Friday, September 30, 2011

Thoughts on Banned Book Week

The Jersey Shore gets to run on TV, their stars are featured on daytime talk shows in all their GTL and fist-pumping glory, but you, Huckleberry Finn, are far too derogatory for me to tolerate. Banned! “16 and Pregnant” and its spin-offs are splashed across magazine covers in the grocery store line, but, my goodness, The Hunger Games is too sexually explicit to be available at the local library. Lolita, I’m sorry, I can’t allow you to be in the vicinity of my children . . . but, really, who has time to read when “Toddlers and Tiaras” is on?

In an era when the freedom of self-expression is taken to the absolute max, and the freedom to say and write what you think and feel is celebrated to the point of questioning what is and is not toeing the line, we still have to contend with books being banned, contested, and challenging. Because, let’s be honest, Grimm’s Fairy Tales in all its grisly glory really is worse than watching the Casey Anthony trial. Sarcasm aside, why does a week dedicated to drawing attention to banned books around the world still exist? A better question: why does it need to?

Since the inception of Banned Books Week in 1982, an estimated 11,000 books have been challenged in libraries, schools, and bookstores. The week was created with the purpose of celebrating intellectual freedom, and to call attention to authors, writers, and subjects of banned books who face persecution. Reasons why these books were challenged vary from concerned parents worried about mature subject matter, to religious beliefs, to plan dislike. Some people see it as a vote in favor of censorship, and others roll their eyes and proclaim it to be ridiculous. Still others see it as a necessary step to maintain an environment as politically correct as possible. . . . A totally realistic goal, don’t you think?

The idea of banning books is, to me, ridiculous. In today’s world, what children have access to with the a click of a mouse or a remote control is far more frightening than anything Stephen King or George Orwell can create. The witches and werewolves of Twilight and Harry Potter don’t make children think they are going to get a letter to Hogwarts or fall in love with a glittery vampire or even start devil worshipping (if we are going down that path, then just wipe out the Salem witch trials and McCarthyism in high school curriculums). But they do inspire creativity, and a little daydreaming about a mythical and exciting world never hurt anyone. To ban a book is to prevent the spread of ideas. It is bringing a screeching halt to intellectual freedom, and it encourages the persecution of those who write controversial texts. If we are so committed to protecting our liberties, then why are some people so dedicated to stifling the freedom of speech in others? And let’s be honest . . . banning a book isn’t going to stop anyone from reading it. It is forbidden fruit syndrome, and curiosity will win out. It is human nature, after all. I think that open and honest discourse is a far better way of making views and concerns known, and open channels of communication foster the very environment that people are struggling to create by making a fuss over published works.

So, in honor of Banned Book Week, read a book that has been banned in the past, or find one that is currently finding itself under fire. Pick up a copy of The Tales of Tom Sawyer, The Great Gatsby, or The Call of the Wild. Discover the joys and pains of growing up that are found within the pages of To Kill a Mockingbird, laugh along with Jo in Little Women, and cry with Scarlet in Gone with the Wind. Discover new worlds in Ulysses, and ponder the future in 1984. See what all the fuss is about over the ever popular children’s book Captain Underpants. Read a poem by Shel Silverstein. Take a stand on personal freedoms and expression, and read a book.

The author of this post is Jackie Herder, an intern at David R. Godine, Publisher and a recent graduate of Boston College.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

"Books that deserve to be banned"

Banned Books Week is going on right now (September 24th–October 1st). Over at Salon, Laura Miller is asking: "What book did you have to read in elementary or middle school that you wouldn't mind seeing vanish from the reading lists of children everywhere?"

One of my favorite replies:

" . . . surely the most egregious tale of recklessly required reading comes from Life section editor Sarah Hepola, who at the age of 14 was assigned Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott, a novelist regarded as unreadable by most adults. 'It was my freshman honors English class,' Sarah recalled, 'and it was the first book we read that year. English had always been my favorite class, a refuge for a kid who felt out of place and loved words, and that pretty much put an end to all that.'"

