Monday, February 20, 2017

Interview with Stanley Corkin on The Wire

Stanley Corkin's new book is the first comprehensive, season-by-season analysis of the critically acclaimed HBO series The Wire. His book explicates the complex narrative arc of the entire series and its sweeping vision of institutional failure in the postindustrial United States. We're running an interview the University of Cincinnati conducted with Professor Corkin to celebrate the publication of Connecting The Wire: Race, Space, and Post-Industrial Baltimore.

Connecting The Wire Interview

By Jac Kern

Originally posted February 13, 2017 by University of Cincinnati for UC Magazine

The Wire aired on HBO from 2002-08, but still maintains a growing audience today. Photo/HBO

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As University of Cincinnati English and History professor Stanley Corkin enters his 30th year at UC, he adds a new book to his repertoire of works on mass culture (film, television and other popular media) and history.

In this latest release, Connecting The Wire: Race, Space, and Postindustrial Baltimore, Corkin offers a season-by-season analysis of HBO’s 2002-08 crime drama The Wire.

Following law enforcement in Baltimore, each season explored the police in relation to a different institutional entity: initially, the illegal drug trade, then unionized work on the Baltimore waterfront, city government, the public school system and finally in its last season, the news media.

The show was hailed by critics and adored by fans, but never brought in top ratings or managed to score an Emmy Award. Today, it is universally considered one of the best American television dramas and continues to gain a growing fan base following its run on TV through streaming services like HBO Go and Amazon Prime. Corkin’s book is the first comprehensive scholarly study of The Wire.

A key figure in the emerging film program in UC’s College of Arts and Sciences, Corkin’s books include Realism and the Birth of the Modern United States: Cinema, Literature, and Culture (1996), Cowboys as Cold Warriors: The Western and U.S. History (2004) and Starring New York: Filming the Grime and Glamour of the Long 1970s (2011).

Give us an overview of the book and why you wanted to write about The Wire.

I had always endlessly been interested in urban geography. As I was finishing my last book—I’m always trying to think of the next project—one of my kids had brought The Wire to my attention. I binge-watched it, and I loved it. I thought it was a great show—sociologically and historically interesting. I’ve written about race and urban life a lot over the course of my career so I thought this would be a natural next thing to do.

The showrunner, David Simon, tried initially to respond to genre expectations in the first season. It’s really within “noir-ish” crime drama caper stuff, but after that, in subsequent seasons, he gives you four different ways of looking at a given American city—in this case, Baltimore—within the context of a neoliberal cultural moment. I thought that was really powerful.

Author and UC professor Stanley Corkin. Photo/provided
The Wire is very specific to Baltimore, as opposed to other shows set in New York or Los Angeles or a fictional city. What is the significance of this setting?

Baltimore is below the level of the mega successful, international cities. So the fact that it’s not New York or Chicago or LA; nor is it even San Francisco, Boston, or Houston—makes it like many cities in a lot of ways. Baltimore is a perfect neoliberal specimen. It’s a city that didn’t quite boom when the economic system changed in the '90s. Cities that didn’t boom, like Cincinnati, kind of got left behind and they’re just picking up the residue of that restructuring of international economics. And just like Cincinnati now is relatively booming, so is Baltimore.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Entry Interview with the New Editors of Texas Studies in Literature and Language

The summer of 2016 saw Douglas Bruster and James Cox step in as the new editorial team of Texas Studies in Literature and Language. In the following interview, we speak with them about their scholarly backgrounds and the plans they have for TSLL, a journal of literary criticism published quarterly by the University of Texas Press. 

To learn about previous issues, submission guidelines, subscriptions, and other matters relating to TSLL, visit University of Texas Press online at

James Cox

James, you have a strong research interest in contemporary Native America novels and ethnic American literature, and you co-edited Studies in American Indian Literatures for five years. Could you tell us a bit more about yourself and your academic background?

James: While my first book was on late-twentieth century novels by Native writers, my research covers Native American writing from 1920 to the present. Most recently, I’ve become interested in recovering Native writers from the middle decades of the twentieth century and thinking about the formal, critical, and political reasons that they remained overlooked or neglected despite, in some cases, having strong national or even international reputations during their lives. My second book, The Red Land to the South, followed some of these writers into Mexico, where they encountered indigenous groups that inspired them to think about how to help their home communities upon their return. The trans-indigenous critical approach of this second book influenced my work as co-editor, with my long-time friend Daniel Justice of the University of British Columbia, on The Oxford Handbook of Indigenous American Literature.

Douglas Bruster
Douglas, your expertise lies in Shakespeare. You have written and edited numerous books on his plays, and earned international attention for helping prove his contribution to another playwright’s work.

Douglas: I've been lucky enough to find work doing something I love, which is to read, study, and teach some of the best writing in our language. People sometimes have a hard time believing that there are still mysteries about Shakespeare and his works after all this time, but we really know very little about this great writer. Some of my current research involves dating his plays and poems, with an emphasis on determining the earliest part of the canon—what he wrote in the late 1580s and early 1590s. With desktop computing, we're able to perform increasingly sophisticated analyses of his words. In time, we're likely to gain a clearer picture of his working life than we have now.

Why were you drawn to take on the editorship of Texas Studies in Literature and Language?

James and Douglas: The journal is a very important piece of department and university history as well as one of the only non-specialist journals that publishes across historical eras, critical and theoretical divides, and national boundaries. We wanted to take up the challenge of editing such a journal.

What do you have in store for TSLL? How do you anticipate the journal changing?
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We’ve redesigned the journal’s exterior and interior to give it a new, fresh look. Readers will see this rather dramatic change upon first picking up—or clicking on—the journal.

