At a recent online book event for RJ Julia Booksellers in Connecticut, New York Times bestselling author Dani Shapiro and book critic/debut author Kerri Arsenault (Mill Town: Reckoning with What Remains) were asked to recommend the best book they’ve read recently. Both authors leapt to recommend the same book: the newest novel from Godine, Meredith Hall’s Beneficence.
Shapiro gives the novel what she says is the highest praise she can give a book: she compare Hall’s immersive, deeply felt writing to that of Pulitzer Prize winner Wallace Stegner.
Farnsworth’s Classical English Style—our third title in the Farnsworth’s Classical English Series—has received a rave from The Millions. The long review includes many memorable lines, including:
“Farnsworth’s Classical English Styleis a worthy rejoinder to [Strunk & White’s] The Elements of Style. . . [it] provides some deeper and more useful axioms of writing. . . [the book] is a Molotov cocktail wrapped in paisley; a hand-grenade cushioned in madras.”
The Paris Review has just published a gorgeous new essay by longtime Godine author Wesley McNair—whose latest collection is Dwellers in the House of the Lord. The essay, “Donald Hall’s Amanuensis,” illuminates the close, decades-long bond between Hall (below) and his last literary assistant. It begins:
“When Donald Hall interviewed Kendel Currier for the part-time job of typing his correspondence in August of 1994, one of the first things he asked was, “Will you type curse words?” His earlier hire for the position, a woman active in a local church, backed out when she discovered curse words in a letter, and he wanted to make sure Currier wouldn’t quit, too.”
Barba’s powerful, earth-centric collection just received rave reviews in both the Los Angeles Review of Booksand Hyperallergic. McNair’s book-length narrative poem grappling with family and politics was recently excerpted in the widely distributed newspaper column American Life in Poetry, and translation rights were recently acquired by Italian publisher Fuorilinea.
Confessions of a Bookseller author Shaun Bythell recently went live on Facebook from The Bookshop in Wigtown, Scotland. He gave a tour of the Georgian townhouse jammed with more than 100,000 books (Scotland’s largest used bookshop) and read a few excerpts for his new book, which Kirkus Reviews calls “Irascibly droll and sometimes elegiac, this is an engaging account of bookstore life from the vanishing front lines of the brick-and-mortar retail industry. Bighearted, sobering, and humane.”
Wesley McNair was recently interviewed for National Book Review about his tenth poetry collection, Dwellers in the House of the Lord, by Mike Pride, longtime editor of the Concord Monitor and former administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes.
The National Book Review writes:
McNair and Mike Pride have known one another for 35 years and speak often about McNair’s work and poetry. For The National Book Review, they recently conversed about Dwellers in the House of the Lord, which Pride describes as a “powerful depiction of current times in America.”
On April 7, 2020 six stellar poets came together with Black Sparrow Press and to celebrate the iconoclastic Wanda Coleman and her new collection Wicked Enchantment: Selected Poems, Edited & Introduced by Terrance Hayes. This incredible gathering of acclaimed poets and bona fide Wanda Coleman fans—Mahogany L. Browne, Terrance Hayes, Dorothea Lasky, Rachel McKibbens, Patricia Smith, and Amber Tamblyn—read from and discussed Coleman’s influential body of work.
ABOUT THE BOOK
For Wicked Enchantment: Selected Poems, Terrance Hayes selected more than 130 poems, spanning four decades, and created a powerful gathering of Coleman’s most essential work, which bestselling author Mary Karr calls, “words to crack you open and heal you where it counts.” BUY
ABOUT WANDA COLEMAN
Wanda Coleman—poet, short story writer, novelist, and essayist—was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles. Coleman was awarded the prestigious 1999 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize for Bathwater Wine from the American Academy of Poets—the first African-American woman to ever win the prize—and was a bronze-medal finalist for the 2001 National Book Award for Poetry for Mercurochrome.
