PW Reviews Gray Matter by Sara Michas-Martin

GRAY MATTER
Sara Michas-Martin, Foreword by Susan Wheeler. Fordham Univ., $19.00 trade paper (80 pages) ISBN 978-0-8232-5779-9

Michas-Martin is investigative and clear spoken in her debut collection, with a unified focus on the interior self and its interactions with both the utilitarian body and the external world. Sleep and memory are often invoked or used as a setting in which the body performs subconscious interpretations of experiences in hands-off displays, teasing the self in light of memory’s fleeting ethereality (“Time I knew would not come back/ or that feeling”) or to sifting through dreams’ illogic (“losing teeth is a woman’s dream common and associated with vanity”). An undercurrent of frustration and helplessness gives an emotional life to Michas-Martin’s biological investigations. Despite even a comprehensive understanding of brain function, it—along with the entirety of the body—is persistently beyond control, such as in “The Empty Museum”: “I shake the brain/ wanting a file to slip.” Lesser moments find Michas-Martin more shallowly seeming to present the highlights of a neuroscience or psyche textbook, acting out processes and symptoms in a narrative, but not necessarily getting at something beyond them through invention or aggressive questioning. But even this builds toward a satisfying whole that’s confident in its pursuits and approaches them from an impressive number of angles. (March 2014)

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Reviewed on: 06/02/2014
Release date: 03/01/2014

GRAY MATTER Sara Michas-Martin, Foreword by Susan Wheeler. Fordham Univ., $19.00 trade paper (80 pages) ISBN 978-0-8232-5779-9 Michas-Martin is investigative and clear spoken in her debut collection, with a unified focus on the interior self and its interactions with both … Full Story

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Starred PW Review for Italoamericana

“A sophisticated, critical look at the writings of Italian immigrants to America across all genres….This volume is a major work and forms an invaluable testament to a forgotten era of Italian literary history in the new world….A massive work of extraordinary power, that while scholarly and comprehensive, will have wide appeal.”

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“A sophisticated, critical look at the writings of Italian immigrants to America across all genres….This volume is a major work and forms an invaluable testament to a forgotten era of Italian literary history in the new world….A massive work of … Full Story

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Bookreporter Interviews, author of Italoamericana, Francesco Durante


Interview: Francesco Durante, author of Italoamericana: The Literature of the Great Migration, 1880-1943

May 14, 2014

Francesco Durante is a journalist and Professor of Literature at the University of Suor Orsola Benincasa. Robert Viscusi, Ph.D., is Professor of English and executive officer of the Wolfe Institute for the Humanities at Brooklyn College, president of the Italian American Writers Association, novelist, critic and scholar. Between the two of them, they have quite a firm handle on Italian-American literature and culture. Durante curated and edited ITALOAMERICANA, a definitive collection of classic writings on, about and from the formative years of the Italian-American experience; Viscusi edited the American edition, which is now available. In this interview with Bookreporter.com, the two men discuss the limitations of Gay Talese’s 1993 essay “Where are the Italian-American Writers?”, why newspapers were vital to literary culture in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and how sometimes vital pieces of history can get lost.

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Interview: Francesco Durante, author of Italoamericana: The Literature of the Great Migration, 1880-1943 May 14, 2014 Francesco Durante is a journalist and Professor of Literature at the University of Suor Orsola Benincasa. Robert Viscusi, Ph.D., is Professor of English and executive officer … Full Story

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WSJ Book Review: The Routes Not Taken by Joseph B. Raskin

The Wall Street Journal
BOOKSHELF

Book Review: ‘The Routes Not Taken’ by Joseph B. Raskin
By JULIA VITULLO-MARTIN
April 11, 2014

The Second Avenue subway was first proposed in 1929. It will begin operation—perhaps—in 2016.


Three things enabled the population density that made New York rich, diverse and dominant throughout much of the 20th century: Manhattan’s street grid, Central Park and the subway system. The crowded, contentious city of today would be unthinkable without the grid’s arrow-straight streets, which expedited vehicle and pedestrian flow, and the extensive subway system, which transported people to most of the places they wanted to go. But as New York has undergone yet another surge in population—some 8.3 million people lived in the city in 2013, projected to grow to 9.1 million by 2030—it has been grappling with the limits imposed by its aging infrastructure. Most important, its subway system has barely expanded—though this is not for lack of trying over the past century.

Joseph B. Raskin’s “The Routes Not Taken” lays out the planned underground labyrinths that were never built. The book couldn’t be more timely or relevant: Some of the routes now being built (the Second Avenue line, for example, which is to run along Manhattan’s East Side) or recommended (the extension of the No. 7 Flushing line westward under the Hudson River to New Jersey) were carefully analyzed and seriously proposed decades ago—the extension of the Flushing line in 1926, the Second Avenue subway in 1929. But “no proposal for a line,” Mr. Raskin writes, “enjoyed an easy path.” The author, an official at New York City Transit, uncovers and explores dozens of abandoned routes and chronicles the many ghost tunnels and stations that have been nearly forgotten or have come to be regarded as urban myths. It’s a wonder, he concludes, “how lines have ever been built.”

In presenting lively, though sometimes overly detailed, case studies of what he regards as the most important unbuilt lines, Mr. Raskin encourages his readers to think about the adaptable nature of the city. Had the other boroughs gotten a crosstown subway, linking them with one another as well as Manhattan, they would be profoundly different, and probably far wealthier, today. By focusing on the negative—what didn’t get built—Mr. Raskin forces us to ponder what the city is, what it could have been, and what it still could be.

