1. 
This is my little disquisition about football: the quarterback, the center, and the towel. On the rare occasions when I went to football games in high school, they were night games. Saturday nights, of course, when it was cold and dark, with a little rain or snow perhaps, while people huddled under their blankets and drank beer. In those days, I wore my glasses only when I had to, and my sight was better than it is now; but even with my glasses on, and no matter where in the stands I sat, I could not see or understand a single play. It seemed to me there were moments when the players stood about, moments when they crouched in opposition, a moment of rising tension, then a thud or scuffle, and they all fell down. After each play, I usually knew what must have happened, either because somebody told me or from the changed position on the field. But that was it. I never saw the ball or knew who had it, even on passes or the longest runs. With television, naturally, I can see and understand the play; and even in the days when I couldn’t see it, I had always liked the game. But as often as I’ve watched football on television, and as much as I’ve come to appreciate some of the beauty of it, there is always, inevitably, repeatedly, a moment that strikes me as wonderfully bizarre. It is the moment, at the line of scrimmage, when the quarterback wipes his hands on a towel draped over the crouching center’s rear. I understand it, obviously; the quarterback, to be sure of getting a firm grip on the football, needs to dry his hands. But, as often as I’ve asked about it, nobody has gone beyond that explanation, delivered, always, as though nothing could be more ordinary. Whereas what interests me, what I simply cannot imagine, is how the particular custom came into existence, the history of it, the history that is, of the quarterback, the center, and the towel.
—Renata Adler, Pitch Dark

The latest entry in the Classics and Coffee Club features a glass of beer, but it seemed fitting since we’re going into football season and you always wondered what Renata Adler thought about (American) football.

Do you have a picture of one of our books with coffee or tea (or even a beer)? Send it to this address and we’ll post it here (making you an honorary member of the Classics and Coffee Club).

    This is my little disquisition about football: the quarterback, the center, and the towel. On the rare occasions when I went to football games in high school, they were night games. Saturday nights, of course, when it was cold and dark, with a little rain or snow perhaps, while people huddled under their blankets and drank beer. In those days, I wore my glasses only when I had to, and my sight was better than it is now; but even with my glasses on, and no matter where in the stands I sat, I could not see or understand a single play. It seemed to me there were moments when the players stood about, moments when they crouched in opposition, a moment of rising tension, then a thud or scuffle, and they all fell down. After each play, I usually knew what must have happened, either because somebody told me or from the changed position on the field. But that was it. I never saw the ball or knew who had it, even on passes or the longest runs. With television, naturally, I can see and understand the play; and even in the days when I couldn’t see it, I had always liked the game. But as often as I’ve watched football on television, and as much as I’ve come to appreciate some of the beauty of it, there is always, inevitably, repeatedly, a moment that strikes me as wonderfully bizarre. It is the moment, at the line of scrimmage, when the quarterback wipes his hands on a towel draped over the crouching center’s rear. I understand it, obviously; the quarterback, to be sure of getting a firm grip on the football, needs to dry his hands. But, as often as I’ve asked about it, nobody has gone beyond that explanation, delivered, always, as though nothing could be more ordinary. Whereas what interests me, what I simply cannot imagine, is how the particular custom came into existence, the history of it, the history that is, of the quarterback, the center, and the towel.

    —Renata Adler, Pitch Dark

    The latest entry in the Classics and Coffee Club features a glass of beer, but it seemed fitting since we’re going into football season and you always wondered what Renata Adler thought about (American) football.

    Do you have a picture of one of our books with coffee or tea (or even a beer)? Send it to this address and we’ll post it here (making you an honorary member of the Classics and Coffee Club).

  2. Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure by Artemis Cooper is now on sale.
At Biographile, Nathan Gelgud (who also drew the illustration above) says that the biography “occasionally surpasses Fermor’s work in excitement and clarity.” Which is quite a statement. Read the rest of the review here.

 

    Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure by Artemis Cooper is now on sale.

    At Biographile, Nathan Gelgud (who also drew the illustration above) says that the biography “occasionally surpasses Fermor’s work in excitement and clarity.” Which is quite a statement. Read the rest of the review here.

     

  3. From the Devil to Cosmic Horrors: A Night of Fears

    Next Tuesday, Oct. 22nd, at 7 pm, WORD Brooklyn is doing a night of tales of terror in preparation for a Halloween. Don’t have a costume yet? Come along and get inspired. Tobias Carroll from Vol. 1 Brooklyn will be hosting and readers will include Laird Barron (The Beautiful Thing that Awaits Us All), David Barr Kirtley from the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast, and others.

