Saturday, August 29, 2009

Desert in the New York Times

J.M.G. Le Clézio's newly published novel Desert is reviewed in this week's New York Times, by Elizabeth Hawes. She writes, 'The American publication of Desert is therefore an event, bringing into closer range one of the leading writers in France. Desert is a rich, sprawling, searching, poetic, provocative, broadly historic and demanding novel, which in all those ways displays the essence of Le Clézio. As a reflection on colonization and its legacy, it is painfully relevant after 30 years. [. . .] There is an element of the missionary in Le Clézio, just as there is still something of the rebel in him, in search of the new novel, trying to break loose from the traditional bonds of fiction and language to mirror a wider world — as the Nobel citation described, to explore “a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization.” Beneath his pantheism and ethnology, there is also a serious critic of contemporary Western civilization and its rationalism, pointing out the conflict between nature and cities, the disconnect between man and mythology.'

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Perec Special Offer

Life A User's Manual & Thoughts of Sorts
Get them together at 30% off the cover price!

Over twenty years ago, Godine published the first English translation of Georges Perec's masterpiece, Life A User's Manual, hailed by the Times Literary Supplement, Boston Globe, and others as "one of the great novels of the century." We are now proud to announce a newly revised twentieth anniversary edition of Life. Carefully prepared, with many corrections, this edition of Life A User's Manual will be the preferred reference edition for the future.

Structured around a single moment in time – 8:00 P.M. on June 23, 1975 – Perec's spellbinding puzzle begins in an apartment block in the XVIIth arrondissement of Paris where, chapter by chapter, room by room, an extraordinarily rich cast of characters is revealed in a series of tales that are bizarre, unlikely, moving, funny, or (sometimes) quite ordinary.

Thoughts of Sorts, one of Georges Perec's final works, was published posthumously in France in 1985. With this translation, David Bellos, Perec's preeminent translator, has completed the Godine list of Perec's great works translated into English and has provided an introduction to this master of "systematic versatility." Thoughts of Sorts is a compilation of musings and essays attempting to circumscribe, in Perec's words, "my experience of the world not in terms of the reflections it casts in distant places, but at its actual point of breaking surface." Perec investigates the ways by which we define our place in the world, reveling in listmaking, orientating, classifying. This book employs all of the modes of questioning explored by his previous books, and at the same time breaks new ground of its own, ending with a question mark in typical/atypical Perec fashion.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Le Clézio on BBC's The Strand TODAY

Nobel Laureate and author of Desert and The Prospector, J.M.G. Le Clézio will be interviewed on BBC's international arts radio show The Strand today at 10:30 am. Check your local listings; we'll put up a link to the show asap.


Here is the interview, courtesy of the BBC!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Book vs Kindle: Round 7, Story Time

Bookslut Review of Dubus

Over at the great literary blog & review site Bookslut, Nina McGlaughlin reviews a classic Godine title: Voices from the Moon, by Andre Dubus. She writes, "Both novels illuminate great and complicated passion, jealousy, rage, and huge hurt, as well as the inexpressible in romantic love, and, as John Updike put it in his review of Voices from the Moon in The New Yorker in 1985, 'our homely, awkward movements of familial adjustment and forgiveness'."

If you're a New Yorker subscriber, I encourage you to head over there and read the full text of Updike's review from their February 4, 1985 issue.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Death of Amazon

In The Huffington Post today, Alex Green, the owner of Back Pages Books, makes a — dare I say — wildly bold prediction regarding the future of Amazon. He writes, "With a margin of profit lower than the national sales tax average and countless Amazon Prime customers locked in at obscenely low shipping rates, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos saw the writing on the wall. He rapidly began seeking a way to avoid the third meltdown of his business in the last decade. He got out his Kindle, grabbed a list of vague numbers, jumped on a giant soapbox and tried to stave off the perception that his Kindle-fever was anything but panic. Then in June, Rhode Island passed a law following New York's lead. On Thursday, North Carolina jumped on board as well, passing a sweeping e-fairness law. Facing the greatest drop in tax revenue since the Great Depression, states across the country have decided that Amazon no longer needs its tax breaks.

