The Unknown Masterpiece and Gambara by Honoré de Balzac (trans. Richard Howard) and iced tea. Book bought at Cellar Books in Chicago.
Balzac doesn’t discuss coffee much in either novella in this book but he must be considered a patron saint of the Classics and Coffee Club. In “The Pleasures and Pains of Coffee" he gives some advice:
I have discovered a horrible, rather brutal method [of consuming coffee] that I recommend only to men of excessive vigor, men with thick black hair and skin covered with liver spots, men with big square hands and legs shaped like bowling pins. It is a question of using finely pulverized, dense coffee, cold and anhydrous, consumed on an empty stomach. This coffee falls into your stomach, a sack whose velvety interior is lined with tapestries of suckers and papillae. The coffee finds nothing else in the sack, and so it attacks these delicate and voluptuous linings; it acts like a food and demands digestive juices; it wrings and twists the stomach for these juices, appealing as a pythoness appeals to her god; it brutalizes these beautiful stomach linings as a wagon master abuses ponies; the plexus becomes inflamed; sparks shoot all the way up to the brain. From that moment on, everything becomes agitated. Ideas quick-march into motion like battalions of a grand army to its legendary fighting ground, and the battle rages. Memories charge in, bright flags on high; the cavalry of metaphor deploys with a magnificent gallop; the artillery of logic rushes up with clattering wagons and cartridges; on imagination’s orders, sharpshooters sight and fire; forms and shapes and characters rear up; the paper is spread with ink - for the nightly labor begins and ends with torrents of this black water, as a battle opens and concludes with black powder.
(translated by Robert Onopa)
Read the rest of the essay to find out what happened when a friend of Balzac’s with fine, blond hair followed his advice.
Do you have a picture of one of our books with coffee or tea (finely pulverized and dense)? Send it to this address and we’ll post them here (making you an honorary member of the Classics and Coffee Club).
You’ll find that marriage is a good short cut to the truth. No, not quite that. A way of doubling back to the truth. Another thing you’ll find is that the years of illusion aren’t those of adolescence, as the grown-ups try to tell us; they’re the ones immediately after it, say the middle twenties, the false maturity if you like, when you first get thoroughly embroiled in things and lose your head. Your age, by the way, Jim. That’s when you first realize that sex is important to other people besides yourself. A discovery like that can’t help knocking you off balance for a time.
— Kingsley Amis, Lucky Jim (via kidpretentious)
Give Lucky Jim to the twenty-something in your life so that you don’t have to give him/her a lecture like this to his face.
Anna read her books afresh, and it seemed suddenly as if she had a large circle of friends, all of whom lived more or less adventuresome lives. She was happier. When Mats came in the evenings, they would drink tea in the kitchen while reading their books and talking about them. If Katri came in, they were quiet and waited for her to leave. The back door would close, and Katri would have gone.
“Does your sister read our books?” Anna wanted to know.
“No. She reads literature.”
—Tove Jansson, The True Deceiver
Tea and a trio of Tove Jansson novels, submitted by subfuscous.tumblr.com
Do you have a picture of one of our books with coffee or tea ? Send it to this address and we’ll post them here (making you an honorary member of the Classics and Coffee Club).
Blue is therefore the most suitable color of interior life. Whether slick light sharp high bright thin quick sour new and cool or low deep sweet thick dark soft slow smooth heavy old and warm: blue moves easily among them all, and all profoundly qualify our states of feeling.
—from William H. Gass’s On Being Blue, which will be available as an NYRB Classic in early Spring 2014.
Apropos of the chatter and clatter around Kechiche’s latest film, Gass has a lot to say about how blue is not only the warmest color, but also the deepest, the lightest, the darkest, the coldest, and the softest color. In Gass’s words: “Praise is due blue, the preference of the bee.” Indeed!
(Cover art: Credit Francesca Woodman / “Caryatid”)
Suitable Accommodations is available from FSG and J.F. Powers's fiction is available from us in trade paperback and ebook.
View the entire list at NPR books here.
This whole story would have remained hidden under the starched cuff and sleeve of a jacket, if not for the Weekly Review. The Weekly Review came up with a questionnaire (Your favorite writer? Your average weekly earnings? Your goal in life?) and sent it out to all subscribers. Among the thousands of completed forms (the Review had a huge circulation), the sorters found one, Form No. 11111, which, wander as it would from sorter to sorter, could not be sorted: On Form No. 11111, opposite “Average Earnings,” the respondent had written “0,” and opposite “Goal in Life,” in clear round letters, “To bite my elbow.”
—the opening of Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky’s story “The Unbitten Elbow,” from the collection Autobiography of a Corpse, which hit shelves today! Maybe a certain New York Review of Books should run a similar questionnaire…
Also, just a little reminder:
Please support our Kickstarter to purchase an Australian shepherd puppy, to be named Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, for the office.— NYRB Classics (@nyrbclassics)
The Corner Bookstore is small and terrific and devotes about 10% of its shelf space to NYRB Classics. True confessions, though: I bought Rainbow Rowell, Jennifer Close, and Babar’s ABCs.
Thanks for the snapshot! We second what Rachel says about The Corner Bookstore. It is a reader’s paradise.
Give the gift of a book a month with a membership to the NYRB Classics Book Club. It’s cheap, includes plenty of varied reading, and all the books are good we swear!