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Superior Person's Tuesday!

Morology n - In speech or writing, being deliberately foolish or nonsensical as a means of achieving a desired effect. A technique not often employed by the present author, who ordinarily makes his effects by being accidentally foolish or nonsensical.

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. Morology appears in the Third.

Monday, September 26, 2011

PW - All My Dogs

A big thank you goes to Publishers Weekly today for the great review of All My Dogs: A Life by Bill Henderson. Henderson is the beloved founder of Pushcart Press and editor and publisher of the annual Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Presses, now in its thirty-fifth year. Godine is thrilled to publish his latest memoir.

"With dry humor and enviable honesty, this gem by Pushcart Press founder Henderson (His Son) tells his life story through 13 dogs—of different sizes, shapes, breeds, and mixes—that he and his family have owned. His first dog, Trixie (a German Spitz mix) shaped his formative years in suburban Philadelphia. After his friend's father kicked out the mutt Duke, a 10-year-old Henderson took him in. Labrador retriever Sophie saved Henderson's relationship with his future wife and witnessed the couple's daughter, Holly, grow up. Today, Franny and Sedgwick keep Henderson company. Henderson candidly discusses the deaths of his dogs, including the unexpectedly intimate depiction of the time he discovered Ellen and Rocky (a beloved Chesapeake Bay retriever and mutt) floating in a residential swimming pool in his upstate New York neighborhood. While making a solid, yet subtle, argument for why dogs remain man's best friend, Henderson also writes of his Christian upbringing and his 'spiritual sojourn.' The book is greatly enhanced by famed artist Leslie Moore's line drawings, and the typeface is Minion, which just happens to mean 'faithful companion.'"
Publishers Weekly

Leslie Moore's line drawings are pretty amazing. Here is a sneak peak of a couple from the book's interior:

Friday, September 23, 2011

As Death and Life Turns Fifty, Jason Epstein Tips His Hat to Genius

Commemorating a half-century since the publication of Jane Jacobs’s The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Random House’s fiftieth-anniversary edition of the influential book bestows special recognition on Genius of Common Sense, which was published by David R. Godine in 2009. Jason Epstein, renowned man of letters in the publishing world and Jane’s longtime editor, has written a new introduction for this celebratory volume. He chronicles his working relationship with Jacobs and her activism in New York, and ponders her distinctive nature. In searching for words to describe the impossible-to-categorize freethinker, Epstein selected “genius of common sense” and singled out Godine’s young adult biography of Jane Jacobs, whose title popularized the phrase.

In his introduction Jane’s esteemed editor alludes to anecdotes in Genius that seek to inspire the younger generation to emulate the youthful Jane. “I was not surprised to learn later from a biographer,” Epstein muses, “that she had been a defiant high school student with a sense of humor, a sharp eye for cant, and a problem for uninspiring teachers: a contrarian even then.” We take great pride in Epstein’s choosing to draw from Genius of Common Sense, given the many recent books and articles elucidating and assessing Jane’s oeuvre.

In Jane Jacobs’s last hometown of Toronto, the Centre for City Ecology – itself an outgrowth of her ideas – honored Death and Life’s golden anniversary and the new edition’s release this week by presenting a panel of four of the city’s former mayors. Mayors John Sewell, Art Eggleton, David Crombie, and Barbara Hall, all of whom had interacted with Jane during her four decades in Canada’s largest city, discussed Jane’s contributions to urban life there. Five hundred people scooped up the free tickets and filled the hall to capacity. Judging from the tweets, a lively exchange ensued. Would that the “Genius of Common Sense” herself were there to witness the ongoing dialog in response to her ideas and in keeping with her spirit. Her groundbreaking book published fifty years ago this fall is as important as ever.

