Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Happy birthday, George Orwell!

Eric Arthur Blair, better known as George Orwell (June 15, 1903-January 21, 1950), would have turned 111 today. He is of course best known for his much-read and much-quoted masterpiece Nineteen Eighty-Four, which depicts the bleak, anti-individualist dystopian state of Big Brother and the Thought Police, and for Animal Farm, the farmyard allegory of communist collapse.

Like our last birthday boy, William Shakespeare, Orwell is also responsible for the introduction of a variety of new vocabulary into English. He is credited with coining “cold war,” “Big Brother,” “thought police,” and “Room 101,” among others. 

Considering that much of his life was spent in poverty and ill health, it is something of a miracle that in only forty-six years George Orwell managed to publish ten books and two collections of essays.

Last year, celebrating Orwell’s 110th birthday, Dutch artists Front404 drew attention to today’s Orwellian surveillance by decorating CCTV cameras in Utrecht’s city center…with cheery party hats. The stunt was a viral online success, but we’ve yet to hear if it’s been repeated this year. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Superior Person's Tuesday!

Ephetic: a. Habitually suspending judgement, given to skepticism. Like aporia (q.v.) an exceptionally Superior word.  The fact that ephecticism generally engenders ineffectualness should enable you to develop one or two phonically pleasing sentences. Alternatively, cultivate its use in the same sentence as eclectic (wide-ranging in acceptance of doctrines, opinions, etc.).

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. Ergasiophobia appears in the first.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Literary Happenings Around Town, June 23 – June 29

Monday June 23
  • Porter Square Books: Mac Griswold’s The Manor, 7 pm 
  • Harvard Bookstore: Kevin Birmingham discusses The Most Dangerous Book:
The Battle for James Joyce’s Ulysses, 7 pm 
  • Brookline Booksmith: Susan Mizruchi’s Brando’s Smile: His Life, Thought, and Work with a screening of On the Waterfront, 5:30 pm 

Tuesday June 24

Wednesday June 25

Thursday June 26

Friday June 27
  • Porter Square Books: Summer reading recommendations with The Back Room: sales reps from various publishers share their picks, 7 pm
  • Harvard Bookstore: Bill Scheft reads from Shrink Thyself:
 A Novel, 7 pm 
  • Brookline Booksmith: Breakwater Reading Series, 7 pm

Saturday June 28

Sunday June 29

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Superior Person's Tuesday!

ERGASIOPHOBIA, n. Fear of, or aversion to, work; diffidence about tackling the job. Another good word for using on sick-leave application forms.

It never stops...

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. Ergasiophobia appears in the first.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Monday June 16

Tuesday June 17

June 18

June 19

June 20

June 21

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Reading and Writing about Fathers

Guest Blogger: Godine Author Belinda Rathbone

     How well do you know your father? No matter how well, you may know him better, certainly in a new way, after he’s gone. Even without trying, we learn about our fathers from the trail of material things they leave behind, and from other people who knew him, and whom we will continue to meet for years to come. 

      A generation of daughters and sons has turned such discoveries into what might by now be considered a genre of books about fathers that is particular to our psychological age of enlightenment. We think of Susan Cheever’s Home Before Dark about her father John Cheever, Elizabeth Styron’s Reading My Father about William Styron, Honor Moore’s The Bishop’s Daughter about Bishop Paul Moore, The Duke of Deception: Memories of my Father, by Geoffrey Wolff, and Nathanial Kahn’s documentary film, My Architect: A Son’s Journey about Louis Kahn – all candid portrayals of men told from the privileged intimacy of family life in a way only their children could write.

