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PopMatters Books Series

The PopMatters Books Series extends the discussion and documentation of global pop cultural matters from the online essays, interviews, and reviews published on the PopMatters website, to in-depth, book-in-hand explorations on an equally wide range of topics.  Intent on embracing a variety of voices, the PopMatters Books Series conveys the savvy and entertaining writing styles readers have come to expect from the PopMatters website.

PopMatters Books

Joss Whedon: The Complete Companion by PopMatters
Editor: Mary Alice Money

Publish Date: May 2012
Publisher: Titan Books

Synopsis: Joss Whedon’s importance in contemporary pop culture can hardly be overstated, but there has never been a book providing a comprehensive survey and analysis of his career as a whole—until now. In addition to new, previously unpublished essays and interviews by notable scholars and pop culture critics, some articles from PopMatters’ special feature, Spotlight: Joss Whedon are included in this book. Published to coincide with Whedon’s blockbuster movie The Avengers, Joss Whedon: The Complete Companion covers every aspect of his work, through insightful essays and in-depth interviews with key figures in the ‘Whedonverse’.

Wired calls it Geek Gold. “…the book has some of the best essays you’ll ever read on the man and his works.”

Place your order for Joss Whedon: The Complete Companion by PopMatters, with Titan Books, here.

China Underground by Zachary Mexico
Editor: Karen Zarker

A Barnes & Noble’s Discover Great New Writers Summer 2009 pick.

Publish Date: April 2009
Publisher: PopMatters / Soft Skull Press

Synopsis: At the turn of the 21st century, China has begun to experience a period of economic and social change that is unprecedented in human history. It has the biggest population of any country, ever. However, most reporting on China focuses on: 1) the country’s economy: growth rates, infrastructure, trade deficits, currency valuation, globalization, etc.; 2) social issues such as human rights, income inequality, the spread of diseases like avian flu, SARS, and HIV/Aids, the traditional conception of “Chinese culture” and its differences from Western culture’s mainstream social trends; and 3) The current government: the workings of the CCP, its response to social unrest, etc. China Underground highlights a different side of China: today’s youth culture, which is both fascinating and under-exposed. This book is a collection of profiles of younger Chinese people who are members of certain cultures and subcultures. Those profiles include: punk rockers in a miserable industrial city; a prostitute from the countryside who works in a local bathhouse and aspires to respectability; a Chinese mafia boss and his cronies; a Muslim guitar player who’s come to Shanghai to make it; a photojournalist, a screenwriter, a homosexual graphic designer, and two guys who make fake passports and ID cards for a living—just to name a few.

About the Author:  Zack is fluent in Mandarin Chinese and well-versed in Chinese cultural customs. His undergraduate studies at Columbia University include extensive studies in Chinese language and literature. He also studied for a semester at Qinghua University, Beijing. For over two years, Zack lived in southwest China, where he opened a thriving restaurant / nightclub in Kunming City and operated a café in Lijiang Prefecturs. His language skills and network of contacts in China allowed him unparalleled access into the Chinese youth scene. In addition, his relatively young age and open-minded, cosmopolitan attitude gave him credibility with his subjects, as readers can see in his sensitive and thorough prose. Zack spent three months during the summer of 2006 traveling and interviewing subjects for China Underground. (To protect his subjects and the status of his passport, Zack is writing China Underground under a pseudonym.)

Read excerpts on PopMatters here.

Apocalypse Jukebox: The End of the World in American Popular Music by Edward Whitelock and David Janssen
Editor: Kirby Fields

Publish Date: March 2009
Publisher: PopMatters / Soft Skull Press

Synopsis: Apocalypse Jukebox traces the influence of apocalypticism upon the development of American popular music; the premise is that America itself can only be understood, defined, explicated, and sung in apocalyptic terms. In both of its primary definitions-as a spiritual revelation tied to the Second Coming of Christ or as a cataclysmic end of the world through nuclear or natural disaster-apocalypse is perpetually just beneath the surface of America’s collective consciousness and is reflected in its popular music. Few who have treated apocalypse in relation to American popular culture have treated both the sacred and the secular connotations of the term, none in the close examination of popular music, and none with as much depth as Whitelock and Janssen bring to the subject via the four categories of apocalyptic thought that they identify: 1) sacred, suggests spiritual revelation tied to the Second Coming of Christ and the “world without end” that will follow the end of this world; 2) secular, which addresses potential world conclusions not directly tied to Christ’s return, from atomic bombs to natural disasters; 3) profane and personal, which draws upon the traditions of Babylon, sin, and the devil; in other words, “sex, drugs, and rock and roll”; and 4) the personal, which emphasizes the positive power of self-discovery and re-creation and draws upon the Romantic/Transcendental literary movements of nineteenth-century Britain and America.

About the Authors: Yes, the following claim is an over-used, over-romanticized cliché. But that doesn’t make it any less real:  Rock & Roll saved our lives.

