February 2010

english 101 #2: Brave New World

  • About the author EB
  • February 26, 2010

Hello and welcome to the second edition of English 101: The Harper Perennial Classics Book Club! Today’s book is Brave New World.

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(The first cover is our deluxe modern classics edition, and that jpg doesn’t do it justice. The second is the regular modern classics edition.)

Confession #1: I have never read Brave New World
Confession #2: I was not psyched to read it when Kayleigh suggested we put it on the list.
Confession #3: I was excited when I realized our new deluxe modern classics edition contained both Brave New World and Brave New World Revisited, because it meant that I had much less to read than I thought.

So, with all that buildup, and after nearly falling asleep during the first chapter, I am pleased to report that I did not dislike Brave New World. A ringing endorsement, I know. But allegory is generally not my thing, and so I was relieved to grow attached to Lenina, Bernard, and John (the savage) while reading. I need that. All in all, though, it didn’t grip me, and I wonder if I would have felt differently if I had read it when I was in high school, at a time when there weren’t forty-seven other books clamoring for my attention.

I’d love to hear from people who are huge fans of Brave New World. What do you like about it? Is it similar or different from what you normally read? When did you first read it, and do you think that mattered?

Check out Kayleigh’s review (which will probably be more positive) on Monday on Roaring 20s! And remember, anyone who comments here OR twitters using #english101 will have a chance to win a copy of The Poisonwood Bible, next month’s book (which I am very much looking forward to, seeing as how I have never read any Barbara Kingsolver)! Do both and they’ll count separately. And if you blog about Brave in the next few days, please leave a comment with a link for more chances to win!

was hamlet gay? maybe. did he need a gay friend? absolutely!

  • About the author EB
  • February 24, 2010

Hamlet would have ended much differently if Ophelia had a sassy gay friend . . .

Relatedly, we just published a book that imagines a world in which Hamlet himself is gay (though not particularly sassy):

Check it out here!

charlie!

  • About the author EB
  • February 22, 2010

This is Charlie.

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Charlie once belonged to the parents of our beloved B&N sales rep, Carla. He was their shop kitty, but then they closed their shop and went traveling and Charlie went to live in Texas with a friend. All was well!

But then they discovered that Charlie was FIV+, and could not live with the friend’s other cat. And he can’t live with Carla, because her cat, Toonces, has issues. So now he once again needs a home!

Other stuff about Charlie: he is three years old, he has no other health issues, and he is, in the words of Carla, “seriously the best cat I have ever had ever.”

Won’t you help out a sweet kitty?

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(if you’re in NYC or the surrounding area and want to help Charlie, just comment here and we’ll get in touch.)

free ebooks! stuffed animals!

  • About the author EB
  • February 22, 2010

One of my favorite book trailers EVER is the one below for Amberville:

Now, FOR FREE, you can read the Amberville e-book, complete with special bonus material. Do it!

a night out with dennis lehane

  • About the author EB
  • February 19, 2010

As you may know, today the movie version of Dennis Lehane’s Shutter Island opens in theaters nationwide. Dennis’s publicist here at Harper, Brianne Halverson, was lucky enough to attend the premiere, and I asked her to report back to all of us peons. Here’s what she had to say about the excitement, the stars, and everyone’s favorite celebrity boyfriend, Mark Ruffalo:

What do you do when you’re sitting 4 feet away from Dennis Lehane and his novel-turned-movie is being introduced by Martin Scorsese? The answer is gawk.

This week I was lucky enough to attend my first movie premiere at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York. Not only was I attending a screening of a film by a legendary director, filled with an all-star casting (including Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley and Patricia Clarkson), but more importantly I was there as a guest of the books-to-films writer, Dennis Lehane (Mystic River; Gone Baby Gone). To say that I’m a fan of Dennis’ work is an understatement so I was properly geeked out on his behalf.

I’ll leave the meaningful reviews to the film critics and move onto to my rabid gawking. I won’t lie, I was lucky to see a lot of blingy celebrity but here were my personal favorites:

Alec Baldwin – tall, bloated (in a normal, “I’m in my 50’s” sort of way), congenial.
Michelle Williams – Saw her at the after party. Red lips, angelic face, wearing the highest of heels. She delivered old school Hollywood glamour.
Anthony Edwards – I had to resist the urge to say “Talk to me, Goose” but I’ll tell you…the man was wearing a plaid coat. He looked like he should be doing standup in the Catskills. Loved it.
Martin Scorsese – The voice, the glasses, the eyebrows…it was almost as if Marty was a caricature of himself. Classic.
John Kapelos – Aka the janitor from the Breakfast Club and the fiancé from 16 Candles. He was adorable in person and fantastic in the film. Lots of enthusiastic handshakes from that guy.
Leonardo DiCaprio – I’d like to say that we had eye contact or, even better, we spoke—but alas, other than him waving to the crowd when Martin Scorsese gave him a shout out, Leonardo was an elusive figure.

