Monday, January 31, 2011

Perec on Conversational Reading

Here's some exciting news! Georges Perec's Life A User's Manual from Godine is in the running for the "Spring Big Read" selection at Conversational Reading (Scott Esposito). Perec is up against A Naked Singularity by Sergio De La Pava and Mortals by Norman Rush. The poll is open through Saturday and you can vote here.

From Conversational Reading:

After two successful Big Reads on this site last year, it became very clear to me that part of the success was that the books we read were both excellent. They weren’t simply great books to interpret and discuss–although they certainly were that–they were also compelling, intriguing novels that really pulled a reader in and satisfied from beginning to end. When I’d reached the end of our allotted chunk for that week, I had a hard time setting them down, and I don’t think I was alone.

So with that said, I’d like you to choose carefully as you vote on this spring’s Big Read in the poll below. The three choices offered here are based on various factors, including what readers of this site seem to like, books that have been big subjects of discussion around here in both the recent and distant past, and my own idiosyncrasies.

I’m going to keep the poll open through the end of Saturday. Think carefully! Vote once. Vote well. And unless you’re really, really sure of what you want, read the matter below to help you evaluate and decide.

Life A User's Manual by Georges Perec

Georges Perec is probably the best-known, widest-praised author to come out of the best-known, widest-praised group of innovative writing in the 20th century, the much-lauded OuLiPo, the “Ouvroir de littérature potentielle” or “workshop of potential literature.” Calvino called Perec, “one of the most singular literary personalities in the world, a writer who resembled absolutely no one else.” And a young, hungry Paul Auster reviewed Life in the New York Times in 1987, writing:

”Life: A User’s Manual” (1978) – has at last been translated into English [and] it will be impossible for us to think of contemporary French writing in the same way again. . . . Those who have read a great deal will no doubt recognize passages that quote directly or indirectly from other writers – Kafka, Agatha Christie, Melville, Freud, Rabelais, Nabokov, Jules Verne and a host of others – but failure to recognize them should not be considered a handicap. Like Jorge Luis Borges, Georges Perec had a mind that was a storehouse of curious bits of knowledge and awesome erudition, and half the time the reader can’t be sure if he is being conned or enlightened. In the long run, it probably doesn’t matter. What draws one into this book is not Perec’s cleverness, but the deftness and clarity of his style.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Brain Glitches

For your enjoyment on this beautiful Friday is one more essay on fiction writing from Godine author Ernest Hebert, author of the forthcoming novel Never Back Down. Please stay tuned for more blog entries from Hebert closer to the book's publication date in April.

Brain Glitches
By Ernest Hebert

I was complaining once to a very smart friend in the computer industry about the word processor I was using. He responded by saying, “There's something wrong with all software.” I think his critique applies not only to computer apps but to our individual minds.

The brain glitch is common in human beings, even among the smartest of us. You can see these minor defects best in the people closest to you—partner, kids, parents, bosses, friends, and especially in your enemies. Harder to see these glitches in yourself, unless you write, in which case they jump out at you when you copy-edit your work.

Just yesterday, as I was typing an email, the administrator in the executive suite of my brain said, “Ernie, type the word ‘studio.’” But the muscle memory supervisor in the engine room, contemplating his long-time affair with my hands, said, “Ernie type the word ‘student.’” I typed “student.” Later the overworked, under-appreciated, out-sourced and sometimes annoying copy-editor in my brain corrected the error.

I make a lot of these kinds of mistakes. The most common is omitting words, usually the articles “a” and “the,” but sometimes more meaningful words, even entire phrases, so that my sentences make no sense. On occasion the editor in me can't even remember what the creative writer in me meant to say, and I have to re-jigger the entire paragraph. You would think that with all the experience I’ve had as a professional writer I could just type out my thoughts. Such writers are rare but do come along from time to time. Isaac Asimov, who published 500 books and anthologies, claimed he never wrote a second draft. I’ve published a mere ten books, but I swear I wrote each one fifty times, so in the end I’ve probably cranked out as much copy as Asimov. I am incapable of getting it right the first time. I have too many brain glitches to overcome. Sometimes I don’t even know what my thoughts are until I type them, a rather thrilling and sometimes unsettling experience.