"Amazon has responded by dropping its affiliates in North Carolina and rattling a saber engraved with the motto, 'We don't pay taxes.' The problem for them is that other states waiting in the wings are more destitute and powerful than North Carolina. California charges sales taxes that are almost double the national average. With a titanic economy on the brink of near-anarchistic failure, broadly despised Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is almost all that stands between Amazon and the tax man.

"The consequences of enforcing a sales tax after such a lengthy period of legislative inaction, however, are devastating. Amazon simply cannot survive if it has to pay sales taxes. If nationally enacted today, enforced tax legislation would put at least $1 billion of Amazon's yearly operational costs and profits into state coffers. Under such pressure, Amazon would briefly comply and then collapse. Three weeks later you would find them on the nightly news, appearing before Congress for a bailout, "selling," as the poet Franz Wright says, 'the emptiness of their own hands.' Like the auto companies before them, Internet retailers used your roads, your government, and your tax subsidized infrastructure to support non-viable companies that killed your local businesses. Nothing in life, as the saying goes, is free."

Can it be true? Can we imagine a world of books not dominated by Amazon? After only, say, a decade or less of dominance in this market, I have difficulty conceiving of it.

Catie & Jim, of Catie Copley

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Common Milkweed ~ Asclepias syriaca

Please check out a review of Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! on Isabelle Lafleche’s wonderfully fun blog Pink Lemonade. Isabelle is an author residing in Montreal. She first wrote about my book after seeing it at the New York book expo last spring and we have been corresponding ever since. The winner of a free copy of Oh Garden will be selected at random from comments left on her blog and anyone can leave a comment.

Much to share — following the success of my Monarch butterfly exhibit several years ago, I have been invited to create an all new exhibit at the Sawyer Free Library. If you don’t hear from me over the next few weeks, it is because I am deeply involved in preparations. The photo/journal exhibit, with video footage, will be at the Matz Gallery at the Sawyer Free for the month of September. The lecture date is Thursday, September 10th at 7:00 pm. The exhibit is made possible through partial funding from the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

Serendipitously, an article that I wrote (with photos) about the Monarchs will be appearing in the upcoming fall issue of Cape Ann Magazine, which will be available in mid-August at bookstores (Toad Hall and The Bookstore), Richdales, and other local markets.

I was bemoaning that one part of the story that was missing from the exhibit was a photograph of a female Monarch ovipositing (depositing an egg). I believe that because of the many months of cold and rain brought about by air currents dipping further south than usual, the Monarch population in our region is way down from previous years. Fantastically, especially because there are so few on the wing this year, a female Monarch was in our garden several days ago, laying eggs in our little milkweed patch, which reminded me to remind you of the importance of growing milkweeds. The photo attached is the female Monarch (you can tell she is a female by her dark, smokier colored wing patterning) nectaring at marsh milkweed (Asclepias incarnata). She was laying eggs on both the common and marsh milkweeds, which we grow side-by-side, and yes, after many hours of patiently standing in the milkweed patch, I did get a snapshot of her ovipositing.

On another note, I received over a hundred email responses after writing the article In the Wake of Godzilla. All but two concurred. Steve Reynolds, a member of the zoning board, was one of the two, and wrote an interesting response. I have sent him a response in turn. All those who wrote to me regarding Gloucester Crossing will automatically receive a copy of Mr. Reynold’s letter and of my response. If you did not write, but would also like to receive a copy, please feel free to email me at kimsmithdesigns {at}

P.S. Since i wrote this note yesterday, many Monarch caterpillars have emerged. The siblings are voraciously munching on the milkweed.

Pete Sipes Reads Ferdinandus Taurus

Pete Sipes, of Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, reading from the classic Godine titles Ferdinandus Taurus:

[Thanks to one-time Godiner Genevieve Brennan]

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Sailing with DRG

When you’re a summer intern at Godine, you get some added perks. No, not just eating a lunch on the very busy and sunny Common. But rather, a trip to Maine! An island in Maine, no less.

