General book blog.

Šalamun, Tomaž. The Selected Poems of Tomaž Šalamun. New York. 1988. Ecco Press. 0880011602. Translated from the Slovene. Edited by Charles Simic. Introduction by Robert Hass. 93 pages. hardcover. Jacket design by Jo Anne Metsch. Photograph of the author by Charles LePrince.




From the Introduction: Salamun belongs to the generation of Eastern European poets - it includes Joseph Brodsky of Russia and Adam Zagajewski of Poland - who came of age in the 1960s. He shares with these contemporaries a sense of history and commitment to the freedom of his art, but he is likely to take some Western readers by surprise because he also belongs to the traditions of European avant-garde and experimental poetry. This crossbreeding has produced a unique and exhilarating body of work. Playful, strange, full of whimsical self-mythologizing, marked by a sense of the absurd, an edge of anger, a sense of compassion for all forms of private and baffled suffering, his work has the genuinely unpredictable quality that always signals the presence of a living imagination. Šalamun, like Brodsky and Zagajewski, grew up not with the searing experience of war and its aftermath that has marked the poetry of the older generation (Zbigniew Herbert in Poland, Miroslav Holub in Czechoslovakia, Vasko Popa in Yugoslavia), but in the postwar years, when the pinched material circumstances of economic recovery and the pervasive intellectual dishonesty of Stalinism were a kind of normality, the world as given. [The] political condition which for the older generation marked a change, a narrowing of possibilities, seems to have been for the younger generation part of the atmosphere of childhood, so they experienced it as not so much a matter of culture, but a matter of nature. This is not a poetics of revolution, or even of revolt. The issue isn’t justice. It has no millenarian program; it is oppressed by the language of a millenarian program. And so it has the quality of inchoate rebellion, rebellion without a program. It begins in a negation that is also an act of self-liberation, and its future is open-ended . . . . It is this tradition, or this historical moment in European poetry, to which Tomaž Šalamun, with his love of the poetics of rebellion, belongs. 


Salamun TomazTomaž Šalamun (July 4, 1941 – December 27, 2014) was a Slovenian poet born in Zagreb in 1941. He published more than thirty books of poetry and frequently taught at universities in Pittsburgh, Richmond, and Texas. Early in his career, he edited the literary magazine Perspektive and was briefly jailed on political charges. He studied art history at the University of Ljubljana and published his first collection, Poker, at the age of twenty-five. He won Slovenia’s Preseren and Mladost Prizes, as well as a Pushcart Prize, and was a Fulbright Fellow at Columbia University. He was a member of the Slovenian Academy of Science and Art.


Robert Hass is the author of Twentieth Century Pleasures, winner of the 1984 National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism. He is currently at work on his third collection of poems, and lives in Berkeley, California.






Incantations & Other Stories by Anjana Appachana. New Brunswick. 1992. Rutgers University Press. 150 pages. Cover photograph by Kasha Dalal. Cover design by the Senate. 0813518288.





   This first collection of fiction by Anjana Appachana provides stories that are beautifully written, the characters in them carefully and respectfully drawn. All the stories are set in India, but the people in them seem somehow displaced within their own society—a society in transition but a transition that does not come fast enough to help them. Appachana manages to capture the pervasive humor, poignancy, and self-delusion of the lives of the people she observes, but she does so without seeming to pass judgment on them. She focuses on unexpected moments, as if catching her characters off guard, lovingly exposing the fragile surfaces of respectability and convention that are so much a part of every society, but particularly strong in India, with its caste system, gender privileges, and omnipresent bureaucracies. One of the most unusual aspects of many of the stories is the way in which they are informed by but never ruled by the author's feminism. She never lectures her readers but lets us see for ourselves. Appachana's vision is unique, her writing superb. Readers will thank her for allowing them to enter territory that is at once distant and exotic and familiar and recognizable.



Appachana AnjanaAnjana Appachana graduated from Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University. In 1984 she left India to live in the United States, where she graduated from Pennsylvania State University. One of the stories in this collection won an O'Henry Festival prize in 1989. She now lives in Tempe, Arizona, and is working on a novel.









Two Serious Ladies by Jane Bowles. New York. 1943. Knopf. 273 pages.


two serious ladies no dwFROM THE PUBLISHER -


   Eccentric, adventurous Christina Goering Meets the anxious but equally enterprising Mrs. Copperfield at a party. Two serious ladies who want to live outside of themselves, they go in search of salvation: Mrs. Copperfield visits Panama with her husband, where she finds solace among the women who live and work in its brothels; while Miss Goering becomes involved with various men. At the end the two women meet again, each changed by her experience. Mysterious, profound, anarchic and very funny, TWO SERIOUS LADIES is a daring, original work that defies analysis. 