I see brain glitches in the papers my students write. Usually these defects lead to minor miscues, and sometimes accidental plays on words that delight me, such as the Japanese exchange student who was thinking “bridegroom” but typed “bridegloom.” Sometimes, though, the glitches can be serious.

Years ago when I was teaching a course at a small, private college I had a student who wrote a paper that I had to read several times before I understood it. The story made sense, the words were well chosen, the sentences adequate, the paragraphs more or less logically organized. What was missing was an understanding of punctuation. At a glance his paper appeared to be punctuated properly with commas, periods, occasional question marks, and semi-colons. However, his punctuation was inserted at random. A sentence might read, “All men are created; equal but some are. more, Equal, than others.” When I talked to the student he confessed he had no idea where punctuation was supposed to go. His brain map for punctuation was purely visual, the logic part missing.

In the end I think the minor brain glitch is good for writers, forcing us to reread, rethink, refeel, and rewrite. Isaac Asimov was a very good thinker and writer, but he was not much of a prose stylist and I think if he had gotten into the habit of rewriting, the result would have been fewer but better books.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Superior Person's Tuesday!

Odontalgia and Odontiasis n. Toothache and teething, respectively. Your own odontalgia, or your child's odontiasis, might usefully be mentioned when excusing yourself from coming into the office until later on in the morning. But not too bluntly. Say, in a diffident and strained tone of voice: "I'm having a spot of my old trouble again, I'm afraid – you know, er . . . " (here lower your voice to a confidential whisper) " . . . odontalgia. I'd sooner the others didn't know, incidentally."

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. Odontalgia and Odontiasis appear in the First.

Monday, January 24, 2011 - Top 10 Books with One-Letter Titles

As O — a anonymously written novel about Obama's 2012 re-election campaign — hits the shelves, TIME takes a look at books with similarly simple titles.

Godine's W, or the Memory of Childhood by Georges Perec makes the cut:

The narrator of this 1975 fictional autobiography tries to recreate the events of his childhood as a Jew in Nazi-occupied France. In alternating chapters, Georges Perec jumps between real life and a fictional island, known as W, off Tierra del Fuego, in an attempt to recall his wartime experience. Some details emerge as he goes through this process, but a complete picture of his childhood never emerges. The scenes on the island, however, do become clearer and clearer, and depict an existence that revolves around sport, competition and cruel and arbitrary rules — likely an allegory for life in Nazi concentration camps.

The Boston Globe

Godine had great luck with The Boston Globe this weekend:

One Hundred Portraits:
Artists, Architects, Writers, Composers and Friends by Barry Moser

Fascinated with faces
In a career that has spanned 40 years, Barry Moser has illustrated 200 books, among them editions of Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’’ and the King James Bible. Long interested in the character of creators, be they writers, artists, or composers, Moser once told an interviewer, “The human face is almost as individual as a fingerprint. It fascinates me to no end.’’

Moser’s new book “One Hundred Portraits’’ (Godine) gathers a cast of characters through the ages, with an emphasis on British and American notables. Moser, who lives in Western Massachusetts, works with darkness, light, and lines to achieve faces that carry a sense of life’s burdens and beauties as his subjects lived them. Ann Patchett writes in the foreword that she welcomes Moser’s portraits of novelists as an opportunity to learn more about the souls that animate their works.
Jan Gardner

Farnsworth's Classical English Rhetoric
by Ward Farnsworth

To those of us who haven’t studied rhetoric — that is, pretty much all of us — its workings are largely invisible. So we are lucky to have Ward Farnsworth’s wonderful new book, “Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric,” to explain the notion and rescue it from total disrepute. Farnsworth, a professor of law at Boston University, fell in love with rhetoric as a student of Latin, and realized that tools for writing and speaking effectively were of great value to the students he was training to be lawyers.

Out of the hundreds of figures of speech known to the ancients, Farnsworth has pulled just 18, the ones that he considers to be most useful for modern speakers and writers. Their names can be daunting — epizeuxis, symploce, polysyndeton, aposiopesis — but Farnsworth sorts them into handy categories and gives examples of their use, not from Roman authors dead and gone for centuries, but from the great writers of English from about 1600, the time of the King James Bible, to 1950. (Farnsworth stops in 1950, he explains, because “the authors and statesmen of those earlier periods studied rhetoric more closely than it tends to be studied today.”)

