1. "A wise woman, a graceful writer and a visionary"

    It’s not often we get in the science pages of a newspaper, but S. Josephine Baker’s Fighting for Life was reviewed in last week’s New York Times's ”Science Times” section:

    Baker was the first director of a children’s public health agency, and the first woman to get a doctorate in public health. She tangled repeatedly with Typhoid Mary. More important, her ideas saved thousands of lives and permanently changed the focus and mission of public health. Her just-reissued 1939 autobiography proves to be one of those magical books that reaches effortlessly through time, as engaging and as thought-provoking as if it were written now.

  2. 
The Turks have a drink called coffa (for they use no wine), so named of a berry as black as soot, and as bitter … which they sip still of, and sup as warm as they can suffer; they spend much time in those coffa-houses, which are somewhat like our alehouses or taverns, and there they sit chatting and drinking to drive away the time, and to be merry together, because they find by experience that kind of drink, so used, helpeth digestion, and procureth alacrity.

—Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), “Alteratives and Cordials”
Photograph sent in by the proprietor of Vast and Grand.
Hey you! Do you have a picture of one of our books with coffee or tea? Send it to this address and we’ll post it here (making you an honorary member of the Classics and Coffee Club).

    The Turks have a drink called coffa (for they use no wine), so named of a berry as black as soot, and as bitter … which they sip still of, and sup as warm as they can suffer; they spend much time in those coffa-houses, which are somewhat like our alehouses or taverns, and there they sit chatting and drinking to drive away the time, and to be merry together, because they find by experience that kind of drink, so used, helpeth digestion, and procureth alacrity.

    —Robert Burton, The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), “Alteratives and Cordials”

    Photograph sent in by the proprietor of Vast and Grand.

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

  3. Witch bottles, demonic spiders, and other evils you can supress in the walls of your house

    image

    She had often heard before how skillful men had trapped spirits in a hole in rock or in wood that they had nailed shut, and as long as no one drew out the nail, the spirit remained trapped in the hole.

    —Jeremias Gotthelf, The Black Spider, translated by Susan Bernofsky

    Did you know that this particular type of household magic has a name? It’s apotropaic magic, and it’s everywhere, including the walls of your house. From the Wikipedia entry on concealed shoes (muffled squeal at the thought of an entire article on concealed witch shoes).

    —Mallory Ortberg, The Toast

    Above: Frontispiece by Christine Gräfin von Kalckreuth for a 1942 edition of The Black Spider

  4. Photo courtesy Frances Willick

    Photo courtesy Frances Willick

  5. “And life awaits man as the sea awaits the river. You can make meander after meander, twist, turn, seep into the earth — your meanders are your own affair. But life is there, patient, without beginning or end, waiting for you, like the ocean. We were a little apart from the world, little streams damned up by school and protected from violent suns and torrential rains… But however much care it took of us, and our frizzy little pigtailed heads, school could not stop our waters from gathering, and the time came when it opened its sluices and left us to the current.”

    — The Bridge of Beyond, Simone Schwarz-Bart (via edtechpentameter)

  6. "With your brains and my personality we’ll build them the biggest hell on earth."

    The cover of our edition of Erich Auerbach’s study of Dante shows a still from the delightfully campy 1935 movie Dante’s Inferno, starring Spencer Tracy—which is not really about Dante but about a guy on the make trying to build the ultimate carnival sideshow.

    The over-the-top, Gustave Doré inspired 10-minute hell scene is something to see. It was envisioned by post-impressionist painter and set-designer Harry Lachman.

    Pop: I’m just offering a little glimpse of hell and a few suggestions on how to keep out of it.
    Carter: I get you — it’s a peep show.

    The blog moviedavid.com has a fun post about the film, from which we’ve grabbed these quotes—and we’re grateful to him for posting the above clip as well.

  7. McNally Jackson and the NYRB Classics: Devil's Night with Susan Bernofsky | McNally Jackson Books →

    This is tonight. You should come. Even if you’re an arachnophobe. Actually maybe not. Sculptor Martha Friedman will be presenting a slideshow of art spidery and spooky.

  8. "Surprise is the keynote of the best travel writing"

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    There has naturally been speculation as to whether a first-person travel narrative, written 40 years after the event, should be regarded as fact or fiction. In some gentle interventions, Ms. Cooper reveals how the Great Trudge books benefited from artifice: the disguise or obliteration of a personage; the blending of two or more people into a single character. In one of the conversations she had with him while preparing the biography—Ms. Cooper knew Fermor from her childhood—she asked about a passage in which he depicts himself in the saddle when in reality he had walked. ‘I decided to put myself on horseback for a bit,’ he told her. ‘I felt the reader might be getting bored of me just plodding along… . You won’t let on, will you?’ Fermor, she remarks nicely, ‘was making a novel of his life.’

    —From James Campbell’s review of Patrick Leigh Fermor: An Adventure by Artemis Cooper, in The Wall Street Journal. To hear more about the Leigh Fermor’s remarkable life, how he turned his trips into booksand how Ms. Cooper sifted the fact from fiction in writing her biography, come hear Ms. Cooper in conversation with Ben Downing tonight as part of the Onassis Foundation lecture series at the New York Public Library main branch on 5th Ave. between 41st and 42nd at 7 pm.