Bowles JaneJane Bowles (born Jane Sydney Auer; February 22, 1917 – May 4, 1973) was an American writer and playwright. Born into a Jewish family in New York, Jane Bowles spent her childhood in Woodmere, New York, on Long Island. She developed tuberculous arthritis of the knee as a teenager and her mother took her to Switzerland for treatment, where she attended boarding school. As a teenager she returned to New York, where she gravitated to the intellectual bohemia of Greenwich Village. She married writer and composer Paul Bowles in 1938. In 1943 her novel Two Serious Ladies was published. The Bowleses lived in New York until 1947, when Paul moved to Tangier, Morocco; Jane followed him in 1948. While in Morocco, Jane had an intense and complicated relationship with a Moroccan woman named Cherifa. She also had a close relationship with torch singer Libby Holman. Jane Bowles wrote the play In The Summer House, which was performed on Broadway in 1953 to mixed reviews. Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, and John Ashbery considered her to be one of the finest and most underrated writers of American fiction. Bowles, who suffered from alcoholism, had a stroke in 1957 at age 40. Her health continued to decline, despite various treatments in England and the United States, until she had to be admitted to a clinic in Málaga, Spain, where she died in 1973.





Waterland by Graham Swift. New York. 1983. Poseidon Press. 310 pages. Jacket design by Fred Marcellino. 0671498630.




   Hailed in England as ‘the best novel of the year’ and nominated for the Booker Prize, Britain’s most prestigious literary award, WATERLAND is a novel of resonant depth and encyclopedic richness. It is also a book about beer, eels, the French Revolution, the end of the world, windmills, will-o’-the-wisps, murder, love, incest, education, curiosity, storytelling and - supremely - the malign and merciful element of water. One bright summer morning in 1943 Henry Crick, a lock-keeper, finds young Freddie Parr’s body floating in his lock. Although the death is termed an accident, Henry Crick’s son Tom knows otherwise, and bears the secret for life, Forty years later, Tom, now a history teacher besieged by a bizarre marital crisis and the ‘phasing out’ of history from his school’s curriculum, abandons his formal lessons to tell his students stories of his native Fenland, an ambiguous, amphibious domain where past and present intermingle, where the drama of loss and reclamation is written in the landscape. Tom Crick traces for his listening class the tragedies and changing fortunes of his forebears: how his eighteenth-century ancestor Thomas Atkinson dredged a river, built an empire, then broke his young wife Sarah’s head in a jealous rage and died of grief; how Sarah survived for fifty years, deprived of her senses, to become a local deity; how his grandfather Ernest fell in love with his own daughter and fathered a child he believed would become Saviour of the World, And he tells them of the fateful repercussions of that summer morning in 1943, which still trap the aging Crick in the consequences of events long ago. WATERLAND is a moving meditation on history, on procreation, on destruction, and on our struggles to shore up our small worlds against the onrushing forces of time and nature.


Swift GrahamGraham Colin Swift (born 4 May 1949) is a English writer. Born in London, England, he was educated at Dulwich College, London, Queens' College, Cambridge, and later the University of York. Some of Swift's books have been filmed, including Last Orders, starring Michael Caine and Bob Hoskins and Waterland, starring Jeremy Irons. Last Orders was joint-winner of the 1996 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction and a mildly controversial winner of the 1996 Booker Prize, owing to the superficial similarities in plot to William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying. Waterland is set in The Fens; a novel of landscape, history and family, it is often cited as one of the outstanding post-war British novels and has been a set text on the English literature syllabus in British schools. Writer Patrick McGrath asked Swift about the ‘feeling for magic’ in Waterland during an interview. Swift responds that ‘The phrase everybody comes up with is magic realism, which I think has now become a little tired. But on the other hand there’s no doubt that English writers of my generation have been very much influenced by writers from outside who in one way or another have got this magical, surreal quality, such as Borges, Márquez, Grass, and that that has been stimulating. I think in general it’s been a good thing. Because we are, as ever, terribly parochial, self-absorbed and isolated, culturally, in this country. It’s about time we began to absorb things from outside.’ Swift was acquainted with Ted Hughes and has himself published poetry of note, some of which is included in Making an Elephant: Writing from Within (2009).





Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love by Kara Walker. Minneapolis. 2007. Walker Art Center. 432 pages. 9780935640861. March 2007.