The person in question was Giacomo Zapparoni, one of those men who have money to burn…. You couldn’t open a newspaper or a magazine or sit in front of a movie screen without coming upon his name. His plant was quite near, and by exploiting both his own and foreign inventions, he had achieved a monopoly in his field….
Journalists wrote fantastic stories about the objects he manufactured. “To those who have, shall be given.” Probably their imagination ran wild. The Zapparoni Works manufactured robots for every imaginable purpose. They were supplied on special order, and in standard models which could be found in every household. It was not a question of big automatic machines as one might think at first. Zapparoni’s speciality was lilliputian robots. With a few exceptions their scale increased to the size of a watermelon and decreased to something the size of a Chinese curio….
A man like Zapparoni could say what he wanted to—it sounded well. It had authority, not only because he could buy up the press, which paid homage to him in the editorial and the advertising departments, but principally because he was an embodiment of the spirit of the age. This homage had, therefore, the advantage that it was not only paid for, but that it was, at the same time, sincerely felt—it demanded nothing but wholehearted approval from both the intelligentsia and the moralists of the press.
I must, of course, admit that Zapparoni really could pass for the showpiece of that elated technical optimism which dominates our leading minds. With him, technology took a new turn toward downright pleasure—the age-old magicians’ dream of being able to change the world by thought alone seemed almost to have come true….
[Zapparoni] waved to me and called: “Beware of the bees!”
When we first published The Glass Bees (1957), we compared Ernst Jünger's great Zapparoni to Walt Disney. Zapparoni makes fantastic automatons that delight and entertain,” and he also equips the army with “ingenious weapons.” Nowadays, though, there are a multitude of people Zapparoni resembles—and most of them live many miles up the coast from Hollywood.
Most of The Glass Bees takes place as an out-of-work and “hard up” man—a drone?—awaits a job interview with Zapparoni in his fantastical garden (Jünger was an early experimenter with LSD). Beware of the bees, indeed.
Read Bruce Sterling’s introduction to The Glass Bees (pdf).
Some Small Press Books to Love -
In the spirit of Small Business Saturday, I wanted to recommend some smaller press books you might consider for yourself or the readers in your life.
The Bridge of Beyond by Simone Schwarz-Bart
This reissue from the New York Review of Books is simply lovely. As I try to understand more what “Caribbean literature” is, this book offers at least one answer. It is a family’s story—part fable, part tragedy, always beautifully written.
No longer Small Business Saturday but a good book is timeless.
The Terrible Troll Bird makes a wonderful Troll dinner.
image via the the d’Aulaires’ Children’s Books Facebook Page
Sometimes, but especially in the fall, it seemed to Tommy that he came from a very bloody race: old ladies encased in dry skins and topped by stuffed birds, drawing their dusty, lifeless smell from ancient animal corpses; slaughtered creatures served at the table and glistening with pink juices; even their plates were garlanded with heaps of dead game, the tureen and serving dishes—relics of his mother’s mother’s family—with the heads of living animals whose mild eyes stared at him from beneath the glaze. Tommy imagined his father—he wasn’t old enough to go hunting from the camp so he could only imagine it—tracking the deer through the dark forest, following the spoor, finger loosely clasping the trigger of the rifle he had carefully cleaned and oiled until it gleamed, waiting to fell and gut the animal that this Thanksgiving Day was hanging by its heels, belly slit and ribs wrenched open, from a rafter in the garage behind the house, awaiting the knives of the butcher.
—from William McPherson’s novel, Testing the Current, which tells the story of Tommy MacAllister, coming of age in the U.S. Midwest. Despite Tommy’s seeming aversion to the bloody business of animal slaughter, however, he’s able to suppress his conviction when it comes to the Thanksgiving turkey: “the turkey came from the store so it was all right,” he notes pages later.
Here’s to the struggles of both the sublimating and conscientious eater on Thanksgiving! But really, here’s to taking time to reflect, with or without that store-bought turkey.
(Panting by Dutch artist Joachim von Sandrart.)
She always insisted that she could remember every detail of the very first evening we were together; how, for example, there was snow falling, and how the taxi meter, a little yellow glow above it, ticked, and how she felt, excited, in the interior of the heated cab, touching hands, but sad too, sad inside, the way you feel when you like a man, and when you know that with him it will happen, and you’ve made up your mind even before it happens so that he doesn’t really have to ask you, it’s something (she explained, explaining how a woman in so representative a circumstance feels) you feel and he feels, a pleasurable tension between you, a silken tightness, waiting to get to a place, his apartment or yours or a friend’s room or a hotel or even a deserted country road, so that you sink into a trance of waiting, a deliciousness that’s somehow sad, too, and you feel, because of the sadness, both there and not there, inside the cab and holding hands and not inside the cab at all and not holding hands at all….
She looked out of the window of the cab then at the falling and spinning snowflakes, and the dark store fronts, securely bolted against the night, and she said (it was the only phrase I, too, remembered, there were so many other things I had forgotten but the little truncated phrase I remembered) isn’t it beautiful sometimes, and I asked her what was beautiful sometimes, and she said: The snow, and everything.
—Alfred Hayes, In Love
(A melancholy snow scene in honor of the Nor’easter set to hit the East Coast tomorrow.)
Cover photograph on In Love by Saul Leiter.
Do you have a picture of one of our books with coffee or tea (it doesn’t even have to be pumpkin spice)? Send it to this address and we’ll post them here (making you an honorary member of the Classics and Coffee Club).