Thursday, March 28, 2013

Surrounded By Books

by Ross Wagenhofer

Some of the books in the Godine office.

I think there may be something about living and sleeping in close proximity to the books one owns. Throughout my life I always have. In my childhood home, in the room where I spent part of my life growing up, there are three bookshelves that hold around 300 various books. The largest bookshelf in the room stands in the corner, and is filled primarily with the books I collected from my readings during middle and high school – lots of Stephen King, Tom Clancy, John Grisham, and Michael Chrichton, although the top two shelves exhibit my changing tastes as I grew up and discovered golden-era science fiction, WWII stories, and a few of the classics.

Across the room stands an equally tall bookshelf, only three of the six shelves devoted to books (the top three contain a meager CD collection, a framed photo of Stevie Nicks, and a Tom Petty vinyl). Among the books on this bookshelf are a hodge-podge of comic books, books of trivia, three Bibles, the entirely of the Left Behind series (of which I was briefly a fan) and things I've never really got around to reading. 

The third bookshelf in the room is a three-shelf unit I purchased from Wal-Mart and assembled myself. I bought it after my freshman year of college to accommodate all the textbooks and novels I had accumulated during that year. It's now completely full of books, many of them the heavy tomes often read in survey courses, and is leaning to the right as a result of my poor carpentry skills.
Now that I live in my own apartment, I have stopped sending my books home and instead have begun keeping them in my (small) place. There’s a communal bookshelf that I plucked for free from the side of the road in my living room, but I only have the use of two if its shelves. There’s another small stack of books I attempted to place decoratively on an end table. The rest of the books I own are in my tiny room.

Table, books, and Auden the teddy bear.
I’m neither especially organized nor disorganized, and although I now have a tendency just to make stacks of books as I purchase them, they’re neat stacks. Neat as in they stand up straight, not that there’s any organizing principle about what goes where. I have eight stacks in total, although one is approaching “tower” status and should probably be broken up. After I used up all the room on top of my dresser and small table, I had to resort to just using the floor. All my magazines and the books and research articles I’m using for my honors thesis reside there. Soon to join them will probably be the novels I’m currently reading for class.

A view of my stacks from the bed.
It wouldn’t be particularly difficult to go on Craigslist and find a bookshelf small enough to fit in my room. As it so happens, the location where I have bought and continue to buy a large portion of the books that end up in piles in my room also sells bookshelves (Boomerangs on Centre Street – the finest used book selection of any thrift store I’ve ever encountered). But I’ve found there’s a real charm in literally being surrounded by the books I own. Until I live in a home with a dedicated library room, I’m content with shoving my volumes to fit in my bedroom. I can see them from where I sleep.
I’m interested to know how others of you store your books, especially people like me with minuscule-to-small-apartments. Do others stack their books as they get them? Or do you feel that books deserve a library? Share with us by tweeting @GodinePub, sharing a picture of your library on Pinterest, or commenting below!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Superior Person's Tuesday!

Cicurate v. To tame, or reclaim from a state of wildness. “Belinda, I’m not having that young man of yours in the house until he’s been thoroughly cicurated.”

The circus lion looked ferocious, but he was as harmless as a kitten once he was cicurated.
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. Cicurate appears in the First.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Handy Tip: Easter Egg Dolls

There are plenty of crafts around Easter, but coloring eggs can get messy, and if no one in the family eats hard-boiled eggs, they can go to waste. To incorporate an egg-themed craft into the holiday without having to boil any eggs or break out the coloring kit, try this activity from The American Girls Handy Book.

The authors of the book preface this activity as a means to mimic the dolls and toys in the toy stores of New York. For those unable to visit the Big Apple or who can’t afford such a luxurious toy, Lina and Adelia Beard recommend this creative Easter craft.

Step 1: Prepare the egg
  • “Begin with several nice large eggs … blown or emptied of their contents
  • To do this, “make a small hole in each end of the shell … put one hole to the lips; then blow, not too hard, but steadily until the egg has all run out of the other end.”
Step 2: Paint the egg
This is where we can get creative with materials or design. For classic, vintage looks, try these instructions:
  • Lay tracing paper over a face from a picture book and trace the lines and features of the face with a soft lead pencil.
  • Place the tracing paper (pencil-side down) on the shell (with the more narrow end of the egg facing down so that it mimics the shape of a face). Transfer the lines by tracing the lines that you’ve drawn on the tracing paper with “a hard pencil” or “knitting needle.”
  • “Touch up and strengthen the features with a fine paint-brush and india-ink” or with the medium of your choice.
Step 3: Decorate
  • Use a small box (or make one) and cut a hole in the bottom large enough to fit the small end of the shell (this supports the head and makes shoulders)
  • Add material for hair if you’d like (The Handy Book suggests raw cotton dyed with india-ink)
  • Create clothing, headdresses, or a hat for your egg doll. This can be done by creating a diagram like the one illustrated in the book, pictured here. Use materials like wrapping or tissue paper.

Be creative with your designs. The authors suggest a few friendly characters seen above, like an owl, Miss Roly-Poly (who cannot be knocked down!), Humpty Dumpty, and so forth. Enjoy!

