Monday, December 10, 2007

Every Eye Review

At One Minute Book Reviews, Janice Harayda looks at Black Sparrow's Every Eye, by Isobel English. Jan writes, "This elegant novel might sound like the literary godmother of Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach. Like that Man Booker Prize finalist, Every Eye is a slender book about an English couple on a honeymoon – in this case, belated – near the ocean. And like On Chesil Beach, it comes from a distinguished British author who writes about how early misunderstandings can reverberate for a lifetime. Yet Every Eye is everything that On Chesil Beach is not – subtle, persuasive and rich in insight."

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Blueprint: the Martha Stewart Magazine

Men of Letters & People of Substance got a great write-up over at the blog of Blueprint, the Martha Stewart magazine: "This topographic gem features portraits of distinguished authors composed entirely of the letters in their names. De Vicq de Cumptich (phew!) also chose fonts that he feels capture the spirit of each writer's work – a quill-rendered script for good 'ol Shakespeare and a self-consciously modern-yet-stylish type for Truman Capote." Take a look at the book (and buy it!) at the Godine Website.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Titles Now Available!

The Superior Person's Field Guide to Deceitful, Deceptive & Downright Dangerous Language, by Peter Bowler and illustrated by Leslie Cabarga is a perfect holiday gift for the erudite, the whimsical, and those in your life who simply love language.

In the Blood is the beautiful, moving childhood memoir by British Poet Laureate Andrew Motion. In a recent review in the Boston Globe, Barbara Fischer wrote, "The first chapter of this beautiful and brilliant memoir by the present British poet laureate is so moving, gripping, and suspenseful that, needing to discover the result of the accident it describes, I skipped to the last chapter of the book, something I never do."

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Catie Copley & Dice K

Catie Copley & Daisuke Matsuzaka

We are not taking credit, or saying it was our good luck, but they did win after Daisuke's daughter received a copy of Catie's wonderful Boston tale...

Friday, October 19, 2007

Men of Letters!

A very exciting Friday here as the new Roberto de Vicq title Men of Letters & People of Substance has arrived. In his follow-up to the widely acclaimed Bembo's Zoo, de Vicq has constructed portraits of his literary heroes, as well as faces of singular emotions, out of the letters and ornaments of more than 100 typefaces – hence the title! Visit the book's page at and take a peek at some PDF pages from inside the book. We promise once you begin, you won't want to stop.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Andrew Motion's Writing Room

Do you find yourself wondering what the British Poet Laureate Andrew Motion's writing room looks like? If so, you are today in luck – The Guardian offers us this peek, with a tour by the poet himself.

Friday, September 28, 2007

John Banville Giveaway

Today our friend Mark Sarvas at The Elegant Variation is giving away a copy of the Godine edition of John Banville's 1982 novella, The Newton Letters. Godine was one of the first American publishers to publish Banville, and we are extremely pleased that he has found such a devoted following here with people like Mark to champion his books.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Andre Dubus in the Phoenix

Nina MacLaughlin at the Boston independent newspaper, the Phoenix, wrote a nice tribute to Godine author Andre Dubus (1936-1999). You can buy his books on the Godine site. The Phoenix also notes, "'The Times Were Never So Bad: The Life of Andre Dubus,' directed by Edward Delaney, screens as part of the New England Film and Video Festival in Brookline, October 4–8. Visit for schedules and information."

Touched by grace
Andre Dubus’s unending gifts
September 24, 2007 1:53:48 PM

On the train back from New York City late last fall, I held a collection of Andre Dubus’s short stories, a recent gift from a beau. Walking out of a Cambridge bookstore not long before, he had said, “I got you something,” with that mix of pride and nerves that comes with passing along something that you love to someone else, and handed me a copy of Dubus’s Selected Stories. I knew the name — a local guy, Haverhill, it turned out, and the father of novelist Andre Dubus III. But I didn’t know the elder Dubus’s work. So on the train, I started a novella called Rose. And when the violence and emotional heat in that story reached their peak, I put the book on my lap and looked out the window at the passing coast — small bays and crowded harbors and the shadowed backs of old brick buildings, this, around November, when New England’s bones start to show — and I realized my heart was beating faster. The story had quickened my pulse.

As I read more Dubus, special-ordering his story collections from his longtime Boston publisher, David R. Godine, I started to feel for the author as I did for another artist, painter Andrew Wyeth. The two have much in common: realists who believe in ghosts, and who, in their art, grapple with mortality, intimacy, the minutiae of domestic life — dishes in the sink, geraniums on the window sill. Their work is somber but not joyless, sad but not maudlin, controlled but never dispassionate.

But it’s how they portray women that attracts me most. With his Helga portraits, Wyeth captures quiet, loneliness, defiance, confidence, connection. Dubus, even more so, has a way with women. He writes them in a manner that suggests a profound respect, especially for those characters who can only be described as housewives. He is never condescending, and always attuned to their specific complexities and pain. It was Anton Chekhov “who showed me that a woman’s soul has a struggle all its own, neither more nor less serious than a man’s, but different,” Dubus wrote in an essay, “Of Robin Hood and Womanhood,” in 1977. And his women do struggle (though that doesn’t sway me from wanting to be one of them).

“I became so sympathetic to the sounds of pain from the female soul that I went through androgynous periods,” Dubus wrote in ’77. That ability to exist in a character’s head — in their sex — shows. It shows in Edith, from the novellas Adultery and We Don’t Live Here Anymore (which together were the basis of a decent film with Peter Krause, Mark Ruffalo, Laura Dern, and Naomi Watts), who tends to her dying lover while her husband cheats with his best pal’s wife. It shows in the story “Miranda Over the Valley,” when the young title character discovers she’s pregnant. And it shows in Finding a Girl in America, when 19-year-old Lori tells her older lover that her friend, the man’s prior love, aborted what would’ve been his child.

Infidelity abounds in Dubus’s work. Doubt in the ability of men and women to sustain lives together suffuses his stories. The tenor of his writing resembles the crushing realism of Richard Yates, a teacher of Dubus’s at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. (The two often shared drinks at the Crossroads, a bar and restaurant at the corner of Mass Ave and Beacon Street.) But unlike Yates — who was equally admired as short story writer and novelist — Dubus stuck with shorter forms: “I love short stories because I believe they are the way we live,” he wrote in 1977. The disintegration of love gets frequent treatment, sometimes slow, sometimes abrupt and violent, always sad. Dubus himself was married three times. But despite all the women and his affinity for them (inside his stories and out), his writing is not feminine. There’s a muscle to it, a physicality, and a need, spoken or not, presents itself: to be a provider, to be a protector.

Because the violence that his characters perpetrate against each other is not just emotional. Dubus carried a gun with him for many years for “the protection I believed they gave people I loved, and strangers whose peril I might witness, and me,” he wrote in the essay “Giving Up the Gun.” He had good reasons to be armed. His older sister had been raped at knifepoint. And he did witness strangers in peril: he watched a young man smash a 15-year-old girl’s head against a wall because she had spilled soda on his car. He didn’t have the gun on him then, but pulled an axe handle from the trunk of his car, “one that I would use only to prevent or try and stop local violence,” and threatened the boy away from her. He pulled the gun once, in Alabama, at a white man approaching a black man with a knife, but did not need to shoot.

In his stories, though, the violence occurs between intimates. In “Killings,” a story of jealousy and revenge (made into the Oscar-nominated film In the Bedroom), a young man is murdered by his girlfriend’s ex-husband. In the novella The Pretty Girl, one of Dubus’s most powerful, exhausting works, a man rapes and terrorizes his ex-wife. The story’s power rests within Dubus’s ability to allow the reader not to like the main character — for what he does is odious — or even pity him, but to understand him. We can hate what he does, but we cannot hate him; he is flawed, cruel, but human. It is this ability, perhaps even more than his gift with women, that is Dubus’s genius, his truest gift.