This weekend I traveled north to David’s summer house on an island off the coast of Maine. A day with David in the office promised many surprises. . . so I was certain a weekend involving boats, tennis and lobster would hold even more exciting experiences. I was certainly not disappointed. Even though I’ve lived in Massachusetts my whole life and even used to summer on the Cape, I had never actually been sailing. And so, David set out to rectify that terrible problem.

After a light breakfast, a group of us looked at the water and decided that although there wasn’t much wind, we’d probably be able to make it to a nearby island for a picnic lunch. We set off (which involved much rigging and ropes and nautical terminology that went right over my head), and were barely crawling along, in an ocean that was near glass-like, when all of the sudden someone looked behind us and spotted low hanging dark clouds. Not only were the clouds incredibly ominous, they were also moving at light-speed. Within two minutes of having spotted them, the sea started to turn choppy. The entire sailboat tipped on its side. (Thank goodness I had thought to grab my book, which had just been lying on the deck seconds before!) The less experienced "sailors" were hurried downstairs and the true seaman took over the sails, wrestling to get the mainsail down as quickly as possible, lest the gale-force winds drag us over to the nearby island and dash us upon the rocks!

David remained at the rudder, calling out orders while I huddled below deck. After many minutes of clanking and banging from above, the sail was safely down and we were able to motor back to the home island. The ride still consisted of wild winds and pelting rain, mind you. When we arrived back, the rain had stopped and the sun was peaking from behind the clouds. All in all, the strange and sudden squall had lasted a mere half an hour.

I could not have fathomed a more "interesting" first sail, though I should have expected something monumental when I set out to sea with David at the helm.

[Kit Harris is an intern at Godine and will be a Junior at Johns Hopkins University this Fall, studying for the year in Paris and then Florence. "Oh, she exaggerates," says David.]

Genius Reviews

Two reviews of Genius of Common Sense are making the rounds today online, it seems. The first has a front-and-center spot on Arts & Letters Daily: Howard Husock writes, at City Journal, "Not only did Jacobs draw important inferences about how cities, the quintessential human ecosystems, grew and prospered organically; she was able, despite her lack of advanced degrees or even a college diploma, to attract the support of elites through the power of her original ideas. Her position as a staff writer at Architectural Forum lent her views credibility and helped convert the likes of Lewis Mumford, then the architectural critic for The New Yorker, making it respectable for elected officials to oppose Moses. Bronx residents, in their struggle to stop construction of the Cross-Bronx Expressway, had tried demonstrating against Moses, but to no avail. He had always been able to rely on planning elites, newspaper editorial pages, and his own social background and connections to make 'slum-dwellers' look self-interested and benighted. In Jacobs, Moses faced a foe who employed hardball political tactics and sarcasm as well. She dared to condescend to him."

And over at Seth's Blog he writes, "Genius of Common Sense is plainly a labor of love, with a great selection of photographs and a belief in Jacobs’s importance that you might say “shines through the book like a watermark” (Nabokov). The subtitle is 'Jane Jacobs and the story of The Death and Life of Great American Cities' but that isn’t right: It’s mostly about how Jacobs and her neighbors fended off Robert Moses to preserve Greenwich Village. Which is a lot more visual. As I read it I kept wondering what I would have thought of it had I picked it up as, say, a third grader. I read a lot of biographies for children back then. I might have been attracted by the weird title and helped along by the high ratio (1 to 1) of picture space to word space. I would have liked the underdog aspect." Me too!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Harry Patch: 'The Last Fighting Tommy'

Last week thousands in Britain attended a funeral for Harry Patch, the last British survivor and veteran of World War I, who died on July 25th at the age of 111. For many, Mr. Patch’s death marked the end of an era, the passing of the last man living who could tell what it was to be a soldier in the Great War. Harry Patch was memorialized in a poem by Sir Andrew Motion in 2007, when Motion was the British poet laureate. His five-part poem, "Harry Patch: 'The Last Fighting Tommy'" is included in The Mower: New and Selected Poems, just out from Godine.

Watch the video: courtesy of The Guardian.

Also: listen to the Radiohead tribute, 'Harry Patch (in Memory of)'

Jim reads from Catie Copley!