Friday, May 29, 2009

The Lebanese Army: A National Institution in a Divided Society

Oren Barak, author of The Lebanese Army, recently wrote about his new book for Middle East Strategy at Harvard. MESH "invites selected authors to offer original first-person statements on their new books—why and how they wrote them, and what impact they hope and expect to achieve." Oren's piece begins:

The puzzle that my book grapples with might be familiar to those who have seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a movie that came out in 1975, the same year that Lebanon’s civil war broke out:

Cart Master: Bring out yer dead.

[A customer puts a body on the cart]

Customer: Here’s one.

Cart Master: That’ll be ninepence.

Dead Person: I’m not dead.

Cart Master: What?

Customer: Nothing. There’s your ninepence.

Dead Person: I’m not dead.

Cart Master: ‘Ere, he says he’s not dead.

Customer: Yes he is.

Dead Person: I’m not.

Cart Master: He isn’t.

Customer: Well, he will be soon, he’s very ill.

Dead Person: I’m getting better.

Customer: No you’re not, you’ll be stone dead in a moment…

The “Dead Person” is Lebanon and the puzzle is how did this state, which so many observers had referred to as a “non-state state” (or a “failed state,” to use a more up-to-date term), manage to endure despite the long and devastating conflict (1975–90) and be resuscitated in its aftermath. The book suggests that the Lebanese Army has played a significant role in Lebanon’s survival.

Read the full piece here. Order the book here.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The e-catalog looks and sounds great

Our new Fall e-catalog is alive and kicking on our website right now. Here's a direct link, or click on the cover image above. The e-catalog looks and sounds like a magazine—listen for the sound of rustling "paper" with every turn of the page. Fun stuff.

Take a look, flip through, and play with the hyperlinks to more book information, a search feature, notes and bookmarks, and direct ordering capabilities. You can even download a copy as well.

We'd love your feedback on the e-catalog, so leave us a comment right here on the blog or drop us a line at

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Woodstock: Sly wants to take you higher

Having a tough time recovering from the Memorial Day weekend? Finding it tough to get your energy level back up after a weekend filled with either too much partying or too much time spent doing nothing? Well, Sly and the Family Stone can remedy that. Today we have an epic Woodstock 1969 performance from Sly and his Family Stone. They perform the heck out of their classic, "I Want To Take You Higher", even segueing into a crowd participation portion part way through that was intended to get everyone involved and do just what the song intended: take 'em all higher. After watching this we are pretty sure you'll notice a serious jump in energy level. Combine that with a strong cup of coffee and you may even be productive on your first day back after the long weekend. If you can stop watching Woodstock videos when you should be working, that is.

We also found this recent interview with Levon Helm, of the Band, discussing his Woodstock memories. Surprise—they're not all as charming as you might think.

Remember to stop by the SUNY Press booth (#4840) at Book Expo in NYC later this week and maybe even snag a galley copy of the forthcoming Woodstock: The Oral History, 40th Anniversary Edition.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Main Street to Mainframes book party

Last night, Harvey and Mary Flad hosted a party for their brand new book Main Street to Mainframes at their lovely home in the heart of Poughkeepsie. Guests chatted and enjoyed hors d’oeuvres surrounded by the Flads’ eclectic art collection, including Mary Flad’s weavings, quilts, and paintings. Fran Keneston and Laurie Searl from SUNY Press shed the work environment early to drive down to the event. Many of Harvey’s Vassar colleagues came, as did Margaret Crenson, the artist whose 2004 painting, Main Street Facades, adorns the cover of the book. Harvey generously read several passages that included reflections on the civil rights social history of the city as well as the impact the local Woolworths had on the community before it disappeared—which prompted everyone to recall their own Woolworth memories! A good time was had by all on this warm, almost summer, evening.

Book Expo news and notes

Book Expo America in NYC is fast approaching—it starts next Thursday, May 28. We'll have some fun stuff for you to take away from our booth (#4840), plus book signings on Sunday, May 31 for Go, Tell Michelle from 9:30–10:30 and for A Family Place from 11:00-noon. Word is we might also have some hot-off-the-press galleys for Woodstock, so look for those as well.

