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In his new book The Notorious Ben Hecht: Iconoclastic Writer and Militant Zionist (Purdue University Press March 2019), Julien Gorbach examines the life of great twentieth-century screenwriter, playwright, and activist Ben Hecht.

Gorbach treats Hecht’s activism during the 1940s as the central drama of his life. His new book details the story of how Hecht earned admiration as a humanitarian and vilification as an extremist at this pivotal moment in history, about the origins of his beliefs in his varied experiences in American media, and about the consequences.

Read on to see our discussion with the author about Hecht’s life, career, and legacy.



Q. Who was Ben Hecht and why is he significant?

Julien Gorbach: Ben Hecht was a legendary screenwriter, who was also known for breaking the silence in the American media about the Holocaust, and for his militant Zionism. He invented the gangster movie and wrote classics like Scarface, Gone with the Wind and Hitchcock’s Notorious. Hecht was a prolific reporter, novelist, and Broadway playwright. During the Holocaust and the struggle to establish the state of Israel, he was a major force as a propagandist. He became notorious, because of his inflammatory rhetoric and his partnership with Mickey Cohen, a Jewish gangster. Together they smuggled weapons to Palestine in the struggle for a Jewish state.

The Notorious Ben Hecht: Iconoclastic Writer and Militant Zionist (March 2019


Q. How did Hecht find himself in the newspaper business, and what was the Chicago School of journalism?

Gorbach: He was introduced to the business through his uncle and quickly took to the work. I think it’s too simplistic to just dismiss Hecht as a cynic, though he was certainly influenced by the hardboiled attitude of other newshounds in his early days chasing stories. Reporters would do anything for a story and, given the fierce competition for scoops, would concoct more than a few. But Hecht’s cynical style ultimately reflected a strain of Romanticism. It was a dark view common among those who came of age during the Great War, the so-called Lost Generation. Like many who lived through the carnage of those years, Hecht developed a grim view of human nature and he looked back at the liberal Enlightenment-era optimism about mankind as naïve.


Q. How was he later influenced by the intellectuals, poets, writers he met in New York? Was The Front Page his breakthrough?

Gorbach: He came into himself as a dramatist in New York. In the 1920s one way to prove yourself was to write a blockbuster novel. Another way was to have a hit on Broadway, which is what Hecht and other friends of the Algonquin Roundtable crowd did. But New York was publicity-oriented, and Hecht found the city more superficial than Chicago. He famously said that he and his friends “were fools to have left Chicago,” but he knew most Midwest writers had to go to New York for their careers. The Front Page was a huge hit and made him famous. At about the same time, his 1927 movie Underworld launched the gangster movie craze, and he won Best Original Story for it at the first Academy Awards in 1929.


Q. How did Hecht get to Hollywood?

Gorbach: Hecht’s first hit movie was silent. When the talkies came in, writers were in demand. There’s the famous story about the telegram he received from Herman Mankiewicz, who said there were “millions to be grabbed out here, and the only competition is idiots. Don’t let this get around.” For writers, Hollywood was almost too good to be true.


Q. What happened to Hecht’s artistic ambitions and political ideals in Hollywood?

Gorbach: He once said: “We didn’t write movies. We shouted them into existence.” This wasn’t so far off. The writer’s room was a kind of clubhouse, especially since so many of Hecht’s friends from New York also came to Hollywood. He did feel compromised as a writer in Hollywood, so why did he keep at it? The truth is that Hecht was polyamorous—a skirt-chaser. He liked women and ran around with many. His playboy lifestyle ended up getting a bit out of hand, and reached a point where he had a lot of work to do just to make ends meet, keeping up his lavish life with his wife and his affairs. He wrote some great movies but also doctored scripts, doing many uncredited, piecemeal jobs under the table. His time was not spent on novels, which back then, especially, was considered the only real measure of great writers. And he did reach a breaking point, when his personal crises with his marriage and career and the global situation with Hitler all kind of came together at the same time.


Q. How was Hecht prescient about the Final Solution?

Gorbach: Hecht wrote “The Little Candle,” a short story, after Kristallnacht occurred in 1938. No one took from the event that there would be a genocide. That was beyond the imagination, or as the historian Deborah Lipstadt put it in the title of a book, Beyond Belief. But Hecht’s short story vividly describes the Holocaust. Critics said it was a powerful story but Hecht had an insane idea—that the Germans would actually kill a half million Jews.

Julien Gorbach


Q. How did Pauline Kael establish Hecht as a screenwriting legend?

Gorbach: That emerged because of her debate with Andrew Sarris. The 1960s Sarris/Kael debate made film a serious art form for critical consideration. A major question was who is the true author of a film, the “auteur” or the writer? Kael said it was the screenwriter and pointed to Hecht’s groundbreaking contributions, saying artists like him made the movies great.


