Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Nothing Like a Storefront

IndieBound has a running cycle of bookstore photos on their front page which always catches my eye. Clicking over there today I saw this great old photo of Left Bank Books in West Villge, NYC by eroyni.

Monday, March 29, 2010

A Personal Nature

There is nothing quite as engrossing as a story of nature. From the popular “Planet Earth” TV series and the film March of the Penguins, to Henry David Thoreau's journals and Jack London's adventures, and far further back, we have sought through nature some personal experience of our inexpressible selves — and what nature gives us in return is rarely what we expect.

Godine contributes to this long tradition with Robert Leonard Reid's brand-new memoir, Arctic Circle: Birth & Rebirth in the Land of the Caribou. Donna Seaman at Booklist writes, “As Reid recounts his Arctic sojourns with awe, lyricism, and bemusement, he subtly interlaces inner and outer worlds and traces the circles of struggle and understanding, life and death. Spectacular descriptions, charming wit, and forthright reflections on what makes a place sacred become striking testimony to the importance of the Arctic wild and the need to preserve it.”

Now, in honor of the book’s long-awaited arrival, we’re inviting readers to share their own tales of the out-of-doors, and offering up a chance to win Arctic Circle for free in return. For the next week, we'd like to hear your own nature stories in the comment section here — funny, poignant, quirky, astonishing, etc. Just be honest. At the end of the week, we'll choose one lucky writer, at random, to win a free copy of Arctic Circle. Don't forget to check back on Tuesday!

Can't wait to hear from you, and good luck!

Follow the Leader

Thought you might like this! (Tip of the hat to Ron Silliman.)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Always Listen to Your Mama

Over at the Boston Mama's blog is a wonderful review of Kim Smith's perfect-for-spring Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities!

Jennifer writes, “Bursting with information, yet much more than a how-to guide, Oh Garden reads like a meditation. Smith envelops the senses with lyrical prose and exquisite watercolor illustrations, infusing poetry and wisdom from across the ages to tap into the soul of the gardener — which insists that the garden's beauty stems not from finished product, but from the cultivation itself.”

You can buy a copy of the book at your local fine independent bookstore, or directly from the Godine website.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

excerpt from: Swimmer in the Secret Sea

“Johnny, my water just broke!”

Laski rose through a sea of dreams, trying to find the surface. The sea was dark, and iridescent creatures came toward him, one of them suddenly exploding into brilliance. Laski woke, sitting up in bed. Diane had her hand on the night lamp and was staring down at a water stain spreading on the sheets.

“That’s it,” he said. “Get ready.” The first wave of shock was already over him, speeding his pulse, turning his skin cold, making him shiver.

“I’d better put a napkin on,” she said. “I’m getting everything all wet.”

He took her arm and helped her to the stairs. She too had begun to tremble and they were trembling together as they passed the window and saw the forest, covered with snow. The stillness of the woods calmed him, and he paused with her on the landing, drinking in the white nectar of the moon. His trembling subsided some, but hers continued, and he walked with her toward the bathroom. She went stooped over, her arms across her mountainous stomach, where her earthquake had its origin. He helped her onto the toilet seat, then went to the closet and brought a blanket. He wrapped it around her and rubbed his hands up and down her arms, trying to generate some warmth.

She looked up at him, her teeth chattering. He hadn’t expected it to be like this, the two of them caught and shaken like rag dolls. They’d studied the childbirth manuals carefully, and performed the exercises regularly, and he’d thought it would be merely an extension of all that, but there’d been no transition. Suddenly they were being dragged over a bed of rocks. Her eyes were like a child’s, astonished and terrified, but her voice was calm and he realized she was prepared, in spite of fear and chattering teeth.

“I can control the water now,” she said. “I can keep it from running out.”

“I’ll get the truck warmed up.” He went outside into the snow. Beyond the shadowy tops of the pines the vast sky-bowl glittered, and the half-ton truck sat in the moonlight, covered with brightly sparkling ice. He opened the door and slid in, pulling on the choke and turning the ignition key.

The starter motor whined, caught in the icy hand of the North. “Come on,” said Laski softly, appealing to the finer nature of the truck, the trusty half-ton which never failed him. He listened for the little cough of life in the whining, and when it came he quickly gunned the motor, bringing the truck completely to life. “You’re a good old wagon.” As far north as they were, any motor could freeze up, any battery suddenly die, and it was fifteen miles through the thickest forest to the nearest other vehicle. He’d seen fires built under motors, and had heard incredible cursing float out on northern nights, while hours had passed and all ideas had failed and nobody went anywhere. He kept the choke out, so the motor ran fast, then turned on the heater and stepped back out into the snow. The truck’s exhaust was the only cloud against the brilliant moon, and he went through the swirling vapor, back toward the cabin, which sat like a tiny lantern in the great tangled wilderness. [. . .]

