Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Brooklyn Book Festival

by Addie Byrne

David and I spent Sunday down in New York at the Brooklyn Book Fair, selling books, giving away donuts, and taking in the bibliophile atmosphere. The fair is simply a glorious event for anyone who has a decent library (or aspires to one). With over 150 booths, you could find authors, poets, publishers, bookstores, magazines, and a whole lot of free candy. David had no problem bringing in huge crowds to his booth. I can’t say this with 100% certainty, but we may well have had the most popular booth at the event. It turns out after 40+ years in the book business, you build up quite a following. Or maybe it was the free donuts we were giving out. Either way, I had a blast talking books with so many enthusiasts, who could pretty easily be divided into three categories.

The Godine regulars were the most delightful customers. They’d walk right up to me and introduce themselves, tell me how much they loved ALL of the books, and then proceed to buy a few. Since we had two stands, one on either side of the flow of traffic, I’d often get someone who’d just bought a few books from David, yet somehow could not resist getting a few more from me as well. “Oh I just LOVE his books,” they’d say as they picked up some more, “maybe just another two or three should do it.”

The families with small children were some of my most entertaining customers. I spotted more than a few children darting through the crowd as their parents attempted to shop and not lose a child at the same time. Having spotted a book that was colorful enough to look interesting, the children would suddenly make a beeline towards the table, pick up the book, and start flipping through it. Once the parent located and caught up to their kid, the following transaction was swift, and proceeded as follows:

“Do you like this book sweetie?”
“No,” the child replies as it drops the book, already concentrating on the free stickers in the next booth over, the slightly haggard parent following swiftly behind.

Or this: “Do you like the book sweetie?”
“Okay,” turning to me, “How much?”
Apparently parents will finance their child’s love of books at any cost. Haggling was off the table!

Rebecca and Oshin

Most people did not fall into either of those enthusiastic categories. They would sidle in, spend some time scanning the books, running their fingers over them, showing interest but not giving themselves away completely. They were drawn in by the site of so many fresh books, sprawled all over the table, waiting to be devoured by hungry eyes. Some moved quickly, but most lingered for awhile, testing the first sentence, reading the jacket again, turning the book over in their hands to just get a sense of how it feels. These were my favorite people. These people appreciate books, thus they REALLY appreciate Godine. They just don’t know it yet. David so effortlessly targeted their tastes and picked the perfect book off the table for them, charged half the price and then threw another book in for free. No wonder his stand was so popular…and at the end of the day, there are a few more Godine enthusiasts out in the world. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Pizza in Baltimore

 by Susan Fillion

Urban independent bookstores are rapidly disappearing, which makes The Children’s Bookstore in Baltimore all the more wonderful. It sits on a quiet street, across from the post office, a florist on one side and a gift shop (another relic) on the other. Children walk down the hill from school and flop on the floor to read in the afternoon. The shop is sunny, colorful, stuffed with books floor to ceiling and the small staff knows each title inside out. Joann Fruchtman (pictured here with the pizza Margherita that was served at the event) started the business decades ago, and has known David Godine forever. It was Jo who introduced me to David and I remain enormously grateful.

Last week, I gave my first talk on my new book, Pizza in Pienza, there. Speaking to an audience that includes very young children is new to me and I wasn’t sure what to expect. But nobody cried, fell asleep, or walked out – (of course, there was the lure of real pizza afterwards!) – so I guess it went well enough. I read a few pages in English and Italian, spoke a bit about the history of pizza, and offered a brief Italian lesson. Since everyone knows a few Italian words – (pizza, macaroni, cello, gelato, Leonardo da Vinci) – and there are many Italian words that sound quite similar to their English counterparts – (generazioni, principale, tradizionale, famiglia, antico) -- it was easy and amusing to engage everyone there.

At the end of my talk, a tiny little girl with the name of an Italian town walked up to inspect one of the framed illustrations I had brought. She tapped on the glass a few times and then looked up at me with a quizzical expression. It took me a few seconds to realize that she thought it was a tablet screen! Mamma mia! Another reason to salute independent bookstores everywhere.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Superior Person's Tuesday!

