Possibly the most adorable book video ever: Esther Averill’s Jenny’s Birthday Book comes to life in this vintage library film gem. ‘Dainties and birthday cake,’ anyone? [The answer is ‘yes.’]
Harriet took her last cup of coffee over to the fire, re-read her letters, lit her first cigarette. Beginning to recuperate after the ruffle of breakfast and other people setting out, she would usually feel at this time contentment at the morning ahead, loving the ordinary, the familiar, knowing that what she must do was well within her powers.
Elizabeth Taylor, A Game of Hide and Seek
The wonderful Maylin, who once read some 50 NYRB Classics in one year, sent in this dispatch from Liverpool, England.
Do you have a picture of one of our books with coffee or tea (and now that summer is on us, we’re allowing iced beverages as well)? Send them to this address and we’ll post them here (making you an honorary member of the Classics and Coffee Club).
"Just this morning I got a letter with a turtle stamp on it! And the stamp wasn’t even canceled!"
…is an example of a not-very-good turtle story. But if you have a good story about a turtle, you could win a copy of Russell Hoban’s Turtle Diary from I’ve Been Reading Lately. All you have to do is leave your good turtle story on that blog (don’t leave it here, because we’re not sending you nothin’—though we are offering the book at a discount at the moment).
"The mystery of the turtles and their secret navigation is a magical reality, juice of life in a world gone dry."
Relative to her size my beetle has more than twice as much swimming-room as the turtles. And in that little tank the turtles were flying, flying in the water, submarine albatrosses. I’ve read about them, they navigate hundreds of miles of ocean. I imagined a sledge-hunter smashing the thick glass, letting out the turtles and their little bit of ocean, but then they’d only by flopping about on the wet floor.
I’m always afraid of being lost, the secret navigational art of the turtles seems a sacred thing to me. I thought of the little port of Polperro in Cornwall where they sell sea-urchin lamps, then I felt sad and went home.
—A couple of ( perhaps opaque) paragraphs from Russell Hoban’s Turtle Diary, which went on-sale today. Though the references to beetles, turtles, English port towns might not make sense here, it all comes together in the book.
I did what Tolstoy did, and jumped out of the train when it stopped in the evening at the old frontier
So starts the great travel (and much more) writer Jan Morris’s guide to the imaginary Mediteranean city state of Hav. In an epilogue to a later edition…
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Turtle diary / by Russell Hoban ; introduction by Ed Park.
pages cm. — (New York Review Books classics)
ISBN 978-1-59017-646-7 (pbk.)
1. Bookstores—Employees—Fiction. 2. Women authors—Fiction. 3. Turtles—Fiction. 4. Zoo animals—England—London—Fiction. 5. Psychological fiction. I. Park, Ed, 1970– II. Title.
Will they cut or bite off their heads
It makes me want to puke.
All those about to die get cold feet.
They have activity of stomach,
Before death it lives as hard as it can.
But why are you afraid to burn up, man?
—Alexander Vvedensky, “God May Be Around,” from An Invitation for Me to Think
Thank you to The Best American Poetry blog, which provided this superb example of Vvedensky’s ‘poor rhymes,’ one of the inspirations cited by Pussy Riot’s indefatigable Nadia Tolokonnikova as integral to the group’s songwriting. Read more on the BAP blog, and maybe watch HBO’s documentary about the group, Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, which premieres tonight.
Is this what it’s like for anyone attempting to describe Dan Brown’s Inferno?:
Had I some wild barbaric rhetoric
to suit the gloom of this appalling pit
which takes the weight of stack on stack of rock
I would extract more meaning from the pith
of what I saw within; but since I don’t,
with trepidation do I take this path
of words; for to describe the fundament
of all the world is no mere bagatelle,
nor is its depth for baby-babble meant.
—Canto 22.1-9 of Ciaran Carson’s translation of The Inferno of Dante Alighieri
Baby-babble and barbaric rhetoric indeed.
“Day after day, when I still worked at the Forty-second Street branch of the public library, I saw the same young man, bearded, intense, cleaning his fingernails on the corners of the pages of a book. “What are you studying for?” I asked him once. The numbers were flashing over the counter as the books came up. “Research,” he said. “I’m writing my autobiography.” There are certainly odd people in that reading room—one who doodles the same bird endlessly on the back of a half of a single bank check, one who hums all the time, and one who keeps asking the other two to stop. A little pantomime concerto. I quit that job soon. The trouble is, I sometimes understand that research project. Or I did understand it. Then.”
Thanks to Molly McArdle, who in her latest Classic Returns column at Library Journal pulls out this passage from Renata Adler’s Speedboat.
And might we suggest the passage to anyone looking to participate in the Urban Librarians Unite–sponsored 24 Hour Read-In at the Brooklyn Public Library (or any other library read-ins).
I’ve heard people ask, why isn’t Gallant better known? I wonder if it isn’t because so many readers aren’t looking for character. Plot reigns supreme. Take a look at the majority of books on any bestseller list. And something more—I wonder if Gallant’s work doesn’t also make some readers uncomfortable. In her stories, you become so immersed so quickly that before you know it you are mucking around deeply in someone else’s screwed up life. That can be disturbing, unsettling, especially if one’s life is also screwed up. (Whose isn’t?) It can also be riveting too. And funny. As well as offer a kind of comradeship in screwed up-ness. But Gallant’s not a writer for the faint hearted. Getting to know people so well on the page—as it is in life—is a commitment.
—Peter Orner on Mavis Gallant in The Atlantic's “By Heart” series, where authors discuss their favorite books. Orner particularly admires Gallant’s stories “The Ice Wagon Going Down the Street” and “In Plain Sight,” both of which are included in Paris Stories.
“Me, what’s that after all? An arbitrary limitation of being bounded by the people before and after and on either side. Where they leave off I begin, and vice versa. I once saw a cartoon sequence of a painter painting a very long landscape. When he’d finished he cut it up into four landscapes of the usual proportions. Mostly one doesn’t meet others from the same picture. When it happens it can be unsettling.”
We are thrilled for translator Philip Boehm, who was awarded last night with the Helen and Kurt Wolff Translators Prize from the Goethe-Institut Chicago for his translation of An Ermine in Czernopol, by Gregor von Rezzori. In celebration, here’s an example of what the judges deemed a translation “rich in alliteration, assonance, elaborate sentence structure, and changing rhythms.” We couldn’t agree more…
The prefect dyed his mustache and his bushy eyebrows coal black, and, in contrast to the gray, close-shorn stubble on his head, they looked as if they had been pasted on, which gave him the implausible appearance of a stage magician. His pearly, perfectly regular teeth seemed so obviously false we were always afraid he might lose them, or, even worse, that they would declare themselves independent and start snapping of their own malicious accord while he was kissing some lady’s hand, which he did freely and with great frequency.
—from the chapter, “The Landscape of Tescovina; Herr Tarangolian the Prefect,” in von Rezzori’s An Ermine of Czernopol