July 5, 2007
By Jeff Kallet
If you're looking to fill out your summer reading list, look no further than the Ohio University Press.
For instance, consider this one: Critics have called it "a curious book," "a genre first," a "risky publishing venture" and "one of the best and oddest academic books to appear in quite some time." They've also described it as fascinating and - in The New York Times - as "unfiltered catnip." What rough beast is slouching here?
The book is "Updike in Cincinnati: A Literary Performance," and it was published by the OU Press in June. Edited by James Schiff, it documents John Updike's 2001 visit to Cincinnati for the Cincinnati Short Story Festival and includes anecdotal material about the visit, stories that were read during four public events, transcripts of panel discussions and exchanges between Updike and his audience.
While some might worry that a book documenting an author's visit to a single city could easily be dismissed by reviewers and readers, that was not the impression of OU Press Director David Sanders. To him, the book's value and merits soon became clear.
"John Updike is one of America's most well-known and well-regarded writers," Snders says. "That name alone was going to guarantee a certain amount of interest. But what makes 'Updike in Cincinnati' uniquely appealing is that it captures Updike's genius as a public performer. The off-the-cuff comments he makes are thoughtful, humorous and incredibly astute, and you wouldn't know about this talent unless you had witnessed events like these."
In addition to the notice it merited by The New York Times, the book has been positively written about by The Centaurian, a John Updike Web site, the Cincinnati Enquirer and Cincinnati CityBeat. One bookstore in Philadelphia ordered 60 copies months before the publication date so it could have them available for an event with Updike this summer.
Other OU Press books to consider this summer:
- "Out of the Woods: A Birdwatcher's Year," a collection by the late Ora Anderson, has been selling well, and is available locally at White's Mill, Kroger and the O'Bleness Memorial Hospital gift shop. Publishers Weekly called it "undeniably pleasurable reading."
- The Ohio University Press' first book for kids - "Under Ohio: The Story of Ohio's Rocks and Fossils" by Charles Barker - is due out in July. The illustrated book about geology for young readers describes an ancient sea and colliding continents, and includes a list of the best sites in Ohio for rock and fossil hunting.
- "The Memoir and the Memoirist: Reading and Writing Personal Narrative" by Thomas Larson, is a comprehensive look at the most popular literary genre of the past 20 years. The San Diego Union-Tribune called the book, published in June, "absorbing and eclectic," and writer Maureen Murdock said it's "a must read for every writer and reader of this dynamic literary genre."
- "Good Roots: Writers Reflect on Growing Up in Ohio" has been a big hit since it arrived in stores last December. Edited by Lisa Watts, the compilation of essays has been reviewed in newspapers statewide and on September 14-15 the Ohioana Library is bringing several of the book's contributors to Columbus for a first annual book festival. Stay tuned.