brooklyn book store


BookCourt Best Sellers                                                                                                             

December 29, 2008                                         20% off list price

Hardcover Fiction
  1. MERCY. Toni Morrison. Random House. $23.95. Our Price $19.16.
  2. PRIVATE PATIENT. PD James. Random House. $25.95. Our Price $20.76.
  3. 2666. Roberto Bolano. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $30. Our Price $24.
  4. UNACCUSTOMED EARTH. Jhumpa Lahiri. Random House. $25.Our Price $20.
  5. DANGEROUS LAUGHTER. Steven Millhauser. Random House. $24.                     Our Price $19.20.
  6. BEST AMERICAN COMICS 2008. Linda Barry (editor). Houghton Mifflin. $22.                   Our Price $17.60.
  7. AMERICAN WIFE. Curtis Sittenfeld. Random House. $26. Our Price $20.80.
  8. GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. Steig Larsson. Random House. $24.95. Our Price $19.96.
  9. INDIGNATION. Philip Roth. Houghton Mifflin. $26. Our Price $20.80.
  10. HOME. Marilynne Robinson. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $25. Our Price $20.

Hardcover Nonfiction

  1. OUTLIERS.  Malcolm Gladwell. Little, Brown. $27.99. Our Price $22.40.
  2. DISQUIET PLEASE. David Remnick. Random House. $30. Our Price $24.
  3. WHAT I TALK ABOUT WHEN I TALK ABOUT RUNNING.                   Haruki Murakami. Random House. $21. Our Price $16.80.
  4. RETURN OF DEPRESSION ECONOMICS & THE CRISIS OF 2008. Paul Krugman. Norton. $24.95. Our Price $19.96.
  5. ALEX & ME. Irene Pepperberg. HarperCollins. $23.95. Our Price $19.16.
  6. BAREFOOT CONTESSA BACK TO BASICS. Ina Garten. Random House. $35. Our Price $28.
  7. BROOKLYN MODERN. Diana Lind. Rizzoli. $45. Our Price $36.
  8. HOT FLAT & CROWDED. Thomas Friedman. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $27.95.            Our Price $22.36.
  9. HOLIDAYS ON ICE. David Sedaris. Little, Brown. $16.99. Our Price $13.59.
  10. THIS REPUBLIC OF SUFFERING. Drew Faust. Random House. $27.95.                   Our Price $22.36.

    Paperback Fiction

  1. BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO. Junot Diaz. Riverhead. $14.                   Our Price $11.20.
  2. REVOLUTIONARY ROAD. Richard Yates. Random House. $14.95. Our Price $11.96
  3. THE ROAD. Cormac McCarthy. Random House. $14.95. Our Price $11.96
  4. OUT STEALING HORSES. Per Petterson. St. Martin’s Press. $14. Our Price $11.20.
  5. WHITE TIGER. Aravind Adiga. Simon U& Schuster. $14. Our Price $11.20.
  6. SHADOW COUNTRY. Peter Matthiessen. Random House. $16. Our Price $12.80.
  7. WHAT IS THE WHAT. Dave Eggers. Random House. $15.95. Our Price $12.76.
  8. THE LEOPARD. Giuseppe di Lampedusa. Random House. $14.95. Our Price $11.96.
  9. UNCOMMON READER. Alan Bennett. St. Martin’s Press. $12. Our Price $9.60.
  10. THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS. Khaled Hosseini. Riverhead. $16.Our Price $12.80

    Paperback Nonfiction

  1. DREAMS FROM MY FATHER. Barack Obama. Random House. $14.95.                            Our Price $11.96.
  2. ZAGAT BROOKLYN RESTAURANTS 2009. Zagat Survey. $12.95.                            Our Price $10.36.
  3. ZAGAT NEW YORK CITY RESTAURANTS 2009. Zagat Survey.  $15.95.                 Our Price $12.76.
  4. MUSICOPHILIA. Oliver Sacks. Random House. $14.95. Our Price $11.96.
  5. TEAM OF RIVALS. Doris Kearns Goodwin. Simon & Schuster. $21. Our Price $16.80.
  6. LITTLE HISTORY OF THE WORLD. Ernst Gombrich. Yale University Press. $12.95. Our Price $10.36.
  7. OMNIVORE’S DILEMMA. Michael Pollan. Penguin. $16. Our Price $12.80.
  8. AUDACITY OF HOPE. Barack Obama. Random House. $14.95. Our Price $11.96.
  9. ANIMAL VEGETABLE MIRACLE. Barbara Kingsolver. HarperCollins. $14.95.                      Our Price $11.96.
  10. REST IS NOISE. Alex Ross. St. Martin’s Press. $18. Our Price $14.40.

    Children’s Hardcover & Paperback

  1. TALES OF BEEDLE THE BARD. JK Rowling. Scholastic. $12.95.                               Our Price $10.36.
  2. TALE OF DESPEREAUX. Kate DiCamillo. Candlewick.  $7.99. Our Price $6.39.
  3. I LIVE IN BROOKLYN. Mari Takabayashi. Houghton Mifflin. $16. Our Price $12.80
  4. BARACK. Jonah Winter. HarperCollins. $17.99. Our Price $14.39.
  5. ELMO CLAP YOUR HANDS. Sesame Street. Random House. $9.95. Our Price $7.96
  6. TWILIGHT. Stephanie Meyer. Little, Brown. $10.99. Our Price $8.79.
  7. NEW MOON. Stephanie Meyer. Little, Brown. $10.99. Our Price $8.79.
  8. WAY WE WORK. David Macaulay. Houghton Mifflin. $35. Our Price $28.
  9. THOSE DARN SQUIRRELS. Adam Rubin. Houghton Mifflin. $16. Our Price $12.80.
  10. GALLOP. Rufus Seder. Workman. $12.95. Our Price $10.36.


MY VOCABULARY DID THIS TO ME: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer, edited by Peter Gizzi and Kevin Killian (read the NY TIMES review)


Barry Schwabsky reviews My Vocabulary Did This To Me for THE NATION)


BookCourt Best Sellers                                                                                                             

December 22, 2008                                         20% off list price

Hardcover Fiction
  1. NETHERLAND. Joseph O’Neal. Random House. $23.95. Our Price $19.16.
  2. MERCY. Toni Morrison. Random House. $23.95. Our Price $19.16.
  3. UNACCUSTOMED EARTH. Jhumpa Lahiri. Random House. $25. Our Price $20.
  4. DANGEROUS LAUGHTER. Steven Millhauser. Random House. $24.                              Our Price $19.20.
  5. PRIVATE PATIENT. PD James. Random House. $25.95. Our Price $20.76.
  6. HOME. Marilynne Robinson. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $25. Our Price $20.
  7. STORY OF EDGAR SAWTELLE. David Wroblewski. HarperCollins. $25.95.                  Our Price $20.76.
  8. AMERICAN WIFE. Curtis Sittenfeld. Random House. $26. Our Price $20.80.
  9. ALCOHOLIC. Jonathan Ames & Dean Haspiel. DC Comics. $19.99. Our Price $15.99.
  10. BEST AMERICAN COMICS 2008. Linda Barry (editor). Houghton Mifflin. $22.                  Our Price $17.60.

Hardcover Nonfiction

  1. OUTLIERS.  Malcolm Gladwell. Little, Brown. $27.99. Our Price $22.40.
  2. DECIDING THE NEXT DECIDER. Calvin Trillin. Random House. $14.                       Our Price $11.20.
  3. WHAT I TALK ABOUT WHEN I TALK ABOUT RUNNING.                   Haruki Murakami. Random House. $21. Our Price $16.80.
  4. WHEN YOU ARE ENGULFED IN FLAMES. David Sedaris. Little, Brown. $25.99. Our Price $20.79.
  5. ALEX & ME. Irene Pepperberg. HarperCollins. $23.95. Our Price $19.16.
  6. HOLIDAYS ON ICE. David Sedaris. Little, Brown. $16.99. Our Price $13.59.
  7. AMERICAN LION. Jon Meachan. Random House. $30. Our Price $24.
  8. BROOKLYN MODERN. Diana Lind. Rizzoli. $45. Our Price $36.
  9. RETURN OF DEPRESSION ECONOMICS & THE CRISIS OF 2008.  Paul Krugman. Norton. $24.95. Our Price $19.96.
  10. PANIC. Michael Lewis. Norton. $27.95. Our Price $22.36.

    Paperback Fiction

  1. BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO. Junot Diaz. Riverhead. $14.                   Our Price $11.20.
  2. 2666. Roberto Bolano. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $30. Our Price $24.
  3. REVOLUTIONARY ROAD. Richard Yates. Random House. $14.95. Our Price $11.96
  4. YIDDISH POLICEMEN’S UNION. Michael Chabon. HarperCollins. $15.95.                           Our Price $12.76.
  5. WHAT IS THE WHAT. Dave Eggers. Random House. $15.95. Our Price $12.76.
  6. OUT STEALING HORSES. Per Petterson. St. Martin’s Press. $14. Our Price $11.20.
  7. THE ROAD. Cormac McCarthy. Random House. $14.95. Our Price $11.96.
  8. SAVAGE DETECTIVES. Roberto Bolano. St. Martin’s Press. $15. Our Price $12.
  9. WHITE TIGER. Aravind Adiga. Simon & Schuster. $14. Our Price $11.20.
  10. UNCOMMON READER. Alan Bennett. St. Martin’s Press. $12. Our Price $9.60.

    Paperback Nonfiction

  1. MUSICOPHILIA. Oliver Sacks. Random House. $14.95. Our Price $11.96.
  2. OMNIVORE’S DILEMMA. Michael Pollan. Penguin. $16. Our Price $12.80.
  3. LITTLE HISTORY OF THE WORLD. Ernst Gombrich. Yale University Press. $12.95. Our Price $10.36.
  4. DREAMS FROM MY FATHER. Barack Obama. Random House. $14.95.                        Our Price $11.96.
  5. CONSIDER THE LOBSTER. David Foster Wallace. Little, Brown. $14.99.                     Our Price $11.99.
  6. TEAM OF RIVALS. Doris Kearns Goodwin. Simon & Schuster. $21. Our Price $16.80.
  7. ZAGAT BROOKLYN RESTAURANTS 2009. Zagat Survey. $12.95. Our Price $10.36.
  8. THE NINE. Jeffrey Toobin. Random House. $15.95. Our Price $12.76.
  9. ZAGAT NEW YORK CITY RESTAURANTS 2009. Zagat Survey. $15.95.                      Our Price $12.76.
  10. AUDACITY OF HOPE. Barack Obama. Random House. $14.95. Our Price $11.96.

    Children’s Hardcover & Paperback

  1. TALES OF BEEDLE THE BARD. JK Rowling. Scholastic. $12.95.                               Our Price $10.36.
  2. TWILIGHT. Stephanie Meyer. Little, Brown.  $10.99. Our Price $8.79.
  3. THIS IS NEW YORK. M. Sasek. Universe. $17.95. Our Price $14.36.
  4. CHARLEY HARPER ABC’S. Charley Harper. Ammo Books. $9.95. Our Price $7.96.
  5. ECLIPSE. Stephanie Meyer. Little, Brown. $19.99. Our Price $15.99.
  6. WAY WE WORK. David Macaulay. Houghton Mifflin. $35. Our Price $28.
  7. I LIVE IN BROOKLYN. Mari Takabayashi. Houghton Mifflin. $16. Our Price $12.80.
  8. GALLOP. Rufus Seder. Workman. $12.95. Our Price $10.36.
  9. WRINKLE IN TIME. Madeleine L’Engle. St. Martin’s Press. $6.99. Our Price $5.59.
  10. KNUFFLE BUNNY TOO. Mo Willems. Hyperion. $16.99. Our Price $13.59.