Also, be sure to sign up for the BEA Book Raffle to win $500 worth of books! We've seen the list and it's a nice collection of books in film & television, American history, comic books, spirituality, and more...including three SUNY Press books: the aforementioned Go, Tell Michelle, A Family Place, and Black Elk Speaks. For a chance to win the complete set of books, all you need to do is drop off your business card or fill out a raffle ticket at the AAUP booth (#4846). Best of luck!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Go, Tell Michelle on Book TV this Memorial Day

Back in March, C-SPAN2's Book TV filmed Go, Tell Michelle coeditors' Barbara Seals Nevergold and Peggy Brooks-Bertram's talk and book signing at Bus Boys & Poets Book Store in Washington, DC. The program is scheduled to air on Book TV on Monday, May 25 (Memorial Day) at 8:30 am and will repeat later that day at 8:30 pm. The reading also featured several of the book's contributors reading from their submissions: Betty Falato, Regan Botts Ruiz, Donna Aza Smith, Lori Polin Jones, and Miriam Guichard.

So tune in on May 25 or set your TiVo because you won't want to miss this.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Religious Zionism and the Messianic Clock

Today we are pleased to introduce a guest blogger: Motti Inbari, author of Jewish Fundamentalism and the Temple Mount: Who Will Build the Third Temple?, which explores radical and messianic movements in Israel seeking to rebuild the Third Temple in Jerusalem.

Below, Motti describes what went into his research and introduces some of the key concepts he explores in the book.

For the last ten years I have been studying active messianic movements in contemporary Israel. I joined End of Days cults, I interviewed prophets, and I demonstrated at the gates of the Temple Mount. I witnessed the strength of millenarian expectations, followed by the failure of prophesies and the subsequent decline of messianic faith. I studied people who are at the fringe of society—some in regard to the religious mainstream, others also saw themselves as an avant-garde of a much wider political phenomenon.

So, what’s a secular Jew like me doing interacting with people so enchanted by religious dreams and aspirations? Truthfully, I was drawn to this study by accident. In 1994 as a junior freelance journalist I was assigned by my editor, together with my wife who was also a reporter, to bring a story about a strange new phenomenon. A rabbi named Uzi Meshulam who lived in a small town near Tel-Aviv had organized a violent demonstration with his followers. The police put the home under siege for 47 days and eventually broke into the compound. As journalists, we came to the conclusion that this group was fueled by acute messianic expectations which encouraged them in their violent behavior; they believed that the messiah would come and rescue them.

At the same time I had started graduate study at the Institute for Contemporary Jewry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The affair interested me for further investigation, so I decided to take a course on messianism. I enrolled in a seminar with Jonathan Frankel and I wrote a paper based upon what I had witnessed during the unfortunate affair.

In 2001 I enrolled for a Ph.D. at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Under the supervision of Jonathan Frankel and Menachem Feidman I started a new project which became my book, Jewish Fundamentalism and the Temple Mount: Who Will Build the Third Temple?
read more

Revolutionary Messianism

My research looked at several contemporary movements within religious society in Israel—Religious Zionists, Ultra Orthodoxy and the Chabad hasidic movement—that advocate building the Third Temple as the zenith of a messianic process leading to the establishment of a Torah State. Those movements are revolutionary by their nature and they seek a total change within the structure of the state of Israel. They do not anticipate Redemption as a process that will come by miracles or by Godly intervention, but they demand human action. They focus on the Temple Mount because they believe that the Third Temple is a strong enough symbol to lead people to action. Their aim is to touch the fundamentals of faith of every Orthodox Jew—the desire for the third Temple is a part of daily prayers and it symbolize the religious foundation of those who see the state of Israel as the “first step of our redemption.”

During my studies I learned that those fringe movements are the leaders of a radical ideological change within mainstream rabbinic authorities of the Religious Zionist camp. Why is this so?

The Temple Mount Dillema

Over the past decade, there has been a steady increase in rabbinical rulings that permit the entry of Jews to the Temple Mount. It began with the precedent-setting ruling of the Council of Yesha Rabbis (from Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip) in February 1996, which permitted Jews to enter certain areas of the Mount, with a call to each rabbi who agreed with the ruling to go up to the Mount together with his congregation. The only limitation was to observe the restrictions regarding purity when doing so.