In Voices from the Moon, a young boy tells his priest how his father is marrying his ex-daughter-in-law. The priest urges the boy toward compassion and forgiveness. Dubus was Catholic, a devout believer in the sacrament of the Eucharist, and his religion figures heavily in his stories. I did not grow up with God (my mother is a quiet but firm atheist; my father speaks of a Force or Energy more akin to Star Wars than anything to do with the Bible), but the beau who introduced me to Dubus did — and how. My first attempts at trying to understand his background were aided by these stories. Dubus articulates some of the mystery of faith, particularly the profundity of the Eucharist and the importance, within the church and without, of sacrament and ritual. So began a process of undoing the stereotypes and preconceptions I had about church and God and those who believe in the power of both.

In Rose, a man throws his son across a room, then sets the apartment on fire, his two daughters still inside. We are not meant to forgive him. We are not meant to feel compassionate. But we are meant to forgive what his wife, Rose, does in response. She tells her story to a man at a bar, years later. “What had she been sharing with me?” the narrator asks himself after her story’s done. “I believe it was the unexpected: chance, and its indiscriminate testings of our bodies, our wills, our spirits.”

And just so, chance did test Dubus. It was his instinct to aid, to protect, that drew him to pull over on I-93, heading north from Boston to Haverhill, on a July night in 1986, to help two people stuck on the side of the road. While he was helping them, a car swerved on the otherwise empty highway. Dubus pushed the woman out of the way. The man was struck and killed. And Dubus lost one of his legs above the knee, and most of the use of the other one, and was wheelchair-bound until his death in 1999.

The accident changed Dubus’s work. He published two books of essays and one more collection of short stories. The sorrow and anger are more explicit, and the pieces are filled “with the demons that always come on a bad wind; loneliness, mortality, legs.” But they are no less filled with moments of grace. Sacraments pervade these pieces. He writes of making sandwiches for his daughters, the sanctity of bread and meat and mustard, of bringing “our human, distracted love into focus with an act that doesn’t need words.”

A couple of weeks ago, on a Saturday in early September that pushed over 90 degrees, my beau arrived, sweating from the 20-minute walk from Harvard Square. He tossed a book on my bed: Dubus’s final collection of essays, Meditations from a Movable Chair. With that volume, I now had all of Dubus's works. Before I could say thank you, he pulled off his shirt and headed toward the shower. I don’t know God, but this gesture, this gift, felt like one of Dubus’s wordless moments of grace.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Event Photos

Some photos from our event at the Boston Public Library .

Richard Wilbur reading

Barry Moser speaking on the nature of portraits

Thursday, September 13, 2007

BPL Event; Next Up

Thanks to everyone who came to our reading for Light Within the Light Tuesday evening at the Boston Public Library. There were 250 people packing the beautiful Abbey Room – standing room only. Donald, Richard, & Maxine were all terrific, as were both Jeanne Braham, our moderator, and the acclaimed artist Barry Moser, who produced the gorgeous wood engraving portraits for Light Within the Light.

Next up:

Saturday, September 15, 2:00 pm & 3:30 pm – At 2 pm Joe McKendry, author of Beneath the Streets of Boston, will appear for a talk & signing at the Boston Globe Children's Book Festival in Copley Square, downtown Boston. At 3:30 pm Ilse Plume, author & illustrator of several Godine titles, will appear at the festival to talk about her book The Farmer in the Dell.

Thursday, September 20, 7:00 pm – Talented brothers Brad & Mark Leithauser will be giving a talk on their collaborations over the years and signing copies of their new collection of illustrated light verse, Toad to a Nightingale, at the Mt. Hoyoke Art Museum. Mark's original illustrations will be on display at the museum for the event.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Green Ginger Lands in Wall Street Journal

The WSJ picked up The Land of Green Ginger (which, by the way, I'll read to my kids one day). Their take:

The Land of the Green Ginger
By Noel Langley
Illustrated by Edward Ardizzone
Godine, 149 pages, $10.95

reviewed by Meghan Cox Gurdon
September 1, 2007

When Aladdin sat on the throne of Imperial China - and yes, gentle reader, he did - it came to pass that a genie informed his handsome son, Abu Ali, of his destiny. Abu Ali's task, the genie explained, was to find the Land of Green Ginger, a magical garden that behaved rather like a flying carpet by floating over the world and only rarely coming to rest. Abu Ali would furthermore have to lift a spell from the wizard who had created this wonderful place. Only then might Abu Ali seek the hand of the loveliest girl in all Asia, Silver Bud of Samarkand. From the start of Noel Langley's amusing tale, first published in 1937, there is no doubt that Abu Ali will succeed, for he is clever, amiable and so precocious that he engages in saucy banter with his astonished father within hours of being born. What makes this familiar hero-undergoing-ordeals-to-win-pretty-girl plot unusually fun are the absurd supporting characters - two wicked rival suitors are named Tintac Ping Foo and Rubdub Ben Thud - and the skilled, playful writing. (The South Africa-born Langley was a playwright and screenwriter whose credits include the script for "The Wizard of Oz.") Here he describes the itinerant garden: "It was sprinkled with ginger trees laden down with branch upon branch of sparkling sugar-coated green ginger; and big bright beauteous flowers grew out of the soft velvety grass, and water-lilies floated on a cheerful little hubblebubbling stream. It was all charmingly rural. No bits of paper, no empty bottles, no initials carved on the tree trunks. You cannot imagine such natural wonders, gentle reader; you must simply take my word for it." The sometimes excessive whimsy of "The Land of Green Ginger" means that it won't suit a world-weary child, but readers ages 6-10 who still love fairy tales are likely to find it very entertaining.

Linger Awhile in New York Times

The NYT recently read Linger Awhile, and here's what they had to say (and draw):

Technicolor Dreamboat
Published: September 2, 2007
(Stephen Savage)

It might seem a strange thing to say about a writer who has spent so much of his working life producing children’s books — more than 60, at last count — but simplicity doesn’t come naturally to Russell Hoban. In his adult novels, of which the 1980 “Riddley Walker” is the best known, Hoban’s default setting is head-splitting complexity: the plotting tends to be fiendishly elaborate, the language dense and punny, the relationship between fiction and reality intricately vexed.

On the face of it, the ingenious “Linger Awhile,” his latest book for grown-ups, is fairly typical of the odd concoctions Hoban likes to cook up in his laboratory: a brief, fanciful narrative about reanimating a dead B-movie Western starlet from the “visual DNA” of a black-and-white videotape, by means of a chemical process the novel’s very mad scientist refers to as a “suspension of disbelief.” This sounds like the sort of thing the French call a jeu d’esprit, and the English call too clever by half — a charge that would certainly stick to a good deal of Hoban’s fiction. Not this one, though. “Linger Awhile” is a friendly, shaggy little thing, eager to please and only a tad smarter than it has to be. It’s too clever by 10, 15 percent, tops.

Hoban is 82, and this is distinctly an old man’s book: cranky, wistful, riddled with mortality. What sets in motion all the monkey business about reanimation is the erotic obsession of an 83-year-old London widower named Irving Goodman with one Justine Trimble, the female lead in an undistinguished ’50s oater called “Last Stage to El Paso.” Irving, in the throes of an “end of life” crisis, brings his well-worn videocassette to Istvan Fallok, proprietor and presiding genius of a somewhat dubious Soho tech outfit known as Hermes Soundways. Fallok, a sexagenarian, falls hard for the svelte cowgirl too, and after restoring her to the land of the (barely) living decides to keep her for himself.