Kerchief of pleasance, phr. An embroidered cloth worn by a mediaeval knight in his helmet, or round his arm, in honour of his lady (also sometimes called a favour).

The lady offers her knight a kerchief of pleasance before he gallops off into battle.

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. Kerchief of pleasance appears in the Third.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Read a banned book!

by Katlyn Stokarski
It’s Banned Books Week, folks! Well, maybe not quite as “banned” as you might think.

The books are actually the “most challenged” titles based on input from libraries and schools all around the country. Every year, they are at the forefront of fielding complaints from patrons and parents who lobby to remove certain books from the shelves, often in an effort to keep “unsuitable material” away from children. The Office for Intellectual Freedom then “compile[s] lists of challenged books in order to inform the public about censorship efforts that affect libraries and schools.”

So there you have it. The books that make the lists are not so much banned from being sold in your neighborhood bookstore, but their existence and accessibility in the public domain (the local library) is threatened.

I can understand how parents feel the need to protect their children from books containing material that contradicts their values; let them be free to censor their children. What I do not understand is how these parents could assume that it is within their right to deprive everyone of access. Each person has the right to form his or her own opinion, but they first need to get their hands on a copy of the book to do it.

Banned Books Week provides a great opportunity to appreciate our First Amendment rights and examine relevant issues concerning censorship, as well as the everyday challenges our librarians face in protecting our right to read.

And in today's list-loving world, The American Library Association’s page highlighting on Banned Books Week showcases some great ones, such as Top 100 Challenged Books of the Decade, Challenged Classics, etc. Explore their site; you’ll definitely see a few “why haven’t I read that yet?” books, and you’ll be interested to see what books ignited controversy back in the day. Here’s their site:

I am no exception to loving lists. Here are a few of my own childhood favorites that made the cut in years past:
The Giver, by Lois Lowry
The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier
The Face on the Milk Carton, by Caroline B. Cooney
Julie of the Wolves, Jean Craighead George

And a few that I added to my reading list:
Rabbit, Run, by John Updike
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey
Always Running, by Luis Rodriguez

And what about you, readers? Were there any books that surprised you? Do you think controversial books should be removed from libraries?


Godine Quotables

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Superior Person's Tuesday!

Alliaceous, a.  Smelling or tasting of garlic or onion

We're sure she meant to say "alliaceous breath".
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. Alliaceous appears in the First.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Author Events: Susan Fillion Visits Baltimore

Attention Baltimore residents! (especially those interested in pizza -- and c'mon, who doesn't love pizza?!)

  • Pizza Party! Join the Children's Bookstore at an event celebrating the release of Susan Fillion's newest book Pizza in Pienza, tomorrow Sept. 17 at 4pm. Free and open to all, Susan will be reading and signing copies of the book (and most likely eating some pizza with fans). Come join!

  • And later this month, on Sunday, Sept. 29, Susan will be visiting The Baltimore Book Festival 2013  to speak on a panel with fellow children's book authors to discuss the differences in how picture books are created -- from the kernel of the idea, to working with an illustrator, to the final draft. Check out the "Creating Picture Books: A Variety of Perspectives" event here.

These events sound like good fun for book and pizza lovers alike. And if you can't make it to Baltimore, be sure to read more about Pizza in Pienza (and upcoming news of what all our authors are up to) at

Friday, September 13, 2013

New Ebooks!

David R. Godine, Publisher is pleased to announce the release of four new ebook titles. Ranging from simple to eye-opening, hilarious to heartbreaking, readers will only benefit from the added convenience and accessibility of the ebook versions of these titles. Listed below are short descriptions of each of the books. We hope you enjoy them!