We intend to publish a rich and diverse selection of articles across eras and fields, and we have recruited some new editorial board members—Alexander Dick, University of British Columbia; Devoney Looser, Arizona State; Rafael Pérez-Torres, University of California, Los Angeles; Randy Schiff, University at Buffalo; Bart van Es, Oxford—to join us, our editorial assistant (currently Megan Snell), and the board members who are continuing their service.

We have also initiated a publishing internship program for undergraduate English majors. The students in that position (Hannah Blaisdell and Emily Varnell this year) will help us develop a more robust social media presence.

Will the focus of TSLL shift to any previously unexplored areas of literature? 

Here two special issues bear mention. Our Modernism and Native America special issue will bring into the pages of the journal some new material, as will a special issue on filmmaker Wes Anderson.

In recent years, TSLL published special issues on Samuel Beckett (51:1), James Joyce's Ulysses (51:4), and the author J. M. Coetzee, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2003 (58:4). A 100th anniversary volume (54:1–4) devoted issues to conference papers from the Texas Institute for Literary and Textual Studies, a posthumous work of ecocriticism by a colleague in the UT English department, and Turkish letters. Could you say more about your upcoming special issues?

We mentioned the special issue on Modernism and Native America forthcoming in 59.3. In addition to provocative essays from Eric Gary Anderson (George Mason), Kirby Brown (Oregon), Michael Tavel Clarke (Calgary), Charles Rzepka (Boston University), and Melanie Benson Taylor (Dartmouth), the issue will include an oft-cited but not closely read letter-cum-drama manifesto from Cherokee author Lynn Riggs to his friend, the Pulitzer Prize winning dramatist Paul Green. We’re excited and grateful to have received permission to publish it from both the Riggs and Green estates. In the next two volumes, we’ll have special issues on Wes Anderson and Victorian Environments, edited by our department’s Donna Kornhaber and Allen MacDuffie, respectively.

For the latest information on Texas Studies in Literature and Language, follow the journal on Facebook and University of Texas Press Journals on Facebook and Twitter.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Eleven Images from Picturing the Proletariat

In the wake of Mexico’s revolution, artists played a fundamental role in constructing a national identity centered on working people and were hailed for their contributions 
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to modern art. John Lear's new book, Picturing the Proletariat: Artists and Labor in Revolutionary Mexico, 1908–1940, examines three aspects of this artistic legacy: the parallel paths of organized labor and artists’ collectives, the relations among these groups and the state, and visual narratives of the worker. We asked Professor Lear to pick a handful of images studied in the book to represent the progression and politics of the Mexican proletariat.

Eleven Images from Picturing the Proletariat

By John Lear

The late John Berger proposed a fundamental “way of seeing” art. He wrote, “The question: what went into the making of this? supersedes the collector’s question of: what is this?” As a historian of Mexico’s working people, I began my research for Picturing the Proletariat with the related assumption that art both reflects and shapes the world in which it is produced. This would hardly be a surprise to the politically engaged, Communist-inspired artists who came of age during Mexico’s 1910 revolution, or to anyone who has seen the monumental, government-sponsored murals painted on public buildings in subsequent years by “los tres grandes” (Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros). At one level, my new book is about how post-revolutionary artists “discovered” the working people of Mexico after 1910, came to see and organize themselves as “intellectual workers,” and reached out to newly organized unions. On another level, my book is about the ways these artists “pictured” working people stylistically and discursively over three decades. I found hundreds of long-forgotten or largely ignored prints, photographs, and murals. Many were embedded in journals and street posters, or painted on union and market walls instead of government buildings; and many were by lesser-known artists with more intimate ties with working people.
I include here eleven of the 146 works of art in the book. The images mostly speak for themselves, but I offer some commentary on what went into the making of each piece. Together they suggest some of the ways artists and labor leaders represented working people in revolutionary Mexico.

1. The Pre-revolutionary “Worker-Citizen” 

Saturnino Herrán began Allegory of Construction/Allegory of Labor in 1910, before the revolution, as a commission for the government of dictator Porfirio Díaz. Immersed in the urban transformations of the capital and aware of recent landmark strikes at Rio Blanco and Cananea, he was one of the first fine arts painters to introduce the worker as a subject, using the visual strategies of symbolism and allegory. His strong, fair-skinned construction workers labor at essential tasks, building the monumental structures of Mexico City, while a wife feeds her resting husband and children on the margins of the worksite. They invoke the shared goals of the pre-revolutionary elite and mutualist workers’ associations, by which male workers were to reject recent labor conflicts yet assume their proper roles as “worker-citizens” who construct the nation.

2. The Pre-revolutionary “Worker-Victim”

By contrast, the artisan printmaker José Guadalupe Posada developed years earlier a primitive style of relief prints for the satirical penny press for workers that challenged elite notions of development and highlighted conflict between the working class and its exploiters. As this 1903 front page of La Guacamaya demonstrates, he distinguished between two subsets of the exploited working class: in the masthead, the virile and outraged artisan class (with whom he himself identified), and in the caricature below, the victimized worker-campesino, literally consumed by factories, his flesh converted to gold. But while Posada’s prints denounced abuses of this “worker-victim,” they never advocated strikes and suggest an ambivalence to the outbreak of the 1910 revolution. Herrán and Posada, who both died during the decade of revolutionary fighting, offered two distinct archetypes of the worker that would clash and mingle over the next thirty years.

