The Side of Orwell That You Might Not Know

As George Orwell’s 1984 celebrates its 70th birthday this month, we turned to The Collected Essays, Journalism, and Letters of George Orwell, our four-volume collection of Orwell’s nonfiction work, to gain better insight into the life of the author himself. While today Orwell is best known for the dystopian novel, he also spent much of his career chronicling the world around him, and these other writings are often just as relevant to contemporary society, if not more. Writer Scott Bradfield speaks to Orwell’s personal development and the importance of his earlier work in this excerpt from the L.A. Times below.

Orwell went on to become a consistently radical critic of his world who always appreciated the conventional pleasures of middle-class and working-class life; his novels and essays are thick with appreciations for everything from drinking tea and smoking cigarettes to the novels of Dickens and Kipling — and the “naughty” seaside postcards of Donald McGill. After skidding along unillustriously as a “scholarship” boy at Eton College, he joined the Imperial Police in Burma, where he quickly learned what it felt like to wear a uniform — and how it could make you think and feel things you might consider repugnant when you weren’t wearing it. (Check out his great personal essays about that period, “A Hanging” or “Shooting an Elephant” — for Orwell, the horror of totalitarianism was not that someone would impose it on you, but rather that you might be all-too-prepared to submit.) Eventually, he went to London, where he wrote productively for the left-wing press — while never missing an opportunity to criticize its failures – and after a brief adventure fighting Franco in the Spanish Civil War, secured a full-time job working for the BBC, a monolithically imposing cultural force that Orwell later satirized as “The Ministry of Truth.”

In many ways, Orwell’s genius was best exemplified by his essays and journalism — and the success of his most famous novels (it may be impossible to avoid either “1984” or “Animal Farm” in most high school curricula) has often obscured the impact of the things he said. For example, he wasn’t — as students are often mis-taught — concerned simply with the oppressive forces of Stalin or “socialism,” but rather with almost every “ism” that manipulated truth through the misuse of language and political propaganda.

from “Why ‘1984’ is still relevant today – but not for the reason you may expect”, Scott Bradfield, L.A. Times

You can find the full article here.

The Buzz About Gardening

With Spring finally coming into full bloom, we figured it was high time to dig into C.L Fornari’s Sand & Soil: Creating Beautiful Gardens on Cape Cod and the Islands, one of Godine’s most recent releases. In this work, Fornari blazes a trail for both new and experienced gardeners by offering her wise advice on how to grow Massachusetts’ newest gardening craze: cannabis. Here’s an insightful excerpt that focuses on just that. – Rachel Jensen

“CANNABIS (C. indica, C. sativa and hybrids) Annual. It is now legal for a resident in Massachusetts to grow six cannabis plants for his or her own use, provided those plants are out of sight and secure from the public. Grow this herb in very large containers (over 24” in diameter) or in the ground in full sun.  Cannabis is triggered into flowering by equal hours of day and night, so outdoors it will begin to create buds in late August. Grow organically in well-drained soil, pinching the tips off of the young branches through mid-July to make bushier plants with more buds.  Use synthetic fertilizers from the middle of summer on since organics to take at least six weeks to become available to plants.  Stop all applications of fertilizer at the end of August.  Remember that first and foremost, this is a plant and the normal advice about growing plants applies. Unfortunately, there is far too much bad information and unnecessary product-driven advice on the Internet about growing this herb. Relax and remember how Mother Nature grows her plants, and you’ll be fine with this one.”

An Ode to Armenian Poetry

Q&A with Susan Barba

As many of you know, April is National Poetry Month. However, it is also Armenian History Month; I interviewed Godine author Susan Barba who is an Armenian-American poet whose book, Fair Sun focuses on family history and the genocide. Godine published Fair Sun in 2017 and Barba’s next collection, geode, will also be published by Godine.

The interview focuses on what it means to Barba to be a bicultural poet and the status of women in the poetry world, among other topics. It was insightful to get a look at Barba’s thoughts behind some of the issues plaguing female authors today. —Shadin Al-Dossari (Sales and Marketing Intern)

First off, what inspires your poetry?