    A correction: Susan Bernofsky, translator of Jeremias Gotthelf’s The Black Spider will not be attending. But don’t worry, Nathaniel Otting, her preferred incarnation, will be reading from the book. Arachnophobes welcome.

  4. New York Review Books Spring 2014 Preview, Part II

    The second half of our Spring 2014 list, including books from NYRB Poets, The New York Review Children’s Collection, and The Little Bookroom.

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    The Professor and the Siren by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa

    In the last two years of his life, the Sicilian aristocrat Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, in addition to his internationally celebrated novel, The Leopard, also composed three shorter pieces of fiction that confirm and expand our picture of his brilliant late-blooming talent. “Lampedusa has made me realize how many ways there are of being alive.”—E. M. Forster

    You’ll Enjoy It When You Get There: The Selected Stories of Elizabeth Taylor

    In A Game of Hide and Seek and Angel, Elizabeth Taylor calmly noted the motivations, rash decisions, illusions, desires and unwilling actions of her characters. She continues her work mapping out the minds of her characters here in a format well-suited for literary psychological excavation, the short story.

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    The Captain’s Daughter by Alexander Pushkin

    A classic historical and military novel from the progenitor of the Russian novel, Alexander Pushkin, and translated by one of the best Russian translators today, Robert Chandler. The Captain’s Daughter is set during the Pugachev Rebellion, when the Cossacks came close to toppling Catherine the Great, and like Tolstoy’s War and Peace, it is through explorations of individuals, communities, and love that the author contrasts a human being’s internal world with the movements of history.

    NYRB Poets

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    Nothing More to Lose by Najwan Darwish

    Hailed across the Arab world and beyond as a singular expression of the Palestinian struggle, Darwish’s poetry walks the razor’s edge between despair and resistance, between dark humor and harsh reality. “While his poetry is at times political, it embodies a universal message, reminiscent of the great mystical poets like Rumi.”—Poetry International

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    Love Sonnets and Elegies by Louis Labé

    Now hailed as the French Renaissance answer to Sappho, Labé was little known until Rilke’s celebrated translations of her poems in 1918. “Light-years ahead of her time, Louise Labé jumped the gender divide, charted her own amorous destiny, wrote dazzling poetry, and became ‘one of the most celebrated women of her time.’”—Betsy Proileau

    NEW YORK REVIEW CHILDREN’S COLLECTION

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    The Glassblower’s Children by Maria Gripe

    Maria Gripe’s books are treasures of international children’s literature. In The Glassblower’s Children she draws on old traditions of fairy tale and Norse myth to tell an exciting story with a very modern sensibility. “Maria Gripe combines simplicity with poetic intensity, and she has the ability to capture the poignancy of emotional experience familiar from memories of childhood.”—TLS

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    Alfred Ollivant’s Bob, Son of Battle adapted by Lydia Davis

    International Booker-Prize winner Lydia Davis reinterprets this classic adventure of Scottish sheepdogs and sheep, fathers and sons, for the 21st century. “Probably the greatest dog story ever written, and one you will love as long as you live.”—Life

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    Loretta Mason Potts by Mary Chase

    Imagine how shocked you would be, if like ten-year-old Colin Mason, you were the oldest (smartest, best) kid in a family of four, and then you found out that all the time you had a secret older sister. But this is only the first of many surprises that lie in store for Colin, as things get curiouser and curiouser very fast.

    THE LITTLE BOOKROOM

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    The Little Bookroom Guide to New York City with Children by Angela Hederman and Michael Berman

    There are a lot of things to do and see in New York City, for both young and old. In fact, often the difficulty is there is too much to do, and that’s where The Little Bookroom Guide to New York City with Children comes in handy. A straight forward, practical guide to seeing New York with a family, this book tells how to do the shopping, eating, sightseeing and cultural events in the city that kids will love and remember.

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    Verdure: Vegetable Recipes from the Kitchen of the American Academy in Rome by Christopher Boswell

    From the Rome Sustainable Food Project and The American Academy in Rome, Verdure brings irresistable and simple vegetable dishes from all seasons and all regions of Italy. Mangiare bene!

  5. Nathan Gelgud’s portrait of J.L. Carr, author of A Month in the Country.
nathangelgud:

    Nathan Gelgud’s portrait of J.L. Carr, author of A Month in the Country.

    nathangelgud:

  6. New York Review Books Spring 2014 Preview, Part I

    Stay tuned for the rest of the list soon, but here is the first part of our spring 2014 season. Enjoy.

    The Broken Road: From the Iron Gates to Mount Athos by Patrick Leigh Fermor

    The long-awaited conclusion to Leigh Fermor’s account of his youthful walk through pre-war Europe follows him through Bulgaria and Romania, ending in Greece. A book that took fifty years to finish, but well worth the wait.


