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The National Council of Churches, the Vietnam War, and the Trials of the Protestant Left
The Vietnam War and its polarizing era challenged, splintered, and changed The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. (NCC), which was motivated by its ecumenical Christian vision to oppose that war and unify people. The NCC’s efforts on the war exposed its strengths and imploded its weaknesses in ways instructive for religious institutions that bring their faith into politics. Embattled Ecumenism explores the ecumenical vision, anti-Vietnam War efforts, and legacy of the NCC. Gill’s monumental study serves as a window into the mainline Protestant manner of engaging political issues at a unique time of national crisis and religious transformation. In vibrant prose, Gill illuminates an ecumenical institution, vision, and movement that has been largely misrepresented by the religious right, dismissed by the secular left, misunderstood by laity, and ignored by scholars outside of ecumenical circles. At a time when the majority of scholarly work is committed to looking at the religious right, Gill’s groundbreaking study of the Protestant Left is a welcome addition. Embattled Ecumenism will appeal to scholars of U.S. religion, politics, and culture, as well as historians of evangelicalism and general readers interested in U.S. history and religion.
The New Art Examiner was the only successful art magazine ever to come out of Chicago. It had nearly a three-decade long run, and since its founding in 1974 by Jane Addams Allen and Derek Guthrie, no art periodical published in the Windy City has lasted longer or has achieved the critical mass of readers and admirers that it did. The Essential New Art Examiner gathers the most memorable and celebrated articles from this seminal publication. First a newspaper, then a magazine, the New Art Examiner succeeded unlike no other periodical of its time. Before the word “blog” was ever spoken, it was the source of news and information for Chicago-area artists. And as its reputation grew, the New Art Examiner gained a national audience and exercised influence far beyond the Midwest. As one critic put it, “it fought beyond its weight class.” The articles in The Essential New Art Examiner are organized chronologically. Each section of thebook begins with a new essay by the original editor of the pieces therein that reconsiders the era and larger issues at play in the art world when they were first published. The result is a fascinating portrait of the individuals who ran the New Art Examiner and an inside look at the artistic trendsand aesthetic agendas that guided it. Derek Guthrie and Jane Addams Allen, for instance, had their own renegade style. James Yood never shied away from a good fight. And Ann Wiens was heralded for embracing technologies and design. The story of the New Art Examiner is the story of a constantly evolving publication, shaped by talented editors and the times in which it was printed. Now, more than three decades after the journal’s founding, The Essential New Art Examiner brings together the best examples of this groundbreaking publication: great editing, great writing, a feisty staff who changed and adapted as circumstances dictated—a publication that rolled with the times and the art of the times. With passion, insight, and editorial brilliance, the staff of the New Art Examiner turned a local magazine into a national institution.
Skiing in Russia and the Rise of Soviet Biathlon
Nowhere in the world was the sport of biathlon, a combination of cross-country skiing and rifle marksmanship, taken more seriously than in the Soviet Union, and no other nation garnered greater success at international venues. From the introduction of modern biathlon in 1958 to the USSR’s demise in 1991, athletes representing the Soviet Union won almost half of all possible medals awarded in world championship and Olympic competition. The inherent characteristics of biathlon, which requires stamina and precision in a quasi-military setting, dovetailed with important concepts promoted by the Soviet government. The sport also supplied an opportune platform for promoting the State’s socialist viewpoint and military might. Biathlon, in other words, was about more than simply winning Olympic medals. Currently the most popular winter spectator sport in Europe, biathlon looms large in the history of global athletics, and in the event’s early narrative the Soviet Union was its most important player. William D. Frank, a former nationally ranked competitor and a scholar of Russian history, is in a unique position to tell this story. His highly readable book is the first in-depth look at how the Soviet government interpreted the sport of skiing as a cultural, ideological, and political tool throughout the course of seven decades. For scholars and general readers alike, Everyone to Skis! represents a fascinating perspective on the Soviet Union through the history of a sport closely tied to the homeland. In the words of Lenin: “Do you ski? Do it without fail! Learn how and set off for the mountains—you must. In the mountains winter is wonderful! It’s sheer delight, and it smells like Russia.”
Women Against the Tsar
Violent movements that opposed the existing political order erupted all over Europe in the course of the 19th century. Nowhere was revolutionary violence more visible and dramatic than in Russia. There, revolutionaries took the lives of dozens of people, most, though not all of them, high officials. Accepting the label “terrorist” as a badge of honor, the revolutionaries insisted upon the morality and justice of their cause, and they were fully prepared to sacrifice their own lives for the sake of it. Unlike most people considered terrorists today, Russian revolutionaries selected their targets carefully, focusing on those whom they regarded as responsible for the oppressive political and social order and mourning unanticipated civilian casualties. The goal: the replacement of the current order by one that would genuinely represent and serve the people.
