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?