Thursday, July 28, 2011
The new edition of Holdouts! is hot off the presses and available for sale starting today. Included in the book are amazing photographs that were re-scanned from the originals, as well as a new foreword by Vishaan Chakrabarti (acclaimed architect and head of the real estate development program at Columbia University).
But what better way to illuminate the history of this curious book and simultaneously announce the new edition than in limerick-form? That’s how I see it anyway. And incidentally, Mr. Alpern, thrilled about the new foreword, new design and all-around sexiness of this edition, has done just that. Please enjoy (click on the poem and cartoon to view full size)!
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
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. Juvenescent appears in the Second.
Monday, July 25, 2011
"Spahr's fifth book of imaginative writing (both poems and prose) should be a blockbuster, a lasting disturbance; a work of crisp wit, bizarre conjunctions and ultimately enduring moral authority; it is also the best, and perhaps the most widely accessible, thing that Spahr has done. . . . "
Friday, July 22, 2011
First stop: Our warehouse in Jaffrey, NH. There we put faces to the familiar names of other members of the Godine team, toured the facility, and learned a rudimentary life skill – how to properly jacket a book! John and I spent quite a bit of time with children’s book Catie Copley’s Great Escape by Deborah Kovacs and Jared T. Williams. John, in particular, quickly became Catie’s biggest fan, though let’s just say his prospects as a professional book jacketer do not look very promising [I would like to interject here. In my defense, if I devoted twice as much time to jacketing each of Catie’s books, it was only out of my deep love and respect for that noble canine and my general inability to place the title of the book on the spine. – John]
Next: Monadnock Paper Mills! We made our way there with David and were treated to an informative PowerPoint presentation, explaining what we were about to see. A good thing we were given that information first – who knew making paper was so noisy? Armed with protective goggles and earplugs, we eagerly snaked our way through the mill, observing all stages of the process. It was really eye-opening to witness the entire progression from raw wood fiber to finished paper, and I’m sure I speak for all of us when I say I look at the pieces of paper I see every day (which I’ve often so willingly discarded) in a whole new light.
How else could we cap off an exciting day other than with a trip to Shaw’s? David insisted we have the Shaw’s experience and it’s no wonder why – it’s the closest I’ve come to Wegman’s (my hometown favorite). David and I dropped off Hector and John with a rough list of groceries and returned twenty minutes later to discover Hector had mistakenly purchased a rather expensive hydroponic tomato. We refuse to let him live this down and of course had to take a picture for the blog. [Pardon me for interrupting, but I’m going to just throw my two cents in before Ellie further slanders my character. Those labels at Shaw’s are very misleading, and these particular tomatoes happened to be adjacent to some other tomatoes that were being sold by the pound. Naturally, I assumed that, with a similar price being advertised, these tomatoes were also being sold for a few bucks per pound. It was only after paying for the groceries that I discovered the devious pricing scheme at Shaw’s, having paid a few bucks for that one tomato. Bottom line: It could’ve happened to anyone. That is all. – Hector]
Our final destination for the evening was gorgeous Dublin, NH, past summer home of none other than Mark Twain. David’s home in NH is actually the same house where Twain was famously photographed in a series of seven shots smoking a cigar on the white-pillared porch. The view was breathtaking and it was truly amazing to look out into the distance at the same scene the American author had observed many years before. After taking in the sights, we manned our stations and put together a summery Mexican-themed meal and then treated ourselves to ice cream. When the last dish had been rinsed we interns still had some day left in us, so we spent a few hours playing a game Hector taught us called Liar’s Poker (a card-version of the dice game Mentirosa). Apart from John and Hector attempting to cheat by speaking Spanish so that I wouldn’t know what they were saying, it was great fun.
The sun rose early Tuesday morning and after breakfast we waved our goodbyes to the magnificent house and stopped back at the warehouse. There we spent some time organizing the reference library and exploring the current stock of books. Then we took to the road for our last two destinations – Capital Offset and New Hampshire Bindery, both located in Concord, NH.
At Capital Offset, a premium printing company, our tour included an overview of the impressive machinery the job requires, and an explanation of where the name “offset” comes from. Offset printing is actually a type of printing that involves transferring an image from a lithographic plate to the paper via a rubber blanket of sorts. We witnessed this method ourselves and were able to distinguish the high quality results. After our thanks for the tour, we departed for the New Hampshire Bindery, only a few blocks down the street. What looked like a rather average-sized building on the exterior soon became a massive factory as we stepped down into the immense basement. By the end of the tour of the facilities, we really had a full appreciation for the many steps involved (in proper book-making) and had a sense of how to tell a well-crafted book from something less than lustrous. Speaking of luster, the New Hampshire Bindery is one of the few places left in the US that still does gilding, and we got to watch two guys and an old machine transform regular books into gold-hemmed tomes.
We really couldn’t have asked for a more fun-filled and informative trip! Many thanks to Richard Verney of the Monadnock Paper Mill, Jay Stewart of Capital Offset, and Tom Ives of the New Hampshire Bindery for hosting us at their facilities.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
"God help us if blog writers get their hands on this book. It's a lot more fun than it may appear. Farnsworth identifies types of rhetorical strategies and illustrates each one with a wealth of quotations which make the book wonderfully readable. Not dry as dust but lively and inspiring."
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
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. Monoplegia appears in the Third.
Thursday, July 14, 2011
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Growing up in Baltimore in the 1950s and 60s, we got our doses of high culture at the Baltimore Museum of Art. The National Gallery was only an hour away, but I don’t remember visiting it until I was in college.
