Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ring of Bright Water - Review

Thank you Steve Donoghue over at Stevereads, an Open Letters Monthly blog, for the great review of Ring of Bright Water: A Trilogy. The new Godine edition is hot off the presses this week and available now.

Here's an excerpt from Steve's review (the rest can be found here):

Our book today is Gavin Maxwell’s immortal 1960 nature classic, Ring of Bright Water, the story of his life in the West Highlands of Scotland in a picturesque little house he calls Camusfearna in the book – and more than just the story of that life: of course, as millions of readers have discovered to their delight over years, it’s the story of the friendships Maxwell forms with first one remarkable otter, Mijdil, and then a second, Edal. So memorable is the impression the book leaves of these two remarkable animals that the returning reader is surprised to find that Mij doesn’t even appear until 80 pages have passed – you remember it as his book from first to last, but Maxwell actually sets the stage for many pages before his acquires his friend in Iraq and brings him half-way around the world to the cold lakes and waterfalls of Scotland. We get many beautiful descriptions of the majestic bleakness of that part of the world – a bleakness that’s ultimately impossible to capture in words, although Maxwell comes closer to doing it than any other author I’ve ever read. Even when he’s in haste to tell an unconnected story, his descriptions are wonderful:

It was a cloudy night with a freshening wind and a big moon that swam muzzily through black rags of vapour. By eleven o’clock it was blowing strong to gale from the south, and on the windward side of the islands there was a heavy sea beginning to pile up.

A couple photos from Ring of Bright Water:

Camusfearna


A Q&A with N. John Hall

What could be more exciting than inheriting a collection of valuable letters from famous Victorian authors? Well, for Larry Dickerson, the protagonist of N. John Hall’s new epistolary novel, Correspondence: An Adventure in Letters, the thrill of unraveling the history in these letters quickly proves to be just that, and we, as readers, join him through his adventure. I discovered that I was just as eager as Stephen Nicholls, Larry’s correspondent, to see the next illustration from Thackeray or comment from Dickens.
The back-and-forth format keeps things moving at a brisk pace and there is a lot of information about Victorian literature, but the narrative is light and humorous. Interspersed with discussions of Darwin and George Eliot are Larry’s frank (and often amusing) observations like the following:

I still don’t see why we don’t have a good English phrase for everything . . . I was once going into a deli in the Bronx, and the guy I was with held the door for an attractive young woman and said, “Apres vous,” and she shot him a dirty look as if to say, “Don’t go using any filthy language on me, fella.” Better to keep to English.

I came away from Correspondence entertained by the characters, educated by the content, and intrigued to find out more. In the effort to do just that, I interviewed the author himself.

Q: I am curious, how did your own journey into the world of Victorian literature begin?
A: In graduate school, at NYU. A course in the Victorian novel by the late Gordon Ray (about whom I’m contemplating a book) got me started.

Q: As an expert in Trollope, did you try to avoid partiality towards him in the novel?
A: I tried to be impartial, but of course no one can be impartial, really. My passion for Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, for example, finds expression in Larry Dickerson, the book’s unlettered main character. Larry also likes Trollope and belittles Wilkie Collins—prejudices of my own.

Q: You must have a great deal of experience with original manuscripts: do you identify, therefore, with Larry’s fervor in transcribing his stash of letters?
A: Yes indeed. Transcribing can be exciting. But I myself would be more willing than Larry to ask help. Sometimes a word you are trying to decipher just leaps out at another pair of eyes.

Q: Your career has been spent writing scholarly books. What was it like to try your hand at fiction, and did you prefer one style to the other?
A: I don’t prefer one to the other. However, there are critics who claim that biographies, for example, are really “novels”—not a view I subscribe to, although I can understand it.

Q: What about the sample Victorian letters that the protagonist, Larry Dickerson, forwards to Stephen Nicholls at Christie’s London? How real are those letters?
A: They are pretty “real”—except that they don’t exist. That is, much in them is “borrowed” or based on actual letters and other writings of the authors involved.

