Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Superior Person's Tuesday!

Griffonage n. Careless handwriting, illegible scribble.

With claws like that, his handwriting must be complete griffonage.

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. Griffonage appears in the Second.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

May is Get Caught Reading Month!

by Katie Turnbloom

Image from getcaughtreading.org.
Founded in 1999 by former Congresswoman Pat Schroeder, Get Caught Reading is a nationwide campaign with the objective to “remind people of all ages how much fun it is to read… and to share that pleasure with the young children in their lives” (getcaughtreading.org). While the core focus of this campaign is to emphasize the joys of reading, particularly for pleasure, their website also discusses how encouraging children to start reading at an early age helps their cognitive development, earn higher test scores, and decreases the likelihood of their dropping out of school later in life. Ultimately, too, and at risk of stating the completely obvious, encouraging and teaching children to read breaks the cycle of adult illiteracy and thus providing greater educational and occupational opportunities. The campaign includes a series of posters where celebrities that kids look up to (both human and cartoon) are "caught" reading - see them all here.

I remember when I was young pretty much the only thing I was caught doing was reading. I loved to read and would devour anything I could get my hands on (although Roald Dahl was, and honestly still is, my absolute favorite). I can even remember going to the book store when I was twelve or thirteen and purchasing Dante Alighieri’s The Inferno – which, as my parents probably expected but didn’t have the heart to tell me, was far too advanced for me at the time; even though it was too much for my preteen self, I was encouraged to return to the text years later to further explore and re-challenge myself.

Matilda Wormwood of
Roald Dahl's classic, Matilda
I consider myself so lucky to have been able to develop my affinity for literature through my bibliophilic family; no matter what was going on we were all reading at least one book. My sister and I were encouraged to read often, much, and without censorship. A memory I remember most vividly is one shared by both my sister and I where night after night our heads rested on the soft, cotton pillows laid in our father’s lap as he read us The Hobbit at bedtime. This is just one of many occasions that I took for granted as a child and one that helped develop strong relationships between myself, literature, and my family. These relationships very much helped in forming my identity, not only in regards to my personal interests but also in my academic and career goals (heck, I’m a masters candidate working towards a degree in children’s literature, if that says anything).

So it saddens me to read that, according to the CIA Yearbook, the United States, our 315 million–plus person country, has a 99% literacy rate, leaving millions of people unable to read, or to do so with extreme difficulty. Not only are these individuals unable to experience literature for its boundary-crossing, world-creating magic, they are also unable to experience the relationships often formed through that literature.

That is why this month, to honor the memories when we at Godine were (and are!) caught reading, we will donate a picture book for every comment this blog post receives to the Waltham Family School of Waltham, MA. This school is committed to teaching illiterate adults the English language and is multi-purposed, helping adults not only read themselves, but to also form a relationship with their children through literature and pass on their enthusiasm for literature and learning to future generations.

So tell us something about your literary selves! What were your favorite books growing up? Your favorite David R. Godine, Publisher books? A book that changed your life? A memory when you were caught reading?  

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Superior Person's Tuesday!

Prestidigitation n. Sleight of hand. Literally, “quick fingering.”

Prestidigitation? More like “presto”-digitation!

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. Prestidigitation appears in the Third.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Virtues of Coffee

by Ross Wagenhofer

“Coffee - the favorite drink of the civilized world.” – Thomas Jefferson

One of the most beautiful sights, at least in my opinion, is that of steam rising from a cup of coffee. I often watch it coiling and moving around in the air as I wait for the coffee to cool. There's a great juxtaposition of the steam's white lightness and the black bitterness where it originates.

In my estimation, coffee shares the top spot with alcohol as the most literary drink (my metric for judgement of the literary quality of a drink is the popularity of it among writers, although I suspect actual hard data could reveal booze to be in the number one spot). The caffeine so abundant in coffee is a great legal source of drive and inspiration. Consider Honoré de Balzac, the famed French writer of numerous novels, plays, and stories. He turned to coffee, taken in appalling amounts, to fuel long stretches of intense and focused writing. The amount of coffee he drank slowly turned his stomach ulcerous and caused the left ventricle of his heart to hypertrophy, leading to his early demise at the age of 51.

A cup of brew I enjoyed while at the Massachusetts Library Association conference.

Balzac is an inspiration unique case in the amount of coffee he put into himself, and many other famous writers and figures have sought the drink in lesser amounts. Noted fans include Jonathan Swift, John Van Druten, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and T.S. Eliot. Eliot once said, “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.” Among some modern celebrities that have publicly declared their fondness for coffee: Hugh Jackman, Lana Del Rey, and Ice Cube.

