Friday, August 30, 2013

Today in Literary History: 8/30

In this new weekly segment, we'll share key events in history that helped to shape the world of literature as we know it.

Mary Shelley, author of the Gothic classic Frankenstein and wife of Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, was born on August 30th in 1797.

Can you think of any notable events in literary history that you'd like to share? Leave a comment below, or join us @GodinePub on Twitter!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Scandinavian Winters

By Addie Byrne

Scandinavian winters last at least seven months. I should know, I’ve experienced them firsthand. The first snow drifts down in early November as the temperature drops and the ground becomes hard and frozen. By December, temperatures have fallen well below -20°, and at that point it doesn’t much matter if it’s Celsius or Fahrenheit. Add in a chilling north wind and the cold cuts right to the bone. Snow begins to pile up, first inch-by-inch and then foot-by-foot. Then, for months, the land is buried, alternatingly attacked by blizzards and frost with no end in sight. The people who live there settle in; this land creates those who can withstand. Long after the rest of the world would have resigned themselves to despair, the Scandinavians continue about their daily lives. Sometimes they even dare to have fun outdoors when the wind lets up. People always ask how anyone can live up there. I tell everyone the same thing: there is a quiet beauty where you least expect it.

Hardly anyone ever gets to see the first of the dawn light making a frosted tree glisten in the sun. Few people experience the complete and heavy silence a fresh snowfall brings to a forest. Almost no one stands to admire the stark beauty of a frozen, white, open field for as far as the eye can see. The people that live here reflect their land. They embody this indomitable force that allows them to endure. Most people call them stoic; indifferent to emotion. I call them quiet. Their affects are reduced, in the sense that they display fewer emotions but the emotions are all the more powerful for it.

Stig Dagerman’s collection of short stories, Sleet, embodies the unexpected contrast found so often in the Scandinavian culture. The first story, “To Kill a Child”, is written with an almost extreme emotional detachment that belies that tragic content of the story. Author Graham Green commented, “Dagerman wrote with a beautiful objectivity. Instead of emotive phrases, he uses choice facts, like bricks, to construct an emotion.”  The factual account of the actions leading up to the child’s death in the story contrasts with the building horror that the story, as a whole, evokes. He makes his characters real; they lend credibility to the stories that are more than possible, while at the same time unimaginable. 

Some may call Dagerman’s writing stoic. There is most certainly an indifference to his writing, considering the sensitive content. I would call his writing quietly beautiful. The reduced emotional voice of the narrator summons a stronger emotional response from story. The subtly powerful and harshly beautiful influences of Scandinavian culture reveal themselves in Dagerman’s haunting collection of short stories.

Sleet is now available for sale on our website; you can find more information about the collection here.

Leave comments below or join us on Twitter @GodinePub.

Superior Person's Tuesday!

Funambulist, n. A tightrope walker.

To all the aspiring funambulists out there: don't try this at home.

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. Funambulist appears in the Second.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Harnessing Your Dreams Into Creative Energy: Why It Could Spark Your Writing

By Christina Freitas

Last semester, I enrolled in a one-credit writing practicum at my university entitled Dreams and the Subconscious In Writing. It seemed quirky, a fun way to entertain my writing mind, and it turned out to be a phenomenal course, one I would take again and again if I could. Tapping into my dreams for fuel to drive forward my stories turned out to be a stimulating and rewarding experience. And it springs to mind now as I leaf through the pages of Rainier Marie Rilke’s The Inner Sky: Poems, Notes and Dreams.

This translation features many previously unpublished works in a dual language format: on one side, Rilke’s native German, on the other, beautiful translations from Damion Searls. Juggling reality and the fantasies created not only within our minds, but also within our dreams, these pieces speak volumes about how even the smallest of images can spark intense introspection, unearthing stories still blooming beneath the weight of our everyday reality.

Exploring your dreams, peeling them open like fresh oranges in the morning, is actually incredibly rewarding. People often discount dreams, claiming they hold no resonance, just a jumble of images collected from your subconscious with no real rhyme, reason, or meaning. Some people may not remember their dreams to begin with, so their somewhat empty dream life may seem meaningless from the beginning.

