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Stu Levitan welcomes Madison native Doug Moe for a conversation about his new biography of the UW’s first director of women’s athletics, Kit Saunders-Nordeen. On June 23rd 1972, President Richard Nixon did two things with historical significance. In a meeting with chief of staff H. R. Haldeman, he told Haldeman to call FBI director Pat Gray and tell him to stay the hell away from Watergate because it was a CIA matter, which of course it was not. This was the so-called ‘smoking gun’ tape which quickly led to Nixon’s resignation when it was released a little over two years later.And, with a more appropriate nod to his re-election campaign, Nixon also signed the Education Amendment Act of 1972 with its 37 words and four commas now known as Title IX – “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”The impact of Title IX on women’s athletics at the University of Wisconsin – and the critical role that Katherine Kit Saunders played in defining that impact -- is the business that occupies Doug Moe in his latest biography, “The Right Thing To Do – Kit Saunders-Nordeen and the rise of Women’s Intercollegiate Athletics at the University of Wisconsin and Beyond.”It is a book the native Madisonian and 1979 graduate of the UW is well-equipped to write. Doug Moe is, after all, one of Madison’s most prolific and honored journalists and authors. He’s written 12 books, including Tommy Thompson’s autobiography, biographies of legendary Chicago newspaperman Mike Royko, Madison builder Marshall Erdmann and Madison jewelers and philanthropists Irwin and Robert Goodman, a history of the fabled but now defunct UW boxing program and more. In his 18 years as a daily columnist with the Capital Times and Wisconsin State Journal, he wrote more than 4,000 columns, which is about 3 million words, and continues to write a monthly column for Madison Magazine and a weekly blog for its website. He is so active, in fact, that his website isn’t doug moe dot com, it’s doug moe dot org. Speaking personally, in my work as a historian of Madison, I know I have benefitted greatly from several of his books, and am very much looking forward to one he’s working on now – the autobiography of State Senator Fred Risser. It is a great pleasure to welcome to MBB the great biographer of modern Madison, my friend Doug Moe.
Poet Marilyn Taylor

Poet Marilyn Taylor


This week on Madison Book Beat, host Rusty Russell speaks with poet Marilyn Taylor.Marilyn Taylor is a former Poet Laureate of Wisconsin, and of the city of Milwaukee. Her poems have appeared in many anthologies and journals, and she’s published eight collections of poetry, the latest of which is Outside the Frame (Kelsay Books, December 2021).Taylor taught poetry and writing at UW-Milwaukee for 15 years. She was the Poet Laureate of the state of Wisconsin from 2009-2010, and of the city of Milwaukee from 2004-2005. She lived in Milwaukee for forty years, but now resides in Madison.You can find more about her on her website here.
What ideas made our country what it is today? In her latest book, UW-Madison history professor Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen explores the history of thinkers and their thoughts in shaping public thought about liberty, religion, republicanism, and democracy.It’s called The Ideas That Made America: A Brief History, published in 2019 by Oxford University Press. She joined host George Dreckmann on the phone in this pledge drive edition of Madison BookBeat.About the guest: Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen is the Merle Curti and Vilas-Borghesi Distinguished Achievement Professor of History at UW-Madison, where she specializes in US intellectual and cultural history across philosophy, political and social theory, literature, and the arts.She is also the author of American Nietzsche: A History of an Icon and His Ideas (University of Chicago Press, 2012) as well as co-editor of Protest on the Page: Essays on Print and the Culture of Dissent since 1865 (UW Press, 2015) and The Worlds of American Intellectual History (Oxford University Press, 2016).