Q. How might Hecht be reassessed as a writer with a political legacy?

Gorbach: He remains a politically controversial figure, but his significance is his message, which remains especially important now, in the days of the Trump administration. All of Hecht’s work as a writer and an activist is shot through with his concerns about the “soul of man,” which is so fundamental to all the questions we face today about democracy. If we want to remain liberal and democratic, we have to remember what liberalism and democracy are about. We rely on people to be good, but why does the United States also tilt the playing field, for example, by favoring rural people over urban people with our Electoral College and Senate systems? What are the implications for democracy if people don’t turn out to be as good as we expect them to be, or aren’t as good in the ways we expect them to be? What are the implications of our darker nature, our tribalism for example, for our free press and our social media? What are the implications for our ideas of rights, like the Second Amendment, or for our treatment of immigrants and people of different backgrounds? Are we reckoning with the dark side of human nature realistically in our foreign policy, in the way we talk about questions of war and peace? What does our treatment of the environment, and other species, tell us of our nature? These questions are still wide open, and in Hecht’s day, there was more room for error about them. With nuclear weapons, climate change, and the other issues that we confront now, the stakes have gotten much higher.


Q. Do you feel a revival is due of his works in a play or movie festival? How might The Notorious Ben Hecht introduce new audiences to a writer in some ways ahead of his time?

Gorbach: This is in a way three books rolled into one. It tells the story of his Jewish activism, and the implications of that story for Israel, America and Jews everywhere today. It’s the story of a great writer who has never been properly understood or appreciated. And finally, it’s the story of “a child of the century,” a kind of wild tour through all these worlds of the last 100 years—Capone’s Chicago, New York in the ‘20s, Hollywood, World War II, etc. But altogether this is just one big story of an extraordinary life, with an appropriately dramatic arc and ending. I think when people read the story and learn who he is, they’ll appreciate him. But they’ll also understand and appreciate the message that he has for us today. In this book, you can hear him speaking to us, now.


The Notorious Ben Hecht is now available. Check out a free preview of the book.

Get 30% off when you order directly from the Purdue University Press website and enter the code “PURDUE30” at checkout.

Many parts of history would be easily forgotten if we did not have those who are committed to recording it.

“When I started, much of the historical information wasn’t available.” recalls Purdue professor Fred Whitford.

Now, after authoring more than 250 research, extension, and regulatory publications, delivering over 5,800 presentations to a wide array of audiences, and writing several books about the history of Indiana agriculture, Whitford is responsible for a great deal of what is known about the history of agriculture and extension in Indiana.

Whitford’s books include Enriching the Hoosier Farm Family: A Photo History of Indiana’s Early County Extension Agents; Scattering the Seeds of Knowledge: The Words and Works of Indiana’s Pioneer County Extension Agents; For the Good of the Farmer: A Biography of John Harrison Skinner, Dean of Purdue AgricultureThe Grand Old Man of Purdue University and Indiana Agriculture: The Biography of William Carroll Lattaand The Queen of American Agriculture: A Biography of Virginia Claypool MeredithThese books study the history of agriculture and extension agents at Purdue and in Indiana, often through concentrating on important figures throughout our history. (Find a flyer for the series of books here)

John Calvin Allen, professionally known as J.C., is one of those figures. He worked as a photographer for Purdue University from 1909-1952, and operated his own photography business until his death in 1976.  Allen’s photos are the source for Whitford’s upcoming book Memories of Life on the Farm: Through the Lens of Pioneer Photographer J. C. Allen (September 2019), co-authored by Neal Harmeyer an archivist at the Purdue University Archives and Special Collections. The book uses Allen’s photographs, which were taken on glass slides, to get a unique look at Indiana’s agricultural history.

“People love old pictures,” says Whitford, “it brings people back.”

This volume contains over 900 images, most never-before-seen, of men, women, and children working on the farm, which remain powerful reminders of life in rural America at the turn of the twentieth century. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the collection of photographs is the importance of the the time period they cover. They act as a historical account of a major transitional period for agriculture. “He told the story of change” says Whitford, he explains that it was a time when tractors replaced horses, and superior crops and animals were being introduced.

Why research the history of agriculture and extension in Indiana in such an expansive way? Whitford believes that the past repeats itself, and that learning from it will always have value.

“We take so many things for granted, and all of these things we take for granted had to start somewhere.” says Whitford.

Just as important, it’s a reminder of culture and mission.

“It shows what the culture of extension is, we’ve always been here to help.” says Whitford. “We are here to serve growers.”



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Memories of Life on the Farm: Through the Lens of Pioneer Photographer J.C. Allen will be available in September 2019. Get 30% off when you order directly from the Purdue University Press website and enter the code “PURDUE30” at checkout.

That Sheep May Safely Graze (March 2019, Purdue University Press), by David Sherman, brings light to the human story of Afghanistan, the disruptive impact that decades long conflict has had on rural Afghans, their culture, and the timeless relationship they share with their land and their animals.

David Sherman

The book describes the story of one of the most successful and lasting U.S.-funded development programs in Afghanistan since the start of American nation-building efforts there in 2001. It is a story of bringing essential veterinary services to a society that depends day in and day out on the well-being and productivity of its animals, but also a society that had no reliable access to even the most basic animal health care.