Abraham Lincoln: A Life

by Michael Burlingame / boxed set / $125.00 - 10%

In the first multi-volume biography of Abraham Lincoln to be published in decades, Lincoln scholar Michael Burlingame offers a fresh look at the life of one of America’s greatest presidents. Incorporating the field notes of earlier biographers, along with decades of research in multiple manuscript archives and long-neglected newspapers, this remarkable work will both alter and reinforce current understanding of America’s sixteenth president.

Volume 1 covers Lincoln’s early childhood, his experiences as a farm boy in Indiana and Illinois, his legal training, and the political ambition that led to a term in Congress in the 1840s. In volume 2, Burlingame examines Lincoln’s life during his presidency and the Civil War, narrating in fascinating detail the crisis over Fort Sumter and Lincoln’s own battles with relentless office seekers, hostile newspaper editors, and incompetent field commanders. Burlingame also offers new interpretations of Lincoln’s private life, discussing his marriage to Mary Todd and the untimely deaths of two sons to disease.

But through it all — his difficult childhood, his contentious political career, a fratricidal war, and tragic personal losses — Lincoln preserved a keen sense of humor and acquired a psychological maturity that proved to be the North’s most valuable asset in winning the Civil War.

Published to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth, this landmark publication establishes Burlingame as the most assiduous Lincoln biographer of recent memory and brings Lincoln alive to modern readers as never before.

Little Nemo in Slumberland - So Many Splendid Sundays

by Winsor McCay / hardcover

Little Nemo in Slumberland, Many More Splendid Sundays (Vol 2)

by Winsor McCay / hardcover

Little Sammy Sneeze

by Winsor McCay / hardcover / $49.95 - 10%

Sundays with Walt and Skeezix

by Frank King / hardcover

Horror Cinema

hardcover / $39.95 - 10%

Horror is both the most perennially popular and geographically diverse of all film genres; arguably, every country that makes movies makes horror movies of one kind or another. Depicting deep-rooted, even archetypal fears, while at the same time exploiting socially and culturally specific anxieties, cinematic horror is at once timeless and utterly of its time and place. This exciting new visual history, which includes unique images from the David Del Valle archive, examines the genre in thematic, historical, and aesthetic terms, breaking it down into the following fundamental categories: Slashers & Serial Killers; Cannibals, Freaks & Hillbillys; Revenge of Nature & Environmental Horror; Sci-fi Horror; The Living Dead; Ghosts & Haunted Houses; Possession, Demons & Evil Tricksters; Voodoo, Cults & Satanists; Vampires & Werewolves; and The Monstrous-Feminine. Among the many films featured are classics such as Psycho, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Alien, The Exorcist, Dracula, and The Wicker Man.


by Tim Flach / hardcover / $60.00 - 10%

The Big Fat Duck Cookbook

by Heston Blumenthal / hardcover with slipcase / $250.00 - 10%

This lavishly illustrated, stunningly designed, and gorgeously photographed masterpiece takes you inside the head of maverick restaurateur, Heston Blumenthal. Separated into three sections (History; Recipes; Science), Blumenthal chronicles his improbable background and unorthodox rise to fame and, for the first time ever, offers a mouth-watering and eyes-widening selection of recipes from his award-winning restaurant. He also explains the science behind his culinary masterpieces, the technology and implements that make his alchemic dishes come to life.

A luxe, show-stopping document designed by acclaimed artist Dave McKean—and filled with photographs by Dominic Davies—this artfully rendered celebration of one of the world’s most innovative and renowned chefs is a foodie’s dream.

Jean Nouvel by Jean Nouvel: Complete Works 1970-2008

by Jean Nouvel / 2 vol. boxed set / $700 - 10%

The work of France’s most unique and internationally celebrated contemporary architect in a book designed by the master himself. Limited to 1,000 signed and numbered copies packaged in a translucent plexiglass slipcase reminiscent of the translucent facades often seen in Jean Nouvel designs.

Recipient of the 2008 Pritzker Prize, Jean Nouvel is without any doubt France’s most original and important contemporary architect. From 1967 to 1970, he was an assistant of the influential architects Claude Parent and Paul Virilio, then creating his own office in Paris. His first widely acclaimed project was the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris (1981 87, with Architecture Studio). Since then he has completed the Lyon Opera House (1986 93), the Euralille Shopping Center, Lille (1991 94), and the Fondation Cartier, Paris (1991 94). His major completed projects since 2000 include the Music and Conference Center in Lucerne, Switzerland (1998 2000), the spectacular Agbar Tower on Barcelona’s Diagonal Avenue (2001 03), the extension of the Reina Sofia Museum, (Madrid, 1999 2005), the Quai Branly Museum on the Seine in Paris (2001 06), and the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Winner of the 2001 RIBA Gold Medal, Jean Nouvel is a prolific creator who may not be as well known to the international public as he merits.

Jean Nouvel worked for over five years with author Philip Jodidio on this new, prodigiously illustrated TASCHEN monograph, a book that will finally give the full measure of the architect’s talent. Two 400-page hardcover volumes give the most complete overview to date of Jean Nouvel’s career, including works in progress such as the new Louvre in Abu Dhabi, the Philharmonie de Paris, and the extension of the MoMA in New York. The book’s graphic design and images were conceived and selected by the architect; in addition, the transparent printed dust jackets mimic the architect’s own tendency to play with contrasts and overlaid patterns. One can truly say that this publication is Nouvel by Nouvel, inside and out.

Modern Architecture A-Z

2 vol. boxed set / $350.00 - 10%

Unlike most architecture encyclopedias, which tend to concentrate more on buildings and floor plans than their designers, this tome puts the architects in the spotlight, profiling individuals so that readers can get a clear overview of their bodies of work. Each architect’s entry features a portrait, quote, and short biography as well as a description of important works, historical context, and general approach; illustrations include numerous drawings, photographs, and floor plans. The book’s A to Z entries cover not only architects but also groups, movements, and styles from the 18th to the 21st centuries. With 600 entries, 5200 illustrations, and a glossary of architectural terms, The A to Z of Modern Architecture is a comprehensive resource that no architecture profession, fan, or student should be without.


  • ArtsBeat: Layoffs and Restructuring at Macmillan
  • PANIC: The Story of Modern Financial Insanity by Michael Lewis

  • VICTOR FLEMING: An American Movie Master by Michael Sragow

  • Best Collections Of Literary Letters 2008


  • Remnick to Write Obama Book

  • FSG Director of Publicity: Sorry, No Statement from Galassi Forthcoming


  • MOVIE TRAILER (watch it here)
  • WIKIPEDIA ARTICLE (read it here)
  • GUARDIAN REVIEW (read it here)
  • BOOK LADY’S BLOG REVIEW (read it here)


BookCourt Best Sellers                                                                                                             

December 15, 2008                                         20% off list price

Hardcover Fiction
  1. MERCY. Toni Morrison. Random House. $23.95. Our Price $19.16.
  2. NETHERLAND. Joseph O’Neil. Random House. $23.95. Our Price $19.16.
  3. UNACCUSTOMED EARTH. Jhumpa Lahiri. Random House. $25. Our Price $20.
  4. LUSH LIFE. Richard Price. Farrar. Straus & Giroux. $26. Our Price $20.80.
  5. DANGEROUS LAUGHTER. Steven Millhauser. Random House. $24. Our Price $19.20.
  6. AMERICAN WIFE. Curtis Sittenfeld. Random House. $26. Our Price $20.80.
  7. PRIVATE PATIENT. PD James. Random House. $25.95. Our Price $20.76.
  8. PAINTER FROM SHANGHAI. Jennifer Cody Epstein. Norton. $24.95. Our Price $19.96.
  9. WHEN WILL THERE BE GOOD NEWS. Kate Atkinson. Little, Brown. $24.99. Our Price $19.99.
  10. HOME. Marilynne Robinson. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $25. Our Price $20.

Hardcover Nonfiction

  1. HOLIDAYS ON ICE.  David Sedaris. Little, Brown. $16.99. Our Price $13.59.
  2. WHAT I TALK ABOUT WHEN I TALK ABOUT RUNNING. Haruki Murakami. Random House. $21. Our Price $16.80.
  3. OUTLIERS. Malcolm Gladwell. Little, Brown. $27.99. Our Price $22.40.
  4. DECIDING THE NEXT DECIDER. Calvin Trillin. Random House. $14. Our Price $11.20.
  5. BAREFOOT CONTESSA BACK TO BASICS. Ina Garten. Random House. $35. Our Price $28.
  6. RETURN OF DEPRESSION ECONOMICS & THE CRISIS OF 2008. Paul Krugman. Norton. $24.95. Our Price $19.96.
  7. HOW TO COOK EVERYTHING 10th Anniversary Edition. Mark Bittman. Wiley. $35. Our Price $28.
  8. BROOKLYN MODERN. Diana Lind. Rizzoli. $45. Our Price $36.
  9. AMERICAN LION. Jon Meacham. Random House. $30. Our Price $24.
  10. SISTINE SECRETS. Benjamin Blech & Roy Doliner. HarperCollins. $26.95. Our Price $21.56.

    Paperback Fiction

  1. BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO. Junot Diaz. Riverhead. $14.Our Price $11.20.
  2. REVOLUTIONARY ROAD. Richard Yates. Random House. $14.95. Our Price $11.96
  3. 2666. Roberto Bolano. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. $30. Our Price $24..
  4. WHITE TIGER. Aravind Adiga. Simon & Schuster. $14. Our Price $11.20.
  5. OUT STEALING HORSES. Per Petterson. St. Martin’s Press. $14. Our Price $11.20.
  6. ELEGANCE OF THE HEDGHOG. Muriel Barbery. Europa. $15. Our Price $12.
  7. WHAT IS THE WHAT. Dave Eggers. Random House. $15.95. Our Price $11.76.
  8. SHADOW COUNTRY. Peter Matthiessen. Random House. $16. Our Price $12.80.
  9. YIDDISH POLICEMEN’S UNION. Michael Chabon. HarperCollins. $15.95. Our Price $11.76.
  10. NOTHING IS QUITE FORGOTTEN IN BROOKLYN. Alice Mattison. HarperCollins. $14.95. Our Price $11.96.

    Paperback Nonfiction

  1. DREAMS FROM MY FATHER. Barack Obama. Random House. $14.95.Our Price $11.96.
  2. LITTLE HISTORY OF THE WORLD. Ernst Gombrich. Yale University Press. $12.95. Our Price $10.36.
  3. OMNIVORE’S DILEMMA. Michael Pollan. Penguin. $16. Our Price $12.80.
  4. ZAGAT NEW YORK CITY RESTAURANTS 2009. Zagat Survey. $15.95.Our Price $11.76.
  5. ZAGAT BROOKLYN RESTAURANTS 2009. Zagat Survey. $12.95. Our Price $10.36.
  6. TEAM OF RIVALS. Doris Kearns Goodwin. Simon & Schuster. $21. Our Price $16.80.
  7. MUSICOPHILIA. Oliver Sacks. Random House. $14.95. Our Price $11.96.
  8. THE NINE. Jeffrey Toobin. Random House. $15.95. Our Price $11.76.
  9. CONSIDER THE LOBSTER. David Foster Wallace. Little, Brown. $14.99. Our Price $11.99.
  10. THREE CUPS OF TEA. Greg Mortenson. Penguin. $15. Our Price $12.