His practitioners are not only notably skilled, but also notably entertaining, which makes “Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric” as much an enjoyable read as an educational manual.
Erin McKean

Friday, January 21, 2011

Literary T-Shirts

You have probably already spied the line of T-shirts from Brooklyn's Out of Print Clothing at your local independent bookstore or trendy gift shop. The soft tees feature eye-catching vintage covers from classics like Slaughterhouse Five and 1984.

Here's Moby Dick:

This led me to thinking . . . which Godine covers would make the best T-shirt design? Here are a few of our favorites . . .

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Annie Proulx

In the spring, Godine is proud to publish Ernest Hebert’s novel, Never Back Down. Hebert lives in New Hampshire and teaches writing at Dartmouth College. He is continually producing pieces for his students on the craft of fiction writing and we wanted to share an essay or two on the blog for our dear readers to enjoy.

Annie Proulx
By Ernest Hebert

My introduction to Annie Proulx was back in the old days when she was writing for Gray's Sporting Journal. I can't remember just what it was I read. What sticks in my mind was that the writing was alive and distinctive. Her name popped up again years later when my wife Medora took her picture for the Valley News, which serves New Hampshire and Vermont in the Hanover area. Annie had published Heart Songs, her first collection of short stories.

I knew that Proulx was a North Country writer, writing about North Country people — I knew I had to read her. I considered it part of my job to keep in touch with up country authors; it was the right thing to do. I can't say I was looking forward to the experience. I have a strong streak of pettiness and professional jealousy that I have failed to subdue over the years. A part of me would like to line up the writers in my genre against the wall and open fire. I try to hide these evil feelings behind a facade of good cheer, openness, and generosity. I'm such a phony, but in your own way so are you, dear fellow writer, so are you. It's okay. Nurture your sins, rejoice in them. Without sin we would have nothing to write about; without sinners we would have no interesting characters; without sinning ourselves we wouldn't know how accurately to portray real life. I would read Heart Songs out of a sense of obligation to my career, but I didn't have to like it, nor its author.

Everything changed in five minutes after I opened the pages of Heart Songs. The stories were original and powerful, the characters realistic, but what touched me, took hold of me, and turned me upside down was Proulx's voice, its ability to excite the mind and heart with language: [She was] "thin as a folded dollar bill, her hand as narrow and cold as a trout." After an hour with Heart Songs I was a changed man. That nasty, petty little demon ran scared out of my heart back into the bowels where he belonged. This is what great writing does for readers. It brings out our better nature. It gives us hope in our species. It inspires us to rise above our frailties. What great writing does for writers is to raise our standards at the same time that it gives us confidence to go on with our work.

Some of the downside of the writing life (like the actor's life or the painter's life) is that sometimes you wonder if it ever amounts to anything. I mean if a plumber comes to my house and fixes my toilet it's undeniable that his work has amounted to something. But if I go to the plumber's house and leave a haiku on his kitchen table, whether my work has amounted to anything remains forever debatable. Thank you, Annie Proulx. You made me proud to be a writer. In a time when I weakened you sent me back to the word processor in search of . . . what? Well, I'm not sure exactly, but it has something to do with my attempts to provoke in others that soaring feeling of humanity that you brought out in me.

Annie is long gone from New England. My guess is I'll never see her again. What I will remember about her as a person will be an incident that summarized what I most admired about her, her fearlessness. She had just won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for her novel The Shipping News. She was not only coming into her own at an age some writers are finished, she was making good money for the first time in her life. The result was she was selling her house in Vershire, Vermont, and starting elsewhere.

I dropped by to visit her and found her on the roof fixing some shingles, I think. The house was built on the side of a hill so that the rickety ladder went up three stories. Annie was half up the roof when she spotted me — and slipped. I watched in horror as she slid down the roof. One foot caught the top rung of the ladder and pushed the ladder outward. I thought the ladder might fall over. Annie barely clung to the roof with her hands while the ladder wavered under her foot until she was able to bring it back into position. She climbed down the ladder, greeted me as if nothing had happened. Annie Proulx is the kind of person you'd want by your side if you had to go to war.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Superior Person's Tuesday!

