1. Cassandra at the Wedding

    Of course, nothing illustrates so vividly as family the essentially unsatisfactory nature of being a person. The first thing one learns in life is that the self is a partial thing; at the very moment of birth one is consigned to terminal separateness. The one attribute we can be sure that we all share is incompleteness. And perhaps that’s our strongest suit, because without it where would we be? Off alone, each of us, in his or her own little tree house, complete, fulfilled, entirely happy in the perfection of solitude—no love, for example, and no family.
          If we sought the company of others only for help, say, in building our individual tree houses, human associations would last no longer than it takes to pound some nails into a board. Surely, among the things that draw us together with such binding force is the painful longing to fit our own jagged, torn edges together with those of another, to become complete. And if we think of love as the oblique and approximate remedy for this painful longing which Plato describes so vividly, we could say that family is the arena in which we first encounter that remedy’s comical and terrible disappointment. 

    —from Deborah Eisenberg’s afterword to Dorothy Baker’s Cassandra at the Wedding. Cassandra is a smart young girl living in Berkeley in the early 60s and very close to her identical twin sister, Judith. Judith’s upcoming marriage to her nice but slightly bourgeois doctor boyfriend from Connecticut in their familial ranch in the Sierras throws Cassandra into an emotional tailspin. Next week we’ll be releasing Baker’s first novel, Young Man with a Horn, both with cover art from the Bay Area Figurative School painter David Park.

  2. As part of the PEN World Voices Festival back in May, Deborah Eisenberg, Michael Cunningham, Daniel Kehlmann, and Edmund White came down to the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York to talk about Gregor von Rezzori and his Bukovina trilogy (An Ermine in Czernopol, Memoirs of an Anti-Semite, and The Snows of Yesteryear). It was a really great talk, with dissenting opinions but overall admiration for Rezzori’s work. Also, at around the 1:04 mark (though the video gets a bit spotty), a woman who grew up in Bukovina (a region split between Romania and Ukrania now, but with a very mixed cultural history over the last century), and whose parents were in Rezzori’s generation makes a very interesting point about anti-semitism at the time, and how it relates to Rezzori’s treatment of their shared homeland.

  3. A Place Out of Time - Gregor von Rezzori’s Bukovina Trilogy

    As part of the annual PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature, Michael Cunningham, Deborah Eisenberg, Daniel Kehlmann (who wrote the introduction to the recently published An Ermine in Czernopol) and Edmund White will discuss Gregor von Rezzori and his Bukovina Trilogy: Memoirs of an Anti-Semite, The Snows of Yesteryear, and An Ermine in Czernopol, at the Museum of Jewish Heritage on Sunday, May 6th at 1 pm.

    The talk will be moderated by our editor Edwin Frank, and will be of special interest to those fascinated both by foreign literature (particularly Central Europe) and the story of an area (Bukovina) increasingly split between the Romanian, Ukrainian, German, Russian, Polish, and Jewish inhabitants after the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Hanging over all the events and characters in the novels is the specter of the rise of the Nazis and the horrors to follow. If you book your tickets through our site as NYRB readers, you will get a $5 discount for the event!

    "I treasure lovely images of my past in that part of the world. I will never find them elsewhere again. I have been back to the now-Russian part of the Bukovina twice. In both cases, I saw myself as a stranger looking backwards at a young man whom I distantly knew but who had very little to do with me." - Gregor von Rezzori, in conversation with Andre Aciman in Salamagundi. For more on Rezzori check out BOMB Magazine, Issue 24, Summer 1988

  4. Eventful Spring

    Upcoming readings and discussions in New York, Boston and the Bay Area

    Wednesday, April 25th at 6:00 pm
    Victor Serge: Remembering a Revolutionary
    With Michael Taussig, Ross Poole, and McKenzie Wark
    at The New School, Wollman Hall, Eugene Lang Bldg, 65 West 11th Street, 5th Floor

    Sunday, May 6th at 1:00 pm
    Co-sponsored with PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature
    A Place Out of Time: Gregor von Rezzori’s Bukovina Trilogy
    with Michael Cunningham, Deborah Eisenberg, Daniel Kehlmann, and Edmund White; moderated by Edwin Frank.

    Damion Searls will read from and discuss his English translation of Nescio’s Amsterdam Stories on both coasts in April and May

    Tuesday, April 24th at 7:00 pm at 192 Books
    Come and sip jenever and while listening to the words of one of Holland’s most beloved writers.