Once Justine has been resurrected — it happens gratifyingly quickly — the novel settles into a relaxed, old-pro routine of genre parody, light irony and gentle philosophizing: nothing too taxing for an aging fabulist and his aging characters. The story starts out as “Frankenstein,” then turns unexpectedly into something more like “Dracula,” thanks to Hoban’s best joke: for Justine to live in full color, rather than in the unnerving black-and-white in which she has emerged from Fallok’s “primordial soup,” she needs blood and plenty of it. And lots of sex, which delights her admirers (until it exhausts them). Jealousy poisons the atmosphere, and things get uncomfortable when Justine’s nocturnal blood-hunts attract the attention of the police, but for the most part the eccentric senior citizens of “Linger Awhile” seem energized by their sci-fi experiment in nostalgia, happy to trade in their tattered-coat-upon-a-stickness for a lustier, more colorful, wider-screened sort of existence. Whatever is clapping its hands and singing here, it’s probably not the soul.

The creature’s charms aren’t lost on the middle-aged either: she has a third passionate fan in Chauncey Lim, a 40-ish purveyor of “optical novelties.” Age notwithstanding, none of these men seem interested in sailing to Byzantium anyway: Justine’s got them all on the last stage to someplace wilder and scarier, where Yeats’s “monuments of unaging intellect” are thoroughly beside the point. This is, in a peculiar way, a fortunate development in Hoban’s fiction, which has in the past sometimes lusted too strenuously for intellectual significance of the monumental, unaging sort. “Linger Awhile” is, for example, enormously more readable — and more affecting — than the novel in which, 20 years ago, Hoban introduced Istvan Fallok, the gnomic, grimly frolicsome “Medusa Frequency.” That book labors mightily to retell the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, and the strain shows: the wit is arch, donnish, and the deep thoughts about art and life are pretty consistently gaseous. (The fact that most of these fetid pensées spring from a disembodied head of Orpheus, conjured by Fallok and often taking the form of a cabbage or a soccer ball, doesn’t even begin to excuse them.) The pop-culture mythology of “Linger Awhile” has the welcome effect of tamping down Hoban’s instinct for profundity. But it gives him room to show off his true gift for dark farce, with just a spritz of music-hall metaphysics. The pleasantly cheesy Borges-on-Viagra tone suits Hoban’s peculiar talent well.

Artists, like the rest of us, think of old age as an inconvenience, an infirmity, a curse. With novelists, the books tend to get shorter, terser, bolder (or should it be balder?); the writer’s energy isn’t what it used to be, so he cuts to the chase. That last stage runs a fast, direct route through some perilous territory. But age clearly has its benefits for a writer like Hoban, who, in times of greater stamina, displayed a penchant for wandering off course and leaving himself (and his readers) stranded in a lush, obscure semantic wilderness. In one of this book’s most apparently inexplicable turns, Irving Goodman, after losing interest in Justine, begins to have dreams about William Bligh, the infamous captain of the Bounty. The old man finds himself admiring the determination — “plus his practical knowledge and his seamanship” — that enabled Bligh to guide his men to land in a small boat through treacherous waters.

Goodman’s ardor for Bligh seems unaccountable, but in the context of this funny, lucid novel and in the larger context of this writer’s complicated career, it makes a lovely kind of sense. Russell Hoban never longed for simplicity, but now that old age has thrust it upon him he has discovered that he kind of likes it. Or to put it another way, he has finally — in the nick of time — learned to appreciate the value of navigation, of knowing how to arrive safely at the place you set out for: El Paso, Pitcairn Island, Byzantium, wherever.

Terrence Rafferty is a frequent contributor to the Book Review.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Reviews in Publishers Weekly, New York Times


Published: August 26, 2007

The Half-Life of an American Essayist. By Arthur Krystal. (David R. Godine, $24.95.) Arthur Krystal is not really a go-getter. A self-described “aimless, melancholic, bumptious freelance writer,” he shirks fashionable topics, even if they might bring in a buck. In the engaging title piece of this slim, occasionally stuffy volume, Krystal makes a vigorous case for the virtues of old-fashioned literary criticism, twitting the navel gazers of “creative nonfiction,” which he dismisses as just a fancy word for memoir: “Writing interestingly about Jane Austen requires more imagination than confessing to having slept with someone named Jane Austen from Beaumont, Texas.” Krystal ranges widely, taking on subjects ranging from the typewriter to boxing, and he’s not afraid of weighty topics: he slogs through the notebooks of Paul Valéry, ponders different theories of beauty and offers a defense of the seven deadly sins. (“On the whole,” he writes, “it helps to have sin around; it’s like having a set of instructions for building a life that God approves of.”) In “My Holocaust Problem,” Krystal (whose grandparents died in the camps) complains that the profusion of Holocaust books, films and memorials — “the pomp and circumstance of remembrance” — has trivialized the event. If the argument isn’t terribly original, he subtly ponders the obligations of remembrance. In his charming concluding essay, “Who Speaks for the Lazy?,” Krystal returns to justifying his underachieving ways: “Let’s face it, some boys and girls become writers because the only workplace they’re willing to visit is the one inside their heads.”


Saint Francis and the Wolf
Jane Langton, illus. by Ilse Plume. Godine, $16.99 (32p)

With a smooth storyteller's pacing and an eye for kid-friendly detail, Langton (The Fledgling) retells the legend of how Saint Francis of Assisi used kindness to negotiate peace between the people of Gubbio and the wolf that was terrorizing their village. Though many tales of Francis's good deeds and selfless service are well known, children especially will gravitate to this story and its elements of suspense. Children stay indoors, warned that “The wolf will gobble you up”: the farmer, the miller and the baker, suffering their own hardships from the menacing beast, frantically express their concern for Francis. And the hungry wolf “licked its chops, dreaming of fat sheep,” while the villagers cower. As a complement to the dramatic tension, the young friar's Dr. Dolittle–like communication with animals also holds much appeal. The book's design goes far in capturing the flavor of Saint Francis's Italy. The font suggests, in a more humble style, the sturdy forms of calligraphy and illuminated letters of the day. On each spread, Plume (The Bremen-Town Musicians) alternates spot illustrations of flowers and plants with slightly larger scenes of Gubbio framed in Renaissance-inspired shapes. Her delicate lines and sunny watercolor palette depict the flourishing flora, fauna and stone dwellings of the Italian countryside. A brief biography of Francis is included, and his “Canticle of the Sun” appears on the end papers. All ages. (Oct.)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Upcoming Event – September 11

We are planning a fantastic FREE event at the Boston Public Library in a couple of weeks and it would be great if you were to join us there.

September 11, 2007
The Abbey Room, Boston Public Library
6:00 pm, FREE

A reading & conversation with former Poet Laureate Donald Hall, Maxine Kumin, and Richard Wilbur. The poets will be reading from their work and then answering questions from the audience. The event will be moderated by Jeanne Braham, author of Godine's Light Within the Light: Portraits of Donald Hall, Richard Wilbur, Maxine Kumin, and Stanley Kunitz. Signed copies of Braham's book will be available at the event. A once-in-a-lifetime chance to see three of the greatest poets of this generation reading together, and talking candidly with their admirers.

