Mar 30, 2011

Mar 25, 2011



Edward Gorey was a very busy body in 1972 and 1973. He published fourteen new works – nine are considered primary works, including The Awdrey-Gore Legacy, and five secondary works, all containing several pages of artwork. This Summer, PomegranateKids, an imprint of Pomegranate Communications, reintroduces three titles from this time period, bundled together into one. Titled Three Classic Children’s Stories, this hardcover volume contains Little Red Riding Hood (1972), Jack the Giant Killer (1973) and Rumpelstiltskin (1973). This isn’t a simple re-issue, it contains changes that will interest both new and seasoned Gorey readers. For a start, all three stories are rewritten, retold by James Donnelly. For another, the illustrations wear new colors.

Actually, the re-coloring of Rumpelstiltskin is more a resurrection. The dust jacket artwork for the original 1973 Rumplestiltskin was finished in watercolor, while the story’s illustrations remained black and a marigold-yellow. This time, Pomegranate’s artists gave Rumplestiltskin a makeover, guided by Gorey’s palette from the original jacket art. It’s very well done. Jack the Giant Killer on the other hand, is practically a new work. The original’s black and tangerine palette makes Jack’s costume change welcome. Red Riding Hood’s red cloak is still as red as red can be, with only the subtlest addition of new tints. All in all, the artwork throughout is nicely uplifted by the changes. At the same time, while the old original two-color press runs were done mostly out of cost considerations, you could argue the old illustrations were intentionally minimalist, or maybe convey an unintentionally comic touch. But again, the new colorizing effort is engaging, and follows Gorey’s esthetic.

James Donnelly merrily undertakes the retelling of these classic stories, after writing for Pomegranate on projects with the British Museum, Oxford University Press USA, and the National Gallery of Art. Donnelly writes actively, directly to the reader. At times a little fresh, with unexpected nods to Gorey’s influence placed here and there. The original Red Riding Hood was written by Schenk de Regniers, Jack the Giant Killer by an anonymous writer, and were both presented in verse. The original Rumplestiltskin was written by Edith Tarcov, voiced in a teacher-ly, fairytale-manner. They were all very charming collaborations. This time, all three stories follow a more modern narrative, Donnelly’s storytelling bringing these old tales to the present. I enjoyed jumping between old and new versions of all three stories, for they’re all completely different creatures, with different affects. Three Classic Children’s Stories is a real treat, and worth a place in the kids’ library, classroom and Gorey collection. It’s new, elegant and refreshing – a great way to bring some of Gorey’s lesser-known collaborations to the fore

Mar 22, 2011

Banned books return to shelves in Egypt and Tunisia

taken from THE GUARDIAN  by Benedicte Page

Old books market in Cairo
Old books market in Cairo. Photograph: Alamy 

A number of highly political titles censored by the regime of ousted Tunisian president Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali are now returning to the country's bookshop shelves.

La Regente de Carthage by Nicolas Beau and Catherine Graciet, a critical book about the former president's family, focusing in particular on the role of his wife, Leila, is among those now openly on sale in the country, according to the International Publishers Association.

Alongside it is a previously banned study of the long-serving Tunisian president from whom Ben Ali took over following a 1987 coup: Habib Bourguiba: La Trace et l'Heritage by Michel Camau and Vincent Geisser.
Also now appearing in the country's bookshops are The Assassination of Salah Ben Youssef by Omar Khlifi, a book about the shooting of a former Tunisian minister of justice in Frankfurt in 1961, and works by journalist Toaufik Ben Brik, a prominent critic of Ben Ali's presidency.

Alexis Krikorian, director of the Freedom to Publish programme at the IPA, said the emergence of these and other formerly banned books within Tunisia was "very good news". Whether censorship still existed with regard to new titles was a separate issue, he added, but it was likely that the legal submission procedure, which under the old regime had been misused to block books at their printers, "no longer applies".
Anecdotal reports are also emerging of once suppressed titles appearing for impromptu sale on street corners and newspaper kiosks across Egypt. Salwa Gaspard of joint English/Arabic language publisher Saqi Books said accounts in the Arabic press told of books that had been hidden for years in private basements now once more seeing the light of day.

Cairo is also to hold a book fair in Tahrir Square – the focus for protests against former president Hosni Mubarak – at the end of March, according to Trevor Naylor of the American University of Cairo Press bookshop, which is based in the square. Naylor told the Bookseller that the event had been planned in the wake of the cancelled Cairo Book Fair, which was abandoned in January in the face of growing political unrest.

"Everyone around the globe now associates Tahrir Square with freedom and revolution," Naylor said. "We really wanted to do something that celebrates what happened here, and this seems like a great way to do it."

Mar 19, 2011



Ellen is forty-six, divorced, and having no luck with personal ads when her Chinese girlfriend comes up with a plan: she has a brother in China, Zhong-hua, who’s lonely too. Maybe they’d like each other? Taking a leap of faith that most of us wouldn’t dare, Ellen travels to China to meet him. Though they speak only a few words of each other’s language, there’s an unspoken connection between them and they decide to marry. What follows is a remarkably touching and humorous story of two people from completely different worlds trying to make a marriage work. Settling in at Ellen’s ramshackle farmhouse in upstate New York, they quickly discover the cultural chasm that lies between them. Ellen and her teenage daughter decide to adopt a policy of nonjudgment as Zhong-hua lobbies to sell their refrigerator (“Just three people, no need”), serves them giant sea slugs for dinner, and brusquely nudges Ellen aside without an “excuse me” (“Family no need these kind of words”). Zhong-hua is not the type to offer his wife impromptu smiles or hugs, but in bed at night he holds her tightly like she’s “something long lost and precious that might not live until morning.” The Natural Laws of Good Luck is an unusual and exquisitely written love story—one that will resonate with anyone who has ever contemplated with wonder the spaces that exist between us and those we care about.