Q: In my own correspondence with people from the UK, I often struggle to communicate clearly through the “language barrier.” Was the amusing banter of Larry and Stephen concerning the cultural differences between England and America drawn from personal experience?
A: Yes. I’ve spent a lot of time in the UK and have corresponded with English people for decades. Still, I had to be on my guard about having Stephen Nicholls sound American, or having Larry sound British. For example, early on I had Larry keeping some biographies “to hand,” whereas he would have said he wanted to “keep them handy.” In some cases I had help from English friends—“MacDowell,” for example, to be Scottish must have the capital “D”.

Q: Where did your inspiration for this novel come from?
A: The kernel of the story was suggested to me by Bob Call—to whom the book is dedicated.

Q: What sort of response would you like this book to inspire in your readers?
A: “Inspiration” is a pretty high sounding—but I would like some few people to take up reading the Victorians, the “golden age of the English novel.” It’s never too late.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Need a 5 minute distraction?

Our new title, Correspondence: An Adventure in Letters (isn't the cover a beauty?), just came in this week and will be available at your favorite local bookstore in a matter of days. Correspondence is an epistolary novel and will find its home among lovers of Victorian literature (Dickens, Thackeray, Eliot, and Trollope anyone?).

We're pretty excited about this one and Chelsey, one of our amazing interns, created a "How well do you know your Victorian Literature?" quiz to kick things off. Need a 5 minute distraction? Click here.

Superior Person's Tuesday!

Hamadryad n. One of those rather delightful words that have several totally different meanings. A hamadryad can be a tree-dwelling nymph, a venomous Indian snake, or an Abyssinian baboon. You may use the word, for example in the latter sense, when insulting a female, but on being taken to task you may if you wish explain that you were using the word in its nymphal sense. Alternatively, you may use the word as an apparent compliment, conveying by your manner that you are evoking the nymphal sense, but at the same time revel in private knowledge that one of the other senses is the applicable one.


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. Hamadryad appears in the First.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The American Girls Handy Book - Book Cover

Written for American girls of the Victorian period, one would think The American Girls Handy Book: How to Amuse Yourself and Others would be terribly old fashioned and useless to us modern women.

False.

This book is filled with crafts and activities for girls of all ages and eras. There are activities for every season and holiday, such as crystallizing flowers for spring, how to make a Mikado fan for summer, re-enacting the Pilgrims’ landing for one’s Thanksgiving dinner guests, and creating a home gymnasium for the winter (which is definitely cheaper than buying a treadmill). One chilly, overcast day, we interns decided to amuse ourselves by doing a winter craft — the “Home-made Book-cover.” Our creative process was somewhat inhibited by the fact that we only had office materials at our disposal for this undertaking. But, being the resourceful American girls that we are, our book cover still turned out quite glamorously. Below you can find the instructions for this craft from the Handy Book (with a few personal tips, from us to you, in brackets) as well as a few pictures of our stunning final project.
Take two pieces of heavy cardboard, a trifle larger than the book you wish to cover, [Staples’ shipment boxes are made from cardboard with an excellent thickness for this.], make three holes near the edge of each and corresponding holes in the edges of the book, which must not be too thick—that is, contain too many leaves. [The Beard sisters aren’t kidding about this thickness issue. 20 pages is too much for most 3-hole punchers to handle, as we discovered. Which leads to the question, how did Victorian girls punch holes anyway, without 3-hole punchers?] Pass narrow ribbons through these holes and tie in bow-knots [Rubber bands cut in half and decorated in Sharpie work just as well.]. If the leaves of the book are thin, more holes can be made in the back and the covers laced together with silk cord [Rubber bands decorated in Sharpie also make a good replacement for silk cord.].

These book-covers may be beautifully decorated by anyone who can paint in watercolors [Or by anyone who can draw with highlighters and more Sharpies.], and tinted cardboard can also be used for them. They are pretty, and suitable as covers for manuscripts, poems, or stories, or for a collection of autographs [Might we suggest one of Godine’s lead spring titles — Correspondence: An Adventure in Letters by N. John Hall, available now!].

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Superior Person's Tuesday!

For something a little different . . . today's word is actually from The Superior Person's Field Guide also by Peter Bowler:

Kiss the Dog, To v. To pick a person's pocket while standing face to face with him. For further information, the reader is referred to Eddie Joseph's How to Pick Pockets – another item in the author's collection of ridiculous books – for some remarkable revelations of just what is possible for an expert 'dip.'