    Children’s Hardcover & Paperback

  1. TALES OF BEEDLE THE BARD. JK Rowling. Scholastic. $12.95. Our Price $10.36.
  2. TWILIGHT. Stephanie Meyer. Little, Brown.  $10.99. Our Price $8.79.
  3. BREAKING DAWN. Stephanie Meyer. Little, Brown. $22.99. Our Price $18.39.
  4. ECLIPSE. Stephanie Meyer. Little, Brown. $19.99. Our Price $15.99.
  5. NEW MOON. Stephanie Meyer. Little, Brown. $10.99. Our Price $8.79.
  6. BARACK. Jonah Winter. HarperCollins. $17.99. Our Price $14.39.
  7. TALE OF DESPEREAUX. Kate DiCamillo. Candlewick. $7.99. Our Price $6.39.
  8. KNUFFLE BUNNY. Mo Willems. Hyperion. $15.99. Our Price $12.79.
  9. GALLOP. Rufus Seder. Workman. $12.95. Our Price $10.36.
  10. DUCK & GOOSE. Tad Hills. Random House. $14.95. Our Price $11.96.


  • Granta contributors select their favorites from 2008 (complete list here)

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The book I most enjoyed reading this year is José Eduardo Agualusa’s The Book of Chameleons. The narrator is a dreamy, funny, brilliant gecko but there is nothing gimmicky in this beautiful, poetic novel about an Angolan albino who invents fake pasts for his clients. It is a grown-up story about a country getting to know itself again, and told in such exquisite language that I wished I could read it in the original Portuguese.

Tahmima Anam

Afghanistan has become a part of our public consciousness, though many of us have little idea of the human tragedy behind the decades of violence. This is the backdrop to Nadeem Aslam’s brilliant third novel, The Wasted Vigil, though to say the novel is about Afghanistan is not nearly enough, because the novel also tells us about love, faith and the limits of human endurance. Aslam has an uncanny ability to write with great tenderness and honesty all at once. Read and be dazzled.

I also highly recommend Alice Albinia’s Empires of the Indus: The Story of a River, part travelogue, part historical account of the Indus River Valley. Through personal testimony and exhaustive archival research, Albinia sheds light on the surprisingly diverse roots of modern-day Pakistan.

Diana Athill

I’m a shamefully late, and enraptured, discoverer of Kate Grenville, whose The Lieutenant is a supremely good novel. It’s published in the UK next February and has excited me more than any novel I’ve read since those of W. G. Sebald. My favourite non-fiction book is Richard Holmes’s The Age of Wonder – a real feast of a book!

T. C. Boyle

My reading this year has mostly had to do with ecology and biology – research for the novel I am now writing. Among many others, I re-read one of the great works on the subject of island biogeography, David Quammen’s The Song of the Dodo. If you don’t know this book, you should. It is fluidly and wittily written, very wide-ranging and informative. At present, I am reading an advanced review copy of Blake Bailey’s forthcoming biography of John Cheever, under whom I studied one semester at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. This is a very fine biography indeed, assessing and illuminating a complex life, and written with all the power and persuasion of a novel. I have been taking my time with it, savouring it chapter by chapter as I might linger over a box of chocolates. Or no: I don’t particularly like chocolates. Let’s say a pot of lobsters.


The Most Dangerous Man in Publishing

  • Barney Rosset, the man who brought Beckett’s ‘Waiting for Godot’ and Miller’s ‘Tropic of Cancer’ to America, loves great literature. More than that, he loves a good fight. (article here)


  • CAMERA by Jean-Philippe Toussaint (reviewed here)

  • ANNIE LEIBOVITZ AT WORK by Annie Leibovitz (reviewed here)

  • Art Spiegelman, Jonathan Ames and David Heatley pack their comics with neuroses and unsavory impulses galore. (article here)

  • ROADS TO QUOZ: An American Mosey by William Least Heat-Moon (reviewed here)

  • THE HOUR I FIRST BELIEVED by Wally Lamb (reviewed here)

  • GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS: A Life by Paul Mariani (reviewed here)

  • THE LOST ART OF WALKING: The History, Science, Philosophy, and Literature of Pedestrianism by Geoff Nicholson (reviewed here)

  • Two books discuss the humanitarian “responsibility to protect.” (article here)

  • MARTIAL’S EPIGRAMS: A Selection translated and with an introduction by Garry Wills (reviewed here)

  • THE NORTHERN CLEMENCY By Philip Hensher (reviewed here)

  • A QUIET ADJUSTMENT by Benjamin Markovits (reviewed here)

  • THE JEWEL OF MEDINA by Sherry Jones (reviewed here)


  • Interview with Matt Weiland (click here)

  • Interview with Cynthia Ozick (click here)

  • Interview with Dave Housley (click here)

  • Interview with Christopher Barzak (click here)


  • GRAHAM GREENE: A Life in Letters Edited by Richard Greene (read the review)

  • SOMEBODY: The Reckless Life and Remarkable Career of Marlon Brando by Stefan Kanfer (read the review)

  • MRS. ASTOR REGRETS: The Hidden Betrayals of a Family Beyond Reproach by Meryl Gordon (read the review)


  • Death’s Absence, Writ Large And Small

(read here / listen here)

  • Getting Inside Carl Capotorto’s ‘Twisted Head

(read here / listen here)

  • The ‘Buyology’ Behind The Way We Shop

(read here / listen here)

  • New Biography, Instant Karma For John Lennon

(read here)

  • Macabre Master Stephen King Returns To Form

(read here)

2009 Pushcart Prize Rankings

2009 Pushcart Prize Rankings

2009 Magazine 2009 Score

1 Ploughshares 118
2 Zoetrope: All Story 75
3 Conjunctions 71
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Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio / Nobel Lecture

In the forest of paradoxes

Why do we write? I imagine that each of us has his or her own response to this simple question. One has predispositions, a milieu, circumstances. Shortcomings, too. If we are writing, it means that we are not acting. That we find ourselves in difficulty when we are faced with reality, and so we have chosen another way to react, another way to communicate, a certain distance, a time for reflection.

If I examine the circumstances which inspired me to write–and this is not mere self-indulgence, but a desire for accuracy–I see clearly that the starting point of it all for me was war. Not war in the sense of a specific time of major upheaval, where historical events are experienced, such as the French campaign on the battlefield at Valmy, as recounted by Goethe on the German side and my ancestor François on the side of the armée révolutionnaire. That must have been a moment full of exaltation and pathos. No, for me war is what civilians experience, very young children first and foremost. Not once has war ever seemed to me to be an historical moment. We were hungry, we were frightened, we were cold, and that is all. I remember seeing the troops of Field Marshal Rommel pass by under my window as they headed towards the Alps, seeking a passage to the north of Italy and Austria. I do not have a particularly vivid memory of that event. I do recall, however, that during the years which followed the war we were deprived of everything, in particular books and writing materials. For want of paper and ink, I made my first drawings and wrote my first texts on the back of the ration books, using a carpenter’s blue and red pencil. This left me with a certain preference for rough paper and ordinary pencils. For want of any children’s books, I read my grandmother’s dictionaries. They were like a marvellous gateway, through which I embarked on a discovery of the world, to wander and daydream as I looked at the illustrated plates, and the maps, and the lists of unfamiliar words. The first book I wrote, at the age of six or seven, was entitled, moreover, Le Globe à mariner. Immediately afterwards came a biography of an imaginary king named Daniel III—could he have been Swedish?—and a tale told by a seagull. It was a time of reclusion. Children were scarcely allowed outdoors to play, because in the fields and gardens near my grandmother’s there were land mines. I recall that one day as I was out walking by the sea I came across an enclosure surrounded by barbed wire: on the fence was a sign in French and in German that threatened intruders with a forbidding message, and a skull to make things perfectly clear.

It is easy, in such a context, to understand the urge to escape—hence, to dream, and put those dreams in writing. My maternal grandmother, moreover, was an extraordinary storyteller, and she set aside the long afternoons for the telling of stories. They were always very imaginative, and were set in a forest—perhaps it was in Africa, or in Mauritius, the forest of Macchabée—where the main character was a monkey who had a great talent for mischief, and who always wriggled his way out of the most perilous situations. Later, I would travel to Africa and spend time there, and discover the real forest, one where there were almost no animals. But a District Officer in the village of Obudu, near the border with Cameroon, showed me how to listen for the drumming of the gorillas on a nearby hill, pounding their chests. And from that journey, and the time I spent there (in Nigeria, where my father was a bush doctor), it was not subject matter for future novels that I brought back, but a sort of second personality, a daydreamer who was fascinated with reality at the same time, and this personality has stayed with me all my life—and has constituted a contradictory dimension, a strangeness in myself that at times has been a source of suffering. Given the slowness of life, it has taken me the better part of my existence to understand the significance of this contradiction.

Books entered my life at a later period. When my father’s inheritance was divided, at the time of his expulsion from the family home in Moka, in Mauritius, he managed to put together several libraries consisting of the books that remained. It was then that I understood a truth not immediately apparent to children, that books are a treasure more precious than any real property or bank account. It was in those volumes—most of them ancient, bound tomes—that I discovered the great works of world literature: Don Quijote, illustrated by Tony Johannot; La vida de Lazarillo de Tormes; the Ingoldsby Legends; Gulliver’s Travels; Victor Hugo’s great, inspired novels Quatre-vingt-treize, Les Travailleurs de la Mer, and L’Homme qui rit. Balzac’s Les Contes drôlatiques, as well. But the books which had the greatest impact on me were the anthologies of travellers’ tales, most of them devoted to India, Africa, and the Mascarene islands, or the great histories of exploration by Dumont d’Urville or the Abbé Rochon, as well as Bougainville, Cook, and of course The Travels of Marco Polo. In the mediocre life of a little provincial town dozing in the sun, after those years of freedom in Africa, those books gave me a taste for adventure, gave me a sense of the vastness of the real world, a means to explore it through instinct and the senses rather than through knowledge. In a way, too, those books gave me, from very early on, an awareness of the contradictory nature of a child’s existence: a child will cling to a sanctuary, a place to forget violence and competitiveness, and also take pleasure in looking through the windowpane to watch the outside world go by.

