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(12/19/2014) Return To My Native Land by Aime Cesaire. Brooklyn. 2014. Archipelago Books. 80 pages.  paperback. Cover art: William Kentridge.  Translated from the French by John Berger and Anna Bostock. Drawings by Peter de Francia.  9781935744948 

 

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

 

  A work of immense cultural significance and beauty, this long poem became an anthem for the African diaspora and the birth of the Negritude movement. With unusual juxtapositions of object and metaphor, a bouquet of language-play, and deeply resonant rhythms, Césaire considered this work a “break into the forbidden,” at once a cry of rebellion and a celebration of black identity. ‘It was in April 1941, while passing through Martinique on his wartime journey to New York, that André Breton chanced on a long poem, “Cahier d’un retour au pays natal”, freshly printed in the magazine Tropiques. He at once declared it a masterpiece and the work of “a great black poet”. Its author was a young Caribbean writer, Aimé Césaire, and the native land of its title was Martinique, to which the author had returned after a long stay as a student in Paris. Composed in 1939, his poem would circulate in various forms until a definitive edition was issued by Présence Africaine in Paris in 1956. An explosive critique of French colonialism, it had become a central text of the Negritude movement. In 1939, the island of Martinique was still an open wound, left septic after French rule. The poem pulls no punches. Now tremulous, now grating, the improvised text drums and jabs in spasmodic phrases and slogans. Each encounter, each twist of idiom, thrusts itself into the reader’s mind as a fierce challenge to understand and to empathize. Breton saw in Césaire’s writing “a quality of mastery in his tone” and was thrilled to discover that Surrealism could erupt in the tropics, the expression of a fresh poetics that shattered the even hum of French colonial discourse. Césaire’s poetry makes for difficult reading. Its headlong progression is accretive and associative, full of repeated phrases and unsettling detours. Its ruling device is the surrealist image, in which words clash and flare, to create tantalizing moments of revelation, paradoxically offering meaning while undermining coherence. The text spills forth in searing details and tableaux, ranging from the whispered evocation of “a little line of sand” to the description of a poverty-stricken black man on a bus, whose decrepit state inspires in the poet disgust and shame, which swiftly modulate into anger. Martinique is an island lost but now found, as the young writer hammers out his portrait of a debased homeland crying out for recognition and redemption. The poem’s uncompromising delivery was thoroughly absorbed and emulated by the translators John Berger and Anna Bostock, who wrestled its outbursts into a forceful yet faithful English equivalent. Their version dates from 1969. To this reissue are added six charcoal drawings by the late Peter de Francia, showing African bodies in poses suggestive of sheer torpor: yet we may take it that tropical languor is but a prelude to decisive rebellion.’ - Roger Cardinal. ‘Return to My Native Land is a monumental tome to our times, and this new translation by John Berger and Anya Bostock possesses the tropical heat of the poet’s sonority. Though, in his refrain, Aimé Césaire intones “the small hours,” there isn’t anything small about the raw lyricism articulated into this incantation of fiery wit. The translators convey the spirit of improvisation, yet, with a deftness of image and music, they deliver this book-length poem as a seamless work of art—an existential cry against a man-made void. What translates is the speaker’s revolutionary psyche on to the page—his fierce affirmation of existence through an eloquent clarity of the real and surreal. Nowhere is Césaire’s passion sacrificed; this translation is a tribute to the poet.’ - Yusef Komunyakaa.

 

  AIME CESAIRE (1913-2008) was a poet, playwright, statesman, and cultural critic, and is best known as the creator of the concept of negritude. His books include AIME CESAIRE: THE COLLECTED POETRY, NOTEBOOK OF A RETURN TO THE NATIVE LAND, and DISCOURSE ON COLONIALISM.

 

 

 

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(12/18/2014) Slave Ship by Frederik Pohl. New York. 1957. Ballantine Books. 148 pages.  paperback.

 

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   How men first learned the language of the animals – and the startling consequences! FIRST THEY CRACKED THE CODES.  The big electronic calculators that handled math codes, production lines, found it simple to decipher the small but racy vocabularies of the animals. Then man, had achieved the age-old dream: He could respond when his dog struggled to tell him something, and he could tell that foolish sheep that if he didn’t act right he’d be mutton; and, being man, he could create the wildest, craziest secret weapon for the war that is man’s heritage but not that of the new, now-articulate minorities. ‘Mr. Pohl is not afraid of emotion, so that his stories have a drive and power enviable in any writer, especially in one whose main outlet is science fiction.’ - The New York Times.

 

Pohl Frederik Frederik George Pohl, Jr. (November 26, 1919 – September 2, 2013) was an American science fiction writer, editor and fan, with a career spanning more than seventy-five years—from his first published work, the 1937 poem ‘Elegy to a Dead Satellite: Luna’, to the 2011 novel All the Lives He Led and articles and essays published in 2012. From about 1959 until 1969, Pohl edited Galaxy and its sister magazine If; the latter won three successive annual Hugo Awards as the year's best professional magazine. His 1977 novel Gateway won four ‘year's best novel’ awards: the Hugo voted by convention participants, the Locus voted by magazine subscribers, the Nebula voted by American science fiction writers, and the juried academic John W. Campbell Memorial Award. He won the Campbell Memorial Award again for the 1984 collection of novellas Years of the City, one of two repeat winners during the first forty years. For his 1979 novel Jem, Pohl won a U.S. National Book Award in the one-year category Science Fiction. It was a finalist for three other years' best novel awards. He won four Hugo and three Nebula Awards. The Science Fiction Writers of America named Pohl its 12th recipient of the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award in 1993 and he was inducted by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 1998, its third class of two dead and two living writers. Pohl won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer in 2010, for his blog, ‘The Way the Future Blogs’.

 

 

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(12/17/2014) The Space Merchants by Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth. New York. 1953. Ballantine Books. 181 pages.  paperback. Cover art by Richard Powers.

 

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  How would you like to live in a future world where Congress is made up of senators from large corporations,’ where armed warfare occurs between advertising agencies and where one of those agencies gets the job of ‘selling’ the idea of emigration to Venus? Mitch Courtenay, ace copywriter (or Copysmith Star Class) is given the job of convincing people that they ought to emigrate to Venus. Ranged against him are a rival agency, an underground organization, and his wife. This book crackles with action, drama - and ideas. You’ll be arguing about it (pro or con) for weeks.

 

Pohl Frederik  Frederik George Pohl, Jr. (November 26, 1919 – September 2, 2013) was an American science fiction writer, editor and fan, with a career spanning more than seventy-five years—from his first published work, the 1937 poem ‘Elegy to a Dead Satellite: Luna’, to the 2011 novel All the Lives He Led and articles and essays published in 2012. From about 1959 until 1969, Pohl edited Galaxy and its sister magazine If; the latter won three successive annual Hugo Awards as the year's best professional magazine. His 1977 novel Gateway won four ‘year's best novel’ awards: the Hugo voted by convention participants, the Locus voted by magazine subscribers, the Nebula voted by American science fiction writers, and the juried academic John W. Campbell Memorial Award. He won the Campbell Memorial Award again for the 1984 collection of novellas Years of the City, one of two repeat winners during the first forty years. For his 1979 novel Jem, Pohl won a U.S. National Book Award in the one-year category Science Fiction. It was a finalist for three other years' best novel awards. He won four Hugo and three Nebula Awards. The Science Fiction Writers of America named Pohl its 12th recipient of the Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award in 1993 and he was inducted by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 1998, its third class of two dead and two living writers. Pohl won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer in 2010, for his blog, ‘The Way the Future Blogs’.

 

Kornbluth C M Cyril M. Kornbluth (July 2, 1923 – March 21, 1958) was an American science fiction author and a notable member of the Futurians. He used a variety of pen-names, including Cecil Corwin, S. D. Gottesman, Edward J. Bellin, Kenneth Falconer, Walter C. Davies, Simon Eisner, Jordan Park, Arthur Cooke, Paul Dennis Lavond and Scott Mariner. The ‘M’ in Kornbluth's name may have been in tribute to his wife, Mary Byers; Kornbluth's colleague and collaborator Frederik Pohl confirmed Kornbluth's lack of any actual middle name in at least one interview.

 

 

 

 

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(12/16/2014) Swedish Cops: From Sjöwall & Wahlöö to Steigh Larsson by Michael Tapper. Bristol and Chicago. 2014. Intellect. 377 pages.  paperback. Cover design by Stephanie Sarlos.  9781783201884 

 

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

 

  SWEDISH COPS is a history of Swedish culture and ideas in an international context, as expressed in crime fiction from 1965 to 2012. It argues that, from being feared and despised, the police emerged as heroes and part of the social project of the welfare state after World War II. Establishing themselves artistically and commercially at the forefront of the genre, Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahlöö constructed a model for using the police novel as an instrument for social and political criticism. With varying political affiliations, their model has been adapted by authors such as Leif G. W. Persson, Jan Guillou, Henning Mankell, Håkan Nesser, Anders Roslund and Börge Hellström, and Stieg Larsson, as well as film series such as Beck and Wallander. SWEDISH COPS is the first book of its kind, and it is as thrilling as the novels and films it analyzes.

 

  Michael Tapper teaches film at Lund University. He has been a contributor to the Swedish National Encyclopaedia since 1989 and has served as film critic at the daily Sydsvenska Dagbladet in Malmö, Sweden, since 1999.

 

 

 

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(12/15/2014) The Festival Of San Joaquin by Zee Edgell. Portsmouth. 1997. Heinemann. paperback. 155 pages. Cover illustration by Derek Lockhart. Cover design by Touchpaper. keywords: Literature Caribbean Belize Women. 0435989480.