Life A User's Manual @ Conversational Reading

Georges Perec's Life A User's Manual (Godine edition) is the Spring Big Read selection over at Scott Esposito's Conversational Reading. The reading is currently well underway and excellent discussion is sure to follow.

Last week Scott posted a great introduction to the book. Here's an excerpt:

"Life A User’s Manual
is saturated with all kinds of constraints (to get an idea, have a look at this table, in French but still quite comprehensible if you don’t have any French). I’m not nearly qualified to talk about all of these constraints, but there are a couple very famous ones that we should know about before we start reading.

The first is The Knight’s Tour. The idea of this is that there are specific routes by which the chess figure known as a Knight can touch every square on a chessboard. Perec envisioned his apartment as something like a chessboard, making it a 10 x 10 grid (36 squares larger than a chessboard’s 8 x 8). In Life, the narrative voice is akin to the Knight in that it moves from square to square via the leap that only a chess Knight can make (i.e. two steps forward, one to the right; or two steps left, one forward). Note that the apartments in Perec’s building are not each only 1 square in size . . . many of them are built by combining adjacent units into one large unit, which Perec notes in their descriptions. Each of the 99 chapters in Life corresponds to one of the squares, meaning that for some characters we are in their apartments more than once (albeit in different rooms of the apartment). And yes, the math majors among us have already noticed that 10 x 10 = 100, not 99. We’ll talk about that missing 100th chapter later.

Knowing this, and watching the clues that Perec leaves (usually at the beginning of each chapter) you can, if you want, reconstruct a diagram of the apartment as we go along. (There’s also a completed diagram at the end of the book, but I heavily recommend you don’t look at it early.) In fact, doing so as we read is probably tantamount to accepting Perec’s implicit challenge to “put together” his puzzle, as Bartlebooth does with jigsaw puzzles in the book. This would make sense, as one of the themes that Perec elaborates throughout Life is that of a puzzle as a medium of communication between the puzzle designer and the puzzle doer.

The one other thing I’ll mention right now is that Perec famously placed quotes from favorite authors directly into the text of Life without any sort of indication whatsoever. Undoubtedly some of these quotes will be recognizable to you, and it is a thrilling moment to see, for instance, Borges suddenly emerge from the text as though popping out of a pool of water. Probably, though, many of these quotes will go completely unnoticed, a further testament to Perec’s skill as a writer."

Are any of our Godine blog readers participating in the Spring Big Read? If so, please comment and let us know what you think of Life A User's Manual.

Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! - Review

A big thank you goes to Pat Leuchtman for featuring a review of Godine's Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities!: Notes from a Gloucester Garden by Kim Smith on her country garden blog, Commonweeder, last week:

"Fresh Possibilities are just what I am looking for at this time of the year, so it is no surprise that I have been spending happy evenings with Kim Smith’s beautiful book that includes so many of her own delicate paintings of flowers, birds and butterflies.

Kim Smith gardens, and paints, in Gloucester. Over the years her garden has grown, as has her concern about conservation and her delight in the roads to literature and art that her garden has opened to her. Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities: Notes from a Gloucester Garden (David R. Godine Publisher $35) combines all these aspects of her life in the garden in the most beautiful way.

With its delicate paintings of individual flowers, and butterflies, the book does not look like a how-to book, yet it includes plant lists to attract butterflies, of fragrant flowers and plants through the seasons, seasonal blooms and useful annuals. I can hardly decide which I enjoy more, the charming prose of chapters titled The Narrative of the Garden, Flowers of the Air and The Memorable Garden, the exquisite paintings, or the poetry that ranges from our own Emily Dickinson and Dorothy Parker to Li Bai (701–762 CE), a famous Chinese poet of the Tang Dynasty. I enjoy knowing that Kim has found the same delight in the connections to history and the arts that I find in the garden."

The full review can be found here.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Barry Moser in the Boston Globe

James Sullivan, a Boston Globe correspondent, visited Barry Moser at home in North Hatfield, MA for a fantastic feature that ran on Sunday, March 20th:

There’s a wall in Barry Moser’s office at Smith College with dozens of framed degrees and honors. At the center of the array hangs a small quote:

“God will not examine our medals and diplomas, but our scars.’’

