Jean Feraca’s road to self-fulfillment has been as quirky and demanding as the characters in her incredible memoir. A veteran of several decades of public radio broadcasting, Feraca is also a writer and a poet. She is a talk show host beloved for her unique mixture of the humanities, poetry, and journalism, and is the creator of the pioneering international cultural affairs radio program Here on Earth: Radio without Borders.
In this searing memoir, Feraca traces her own emergence. She pulls back the curtain on her private life, revealing unforgettable portraits of the characters in her brawling Italian-American family: Jenny, the grandmother, the devil woman who threw Casey Stengel down an excavation pit; Dolly, the mother, a cross between Long John Silver and the Wife of Bath, who in battling mental illness becomes the scourge of a Lutheran nursing home; and Stephen, the brilliant but troubled older brother, an anthropologist adopted by a Sioux tribe. In a new chapter that reinforces and ties together the book’s exploration of the multiple forms of love, Jean introduces us to Roger, a Wildman and her husband’s best friend with whom she, too, develops an extraordinary intimacy. A selection of fifteen of Feraca’s poems add counterpoint to her engaging prose.
Frozen mammals of the Ice Age, preserved for millennia in the tundra, have been a source of fascination and mystery since their first discovery over two centuries ago. The 1979 find of a frozen, extinct steppe bison in an Alaskan gold mine allowed paleontologist Dale Guthrie to undertake the first scientific excavation of an Ice Age mummy in North America and to test theories about these enigmatic frozen fauna. In this brilliant remaking of the death of a wooly bison over 36,000 years ago, we’re given a glimpse of what life was like during the Pleistocene Epoch. From torn fragments and patches of deep-frozen skin and insights gleaned from studies of Montana bison, African lions, and Iberian cave art, Ice Age Forensics presents the story of the huge carcass Guthrie calls “Blue Babe”—and the excitement surrounding its reconstruction.
Has biopolitics actually become thanatopolitics, a field of study obsessed with death? Is there something about the nature of biopolitical thought today that makes it impossible to deploy affirmatively? If this is true, what can life-minded thinkers put forward as the merits of biopolitical reflection? These questions drive Improper Life, Timothy C. Campbell’s dexterous inquiry-as-intervention.
Campbell argues that a “crypto-thanatopolitics” can be teased out of Heidegger’s critique of technology and that some of the leading scholars of biopolitics—including Michel Foucault, Giorgio Agamben, and Peter Sloterdijk—have been substantively influenced by Heidegger’s thought, particularly his reading of proper and improper writing. In fact, Campbell shows how all of these philosophers have pointed toward a tragic, thanatopolitical destination as somehow an inevitable result of technology. But in Improper Life he articulates a corrective biopolitics that can begin with rereadings of Foucault (especially his late work regarding the care and technologies of the self), Freud (notably his writings on the drives and negation), and Gilles Deleuze (particularly in the relation of attention to aesthetics).
Throughout Improper Life, Campbell insists that biopolitics can become more positive and productively asserts an affirmative technē not thought through thanatos but rather practiced through bíos.
Instead of Dying
Lauren Haldeman University Press of Colorado, 2017 Library of Congress PS3608.A54565A6 2017 | Dewey Decimal 811.6
Invoking spiders and senators, physicists and aliens, Lauren Haldeman’s second book, Instead of Dying, decodes the world of death with a powerful mix of humor, epiphany, and agonizing grief. In the spirit of Calvino’s Invisible Cities, these poems compulsively imagine alternate realities for a lost sibling (“Instead of dying, they inject you with sunlight & you live” or “Instead of dying, you join a dog-sledding team in Quebec”), relentlessly recording the unlived possibilities that blossom from the purgative magical thinking of mourning. Whether she is channeling Google Maps Street View to visit a scene of murder (“Because / a picture of this place is / also a picture of you”) or investigating the origins of consciousness (“Yes, alien / life-forms exist / they are your thoughts”), Haldeman wrenches verse into new sublime forms, attempting to both translate the human experience as well as encrypt it, inviting readers into realms where we hover, plunge, rise again, and ascend.
The Invisible World
John Smolens Michigan State University Press, 2017 Library of Congress PS3569.M646I58 2017 | Dewey Decimal 813.54
The Invisible World portrays how a remarkable family is indelibly marred by one of the darkest conspiracy theories in American history: the gunman on the grassy knoll. Boston journalist Sam Adams suspects that his father may have been the unidentified gunman in the JFK assassination. True or not, Sam is certain that his father, the elusive John Adams, is responsible for his sister Abigail’s tortured life of drugs, prostitution, and the conviction that she is a descendant of Salem witches, as well as the strange circumstances that surround his mother’s final hours.
After Sam's mother dies and is cremated, her ashes are stolen. Believing that his father is responsible, Sam pursues the man he has not seen in years. He discovers that he is not the only one searching for his father—federal agents, a disgraced politician, a retired Boston cop, and several journalists join the chase.
“The Invisible World is more than a first-rate political thriller,” says The Boston Globe. “It’s an absorbing tale of alienation and loss, and the ramifications of a rootless, troubled family.” What Sam Adams ultimately discovers is that the shadowy realm of conspiracies conjures a world of hidden truths and intrigue in which the familiar is the most mysterious force of all.