Scholarly Roadkill

Mitch’s Blog

The First Warning

Friday, February 22, 2019

The First Warning is the only “comedy” ever written by the famed Swedish playwright August Strindberg.  And it is the only play I’ve ever acted in.

Comedy is rightly in quotes when it comes to Strindberg.He was not a happy guy-- alcoholic, misogynist, paranoid, depressive personality, and divorced three times. #MeToo came a century too late to include him, but he would have been a proper target. His autobiographical novel was entitled The Inferno. This sunniness shows in his plays, filled with horrid gender interactions and nasty characters meeting with bad endings. The First…

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Startup Secrets

Saturday, October 27, 2018

“What I hadn’t anticipated was how hard it was to start a publishing company.”

No, those weren’t my words, but those penned recently by Richard Charkin. Charkin should know a bit about publishing, just retired as CEO of Bloomsbury (think Harry Potter books) after a trail of other high profile publishing positions in companies with names like Macmillan, Oxford, and Reed Elsevier. His article about the struggles of leaving the publishing industrial complex to start a small, boutique press called Mensch Publishing was of great interest. After all, I had done the same thing. Twice.


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“So How Was Cuba?”

Monday, May 14, 2018

“Did you have a good time?” A reasonable question to someone who has just returned from such an exotic place.  But I wasn’t ready for it the first time. The guys had just come back from their dawn run and were sipping water on Tony’s porch. I’d returned the night before and was simultaneously sleepwalking and walking the dog.  “So how was Cuba?” one piped up.

How to craft an answer? Was it the invigorating music and dance we saw everywhere? That’s what Becky and her crowd would want to know. Or the visible differences between their socialist system and…

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What’s in a (Middle) Name

Friday, March 23, 2018

Like every scholar, even one who didn’t begin practicing until he hit retirement age, announcement of the online availability of the conference program is a trigger to click the button and find out when my paper is scheduled (8:15 am Thursday; no one will be there) and whether any of my commitments conflict (yep, my one committee meeting is 8-10 that same morning). Having received the expected bad news, I flipped to the committee page only to find that the Publications Committee, of which I am not surprisingly a member, had listed a Mitchell V. Allen II. I scoured the…

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The Textbook Crisis, Solved!

Friday, March 09, 2018

I solved the college textbook problem this week. It has bedeviled publishers for decades now and caused seismic shifts in the publishing world. No matter that I was in a bar, well into my second Angry Orchard with a former colleague who had gone on to work for one of the Big Three textbook publishers—Pearson, Cengage, McGraw-Hill—and been converted from an Associate Editor to a Content Designer or Learning Specialist or some job title that sounds more like Apple than Appleton-Century-Crofts. In the course of our talk, I found the answer that textbook publishers have been seeking, one that all…

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Travels with Harvey

Thursday, February 15, 2018

“Did I tell you about the 12 hour train ride I took with Harvey Oswald?” That’s usually a good conversation starter. 

Bill and I drifted there from figuring out how to open the footlockers in his garage, the ones that held his most valuable books and his youthful writings, but for which he lost the key. The jingly ringful of hardware that we dragged out to the garage was no use. The footlockers married to those keys had long ago departed. But the one key we needed to confirm Bill’s diary entry of this encounter was sadly absent.

“Harvey Oswald?…

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It’s Amazing What Famous Authors Don’t Know About Publishing

Monday, January 29, 2018

I gave up reading James Michener novels long ago, somewhere between Colorado and Alaska, or maybe it was Texas. They had turned into very bad history books compiled by his research assistants and woven into pedestrian narratives of fictional historical families over the span of centuries.  I had no idea what was in his later works—Finland? Detroit? So I was surprised to find in the Cozy Corner Bookshop a Michener novel about writing and publishing called….The Novel. This one was about Michener’s own world, the experience of a novelist wending his way through a writing/publishing career. I broke my Michener ban…

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Orwell on a Shelf

Sunday, December 24, 2017

My education into the holiday season traditions of the 21st century teen decade began at Bed, Bath, and Beyond a week before Christmas last year. Josh and I weren’t even there shopping for gifts, but to find him a humidifier for his nasty chest cold. We found it, nestled between the reindeer towels and the ceiling-high stack of aroma-scented aerators. In the lengthy wait for an available checkout station, we were pushed up against the Hanukkah (or Chanukkah or Hanuka or… whatever, some people worry about how to spell it) display case.

Josh got a good laugh out of one…

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Shedding My Skin

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

I’ve done it. I’ve shed my skin as a publisher and have a new one. I realized it only last weekend when the second anniversary of my selling of Left Coast Press to Routledge was finalized. Had I not received a heartfelt note from Mary Curtis, who sold her legendary Transaction Publishers  to  Routledge exactly a year after I did, the event would have passed me by completely. I quickly posted something on social media announcing the anniversary (interesting how that has become the chosen method for public announcements) then went out with Vida for  celebratory tea and Kung Pao…

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The Thanksgiving That Almost Wasn’t

Monday, November 27, 2017

My favorite Thanksgiving dinner was one I almost missed.  I won’t post a picture of the feast on Facebook. Not only had FB not been invented, Mark Zuckerberg hadn’t been either. It was November 1974 and I was in Afghanistan.

It’s fun to reminisce about past holiday meals when you’re stuffed with leftovers, watching the Tupperwares of turkey and dressing rapidly disappear from the refrigerator as the whole family regularly dips in. Thanksgiving in our camp on the Sar-o Tar plain was a bit different. Centerpiece was the turkey of course, straight out of half a dozen Swanson…

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