But Rilke’s explorations suggest otherwise. His inspirational words point to truths and meanings that can be gleaned from anyone’s dreams, however minute or ridiculous, if they are so inclined. Even the most incoherent dreams can actually harbor inner clockworks of their own which may rival, or even surpass, the humdrum sensibilities of the everyday.

It may serve as little comfort, but dreams can even help us cope with our fears or lingering traumas. Our subconscious may work diligently through dreams, though they often appear as nightmares, to offer resolution where in our waking lives, we stumble through obstacles again and again. And sometimes, if you dig deep enough, your silliest dreams can even foster a creative firestorm on the page.

Naturally, there's a catch. You have to remember your dreams to draw creative juices from them. It helps to keep a dream journal, for one thing, and to be diligent in writing down your dreams the first time you wake up. Don’t give yourself five extra minutes because those initial images and emotions associated with your dreams will start fading the moment your brain returns from its subconscious wonderland to the tick tock mentality of reality.

Write, draw - record your dreams however you see fit!
And if you have trouble remembering your dreams at all, one tip our professors gave us – and don’t laugh, because it actually does work for some people – is this. Drink a little water before going to bed and say to yourself, I will remember my dreams tonight. Once you wake up in the morning, repeat the same drinking process and begin writing down your dreams. I've tried it, the method works. And I've had incredibly vivid dreams ever since.

So remember, dreams are creative stimulants, and they're yours to play with. You can bend their rules, assert your own, and transform them into something beautiful, dark, fantastical, explorations of your subconscious self. They’re your dreams – bring them to life! Leave us a comment below or join us on Twitter @GodinePub. For more information on The Inner Sky check out our website.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Taking What We Like: The Benefits of Remixing Literature

by David Field

Somehow, I don't think this
is what Jane Austen had in mind.
Why are we so fascinated by adaptations? From Heart of Darkness to Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, from Jane Austen’s romantic classic to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, writers and artists today seem obsessed with taking old stories and making them new. Modern retellings of myths and fairy tales have been popular for years and show no signs of disappearing anytime soon – just look at shows like Grimm and Once Upon a Time. Classic mythology, too, is still very much alive in our modern culture, and you don’t have to look far to find it. Some titles that spring to mind right away are the new Clash of the Titans remake, the Percy Jackson series for younger readers, and the Coen brothers’ Odyssey-based satire, O Brother, Where Art Thou? The list goes on, and it’s an extensive one. But why is this? Why are today’s creative thinkers so fixated on the stories of the past?

Coppola adapts Heart of
Darkness to the horrors
of the Vietnam War.

There are any number of reasons, but I believe it’s simply because these stories have stood the test of time. They embody universal themes and establish archetypes that never seem to go away, no matter how many years it’s been. For example, Alice in Wonderland gives us a girl struggling to find her way in a world that just doesn’t make sense. The extraordinary voyages of Jules Verne and other science fiction writers give us men who push boundaries and make sacrifices in the never-ending pursuit of knowledge. And we never get tired of the classic hero’s quest, the triumph of the good and righteous over the wicked and corrupt. It’s a plotline that stretches all the way back to mankind’s earliest myths and stories, and it’s still inescapable in today’s pop culture, as seen in massive franchises like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. In some capacity, all of these classic tales tap into the wishes and worries that are still so prevalent in our world today, which is why so many creative minds turn to them for inspiration.

Linda Bamber’s upcoming collection, Taking What I Like, is chock full of these types of stories. She constructs fresh, original narratives around characters and written works that most readers will recognize right away. The short story “Casting Call,” for instance, features Desdemona and the rest of Othello’s dramatis personae, who have been plucked from the streets of Venice and placed in a university English department. (You can find a free download of the story here!) Bamber’s story is not a Shakespeare imitation, however. She uses a cast of characters that resonates with readers to construct a story with a powerful social message about race and minority empowerment, a message that couldn’t be more relevant in our society today. The familiar faces give us ground to stand on. Bamber’s expert storytelling then lets us stride across that ground and find new paths, new interpretations that go beyond the original text and reveal significant truths we never would have spotted otherwise.