An Artist in Venice by Adam Van Doren

"Architect and artist Adam Van Doren offers a love letter to Venice in this elegant volume, and he sings his praise to the city through majestic prose and 23 beautiful watercolor paintings of Venice." -Publishers Weekly 

This book offers a beautifully illustrated visual guide to the city: it's a walking guide to the Venice from the seat of your couch. In addition to the drawings, the author laces his tour with information, opinion, and citation, creating a reading experience that is both rich and convincing.  Available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

Sleet by Stig Dagerman

"Dagerman wrote with beautiful objectivity. Instead of emotive phrases, he uses a choice of facts, like bricks, to construct an emotion."
—Graham Greene

This selection of short stories, edited and translated by Steven Hartman, offers new translations of Dagerman’s stories, including some that have never before appeared in English. Many of the stories are narrated from a child’s fragile perspective and give voice to a tender state of high receptiveness and joy fraught by longing, loneliness, and an urgent desire to make sense of a difficult world. The title story, “Att döda ett barn” (“To Kill A Child”), is the most famous of Dagerman’s short stories and one of the most anthologized and oft-read stories in Sweden.  Click here to purchase this title on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Kobo.

The African by J. M. G. Le Clézio

"Le Clezio, recipient of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Literature, recalls the emotive and evocative African experience of his youth." - Library Journal

"A vivid depiction of a splintered childhood and the lovely wholeness procured from it." - Kirkus

J. M. G. Le Clézio's autobiographical memoir The African traces the author's childhood, from when he left a war torn Europe in 1948 to the first years of his new life in Nigeria. In Le Clézio's characteristically intimate, poetic voice, the narrative relates both the dazzled enthusiasm the child feels at discovering newfound freedom in the African savannah and his torment at discovering the rigid authoritarian nature of his father.  Click here for links to purchase the ebook on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody by Will Cuppy

So you think you know most of what there is to know about people like Nero and Cleopatra, Alexander the Great and Attila the Hun, Lady Godiva and Miles Standish? How wrong you are, for in these pages you'll find Will Cuppy footloose in the footnotes of history. He transforms these luminaries into human beings, not as we knew them from history books, but as we would have known them Cuppy-wise: foolish, fallible, and very much our common ancestors.

  Available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Superior Person's Tuesday!

By Addie Byrne

Thermanesthesia, n. Inability to feel heat or cold.

He sure looks comfortable
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. Thermanesthesia appears in the first.

Monday, September 9, 2013

August Reviews Roundup

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.

In recent news, we were happy to see that Kirkus Reviews praised Max Dalton's "witty and sophisticated" picture book  Extreme Opposites.  

Here is a highlight of their review, which you can also find here:

 “Too big”: A dismayed big-game hunter looks down at three colossal footprints while his porters chuckle at his discomfiture. “Too small”: A bearded castaway leans against a palm tree on an islet that’s just barely big enough. “Too late”: A quartet of dinosaurs, bags packed, dolefully watches the ark disappearing over the horizon. “Too early”: A rooster crows, silhouetted in the window against a starry night sky, with an irate would-be sleeper glaring at him from bed. Not for children just learning opposites, these illustrations invite older kids to study visual irony...The cartoons’ hip, limited palette and dry wit will appeal to adults, but the images never lose sight of the child audience, as is manifest in a couple of quite funny underwear-related gags (“too loose/too tight”). 

With whole stories unfurling in each image, the book has potential for classroom use as well as for solo enjoyment. 
Extreme Opposites is coming out this October, so make sure to check out our site for more information on this engaging book for all ages.

Brava! Author Susan Fillion's delightful (and delicious!) book Pizza in Pienza was reviewed recently by the Baltimore Sun:

Spaghetti and lasagna are all very well, but pizza is plainly the major Italian donation to the American diet. Susan Fillion celebrates both the pizza and its Italian origins in the slender but delightful Pizza in Pienza (David Godine, $17.95).

"The Pienza of the title is a little town in Tuscany which Ms. Fillion, a Baltimore artist and museum educator, makes the starting point of her illustrated history of this universally popular dish. Life in Pienza (and life in an Italian town can be very good) is limned in a series of drawings with bilingual English/Italian captions in which a child in the town discovers the history of her favorite food.
We get to the pie very quickly. To the invention in 1889 of the pizza Margherita in Naples, named after the queen and featuring the green, white, and red colors of the new Italian flag. The opening of the first American pizzeria in New York in 1905. The ballooning popularity of the dish after World War II, when American troops returning from Italy had developed a taste for the dish. 