Monday, August 13, 2007

In the Blood — Review

Publisher's Weekly, week of August 13, has a very complimentary review of the upcoming Godine title In the Blood, a memoir of the childhood of British poet laureate Andrew Motion. To wit:

In the Blood: A Memoir of My Childhood
Andrew Motion. Godine, $24.95 (336 pages) ISBN 978-1-56792-339-1

Motion, Britain's poet laureate, was 16 in 1968 when his beloved mother fell into a coma after a hunting accident and his childhood “ended suddenly.” After this shock opening, Motion recounts the scenes and events of that childhood, which range from warm early memories of growing up “country gentry” in Hertfordshire to being sent off to a Dickensian boarding school—with disgusting food, terrible sanitation and a headmaster who enjoyed beating little boys—at age seven. The book soars into the extraordinary when Motion recounts his early teens. A new boarding school brought a sympathetic headmaster who recognized the potential in the unread country boy's love for Dylan and Hendrix and encouraged him toward poetry. (A heartwrenchingly beautiful scene describes his slow, awed discovery of Thomas Hardy.) By age 15, Motion had made his first real friend and entered a new relationship with his mother, who read eagerly in partnership with him. Motion perfectly conveys the “new faster time” of adolescent thinking and subtly conveys us back to his mother's tragedy with a new understanding of its importance to his entire life.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Head-Start on Gift Ideas

Care of One-Minute Reviews, a head start on your Christmas gift list:

Noel Perrin admits Vermont has “a rotten climate” and other drawbacks as a place to live. But his love for his state – and for New England in general – shines in Best Person Rural: Essays of a Sometime Farmer (Godine, $24.95), an eloquent collection of essays on such topics as calving, maple sugaring, and the influx of tourists, introduced by Terry Osborne.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Browsing Find

As I wandered across the internet seeing if we had any new reviews, I came across this comment by a gentleman named Andy Laties who kindy wrote this about David: "Every time I get a handwritten note from David Godine thanking me for my recent order, I feel this sense of — what — simple reality. Why can't it be a wonderful thing that publishers like David EXIST? ... There ARE great individual publishers out there, and more wading into the business every day."

Thanks Andy.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Hymn to a Comb-Over

* There is a very funny poem by Godine author Wesley McNair at Choriamb. McNair lauds the admirable efforts of retreating hairlines who try to cover their lost territory.

"...Let us praise the sprays
that hold them, and the combs that coax
such abundance to the front of the head"

* Over at Artnet Charlie Finch has posted an review on the George Orwell essay "Benefit of Clergy," – available in As I Please, 1943–45 – in which Orwell tries to come to terms with his own revulsion at the work of Salvador Dalí. Finch writes, "Orwell analyzes Dalí's perversions as a displacement of the need for politcal power." Surrealism was widely reviled by liberal-minded critics of the time who saw art (especially European art of the mid 40s) as a way to publicly stand in opposition to fascism. Marxist critics especially declaimed Dalí's work as bourgeois. All very interesting, from the great journalist of the twentieth century, George Orwell.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Brad Leithauser – NY Review

This month's New York Review has some very fine articles in it, including an excellent essay by Godine author Brad Leithauser on the British poet Louis MacNeice, entitled "The Shadow Man." Brad Leithauser is a poet, and is the author of two titles at Godine — Lettered Creatures and the forthcoming volume Toad to a Nightingale, both volumes of collected light verse, both of which are illustrated beautifully by his equally-talented brother Mark.

On MacNeice, Brad writes, "...what remains for me most memorable about MacNeice is his 'pure poetry'—his shorter lyrics. They make a peculiar group, both in their versification and in their surrealistic effects. It may be with them, in all their harsh and haunting loveliness, rather than with the more nakedly autobiographical longer poems, that MacNeice emerges most distinctly—and with them that MacNeice, burning his brightest, comes out from under Auden's shadow and anyone else's."

Friday, July 20, 2007

Hairy Putter?

In the midst of all the craziness that is surrounding Harry Potter's final turn in the bookstalls, we at Godine kindly remind those of you who aren't as excited that there are other options, and other literary things to be excited about. Take, for example, the July sale at Godine and Black Sparrow, available only through the Godine website.

Can't escape to any exotic destinations this summer? Pick up Black Sparrow's Mirage – a story of star-crossed lovers, a tragedy fueled by petty jealousy, sexual desire, and religious fervor, set in a modern Arab Kingdom. Or how about Six Israeli Novellas? Six works by some of the most important contemporary writers working in Israel.

Even if you can't knock open a fire hydrant, The Brooklyn Novels for just $11.00 will transport you back to those summer days in 1930s New York. Or try a little Emerald Ice to keep cool— Diane Wakoski's fabulous collection of poems selected from her entire pantheon of sexual, self-empowered, mythical and lyrical free-verse (perfect for those idyllic pastoral scenes). Truly a modern classic.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Position Opening Fall 2007

There is a rare job opening here at Godine. We are looking for a Sales Manager to begin this Fall / Winter 2007. All the details can be found on the Godine web site.

On a related note, Godine has – for many years – employed 2-3 interns per season (roughly) each year. We accept applications for Spring, Summer and Fall internships during the preceeding season. It is a fantastic way to gain hands-on experience in a small publisher. The interns here are a vital part of the way this company runs, and have gone on to work in every possible field related to publishing from editors and managers to book reviewers and writers.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

All Catie, All the Time

Catie Copley is swiftly becoming the Godine celebrity author. Yesterday, July 16th, Catie appeared on Fox News Boston with Deborah Kovacs, the author of our book, and her handler Jim, the concierge at the Fairmont Copley. She even made the headlines of the Boston Globe, schmoozing down in the Big Apple with Mary Tyler Moore and other fabulous celebrities:

Dog's life leads to Broadway
She made no special demands for her Broadway debut, but Catie Copley, the Fairmont Copley Plaza's canine in residence, was the toast of the ninth annual Broadway Barks cat and dog soiree held on Saturday. Actresses and well-known animal lovers Bernadette Peters and Mary yler Moore presented Catie with a special services award at the event held in the Shubert Alley to benefit the ASPCA and other New York animal shelters . The Labrador retriever made the trek to the Big Apple with her faithful companion Jim Carey, the hotel's director of concierge services. Catie walked the red carpet with Peters and Moore and pose d for photos with a host of Broadway luminaries including Angela Lansbury, David Hyde Pierce, Charlotte d'Amboise, Jo Anne Worley, Christine Ebersole, and Hollywood couple Harry Hamlin and Lisa Rinna. However, we're told the Boston pooch showed the most tail wagging when meeting Bruiser and Rufus, the dogs from the musical "Legally Blonde."

Monday, July 16, 2007

Punctuating their Origins

Have you ever wondered about the origin of modern punctuation? I happened upon this interesting article, thanks to Outside the Lines, which describes the origins of the ampersand ( & ) and the question mark ( ? ), among other common modern punctuation marks. I've personally always favored the ampersand, especially in more formal contexts, and no wonder since it is derived from a stylized version of the latin et. The explaination for the question mark seemed dubious to me, so I looked elsewhere and found this hypothesis at Wikipedia: "The point has always indicated the end of a sentence. The curved line represented the intonation pattern of a spoken question and may be associated with a kind of early musical notation, like neumes."