Earlier generations fully appreciated the subway’s ability to bring development and wealth to underserved sections of the city. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, rising neighborhoods such as Harlem in Manhattan and Flatbush, Midwood and Manhattan Beach in Brooklyn were marketed with an emphasis on access to transit. And that strategy applied even to upscale buildings: In the 1890s, William Waldorf Astor sited his elegant apartment houses on subway stops to attract the swells. The old planners also understood the potential downside of elevated lines, which could move people but blight neighborhoods. “There is such a thing as the defacement of a city,” said W.C. DeWitt in 1889, representing Brooklyn’s Fulton Street property owners. A strong shared civic understanding made possible the capital commitment and construction of transit even as communities and their representatives fought over details.

As Mr. Raskin shows, the old New Yorkers were every bit as irascible, contrarian and territorial as their successors. The transit system, under the authority of the state, isn’t under the control of the mayor or the city council. And the residents of each borough have their own interests to look out for. In its campaign for a subway, the Queens Chamber of Commerce trumpeted: “Should the Bronx grow as Flushing stands still? Shall the Third Ward pay for the growth of Yonkers, Mt. Vernon and White Plains?”

The underlying problem was, and remains, that most basic of political questions: Who benefits? Some neighborhoods prospered while others stagnated. Many New Yorkers assumed that wealthier and more privileged areas were being preferred. “The only time you get to the Northeast Bronx is when you are on your way to the Yale Bowl to see the Yale and Harvard game,” said Bronx assemblyman Joseph Kinsley to a city planning commissioner in 1929, discussing the never-built Burke Avenue line. In 1953, the Brooklyn borough president accused the New York City Transit Authority of behaving like “a prince in Manhattan and a pauper in Brooklyn.” He refused to support any plans that excluded Brooklyn.

At the heart of these disagreements was a conflict between two legitimate points of view: Some thought that transit should benefit the city’s farthest regions and beyond, while others urged transit for the densest neighborhoods. Cost was always, as Mr. Raskin notes, “the daunting factor.” Elevated lines might blight, but they were relatively cheap to build. Underground lines were tremendously expensive. And even though construction was financed from bonds that came due well into the future, many New Yorkers felt they were paying in the here and now to benefit unborn generations.

In practice, New Yorkers weren’t even paying for ongoing expenses. Because the city’s mayors, and often the newspaper editorial boards, opposed fare increases, the fare stayed at a nickel for 44 years, not doubling to 10 cents until 1948. The result was that a concept of “deferred maintenance” was present almost from the beginning. When the system got new money, even for capital construction, it was often diverted to maintenance.

When money was finally found for a new line, all sorts of obstacles could cause delay. The repeated postponement of the Second Avenue Subway is the most famous example. Over the decades, construction has proceeded in fits and starts. The latest big push began in 2007, as crews started boring tunnels from 96th Street down to 63rd. The daily cost of massive under- and above-ground construction to businesses and residents has been immense. Once finished, the line will likely deliver equally immense benefits, but not to those businesses that went bankrupt or to the residents who moved out in despair.

—Ms. Vitullo-Martin is a senior fellow at the Regional Plan Association, a research and advocacy organization.

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The Wall Street Journal BOOKSHELF Book Review: ‘The Routes Not Taken’ by Joseph B. Raskin By JULIA VITULLO-MARTIN April 11, 2014 The Second Avenue subway was first proposed in 1929. It will begin operation—perhaps—in 2016. Three things enabled the population … Full Story

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HELEN TARTAR Memorial Fund


Helen Tartar Memorial Fund

Helen Tartar was one of the most significant editors in the recent history of academic publishing. The Helen Tartar Memorial Fund is dedicated to maintaining her vision of editorial commitment to publishing high-quality scholarship in the humanities and across all academic disciplines.

A passionate advocate for the role of critical thinking and scholarship in editorial practice, Helen Tartar sought out, nurtured, and promoted emerging as well as eminent authors who published in a range of fields, most especially at the intersection of philosophy, literature, religion, ethics, and the environment. She maintained a tireless commitment to enhancing scholarship in the humanities and social sciences. She devoted her life to publishing books focused on the lived experience of human beings in the world: through scholarly endeavor, through habits of critical thinking, through a yearning for social justice, and through a passion for ethical understanding. Her efforts helped transform Fordham University Press into one of the leading scholarly presses in the United States.

Fordham University Press remains as committed as ever to Helen Tartar’s many projects and to her editorial vision for a vibrant, critical, and creative publishing future for the humanities and across academic disciplines. To continue her transformative editorial work, Fordham University has established the Helen Tartar Memorial Fund.

Memorial Service

A memorial service for Helen Tartar will be held on Tuesday, April 8, from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. in the Law School’s McNally Amphitheater, Lincoln Center Campus.

Helen Tartar’s family requests that donations be made either to the Helen Tartar Memorial Fund or to the Taungpulu Kaba-Aye Monastery. Donations should be sent to the following addresses:

The Helen Tartar Memorial Fund
Development and University Relations
Fordham University
888 Seventh Avenue, 7th Floor
New York, NY 10019
Phone (212) 636-7441
Fax (212) 636-7152

Taungpulu Kaba-Aye Monastery
18335 Big Basin Way
Boulder Creek, California, 95006

Helen Tartar Memorial Fund Helen Tartar was one of the most significant editors in the recent history of academic publishing. The Helen Tartar Memorial Fund is dedicated to maintaining her vision of editorial commitment to publishing high-quality scholarship in the … Full Story

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