Curiosity first and foremost — intellectual, sensorial, emotional. It could be one or many disparate prompts — research, reading, art, movies, music, a phrase that comes  into my mind, something overheard, a physical experience, immersion in the natural world, sudden bodily knowledge, digestion of a previously unknown concept or phenomenon — a direct and clear engagement with the world that is connected with the impulse to create, to respond, to take the inchoate and give it form. Then as I write, one poem inspires another, gaps appear in the growing work, and the idea of the poems themselves forming a book begins to develop. A seed that gives way to a seedling, to a plant with many branchings, and eventual flowering, metaphor upon metaphor.

As an Armenian-American woman, how do you balance your dual cultural identity in your poetry?

I don’t think the verb balance comes into it at all. It’s not about identity per se but what being Armenian-American means to me, which is the direct experience of growing up with a grandfather who survived the Genocide, witnessed the murder of his entire family, and was driven from his home permanently. These were stories I grew up hearing and felt compelled to share. Equally it means being connected to an ancient culture and people, having a longer sense of history. It means speaking and understanding another language, feeling bifurcated by language and, remarkably, freed by this bifurcation, feeling language itself to be a malleable medium, a separate reality even.

Can you talk a little bit about linguistic choice as a bicultural poet, specifically as hinted at in “Talking Cure,” for example. Your poetry is in English, but when poetry is translated from a different language, in your opinion is anything lost in translation?

Perhaps my answer above touches on the first part of this question, but to respond to “Talking Cure” specifically — here I had psychoanalysis in mind, but the poem does allude to how linguistic choice is infinite, especially once you start introducing other languages, other ways of talking. To answer your second question, yes, of course things will be lost in translation — the words themselves — but meaning is there regardless. It’s a matter of whether the sound can carry, and the deeper meaning that individual words convey, which is the chiming of sound and sense together. Despite what’s lost in translation, there is so much to be gained, with good translations, that I think our focus should be on the gain, not the loss.

Fair Sun won the Anahid Literary Award. What did this honor mean to you given the presence of Armenia in your poetry?

It’s a great honor, especially because I admire so much the writers who have received it in the past, including Peter Balakian, Diana Der Hovanessian, Atom Egoyan, and others. As a student of Armenian, I’ve felt connected to Armenian studies for some time in a scholarly sense, but receiving this award meant to me the inclusion in a literary tradition, the sense that my writing was a contribution to this tradition, that I’d been read, understood, and welcomed in. Finally, I feel it as a great responsibility.

What does the title “Fair Sun”mean to you and this collection as a whole?

The title Fair Sun comes from an acrostic poem by the medieval Armenian poet Nerses Shnorhali, the first two lines of which I quote in the book’s epigram. This poem begins “First light, fair sun.” My grandfather would always recite these lines, and he’d ask me, “why is the sun fair?” and answer himself, “because it shines down equally on everyone.” This idea of a common humanity, a common mortality, and a common dwelling on earth was rooted deeply in me at a young age.

Continue reading “An Ode to Armenian Poetry”

Speaking to the depths

Q&A with Rachel Nagelberg


Recently, I had the opportunity to trade questions for answers with Rachel Nagelberg. Rachel is the author of The Fifth Wall, her debut novel and one of Black Sparrow’s most recent releases. Begun in Women’s History Month, this interview at first focused on Rachel’s reckoning with womanhood. As I dove deeper into her novel itself, however, its web of introspection on art, terror, and family demanded a more wide-ranging exchange. Here is Rachel’s fascinating dive into aesthetics, trauma, and the search for home in The Fifth Wall. —Reece Wallace

We’re so glad your debut novel found its home in Black Sparrow Books, particularly as we update and diversify its offerings for new readers. Do you think about your work in the context of the Black Sparrow lineage, and if so, how? How would you like The Fifth Wall to contribute to the imprint’s legacy?

I am deeply honored to be published within the avant-garde literary tradition of authors such as Charles Bukowski, Paul Bowles, and Lucia Berlin. It’s crucial within this sea of commercialized art to cultivate and circulate writing that challenges conventions, speaks to the depths, and plays. So thank you for seeing the spirit in my work and for including it in the Black Sparrow lineage, which I sincerely hope continues to discover and publish new authors exploring the contemporary condition!

