“Hooray for Maxine Kumin! Truly, a trail-blazer; she was born before Anne Sexton, before Sylvia Plath, before Adrienne Rich. Generations of America’s poets, particularly its women poets, look up to her.”—Sandra Beasley commenting on Maxine Kumin’s L.A. Times Book Prize win.
"The punk scene was really small. It was like a secret society, and anyone fit in. It didn’t matter if you were a runaway or a graphic artist, or a woman, or a man or black or white. Nothing mattered except that if you knew you belonged there then everyone else knew you belonged there. To me that’s the pinnacle of cultural and social activity, to have a scene that’s just driven by ideals.”
"When Audubon obtained a live Golden Eagle in 1833, he spent three days observing its behavior. In the field, Audubon could bring down a hundred birds a day without qualm, but killing this bird to get the pose he required turned into a prolonged nightmare. A friend had recommended suffocating the eagle with charcoal fumes, and Audubon duly covered the cage with blankets and placed it in a closet over a pan of burning coals. He listened ‘for hours' (the italics are his) expecting 'every moment to hear him fall down from his perch.' But when he peeked inside through the 'mass of suffocating fumes,' the eagle was still sitting there 'with his bright, unflinching eye turned toward me.' The air in the closet was 'insupportable' to Audubon and his son, and the adjoining rooms were beginning to feel 'unpleasant,' when Audubon finally gave up and went to bed at midnight.”
"Incredibly, he tried again in the morning, adding sulphur to the toxic mix. But the bird ‘continued to stand erect, and look defiant at us whenever we approached his post of martyrdom.’ In the end, resorting to a technique ‘always used as a last expedient,’ Audubon ‘thrust a long pointed piece of steel through his heart, when my proud prisoner instantly fell dead, without even ruffling a feather.’"
First Lines from New Books Out Today: April 25, 2011
"When April comes and with its showers sweet Has, to the root, pierced March’s drought complete, And then bathed every vein in such elixir That, by its strength, engendered is the flower;” The Selected Canterbury Tales: A New Verse Translation translated by Sheila Fisher
"The cover of How to Be a Super-Secretary, an informational pamphlet published by Remington Rand’s Typewriter Division in 1949, features a cartoon drawing of a bright-eyed woman holding a pad and pencil, her softly smiling lips forming a perfect, rosy cupid’s bow. Inside the little pink booklet, the same perky spokeswoman demonstrates the dos and don’ts of super-secretarydom, many of which suspiciously resembled the relationship advice handed out in mid-twentieth-century women’s magazines.” Swimming in the Steno Pool: A Retro Guide to Making It in the Office by Lynn Peril
"Becoming the United States Poet Laureate is a surprisingly straightforward process, especially considering the trumpeting resonance of the title. The news, however stunning, is delivered via a phone call from the Librarian of Congress, who congratulates you and talks you through a short list of duties, and after a pleasant luncheon in the Library’s pavilion weeks later—poof, you’re the new poet laureate."
—Billy Collins, from the foreword to The Poets Laureate Anthology edited by Elizabeth Hun Schmidt. Billy Collins was the US Poet Laureate from 2001-2003.