3. The “Worker-Citizen-Consumer” of the 1920s

This is a typical cover of the post-revolutionary union periodical Revista CROM, published for around a decade starting in 1926. Artists organized and participated in the revolution’s first several years of mobilization3 and fighting, but only in the national reconstruction of the 1920s did their representations of the working class flourish, in the context of intense labor organization and cultural politics. The officialist CROM labor federation, closely allied with President Calles, published its own journal illustrated by commercial artists. Drawings blended the earlier style of Herrán with art deco and art nouveau styles and conveyed the reformist politics of the federation itself. Like this cover, illustrations depicted attractive, muscular, Europeanized and above all individual workers who, together with industrialists and government leaders, constructed the post-revolutionary nation with their tools and the national flag in hand. This worker was also bound to middle-class consumer aspirations featured in articles and advertisements aimed at their wives, a “worker–citizen–consumer” with an explicit and unprecedented political role and palpable aspirations of individual social mobility.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Notions of Genre Soundtrack Playlist

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Much of the writing in film studies published today can be understood as genre criticism, broadly speaking. And even before film studies emerged as an academic discipline in the 1970s, cultural observers within and beyond the academy were writing about genre films and making fascinating attempts to understand their conventions and how they speak to, for, and about the culture that produces them. While this early writing on genre film was often unsystematic, impressionistic, journalistic, and judgmental, it nonetheless produced insights that remain relevant and valuable today.

Barry Keith Grant's new edited volume with Malisa Kurtz, Notions of Genre: 
Writings on Popular Film Before Genre Theory, gathers the most important early writing on film genre and genre films published between 1945 and 1969. In the spirit of appreciating genre film, we asked Barry Keith Grant to curate a playlist of iconic music from genre cinema. Enjoy this fun whirl through movie history through its music.

“Back in the Saddle Again” – Gene Autry: As might be expected, a sense of nostalgia informs the discussions of the western in Notions of Genre. Autrey sings this song – his signature tune from 1939 – in the film of the same name, and it has everything going for it: cowpokes checking their saddles, the comic sidekick bumbling about, Hollywood cowgirls decorating the mise-en-scene, and a yodelling riff later used by Frank Zappa in “Montana.”  Gene never misses a beat broadcasting his show from his ranch, even as he deals with the nefarious owner of the local copper mine. 

“Beware The Blob” – The 5 Blobs: A novelty song inspired by the classic science fiction movie The Blob starring Steve McQueen as the brave teenager whose warnings initially go unheeded by the authorities. It’s silly little melody is a certified earwig, worming its way into the brain like the blob in the film oozes through the air vents in a movie theater. The tunewritten by none other than Hal David and Burt Bacharachis part of a proud tradition of novelty SF tunes that include such masterpieces as Sheb Wooley’s “Purple People Eater,” The Ran-Dells “Martian Hop,” and the Boss Tones’ “Moppity Mope.”

“The Ballad of Bonnie and Clyde” – Georgie Fame: Bonnie and Clyde is one of the latest films discussed in Notions of Genre. Its impact was extraordinary, not just in cinema but influencing other areas of popular culture such as fashion and music. A number of recording artistseven mellow Mel Tormécapitalized on the film’s popularity by waxing tunes related to the infamous duo. But the best is Georgie Fame’s short pop hit. Fame, who has collaborated with Van Morrison on some of the latter’s projects, was a jazz musician disguised as a British Invasion pop singer. Listen to those lyrics just rhythmically role off the tongue, like Walt Whitman’s poetry.

“Moon River” – Jerry Butler: A standard composed by Henry Mancini with lyrics by Johnny Mercer, it won the Oscar for Best Original Song in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The song evokes Mercer’s childhood in the American South, the line about “My huckleberry friend” specifically evoking the 19th century world of Mark Twain on the Mississippi. There are innumerable versions of the song, but Jerry Butler’s version from 1961 was a top chart hit even before Mancini’s was released. Butler, the original lead singer of The Impressions, would seem miscast, but his soulful interpretation lends a black perspective to the song that is entirely different from Andy Williams’ iconic but vanilla treatment.

Monday, January 16, 2017

The Enduring Appeal of Gang Suppression in El Salvador

In 1992, at the end of a twelve-year civil war, El Salvador was poised for a transition to democracy. Yet, after longstanding dominance by a small oligarchy that continually used violence to repress popular resistance, El Salvador’s democracy has proven to be a fragile one, as social ills (poverty chief among them) have given rise to neighborhoods where gang activity now thrives. Dr. Sonja Wolf's new book Mano Dura: The Politics of Gang Control in El Salvador examines the ways
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in which the ruling ARENA party used gang violence to solidify political power in the hands of the elite—culminating in draconian “iron fist” antigang policies that undermine human rights while ultimately doing little to address the roots of gang membership.

Dr. Sonja Wolf is a CONACYT research fellow with the Drug Policy Program at the Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas. We asked her to comment on the 25th anniversary of the Chapultepec Peace Accords.

The Enduring Appeal of Gang Suppression in El Salvador
by Sonja Wolf

On January 16, 2017, El Salvador will commemorate the 25th anniversary of the peace settlement that ended the country’s twelve-year civil war. This conflict pitched the guerrilla forces of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) against the government army, propped up by billions of dollars in US military aid. While for the average citizen it is bound to be a day like any other, the administration of President Salvador Sánchez Cerén will mark the occasion with concerts and other festive events.

It has also announced, however, that it has asked the United Nations, mediator of the earlier peace negotiations, to help produce a new “National Accord”. This agreement is meant to unite all sectors of society, often at odds with each other, in order to tackle major challenges. The invitation comes at a critical time and, compared to the usual official rhetoric that the country is forging ahead, is a recognition that local actors have proved unable to create much-needed political consensus and public policies.

The somber climate stands in stark contrast to the optimism of the early nineties, when Salvadorans were hopeful that greater freedom and prosperity were laying ahead. The war, which had originated because peaceful social and political change was impossible, had left some 75,000 people dead and the economy shattered. The peace agreements mandated a series of constitutional, institutional, political, and socioeconomic reforms. While most transformations advanced only half-heartedly, the last of these never took off to begin with.