Given your background in screenwriting and visual art, seeing is obviously an important aspect of your practice. How do you achieve or sustain the visual experience as you move from explicitly visual media to fiction?

It’s funny—I think I fool a lot of people into thinking I have a screenwriting background, but really I’m just a cinefile who grew up in a generation addicted to TV and a household addicted to screens. Screens in general have long been a major obsession of mine, as they provide a direct manifestation and metaphor of a dissociative state I’ve struggled with since an early age. I also took a lot of film theory classes in college, where I became obsessed with Deleuze’s Cinema 1 & 2 texts and also The Fold as a new language from which to contextualize experimental film and also contemporary art. And although I grew up as a visual artist—I was known in school as the girl you’d approach with a drawing propositionmy fascination with contemporary art really began in undergraduate art history and English classes where art shifted from primarily a visual medium to a living archive of the present—I was fascinated by the idea (during this time, around age 21, I’d gotten my first smart phone) that not only are artists contemporary archivists but all of us who use technology, for we are constantly recording life as it’s happening; everything is happening live. And how does this new speed with which we are documenting and interacting and responding address how memory works—how do images today affect the way that we remember? I was reading a lot of Paul Virilio and Slavoj Zizek and WJT Mitchell, all whose fascinating radical minds delve into the visual aesthetics of late-capitalist globalization and its relationships to technology, science, trauma, and war. So to answer your question I think the visual experience in my fiction writing is inherently built into its foundation; I feel stories very cinematically and I have been told my sentences can resonate on a chromatic level.

Sheila calls herself a “terrorist.” For her, destruction scrubs the veneer off “this life with a filter” (69). From your perspective as an author and artist, how hard is it to produce terror in your audience? Why does it matter?

This is an incredible question. To me terror and art have often met brilliantly on the level of performance art, which, when done successfully, breaks the barrier between reality and fiction in real time—it’s not an object displayed in a white-walled gallery space separated from space and time but instead roots itself in the immediacy of the present, in conversation with bodies, within the realm of civic engagement, and is inherently political at its core. Just like a terrorist’s motive is to produce real terror and fear—to provide a shock of the real—so, too, I would argue, is really good art—and what I’m really fascinated by is the ideological reversal that occurs when one is “woken up” by something shocking—that the new experience or world you suddenly find yourself in suddenly feels fantastical and unreal. And how this then relates to the fight-or-flight fear-body/mind when one experiences a traumatic event—the space in which we find ourselves becomes porous and malleable and galactic and how we attempt to respond in the presence of this gray area becomes the real essence of living. I’m recalling the experimental play by Austrian playwright Peter Handke called Offending the Audience which involves four nameless speakers that directly address the audience and force them to call attention to themselves, their bodies, their presence in the actual space of the theater, forcing them to acknowledge the “real” outside of the presupposed intention of becoming lost in representation. Granted this was written in the mid 60’s—but the timeless juice here is in the feeling that the audience member experiences upon realizing that the play they were intending to see is not going to happen; what then does one do with their time? Does one resist with feelings of anger, isolation, and resentment, or does one succumb to the newness of the now and move around in the discomfort, allowing room for the difference? This transition from the former to the latter can be the most epically transcendent moment that prepares us for all of life’s shifting tides…

Speaking of terrorism, Sheila recounts a fraught hook-up with her old TA, Adam. It’s a frightening, murky encounter that feels a lot like violation, although Sheila does not or cannot confront Adam about it directly. In fact, she affixes an artwork label to the memory, calling it (him) The Terrorist. How, if at all, can art register and/or validate intimate trauma, particularly as faced by women?

The phrase healthy distance immediately comes to mind. I meditate on this phrase often. Art allows us to create a healthy distance from traumatic events that we often hold too close to us, events that keep us sick physically and mentally. Art, like really good energy work, can allow a space for processing, opening up a new frontier in which we can play with matter and memory and create new narratives that retell our stories in methods that allow us to release their imposing limitations. I consider writing in particular to be the sharpest scalpel for reclaiming power for people belonging to repressed, muted races, cultures, and genders. To quote Kathy Acker: “For me writing is freedom. Therein lies (my) identity,” she writes in her preface to Bodies of Work, “…the excitement of writing, for me, is that of a journey into strangeness: to write down what one thinks one knows is to destroy possibilities for joy.”