Mar 18, 2011

The Bricks-and-Mortar Bookstore: Last Bastion of Privacy?


I have a friend — let’s call her “me” — who recently became interested in an unconventional topic. (Lest your curiosity lead you in bizarre directions, let me assure you that no weapons dealing or illegal activity of any kind were involved.) In researching books I might want to read, I quickly realized how little privacy is left to the modern-day consumer.

While I, as a bookseller, have the luxury of ordering books from distributors and making purchases in relative privacy, my customers must choose between online book ordering — which seems anonymous but in fact leaves quite an information trail — and in-store purchasing, which—while it involves face-to-face interaction with the cashier— is also the only method left to buy a book anonymously.

Think about it. Anyone can come into The Flying Pig, or another store, plunk down some cash, and leave with a book no one can or will trace. Nor will that purchase generate recommendation lists that pop up whenever the customer—or his wife, or children—logs on to the website. No one at the bookstore will sell that information to marketers in order for them to build profiles of customer preferences, spending habits and abilities. No one will violate that reader’s freedom to read, or his privacy.

That is no small wonder in this day and age when every street corner has a surveillance camera, and every online click garners a cookie. READ MORE.....

Mar 14, 2011



One of my favourite English-language sentences appears in Steven Pinker’s book The Language Instinct. The sentence, which was created by Pinker’s student, Annie Senghas, is a syntactical marvel, at first utterly confounding, but perfectly structured and absolutely, 100% grammatically correct. The sentence reads as follows:
Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.
On a first (and even second, third, or fourth) reading, that sentence seems like complete gibberish, a nonsense mantra repeating a single word eight times in succession. Only when one takes a step back and considers the various parts of speech the word “buffalo” can stand in for does the sentence’s meaning begin to come clear. Consider that “buffalo” can be a noun, the name of a city, or a verb. Then consider that the difficulty in Senghas’s sentence arises from the elision of articles and conjunctions that might serve as guides in breaking the sentence down into its syntactical components. Pinker explains it this way:
American bison are called buffalo. A kind of bison that comes from Buffalo, New York, could be called a Buffalo buffalo. Recall that there is a verb to buffalo that means “to overwhelm, to intimidate.” Imagine that New York State bison intimidate one another: (The) Buffalo buffalo (that) Buffalo buffalo (often) buffalo (in turn) buffalo (other) Buffalo buffalo.
Put that way, the sentence makes perfect sense, but is a lot less interesting. Senghas’s unadulterated string of words is a thing of beauty, a sentence to elicit joy and wonder in those for whom language and its structures are endlessly fascinating.  READ MORE....

Mar 13, 2011


taken from GOODREADS

In the Polish city of Lodz, the brothers Ashkenazi grew up very differently in talent and in temperament. Max, the firstborn, is fiercely intelligent and conniving, determined to succeed financially by any means necessary. Slower-witted Jacob is strong, handsome, and charming but without great purpose in life. While Max is driven by ambition and greed to be more successful than his brother, Jacob is drawn to easy living and decadence. As waves of industrialism and capitalism flood the city, the brothers and their families are torn apart by the clashing impulses of old piety and new skepticism, traditional ways and burgeoning appetites, and the hatred that grows between faiths, citizens, and classes. Despite all attempts to control their destinies, the brothers are caught up by forces of history, love, and fate, which shape and, ultimately, break them.

First published in 1936, The Brothers Ashkenazi quickly became a best seller as a sprawling family saga. Breaking away from the introspective shtetl tales of classic nineteenth-century writers, I. J. Singer brought to Yiddish literature the multilayered plots, large casts of characters, and narrative sweep of the traditional European novel. Walking alongside such masters as Zola, Flaubert, and Tolstoy, I . J. Singer’s premodernist social novel stands as a masterpiece of storytelling.

Mar 2, 2011


taken from the Washington Post by PATRICK ANDERSON

Harry Dolan's droll and delightful first novel opens with a simple, ominous sentence: "The shovel has to meet certain requirements." This suggests the shovel in question may be intended for other than routine gardening chores. It suggests that, well, bad things may happen, which they soon do, in profusion. We learn that a man who calls himself David Loogan is in a store buying the shovel, rather furtively, and that he is an editor for a crime magazine called Gray Streets in Ann Arbor, Mich. We learn that he has bought the shovel because his boss, Tom Kristoll, the owner of the magazine, wants him to help bury a body. That's the first bad thing that happens.

Loogan likes Kristoll and feels guilty about having an affair with Kristoll's wife, Laura. So Loogan accepts his friend's story that he killed the man in his study in self-defense, and that it would cause too much of a fuss to call the police. They bury the man, whom Kristoll says is an ex-convict turned crime writer and extortionist. That, of course, is not remotely true.

For much of the book we don't know much about Loogan, except that he's 38, attractive to women and knows how to juggle. We get to know better the circle of writers and editors who are drawn to Gray Streets, odd characters with odd names like Nathan Hideaway, Rex Chatterjee, Bridget Shellcross, Casimir Hifflyn and Valerie Calnero. Unfortunately, as we get to know these people, they start experiencing death by murder. Tom Kristoll, the publisher, is only the next to go. READ MORE....