 

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  Luz Marina, cleared of murdering her brutal husband, is released from prison on a three-year probation. Determined to rebuild her life and gain custody of her children, she perseveres, sustained by mother love and her faith in God in her battle against the poverty, guilt, vanity, and vengeance that threaten to overwhelm her. In this novel, set in the Mestizo community in Belize, Zee Edgell explores with sensitivity and understanding the contradictory and secret territory that is domestic violence.

 

  Zelma I. Edgell, better known as Zee Edgell, MBE, (born 21 October 1940 in Belize City, Belize) is a writer. She has had four of her novels published. She was an associate professor of English at Kent State University. After attending the local St. Catherine's Academy in Belize City (the basis for St. Cecilia's Academy in Beka Lamb), Edgell studied journalism at the school of modern languages at the Polytechnic of Central London and continued her education at the University of the West Indies. She worked as a journalist serving as the founding editor of The Reporter. She has also lived for extended periods in such diverse places as Jamaica, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Somalia, working with development organizations and the Peace Corps. She has been director of women's affairs for the government of Belize, lecturer at the former University College of Belize (forerunner to the University of Belize) and she was an associate professor in the department of English at Kent State University, Kent, Ohio, where she taught creative writing and literature. Edgell also tours internationally, giving book readings and delivering papers on the history and literature of Belize. She is considered Belize's principal contemporary writer. Edgell is married to American educator Al Edgell, who had a decades long career in international development. They have two children, Holly, a journalism professor at the Missouri School of Journalism, and Randall, a physician specializing in stroke treatment and prevention. Edgell has also contributed extensively to the Belizean Writers Series, published by local publishing house Cubola Productions. She edited and contributed stories to the fifth book in the series, Memories, Dreams and Nightmares: A Short Story Anthology of Belizean women writers, published in 2004. She was made a Member of the order of the British Empire in the 2007 Queen's Birthday Honour List. In 2009 the University of the West Indies conferred upon her the honorary degree D.Litt at graduation ceremonies in Cave Hill, Barbados. Her first novel, Beka Lamb, published in 1982, details the early years of the nationalist movement in British Honduras from the eyes of a teenage girl attending high school in the colony; given that it was published a year after Belize became independent this was the first novel to be published in the new nation. Beka Lamb also gained the distinction of being Belize's first novel to reach beyond its borders and gain an international audience, winning Britain's Fawcett Society Book Prize, a prize awarded annually to a work of fiction that contributes to an understanding of women's position in society today. Her subsequent novel, In Times Like These (1991) portrayed the turmoil of nearly independent Belize from the point of view of another female protagonist, this time the adult director of women's affairs (a post Edgell once held). The Festival of San Joaquin (1997), her third novel told the story of a woman accused of murdering her husband, and in her short stories, Edgell skillfully explores the layers of Belize's complicated social and racial stratification through the lens of her female protagonists. Edgell has said she would eventually like to write about male protagonists as well as her extensive travels across the world. Edgell's fourth novel was published by Heinemann's Caribbean Writers Series in January 2007. The events of Time and the River unfold during the heyday of slavery in Belize. It focuses on the life of a young slave woman, Leah Lawson, who eventually (through marriage) becomes a slaveowner herself. She even finds herself in the position of owning her own family members. The story is told against the backdrop of the brutal forestry slavery of the time and slave revolts, true historical moments in the history of the country that is now known as Belize. Edgell released this book in Belize at the end of March with appearances at the University of Belize, Belmopan and in Belize City. Edgell's third novel, ‘The Festival of San Joaquin,’ will be re-issued by Macmillan Caribbean in October 2008.

 

 

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(12/14/2014) Talkin' Moscow Blues by Josef Skvorecky. New York. 1990. Ecco Press. paperback. 367 pages. January 1990. Cover: David Montle. Paperback Original. keywords: Essays Translated Czech Eastern Europe Literature. 0880012315.

 

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

 

 Josef Skvorecky’s novels have established him as a major author around the world, but his less well known essays include some of his most stimulating writing. TALKIN’ MOSCOW BLUES is the first-ever collection of Skvorecky’s essays, reviews, and interviews. Here are deeply personal stories about the friends and events that have shaped his beliefs and his writing: thoughtful examinations of the nature of art, politics, and freedom; reviews of writers such as Faulkner and Kafka, and filmmakers Jiri Menzel and Francis Coppola. And sprinkled throughout are Skvorecky’s lively commentaries on the foibles of both East and West. Skvorecky has lived under the spectrum of political regimes – from the rightist oppression of the Nazis to the leftist oppression of the Soviets – and he has resisted the influence of both sides. As a amateur musician in Czechoslovakia he slipped ‘verboten’ lyrics past the Nazi censor and played ‘degenerate’ jazz with a lookout at the door; as a lifelong film devotee and friend of top filmmakers he saw scripts written and rewritten to match the ebb and flow of party politics; as a writer he had his first major work, THE COWARDS, banned and confiscated by the authorities. As a Czech he is exiled for life, but as a Canadian he has found freedom to express his thoughts and opinions, both in fiction and non-fiction. Josef Skvorecky won the 1980 Neustadt International Prize for Literature, and the 1984 Governor General’s Award for THE ENGINEER OF HUMAN SOULS.

 

 Josef Škvorecký (September 27, 1924 – January 3, 2012) was a Czech-Canadian writer and publisher who spent much of his life in Canada. SKVORECKY was born in Bohemia, emigrated to Canada in 1968, and was for many years a professor of English at Erindale College, University of Toronto. He and his wife, the novelist Zdena Salivarova, ran a Czech-language publishing house, Sixty-Eight Publishers, in Toronto, and were long-time supporters of Czech dissident writers before the fall of communism in that country. Skvorecky’s novels include THE COWARDS, MISS SILVER’S PAST, THE BASS SAXOPHONE, THE ENGINEER OF HUMAN SOULS, and DVORAK IN LOVE. He was the winner of the 1980 Neustadt International Prize for Literature and the 1984 Governor General’s Award for fiction in Canada. Škvorecký's fiction deals with several themes: the horrors of totalitarianism and repression, the expatriate experience, and the miracle of jazz.

 

 

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(03/13/2015) The Spook Who Sat By The Door by Sam Greenlee. London. 1969. Allison & Busby. hardcover. 182 pages. 0850310032.

 

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

 

   The CIA needs a Negro: there have been accusations of racial discrimination. So black Dan Freeman begins his lone career in an all-white world. Dan Freeman — tame, conspicuous, harmless. But behind this mask he coolly develops his subversive expertise in judo, guns, women, strategy.  Moving as easily among Washington’s power-hungry politicians as among the threatening street gangs of Chicago’s ghetto, Freeman plays the heroes of one world against the victims of the other. The top men in the CIA, hypocritical social workers, brainwashed policemen, a middle-class girlfriend, a beautiful whore, tough young junkies all have their place in Freeman’s lethally calculated program. He uses and manipulates all the opportunities and people around him. He is a man with a foot in both camps and a finger squeezing slowly on the trigger. There is no time for sentimentality. THE SPOOK WHO SAT BY THE DOOR is a book that had to be written. It describes an America that has gone beyond the stage of civil rights demonstrations and spontaneous riots: an America where the only hope for the black man is in deadly efficient guerrilla warfare. Sam Greenlee has written a novel about a revolution that may happen tomorrow.ABOUT THE AUTHOR - My name is Sam Greenlee. I am a black American and I write; not necessarily in that order of importance. I was born of a refugee family in Chicago, 13 July 1930, a second generation immigrant from the deep South. My father was a chauffeur, my mother a singer and dancer in the chorus line of the Regal Theater on Forty-seventh and South Parkway on the south side of Chicago. I received a non-education in Chicago ghetto non-schools and played catchup at three universities: Wisconsin, Chicago and Thessalonikki. I served for two years as an Infantry Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, in the 31st Infantry ‘Dixie’ Division. I was a professional propagandist in the foreign service of the United States Information Service. I served in Iraq, Pakistan, Indonesia and Greece, and was given the Meritorius Service Award for activities during the 1958 Kassem revolution in Baghdad. I have recently returned from four years of writing in Greece. I am employed, with fat salary and fancy title, by an otherwise white civil rights organization in Chicago. My job is to sit by the door.

 

Greenlee Sam   Samuel Eldred Greenlee, Jr. (July 13, 1930 – May 19, 2014) was an African-American writer, best known for his controversial novel The Spook Who Sat by the Door, which was first published in London by Allison & Busby in March 1969 (having been rejected by dozens of mainstream publishers), and went on to be chosen as The Sunday Times Book of the Year. The novel was subsequently made into the 1973 movie of the same name, directed by Ivan Dixon and co-produced and written by Greenlee, that is now considered a "cult classic". Born in Chicago, Greenlee attended the University of Wisconsin (BS, political science, 1952) and the University of Chicago (1954-7). He was a member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity (Beta Omicron 1950). He served in the military (1952-4), earning the rank of first lieutenant, and subsequently worked for the United States Information Agency, serving in Iraq (in 1958 he was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for bravery during the Baghdad revolution), Pakistan, Indonesia, and Greece between 1957 and 1965. Leaving the United States foreign service after eight years, he stayed on in Greece. He undertook further study (1963-4) at the University of Thessaloniki, and lived for three years on the island of Mykonos, where he began to write his first novel. That was eventually published in 1969 as The Spook Who Sat by the Door, the story of a black man who is recruited as a CIA agent and having mastered the skills of a spy then uses them to lead a black guerrilla movement in the US. Greenlee co-wrote (with Mel Clay) the screenplay for the 1973 film The Spook Who Sat by the Door, which he also co-produced with director Ivan Dixon and which is considered "one of the more memorable and impassioned films that came out around the beginning of the notoriously polarizing blaxploitation era." In 2011, an independent documentary entitled Infiltrating Hollywood: The Rise and Fall of the Spook Who Sat by the Door was filmed by Christine Acham and Clifford Ward, about the making and reception of the Spook film,  in which Greenlee spoke out about the suppression of the film soon after its release. In a chance meeting with Aubrey Lewis (1935–2001), one of the first Black FBI agents to have been recruited in 1962 by the FBI, Greenlee was told that The Spook Who Sat by the Door was required reading at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. Other works by Greenlee include Baghdad Blues, a 1976 novel based on his experiences traveling in Iraq in the 1950s and witnessing the 1958 Iraqi revolution, Blues for an African Princess, a 1971 collection of poems, and Ammunition (poetry, 1975). In 1990 Greenlee won the Illinois poet laureate award. He also wrote short stories, plays (although he found no producer for any of them), and the screenplay for a film short called Lisa Trotter (2010), a story adapted from Aristophanes' Lysistrata. On May 19, 2014, Greenlee died in Chicago at the age of 83. On June 6, 2014, Chicago's DuSable Museum of African American History sponsored an evening of celebration in his honor, attended by his daughter Natiki Montano.