Stu Levitan welcomes a Madison author with a remarkable life story, Dr. Patrick McBride. His book, written with his twin brother Dennis is, “The Luckiest Boy in the World.”Dr. McBride earned a zoology degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1976, a medical degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1980, and a master’s degree in public health from the University of South Carolina in 1982. Two years later he joined the faculty at the University of Wisconsin Medical School, and with a senior colleague started the first inpatient family practice service at the UW Hospital and Clinics while also serving as the director of a new UW clinic in DeForest. He would later serve as Associate Dean of Students, Associate Dean for Faculty and as Director of Alumni Relations for the renamed School of Medicine & Public Health (UW-SMPH). In his 37-year career, he published over 200 journal articles, abstracts, and book chapters, brought in millions of dollars in grants to fund medical research, received 16 teaching awards, and upon his retirement in 2017, was named professor emeritus. Among his many other honors, enshrinement on the Wauwatosa East High School’s “Wall of Inspiration.” He has been married to Kimberly Schappe McBride for forty-two years, and they have two adult children, Sean and Gabrielle.His twin brother and co-author Dennis has an equally impressive resume. In 2020 he was elected to a four-year term as Mayor of their hometown of Wauwatosa, following ten years on the city’s common council. He earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from UW-Milwaukee, a master’s degree in public administration from Princeton University, and a law degree from New York University, and spent the bulk of his professional career as Senior and Supervisory Trial Attorney for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. A former track star and champion marathoner, he was inducted into the Athletic Halls of Fame at UW-Milwaukee and Wauwatosa East.But before all of Pat’s accomplishments and honors, a unique entry on his resume that presaged all that was to come – he was, and remains, the youngest Equipment Manager and Assistant Trainer in professional sports history.And all because of a 25-word answer he wrote in 1969 to the question – why would you like to be a bat boy for the Milwaukee Brewers? He got the gig when he was just 15, and from that opportunity came the chance to also work for the Green Bay Packers. Then he hit the trifecta, as a ball boy for the new Milwaukee Bucks.But it was not an idyllic life growing up in Wauwatosa for Paddy and Dinty, and their five siblings. In fact, it was a living hell, because their parents – both of them successful and popular journalists – were alcoholics who fought constantly before finally separating.“The Luckiest Boy in the World” tells the amazing and inspirational story of how Pat McBride not only survived but thrived, first in locker rooms and arenas, then in medical clinics and the halls of academia. It is a real pleasure to welcome him to Madison BookBeat.
In this edition of Madison Book Beat, David Ahrens speaks with Rebecca Donner, author of a compelling and deeply-researched biography about her great-great-aunt Mildred Fish Harnack, a Wisconsin woman who went on to lead an anti- Nazi espionage ring in Berlin.It's titled "All the Frequent Troubles of Our Days: The True Story of the American Woman at the Heart of the German Resistance to Hitler," (Little, Brown and Company, 2021), was an instant New York Times bestseller, and has since received multitudinous honors, including being listed for a 2022 National Book Critics Circle Award, a New York Times Notable Book of 2021, and a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Best Book of the Year.Rebecca Donner is the winner of many awards and is the recipient of a 2022 Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship. She is also the author of the novel Sunset Terrace and Burnout, a graphic novel about ecoterrorism. Ms. Donner is a member of the National Book Critics Circle, and has taught writing at Wesleyan University, Columbia University, and Barnard College. She is the great-great niece of Mildred Harnack.
Madison authors, topics, book events and publishers.Stu Levitan welcomes back to the program the Rock and Roll Detective himself, Madison’s own Jim Berkenstadt, to talk about his latest book Mysteries in the Music: Case Closed.Who really discovered Elvis Presley? What role did the CIA play in the gun attack on Bob Marley and his eventual death from cancer? How seriously did the FBI take its investigation into whether the lyrics to Louie, Louie were dirty? Did the Beach Boys steal a song from Charles Manson? Did Bob Dylan really record an album with members of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones?These are just some of the controversies and conspiracy theories Jim Berkenstadt investigates as only he can, before providing definitive answers. It’s a book he is uniquely qualified to write.He is, after all, the Rock and Roll Detective, LLC, specializing in uncovering the lost histories and solving the mysteries of pop music. And because musicians know and trust him, he has great access to the people who were there when the deals went down. The book is filled with revealing interviews with such legendary musicians as Elvis’s late great guitarist Scotty Moore, drummers Hal Blaine and Jim Keltner, producer Glyn Johns, and my old cab driving colleague Butch Vig, who also wrote the forward, and more. And not just musicians – this may be the only book which features interviews with Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner, disgraced Col. Oliver North, a sitting federal judge, and even a former CIA agent.Jim is especially authoritative about the Beatles, serving as historical consultant for Martin Scorcese’s HBO Emmy-wining film, George Harrison: Living in the Material World, as well as to the estate of George Harrison and the Beatles’ Apple Corps. Itself. Sharp-eyed viewers will have spotted his name among those thanked in the credits to Peter Jackson’s majestic new 8-hour film about the recording of the Beatles’ Let It Be album, Get Back.In addition to the new book tour, Jim is currently serving as co-executive producer and script consultant on the feature film adaptation of his book The Beatle Who Vanished, about the drummer Jimmie Nicol, who at the height of Beatlemania in 1964 filled in for a fortnight when Ringo Starr was felled by tonsilitis just before a world tour. That best-seller has been included in the Library and Archives of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as have his earlier books Black Market Beatles and Classic Rock Albums: Nirvana-Neverrmind,. He was also a featured expert for several seasons on the Reelz Channel TV series Celebrity Legacies and Celebrity Damage Control.He lives north side with his wife, Holly Cremer Berkenstadt.Jim was with us last fall to discuss The Beatle Who Vanished, and it is a pleasure to welcome him back to MBB.