Dirigible a. Everyone is familiar with this word as a noun meaning airship; but of course it is originally an adjective meaning "capable of being directed, steerable." Thus an airship was a dirigible balloon. When the party is breaking up and everyone is starting to worry about Melanie, who is upright but distinctly glassy-eyed, you ask: "Is she still dirigible?"

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. Dirigible appears in the First.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Reading for your next snow day

From The New Yorker's The Book Bench:

Great White New York by Elizabeth Minkel

It’s a shame, really, that the grown-up snow day means working from home and periodically going out to shovel the front walk. If you were a sensible eleven-year-old, you spent blizzards playing outside or sitting in your pajamas watching daytime television (never mind that “working from home” might mean the same thing). If you’re one of the lucky adults blessed with a proper, do-nothing snow day today—and if you aren’t looking forward to finally catching an episode of “The Dr. Oz Show”—you may as well curl up with a good book. At the very least, you’ll make everyone who had to trudge into the office today (read: me) ridiculously jealous.

But what’s appropriate snow-day reading? My first instinct is to go for the other extreme: something tropical, or a desert scene, or maybe some Faulkner—try conjuring up summer in Mississippi on a day like today. But perhaps it’s best to grab the bull by the horns and actually read stuff about snow: long Russian winters, Orhan Pamuk, anything on this list, composed by the Guardian books staff during a snowier-than-usual British winter.

I think, though, that one of the best snowy reads you’ll find today was penned more than a century ago. The blizzard that struck New York in 1888—the “Great White Hurricane”— remains one of the worst in recorded history. More than four hundred people died, commuters were trapped on trains for days, and though the city itself only received a few feet of snow, the resulting snowdrifts were three stories tall (my hometown, Saratoga Springs, was apparently the worst hit, with fifty-eight inches of snowfall).


Wall Street during the blizzard of 1888 (Trinity Church is in the background). The power lines that draped major streets became a particular hazard under the weight of the snow.

The Times’s coverage of the storm—they called it “annoying and detrimental” and “a surprise party of the worst kind”—is absolutely delightful. It’s hard, at times, to tell what’s vaguely tongue-in-cheek and what’s simply the reporting style of the Gilded Age (New Yorkers who couldn’t receive daily milk and newspaper deliveries “began to seriously question whether life was worth living after all”). But the heartwarming stuff is pretty great:
Stories were told, jokes were cracked, and jovial good-fellowship prevailed. Nobody put on any airs. The aristocratic banker and merchant was "hale fellow well met" with the artisan, helpful to the shopgirl, and kind to the inevitable old lady whom even the blizzard couldn't keep at home.

The complete failure of the city’s infrastructure led to serious changes, including shifting telephone and telegraph lines and elevated subway tracks underground (if only the fallout from the last blizzard could do the same for our current infrastructural problems). But even if the storms of the twenty-first century bear little resemblance to the Great White Hurricane, the closing description of New York City in the snow will always ring true:

It's hard to believe that in this last quarter of the nineteenth century that for even one day New York could be so completely isolated from the rest of the world as if Manhattan Island was in the middle of the South Sea.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Say It, I Say—Say It!

Carlin Romano, Critic-At-Large at The Chronicle of Higher Education, praises Godine's recently released Farnsworth's Classical English Rhetoric:

Imagine a young person today applying for a writing job. She informs the hiring editor that she’s good at epizeuxis, not bad at epanalepsis, okay at anaphora. In fact, she adds, if the editor parses her letter, he’ll notice some pretty swift epistrophe, anadiplosis and polyptoton.

Alas, one more young body on the unemployment pile.

We don’t talk like that anymore, if we ever did. Ward Farnsworth knows that. He understands that the grand rhetoric of rhetoric enjoys little place in English today. But in Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric, his decorously delightful volume just out from David R. Godine, this Boston University law professor organizes his sterling material by the old categories. No matter that he’s really just talking about things like repeating words, putting them in odd order, asking questions that needn’t be answered, and so on.

“Everyone speaks and writes in patterns,” Farnsworth begins, arguing that our choices among patterns still make a powerful difference in whether words work for us or not. Such rhetorical figures “tend to show up often in utterances that are long remembered” he notes—the Rev. Martin Luther King’s eightfold “I have a dream” repetition was pure anaphora, and JFK’s “Ask not… ” a case of pure chiasmus—so it’s worth identifying them.