The author of the book, David Sherman, has worked all over the world to provide essential veterinary services such as animal health service delivery, veterinary infrastructure development, transboundary animal disease control, goat health and production, and veterinary and veterinary para-professional education. His work has brought him to over 40 countries, working for a variety of international agencies including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Bank, the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), Heifer International, and Farm Africa.

Prior to the book’s publication, we asked David Sherman about his personal experiences in Afghanistan, the way the world views the country, and more.



Q: What made you want to write about your experiences?

David Sherman: Several things. The United States has been involved militarily in Afghanistan indirectly or directly since 1979 and yet Americans remain largely unaware of the country, its history and its people.  Having been involved in relief and development activities in Afghanistan since 1991, I have been able to gain a long-term experience with the country and its culture and I wanted to share that experience with a wider public. Also, for those who have followed events in Afghanistan, the prevailing view has been that billions of dollars have been spent on nation building with little to show for it. Therefore, I wanted to tell the story of our successful effort to provide sustainable animal health care in the country to a wider audience to illustrate that indeed, effective development in Afghanistan is possible.  Finally, I wanted to invite readers to get to know some of the fine and decent Afghans with whom I worked, so that they can better appreciate the warmth, grace and resilience of these people in the face of the tremendous hardships and losses they have suffered.


Q: What is the best story that didn’t make it into the book?

Sherman: Oh, so many it is hard to choose. But there was one that epitomized the challenges of doing development work in Afghanistan. I was able to organize a collaborative effort between my employer, the Dutch Committee for Afghanistan, US Army Civil Affairs officers, a British NGO and several volunteer veterinary practitioners from the US to refurbish the teaching clinic at the Kabul University Veterinary Faculty and restore their desperately needed clinical teaching program for veterinary students. Unfortunately, after we had it up and running and farmers were bringing their livestock and expats were bringing their dogs and cats for treatment, the clinic was bulldozed to make way for the newly created American University of Afghanistan!


Q: How do you feel the world’s perception of what is going on in Afghanistan lines up with your own experiences there?

Sherman: Sadly, what the world hears about Afghanistan – widespread corruption, ineffective governance, the opium trade, instability, poverty, insurgency and violence are all true, but the tragedy is that the world hears only about these things. Afghanistan is a country of 35 million people, the vast majority of whom get on with their lives, demonstrating a remarkable inner strength. Every day, they go to work, to market, to school, to the mosque to pray, to the fields to tend their crops, to the pastures to tend their animals, to funerals to mourn their dead and to weddings as an affirmation of their hopefulness for a better future. What the world does not hear about is the dignity and humanity of these Afghan people and their desire for peace and a better life for their children.


Q: How would you explain the importance of the work you did to a layperson?

Sherman: Through our work, we were able to establish reliable access to clinical veterinary services throughout Afghanistan. This was a vitally important achievement. Afghanistan is mainly a rural society whose people still depends largely on agriculture. It is estimated that the livelihoods of up to eighty percent of the population depend directly or indirectly on livestock. Nomadic herders, of which there are millions in the country, depend almost completely on their livestock to survive. Since the Soviet invasion in 1979 and the prolonged fighting that followed to this day, what little veterinary service that had been available to farmers and herders through government had essentially disappeared. As a result, the nation’s livestock had succumbed to a wide range of preventable and treatable diseases due to lack of vaccines and medicines and personnel trained in their use. The livelihoods and well-being of livestock owners as well as the national economy suffered as a result.

While there were numerous relief efforts over the years to provide veterinary services through various donor projects, these interventions were not sustainable because the service was provided for free and the personnel were paid salaries. When the projects ended and the free medicines and salaries disappeared, so did the veterinary services. We took a different approach, recruiting and training young men and later women from their home districts, providing them with a six-month training along with the necessary equipment and supplies required to provide good quality clinical services to their home districts once they returned after training. We made it clear from the beginning that we would pay no salaries and that these trained paraveterinarians would have to charge for their services so that they could earn enough money to provide their own income and to purchase their resupply of additional medicines and vaccines to continue working. This private sector, fee for service model worked very well. Since the first paraveterinarians were trained in 2004, almost 90% of them continue to provide animal health care services to the farmers and herders in their districts, some now for almost 15 years. As a result, hundreds of jobs were created for paraveterinarians, the health, welfare and productivity of Afghanistan livestock have been improved and the livelihoods of rural Afghans enhanced throughout the country.

David Sherman (center rear) in Afghanistan


Q: What are the most important ways your work affects the general public?

Sherman: Throughout the developing world and even in some parts of the developed world, tens of millions of animal owners do not have access to reliable animal health care. There are many reasons – remoteness, lack of roads, telecommunication and other infrastructure, war, civil unrest, misguided policies, insufficient numbers of veterinarians, lack of economic incentive for veterinarians to serve small holder farmers and nomads, poverty and inadequate knowledge of the benefits of veterinary services. The fee for service, private sector, community-based veterinary paraprofessional model for sustainable animal health care delivery that we refined in Afghanistan can serve as a model to improve access to veterinary services around the world.