Lavished with praise at the time of its 1925 publication, Leonard Cline’s phantasmagoric God Head is being republished so a new generation of readers can marvel at its dark magic. Cline’s mesmerizing debut follows the journey of Paulus Kempf, a fugitive labor agitator who takes refuge with a colony of Finns on the remote shores of Lake Superior in the upper peninsula of Michigan. Kempf, a former surgeon, poet, writer, sculptor, and hyper-intellectual, is at first deeply impressed by the folklore and traditions of the quiet, gentle Finns, not to mention their generosity and hospitality. But he soon begins to play upon their superstitions and exploits their kindness through the power of his cunning and imagination, manipulating them into seeing him as a kind of a god. As Cline’s novel hurtles toward its unforgettable climax, Kempf’s capacity for compassion or mercy swiftly falls to the wayside as he seduces his host’s wife and then murders the man in cold blood. Soon thereafter he carves a giant God Head into the side of a nearby mountainside, which the villagers look upon with awe and fear, held in the thrall of Kempf’s mysterious intimations of its malicious power. Having achieved complete domination over the Finns, Kempf ultimately tires of their gullibility and returns to civilization, his quest for self-mastery complete. God Head’s descent into the dark void of the human heart will thrill modern readers who are sure to cherish this lost literary artifact from the shadow canon of American fiction.
In an abridged translation that retains the grace and passion of the original, Klots and Ufberg present the stunning memoir of a young woman who became an actress in the Gulag. Tamara Petkevich had a relatively privileged childhood in the beautiful, impoverished Petrograd of the Soviet regime’s early years, but when her father—a fervent believer in the Communist ideal-was arrested, 17-year- old Tamara was branded a “daughter of the enemy of the people.” She kept up a search for her father while struggling to support her mother and two sisters, finish school, and enter university. Shortly before the Russian outbreak of World War II, Petkevich was forced to quit school, and against her better judgment, she married an exiled man whom she had met in the lines at the information bureau of the NKVD (People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs). Her mother and one sister perished in the Nazi siege of Leningrad, and Petkevich was herself arrested. With cinematic detail, Petkevich relates her attempts to defend herself against absurd charges of having a connection to the Leningrad terrorist center, counter-revolutionary propaganda, and anti-Semitism that resulted in a sentence of seven years’ hard labor in the Gulag. While Petkevich became a professional actress in her own right years after her release from the Gulag, she learned her craft on the stages of the camps scattered across the northern Komi Republic. The existence of prisoner theaters and troupes of political prisoners such as the one Petkevich joined is a little-known fact of Gulag life. Petkevich’s depiction not only provides a unique firsthand account of this world-within-a-world but also testifies to the power of art to literally save lives. As Petkevich moves from one form of hardship to another, she retains her desire to live and her ability to love. More than a firsthand record of atrocities committed in Stalinist Russia, Memoir of a Gulag Actress is an invaluable source of information on the daily life and culture of the Soviet Union at the time. Russian literature about the Gulag remains vastly underrepresented in the United States, and Petkevich’s unforgettable memoir will go a long way toward filling this gap. Supplemented with photographs from the author’s personal archive, Petkevich’s story will be of great interest to general readers while providing an important resource for historians, political scientists, and students of Russian culture and history.
Narcyza Zmichowska (1819–76) was the most accomplished female writer to come out of Poland in the mid-nineteenth century. In terms of influence and popularity, she was the George Eliot of East European letters, but her fiction was written less in the realist style than in the romantic one. Her novel The Heathen, rendered here in a crystalline English translation by Ursula Phillips, is the tale of a doomed love affair between Benjamin, a young man from a poor but patriotic rural family, and Aspasia, a femme fatale who is older, beautiful, worldlier, and more sexually liberated.
Nancy Zafris is a critically acclaimed writer because of the highly distinctive, piercing intelligence that underlies her works. Her gifts accumulate in a vision that somehow combines just the right amount of irony, subtle humor, and compassion for characters you won’t see anywhere else in contemporary fiction. Those characters are emotionally all over the map too: resolute, sympathetic, and indelible—their stories can be laugh-out-loud funny one minute and bittersweet the next. In The Home Jar, Zafris reconfirms herself to be among the keenest observers of the human condition around. This is her first short story collection since the critically acclaimed The People I Know, which won the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, and her most famous work, the New York Times notable novel The Metal Shredders. Zafris’s very loyal following of readers will herald The Home Jar as a major event in American letters.
Theodicy, Eschatology, and the Biblical Sources of Moby Dick
Though Moby-Dick is one of the most discussed and most-read works of American literature, the influence of the Bible has been overlooked in many contemporary studies of the novel. In Inscrutable Malice, Jonathan A. Cook expertly illuminates Melville’s abiding preoccupation with the problem of evil and the pervasive role of the Bible in shaping his iconic work.
John Henry Newman on the Path to Wisdom
Searching for better ways to inspire people to pursue wisdom, Frederick D. Aquino argues that teachers and researchers should focus less on state-of-the-art techniques and learning outcomes and instead pay more attention to the intellectual formation of their students. We should, Aquino contends, encourage the development of an integrative habit of mind, which entails cultivating the capacity to grasp how various pieces of data and areas of inquiry fit together and to understand how to apply this information to new situations. To fully explore this notion, An Integrative Habit of Mind brings the work of the great religious figure and educator John Henry Newman into fruitful conversation with recent philosophical developments in epistemology, cognition, and education. Aquino unearths some crucial but neglected themes from Newman’s writings and carries them forward into the contemporary context, revealing how his ideas can help us broaden our horizons, render apt judgments, and better understand our world and how we think about it.