Friday, March 30, 2012

The Last Englishman: The Double Life of Arthur Ransome

Godine is very proud to have just published The Last Englishman: The Double Life of Arthur Ransome by Roland Chambers, a biography. Ransome is best known for the twelve immortal "Swallows and Amazons" books he wrote on his return from Russia in 1928. Godine is the US publisher for this series. From his prose he appears a genial and gentle Englishman, who, like his protagonists, pursued benign maritime adventures. Nothing could be further from the truth. By the time he wrote his masterpieces, the most interesting episodes of his life were well behind him. For Ransome led a double, and often tortured, life. Before his fame as an author, he was notorious for very different reasons: between 1917 and 1924, he was the Russian correspondent for the Daily News and the Manchester Guardian, and his sympathy for the Bolshevik regime gave him unparalleled access to its leaders, policies, politics, and plots. He was also the lover, and later the husband, of Evgenia Shelepina, Trotsky's private secretary, as well as friends with Karl Radek, the Bolshevik's Chief of Propaganda, and Felix Dzerzhinsky, founder of the secret police.

The Last Englishman has already received reviews from the Wall Street Journal and Publishers Weekly. From Publishers Weekly:

Chambers says that his interest in writing a biography of Ransome was sparked by the British National Archives’s 2003 release of documents revealing the journalist’s involvement with MI6 during the Russian Revolution. “This was surprising and controversial,” he explains. “If Ransome was known at all for his work for the Revolution, it was as an apologist for the Bolsheviks. But these documents proved that he was betraying them all along to the British secret service. That was enough to get me looking into the history of it all. I discovered that his story was much more complicated than I expected because of his involvement with Evgenia Shelepina, Trotsky’s private secretary. He was genuinely in love with her and genuinely sympathetic to the Bolsheviks, but on the other hand considered himself a British patriot doing his best to broker a kind of understanding between the British and the revolutionists at a time when their interests were radically different.”

. . .

Though Ransome’s personas as children’s book author and double-sided political operative may seem at odds, Chambers views the author’s two lives as less inconsistent. “The Swallows and Amazons books are really all about doubleness,” he says. “The young characters are constantly fighting, drafting secret treaties, and making peace. It’s all there, though in a benign world – Ransome had drawn the poison from it all. I think that’s why his books were so successful in England. If you look at Britain as an empire, it has a history of doubleness. There’s the Englishman at home sipping tea in front of the fire, and there’s the high-seas adventuring Englishman in the colonies creating an empire. The two are contradictory in a way, but they do live side by side as part of the culture – and as part of Ransome himself.”

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wanda Coleman - Winner of 2012 Shelley Memorial Award!

Congratulations to Black Sparrow poet Wanda Coleman! She has just been announced as the winner of the 2012 Shelley Memorial Award:

The Poetry Society of America is honored to announce that Wanda Coleman is the 2012 recipient of the Shelley Memorial Award, presented annually to a living American poet selected with reference to his or her genius and need by a jury of poets. This year's judges were Gary Young, appointed by the president of the University of California at Berkeley, and Rigoberto Gonzalez, appointed by the Poetry Society of America.

Recent winners of this award have included Kimiko Hahn, Lyn Hejinian, Angela Jackson, Yusef Komunyakaa, James McMichael, Alice Notley, Ron Padgett, Ed Roberson, Eileen Myles, Rigoberto Gonzalez, and Gary Young.

The Poetry Society of America, the nation's oldest poetry organization, was founded in 1910 for the purpose of creating a public forum for the advancement, enjoyment, and understanding of poetry. Through a diverse array of programs, initiatives, contests, and awards, the PSA works to build a larger audience for poetry, to encourage a deeper appreciation of the art, and to place poetry at the crossroads of American life.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Superior Person's Tuesday!

Gudgeon n One of those rather delightful words that sound as though they can, and in fact do, mean practically anything. A gudgeon can be:

—A pivot at the end of a rod, serving as the base for a rocker or a wheel.
—A ring that fits over a hook to keep a gate closed.
—A pin connecting two blocks of stone.
—A pin holding a piston rod and a connecting rod together.
—A metal eye or socket on the stern of a boat, to receive the rudder.
—A gullible person.
—A bait.

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. Gudgeon appears in the First.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Publishers Weekly on the story behind The Forty Days of Musa Dagh

Last week Publishers Weekly ran a story on our recently released book The Forty Days of Musa Dagh by Franz Werfel. Godine is proud to bring this important book back into print almost 80 years after its first publication—and in an edition that restores nearly a quarter of Werfel's original text. The story behind our edition is one of personal connection and fortuitous circumstance (as is the case, it seems, for so many books).