The benefits of regular access to reliable animal health care are many, particularly in developing countries. Healthy, vaccinated animals offer protection against the disaster of unexpected loss of flocks and herds to disease, improved food security, better nutrition, increased income, expanded opportunities for value chain development in the livestock sector and even social stability for communities that depend on animals for their survival.


Q: If you could have readers take one thing away from this book, what would that be?

Sherman: If I may, I would like to quote a passage from the book to sum up what I would like readers to take away from it. “Sadly, despite so many years of American involvement, the Afghan people remain largely invisible to most Americans, and their hopes and aspirations, so similar to our own, remain unknown. My life has been enormously enriched by the many years spent in their midst and I have grown to love some individual Afghans as if they were my own family. The Afghan people are not faceless ciphers, conniving thieves, ruthless terrorists, and rabid fundamentalists. All societies are complex and contain undesirable elements. It is true of Afghan society as it is true of our own. The Afghans I worked with and came to know well are decent, hardworking people. They are generous, hospitable, good-humored, trustworthy, and devoted to family and community. They have deep and abiding religious faith. Afghans are proud of their country’s beauty, its varied cultures, and its long, rich history. Most of all, Afghans are resilient. They have suffered in ways over the past thirty years that most of us cannot even imagine. They want and deserve better. They want and deserve peace, security, prosperity, and a hopeful future.”

As I write this, the American government is engaged in peace talks with the Taliban. I pray that respect for the quality of life and the basic human rights of ordinary Afghans, especially Afghan women, is on the agenda.



That Sheep May Safely Graze: Rebuilding Animal Health Care in War-Torn Afghanistan is available now. Check out a free preview of the book.

Get 30% off when you order directly from the Purdue University Press website and enter the code “PURDUE30” at checkout.



Born on this day 125 years ago, Ben Hecht is one of American history’s most complicated and compelling figures. Here’s what you need to know to become familiar with the prolific screenwriter and activist.



Hecht is one of the most prolific screenwriters in history.


In 1967 The New Yorker critic Pauline Kael credited Hecht with writing half of the entertaining movies that Hollywood had ever produced. To this date, he has sixty-five screen credits and more than 140 other film contributions. Some of the most iconic films on his resume include Scarface (1932), Gone with the Wind (1939), and Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious (1946).

Due to his abilities to quickly and effectively produce excellent work, Hecht was the writer that studios looked to when they were in a jam. He was known to do many of these jobs under the table and with no credit, making it difficult to understand the comprehensive impact that Hecht had on Hollywood. 


Hecht started his career as a crime reporter in Chicago.


“He was certainly influenced by the hard-boiled attitude of other newshounds in his early days chasing stories” notes Julien Gorbach, author of The Notorious Ben Hecht, “Like many others who lived through the carnage of those years, Hecht developed a grim view of human nature and he looked back at the liberal Enlightenment-era optimism about mankind as naive.”


Hecht is viewed by many as the inventor of the gangster movie genre.


Hecht was very intrigued by gangsters. His 1927 movie Underworld launched the gangster movie craze, and by the time his legendary thriller Scarface (1932) was released, he was the king of the genre.

In many of these stories, especially Scarface, Hecht’s affinity for these gangsters showed up in his writing. Gorbach notes that the censors at the time were wary of the way it could make people feel about these unlawful figures.

“Hecht creates this horrifying figure and makes him sexy to us. If you see the remake with Al Pacino, it really hits home the way we can be fascinated by someone who is bad, repulsive or even evil. We like him anyway. The movie studios, on the other hand, wanted a “crime does not pay” message to pass to the censors.”


Ben Hecht won the first ever Academy Award for Best Writing, Original Story.


Hecht won this award, now referred to as Best Original Screenplay, for the 1927 movie Underworld, and went on to win the same award for the 1935 film The Scoundrel, which he shared with Charles MacArthur.

Hecht also received nominations for Viva Villa! (1934), Wuthering Heights (1939), Angels Over Broadway (1940), and Notorious (1946).


Later in his career, Hecht’s activism became the central part of his life.


As Kristallnacht erupted in 1938 Nazi-controlled Germany, Hecht wrote a short story titled The Little Candle, which turned out to be a horrifyingly prescient account of the horrors that would follow in the years to come.

Hecht wrote late in his career that he “turned into a Jew” in 1939. The Holocaust and the rise of Adolf Hitler prompted Hecht to action. He called out his Jewish movie studio bosses for not fighting the American censorship and for their keeping criticism of the Nazis off-screen in the 1930s. He also launched a massive publicity campaign, including newspaper campaigns and theatrical spectaculars, to bring awareness to the horrors being committed overseas. He viewed the Roosevelt administration as complicit in the horrors of the Holocaust and leveraged his talent and celebrity connections to build pressure on the US government.

Hecht did not care if this would hurt his career as a screenwriter or if it would affect his image. He earned admiration as a humanitarian and vilification as an extremist. He became notorious.



The information in this post has come from The Notorious Ben Hecht: Iconoclastic Writer and Militant Zionist (March 15. 2019, Purdue University Press) and an interview with the book’s author, Julien Gorbach.



