Tag Archives: University of Minnesota Press

Let’s Talk About the Weather

CBR_Logo2November’s Fury:
The Deadly Great Lakes Hurricane of 1913
by Michael Schumacher

Swirling winds, blinding snow, crashing waves slamming into the lakeshore: sounds like the Midwest in winter—nothing to be too concerned about. Unless you’re sailing an enormous vessel loaded with tons of cargo, trapped on one of the Great Lakes during what would be the storm of the century.

Author Michael Schumacher tackles the Great Lakes Hurricane of 1913 in his new book, November’s Fury, a chronicle of the sailors, the vessels, and the controversies of four brutal days a century ago on the country’s largest inland seas.

UMN12 November's Fury R3.inddSchumacher, whose previous titles include Mighty Fitz: The Sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald and Wreck of the Carl D, has a number of documentaries about the Great Lakes to his credit. The Wisconsin-based author tells the story of the disaster that struck the Great Lakes in November 1913 in November’s Fury, a storm that shifted and swelled and ending up sinking or stranding dozens of vessels and killing hundreds of sailors. November’s Fury is a collection of stories focused on the sailors and vessels trapped in an unexpectedly ferocious storm.

Schumacher breathlessly recounts the drama that unfolded on the lakes as “moderate to brisk” winds shifted into a “moderately severe” storm that swirled into a tempest with winds gusting 60 to 70 miles per hour. Packed with colorful details and scores of illustrations, November’s Fury reveals the little-known history of a tragic event that for months captured the attention—and headlines—of Midwesterners and, indeed, all Americans. Schumacher tells of sailors who valiantly tried to save cargo and vessels in ultimately futile efforts. He tells of boats crashing into rocky shores, of waves overwhelming men and vessels, and of desperate rescue efforts that often ended in tragedies of their own.

Thoroughly researched and well documented, November’s Fury is brought to life through the voices of the men who lived through the storm as well as through news stories of the day. Schumacher goes beyond the headlines, however, to examine the blame game that erupted after the storm as various parties looked to put the responsibility on everyone from maverick ship captains to greedy shipping companies to the nascent U.S. Weather Bureau, which was accused of botching the forecast leading up to the storm. He also looks at the storm’s aftermath, as corpses washed ashore in the days and months following the catastrophe and as efforts were made to recover sunk, stranded, and lost vessels. Geared toward history and maritime buffs, the book’s glossary and appendix of lost and stranded vessels will be of interest to amateur experts and novices alike.

Schumacher, Michael

Author Michael Schumacher

With so many vessels and so many men struggling through a massive storm system that hit so many lakes, November’s Fury covers a lot of ground. Schumacher’s writing is engaging and lively, though sometimes the material feels choppy and disorganized. And, although Schumacher carries the story into the present day with the May 2013 discovery of one of the sunken vessels, the Henry B. Smith, the short book seems to end rather abruptly and would have benefitted from a stronger conclusion.

Although history buffs will love the sharp details that Schumacher brings to November’s Fury, it is in telling the human stories that the author shines. Schumacher does a great service to the memories of those who lived through the storm, sharing in their own words their stories of survival. The book serves as a timely reminder of the capricious whims of Mother Nature—and of our own attempts, often futile, to battle the elements.

Three-Star Review

November 2013, University of Minnesota Press
$24.95, hardcover, 198 pages
ISBN: 978-0-8166-8719-0

—Reviewed by Kelli Christiansen

Read more about The Great Lakes Hurricane of 1913
Learn more about November’s Fury
Read an interview with author Michael Schumacher

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Clues to the Uncapturable

CBR_Logo2Béla Tarr, The Time After
by Jacques Rancière
Translated by Erik Beranek

Someone famous once said that talking about music is like dancing about architecture, meaning that, describing one art form by means of another is ultimately futile. Yet, over and over again, writers attempt to do just that very thing. There are many reasons why one might want to write about someone else’s creative work: it may be a way of explaining it to oneself; a way to explain it to others; a way to advance or buttress one’s own ideas on the back of theirs; or countless other reasons. We all want to understand what we’ve experienced, and writers feel the added burden of putting it into words.

Two_Lessons_on_Animal_and_Man_UofMplateThis is the task Jacques Rancière has set himself with his Bela Tarr, The Time After. Rancière is a philosopher concerned with the plight of the proletariat, so it makes some sense that he’d take on Tarr’s films since they concern themselves with the era just before and just after the fall of Communism in the Eastern Bloc. Tarr’s films include The Turin Horse (2011), The Man from London (2007), and The Outsider (1981).

Because he’s a philospher, Rancière floats some theories about the inner meanings of Tarr’s scenes and even certain shots or camera movements. Some of these are more convincing than others, but Tarr’s films have so much space and silence in them, they practically invite interpretation and misinterpretation.

Tarr populates his work with people who often don’t know themselves, and he leaves us in rooms and landscapes with them for minutes and sometimes for hours at a time. Rancière tries mightily to explain these inchoate beings and even succeeds at times: “He does not want to look at the rain, he says, like dogs who await the puddles in order to drink from them.” Other times he gets stuck on concepts like huit clos (commonly translated as no exit, referencing Sartre’s work), and he uses them over and over to the extent that they lose much of their meaning. Tarr’s films are quiet, hulking things that mostly evade grasp.

At times one is left to wonder whether some awkward phrasing in the book is the author’s or his translator’s. The phrase “mediocre web,” which is used to discuss how a certain swindler unsuccessfully attempts to entrap his fellow villagers in one of his schemes, might make sense as a concept but stretches one’s patience as a description. In the end, though, we have to admire Rancière ‘s efforts to capture the uncapturable. There are moments when Tarr’s images spur him to share his own wisdom: “This is why it is pointless to believe that the world will become reasonable if we keep harping on the crimes of the last liars, but also grotesque to insist that from now on we are living in a world without illusion.”

This slim yet dense little book will make no sense to those who haven’t seen any of Tarr’s films, but for those who have and are reaching for some way to make sense of what they’ve seen, Rancière certainly offers a few useful clues.

Two-Star Review

July 2013, Univocal Publishing (distributed by University of Minnesota Press)
$19.95, paperback, 81 pages
ISBN: 978-1-9375-6115-4

—Reviewed by Dmitry Samarov

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