Shortly before I received the—to me, astonishing—news that the Swedish Academy was awarding me this distinction, I was re-reading a little book by Stig Dagerman that I am particularly fond of: a collection of political essays entitled Essäer och texter. It was no mere chance that I was re-reading this bitter, abrasive book. I was preparing a trip to Sweden to receive the prize which the Association of the Friends of Stig Dagerman had awarded to me the previous summer, to visit the places where the writer had lived as a child. I have always been particularly receptive to Dagerman’s writing, to the way in which he combines a child-like tenderness with naïveté and sarcasm. And to his idealism. To the clear-sightedness with which he judges his troubled, post-war era—that of his mature years, and of my childhood. One sentence in particular caught my attention, and seemed to be addressed to me at that very moment, for I had just published a novel entitled Ritournelle de la faim. That sentence, or that passage rather, is as follows: “How is it possible on the one hand, for example, to behave as if nothing on earth were more important than literature, and on the other fail to see that wherever one looks, people are struggling against hunger and will necessarily consider that the most important thing is what they earn at the end of the month? Because this is where he (the writer) is confronted with a new paradox: while all he wanted was to write for those who are hungry, he now discovers that it is only those who have plenty to eat who have the leisure to take notice of his existence.” (The Writer and Consciousness)

This “forest of paradoxes”, as Stig Dagerman calls it, is, precisely, the realm of writing, the place from which the artist must not attempt to escape: on the contrary, he or she must “camp out” there in order to examine every detail, explore every path, name every tree. It is not always a pleasant stay. He thought he had found shelter, she was confiding in her page as if it were a close, indulgent friend; but now these writers are confronted with reality, not merely as observers, but as actors. They must choose sides, establish their distance. Cicero, Rabelais, Condorcet, Rousseau, Madame de Staël, or, far more recently, Solzhenitsyn or Hwang Sok-yong, Abdelatif Laâbi, or Milan Kundera: all were obliged to follow the path of exile. For someone like myself who has always—except during that brief war-time period—enjoyed freedom of movement, the idea that one might be forbidden to live in the place one has chosen is as inadmissible as being deprived of one’s freedom.

But the privilege of freedom of movement results in the paradox. Look, for a moment, at the tree with its prickly thorns that is at the very heart of the forest where the writer lives: this man, this woman, busily writing, inventing their dreams—do they not belong to a very fortunate and exclusive happy few? Let us pause and imagine an extreme, terrifying situation—like the one in which the vast majority of people on our planet find themselves. A situation which, long ago, at the time of Aristotle, or Tolstoy, was shared by those who had no status—serfs, servants, villeins in Europe in the Middle Ages, or those peoples who during the Enlightenment were plundered from the coast of Africa, sold in Gorée, or El Mina, or Zanzibar. And even today, as I am speaking to you, there are all those who do not have freedom of speech, who are on the other side of language. I am overcome by Dagerman’s pessimistic thoughts, rather than by Gramsci’s militancy, or Sartre’s disillusioned wager. The idea that literature is the luxury of a dominant class, feeding on ideas and images that remain foreign to the vast majority: that is the source of the malaise that each of us is feeling—as I address those who read, who write. Of course one would like to spread the word to all those who have been excluded, to invite them magnanimously to the banquet of culture. Why is this so difficult? Peoples without writing, as the anthropologists like to call them, have succeeded in inventing a form of total communication, through song and myth. Why has this become impossible for our industrialized societies, in the present day? Must we reinvent culture? Must we return to an immediate, direct form of communication? It is tempting to believe that the cinema fulfils just such a role in our time, or popular music with its rhythms and rhymes, its echoes of the dance. Or jazz and, in other climes, calypso, maloya, sega.

The paradox is not a recent one. François Rabelais, the greatest writer in the French language, waged war long ago against the pedantry of the scholars at the Sorbonne by taunting them to their face with words plucked from the common tongue. Was he speaking for those who were hungry? Excess, intoxication, feasting. He put into words the extraordinary appetite of those who dined off the emaciation of peasants and workers, just long enough for a masquerade, a world turned upside down. The paradox of revolution, like the epic cavalcade of the sad-faced knight, lives within the writer’s consciousness. If there is one virtue which the writer’s pen must always have, it is that it must never be used to praise the powerful, even with the faintest of scribblings. And yet just because an artist observes this virtuous behaviour does not mean that he may feel purged of all suspicion. His rebellion, denial, and imprecations definitely remain to one side of the barrier, the side of the language of power. A few words, a few phrases may have escaped. But the rest? A long palimpsest, an elegant and distant time of procrastination. And there is humour, sometimes, which is not the politeness of despair, but the despairing of those who know too well their imperfections; humour is the shore where the tumultuous current of injustice has abandoned them.

Why write, then? For some time now, writers have no longer been so presumptuous as to believe that they can change the world, that they will, through their stories and novels, give birth to a better example for how life should be. Simply, they would like to bear witness. See that other tree in the forest of paradoxes. The writer would like to bear witness, when in fact, most of the time, he is nothing more than a simple voyeur.

And yet there are artists who do become witnesses: Dante in the La Divina Commedia, Shakespeare in The Tempest—and Aimé Césaire in his magnificent adaptation of that play, entitled Une Tempête, in which Caliban, sitting astride a barrel of gunpowder, threatens to blow himself up and take his despised masters with him. There are also those witnesses who are unimpeachable, such as Euclides da Cunha in Os Sertões, or Primo Levi. We see the absurdity of the world in Der Prozess (or in the films of Charlie Chaplin); its imperfection in Colette’s La Naissance du jour, its phantasmagoria in the Irish ballad Joyce created in Finnegans Wake. Its beauty shines, brilliantly, irresistibly, in Peter Matthiessen’s The Snow Leopard or in Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac. Its wickedness in William Faulkner’s Sanctuary, or in Lao She’s First Snow. Its childhood fragility in Dagerman’s Ormen (The Snake).

The best writer as witness is the one who is a witness in spite of himself, unwillingly. The paradox is that he does not bear witness to something he has seen, or even to what he has invented. Bitterness, even despair may arise because he cannot be present at the indictment. Tolstoy may show us the suffering that Napoleon’s army inflicted upon Russia, and yet nothing is changed in the course of history. Claire de Duras wrote Ourika, and Harriet Beecher Stowe Uncle Tom’s Cabin, but it was the enslaved peoples themselves who changed their own destiny, who rebelled and fought against injustice by creating the Maroon resistance in Brazil, in French Guiana, and in the West Indies, and the first black republic in Haiti.

To act: that is what the writer would like to be able to do, above all. To act, rather than to bear witness. To write, imagine, and dream in such a way that his words and inventions and dreams will have an impact upon reality, will change people’s minds and hearts, will prepare the way for a better world. And yet, at that very moment, a voice is whispering to him that it will not be possible, that words are words that are taken away on the winds of society, and dreams are mere illusions. What right has he to wish he were better? Is it really up to the writer to try to find solutions? Is he not in the position of the gamekeeper in the play Knock ou Le Triomphe de la médecine, who would like to prevent an earthquake? How can the writer act, when all he knows is how to remember?

Solitude will be his lot in life. It always has been. As a child, he was a fragile, anxious, excessively receptive boy, or the girl described by Colette, who cannot help but watch as her parents tear each other apart, her big black eyes enlarged with a sort of painful attentiveness. Solitude is affectionate to writers, and it is in the company of solitude that they find the essence of happiness. It is a contradictory happiness, a mixture of pain and delight, an illusory triumph, a muted, omnipresent torment, not unlike a haunting little tune. The writer, better than anyone, knows how to cultivate the vital, poisonous plant, the one that grows only in the soil of his own powerlessness. The writer wanted to speak for everyone, and for every era: there he is, there she is, each alone in a room, facing the too-white mirror of the blank page, beneath the lampshade distilling its secret light. Or sitting at the too-bright screen of the computer, listening to the sound of one’s fingers clicking over the keys. This, then, is the writer’s forest. And each writer knows every path in that forest all too well. If, now and again, something escapes, like a bird flushed by a dog at dawn, then the writer looks on, amazed—this happened merely by chance, in spite of oneself.

It is not my wish, however, to revel in negativity. Literature—and this is what I have been driving at—is not some archaic relic that ought, logically, to be replaced by the audiovisual arts, the cinema in particular. Literature is a complex, difficult path, but I hold it to be even more vital today than in the time of Byron or Victor Hugo.

There are two reasons why literature is necessary:
First of all, because literature is made up of language. The primary sense of the word: letters, that which is written. In French, the word roman refers to those texts in prose which for the first time after the Middle Ages used the new language spoken by the people, a Romance language. And the word for short story, nouvelle, also derives from this notion of novelty. At roughly the same time, in France, the word rimeur (from rime, or rhyme) fell out of use for designating poetry and poets—the new words come from the Greek verb poiein, to create. The writer, the poet, the novelist, are all creators. This does not mean that they invent language, it means that they use language to create beauty, ideas, images. This is why we cannot do without them. Language is the most extraordinary invention in the history of humanity, the one which came before everything, and which makes it possible to share everything. Without language there would be no science, no technology, no law, no art, no love. But without another person with whom to interact, the invention becomes virtual. It may atrophy, diminish, disappear. Writers, to a certain degree, are the guardians of language. When they write their novels, their poetry, their plays, they keep language alive. They are not merely using words—on the contrary, they are at the service of language. They celebrate it, hone it, transform it, because language lives through them and because of them, and it accompanies all the social and economic transformations of their era.

When, in the last century, racist theories were expressed, there was talk of fundamental differences between cultures. In a sort of absurd hierarchy, a correlation was drawn between the economic success of the colonial powers and their purported cultural superiority. Such theories, like a feverish, unhealthy urge, tend to resurface here and there, now and again, to justify neo-colonialism or imperialism. There are, we are told, certain nations that lag behind, who have not acquired their rights and privileges where language is concerned, because they are economically backward or technologically outdated. But have those who prone their cultural superiority realized that all peoples, the world over, whatever their degree of development, use language? And that each of these languages has, identically, a set of logical, complex, structured, analytical features that enable it to express the world, that enable it to speak of science, or invent myths?

Now that I have defended the existence of that ambiguous and somewhat passé creature we call a writer, I would like to turn to the second reason for the necessity of literature, for this has more to do with the fine profession of publishing.

There is a great deal of talk about globalization these days. People forget that in fact the phenomenon began in Europe during the Renaissance, with the beginnings of the colonial era. Globalization is not a bad thing in and of itself. Communication has accelerated progress in medicine and in science. Perhaps the generalization of information will help to forestall conflicts. Who knows, if the Internet had existed at the time, perhaps Hitler’s criminal plot would not have succeeded—ridicule might have prevented it from ever seeing the light of day.

We live in the era of the Internet and virtual communication. This is a good thing, but what would these astonishing inventions be worth, were it not for the teachings of written language and books? To provide nearly everyone on the planet with a liquid crystal display is utopian. Are we not, therefore, in the process of creating a new elite, of drawing a new line to divide the world between those who have access to communication and knowledge, and those who are left out? Great nations, great civilizations have vanished because they failed to realize that this could happen. To be sure, there are great cultures, considered to be in a minority, who have been able to resist until this day, thanks to the oral transmission of knowledge and myths. It is indispensable, and beneficial, to acknowledge the contribution of these cultures. But whether we like it or not, even if we have not yet attained the age of reality, we are no longer living in the age of myths. It is not possible to provide a foundation for equality and the respect of others unless each child receives the benefits of writing.

And now, in this era following decolonization, literature has become a way for the men and women in our time to express their identity, to claim their right to speak, and to be heard in all their diversity. Without their voices, their call, we would live in a world of silence.

