By complete coincidence, the last two Coffee Club entries have been photos of books by Olivia Manning (this one is School for Love and the last was The Balkan Trilogy) accompanied by a nice cup of tea. Writes the photographer, Dorian, “Just finished the book this morning. It’s brilliant.”
If you need something literary after all the beer, BBQ, and fireworks of July 4th weekend, come to McNally Jackson on Monday, July 8th at 7 pm to celebrate the life and work of the great Russell Hoban. We’ve just published Turtle Diary, but the event is a tribute to all his books, adult and children’s, and the participants are truly stellar: Ed Park, Damion Searls, Brigid Hughes, John Wray, and Phoebe Hoban.
"The final act of [Vasily] Grossman’s life began in 1961, when Life and Fate was ‘arrested’ by the K.G.B., who said that it could not be published for two hundred and fifty years.”
The day before, when he handed his British passport to the clerk, he had been asked if he wished to be awakened in the ‘English manner’ with a cup of tea. He had replied that he did not wish to be awakened at all but would like a half-bottle of Veuve Clicquot placed beside his bed each morning. Now, getting his eyes open, he saw the bucket and was thankful for it.
—Olivia Manning, Fortunes of War: The Balkan Trilogy
High tea and Olivia Manning at the Empress Hotel (a name that might have come straight out of Manning’s novel) in Victoria, B.C.
Photograph via Britishbattles.com
Earlier this week Gawker’s Cord Jefferson reported: “Terrible People Selling Pork-Laced Bullets to Better Kill Muslims.” One wonders if these entrepreneurs were taking a page from the 19th-century Sepoy Mutiny (aka the Indian Rebellion of 1857), so delightfully satirized in J.G. Farrell’s Siege of Krishnapur:
Meanwhile, the Doctor was asking Captain Hudson about something which had been on his mind for a few days: namely, what was all this about there having been trouble with the sepoys at Barrackpur in January? Had he and the other officers been there at the time?
“No, that had all quietened down by the time we got there. But it didn’t amount to much in any case…one or two fires set in the native lines and some rumours spread about defilement from the new cartridges…”
Here Mrs Dunstaple cried out petulantly that she wanted an explanation, because nobody ever explained to her about things like defilement and cartridges; she could remain as ignorant as a maidservant for all anyone cared, and she smiled to indicate that she was being more coquettish than cross. So Hudson kindly set himself to explain. “As you know, we load a gun by pouring a charge of powder down the barrel into the powder chamber and after that we ram a ball down on top of it. Well, the powder comes in a little paper packet which we call a cartridge…in order to get at the powder we have to tear the end off and in army drill we teach the men to do this with their teeth.”
“And so the natives feel themselves defiled…well, good gracious!”
“No, not by that, Mrs Dunstaple, but by the grease on the cartridges…it’s only on balled cartridges of course…that is, a cartridge with a ball in it. You empty in the powder and then instead of throwing it away you ram the rest of the cartridge in on top of it. But because it’s rather a tight fit you have to grease it, otherwise the ball would get stuck. With the new Enfield rifles, which have grooves in the barrel, the balled cartridge would certainly get stuck if it wasn’t greased.”
“Bless my soul, so it was the grease!”
“Of course it was, that’s what worried Jack Sepoy! Somehow he got the idea that the grease comes from pork or beef tallow and he didn’t like it touching his lips because it’s against his religion. That’s why there was trouble at Barrackpur. But now Major Bontein has suggested a change of drill…in future, instead of biting off the end we’ll simply tear it off. That way the sepoys won’t have to worry what the grease is made of. As it is, the stuff smells disgusting enough to start an epidemic, let alone a mutiny.”
This Book of My Life I am undertaking to write after the example of Antoninus the Philosopher, acclaimed the wisest and best of men, knowing well that no accomplishment of mortal man is perfect, much less safe from calumny; yet aware that none, of all ends which man may attain, seems more pleasing, none more worthy than recognition of the truth.
—The first sentence of polymath Girolamo Cardano’s memoir, The Book of My Life. Seems a pretty good reason to write your memoirs.
The beautiful young woman pictured in this photo is Helen Keller who was born on this day in 1880. The story of her relationship with teacher, Anne Sullivan who helped her gain the ability to communicate was chronicled in the film and play, The Miracle Worker. You can find copies of the film, The Miracle Worker at multiple branches of the NYPL as well as books on Helen Keller’s amazing achievements.
Happy Birthday Helen Keller!
Not only can you find books about Helen Keller in the library, you can find books byHelen Keller, including The Story of My Life and The World I Live In, about which Oliver Sacks said, “She comes alive here, vividly and idiosyncratically, more than in any other of her writings.”
Junket Is Nice by Dorothy Kunhardt (author of Pat the Bunny) is now on sale. And at least one staff member thinks this is the best book we’ve ever published. A man is eating junket. Everyone is curious about what he is thinking about while eating junket. He tells them to guess. They have some very strange guesses.
“D. found a chauffeurs’ bar where he was served a good, unpretentious coffee and two hot croissants, reminding him of that young condemned man whose sole last request was for croissants, which he could not have, because it was too early. “Just my luck!” said the pale young man, and he was right, for in fact the only thing he ever succeeded in was his own death by decapitation…”
Life’s not Yeezy
What do you mean by “too literary”? What do you cut out, certain kinds of words?
Adjectives, adverbs, and every word which is there just to make an effect. Every sentence which is there just for the sentence. You know, you have a beautiful sentence—cut it. Every time I find such a thing in one of my novels it is to be cut.
From the Art of Fiction No. 9.
“In-between is really where I feel best. Neither here nor there.”
“There isn’t any in-between,” I said. “Any place you pass through is this moment’s here. In-between is an illusion.”
“Thanks very much,” he said. “You’ve just invalidated most of my life.””
The latest entry to the Classics and Coffee Club comes with the note: “Greetings from OUP USA in Cary, North Carolina!” and features a familiar Oxford University Press mug (familiar because we have the very same one in our office kitchen).
The book on the right is, of course, Stoner. But the book on the left might look odd—The Living Thoughts of Kierkegaard was one of the first 16 books in the series, and the cover of the initial printing had a different design. This is what it looks like now.
The forgotten saga of John Horne Burns and his intemperate World War II masterpiece.
Also read Margolick’s recent piece in Salon: "John Horne Burns: The writer Hemingway and Vidal envied"