...But the charm of the book lies in the evocative illustrations of daily life in Pienza, the Renaissance buildings and narrow streets, the daily round, the fresh produce at the weekly outdoor market, and the pizza hot from the oven."

You can find the full review here. Pizza in Pienza is currently available on our website, so make sure to get your slice of this beautifully illustrated title. (Did we mention there's a classic Neapolitan recipe for pizza margherita included?) Buon appetito!

We're pleased to know that the creator of the The Garden Interior blog is currently reading Rosemary Verey -- The Life & Lessons of a Legendary Gardener by Barbara Paul Robinson.

"This is a charming biography of one of the 20th Century’s great gardeners, and it is told in an engagingly simple, straight-forward prose narrative, by the author who was a very prominent New York lawyer and who, like Verey, came to gardening late in life. Robinson worked for Verey at her world famous garden, Barnsley, in the English Cotswolds. Verey only became a serious gardener in her 50s and 60s, and one of the most remarkable and likeable things about her is how a self-taught, passionate amateur could rise, in the twilight of life, to become a world authority on garden design and planting style."

This review is featured in the "What I'm Reading" column of the blog.

This definitive biography, capturing both  Ms. Verey charismatic personality as well as her darker demons, is one to add to your reading list--no green thumb required.

To wrap things up,  J.M.G Le Clézio’s novel The African was featured by the lovely folks at ForeWord reviews:

"This brilliant translation of Nobel Laureate J. M. G. Le Clézio’s book The African, the now- seventy -three- year- old writer goes back to his childhood spent in Nigeria, the son of a French military doctor posted to Africa. Told through the fog of memory, the author’s adult mind reanalyzes his childhood, adding layer upon layer of meaning.
The narrative has a poetic, otherworldly feel to it as both father and son struggle to control their own environments. They realize what other Europeans would learn the hard way: that eventually Africa would swallow them. They bend to Africa’s will, and not the other way around. Much later, after two decades, the father understands the futility of colonialism, the winless war against disease, with tools that did not work or were not plentiful enough. Europeans are more helpless than the termites and scorpions that the son taunted and killed in his youth.
But for the son, Africa is also freedom from the bombings of his birthplace in France during WWII. Later, after the end of Nazi occupation, the mother is challenged by friends in Paris who ask why she would move her family to the land of savages? “They’re no more savage than the people in Paris,” the mother replies.
As for his father, the son has two images: the happy father he never knew but saw in photographs, before the war isolated him; and the one after the war—embittered, stern, paranoid about germs and disease, who hit his children with a switch over childish pranks..."
Add these titles to your fall reading list--be sure to visit our website to view these and all of our upcoming and available titles.

Today in Literary History: 9/9

Each week, we'll share key events in history that helped to shape the world of literature as we know it.

On September 9th, 1976, the Royal Shakespeare Company premiered their minimalist stage production of William Shakespeare's Macbeth. Starring Ian McKellen and Judi Dench, the play received rave reviews for focusing on the psychological complexities of each character.

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!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Superior Person's Tuesday!

Kakorrhaphiophobia, n. The morbid fear of failure. Imagine a sufferer reporting to the clinic for treatment, knowing the first thing he will have to do, at the reception desk, is give them the name of his complaint.

He experiences kakorrhaphiophobia when trying to spell his condition.

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. Ignify appears in the Second.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Writer’s Bread and Butter: How to Hunt Down Those Elusive Plot Ideas

by David Field

Inspiration strikes differently for different writers. I recently got to hear Stephen King speak in Hartford, and he said that the inspiration for most (if not all) of his books stemmed from a single, powerful image. His most recent novel, Joyland, was inspired by the image of a boy in a wheelchair flying a kite on the beach. The image refused to let him go, and as he mulled it over, the early threads of a story started to take shape. Then he envisioned a fairground in the background of this beach scene, and it was like the skies had opened. Just like that, he had the framework for his newest crime thriller ghost story.
This whole novel was spawned
from one clear, crystal image.

Unfortunately, those brief, brilliant flashes of insight tend to be pretty random. You’ll never get any writing done if you keep waiting for that perfect idea to hit you like a bolt from the blue. So to push past that initial writer’s block, here are a few tips you can use to help develop ideas for your potential novel or short story.

