Staff Pick: Inspiring People

The theme for this month’s Staff Pick is inspiring people.  Read on for recommendations from Yale University Press London staff members on their favourite Yale titles about or by inspiring people.

September’s Staff Pick – Gluck: Art and Identity

Production Editor, Linda McQueen recommends Gluck: Art and Identity.

Gluck: Art and Identity, edited by Amy de la Haye and Martin Pel

When I was in my late teens and early twenties, at university in the northern city of Durham in the early 1980s, it was the era of Greenham Common, the miners’ strikes, and flourishing feminist presses and literature. There was a tiny independent bookstall down an alleyway behind a public house; for a young woman, the very act of squeezing past the crowds of Geordie working men and their beer to get to a damp, whitewashed pair of back rooms, one with fresh organic vegetables covered in mud from the allotments by the River Wear, the other overflowing with racks and racks of dark green Virago paperbacks reprinting ‘forgotten’ women writers, and the black and white striped spines of the Women’s Press (modern feminist science fiction, American writers like May Sarton), felt revolutionary, rebellious (against the Chaucer and 19th-century poetry I was being taught), secret, different, precious…tribal. 

Among all these wonderful books, the image on the cover of Radclyffe Hall’s early lesbian story The Well of Loneliness stood out. Two women, their faces carved and contoured, strong, arresting, focused. Not interested in the male gaze; posing for no one. The novel itself is a depressing story for any tentative lesbian; but years later, here at Yale, I found out that the story of those two women in the image was anything but downbeat. The painter of the image was Gluck, born Hannah Gluckstein, and the image, titled YouWe, was a self-portrait with her lover Nesta Obermer, listening to Mozart’s Don Giovanni at Glyndebourne in June 1936; Gluck felt that the music fused them into one person and matched the intensity of their love.

Yale UP’s book, Gluck: Art and Identity, edited by Amy de la Haye and Martin Pel, describes a life lived outside of society’s norms, self-invented, and as such feels both stylistically pre-war, and resolutely modern. Of course such a thing was only possible with money and privilege, was only acceptable, even lauded, in the liminal world of artists and inventors. Gluck was her own work of art, but context is all. But what it inspired me to understand is that confidence and self-knowledge are key components of any glamour and style that isn’t superficial.

And the book itself is a real beauty – the cover, a simple black and white photograph, is given mesmerising depth and physicality by an overlay of a warm silver-taupe metallic tint followed by a silky matt laminate, which symbolises the best of Yale UP’s careful attention to detail for its art list. I learned from, and admired, both the book and its subject.

Read an extract from the book here

Other Recommendations

Desk Editor Lucy recommends A Schoolmaster’s War by Jonathan Ree

Harry Rée joined a secret branch of the British army and was parachuted into France in 1943. He quickly won the confidence of local resisters and carried out a series of sabotage operations. This is a very personal war account, as Jonathan Rée brings together his father’s memoirs, talks, articles, private correspondence and adventure stories. It’s a fascinating, gripping story of the heroism shown by Harry Rée and the local people who helped him. It’s also a story of tragedy. There are a lot of close calls from the moment he lands in France: he didn’t land in the right place, and his parachute was found in the woods and taken to the police. I often found myself getting carried away reading extracts when working on it!

Read an extract from the book here

Academic and Communities Marketing Assistant, Tanu Shelar recommends The Virus in the Age of Madness by Bernard-Henri Lévy

Recently, I worked on this 130-page quick read. I looked up his interviews to for some background material and I was hooked! His theories on the effects of our response to the pandemic has already garnered intrigue.

I don’t want to give too much away but Lévy brilliantly explains the politicisation of our response to the COVID-19 crisis and its long-reaching effects on the socio-economic and lower strata of economies around the world.

I shared the book’s website with my friends and they all wanted a copy! However, the most interesting tit-bit I can share with you; Yale University Press edited and published this book within a month and that’s unheard of!

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