While it’s doubtful that Sheila will put her romantic and familial trauma “behind her” altogether, The Fifth Wall challenges the conventional wisdom that such overcoming is possible or unequivocally desirable. Does Sheila’s confrontation with the darker aspects of her past model a more realistic or productive approach to surviving life’s difficulties? Is this a lesson a woman character is particularly well-suited to share?

One of the greatest lessons that my own healing journey has taught me is that we are all beautifully flawed combinations of lightness and darkness, and it’s only through looking directly at and communicating with our shadow side that we can transcend our negative past patterns and integrate our highest and best selves into our chosen, desired identity. And it’s not like it’s a one-time deal—this is a tumultuous, life-long process inherent to the nature of having a body designed to hold and store things. We meet Sheila at the beginning of her emotional journey as her body literally forces her to confront her psychological lacks by manifesting them physically as blackouts. The body can speak in frightening and mysterious ways when you stop listening to it—like art, or a terrorist, it has the ability to shock you into the present; sickness is a language that many of us spend lifetimes struggling to translate. I believe women contain innate, often latent intuitive powers, as we are deeply, biologically connected to the cycle of literal creation, to ocean and moon and dream cycles—we are emotional wells with foundations that inherently dig deep, and for so much of history, continuing to this day, we’ve been cut off from these depths. May we, like Shamans, journey into the Charnel Ground and live there taking it all in, learning from it, understanding it, and healing it from within so that we can work together to help heal others.

Sheila thinks about death in ways that remind me of Walter Benjamin. At one point she describes a German artist who receives death threats just for “wanting to display a person dying naturally, in peace.” Evidently, she thinks, “it’s such a complication to portray the beauty of death, to create human places for the dying and dead.” Sheila seems to believe that art is or can be one of these places. “Perhaps it’s not that we romanticize our own destruction,” she observes, “but that we have to fantasize about it in order to understand it” (41).

Benjamin seems to have had a similar idea. He says that “[t]he novel is significant…not because it presents someone else’s fate to us, perhaps didactically, but because this stranger’s fate by virtue of the flame which consumes it yields us the warmth which we never draw from our own fate. What draws the reader to the novel is the hope of warming his shivering life with a death he reads about.”

How can we understand Sheila’s quest in this light? What is it about death that is so deranging and so endlessly attractive to artists and their audiences? Is there meaning, or at least comfort, to be found in the stories we tell about death?

I mean, everything is about death—the great mystery and impermanence of everything, something we all will experience—what Tolkien calls The Great Escape—it’s everywhere and infused in everything, and in our modern Western world that works very hard to repress this mystery, it is the job of artists, writers, philosophers and healers to explore these invisible realms and make maps of them to inspire and help guide others. To risk sounding as “California” as I know I have become—basically, we’re all in this together; the novel provides us with the deepest form of connection via perspective—to be in the mind/language of someone else and co-create—by the very nature of reading another’s words from a base of our own experiences—a story with them. In other words, stories fuse us back together; they make us feel less alone.

We often think of grief (whatever it means) as the natural response to loss, especially of a parent. But for Sheila, it’s difficult to grieve a mother she feels she can’t understand. She literally takes apart her childhood house, apparently expecting closure. When it’s all said and done, though, she realizes her home was gone the minute her mom pulled the trigger.

For her as for so many of us, our mothers really are what we mean when we talk about home. What do you think The Fifth Wall has to tell us about mothers and our attachment to the homes they create and destroy?