The FMLN and the ruling government of the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), a conservative party that defended the interests and privileges of the economic elite, embraced fundamentally different views and expectations of their country. Whereas the left felt that a democracy had never existed in El Salvador, and the peace accords were a means to build it, the right considered that the guerrilla had attacked an actually existing democracy and the task ahead was to restore the status quo.

With a powerful part of the population committed to ending the war, but not to pursuing the vision enshrined in the treaty, the country’s future was always going to be uncertain. The peace accords remain a watershed for El Salvador, but their reluctant implementation lies at the root of the problems that have beset it since. To be sure, it was no small feat to terminate the political violence, incorporate the FMLN into the political system, hold democratic elections, and restructure the security sector. But state institutions and the rule of law remain weak, corruption flourishes, poverty and inequality persist, and criminal violence has surged. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Our Most-Read Blog Posts of 2016

Despite everything that happened in 2016, it was a great year for University of Texas Press authors on our blog. Here are the 10 most-read posts, spanning topics from Mexican cuisine to Moche power structures, from author-curated music playlists to fascinating conversations among scholars.

We look forward to another year of great reading in 2017!

Earlier this year, UT Press was excited to announce that musician, songwriter, and former Go-Go Kathy Valentine has signed an agreement to write her first book – a memoir. Read the post.

2016 was the year that scientists declared the dawn of a human-influenced age. One of our most popular author Q&A featured Nicholas Kawa talking about his new book Amazonia in the Anthropocene: People, Soils, Plants, Forests. We asked him about his work, what we can learn from contemporary rural Amazonians, and the complicated identity politics of indigenous rights. Read the post.

[ Film, Media and Popular Culture : Comics ]

Reading Comics Like a Grownup

The graphic novel is commonly thought to have matured from pulp infancy to literary adulthood. However, comic writers remain burdened by the stigma of literary illegitimacy. In his new book Arresting Development: Comics at the Boundaries of Literature, Christopher Pizzino questions this idea that comics have "grown up" in the literary community's perception, arguing that the medium’s history of censorship and marginalization endures in the minds of its present-day readers and, crucially, its authors. We asked him to talk about why he wrote the book in this passionate and funny Q&A. Read the post.

In this blog post, historian Charles Molesworth expands on his book The Capitalist and the Critic: J. P. Morgan, Roger Fry, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, to reflect on issues that reverberate today: buying influence in a presidential race, breaking up too-powerful bank trusts, pushing Progressive Era initiatives to eliminate obscure and unfair trading practices, and the problem of "large sums of money resting in the hands of a few men." Read the post.

We couldn't resist excerpting Diana Kennedy's brilliant bêtes noires to celebrate her 93rd year and the new edition of her classic part memoir, part cookbook, Nothing Fancy: Recipes and Recollections of Soul-Satisfying Food. In addition to chapters about her life and recipes for her favorite foods, she also covers her culinary addictions and the equipment she simply cannot do without. Enjoy Diana's unfiltered opinions on the proper way to enjoy and promote sustainable food. Read the post.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Q&A with David William Foster on Latin American Graphic Narratives

Comic narrative traditions expand well beyond the multi-billion dollar Marvel and DC universes. Just as Christopher Pizzino has written about literary communities unfairly dismissing comics as juvenile in Arresting Development, Professor David William Foster
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has examined the role of provocative graphic narratives in Argentine and Brazilian cultures, where authors and artists are grappling with issues like modernity, globalization, and cross-cultural identity.
He illuminates the different social, political, and historical conditions from which these Latin American graphic narratives emerged in his new book El Eternauta, Daytripper, and Beyond: Graphic Narrative in Argentina and Brazil

Dr. Foster is Regents’ Professor of Spanish and Women and Gender Studies at Arizona State University, where he also leads the Brazilian Studies Program. He is author of numerous books, including Argentine, Mexican, and Guatemalan Photography: Feminist, Queer, and Post-Masculinist Perspectives, Queer Issues in Contemporary Latin American Cinema, Mexico City in Contemporary Mexican Cinema, and Gay and Lesbian Themes in Latin American Writing.

We asked longtime UT Press author Dr. Foster about his latest research and how it intersects with the extensive research he's done on Latin American cultural output over the course of his career.

El Eternauta’s author Héctor Germán Oesterheld was disappeared during the so-called Dirty War in Argentina. How did this and his text’s political undertones help to solidify graphic narrative prestige in Latin America?

Although the term “graphic novel” was not in use at the time—nor is it particularly common even today in Argentina—what we recognize as such, as a more sophisticated version of the venerable comic book, was already extensively published in Argentina. And such publications had already begun to include running series and book-length plot developments. Osterheld was at his prime when he was disappeared, and that fact enhanced his reputation within the artistic community and its various circle of followers. Moreover, the fact that the science-fiction plot of 
El Eternauta look eerily like a parable of the military dictatorship of the 1960s through the 1980s—that is, quite avant la letter—only served to solidify the fame has to the present day, some 70 years after it was first created. 

H. G. Oesterheld and F. Solano López, El Eternauta

What do you hope readers will come to appreciate about Latin American graphic narratives?

First of all, that this format existed in Argentina quite some decades before anything like it emerged in the United States and that it exemplifies the way in Buenos Aires reaffirms, over and over again, its role as the most innovative Latin American center of cultural production. While there is today a major Brazilian production that I represent in the book, it is much more recent, although it has its own dynamic creative parameters, because São Paulo, in the Portuguese language, vies for the attention Buenos Aires merits in Spanish. Nowhere else in Latin America is there anything of the creative qualities of the production of these two countries, although promising material is beginning to come out elsewhere. Interestingly, Mexico continues to host a large mass popular inventory of a more traditional comic book nature, without out yet having anything approaching the overall artistic/intellectual tenor of the Argentine and Brazilian material.