Shakespeare himself was no stranger to adaptations. Many of his plays were based on the lives of real historical figures (Antony and Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, Richard III, etc.) while others were heavily inspired by legends or stories his audiences would be familiar with (King Lear, Othello, Romeo and Juliet, etc.). The bard looked at these classic tales and knew they had more stories to tell, so he created new characters and gave them voices. And as writers like Linda Bamber have proven time and time again, there’s no shortage of stories left in these timeless works of art. Taking What I Like is available starting today; you can find more information about the collection here.

What’s your favorite modern adaptation? How did it stack up to the original? And what new insights do you think the remix brought to its classic predecessor? Share your comments with us here, or join us @GodinePub on Twitter!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Superior Person's Tuesday!

Acerebral, adj. Without a brain.

Dorothy makes a new acerebral friend on her journey to the Emerald City.

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. Acerebral appears in the First. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

We Art Boston: Upcoming Fundraiser to Benefit the Boston Children's Hospital

Godine author and illustrator Joe McKendry (Beneath the Streets of Boston, One Times Square) has kindly informed us of a fundraiser that he put together to benefit the Emergency and Trauma Fund at the Boston Children's Hospital.  The 'We Art Boston' auction was created in the wake of the Marathon bombing and features work by some of the best known illustrators working today. 

The more than 40 participating artists of We Art Boston honor the role of story time with a fundraiser featuring original works of art from some of the most beloved contemporary children’s books.  Godine illustrators Barbara McClintock, Glenna Lang, Guy Billout, Jared Williams and Joe McKendry have all generously donated original art to be auctioned off at this event.

Get updates and information leading up to the October 20th event at and at

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Superior Person's Tuesday!

Mystagogue, n. One who instructs in mystical or arcane lore and doctrines.

A hush fell over the room as the great mystagogue prepared to address his students.

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. Mystagogue appears in the First. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Books Don't Grow Up: Loving Books with a Child's Heart

By Christina Freitas

In a word, one could pinpoint the most appealing aspect of books everywhere: escape. There is no simpler way to delay an inevitable rendezvous with reality. You need only crack open the spine of a nearby novel, duck your nose against its inked pages and read on, leaving reality waiting by the punch bowl for a few hours more. Books can represent fantastical worlds and excite our imaginations in ways the humdrum of daily life can often deny. This feverish activity can often be found most poignantly in works of children's literature.

Take, for example, our recent republication of The Tyger Voyage by Richard Adams. First published in 1976, this classic tale recounts the exploits of a father and son as they traverse terrains both dangerous and exhilarating, uncovering unique adventures and encountering intriguing characters before they find their way back home. It's an inspiring ride which children (and adults) will love, perhaps due in large part to the ways in which this fantastical tale is both an escape and an appeal to our realities, to grander concepts of family, sense of place, the desire to see the world in its many colors and forms.

Maybe it is this creative mesh of fantasy and reality, often at the heart of so many children's tales, which endears their stories and a sense of adventure in adults as well. Children's literature plants the seeds for future readers to embrace, imagine, to dream bigger and brighter than those who came before. It's an important stepping stone in the hierarchy of reading and while growing up means one's tastes will inevitably change, it doesn't mean one has to read any less with the heart of a child. We can still embrace the fantastical as well as the realistic and find the two shaking hands in some of the most beloved stories.

Just as Adams brings home both an imaginary adventure and the significance of family in this classic title, writers such as J.R.R. Tolkien and J.K. Rowling (to name a few) confront questions about power, love and friendship in the face of epic good-vs-evil struggles whose foundations have a home in our own world, despite the fantastical webs entangling their characters. It may be the stuff of children's books, but when you consider the very nature of the word fiction, there's an inherent level of fantasy in every title we read.

I've always wanted one of these. 
True, many stories are as close to a departure from this magical world as one will likely find in literature. Everyone has read at least one novel whose characters are engaged in the often overwhelming struggle to pierce the veil of our muddled and often inhospitable realities. But at the heart of every novel, every short story, there is a fantasy of some kind – it may be confronted, torn apart, embraced or ignored by the writer, but readers take part in this fantasy of their own volition, from their immersion in these pages to the characters they follow with hushed words and bated breaths.