     These authors are driven by a desire to take charge of their fathers’ legacies on their own terms, to draw a more intimate portrait of the private man behind the public face. Their subjects’ personal trials    adultery, alcoholism, homosexuality, depression, crippling self-doubt – while perhaps somewhat known to the author become better understood and more clearly defined in the process of writing, and with a candor no outside biographer is either capable or entitled to match. Whether to purge the ghosts or to right a wrong, to understand a life-changing event, or to delineate the difference between their fathers’ outward success and inner struggle, these works are not only the author’s deep reflections on his or her own experience and identity, but works of research into the adult world their father’s inhabited when they were children. The result is a concoction of both research and memory – each informing the other until they are one. Without exception, these works could not have been realized before the subject was interred. For in life, our fathers hover over us - no, they tower over us, directing our vision and, intentionally or not, blocking the view.

     During the process of writing my forthcoming book, The Boston Raphael about my father, museum director Perry T. Rathbone, I was often asked if I might be too subjective a witness to handle the task. My answer, as it might be for other authors, is that the experience of writing is in fact an immersion in objectivity – a distancing from our own experiences in the process of researching the life of a person we knew so well. We go after the subject as detectives, biographers, and historians, studying letters and documents, interviewing people close to the scene, learning of the lives they led through the eyes of their contemporaries, of the times they spent outside the home while we led a parallel life in the same household, absorbed as we were in school work, friends, games, and family. Revisiting these scenes from our childhood with new eyes, we meet our fathers, as if for the first time, face to face.

     The urge to understand our fathers is of course not limited to famous fathers –all fathers have a public face that is not the same as the man at the breakfast table. The fascination these writers awaken in us all is a longing to know our fathers not just better, but in a new way, adult to adult, to better understand them and also who we are without them. It is only after our fathers pass away that another kind of relationship can begin, a relationship of equals. “I don’t think I would have started this book if I had known where it was going to end,” wrote Susan Cheever in her preface to Home Before Dark, “but having written it I know my father better than I ever did while he was alive.”

Belinda Rathbone is a biographer and photography historian. She is the author of the critically acclaimed Walker Evans: A Biography, and the forthcoming The Boston Raphael (Fall 2014, David R. Godine). She lives in Cambridge, MA. - 

Learn more about The Boston Raphael from the most recent issue of Art New England:

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Father's Day Is Upon Us!

If you are like many of us here at the Godine office, you still have to find that last minute gift, wrap your present, or mail that card to celebrate your dad on Father's Day. We're here to make that adventure a little easier for you by giving you some fun gift ideas. We have a wide range of books that just might be the perfect way to let your dad know how much he means to you.

Is your dad the handyman in the house? More likely than not, your dad has fixed and worked on many parts of the place you call home. "The Hand of the Small-Town Builder" and "Why We Make Things and Why It Matters" might be the perfect gift for your dad this Father's day.

The Hand of the Small-Town Builder: Summer Houses in Northern New England, 1876–1930

by W. Tad Pfeffer
 Northern New England in the late nineteenth century saw an explosion of what we now call "new home construction." The railroads had opened up the mountains to tourists while steamers regularly plied the coast. The concept of a paid summer vacation was gaining traction, and families, both rich and poor, were eager to rusticate in small villages where, close to nature, they would enjoy the blessings of a salubrious climate. Middle-class families could afford to build homes, and since their budgets precluded "name" architects, the need was answered by native builders, talented craftsmen familiar with the local resources who could draw the basic lines, muster and supervise a building crew, and meet the needs of clients. These weren't the fancy summer "cottages" of Newport or Bar Harbor, but simple structures erected on modest budgets for comfortable summer living. Many were, and still appear, very beautiful, and the best examples are shown in this striking survey of houses built by self-taught architects whose work survives as testaments to their skill.

The men behind the developments were far more than builders; they acted as land speculators, developers, and architects. They ran the typical three-man crews, house-sat over the winter, and were the liaisons with the "summer people" who would arrive in June and leave in early September. The houses they built were sensitive to the local topography and connected to the landscape as masterpieces of vernacular design. From the seacoast and islands of Maine to the hill towns, lakes, and rivers of Vermont and New Hampshire, Pfeffer has thoroughly researched and thoughtfully photographed the best examples. His text is rich with history and commentary. Far more than a pretty picture book, this is a scholarly and richly documented survey of master craftsmen whose subtle but powerful influence on the northern New England landscape is poignantly recorded in these pages.