 

 

 

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(03/09/2015) Songs From the Gallows/Galgenlieder by Christian Morgenstern. New Haven. 1993. Yale University Press. Translated from the German by Walter Arndt. 137 pages. hardcover. Jacket illustration Luft-Leone Design. 0300052782

 

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

 

   Christina Morgenstern (1871-1914) was a German poet, theosophist, and translator whose nonsense poems have been among the best-known and best-loved works in Germany throughout this century. Often compared to the drolleries of Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear, Morgenstern’s poems are whimsical yet haunting, a rare blend of humor and odd metaphysical intimations. Morgenstern wrote the first of his Galgenlieder after he and some friends had returned from a carefree outing past Gallows Hill near Potsdam and formed a ‘fraternal order of the gallows.’ His collection, published in Germany between 1905 and 1916, eventually comprised 286 poems. This new edition is a bilingual selection of some 90 poems from the original work. The reader is introduced to inventions like the clock that moves slowly or quickly as its sympathy for the clock watcher dictates; the luncheon newspaper that, when read, also satisfies one’s hunger; the mail that is sent from a vacation retreat on the antlers or tails of bucks. To translate Morgenstern is a daunting task, and Walter Arndt has succeeded brilliantly, following the poet’s verbal acrobatics, his phonetic, semantic, and syntactic play with words and clauses, and, where possible, his trick of stripping discourse of conventions and pretensions by a bizarre literal interpretation of conventional phrases and metaphors. His translation of Morgenstern’s poems of nonsense, or ‘supersense,’ will be treasured by scholars of the German lyric and by children of all ages.

 

Morgenstern Christian  Christian Otto Josef Wolfgang Morgenstern (6 May 1871 – 31 March 1914) was a German author and poet from Munich. Morgenstern married Margareta Gosebruch von Liechtenstern on 7 March 1910. He worked for a while as a journalist in Berlin, but spent much of his life traveling through Germany, Switzerland, and Italy, primarily in a vain attempt to recover his health. His travels, though they failed to restore him to health, allowed him to meet many of the foremost literary and philosophical figures of his time in central Europe. Morgenstern's poetry, much of which was inspired by English literary nonsense, is immensely popular, even though he enjoyed very little success during his lifetime. He made fun of scholasticism, e.g. literary criticism in "Drei Hasen", grammar in "Der Werwolf", narrow-mindedness in "Der Gaul", and symbolism in "Der Wasseresel". In “Scholastikerprobleme" he discussed how many angels could sit on a needle. Embedded in his humorous poetry is a subtle metaphysical streak. Gerolf Steiner's mock-scientific book about the fictitious animal order Rhinogradentia (1961), inspired by Morgenstern's nonsense poem Das Nasobēm, is testament to his enduring popularity. Morgenstern was a member of the General Anthroposophical Society. Dr. Rudolf Steiner called him 'a true representative of Anthroposophy'. Morgenstern died in 1914 of tuberculosis, which he had contracted from his mother, who died in 1881. Walter Arndt, Sherman Fairchild Professor in the Humanities Emeritus at Dartmouth College, is also a distinguished and prize-winning translator of Pushkin, Rilke, Goethe, Wilhelm Busch, and other poets.

 

 

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(03/07/2015) The Light of Truth: Writings of an Anti-Lynching Crusader by Ida B. Wells. New York. 2014. Penguin Books. Edited and with an Introduction by Mia Bay. General Editor: Henry Louis Gates, Jr. 518 pages. paperback. Cover photograph: Ida B. Wells, in a photograph by Mary Garrity, c.1893. 9780143106821

 

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   ‘The way to right wrongs is to turn to the light of truth upon them.’ Seventy-one years before Rosa Parks was arrested for her courageous act of resistance, police dragged a young black journalist named Ida B. Wells off a train for refusing to give up her seat. That experience shaped Wells’s career as a journalist and spurred her to become a fierce civil rights advocate. When hate crimes touched her life personally, she began what was to become her life’s work: an anti-lynching crusade that captured attention across the United States and abroad. A pioneer in the civil rights movement, Wells exposed the horrors of lynching and brought to light the myths used to justify it. Covering the scope of Wells’s remarkable career, The Light of Truth contains her early writings, her anti-lynching exposés, articles from her travels abroad, and her later journalism. ‘Brave woman! You have done your people and mine a service which can neither be weighed nor measured.’ - Frederick Douglass.

 

Wells Ida B  Ida Bell Wells-Barnett (July 16, 1862 – March 25, 1931) was an African-American journalist, newspaper editor, suffragist, sociologist, and an early leader in the civil rights movement. She documented lynching in the United States, showing that it was often used as a way to control or punish blacks who competed with whites, rather than being based in criminal acts by blacks, as was usually claimed by white mobs. She was active in women's rights and the women's suffrage movement, establishing several notable women's organizations. Wells was a skilled and persuasive rhetorician, and traveled internationally on lecture tours.

 

 

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(02/26/2015) The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family by Annette Gordon-Reed. New York. 2008. Norton. hardcover. 798 pages.  Jacket design by Debra Morton Hoyt.  keywords: African American History Sally Hemings Race America. 9780393064773.

 

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

 

   In the mid-1700s the English captain of a trading ship that made runs between England and the Virginia colony fathered a child by an enslaved woman living near Williamsburg. The woman, whose name is unknown and who is believed to have been born in Africa, was owned by the Eppeses, a prominent Virginia family. The captain, whose surname was Hemings, and the woman had a daughter. They named her Elizabeth. So begins this epic work-named a best book of the year by the Washington Post, Time, the Los Angeles Times, Amazon.com, the San Francisco Chronicle, and a notable book by the New York Times-Annette Gordon-Reed's ‘riveting history’ of the Hemings family, whose story comes to vivid life in this brilliantly researched and deeply moving work. Gordon-Reed, author of the highly acclaimed historiography THOMAS JEFFERSON AND SALLY HEMINGS: AN AMERICAN CONTROVERSY, unearths startling new information about the Hemingses, Jefferson, and his white family. Although the book presents the most detailed and richly drawn portrait ever written of Sarah Hemings, better known by her nickname Sally, who bore seven children by Jefferson over the course of their thirty-eight-year liaison, The Hemingses of Monticello tells more than the story of her life with Jefferson and their children. The Hemingses as a whole take their rightful place in the narrative of the family's extraordinary engagement with one of history's most important figures. Not only do we meet Elizabeth Hemings-the family matriarch and mother to twelve children, six by John Wayles, a poor English immigrant who rose to great wealth in the Virginia colony-but we follow the Hemings family as they become the property of Jefferson through his marriage to Martha Wayles. The Hemings-Wayles children, siblings to Martha, played pivotal roles in the life at Jefferson's estate. We follow the Hemingses to Paris, where James Hemings trained as a chef in one of the most prestigious kitchens in France and where Sally arrived as a fourteen-year-old chaperone for Jefferson's daughter Polly; to Philadelphia, where James Hemings acted as the major domo to the newly appointed secretary of state; to Charlottesville, where Mary Hemings lived with her partner, a prosperous white merchant who left her and their children a home and property; to Richmond, where Robert Hemings engineered a plan for his freedom; and finally to Monticello, that iconic home on the mountain, from where most of Jefferson's slaves, many of them Hemings family members, were sold at auction six months after his death in 1826. As THE HEMINGSES OF MONTICELLO makes vividly clear, Monticello can no longer be known only as the home of a remarkable American leader, the author of the Declaration of Independence; nor can the story of the Hemingses, whose close blood ties to our third president have been expunged from history until very recently, be left out of the telling of America's story. With its empathetic and insightful consideration of human beings acting in almost unimaginably difficult and complicated family circumstances, THE HEMINGSES OF MONTICELLO is history as great literature. It is a remarkable achievement.

 

 ANNETTE GORDON-REED is a professor of law at New York Law School and a professor of history at Rutgers University. She is the author of THOMAS JEFFERSON AND SALLY HEMINGS: AN AMERICAN CONTROVERSY.

 

 

 

 

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(02/25/2015) ‘Face Zion Forward’: First Writers of the Black Atlantic, 1785-1798 by Joanna Brooks and John Saillant (editors). Boston. 2002. Northeastern University Press. paperback. 242 pages. Cover illustration by Leslie Evans.  Introduction by Joanna Brooks and John Saillant. keywords: Literature Black Atlantic 18th Century African American. 1555535399.

