IN THE TRADITION of Charles Seife's Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea, Robert Kaplan's The Nothing That Is: A Natural History of Zero, Mark Kurlansky's Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World, and Arno Karlen's Biography of a Germ, we at Alki Press are pleased to announce our new fall catalog of popular histories. It boasts a number of surefire best-sellers, written by some of our best-loved authors, about the overlooked objects that are integral to our daily lives. Truly, their stories are the stories of the world around us!
Bound Together: A Brief History of the Six-Pack Ring by James R.S. Ness (hardcover, 192 pages, $20/$25 Canada). From its origins in the American Revolution (when Benjamin Franklin invented it as an inexpensive, easy-to-store rocket launcher) to its resurrection as an integral element in Southern jug-band music to its current status as the most awe-inspiring object of contemplation and conversation in America's bong-water-drenched frat houses, the six-pack ring has a rich, storied saga, engagingly revealed by Nation editor Ness. Its danger to innocent sea turtles (often found strangled by the device) is documented in a lengthy appendix.
Crazy Eight: The Surprising Evolution of the World's Most Overlooked Number by Anna Furlough (paper, 214 pages, $14/$35 Canada). "Eight doesn't just look like infinity. It is infinity," announces acclaimed cyberpunk novelist Anna Furlough in this, her first work of nonfiction. Her diligent research and flights of intellectual fancy combine in unexpected ways. Most notable is the sure-to-be-controversial fifth chapter, which springs from a close reading of the Beatles' "Eight Days a Week" into a lengthy conspiracy theory centered around Furlough's contention that "there actually were eight days in a week before that bastard Pope Gregory revised the calendar." Already featured on Oprah's Book Club.
Altering the Coarse of History: The Nail File in Its Time by Michael Von Vowelsmith (hardcover, 306 pages, $23.95/$84.95 Canada). Untenured historian and cookbook ghostwriter Von Vowelsmith is uniquely positioned to provide this ambitious look at how the nail file has literally shaped our view of the world—without our even realizing it. Drawing parallels between an obscure 15th century Florentine cult of talon worshippers, Warner Brothers gangster melodramas of the '30s, and today's contemporary goth scene, the author analyzes how the nail file has "freed us from the tyranny of polite, manicured society." From the author of Bent: The Paper Clip and the Genus of the Italian Renaissance.
The Semicolon; An Informal Biography by Lawrence Plottel (hardcover, 1,281 pages, $12.95/$46.95 Canada). Why did the Letterist movement reject the semicolon? Who was responsible for whiting out all the semicolons in the King James Bibles in every Barnes and Noble in Branson, Missouri? What are the semicolon's political ramifications in Belgium? The answers are found in this exhaustive, meticulously researched, and expertly punctuated history by Plottel, a former editor at Harper's, Harper's Bazaar, and Bizarre magazines. Watch the related PBS miniseries.
Fresh History: The Secret Story of the Twist-Tie by Timothy Samson (hardcover, 250 pages, $28/$82 Canada). Dwight D. Eisenhower once proclaimed the twist-tie "American technology's finest hour." Albert Einstein hosted seminars to pore over its infinite scientific uses. And no radio listener of the '40s will ever forget the suspenseful Little Orphan Annie serial in which Daddy Warbucks was held hostage until Punjab located "the world's most perfect twist-tie." Albuquerque State University linguistics professor Samson relates all this and more in his highly entertaining style, which will have you headed for the grocery store just to play with the Wonder bread bags.
Tuesday's Twisted Path Through History by Bobby Carolina (paper, 210 pages, $15/$55 Canada). "The most underrated day of the week," enthuses Broadway-chorus-performer-turned-author Bobby Carolina in his memoir of great performances held on the second day of the work week. He also provides an entertaining timeline of great Tuesdays in history, as well as a lucid, highly personal explanation of why Tuesday, rather than Wednesday, should be considered "hump day." Foreword by Tuesday Weld.
A Clean, White Space: An Argument for the Centrality of the Margin by Sarah Clocktower (paper, 128 pages, $9.99/$999 Canada). Part history lesson, part polemic, Yale English professor Clocktower's 15-years-in-the-writing extended essay is notable for its peripheries: exactly one and three-quarter inches on the left and one and one-half inch on the top, bottom, and right. It's pure, unadulterated white space, perfect for doodling, writing phone numbers, and penciling in "EXACTLY!" next to each passage attacking logocentrism and the cultural hegemony of ink. The book also includes "Marginalia," an annotated critical index of the greatest borders in literary history.