Oh, dear. This is a hard one, as I seemed to have written a whole book to explore this question, and I’m still unclear! But what I can say is this. I believe that trauma is passed down in our DNA. That history lives in bodies. I believe in the continuation of healing through lineages. I have experienced profound moments in my 30’s where I feel my own body as my mother’s body. I have journeyed—in psychedelic realms with and without the aid of plants—deep into my sick body and communicated with my DNA (my mother’s likely reading this and thinking O my God) and have felt the presence of not only my mother, but her mother, and her mother’s mother, and her mother’s mother’s mother. We are all inextricably linked. A mother doesn’t have to die for one to feel the loss of her. Objects—especially grand ones, like childhood homes—often work to provide a sense of stability of ones roots, one’s history, one’s foundation—but they’re just vessels; the essence, the memories, live within us, wherever we go. The Fifth Wall attacks these notions in a similar manner that Sheila attacks her mother’s house with a pickaxe—blindly and with a brutal force that looks sort of like a dance.

As we digest The Fifth Wall, readers will want to know what comes next for you. Do you have a new novel on the way, or should we be looking out for your next screenplay?

I have a lot of little projects in the works. Recently I had very limited edition chapbook of three hybrid prose-poem-essays called Cover the Earth published in Los Angeles by a local designer, Scott Barry (Instagram: @miesenplace). My latest project that I’m most excited about is taking the form of a 30-minute dramedy pilot that takes place in Los Angeles, but you’ll have to stay tuned in for more details!

“Adam Van Doren: Homes of the American Presidents” Exhibit Opens at Childs Gallery

Stop by Childs Gallery on Newbury Street to see the “Adam Van Doren: “Homes of the American Presidents” exhibition, now through Dec. 30th! Through the colorful artwork of Van Doren’s book, The Home Tells the Story: Homes of the American Presidents,” visitors will get a chance to roam through a well-recorded account of past presidents’ residences.

Fine Art Connoisseur highlighted Van Doren’s exhibit in a recent article, giving a sneak peak to some of the pieces on display.

Homes of the American Presidents

Pre-eminent historian David McCullough and noted artist Adam Van Doren unite for an excursion to the celebrated homes of fifteen American presidents, past and present inThe Home Tells the Story: Homes of the American Presidents.” The text is personal and unaffected; Van Doren visited these homes to ensure that he recorded every detail accurately, often becoming acquainted with the former presidents themselves, always trying to portray them in the human environment they created for themselves. The artwork is perceptive and revealing; he misses very little. McCullough puts the history of the homes in perspective in his lucid and perceptive prose. A gift book both useful and beautiful belonging to the library of anyone interested in our architectural, social, or political history.

Andre Dubus’s Reissues Praised in America Magazine

America Magazine released a fantastic review of Andre Dubus’s reissues, praising the craftsmanship and emotion behind the author’s work.

“The works of Andre Dubus are hard to read, even though they are beautifully written—combining the simplicity of Hemingway with the fullness and fluidity of Faulkner—because they face life and love so starkly. Which is why, after almost every story and novella I read, I had to put the book down and wait before starting another. I had to let it settle into my soul before going on. And just that—the act of going on—is what Dubus encourages in us as we read him, to go on no matter how terrible and, in cyclical fashion, how glorious, life gets.”

The piece also mentioned us here at Godine.

“Godine, the only person willing to publish Dubus’s work in book form without the promise of a follow-up novel, was loyal to Dubus and the writer’s own vision of his work. And Dubus was loyal to him.”

Check out the rest of the article here!

Author of “The Winter Father,” “We Don’t Live Here Anymore,” and the newly-released “The Cross Country Runner,” Andre Dubus was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana to a Cajun-Irish Catholic family. He graduated from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and later moved to Massachusetts, where he taught creative writing at Bradford College. His life was marked with personal tragedies, as are those of his protagonists – ostensibly ordinary men who are drawn to addiction and violence as methods to distract themselves from their woes. Unlike his characters, however, Dubus eventually found success and repute, as well as the corresponding offers from large publishers. He nevertheless remained loyal to Godine until the end of his career.

“Trio” Nominated for 2019-2020 Hoosier Book Award

We are so excited to announce that Trio has been nominated for the 2019-2020 Hoosier Book Award by the Indiana Library Federation. We hope that this determined little cat will bring joy to many more children in the years to come.