 

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

 

   At the close of the Revolutionary War, in 1783, more than three thousand black Loyalists, many liberated from slavery by enlisting in the British army, left New York for Nova Scotia in search of land and freedom. Almost half of the emigrants settled an independent black community at Birchtown, Nova Scotia, where, in spite of extraordinarily harsh conditions, they established their own churches and schools and cultivated a shared sense of themselves as a chosen people. A majority of the population emigrated once again in 1791, this time setting sail for Sierra Leone to fulfill what they perceived to be their prophetic destiny. This circuit of gathering, exodus, and diaspora was grounded in a unique black Atlantic theology focused on redemption and Zion that was conceptualized and shaped by the charismatic black evangelists of diverse Protestant faiths who converged in the Nova Scotia settlements. ‘‘Face Zion Forward’ now brings together the remarkable writings of these early authors of the black Atlantic. This collection of memoirs, sermons, and speeches, many of which are based on the Birchtown experience, documents how John Marrant, David George, Boston King, and Prince Hall envisioned the role of Africa and African American communities in black liberation. ‘Face Zion Forward’ provides an informed reconstruction of the major ideological and theological conversations that occurred among North American blacks after the American Revolution and illustrates the disparate and complex underpinnings of the modern black Atlantic. In addition, the work presents invaluable insights into African American literary traditions and the development of Ethiopianist and black nationalist discourses.

 

JOANNA BROOKS is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin.

 

Brooks Joanna and Saillant John

 

JOHN SAILLANT is Associate Professor of English and History at Western Michigan University.

 

RICHARD YARBOROUGH, editor of the Northeastern Library of Black Literature, is Associate Professor of English at the University of California, Los Angeles.

 

 

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(02/23/2015) Racism 101 by Nikki Giovanni. New York. 1994. Morrow. hardcover. 203 pages.  Jacket design by Debra Morton Hoyt. Front jacket photograph by Chris Callis Studio.  keywords: Black Racism Women African American. 0688043321.

 

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

 

   In RACISM 101, Nikki Giovanni indicts higher education for the inequities it perpetuates, contemplates the legacy of the l960s, provides a survival guide for black students on predominantly white campuses (complete with razor-sharp comebacks to the dumb questions constantly asked of black students) and excoriates Spike Lee while offering her own ideas for a film about Malcolm X. And that is just for starters. She also writes about W. E. B. Du Bois, gardening, Toni Morrison, Star Trek, affirmative action, space exploration, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the role of griots, and the rape and neglect of urban schools. But to reduce Nikki Giovanni’s essays to their subjects is to miss altogether their significance. As Virginia C. Fowler writes in her Foreword, ‘These pieces are artistic expression of a particular way of looking at the world, featuring a performing voice capable of dizzying displays of virtuosity.’ Profoundly personal and blisteringly political angry and funny, lyrical and blunt, RACISM 101 will add an important chapter to the debate on American national values.

 

  Nikki Giovanni, one of America’s most widely read living poets, has earned a reputation for being outspoken and controversial - mostly because she always speaks her mind. She entered the literary world at the height of the Black Arts Movement and quickly achieved not simple fame but stardom. A recording of her poems was one of the best-selling albums in the country; all but one of her nearly twenty books are still in print with several having sold more than a hundred thousand copies. Named woman of the year by three different magazines, including Ebony, and recipient of a host of honorary doctorates and awards, Nikki Giovanni has read from her work and lectured at colleges around the country. Her books include BLACK FEELING, BLACK TALK/BLACK JUDGEMENT; MY HOUSE; THE WOMEN AND THE MEN; COTTON CANDY ON A RAINY DAY; THOSE WHO RIDE THE NIGHT WINDS; and SACRED COWS.  AND OTHER EDIBLES. Nikki Giovanni is a professor of English at Virginia Polytechnic.

 

 

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(02/18/2015) Deep Sightings & Rescue Missions: Fiction,Essays,& Conversations by Toni Cade Bambara. New York. 1996. Pantheon Books. hardcover. 255 pages. November 1996.  Jacket photograph by Joyce Middler. Jacket design by Marjorie Anderson. Edited & With a Preface by Toni Morrison. 0679442502.

 

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

 

   On December 9, 1995, Toni Cade Bambara died at the age of fifty-six, a profound loss to American Culture. In its obituary the New York Times called her ‘a major contributor to the emerging genre of black women’s literature, along with the writers Toni Morrison and Alice Walker.’ The author of many acclaimed works of fiction and nonfiction, among them three pioneering and timeless volumes: GORILLA, MY LOVE and THE SEABIRDS ARE STILL ALIVE, both collections of stories, and THE SALT EATERS, a novel, Bambara had not published a new book in the fourteen years prior to her death. She developed during that time a keen interest in film - as a scriptwriter, filmmaker, critic, and teacher - and collaborated on several television documentaries, including The Bombing of Osage Avenue, about the police assault on the MOVE headquarters in Philadelphia, and on the W. E. B. Du Bois Film Project. Bambara also helped to launch the careers of many other black women filmmakers. DEEP SIGHTINGS AND RESCUE MISSIONS is a brilliant distillation of Bambara’s original sensibility and a confirmation of her status as one of America’s great post—World War II writers. Here is a rich selection of her writings, many of which have never before appeared in print: stories (‘Madame Bai and the Taking of Stone Mountain,’ ‘Ice,’ ‘Luther on Sweet Auburn’), essays (‘Language and the Writer,’ ‘The Education of a Storyteller.’), film criticism (‘School Daze’), and a revealing interview. DEEP SIGHTINGS AND RESCUE MISSIONS is an unexpected treasure not only to those who are already familiar with Bambara’s work, but to a new generation of readers who will recognize in her writing a strong precursor to much of contemporary American literature.

 

 TONI CADE BAMBARA is the author of two short-story collection, GORILLA, MY LOVE and THE SEABIRDS ARE STILL ALIVE, and a novel, THE SALT EATERS. She edited THE BLACK WOMAN and TALES AND SHORT STORIES FOR BLACK FOLKS. Bambara’s works have appeared in many periodicals and have been translated into several languages.

 

 

 

 

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(02/07/2015) Those Bones Are Not My Child: A Novel by Toni Cade Bambara. New York. 1999. Pantheon Books. hardcover. 676 pages. October 1999.  Jacket photograph by CORBIS/Galen Rowell. Jacket design by Marjorie Anderson.  keywords: Literature Black Women America Atlanta African American. 0679442618.

 

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

 

   THOSE BONES ARE NOT MY CHILD is a staggering achievement: the novel that Toni Cade Bambara worked on for twelve years until her death in 1995 - a story that puts us at the center of the nightmare of the Atlanta child murders. It was called ‘The City Too Busy To Hate,’ but two decades ago more than forty black children were murdered there with grim determination, their bodies found - in ditches, on riverbanks - strangled, beaten, and sexually assaulted. Bambara was living in Atlanta at the time, and THOSE BONES ARE NOT MY CHILD is the result of her painstaking first-hand research, as she delved into the murders and the world in which the occurred. Evoking the culture of the late 1970s and early ‘80s with a keen eye - the Iranian hostage crisis, disco, Travis Bickle of Taxi Driver - THOSE BONES ARE NOT MY CHILD powerfully dramatizes the story of one black family surviving on the margins of a seemingly prosperous city. On Sunday morning, July 20, 1980, Marzala Rawls Spencer awakens to find that her teenage son has gone missing, even as the Atlanta child abductions are beginning to be reported. As she and her estranged husband frantically search for their son, the story moves with authority through the full spectrum of Atlanta’s political, social, and cultural life, illuminating the vexing issues of race and class that bedevil the city. Suspenseful, richly dramatic, profoundly affecting, THOSE BONES ARE NOT MY CHILD explores the complex relationships within one family in dire crisis. And as Toni Morrison, who edited Bambara’s manuscript, has observed, it is also ‘the narrative revelation of a major Southern city of the ‘80s, a revelation of what clogs the bloodstream of ‘The City Too Busy To Hate:’

 

  TONI CADE BAMBARA was the author of two short story collections, GORILLA, MY LOVE and THE SEABIRDS ARE STILL ALIVE; a novel, THE SALT EATERS; and a collection of fiction, essays, and conversations, DEEP SIGHTINGS AND RESCUE MISSIONS. Her writings continue to appear in literature anthologies throughout the world. A noted documentary filmmaker and screenwriter, Bambara’s film work includes the documentaries The Bombing of Osage Avenue and W. E. B. Du Bois: A Biography in Four Voices.

 

 

 

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(02/06/2015) Why I Left America & Other Essays by Oliver W. Harrington. Jackson. 1993. University Press Of Mississippi. hardcover. 113 pages.  Photo of Oliver W. Harrington by Gerhard Kindt.  keywords: America Black Autobiography Politics History Racism African American. 0878056556.