Milwaukee poet Ed Werstein's latest collection is titled Communiqué: Poems From The Headlines. The book is sectioned like a newspaper, and Werstein's poems are inspired by headlines both new and old.In this edition of Madison Book Beat, hosts Angela Trudell Vasquez and Devin Trudell speak with Ed about his newest collection and revisit some topics in the news over the last decade.
Stu Levitan welcomes William S. Becker, executive director of the Presidential Climate Action Project and author of, The Creeks Will Rise: People Coexisting With Floods, from the good people at Chicago Review Press. Floods are a fact of life, and have been that way forever. Almost every culture around the world has a creation myth that features a flood. Today, they remain a necessary part of nature, renewing the soil, creating new habitats. But while floods are natural, flood damages are not – they are solely the responsibility of humankind. And it’s a massive responsibility – thanks to our decades of building in floodplains, floods are also the most frequent and most expensive type of weather disaster in the United States, accounting for 90 percent of our natural disasters. From 1980 to 2019,  the United States suffered 32 billion-dollar floods, averaging about $5 billion in flood damages a year, part of the $1.6 trillion in weather-related damages during that time. During that period, the Kickapoo River in southwest Wisconsin suffered four floods, after seven between 1907 and 1978.  And even though none of them billion-$, the people of the valley had had enough after the flood of 1935, and in 1937 asked Washington for help. It finally came in 1962, authorization for a dam on the upper river, just below La Farge –designed not only to stop floods, but also to create an income-generating recreation area. And those disasters are only going to get worse, as the climate crisis produces ever-more intense weather events and the aging infrastructure of 92,000 dams and 30,000 miles of levees fails at an ever-increasing rate. According to the University of Bristol 43 million Americans, and $ 1.2 trillion in assets are currently at risk of floods in the lower forty-eight states. And if we make it to the next century, analysts expect that 2.5 million properties worth more than $ 1 trillion will experience chronic flooding and thirty cities to be underwater. How and why we need to change our national water policy from trying to control floods to avoiding them is the business that occupies Bill Becker in this book that is both frightening and inspiring. It is a book he is uniquely qualified to write, as an expert in alternative energy, and one of the key figures in the successful effort in the late seventies to oppose that dam across the upper Kickapoo and get the village of Soldiers Grove to move its business district out of the floodplain and onto higher ground.  After helping move SD, he moved on to become became Counselor to the Administrator, Small Business Administration, spent 12 years as Regional Director and Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary U.S. Department of Energy, founded and was co-director of The Future We Want, and since 2011 has been a Senior Fellow at Natural Capitalism Solutions, a non-profit founded by environmentalist and author Hunter Lovins. But before all that, and critical to his narrative, he was a photo-journalist, first for the US Army in Vietnam in the mid-sixties, later for the Associated Press in Madison, but most critically with the Kickapoo Scout in Soldiers Grove. It is a pleasure to welcome to Madison Book Beat, Bill Becker.  
Guest host George Dreckmann welcomes Stu Levitan to discuss his book Madison in the Sixties, from the very good people at the Wisconsin Historical Society Press. Documenting those issues, along with stories of the public schools, highways and transportation, law and disorder, planning and economic development, and other topics, is the business that occupies Stu Levitan in this first comprehensive account of the most famous decade in our history.Stu did not spend the sixties in Madison. He first passed through Madison on the Grateful Dead tour in early 1973, then came for good in August, 1975. But still, he is uniquely qualified to write about them. As a newspaper reporter for the Capital Times and then the Madison Press Connection in the mid-late seventies, he covered many of the issues and individuals from the sixties. As a county supervisor representing a downtown district in the early to late eighties, he dealt with the legacy of the actions and decisions from then. And as a longtime member and chair of several city commissions, including the Plan Commission and Community Development Authority, he knows what it’s like to make those kind of decisions.After the Madison Press Connection folded in 1980, Stu went to work for the legislature’s powerful Joint Committee for the Review of Administrative Rules. In 1983, he finally gave in to his father’s expectations and went to law school, then in 1987 quit the county board to accept a job as a mediator/arbitrator for the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission, implementing the collective bargaining law that Scott Walker destroyed. That’s when he retired and got serious about the book, which was published in November, 2018.In addition to being the host/producer of Madison Book Beat for its first two years, Stu does the weekly Madison in the Sixties feature on the WORT Wednesday nights news, for which he has received 2 first place awards for writing in the past three years from the Milwaukee Press Club. He has also written extensively for local and national publications, including Isthmus, Madison Magazine and High Times. And he will insist that Bob Dylan is the greatest singer-songwriter since Homer.It is a pleasure to welcome to Madison BookBeat its founder, Stu Levitan.