After suffering a stroke Diane Ackerman’s husband, the writer Paul West, was afflicted with a loss of language, a condition known as aphasia. After unsuccessful attempts to regain his words using traditional speech therapy, Diane created her own program of word games to help Paul. She challenged him to come up with new pet names for her to replace all those names that had been lost after the stroke. As cataloged in Diane’s new book, One Hundred Names for Love, here are the results:
Celandine Hunter • Swallow Haven • Spy Elf of the Morning Hallelujahs • Bow-Ribbon of the August Sky • My Little Spice Owl • The Epistle of Paul to the Rumanian Songthrushers • Summer Veil of Highest Honor • Dream Hobbit • Apostle of Radiant Postage Stamps • Ivory-billed Woodpecker of the First Rainwater • My Snowy Tanganyika • Little Moonskipper of the Tumbleweed Factory • Blithe Sickness of Araby • Divine Hunter of the Cobalt Blue Arena • Pong of the Pavilion Where Sweet Peas Go to Spoon • Parapluie of the Snowy Ecstacy • Golden Little Dreamer • Pavlova of the Morning Dew Line • Avatar of Bright April • My Little Bucket of Hair • Fierce Angel of the Marmalade Valley • Rheostat of Sentimental Dreaming • Southern Carmine Bee-Eater • Belle Dame of the Morning Pavilion • Romantic Little Dew-Sipper • Commendatore de la Pavane Mistletoe • Sugarplum of the August Faery • Edelweiss of the Blizzard Pink • Highest Massage of the Succulent Endearing Poach • Swan Boat of the Imperial Sun • Baby Angel with the Human Antecede Within • Fleet-footed Empress of Sleep • Buoyant Hunter of the Esteemed and Cosmological Tsunami • Hummingbird of the Tricycle Montevideo • Goddess of Abstract Conversation • Terpsichore Deladier • Delicious Pie of the Alternate Sheepfold • My Little Celestial Porcupine • Diligent Weather Sprite • Diligent Apostle of Classic Stanzas • Mistress of Wonderment • Sylvan Grove of the Endless Flare • Stanza Trance • Patient Priestess of Ever-afters • Lovely Ampersand of the Morning • My Billiard Table of the Decaying Gods • Anti-Gravity Drive of the Century • Autobiography of an Almond • Opalescent Rejoicing of an Eel • Salute to the Kitchen of Creation • My Hooray for the Atheist’s Asylum • Super-driver of History Beyond Herodotus • Buoyant Eft • Carmine Postulant of the Pleasant Voice • She for Whom All Flowers Bloom Early • Goddess of Godspell, Saint of African Violets • O Rose of Sharon, I’m All Rosy • Book-Lover of Life’s Infinite Volume • Satrap of the Endless Sky • Chasuble of the Evening-painted Cloak • Plethoric with Broken Limbs • Condor of the Light-footed Ridge • Soft Little Hummingbird Who Waits for Me • My Lawn Raider, Everlastingly Pure • Little Scarab of Delight • Lithe Swan, Why Do You Linger So Long? • Valley of the Uprooted Silver-tongued Nightingale • My Showy Sedum, My Sycamore Tree • O Singing Squirrel of the Antipodes • Elk of Bright Morning • Tumultuous Wren, Say When, When, When! • Dark-eyed Junco, My Little Bunko • Black-capped Chickadee Who Puts on Robes for Me • Skylark of the Perfect Trance • O Little Titmouse, Here in My House • Jocund Sprite of the Dew • Historic Shaman Sent to Propitiate • Moon Swivel • Flotation Ninja • My Poetic Little Starfish • Umbrella of Light • Celestial Elf • Delicate Frisson Enclosed in a Warm Bunnycuddle • Uxorious Bountiful • Inertia Canceled • Sweet Opalescent Centrifuge • My Remains of the Day, My Residue of Night • Star Equerry • Blessed Little Smile • Queen of Purple Emotions, Starlike in Their Crescendo • Telephone Fensterhorn • Betelgeuse of Bright Inquiry • My Hopi Planet • Foundling of the Here and Beyond • Pleiades of Starship Mine • Bobby-dazzler of the Golden Morn • My Moon Calf of Perpetual Ceremony • Little Flavanoid Wonder • O Parakeet of the Lissome Star
“What we’re experiencing is, in a metaphorical sense, a reversal of the early trajectory of civilization: We are evolving from cultivators of personal knowledge into hunters and gatherers in the electronic data forest. In the process, we seem fated to sacrifice much of what makes our minds so interesting.”—Nicholas Carr, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains (via libraryland)
First Lines from New Books Out Today: April 18, 2011
"More and more of us are living better than ever before. In most of the world, an expectant mother can be reasonably confident that she will deliver a healthy baby, who will parent the next generation and live long enough to help educate the generation after that." Earth: The Operators’ Manual by Richard B. Alley
"Were there ‘white’ people in antiquity? Certainly some assume so, as though categories we use today could be read backwards over the millennia. People with light skin certainly existed well before our own times. But did anyone think they were ‘white’ or that their character related to their color?" The History of White People by Nell Irvin Painter
"My father, Paul Hervey Fox, was a writer and a drunk. When he was nineteen, he sold his first short story to Smart Set. H. L. Mencken, the well-known editor of the magazine, invited him to lunch at a famous restaurant of the period, Delmonico’s. My father told me he had been too overwhelmed, too excited, to order anything more elaborate than scrambled eggs.” News from the World: Stories and Essays by Paula Fox
Since we are all mortal, none of us will experience love without also experiencing loss. This book has done what no other has for me in recent years: it has renewed my faith in the redemptive power of love, the need to give and get it unstintingly, to hold nothing back, settle for nothing less, because when flesh and being and even life fall away, love endures. This book is proof.
