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University of Iowa News Release


March 6, 2008

UI Press offers two new books of literary scholarship March 15

Two new books of literary scholarship -- "At the Brink of Infinity: Poetic Humility in Boundless American Space" by James von der Heydt and "Politics, Desire, and the Hollywood Novel" by Chip Rhodes -- will become available from the University of Iowa Press on March 15.

Von der Heydt, an English instructor at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, addressed American texts that take their inspiration from the idea of infinity. He considers the works of writers including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop and James Merrill.

The story of what happens when a serious writer goes to Hollywood has become a cliché: The writer is paid well but underappreciated, treated like a factory worker, and forced to write bad, formulaic movies. Most fail, become cynical, drink to excess, and at some point write a bitter novel that attacks the film industry in the name of high art.

Like many too-familiar stories, this one neither holds up to the facts nor helps us understand Hollywood novels. Instead, Chip Rhodes argues, these novels tell us a great deal about the ways that Hollywood has shaped both the American political landscape and American definitions of romance and desire.

He considers how novels about the film industry changed between the studio era of the 1930s and 1940s and the era of deregulated filmmaking that has existed since the 1960s. He asserts that Americans are now driven by cultural, rather than class, differences and that our mainstream notion of love has gone from repressed desire to "abnormal desire" to, finally, strictly business.

"Politics, Desire, and the Hollywood Novel" pays close attention to six authors -- Nathanael West, Raymond Chandler, Budd Schulberg, Joan Didion, Bruce Wagner and Elmore Leonard -- who have toiled in the film industry and written to tell about it. More specifically, Rhodes considers both screenplays and novels with an eye toward the different formulations of sexuality, art, and, ultimately, political action that exist in these two kinds of storytelling.

Rhodes is the chair of the English department at Western New England College in Massachusetts. He is the author of "Structures of the Jazz Age: Mass Culture, Progressive Education and Racial Disclosures in American Modernism."

The books are available for sale at bookstores or directly from the University of Iowa Press by phone at 800-621-2736 or online at Customers in the United Kingdom, Europe, the Middle East, or Africa may order from the Eurospan Group online at

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STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Allison Thomas, UI Press,; Winston Barclay, Arts Center Relations, 319-384-0073,