Madison BookBeat - Your listener-supported, community radio home for Madison authors, topics, book events and publishers.Stu Levitan gets 2022 off to a wondrous start with an encore presentation of a conversation with Aimee Nezhukumatathil about her an enchanting and stimulating collection of illustrated nature essays called “World Of Wonders: In Praise Of Fireflies, Whale Sharks, & Other Astonishments.” Published by the good people at Milkweed Editions, it was named Book of the Year by Barnes and Noble, and was a finalist for the Kirkus Prize in nonfiction. And Aimee met two of the criteria as a former Badger who was at the Wisconsin Book Festival.If you took Aldo Leopold’s expert eye for Nature and Marcel Proust’s ability to evoke memory out of experience and filtered it all through a poet and essayist who was the daughter of a Filipina mother and South Indian father, you might come close to what Aimee Nezhukumatathil has accomplished in World of Wonders.Born in Chicago in 1974, she lived as a child in Iowa, Arizona, Kansas, New York and Ohio; received her undergraduate and master’s degrees in poetry and nonfiction from The Ohio State University; was awarded a poetry fellowship to the University of Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing; spent 14 years teaching in western New York, and in 2016 accepted appointment as Professor of English and Creative Writing in the MFA program at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, where her husband, the essayist Dustin Parsons, also teaches. Since 2003, she has published four collections of poetry and a chapbook of garden poems with the poet Ross Gay, and has been included in several collections and anthologies. She has been awarded a poetry fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Pushcart Prize, and a 2020 Guggenheim Fellowship in poetry, among other honors.A real pleasure to have Prof. Aimee Nezhukumatathil on Madison BookBeat.
Our guest today is Madison author Christina Clancy, for a conversation about her new novel, Shoulder Season.  Christi gave a very interesting and engaging talk at the Wisconsin Book Festival in October, and I’m delighted to bring her to you today.As you may, or more likely may not know, from 1968 to 1981 there was in southeast Wisconsin the Lake Geneva Playboy Club Hotel, a full-service facility featuring big-name entertainment, championship golf course, a restaurant, cocktail lounge, and, yes the requisite colony of bunnies – many of whom were from small towns around Wisconsin. Towns like East Troy, about 15 miles up HWY 120, where the Alpine Valley Music Center opened in 1977 – the largest amphitheater in the country until 1993. The former Playboy Club, which had become the Americana Center in 1982, has been the Grand Geneva Resort since 1993, What life was like for the young women who became Bunnies, and how the resort and the amphitheater affected East Troy, are the main issues which concern Christi Clancy in this, her second novel for St. Martin’s Press. It is so interesting and well-written I expect it will do at least as well as her first work, The Second House, so successful it has been optioned for TV miniseries A Ph D in English from the UW-Milwaukee, Christi worked eight years as a marketing specialist for IBM, then almost a decade as an adjunct English professor at Beloit College before becoming a full-time writer. Her work has also appeared in our best newspapers and literary journals. She lives in Madison with her family. It’s a real pleasure to welcome to Madison BookBeat Christina Clancy.  