    Tuesday, May 8th at 7:00 pm
    City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco
    with Peter Orner

    Wednesday, May 9th at 7:00 pm
    Co-sponsored by Books Inc and Palo Alto City Library
    City of Palo Alto Library — Downtown Branch

    Thursday, May 10th at 7:30 pm
    Mrs. Dalloway’s Bookstore, Berkeley
    with Jeroen Dewulf, Director of Dutch Studies Program, UC-Berkeley

    Wednesday, May 23rd
    Harvard Bookstore, Cambridge at 7:00 pm


  5. An Ermine in Czernopol

    You may have noticed that we’ve been talking a lot recently about Gregor von Rezzori’s An Ermine in Czernopol. It’s because it’s a bit of a staff favorite, and it has been getting a lot of reviews and attention, and next week Wallace Shawn and Deborah Eisenberg will be reading from it next week.

    Reviews:

    The Nation
    The Rumpus
    waggish
    The Spectator
    Bookforum (sorry, article is behind a paywall)
    The Quarterley Conversation
    The Three Percent

    Event:

    It’s next Wednesday (2/22) at 7pm at The Center for Fiction. Again, Deborah Eisenberg and Wallace Shawn will be reading.

    Staff Favorite:

    Just personal taste. Plus our edition translated by Philip Boehm is a new and vastly improved.

  6. The Millions loves our books

    It’s that time of the year again, when everyone is posting their “Best Books of the Year” lists. And few places do it better that The Millions, who ask authors to name their favorite books of the ending year. 

    Here’s a round-up of our titles in The Millions’s lists:

    Stephen Dodson, blogger at languagehat.com and co-author of Uglier Than a Monkey’s Armpit, chose Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate

    If this is reminiscent of War and Peace, it should be; Grossman, a war correspondent who visited the front as often as he could and shared as much as he could of the soldiers’ lives, carried a copy with him and read it constantly, and he was deliberately creating a counterpart to Tolstoy’s epic. A foolish undertaking, you might think, but he pulled it off. His huge novel has nothing in common with the modernist works that stand beside it on the shelf of twentieth-century Russian masterpieces, Bely’s Petersburg and Olesha’s Envy [also published by NYRB Classics] and Nabokov’s The Gift; there are no magical interludes or language games or hidden messages, just a well-told tale of an extended family caught up in circumstances beyond their, or anyone’s, control.

    John Williams, founding editor of The Second Pass, chose Don Carpenter’s Hard Rain Falling:

    But two books left the deepest impression on me in the year almost past. Don Carpenter’s Hard Rain Falling was first published in 1966 and reissued in 2009 by NYRB Classics. Set in the Pacific Northwest, it’s about gambling, drinking, prison, and an unlikely but believably rendered relationship between two unlucky men. It’s a hard-boiled existentialist novel, and ultimately unlike any other I’ve read.

    Chad Harbach, author of the widely acclaimed The Art of Fielding, chose (kind of) Dezso Kosztolányi’s Skylark:

    One of my favorite novels is Skylark, by the great Hungarian writer Dezso Kosztolányi (1885–1936). Thus I was very happy, earlier this year, to see New Directions bring out the first English translation of Kosztolányi’s final novel, Kornél Esti, and I’ve finally gotten round to reading it. Esti lacks the tightly plotted economy of Skylark, in which every word is perfect — in fact it’s hardly a novel at all, but a group of loosely linked, peripatetic stories that proceed from birth toward death, and the stories aren’t really stories but a high-concept mix of urban legends, folk tales, and sitcom premises — the German university president who can only sleep during lectures; the heroic life-saver who thereafter becomes a terrible nuisance; the kleptomaniac who steals words from books. Like Skylark, it’s a tender comedy tinged with the absurdity of life, the thrill of sociability, and the imminence of death, which I guess is exactly the kind of book I like.

    And Deborah Eisenberg, whose recent Collected Stories won the 2011 PEN/Faulkner prize, chose Camara Laye’s The Radiance of the King:

    Justice, humility, self-deception, degradation, grace, the acquisition of some small wisdom, and the complex relationships between them are among the matters that are explored, with great subtlety, over the course of Clarence’s journey, but no description of the book’s content nor speculation on its purposes can begin to suggest the pleasure of reading it. This resides in the author’s wit, charm, finesse, and originality, and in his elegant, vividly imagistic prose, gorgeous even in translation from its original French, shining and breathing with vitality.