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Alfred Chester

Hot off the press is Black Sparrow Books' Jamie is My Heart's Desire, cult-icon Alfred Chester's first novel. Chester was a curious fellow. He'd lost all the hair on his head and face from a case of childhood scarlet fever, and was one of the more charming and extraordinary literary men of his time. Fellow BSB author Edward Field wrote an excellent account of Chester in The Boston Review:

"...a doomed, self-destructive, but larger-than-life mad genius, much in the 'outlaw' genre of a Rimbaud, a Genet, or perhaps more pertinently, J.R. Ackerley, the English author famous for his multiple pickups of soldiers, sailors, and guardsmen. In a review, Alfred Chester was described as 'one of the most bizarre characters in an expatriate community (Tangier) where eccentricity was the norm,' and an article about him in a New York paper, recently, was headlined, 'A Charming Monster's Comeback.' "

One of the great figures in American literature at the start of the 1960's, Chester sunk into a solitary world of paranoia and delusion. One has to think of Ginsberg's "I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked," written before Chester was lost to his disease, but a vision none the less. Field writes, "He heard voices in his head and exaggerated sounds from outside, making the children's taunting and banging on his fence [in Jerusalem, just before he died] unbearable." Field quotes a reviewer as once writing, "Circle his name with your red pencil. He out-writes such other and better known writers as Faulkner, Steinbeck, Jean Stafford and Saul Bellow."

You can find all the Black Sparrow Books titles by Chester HERE.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Dutton's Brentwood Books

Score one for the good guys. It doesn't happen very often, and I don't feel there is about to be a surge of businessmen's turned hearts, so this particular case is probably one for the scrapbook. On the other hand, I could be (and hopefully am) wrong. The LA Times reports on this Disney-esq, feel-good story:

Billionaire Charles T. Munger said Thursday that he has scrapped plans to build 60 luxury condos on San Vicente Boulevard in favor of erecting a two-story retail complex that would retain Dutton's Brentwood Books in a new and improved space.

"I was wrong," Munger said of his plans, made public in January, to build high-end residential units as part of a mixed-use development at the property just east of Bundy Drive. The idea sparked an uprising among residents and longtime fans of Dutton's, who feared the store's demise.

Munger, 83, said the neighborhood's staunch opposition to the project and concern for Dutton's prompted his change of heart.

"Bookstores are fragile," he said. "Jostle them slightly and they never reopen. The best thing is to make sure it never closes."

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Andrew Motion / American Boys

* Soon-to-be Godine author and British poet-laureate Andrew Motion is making the news in Britain. Motion is pressing the new Prime Minister to help keep literary manuscripts in British institutions via tax-incentives.

"The writer has expressed concerns that work by figures including Tom Stoppard, Ted Hughes and Evelyn Waugh, is being snapped up by US institutions. Professor Motion told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that there are 'magical and meaningful' reasons to preserve original documents for the nation. The British Library has said it cannot pay as much as US universities."

He worries that there is a cultural “black hole” developing in Britain because of the loss of these literary-historical documents. I'd never heard of this as a problem, but I'm glad Motion is working to make changes. Intellectuals flock to universities and libraries for manuscripts and letters, even contracts, for research on authors, so having these kinds of papers is much more than a matter of national pride. Collections like the ones to which he is referring can be the building blocks of intellectual communities.

* In other news the Dangerous Book for Boys is topping all kinds of sales lists and recently got a long review in The Weekly Standard. Roger Kimball of the New Criterion writes, "The Dangerous Book for Boys is a book that implicitly endorses Aristotle's observation that courage is the most important virtue because, without courage, it is impossible to practice the other virtues." Too true. The success of Dangerous Book for Boys has created some new interest for our American Boy's Handy Book series.

Dangerous Book for Boys
and American Boy's Handy Book are pretty similar. Their aims are to occupy children without the assistance of a TV or video-game system, and maybe even to enbolden them towards courage and virtue, as Kimball writes. The biggest difference is that our retro look comes from the book's being written in the 1880's, and our author – Daniel Carter Beard – was a founder of the Boy Scouts. The Dangerous Book for Boys is more up-to-date in a few ways, with chapters on making a battery and the fifty states (there were only 41 when American Boys was first published), where Godine's Handy Books include things like making blow darts, how to build a number of rafts, war kites, novel modes of fishing, and – my favorite – 12 illustrated pages on snowball warfare. We also have two volumes for boys, the American Boy's Handy Book and its more outdoor companion the Field and Forest Handy Book, and a girl's volume—the American Girls Handy Book.

Ah the joys of childhood.

Monday, July 2, 2007

July Sale!

The Monthly Online Specials page is hot off the html press! In case you don't already know, we hand pick a number of back-list titles each month to sell at a discount only available through Think of this month as Godine's summer reads. The discounted titles are:

Adultery & Other Choices, by Andre Dubus, softcover was 13.95 | now 6.00 — Animal Fables from Aesop, by Barbara McClintock, softcover was 10.95 | now 5.00 — The Brooklyn Novels, by Daniel Fuchs, SC was 24.95 | now 11.00 — Emerald Ice, by Diane Wakoski, SC was 19.00 | now 7.00 — The Green Piano, by Janine Pommy Vega, SC was 19.00 | now 7.00 — Here & Elsewhere, The Collected Fiction of Kenneth Burke, SC was 22.95 | Now 11.00 — In the Flesh, by Christa Wolf, SC was 15.95 | now 10.00 — Mirage, by Bandula Chandraratna, SC was 15.95 | now 7.00 — New American Poets, ed. by Jack Myers & Roger Weingarten, hardcover was 21.95 | now 10.00 — The Poems of Charles Reznikoff, SC was 21.95 | now 11.00 — The Riot Inside Me, by Wanda Coleman, SC was 18.95 | now 10.00 — Six Israeli Novellas, SC was 19.95 | now 8.00, HC was 27.95 | now 12.00 — A Year with Emerson, ed. Richard Grossman, SC was 18.95 | now 10.00

From your friendly neighborhood independent publisher.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Merchant of Noises / World Literature

First off, a quick note about the very nice review at this month's Library Journal of the Godine children's titles The Merchant of Noises and Little Red Riding Hood. Kirsten Cutler seemed to really get the off-beat, funny title Merchant: "This quirky offering spoofs the highbrow world of 'sophisticated' visual-arts appreciation. The title gives a hint of the tongue-in-cheek humor so wonderfully expressed within. . . .this creative gem is sure to appeal to savvy children who will appreciate their roles as creators and consumers of sounds." Joy Flieshhacker had high praise for our Little Red Riding Hood as well: "Visual details abound, and observant youngsters will notice that a calico cat plays a heroic role in the story. An eye-catching addition to folk and fairytale shelves."

Second, and related, Scott Esposito at Conversational Reading has been doing an interesting series of entries regarding world literature, specifically translation. Personally I have always loved literature in other languages, and in my youth I at times forgot that writers like Dostoevsky or Kafka were in translation at all (aside from just being young, I'd like to think this speaks of the translators' work). Since then I've come to appreciate works in translation and the work of translators (such as with Merchant of Noises, an excellent translation from the French) more and more. I've translated short prose and poems myself with greater and lesser degrees of success, and am continually in awe of works of translation such as A Void, whose avant-garde prose poses enormous challenges of language and meaning, and where the two conform or split.

Friday, June 22, 2007

John Yau Feature

We just received two issues of Pasatiempo in the mail, New Mexico's arts, entertainment, & culture magazine sponsored by The Santa Fe New Mexican, which contained a very nice two-page interview by staff writer Elizabeth Cook-Romero with the Black Sparrow Books author John Yau. Cook-Romero and Yau discuss his own writing, the scene in New York in the 1940's and 50's, visual arts, Frank O'Hara, and more. The article will be available at Pasatiempo, and likely you can order a hard copy at the Santa Fe, so I'll just pull one short Q&A:

Pasa: Many people like songs even when they can't understand the words. Why do you think so many people are impatient with poetry?
Yau: Most people believe that language is stable and corresponds to a reality that is stable and predictable. Most people don't want to wrestle with the fact that language is not necessarily stable, that meaning itself is slippery, that the world is not stable. There is no guarantee that everything will be the same way tomorrow as it is today. They are living in a reality that can become catastrophic at a moment's notice. . . I'm an optimist. I believe the audience will get bigger eventually, and I believe it's OK that the audience is what it is. Everybody knows who Andy Warhol is, but how many people have really stopped to look at his art or really think about him? I think the audience for many things is not as big as people say.