9780935640861FROM THE PUBLISHER -


   Kara Walker is among the most complex and prolific American artists of her generation. Over the past decade, she has gained international recognition for her room-size tableaux, which depict historical narratives haunted by sexuality, violence and subjugation and are made using the paradoxically genteel eighteenth-century art of cut-paper silhouettes. Set in the antebellum American South, Walker's compositions play off of stereotypes to portray, often grotesquely, life on the plantation, where masters, mistresses and slave men, women and children enact a subverted version of the past in an attempt to reconfigure their status and representation. Over the years, the artist has used drawing, painting, colored-light projections, writing, shadow puppetry, and, most recently, film animation to narrate her tales of romance, sadism, oppression and liberation. Her scenarios thwart conventional readings of a cohesive national history and expose the collective, and ongoing, psychological injury caused by the tragic legacy of slavery. Deploying an acidic sense of humor, Walker examines the dialectics of pleasure and danger, guilt and fulfillment, desire and fear, race and class. This landmark publication, which is sure to win international design awards, accompanies Walker's first major American museum survey. It features critical essays by Philippe Vergne, Sander L. Gilman, Thomas McEvilley, Robert Storr, Michele Wallace and Kevin Young, as well as an illustrated lexicon of recurring themes and motifs in the artist's most influential installations by Yasmil Raymond; more than 200 full-color images; an extensive exhibition history and bibliography; and a 16-page insert by the artist.


Walker KaraKara Elizabeth Walker (born November 26, 1969) is an African-American contemporary painter, silhouettist, print-maker, installation artist, and film-maker who explores race, gender, sexuality, violence, and identity in her work. She is best known for her room-size tableaux of black cut-paper silhouettes. Walker lives in New York City and has taught extensively at Columbia University. She is currently serving a five-year term as Tepper Chair in Visual Arts at the Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University.







The Last Man by Mary Shelley. Oxford/New York. 1994. Oxford University Press. Edited & With An Introduction By Morton D. Paley. 479 pages. Cover illustration is a detail from 'The Old Man and Death', 1773, by Joseph Wright. 0192831526.




   'The last man! Yes. I may well describe that solitary beings feelings, feeling myself as the last relic of a beloved race, my companions extinct before me' - Mary Shelley, Journal, May 1824. Best remembered as the author of FRANKENSTEIN, Mary Shelley wrote THE LAST MAN eight years later, on returning to England from Italy after her husband Percy's death. It is the twenty-first century, and England is a republic governed by a ruling elite, one of whom, Adrian, Earl of Windsor, has introduced a Cumbrian boy to the circle. This outsider, Lionel Verney, narrates the story, a tale of complicated, tragic love, and of the gradual extermination of the human race by plague. THE LAST MAN also functions as an intriguing roman-a-clef, for the saintly Adrian is a monument to Percy Bysshe Shelley, and his friend Lord Raymond is a portrait of Byron. The novel offers a vision of the future that expresses a reaction against Romanticism, as Shelley demonstrates the failure of the imagination and of art to redeem her doomed characters.


Shelley Mary WollstonecraftMary Shelley (née Wollstonecraft Godwin; 30 August 1797 – 1 February 1851) was an English novelist, short story writer, dramatist, essayist, biographer, and travel writer, best known for her Gothic novel Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus (1818). She also edited and promoted the works of her husband, the Romantic poet and philosopher Percy Bysshe Shelley. Her father was the political philosopher William Godwin, and her mother was the philosopher and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft. Mary Godwin's mother died when she was eleven days old; afterwards, she and her older half-sister, Fanny Imlay, were reared by her father. When Mary was four, Godwin married his neighbour, Mary Jane Clairmont. Godwin provided his daughter with a rich, if informal, education, encouraging her to adhere to his liberal political theories. In 1814, Mary Godwin began a romantic relationship with one of her father’s political followers, the married Percy Bysshe Shelley. Together with Mary's stepsister, Claire Clairmont, they left for France and travelled through Europe; upon their return to England, Mary was pregnant with Percy's child. Over the next two years, she and Percy faced ostracism, constant debt, and the death of their prematurely born daughter. They married in late 1816 after the suicide of Percy Shelley's first wife, Harriet. In 1816, the couple famously spent a summer with Lord Byron, John William Polidori, and Claire Clairmont near Geneva, Switzerland, where Mary conceived the idea for her novel Frankenstein. The Shelleys left Britain in 1818 for Italy, where their second and third children died before Mary Shelley gave birth to her last and only surviving child, Percy Florence. In 1822, her husband drowned when his sailing boat sank during a storm near Viareggio. A year later, Mary Shelley returned to England and from then on devoted herself to the upbringing of her son and a career as a professional author. The last decade of her life was dogged by illness, probably caused by the brain tumour that was to kill her at the age of 53. Until the 1970s, Mary Shelley was known mainly for her efforts to publish Percy Shelley's works and for her novel Frankenstein, which remains widely read and has inspired many theatrical and film adaptations. Recent scholarship has yielded a more comprehensive view of Mary Shelley’s achievements. Scholars have shown increasing interest in her literary output, particularly in her novels, which include the historical novels Valperga (1823) and Perkin Warbeck (1830), the apocalyptic novel The Last Man (1826), and her final two novels, Lodore (1835) and Falkner (1837). Studies of her lesser-known works such as the travel book Rambles in Germany and Italy (1844) and the biographical articles for Dionysius Lardner's Cabinet Cyclopaedia (1829–46) support the growing view that Mary Shelley remained a political radical throughout her life. Mary Shelley's works often argue that cooperation and sympathy, particularly as practised by women in the family, were the ways to reform civil society. This view was a direct challenge to the individualistic Romantic ethos promoted by Percy Shelley and the Enlightenment political theories articulated by her father, William Godwin.