How has globalization informed Brazil’s graphic narrative output?

Brazil is the country in Latin American that has most vigorously embraced globalization. This is for many reasons, but a principal one is in order to promote its national interests beyond what it views as having as a national language one that is spoken in only one major country of the world, unlike Spanish, which can point to a dozen major societies that use it. Thus globalization for Brazil means, among other things, showcasing its ability to compete in a world language like English. Hence, one finds in Brazil a significant cultural production in or that references English, along with many pro-American sociocultural attitudes in Brazil.

F. Moon and G. Bá, Daytripper

You’ve done extensive research on Latin American visual arts—photography, popular comics, narrative and documentary filmmaking. How does this book intersect with the research you’ve done on these other visual mediums?

When I was a university student in the late 1950s and early 1960s (my PhD is from 1964), visual culture as not a part of so-called Spanish departments. So I concentrated on what was, which was literature. But while I still work extensively with literary texts, I began to discover that my real talent was with visual culture, that I had a “knack” of quickly grasping the visual. Moreover, it was not difficult to see the continuities between the literary and the visual, beginning with the way so many films are based on literary texts or how photographs or other art work may illustrate literary texts. If there is anything original about my career, it has been the ability to sense where the profession is going and thus to be able to pioneer new research areas. I have been a pioneer in these areas of visual arts, as I have been in Latin American Jewish studies and Latin American queer and gender studies. The good fortune to work with so much material has certainly enriched immeasurably my career.

The literary text in a graphic novel is often more spare than traditional prose. Is your interest in linguistics issues heightened by the economy of language typical of this literary medium?

I am always interested in—really, quite obsessed by—language issues. Like everyone in the “Spanish” profession, I started as a language teacher and still find time to include much commentary about language in my teaching and to focus on language matters in my writing. But I must confess I haven’t really given much thought to whether the so-called spare nature of prose in the graphic novel requires particular commentary. Certainly, the semiotic burden is born by the image: one can have a graphic novel with no language, but not a graphic novel with no images. Some graphic novels have fairly extensive prose texts—Fábio Moon’s and Gabriel Bá’s work for example—but the first thing that occurs to me is that the lives of common citizens that are often featured in the graphic novel simply means that “real everyday” people speak a sparer language than so-called exceptional people might in, say, a novel of psychological development. But undoubtedly, your question goads me to be more reflective about this matter, and I will include it in the course on Latin American graphic narrative that I will be teaching in Spring 2017.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Q&A on the oldest known "book" in North America

"If you look upriver as you cross the Pecos River bridge heading west toward the historic town of Langtry, Texas, you will see nestled high on the canyon wall a small, shallow cave. Near dusk on a winter’s day the sun fills this rockshelter with light, illuminating the images painted thousands of years ago in red, yellow, black, and white. Those of us who know the paintings are there wave a
greeting as we pass. Hundreds of thousands of people, however, cross the bridge and never know they are within a stone’s throw of perhaps the oldest known “book” in North America: the rock art mural in White Shaman Shelter." 
—From the Introduction to Carolyn Boyd's The White Shaman Mural.  
The prehistoric hunter-gatherers of the Lower Pecos Canyonlands of Texas and Coahuila, Mexico, created some of the most spectacularly complex, colorful, extensive, and enduring rock art of the ancient world. Perhaps the greatest of these masterpieces is the White Shaman mural, an intricate painting that spans some twenty-six feet in length and thirteen feet in height on the wall of a shallow cave overlooking the Pecos River.

In The White Shaman Mural, Carolyn E. Boyd takes us on a journey of discovery as she builds a convincing case that the mural tells a story of the birth of the sun and the beginning of time—making it possibly the oldest pictorial creation narrative in North America. We asked Carolyn Boyd about her fascinating work and how we can appreciate the White Shaman mural and the region's history.

View of the Pecos River and White Shaman Shelter from across the canyon. Photo by Rupestrian Cyberservices. Courtesy of Shumla Archaeological Research and Education Center.

What is the significance of the White Shaman mural?

The White Shaman mural is perhaps the oldest known “book” in North America. It is a visual narrative exquisitely detailing a very ancient and enduring story of creation – the story of how the sun was born and time began. The narrative was painted by nomadic foragers at least 2,000 years ago on the limestone wall within a small rockshelter overlooking the Pecos River. It documents a story that was passed down to later generations of Uto-Aztecan speaking people, such as the ancient Nahua (Aztec). It is a story still told today by other Uto-Aztecan speaking peoples, such as the Huichol of Mexico.

The mural works on multiple levels of interpretation. Not only does it communicate an ancient creation narrative, it also metaphorically represents the heavens as viewed by people living in the Lower Pecos during the Late Archaic. The imagery relates the sun’s daily cycle and the apparent path of the sun along the ecliptic throughout the year. It documents the changing seasons and the beginning and ending of ages. Beyond its portrayal of real-world cosmological events and cycles of nature, the mural also articulates the ongoing transformations of every person throughout the course of their lives.

The fourth Ancestor transforming into the Moon Goddess. Photo by Jean Clottes.
Courtesy of Shumla Archaeological Research and Education Center

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Call for Papers - The Velvet Light Trap Issue #81

The Velvet Light Trap Issue #81 – Power, Freedom, and Control in Gaming

Game studies is no longer an ‘emerging’ field and video games can no longer be considered a ‘new’ or niche medium. The commercial video game industry is now over 40 years old and games are an increasingly intrinsic part of the symbolic terrain of culture. The continued economic growth of the global video game industry is well documented and staggering, and this is reflected in the growing body of academic work that engages with the multifaceted ways that games are designed, created, received, and played. In recent years, scholars have productively moved away from the hotly contested theoretical divisions between ludology and narratology that defined early game studies. Yet, at the same time, games scholarship continues to privilege digital gaming, in the process often sidelining or excluding from academic discussions the vibrant range of game design paradigms and player practices in non-digital gaming, such as board games, card games, and role-playing games. This issue of The Velvet Light Trap considers the place of gaming within media studies and the potential value of utilizing a cultural studies framework for understanding issues of power, freedom, and control in game studies.