Yau's answers read almost as if they're scripted, and researched, in the best possible way, and I think they show the depth of his thinking about the issues of art and poetry as it relates to the modern audience. Cook-Romero's questions are well-researched and lead to some great discussion. Thanks to Elizabeth and Pasatiempo for the great article.

John Yau Feature

We just received two issues of Pasatiempo in the mail, New Mexico's arts, entertainment, & culture magazine sponsored by The Santa Fe New Mexican, which contained a very nice two-page interview by staff writer Elizabeth Cook-Romero with the Black Sparrow Books author John Yau. Cook-Romero and Yau discuss his own writing, the scene in New York in the 1940's and 50's, visual arts, Frank O'Hara, and more. Since the article isn't available online, I'll pull a short Q&A:

Pasa: Many people like songs even when they can't understand the words. Why do you think so many people are impatient with poetry?
Yau: Most people believe that language is stable and corresponds to a reality that is stable and predictable. Most people don't want to wrestle with the fact that language is not necessarily stable, that meaning itself is slippery, that the world is not stable. There is no guarantee that everything will be the same way tomorrow as it is today. They are living in a reality that can become catastrophic at a moment's notice. . . I'm an optimist. I believe the audience will get bigger eventually, and I believe it's OK that the audience is what it is. Everybody knows who Andy Warhol is, but how many people have really stopped to look at his art or really think about him? I think the audience for many things is not as big as people say.

Yau's answers read like they're scripted, and researched, and I think they show the depth of his thinking about these issues well.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Reviews / Catie Copley Events

Hello hello! Hope things are warmer and sunnier where you are than they are here in Boston.

First up, an excellent new review in the New York Sun of the (Godine imprint) Verba Mundi title The Tartar Steppe, by Dino Buzzati (1906–1972). [Verba Mundi is the Godine imprint dedicated to publishing great works translated into English and published for the first time in the United States.] Eric Ormsby of the Sun writes, "Buzzati (1906–1972), though little known here, was one of the finest and most original Italian writers of the last century. Because he dealt in fantastic themes, and always delivered in dry style, he has been compared to Kafka and Borges as well as to Italo Calvino, whom he influenced."

Russel Hoban received a nice write up over at Dave Awl's Ocelopotamus. Awl is the
"semi-official Webmaster and fan club founder" of Hoban, whose fan club The Kraken runs a variety of Hoban-tastic events.

Speaking of events (notice the nice transition?) we are ramping up the events on for Catie Copley, which will be listed on our Godine News page at the website. A few notable events are listed below. Check out the News page for a complete list, and contact either us or the venue for more information.
  • Tuesday 19 June, 3.00 pm – Fairmont Copley Plaza – BOOK LAUNCH
  • Friday 22 June, 10.30 am – Wellesley Booksmith – READING
  • Saturday 23 June , 2.00 pm – Boston Public Library – READING
  • Saturday 30 June, 2.00 pm – Children’s Museum, Boston – TBD
  • Wednesday 11 July, 11.00 am – Barnes & Noble, Copley Plaza – READING

Monday, June 11, 2007

Every Eye

We were recently notified of a very nice review of Isobel English's Black Sparrow novel Every Eye, written by Debra Murphy at Catholic Fiction. "A beautiful, beautiful novel. Read it twice," Murphy writes. We agree, read it twice and – Why not? – buy it twice. Kidding (unless you really want to...), but the review is very complimentary, well-written, and detailed. It is the first review I've read at Catholic Fiction, but I plan on keep an (every?) eye on the site from now on. Oh, we do love puns today.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Here & Elsewhere (A love letter to The Believer)

Apparently (to my pleasant surprise) The Believer's Dan Johnson wrote a review of Black Sparrow's Here & Elsewhere: the Collected Fiction of Kenneth Burke that was subtitled Is it still postmodern if it came out in 1924? (ha!) and slipped right under our radar! The best part: they loved it. Which gives me hope for the future. Here is a short excerpt:

His mastery of the English language allows him to compose pieces that succeed as philosophy, domestic drama, myth, hallucination, or pure music—usually succeeding at several at once, sometimes becoming just one or two, and sometimes, thrillingly, swerving between all of them in baffling succession. “Let us build a great hippopotamus,” begins the coda to one otherwise realistic story—apropos nothing whatsoever—“to the glorification of our century.”

To read the rest of the review, check it out at The Believer. As an unrelated plug, the folks at this great and still-young magazine have begun publishing one poem per issue as well, and THAT makes us poor poetry people here at Godine and Black Sparrow mighty happy.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Edward Field Interview

There is an interview with a Black Sparrow author, the poet Edward Field, in The Bloomsbury Review's May / June issue, conducted by Christopher Hennessy. As it is not available online, I shall regale you with the opening portion:

"A list of the great poets of the 20th Century includes a healthy share who are gay or lesbian: W.H. Auden, Hart Crane, Elizabeth Bishop, May Swenson, Frank O'Hara, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Duncan, and James Merrill. Add to that the living poets such as John Ashbery, Richard Howard, Marilyn Hackard, and Frank Bidart, to name only a few of one generation.
Since the Early Sixties, however, another gay poet has been quietly amassing a corpus of work that chronicles life as a gay man perhaps more openly, intimately, and richly than many of the above contenders. Poet Edward Field writes about Bohemia, his own Jewish heritage, his beloved Greenwich Villiage, classic and quirky American celluloid, and of course being gay.

It is a very complimentary article, as you can probably tell from the opening lines quoted above. Hennessy goes on to call Field "a poet with a sharp wit and unmistakable voice," and I would ad humor. My favorite line is when Field tells Christopher (regarding the era of Ginsberg's popularizing poetry) "I identified with the rabble."

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Super-Special BEA Blog

What a great time. I may just be a first-timer, but that was the most overwhelmingly fun and exhausting weekend of all time. From what I hear (although I wasn't there) our author event for The Half-Life of an American Essayist at 192 Books on Thursday was a blast. We hope that Arthur – the author of this really entertaining, smart collection of essays – was pleased with how it went. Friday was busy at the booth, the best location we've had at BEA, and the New Yorker party on Friday night was (again, from what I hear) tons of literary-star-studded fun. I'm bitter to have missed it, so, in my petty jealous rage, that's all I'll say about that now.

Saturday, when I arrived, was mobbed. We had the real-life Catie Copley at our booth, along with chocolate dog-bones (for people, for people!) and managed to make a ripple in the BEA Blog. We got some excellent bookseller feedback on our Fall 2007 list, went through cases of rolled-up posters (which we hope didn't get left in hotel rooms all across New York), got guilty compliments from the big-publishing-houses' editors, and saw a lot of familiar faces. I got to talk to some great people at Mark Batty Books, a truly fine publisher, and McSweeneys, or specifically The Believer (who somehow were sandwiched in with the educational / inspirational publishers, which is not to say that they are neither inspirational nor educational).