It helps to start with an object. It could be a half-eaten sandwich or a box full of dusty old letters or a crinkly orange leaf. Any object will do, really, as long as it resonates with you or carries some sort of emotional weight. You might not know why a particular object has resonance, but if you keep coming back to it, chances are it has story potential. It’s okay if nothing comes to mind right away. You can always go for a walk and keep your eyes peeled for a particularly striking image; you might even spot something interesting just by looking out a window. If the outdoors aren’t your thing, try browsing stock photos or social media sites to see if anything stands out to you. Once you’ve got an image, describe it in as much detail as you possibly can. Use all five senses. You’ll probably find that the more you try to be objective, the more those little subjective details will creep in. And that’s good! It means your object has weight, that it has a story to be told.

What story does this sandwich have to tell?
Now it’s time to construct your setting. Every object has to exist in context, so build an environment around yours. Again, stock photos or social media can be a great help if you’re having trouble thinking up a setting of your own. Maybe the half-eaten sandwich is lying on a checkered picnic blanket in the park; maybe the box of letters is buried under a mass of cobwebs in the basement of an old plantation home. Try to be as specific as possible when you describe the scene. You should be starting to get some inkling of a story by this point, but if not, ask yourself a few clarifying questions. Why was that sandwich left unfinished? What do the old letters say, and who stashed them away?

Once you’ve figured out the answers to these sorts of questions, you’ll be working on the inevitable next step: introducing your character. Before you place them in scene, write up a detailed character bio. Get down their name, age, appearance, favorite books, hobbies, fears, hopes and aspirations, etc. Whatever you can think of. Laundry lists of description are fine for now; just make sure to avoid them when it comes time to actually write the story. Let’s use our sandwich-eater as an example. Her name is Molly Price, age 22, and she’s just finished her degree in Psychology at UVM. Now she’s back in Brooklyn searching for a job. She’s got a pale complexion, with green eyes and unruly brown hair that always seems to be floating around her face. Right now she’s standing on a bridge near the picnic blanket, brushing her hair behind an ear and staring out across the water. Her eyes are blank; her sandwich forgotten. What could she be thinking about?

How much conflict could you get
out of this image?
Here’s where it gets interesting. Time to establish the conflict. You can do this however you’d like, but it usually helps to add a second character to the mix. This doesn’t necessarily have to be an antagonistic sort of character; they just need to bring some kind of tension to the table. They don’t even need to be present in the scene as long as their influence is clear. When you write up a character bio for this new person, try to develop specific details about their relationship to character #1. When did they first meet? Are they best friends or bitter rivals? Is one of them keeping a secret from the other? Think about all the ways you could introduce conflict between the two. For Molly, character #2 is a childhood friend  (let's call him Derek) who she used to date in high school. Molly felt a bit displaced after coming home from college, and she was hoping to have a familiar face she could rely on during this stressful transition period. She was thrilled when Derek agreed to meet her for lunch at the park. After three hours, though, he still hasn't shown up. Molly tries eating her sandwich as she waits for him, but eventually she gives up. Now she’s staring out at the water and wondering what she could possibly do next.

Sounds like we’ve got a decent basis for a longer story here! With a bit more planning, this could even find its way into a novel. And just think: all of this originated from the image of a half-eaten sandwich. Pretty amazing, right? Even the most mundane of objects can have a story packed inside it. You just need to do a little digging to get there.

What scenarios did you come up with using this prompt? Do you have any other strategies that help get your writing juices flowing? Share your comments with us here, or join us @GodinePub on Twitter!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Today in Literary History: 9/4

Each week, we'll share key events in history that helped to shape the world of literature as we know it.

On September 4th, 1893, Beatrix Potter wrote The Tale of Peter Rabbit for five-year-old Noel Moore, the son of Potter's former governess Annie Carter Moore. The story received commercial success after its publication in 1902 and is now one of the best-selling books of all time.

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, September 3, 2013

Superior Person's Tuesday!

Ignify, v. To burn or set something alight.

It's not a camping trip without some tasty ignified marshmallows.

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. Ignify appears in the Third.