Scars, wrinkles, furrowed brows, and other imperfections are the stuff of life for Moser, the renowned printmaker and illustrator who has worked on more than 300 books in his prolific career. His latest, “One Hundred Portraits’’ (Godine), is a collection of engravings of writers from Shakespeare to Sylvia Plath, with detours into music (Sibelius, Bukka White the bluesman) and personal subjects, such as his late parents and his beloved Rottweiler, Rosie.

On March 26 the Brandywine River Museum in Pennsylvania opens an exhibition of Moser’s work: engravings, watercolors, and limited-edition books. Given the museum’s emphasis on American illustration, it’s a feather in an already well-plumed cap. In 1983 Moser won a National Book Award for his work on “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,’’ and he published his own spectacular illustrated version of the King James Bible two decades later.

Not bad for a man who has come to believe he grew up dyslexic. “I’m really interested in the irony of that,’’ says Moser, 70, a bespectacled, head-shaved Tennessee native with a tangy drawl and the sculpted white beard of a 19th-century judge. “I think I largely overcame it by setting type — upside-down and backwards.’’

Read the rest of the article here.

Moser is the author of several Godine books, including his latest, One Hundred Portraits: Artists, Architects, Writers, Composers and Friends, which was published in 2010.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

David R. Godine in Baltimore

Last Thursday, March 10th, The Baltimore Bibliophiles hosted an event for David R. Godine at the John Hopkins Club of John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Susan Fillion, a Godine author, attended and kindly shares the evening with us now:

“It was a proverbial dark and stormy night on March 10th, 2011, when David R. Godine gave a talk to The Baltimore Bibliophiles about the history of his publishing business. Rain had been pounding down since the night before, causing road-closings and traffic jams. Nonetheless, the crowd was large and lively – serious book collectors and aficionados who all seemed to know David, either personally or professionally. The evening began with a sort of free-for-all book sale of Godine titles displayed on a large table near the bar. Drinks, cash, and books changed hands in the crowd, with David at the center, calling out, “Make me an offer –­ I’m not taking any of these books home!”

The seated dinner, old-world university club style, featured crab cakes – a local specialty. Finally, David got up to speak. For the many of you who have heard David give similar talks, you can imagine the scene – slide after slide of his exquisite books accompanied by a narrative chock full of details of his career from the very early days at Leonard Baskin’s Gehenna Press in Northampton through several current titles still in production. The crowd seemed familiar with names like Harold McGrath, Lance Hidy, Michael McCurdy, Fritz Kredel, Gillian Tyler, and seemed to take technical terms ­– such as Vandercook, Monotype Bembo, Antigone Greek, Bulmer, Centaur, Amalfi, Fabriano, and a colophon in the shape of a lobster pot – in stride. Anecdotes kept everyone chuckling . . . a recipe for brewing beer in a bathtub printed in a children’s book . . . David’s thirteen-year-old sister helping to hand-color illustrations . . . William Steig allowing Godine to print Rotten Island because he agreed to use DayGlo inks.

Susan Fillion and David

It got late. The talk was over, the tables had been cleared, a small gaggle of people followed David down to the parking lot. As I drove away, I could see him in my rear-view mirror, standing on a flat spot between enormous puddles, still chatting. He seemed to have sold every last book."

SUSAN FILLION is the author of Godine’s forthcoming
book Miss Etta and Dr. Claribel: Bringing Matisse to America, due out April 2011.

Superior Person's Tuesday! (er, Wednesday)

We were out of the office yesterday and consequently a little late with this. Enjoy!

Allopathy n. Conventional medical treatment, as opposed to so-called "alternative" medicines, such as homoeopathy, reflexology, etc. If your New Age cousin is persistently refusing to see the doctor about her condition, you could perhaps convince her to do so by secretively whispering to her: "You know, of course, that he's an allopath?"

Ok, just one more . . .
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. Allopathy appears in the Third.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Wesley McNair – Maine's new poet laureate

We just featured Wesley McNair on the blog last Friday but we had to share this good news as well. McNair was just appointed Maine's new poet laureate on March 11th.

Here's his feature in The Morning Sentinel:

Wesley McNair doesn’t need a formal title to remind him that it’s important to bring poetry to the people.

But McNair, appointed by the governor to the position of Maine poet laureate Friday at a ceremony at the Franco-American Heritage Center in Lewiston, plans to wear the title with honor and keep doing what he’s always done.