 

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

 

   To American black newspapers of the 1930s and 1940s Ollie Harrington was a prolific contributor of humorous and editorial cartoons. He emerged as an artist during the Harlem Renaissance and created Bootsie, the popular cartoon figure that became a fixture in black newspapers. Langston Hughes praised Harrington as America’s greatest black cartoonist. After serving as a war correspondent in Italy, he returned to his homeland and the impediment of racism that pervaded American life. As director of public relations for the NAACP, he crusaded against America’s policies of institutionalized racism, openly supporting leftist reform leaders. Upon hearing in this era of red-baiting that he was targeted for investigation, Harrington left America. In the culturally rich American community on the Left Bank in Paris that would come to include Chester Himes, James Baldwin, and Richard Wright, he became a fixture. In 1961 he found himself trapped behind the Berlin Wall, but he chose to remain in East Germany. His cartoons appeared in East German magazines and in the American Communist newspaper The Daily World. Although he became a favorite with Eastern Bloc students and intellectuals, in America Harrington was mainly forgotten. The autobiographical pieces included in WHY I LEFT AMERICA AND OTHER ESSAYS, written mainly during the 1960s and 1970s, detail Oliver W. Harrington’s experiences as an African American artist in exile. One theme that persists in these writings and his cartoons is his intolerance of racism. Hence, as an artist, he has found it impossible not to be political. ‘Although I believe that ‘art for art’s sake’ has its merits,’ he says. ‘I personally feel that my art must be involved, and the most profound involvement must be with the Black liberation struggle.’ One essay, from Ebony magazine, fuels speculation about the mysterious circumstances in the death of his friend Richard Wright. In another piece Harrington details how he created the celebrated Bootsie. He writes in others of his life in New York during the Harlem Renaissance and in Paris with fellow black expatriate figures. Why did this African American choose to live in exile for over forty years? In an affectionate foreword to this volume Richard Wright’s daughter Julia gives clues to the answer. Her insights, along with M. Thomas Inge’s introductory essay about Harrington’s life and achievements, bring special focus to the experiences of an outstanding African American artist and social critic who has been virtually without recognition in his homeland.

 

Harrington Oliver W  Oliver Wendell "Ollie" Harrington (February 14, 1912 – November 2, 1995) was an American cartoonist and an outspoken advocate against racism and for civil rights in the United States. Of multi-ethnic descent, Langston Hughes called him "America's greatest African-American cartoonist". Harrington requested political asylum in East Germany in 1961; he lived in Berlin for the last three decades of his life. Born to Herbert and Euzsenie Turat Harrington in Valhalla, New York, Harrington was the eldest of five children. He began cartooning to vent his frustrations about a viciously racist sixth grade teacher and graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School in 1929. Immersing himself in the Harlem Renaissance, Harrington found employment when Ted Poston, city editor for the Amsterdam News became aware of Harrington's already considerable skills as a cartoonist and political satirist. In 1935, Harrington created Dark Laughter, a regular single panel cartoon, for that publication. The strip featured the debut of his most famous character, Bootsie, an ordinary African American dealing with racism in the U.S. Harrington described him as "a jolly, rather well-fed but soulful character." During this period, Harrington enrolled in Fine Arts at Yale University to complete his degree, but could not finish because of the United States entry into World War II). During World War II, the Pittsburgh Courier sent Harrington as a correspondent to Europe and North Africa. In Italy, he met Walter White, executive secretary of the NAACP. After the war, White hired Harrington to develop the organization's public relations department, where he became a visible and outspoken advocate for civil rights. In that capacity, Harrington published "Terror in Tennessee," a controversial expose of increased lynching violence in the post-W.W. II South. Given the publicity garnered by his sensational critique, Harrington was invited to debate with U.S. Attorney General Tom C. Clark on the topic of "The Struggle for Justice as a World Force." He confronted Clark for the U.S. government's failure to curb lynching and other racially motivated violence. In 1947 Harrington left the NAACP and returned to cartooning. In the postwar period his prominence and social activism brought him scrutiny from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the House Un-American Activities Committee. Hoping to avoid further government scrutiny, Harrington moved to Paris in 1951. In Paris, Harrington joined a thriving community of African-American expatriate writers and artists, including James Baldwin, Chester Himes, and Richard Wright, who became a close friend. Harrington was shaken by Wright's death in 1960, suspecting that he was assassinated. He thought that the American embassy had a deliberate campaign of harassment directed toward the expatriates. In 1961 he requested political asylum in East Germany. He spent the rest of his life in East Berlin, finding plentiful work and a cult following. He illustrated and contributed to publications such as Eulenspiegel, Das Magazine, and the Daily Worker.Harrington had four children. Two daughters are U.S. nationals; a third is a British national. All were born before Harrington emigrated to East Berlin. His youngest child, a son, was born several years after Harrington married Helma Richter, a German journalist. Publications:   Dark Laughter: The Satiric Art of Oliver W. Harrington, ed. M. Thomas Inge (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1993); Why I Left America and Other Essays, ed. M. Thomas Inge (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1993); Laughing on the Outside: The Intelligent White Reader's Guide to Negro Tales and Humor (New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1965). [With Philip Sterling and J. Saunders Redding]; Bootsie and Others: A Selection of Cartoons (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1958); Hezekiah Horton (Viking Press, 1955). [with Ellen Tarry]; Terror in Tennessee: The Truth about the Columbia Outrages (New York: "Committee of 100", 1946). M. Thomas Inge is the Robert Emory Blackwell Professor of Humanities at Randolph-Macon College.

 

M. Thomas Inge is the Robert Emory Blackwell Professor of Humanities at Randolph-Macon College.

 

 

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(02/03/2015) Cane by Jean Toomer. New York. 1975. Liveright. hardcover. 116 pages.  Jacket design by Tim Gaydos. With A New Introduction by Darwin T. Turner. keywords: Literature Black America African American. 087140611x.

 

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

 

   First published in 1923 and now reissued with a new introduction by Darwin T. Turner, CANE is an acknowledged classic - a powerful work of innovative fiction evoking Negro life in the South, primarily Georgia. Jean Toomer was born in 1894 in Washington, D.C., the son of educated blacks of Creole stock. He studied various subjects at a number of universities, but literature was his first love and he regularly contributed avant-garde poetry and short stories to such magazines as DIAL, BROOM, SECESSION, DOUBLE DEALER, and LITTLE REVIEW. After a brief literary apprenticeship in New York, Toomer taught school in rural Georgia. It was that experience that led to the writing of CANE. ‘By far the most impressive product of the Negro Renaissance, [CANE] ranks with Richard Wright’s NATIVE SON and Ralph Ellison’s INVISIBLE MAN as a measure of the Negro novelist’s highest achievement. Jean Toomer belongs to that first rank of writers who use words almost as a plastic medium, shaping new meanings from an original and highly personal style.  Toomer displays a concern for technique which is fully two decades in advance of the period. While his contemporaries of the Harlem School were still experimenting with a crude literary realism, Toomer had progressed beyond the naturalistic level to ‘the higher realism of the emotions,’ to symbol, and to myth.’ - Robert A. Bone, THE NEGRO NOVEL IN AMERICA. ‘No earlier volume of poetry or fiction or both had come close to expressing the ethos of the Negro in the Southern setting as Cane did. Even in today’s ghettos astute readers are finding that its insights have anticipated and often exceeded their own.’ - Arna Bontemps. ‘The colored people did not praise it. The, white people did not buy it.  Yet (excepting the work of DuBois) CANE contains the finest prose written by a Negro in America.’ - Langston Hughes.

 

 Jean Toomer (December 26, 1894 – March 30, 1967) was an American poet and novelist and an important figure of the Harlem Renaissance. His first book Cane, published in 1923, is considered by many his most significant. Toomer was born Nathan Eugene Pinchback Toomer in Washington, D.C. His father was a prosperous farmer, originally born into slavery in Hancock County, Georgia. His mother, Nina Pinchback, was of mixed ethnic descent. Her father, Louisiana Governor P. B. S. Pinchback, was a planter and the first African American to become governor of a U.S. state. Her mother was a mulatto slave. Both of Toomer's maternal grandparents had white fathers. After Reconstruction, the Pinchbacks had moved to Washington, D.C., where they became part of the ‘mulatto elite.’ Toomer's father (also called Nathan Toomer) abandoned the family when his son was an infant, and the boy and his mother lived with her parents. As a child in Washington, Toomer attended all-black schools. When his mother re-married and they moved to suburban New Rochelle, New York, he attended an all-white school. After his mother's death, Toomer returned to Washington to live with his Pinchback grandparents. He graduated from the M Street School, an academic black high school. By his early adult years, Toomer resisted racial classifications and wanted to be identified only as an American. Between 1914 and 1917 Toomer attended six institutions of higher education (the University of Wisconsin, the Massachusetts College of Agriculture, the American College of Physical Training in Chicago, the University of Chicago, New York University, and the City College of New York) studying agriculture, fitness, biology, sociology, and history, but he never completed a degree. His wide readings among prominent contemporary poets and writers, and the lectures he attended during his college years, shaped the direction of his writing. After leaving college, Toomer published some short stories and continued writing in the volatile social period following World War I. He worked for some months in a shipyard in 1919, then escaped to middle-class life. Labor strikes and race riots occurred in several major cities during the summer of 1919, and artistic ferment was high. He devoted several months to the study of Eastern philosophies and continued to be interested in this. Some of his early writing was political, and he published three essays from 1919-1920 in the prominent socialist paper New York Call. They drew from the socialist and ‘New Negro’ movements of New York. Toomer was reading much new American writing, for instance Waldo Frank's Our America (1919). In 1921 Toomer took a job for a few months as a principal at a new rural agricultural and industrial school for blacks in Sparta, Georgia. It was in the center of Hancock County and in the Black Belt 100 miles southeast of Atlanta. His exploration of his father's roots in Hancock County, as well as being forced into witnessing the segregation and labor peonage of the Deep South, led him to identify more strongly as an African American. Several lynchings took place in Georgia during 1921-1922, continuing to enforce white supremacy with violence. In 1908 the state had ratified a constitution essentially disfranchising blacks; by Toomer's time, it passed laws to prevent outmigration and established high licenses fees for employers recruiting labor in the state. African Americans had started their Great Migration north and planters feared losing their pool of cheap labor. It was a formative experience for Toomer; he started writing about it while still in Georgia and submitted the long story ‘Georgia Night’ to the Liberator in New York while there. Toomer returned to New York where he became friends with Waldo Frank, who also served as his mentor and editor on his novel Cane. In 1923, Toomer published the High Modernist novel Cane, in which he used a variety of forms, and material inspired by his time in Georgia. It was also an ‘analysis of class and caste’, with ‘secrecy and miscegenation as major themes of the first section’. He had conceived it as a short-story cycle, and acknowledged the influence of Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio (1919) as his model, in addition to other influential works of that period. He also appeared to have absorbed The Waste Land of T. S. Eliot and considered him one of the American group of writers he wanted to join, ‘artists and intellectuals who were engaged in renewing American society at its multi-cultural core.’ Many scholars considered Cane to be his best work. A series of poems and short stories about the black experience in America, Cane was hailed by critics and is seen as an important work of both the Harlem Renaissance and the Lost Generation. Toomer resisted racial classification and did not want the book marketed as a black work. As he said to his publisher Horace Liveright, ‘My racial composition and my position in the world are realities that I alone may determine.’ Toomer found it more difficult to get published throughout the 1930s, as did many authors during the Great Depression. He became very interested in the work of the spiritual leader George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff, who had a lecture tour in the United States in 1924. That year, and in 1926 and 1927, Toomer went to France to study with Gurdjieff, who had settled at Fontainebleau. He was a student of Gurdjieff until the mid-1930s. In 1931 Toomer married the writer Margery Latimer. The following year she died in childbirth in August 1932 and he named their only daughter Margery. In 1934 he married a second time, to Marjorie Content. Because Toomer was notable as a writer, his two marriages, both classed as inter-racial, attracted notice and some social criticism. In 1940 the Toomers moved to Doylestown, Pennsylvania. There he formally joined the Quakers and began to withdraw from society. Toomer wrote a small amount of fiction and published essays in Quaker publications during this time, but devoted most of his time to serving on Quaker committees and working with high school students. His last literary work published during his lifetime was Blue Meridian, a long poem extolling ‘the potential of the American race’. He stopped writing for publication after 1950, although he wrote for himself, including several autobiographies. He died in 1967 after several years of poor health. Darwin T. Turner is presently professor of English and chairman of the Afro-American Studies program at the University of Iowa. He has also taught at Clark College, Morgan State College, Florida A&M, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Hawaii. He is the author of numerous essays in Black Studies and in American literature, and is prominent in professional organizations. He has currently been working with Jean Toomer’s unpublished writings.