Some excerpts from PW's story:

Godine is hoping to capture review attention for its new edition, which editor Susan Barba, the granddaughter of a survivor of the Armenian genocide, regards as “my book.” The press delayed publication for two years in order to get it right, making it both the longest novel, and the book with the longest gestation period, published by Godine. “We had originally intended simply to reprint Geoffrey Dunlop’s translation,” explained Barba. “But in conversations with James Reidel, we began to understand how incomplete the Dunlop translation truly was. Restoring, expanding, and resetting the text was a formidable authorial, editorial, and design challenge.” To keep The Forty Days from becoming unwieldy, Barba went with thin paper stock. To preserve the novel’s elegiac quality, she chose a historic photograph of old women collecting water from a fountain in Musa Dagh for the cover.

While many regard The Forty Days as Werfel’s masterpiece—the original New York Times placed it in a category with other 20th-century literary masterpieces like The Magic Mountain, Ulysses, and Remembrance of Things Past—Reidel argues that Pale Blue Ink should not be overlooked. “Both [Werfel] books,” he said, “deal with anti-Semitism, and they’re warning books. We live in a time where we need to be alert again, especially Jewish people, about where anti-Semitism can lead. They’re both from the 1930s and they’re both remarkably fresh.”

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Forty Days of Musa Dagh - B&N Review

A big thank you goes to Steven G. Kellman at the Barnes & Noble Review for the great piece on The Forty Days of Musa Dagh by Franz Werfel, one of our new releases.

Excerpt from review:

In August 1939, to warm his commanders' cold feet before invading Poland, Adolf Hitler is alleged to have asked: "Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?" Silence gainsays guilt. Today, in 2012, it is illegal in Turkey to speak about those deaths -- more than a million during and after World War I -- as genocide. In France, however, denying that Armenians were singled out for slaughter is a crime. The word genocide was coined, by Raphael Lemkin, only in 1944, but it is now applied not only to the liquidation of Lemkin's fellow European Jews but also to campaigns of extermination in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Darfur, and elsewhere. Except in Turkey, it is widely applied, retroactively, to the Armenian bloodbath almost a century ago.

The Forty Days of Musa Dagh was first published in 1933, barely a decade after the Armenian genocide. Franz Werfel (1890–1945) was a German-speaking Jew born in Prague, and he and the readers of his meticulously researched novel realized that the eradication of Armenians in Turkish lands bore an ominous resemblance to what was beginning to happen to the Jews of Europe. Werfel's book was banned in Germany, but it was a huge success elsewhere in the world and did more than the efforts of any diplomat, journalist, or historian to encourage speech about the unspeakable. Histories, memoirs, and fictions have since been published about the Armenian genocide, and, though Edgar Hilsenrath's The Story of the Last Thought (1989) might be the most respected novelistic rendition, none has diminished the power of The Forty Days of Musa Dagh. The Uncle Tom's Cabin of the Armenian genocide, it arrives today -- when Syria and Congo are killing fields -- as a timely reminder that savagery thrives in silence.

Superior Person's Tuesday!

Fabiform a Bean-shaped. "And I'd like you to meet Brett and Wanda, and their children Jamie and Cass—round here we call them the fabiform four."

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. Fabiform appears in the Second.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Godine has a new sales manager!

Hi! I'm Morgan Hubbard, the new sales manager at David R. Godine, Publisher. I come to Godine from an academic background, having just finished a master's in Public History at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Books have always been my chief interest—at UMass, I worked with the university's colossal collection of cold war science fiction, and marshaled my reading into an interactive online exhibit for the UMass library. You can peruse it here. I've also done my share of stints in marketing and sales at a variety of outfits, most recently J. Crew and the publisher Wiley-Blackwell.

As Godine's new sales manager I'm looking forward to cultivating relationships with our booksellers. I'll be making sales calls in the Mid-Atlantic; if that's your region, I hope we'll get the chance to meet soon. I'm also looking forward to expanding our sales efforts. The lists Godine produces are eclectic, and they deserve the chance to catch buyers' eyes in eclectic places. And anxiety-inducing though it may be for the industry, the internet consitutes a whole new way to get our delightful books onto readers' shelves—or e-readers.

Please feel free to contact me anytime. I can be reached by email at, or by phone at 617-451-9600 x 25.

-Morgan J. Hubbard

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Lonely Phone Booth - Now a play in NYC!

So we have some very exciting news. . . . Our beloved Godine children's book The Lonely Phone Booth by Peter Ackerman and illustrated by Max Dalton has been turned into a play and will be performed by the Manhattan Children's Theatre! Performances will run from April 7–29th, 2012 on Saturdays and Sundays at 12pm and 2pm. To reserve tickets please call (212) 352-3101.

If you're not familiar, the book is the story of one of the last remaining phone booths in New York City, the Phone Booth on the corner of West End Avenue and 100th. Everyone used it — from ballerinas and girl scouts, zookeepers and birthday clowns, to cellists and even secret agents! The Phone Booth was so beloved that people would sometimes wait in line to use it. Kept clean and polished, the Phone Booth was proud and happy . . . until, the day a businessman strode by and shouted into a shiny silver object, "I'll be there in ten minutes!" Soon everyone was talking into these shiny silver things, and the Phone Booth stood alone and empty, unused and dejected.