Culture on a global scale concerns us all. But it is above all the responsibility of readers—of publishers, in other words. True, it is unjust that an Indian from the far north of Canada, if he wishes to be heard, must write in the language of the conquerors—in French, or in English. True, it is an illusion to expect that the Creole language of Mauritius or the West Indies might be heard as easily around the world as the five or six languages that reign today as absolute monarchs over the media. But if, through translation, their voices can be heard, then something new is happening, a cause for optimism. Culture, as I have said, belongs to us all, to all humankind. But in order for this to be true, everyone must be given equal access to culture. The book, however old-fashioned it may be, is the ideal tool. It is practical, easy to handle, economical. It does not require any particular technological prowess, and keeps well in any climate. Its only flaw—and this is where I would like to address publishers in particular—is that in a great number of countries it is still very difficult to gain access to books. In Mauritius the price of a novel or a collection of poetry is equivalent to a sizeable portion of the family budget. In Africa, Southeast Asia, Mexico, or the South Sea Islands, books remain an inaccessible luxury. And yet remedies to this situation do exist. Joint publication with the developing countries, the establishment of funds for lending libraries and bookmobiles, and, overall, greater attention to requests from and works in so-called minority languages—which are often clearly in the majority—would enable literature to continue to be this wonderful tool for self-knowledge, for the discovery of others, and for listening to the concert of humankind, in all the rich variety of its themes and modulations.

I think I would like to say a few more words about the forest. It is no doubt for this reason that Stig Dagerman’s little sentence is still echoing in my memory, and for this reason that I want to read it and re-read it, to fill myself with it. There is a note of despair in his words, and something triumphant at the same time, because it is in bitterness that we can find the grain of truth that each of us seeks. As a child, I dreamt of that forest. It frightened me and fascinated me at the same time—I suppose that Tom Thumb and Hansel must have felt that way, when they were deep in the forest, surrounded by all its dangers and its wonders. The forest is a world without landmarks. You can get lost in the thickness of trees and the impenetrable darkness. The same could be said of the desert, or the open ocean, where every dune, every hill gives way to yet another identical hill, every wave to yet another perfectly identical wave. I remember the first time I experienced just what literature could be—in Jack London’s The Call of the Wild, to be exact, where one of the characters, lost in the snow, felt the cold gaining on him just as the circle of wolves was closing round him. He looked at his hand, which was already numb, and tried to move each finger one after the other. There was something magical in this discovery for me, as a child. It was called self-awareness.

To the forest I owe one of the greatest literary emotions of my adult life. This was about thirty years ago, in a region of Central America known as El Tapón del Darién, the Darién Gap, because that is where, in those days (and I believe the situation has not changed in the meantime), there was an interruption in the Pan-American Highway that was meant to join the two Americas from Alaska to the tip of Tierra del Fuego. In this region of the isthmus of Panama the rainforest is extremely dense, and the only means of travelling there is to go upriver by pirogue. In the forest there lives an indigenous population, divided into two groups, the Emberá and the Wounaans, both belonging to the Ge-Pano-Carib linguistic family. I had landed there by chance, and was so fascinated by this people that I stayed there several times for fairly lengthy periods, over roughly three years. During the entire time I did nothing other than wander aimlessly from one house to the next—for at the time the population refused to live in villages—and learn to live according to a rhythm that was completely different from anything I had known up to that point. Like all true forests, this forest was particularly hostile. I had to draw up a list of all the potential dangers, and of all the corresponding means of survival. I have to say that on the whole the Emberá were very patient with me. They were amused by my awkwardness, and I think that to a certain degree, I was able to repay them in entertainment what they shared with me in wisdom. I did not write a great deal. The rain forest is not really an ideal setting. Your paper gets soaked with the humidity, the heat dries out all your ball point pens. Nothing that has to work off electricity lasts for very long. I had arrived there with the conviction that writing was a privilege, and that I would always be able to resort to it in order to resolve all my existential problems. A protection, in a way; a sort of virtual window that I could roll up as I needed to shelter from the storm.

Once I had assimilated the system of primitive communism practised by the Amerindians, as well as their profound disgust for authority and their tendency towards natural anarchy, I came to see that art, as a form of individual expression, did not have any role to play in the forest. Besides, these people had nothing that resembled what we call art in our consumer society. Instead of hanging paintings on a wall, the men and women painted their bodies, and in general were loath to create anything lasting. And then I gained access to their myths. When we talk of myths, in our world of written books, it seems as if we are referring to something that is very far away, either in time, or in space. I too believed in that distance. And now suddenly the myths were there for me to hear, regularly, almost every night. Near the wood fire that people built in their houses on a hearth of three stones, amidst the dance of mosquitoes and moths, the voice of the storytellers—men and women alike—would set in motion stories, legends, tales, as if they were speaking of a daily reality. The storyteller sang in a shrill voice, striking his breast; his face would mime the expressions and passions and fears of the characters. It might have been something from a novel, not a myth. But one night, a young woman came. Her name was Elvira. She was known throughout the entire forest of the Emberá for her storytelling skills. She was an adventuress, and lived without a man, without children—people said that she was a bit of a drunkard, a bit of a whore, but I don’t believe it for a minute—and she would go from house to house to sing, in exchange for a meal or a bottle of alcohol or sometimes a few coins. Although I had no access to her tales other than through translation—the Emberá language has a literary variant that is far more complex than the everyday form—I quickly realized that she was a great artist, in the best sense of the term. The timbre of her voice, the rhythm of her hands tapping against her chest, against her heavy necklaces of silver coins, and above all the air of possession which illuminated her face and her gaze, a sort of measured, rhythmic trance, exerted a power over all those who were present. To the simple framework of her myths—the invention of tobacco, the first primeval twins, stories about gods and humans from the dawn of time—she added her own story, her life of wandering, her loves, the betrayals and suffering, the intense joy of carnal love, the sting of jealousy, her fear of growing old, of dying. She was poetry in action, ancient theatre, and the most contemporary of novels all at the same time. She was all those things with fire, with violence, she invented, in the blackness of the forest, amidst the surrounding chorus of insects and toads and the whirlwind of bats, a sensation which cannot be called anything other than beauty. As if in her song she carried the true power of nature, and this was surely the greatest paradox: that this isolated place, this forest, as far away as could be imagined from the sophistication of literature, was the place where art had found its strongest, most authentic expression.

Then I left that region, and I never saw Elvira again, or any of the storytellers of the forest of Darién. But I was left with far more than nostalgia—with the certainty that literature could exist, even when it was worn away by convention and compromise, even if writers were incapable of changing the world. Something great and powerful, which surpassed them, which on occasion could enliven and transfigure them, and restore the sense of harmony with nature. Something new and very ancient at the same time, impalpable as the wind, ethereal as the clouds, infinite as the sea. It is this something which vibrates in the poetry of Jalal ad-Din Rumi, for example, or in the visionary architecture of Emanuel Swedenborg. The shiver one feels on reading the most beautiful texts of humankind, such as the speech that Chief Stealth gave in the mid-19th century to the President of the United States upon conceding his land: “We may be brothers after all…”

Something simple, and true, which exists in language alone. A charm, sometimes a ruse, a grating dance, or long spells of silence. The language of mockery, of interjections, of curses, and then, immediately afterwards, the language of paradise.

It is to her, to Elvira, that I address this tribute—and to her that I dedicate the Prize which the Swedish Academy is awarding me. To her and to all those writers with whom—or sometimes against whom—I have lived. To the Africans: Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe, Ahmadou Kourouma, Mongo Beti, to Alan Paton’s Cry the Beloved Country, to Thomas Mofolo’s Chaka. To the great Mauritian author Malcolm de Chazal, who wrote, among other things, Judas. To the Hindi-language Mauritian novelist Abhimanyu Unnuth, for Lal passina (Sweating Blood) to the Urdu novelist Qurratulain Hyder for her epic novel Ag ka Darya (River of Fire). To the defiant Danyèl Waro of La Réunion, for his maloya songs; to the Kanak poetess Déwé Gorodey, who defied the colonial powers all the way to prison; to the rebellious Abdourahman Waberi. To Juan Rulfo and Pedro Paramo, and his short stories El llano en llamas, andthe simple and tragic photographs he took of rural Mexico. To John Reed for Insurgent Mexico; to Jean Meyer who was the spokesman for Aurelio Acevedo and the Cristeros insurgents of central Mexico. To Luis González, author of Pueblo en vilo. To John Nichols, who wrote about the bitter land of The Milagro Beanfield War; to Henry Roth, my neighbour on New York Street in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for Call it Sleep. To Jean-Paul Sartre, for the tears contained in his play Morts sans sépulture. To Wilfred Owen, the poet who died on the banks of the Marne in 1914. To J.D. Salinger, because he succeeded in putting us in the shoes of a young fourteen-year-old boy named Holden Caulfield. To the writers of the first nations in America – Sherman Alexie the Sioux, Scott Momaday the Navajo for The Names. To Rita Mestokosho, an Innu poet from Mingan, Quebec, who lends her voice to trees and animals. To José Maria Arguedas, Octavio Paz, Miguel Angel Asturias. To the poets of the oases of Oualata and Chinguetti. For their great imagination, to Alphonse Allais and Raymond Queneau. To Georges Perec for Quel petit vélo à guidon chromé au fond de la cour? To the West Indian authors Edouard Glissant and Patrick Chamoiseau, to René Depestre from Haiti, to André Schwartz-Bart for Le Dernier des justes. To the Mexican poet Homero Aridjis who allows us to imagine the life of a leatherback turtle, and who evokes the rivers flowing orange with Monarch butterflies along the streets of his village, Contepec. To Vénus Koury Ghata who speaks of Lebanon as of a tragic, invincible lover. To Khalil Gibran. To Rimbaud. To Emile Nelligan. To Réjean Ducharme, for life.

To the unknown child I met one day, on the banks of the river Tuira, in the forest of Darién. At night, sitting on the floor in a shop, lit by the flame of a kerosene lamp, he is reading a book and writing, hunched forward, not paying the slightest attention to anything around him, oblivious of the discomfort or noise or promiscuity of the harsh, violent life there just next to him. That child sitting cross-legged on the floor of that shop, in the heart of the forest, reading all alone in the lamplight, is not there by chance. He resembles like a brother that other child I spoke about at the beginning of these pages, who was trying to write with a carpenter’s pencil on the back of ration books, in the dark years immediately after the war. The child reminds us of the two great urgent tasks of human history, tasks we are far, alas, from having fulfilled. The eradication of hunger, and the elimination of illiteracy.

For all his pessimism, Stig Dagerman’s phrase about the fundamental paradox of the writer, unsatisfied because he cannot communicate with those who are hungry—whether for nourishment or for knowledge—touches on the greatest truth. Literacy and the struggle against hunger are connected, closely interdependent. One cannot succeed without the other. Both of them require, indeed urge, us to act. So that in this third millennium, which has only just begun, no child on our shared planet, regardless of gender or language or religion, shall be abandoned to hunger or ignorance, or turned away from the feast. This child carries within him the future of our human race. In the words of the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, a very long time ago, the kingdom belongs to a child.

J.M.G. Le Clézio, Brittany, 4 November 2022

Translated by Alison Anderson

García Márquez is writing new novel, says friend

Fears that Colombia’s Nobel prizewinning author, Gabriel García Márquez, had put down his pen forever were allayed today when a close friend confirmed that the master of magical realism was working on a new novel.

García Márquez’s next book will be a love story, though his friend and fellow writer Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza said today that the author was struggling to come up with a version that he was happy with.

“He has four versions of it,” Apuleyo said. “He told me that he was now trying to get the best from each of them.”

Apuleyo, who co-wrote a book of conversations with García Márquez called The Smell of the Guava Tree in 1982, said the Nobel prizewinner had become hugely self-critical and demanding of himself.

Two years ago, García Márquez, now 81, declared that he had laid his pen down. “I’ve stopped writing,” he said. “2005 was the first year in my life that I didn’t write a line.”