Stu Levitan welcomes UW professor Paige Glotzer, whose first book is the important and eye-opening examination of the origins of systemic racism in housing, How the Suburbs Were Segregated: Developers and the Business of Exclusionary Housing, 1890-1960, just honored as the recipient of the 2021 Kenneth Jackson Award Best Book in North American Urban History from the Urban History Association.It should come as no surprise that racial segregation has been a bedrock principle of suburban development from its very beginning, way back in the 19th century. In 1891, a British land syndicate called the Lands Trust Company purchased a large tract of land in northern Baltimore MD, formed the Roland Park Company and began developing what became one of the first planned segregated suburbs in the United States. How the leaders of the Roland Park Company formulated their exclusionary practices, and extended their influence into the very structure of federal housing policy, is the business that occupies Prof. Glotzer in her revelatory investigation of racial capitalism, published this spring by the good people at Columbia University Press. It’s a narrative that even implicates some names well known in Madison, including John Nolen, Prof. Richard T. Ely and realtor Paul Stark.Paige Glotzer is a graduate of NYU, with a Master’s and Ph D from Johns Hopkins University in the aforementioned Baltimore. Since 2018, she has been Assistant Professor and holder of the John W. and Jeanne M. Rowe Chair in the History of American Politics, Institutions, and Political Economy, at the fabled Department of History at the University of Wisconsin. In her young career, she has already received numerous awards for her scholarship on housing segregation, the suburbs, and related topics
Madison authors, topics, book events & publishersIt's Stu Levitan's birthday, his 68th birthday to be precise, so he's taking the day off and dialing up an encore presentation of a conversation from this past February with UW Prof. Francine Hirsch, the author of Soviet Judgment at Nuremberg: A New History of the International Military Tribunal After World War II. Published by Oxford University Press, it is an award-winning reappraisal of the trial that became the pivot point between World War 2 and the Cold War.On November 20 1945, the United States, Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union opened the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg, Germany, putting on trial 22 Nazi leaders and seven organizations, charged with conspiring in a crime against peace, planning and waging wars of aggression, participating in war crimes, and committing crimes against humanity.On September 30 and October 1, 1946 judges from the four countries announced their verdicts – 12 of the accused, including Reich Marshall Herman Goering and German foreign minister Joachim Von Ribbentrop, were sentenced to death by hanging, seven received prison sentences ranging from 10 years to life, and three were acquitted. Four organizations -the Leadership Corps of the Nazi Party, the Secret State Police, or Gestapo, the Protective Squadron or SS, and the Security Service, or SD, were found criminal – but only for what they did after the start of the war on September 1, 1939; three organizations – the Reich Cabinet, the Storm Troopers, or SA and the German General Staff and High Command – were found not guilty.In the collective memory of the west, these Nuremberg Trials – the only 4-power trials - were first and foremost an American exercise of finding truth and dispensing justice. Chief US prosecutor Robert H Jackson, on leave from his post as associate justice of the United States Supreme Court, was both star and director, with able prosecutors from Great Britain in friendly support. The French were only marginally relevant, and the Soviets … well, they were at best an annoyance and at worst an embarrassment whose obvious and overwhelming conflicts threatened the very legitimacy of the entire exercise.But what if that Nuremberg Moment was just a myth, and our memory is not of the whole story? What if, notwithstanding their own dealings with Hitler and their own war crimes, the Soviets were actually essential to the Tribunal happening at all? What if it was a Soviet lawyer who came up with the fundamental breakthrough in international law underpinning the entire trial?Those are the questions that Prof. Hirsch asks and answers brilliantly in this landmark account, for which she has already received the American Society for International Law’s 2021 Certificate of Merit for a preeminent contribution to creative scholarship.Fran Hirsch is the Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison so it is no surprise that she has produced such a work of scholarship and style. Her first book, Empire of Nations: Ethnographic Knowledge and the Making of the Soviet Union (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2005) received awards from the American Historical Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies, and the Council For European Studies. She also scores a very healthy 4.4 rating on Rate My Professor. It is a pleasure to welcome to Madison BookBeat, Prof. Fran Hirsch.
Madison authors, topics, book events and publishers. We deviate from the usual concept just a bit this week to welcome Jackie Lees and KG Miles to discuss their book, Bob Dylan in London: Troubadour Tales, a combination illustrated guidebook for a walking tour, history lesson and critical analysis.And there is sort of a Madison connection, because Madison was the last place Dylan stayed before he went to New York for the first time in January 1961, which is where KG’s next book, Bob Dylan in the Big Apple: Troubadour Tales of New York, begins. It was bitterly cold in NY that winter, and it would be even colder when Dylan went to London in December 1962, which is where Jackie and K.G. pick up the story.It is a story they are eminently qualified to write, as Londoners who are longtime Dylan aficionados and co-curators of the Dylan Room at the Troubadour Club. Jackie took a break from a career writing and editing for a homelessness charity to work on the book, the room and also provide some amateur management to the Dylan Band. K.G., whom I saw speak at the inaugural conference of the Bob Dylan archives in 2019, is as I said also the author of a companion volume coming in about three weeks, Bob Dylan in the Big Apple: Troubadour Tales of New York.It is a pleasure to welcome to Madison BookBeat, Jackie Lees and K.G. Miles.
