In late August of 1989, I arrived in Poland for the first of two years of Senior Fulbright Lectureships in American Studies at the University of Łódź. These were years of remarkable political and economic changes in Poland (and throughout the former East Bloc), transformations which interested people everywhere, including folks back in the United States. A couple of newspapers requested articles, which I wrote on a manual typewriter I bought in Poland and mailed via Polish Postage back to the States, but always in the back of my mind was the idea of a book on Poland. After all, my U. S. professorship and my Fulbright fellowship were based partly on my publications, both scholarly and popular, in journals, magazines, and books. The material is there, right outside your door, David—grab your notebook and camera, and get busy.
I returned to the States in 1991 with several articles already published, several additional pieces typed out, and several ideas outlined on paper or in my head. While playing catch up on matters in Minnesota, I returned periodically to the book that became Poland in Transition. It was not published until 1994, and perhaps the wait was worth the effort: the book got good reviews, brought several enthusiastic letters (including one from Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski), and for a small-press book sold well (especially in Chicago). Poles found it “interesting,” as I learned on biannual return visits to Łódź, and when I returned to Poland in 2012 for another round of teaching American Studies at the Lodz International Studies Academy, Gazeta Wyborcza published an interview with me, posting several of my photographs on line with the interview. “Thank you for giving me my country back,” e-mailed one reader.
I continue to write and publish books and articles both popular and scholarly, but this is the age of on-line, not in-print. Many people read my colleagues’ blogs, but few read my books. Royalties even on my Bob Dylan book are $0. And what the hell—I am at the top of my university’s pay scale, well compensated for my teaching and writing over the years. Listen to your colleagues, Dave: go for the readers and forget about the dollars. Thus this project to make Poland in Transition (text and photos) as accessible as possible to folks all over the world. Free of charge. If you want a printed book, you can find them new or used, on on-line book stores (if you order directly from Ellis Press, you will receive an autographed copy). But if you just want to enjoy the stories and photos of Poland during those remarkable years or transition, here they are, thanks to the efforts and expertise of Marek Jedliński, who arranged all this and is now working on an on-line edition of my earlier book, A Generation in Motion: Popular Music and Culture in the Sixties. Thanks again, Marek.