Friday, May 28, 2010

BEA: Thank You!

We just wanted to thank everyone who stopped by our booth at the busy intersection between University of Nebraska and Hachette to say hello, wish us congratulations on forty years of publishing, and take a look at our new and forthcoming titles. It seemed like every line for every signing ended up snaking past our booth somehow, which meant we also gave away tons of galleys, catalogs, bookmarks, and posters. It was great to see so many familiar faces: some we see every year without fail, some who were unexpected happy surprises. As we are sure you all know, making this trip every year as a small company with a very small staff is a major operation. But, every year, you make the show worthwhile.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Superior Person's Tuesday

Flapdoodle n. Poppycock, balderdash. Three magnificent words of identical signification, i.e., rubbish, nonsense, empty and meaningless talk. The author much prefers the first, partly because it is the most ludicrous in sound, and partly because of its potential use in alliance with fopdoodle (q.v.).

Each Tuesday, we’ll offer up a Superior Word for the edification of our Superior Readers, via the volumes of the inimitable Peter Bowler. You can purchase all or any of the four Superior Person’s Books of Words from the Godine website. Flapdoodle appears in the first.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Book Expo America 2010

The Godine crew are headed to New York this week for Book Expo America! It's been mayhem in the office getting prepared but everything is packed and loaded now, the drive-down playlist has been selected, and we are ready to roll. Track one: Elvis Costello, “Every Day I Write the Book;” track two: The Beatles, “Paperback Writer;” track three, Modest Mouse, “Bukowski;” track four: Bright Eyes, “Perfect Sonnet.” We're open to adding more book & writer–related songs if you've got suggestions!

If you're at the show, stop by our digs — Booth 3734 — to sign the 40th Anniversary guest book, grab yourself some bookmarks, posters, and other special BEA giveaways, and, of course, check out our new titles. Will we live-Tweet the show? You'll just have to wait and see. If we meet Barbara Streisand, you will definitely hear about it.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Book Lists

by Kit Bakke

My husband Peter likes both Nick Hornby and Sarah Vowell, so I thought I’d hit pay dirt when I bought him a Nick Hornby book that has a Sarah Vowell introduction. As it turned out, he found the book a bit repetitive and quit about half way through, so I gave it a try.

I can see Peter’s point, but I still love the concept. Shakespeare Wrote for Money is a compilation of Hornby’s columns for The Believer in 2007 and 2008, in which he listed the books he’d bought the previous month, and commented on the books he’d read that same month. A bonus treat for me, since I’m working on writing one, were the couple of months Hornby spent discovering, reading, and greatly enjoying young adult novels. Hornby’s lists of books bought and books read always overlapped, but were never identical. Book-choosing is such a personal pleasure; it was fun to imagine Hornby picking which books to read, and which to postpone until later, and how those choices might have been similar or different from mine.

So I thought I’d list the books I’ve bought recently, and the ones I’ve read in the last month or so.

Books bought: Book Thief by Markus Zuzak; Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel; Brooklyn by Colm Toibin; Music by Nicholas Cook; To Music by Ketis Bjornstad; The English Novel by Walter Allen; Community and Commitment by Rosabeth Moss Kanter; Angel in the Forest by Marguerite Young; Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See; and, Utopia by Thomas More.

Books read: Community and Commitment; Brooklyn; most of Edith Wharton by Hermione Lee; a 1940s British murder mystery which I’ve already forgotten both author and title that I borrowed from a friend for a trip; Walden Two by B.F. Skinner; Utopia by Thomas More; and, The Paris Review Interviews with Women Writers, edited by George Plimpton.

Perhaps a theme emerges. A theme of confusion perhaps. Sherlock Holmes might notice that: 1. I don’t read much from the New York Times Bestseller lists; 2. I read fiction and nonfiction; 3. I seem to have a thing for women writers, maybe; and 4.What’s all this about utopias and music? Perhaps in the comments section we can explore this further.

The books we read are dependent on the sources we tap for book recommendations — friends, bookstore employees, printed reviews, the internet, covers that jump out at us while browsing, authors whose names we recognize as having enjoyed before. I enjoy combing bibliographies and references from books I’m already reading — like a frog leaping from lily pad to lily pad, I can go from book to book without ever leaving a book. On the other hand, I’m one of those people who’ve never joined a book club because I don’t want other people to tell me what to read, and yet, of course I take other people’s suggestions all the time. Recently, I’ve been pelted with more than the usual number of “you must read this!” comments (including from Walter, my hair guy) for The Help by Kathyrn Stockett. Friends who know you well enough to recommend books that you would have chosen for yourself are a treasure.

We read for differing reasons — to escape, to relax, to learn, to prepare, to keep up — and there are books to meet all those needs. Even the act of reading has meaning, regardless of content. At a recent Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference, I heard a literary agent say that books are among the few places children can go nowadays to engage their minds in privacy and imagination.

I couldn’t agree more. And that goes double for adults.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

In Bloom: Tulipmania

The bridal season at Willowdale Estate has begun and the grounds are topfull of tulips and sweetly scented jonquils. While photographing with eyes and nose at blossom height, I am intoxicated by the the heady perfume emanating from the narcissus and the splendorous hues and broken patterns of the shimmering satin tulip petals — and dreaming about making cocktail dresses in every colorway! Lenna (from Willowdale) and I are creating a book of my garden photographs for the brides, and because all the flowers and butterflies are so gorgeous, it is a challenge to decide what photos to include here. I'll post regular updates on what is currently in bloom at Willowdale, and plan to provide weekly notes and photographs. The following are a few potential candidate photographs to add to the spring section of our photo book!

Eula Bliss shows Blue some love

At The National Book Critics Circle blog, essayist Eula Bliss writes about William H. Gass’ brilliant philosophical inquiry, On Being Blue: “If it were possible to produce a high definition video of what goes on between a great writer and his words, it might look like this — exhibitionist, virtuosic, and true. A bad breath of misogyny kills the thrill every now and again, but the thrust of the argument still feels right. George Orwell (in “Politics and the English Language”) and David Foster Wallace (in “Authority and American Usage”) ask critics (particularly scholars and academics) not to abuse the language, but Gass, through his own fondling, invites us to show it some love.”

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Superior Person’s Tuesday

Encephalalgia n. Headache. But “encephalalgia” will look better on a sick-leave application, won’t it?

Each Tuesday, we’ll offer up a Superior Word for the edification of our Superior Readers, via the volumes of the inimitable Peter Bowler. You can purchase all or any of the four Superior Person’s Books of Words from the Godine website. Encephalalgia appears in the second.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Fragrant Path, Part One

by Kim Smith

A garden, a small garden especially, is made more intimate when planted with an abundance of fragrant blooms and foliage. The air impregnated with the scents of flowers and foliage imbues a memorable atmosphere in the garden, playing the subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, role of strengthening the ambiance we wish to create. Fragrance, elusive, emotionally colored, and so entirely related to experience, welcomes us as we walk through the pathways of our garden.

The idea of creating a fragrant garden is deeply rooted in ancient history. One of the earliest aromatic gardens was the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, built in the 6th century B.C. by King Nebuchadnezzar for his wife Amytes, daughter of the King of the Medes. The Greeks described these resplendent gardens, supported by stone columns with irrigated terraces. The most potently fragrant plants were grown here, and the terraces, which bloomed with lilies and roses, were favored by Queen Amytes for her walks.

The countries of the Middle East abound with an array of scented trees and plants. From historical records dating back to 2500 b.c. we know that the enclosed courtyards of the Persian palaces were planted with jasmine, fruit trees (especially oranges), hyacinth, myrtle, and jonquils. But above all other flowering plants, the rose was held in the highest esteem. The Damask rose grew in nearly every garden in Syria. The country takes its name from the word Suri (a delicate rose), hence Suristan (the land of roses).