Coffee is a bitter drink when made poorly, and slightly less bitter when made right. I don't often drink coffee black. I've heard many insist coffee ought to be drank black and with no frills to experience it properly. I agree; it is the same with steak, wine, Shakespeare, paintings, and walks through the forest. And yet, I prefer steak with A1, wine with food and friends, Shakespeare in modern interpretations, paintings hung in ornate frames, and strolls among the trees with musical accompaniment from my iPod. So it is with coffee: I like cream and sugar. If there's shame in that, so be it.

Image credit: broadstreetng.com
I first discovered the inspirational qualities of coffee when working on college entrance applications and writing essay after essay for different scholarships and schools. The average-sized and average quality drip coffee machine in my kitchen became a fountain of lethargy-killing nectar. Once discovered, I never stopped drinking the stuff. Like many freshmen before me, my first year of college startled me with work and busyness, and I turned toward coffee to help me with the myriad essays, tests, and stressful evenings laboring over projects.

Albert Camus once pondered: “Should I kill myself, or have a cup of coffee?” It’s a classic question of existentialism, but perhaps also a statement of the necessity of the black stuff for the Absurdist’s everyday existence. My ongoing wellbeing is certainly connected to coffee.

How do you drink your coffee, and how do you prepare it? (No really, I want to know. I've been thinking of getting a moka pot - it is worth it if I already have a French press?) Drop a comment below or toss us a tweet at @GodinePub on Twitter!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Superior Person's Tuesday!

Slumber Room n. The room in which a corpse (sorry, the “departed”) is laid out by a funeral director in preparation for the funeral. Why not add a little spice to family visitations by eschewing the term “guest bedroom” in favor of this somewhat more ambiguous appellation?

In Death at a Funeral, raucous guests bring chaos to the slumber room.
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. Slumber room appears in the Superior Person's Field Guide.

2013 Jane Jacobs Walk: Exploring "Prayer Central"

At the encouragement of national Jane Jacobs Walk leaders (who have been enthusiastic supporters of Genius of Common Sense: Jane Jacobs and the Story of The Death and Life of Great American Cities), Glenna Lang has organized the popular local walk in Cambridge, MA, for the last five years. A version of the following article appeared in the Cambridge Chronicle.

Walkers on Norfolk Street

Cambridge Jane Jacobs Walk Explores “Prayer Central”

Cambridge’s fifth annual Jane Jacobs Walk proved more timely than its organizers had imagined when they planned the route several months ago. On Saturday morning May 4, more than sixty people, led by Charles Sullivan, executive director of the Cambridge Historical Commission, set out from Central Square to explore the layers of history and culture found just north of Massachusetts Avenue between Prospect and Norfolk Streets, Cambridge’s geographic and political center in the early 19th century.

Writer Michael Kenney suggested the theme of this year’s walk, inspired by his Boston Globe article on November 4, 2000, entitled “Prayer Central: Known for Its Curries and Live Music, One Cambridge Neighborhood Is Home To Nearly 60 Congregations.” The area’s diverse and continually changing population is reflected in its surprising number of places of worship.

Charles Sullivan, executive director of the Cambridge
Historical Commission, and Father Gabriel Troy, pastor of St. May
of the Annunciation, address Jane Jacobs Walkers
As the walk began, Kenney pointed out an unassuming storefront Pentecostal church among multi-family dwellings on Norfolk Street. Walkers then headed to St. Mary of the Annunciation, the city’s third and once most important Catholic church, dating from 1866. Over time, St. Mary’s grew to form a complex with two school buildings, a convent, rectory, and gymnasiums for boys and girls. Its programs included a boys’ high school and two-year college, all free to its mainly Irish parishioners. The current pastor, Father Gabriel Troy, invited walkers to view the gloriously refurbished church interior, now home to a largely Spanish-speaking congregation. Appointed to a parish in the Peruvian mountains by Cardinal Cushing, Father Troy – a native of Ireland – is fluent in Spanish and delivers services in both languages.

Around the corner from St. Mary’s, St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church was originally built in 1861 as a Methodist church and now serves many families whose shared heritage is from the Caribbean islands. Minka vanBeuzekom, a Cambridge City Councilor on the walk with a copy of Jane Jacobs’s The Death and Life of Great American Cities in hand, called attention to the solar panels on the church roof, which they obtained through a grant for nonprofits.

Cindy Carpenter, a walk participant, informed the crowd about the Temple Beth Shalom, also known as the Tremont Street Shul, which she attends. She described it as special because “it seeks to accommodate different Jewish practices, often offering two services at the same time (egalitarian and traditional), and is not formally affiliated with any of the three main branches of organized Judaism in this country."

