“It has been said of Ulysses that, were Dublin ever obliterated, the city could be substantially rebuilt by consulting its pages. Along these lines, if all Europe were, God forbid, laid waste tomorrow, one might do worse than attempt to recreate it, or at least to preserve some sense of its historical splendor and variety, by immersing oneself in the travel books of Patrick Leigh Fermor.”
Pictured: Patrick Leigh Fermor, center, with members of the General Heinrich Kreipe Abduction Team: Georgios Tyrakis, William Stanley Moss, Emmanouil Paterakis, and Antonios Papaleonidas.
NYRB Classics series editor Edwin Frank was interviewed, along with Anna Gavalda, by NPR’s All Things Considered, about the amazing success John Williams’s Stoner is enjoying throughout Europe.
What is this story about?
Carter: A mouse. Nothing really happens to the mouse.
Holland: He gets his toes pinched by a booby trap for mice!
What is your favorite thing about the book?
Carter: The beginning where he goes outside.
Holland: Hop. She’s a grasshopper.
What will happen to Hop if the frost comes?
Holland: She would get killed.
Carter: She will die.
So what did they do?
Holland: Find a place to get warm.
Where was that?
Holland [with big eyes]: Nowhere.
Should people read this book?
Carter: Yes. It helped me feel good.
Holland: Yes. Because it’s fun. Every part.
And! Hickory is also on sale at the moment for just over $10.
Jessica Mitford (whose superpower was muckraking) and Wonder Woman!
Thanks to Anna of dudguacamole.tumblr.com for sending in this fitting duo.
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.)
Hey @nyrbclassics - I was reading Turtle Diary in cafe in NYT building & stranger came up & said: “Ah, the NYRB book club!” Fans everywhere!— Levi Stahl (@levistahl) May 17, 2013
Proof that signing up for our subscription book club is an excellent way to meet like-minded strangers. If you sign up by June 15 (2013) you will get Russell Hoban’s Turtle Diary (and a free copy of Manchette’s Fatale as a bonus).
"The grasshopper’s name was Hope, so Hickory called her Hop for short. Together they went exploring, and they discovered the sweetness of blackberries and the sharpness of sassafras twigs. They learned useful things—that chicory is bitter, but sorrel only sour. And they learned useless things too—that the track of a snail is silver winding through the grass, but the light of a firefly is green gold melting in the air."
“I tried Ivy Compton-Burnett when I was 20, and it didn’t take. I thought, ‘She can’t actually write.’ I came back six years later, and couldn’t stop reading her; no 20th-century novelist is closer to my heart.”
“Alfred Hayes (1911–1985) was an American journalist, poet, screenwriter, and novelist. Having served in Italy during World War II, he stayed on to co-write several classic Italian neorealist films, including Roberto Rossellini’s Paisà and Vittorio De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves, as well as to gather material for his two most popular novels, All Thy Conquests and The Girl on the Via Flaminia (the basis for the 1953 film Act of Love, starring Kirk Douglas). In the late 1940s he went to work in Hollywood for Warner Brothers, RKO, and Twentieth Century-Fox, where his screenplays included Clash by Night, A Hatful of Rain, The Left Hand of God, and Joy in the Morning. His later novels included In Love, My Face for the World to See, and The End of Me.”
Though it was originally published in the ‘50s (and this month, newly translated by New York Review Books Classics), the absurdity of Transit makes it feel timeless — like it exists outside of any real time or place. But that’s the haunting part: Transit is a very real story, based on Seghers’s own experience as a German Jew trying to flee France. The result is a darker Catch-22. There’s a sense of dread and hopelessness that pervades the novel. Marseilles becomes a state of existential limbo. The narrator is uncertain what to do while he waits. Should he keep chasing women? Have another drink? Does he even want to leave, if the destination might just mean more waiting?
—A review of Anna Seghers’s Transit in Grantland (a blog that means more to some than others) by Kevin Nguyen. Transit is also a literary thriller in the vein of Robbe-Grillet, and this new translation (we hope) brings it to the attention of all fans of twentieth century European literature.
"What’s it like in your country? We hear so many strange things of it which can’t be true. Not all of them."
"It’s beautiful, Hubert, which nobody believes who hasn’t seen it. And various, because it’s so extensive. Seven hundred miles from north to south, four hundred miles across in places, three times France. In the north-east in winter, everything freezes solid for three months; in the south, there are palm trees and lions and swamps and alligators…"
Sound familiar? The place described is New England, but not the one you know. Ready for a world where the Reformation never happened, electricity is considered “appallingly dangerous” in 1976, and a young choir boy is facing a hair-raising surgery? Kingsley Amis’ alternate history The Alteration is out now, a vivid take on a repressive religious society that Phillip K. Dick called “ One of the best- possibly the best- alternate-worlds novels in existence.”
Kingsley Amis's very funny and very scary ghost story, The Green Man, has just been released. The cover features an excellent depiction of the Green Man by Eric Hanson, following in the footsteps of many wild cover variations, including the above, and this one too.
Striking a different tone altogether is the soft-core 1970s Panther edition. Thanks to Ryan Britt’s Tor.com review (“like Fawlty Towers Plus Sex and Ghosts”) of the book for bringing this one to our attention.
We entered the pizzeria. I took a seat facing the open fire…. They brought the usual rosé. The first two glasses of rosé always go down like water. I like watching the open fire, you know, and the way the man hits the dough with his bent wrist. Yes, things like that are the only things in the world I really like. That is to say, I like things that have been and will always be there. You see, there’s always been an open fire here, and for centuries they’ve beaten the dough like that. And if you were to reproach me because I’m forever changing and going to different places, then I’d reply, that it’s only because I’m doing a thorough search for something that is going to last forever.
Anna Seghers wrote Transit while in exile in Mexico, having been one of those lucky enough to acquire the paperwork necessary to escape Nazi Germany. The narrator of Transit, though, is perhaps the only transient in the port city of Marseille who doesn’t want to leave Europe, who just wants experience what lasts. Nothing else matters to him—that is, until he meets a woman desperate to flee.
Transit by Anna Seghers, newly translated by Margot Bettauer Dembo, goes on sale today.
In keeping with our boozy Kingsley Amis theme (and in celebration of Friday), today’s Classics and Coffee Club eschews the soft stuff and goes hard. Would Kingsley Amis approve of the Red Hook ESB pictured here? The Red Hook website describes it as: “Brewed in the style of a traditional British ESB (Extra Special Bitter).” So let’s say yes. And, if you squint, the Seattle background of the photo might just be the Cambridge UK suburb of The Green Man.
Pictured: Reader Melanie and the “Miracles Denied: Comets, Oracles, and Sorcerers” chapter of Paul Hazard’s Crisis of the European Mind.
Submit pictures of your copies of NYRB Classics (or books from our Children’s Collection) with coffee or even tea and we’ll post them here.