Deep Rivers by Jose Maria Arguedas. Austin. 1978. University of Texas Press. Translated From The Spanish By Frances Horning Barraclough. Introduction by John V. Murra. Afterword by Mario Vargas Llosa. 248 pages. 0292715161.




   This powerful, poetic novel, set in the Peruvian Andes, has long resisted translation; its publication in English is truly a literary event. Jose Maria Arguedas draws upon his own Peruvian boyhood in portraying 'the sad and powerful current that buflets children who must face, all alone, a world fraught with monsters and fire, and great rivers. Ernesto, the narrator of DEEP RIVERS, is a child with origins in two worlds. The son of a wandering country lawyer, he is brought up by Indian servants until he enters a Catholic boarding school at age 14. In this urban Spanish environment he is a misfit and a loner. The conflict of the Indian and the Spanish cultures is acted out within him as it was in the life of Arguedas. For the author, the final resolution was his suicide in 1969. For the boy Ernesto, salvation is his world of dreams and memories. The games, music, insects, and flowers of his Andean childhood are more vividly alive for Emesto than the disturbing world of the present. This nostalgia helps to explain the novel's lyrical purity and its poetic, reminiscent tone. A major theme in Deep Rivers is the boy's strong link with the natural world, which is humanized to an extent that surpasses simple metaphor and becomes almost magical. Two of the novel's main episodes-the insurrection of the marketwomen and the suffering of the Indians during a typhus plague-involve conflict between the Indians and their Spanish masters. Ernesto observes these events, bewildered by the violence with which the two cultures clash. As Mario Vargas Llosa points out in the afterword, DEEP RIVERS records historical events and social problems at a personal level, 'the only way literary testimony can be living and not crystallize into dead symbols. ' Texas Pan American Series. CONTENTS: TRANSLATOR'S NOTE; INTRODUCTION by John V. Mutra; THE OLD MAN; Deep rivers; THE LEAVE-TAKING; THE HACIENDA; BRIDGE OVER THE WORLD; THE JOURNEYS; ZUMBAYLLU; THE INSURRECTION; DEEP CANYON; STONE AND LIME; YAWAR MAYU; THE COLONOS; AFTERWORD; DREAMS AND MAGIC IN JOSE MARIA ARGUEDAS by Mario Vargas Llosa; GLOSSARY.


Arguedas Jose MariaJose Maria Arguedas was an ethnologist, a poet, a folk musicologist, and the major Indianist novelist of our time. He was born in 1911 in Andahuaylas in rural Peru and, like Emesto, was raised by Indian servants whom he deeply loved. He earned his doctorate in anthropology at the University of San Marcos in Lima, where he was head of the Anthropology Department at the time of his death. While Arguedas' poetry was published in Quechua, he invented a language for his novels in which he used native syntax with Spanish vocabulary. This makes translation into other languages extremely difficult. Frances Horning Barraclough teaches Spanish at Ithaca College, Ithaca, New York, and has spent almost twenty years living and working in Chile and other parts of Latin America.





Hämäläinen, Pekka. Lakota America: A New History of Indigenous Power. New Haven. 2019. Yale University Press. 9780300215953. 530 pages. hardcover. Jacket illustration: Jim Yellowhawk, Lakota artist.  