  9. "The rewards of medicine only come from doing the job as well as you possibly can."

    The doctor-patient relationship is based on the principle that the patient needs help, and that when called upon, the doctor will leave no stone unturned to make sure that the patient gets all the help that medical science can provide, almost regardless of expense. The patient expects this, and the doctor, if he is any good, has only to be approached, by a complete stranger, before he unleashes this flood of aid (generally paid for by the state or by insurance companies) for the benefit of ‘his’ patient. It is extraordinary how any patient becomes ‘my patient,’ to be helped to the hilt, as soon as he steps into the consulting room. And in the best hands, this is true even when doctor and patient do not actually like each other. 

    —Common-sense is refreshing. David Mendel has plenty of it in his book, Proper DoctoringSend it to your congressperson.

  10. Check out the Fall Preview from Writers No One Reads

  11. It’s the Gothic Horror–Krautrock mashup you didn’t know you were looking for.

    A trailer(?) for the 1983 adaptation of Gotthelf’s Black Spider, with a score by Carlos Péron, one of the founders of the group Yello.

    Thanks to Magnificent Octopus for turning us on to this.

  12. 
And now Christine felt as if her face was bursting open and glowing coals were being birthed from it, quickening into life and swarming across her face and all her limbs, and everything within her face had sprung to life, a fiery swarming all across her body. in the lightning’s pallid glow she saw, long-legged and venomous, innumerable black spiderlings scurrying down her limbs and out into the night, and as they vanished they were followed, long-legged and venomous, by innumerable others. finally there were no more left to swarm after the others, the burning in her face subsided, and the spider settled back into her flesh, becoming an almost invisible dot again, its dying eyes gazing after the infernal brood it had given birth to …

—Jeremias Gotthelf The Black Spider, newly translated by Susan Bernofsky
Look who made a surprise appearance at our Night of Fears reading at Word Brooklyn last night. Thanks to all our other, less demonic guests and fabulous readers who came out to what turned out to be a great night!

    And now Christine felt as if her face was bursting open and glowing coals were being birthed from it, quickening into life and swarming across her face and all her limbs, and everything within her face had sprung to life, a fiery swarming all across her body. in the lightning’s pallid glow she saw, long-legged and venomous, innumerable black spiderlings scurrying down her limbs and out into the night, and as they vanished they were followed, long-legged and venomous, by innumerable others. finally there were no more left to swarm after the others, the burning in her face subsided, and the spider settled back into her flesh, becoming an almost invisible dot again, its dying eyes gazing after the infernal brood it had given birth to …

    —Jeremias Gotthelf The Black Spider, newly translated by Susan Bernofsky

    Look who made a surprise appearance at our Night of Fears reading at Word Brooklyn last night. Thanks to all our other, less demonic guests and fabulous readers who came out to what turned out to be a great night!

  13. After Claude is this month’s Emily Books selection—and if you download the new Emily Books app, you’ll be able to get your eyes on some exclusive content, including an interview with Iris Owens’s good friend Stephen Koch, who is the former head of the Writing Division of Columbia University.
emilybooks:

After Claude was on the list of books Ruth and I made in the summer of 2011, when we first had the idea for Emily Books. More than two years later, we have a much clearer idea of what “our thing” is: unjustly neglected one-of-a-kind books by women and other weirdos. But back then all we knew was that we wanted to sell books we loved via subscription; we hadn’t thought a lot, yet, about why we loved the books we loved, and what it would mean to share them.
Turns out, though, that After Claude is quintessentially “our thing,” though it’s not exactly neglected: as a beloved NYRB Classic, it’s already a “cult classic” by anyone’s estimation.  When we got permission to feature the book, we set out to dig a little deeper into its appeal, and the biography of its author. Emily Praeger’s introduction to their 2010 edition gave some tantalizing hints: “I am honored to write this introduction for Iris’s book but I think you should know she and I were not speaking,” it begins, and goes on to explain why, a little.

Read the rest of the post here.

    After Claude is this month’s Emily Books selection—and if you download the new Emily Books app, you’ll be able to get your eyes on some exclusive content, including an interview with Iris Owens’s good friend Stephen Koch, who is the former head of the Writing Division of Columbia University.

    emilybooks:

    After Claude was on the list of books Ruth and I made in the summer of 2011, when we first had the idea for Emily Books. More than two years later, we have a much clearer idea of what “our thing” is: unjustly neglected one-of-a-kind books by women and other weirdos. But back then all we knew was that we wanted to sell books we loved via subscription; we hadn’t thought a lot, yet, about why we loved the books we loved, and what it would mean to share them.

    Turns out, though, that After Claude is quintessentially “our thing,” though it’s not exactly neglected: as a beloved NYRB Classic, it’s already a “cult classic” by anyone’s estimation.  When we got permission to feature the book, we set out to dig a little deeper into its appeal, and the biography of its author. Emily Praeger’s introduction to their 2010 edition gave some tantalizing hints: “I am honored to write this introduction for Iris’s book but I think you should know she and I were not speaking,” it begins, and goes on to explain why, a little.

    Read the rest of the post here.

  14. 
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).

  15. 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.