As the game industry has matured alongside information and communications technologies, methods of production and industry lore have become normalized as the scope and diversity of games being produced becomes ever more richly nuanced. Triple-A franchises, such as Grand Theft Auto, Fallout, and Madden NFL, are gaming blockbusters, with production teams of hundreds, production budgets of millions, and revenue in the billions. The success of the mainstream industry combined with digital distribution has also opened up niches for thriving independent and underground game scenes, where titles as varied as Undertale, Depression Quest, The Stanley Parable, and Papers, Please, have interrogated the act of play itself while expanding conceptions of what forms and functions games can take.

The increasing complexity of the globally networked gaming industry demands scholarly engagement from a variety of perspectives. The scholarly turn to games and gaming is producing a groundswell of work that parses the disparate yet often interrelated patterns of more micro-level historicity and phenomena, such as game aesthetics and narrative engagement; player identity and communities; emergent cultures and practices the circumscribed agency of designers; and issues of local production, histories, and archives. Scholarship on analog formats like role-playing games and board games have foregrounded the importance of looking beyond the digital, highlighting the economic and cultural contexts of a broader range of gaming and play practices.

This issue of The Velvet Light Trap seeks to build upon this body of research and further consider how games reproduce popular ideas about identity, including issues of gender, race, class, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, ability, etc., through characters, gaming worlds, play, design, and performance. Which voices, perspectives, and sensibilities are privileged in gaming culture, and how can the gaming industry become more inclusive and self-reflective about the practices it engages in and choices it makes? How are communities traditionally marginalized in the gaming economy asserting greater agency? How are issues of power, freedom, and play negotiated, challenged, or reinscribed in the various games and gaming practices marking today’s increasingly expansive media and cultural landscape?

Other possible areas of inquiry in digital and analog gaming include but are not limited to:

  • Theories of play
  • Gaming pedagogy
  • Archive/Collection
  • Game design (development & production); designer agency
  • Labor, locality, and the global commercial market
  • Global gaming (Non-U.S. products or cultures)
  • Marketing and distribution
  • Games as ancillary merchandise
  • Games as parts of transmedia franchises
  • Metagaming and paratextual engagement
  • Adaptation (game to film/TV; film/TV to game)
  • Gamer culture and identity 
  • Gender and #Gamergate
  • Celebrity
  • Digital access and class privilege
  • Ludic cartographies
  • Mobile apps
  • Virtual Reality
  • Mods & Freeware

Submission Guidelines

Submissions should be between 8,000 and 10,000 words, formatted in Chicago Style. Please submit an electronic copy of the paper, along with a separate one-page abstract, both saved as a Microsoft Word file. Remove any identifying information so that the submission is suitable for anonymous review. Quotations not in English should be accompanied by translations. Send electronic manuscripts and/or any questions to by January 15th, 2017.

About the Journal

TVLT is a scholarly, peer-reviewed journal of film, television, and new media. The journal draws on a variety of theoretical and historiographic approaches from the humanities and social sciences and welcomes any effort that will help foster the ongoing processes of evaluation and negotiation in media history and criticism. While TVLT maintains its traditional commitment to the study of American film, it also expands its scope to television and other media, to adjacent institutions, and to other nations' media. The journal encourages both approaches and objects of study that have been neglected or excluded in past scholarship.

Graduate students at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and the University of Texas at Austin coordinate issues in alternation, and each issue is devoted to a particular theme. VLT's Editorial Advisory Board includes such notable scholars as Charles Acland, Richard Allen, Ben Aslinger, Caetlin Benson-Allott, Mark Betz, Corey Creekmur, Michael Curtin, Kay Dickinson, Bambi Haggins, Scott Higgins, Mary Celeste Kearney, Jon Kraszewski, Lucas Hilderbrand Roberta Pearson, Nicholas Sammond, Jacob Smith, Jonathan Sterne, Cristina Venegas. VLT's graduate student editors are assisted by their local faculty advisors: Mary Beltrán, Ben Brewster, Jonathan Gray, Michele Hilmes, Lea Jacobs, Derek Johnson, Vance Kepley, Shanti Kumar, Charles Ramírez Berg, Thomas Schatz, and Janet Staiger.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Books for the holidays!

As the shopping season goes into full throttle, we are all being bombarded with enticements to buy and holiday sales. Don't get overwhelmed! Give the gift of books for everyone on your list this year. We have recommendations for books that make great stocking stuffers, plus books for foodies, sports fans, music aficionados, history buffs, art fans, and shutterbugs!

All books on our website are 33% off. To ensure books arrive by Christmas Day, order by December 5 for international delivery and by December 15 for domestic delivery. Happy Shopping!