At the same time, Farnsworth recognizes that rhetorical figures often fail because, in the hands of politicians, they‘re “strained efforts to make dull claims sound snappy,” or they don’t sound “spontaneous,” or a speaker simply overdoes it.

How, he wisely asks, “does one study techniques that succeed only when they seem unstudied?”

His answer: by piling on examples until any idiot can separate the spellbinding from the spectacularly flat.

And so it comes to pass. Beginning with Farnsworth’s chapter on figures of repetition (all the terms in our imaginary young writer’s letter describe such devices), a rhetorical miracle takes place. As Farnsworth analyzes and explains his examples, you start reading them aloud because, well—they just sound so good.

For a moment, in the privacy of your office, you’re Churchill in the House of Commons, 1940: “We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air….we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender….”

. . .

So, dear reader, I say it even if I say it myself—get this book! No, really, get this book! Read clever Farnsworth, and read him again, and you may become more clever yourself.

Read the full review here.

Superior Person's Tuesday! (just a little late)

We're sorry we missed you on Tuesday but better late than never, right? At least we're still in time to catch Boston's big snow storm. Stay warm everybody!

Cacosmia n. A condition in which the sufferer experiences awful tastes and smells without any external physical cause. (In the later stages of his brain tumour, George Gershwin constantly experienced the smell of burning rubber.)

"Yes, I know it's an awful smell, dear, but don't worry, it's not cacosmia, it's just that you-know-who has just passed this way."

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. Cacosmia appears in the Third.

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Deserter by Charles Reznikoff

The Poetry Foundation has just posted the poem A Deserter by Charles Reznikoff, a "blood-and-bone New Yorker," from the Black Sparrow collection The Poems Of Charles Reznikoff: 1918-1975:

A Deserter

Their new landlord was a handsome man. On his rounds to
collect rent she became friendly.
Finally, she asked him in to have a cup of tea. After that he
came often.

Once his mouth jerked, and turning, she saw her husband in
the doorway.
She thought, One of the neighbors must have told him.
She smiled and opened her mouth to speak, but could say
Her husband stood looking at the floor. He turned and went

She lay awake all night waiting for him.
In the morning she went to his store. It was closed.
She sent for his brothers and told them he had not been home.
They went to the police. Hospitals and morgues were
searched. For weeks they were called to identify drowned

His business had been prosperous; bank account and all were
untouched. She and their baby girl were provided for.
In a few years they heard of him. He was dead.
He had been making a poor living in a far off city. One day he
stepped in front of a street-car and was killed.

She married again. Her daughter married and had children.
She named none after her father.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Superior Person's Tuesday!

Clishnaclaver n. Silly Gossip. Another of those Scottish words. Why are they all so pejorative?

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. Clishnaclaver appears in the Third.

“What takes place in our mind, in our soul, when we read a novel?”

The Harvard University Press offers an excerpt today from Noble Prize-winning Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk’s book The Naive and the Sentimental Novelist. All fans of literature will likely nod in agreement . . .

"I have been reading novels for forty years. I know there are many stances we can adopt toward the novel, many ways in which we commit our soul and mind to it, treating it lightly or seriously. And in just the same manner, I have learned by experience that there are many ways to read a novel. We read sometimes logically, sometimes with our eyes, sometimes with our imagination, sometimes with a small part of our mind, sometimes the way we want to, sometimes the way the book wants us to, and sometimes with every fiber of our being. There was a time in my youth when I completely dedicated myself to novels, reading them intently—even ecstatically. During those years, from the age of eighteen to the age of thirty (1970 to 1982), I wanted to describe what went on in my head and in my soul the way a painter depicts with precision and clarity a vivid, complicated, animated landscape filled with mountains, plains, rocks, woods, and rivers.

What takes place in our mind, in our soul, when we read a novel? How do such interior sensations differ from what we feel when we watch a film, look at a painting, or listen to a poem, even an epic poem? A novel can, from time to time, provide the same pleasures that a biography, a film, a poem, a painting, or a fairy tale provides. Yet the true, unique effect of this art is fundamentally different from that of other literary genres, film, and painting. And I can perhaps begin to show this difference by telling you about the things I used to do and the complex images awakened within me while I was passionately reading novels in my youth.