 

 

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(02/02/2015) Rails Under My Back by Jeffrey Renard Allen. New York. 2000. Farrar Straus Giroux. hardcover. 563 pages.. keywords: Literature Black America African American. 0374246262.

 

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

 

   An astonishing debut novel, exploring the bonds, boundaries, and bondage of an African American family. Rails Under My Back is a daring work of art that reveals its family theme in a stunning depiction of its paradoxically opposite: abandonment. In this multifaceted, brilliantly colored, intensely musical novel, Jeffery Renard Allen tracks the interwoven lives of two brothers, Lucius and John Jones, who are married to two sisters, Gracie and Sheila McShan. For them, their parents, and their children, life is always full of departures; someone is always fleeing town and leaving the remaining family to suffer the often dramatic, sometimes tragic consequences. The multiple effects of the comings and goings are devastating: these are the almost mythic expression of the African American experience during the past half-century. Rails Under My Back ranges, as the characters do, from the City, which is somewhat like both New York and Chicago, to Memphis, to the West, and to many 'inner' and 'outer' locales. One image that holds the family together is that of the railroads taking them from place to place-from the South to the North, from their living to their working quarters, from one form of bondage or freedom to another. The McShans and the Joneses somehow prevail, in their bigger-than-life way, and their story has extraordinary literary, religious, and historical power. Allen's voice is unforgettable.

 

Allen Jeffrey Renard  Jeffery Renard Allen (born 1962 Chicago) is an American poet, essayist, short story writer, and novelist.He is the author of two collections of poetry, Harbors and Spirits (Moyer Bell 1999) and Stellar Places (Moyer Bell 2007), and three works of fiction, the novel Rails Under My Back (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux 2000), a story collection Holding Pattern (Graywolf Press, 2008) and a second novel, Song of the Shank (Graywolf Press, 2014). In writing about his fiction, reviewers often note his lyrical use of language and his playful use of form to write about African American life. His poems tend to focus on music, mythology, history, film, and other sources, rather than narrative or autobiographical experiences.

 

 

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(02/01/2015) The Black Interior: Essays by Elizabeth Alexander. Saint Paul. 2004. Graywolf Press. paperback. 224 pages.  Cover design by Julie Metz. Cover art: Elizabeth Catlett. ‘The Black Women Speaks’.  keywords: Literature Black Women Essays African American. 1555973930.

 

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   ‘Elizabeth Alexander is one of the brightest stars in our literary sky. a poet of poise and power. Now we see that she’s also capable of striking prose. These essays speak eloquently not only about literature - especially poetry - but also about life itself and the complicated culture in which we live. Her sharp intelligence and her knowledge of the contemporary arts make her a superb, invaluable commentator on the American scene.’ - Arnold Rampersad, Stanford University. ‘When a poet of such declarative distinction as Elizabeth Alexander unfolds her critical wings, she swoops across the landscape of Black cultural thought, making it new, making it her own. This is a work of great generosity and insight that explores the deep springs of African American creativity with a sensibility that is both moving and engaging.’ - Homi K. Bhabha, Rothenberg Professor of English, Harvard University. ‘In prose that is both elegant and clear, rigorous and accessible, Elizabeth Alexander illuminates in these essays on art, literature, film and politics, places in African American culture that elude stereotypic representations and the limits of public discourse.’ - Valerie Smith, Princeton University. ‘Elizabeth Alexander’s keen observations about a broad range of African American artifacts - poems, films, photographs, and conceptual art, for example - offer far more than clever visual analysis. They set cultural objects into their broadest social context. In these perceptive and eloquent essays, Alexander continually reminds us of the power of representation – words, images, indeed art itself - to oppress, to provoke, and ultimately to liberate. THE BLACK INTERIOR represents the best and most resonant form of cultural history writing that tackles life-and-death issues through the lenses of visual and literary culture.’ - Maurice Berger, Senior Fellow, The Vera List Center for Art & Politics, New School University.

 

 Elizabeth Alexander is the author of three collections of poetry, most recently ANTEBELLUM DREAM BOOK. She has taught and lectured on African American art and culture across the country and abroad for nearly two decades. Alexander currently teaches English and African American Studies at Yale University.

 

 

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(01/27/2015)The Worlds of Robert A. Heinlein by Robert Heinlein. New York. 1966. Ace Publishing. 189 pages.  paperback.

 

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

 

   What if you had invented a means of predicting a man’s death, and all the insurance companies were going bankrupt? What if you had in your hands the ultimate weapon, for which no defense exists, and you knew that momentarily any other country could discover the same weapon? What if you had to find a young girl, blind and alone, who was lost somewhere on the vast face of the Moon? ROBERT A. HEINLEIN—winner of three Hugo Awards, and the most honored writer in science fiction—takes it from there in THE WORLDS OF ROBERT A. HEINLEIN, in stories which origin ally established his exciting reputation, plus a completely new, never-before-published novelette which shows Heinlein at the peak of his ability. It’s a collection no SF fan can afford to miss! 

 

 Robert Anson Heinlein (July 7, 1907 – May 8, 1988) was an American science fiction writer. Often called the ‘dean of science fiction writers’, he was one of the most influential and controversial authors of the genre in his time. He set a standard for scientific and engineering plausibility, and helped to raise the genre's standards of literary quality. He was one of the first science fiction writers to break into mainstream magazines such as The Saturday Evening Post in the late 1940s. He was one of the best-selling science fiction novelists for many decades, and he, Isaac Asimov, and Arthur C. Clarke are often considered to be the ‘Big Three’ of science fiction authors. A notable writer of science fiction short stories, Heinlein was one of a group of writers who came to prominence under the editorship of John W. Campbell, Jr. in his Astounding Science Fiction magazine—though Heinlein denied that Campbell influenced his writing to any great degree. Within the framework of his science fiction stories, Heinlein repeatedly addressed certain social themes: the importance of individual liberty and self-reliance, the obligation individuals owe to their societies, the influence of organized religion on culture and government, and the tendency of society to repress nonconformist thought. He also speculated on the influence of space travel on human cultural practices. Heinlein was named the first Science Fiction Writers Grand Master in 1974. He won Hugo Awards for four of his novels; in addition, fifty years after publication, three of his works were awarded ‘Retro Hugos‘—awards given retrospectively for works that were published before the Hugo Awards came into existence. In his fiction, Heinlein coined words that have become part of the English language, including ‘grok‘ and ‘waldo‘, and popularized the terms ‘TANSTAAFL‘ and space marine. He also described a modern version of a waterbed in his novel The Door Into Summer, though he never patented or built one. Several of Heinlein's works have been adapted for film and television.

 

 

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(01/14/2015) Algerian Chronicles by Albert Camus. Cambridge. 2013. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press. 240 pages.  hardcover.  Translated from the French by Arthur Goldhammer. Introduction by Alice Kaplan.  9780674072589 

 

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

 

   More than fifty years after Algerian independence, Albert Camus’ Algerian Chronicles appears here in English for the first time. Published in France in 1958, the same year the Algerian War brought about the collapse of the Fourth French Republic, it is one of Camus’ most political works—an exploration of his commitments to Algeria. Dismissed or disdained at publication, today Algerian Chronicles, with its prescient analysis of the dead end of terrorism, enjoys a new life in Arthur Goldhammer’s elegant translation. “Believe me when I tell you that Algeria is where I hurt at this moment,” Camus, who was the most visible symbol of France’s troubled relationship with Algeria, writes, “as others feel pain in their lungs.” Gathered here are Camus’ strongest statements on Algeria from the 1930s through the 1950s, revised and supplemented by the author for publication in book form. In her introduction, Alice Kaplan illuminates the dilemma faced by Camus: he was committed to the defense of those who suffered colonial injustices, yet was unable to support Algerian national sovereignty apart from France. An appendix of lesser-known texts that did not appear in the French edition complements the picture of a moralist who posed questions about violence and counter-violence, national identity, terrorism, and justice that continue to illuminate our contemporary world.

 

 Albert Camus was born in Algeria in 1913. The son of a working-class family, he spent the early years of his life in North Africa, where he worked at various jobs to help pay for his courses at the University of Algiers. In occupied France in 1942 he published THE MYTH OF SISYPHUS and THE STRANGER, a philosophical essay and a novel that first brought him to the attention of intellectual circles. THE STRANGER has since gained an international reputation and is one the most widely read novels of this century. Among his other works of fiction are THE PLAGUE, THE FALL, and EXILE AND THE KINGDOM. In 1957 Camus was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. On January 4, 1960, he was killed in a car accident.03/12/2015) The Disappearance Of The Outside by Andrei Codrescu. Reading. 1990. 216 pages. hardcover. 0201121948. Jacket design by Gary Koepke. keywords: Literature Romania Essays Literary Criticism America.

 

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(01/06/2015) My Wife's The Least of It by William Gerhardi. London. 1938. Faber & Faber. 544 pages.  hardcover.    

 

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

 

   William Gerhardi originally intended to call this novel MY WIFE: A STUDY IN INSANITY, a title which horrified his publisher Faber & Faber. It is the story of an elderly man by the name of Charles Baldridge and his efforts to write a successful film script to save himself from insolvency in a journey from comedy to tragedy, nightmare and then farce. Michael Holroyd praised the book as ‘an illustration, detail by dire detail, minute by minute, of our life in time. The film world symbolizes the visible surface of things divorced from all poetic implications. It is actual, but unreal.' 

 

  William Alexander Gerhardie (1895-1977) was a British (Anglo-Russian) novelist and playwright. Gerhardie (or Gerhardi: he added the ‘e’ in later years as an affectation) was one of the most critically acclaimed English novelists of the 1920s (Evelyn Waugh told him ‘I have talent, but you have genius’). H.G Wells was a ferocious champion of his work. His first novel Futility, was written while he was at Cambridge and drew on his experiences in Russia fighting (or attempting to fight) the Bolsheviks, along with his childhood experiences visiting pre-revolutionary Russia. Some say that it was the first work in English to fully explore the theme of ‘waiting’ later made famous by Samuel Beckett in WAITING FOR GODOT, but it is probably more apt to recognize a common comic nihilism between those two figures. His next novel, THE POLYGLOTS is probably his masterpiece (although some argue for DOOM). Again it deals with Russia (Gerhardie was strongly influenced by the tragi-comic style of Russian writers such as Chekhov who he wrote a study of while in College). He collaborated with Hugh Kingsmill on the biography ‘The Casanova Fable’, his friendship with Hugh being both a source of conflict over women and a great intellectual stimulus. After World War II Gerhardie’s star waned, and he became unfashionable, and although he continued to write, he had nothing published after 1939. After a period of poverty-stricken oblivion, he lived to see two ‘definitive collected works’ published by Macdonald (in 1947-49 and then revised again in 1970-74). More recently, both Prion and New Directions Press have been reissuing his works. Asked how to say his name, he told The Literary Digest ‘Pronounced jer (as Ger in Gerald) hardy, with the accent on the a: jer-har’dy. This is the way I and my relatives pronounce it, tho I am told it is incorrect. Philologists are of the opinion that it should be pronounced with the g as in Gertrude. I believe they are right. I, however, cling to the family habit of mispronouncing it. But I do so without obstinacy. If the world made it worth my while I would side with the multitude.’ (Charles Earle Funk, What’s the Name, Please?, Funk & Wagnalls, 1936).

 

 

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(12/26/2014) Droll Tales: The Second Decade by Honore de Balzac. New York. 1929. Covici Friede. 279 pages.  hardcover.  Illustrated by Jean De Bosschere. Translated from the French by J. Lewis May.

 

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

 

   Droll Stories, collection of short stories by Honoré de Balzac, published in three sets of 10 stories each, in 1832, 1833, and 1837, as Contes drolatiques. Rabelaisian in theme, the stories are written with great vitality in a pastiche of 16th-century language. The tales are fully as lively as the author’s masterful Comédie humaine series, but they stand apart for their good-humoured licentiousness and historical wordplay. Droll Stories -  Volume 2, The Second Ten Tales. CONTENTS: The Three Clerks of Saint Nicholas; The Continence of King Francis I; The Merry Quips of the Nuns of Poissy; How the Chateau D’Azay Came to Be Built; The Sham Courtesan; The Danger of Being Too Innocent; A  Dear Night of Love; The Sermon of the Merry Vicar of Meudon; Love’s Despair; The Succubus; Epilogue.

 

  Honoré de Balzac (20 May 1799 – 18 August 1850) was a French novelist and playwright. His magnum opus was a sequence of short stories and novels collectively entitled La Comédie humaine, which presents a panorama of French life in the years after the 1815 fall of Napoleon. Due to his keen observation of detail and unfiltered representation of society, Balzac is regarded as one of the founders of realism in European literature. He is renowned for his multifaceted characters, who are complex, morally ambiguous and fully human. His writing influenced many subsequent novelists such as Marcel Proust, Émile Zola, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Gustave Flaubert, Benito Pérez Galdós, Marie Corelli, Henry James, William Faulkner, Jack Kerouac, and Italo Calvino, and philosophers such as Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx. Many of Balzac's works have been made into or have inspired films, and they are a continuing source of inspiration for writers, filmmakers and critics. An enthusiastic reader and independent thinker as a child, Balzac had trouble adapting to the teaching style of his grammar school. His willful nature caused trouble throughout his life and frustrated his ambitions to succeed in the world of business. When he finished school, Balzac was an apprentice in a law office, but he turned his back on the study of law after wearying of its inhumanity and banal routine. Before and during his career as a writer, he attempted to be a publisher, printer, businessman, critic, and politician; he failed in all of these efforts. La Comédie humaine reflects his real-life difficulties, and includes scenes from his own experience. Balzac suffered from health problems throughout his life, possibly due to his intense writing schedule. His relationship with his family was often strained by financial and personal difficulties, and he ended several friendships over critical reviews. In 1850 he married Ewelina Hanska, his longtime love; he died five months later.

 

 

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(12/25/2014) Selected Poems by Robert Creeley. Berkeley. 1991. University Of California Press. 366 pages.  hardcover. Cover photos: top left, Jonathan Williams; top-right and lower left, Elsa Dorfman; lower-right, Chris Felver. Jacket design: Barbara Jellow.  0520069358 

 

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

 

   Here, in a new selection of 200 poems from over four decades, is the distinctive voice of Robert Creeley, reminding us of what has made him one of the most important and affectionately regarded poets of our time. Since the publication of For Love, Robert Creeley has been a popular and frequently controversial force in American poetry. He has challenged established canons of literary taste, prompted the most avant-garde writers of his gene ration, and, with his spare, subtly colloquial poems, defined a literary style to which today’s ‘language’ poets trace their inspiration. In opposition to established literary tastes, Creeley’s idiosyncratic lyrics have shaped the legacy of a ‘new American poetry’ for an entire generation of younger poets. Creeley published his first poem in the Harvard magazine Wake in 1946. In 1949 he began corresponding with William Carlos Williams and Ezra Pound. Creeley’s acquaintance with the poet Charles Olson dates from the following year. In 1954, as rector of Black Mountain College (an experimental arts school in North Carolina), Olson invited Creeley to join the faculty and to edit the Black Mountain Review. Through the Review and his own incisive essays, Creeley helped define an emerging counter-tradition to the literary establishment - a postwar poetry originating with Pound, Williams, and Zukofsky and expanding through the lives and works of Olson, Robert Duncan, Allen Ginsberg, Denise Levertov, Edward Dorn, and others. Like many of these experimental poets, Creeley broke into the literary establishment by stealth, and he still views himself as something of an outsider. ‘I began with fugitive publication,’ he says, ‘and have been variously on the run ever since.’ Creeley’s poems are distinctive for their precise, terse - almost minimalist-language. The syncopated rhythms and silences of his verse have been compared to the jazz improvisations of Charlie Parker. From the initial lyrics of personal exploration to the recognitions of adamant daily life, Selected Poems offers an introduction to the singular inventiveness that has established Creeley as a major contemporary poet.

 

 Robert Creeley (May 21, 1926 – March 30, 2005) was an American poet and author of more than sixty books. He is usually associated with the Black Mountain poets, though his verse aesthetic diverged from that school's. He was close with Charles Olson, Robert Duncan, Allen Ginsberg, John Wieners and Ed Dorn. He served as the Samuel P. Capen Professor of Poetry and the Humanities at State University of New York at Buffalo. In 1991, he joined colleagues Susan Howe, Charles Bernstein, Raymond Federman, Robert Bertholf, and Dennis Tedlock in founding the Poetics Program at Buffalo. Creeley lived in Waldoboro, Maine, Buffalo, New York, and Providence, Rhode Island where he taught at Brown University. He was a recipient of the Lannan Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award.