Nichole Mossalam, secretary of the Islamic Society
of Boston in Cambridge, speaks with a participant
in Cambridge’s annual Jane Jacobs Walk.
Welcoming the walkers to the Islamic Society of Boston’s Cambridge mosque, Nichole Mossalam, its secretary, led the group through the site. The visitors peered into two prayer rooms with sparsely decorated walls and beautiful rugs covering the floors. Outside the painted tile-like front of the former Knights of Columbus building, erected in 1958, Mossalam described the mosque as unaffiliated with any particular kind of Muslim religion. Worshippers come from countries on at least four continents, and they value inclusiveness. Muslims in the U.S. are becoming part of American life, she said, and “they don’t want to be divisive” in their relations with non-Muslims.

As they headed back to Central Square, many walkers expressed delight in discovering the diverse houses of worship tucked within a few blocks and remarked on the warm reception they had received.

Jane Jacobs Walks honor the memory and spirit of author and urban activist Jane Jacobs.

Begun in Canada the year after Jacobs died in 2006, the walks take place on the weekend closest to her birthday on May 4. Any group or individual can organize a walk and list it on www.janejacobswalk.org. In its seven years, Jane Jacobs Walks have become an international movement with hundreds of walks occurring simultaneously all over the world.

Glenna Lang is a Cambridge, MA, resident and the author, along with Marjory Wunsch, of Genius of Common Sense: Jane Jacobs and the Story of The Death and Life of Great American Cities. Genius of Common Sense is available on the Godine website in both hardcover and softcover formats.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

April 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.

This past month, Kirkus Reviews highlighted two of Godine's upcoming releases. The first book that the magazine praised is The African by J.M.G Le Clézio, a stunning tale of the author's experience moving from Nice, France to a Nigerian village:

A slim yet resonant autobiographical entry from the Nobel laureate’s early years in West Africa.

Le Clézio’s (Desert, 2009, etc.) memoir of his African youth is thin in length yet rich in detail as he reconciles his experience being spontaneously relocated at 8 with his mother and brother from World War II–era Nice, France, to remote Nigeria. As the only whites in a villages of natives, he describes family life crammed into a rustic homestead with paneless windows and mosquito netting—the best the French government could provide to his father, a military doctor. Even without schooling or sports, the author’s cultural enlightenment becomes an explosion of sensations, from the sun-induced bouts of prickly heat to the naked culture’s immodest “supremacy of the body.” Le Clézio writes of liberating his pent-up frustration from being raised fatherless in dreary, wartime Europe on the African savannah, yet his father, the man he’d reunited with in 1948, emerges as the memoir’s beating heart. Restless after medical school, he’d fled Europe for a two-year medical post in Guyana and two decades in West Africa. The author paints his father as pessimistic, lonely, overly authoritative and staunchly repulsed by colonial power, yet happily married. Sadly defeated by time and circumstance, he’d become a stranger and, once relocated back to France, “an old man out of his element, exiled from his life and his passion for medicine, a survivor.” Only in his lyrically articulated hindsight does the author truly appreciate his father’s good work and a unique, memorable childhood.

A vivid depiction of a splintered childhood and the lovely wholeness procured from it.
The African will be available this summer; you can learn more about it on our website.

Kirkus also reviewed Pizza in Pienza, a delightful read filled with colorful illustrations and information on the history of a simple Italian creation that Americans have come to love:

A little Tuscan girl introduces readers to her hometown of Pienza and her favorite food, pizza.

Simple, declarative sentences take readers from Queen Margherita of Italy, circa 1889, to the streets of Pienza, where life “is still pretty old-fashioned,” to a brief history of the pizza. “[P]izza as we know it,” she says, “was really born in Naples,” but she goes back even further to inform readers that the ancient Greeks and Italians ate flatbreads before moving on to discuss classic pizza ingredients and the invention of the pizza Margherita. The first pizzeria in the United States opened in New York City in 1905, she continues, but pizza did not become popular around the country until after World War II: “Now there is pizza in Pienza… / …and all around the world!” Her ingenuous voice is matched by equally enthusiastic, folk-style artwork, which looks to be made with oil pastels and is dominated by warm, Tuscan colors. Fillion spices the illustrations with humor, pairing a black-clad nonna on a bicycle to a modish young woman on a Vespa on one page and planting a demurely held slice in Mona Lisa’s left hand on another. The English text appears above an Italian translation on every page, and the story is supplemented by an author’s note, a pronunciation guide, a two-page history of pizza and a recipe.

Both tasty and just filling enough, just like a slice of pizza Margherita.
Look out for Pizza in Pienza, available on our website this summer. In the meantime, check out godine.com for more of our recent and upcoming arrivals!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Superior Person's Tuesday!