Just like the museum visitor who first and foremost wants the painting he’s gazing at to entertain his sense of sight, I used to prefer action, conflict, and richness in landscape. I enjoyed the feeling of both secretly observing an individual’s private life and exploring the dark corners of the general vista. But I don’t wish to give you the impression that the picture I held within me was always a turbulent one. When I read novels in my youth, sometimes a broad, deep, peaceful landscape would appear within me. And sometimes the lights would go out, black and white would sharpen and then separate, and the shadows would stir. Sometimes I would marvel at the feeling that the whole world was made of a quite different light. And sometimes twilight would pervade and cover everything, the whole universe would become a single emotion and a single style, and I would understand that I enjoyed this and would sense that I was reading the book for this particular atmosphere. As I was slowly drawn into the world within the novel, I would realize that the shadows of the actions I had performed before opening the pages of the novel, sitting in my family’s house in Beóiktaó in Istanbul—the glass of water I had drunk, the conversation I’d had with my mother, the thoughts which had passed through my mind, the small resentments I had harbored—were slowly fading away.

I would feel that the orange armchair I was sitting in, the stinking ashtray beside me, the carpeted room, the children playing soccer in the street yelling at each other, and the ferry whistles from afar were receding from my mind; and that a new world was revealing itself, word by word, sentence by sentence, in front of me. As I read page after page, this new world would crystallize and become clearer, just like those secret drawings which slowly appear when a reagent is poured on them; and lines, shadows, events, and protagonists would come into focus. During these opening moments, everything that delayed my entry into the world of the novel and that impeded my remembering and envisioning the characters, events, and objects would distress and annoy me. A distant relative whose degree of kinship to the real protagonist I had forgotten, the uncertain location of a drawer containing a gun, or a conversation which I understood to have a double meaning but whose second meaning I could not make out—these sorts of things would disturb me enormously. And while my eyes eagerly scanned the words, I wished, with a blend of impatience and pleasure, that everything would fall promptly into place. At such moments, all the doors of my perception would open as wide as possible, like the senses of a timid animal released into a completely alien environment, and my mind would begin to function much faster, almost in a state of panic."

Forthcoming Franz Werfel titles

In Spring 2011 David R. Godine, Publisher will publish two titles by Franz Werfel, the great German-language poet, essayist, novelist, and dramatist:

The Forty Days of Musa Dagh is Werfel’s masterpiece, the novel that brought him international acclaim in 1933 and drew the world’s attention to the Armenian Genocide. This book, long out of print in English, is now available again in Geoffrey Dunlop’s classic translation, with revisions and expansions by James Reidel.

“In every sense, a true and thrilling novel . . . It tells a story which it is almost one’s duty as an intelligent human being to read. And one’s duty here becomes one’s pleasure also.” New York Times Book Review

The second Werfel title, Pale Blue Ink in a Lady’s Hand, is published for the first time in English and translated by NEA-award-winning translator James Reidel, is a prequel to what is known as Holocaust literature. A departure from Werfel’s best-selling epic novels of the 1930s, this short novella about interwar Austria is a glimpse into Werfel’s own time and milieu, a tragic love story, and an unsparing critique of the evasions and self deceptions of the Austrian bureaucracy in the final days before the Anschluss.

Josh Lambert of Tablet ("A New Read on Jewish Life") mentioned our forthcoming publication in "On the Bookshelf" yesterday:

"Franz Werfel, the expressionist playwright who attended school with Kafka in Prague, has now had his final untranslated novel rendered into English as Pale Blue Ink in a Lady’s Hand (David R. Godine). Werfel started writing this tale of a married Austrian diplomat and the Jewish girl he once loved in 1940, after anti-Semitism forced him to flee Vienna; by year’s end, he found his way to—where else?—Hollywood."

Monday, January 3, 2011

Janine Pommy Vega, 1942-2010

We deeply regret the passing of the poet Janine Pommy Vega, author of The Mad Dogs of Trieste (Black Sparrow, 2000) and The Green Piano (Black Sparrow, 2005), who died on December 23, 2010, at the age of 68. Her sudden death will be mourned by all those whose lives were touched by her generous friendship, her tireless social work in schools and prisons around the world, and her luminous poems.

Her obituary by William Grimes appeared in the New York Times on January 2nd: