1. Happy 100th birthday Masanobu Fukuoka!

    Masanobu Fukuoka was born 100 years ago today. In celebration, several permaculture groups are throwing Seed Ball parties. Here’s their suggestion on how to partake:

    Fellow Earth Dwellers; 

    Saturday Feb 2nd would be the 100th birthday of Masanobu Fukuoka. If you are unfamiliar with his name or work, he is among other things, credited with rediscovering and bringing attention to the ancient practice of making Seed Balls (also called Earth Balls). Here is a brief synopsis of Seed Balls from Wikipedia just to get you a little background: 


    The ingredients that will need to be pulled together for this project are: 

    1) SEEDS 

    2) clay 

    3) peat or possibly local forest duff 

    4) humus/compost 

    5) potluck snack food item 

    Basically you put some seeds in the middle and role a ball of the other mixed ingredients (eat the food) to a diameter of anywhere between 0.5 and 3.5 inches. Then plant the seed balls in the ground! (Or maybe wait until the spring.)

    “When it is understood that one loses joy and happiness in the attempt to possess them, the essence of natural farming will be realized. The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.” 

    ― Masanobu Fukuoka, The One-Straw Revolution 

  2. "Real wealth is being able to live without working."

    Albert Cossery was a man in no hurry, and in this he hoped to lead by example.

    Asked why he wrote, he replied: so that his readers would not get up for work the next day.

    —from Patrick McGunniess’s review of Albert Cossery’s Proud Beggars and The Jokers in The Times Literary Supplement

  3. February is Victor Serge month at the Brecht Forum.

    February is Victor Serge month at the Brecht Forum.

  4. "Bottles for Nine Hypochondriacs" by Kristyna Litten
Proud to have published a book by one of these famous hypochondriacs, a memoir of a second, and the first biography of a third.
[via Playground Mutiny]

    "Bottles for Nine Hypochondriacs" by Kristyna Litten

    Proud to have published a book by one of these famous hypochondriacs, a memoir of a second, and the first biography of a third.

    [via Playground Mutiny]

  5. “If Alice James had a circle, people must have thought she was interesting.”

    image   Portrait of Alice James via PBS

    Jean Strouse talks to Biographile about how she came to write the biography of Alice, the then nearly invisible sister of Henry and William James:

    I discovered Alice in a book by Calvin Tomkins called Living Well is the Best Revenge, about Gerald and Sara Murphy, who were friends with the American expatriate community in France in the 1920s, including Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. At one point, Tomkins wrote, the Murphys came back from Paris to Cambridge, Massachusetts, and dropped in on Alice James and her circle. I thought, “Oh, if Alice had a circle, people must have thought she was interesting.” I knew Henry had a sister, but that was about all I knew. I found Alice’s diary, which was out of print, in a secondhand bookstore.

    Read more of Strouse’s thoughts about her first biographical subject here.

  6. 'Masters of Doing Nothing at All'

    In Japan, as is often noted, there are separate words for the self you show the world and the one that you reveal behind closed doors; where we regard it as a sin to be reserved at home, the Japanese take it as much more cruel to be too forthcoming in the world. This reticence has little to do with trying to protect oneself, and everything to do with trying to protect others from one’s problems, which shouldn’t be theirs; it’s one reason Japan is so confounding to foreigners, as its people faultlessly sparkle and attend to one another in public, while often seeming passive and unconvinced of their ability to do anything decisive at home.

    'Under the sun the couple presented smiles to the world,' Sōseki writes, in one of his most beautiful sentences here; 'under the moon, they were lost in thought: and so they had quietly passed the years.' At one point Oyone asks her husband, 'How are things going for Koroku?'

    'Not well at all,' he answers, and with that they both go to sleep.

    —Pico Iyer on Natsume Sōseki’s The Gate, in The New York Review of Books. The essay appears in slightly different form as an introduction to the book.

  7. “I would love you if you were covered with prickles and sackcloth; but how glad I am that your lovely outside bespeaks your nature — so clean and proud and fine.”


    Sylvia Townsend Warner to Valentine Ackland, letter dated August 21st, 1931

    Read the longer quote from which this excerpt is taken, here.

  8. "This significant comeback of an American classic."

    Maybe if the book had bombed, Bill would have remained primarily a journalist, but Testing the Current was met with the kind of reception writers fantasize about. In my copy of the original, I stuck three of the reviews that  greeted the novel’s appearance. Russell Banks, in the NY Times, opens his piece with this: ‘William McPherson’s first novel is an extraordinarily intelligent, powerful and, I believe, permanent contribution to the literature of family, childhood and memory.’  People proclaims that Testing the Current is ‘a beautiful first novel that provides a sharp, glowing portrait of a Midwestern town on the eve of World War II. McPherson’s loving attention to detail and the … funny, moving point of view keep the writing constantly fresh and involving.’ USA Today says the novel  ’…is brilliant. In places it is absolutely breathtaking.’ 

    —Terence Winch on William McPherson and the reception of his debut novel, Testing the Current, when originally published in 1984. Mr. Winch had attended the conversation between McPherson and literary critic Michael Dirda held last Saturday at Politics & Prose in Washington, D. C., and wrote about it on the The Best American Poetry blog

  9. “His job wasn’t temporary and things weren’t going to get any better–not that they were going to get any worse, barring some unforeseen catastrophe like atomic warfare or mental illness, but they weren’t going to get any better.”


    L.J. Davis, A Meaningful Life (with an introduction by Jonathan Lethem)

    (If it’s any consolation, LJ Davis’s hero does try to improve his lot in life. Now, whether it comes to anything is something you’ll have to read the book to find out.)

    via Sasha and the Silverfish

  10. Happy Birthday Anton Chekhov


    One is brought to the conclusion that Chekhov, whose family had been serfs till the Emancipation and who knew the life of the lower classes, is here contradicting deliberately the Tolstoyan idealization and the Turgenevian idylizing of the peasantry, as, in his stories about religion, he is confronting Dostoevsky’s saints with something more degraded or prosaic. It is a picture, in general, of a feudal society attempting to modernize itself, but still in a state of transition that is considerably less than half-baked. One of the strongest impressions, in fact, conveyed by the whole of Chekov’s works is that, although the old order is petering out, there is not very much to build on for a sound democratic and up-to-date Russia. And yet there is just barely a note of hope.

    —Edmund Wilson on Anton Chekhov, in his introduction to his selection of Chekhov’s later short stories, Peasants and Other Stories, which, incidentally, was the first book ever published by NYRB Classics. 

  11. “Becoming a lion in the faith”

    The setting of the camp-meeting is a clearing in the Kentucky forest, around the bend of the river and away from the village. The underbrush has been fired and fresh grass has come up. Around the blackened stumps of the trees there is no plan, no arrangement of streets but, as the men come from the backwoods, they draw up their wagons as close to one of the platforms as they can get, forming a rough square. New arrivals are pushed deeper into the forest. The day before the camp-meeting, the roads baked by the June sun begin to be crowded. After the sun is set, tallow dips are lit inside the wagons and wood fires upon the ground. New arrivals find their way by the light of pine torches. At the end of 200 miles of travel by day and by night, they are broken, but as they press forward toward the center their spirits revive. The loosening of tongues begins. Voices cross and blend and increase in volume. A straggler coming in hears in the woods first an unwonted sound, then something like a heavy rain, and finally joins himself in a roar of sound. As it dies away, the people crawl into or under their wagons to rest for the ordeal of the preaching on the morrow. But occasionally, through the night, there are hidden sounds of some early revelers or groans and shrieking of those who are prematurely exercised. Within the circumference of the meeting there are perhaps ten or fifteen thousand souls, but each imagines himself part of a vast crowd of twenty-five or fifty thousand. In the morning, this whole multitude presses into the open space before the preacher’s trestle but, even in the dead silence which he demands, his voice cannot carry to the periphery of the crowd. Another preacher sets out for a strategic tree-stump and gathers part of the crowd about him. A third, of another denomination, makes the seat of a wagon his pulpit. The exhorting begins. A fourth and then a fifth evangelist stand above the crowd and add their shouting. The preachers pitch their voices higher and wave their arms in wider gestures, calling for repentance and threatening vengeance. The pictures of hell grow more vivid. The cries of ‘O, Lord’ and ‘Jesus, save us’ and the roared ‘amens’ rise up automatically from the crowd. As one speaker gives up, exhausted, another takes his place. A fresh voice beats down on the people before the speaker in the hot sun. The odors of humanity rise up and overcome the sweet air of the forest. The people crowd and jostle each other, sway forward, and are pushed back, and gasp for breath. A spectator deliberately holding aloof from the excitement stands on the shaft of a wagon and counts seven preachers all speaking at once. He hears the ‘amens’ and ‘yes Lords’ coming more and more quickly with panting breath and great sighs.

    —Gilbert Seldes’s description of the first open air revival at Gasper River, Kentucky in 1797, from his book The Stammering Century.

  12. "A timeless masterpiece"


    Tyrant Banderas was first published in 1926 and remains a masterpiece – now given a new lease of life in Peter Bush’s excellent translation. The novel spans three tumultuous days, and its deliberately bewildering structure (divided into seven parts with each subdivided into separate books) is reminiscent of Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano. Santos Banderas is an unforgettable character, as is the effeminate Barón de Benicarlés, head of the colonial legation and ‘His Catholic Majesty’s plenipotentiary minister’, who fritters away his stipend from the Spanish crown shooting up morphine, delousing his lapdog, powdering his face and lusting after bullfighters.

    “This banana republic whose resources are exploited by foreign investors at the expense of the serf-like ‘coppery populace’ of native Indians is only too familiar, but the fact that Valle-Inclán never specifies the locale of the tyrant’s dominion only adds to the book’s universality and timelessness. ”

    —From J. S. Tennant’s review of Rámon del Valle-Inclán’s Tyrant Banderas in The Guardian

  13. Vladimir Sorokin and Intizar Husain nominated for Man Booker International Prize 2013


    We’d like to congratulate Intizar Husain and Vladimir Sorokin on being named finalists for the Man Booker International Prize 2013. The prize “recognises one writer for his or her achievement in fiction. Worth £60,000, the prize is awarded every two years to a living author who has published fiction either originally in English or whose work is generally available in translation in the English language. The winner is chosen solely at the discretion of the judging panel and there are no submissions from publishers.”

    Vladimir Sorokin is the author of The Queue and Ice Trilogy, both available as NYRB Classics, and Days of the Oprichnik. Trained as an engineer for the Moscow Institute of Oil and Gas, Sorokin later turned to writing and became a major presence in Moscow’s literary underground in the 1980s. Banned in the Soviet Union, his work has since been translated into more than twenty languages and awarded several prestigious prizes, including the Andrei Bely Prize for outstanding contribution to Russian literature in 2001. Sorokin lives in Moscow.

    Intizar Husain is a journalist, short-story writer, and novelist, widely considered the most significant living fiction writer in Urdu. He is the author of the story collections Leaves, The Seventh Door, A Chronicle of the Peacocks, and An Unwritten Epic. Basti, a novel in which the psychic history of Pakistan is traced through the story of a single man, was published as an NYRB Classic in December. Pankaj Mishra called it “a haunting modernist echo chamber of voices from Hindu, Buddhist, and Islamic traditions.” Husain currently lives in Lahore, Pakistan.

    Also nominated for the Man Booker International Prize is Lydia Davis, whose translation of Vivant Denon’s No Tomorrow is available from NYRB Classics.

  14. We’ve got a cameo in Kate Zambreno’s Heroines (in a scene with Elizabeth Hardwick, Caroline Blackwood, and Jean Stafford).

    We’ve got a cameo in Kate Zambreno’s Heroines (in a scene with Elizabeth Hardwick, Caroline Blackwood, and Jean Stafford).

  15. The Mookse and the Gripes talk NYRB in 2013 →

    "It’s always exciting to see what NYRB Classics has coming out. In this episode we look at what they’ll be releasing from January to June 2013. Which three did Brian put a frowny face next to? What are our most anticipated releases?"