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Biography and Memoir

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What My Family and Career Taught Me about Breaking Through (and Holding the Door Open for Others)

Myra Strober became a feminist on the Bay Bridge, heading toward San Francisco. It is 1970. She has just been told by the chairman of Berkeley’s economics department that she can never get tenure. Driving home afterward, wondering if she got something out of the freezer for her family’s dinner, she realizes the truth: she is being denied a regular faculty position because she is a mother. Flooded with anger, she also finds her life’s work: to study and fight sexism, in the workplace, in academia, and at home.

Siegfried Kracauer’s biography of the composer Jacques Offenbach is a remarkable work of social and cultural history. First published in German in 1937 and in English translation in 1938, the book uses the life and work of Offenbach as a focal point for a broad and penetrating portrayal of Second Empire Paris.

The Art of Policymaking in India

In December 2009, the economist Kaushik Basu left the rarefied world of academic research for the nuts and bolts of policymaking. Appointed by the then Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh, to be chief economic adviser (CEA) to the Government of India, Basu—a theorist, with special interest in development economics, and a professor of economics at Cornell University—discovered the complexity of applying economic models to the real world. Effective policymaking, Basu learned, integrates technical knowledge with political awareness.

A moving meld of essay, memoir, and story, When the Sick Rule the World collects Dodie Bellamy’s new and recent lyric prose. Taking on topics as eclectic as vomit, Kathy Acker’s wardrobe, and Occupy Oakland, Bellamy here examines illness, health, and the body—both the social body and the individual body—in essays that glitter with wit even at their darkest moments.

A Pataphysical Life

When Alfred Jarry died in 1907 at the age of thirty-four, he was a legendary figure in Paris—but this had more to do with his bohemian lifestyle and scandalous behavior than his literary achievements. A century later, Jarry is firmly established as one of the leading figures of the artistic avant-garde.

A moment later, Lacan is chattering with me, and giving me some crayons to draw with.
—from I, Little Asylum

The Real Life and Celestial Adventures of Tristan Tzara

Tristan Tzara, one of the most important figures in the twentieth century’s most famous avant-garde movements, was born Samuel Rosenstock (or Samueli Rosenștok) in a provincial Romanian town, on April 16 (or 17, or 14, or 28) in 1896. Tzara became Tzara twenty years later at the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich, when he and others (including Marcel Janco, Hugo Ball, Richard Huelsenbeck, and Hans Arp) invented Dada with a series of chaotic performances including multilingual (and nonlingual) shouting, music, drumming, and calisthenics.

The Improbable Life of Charlotte Moorman

The Juilliard-trained cellist Charlotte Moorman sat nude behind a cello of carved ice, performed while dangling from helium-filled balloons, and deployed an array of instruments on The Mike Douglas Show that included her cello, a whistle, a cap gun, a gong, and a belch. She did a striptease while playing Bach in Nam June Paik’s Sonata for Adults Only.

An Indian Woman's American Journey

Padma Desai grew up in the 1930s in the provincial world of Surat, India, where she had a sheltered and strict upbringing in a traditional Gujarati Anavil Brahmin family. Her academic brilliance won her a scholarship to Bombay University, where the first heady taste of freedom in the big city led to tragic consequences—seduction by a fellow student whom she was then compelled to marry. In a failed attempt to end this disastrous first marriage, she converted to Christianity.

On September 2, 1971, the chemist Paul Lauterbur had an idea that would change the practice of medical research. Considering recent research findings about the use of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) signals to detect tumors in tissue samples, Lauterbur realized that the information from NMR signals could be recovered in the form of images—and thus obtained noninvasively from a living subject. It was an unexpected epiphany: he was eating a hamburger at the time. Lauterbur rushed out to buy a notebook in which to work out his idea; he completed his notes a few days later.

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