Written and illustrated by Andrea Wisnewski, “Trio” is one fetching little kitten whose infirmity didn’t stop him from pouncing, sneaking, and jumping like any other feline. Trio especially loves playing with the eleven chickens that share the garage and garden, and he is game to try all their activities: digging up bugs, rolling in the dust, and even laying eggs. The latter requires real effort, especially making it up into the nesting box, but once he figures it out, he returns to it faithfully every day. And his persistence pays off! One day, an egg starts hatching beneath him. Little does he know, the chick that pops out will become his best friend. This is a story about diversity, overcoming obstacles, and ultimately, acceptance. The story is delightful and the brightly colored linocut illustrations endearing, sure to charm adults, children, cats and chickens alike.

Andre Dubus III Interviewed by America Magazine

Andre Dubus III spoke of the life and legacy of his father, writer Andre Dubus, in an interview with America Magazine – The Jesuit Review. Dubus discussed family, religion and forgiveness over the course of the interview conducted by Franklin Freeman. The interview was conducted in response to the volumes of Dubus’s work released by David R. Godine, Publisher such as “The Cross Country Runner.” Dubus III sheds light on the mindset and beliefs of his father.

“None of us are exempt from screwing up. I believe strongly, and I have a hunch my father would agree with me on this, that in his 62 years on the planet, my father put the very best part of himself into his writing. Everything else, including his wife and children, came after that. A close second I would add. But after that.”

“On some level, I think my father knew he wouldn’t have a very long life, and he needed to get to that desk. Well, I’m grateful that he did just that.”

Check out the rest of the interview on American Magazine.

Andre Dubus was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana to a Cajun-Irish Catholic family. He graduated from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and later moved to Massachusetts, where he taught creative writing at Bradford College. His life was marked with personal tragedies, as are those of his protagonists – ostensibly ordinary men who are drawn to addiction and violence as methods to distract themselves from their woes. Unlike his characters, however, Dubus eventually found success and repute, as well as the corresponding offers from large publishers. He nevertheless remained loyal to Godine until the end of his career.

Editor Ally Findley Pens Gerald Durrell Article on “Willow and Thatch”

A well-written account of the life and writings of Gerald Durrell from our own editor Ally Findley in Willow and Thatch: Period Dramas! Durrell’s works, such as “Fillets of Plaice,” “Beasts in My Belfry,” and “Fauna and Family,” inspired the PBS period drama titled “The Durrells in Corfu,” which has just started its third season this fall.

“Set in the 1930s and imbued with a sense of childlike wonder, the three books recount the beginnings of a budding naturalist as Gerry explores the Greek island, heading out early each morning and spending hours spellbound by the local fauna —a good portion of which, to his mother’s exasperation, he gleefully brings home with him.”

His Family & His Other Animals

Check out the rest of Ally’s article!

Our Titles in James Mustich’s “1,000 Books to Read Before You Die”

We are very fortunate to have 25 of our books included in James Mustich’s “1,000 Books to Read Before You Die.” This extensive list curated by Mustich contains novels that are embedded in literary history, as well as books that deserve more recognition. So, here are our some of our books that made the list, along with descriptions provided by our website.

1. Study is Hard Work – William H. Armstrong

This is the best guide ever published on how to acquire and maintain good study skills. It covers everything from developing a vocabulary to improving the quality of written work, and has chapters on studying math, science, and languages; taking tests; and using libraries. If anyone you know is college-bound, buy this book: it will prove a lifesaver and a godsend.

2. Aubrey’s Brief Lives – John Aubrey

The whole ferment of the Elizabethan age and the vigor of the century that followed come alive in these “brief portraits” that have been looted by scholars for centuries. Here are Sir Walter Raleigh, Sir Thomas More, Shakespeare, Milton, Marvel, and countless others, who in these pages become not abstract names from a history book, but flesh and blood characters.

3. Les Fleurs du Mal/ The Flowers of Evil – Charles Baudelaire

This translation of Baudelaire’s magnum opus – perhaps the most powerful and influential book of verse from the 19th century – won the American Book Award for Translation.

4. The Thirty Nine Steps – John Buchan

We know the Buchan formula well, although few may remember it was he who set the mold: take an apparently ordinary man, and let him be drawn into a mystery he only vaguely understands; give him a task to perform, and set obstacles in his path; see that he cannot turn to established authority, see that he cannot be certain who he can trust – and then, set the clock ticking. . .