Sackbut n. A medieval instrument, not unlike a trombone. The term is derived from an old French world for a hook used to pull a man off a horse. Make what you will of this.

In recent years, the sackbut has become very popular at lavish New York dinner parties.
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. Sackbut appears in the Second.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Hiding From Distraction: My Favorite Reading Spots

by Ross Wagenhofer

When I was younger, I read a lot on the school bus. It was a designated time where nothing was happening and I had nothing to do but either talk with my brother, play Pokèmon, or read. Of those choices, reading almost always trumped the others. It was the perfect way to escape the monotony of the daily bus ride home. I was eager in high school to ditch the bus for a car, and it wasn’t until senior year that I began missing those thirty-five minutes of time where I had all the freedom just to read, mostly distraction free. I didn’t get back that dedicated reading time until I moved out of my college dorms to Jamaica Plain, a good twenty-minute subway ride into the city. Reading has once more been my go-to source of overcoming the tedium of my every-day commute.

The subway isn’t the only place I love to read, of course, but it’s one of the best. My trip from home to campus or work is exactly long enough for a single magazine feature or a short story from a literary magazine. If I just have a book on me, I’m sometimes hesitant to read it on the subway out of fear that I may be interrupted by my arrival just as I’m getting into a good part. But with short form writing, my trip time is ideal. I now always carry both a magazine (or literary journal) and a book with me at all times to suit my reading location.

A moving train is one of the best places to read because it’s boring, mostly free of distractions, and away from either television or the internet. Sometimes (only sometimes, though), I wish for a longer train commute so I had even more perfect reading time. Since being in college, I’ve found myself a victim of the now-ubiquitous 21st century plague of distraction. I used to be good at tuning out the noise around me and ignoring the pull of the TV and the computer, but I’ve lapsed considerably with these skills the past few years. I’ve had to cultivate strategies, and most importantly, places to help me hide from distraction.

Emerson's Iwasaki Library (Credit: emerson.edu)
My college library, first and foremost, is one of the most beautiful places to find solitude. It’s a deceptively large space, despite being nestled away on the third floor of a building in downtown Boston, and has numerous nooks and spots where one can hide away. I can go hours in the evening there with little indication of an outside world.

Besides the library, the second best place I’ve found to read is on my bed, the classic spot. I’ve tried my desk, but with my computer and charging phone right there in front of me, I can often be pulled away by the blinking indicator LEDs now affixed to nearly every electronic device. My bed is the perfect distance away – near yet far – and is comfortable enough to sustain even the lengthiest of forays into a separate literary world.

The Thinking Cup (Credit: yelp.com)
And third is the coffee shop. I used to be very resistant to the idea of using a café as a place to read or write, as I tended to think of the people who I saw in those places being more exhibitionist than otherwise. I’m the kind of person who will remove a dust jacket or hide a magazine cover to avoid conversation about what I’m reading, detesting the interruption. But the coffee shop has become a favorite spot of mine for a couple of reasons. The proximity to quality coffee is a large draw. While I’m not dependent on coffee, I might say I’m reliant on it; it’s often a useful friend to lean on. Second, cafes and coffee houses offer a space away. The library serves a similar purpose, but I can always count on stopping into any coffee place in any part of the city, or a different city, and having a roughly similar environment.

Where do you like to read, and how? How best can one either drown out distraction or escape it? Drop us a comment below or share a tweet with us at @GodinePub!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Crime and Puzzlement 2 - The App!

We are very pleased today to announce that Crime and Puzzlement 2 is now downloadable in app form, and for only $1.99! The sequel to Crime & Puzzlement by award-winning mystery author Lawrence Treat lets you again match your detecting powers in 24 brand new cases, available for the iPhone (including full compatibility with iPhone 5 / iOS 6) and iPad (incl. iPad Mini).

Alone (or was he?) in his locked room. Torrick the truckdriver succumbed, but to what, and why? Arthur, on his way downstairs for another drink, slipped, or did he? Siegfried Jones was obviously knifed on his way to the operation room, but by whom?

  •  Read the story
  •  Ponder the picture
  •  And solve it yourself!

With the applause for Crime and Puzzlement still ringing in his ears, Lawrence Treat has conjured up an even more addictive and fiendishly delightful encore. Who finished Isabelle Spiegel? Why did Mr. Grange topple dead from his saddle, and what was the catch in Mr. Fishhead's alibi? It's up to you, the armchair detective, to find out!

If you cut your detecting teeth on Crime and Puzzlement, you'll sink them again into Crime and Puzzlement 2 with glee... Once again, YOU ARE THE DETECTIVE!

Watch a video of the app in action:

Here are some screenshots:

Down the app from the iTunes app store here – it's available in English, Spanish, French, German, and Japanese!