From tomb paintings and bas-reliefs we learn of gardens and the use of plants in ancient Egypt. The verdant, fertile flood plain created by the annual rise and fall of the Nile, coupled with the Egyptians’ skill in engineering and irrigation, allowed a wealth of indigenous and imported fruiting trees, vines, and flora to grow in abundance. One of the earliest botanic collections was that of plants and seeds brought back from Syria in approximately 1450 B.C. The images of the plants were carved on the walls of the temple of Thothmes II in Karnak. The Egyptian Papyrus Ebers (written about 1552 B.C.) describes scented plants and remedies and their methods of use. The gardens, enclosed by mud walls, were planted with aromatics and medicinal herbs. Some of the plants described include frankincense, myrrh, saffron crocus, Madonna lily (Lilium candidum), cinnamon, and orchards of pomegranates. The Egyptians were among the earliest peoples to show an appreciation for perfume. Incense and perfume were used extensively for religious and funeral rites. Fragrant oils were used to massage their bodies and concoctions of scented herbs were taken to sweeten the breath. Priests performed the daily ritual of burning fragrant woods as offerings to the gods. The wood was burnt on alters in the temples. The word “perfume,” from the Latin per, “through,” and fumun “smoke,” shows that the origin of the word lay in the burning of incense, both to ‘offer up’ the gratitude of the people to the gods for favors received, and to ask for their blessings in time of trouble. The Egyptians believed their prayers would reach the gods more quickly when wafted by the blue smoke that slowly ascended to heaven.

The Egyptians’ reverence for nature is noteworthy in their use of floral motifs in decorative ornamentation. The lotus and papyrus were by far the most prevalent, together with the daisy, palm, convolvulus, and grape vine. The ‘Blue Lotus of the Nile’ (Nymphaea stellata coerulea), a member of the water lily family, is the lotus flower depicted in ancient Egyptian decorative ornamentation. The fragrance emanating from the lotus creates an intoxicating atmosphere; they have a scent similar to hyacinths. The flowers are star-shaped and sky-blue with brilliant golden centers and stand several inches above the water. The lotus had an inexhaustible symbolism in ancient Egypt, Daoism, Buddhism, and Hinduism alike.

The lotus is significant as it was the symbol of Upper Egypt. When used in ornamentation with the papyrus it symbolized the union of Upper and Lower Egypt, whose symbol was the papyrus. A well-known example of this is the soaring twin pillars that tower over the ruins at Karnak. One capital is decorated with the lotus and the other with papyrus.

The ‘Blue Lotus of the Nile’ had a deeper religious significance. Because the lotus blooms each day, withdraws under the water at sunset, and reemerges the following morning, it was closely linked to the daily rhythm of the rising and setting of the sun and thus to the story of the sun god, creation, and rebirth. The blue petals represented the sky and the golden center the emerging sun. The lotus motif was used to decorate pottery, jewelry, clothing, and appears extensively in the decoration of the capitals of pillars and columns. A wide variety of designs using the lotus flower were employed, in repeating border patterns and in alternating patterns with lotus buds or bunches of grapes. The buds fit harmoniously into the curves between the flowers. During the reign of Akhenaten (New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty) the lotus designs become less stylized and more freely expressed.

When thinking about the history of garden design in the context of our own gardens, we are free to determine our own personal preferences while drawing inspiration from what has come before. By following one’s intuitive powers and adhering to nature’s contours specific to an existing site, the inherent beauty of the garden can be realized. In describing our fragrant path, rather than draw for you a picture of what to grow precisely, as each individual garden setting is unique, the following are suggestions of plants for a well-orchestrated sequence of fragrant flowering plants. The underlying framework would ideally be composed of as many fragrant flowering and fruiting trees and shrubs as are reasonable, including an abundance of aromatic and healthful herbs. And the garden overflowing with scented blossoms provides you with armfuls of flowers to cut and bring indoors to scent the rooms of your home.

The Fragrant Path, Part Two, to follow next week! A note about ‘Geranium’: Sweetly scented, ‘Geranium’ narcissus reliably returns year after year. For a list of fabulously fragrant jonquils and narcissus see pages 178-179 in Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Superior Person's Tuesday

Deipnosophist n. A wise conversationalist at the dinner table. Unfortunately, the two elements of the definition rarely go together. The author, for example, claims to meet one of the two criteria (he refuses to say which) but not the other. 

Each Tuesday, we’ll offer up a Superior Word for the edification of our Superior Readers, via the volumes of the inimitable Peter Bowler. You can purchase all or any of the four Superior Person’s Books of Words from the Godine website. Deipnosophist appears in the third.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

David R. Godine Lecture Tonight!

Tonight, May 6th at 6:00 p.m. — David R. Godine will present an illustrated lecture on Four Decades of Independent Publishing at the Boston Public Library, Copley Square. The publisher will talks about forty years of independent publishing, from its beginning in a Brookline barn to a list that now includes authors such as former poet laureate Donald Hall, Nobel Prize-winner J.M.G. LeClezio, Booker prize-winner John Banville and many other talented authors and illustrators.