Read the rest: buy Swimmer in the Secret Sea, the novella by William Kotzwinkle, from the Godine Website.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Thoughts of Sorts reviewed in Rain Taxi

In this month's issue of Rain Taxi, Laird Hunt reviews Georges Perec's newly-translated collection of essays, ruminations, and assorted nonfiction, Thoughts of Sorts. Hunt writes, “If Georges Perec is finally starting to be known in this country as a writer who did interesting things besides write a book without the letter e, the editors of David R. Godine deserve a good portion of the credit. . . . Taken together, Verba Mundi's Perec list forms a constellation of literary variousness that well might be unmatched in 20th-Century letters.”

Well, we hope he is becoming known. He deserves a place among the giants of literature, and Thoughts of Sorts is a superb introduction.

Friday, March 12, 2010

We Second That

At the London Review of Books, Black Sparrow author Aram Saroyan writes of the joys of the small, the crafted, the perfectly well-done little book: ‘A book should be good companionship,’ Jack Kerouac said in the middle of the last century. Perhaps today, when our laptops, Blackberries and tablets make all of knowledge their province, the book may be welcomed and enjoyed more frequently as a smaller pleasure field, a lucky talisman, if you will, to be carried around or laid down on a table to remind us of the fun of random contemplation, silent exchange, reverie. Then too, for anyone so disposed, turning out copies of such an item is now a virtual walk in the park.”

I myself love chapbooks, smallish editions, handbooks, field guides, and samplings. My daily commute requires an hour's worth of diversion daily. I have an early 20th Century edition of John Donne's poetry that has accompanied me on many a short subway ride to some social event — the perfect size to slip into a pocket once arrived. Godine's Essay on Typography, by Eric Gill, and On Being Blue, by William H. Gass, are two more examples of diminutive volumes worth well more than their apparent mass.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Inner Sky @ World Literature Today

We're absolutely thrilled that World Literature Today made Inner Sky, our new translation of Rilke's selected poetry and prose, an Editor's Choice. “[Translator] Damion Searls admits that his selection of previously uncollected Rilke texts might seem like ‘a grab-bag of scraps’ (many of which were never published by Rilke himself), but his translator’s afterword casts a retrospective unity onto what might appear at first as a heterogeneous assemblage of texts. Searls calls his translation ‘a throwing of something over a wall or across a gap’ after Rilke’s notion of Hinüberwerfung, and argues that the poet’s creativity is itself a type of translation, ‘a gift from something external to where we are, something eternal.’ The Inner Sky is such a gift, and a tantalizing summons into the inner Rilke, ‘one last listening in / on the lost world we once lived within.’”

Monday, March 1, 2010

Field Notes

~ by Rachael Ringenberg: Godine Sales Manager ~

The increasing rarity of a species known as Field Sales Reps, once frequently spotted on the road driving from bookstore to bookstore, has independent bookstores very worried. Groans and pleas from store buyers have followed recent Publisher’s Weekly blog posts about the issue, lamenting the demise of reps who were remarkably good at their jobs but have been replaced by teleconferencing and e-catalogs. “Snap this one up!” cried the comments after it was announced that Katie McGarry was no longer with Simon & Schuster.

Field reps are the folks who show up on the bookstore’s steps, lugging the season’s newest and last season’s truest, so the buyer can page through the books for themselves. I am a tenderfoot at the job, with less than a year under my belt — however, I’ve managed to tramp through a fair number of bookstore doors during that time, and so when NAIBA recently sent an open letter to publishers pleading their case, and it was seconded by MPIBA (acronyms representing regional independent bookstore associations), I understood their concerns. Here is the point that rings clearest to me:

“Restricting field reps to large stores will give publishers a skewed view of what is a very diverse world — independent bookselling. Sales reps take the time to know our stores, what our customers like, and what is on our shelves. They are the industry worker-bees, traveling the region, taking ideas and trends and pollinating other stores.”

For me, on the other side of the table, every meeting with a buyer is a re-education in our titles. A book in one store will jump off their shelves, but in another it goes ignored for weeks. If a title isn’t selling as well as we expected, I can observe firsthand what the complications might be (Trim too small? Cover image confusing?) and bring those observations back to the office. From the buyer who has never heard of Rainer Marie Rilke, to the one who can recite all of John Banville’s last titles; from the one who draws a blank at the term “Caldecott Medal,” to the one who has framed Georges Perec quotes around the bookstore: I’m always jumping to keep up with their varying spheres of knowledge, and find common threads among them.

It is really a tribute to bookstore owners and buyers that face-to-face selling is preferable to emailed catalogs and phone conversations. They are ready and willing to be convinced that you have their new favorite book hiding in your bag, and their unflagging curiosity is perhaps the clearest testimony to how these businesses manage to survive despite remarkable competition.