Naturally, not all tales we read are littered with emblems of the fantasy genre, per se, or the imaginary findings of children's stories. Elves, fairies and happily-ever-afters are often a rarity in much of the prose we read. As we mature, our stories tend to develop longer shadows. Our beloved heroes, whose foes could have easily been slain and killed in our youth, are now forced to contend with villains who haunt them for hundreds of pages, even multiple books, and are far more rooted in reality than any dragon or fictitious knights.

Yet we still read for the same reasons we embarked on youthful adventures through children's books. We read to be inspired and amazed. We read to plunge into the lives of these characters, who become like dear friends by the novel's end, and pray they will rise from the ashes of their own turmoil. We read for the same sense of fantasy provided by tales of old, for the world they bring into our hearts and our minds, for the calm, suspense, anger and joy a writer can produce, with a touch of imagination and the stroke of a pen. It's a timeless passion, reading, and it remains as youthful and exuberant as ever.

Reality beckons and we all have to come home eventually, but why not delay the return, make a few more pit stops, linger just a day more in a forest teeming with words and stories for readers of every kind? If you'd like to weigh in on your obsession with reading, feel free to comment below or join us on Twitter @GodinePub. For more information about The Tyger Voyage please visit our website.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

From Page To Screen: Why It Pays To Give Film Adaptations A Chance

By Christina Freitas

Everyone says it, and it's usually (scratch that - always) true - the book is better than the movie. To be fair, there are nuances of both film and literature that cannot be replicated onto the face of the other. Much can be gained, and therefore lost, in cinematic translations from page to screen. Despite how we lament time and again those classic novels that were turned into average, maybe even awful films, we continually yearn for our favorite novels to become films, or even a television series. More and more we become enamored with the intricacies these novels display onscreen, rather than minor details left out in the interest of time and money.

Which got me thinking - maybe we're too hard on those individuals who adapt books for the cinema. After all, screenwriting and novel writing each have their own strengths, and writers can often find success in both genres. 

Here at Godine, two authors come to mind. One is Daniel Fuchs (author of The Golden West and The Brooklyn Novels), who is an accomplished screenwriter and won an Academy Award for his screenplay for the 1955 film Love Me Or Leave Me. There’s also Noel Langley, author of The Land of Green Ginger, who produced the screenplay for a film we should all know - The Wizard of Oz in 1939.

Their publications cross entirely separate genres, from introspective looks at the Hollywood machine in an autobiographical light, to an exploration of enticing worlds born of a writer’s imagination. As screenwriters, their vision of the storytelling world bears a unique tint. Their perspective of characters, narrative form, and scenery will often hearken back to their roots in cinema, though these are roots that also simmer in the world of the novel. As difficult as it is to reproduce a novel on film without losing some of its magic, whether challenges rest with casting calls or re-imagined scenes, we should not ignore the shared imaginary tracts of these two fields.

These two screenwriters successfully bridged the worlds of cinema and the printed page, and when a screenplay remains faithful, chances are a film will triumph in the minds of its avid followers, if not at the box office. When I think about successful film adaptations, a few examples always spring to mind: The Lord of the Rings franchise, To Kill A Mockingbird, The Godfather, and more recently, The Silver Linings Playbook. Behind each production is a faithful screenwriter and a crew devoted to capturing the essence of these stories, in the words of their creators.

When film adaptations succeed, the effects are tremendous. Your beloved characters stand personified, often exactly as you imagined them, and there's something oddly satisfying about chronicling their journeys on a screen that isn't isolated in your mind. You bear witness to their victories; experiencing every emotional lasso that cinema can rope around your arms. You want to be moved and cinema, like novels, is a wondrous mode of transportation.

So when your favorite novel trickles into Hollywood’s heart, don’t despair: give it a chance! Do you have any particular favorites film adaptations, or think any Godine books would make a great movie? Leave comments below or join us on Twitter @GodinePub. For more information on The Golden West, The Brooklyn Novels or The Land of Green Ginger, please visit our website.   

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Superior Person's Tuesday!

Camilles and Dying swans, n. Medical terms for patients who loudly proclaim the imminence of their death when in fact their condition is not noticeably terminal.

"My toes are killing me!" complained the dying swan.

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. Camilles and Dying swans appear in the Superior Person's Field Guide.