9780300215953FROM THE PUBLISHER -


The first comprehensive history of the Lakota Indians and their profound role in shaping America’s history. This first complete account of the Lakota Indians traces their rich and often surprising history from the early sixteenth to the early twenty-first century. Pekka Hämäläinen explores the Lakotas’ roots as marginal hunter-gatherers and reveals how they reinvented themselves twice: first as a river people who dominated the Missouri Valley, America’s great commercial artery, and then—in what was America’s first sweeping westward expansion—as a horse people who ruled supreme on the vast high plains. The Lakotas are imprinted in American historical memory. Red Cloud, Crazy Horse, and Sitting Bull are iconic figures in the American imagination, but in this groundbreaking book they emerge as something different: the architects of Lakota America, an expansive and enduring Indigenous regime that commanded human fates in the North American interior for generations. Hämäläinen’s deeply researched and engagingly written history places the Lakotas at the center of American history, and the results are revelatory.


Hamalainen PekkaPekka Hämäläinen is the Rhodes Professor of American History and Fellow of St. Catherine’s College at Oxford University. He has served as the principal investigator of a five-year project on nomadic empires in world history, funded by the European Research Council. His previous book, The Comanche Empire, won the Bancroft Prize in 2009.







 Why This World: A Biography Of Clarice Lispector by Benjamin Moser. New York/Oxford. 2009. Oxford University Press. 479 pages. Jacket design by Carol Devine Carson. Jacket photo - Clarice Lispector in Washington, ca. 1954. 9780195385564.


9780195385564FROM THE PUBLISHER -


   That rare person who looked like Marlene Dietrich and wrote like Virginia Woolf, Clarice Lispector is one of the most popular but least understood of Latin American writers. Now, after years of research on three continents, drawing on previously unknown manuscripts and dozens of interviews, Benjamin Moser demonstrates how Lispector's art was directly connected to her turbulent life. Born amidst the horrors of post-World War I Ukraine, Clarice's beauty, genius, and eccentricity intrigued Brazil virtually from her adolescence. Why This World tells how this precocious girl, through long exile abroad and difficult personal struggles, matured into a great writer, and asserts, for the first time, the deep roots in the Jewish mystical tradition that make her both the heir to Kafka and the unlikely author of ‘perhaps the greatest spiritual autobiography of the twentieth century.’ From Ukraine to Recife, from Naples and Berne to Washington and Rio de Janeiro, Why This World shows how Clarice Lispector transformed one woman's struggles into a universally resonant art.


 Moser Benjamin Benjamin Moser (September 14, 1976) is an American writer who lives in Utrecht, Netherlands. Born in Houston, Moser attended high school in Texas and France before graduating from Brown University with a degree in History. He briefly studied Chinese and Portuguese. He earned his M.A. and Ph.D. from Utrecht University. He is the New Books Columnist for Harper's Magazine, a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books, and the author of a biography of the Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector titled Why This World. He discovered the books of Clarice Lispector while studying Portuguese-language literature. He has published translations from the Dutch, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. He speaks six languages in addition to these. He lives with Arthur Japin (a Dutch writer). 






Highsmith, Patricia. Deep Water. London. 1958. Heinemann. 259 pages. hardcover. Wrapper design by Stein.  


deep water heinemannFROM THE PUBLISHER -


Victor Van Allen didn't like dancing. His wife, Melinda, did. Melinda was gay and attractive. Victor was quiet. Perhaps it was this special quietness that made Melinda's men friends increasingly uneasy in Victor's presence. The trouble started when Victor casually remarked to one of Melinda's friends, "If I really don't like someone, I kill him . . . Remember Malcolm McRae?" The friend, remembering that Malcolm had been killed, mysteriously, left town. But Melinda found a new friend, and a succession of others. Through it all, Victor drew sympathy and admiration from his community. Everyone admired and respected his patience with his wife. No one would believe that Victor's patience would ever wear thin no one but Melinda, who found herself being mysteriously deprived of her admirers, one after the other. But who would believe Melinda? Patricia Highsmith's Strangers on a Train won praise as a novel and as a Hitchcock film. In 1956 her The Talented Mr. Ripley was awarded an Edgar Allan Poe scroll from the Mystery Writers of America. She has again written an unusual and chilling novel, set against a background of penetrating character study.


Highsmith PatriciaBorn in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1921, Patricia Highsmith spent much of her adult life in Switzerland and France. Educated at Barnard College, where she studied English, Latin, and Greek, she had her first novel, STRANGERS ON A TRAIN, published in 1950 and saw it quickly made into a movie by Alfred Hitchcock. Despite receiving little recognition in her native land during her lifetime, Highsmith, the author of more than twenty books, won the O. Henry Memorial Award, The Edgar Allan Poe Award, Le Grand Prix de Littérarure Policière, and the Award of the Crime Writers’ Association of Great Britain. She died in Switzerland in 1995, and her literary archives are maintained in Berne.







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