I went ga-ga about this book back in the dizzle like six months ago. Now it's on sale, living, breathing, changing out in the market place. So keep an eye out for SharpTeeth by Toby Barlow. And check out the video.
I am bad. I should have shown you this sooner. Here is Campbell McGrath's newest collection Seven Notebooks. According to a close colleague at Ecco, Seven Notebooks is, "formally, unlike any other book of poetry, by McGrath or anyone else (almost a novel in verse). It is his most remarkable, and best, achievement to date."
To relieve my inbox of what ails it, here's a highly incoherent post (My Outlook inbox has become the barometer of my anxiety level. How terrible is that? I'm too sensitive for all these e-mails. What are they really saying!?)
Okay, retournons à nos moutons:
The war of the War & Peace's continues! We never wanted to pick a fight, but, as these things go, it was picked for us. Newsweekruns a feature this week. Galleycat weights one side with links. And Publishers Weekly reports.
Judge Marie Ponsot had this to say, "[Notley's] poems give us thirty-five years of political, personal, death-defying engagement. The nature Notley most loves is human nature. That urban passion propels her speculative dramas of gender, class, and race; of Vietnam and Iraq; of schemes of power and the claims of art. Ardent and agile, she is willing to cry out, to drift, to stammer, so as to put every turn of language to her use. Her aim is to speak to everyone; her book shows her success."
The prize is sponsored by the Academy of American Poets and carries a $25,000 award.
Did you know that HC United, HarperCollins 6-time-defending Metro League soccer champions, has a fight song? I didn't until last week when it was composed by our friend Brock. As you listen, please note that we're singing about the "Libro League" not about the unfortunate, though reasonably successful, league of another era. Download h_c_fightsong_rough1.mp3
I received an e-mail about the launch of Literary Comments, a site run by Daniel E. Levenson, author of the poetry collection Are These My Lions?
Thomas Fink interviews Noah Eli Gordon at E-X-C-H-A-N-G-E-V-A-L-U-E-S. Follow the link to read more thoughtful questions like the one below (there are answers too):
TF: Novel Pictorial Noise (New York: Harper Perennial, 2007), selected for the National Poetry Series by John Ashbery, consists of fifty prose-poems, each a page or less in length and each followed by a line or two or three or sometimes more of verse. Sheila E. Murphy’s “American Haibun” is a prose-paragraph followed by one line, but your approach is more variable. I like what Ashbery has to say about this in his blurb—that “each prose-bloc” is “modified or modulated by the ghostly fragments that interleave them,” and the ghostliness often has to do with grammatical anomalies, like two prepositions in direct proximity that don’t normally interact. The modifications that Ashbery talks about are mysterious to me; how did you establish a relationship between the paragraphs and the verse, at least in your own mind?
It's hard not to get ahead of yourself when after the initial rush of signing a book (though, I have little to do w/this one--only peripheral marketing duties--but still) you have to wait a year for its public availability. Here's me getting ahead of myself. Sharp Teeth by Toby Barlow, a debut in verse, is on sale in the UK. HarperCollins will publish the US hardcover edition in January. Some UK copies have filtered into our office, and I've been sneaking reading time all day. It's like Fight Club with werewolves...in verse. The New Statesman has a great review and you can read others here and here. There's an official website too.
*Continuing: that's the UK cover above. Here's ours. You may notice that it's bigger. Not sure how that happened. Anyway, thoughts?
Oh, and have you seen the Olive Reader lately? Tweaks are pending, but it's close to final.
Last April, the UK imprint Fourth Estate published War and Peace: The Original Versionby Leo Tolstoy, translated by Andrew Bromfield. Ecco will publish this version in the US in September (coinciding with a new Knopf translation--as noted by PW). In the months preceding its release, Mitzi Angel, editorial director of Fourth Estate, wrote an essay detailing the historical relation of this draft to the 1,300 page juggernaut that many of us first encountered as undergraduates. She kindly allowed me to reproduce the essay here. As you'll see, it's an interesting story.
War & Peace The Original Version By Leo Tolstoy Translated by Andrew Bromfield
By Mitzi Angel
In September 1865 Dostoevsky, wrote a letter to a publisher in Moscow outlining his plans for the story of Crime and Punishment, suggesting that the monthly journal Russkii Vestnik publish his prospective novel in installments. It is perhaps the most famous pitch in literary history. ‘This will be a psychological study of a crime,’ he wrote; ‘It will be a novel of contemporary life and the action takes place this year.’ It so happened that Katkov, the publisher, was in a position to be able to accept – new installments of Leo Tolstoy’s 1805, later War and Peace, were slow to appear, and he was grateful for some new material. Dostoevsky, paralyzed by gambling debts, having lost the money that Turgenev had lent him, close to starvation and unable to pay his hotel bill in Wiesbaden, had begun his work on the novel. ‘Later I found out’, Dostoevsky wrote of Katkov’s purchase of the serial rights (the money incidentally was not enough to keep his creditors away) ‘that he was only too glad to accept my offer because he had nothing else for that year. Turgenev has not written anything and he has quarreled with Lev Tolstoy.’
So it is that one journal, in one year, nurtured the messy beginnings of two masterpieces whose lives were to extend well beyond their monthly incarnations. The first part of Crime and Punishment was published in January. It was then followed by some more installments of Tolstoy’s 1805, published in February, March and April of that year. More of Crime and Punishment then appeared. Tolstoy wrote a letter to his friend, the poet Afanasij Vet, and explained that he was thinking of a new title for this work in progress – All’s Well That Ends Well. That year he also began to explore the possibility – urged on by his wife Sofya Andreyevna – of publishing the novel in volume form, which was to cause consternation for the journal’s publisher, who was by now well aware of the public’s enthusiastic response, and reluctant to see the work appear in any other form.