 

 

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(12/10/2014) Salman The Solitary by Yashar Kemal. London. 1997. 311 pages. hardcover. 1860463894. Jacket illustration by Chris Corr. Translated from the Turkish by Thilda Kemal. keywords: Literature Translated Turkey.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   Fleeing invading Russian troops with his family, Ismail Agha, a Kurdish peasant in Turkey, comes upon Salman, a small child left for dead at the roadside. At the urgings of his mother, who treats Salman’s wounds, Ismail agrees to take Salman with the family. When the family settles in a small village, Ismail raises Salman as his own son. Salman idolizes Ismail and imitates him in every way. Ismail dotes on the foundling, until his wife, Zero, becomes pregnant and bears him Mustafa. Suddenly, Salman is no longer the beloved only son, and a vicious rivalry blossoms between the boys. Salman’s obsessive devotion to Ismail grows; at the same time, his anger at being replaced in his father’s affections drives him to violence, first against Mustafa and, finally, against the very father whose love and approval he desperately needs. Chilling, bloody, relentlessly real, this highly emotional examination of the father-son bond and of jealousy between brothers is the work of a major Turkish novelist.

Yashar Kemal, (born in 1922) is a Turkish writer of Kurdish ethnic heritage. He is one of Turkey's leading writers. He has long been a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature, on the strength of Memed, My Hawk. As an outspoken intellectual, he does not hesitate to speak on sensitive issues. His activism resulted in a twenty-month suspended jail sentence, on charges of advocating separatism. Kemal, was born in Hemite (now Gökçedam), a hamlet in the province of Osmaniye in southern Turkey. His parents were from Van, who came into Çukurova during the First World War. Kemal had a difficult childhood because he lost his right eye due to a knife accident, when his father was slaughtering a sheep on Eid al-Adha, and had to witness as his father was stabbed to death by his adoptive son Yusuf while praying in a mosque when he was five years old. This traumatic experience left Kemal with a speech impediment, which lasted until he was twelve years old. At nine he started school in a neighboring village and continued his formal education in Kadirli, Osmaniye Province. Kemal was a locally noted bard before he started school, but was unappreciated by his widowed mother until he composed an elegy on the death of one of her eight brothers, all bandits. However, he forgot it and became interested in writing as a means to record his work when he questioned an itinerant peddler, who was doing his accounts. Ultimately, his village paid his way to university in Istanbul. He worked for a while for rich farmers, guarding their river water against other farmers' unauthorized irrigation. However, instead he taught the poor farmers how to steal the water undetected, by taking it at night. Later he worked as a letter-writer, then as a journalist, and finally as a novelist. He said that the Turkish police took his first two novels. When Yashar Kemal was visiting Akdamar Island in 1951, he saw the island's Holy Cross Church being destroyed. Using his contacts to the public, he helped stop destruction of the site. However, the church remained in a neglected state until 2005, when restoration by the Turkish government began. In 1952, Yashar Kemal married Thilda Serrero, a member of a prominent Sephardi Jewish family in Istanbul. Her grandfather, Jak Mandil Pasha, was the chief physician of the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II. She translated 17 of her husband’s works into the English language. Thilda died on January 17, 2001 (aged 78) from pulmonary complications at a hospital in Istanbul, and was laid to rest at Zincirlikuyu Cemetery. Thilda is survived by her husband, her son Rasit and a grandchild. Yashar Kemal remarried on August 1, 2002 with Ayse Semiha Baban, a lecturer for public relations at Bilgi University in Istanbul. She was educated at the American University of Beirut, Bosphorus University and Harvard University. He published his first book Agitlar (‘Ballads’) in 1943, which was a compilation of folkloric themes. This book brings to light many long forgotten rhymes and ballads and Kemal had started to collect these ballads at the age of 16. His first stories Bebek (‘The Baby’), Dükkanc? (‘The Shopkeeper’), Memet ile Memet (‘Memet and Memet’) were published in 1950. He had written his first story Pis Hikaye (‘The Dirty Story’) in 1944, while he was serving in the military, in Kayseri. Then he published his book of short stories Sari Sicak (‘Yellow Heat’) in 1952. The initial point of his works was the toil of the people of the Çukurova plains and he based the themes of his writings on the lives and sufferings of these people. Yashar Kemal has used the legends and stories of Anatolia extensively as the basis of his works. He received international acclaim with the publication of Memed, My Hawk (Turkish: Ince Memed) in 1955. In Ince Memed, Yashar Kemal criticizes the fabric of the society through a legendary hero, a protagonist, who flees to the mountains as a result of the oppression of the Aghas. One of the most famous living writers in Turkey, Kemal is noted for his command of the language and lyrical description of bucolic Turkish life. He has been awarded 19 literary prizes so far and nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1973. His 1955 novel Teneke was adapted into a theatrical play, which was staged for almost one year in Gothenburg, Sweden, in the country where he lived for about two years in the late 1970s. Italian composer Fabio Vacchi adapted the same novel with the original title into an opera of three acts, which premiered at the Teatro alla Scala in Milano, Italy in 2007. Kemal lays claim to having recreated Turkish as a literary language, by bringing in the vernacular, following Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's sterilization of Turkish by removing Persian and Arabic elements.

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(12/12/2014)  Joyce's Dublin: A Walking Guide To Ulysses by Jack McCarthy (with Danis Rose). New York. 1991. St Martin's Press. hardcover. 93 pages. Jacket photograph courtesy of The Bettman Archive. Jacket design by Doris Borowsky. keywords: Ireland Joyce Ireland Literature Reference. 0312058853.

 

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

 

   James Joyce once remarked that he was ‘more interested in the street names of Dublin than in the riddle of the universe.’ Dublin is a detailed presence in all of Joyce’s works, but his classic novel ULYSSES guaranteed Dublin enduring fame for readers and visitors. JOYCE’S DUBLIN traces the routes the main characters take throughout ULYSSES, a series of intricately crafted peregrinations Joyce used to puzzle and intrigue his readers. He even bragged about putting ‘so many enigmas and puzzles’ in ULYSSES that it would keep the professors busy for centuries. Like ULYSSES, this book is divided into eighteen chapters, each with notes to accompany the novel and designed for layman and scholar. Anything but the expected stoic academic tome, it is a guide for people who want to see the city for themselves and fo1lw in the footsteps of Stephen and Bloom - climbing the Martello Tower, walking Sandymount Strand, drinking at Davy Byrne’s Pub, or reading in the National Library - and truly digest Joyce’s masterpiece.

 

JACK MCCARTHY is a lawyer, real estate developer, and author living and working in Princeton, New Jersey. He is married, and has three children. DANIS ROSE is an editor of the James Joyce Archive, and the author of several books on Joyce, including THE LOST NOTEBOOK: NEW EVIDENCE ON THE GENESIS OF ULYSSES (1989).

 

 

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(12/11/2014) Eva's Apples by William Gerhardi. New York. 1928. Duffield & Company. hardcover. 394 pages.

FROM THE PUBLISHER -

   William Gerhardi’s third novel, published in England as JAZZ AND JASPER. The American publisher, Duffield, insisted on the title change claiming that the word ‘jazz’ had been ‘worn threadbare’ in the States. Gerhardi always wanted the title to be DOOM, which it eventually became in later editions in later editions. Despite its bleak title, DOOM is Gerhardie’s most wildly funny novel. It is the story of Frank Dickin, an impoverished young novelist and his involvement, on the one hand with an eccentric family of Russian emigres and in particular their beautiful daughter Eva - and, on the other with an all-powerful newspaper magnate, Lord Ottercove, who decides to take him up as a lost cause. The untameable comic pot-pourri also involves a mad English lord who plans to destroy the world, and, with an outrageous sleight of hand, that only Gerhardie could get away with, the novel slowly slips from social comedy toward apocalyptic speculation. ‘Amusing, brilliant and quite, quite mad.’ - Herald Tribune.

William Alexander Gerhardie (1895-1977) was a British (Anglo-Russian) novelist and playwright. Gerhardie (or Gerhardi: he added the ‘e’ in later years as an affectation) was one of the most critically acclaimed English novelists of the 1920s (Evelyn Waugh told him ‘I have talent, but you have genius’). H.G Wells was a ferocious champion of his work. His first novel Futility, was written while he was at Cambridge and drew on his experiences in Russia fighting (or attempting to fight) the Bolsheviks, along with his childhood experiences visiting pre-revolutionary Russia. Some say that it was the first work in English to fully explore the theme of ‘waiting’ later made famous by Samuel Beckett in WAITING FOR GODOT, but it is probably more apt to recognize a common comic nihilism between those two figures. His next novel, THE POLYGLOTS is probably his masterpiece (although some argue for DOOM). Again it deals with Russia (Gerhardie was strongly influenced by the tragi-comic style of Russian writers such as Chekhov who he wrote a study of while in College). He collaborated with Hugh Kingsmill on the biography ‘The Casanova Fable’, his friendship with Hugh being both a source of conflict over women and a great intellectual stimulus. After World War II Gerhardie’s star waned, and he became unfashionable, and although he continued to write, he had nothing published after 1939. After a period of poverty-stricken oblivion, he lived to see two ‘definitive collected works’ published by Macdonald (in 1947-49 and then revised again in 1970-74). More recently, both Prion and New Directions Press have been reissuing his works. Asked how to say his name, he told The Literary Digest ‘Pronounced jer (as Ger in Gerald) hardy, with the accent on the a: jer-har’dy. This is the way I and my relatives pronounce it, tho I am told it is incorrect. Philologists are of the opinion that it should be pronounced with the g as in Gertrude. I believe they are right. I, however, cling to the family habit of mispronouncing it. But I do so without obstinacy. If the world made it worth my while I would side with the multitude.’ (Charles Earle Funk, What’s the Name, Please?, Funk & Wagnalls, 1936).

 

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