Madison authors, topics, book event and publishers.Stu Levitan deviates a bit from that concept today with his guest Lisa S. Johnson because she’s got a new book out which you might want to know about for your holiday gift-giving or gift-asking needs. The book is Immortal Axes, Guitars That Rock, an absolutely gorgeous coffee table photography book focusing on some of the most important guitars in modern music – guitars played on seminal recordings and at historic events – and even some concerts in Madison — by the likes of Les Paul, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Duane Allman, B.B. King, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Phil Lesh, Johnny Cash and more, 157 guitarists in all, 350 pages of high-end photographs and insightful short essays, plus a Forward by Peter Frampton and an afterward by Suzi Quatro. The book is published by the good people at Princeton Architectural Press.Lisa S Johnson followed a somewhat circuitous route to becoming one of the pre-eminent photographers in a very rarified field.She traveled solo around Europe and South Africa for seven months as she was turning 21, went back home to Canada and got a hotel job in the icy and isolated North West Territories. Then two years at an exclusive private club in Edmonton before transferring to Florida where she put herself through college studying photography. Naturally, she ended up with a job at a private photo lab with the necessary security clearance to handle material for NASA and various defense contractors. Then a decade with the Eastman Kodak company before the corporate world started to get her down.After injuring her neck, she took up Kundalini yoga, and took to it so well she quit her job at Kodak and opened up two yoga studios in Las Vegas, where she continues to live. All the while, though, she was continuing with her photographic pursuits, but now, thanks indirectly to her father’s interest in a 1917 Gibson mandolin, with a new focus– guitars. The lure of the modern lyre was so great she sold her studios to concentrate on a guitar project, and in 2013 published her first book, 108 Rock Star Guitars – the number itself a nod to various spiritual aspects of yoga. This new book expands the area of interest to include guitars notable for their custodian’s contributions to country, jazz and blues.Lisa S. Johnson’s website is, her twitter handle is lsjrockphotos. It’s a pleasure to welcome to Madison BookBeat, Lisa S Johnson.
Madison authors, topics, book events and publishers Today’s program hits for the cycle, as we welcome George Hesselberg. His book Deadlines: Slices of Life from the Obit Beat, a collection of obituaries he wrote for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1979 to 2017, was just published by our very good friends at the Wisconsin Historical Society Press, and was the subject of an event a few days ago at Mystery To Me Books, which is still available for virtual viewing. It is an inescapable truth that every person and animal on this planet is going to die. Some will die in glory, some will die in shame, most will die in private, their passing unnoticed by all outside their circle of family and friends. Or their passing would go unnoticed, were it not for their newspaper obituary. Usually, the obituary is a straightforward account of the signposts and milestones of their lives – dates and places, marital and family status, occupation, hobbies, details of the visitation and funeral. But in the hands of a journalist with unbounded curiosity and great style, an obituary can prompt an account that transcends the commonplace and becomes a piece of writing worthy of collecting and publishing in a book. A journalist, that is, like George Hesselberg, and a book like Deadlines: Slices of Life from the Obit Beat. And what lives they were. The unofficial mayor of the Mazomanie nude beach. UW Police chief Ralph Hanson, and pioneering Madison policewoman Mary Ostrander. The avatar of attorney advertising, Ken Hur. Folk artist Simon Sparrow. Legendary sandal maker Cecil Burke, and fourth-generation cobbler Michael J. Falci Jr. A radio villain. A short order cook, and esteemed academic. A sword-maker, a beloved rural doctor, a circus owner, a Holocaust survivor, and scores more, 66 entries in all – and not all of them about human beings. These are not stories about their deaths – these are stories about their lives. George followed the traditional path to a career in journalism. Cheesemaker, sign painter, stage hand, candy hawker, a series of jobs in Norway including night watchman, bartender at Peppe’s and translator, and, most relevant of all for today’s discussion, grave digger. Then he settled down to a 45-year career with the State Journal, first as a general assignment and regional reporter then as the paper’s most popular columnist. He retired from the paper in 2017, but thankfully for us, continues to write. His previous books include a collection of columns from 30 years ago, Paint Me Green And Call Me Fern, his coverage of the 1994 Winter Olympics in Norway, Olympic Moose Salami and other Lillehammer Tales, and the children’s books, Vesper Stories and Special Days, Special Tales. A native of Bangor WI, he holds a BA in journalism and Scandinavian studies from the UW and lives in Fitchburg WI. It is a pleasure to welcome to Madison BookBeat my friend, George Hesselberg.