A Love Letter to Texas Women
Acclaimed author Sarah Bird celebrates the uniqueness of Texas women in this beautifully designed gift book.
Hardcover,  $11.36
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ISBN: 978-1-4773-0949-0
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More Curious
More Curious
By Sean Wilsey
Sean Wilsey’s celebrated collection of essays on the glory and misery, the beauty and absurdity of contemporary America.
Paperback, $10.72
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ISBN: 978-1-4773-0797-7

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The Tacos of Texas
Tacos of Texas
By Mando Rayo and Jarod Neece
With authentic recipes, behind-the-scenes stories, and recommendations of where the locals eat, this is the indispensable guide to Texas’s appetizingly diverse tacos and taco culture by the authors of Austin Breakfast Tacos.
Paperback, $13.37
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ISBN: 978-1-4773-1043-4

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Winner of the 2015 James Beard Foundation Cookbook of the Year Award

With over 275 authentic, easy-to-follow recipes, lively stories of their origins, and luscious illustrations, here is the definitive work on the foods of Yucatán, one of the world’s great regional cuisines.
Hardcover, $40.20
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ISBN: 978-0-292-73581-1

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The Republic of Football
With interviews and stories of celebrated players, including past and present NFL stars, as well as legendary coaches and dynastic teams from across Texas, The Republic of Football captures the standout moments in Friday night lights.
Hardcover, $16.72
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ISBN: 978-1-4773-0371-9

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Relentless: The Stories behind the Photographs
By Neil Leifer with Diane K. Shah
The best-known sports photographer of the last fifty years recounts riveting, behind-the-scenes stories of some fifty iconic images of American popular culture, with subjects ranging from sports legends, to current events, to presidents and celebrities.
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ISBN: 978-1-4773-0948-3
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A Pure Solar World
Surveying the range of Sun Ra’s extraordinary creativity, this book explores how the father of Afrofuturism brought “space music” to a planet in need of transformation, supporting the aspirations of black people in an inhospitable white world.
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ISBN: 978-0-292-72636-9
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Don't Suck, Don't Die
Don’t Suck, Don’t Die: Giving Up Vic Chesnutt
By Kristin Hersh, Foreword by Amanda Petrusich

A haunting ode to a lost friend, this memoir by the acclaimed author of Rat Girl offers the most personal, empathetic look at the creative genius and often-tormented life of singer-songwriter Vic Chesnutt that is ever likely to be written.
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ISBN: 978-1-4773-1136-3

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The Capitalist and the Critic
A skillful and fascinating retelling of the often testy relationship between J. P. Morgan and Roger Fry, two men who did more to establish the preeminence of the Metropolitan Museum of Art than any collector and curator before or since.
Hardcover, $20.07
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ISBN: 978-1-4773-0840-0
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We Could Not Fail
Profiling ten pioneer African American space workers, including technicians, mathematicians, engineers, and an astronaut candidate, this book tells an inspiring, largely unknown story of how the space program served as a launching pad for a more integrated America.
Paperback,  $12.03
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ISBN: 978-1-4773-1113-4
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As Above, So Below
As Above, So Below: Art of the American Fraternal Society, 1850-1930
By Lynne Adele and Bruce Lee Webb, Foreword by David Byrne
With more than two hundred outstanding examples from private and public collections and introduced by fraternal art collector and Talking Heads singer-songwriter David Byrne, this revelatory book surveys the golden age of lodge hall art for the first time.
Hardcover, $40.20
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ISBN: 978-0-292-75950-3
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Spotlighting more than eighty collections in very diverse fields, this extensively illustrated volume showcases the unparalleled quality and range of the holdings of the University of Texas at Austin.
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ISBN: 978-1-4773-0785-4
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How to Be a Texan
How to Be a Texan
By Andrea Valdez
This friendly guidebook provides all you need to be an authentic Texan, whether you’ve recently arrived in the state or you just want a refresher on the finer points of Lone Star lore.

Hardcover, $14.71
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ISBN: 978-1-4773-0931-5
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By H. Joaquin Jackson with David Marion Wilkinson
A retired Texas Ranger recalls a career that took him from shootouts in South Texas to film sets in Hollywood.
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ISBN: 978-0-292-71638-4
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By Tom Gilliland and Miguel Ravago, Foreword by Robert Rodriguez
Winner of the IACP Cookbook Award and the Independent Publisher Award, Fonda San Miguel is now updated and reissued with a lavish compilation of recipes and art from one of America’s premier restaurants serving interior Mexican cuisine.
Hardcover, $26.77
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ISBN: 978-1-4773-1022-9
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Texas on the Table
One of Texas’s leading cookbook authors presents 150 recipes that showcase the state’s bounty of locally grown meats and produce, artisanal cheeses, and award-winning wines, along with fascinating stories of the people who are enriching the flavors of Texas.
Hardcover, $30.15
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ISBN: 978-0-292-74409-7
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Freddie Steinmark
Freddie Steinmark: Faith, Family, Football
By Bower Yousse and Thomas J. Cryan
Freddie Steinmark tells the story of a legendary University of Texas football player whose courage on the field and in battling cancer still inspires the Longhorn nation.
Hardcover, $16.72
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ISBN: 978-1-4773-0821-9

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An authoritative history of the nation’s fourth-winningest college football program, highlighted by the legendary players and coaches, historic games, and unique traditions of the Texas Longhorns.

Hardcover, $23.42
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ISBN: 978-0-292-71446-5

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T Bone Burnett
This first critical appreciation of T Bone Burnett reveals how the proponent of Americana music and producer of artists ranging from Robert Plant and Alison Krauss to B. B. King and Elvis Costello has profoundly influenced American music and culture.
Hardcover, $18.06
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ISBN: 978-1-4773-0377-1
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Homegrown: Austin Music Posters 1967 to 1982
Edited by Alan Schaefer, essays by Joe Nick Patoski and Nels Jacobson

From mind-melting psychedelia and surreal treatments of Texas iconography to inventive interpretations of rock and roll, western swing, and punk, this book offers the definitive, long-overdue survey of music poster art by legendary Texas artists.
Paperback, $20.07
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ISBN: 978-0-292-77239-7