How the Phone Booth saved the day and united the neighborhood to rally around its revival is the heart of this soulful story. In a world in which objects we love and recognize as part of the integral fabric of our lives are disappearing at a rapid rate, here is a story about the value of the analog, the power of the people's voice, and the care and respect due to those things that have served us well over time. If you're a New Yorker, the real Phone Booth, which is still standing at West End Avenue and 100th Street, is worth a field trip!

A special book signing event will be held on April 15th immediately following the 2pm performance and will feature a conversation with the actors, gifts for the kids, cake, crafts and of course an appearance by author Peter Ackerman and an opportunity to get your copies of the book signed.

Author Peter Ackerman is a New York City native and co-writer on the animated movies Ice Age and Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs.

Superior Person's Tuesday!

Mission Statement n Not, as might be expected, an invoice received from a religious establishment, but the latest pretentious term from the world of New Management. It means "objectives," and seems to be largely replacing the previously popular "corporate plan." The comings and goings of the modish terminology of the New Managers, and the array of documentation that the terminology reflects, constitute a potential field of study for a doctoral thesis. A "Duty Statement," for example, is a job description worded in sufficiently elementary terms to enable a dimwitted candidate to apply for the job. "Selection Criteria" are descriptions of job qualifications worded in sufficiently elementary terms to enable a dimwitted selection panel member to select the wrong candidate. And so on.

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. Mission Statement appears in the Second.

Mark Doty - "A Display of Mackerel"

Writer Jeff Gordinier selected Mark Doy's "A Display of Mackerel" audio feature on the Poetry Foundation's website for his "What We're Reading" entry in the New York Times today:

This is what happens when poets stop by the fish counter. In a short podcast, Mark Doty swoons over “these beautiful, luminous bodies of mackerel, all on crushed ice,” and talks about starting to compose a captivating piscine rumination (which he reads here) on the way home from the market.

Godine is proud to publish Mark Doty's latest collection of poetry, Paragon Park.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Writing the Garden - Award winner!

We're very happy to announce that our new title Writing the Garden: A Literary Conversation across Two Centuries by Elizabeth Barlow Rogers, president of the Foundation for Landscape Studies in New York City, has just won one of the 2012 American Horticultural Society Book Awards.

Notes on the book from the 2012 Book Award Committee:

"Sampling from the last two centuries of Western garden writing, this “delicious historical survey of writing gardeners and garden writers is rich with anecdote, writing excerpts, and illustrations,” says [Rand B.] Lee. [W. Gary] Smith appreciates the “unique voice and engaging perspective” the author provides as she weaves together her analysis with excerpts from each featured writer, both famous and unknown. The resulting scholarly work is “so well done, interesting, and readable that I couldn’t put it down,” says Brandy Kuhl."

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Superior Person's Tuesday!

Pilgarlic n A poor, wretched, bald-headed man who presents a sorry spectacle. From pilled (peeled) garlic.

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. Pilgarlic appears in the First.

Monday, March 5, 2012

BSB Poet Juliana Spahr in Cambridge, MA

For those of us in the Boston area, Black Sparrow poet Juliana Spahr will be reading with Cole Swensen in the Edison-Newman Room at the Houghton Library (Harvard Yard, Tel: 617-495-2440) on Harvard University's campus on Wednesday, March 7th at 6pm for the final session of the "Poet's Voice" reading series. Spahr's latest, Well Then There Now (2011), earned a starred review from Publishers Weekly ("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.").

Well Then There Now also just received a great review from Siobhan Phillips at the Los Angeles Review of Books:

Pronouns are tricky things. How far does “I” extend? How particular is “you”? How distant is “them”? And then there’s “we,” which seems to reach from cozy, particular partnerships to vague, wide allegiances — thereby risking a slide between intimate and universal. How and why do I separate my affection for the familiar body lying next to me and my compassion for the unknown citizen living halfway around the world? Does one relationship model the other? Should they be related?

Yes, Juliana Spahr suggests, in her strange, often beautiful, frequently pronoun-deranging poetry. But the task isn’t easy. Well Then There Now, Spahr’s latest book, is a welcome reminder of this necessary effort. Her poems seem particularly vital at the moment not just for the pleasure inherent in their forms of language, but also for the challenge posed by their focus on community. Spahr tests and rejects any separation between intimate passion and general policy. In her poems, love does not resist the world beyond; love lets it in. Politics demands feeling rather than denuding it. The basic dilemma is evident in “Switching,” an earlier, characteristic work, where she worries about the movement between table and bed, or “public” discourse and “private” feeling; how can we find a way, she asks, to think “all together”? This poem ends by imagining a life of “listening and / changing…separation and / joining on the flat planes of this, / our world of daily occurrence”. Her means and mode come at the moment of suspense after each of those “ands,” poised at the edge of a break, as they confront separation by pushing toward union. This push is the drama, for Spahr, of what would otherwise be mere “daily occurrence.”

To read the rest of the review please click here and for event information visit