On July 20, 1969, the world watched as Neil Armstrong took humankind’s first steps on the moon.

This giant leap instantly became the defining moment in space history. There were now American footprints on the moon, fulfilling the late President John F. Kennedy’s promise to do so by the end of the decade.

Pad 34, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, looking west on the evening of January 27, 2017, fifty years to the day of the Apollo 1 fire. Several private memorials have been placed at the site over the decades. One reminds visitors: “Remember them not for how they died but for those ideals for which they lived.” (Photo by George Leopold)

NASA’s accomplishment is all the more incredible in light of the tragedy that occurred just two-and-half years prior, when on January 27, 1967, Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee lost their lives in a fire during a launch pad test of the Apollo 1 spacecraft. The nation was in shock and NASA was forced to confront the mistakes that led to the avoidable deaths of its own astronauts.

In its haste to reach the moon by the end of the decade, NASA had pushed the flawed Apollo 1 craft to its limits. Though it was too late for the Apollo 1 astronauts, NASA ultimately realized that there was much that needed to be changed if they were to make it to the moon.

“One of the cruel ironies, the central paradox of the Space Race, was that a launch pad fire actually saved the Apollo program,” notes George Leopold, Gus Grissom’s biographer. “The reason was the evidence of what had been overlooked in Grissom’s ship—the faulty wiring, the leaking coolant, the lack of flame-retardant materials in the spacecraft, the clumsy, inward-opening hatch, and most important of all, NASA’s misguided engineering decision to use pure oxygen under pressure on the launch pad—all of it was there for the investigators to sift through.”

Tragedy struck, but NASA learned from it, and the groundwork was laid to successfully put humankind on the moon.

Armstrong was empowered to take that first giant leap on the surface of the moon because of those who did so before him on Earth, including Grissom, White, and Chaffee who took calculated risks to fulfill Kennedy’s promise.

NASA did not make it to the moon despite the failure of the mission; rather, NASA achieved their goal because of the contributions and the sacrifices of these astronauts, and the doors they opened for future giant leaps

As Purdue University celebrates 150 Years of Giant Leaps with its sesquicentennial celebration in 2019; as the world recognizes the fiftieth anniversary of Armstrong’s first steps on the moon in July of this year; we cast the spotlight, today, on the crew of Apollo 1 and in particular Purdue alumnus astronauts Gus Grissom and Roger Chaffee, whose giant leaps and ultimate sacrifice moved humankind forward, to the moon and beyond.



The information in this post came from Grissom’s biography, Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom, Revised and Expanded and a previous Q&A with the author, George Leopold.











2018 was a great year at Purdue University Press, highlighted by a full slate of scholarly and trade books, as well as several journals that were released during our Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter seasons.

In May of 2018 we welcomed Clarence Maybee as a new series editor for the Purdue Information Literacy Handbooks, and in November we welcomed Justin Race as the new Director of Purdue University Press.

As we move forward into 2019 stay engaged with us and subscribe to our email newsletter to get the latest on books and promotions. We also encourage you to follow us on Facebook and Twitter, especially to make sure you catch our upcoming “New Year, New Book, New You” sale!

To get a comprehensive list of what came out this year, click on #PUPYearinReview in the tweet below, check out our catalogs listed at the end of this post, or visit www.press.purdue.edu.




Thank you for keeping in touch with the Press, Happy New Year and we’ll see you in 2019!



Q&A with author Jay Michaelson

November 27th, 2018

To prepare for the release of the 36.3 issue of Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies, Purdue University Press interviewed contributor Jay Michaelson about religion, writing, and more. 

Michaelson is an affiliated assistant professor at Chicago Theological Seminary, where his work focuses on the intersection of queer studies and Jewish theology. His scholarly publications include “Queering Kabbalistic Gender Dimorphism,” “Hating Law for Christian Reasons: The Religious Roots of American Anti-lawyerism,” and “Chaos, Law, and God: The Religious Meanings of Homosexuality.” His books include Everything Is God: The Radical Path of Nondual Judaism (Trumpeter, 2009) and God vs. Gay? The Religious Case for Equality (Beacon, 2011). A book based on his doctoral dissertation, Jacob Frank: From Jewish Antinomianism to Esoteric Myth, is presently under review. He holds a PhD in Jewish thought from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, a JD from Yale Law School, and nondenominational rabbinic ordination. 

Michaelson’s article  “Queering Martin Buber: Harry Hay’s Erotic Dialogical?” appears in Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies, volume 36, issue 3. 


Q – Your article, “Queering Martin Buber: Harry Hay’s Erotic Dialogical?,” is featured in the upcoming edition of Shofar. What was the inspiration behind the article?


In certain gay subcultures, Harry Hay’s philosophy is well-known and actively practiced, and yet there’s very little awareness there of its close relationship to Buber’s. At first, I was interested in possible influences; as the research went on, this morphed into an interest in phenomenological affinities and differences, and how the two thinkers could complement one another.”


Q – You have had diverse success as a writer; your work ranges from best-selling books to scholarly articles. How do you feel this variety affects your writing and thinking?