Overall a great weekend. I spent alot of time on the subway (tried not to call it the T) and avoiding any conversations about baseball (in respect for the dead) and by myself, waiting to meet various friends. Got some books I'm excited about reading, and re-lit my fire for the coming Fall list. Woo BEA!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Linger Awhile

The advance copies of our new Russel Hoban novel, Linger Awhile, just arrived and we are pleased as pie. The novel follows 83-year-old Irving Goodman, who has fallen madly in love (or lust) with a film star from the 1930's. With the help of a friend and some old-fashioned magic, Irving conjures up the (now deceased) beauty—in black-and-white, with a vampire's thirst for blood (and technicolor). It is a truly fun, inventive romp through London, gift-wrapped in that wonderful Hoban style.

I'm especially excited because this is one of the first titles I had a hand in producing – and the first novel (novels being one of my great loves). Check back at our website to place you order!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

American Literature Association

Susan—the Black Sparrow Books chief—and I will be attending the American Literature Association's conference at the Westin Copley Hotel in Boston this Thursday-Saturday. The conference is a get-together of societies that have a dedicated interest to the study of American authors, including the Children's Literature Society, the Theodore Dreiser Society, The Herman Melville Society, etc. Since Black Sparrow Books and Godine have a veritable cornucopia of great American authors (including Dreiser, Melville, Reznikoff, Wanda Coleman, Donald Hall, to name a few), we're going to make an appearance. If you're there, come around to our booth and say hi!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

DH Lawrence

This article by Elizabeth Tallent in The Threepenny Review reviews a new biography of DH Lawrence, DH Lawrence: The Life of an Outsider. Here is a bit:
If young writers can rarely name more than a dozen plants within a ten-mile radius of their writing desks, this isn't seen as detrimental to their work's verisimilitude, since the nonhuman world plays almost no part in contemporary fiction. It's as if this silence in fiction anticipates a hundred thousand species' extinction in the actual world. Lawrence would be enraged.

The review spends a good amount of time on Lawrence's image and reputation, and the ways that the current modes of criticism and fiction – and society – have diminished most readers' appreciation of his motifs. It is very insightful, I think, and reminds me of the approach Henry Louis Gates Jr. takes with the Norton Critical Uncle Tom's Cabin. If you've never read Lawrence, it is a shame, and I recommend picking up his first volume of poetry (published by Godine's imprint – Black Sparrow Books) Birds, Beasts and Flowers!

Monday, May 14, 2007

EVENT, etc.

The David R. Godine book launch for Arthur Krystal's Half-Life of an American Essayist will be held at 192 Books on Thursday, May 31 at 7:30 pm. 192 Books is located on 10th Ave. at 21st street on Manhattan. Space is limited, so give the store a call ahead and – as always – please stop by the store often to buy your books, and support independent book stores whenever possible.

Also, I found this interesting article on the brewing culture war between established literary-criticism / book review publications, and literary bloggers (courtesy of Arts & Letters, Daily). What I take from the article [this is only one man's interpretation] is that professional reviewers badly, badly want blogs to be seen as a sort of cheap version of their "real " work. It makes sense, considering that the internet is free to all, and if the online reviews are just as good – if not better – than the newspapers and magazines', there will be no book-reviewing business. Blogging would become a threat to the already precarious livelihood of literary academics and reviewers. On the other hand, newspapers are still cutting their arts coverage all over the country. This passage, I think, sums it up well:
... there is a growing sense that enough is enough — and that the friction between old and new book media obscures the fact that the two are in bed together now, for better or worse. Often the same people who churn out literary blogs are reviewing books for mainstream reviews.
As a publisher, this is all hard to watch, since reviewers are so necessary to the success of a book by any small publisher. They are a big, important part of the wheel that makes our business turn.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Arthur Krystal

The Half-Life of an American Essayist recently landed (triumphantly) in our office, and I had the opportunity to read a few essays over the weekend. First, Let me say that Arthur Krystal is no ordinary essayist. There is very little of the John Milton here (and I mean that, having studied Milton's essays on marriage and free speech, in the best possible way). The introduction opens:
Somehow, without ever intending to, I’ve ended up a freelance intellectual. Not quite a man of letters, not really a critic anymore, but a sort of literary mule – a cross between haphazard journalist and restive seminarian. And it’s no fun.
But he could have fooled me. In the course of being insightful Krystal has (through the same human, self-deprecating and, at times, other-deprecating sense of humor) kept me well entertained with a fantastic wit. Even in his essay on sin, a topic which, by virtue of 16 years Catholic and Jesuit schooling, I am well acquainted, I found myself enjoying every turn of the page. From the Godine website:
The twelve essays in The Half-Life - the title is from Goethe's "Experience is only half of experience" - go deeper than the standard book piece; they hew to the line first drawn by Montaigne and later extended by Dr. Johnson, Hazlitt, Woolf and Orwell. Although there may be no preordained way of writing about literature, Krsytal takes his cue from Edwin Denby, who maintained that the first duty of the critic is to be "interesting." No matter how large the subject - whether it is the history of boxing or the growth of the Holocaust industry, Krstyal paints broad subjects with precise brushstrokes. Erudite, lettristic, and informative, the essays here are nonetheless accessible to the general reader. The reason is simple: as Dr. Johnson noted, "What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure." To this one might add that there is satisfaction to be had in the effort itself. How else could one write as committedly and entertainingly about Paul Valery's Cahiers as about Joe Louis's left jab?
** Keep an eye out for Godine's Half-Life of an American Essayist book launch, date to be announced soon. **

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Milton Hindus — Essays

Not having completed the whole book, I've read enough to say that Milton Hindus has a simple, agreeable and personal approach to essay writing. His essay on Charles Reznikoff is short, but obviously springs from a deep well of knowledge, and thankfully lacks the pretension that can often accompany championing an author such as Reznikoff as the underappreciated artist. I very much enjoy an essayist who does not feel the need to flaunt his knowledge, but can exhibit the sources of his opinion (and in this case the sources are great, like Allen Ginsberg).

As an unrelated note: Have you signed up for our E-mail Listserve?

Friday, April 27, 2007

Special Deals Website

Happy Friday!

Despite the rain and the utter silence of the office today, I'm in a great mood and looking forward to the weekend. I'm going to start in on a Black Sparrow Press backlist title,
Essays Personal and Impersonal by Milton Hindus. Hindus was a critic and biographer of Proust, Céline, Whitman and Godine's own Charles Reznikoff. How did he ever choose those writers?

I've just discovered that there is no Milton Hindus Wikipedia page. Anyone brave enough to dig up his information and create one?

There is also a brand new site on the Godine web:
Monthly Online Discounts. It is a way to show appreciation to those who know us, like us, love us, and visit us on the internet. (We're so lonely!) We're cutting down the list price of a selected number of titles for consumers only. Let us know what you think with comments on the blog, we know everyone likes to save a couple bucks!

Also taking suggestions for a Godine Website nickname. The best anyone here has come up with is Webdine, but I think it looks alot like a restaurant rating site, and we have no idea what No. 9 Park is like.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Golden West (I'm kind of impressed)

I may still be starry-eyed here in the publishing world and a bit enamored of those who seem so much like pillars, but Sam Tanenhaus himself reviewed Godine's own The Golden West: Hollywood Stories, a collection of short stories and personal essays by Daniel Fuchs. Here is what he had to say about it, and Fuchs:
This superb collection of Daniel Fuchs's fiction and essays about Hollywood, spanning half a century, records the vagaries of the film industry from the perspective of a screenwriter who toiled for the great studios in their heyday and was on the premises during their decline. Fuchs brought to this subject the watchfulness of a born novelist whose so-called Williamsburg Trilogy, about Brooklyn tenement life, remains a highlight of 1930's fiction — a marvel of detached sympathy and supple naturalism, all the more remarkable for having been written by an immigrant son when he was in his 20's and on breaks from his day job as a public-school teacher in Brighton Beach.