“I’ve bringing poetry to the people from the start,” said McNair, 69, who lives in Mercer. “My goal is to continue making poets in Maine more visible to their communities and to their regions.”

McNair’s appointment came at the beginning of the Maine State Poetry Out Loud finals. Poetry Out Loud is a national competition for high school students, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation. Lauren LePage, daughter of Gov. Paul LePage and a member of his administrative team, introduced McNair. There is some irony there, because McNair spoke out for Maine poets when the governor opted to leave poetry off his inauguration program in January, interrupting a Maine tradition.

McNair said he viewed his appointment as a positive sign. “I look forward to this level of support continuing as I carry the banner for the literary arts up ahead. It’s an opportunity,” he said.

McNair has received many awards and grants, and has read his poems at the Library of Congress. His latest book is Lovers of the Lost: New & Selected Poems.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Wesley McNair

Godine published Wesley McNair's latest book, Lovers of the Lost: New and Selected Poems in 2010 and today he's the featured poet on Brian Brodeur's site How a Poem Happens: Contemporary Poets Discuss the Making of Poems.

McNair's poem "Her Secret" from Lovers of the Lost is included (just an excerpt for you here):

Why he must cover every counter top, table
and chair with his things, she no longer asks,
knowing he will only answer as if speaking
to someone in his head who’s keeping track
of all the ways she misunderstands him

and wants to hear over and over that he’s sick
and tired, though that’s just what he is,
and how can she resent him for that? – so sick
he has pills for his bad circulation, bad heart,
and nerve disorder scattered around

the kitchen sink, so tired after staying up
all night at his computer feeding medication
to the stinging in his legs, he crashes
for one whole day into the next. "Thurman?"
she asks, coming home from work to find him

lying on their bed in his underpants, still
as the dead, his radio on to tape the talk shows
he’s missing, and then the old thought
that he really is dead comes into her mind
all over again, so strong this time she can’t

The full poem.

Brian also includes a great interview with McNair regarding "Her Secret." Favorite questions/answers:

Do you believe in inspiration? How much of this poem was “received” and how much was the result of sweat and tears?

My poems always begin with a feeling I want to explore. They don't begin from "out there," which is what I think of when I hear your words inspiration and received, but from inside myself, as I follow the implications of that feeling in my own emotional experience. My allies in this exploration are wonder and curiosity, the why and the how of my story. In this case, for instance, I asked myself why the wife might be having such a crisis having stayed in her marriage for forty years, and exactly how she might deal with the crisis. There were tears, yes, tears for this woman. What drove me was my compassion for her, the need I felt to give her a voice.

How did this poem arrive at its final form? Did you consciously employ any principles of technique?

I wanted long sentences that jumped across stanza divisions as if disregarding the form of the poem itself – a wildness that suggested the wife’s state of mind as well as her process of thought. The poem has twenty stanzas but only six sentences, each with a range of twists and turns. Another thing the long sentences do is to gather up the detail of the poem as it goes, throwing meaning ahead of themselves, to paraphrase Frost, so you’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop, even when the sentences end. This preserves the immediacy of the poem despite its length, or so I hope, as if it were spoken or thought in one intensified moment.

Georges Perec – The Art of Asking Your Boss for a Raise

Verso has just published Georges Perec's The Art of Asking Your Boss for a Raise in English for the first time. Perec is a beloved Godine author and we just have to mention this darkly funny, endearing, and comic release (plus there's a cool flowchart).

Marie Mundaca of The Hipster Book Club recently featured a review:

The Art of Asking Your Boss for a Raise is an interesting little book. In 1968, a French computer company issued a challenge to artists: create art using a computer. Computers in the ‘60s were giant, loud machines that used punch cards, for reasons that remain nebulous to anyone younger than 40, to drive their operations. They were not very sophisticated.

The specific challenge was to create something based on a flow-chart entitled “The art and craft of approaching your head of department to submit a request for a raise.” And because computers figure things out by taking each scenario to its conclusion, the flow-chart often brings the user back to square one.

