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In Praise of Flattery

Willis Goth Regier

Where would we be without flattery? Hobbes deemed it an honorable duty and Meredith called it the “finest of the arts.” Alexander the Great applied it as imperial policy; Caesar and Cleopatra were masters of it; and Napoleon devoured it like candy. But flattery also has influential enemies. Cicero called flattery “the handmaid of vice” and Tacitus compared it to poison. 
 
In a work as erudite as it is entertaining, Willis Goth Regier looks into flattery as an element as flammable (and as taken for granted) as oxygen. Giving flattery light, attention, and care, Regier treats readers to hundreds of historical examples drawn from the highest social circles in politics, romance, and religion, from the courts of Byzantium and China to Paris, Rome, and Washington, DC.
 
Because flattery must please, it is playful and creative, and Regier’s book makes the most of it, moving with light steps, now and then pausing to take in the view. Ambitious flatterers even seek to flatter God, a practice Regier treats with trepidation. This is a book for those who would understand the history, tactics, and pleasures of flattery, not least the thrill of danger.
 
“O, flatter me, for love delights in praises.”—Shakespeare
 
“The whole World and the Bus’ness of it, is Manag’d by Flattery and Paradox; the one sets up False Gods, and the other maintains them.”—Sir Roger L’Estrange
 
“Just praise is only a debt, but flattery is a present.”—Samuel Johnson
 
“In this disorganized society, in which the passions of the people are the sole real force, authority belongs to the party that understands how to flatter.”—Hippolyte Taine

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The Other Book

Bewilderments of Fiction

Jordan Stump

Jordan Stump had often contemplated the relationship between a translation and “the book itself,” ruminating on the intriguing inherent sameness and difference between the two. In The Other Book, Stump examines the “other” forms of a book and the ways in which they both mirror and depart from the original. Grounding his witty and original study in an exploration of four forms of Raymond Queneau’s Le chiendent—a copy, the manuscript, a translation, and a critical edition—Stump poses questions designed to help readers reconsider the nature of fiction and reading. Each form of Le chiendent both is and is not what we mean when we say "Le chiendent," yet the friction between their ways of being and that of “the book itself” proves unexpectedly productive, raising troublesome questions about the nature of textuality, reading, language, and knowledge. It also positions us to assess several answers proposed in response to such questions and to wonder about their usefulness. And as we consider those questions, we will have Queneau’s novel beside us, further confounding our attempts to answer—for our inability to answer those questions is precisely the point of The Other Book, as it is of Le chiendent.

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Speaking of Crime

Narratives of Prisoners

Patricia E. O'Connor

Speaking of Crime explores how inmates speak of their lives and in particular how they speak of crime. What is the power of speech for prisoners? What do their uses of pronouns and choices of verbs reveal about them, their experiences of violence, their relationships with other prisoners, and their likelihood for change? In this fascinating book, Patricia E. O'Connor probes beneath the surface of prison speech by examining over one hundred taped accounts of narratives of violence made by African-American inmates of a U.S. maximum security prison. The inmates' manner of speaking about their lives and acts of violence—not just what they talk about but how they talk about it—supplies important clues to their senses of identity and feelings of agency. The use of second-person pronouns when speaking about themselves and a reliance on distinctive verbal devices such as irony and constructed dialogue provide important insights into the way prisoners see their world and help condition how they interact with it.

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