He admitted, though, that his problem was one of enthusiasm rather than inspiration. “With all the practice I’ve got, I’d have no problems writing a new novel,” he explained. “But people notice if you haven’t put your heart into it.”

Apuleyo said García Márquez described his year without writing as “a sabbatical”, during which he had devoted his time to reading.

Rumours that the author of One Hundred Years of Solitude was close to finishing a new novel began circulating earlier this year.

The Carmen Balcells literary agency, which represents him, said today the author had not yet set a publication date for any new novel. “There is nothing, for the moment,” a spokeswoman said.

García Márquez’s last novel, Memories of my Melancholy Whores, was published in 2004. He is also said to be preparing a second volume of memoirs to follow Living to Tell the Tale, published in 2002.

—- Giles Tremlett / The Guardian 


  • The Paris Review Interviews III

Edited by The Paris Review / paperback / $16.00

Since The Paris Review was founded in 1953, it has given us invaluable conversations with the greatest writers of our age, vivid self-portraits that are themselves works of finely crafted literature. From Salman Rushdie’s daring rhetorical question “why shouldn’t literature provoke?” to Joyce Carol Oates’s thrilling comments about her own prolific output, The Paris Review has elicited revelatory and revealing thoughts from our most accomplished novelists, poets, and playwrights. How did Geroges Simenon manage to write about six books a year, what was it like for Jan Morris to write as both a man and a woman, what influences moved Ralph Ellison to write Invisible Man? In the pages of The Paris Review, writers give more than simple answers, they offer uncommon candor, depth, and wit in interviews that have become the gold standard of the literary Q&A. With an introduction by Margaret Atwood, this volume brings together another rich, varied crop of literary voices, including Martin Amis, Norman Mailer, Raymond Carver, John Cheever, Harold Pinter, and more. “A colossal literary event,” as Gary Shteyngart put it, The Paris Review Interviews, III, is an indespensible teasure of wisdom from the world’s literary masters.

  • N+1 Issue Number Seven / Correction

learn more about the new issue

  • The Bad Girl: A Novel

by Mario Vargas Llosa / paperback / $14.00

Ricardo Somocurcio is in love with a bad girl. He loves her as a teenager known as “Lily” in Lima in 1950, when she flits into his life one summer and  disappears again without explanation. He loves her still when she reappears as a revolutionary in 1960s Paris, then later as Mrs. Richardson, the wife of a wealthy Englishman, and again as the mistress of a sinister Japanese businessman in Tokyo. However poorly she treats him, he is doomed to worship her. Charting Ricardo’s expatriate life through his romances with this shape-shifting woman, Vargas Llosa has created a beguiling, epic romance about the life-altering power of obsession.

  • Paris: The Secret History

by Andrew Hussey / paperback / $20.00

If Adam Gopnik’s Paris to the Moon described daily life in contemporary Paris, this book describes daily life in Paris throughout its history: a history of the city from the point of view of the Parisians themselves. Paris captures everyone’s imaginations: It’s a backdrop for Proust’s fictional pederast, Robert Doisneau’s photographic kiss, and Edith Piaf’s serenaded soldier-lovers; a home as much to romance and love poems as to prostitution and opium dens. The many pieces of the city coexist, each one as real as the next. What’s more, the conflicted identity of the city is visible everywhere—between cobblestones, in bars, on the métro.

In this lively and lucid volume, Andrew Hussey brings to life the urchins and artists who’ve left their marks on the city, filling in the gaps of a history that affected the disenfranchised as much as the nobility. Paris: The Secret History ranges across centuries, movements, and cultural and political beliefs, from Napoleon’s overcrowded cemeteries to Balzac’s nocturnal flight from his debts. For Hussey, Paris is a city whose long and conflicted history continues to thrive and change. The book’s is a picaresque journey through royal palaces, brothels, and sidewalk cafés, uncovering the rich, exotic, and often lurid history of the world’s most beloved city.

  • The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters

by Rose George / hardcover / $26.00 - 10%

From Publishers Weekly
With irreverence and pungent detail, George (A Life Removed) breaks the embarrassed silence over the economic, political, social and environmental problems of human waste disposal. Full of fascinating facts about the evolution of material culture as influenced by changing mores of disgust and decency (the popularity of high-heeled shoes dates back to the time when chamber pots were emptied into the streets)—the book shows how even advanced technology doesn’t always meet basic needs: using toilet paper is shockingly unhygienic and millions of government-built latrines in developing countries have been turned into goat sheds and spare rooms due to poor design, a lack of regular water supply or simply because the subsidized (and expensive) cement and stone structures are often more appealing than the village huts. George explores how discussions on the importance of clean drinking water and the eradication of infectious diseases euphemistically address how to handle human waste. From the depths of the world’s oldest surviving urban sewers in to Japan’s robo-toilet revolution, George leads an intrepid, erudite and entertaining journey through the public consequences of this most private behavior.

  • What on Earth Happened?: The Complete Story of the Planet, Life, and People from the Big Bang to the Present Day

by Christopher Lloyd, illustrations by Carol Baicker-McKee / hardcover / $45.00 - 10%

As comprehensive as the subtitle suggests, What on Earth Happened is a primer for Planet Earth, a giant narrative leap across time and space, one seismic change at a time. Combining the history of earth science and the history of human civilization, What on Earth Happened covers how the earth was formed, how life began, the way the ecosystem works, how species evolved, the rise of man, migration, the development of tools, language, agriculture, art, transportation, architecture, cities, religion, government, global conflicts, and medicine. In short, it shows how everything—from the mountains and flowers and the birds and the bees to the Iraq war and the oil under the Arctic—is all wonderfully, complexly interconnected.

Entertaining and accessible—and gorgeously illustrated with specially commissioned graphs, charts and maps—What on Earth Happened connects the dots of the past to tell a coherent, comprehensive, and compelling story about our very own third rock from the sun.

  • The Far Traveler: Voyages of a Viking Woman

by Nancy Marie Brown / paperback / $15.00

From Publishers Weekly
While most medieval women didn’t stray far from home, the Viking Gudrid (985–1050) probably crossed the North Atlantic eight times, according to Brown. Rather than just a passenger, Gudrid may have been the explorer on North American expeditions with two different husbands (one was the brother of Leif Ericson, who discovered America 500 years before Columbus). Brown (A Good Horse Has No Color) catches glimpses of Gudrid in the medieval Icelandic sagas which recount that her father, a chieftain with money problems, refused to wed Gudrid to a rich but slave-born merchant; instead he swapped their farm for a ship and a new life in Greenland. Specifics about her life are sparse, so Brown, following in Gudrid’s footsteps, explores the archeology of her era, including the splendid burial ships of Viking queens; the remains of Gudrid’s longhouse in a northern Icelandic hayfield; the economy of the farms where she lived; and the technology of her time, including shipbuilding, spinning wool and dairying. But the plucky and adaptable Gudrid remains mysterious, so this impressively researched account will interest serious students of Icelandic archeology, literature and women’s history more than the general reader.

  • Everything but the Squeal: Eating the Whole Hog in Northern Spain

by John Barlow / hardcover / $25.00 - 10%

From Publishers Weekly
Self-confessed glutton, travel writer and novelist Barlow (Eating Mammals; Intoxicated) doesn’t scrimp on either culinary or cultural delights in this charmingly informative and witty narrative. Barlow, a resident of the relatively unknown corner of Spain, sets himself the task of consuming every part of the staple meat of rural Galicia. Traveling with his Spanish wife, a vegetarian, and his infant son, Barlow serves up vivid tales encountered during the year dedicated to his porco-graphical tour. But this tale is more than a culinary treat. Barlow is a companionable guide expounding upon history, traditions and the personalities of Galicia. His writing style is quick, lively and filled with delicious details. He takes readers on a sublime journey of the senses, including three Carnivals, one in Laza, a thousand-year-old event, combining ant throwing and a pig head bacchanal. He explores why the cousin of Fidel Castro lives at the end of a dark muddy lane in a pokey hamlet, and tracks down Antón, the most famous pig in Galicia. And he indulges in a 12-course meal, including ribs, at one of Spain’s most lauded restaurants. As the ribs sit in the gentle heat, that glorious, fat-infiltrated meat is slowly transforming into what was for me one of the most spellbinding dishes I have ever eaten.

  • Acme Novelty Library #19

by Chris Ware / hardcover / $15.95 - 10%

The penultimate teen issue of the ACME Novelty Library appears this autumn with a new chapter from the electrifying experimental narrative “Rusty Brown,” which examines the life, work, and teaching techniques of one of its central real-life protagonists, W. K. Brown. A previously marginal figure in the world of speculative fiction, Brown’s widely anthologized first story, “The Seeing Eye Dogs of Mars,” garnered him instant acclaim and the coveted White Dwarf Award for Best New Writer when it first appeared in the pages of Nebulous in the late 1950s, but his star was quickly eclipsed by the rise of such talents as Anton Jones, J. Sterling Imbroglio, and others of the so-called psychovisionary movement. (Modern scholarship concedes, however, that they now owe a not inconsequential aesthetic debt to Brown.) New surprises and discoveries concerning the now legendarily reclusive and increasingly influential writer mark this nineteenth number of the ACME Novelty Library, itself a regular award-winning periodical, lauded for its clear lettering and agreeable coloring, which, as any cultured reader knows, are cornerstones of any genuinely serious literary effort. Full color, seventy-eight pages, with hardbound covers, full indicia, and glue, the ACME Novelty Library offers its readers a satisfying, if not thrilling, rocket ride into the world of unkempt imagination and pulse-pounding excitement.

  • The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin’s Russia

by Orlando Figes / paperback / $20.00

From Publishers Weekly
One in eight people in the Soviet Union were victims of Stalin’s terror—virtually no family was untouched by purges, the gulag, forced collectivization and resettlement, says Figes in this nuanced, highly textured look at personal life under Soviet rule. Relying heavily on oral history, Figes, winner of an L.A. Times Book Prize for A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution, 1891–1924, highlights how individuals attempted to maintain a sense of self even in the worst years of the Stalinist purges. More often than not, they learned to stay silent and conform, even after Khrushchev’s thaw lifted the veil on some of Stalin’s crimes. Figes shows how, beginning with the 1917 Bolshevik revolution, the Soviet experience radically changed personal and family life. People denied their experiences, roots and their condemned relatives in order to survive and, in some cases, thrive. At the same time, Soviet residents achieved great things, including the defeat of the Nazis in WWII, that Russians remember with pride. By seamlessly integrating the political, cultural and social with the stories of particular people and families, Figes retells all of Soviet history and enlarges our understanding of it.

  • Bamboo and Blood: An Inspector O Novel

by James Church / hardcover / $23.95 - 10%

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Church once again does a brilliant job of portraying the dysfunctional, paranoid society of modern North Korea in his third novel to feature Inspector O of the ministry of public security (after 2007’s Hidden Moon). When a foreigner O has been assigned to watch turns out to be working for Israeli intelligence, O and his supervisor, Pak, come under the scrutiny of a rival security service. To complicate matters, Pak asks the inspector to investigate the murder of a North Korean diplomat’s wife in Pakistan, but O is restricted to merely collecting facts about the dead woman. O’s efforts to actually solve the crime lead to dangerous encounters with his country’s special weapons program. While the espionage elements compel, the book’s main strength, as with its predecessors, derives from the small details that enable the reader to imagine life in North Korea—and from O’s struggles to maintain his principles and integrity.

