PUP News of the World, April 4, 2014

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Each week we post a round-up of some of our most exciting national and international PUP book coverage. Reviews, interviews, events, articles–this is the spot for coverage of all things “PUP books” that took place in the last week. Enjoy!


k10074Interested in a seemingly simple philosophical quandary? A runaway train is racing toward five men who are tied to the track. Unless the train is stopped, it will inevitably kill all five men. You are standing on a footbridge looking down on the unfolding disaster. However, a fat man, a stranger, is standing next to you: if you push him off the bridge, he will topple onto the line and, although he will die, his chunky body will stop the train, saving five lives. Would you kill the fat man?

The question may seem bizarre. But it’s one variation of a puzzle that has baffled moral philosophers for almost half a century and that more recently has come to preoccupy neuroscientists, psychologists, and other thinkers as well. In Would You Kill the Fat Man?, David Edmonds, coauthor of the best-selling Wittgenstein’s Poker, tells the riveting story of why and how philosophers have struggled with this ethical dilemma, sometimes called the trolley problem. In the process, he provides an entertaining and informative tour through the history of moral philosophy. Most people feel it’s wrong to kill the fat man. But why? After all, in taking one life you could save five. As Edmonds shows, answering the question is far more complex–and important–than it first appears. In fact, how we answer it tells us a great deal about right and wrong.

The New York Review of Books recently reviewed Edmonds’ book.  Reviewer Cass Sunstein said of the book: “[E]legant, lucid, and frequently funny….Edmonds has written an entertaining, clear-headed, and fair-minded book.”

Want to start reading this funny yet complex book? Find Chapter 1 here.


k10120Nothing speaks more of an individual’s interest in a particular field than a life dedicated to its study, and David Roy is the prime example. Roy has been teaching Chinese literature since the 1960’s and after over a decade of work translating, has complete the fifth and final volume in one of the most famous and important novels in Chinese literature. The Plum in the Golden Vase or, Chin P’ing Mei is an anonymous sixteenth-century work that focuses on the domestic life of Hsi-men Ch’ing, a corrupt, upwardly mobile merchant in a provincial town, who maintains a harem of six wives and concubines. The novel, known primarily for its erotic realism, is also a landmark in the development of the narrative art form–not only from a specifically Chinese perspective but in a world-historical context.

With the possible exception of The Tale of Genji (ca. 1010) and Don Quixote (1605, 1615), there is no earlier work of prose fiction of equal sophistication in world literature. Although its importance in the history of Chinese narrative has long been recognized, the technical virtuosity of the author, which is more reminiscent of the Dickens of Bleak House, the Joyce of Ulysses, or the Nabokov of Lolita than anything in earlier Chinese fiction, has not yet received adequate recognition. This is partly because all of the existing European translations are either abridged or based on an inferior recension of the text. This complete and annotated translation aims to faithfully represent and elucidate all the rhetorical features of the original in its most authentic form and thereby enable the Western reader to appreciate this Chinese masterpiece at its true worth.

With a project as compelling and committed as translating The Plum in the Golden Vase, it is helpful to better understand the man who has made it all possible. Author David Roy was recently interviewed by the South China Morning Post. Check out the interview here.

Start reading from this historic work with Chapter 1 of the final volume here.


k10185Interested in a bit of ancient history? 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed tells of marauding groups known only as the “Sea Peoples” invaded Egypt. The pharaoh’s army and navy managed to defeat them, but the victory so weakened Egypt that it soon slid into decline, as did most of the surrounding civilizations. After centuries of brilliance, the civilized world of the Bronze Age came to an abrupt and cataclysmic end. Kingdoms fell like dominoes over the course of just a few decades. No more Minoans or Mycenaeans. No more Trojans, Hittites, or Babylonians. The thriving economy and cultures of the late second millennium B.C., which had stretched from Greece to Egypt and Mesopotamia, suddenly ceased to exist, along with writing systems, technology, and monumental architecture. But the Sea Peoples alone could not have caused such widespread breakdown. How did it happen?

In this major new account of the causes of this “First Dark Ages,” Eric Cline tells the gripping story of how the end was brought about by multiple interconnected failures, ranging from invasion and revolt to earthquakes, drought, and the cutting of international trade routes. Bringing to life the vibrant multicultural world of these great civilizations, he draws a sweeping panorama of the empires and globalized peoples of the Late Bronze Age and shows that it was their very interdependence that hastened their dramatic collapse and ushered in a dark age that lasted centuries.

A review of 1177 B.C. was recently featured in The New York Post.

“In his new book, archaeologist Eric H. Cline introduces us to a past world with eerie resonance for modern times….However stark a bellwether this represents for us, we can at least take comfort in knowing that should our society collapse, chances are good that something fascinating will emerge in its place.“—Larry Getlen, The New York Post

Author Eric Cline was also interviewed for Newstalk Radio’s Moncrieff Show in Ireland. Listen to the interview below.


son also risesLast week, we took a look at The Son Also Rises, an in depth explanation of just how much ancestry does affect our social status.  In the book, author Gregory Clark uses a novel technique–tracking family names over generations to measure social mobility across countries and periods–to reveal that mobility rates are lower than conventionally estimated, do not vary across societies, and are resistant to social policies.

The Son Also Rises has since been reviewed in the Literary Review by Eric Kaufmann.

“Who should you marry if you want to win at the game of life? Gregory Clark, […]  offers some answers in his fascinating new book, The Son Also Rises.” -Eric Kaufmann, Literary Review

Want to start reading The Son Also Rises? Find the Introduction to the book here.