in both areas. The United States must re-double its efforts to support institutions that will contribute to stable, participatory and uncorrupt government. The United States must support nation-building, led by local and regional actors.

Watch a video on YouTube about the concepts explored in Suri’s new book “Liberty’s Surest Guardian.”


About the Author:
A leading scholar of international history and global affairs, Suri is the first holder of the Mack Brown Distinguished Chair for Leadership in Global Affairs at the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law. “Liberty’s Surest Guardian” is his fourth book.

The University of Texas at Austin: A Campus Guide

A_Campus_GuideThe Campus Guide: The University of Texas at Austin” is much more than an overview of UT’s campus. The guide’s introduction presents archival material from the university’s origin as a single building on a hill through the campus’ “shack era” and successive attempts at master planning. It continues with gorgeous full-color photography of today’s beloved campus and unique, three-dimensionally rendered maps that lead the way on tours from the majestic tower at the Main Building to Texas Memorial Stadium; or from the Harry Ransom Center and Texas Union to the school’s various libraries, professional schools and administrative buildings.

Architecture Professors Lawrence W. Speck and Richard L. Cleary examine the history of sites and buildings with a critical eye, in particular the mid-twentieth-century buildings that fueled the university’s explosive growth. “The Campus Guide: The University of Texas at Austin” showcases UT’s renowned architecture and shows how the character of the campus was improved by its varied styles.

Featuring over a hundred buildings in six self-guided architectural walks, the guide narrates the shared history of campus policy and architectural development at one of Texas’ premier schools. Today, the main campus of The University of Texas at Austin covers 350 acres and includes 140 buildings.

In a state known for its wide-open spaces, sprawling suburban development, and big cars, the UT campus has been an urban laboratory for testing ways of managing growth and of using design to foster a sense of shared identity among all who study and work there.