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Comfort and Glory
Comfort and Glory: Two Centuries of American Quilts from the Briscoe Center
By Katherine Jean Adams, Foreword by Karoline Patterson, Bresenhan and Nancy O’Bryant Puentes, Preface by Don Carleton
Showcasing 115 remarkable quilts that span more than two hundred years of American quiltmaking, this volume introduces an outstanding collection of American quilts and quilt history documentation, the Winedale Quilt Collection at the Briscoe Center for American History.
Hardcover, $50.25
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ISBN: 978-1-4773-0918-6
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Houston on the Move: A Photographic History
By Steven R. Strom, Photographs by Bob Bailey Studios

Presenting over two hundred previously unpublished images from the city’s largest and most comprehensive photographic archive, this volume chronicles Houston’s transformation into a city of international importance.
Hardcover, $30.15
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ISBN: 978-1-4773-1094-6
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Mexico Photographs by Mark Cohen
Mexico: Photographs by Mark Cohen
Photographs by Mark Cohen
Capturing the country’s visual surrealism in striking detail, Mexico presents two hundred images by Mark Cohen, the acclaimed street photographer and author of Frame and Dark Knees.
Hardcover, $36.85
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ISBN: 978-1-4773-1171-4

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The Face of Texas
Photographs by Michael O’Brien, stories by Elizabeth O’Brien
With twenty-three new portraits, including John Graves, Richard Linklater, Joel Osteen, and Cat Osterman, as well as updated profiles of all of the subjects, here is the face of Texas captured in the faces of noteworthy Texans by one of America’s premier portrait photographers.
Paperback, $16.72
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ISBN: 978-0-292-76313-5
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Merry Christmas from the Family
Merry Christmas from the Family
By Robert Earl Keen
Includes a CD and lyrics
Singer-songwriter Robert Earl Keen’s hilarious, definitely skewed Christmas carol.
Hardcover, $11.36
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ISBN: 978-0-292-71266-9
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One Hundred Love Sonnets
One Hundred Love Sonnets: Cien sonetos de amor
By Pablo Neruda, Translated by Stephen Tapscott
Beautifully redesigned as a gift edition, this bilingual Spanish-English volume, which has sold nearly 250,000 copies, presents the joyfully erotic love poetry of Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda.
Hardcover, $13.37
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ISBN: 978-0-292-75760-8
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The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks
By Toni Tipton-Martin, forewords by John Egerton and Barbara Haber
2016 James Beard Award Winner, 2016 Art of Eating Prize for Best Food Book 
Showcasing one of the world’s largest private collections of African American cookbooks, from rare 19th century texts to modern classics by Edna Lewis and Vertamae Grosvenor, this collection speaks volumes about America’s food culture.
Hardcover, $30.15
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ISBN: 978-0-292-74548-3
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¡Viva Tequila!
With a festive blend of inspired recipes for fabulous drinks and dishes, lively personal anecdotes, spicy cultural history, and colorful agave folk art, proverbs, and lore, America’s premier tequila expert shows us how to savor the most Mexican of all libations.
Hardcover, $23.42
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ISBN: 978-0-292-72294-1
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Paying long-overdue tribute to one of the greatest legends in football, here is a biography of the quarterback who single-handedly revolutionized the game—TCU All-American and Washington Redskins Hall-of-Famer Slingin’ Sammy Baugh.
Hardcover, $16.72
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ISBN: 978-0-292-71985-9
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DKR: The Royal Scrapbook
By Jenna Hays McEachern, with Edith Royal
This extraordinary collection of never-before-published photographs, letters, newspaper clippings, football ephemera, and recollections reveals the private man behind the UT football legend who will always be “The Coach,” Darrell K Royal.
Hardcover, $26.77
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ISBN: 978-0-292-70493-0
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John Prine
From singing mailman to Nashville legend, John Prine traces the crooked road traveled by the brilliant songwriter responsible for “Angel from Montgomery,” “Sam Stone,” “Paradise,” and “That’s the Way That the World Goes ’Round.”
Hardcover, $16.72
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ISBN: 978-0-292-74822-4
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A who’s who of American popular music fills this lively memoir, in which Ray Benson recalls how a Philadelphia Jewish hippie and his bandmates in Asleep at the Wheel turned on generations of rock and country fans to Bob Wills–style Western swing.
Hardcover, $16.72
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ISBN: 978-0-292-75658-8
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The Mechanical Horse
In this lively cultural history, the journalist Margaret Guroff reveals how the bicycle has transformed American society, from making us mobile to empowering people in all avenues of life.
Hardcover, $16.72
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ISBN: 978-0-292-74362-5

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Seeing Texas History: The Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum
Introduction by Victoria Ramirez and Jan Bullock

Featuring artifacts ranging from Texas’s founding documents to contemporary objects of science and technology, this book presents the treasures of Texas history that have been displayed at the state’s official history museum.
Hardcover, $26.80
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ISBN: 978-1-4773-1089-2

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A Book on the Making of Lonesome Dove
By John Spong, Color plates by Jeff Wilson, photographs by Bill Wittliff
Interviews with Robert Duvall, Tommy Lee Jones, Diane Lane, Danny Glover, Anjelica Huston, and other members of the cast and crew; set designs, costumes, and props from the Wittliff Collections; and candid, on-the-set photographs offer a fascinating, behind-the-scenes look at the book, the miniseries, and the world of Lonesome Dove.
Hardcover, $33.50
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ISBN: 978-0-292-73584-2
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Surf Texas
Surf Texas
By Kenny Braun

Evocative and nostalgic, this extended photo essay presents an insider’s portrait of the surf culture of Texas, one of the top six surfing states in America, as well as the singular and sometimes unexpected beauty of the Texas coast.
Hardcover, $36.85
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ISBN: 978-0-292-75770-7
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