A year previous to this challenge being issued, writer Georges Perec had joined a group of writers and mathematicians called Oulipo, short for Ouvroir de littĂ©rature potentielle, or Workshop for Potential Literature. Their mission was to create literature using constrained writing, imposing rules such as disallowing the use of a specific letter. (Perec’s 1969 novel La disparition (A Void) uses this technique. It is completely devoid of the letter “e.”) It would appear that this assignment was tailor-made for Perec to tackle.

It’s important to understand the backstory to this piece of literature because without that, Asking Your Boss for A Raise seems slight. It is experimental fiction in a pure form—an exercise in seeing if one could write a story based on a flow-chart. Of course, this is the sort of thing one sees all the time now in experimental fiction, but Perec wrote this over 40 years ago. Luckily, this first English translation of Perec’s story has a lengthy introduction by David Bellos, the translator, telling the story of this story in depth.


. . .

Being based on a flow-chart, the book itself is recursive. Written in second-person singular, “you” have decided to ask your boss for a raise, and “you” end up being confronted with a variety of scenarios with numerous outcomes. Is your boss in? Are his daughters ill? What was on the menu in the cafeteria? It reads a bit like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, only the reader is not making the choices. Perec emulates the flow of computer processing by making the story one long sentence, which also imitates the rhythm of someone navigating around an office, or “circumperambulating” as Perec writes. Perec also adds drama, tension, and humor throughout the office escapade.
_______________

Sound interesting? Then you need to check out Verso's online game for the book here.

Godine is proud to publish several works by Perec, including Life A User's Manual, Thoughts of Sorts, A Void (mentioned above), and W, or the Memory of Childhood.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

String Too Short to Be Saved — A Godine Review

I know cows. I’m originally from Oklahoma, and its wide-open plains make for ideal cattle grazing. Several of my friends growing up lived on farms, my husband’s family owns 100 head of cattle and, let’s be honest, if your steak isn’t from a Midwest grass-fed Angus heifer, you might as well save yourself the calories.

So when David recommended I read Donald Hall’s String Too Short to Be Saved: Recollections of Summers on a New England Farm, a memoir about life on a New Hampshire dairy farm, to acquaint myself with the New England farming lifestyle, I wanted to scoff. I have milked goats, fed chickens, and can call cattle with the best of ‘em. But, since I figured New England farms might be a bit different from Midwestern cattle ranches, I gave it a chance. While this book does give modern-day readers a charming peek into farm life in the 1940s, it also deals with an issue we can all relate to: human mortality. In chapter two, Hall gives us his thesis: “To be without a history is like being forgotten. My grandfather did not know the maiden names of either of his grandmothers. I thought that to be forgotten must be the worst fate of all.” Through re-telling the colorful stories of his family that his grandfather, Wesley, shared with him as a child, Hall commemorates not only his family, but also the entire farming community, ensuring that these people and their way of life are not forgotten in our age of technology and mass-produced food.

My favorite of Wesley’s stories is “The Left-Footed Thief.” Hall gives us the moral of the story in the beginning: most of the people in this New England farming district were “morally distinct.” For example, “If you were good, you were perfectly good. If you were bad, you overlooked no means of becoming worse. Whoever took a drink finished the jug.” In this story, Wesley and his friend, Fred, set out to salt their sheep and find that Wesley’s prize-winning sheep is missing. Upon investigation, they discover a set of boot footprints, which are all left-footed. They narrow down their suspects from four notoriously bad families to the criminal by a few determining factors: who is “stupid enough to mix up their boots,” not currently in jail, not in bed sick from drinking some stuff old man Godfrey brewed up, or not on a trip to Danbury spending the bounty money they just received for the wildcat that dropped dead in their hen yard. Turns out, the thief was “a nice boy in his own way.”

As the book nears its end, Hall narrates how the farm slowly shriveled in productivity as his grandfather aged and society shed its need for small farms. Hall’s summer-long vacations shrink to lone weekend visits as he grows into adulthood. But he never forgets his grandfather’s stories and now, with String Too Short, we lucky readers will always have them. As August Wilhelm Von Schlegel said, “Literature is the immortality of speech.”

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Superior Person's Tuesday!

In honor of the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day today . . .

Gynecocracyn. Government by a woman or by women; the supremacy of the female. Well, if there’s a word for it, it must exist, mustn’t it? The ontological argument for the supremacy of women. I’m a believer.