5. The Secret Garden/Little Princess –  Frances Hodgson Burnett

The characters and the story are as fresh today as they were when the book was first published. Graham Rust’s illustrations, with their delicate period flavor and detail, bring to life the whole cast of characters and, of course, the secret garden itself – “the sweetest, most mysterious-looking place anyone could imagine.”

6. The Tartar Steppe – Dino Buzzati

Often likened to Kafka’s The Castle, The Tartar Steppe is both a scathing critique of military life and a meditation on the human thirst for glory. It tells of young Giovanni Drogo, who is posted to a distant fort overlooking the vast Tartar steppe. Although not intending to stay, Giovanni suddenly finds that years have passed, as, almost without his noticing, he has come to share the others’ wait for a foreign invasion that never happens.

7. The Geography of the Imagination – Guy Davenport

There is no way to prepare yourself for reading Guy Davenport. You stand in awe before his knowledge of the archaic and his knowledge of the modern. Even more, you stand in awe of the connections he can make between the archaic and the modern; he makes the remote familiar and the familiar fundamental.
—Los Angeles Times Book Review

8. String too Short to Be Saved – Donald Hall

This is a collection of stories diverse in subject, but sutured together by the limitless affection the author holds for the land and the people of New England. Donald Hall tells about life on a small farm where, as a boy, he spent summers with his grandparents. Gradually the boy grows to be a young man, sees his grandparents aging, the farm become marginal, and finally, the cows sold and the barn abandoned. But these are more than nostalgic memories, for in the measured and tender prose of each episode are signs of the end of things — a childhood, perhaps a culture.

9. Dresser of Sycamore Trees – Garret Keizer

This profoundly contemporary book displays not only Keizer’s knowledge of life’s small practicalities (winding the church clock, shopping for groceries), but also his insights about faith and the mysterious ways of God. With an eye attuned to both the pleasures and foibles that make life on earth so rich, he presents a refreshing and often hilarious account of the hands-on work needed to maintain a parish and sustain its spirit. He is a man who believes that God’s intentions, if seldom apparent, are inevitably compassionate and compelling.

10. Life a User’s Manual – Georges Perec

Life is an unclassified masterpiece, a sprawling compendium as encyclopedic as Dante’s Commedia and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and, in its break with tradition, as inspiring as Joyce’s Ulysses. Structured around a single moment in time — 8:00 p.m. on June 23, 1975 — Perec’s spellbinding puzzle begins in an apartment block in the XVIIth arrondissement of Paris where, chapter by chapter, room by room, like an onion being peeled, an extraordinary rich cast of characters is revealed in a series of tales that are bizarre, unlikely, moving, funny, or (sometimes) quite ordinary.

11. Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome

For anyone who loves sailing and adventure, Arthur Ransome’s classicSwallows and Amazons series stands alone. Originally published in the UK over a half century ago, these books are still eagerly read by children, despite their length and their decidedly British protagonists. We attribute their success to two facts: first, Ransome is a great storyteller and, second, he clearly writes from first-hand experience. Independence and initiative are qualities any child can understand and every volume in this collection celebrates these virtues.

12. Lark Rise to Candleford – Flora Thompson

Flora Thompson (1876–1947) wrote what may be the quintessential distillation of English country life at the turn of the twentieth century. In 1945, the three books Lark Rise (1939), Over to Candleford (1941), and Candleford Green(1943) were published together in one elegant volume, and this new omnibus Nonpareil edition, complete with charming wood engravings, should be a cause for real rejoicing.

Other titles included on the list are:

Clementine in the Kitchen by Samuel and Narcisse Chamberlain

The Decline and Fall of Practically Everybody by Will Cuppy

A Johnson Reader by Samuel Johnson

Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee

Ring of Bright Water by Gavin Maxwell

Age Like This by George Orwell

In Front of Your Nose by George Orwell

As I Please by George Orwell

My Country Right or Left by George Orwell

Giving Up the Gun by Noel Perrin

The House of Life by Mario Praz

The Prelude by William Wordsworth

With that, happy reading from us here at Godine!