The American Girls Handy Book, first published in 1887, was written by two of the founders of the Girl Scouts of America. It's a beloved, vintage Americana guide book, filled with activities that transport readers back to a time before TV and are guaranteed to keep kids busy and entertained. You can purchase it on the Godine website.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Superior Person's Tuesday!

Jargogle v. To befuddle or mess up. “Congratulations, dearest; I wouldn’t have thought it possible, but you’ve found something else to jargogle.”

Wile E. Coyote always seemed to jargogle his plans to catch the Road Runner.
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. Jargogle appears in the Second.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Women's History Month

Looking for a way to celebrate Women's History Month? Here are three books about – and written by – great women.

Rosemary Verey: The Life & Lessons of a Legendary Gardener by Barbara Paul Robinson

Rosemary Verey was the last of the great English garden legends. Although she embraced gardening late in life, she quickly achieved international renown. She was the acknowledged apostle of the "English style," on display at her home at Barnsley House, the "must have" adviser to the rich and famous, including Prince Charles and Elton John, and a beloved and wildly popular lecturer in America. A child of a generation born between the two World Wars, she could have easily lived a predictable and comfortable life, devoted to her family, church, and horses, but a devastating accident changed her life, and with her architect-husband, she went on to create the gardens at their home that became a mandatory stop on every garden tour in the 1980s and 1990s. At sixty-two, she wrote her first book, followed by seventeen more in twenty years. Her husband's death, shortly after her career began, added a financial imperative to her ambition. By force of character, hard work, and determination, she tirelessly promoted herself and her garden lessons, traveling worldwide to lecture, sell books, and strengthen her network.

During a sabbatical from Debevoise & Plimpton where she was the first woman partner, Barbara Paul Robinson worked as a gardener for Rosemary Verey at Barnsley House. A hands-in-the-dirt gardener herself, she and her husband created their own gardens at Brush Hill in northwestern Connecticut, featured in articles, books, and on television. A frequent speaker, Barbara has published articles in the New York Times, Horticulture, Fine Gardening, and Hortus; she has also written a chapter in Rosemary Verey's The Secret Garden. The gardens can be viewed at


Genius of Common Sense: Jane Jacobs and the Story of The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Glenna Lang and Marjory Wunsch

Jane Jacobs, a heroine of common sense, never attended college but her observations, determination, and independent spirit led her to far different conclusions that those of the academics who surrounded her. Illustrated with almost a hundred images, including a great number of photos never before published (with many by Robert Otter), this story of a remarkable woman will introduce her ideas and her life to readers, many of whom have lived in neighborhoods that were saved by her insights.

Glenna Lang's previous work includes illustrations for four classic poems for children with Godine. She wrote and illustrated the award-winning Looking Out for Sarah. Although she grew up in New York City, she lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and teaches at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Marjory Wunsch has illustrated and written numerous children's books. While studying architecture, she encountered problems of urban design, rehabilitation of old buildings, and the ideas of Jane Jacobs. Marjory and her husband live in Cambridge, Massachusetts. 


Miss Etta and Dr. Claribel: Bringing Matisse to America by Susan Fillion

What could be more unlikely than this tale of two unmarried sisters, Etta and Claribel Cone, from a German-Jewish family in Baltimore, who amassed one of the major collections of modern art in America? In this touching story, fully illustrated with the work they collected – Picasso, Matisse, Vuillard, Cézanne, and Gauguin – we trace the contours of their lives, made more vivid by author and artist Susan Fillion’s informative text and colorful paintings that Horn Book Magazine has praised as “strong enough to work side-by-side with those of Picasso and Matisse.”

Susan Fillion is an artist and museum educator in Baltimore. Over the years, she has introduced audiences of all ages to the Cone Collection and especially enjoys teaching drawing where it resides, in the galleries of The Baltimore Museum of Art. She and her husband, Tom, live in a house in the trees.

Friday, March 15, 2013

February Review Round-Up

Here at David R. Godine, Publisher, we strive to produce high quality books above all else. So, when our books and authors are praised, we hope you'll forgive us for acting like proud parents. Please join us in celebrating the recent success of a few of our talented authors.

The Poetry Society has announced Naomi Replanski as the 2013 recipient of the William Carlos Williams Award, given each year to a book of poetry written by a single author and published by a small, non-profit, or University Press. On the Poetry Society's website, B.H Fairchild writes:
Replansky has become the master of a Blakean music radically unfashionable in its devotion to song-like meters and the reality and politics of working-class experience. For those of us who came upon her poems half a century ago, the appearance of Replansky's Collected Poems is cause for celebration and, as an expression of deep gratitude and woefully belated recognition, the conferring of the William Carlos Williams Award.
The full text can be seen here, and be sure to find Naomi Replanski's Collected Poems on the Black Sparrow Books website.