Since the reopening of the Temple Mount to Jews in November 2003 (it had been closed because of the Al-Aqsa Intifada), one can see the practical expression of this decision since every day now many Jews go up to the Mount, most of them members of the "nationalist yeshivas," for a visit and silent prayer. According to information published by then minister Tzachi Hanegbi, during the year following the reopening of the Temple Mount, more than 70,000 Jews have visited the site.
This phenomenon represents a genuine revolution in religious behaviour. Since the destruction of the Second Temple, Jews have been considered impure due to contact with dead bodies, and therefore they are forbidden to enter the area where the Temple stood. This state of impurity can be changed into one of purity only with the help of the ashes of a red heifer and, as we know, such an animal no longer exists. Moreover, the exact dimensions of the Temple have been lost as well. We don't know on which parts of the Mount the Holy of Holies was located, since, the Temple Mount is much larger than the dimensions of the structure itself. Therefore, it was ruled that the Temple Mount should not be ascended. According to halakha (Jewish religious law), anyone who enters the mount will be punished by karet—a death sentence carried out by God. This decision has been reinforced in innumerable rulings. One was handed down by the chief rabbinate after the capture of the Mount during the Six-Day War in 1967, when Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook, then head of the ultra-nationalist Mercaz Harav Yeshiva, joined its call. And this custom is followed by the vast majority of ultra-Orthodox rabbis.

How is it that so many observant Jews behave in opposition to such a prohibition? How can it be that the religious law on such a central issue has been breached, and that Orthodox rabbis permit something that is concidered by most authorities as prohibited?The answer can probably be found in the manner in which the religious leadership is attempting to deal theologically with the crisis that the peace processes creates for them. In order to understand them, we need to understand the religious attitudes of many members of religious Zionist movements toward the State of Israel: Almost since the inception of the religious Zionist Mizrahi movement, there have been many Orthodox Jews who didn't consider the establishment of the state a goal in itself. The activist messianic faction of religious Zionism called the Zionist process at'halta degeula (the beginning of the Redemption); Zionist activity was interpreted as something secular that would eventually bring about, without the knowledge of the secularists, the fulfillment of the religious goal of the Return to Zion, namely, the establishment of the religious kingdom and a renewal of the rites on the Temple Mount.After the Six-Day War, the enthusiasm that ensued swept religious Zionism into the settlement movement. The victory in the war led many to believe that total Redemption was about to begin, and so they went out to capture the land by establishing the so-called facts on the ground.But since the peace agreement with Egypt, and even more so since the peace process with the Palestinian Authority, the leadership of religious Zionism is in a state of crisis, and faces a religious dilemma: How can one identify the beginning of Redemption in a state that is returning territory to Arabs and becoming increasingly secular? How can one identify the process of Redemption in the uprooting of settlements? This dilemma gave rise to the counter-reaction of a strengthening of the desire for the Temple Mount and of greater commitment to the goal of rebuilding the Temple. The fear of the upcoming changes, which included talk of giving the Temple Mount over to Palestinian rule, has led to moves that are designed to prevent them. In order to "prevent" the Redemption from being lost because of the behavior of the State of Israel, which is unaware of its destiny in this historical drama, permission was found to enter the Temple Mount and establish “facts on the ground.”The breach of the rabbinical decision that forbids entry to the Temple Mount demonstrates that strict religious law can be updated in accordance with changing political circumstances.

Jewish Fundamentalism and the Temple Mount portrays radical and messianic movements in Israel that wish to, and at times, are making preparations to rebuild the Temple. It is offering the readers a context to understand the place of such groups within the larger Israeli, and global realities of our time.


Dr. Motti Inbari is an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. His book is available now here. Also of note: A few months back, Haaretz Daily published a review in English on the original Hebrew manuscript.

Fairy Tales Go Viral

Looks like Ruth Bottigheimer and her book, Fairy Tales: A New History, really are causing a stir in the world of folklore studies and beyond. Fresh off the recent article in the Chronicle Review, Ruth made it into today's Idea of the Day section over at the New York Times website. The book is also the focus of an article in the Guardian. Both pieces delve further into Ruth's assertion that the commonly held notion of fairy tales being handed down through the oral tradition is false, emphasizing instead the role of print in the journey of "rise" tales, which passed through Europe and eventually landed in the hands of the Brothers Grimm.