  • Sustainable Homes USA

by Jacobo Krauel / hardcover / $39.95

Thought-provoking ideas from all across America Sustainability is the future of architecture. Here are the newest cutting-edge ideas in sustainable residential architecture in the United States, all featured in hundreds of full-color photographs and illustrations. The emphasis is on innovative ideas, new techniques, and more efficient energy systems. Unconventional building materials such as bamboo, paper, and even bottles and tires are just a few of the examples of American ingenuity showcased here.

  • Everything Beautiful in the World

by Lisa Levchuk / hardcover / $16.95 - 10%

Lately I feel like an astronaut out on a space walk – constantly praying the tube attaching me to the ship doesn’t snap and send me flying into outer darkness.  The only good thing about having a mother with cancer is that people are willing to let you get away with pretty much anything. Like failing a Latin test. Or being late to class. Or skipping tennis practice. But there’s one thing Edna’s fairly certain even she can’t get away with – her burgeoning romance with Mr. Howland, her fourth-period Ceramics teacher. That day when Mr. Howland kissed her in his office, she felt like she was floating, like she could levitate right out of her skin. It’s Mr. Howland, with his tousled blond hair and his beautiful guitar and his spot-on impression of Dracula, who makes Edna feel happy for the first time in a long time. But what does Mr. Howland want? And how does Edna really feel – about her mother, about Mr. Howland, about moving forward?

Set in New Jersey in the 1980s, this is a piercing story about decisions both heart-wrenching and wonderful, and how life and love so often lead us down unexpected paths.

  • Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs

by John Lydon, Keith Zimmerman, and Kent Zimmerman / paperback / $16.00
From Publishers Weekly
Britain’s short-lived, notorious late-’70s punk band the Sex Pistols has become one of rock ‘n’ roll’s greatest legends. But it’s time to set the record straight, writes Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten, frontman for the Pistols and author of the controversial songs-”Anarchy in the U.K.,” “God Save the Queen”-which made his band an immediate sensation. In his engagingly nasty and unexpectedly witty autobiography, he seeks to demythologize the Sex Pistols by suggesting that punk rockers are just like the rest of us, people with families, friends and financial troubles. Vitriolic about the British class system and the music industry, Lydon is nevertheless unabashedly affectionate when discussing his own family. And his depiction of Sid Vicious, his ironic bandmate who has been alternately romanticized and maligned for his addictions to heroin and self-mutilation emerges as a touchingly helpless figure. Lydon’s account of the Sex Pistols’ demise is one-sided and his narrative rambles at times, but textual anarchy seems appropriate in the context. He augments his personal perspective with the disparate impressions of his fellow bandmates and associates to make his memoir a convincingly candid account of the Sex Pistols as working-class stiffs who mainly wanted to shake things up a bit and inadvertently stumbled across rock ‘n’ roll sainthood.
  • Theories of Everything: Selected, Collected, and Health-Inspected Cartoons, 1978-2006

by Roz Chast, introduction by David Remnick
This wonderfully comprehensive collection spanning nearly three decades and arranged chronologically—and drawn from the pages of magazines including Scientific American and Redbook as well as The New Yorker—brings together, for the first time, the very best of Roz Chast, whom O Magazine called “the wryest pen since Dorothy Parker’s.”
  • Wild Blue: A Natural History of the World’s Largest Animal

by Dan Bortolotti  / hardcover / $24.95 - 10%
Equal parts history and science, Wild Blue is the first comprehensive portrait of the blue whale. It draws upon new findings from scientists who have begun to identify individual blue whales and understand how they dive, how they feed, where they migrate, and why they emit their haunting, low-frequency calls. With deft, poignant writing, Dan Bortolotti gives us the most vibrant, breathtaking view to date of these magnificent creatures.
  • Hotter Than That: The Trumpet, Jazz, and American Culture

by Krin Gabbard  / hardcover / $25.00 - 10%
From Publishers Weekly
In a pleasing celebration of the most difficult of instruments, Gabbard, a professor of comparative literature and English at Stony Brook University in New York, sheds light on the history of the trumpet. He takes the instrument through the ages from ancient Egypt to the European royal courts, the American battlefield and the cutting contests by bebop jazz musicians. The astonishing stories of Buddy Bolden, Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and Wynton Marsalis—all American originals on the horn—merge with history, art, style and humor as this amateur trumpeter weaves into the colorful narrative large spoonfuls of film and literary references as well as personal observations. Gabbard also lists the long tally of serious physical ailments that dog trumpeters in classical and jazz music. Although this slightly eccentric book meanders a bit, it’s never less than engaging and thought provoking in its insights and random chatter.
  • Happy at Last: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Finding Joy

by Richard O’Connor / hardcover / $24.95
Do you want to live the happiest, most satisfying life possible? Does happiness feel like an elusive goal? According to the most recent developments in psychology and science, the brain can be trained to be more receptive to happiness, because staying happy doesn’t come naturally. Nor does our society make it easy. In Happy at Last, psychotherapist Richard O’Connor offers new thinking about how we attain and maintain happiness, and he shows us that it doesn’t necessarily have to come at a high cost or in a big package. Rather, we can be in command of our happiness by learning to control how our minds work so that we can identify and savor the hidden positive aspects of everyday life. To do this, O’Connor provides us with a set of skills that will help us re-wire our brains to allow ourselves more joy.
  • Now the Drum of War: Walt Whitman and His Brothers in the Civil War

by Robert Roper / hardcover / $28.00 - 10%
The Civil War is seen anew, and a great American family brought to life, in Robert Roper’s brilliant evocation of the Family Whitman.

Walt Whitman’s work as a nurse to the wounded soldiers of the Civil War had a profound effect on the way he saw the world.  Much less well known is the extraordinary record of his younger brother, George Washington Whitman, who led his men in twenty-one major battles—from Antietam to Fredericksburg, Vicksburg to the Wilderness—almost to die in a Confederate prison camp as the fighting ended.  Drawing on the searing letters that Walt, George, their mother Louisa, and their other brothers, wrote to each other during the conflict, and on new evidence and new readings of the great poet, Now the Drum of War chronicles the experience of an archetypal American family—from rural Long Island to working-class Brooklyn—enduring its own long crisis alongside the anguish of the nation.  Robert Roper has constructed a powerful narrative about America’s greatest crucible, and a compelling, braided story of our most original poet and one of our bravest soldiers.

  • Florence Nightingale: The Making of an Icon

by Mark Bostridge / hardcover / $35.00 - 10%
The common soldier’s savior, the standard-bearer of modern nursing, a pioneering social reformer: Florence Nightingale belongs to that select band of historical characters who are instantly recognizable. Home-schooled, bound for the life of an educated Victorian lady, Nightingale scandalized her family when she found her calling as a nurse, a thoroughly unsuitable profession for a woman of her class.  As the “Lady with the Lamp,” ministering to the wounded and dying of the Crimean War, she offers an enduring image of sentimental appeal. Few individuals in their own lifetime have reached the level of fame and adulation attained by Nightingale as a result of her efforts. Fewer still have the power of continuing to inspire controversy in the way she does almost a century after her death.  In this remarkable book, the first major biography of Florence Nightingale in more than fifty years, Mark Bostridge draws on a wealth of unpublished material, including previously unseen family papers, to throw new light on this extraordinary woman’s life and character. Disentangling elements of myth from the reality, Bostridge has written a vivid and immensely readable account of one of the most iconic figures in modern history.
  • Schott’s Miscellany 2009: An Almanac

by Ben Schott  / hardcover / $30.00 - 10%
In the modern age, where information is plentiful but selection and analysis elusive, Schott’s Miscellany Almanac presents a unique biography of the year: from the historic 2008 presidential election to Britney Spears’s mental breakdown and Major League Baseball’s Mitchell Report; from marriage and crime statistics to the prolonged writer’s strike and the incidence of shark-bites worldwide.

Practical, entertaining, and utterly compulsive, Schott’s Miscellany 2009 presents an annual volume that has changed the way people think about the year.

  • The United States Constitution: A Graphic Adaptation

by Jonathan Hennessey, illustrated by Aaron McConnell / hardcover / $35.00 - 10%
From Publishers Weekly
Writer Hennessey and artist McConnell undertake the imposing task of going through the entire U. S. Constitution, article by article, amendment by amendment, explaining their meaning and implications—in comics format. Avoiding the didactic, the book succeeds in being both consistently entertaining and illuminating. The illustrations are sometimes predictable: as the text describes King George III wrestling with the rebellion, the art shows him arm wrestling a colonist. More often, in the editorial cartoon tradition, McConnell’s art ranges inventively through different styles and devices, from realistic depictions of historic personages to symbolic figures (the president as a man with the White House as his head) and even talking birds and parodic superheroes. Hennessey is particularly good at exploring the historical context in which various elements of the Constitution originated, such as the excesses of European monarchies. He also chronicles the dark side of constitutional history, notably how long it allowed slavery to remain legal. While the book depicts the framers of the Constitution as practical men, readers will also be impressed by the framers’ vision in devising a system that has endured for two centuries, and it’s a fine introduction to U.S. legal history.
  • Things the Grandchildren Should Know

by Mark Oliver Everett / hardcover / $23.95 - 10%
“One of the best books ever written by a contemporary artist.”—Pete Townshend

“A great big grin of a book, winced out through gritted teeth.”—Kirkus Reviews

“How do you think it felt finding out that one of my favorite rock stars in history is also a better, funnier, and more touching writer than I am after 10 years at Time magazine?”—Joel Stein

“Readers will just be plain enraptured by the story of a gifted man barely surviving tragedy with only his talent to guide him.”—Robert Leleux, author of The Memoirs of a Beautiful Boy

“You trust every word coming off the tips of Everett’s fingers. His book is a subtle, touching thing.”—Sunday Times (UK)
“I kept telling myself, “This guy is the next Kurt Vonnegut!” Things the Grandchildren Should Know shares less with a rock memoir than it does with the likes of The Corrections, Middlesex, and The Ice Storm. It’s unexpectedly uplifting.”—The Word

“Crackling with a staccato rage, he comes clean about bad times, good times and finally getting to be a grown-up on his own terms.”—The Times (UK)

“His unique sensibility is as apparent in his prose as in his music. Even those unfamiliar with, or indifferent to, Everett’s work will still vicariously enjoy meeting him.”—The Independent (UK)

  • The Wisdom of Birds: An Illustrated History of Ornithology

by Tim Birkhead / hardcover / $45.00 - 10%
Leading ornithologist Tim Birkhead takes readers on a journey through the wonderful world of birds: conception and egg, territory and song, breeding and migration. In the process, he reveals how birders have overcome centuries-old superstitions and untested truths to achieve a firmer understanding of birds. He also details when and how this knowledge was first acquired, detailing the various myths and misconceptions that were believed to be true throughout the ages and when they were finally corrected.

Conceived for a general audience, and illustrated throughout with more than one hundred exquisitely beautiful illustrations, many of them rarely if ever seen before, The Wisdom of Birds is a book full of stories, knowledge, and unexpected revelations. Engaging and accessible, it is an illustrated history of birds—and all they have taught us.