Adam Van Doren's book An Artist In Venice - featured in last month's round-up as well - continues to receive high praise. The Boston Globe believes he does justice to a city that has been written about for centuries:
Van Doren, a master of light and grandson of the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Mark Van Doren, is an amiable companion as he goes about exploring the city, sketchbook and notebook in hand. “An Artist in Venice” (Godine) succeeds as a memoir of discovery and a portfolio of paintings and sketches. His dreamy, richly hued works, none more than six and a half inches tall, are beautifully reproduced.

The full review can be read here.

Ralph Gardner Jr. of the Wall Street Journal also acknowledges the fact that Van Doren is tackling "one of the best-known, and most thoroughly researched, subjects in all of art and literature." Yet Van Doren's paintings, like the city, are easy to love:
...those who fall in love with Venice tend to do so completely. And rapture is easier to portray than mixed emotions. I had a second minor revelation as I examined Mr. Van Doren’s paintings. (He must be doing something right, because I rarely have any revelations, let alone two triggered by the same artist.) Perhaps more than any other city, when you’re painting Venice you’re simultaneously painting nature. New York, by contrast, is a man-made world...But Venice can’t be separated from the sea, which surrounds and more than occasionally engulfs it; or from the interplay of architecture, sea and sky.
Van Doren's paintings demonstrate the manner in which "nature worms its way into the perception of the city," writes Gartner. The author's architectural background provides him with the talent of "insinuating precision with the fewest possible brush strokes." An Artist in Venice is also a memoir, "a lively account of living in the city" and the author's adventures there.

Continue reading Gartner's article here, and find An Artist in Venice on our website.

The New York Daily News recognizes Andrew Alpern's documentation of New York's holdouts, "about 50 bygone-era buildings in Manhattan," in his book Holdouts! The Buildings That Got in the Way. in the full article, you can read  testimonials from residents and see photographs of what some of these holdouts look like.

For a full account of these endangered structures, you can purchase Holdouts! The Buildings That Got in the Way on our website.

More new and noteworthy books can be found on the homepage of Godine's website, along with a host of high quality selections.

Godine Quotables

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Superior Person's Tuesday!

Toggery n. Collective noun for your togs, i.e., clothing. "So - we're off to the beach and then on to the pictures. Everyone got their toggery?"
The little oysters don their nighttime toggery before tucking into their shells to sleep.

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. Toggery appears in the Third.

Friday, March 8, 2013

On Cards and Letters

I can't recall the last time I've hand-written a letter. A proper letter, at least. I've scrawled tiny thank you notes on equally tiny thank you cards and have written a couple brief get well soon! messages on cards passed around to cheer up sick friends. But I have never, at least in recent memory, taken pen or pencil to paper and drafted an entire letter. In many ways, I'm glad for typewritten and word-processed correspondence. For a project two years ago I attempted to transcribe an original letter of Lord Tennyson's. His scrawl was such that I was only able to make out about every fifth word. His being in the style of the time, I wouldn't say the old poet had bad penmanship, but to my modern eyes, it was nearly indecipherable. (Interjection: Don't get me started on the handwriting of the staff at this house, particular the scratches belonging to its namesake).

The scrawls of our fearless leader.

Despite my inability to translate Tennyson's cramped cursive, I'll admit there was a real excitement to seeing the way he crafted his words on the page. Maybe he was in a rush when he wrote the letter and the illegibility of the writing was due to his heightened emotional state. A similarly written letter done on a typewriter would not have the quickly dashed lines, the 'R's running into the 'L's, and all the 'm's and 'n's appearing nearly identical. Indeed, the reproduction of “Locksley Hall” I also looked at was considerably easier to make out. When you are just dealing with words, neatly typed, you must peer that much further behind them to see the author. With handwriting, all the flourishes, the irregular spacing, the ink made bolder with angry pressure: they're all there as a manifestation of the author's state at the time of writing.

I used to get a card every birthday from my godmother who would fill the left inside page with the most uniform, neat, and consistent cursive writing I'd ever known, or will probably ever know. So perfect was her writing that I suspect I could go back and detect traces of emotion in, say, a slight wobble in the loop of one of her lower-case 'l's or a failure to bring the stem of a 'g' to align with the stem of a 'y.' It was lovely writing of an artistic caliber that I do not possess, nor ever hope to possess. And it always came in a tasteful, lovingly chosen card that I looked forward to receiving each year in the mail.

A greeting card may now be considered old fashioned, but is now especially welcome for just that same reason. Physical letters are always very charming to receive, and I think the return of the greeting card would be a welcome cultural revival. I say lead the charge with Mary Azarian Greeting Cards. These cards use images from Azarian's A Farmer's Alphabet, and include letters such as Apple, Dog, Farm, and Neighbor. Why don't you grab a pack, a nice pen, and surprise a friend or two with a handwritten note? It's only $13.95 for twelve cards, and you can purchase them directly from our website.

What are your letter-writing habits? Have you received or sent a card you really loved recently? Do you think handwriting is a window into someone’s heart? Drop a comment off below or maybe even Tweet us a picture of a beautiful card or letter you’ve received recently.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Superior Person's Word of the Week!

Quakebuttock n. A nicely scornful word for a coward.

"If only I weren't such a quakebuttock," thought the Cowardly Lion.
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. Quakebuttock appears in the First.