The book has also been reviewed favorably by Fabula. Here's a snippet:

Distinguishing fairy tales from folktales and showing the influence of the medieval romance on them, Bottigheimer documents how fairy tales originated as urban writing for urban readers and listeners. Working backward from the Grimms to the earliest known sixteenth-century fairy tales of the Italian Renaissance, Bottigheimer argues for a book-based history of fairy tales. The first new approach to fairy tale history in decades, this book answers questions about where fairy tales came from and how they spread, illuminating a narrative process long veiled by surmise and assumption.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Digging deeper into the roots of fairy tales

There is a fascinating new article in the May 22 Chronicle Review (UPDATE—you can read the entire article at their site for free; thanks for sending us the link, Jennifer). You can also read it in the print edition that's out now.

In the article, Jennifer Howard discusses our new book, Fairy Tales: A New History, at length while exploring how fairy-tale scholars dig deeper into the genre's complex history. Howard explains that Fairy Tales author Ruth B. Bottigheimer has taken issue with the the old story line about the genre:

"It has been said so often that the folk invented and disseminated fairy tales that this assumption has become an unquestioned proposition," Bottigheimer writes in the [book's] introduction ... "It may therefore surprise readers that folk invention and transmission of fairy tales has no basis in verifiable fact. Literary analysis undermines it, literary history rejects it, social history repudiates it, and publishing history ... contradicts it."
Howard notes how this line of thinking has not exactly made Bottigheimer the "belle of the ball at recent folklore gatherings." For example, there was this response to her work at an annual conference from a few years back:

Dan Ben-Amos teaches in the University of Pennsylvania's graduate program in folklore and folklife and its Near Eastern languages and civilizations department, and is the undergraduate chair of the university's comparative-literature program. Ben-Amos was in the audience in 2005 when Bottigheimer gave a presentation at the annual congress of the International Society for Folk Narrative Research, in Tartu, Estonia. "The whole audience went up in arms against her," Ben-Amos says. "I have never seen a scene like that in an international meeting or an American meeting."
If folklorists up in arms has you intrigued, we recommend you read the rest of the article. And also check out Bottigheimer's book, Fairy Tales, to see what all the fuss is about.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Book Expo America

We're busy with the final stages of prep work before we attend Book Expo America at the Javits Center in NYC, "the premier publishing event for the North American publishing industry." Throughout the month of May we're featuring select titles on our website so you can see what we'll have at our booth (# 4840).

Book Expo runs from May 28–May 31, so stop by and visit us while making your way through the labyrinth in the Javits Center. On Sunday May 31 we're hosting book signings for Go, Tell Michelle from 9:30–10:30 and for A Family Place from 11:00–noon. We hope to see you early and often during those four days.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Award winner

Congratulations are in order for Damon Cann! His book, Sharing the Wealth, has won the 2009 Richard F. Fenno Jr. Prize of the Legislative Studies Section of the American Political Science Association.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Woodstock's opening act

Today's video from the vault features the man who kicked off the festivities on stage at the original Woodstock: Richie Havens. Richie wasn't supposed to be the opener, but he was pressed into that coveted role after a number of bands were late getting to the concert grounds. Best known for his soulful, folk rock covers of other artists' songs (including the Beatles and Bob Dylan), Richie wound up stretching his set at Woodstock to include an epic mash up of the traditional blues song "Motherless Child" with "Freedom." The performance became a hit after it was featured in both the Woodstock film and soundtrack.

We just discovered this Woodstock site and it's a treasure trove of news and notes. Along with tons of great stuff about the 1969 event, this site seems to be keeping track of all of the news about anniversary concerts that are popping up across the country. We hear they'll be adding our book to the site soon, so thank you,!

Stay tuned in the near future for our interview with Joel Makower, the man who put together what Rolling Stone called “the definitive study of the mega-concert.”

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Michelle, can you hear us?

Our recently published book, Go, Tell Michelle, is now available as an unabridged and expanded audiobook. It contains all of the wonderfully personal and evocative letters and poems to Michelle Obama found in the original book, only now they are read to you by the editors, Barbara Seals Nevergold and Peggy Brooks-Bertram. It also features ten new letters plus a never before seen or heard introduction by the editors.