To get to the BMA, we drove from our neighborhood—where there were lots of Jewish families—across a main road (sometimes referred to as “the River Jordan”) through a neighborhood then largely off limits to Jews, to the museum. At the bottom of the front steps was a full-size copy of Rodin’s “The Thinker.” Once inside, we usually started by daring each other to visit the mummy on display in the basement. The upstairs galleries were full of paintings of the thoroughbred horses that were almost as important to the local culture as the hard shell crab.
But the jewel in the museum’s crown then as now was the Cone Collection. This was the first place I saw paintings by Matisse and his contemporaries. Little did I know that the collection amassed by Etta and Claribel Cone was one of the finest anywhere in the world.
Somehow I did know that the women who created the Cone Collection and, after many years of indecision, bequeathed it to the people of their, and my, native city, were Jewish. My grandparents had lived for several years in the building where the sisters and one of their brothers had adjoining apartments with 17 rooms crammed full of art brought home from their world travels. I knew, too, that there was a connection between Etta and Claribel (as we always called them) and Gertrude Stein, another member of Baltimore’s German Jewish elite. My great aunt was married to Gertrude Stein’s nephew. Long before I read anything by or about Stein, I knew that she was, as we might say here at JWA, a Jewess with a bad attitude.
The story of Etta and Dr. Claribel (who pursued the medical career that Gertrude Stein abandoned) is beautifully told in Susan Fillion’s new book, Miss Etta and Dr. Claribel: Bringing Matisse to America, published by David R. Godine. Generously illustrated by reproductions of paintings in the Cone Collection and by Fillion’s own inspired paintings, the book relates how these two unmarried, Jewish women transformed themselves into serious art collectors and early patrons and lifelong friends of Matisse. While Fillion had a young adult audience in mind, readers of any age will enjoy her graceful, accessible, and informative storytelling as much as I did.
If you have a little time, you should really check out this clip.
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. Rhynchocephalian appears in the Third.
Thursday, July 7, 2011
I was drawn in by Desert's opening pages, which depict the dreamlike descent of a tribe to a long-awaited oasis, and I took the book with me and resolved to find out more about Le Clézio. I learned that J.M.G. stood for Jean-Marie Gustave, that he won the 2008 Nobel Prize in Literature, and that he spoke at the 2011 Seoul International Forum for Literature in May. In the days leading up to that event, Le Clézio gave a very interesting interview with Lee Sun-Min of the Korea JoongAng Daily in which he talked about the role of literature in our modern, globalizing world. Here's what he had to say:
“The subject the forum is going to talk about – the globalizing world and the human community – has been talked about frequently at many other forums as well worldwide. However, it is still important, it is discussed over and over again, since literature is something that travels across national borders. Of course, there is a limit, since the original words of literature are written in a (native) language. But as long as they deal with factors and ideas that all human beings can sympathize with, they will carry their power.
I heard this story, if you take a picture of all the human races and show 20 pictures every second, people cannot tell who’s Asian and who’s African and who’s European. Eventually, all the faces appearing look the same. This shows that there is something universally inherent in humans. What literature needs to do is find that inherent universal thing in humankind and let more people know about it.”
Le Clézio’s faith in the power of literature to tap into universal, borderless human experiences and sentiments is at the heart of his 1980 novel Desert, which was first published in English translation by Godine in 2008 and has now become an eBook. The sprawling, beautiful narrative crosses national borders and the first half of the 20th century as it tells the parallel tales of one son and one daughter of a nomadic Saharan tribe called the Blue Men. What really struck me about Desert was Le Clézio’s ability to use language to pull me off of my couch, out of my air-conditioned apartment – in short, out of my comfortable life – and into a world governed by very elemental and immediate human needs. Thirst, hunger, spiritual nourishment, staying warm – these are all essential aspects of what it means and has always meant to be human, but they can lose their immediacy for those who, like me, are lucky enough to live fairly comfortably. It was refreshing to read Le Clézio’s elemental, sensory prose, which draws out the natural danger and beauty inherent in those basic realities.
The rest of the interview can be found here. The eBook edition of Desert is now available at the Google eBookstore.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
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. Dissave appears in the Second.
"Dickerson's evolution from mildly interested to deeply committed is a joy to follow and the many lessons on the Victorians that Hall artfully embeds in the text are welcome to anyone who wants to know more without tackling a biography (or night school). In many ways, Correspondence serves as the best sort of English textbook; it contains a bit of a mystery, some warm exchanges between friends, and more than one kind word for some truly great writers. An AP English student would find much here to worth adding to his classroom education but I can't help thinking it is people who find themselves in circumstances similar to Dickerson -- finally with the time on their hands to learn all they missed -- who will most likely embrace it. These are literary lessons at their most amiable and a tonic to the chaos of the world around us."
Friday, July 1, 2011
Benches spangled in shade,
billows of bunting in river breeze,
the esplanade blazing: blanket to blanket
and cooler to cooler, their quarter-million radios’
zones of sound overlapping, a quarter-million
have gathered early for the fireworks.
The two of us can’t help but feel part
of this immense party: everywhere
we are spread on quilts, masked in visors
and sunglasses. The collective future’s decided,
I guess, by these crowds—more of us
than I’ll ever see in one place, and all out
for a good time. We all stake claims:
sometimes even a makeshift tent or string fence
marks a chosen portion of view,
though everyone seems more interested
in the community of viewers. We wonder
if the scene might be much different in war
or disaster—these could be refugees
lugging their portable households—
but these are cheerful explosions, surprises
and mock danger everyone seems to like.
Glow-in-the-dark headbands begin to shine
as evening comes on, electric pink
or blue, as if the buyer could wear a thin stripe
of the neon that will later burst
over the water, a fire to keep.
The faces of the vendors
who carry hundreds in swaying bundles
glow in the light of their fifty-cent toys.