There were other reasons for the strain in the relationship between Tolstoy and Katkov, his publisher. The fact is that whatever this novel was finally to be called, it was still work in progress. Despite publication of the initial sections in February 1865, he had begun extensive revisions to the book. From April to November, he had temporarily withdrawn his involvement with the journal and was busy reworking vast swathes of it, unresponsive to the journal’s demands. Life too, and history with it, provided its own interruptions. In 1866, there was a birth – of his son, Ilya – and a death. The death was that of a young soldier whom Tolstoy had agreed to defend against being court-martialled and executed for slapping a bullying battalion commander. His attempt, which he later looked back on with regret and embarrassment, failed, and the boy was sent to the firing squad. He visited the battlefield at Borodino, and no doubt had cause to reflect on one of his greatest themes in the novel; the ordinary confusion of human affairs and its complicated and problematic relationship to the making of history. This was to culminate in one of Tolstoy’s greatest scenes in War and Peace; Pierre Bezukhov wandering about on the field, looking futilely amongst the chaos for a scene which might capture history in the making.
And just as pinning down history in the making proves so elusive, so perhaps is the genesis of War and Peace. More than any other writer before or since, Tolstoy was living through the novel as it developed, adapting and changing it as his ideas matured, the book undergoing transformation for a period of 6 years, until it was finally published in 1869, in a four-volume set. What had originally been envisioned as a book about the Decembrists, the members of the nobility who had staged a revolt on the death of Alexander 1 in 1825, evolved over time into the historical epic we know. War now demanded more attention; the half-centenary of Borodino in 1862 had given rise to debate among the Russian intelligentsia about the nature of history. Tolstoy, a man thoroughly engaged with the ideas of his time, was by the late 60s struggling to reconcile a sense of historical purpose with the simultaneous conviction that the truth was likely to be found in haphazard and untidy human behaviour. The book arose from ceaseless questioning; a restless mind grappling with problems which were gaining in urgency for Tolstoy as the years went by and as the Napoleonic wars were being replayed and endlessly discussed in Russian society.
This fall Ecco and Knopf will release two new translations of War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. PW examines both sides of the coin -- from cover treatment to translators to the prevalence of French -- and the choice facing readers as they decide which version to purchase. The article, "It's War (and Peace), As Rival Translations Head to Bookstores", happily pits the two houses against one another, filtering in comments from each front (and a few other places). It's a fun read and ends with the obligatory quote that promotes good sportsmanship and success to all.
Another head-to-head article appears in today's WSJ: "Fortune as Fate: The Story Of Two Poetry Magazine." Willard Speigelman, Hughes Professor of English at Southern Methodist University, pays tribute to the literary magazine Parnassus, to which he contributed for the past 25 years. The magazine will publish its 30th and last volume later this year. The story compares the shoe-string travails of Parnassus to Poetry Magazine's current plenitude. "As Wallace Stevens, insurance man and poet extraordinaire, once said: 'Money is a kind of poetry.'"
And for a visual treat, Wallace Berman photographs are up at Tam Tam Books.
In celebration of 50 years in publishing, Wesleyan University Press has released a "special miniature edition" of The Branch Will Not Break by James Wright. Reproduced proportionally, you're meant to turn the pages with your nose, making each paper cut a small communion. Coincidentally, the night before I came to possess this book, I had listened to the audio of Wright reading "A Blessing", one of my favorite poems from this collection, and one of many great recordings on the audio anthology Poetry On Record. It's only slightly larger than a lock, as shown, and fits lightly in almost any pocket. Congrats to the WUP.
This has been the best NY weekend yet this year. The sun showed up in force and has left me with a sore forehead and chapped lips. I'm told I'll look tan in a few days as soon as the heat rash settles. Still, the exposure was well worth it.
After reading what I write next you might feel inclined to sneer and make some vulgar mime of self-abuse, but here I go: The New Greek and Roman Galleries at the Met are a boon to the enlightenment of all mankind. I don't know if I'm in a position to say so, being who I am, but I feel almost as if I've grown larger since viewing the exhibit. You need to go.
You might blame my bloated diction on The New York Antiquarian Book Fair which I also managed to drop in on. Some very fancy things going on there. Since I haven't a clue about old books, prints, or maps I was in way over my head strolling through 160 or so booths filled with those very things. You really need a firm idea of what it is your looking for, which is the first thing you learn in I'M A DUMBASS 101, and plenty of ching to get the product home. I did see a copy of Camus's L'Etranger with Aldous Huxley's inscription of ownership on sale for $1250. I thought about it until I stopped thinking about it. A first edition of Joyce Carol Oates's first collection of stories, By the North Gate, went for the same price; and a first edition of Paul Bowles's Sheltering Sky went for $2000. And these were bargains.
I left after only an hour, wincing at the small tragedy of a misused $20 dollar entrance fee, and headed back into the sun and the curious perfume of spring blossoms. Then having read my last sentence, I realize that I might have heat stroke. See you Monday.
The galleys just came in for Edmund White's new novel, Hotel De Dream: A New York Novel. I love the cover -- a more somber Through the Children's Gate, I'd say. In it, White potrays the last moments of Stephen Crane, wasting away from tuberculosis, dictating a final novel of White's invention, called The Painted Boy. Once I have some galleys to spare, I'll try to send a few out, so keep at the ready.
Almost coincidentally, I'm staying at the Hôtel Mon Rêve when I head to Paris next week. Oh la la! I'll have to bring a copy. I'll be missing the PEN World Voices Festival, though; I really feel awful. (Psych!)