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. Gynecocracy appears in the Third.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Eddie Chuculate - A Godine Interview

Eddie Chuculate is an American fiction writer whose stories typically feature Native American characters and culture. David R. Godine, Publisher had the privilege of publishing his debut book, Cheyenne Madonna, last year under its imprint Black Sparrow Books. This short story collection follows Jordan Coolwater, a Cheyenne Indian, throughout his life, first as a boy dealing with his family’s prejudices and alcoholism through his adult life struggling in the art industry and his marriage. These narratives depict what it means to be a Native American, from 1826 to the present-day, with gritty realism. Below, Eddie shares with us about his writing life, racism, and which NBA team will end the season on top.

Racism is a big issue you tackle in Cheyenne Madonna, with the Native American characters portrayed as both the victims and the perpetrators of racism. How does racism still affect Native Americans today?

It's a complicated issue. You find blatant racism more on the white towns just off the reservations in the north. In Oklahoma, it's a different animal. You find much more interracial activity, yet there are those ancient Indian haters that just won't go away anywhere you go.

In a recent interview with The Short Review, you said that you typically write short stories because your “temperament is more suited to the short form.” What do you like about writing short stories vs. say, a novel?

I think it all boils down to time. How much time you have to work on something. Years past, working full-time newspaper jobs, I had to squeeze in writing time around job duties, so I always tended toward something shorter, although it's certainly not easier, and doesn't always take less time. Now that I have more time to write at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, I'm working on a novel and stories. But I like the compression of short stories, where you can find novel-like arcs or experiences in, say, 20 pages.

You are currently studying for your MFA at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, consistently ranked as the #1 MFA program in the country. How is that going?

Being at the Iowa Writers' Workshop is an honor and a blessing. More time to write. Surrounded by like-minded people. I wrote most of Cheyenne Madonna while out of academics, in the "real world," which has its advantages and disadvantages. Most people in the "real world" have no clue what you are doing, so you're pretty much stuck if you want to talk to someone about a problem you're having in your writing, or just discuss literature. I guess that's why there are book clubs, writers' groups, etc., but I never joined them. Being in the Iowa Writers' Workshop is also inspirational. Seeing all the good work being produced makes you want to get in gear. The time for excuses is over. I believe it was the British writer Samuel Butler who said, "If you really want to do something, you'll find a way. If you don't, you'll find excuses." But the Iowa workshop is great in that you're surrounded by good, promising young writers and established mentors, some of whom have won the big literary prizes. On top of that, we have great visiting writers who teach for a semester or two, and writers and poets constantly coming in to read, host workshops, visit with us. And everyone in Iowa City in general, from the cabdriver to the guy sacking groceries, has heard of the Iowa Writers' Workshop. There's the legendary indy bookstore Prairie Lights with continual readings week in and week out, and statues of writers and plaques with writers' quotes—things you don't find in a typical American city. With Dublin, Edinburgh and Melbourne, Iowa City is just one of four of UNESCO's "Cities of Literature." To earn that distinction, you must meet certain criteria, including a commitment to literature, thriving libraries, events, and history of publishing.

Two of the major characters in Cheyenne Madonna are artists. Do you paint or draw, etc.?

I don't paint or draw, but come from a family of artists. Both my uncles painted and sculpted, and my friends' father growing up was perhaps the most famous Indian artist in Oklahoma, Jerome Tiger. Then I went to school at the Institute of American Indian Arts and was surrounded by more visual artists. Every time I go back to Santa Fe I stay at my friend's stone-sculpting studio, and there's always a bunch of sculptors, painters, musicians dropping by. So even though I don't paint or draw, I often find myself among them often.

You were a newspaper sports writer for 9 years. Any early predictions for the NBA play-offs?

I like Boston going all the way this year, in five over San Antonio, but it will take them seven to get past the Heat in the East finals. I don't think Melo will help the Knicks much, in seven seasons with the Nuggets he only got past the first round once.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Superior Person's Tuesday!

Famulus n. A medieval sorcerer's assistant. A pleasing appellation for your husband when he is helping you in the kitchen by peeling the potatoes, drying the dishes, etc. – or when you are entertaining. "Come into the living room and make yourself comfortable while I have my famulus mix some drinks."


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. Famulus appears in the First.