Dr. Edward J. Whitelock spent most of the year 1978 stealing and hoarding his grandmother’s meds in preparation for his own personal end of the world. Why? Just the usual story:  he was a poor, clumsy, socially awkward kid whose daily life was comprised of the slow, lonely, seemingly unending torture of the middle-school outcast. Then, Devo appeared on Saturday Night Live. Everything changed; the future was revealed:  The geeks would inherit the earth. He is now an Associate Professor of English at Gordon College. He earned his PhD from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 1997. He has published poems in over a dozen literary journals as well as numerous articles in professional journals and anthologies.

Dr. David A. Janssen grew up in the mountains of the Northwest with blisters on his fingers resulting from his religious devotion to a cheap acoustic guitar. With visions of rock and roll apotheosis dancing in his head, he practiced his faith in his bedroom with Chuck Berry, John Fogerty, and Johnny Cash, copying chords and solos like a rosary. He was told in a dream that he would be the punk Bob Dylan. He ardently pursued his destiny into twenty-something adulthood until one dark day when his guitar and amp were stolen, which he read as a providential sign to enroll in graduate school. He is now an Associate Professor of English at Gordon College. He earned his PhD in English from the University of Georgia in 1999. He has published and presented various articles related to the study of popular culture.

Read excerpts on PopMatters here.

Rebels Wit Attitude: Subversive Rock Humorists by Iain Ellis
Editor: Kirby Fields

Publish Date: December 2008
Publisher: PopMatters / Soft Skull Press

Synopsis: This book expands upon Iain’s blueprint essay, “Send in the Clowns”, published on PopMatters in November 2004. Its focus is around selective key rebels in rock’s history, investigating why humor is their essence and how humor has played a principle role as the catalyst and expressive force in the artists’ work. This book investigates the nature of the rock humorist (rock humorists must be distinguished from rockers who sometimes use humor):  how, why, and in what ways (s)he uses humor as a weapon of resistance to various status quos. “Subversive” rock humorists portrayed are those whose art exudes defiance and resistance (rather than superficially funny artists)—whether aimed at social structures and mores, political systems, aesthetic practices, or the music industry itself. Thus, humor is regarded as a weapon of anti-establishment rebellion. The book is also about the form of subversive rock humor. Although lyrics are the most obvious zone for analysis, Iain is also interested in the interpretation of image, performance, product, and musical content. A guitar solo, hair style, or dance move (in context) may be just as subversive and humorous as a satirical song lyric.

About the Author: Iain Ellis’ writing and scholarly interests crystallized with the arrival of the punk rock movement in 1977. Then 14 years old and living in London’s sleepy outer-suburbs, punk introduced him not only to the thrills that great rock music can instill, but to political dissent, subversive humor, and a cultural awareness of the scope and possibilities of artistic expression. These burgeoning interests coalesced into a life-engagement with Cultural Studies at Universities in the both the UK and the US, the culmination being an American Studies Ph.D. dissertation on punk culture entitled “U/Dys/Topian Significations:  The Dissemination of the Punk Aesthetic Across 1980s American Culture”. Iain currently teaches in the English Department at the University of Kansas and writes a regular column on “Alternative Rock Cultures” for PopMatters. Besides contributing selections there from his forthcoming Subversive Rock Humorists book, Iain has written essays on the late-greats, Guided By Voices and John Peel, as well as on contemporary upstarts like The Streets. He has also covered the last two SXSW Music Festivals, most recently addressing the contributions of the British acts there.

Read excerpts on PopMatters here.

The Solitary Vice: Against Reading by Mikita Brottman
Editor: Nikki Tranter

A Publisher’s Weekly Best of Books 2008 pick.

Publish Date: April 2008
Publisher: PopMatters / Counterpoint Press

Synopsis: Mikita Brottman wonders, Just why is reading so great? It’s a solitary practice and takes away from time that could be spent developing social and interpersonal skills. And if it’s so important, why do we feel the need for slogans like “Reading Changes Lives” and “Champions Read”?

While basic literacy is imperative for anyone who hopes to live a fully functional life, Brottman is suspicious of the blanket assumption that reading is a priori “good for you.” While the ability to read may be valuable, is reading in itself really always a good thing? Who says that prolific readers are necessarily civic-minded people? Hitler was a great reader, after all, and so was the Unabomber.

As with any tongue-in-cheek polemic, Brottman aims to test assumptions, and one assumption she targets is that only great literature tells us truths about the human condition—Brottman shows how such “trash” as true crime and celebrity memoir allows people to see the world through the eyes of others and lets them travel deep into the darkness of the human condition.

Tackling the notion that nonreaders are doomed to despair and mental decay, Brottman argues that the value of reading lies not in its ability to ward off Alzheimer’s or that it’s a pleasant hobby. Rather, she argues, reading is ultimately not an act of pleasure but a tool for self-exploration—allowing people to travel into a darkness that is both personal and universal.

About the Author: Mikita Brottman was born and raised in Sheffield, England. She has a PhD in English Language and Literature from Oxford University, and has taught in various universities in Europe and the US. Her main field of research interest is the pathological impulse in contemporary culture; she has authored and edited a number of books on this subject, including, most recently, High Theory, Low Culture. She writes regularly for a number of publications, both mainstream and alternative, and is also a psychoanalyst in private practice. She is currently Professor of language, literature and culture at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

Read excerpts on PopMatters here.

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