Andre Dubus’s “The Cross Country Runner” Out Now!

Andre Dubus’s The Cross Country Runner has hit the shelves TODAY! We are forever honored to carry on the legacy of the prolific Dubus. Buy the book on our site.

The Cross Country Runner brings together Andre Dubus’s fifth collection of short stories and novellas, The Last Worthless Evening, and Voices from the Moonhis longest, most masterful novella—with previously uncollected stories, and a new introduction by PEN Faulkner Award-winning author Tobias Wolff.

“It’s divorce that did it,” his father had said last night. So begins Voices from the Moon, the 126-page novella that shows Dubus at the height of his empathetic powers: the story alternates between the viewpoints of Richie Stowe, a serious twelve-year-old who plans to become a priest, and the five other members of his family; it takes place over the course of a single day.

The four novellas and two stories of The Last Worthless Evening range further than in any previous Dubus collection: racial tension in the Navy; a detective story homage; a Hispanic shortstop; the unlikely pairing of an eleven-year-old kid and a dangerous Vietnam vet.

Finally, this third volume in the series draws together for the first time many of Dubus’s previously uncollected stories, including work from the mid-1960s and the late 1990s.

The earliest story appearing here in book form for the first time— “The Cross Country Runner”—was first published in the long-defunct Midwestern University Quarterly in 1966 when Dubus was 30 years old and only recently graduated from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

The final story—the western-themed “Sisters”—is the last piece of fiction Dubus was working on when he died suddenly in 1999 at just 63 years old.

To learn more about Andre Dubus and this three-volume collection of his work, click here.


“Dubus’ frank and inquisitive stories of conscience are incisively of their time and ours.” — Booklist Starred Review

A welcome gathering in a worthy project to bring Dubus’ work to a new generation of readers. — Kirkus Reviews

[The] three volumes reaffirm Dubus’s status as master…[as] unparalleled excavator of the heart and its pains, its longings, its errors, its thumping against the constant threat of grief, despair, and loneliness. — Nina MacLaughlin, The Paris Review

…the language of [Dubus’s] stories is at the service of something outside itself … often we forget we are reading sentences but are put rather into more direct connection with the character’s thoughts and feelings. — William Pritchard, The Boston Globe

How rare it is these days to encounter characters with wills, with a sense of choice. — John Updike on Voices from the Moon, New Yorker

“Rose,” by itself, is worth the price of the book; it is the most powerful entry in Dubus’s impressive canon. —Time on The Last Worthless Evening

Remembering the Rev. F Washington Jarvis

Many outlets have come together to celebrate the life and teachings of The Rev. F Washington Jarvis III, author of “With Love and Prayers: a Headmaster Speaks to the New Generation,” who passed on October 7th.

The relationship that Godine shared with the former headmaster is one we will cherish forever. We were so privileged to have Rev. Jarvis as one of our authors, and our prayers go out to his family and friends at this time.

“The Rev. Jarvis “created the Roxbury Latin we have today,’ said Dennis Kanin, a former president of school’s Board of Trustees and a principal at the New Boston Ventures residential real estate development firm. ‘Under him, the guiding philosophy became ‘every boy is known and loved,’ and he meant that.'”— The Boston Globe

“Even with the breadth and depth of professional expertise that Tony could share with his ELM students, he was at heart a leader with a clear, straightforward message. “Father Jarvis taught me that the most important quality of a good schoolmaster is to know and love my students,” recalls Win Bassett ‘15, an English teacher at Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville.” —Berkeley Divinity School

Reverend F. Washington Jarvis, a native of Cleveland, Ohio, came to Boston to complete his undergraduate degree at Harvard. After earning a master’s degree at the University of Cambridge, he returned to Boston to teach at the Roxbury Latin School, the oldest school in America. He later became headmaster of the school, a position he held for over thirty years.

After retiring as headmaster in 2004, Jarvis served as a chaplain at Eton College and as a scholar-in-residence at schools in Australia. In addition, he served terms as president of both the Headmasters’ Association of the U.S. and the Country Day School Headmasters’ Association. He taught at Yale, where he was the Director of the Educational Leadership and Ministry Program at the Berkeley Divinity School.