For more information on this book, please visit our "The Hand of the Small-Town Builder" page

Why We Make Things and Why It Matters: The Education of a Craftsman
by Peter Korn
The good life that society prescribes – the untram­meled pursuit of wealth and fame, leisure and consumption – often leaves some essential part of us malnourished. We may be capable, competent indi­viduals yet find ourselves starved for avenues of engagement that provide more satisfying sustenance.

Furniture making, practiced as a craft in the twenty-first century, is a decidedly marginal occupation. Yet the view from the periphery can be illuminating. For woodworker Peter Korn, the challenging work of bringing something new and meaningful into the world through one's own volition – whether in the arts, the kitchen, or the marketplace – is exactly what generates the authenticity, meaning, and fulfillment for which many of us yearn.

In this moving account, Korn explores the nature and rewards of creative practice. We follow his search for meaning as an Ivy-educated child of the middle class who finds employment as a novice carpenter on Nantucket, transitions to self-employment as a designer/maker of fine furniture, takes a turn at teaching and administration at Colorado's Ander­son Ranch Arts Center, and finally founds a school in Maine: the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship, an internationally respected, non-profit institution.

This is not a "how-to" book in any sense. Korn wants to get at the why of craft in particular, and the satisfactions of creative work in general, to under­stand their essential nature. How does the making of objects shape our identities? How do the prod­ucts of creative work inform society? In short, what does the process of making things reveal to us about ourselves? Korn draws on four decades of hands-on experience to answer these questions eloquently, and often poignantly, in this personal, introspective, and revealing book.
For more information on this book, please visit our "Why We Make Things and Why It Matters" page

For younger children trying to find the father's day gift that will fit them best, "Pizza in Pienza" will allow sons and daughters to share their love of food and spend some time reading with their dad. 

Pizza in Pienza
by Susan Fillion
What do children and adults love in equal measure? Food! And what food inspires rapture in the hearts of children and adults alike? Pizza! Have your children ever asked where pizza comes from? Who invented the Pizza Mar­gherita? How did anyone think of combining such scrumptious ingredients as mozzarella, tangy tomato sauce, and fresh-baked bread? Thanks to Pizza in Pienza, you and your young charges will have all the answers, in English and Italian, including a recipe for homemade pizza.

Here is the essential history of pizza, told by a charming Italian girl who lives in Pienza and whose favorite food is . . . well, you can guess it – pizza. Life in Pienza is pretty old-fashioned, and our young heroine knows everyone on the street and at the market by name. She comes home from school at midday to eat meals with her family, but in between her snack of choice is pizza, and her favorite place is Giovanni's, where Giovanni cooks pizza the old-fashioned way – in a hot brick oven heated by a wood fire. Her grandmother, of course, makes it by hand and teaches her how to make it too. Her love of pizza even leads her to the library, where our heroine learns all she can about this ancient and ever-popular food, and so do we.

Susan Fillion, author and illustrator of Miss Etta and Dr. Claribel: Bringing Matisse to America
, has shifted her attention from France to Italy in this wonderful book for younger readers. While children will love the vibrant illustrations and simple story of this girl and her great love, adults will be riveted by the history and challenged by the bilingual text – for what good is a history of pizza in English only? Read the Italian out loud – Chiudo gli occhi e respiro il suo caldo profumo e il suo sapore – and your mouth will really start watering.
For more information on this book, please visit our "Pizza in Pienza" page.   

"The Tyger Voyage" is another great book for a father and children to share this Father's Day.