  • Caligula for President: Better American Living Through Tyranny

by Cintra Wilson / paperback / $12.00
In this inventive and biting satire, acclaimed novelist and cultural critic Cintra Wilson reimagines America’s Manifest Destiny as helmed by Caligula, the only leader in world history capable of turning our floundering democracy into a fully functioning—and totally fun—tyranny, both here and abroad. With Caligula running the show, America will finally be able to achieve what the founding fathers really wanted, but never had the nerve to admit. Like, how to:

-Achieve the guilt-free looting of natural resources for the sake of immediate gratification;

-Declare war on abstract concepts (drugs, terror, the ocean) for the sake of imperial expansion;

-Utilize propaganda, psychological operations, and other prisoner-of-war techniques to create a sense of learned helplessness in the citizenry, gain their utterly terrified trust and obedience—and leave them begging for more;

-Rape, pillage, and loot—both here and abroad—with impunity

Wilson also traces the historical arc of Caligula’s life and not-so-hard times, from his privileged childhood in Syria to his ascent to power to his eventual takedown by the hands of an angry populace, to point out the unsettling parallels between his own extravagant reign and a certain administration, which helped usher in a new golden age of unlimited executive power.  Part political parable, part cautionary tale, Caligula for President is an ingenious and hilarious send-up of the current state of our Union by one of this generation’s sharpest satirists.

  • Slouching Towards Bethlehem: Essays

by Joan Didion / paperback / $14.00     *New Edition
“In her portraits of people, Didion is not out to expose but to understand, and she shows us actors and millionaires, doomed brides and naive acid-trippers, left wing ideologues and snobs of the Hawaiian aristocracy in a way that makes them neither villainous nor glamorous, but alive and botched and often mournfully beautiful . . . A rich display of some of the best prose written today in this country.”-Dan Wakefield, The New York Times Book Review
  • Lives of the Artists

by Calvin Tomkins  / hardcover / $26.00 - 10%
From Publishers Weekly
In these biographical essays on 10 of the most interesting contemporary artists, Tomkins’s access is astonishing, as when he dines with Jasper Johns and his wife in their Caribbean home in St. Martin, watches John Currin paint or receives revealing gifts from Maurizio Cattelan (he loves giving odd presents to his friends…. His gifts to my wife include a large three-dimensional display ad for Oscar Mayer franks…). A deft biographer, Tomkins (Duchamp) gives a lesson in his craft: how to balance present with past, the specific with the general, personality with context, features with flaws—all in the space of 20 pages. Tomkins is a ruthless observer. On Cindy Sherman watching a slasher movie, he writes: She slides down in her seat like a teenager, knees pulled up, and giggles at the gory parts and the in jokes…. He is also a generous critic of the cult of artistic personality, so that Julian Schnabel’s ego appears charming and Richard Serra’s notorious anger seems a measure of his dedication to his work. Books that trade on content that originally appeared in the New Yorker have become a small industry, but not all are as intimate as this one.
  • Sherlock Holmes Was Wrong: Reopening the Case of the Hound of the Baskervilles

by Pierre Bayard / hardcover / $20.00 - 10%
Eliminate the impossible, Holmes said, and whatever is left must be the solution. But as Pierre Bayard finds in this dazzling reinvestigation of The Hound of the Baskervilles, sometimes the master missed his mark. Using the last thoughts of the murder victim as his key, Bayard unravels the case, leading the reader to the astonishing conclusion that Holmes – and, in fact, Arthur Conan Doyle – got things all wrong: The killer is not at all who they said it was.

Part intellectual entertainment, part love letter to crime novels, and part crime novel in itself, Sherlock Holmes Was Wrong turns one of our most beloved stories delightfully on its head. Examining the many facets of the case and illuminating the bizarre interstices between Doyle’s fiction and the real world, Bayard demonstrates a whole new way of reading mysteries: a kind of “detective criticism” that allows readers to outsmart not only the criminals in the stories we love, but also the heroes — and sometimes even the writers.

  • Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing

by Michael Ruhlman & Brian Polcyn / hardcover / $35.00 - 10%
From Publishers Weekly
Without the faintest hint of apology, Ruhlman and Polcyn present an arsenal of recipes that take hours, and sometimes days, to prepare; are loaded with fat; and, if ill-prepared, can lead to botulism. The result is one of the most intriguing and important cookbooks published this year. Ruhlman (The Soul of a Chef) is a food poet, and the pig is his muse. On witnessing a plate of cold cuts in Italy, he is awed by “the way the sunlight hit the fat of the dried meats, the way it glistened, the beauty of the meat.” He relates and refines the work of Polcyn, a chef-instructor at a college in Livonia, Mich., who butchers a whole hog “every couple weeks for his students.” Together, they make holy the art of stuffing a sausage, the brining of a corned beef and the poaching of a salted meat in its own fat. An extensive chapter on pâtés and terrines is entitled “The Cinderella Meat Loaf” and runs the gamut from exotic Venison Terrine with Dried Cherries to hearty English Pork Pie with a crust made from both lard and butter. And while there’s no shortage of lyricism, science plays an equally important role. Everyone knows salt is a preservative, for example, but here we learn exactly how it does its job. And a section on safety issues weighs the dangers of nitrites and explains the difference between good white mold and the dangerous, green, fuzzy stuff.
  • Prince of Stories: The Many Worlds of Neil Gaiman

by Hank Wagner / hardcover / $29.95 - 10%
Over the past twenty years, Neil Gaiman has developed into the premier fantasist of his generation, achieving that rarest of combinations—unrivaled critical respect and extraordinary commercial success.  From the landmark comic book series The Sandman to novels such as the New York Times bestselling American Gods and Anansi Boys, from children’s literature like Coraline to screenplays for such films as Beowulf, Gaiman work has garnered him an enthusiastic and fiercely loyal, global following.  To comic book fans, he is Zeus in the pantheon of creative gods, having changed that industry forever.  For discerning readers, he bridges the vast gap that traditionally divides lovers of “literary” and “genre” fiction.  Gaiman is truly a pop culture phenomenon, an artist with a magic touch whose work has won almost universal acclaim.
Now, for the first time ever, Prince of Stories chronicles the history and impact of the complete works of Neil Gaiman in film, fiction, music, comic books, and beyond. Containing hours of exclusive interviews with Gaiman and conversations with his collaborators, as well as wonderful nuggets of his work such as the beginning of an unpublished novel, a rare comic and never-before-seen essay, this is a treasure trove of all things Gaiman. In addition to providing in depth information and commentary on Gaiman’s myriad works, the book also includes rare photographs, book covers, artwork, and related trivia and minutiae, making it both an insightful introduction to his work, and a true “must-have” for his ever growing legion of fans.
  • Somebody: The Reckless Life and Remarkable Career of Marlon Brando

by Stefan Kanfer / hardcover / $26.95 - 10%
For everything we know about Brando as a man as well as an actor and artist, he remains a fascination. What are we to make of someone whose life, both personal and professional, hit such dazzling highs and such abysmal lows? Stefan Kanfer answers this question, in the process giving us the final word on one of the most astonishing talents of the twentieth century.

Born in Nebraska in 1924, Marlon grew up unaffected by the Depression but scarred by a brutal father and fatally alcoholic mother. After a turbulent childhood, Brando made his great escape to 1940s New York and fell in love with a city bristling with postwar optimism and vibrancy. Soon New York fell in love with him, too—his stunning Broadway debut as Stanley Kowalski made him an instant star at age twenty-three.

Brando then decamped for Hollywood, and Kanfer illuminates his performances in early movies like The Men, Julius Caesar, and On the Waterfront. Starting in the late fifties and continuing throughout the sixties, though, Brando transformed from bright young star into something more complicated. By looking at such films as The Young Lions, One-Eyed Jacks—the one and only movie he ever directed—and Mutiny on the Bounty, Kanfer gives us a real understanding of Brando’s breathtaking talent and sexual power while also giving us a sense of the vulnerable man behind the towering image. Through assessments of his performances in critically panned movies like Reflections in a Golden Eye, Candy, and The Appaloosa, an intricately woven portrait emerges—showing not only Brando’s genius, but also his self-destructiveness, womanizing, constant dissembling, and evolving ambivalence toward his fame and his craft.

With the role of Don Corleone, Brando pulled himself out of his slump for his career’s third and perhaps most interesting act; Kanfer turns his critical eye on The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, and Last Tango in Paris, the last arguably Brando’s most intimate and disturbing appearance onscreen. After these, it was once again a downhill slalom for Brando, both professionally (the movies he made in the last fifteen years of his life were hardly worthy of him) and personally, as he lived out his finale in the shadow of horrific family tragedies.

With the surest of hands, Kanfer gives us the first truly comprehensive examination, not only of a life and a career, but of how the two came together to create the icon we know as Brando.


  • Little, Brown Plans Wallace Book for Spring

While some rumors persist that there’s an unfinished novel David Foster Wallace was working on before he died in September, at least one work from the author is definitely on the horizon. Wallace’s publisher, Little, Brown, is going to release This Is Water in April 2009, which is the address the author delivered at Kenyon College’s commencement in 2005.

The speech, which LB assistant director of publicity Marlena Bittner called Wallace’s “only philosophical public address,” was paraphrased and quoted in various Web sites and blogs after the author died. The edition of the speech from LB will be slightly under 150 pages and feature illustrations throughout; the imprint is going to press for an announced 40,000 copies.

Bittner also clarified that a story from Foster Wallace, set to run in the literary review of a small California college, The Chaffey Review, is not new, as some online reports indicated. The story is actually a retitled version of a piece called The Compliance Branch which Harper’s ran in February. (A rep at Chaffey College said the story, which will be out in the January issue of the magazine, is slightly different than what ran in Harper’s.) When asked if there might be a new work from Foster Wallace sitting in a drawer somewhere, Bittner declined comment.

By Rachel Deahl — Publishers Weekly, 12/8/2023 7:40:00 AM

Guardian First Book Award


Alex Ross has won this year’s Guardian First Book Award for The Rest is Noise, a history of twentieth-century classical music. Announcing Ross’s victory at a ceremony in London last night, the Guardian’s editor, Alan Rusbridger, himself an accomplished music critic, said that having read the book ‘you won’t be able to hear any twentieth-century music, from Strauss through to Radiohead and Bjork, the same way’.

With The Rest is Noise, Ross sought to bring the composers of the twentieth century back in from the cultural cold. He has said that ‘While paintings of Picasso and Jackson Pollock sell for a hundred million dollars or more, and lines from T. S. Eliot are quoted on the yearbook pages of alienated teenagers across the land, twentieth-century classical music still sends ripples of unease through audiences.’ The book explores and explains why and how composers such as Schoenberg, Berg and John Cage, so often maligned for their difficulty, broke from the music of the past, reinvented musical forms, and interpreted the political, social and artistic travails of their present. Critics have praised the book for its mix of minute musical analysis, grand historical narrative and metaphorical flare.

The award is the latest addition to a long list of successes for The Rest is Noise. Last year it won the National Book Critics Circle Award in criticism and was a finalist for this year’s Pulitzer Prize in non-fiction. It also attracted ‘Best Book’ nominations from the New York Times, the Washington Post and the LA Times, among others. In the UK it was shortlisted for the 2008 Samuel Johnson Prize, where it lost out to Kate Summerscale’s The Suspicions of Mr Whicher.

Claire Armistead, the chair of the judges for last night’s award who also sat on the panel for the Samuel Johnson, said today that the success of The Rest is Noise proves that ‘there is a huge appetite among readers for clear, serious but accessible books’.

-Simon Willis / GRANTA

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