    On Being Blue by William H. Gass

    On Being Blue is a book about everything blue—sex and sleaze and sadness, among other things. It brings us the world in a word as only William H. Gass can do.

    The Use of Man by Aleksandar Tišma

    A gripping, and upsetting, novel about the lives of three young friends ripped apart body and soul during World War II in a previously tolerant town in the Balkans. A book not just about the horrors of a brutal and racist war, but of the difficulty of restoring friendships, lives, and communities after the butchery is done.

    Shakespeare’s Montaigne by Michel de Montaigne

    There is no better to way to encounter Montaigne’s searching, eloquent essays than as William Shakepeare did, in lyrical translation by his contemporary John Florio. Here noted Shakesperean scholar Stephen Greenblatt accompanies the texts with a learned and engaging essay, tracking Montaignian themes in such works as King Lear and The Tempest and setting his work in elegant context.

    During the Reign of the Queen of Persia by Joan Chase

    Joan Chase’s subtle story of three generations of women in the American Midwest in the 1950s negotiating lifetimes of “joy and ruin” deserves its place alongside such achievements as Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping and Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine. “Moving, unusual and accomplished.”—Margaret Atwood

    Fortunes of War: The Levant Trilogy by Olivia Manning

    A large cast of English ex-pats find themselves caught overseas during WWII, first in Cairo and then later in Damascus, where the battle between courage and fear, love and betrayal, takes place in the confusion of a war made even more surreal by its exotic battlegrounds and alien cultures. The continuation of the story of the Pringles from Manning’s Fortunes of War: The Balkan Trilogy.

    Fear by Gabriel Chevallier

    Winner of the 2013 Scott Moncrief Prize for Translation from the French. “Eighty years after it was first published … Gabriel Chevallier’s autobiographical novel about serving in the bombed-out trenches of World War I still chills the blood….Fear is a novel whose most indelible passages describe the sensory degradation of war on the human body…. One of the most effective indictments of war ever written.”—Tobias Grey, The Wall Street Journal

    Last Words from Montmartre by Qiu Miaojin

    The publication of this harrowing and astonishing novel marks the first English translation of a book by a young Taiwanese writer whose life was cut short in the 90s. It is a powerful exploration of fate and desire. “Qiu’s unique literary style mingl[es] cerebral, experimental language use, psychological realism, biting social critique through allegory, and a surrealist effect deriving from the use of arrestingly unusual metaphors.”—Fran Martin

    Zama by Antonio di Benedetto

    First published in 1956, this novel set in colonial Paraguay is now universally recognized as one of the masterpieces of modern Argentinean and Spanish-language literature. “Scattered in various corners of Latin America and Spain, [Zama] had a few, fervent readers, almost all of them friends or unwarranted enemies…. [It is written with] the steady pulse of a neurosurgeon.”—Roberto Bolaño, from his story “Sensini”

    The Mad and the Bad by Jean-Patrick Manchette

    Manchette takes the crime novel to another level. Blood, sex, money, betrayal, hatred, and selfishness are all present in such a manner and volume that the average crime writer would blush. But Manchette isn’t the average crime writer, and his clearcut prose style of cartoon-style violence is more Tarantino than Agatha Christie. Much more.

    Agostino by Alberto Moravia

    “A brilliant novella…. Moravia again dissected a mother–son relationship as the young protagonist made the joint discovery of sexuality and of class distinction, as the neglected boy took up with a band of working-class youth, whose sexual knowledge was far more advanced than his own. Their contempt for his innocence and their envy of his family’s wealth run through the story in a typically Moravian juxtaposition.”—William Weaver

  7. “The approach of love is something as stealthy and imperceptible as the catching of a cold. A man of spirit never knows he has it until the last moment. He experiences a little dryness in the throat or a slight thickness in the head, but these symptoms are nothing. They have frequently visited him before without leading to anything more serious. Moreover, they seem to be passing off during the day. Dozens of his friends about him have colds, but he, owing to some special dispensation, is going to escape. The symptoms return. His throat seems sore. He swallows nothing continually to see how sore it is. He sincerely believes that it is very mildly sore. Also he knows that you can easily have a sore throat without having a cold. Nevertheless, as all these colds are about he had better take something. He knows that prevention is better than cure, and he is a great believer in taking these things at the very first sign—however morbid and fantastic doing so may seem. He takes something. His throat is no better, but decidedly worse, and he is a little thicker in the head. But he has no cold. Those around him who have colds (poor devils) are in one class; he is in another. Then, one night in bed, he realizes that his breathing is causing him pain and that he is in something like a fever. He is no worse than he was before, but suddenly he changes his whole attitude. A minute ago he had no cold: this minute he succumbs. He has an appalling cold, and he is one of the poor devils.”