The author of this post is Glenna Lang, co-author of Godine's Genius of Common Sense: Jane Jacobs and the Story of the Death & Life of Great American Cities along with Marjory Wunsch.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Yes, we have eBooks!

We are excited to have several of our titles for sale as an eBook through Google's eBookstore.

A nice variety of titles are available which include Charles Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal, Ward Farnsworth's Farnsworth's Classical English Rhetoric, Daniel Fuchs's The Brooklyn Novels, Charles Reznikoff's By the Waters of Manhattan, and the entire Swallows & Amazons twelve book series by Arthur Ransome.

In addition, Desert by 2008 Nobel Laureate J.M.G. Le Clezio is also available on the Kindle and nook as well as the Google eBookstore. Please keep checking back; more titles are to come!

The complete list of eBooks can be found on the Godine site.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Superior Person's Tuesday!

Cirriped n. A member of an order of crustaceans which in their adult stage attach themselves in a parasitic way to other creatures or objects. As, for example, barnacles. "Dearest, do you think Kimberley might leave home this year and get her own little flat – or is she to be our permanent cirriped?"

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. Cirriped appears in the Third.

Friday, September 16, 2011

All My Dogs - Giveaway Winner!

Congrats go to Wayne Donnell for his excellent entry for the All My Dogs book giveaway! Here is his story and photo:

My wife, Deborah, and I had for many years a wonderful Keeshond named Bella. She passed on, and Deborah grieved long and well – unable to consider replacing her until one weekend our daughter, Rachel, and our granddaughter, Claire, came from their home in Asheville, NC for a visit. They took a walk to a nearby shopping center for lunch and some window shopping.

In the middle of the afternoon I get a call from Claire. She says: "Grandpa. We are at the pet store, and Grandma wants a puppy. Can she have one?" I say: "Claire, of course Grandma can have a puppy, but only if you name it." And so Sugar, a miniature Schnauzer, came into our lives. Sugar is a phenomenal dog. She steals the hearts of all who know her.

A few years later Rachel's husband took a job in San Diego, California, and they moved. To soften the sadness, Rachel promised her children they could get a puppy when they got to California. Claire and our grandson Noah wanted a dog like Sugar but all were wary of disappointment. How could any dog match the loving creature that was Sugar?

They began their search and soon found, yes, a miniature Schnauzer to adopt. She seemed wonderful so they crossed their fingers and brought this dog into their lives. Her name is Carolina, and here they are, in a photo taken the moment they headed home from the pound:

All are doing well, except, perhaps, the grandparents who wish they would all move back to North Carolina.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Poet laureates take on NH

The first ever New Hampshire Book Festival will be bringing state laureates from all around the country for a series of readings and discussions during a two day event (Oct 14th and 15th) called Poetry and Politics. Sixteen poets from around the US will arrive on Oct 13th and spread across the state for free public readings the following day.

New Hampshire poet laureate Walter Butts is hosting the event and participating poets include Wesley McNair, a beloved Godine author, and Betsy Sholl of Maine, Karla Morton and David Parsons of Texas, Dick Allen of Connecticut, JoAnn Balingit of Delaware, Sue Brannan Walker of Alabama, Bruce Dethlefsen of Wisconsin, Julie Kane of Louisiana, Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda of Virginia, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg of Kansas, Lisa Starr of Rhode Island, and Marjory Wentworth of South Carolina.

If you're lucky enough to be in NH at this time, we highly recommend that you check out this event! For details click here.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Superior Person's Tuesday!

Deipnosophist: n A wise conversationalist at the dinner table. Unfortunately, the two elements of the definition rarely go together.

An example of one who is not a deipnosophist.

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.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Superior Person's Tuesday!

Henchperson - n. Close and trusty follower. This new word has been created by the author to replace its sexist (q.v.) and thus outdated equivalent, henchman, which had gradually acquired, over the years, a pejorative (q.v.) flavor. Villains have henchmen; heroes have right-hand men - or, more properly, right-hand people.




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. Henchperson appears in the First.