From The Millions interview with Alexi Zenter, author of Touch:
The Millions: There’s more that’s supernatural in Touch than the monsters. There are also golden caribou, a singing dog, and strange intrusions of the past into the present, and vice versa.
Alexi Zentner: With what I’m writing, I call it mythical realism instead of magical realism, because magical realism is so heavily identified with Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Latin America. I think what I’m doing takes that same sense of magic, but I’m writing in a distinctively North American style, which is not done. I think what people have done is that they’ve taken magical realism and overlaid it on North America. I don’t think that’s the most successful strategy, so I was very interested in how I could do that in a way that was uniquely my own.
To make a new world the American animals know there must be sacrifices. Every evening a prayer is said for the spies who’ve volunteered to be petted in the houses of the enemy. "They are savages," one reported, "let no one be fooled by their capacity for loving."
“I admit I am basking in this amazing good news, pinching myself from time to time. The fact that joy and grief can and do live side by side in our hearts is most evident for me on this gray Saturday morning. As always.”—Ann Hood, upon learning that Katherine Heigl is producing and starring in a movie of The Knitting Circle
"Two weeks before Labor Day, Raphael Semmes Cody sat with his cousin Junior in Roxie’s Ice Cream Palace. Both were scooping out almond crunch ice cream covered with butterscotch syrup and sprinkled with chopped walnuts." Anthill: A Novel by E. O. Wilson
"Every Wednesday morning, at seven o’clock in summer and eight o’clock in winter, the water-coach left the town of Auxerre on its hundred-and-thirty-mile journey to Paris." Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris by Graham Robb
The Canterbury Tweets is a modern reenactment of Chaucer’s tales of love, bawdy humor, and religious reckoning. The famed pilgrims and the subjects of their respective stories bring their oversized personalities to Twitter to share wisdom and dirty jokes in rhyming couplets. Fans and rabble-rousers alike, writing as characters doled out through W.W. Norton’s various social media channels, take ye old tales of Aprill and give them a 2011 twist.
First Lines from New Books Out Today: April 4, 2011
"Trailing plastic tubes, Paul made his way across the room, steeped in twilight, and I was struck by how the body sometimes looks like the sea creature it is, a jellyfish with long tentacles, not really a fish at all but a gelatinous animal full of hidden symmetries, as well as lagoons and sewers, and lots of spongy and stringy bits." One Hundred Names for Love: A Stroke, A Marriage, and the Language of Healing by Diane Ackerman
"The men floated the logs early, in September, a chain of headless trees jamming the river as far as I and the other children could see" Touch: A Novel by Alexi Zentner
"In 1941, my father saw his first big league ballgame at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn: the Dodgers and the Cardinals.” The Trouble Ball: Poems by Martín Espada
"The first year I found it I found it by accident, working my machete to make out of the woods a walking path.” Never-Ending Birds by David Baker