As the world eagerly awaits Peter Jackson’s documentary about the Beatles last public performance, Stu Levitan welcomes Jim Berkenstadt, author of The Beatle Who Vanished, to discuss a fascinating story about performances near the beginning of their career.In the spring and summer of 1964, the Beatles ruled pop music like no one before or since. In April, they held the top five spots on the Billboard Hot 100, with another 7 singles also on the list. In late May, even the rerelease of their debut single from 1962, Love Me Do, had gone to number one.They’d conquered Great Britain and America. Now they’re about to take over the world, with a month-long tour of Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. The tour is set to start June 4.But Manager Brian Epstein does not let them relax on the third, scheduling a photo shoot for the Saturday Evening Post in the morning, and recording sessions in the afternoon and evening. But they never get to the EMI studios, because drummer Ringo Starr collapses during the photo session and is whisked away to hospital with a diagnosis of tonsillitis and pharyngitis.Soon, Beatles producer George Martin is calling a London drummer named Jimmie Nicol to invite him to an audition that afternoon. He passes the audition, and from June 4 to June 13, Jimmie Nicol is a Beatle. It was, he later said, “the best thing to happen to me. The worst thing to happen to me.”The strange saga of Jimmie Nicol – why he was the one who got the call, what those ten days were like, and how they affected the rest of his life – is the business that occupies Jim Berkenstadt in this definitive account of one of the great and mysterious footnotes in modern pop.No one is more qualified to investigate and recount the story of Jimmie Nicol than Jim Berkenstadt. He’s not only the Rock and Roll Detective, specializing in uncovering the lost histories and mysteries of pop music. He’s also an international authority on the Beatles, and has been a credited consultant on several projects by the Fab Four and the Estate of George Harrison. He has co-authored or edited four other books, three on the Beatles and one on the band Nirvana. His new book, Mysteries in the Music: Case Closed, is coming in March from Genius Book Publishing. He lives north side with his wife, Holly Cremer Berkenstadt.
Madison authors, topics, book events and publishers.We click on two of the criteria today as Stu welcomes the award-winning journalist Terry Frei, author of Third Down and a War to Go: The All-American 1942 Wisconsin Badgers, from our very good friends at the Wisconsin Historical Society Press.The 1942 Wisconsin football team, was coached by one of Knute Rockne’s fabled Four Horsemen, and led by three All-Americans. It went 8-1-1, finishing second in the Big Ten and placing third in the final Associated Press poll. Among the stars were several who would go on to play in the National Football League, including the legendary Elroy Crazy Legs Hirsch. And there were players who would play an important role at the UW for decades to come, like Otto Breitenbach and Bob Rennebohm.But there were far more who would suit up in far more serious uniforms – the uniforms of a branch of the United States Armed Forces. Their country called them to war, and off they went. They didn’t all see combat, but many did – and several died. Including one of the most respected, even beloved, athletes in Badger history, two-time All-American Dave Schreiner.Who these young men were, what their 1942 season was like, and what happened to them during and after the war, is the business that occupies Terry Frei in this gripping account of some extraordinary – but altogether typical – young men.It is a book he is uniquely qualified to write. Not only is he an award-winning journalist – voted by his peers as the best sports journalist in Oregon three times, and four times in Colorado – he is also the son of a member of that 1942 Badger squad, WW2 pilot, and longtime assistant coach for the Denver Broncos, the late Jerry Frei, from Stoughton Wisconsin.Among Terry Frei’s six other books, Horns, Hogs and Nixon’s Coming – Texas v Arkansas in Dixie’s Last Stand, March 1939: Before the Madness, and the novel Olympic Affair. His website is, that’s FREI, and his twitter handle is @TFrei. He lives in Denver CO.It’s a pleasure to welcome to Madison BookBeat, Terry Frei.