As an “alt-ac” with a long-term visiting position at Chicago Theological Seminary but a primary career outside the academy, there’s a certain freedom in being able to write scholarly articles on a wide variety of subjects, and I certainly make use of that. In addition, I’m interested in bridging discourses between “high” philosophers such as Buber and outsider thinkers like Hay. I’m not sure Hay is (or deserves to be) taken seriously by proper philosophy scholars, and yet there’s something quite interesting in his eroticizing of the dialogical that I think is worthy of analysis.”


Q – How does your spiritual practices and meditation impact your writing?


It depends on the work. In the case of this article, I was interested in trying to assess, based on the textual evidence, how these similar but divergent dialogical philosophies might be experienced in practice, rather than solely on the page. I think that’s informed by my work in the contemplative world. At the same time, I’m extremely wary of imposing any of my own experiences onto the subjects at hand.”


Q – You’ve extensively covered both Buddhism and Judaism. What do you believe are some of the most compelling similarities/differences between the two?


I feel like I’ve written a book on that subject.… I think for many people, myself included, the Buddha Dharma provides a less theologically freighted set of contemplative practices that can enrich a Jewish communal and ritual life. The questions Buddhism asks about suffering and the end of suffering are complementary to those Judaism asks about justice and relationship to the Divine. I see them as having different conversations.”


Q – As a political correspondent and writer, you’re required to keep in close contact with current events. How do these particularly chaotic times affect your work and life?


In terms of the work, I think there’s a constant awareness of the justice impacts of any idea under consideration, including those in this article. For example, for all of Hay’s genius, the problem of essentialism, which I discuss in the article, is particularly glaring in the context of nationalism, ethnocentrism, and threats to democracy. As soon as one group of people declares itself intrinsically different from and better than another, we’re in trouble.”


Q – How do you feel your personal life/childhood influences your writing in your fields of study?


Certainly this particular article reflects my own identity as queer person on the one hand, and on the other as an American Jew who encountered popularizations of Buber at an early, formative age.”


Q – What would you like for readers to glean from your article “Queering Martin Buber: Harry Hay’s Erotic Dialogical?”?


I’d be happy simply to introduce mainstream Jewish studies scholars to considering the sex-negative and implicitly queer-negative elements in various forms of philosophical discourse. There have been some excellent encounters recently between queer/LGBTQ studies and Jewish studies, and I’d be thrilled for this to be another of them.”


Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies is a triannual publication that produces original, peer-reviewed scholarly articles, issues on special topics, book forums, review essays, and the occasional forum on Contemporary Critical Jewish Studies. Shofar reaches an international readership with an impressive range of reliably robust offerings primarily in modern history, literature, culture, and the arts. Shofar’s special issues have covered a wide range of timely subjects, including Diaspora and exile in modern Jewish culture, the transcultural generation in Israeli literature, race and Jews in America, and Holocaust and genocide cinema. To learn more about or subscribe to Shofar, visit: www.shofarjournal.org.

Seven individuals from Purdue University are being recognized (Monday, Oct. 22) for their contributions to open access with the Leadership in Open Access Award from Purdue University Libraries and the Office of the Provost.

This week (Oct. 22-28) academic institutions and libraries across the globe are celebrating the benefits of Open Access for research and scholarship during the 11th annual International Open Access Week commemoration.

Purdue Libraries 2018 Leadership in Open Access Award Winner Dean of Purdue Polytechnic Institute Gary Bertoline and Interim Dean of Libraries Rhonda Phillips

Purdue Libraries 2018 Leadership in Open Access Award Winner Dean of Purdue Polytechnic Institute Gary Bertoline (right) and Interim Dean of Purdue Libraries and Dean of the Purdue Honors College Rhonda Phillips

The individuals selected to receive the award this year include: Dean of the Purdue Polytechnic Institute Gary Bertoline; David Huckleberry, coordinator of digital instruction, Purdue Department of Physics and Astronomy; and five continuing lecturers with Purdue Department of Mathematics, including: Owen Davis, Huimei Delgado, David Norris, Patrick Devlin, and Timothy Delworth.

According to Scholarly Publishing Outreach Specialist Nina Collins, the individuals contributed to the following open access projects:

  • Dean Bertoline and Purdue Polytechnic Institute collaborated with Purdue e-Pubs to build a bridge between the content entered into Digital Measures (an online tool faculty use to organize, manage, and report on activities and CV data) and Purdue e-Pubs’ repository content. The new bridge enables faculty using Digital Measures to opt in easily in order to have citations for their publications harvested by Purdue e-Pubs staff. Once harvested, Purdue e-Pubs staff review publisher-sharing policies and work with faculty, providing free, mediated deposits to Purdue e-Pubs, Purdue University’s institutional repository (which provides free, global access to the scholarly outputs of Purdue University).
  • In 2014, Delworth and Delgado participated in a workshop by the Open Textbook Network sponsored by Purdue University Libraries. Delgado, Devlin, Norris, and Davis worked with Huckleberry and ITaP staff to launch LON-CAPA, an open-source learning content management system, to support the adoption of open education resources in mathematics courses. To date, the Purdue Department of Mathematics, in collaboration with ITaP, have provided LON-CAPA courseware for more than 25,000 students, saving these students the burden of purchasing expensive math textbooks.
Purdue Libraries Recognizes 2018 Leadership in Open Access Award Winners

Interim Dean of Purdue Libraries Rhonda Phillips with three of the Purdue Libraries’ 2018 Leadership in Open Access Award winners. Pictured, (L to R): Patrick Devlin, Rhonda Phillips, Dave Huckleberry, and Huimei Delgado. (Not pictured: Owen Davis, David Norris, and Timothy Delworth.)