Peggy and Barbara have also started their own blog, so stop by and see what they are up to form time to time.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

New catalog cover = instant nostalgia trip

Our Fall catalog is out and we wanted to share it with you. Those folks are partying like it's...1969. Do you spot yourself or one of your parents in that sea of humanity? So many people, so few shirts.

We're still gearing up for Woodstock's 40th anniversary. Here's an interesting article from the New York Times with the latest scoop on what's up happening with the anniversary concert planning.

Check out the Daily Swarm for feedback from Michael Lang on that Times piece we linked to above. Seems like that article wasn't completely accurate. The plot thickens...

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Twenty West: Riding US Route 20 to an IPPY award nomination

Twenty West: The Great Road Across America, by Mac Nelson, has been named a semifinalist in the Travel Essay category in the IPPY awards, or Independent Publisher Book Awards.

Winners will be announced on Friday, May 29, from 6–9 pm, at Book Expo America in New York City. They will receive a medal and a certificate—congrats and best of luck, Mac!

Click here for a full list of IPPY award semifinalists. We're also including Mac's two-part video series on Twenty West below. Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

From Coney Island to the Catskills

We have a tandem of books to share with you today, each providing definitive oral histories of their respective regions of New York State: It Happened in Brooklyn and It Happened in the Catskills.

It Happened in Brooklyn tells the story of the Brooklyn of legend in mid-century America. From stickball in the streets to the Dodgers playing in Ebbets Field, from eating Coney Island franks to commuting across the Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan, this book is an ode to the era of working- and middle-class Brooklynites forging their paths in the postwar years.

It Happened in the Catskills reminisces about the famed “Borscht Belt,” that fabled summer resort area “just ninety minutes from Broadway.” More than a hundred Catskill veterans—from the famed entertainers to the cooks, waiters, busboys, mamboniks, and boys in the band—share their memories of this golden era.

Both books are loaded with beautiful period pictures.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Band, Woodstock, and a (very) brief history of the world

Our road to the 40th anniversary of Woodstock leads us back to the stage today...

Today's video is a wonderful song the Band played during their set at Woodstock 1969. The Band were so good they didn't need a fancy band name—they simply told you what they were right there in their name. And they were a band, that's for sure: the individual players formed a stronger whole. They created some of the most textured Americana music of any era, which is ironic, given that four of the original members were Canadian. Like most rock 'n' roll stories, this one ended after fissures between self-appointed leader Robbie Robertson and the rest of the band led to a breakup in the late seventies. So enjoy one of their higher profile performances of their classic song "The Weight."

However...before you get to the song, you're treated to an interesting history of, um, the world, as it lead up to Woodstock. You'd think that would take a long time, but somehow the fast talker in this clip managers to sum it all up in under a minute. Bravo.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Listen to Eve Pell on the Leonard Lopate Show

It's Monday, so that must mean we have more exciting news to share about Eve Pell and We Used to Own the Bronx. This Tuesday (May 5) at 12 noon, Eve will be interviewed on the Leonard Lopate Show on WNYC, 93.9 FM, New York. Listen live or on catch it later on the station archives.

Eve will also be reading from the book at the Bartow Pell Mansion Museum in the Bronx that same evening. The reading takes place from 6:30–7:30 pm and Eve will be joined by Blake Bell, Pelham Town Historian, who will present background information on the Pelham Bay area and the history of the site. Books will be available for sale after the talk. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and children 12-17, and members get in for free. Registration is required, however, so please call 718.885.1461 or email today. Eve has a couple of other readings scheduled for today in Maryland, plus other SUNY and Excelsior authors have events planned for this week as well—visit our events calendar for the full list.

Friday, May 1, 2009

A Bronx Tale

Eve Pell continues to make the rounds in support of We Used to Own the Bronx. This week she was interviewed by Daren Jaime on BronxNet's Open Show. They talked about the book, Eve's life, challenges, and plenty more. Executive Director Ellen Bruzelius of the Bartow Pell Mansion also appeared on the show to talk about the Mansion and it's ongoing activities. There are a couple of other interesting segments from the episode as well, including Marianne Anderson, Administrator of Pelham Bay Park, discussing the borough's history.