Scholarly Roadkill

Mitch’s Blog

The Great Conference Mandala

Monday, April 22, 2019

It was at the end of an email exchange with Caryn to arrange dinner in Albuquerque that I asked “Do you need any help at the booth?” Caryn is archaeology editor for Berghahn Books and the Society for American Archaeology meeting was coming up. A lunch meeting on Friday would leave her booth empty for a couple of hours. Could I cover for her? “Of course,” I responded. After all, I do know a bit about how to sell books at an academic conference.

But the meaning of that simple exchange, as she and I both knew, went…

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What Happened to that Grecian Urn?

Saturday, March 16, 2019

I’ve talked often about my archaeological “legacy” project from Afghanistan, where the field work was conducted back in the 1970s, and I’m only now pulling together the material for publication. In the process, legacy has taken on new meanings.  It’s not just the legacy of the archaeology work nor the contribution to the historical legacy of war-torn Afghanistan. Important legacies have crept into this work, weaving a deep web that crosses continents and many lineages. I’ll speak of one here.

The descendants of John Philip Miller (a pseudonym) has a stake in our work. Miller was an American consultant in…

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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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