Friday, January 30, 2009

Spring 2009 Catalog

You can now download our Spring 2009 Catalog from — the list includes Desert, the "definitive breakthrough as a novelist" of our current Nobel Laureate, J.M.G. Le Clézio; The Mower, selected verse by the sitting British Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion; stunning theater photography by Angus McBean; a trilogy of novels, Lark Rise to Candleford, that is currently airing as a miniseries on PBS, and more — Godine, apparently, does not flounder. We're really as shocked by this as anyone else.

~ Nota Bene ~
“People who want only to live, and who reckon living is absolute freedom, the exclusive pursuit of happiness, the sole satisfaction of their desires and instincts, the immediate enjoyment of the boundless riches of the world — Jérôme and Sylvie had taken on this vast programme for themselves — such people will always be unhappy. It is true, they would admit, that there are people for whom this kind of dilemma does not arise, or hardly arises, either because they are too poor and have no requirements beyond a slightly better diet, slightly better housing, slightly less work, or because they are too rich, from the start, to understand the import or even the meaning of such a distinction. But nowadays and in our part of the world, more and more people are neither rich nor poor: they dream of wealth, and could become wealthy; and that is where their misfortune begins.”
from Things, a novella by Georges Perec

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Washington Post's Book World

The New York Times reported yesterday that the Washington Post's long-standing and very well-regarded book review section, the Book World, is going to be rolled into the Opinion and Style & Arts sections, with the final stand-alone issue coming out February 15. While this isn't the first time that the Book World has found itself out of favor at the Post — Motoko Rich writes that it was similarly absorbed in 1973, only six years after its inception, before making a comeback in the early 1980s — it is certainly a bad sign for newspapers and book sections, and the book sections still in newspapers, when one of the contemporary pillars can't make it work. The number of reviews will only diminish slightly, they say, and the staff is not being cut, but still it's hard to imagine that the tenor and focus of reviews from here on will be unaffected by the material that now surrounds them; for myself, it would be strange to find Michael Dirda's column snug between a crossword and a review of "Lost." I do hope that the editors and staff there will be able to make up for lost column inches with online content.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

From the desk of David R. Godine

Yesterday afternoon, I heard the news that John Updike has passed away. This is a sad turn of events for the world of letters, and also for this press — we had the privilege of publishing at least three of his Introductions and Prefaces, the first for our Nonpareil edition Edmund Wilson's "Memoirs of Hecate County," the last for Daniel Fuchs' "The Golden West." I have often argued, and in public, that if any American deserved, and had earned, the Nobel Prize for Literature, it was John Updike. He was a writer whose curiosity knew no bounds; he could do anything and, when it came to literature in its broadest sense, at one time or another he did do everything, even memorably recording Ted Williams' last time at bat at Fenway Park. His energy and his output were astounding. He wrote verse, criticism, short stories, an important string of novels, book reviews, essays, and he was no slouch as an art critic either. He was as much an advocate for foreign literature and foreign authors (a bias and distinction that should not have been lost on the Nobel Committee) as for the efforts of his American peers, and it could be argued that his lengthy and learned book reviews in The New Yorker did more to introduce unknown writers to an American audience than all other hype sites put together. He was among the fortunate Knopf authors (along with Julia Child) who had Judith Jones as his editor for almost his entire writing career, and among the very few Knopf authors who had total control of his jackets, which were not, to my mind, terribly distinguished, but showed a mind engaged in the process of design and typography. He was among a small handful of authors I ever encountered who could actually name more than one typeface and who had very pronounced opinions about all of them (including a peculiar and unfortunate affection for the designs of Frederic Goudy). He was, in short, our consummate man of letters (both written and drawn), the Boswell and the Johnson of the twentieth century. We will not see his likes again.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Wanda Coleman @ Harriet

Anyone who has read her widely-admired collection of essays The Riot Inside Me knows that Wanda Coleman is a woman who does not mince her words. Today at The Poetry Foundation blog, Harriet, the eminent Los Angeles poet, author, and essayist grieves for the state of American poetry. She writes, 'The chilling, if not complete silencing, of contemporary American poetry at peak bloom is an awful thing to watch. Educational factors are too numerous to mention; however, the insistence by the mainstream that poetry sell, the death of independent bookstores, book reviews, and the overall throes of a publishing world that must revamp or die, is brutally ugly.'