Lion and Leopard, a novel

Nathaniel Popkin

Nathaniel Popkin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“The pleasure is in my hand as I draw his features. I particularly like this silent stirring, the swelling of the air between my hands and my eyes and my eyes and my subject, and I savor it much as the captain lingers over a fiery red pepper, which he eats in judicious little bites right down to the stem.” John Lewis Krimmel on board the Sumatra, sailing from Rotterdam, August 11, 1818  [from Lion and Leopard]

“It took me some time to to digest the deception. Nay, it should be called a thievery. Whatever Krimmel’s point, whether to denigrate me or my Museum, or perhaps, the practice of democracy as some foreigners are inclined to do, I realized my son had been right to warn me about the German.” Charles Willson Peale outside the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, 10th and Chestnut Streets, September 25, 1818  [from Lion and Leopard]

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John Lewis Krimmel drowned in a Millpond near Germantown, not far from the farm of Charles Willson Peale, on July 15, 1821 at the age of 35. A genre painter, he was at the height of his artistic powers at the time of his death. His life and death served as the inspiration for Nathaniel Popkin’s new book Lion and Leopard, a novel that illuminates the world of early 19th century Philadelphia.

America’s first city at the time, Philadelphia was also the epicenter of its art world and a place that witnessed debates, controversies, and rivalries that contributed to the birth of an American culture. Sandwiched between the revolutionary generation and the coming of the industrial revolution, Popkin’s Philadelphia is a rich brew of men and women, family strife, youthful passion, foreign emigres, and institutional intrigue.

It was a time in which the young United States was still in a very fluid state and anything was possible, it was time when three youths from the small town of Easton, Pennsylvania set off for big city Philadelphia, with dreams of writing a book on the American masters and seeing the world.

On the 193rd anniversary of John Lewis Krimmel’s untimely death, I spoke to Nathaniel Popkin about his novelistic debut, LIon and Leopard.

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—Fred Rowland

Bury Me In My Jersey

Writer Tom McAllister

 

 

 

 

In 2010, Tom McAllister published a memoir entitled Bury Me in My Jersey: A Memoir of My Father, Football, and Philly (Villard Books) in which he describes the critical role that the Philadelphia Eagles football team played in the shaping of his young years. Like many who spend Sundays watching football, this ritual helped him to cement bonds with family and friends. Unlike many, it become an obsession that, as I was to learn, took many years and one book to untangle. The fateful 39th Super Bowl plays a central role in his narrative, an event that few Philadelphia sports fans will ever forget. (It was February 6, 2005, and we were finally going to win what had been denied to us for so long…) In addition to leading us through his career as an Eagles fan, Tom also reflects on the role that his father played in his life, sometimes but not always tied to their mutual devotion to the Eagles. Bury Me in My Jersey is full of very funny, unlikely, and sometimes disturbing stories, as well as thoughtful meditations on the search for identity.

Tom is also the non-fiction editor of Barrelhouse magazine and the co-host, with Mike Ingram, of the podcast Book Fight: Tough Love for Literature.

I interviewed Tom McAllister on October 23, 2013.

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 —Fred Rowland

Marketing Schools, Marketing Cities

Maia Cucchiara image

 

 

 

 

Maia Cucchiara’s new book, Marketing Schools, Marketing Cities: Who Wins and Who Loses When Schools Become Urban Amenities (University of Chicago Press, 2013), is a very timely intervention into the current debate about the troubled Philadelphia public school system. Most of the research for this book took place between 2004 and 2007 as part of her doctoral dissertation during the Philadelphia Center City Schools Initiative (CCSI), which sought to market and promote Center City public schools in an effort to retain middle and upper middle class Center City families from fleeing to the suburbs in search of better schools. She shines a light on this initiative by focusing on one school and one neighborhood, which she pseudonymously names “Grant Elementary School” and “Cobble Square”. In the course of her research, she interviewed parents, administrators, teachers, and local civic and business leaders, as well as participated in many events at Grant Elementary School.

One of the most important and illuminating aspects of Marketing Schools, Marketing Cities is the way it highlights the tensions between an urban area’s economic and civic space as citizens are increasingly seen as customers and consumers. What rights and duties do we have as citizens and how are those rights and duties constrained or enhanced when they are interpreted from a narrow economic perspective? On the one hand, retaining Center City families grows the tax base and potentially benefits all Philadelphia schools, given that schools are financed primarily through real estate taxes. On the other hand, how does one justify directing additional resources to Center City schools at a time when there are so many disadvantaged schools in the outlying neighborhoods? The tensions that Maia Cucchiara investigates in Marketing Schools, Marketing Cities are still very much with us today and make this book a “must read” for anyone interested in Philadelphia public schools and the future of public education.

I spoke with Maia Cucchiara on September 19, 2013.

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—Fred Rowland