The Tyger Voyage
by Richard Adams
illustrated by Nicola Bayley
Here, for readers young and old, is the original Tyger Voyage, fraught with suspense and adventure, molten lava and footloose gypsies. In this charming tale, a gentleman tyger and his son set sail in a rather dubious boat into the unknown.  Together they roam across the seas, through jungles, past ice-covered mountains and erupting volcanoes to be rescued at last by a troupe of gypsies.  Eventually they return in triumph to Victorian England with many an extraordinary tale to tell.
For more information on this book, please visit our "The Tyger Voyage" page

For dads who like a bit of history and adventure, here are two great examples of Godine books that your dad might love:

The Last Englishman: The Double Life of Arthur Ransome
by Roland Chambers
Arthur Ransome is best known for the twelve immortal "Swallows and Amazons" books he wrote on his return from Russia in 1928. From his prose he appears a genial and gentle Englishman, who, like his protagonists, pursued benign maritime adventures. Nothing could be further from the truth. By the time he wrote his masterpieces, the most interesting episodes of his life were well behind him. For Ransome led a double, and often tortured, life. Before his fame as an author, he was notorious for very different reasons: between 1917 and 1924, he was the Russian correspondent for the Daily News and the Manchester Guardian, and his sympathy for the Bolshevik regime gave him unparalleled access to its leaders, policies, politics, and plots. He was also the lover, and later the husband, of Evgenia Shelepina, Trotsky's private secretary, as well as friends with Karl Radek, the Bolshevik's Chief of Propaganda, and Felix Dzerzhinsky, founder of the secret police. In denying the horrors that followed the Revolution, and in considering Stalin a latter-day Cromwell, he was the bane of the British establishment. Yet his contacts earned him not only the admiration of liberals, both in the U.K. and the U.S., but a place in the British Secret Intelligence Service.

In this biography, Chambers traces Ransome's life back to his earliest childhood, his struggles as a hack writer, and his flight from a disastrous marriage, then on to the decade he spent in Russia during that country's violent, formative years, ostensibly as a journalist, but more accurately as a spy (albeit a sympathetic one). The book's genius lies in Chambers's complete understanding of the Revolution's complexity, the rise and fall of the factions, the extreme personalities who guided it and were often sacrificed to it. He explores the tensions Ransome always felt between his allegiance to England's decencies and the egalitarian Bolshevik vision, between competing romantic attachments, between the Lake Country he loved and always considered home and the lure of the Russian steppes to which he repeatedly returned. What emerges is not only history, recorded by someone who was there to witness it, but also the story of an immensely troubled and conflicted human being not entirely at home in either culture or country.
For more information on this book, please visit our "The Last Englishman" page

It’s Only Rock and Roll: An Anthology of Rock and Roll Short Stories
by Janice Eidus & John Kastan
It's Only Rock and Roll is the first anthology of fiction ever published that deals exclusively with the intoxicating urgency, iconic power, and even disturbing underside of rock music, arguably the most influential art form of the past fifty years. In pieces that range from the wildly comic to the achingly poignant, from surreal tales of excess to small moments of human joy and pathos, these twenty-two stories — by some of the most exciting American writers currently at work — celebrate the many sides of rock and roll and its remarkable cultural impact.

Among the many gems here are Lee K. Abbott's wild portrait of a delusional, megalomaniacal rock star on his comeback; Lance Olsen's apocalyptic vision of a rock and roll future; T. Coraghessan Boyle's wryly comic depiction of a recently deceased guitarist trying to find his way to "rock and roll heaven" (via just about every kind of musical heaven imaginable); Kathleen Warnock's wistful tale of a schoolteacher in the 1980s who meets the real Elvis (for those of you who wondered, he is indeed alive and well, and traveling through the South in a beat-up Cadillac); Janice Eidus's hip romance between a fifties doo-wop singer and his high-school sweetheart; Lucinda Ebersole's fine riff on Kafka's Metamorphosis, in which a "nineties guy" named Sammy wakes up one morning as a sixties moptop Beatle; and Geoffrey Becker's moving story of a road trip taken by a guitar-playing father and his teenage son, a journey on which they learn the real meaning of the blues. 