Madison authors, topics, book events and publishersIt’s the most wonderful time of the year, time for the Wisconsin Book Festival, 28 events this week alone, both in-person and online, and Stu Levitan welcomes one of the featured presenters, and one of the brightest stars in the firmament that is the University of Wisconsin faculty, Professor Jordan Ellenberg, to discuss his NYTimes best-seller, Shape: The Hidden Geometry of Information, Biology, Strategy, Democracy, and Everything Else. Prof. Ellenberg will be appearing this Saturday at 3 o’clock at the Discovery Building, 330 N Orchard St., so Stu thought it would be a good idea to dial up an encore presentation of our conversation from this past July.As coined by the ancient Greeks, “geometry” literally means “measuring the world,” and the world which Jordan Ellenberg measures in Shape is wide and far-flung indeed. Gerrymandering, the tv show Survivor, Abraham Lincoln, pandemics and flitting mosquitoes, artificial intelligence, even an answer to the question ‘how many holes in a straw’? And it’s an accessible world – yes, there are symbols and equations, and you’re welcome to have pad and paper with you as you read, but the book is mainly a narrative built on stories and people.Jordan Ellenberg was not a late-bloomer. The son of two biostatisticians, he taught himself to read at age two by watching Sesame Street, he was competing in high school math competitions while in the fourth grade, and four years later he was taking honors calculus at the University of Maryland. At 17, he beat out 400,000 North American high school students to win the USA Mathematical Olympiad, and over a 3-year period took two golds and a silver at the International Mathematical Olympiad.He took his BA and Ph D at Harvard, with a masters from Johns Hopkins in creative writing in between, then started his academic career at Princeton. He came to the University of Wisconsin in 2005, made full professor in 2011, was named a Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor in 2014 and since 2015 has been the John D MacArthur Professor of Mathematics.His previous books include How Not To Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking in 2014 and the novel The Grasshopper King. He also has a credited cameo in the 2017 movie Gifted in the role of math professor, giving him a Kevin Bacon degree of separation of two and making him one of the extraordinarily small and select group of people with an Erdos/Bacon number. He maintains a blog and tweets at JSEllenberg. It is a great pleasure to welcome to MBB Professor Jordan Ellenberg.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, time for the Wisconsin Book Festival, and Stu Levitan welcomes one of the featured presenters, University of Wisconsin Professor Chad Alan Goldberg, editor of an important new volume Education for Democracy: Renewing the Wisconsin Idea, from our very good friends at the University of Wisconsin Press. Prof. Goldberg will be giving talk on his book live and in-person at the Madison Central Library on Saturday October 23, so Stu thought it would be a good idea to dial up an encore presentation of their conversation from this past March. And by the way, Stu’s show next week will feature another UW professor giving an in-person presentation on the 23rd, Prof. Jordan Ellenberg, talking about his best-seller, Shape.According to Wisconsin statute 36.01(2), the mission of the university of Wisconsin system is “to develop human resources, to discover and disseminate knowledge, to extend knowledge and its application beyond the boundaries of its campuses and to serve and stimulate society by developing in students heightened intellectual, cultural and humane sensitivities, scientific, professional and technological expertise and a sense of purpose. Inherent in this broad mission are methods of instruction, research, extended training and public service designed to educate people and improve the human condition. Basic to every purpose of the system is the search for truth.”But not everyone agrees with that mission – especially the parts of public service, improving the human condition, and searching for truth. And over the years some people in high places have sought to change that mission in fundamental ways, even destroy it outright. Leaving us with some very important questions.What is the role of the public university in a democratic society? Specifically, what is the role of the University of Wisconsin in the democratic, pluralistic society of the 21st century? And, harking back to the words of UW President Charles Van Hise from 1905, does the beneficent influence of the university continue to reach every family in the state? If not, how do we ensure that it once again does?These are the questions Chad Alan Goldberg asks in Education for Democracy, questions he and his 11 contributors answer by examining how and why the Wisconsin Idea was born, expanded, honored – and then threatened and diminished. And they explain why it must be renewed, and suggest how to do so.The list of those contributors is quite a collection of scholars and analysts, including Prof. Katherine Cramer, author of The Politics of Resentment, environmental historian and biographer of Aldo Leopold Curt Meine, our friend, repeat guest and LGBTQ historian Dick Wagner, Wisconsin Public Radio’s Emily Auerbach, and several other distinguished professors, both from the UW and elsewhere.Prof. Goldberg is very well-equipped to edit this volume, which is based on an outreach course on the Wisconsin Idea which he helped organize in 2016, and which he still teaches as Professor of Sociology. And It was Prof Goldberg who in May 2016 wrote the resolution — which the Faculty Senate adopted — expressing no confidence in the commitment by then-president Ray Cross and the Board of Regents to defend the Wisconsin Idea, which was under attack by Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican legislature.Prof. Goldberg’s previous books include Modernity and the Jews in Western Social Thought and Citizens and Paupers: Relief, Rights, and Race, from the Freedmen’s Bureau to Workfare. He is also affiliated with the Center for German and European Studies, the George l. Mosse/Laurence A. Weinstein Center for Jewish Studies and the GAM program in History, all here at the UW Madison.And on a personal note, Chad and Stu are both graduates of a small school now known as New College, the Honors College of Florida, where their respective graduating classes were smaller than the class roster of his Survey of Sociology course.Thankfully, Ray Cross and Scott Walker are both gone, and Professor Chad Alan Goldberg is still here. It was a pleasure to welcome him to Madison Bookbeat.
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