This event is free and open to the public. See you there!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Jane Jacobs Saves the Day

This is probably the most unlikely accreditation of Jane Jacobs we have ever come across, and one that our authors prudently omitted from Genius of Common Sense. At Slate, Fred Kaplan writes that one thing we learned from the attempted car-bombing of Times Square was that “Jane Jacobs is, once again, right. In her 1961 book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, self-taught urban scholar and activist Jane Jacobs observed that sidewalks and their users are ‘active participants in the drama of civilization versus barbarism’ (by ‘barbarism,’ she meant crime) and that a continuously busy sidewalk is a safe sidewalk, because those who have business there — ‘the natural proprietors of the street’ — provide ‘eyes upon the street.’[. . .] This may explain why busy areas like Times Square aren't attacked by terrorists more often. The crowds make them tempting targets: lots of people mean lots of potential victims and subsequent media attention. But those same crowds—especially the regulars, who are always looking out on the street—make an attack harder to conceal and, therefore, to pull off. (Research project for a sociologist: Have terrorist attacks in Western cities taken place more often, or less often, in areas with lots of street vendors?)”

Superior Person’s Tuesday

Charientism n. A elegantly veiled insult. One of the various worthy ends to which [The Superior Person’s Book of Words] is a means. 

Each Tuesday, we’ll offer up a Superior Word for the edification of our Superior Readers, via the volumes of the inimitable Peter Bowler. You can purchase all or any of the four Superior Person’s Books of Words from the Godine website. Charientism appears in the first.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Four for Thirty for the Fortieth

There's your tongue-twister of the day. We are pleased to announce a special offer available only through our website that begins today and ends on Monday, May 10th (one week): select titles from four masters of the written word — J.M.G. Le Clézio, Isaac Babel, Kenneth Burke, and Alfred Chester. Get all four titles this week for just thirty dollars!

The Prospector, by J.M.G. Le Clézio
The crowning achievement from Nobel Prize-winner J.M.G. Le Clézio: a consideration of loss, a quest tale, and a love story. "Le Clézio's prose is so sensual and rhythmic it's hypnotic." — The Boston Phoenix

The Lonely Years, by Isaac Babel
Rising to fame in Russia for such books as Red Cavalry, Babel was arrested under Stalin's repressive regime, never to be heard from again. The letters collected here show an individual laboring against all odds to remain true to his craft and ideals. "Babel is one of the literary masters of our century." — Irving Howe, The New Republic

Here & Elsewhere, by Kenneth Burke
Burke's fiction was unlike any of his day: neither stripped-down as Hemingway nor satiric as Fitzgerald, he constructed gorgeous essay-stories that anticipate by four decades the work of Calvino, Sebald, and Baker. "Burke's prose is impeccable and, for the most part, crystal clear, but his imagination is that of a modern Blake."— Dan Johnson, The Believer

The Exquisite Corpse, by Alfred Chester
In brief, cinematic chapters, we follow a series of twisted, sincere searchers, each in flight from despair. One surreal episode morphs into the next, the searchers change shape, their journeys change direction; names and identities come and go, storylines collide, and desires intertwine, all with the lightning-quick illogic of a dream.

featured on Shelf Life

Over at the Globe's book blog Shelf Life, Jan Gardner writes, “Forty years ago David Godine moved a printing press into an old cow barn in Brookline to publish, as he and his pals put it, ‘books that matter for people who care.’ Godine had degrees from Dartmouth College and Harvard University and had apprenticed with printmaker Leonard Baskin and master printer Harold McGrath, but knew nothing about publishing. He learned.

His company, David R. Godine Inc., has published Nobel laureate J.M.G. Le Clézio, former US poet laureate Donald Hall, and Booker prize winner John Banville. Godine’s eclectic list includes elegant editions of children’s classics, beautiful photography books, and classics of foreign literature that other American publishers won’t touch.

Books are no longer printed on the premises, and the office is now in downtown Boston, but Godine keeps a much-used letterpress machine and typesetting equipment in the barn at his home in Milton.

On Thursday, he will give an illustrated lecture about the books he has published that have made a difference. It begins at 6 p.m. at the Boston Public Library. His book, ‘A Retrospective of Four Decades in the Life of an Independent Publisher,’ is due out in November.”