Now I love this book, so I'm really glad it was received so warmly. Read more of Tanenhaus' review HERE, then (of course) buy The Golden West HERE.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Donald Hall: Poetry Advocate

One of our favorite authors here at Godine has been profiled at the Christian Science Monitor for his outspoken advocacy for poetry in America. Here is a short bit from the article:

When Donald Hall, poet laureate of the United States, tells audiences that poetry is not an unpopular art form, people listen intently.

Some do so because of his title and impressive dossier, which includes two Guggenheim fellowships, the National Book Critics Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and 15 published volumes of verse. Others, however, listen because they understand that resurgence is a theme for Hall, both in his poetry and his life.

"A book of poems by a well-known poet used to get a print run of 1,000 copies, and you'd be lucky if you sold out," says Mr. Hall. "Now more publishers are printing 8,000 to 10,000 copies for a first edition." He also notes that many literary magazines are being published, and when you add their modest circulations together, the result is a large readership.

Hall believes this upward trend has been fueled by readings – at colleges, literary festivals, and other venues – which have become increasingly popular since the 1950s. "The poetry reading used to be a rare event," he explains. "Even famous poets such as Marianne Moore and William Carlos Williams were rarely asked to read their poems." But hearing a poem read aloud "can be like reading it many times. You have a helping hand to get you into the poem. You have an actual body, an actual voice, and a series of gestures."

Read more here

Friday, April 13, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut

Just a word and a quick story on the passing of one of this Godiner's favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut. It will be said, again and again, how important he was. Vonnegut's fans will love him. His Detractors will not. So it goes. I think he was as important a personality as he was a writer, his prescence in the word being nearly as meaningful as his work. He kept people thinking about writing, novels, the meaning of life, things like that. That's important. So the little blue ball says goodbye. There will, I am almost sure, not be another like him.

He actually called our office once, long before I was working here. An intern answered the phone and, flustered by the rocky voice announcing immediately "This is Kurt Vonnegut!", she handed the reciever off deftly, like a football, to David, instead of saying "Hello" or anything civil. Kurt was writing a short introduction to our book The Seventh Cross, by Anna Seghers. We seem to have a knack for that kind of behavior here.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

NEW TITLE Reznikoff

by Charles Reznikoff

Black Sparrow Books is proud to restore to print one of the great long poems of the late 20th century, Charles Reznikoff's Holocaust, originally published in 1975.

Reznikoff's subject is one people's suffering at the hand of another. His source materials are the U.S. government's record of the trials of the Nazi criminals before the Nuremberg Military Tribulnal and the transcripts of the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem. Except for the twelve part titles, none of the words here are Reznikoff's own: instead he has created, through selection, arrangement, and the rhythms of the testimony set as verse on the page, a poem of witness by the perpetrators and the survivors of the Holocaust themselves. He lets the terrible history unfold – in history's own words.

Click Here to see a list of all our Charles Reznikoff titles, including a volume of Selected Poems, Selected Letters, and a long essay on Reznikoff by Milton Hindus.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Words, words, words!

Hello faithful Godiners!

First, we have a very special offer from David. From April 1 through June 30, selected Godine and Black Sparrow titles will be sold at a huge discount, in honor of National Poetry Month. Practically every poetry title is listed at 40-75% off the retail price. We want you to buy a book of poems, we want you to enjoy reading a well-made, well-written vlume of verse that you can actually afford. Take a minute to click here and check out the titles David has made available for this awesome offer.

Yesterday I picked up the phone here and a woman asked to speak to David. It was Pat Terry, she said, an author. I hadn't seen David in yet but sometimes he just sneaks to his office and quietly does work (it's the only way he can do work in the office usually). He wasn't in so I went back and picked up the line.
"Sir, uh..." There was a long pause. Oh yes, I did. Sir. "David isn't in, can I take a message?"
My approach to these situations is to keep moving. Barrel forth. Ignore ignore ignore. Whatever you do, do not look back.
"Yes, please. This is Patricia Terry..."

Patricia Terry is the author of our new Arthurian retelling, Lancelot and the Lord of the Distant Isles. Translated it from the Olde French manuscript and then edited/rewrote the whole thing to focus on Lancelot's story. Ms. Terry holds a doctorate in French literature from Columbia. And I just called her a man. This is not the way to win over an author.

Friday, March 30, 2007

About David R. Godine, Publisher

Hello and welcome to the first ever, very exciting, Godine blog!
First, a little about David R. Godine, Publisher. This text below is directly from our website ( and was written by David.

"David R. Godine, Inc., is a small publishing house located in Boston, Massachusetts, producing between twenty and thirty titles per year and maintaining an active reprint program. The company is independent (a rarity these days) and its list tends to reflect the individual tastes and interests of its president and founder, David Godine.

At Godine, quality has remained foremost. Our aim is to identify the best work and to produce it in the best way possible. All of our hardcover and softcover books are printed on acid-free paper. Many hardcovers are still bound in full cloth. The list is deliberately eclectic and features works that many other publishers can't or won't support, books that won't necessarily become bestsellers but that still deserve publication. In a world of spin-offs and commercial "product," Godine's list stands apart by offering original fiction and non-fiction of the highest rank, rediscovered masterworks, translations of outstanding world literature, poetry, art, photography, and beautifully designed books for children.

The company was founded in 1970. After receiving degrees at Dartmouth College and Harvard University, David Godine worked for Leonard Baskin, the renowned typographer and printmaker, and Harold McGrath, his master printer. David Godine opened a printing shop the following year in a deserted barn in Brookline, Massachusetts. His first books, printed on his own presses, were nearly all letterpress, limited editions printed on high-quality rag or handmade paper. Many of these early volumes are now collector's items.

More recently, Godine has launched two new series: Imago Mundi, a line of original books devoted to photography and the graphic arts; and Verba Mundi, featuring the most notable contemporary world literature in translation. Volumes in the Imago Mundi series, which has received praise from reviewers and booksellers alike, include Jean Cocteau: The Mirror and the Mask by Julie Saul and Small Rooms & Hidden Places by Ronald W. Wohlauer. Verba Mundi has so far published works by world- renowned authors Georges Perec, Jose Donoso, Isaac Babel, and Anna Seghers, and has introduced new voices such as Sylvie Germain (whose Book of Nights was named a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times) and the acclaimed Swedish novelist Göran Tunström, author of The Christmas Oratorio.

David R. Godine, Inc., has received numerous awards, including the Carey-Thomas award for Excellence in Publishing (1976), the Boston Globe Literary Press Award (1987), the first New England Booksellers Annual Award (1989), and the Leipzig Internationalen Buchkunst-Austellung (1989). In 1984, Bookbuilders of Boston awarded Godine the W. A. Dwiggins Award for maintaining standards of excellence in book production.

Additionally, on July 1, 2002, John Martin, the founder and for thirty-six years the publisher of Black Sparrow Press, closed down his shop in Santa Rosa, California. After finding new homes for four of his authors—Charles Bukowski, Paul Bowles, John Fante, and Wyndham Lewis—he entrusted the rest of his backlist to a fellow publisher, David R. Godine. The agreement was simple: Godine would keep Black Sparrow's offerings available to the trade, keep the best-selling titles in print, and keep the house's spirit alive through judicious acquisitions. In short, Black Sparrow Press would be reborn—as Black Sparrow Books at David R. Godine, Publisher."

Martin supposedly sold the whole company to David for $1. I have no idea if it's true or not. Anyways, you should check out our website, we have so great books comin up the pipeline and some awesome books in our backlist. Enjoy!