ABOUT THE READERS
Mahogany L. Browne is a California born, Brooklyn based writer, educator, activist, mentor, and curator. She is the author of the collections Black Girl Magic (Roaring Brook Press, 2018) and Redbone (Willow Books, 2015), and coeditor of The BreakBeat Poets Volume 2: Black Girl Magic (Haymarket Books, 2018). MORE
Terrance Hayes’ recent publications include American Sonnets for My Past And Future Assassin (Penguin, 2018), and To Float In The Space Between: Drawings and Essays in Conversation with Etheridge Knight (Wave, 2018). He was awarded the National Book Award in 2010 for Lighthead (Penguin) and a MacArthur Fellowship in 2014. He is Professor of English at New York University. MORE
Dorothea Lasky is the author of six full-length collections of poetry and prose: ROME (Liveright/W.W. Norton) and Animal, Milk, Thunderbird, Black Life, and AWE, all from Wave Books. She co-wrote Astro Poets: Your Guides to the Zodiac (Flatiron Books, 2019) with the poet, Alex Dimitrov. Lasky is an assistant professor of poetry at Columbia University. MORE
Rachel McKibbens is a poet, activist, playwright, and essayist. She is the author of the poetry collections Into the Dark and Emptying Field (Small Doggies Press,2013) and Pink Elephant (Cypher Books,2009). McKibbens is a well-known member of the poetry slam community: she is a nine-time National Poetry Slam team member, and was the 2009 Women of the World Poetry Slam champion, as well as the 2011 National Underground Poetry Slam individual champion. MORE
Patricia Smith is the author of eight books of poetry, including Incendiary Art (TriQuarterly, 2017) winner of the 2018 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, the 2017 Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the 2018 NAACP Image Award, and a finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize. Smith’s Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah (Coffeehouse Press, 2012) won the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets—a prize Wanda Coleman won in 1999 for Bathwater Wine. MORE
Amber Tamblyn is an author, actress and director. She’s been nominated for an Emmy, Golden Globe and Independent Spirit Award for her work in television and film. She is the author of three books of poetry including the critically acclaimed best seller, Dark Sparkler. Her non-fiction collection, Era of Ignition: Coming of Age During a Time of Rage and Revolution has just been released in paperback. MORE
The author of Miss Alcott’s Email wonders what Louisa May would make of the new Oscar-nominated film adaption of her most beloved book.
By Kit Bakke
Director and screenwriter Greta Gerwig lets her audience know right away that her adaption of Little Women will be a little quirky: She begins her film with a quote from the real Louisa May Alcott: “I’ve had lots of troubles, so I write jolly tales.” It’s our first clue that we’ll see plenty of the beloved Jo March character, but we’ll also see snatches of the real Louisa—two sides of a similar, but not exactly the same, coin.
As one of Louisa’s many biographers—albeit a quirky one, as reviewers of my Miss Alcott’s Email have noted—I was curious to know what Alcott would have thought about Gerwig’s film version of Little Women. Here’s my take on Alcott’s reaction, if she were able to watch this wonderfully delightful and evocative film.
Although Louisa would likely find the modern-day scene
cuts a bit too jumpy for her Victorian story-telling tastes, I’m sure she would
have loved picking out the bits where actress SaoirseRonan was playing Jo and where
she was “being” Louisa. In the real life story of the Alcott family there was
no rich, spoiled, handsome boy named Laurie living across the way; there was no
Aunt March and therefore no big house and no happy school; and though Mr. March
was indeed mostly absent, he never went to war (but Louisa did go as a Union
the other hand, there was a musical
Beth (her real name) and she did die, most likely of scarlet fever; Meg (Anna
in real life) did marry and mother two children; Amy (May in real life) did go
to Paris to study art, but didn’t give it up—she did well, and had a painting
hung in the celebrated 1879 Paris Salon before she died in childbirth later
that year; and, of course, in the end Louisa stayed true to her beliefs and did
not marry anyone. Sadly, missing from all film versions of Little Women, and from Louisa’s own book, are the Alcott’s exceptional
actual neighbors and friends: Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and
parts of Louisa’s real life that sneak into this fictional film of a fictional
story are telling and timely. For instance, when Marmee tell Jo that “I’m angry
nearly every day of my life,” it rings totally true, as are all the lines
sprinkled throughout about women’s lives, from Aunt March’s steely-eyed realism
about women’s lack of occupational opportunities and the purpose of marriage,
to all of Jo’s interactions with her condescending publishers. Louisa’s fierce
loyalty and determination to earn enough to save her family from abject poverty
is true and impossible to miss: Louisa hated being poor.
really did write in red hot streaks, as the Ronan’s Jo portrays. In
particularly hot streak, working around the clock in the attic of the family’s
Orchard House, Jo writes ambidextrously: when her right hand cramps up, she
moves her pen to her left rather than stop writing. That was true.
left an unfinished story about two women named Diana and Persis. It was written
for adults, not children. In the story she poses these four questions:
Can a productive and creative single woman be happy?
Can a married woman maintain her personal life and friends?
Can women be both personally happy and professionally successful?
Can people be happily married and still respect each other’s privacy and basic human rights?
These are all questions that were worth asking in Alcott’s day, and they’re questions still worth asking today—as Gerwig has, beautifully.
Kit Bakke lives in Seattle, where it doesn’t rain nearly as much as people think. She is a wife and mother of two daughters. Her resume includes stints as a nurse, copy editor, technology and business consultant, street fighter, and revolutionary. Miss Alcott’s E-mail is her first book. She is currently trying to make contact with Dorothy Wordsworth.