As diverse and exciting as the music that inspired it, It's Only Rock and Roll
is both a great collection of fiction and a fresh approach to one of the most enduring, riveting, and creative musical forms of our time.
For more information on this book, please visit our "It's Only Rock and Roll" page

If these books don't seem to be the right fit, check out our website for many more fantastic reads!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Superior Person's Tuesday!

DINGLE (n) - A narrow, wooded vale, dale, or dell. (Note that the last three words are synonyms for each other, and mean a small valley or ravine.) Incidentally, never confuse (unless you do so deliberately) the use of tingle with tinkle, as in the phrase "to give someone a tinkle," i.e., a ring on the telephone.

 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. Ataraxia  appears in the first.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Literary Happenings around Boston, June 9

Monday June 9

Tuesday June 10

Wednesday June 11

Thursday June 12

Friday June 13

Saturday June 14
  • Harvard Bookstore: John Waters Book Signing, Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America, 2 pm. 
  • Porter Square Books: John Verlinden's To Cook is To Love, 1 pm.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Superior Person's Tuesday!

ATARAXIA, n. Absolute calm and tranquility; imperturbability; complete freedom from anxiety or strain. The condition of a lexicographer on reaching the word zythum, which, appropriately enough, means a kind of malt beer. A zythepsary is a brewery.

A quiet place to achieve ataraxia.

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. Ataraxia  appears in the first.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Literary Happenings Around Town, 6/2 - 6/7

Monday, June 2
  • Newtonville Books: PoemWorks Poetry Eventwith Margaux Novak, Robin Pelzman, and Holly Zeeb 7 pm
  • Brookline Booksmith: Pulitzer Prize-winner Gail Caldwell, author of the new memoir New Life, No Instructions, 7 pm
  • Harvard Bookstore: Emma Straub 

    reads from The Vacationers: A Novel, 7 pm
  • Porter Square Books: Colum McCann, TransAtlantic (book purchase required), 7 pm
Tuesday, June 3
  • Newtonville Books:  Alexi Zentner, author of The Lobster King: A Novel, and Ru Freeman, author of On Sal Mal Lane, 7 pm
  • Brookline Booksmith: local author Michael Blanding's The Map Thief, 7 pm
  • Harvard Bookstore: Richard Hoffman discusses Love and Fury: A Memoir, 7 pm
  • Porter Square Books: Julie Wu, The Third Son, 7 pm
Wednesday, June 4

  • Brookline Booksmith: Alexi Zentner's The Lobster Kings and Andre Dubus III's Dirty Love, 7 pm
  • Harvard Bookstore: Daniel Drezner discusses The System Worked: How the World Stopped Another Great Depression, 7 pm
  • Porter Square Books: Luanne Rice, The Lemon Orchard, 7 pm

Thursday, June 5
  • Newtonville Books: Stuart Nadler, author of Wise Men, and Ted Thompson, author of The Land of Steady Habits, 7 pm
  • Brookline Booksmith: Lily King's Euphoria, 7 pm 
    • Harvard Bookstore: Nina Sankovitch discusses Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Celebrating the Joys of Letter Writing, 7 pm

Friday, June 6

  • Harvard Bookstore: Howard Norman discusses Next Life Might Be Kinder, 7 pm
  • Porter Square Books: Skylar Dorset, The Girl Who Never Was, 7 pm
  • Newtown's C.H. Booth Library hosts New Stories for Newtown. Visit the link for a schedule of workshops and readers.

Saturday, June 7

  • Newtonville Books: Young Adult Event: Cal Armistead, author of Being Henry David. Ages 10 up welcome, 2 pm
  • Porter Square Books: Sara St. Antoine, Three Bird Summer, 5 pm
  • Newtown's C.H. Booth Library hosts New Stories for Newtown (continued from Friday). Visit the link for a schedule of workshops and readers.