According to Interim Dean of Libraries Rhonda Phillips, the individuals were selected to receive the recognition this year for leading by example in the Open Access movement at Purdue University.

“These individuals have demonstrated leadership in Open Access to scholarly resources, and they truly exemplify what it means to ‘design equitable foundations for open knowledge,’ the theme of International Open Access Week 2018,” Phillips said. “I am pleased to present the 2018 Leadership in Open Access Award to each of them, in recognition of their outstanding leadership in this area, as well as of their continued commitment to increase visibility of scholarship at Purdue in partnership with Purdue e-Pubs.”

Since 2012, Purdue e-Pubs has more than 17 million downloads from users all over the world, with the average download rate of more than two million downloads per year.

For more information about Open Access at Purdue, visit www.lib.purdue.edu/openaccess. Learn more about Purdue e-Pubs at http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/.

Justin Race Named Director of Purdue University Press

Justin Race

Justin Race has been named the director of the Purdue University Press, according to Interim Dean of Purdue University Libraries and Dean of the Purdue Honors College Rhonda Phillips.

Race, who will begin his new role Monday, Nov. 12, is currently the director of the University of Nevada Press. During his tenure there, he doubled the content output and grew sales by more than 30 percent in just over three years. Race began his career in publishing in acquisitions with the Lexington Books imprint, Rowman and Littlefield.

“We look forward to Justin joining the Purdue University Press, which is part of the Purdue Libraries,” Phillips said. “Justin’s publishing experience and his excellent track record of driving success as the leader of another university-based press will help him hit the ground running in this position.”

Race received his B.A. in political science from Tufts University and his M.A. from the Committee on Social Thought from the University of Chicago.

“Purdue University Press has a rich tradition, not only of producing worthwhile and quality content, but also of being an innovator in today’s rapidly changing publishing landscape,” Race noted. “I’m delighted to join the team and excited to be a part of the future of the Purdue University Press.”

About Purdue University Press

Founded in 1960, Purdue University Press is dedicated to the dissemination of scholarly and professional information. The Press personnel select, develop, and distribute quality resources in key subject areas for which Purdue University is famous, including aeronautics and astronautics, business, technology, health, veterinary medicine, and other selected disciplines in the humanities and sciences.

As the scholarly publishing arm of Purdue University and a unit of Purdue Libraries, the Press is also a partner for University faculty and staff in Purdue’s academic departments and centers who wish to disseminate the results of their research globally. The Press is a member of the Association of University Presses, the Society for Scholarly Publishing, Association of American Publishers, and is a founding member of the Library Publishing Coalition. Purdue was one of the first in the United States to integrate library/university press/open access scholarly publishing into a single unit.

A revised and expanded paperback edition of Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Time of Gus Grissom by George Leopold will be released on September 15th. In preparation for the release, the press interviewed Leopold to find out more behind his inspiration in writing the book, some thoughts on the book’s subject, and more.


Q: What inspired you to write a book? How did you come across Gus Grissom as a subject?

Leopold: The standard narrative of the Space Race between the United States and the Soviet Union is divided into two parts: before and after what came to be known simply as The Fire, the catastrophe that killed Gus Grissom and his Apollo 1 crew. After NASA recovered, the contributions of Gus Grissom were mostly forgotten—misremembered, really, when Tom Wolfe published The Right Stuff. Wolfe’s depiction of Grissom in his book and especially in the film version is a cartoon character. Wolfe got it wrong.

This struck me and many others as unjust. I determined to correct the record by writing a biography of Gus Grissom that places his life and career in the context of history of manned spaceflight.

I resolved to write his biography while standing before Gus Grissom’s grave in a lonely section of Arlington National Cemetery.

It only me took seven years.

Q: You have mentioned in previous interviews that you feel Grissom is underappreciated. Given his importance to early space exploration, how do you feel this happened?

Leopold: Part of its was Grissom’s unwillingness to toot his own horn. Gus always said the pre-flight press conferences were harder than the actual space missions. Another factor was the serendipitous nature of the early Project Mercury crew assignments. Most remember Alan Shepard’s first flight and John Glenn’s orbital flight. Grissom was remembered mostly for losing his first spacecraft.