    — 

    —Patrick Hamilton, Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky


  8. HOR⋅ROR
Our friends at Third Place Books in Washington sent us a shot of this very creepy display featuring Gotthelf’s The Black Spider (a favorite of Robert Walser's)

    HOR⋅ROR

    Our friends at Third Place Books in Washington sent us a shot of this very creepy display featuring Gotthelf’s The Black Spider (a favorite of Robert Walser's)

  9. “There, on the sideboard, with his head in the tumbler of milk … was Blackmalkin, one of the three cats. Kay shooed him away, but three-quarters of the milk had gone, and Kay would not drink what was left, because the cat had breathed in it, and Kay had heard that a cat’s breath always gave you consumption.”

    — 

    Health warning of the day (that day occurring in 1935) via John Masefield’s Midnight Folk

  10. What She Said
What He Said About Her and Her Friend
What She Said to Her Girlfriend
Except for the classical Tamil and the concubines, the table of contents for The Interior Landscape: Love Poems from the Classical Tamil, translated by A.K. Ramanujan, could be a summary of a bunch of texts sent today.

    • What She Said
    • What He Said About Her and Her Friend
    • What She Said to Her Girlfriend

    Except for the classical Tamil and the concubines, the table of contents for The Interior Landscape: Love Poems from the Classical Tamil, translated by A.K. Ramanujan, could be a summary of a bunch of texts sent today.

  11. 
"You could come on home for your tea,” she said.
“Well, I’m expected back I think,” I said but then thought, “Why not? Perhaps I can ask her to meet me again.” (I was missing a woman badly.) So I added, “But I’d like to come; I need a cup of tea in this heat.
—J.L. Carr, A Month in the Country

Do you have a picture of one of our books with coffee or tea (hot or iced)? Send it to this address and we’ll post it here (making you an honorary member of the Classics and Coffee Club).

    "You could come on home for your tea,” she said.

    “Well, I’m expected back I think,” I said but then thought, “Why not? Perhaps I can ask her to meet me again.” (I was missing a woman badly.) So I added, “But I’d like to come; I need a cup of tea in this heat.

    —J.L. Carr, A Month in the Country

    Do you have a picture of one of our books with coffee or tea (hot or iced)? Send it to this address and we’ll post it here (making you an honorary member of the Classics and Coffee Club).

  12. “It was one of those evenings when everything and everyone has withdrawn from you as if by some conspiracy.”

    — From Transit by Anna Seghers. Nearly every page contains a few of these perfect little crystalline observations. (via bloomcity)

  13. “He was a terrific Oh nothinger, and his Oh nothings were certain omens of the utterance of anything but nothings.”

    — Patrick Hamilton, Twenty-Thousand Streets Under the Sky

  14. Karl Ove Knausgaard's My Struggle: Book One SPECIAL EDITION →

    Help our friends at Archipelago Books raise funds so they can publish Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle: Book One. Not only do we think publishing fine international works in English translation is a worthy cause, but even a small donation will get you the book!

  15. Fiery Friday

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    The fact that quite a few NYRB Classics sport rather “inflammatory” covers recently became a topic of interest around here. We got to wondering if we’re all repressed pyromaniacs. Or if some mad marketing employee here decided that “fire sells.” Not that anyone buys a book for its cover or anything.

    Underneath the sizzling exteriors of each of the above titles, however, is a really great story. Clockwise from the top-left:

    Unforgiving Years, Victor Serge’s harrowing depiction of World War II, told from the streets of Paris, Leningrad, a destroyed city in Germany, and, in the aftermath, Mexico.

    Memed, My Hawk, a novel by Yashar Kemal about a young boy growing up in a desperately poor village in Turkey. He attempts escape, fails, tries again and … you’ll have to read the book.

    Hav, a one-of-a-kind novel in which Jan Morris wields her legendary travel writing skills to bring to life a completely fictional and utterly beautiful city. After reading this book, it’s hard to believe that Hav doesn’t exist in our world.

    Blood on the Forge, by William Attaway. A devastating vision of the African-American Great Migration that follows the fictional Moss brothers’ escape from the rural South, only to find themselves in the inferno of the Northern steel mills. (The cover is, aptly, a photograph of molten steel. Youch.)

    Fiery photo credits/descriptions in the same order: Antony Gormley, Waste Man, 2006; Waves of fire near cattle pens, Chase County, Kansas, 1990 © Larry Schwarm; Hav cover image © Lee Gibbons; Molten steel, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania © Nathan Benn/Corbis.