And there was little reward or notoriety outside of his own peer group for the long hours at the factory doing the tedious testing required to get the Gemini and Apollo spacecraft into orbit. Grissom was engineering test pilot by training. All he really wanted to do was to go faster and higher—all the way to the moon and back. He cared not a whit about personal prestige, but he worked tirelessly to ensure the United States was first on the moon. Without Grissom’s contributions, I’m convinced we would not have made it by the end of the 1960s as we so declared.

Q: What do you imagine the space program would look like today if the Apollo 1 mission had been a success?

Leopold: It’s hard to say. Space exploration is a deadly business. If the Apollo 1 fire had not occurred on the launch pad, an accident in space would have been worse because investigators would know next to nothing about the precise cause(s). One of the cruel ironies, the central paradox of the Space Race, was that a launch pad fire actually saved the Apollo program. The reason was the evidence of what had been overlooked in Grissom’s ship—the faulty wiring, the leaking coolant, the lack of flame-retardant materials in the spacecraft, the clumsy inward opening hatch and, most important of all, NASA’s misguided engineering decision to use pure oxygen under pressure on the launch pad—all of it was there for the investigators to sift through.

To its credit, NASA rose from the ashes and built a great machine that took 24 humans to the moon.

Q: What are some things you believe the average person would be most surprised to know about the early age of space exploration?

Leopold: What a risky enterprise this was and the price the astronauts’ families paid. That, and the fact that Grissom and the early astronauts were test pilots who did not fly by the seat of their pants. They accepted risks, but they always sought to minimize them and come back alive. Gus Grissom is widely quoted as saying the rewards outweighed the risks (I never did track down the precise origin of Grissom’s iconic “worth the risk” quote, but he did say something close to this.) Hence, my thesis is that Grissom calculated those risks, dangers that every astronaut had to accept, and determined to proceed.

That decision cost him and his Apollo crew their lives, and shattered their families.

Q: What were some of the changes made for the new edition of the book? What makes it worthwhile for the person who has already read the original?

Leopold: For starters, the new Afterword describes how NASA finally provided a measure of closure for the Grissom, White, and Chaffee families. It’s an account of the 50th anniversary observance of the Apollo 1 fire. Gus Grissom’s brother Lowell did me the honor of an invitation to attend the ceremonies at Cape Canaveral, Florida. NASA at long last did right by the crew, mounting a permanent Apollo 1 exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center that includes the scorched hatches. The NASA exhibit also includes photos of Gus Grissom first published in Calculated Risk.

I and others have long argued that some part of the spacecraft should be displayed in a dignified way to remind future generations of the sacrifices of the early astronauts. NASA did just that. The exhibit was long overdue.

Further, we believe the updated version is more readable, and benefited from the kind of crowdsourcing that occurs when a book on an important subject is published. A scholarly peer review process, enabled by social media, identified a few areas for improvement. The result, we firmly believe, is the authoritative account of Gus Grissom’s life and career.

The revised and expanded edition of “Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom” is available September 15 in paperback and e-book formats.

Q: You have spent countless hours researching and interviewing for this book. What is your favorite story that didn’t make it in?

Leopold: Not left out, merely overlooked until recently. When the Apollo 1 crew assignment was announced during a press conference in Houston in March 1966, a reporter asked about the protocol for deciding which two astronauts on each three-man crew would land and walk on the lunar surface during later Apollo missions. A NASA manager started in with a long technical answer.

Grissom listened for a moment, smiled and jumped in—getting right to the point: “If it was this crew, it would be me and somebody else!”

Q: Do you think that Grissom’s reputation has improved? Are there steps you would like to see taken to ensure his place in space history?

Leopold: I’d venture to say Gus Grissom is beloved, especially by those who knew him and understood his competence, dedication, and willingness to work and sacrifice. Those contributions to manned space exploration are certainly more appreciated now than, say, the late 1970s and early 1980s when The Right Stuff narrative held sway. The 50th anniversary of the Apollo 1 fire, for which the release of this biography was timed, also contributed to greater appreciation of Grissom’s central role.

My subject would undoubtedly be amused by all the fuss….

I am currently working with a group seeking to place a memorial at Arlington National Cemetery to honor the Apollo 1 crew. Gus Grissom and his crew mate and fellow Purdue alumnus Roger Chaffee are buried at Arlington. Surprisingly, there is no monument there commemorating the crew’s sacrifice—as there are for the astronauts lost in the two Space Shuttle accidents. The Apollo 1 memorial at Arlington National Cemetery was authorized by Congress, and we hope to have one in place during a future NASA Day of Remembrance for the Apollo 1 and shuttle crews.

Q: If you could ask Gus Grissom himself one question, what would it be?

Leopold: I would ask about his state of mind in the last weeks of his life, which must have been hell. He knew he had a faulty spacecraft on his hands, but he and the others figured they could fix it as they had done before. In that respect, Gus Grissom was a fatalist.



George Leopold is a veteran technology journalist and science writer who has covered the nexus between technology and policy for over thirty years. Leopold has written extensively about U.S. manned spaceflight, including the Apollo and space shuttle programs. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the New Scientist, and a variety of other science and technology publications. He resides in Reston, Virginia. Follow him on Twitter!

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