And last but not least…Mark Ruffalo. Sigh. Keep in mind, despite never having met the man, I choose my dress for the night and entire makeup color palette around what I thought Mark would like best. From the moment I entered the theater all senses were tuned into spotting Mark and making him become my friend. It turns out that my senses were remedial and it wasn’t until after I left the theater that I was told that Mark was sitting DIRECTLY BEHIND ME the entire time. The evening was saved during the after party when Mark was on full display to my hungry eyes.

All in all, I drank multiple free margaritas, ate eco-friendly food, saw an incredible film and spent time with an amazing author. Not a shabby night in New York.

Will you be seeing Shutter Island this weekend?

the awesome powers of htmlgiant

  • About the author EB
  • February 19, 2010

If you’ve been living under a rock (or if you’re not a regular reader of this blog), you might not know that we just published a debut short story collection called Everything Here is the Best Thing Ever.

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It’s by Justin Taylor, and it’s been getting a ton of attention, with reviews in The Millions, Bookforum, Time Out New York, and The New York Times Book Review. Now, HTMLGiant is trying to get Justin’s book on the New York Times bestseller list.

It seems a bit quixotic . . . but could it happen? Obviously, we very much hope so.

are you familiar with the church of the flying spaghetti monster?

  • About the author EB
  • February 18, 2010

Earlier today, Harper Perennial editor Stephanie Meyers (nope, not Stephenie Meyer) was in my office to discuss a book we’re publishing this fall called The Atheists’ Guide to Christmas. In the course of this conversation, she mentioned the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster:

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Awesome.

the manchurian american

  • About the author EB
  • February 16, 2010

Tomorrow night at Crawford Doyle Booksellers, join friend of Harper Perennial editor MS Yupin Wang as he celebrates the publication of his memoir, Manchurian American.

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From Yupin:
Manchurian American is the personal tale of Yupin Wang, who was born in Northeast China (Manchuria) in the 1930s. He is a witness to the Japanese invasion of China and brutal civil wars, an escapee to Taiwan, and an accidental American who came to the United States in the 1950s and made it. This is a poignant story of the human spirit triumphing over obstacles of nationality, race, and time. Manchurian American is about love, family, friendship, and gratitude for an adopted country. Wang’s personal crusade in a new, bewildering land is as relevant today for him as it is for all Americans who live in a land of immigrants. From his first jobs on the boardwalk in Long Beach, Long Island, to his position as an executive with IBM, Yupin Wang brings wonder, frustration, and success to the story of his journey to become the Manchurian American. This story will appeal to a wide audience: Americans with immigrant roots, Americans who experienced war firsthand, baby boomers, and a younger generation seeking an explanation of the past. Both men and women will find it touching and engaging. Asians and new immigrants to America will find it inspiring.

thought for food

  • About the author EB
  • February 16, 2010

In 2003, Dwayne Raymond met legendary writer Norman Mailer over a basket of bananas in the supermarket. For both men, it was “one of those fateful nights when you go to the grocery store and your life changes.” In Mornings with Mailer, Dwayne details the following years spent as Mailer’s personal assistant, confidante, and friend. Dwayne joins us here on the olive reader today to talk about an aspect of their relationship that may not immediately come to mind when one thinks of Norman Mailer: food.

My work with Norman Mailer revolved primarily around two things: books and food. While I came aboard principally to assist him with research for his novel The Castle in the Forest, he soon began to appreciate my love of cooking and was delighted that I was fairly adept at it. Norman understood that there was an essential connection where writing, food and art were concerned and that led to him laying out for me curious ideas about preparation. Consider the grapefruit.

There was a long period of time when he favored having only a grapefruit for lunch. It had to be white grapefruit, however, never pink. He preferred it cut a certain way; halved, scored around the sides to separate the flesh from the skin then sliced into at least 9 precise “V” sections. The slices would float freely in a pool of juice in the “skin cup” so at the end one was rewarded with a satisfying drink. I am amused when I think about this because so many academics have preached to no end about the intellectualism of Norman Mailer and his notions on God and man, boxing and Marilyn, the politics of America and the world and other lofty matters. But what they probably didn’t know was that he considered the cutting of grapefruit, or a particular way of cooking fish, beef, mushrooms, soup and broccoli with as much vigor as he approached concepts of Man’s place in the universe. Few know he deliberated, while lying in bed chasing an increasingly elusive capacity to sleep, how to intermingle flavors. Habitually he would tell me he had mused about blends of tastes, puzzles consisting of seasonings, in dark hours of the morning and forced himself to remember to tell me in the light of the next day. He knew I appreciated culinary combinations as much as I enjoyed the research and transcription work so when he had nocturnally invented something he was certain it would interest me also. Usually it did. Norman inspired me to approach his peculiar recipes the way one might a book-related project: Is the foundation of the idea sound? Is the choice of particular materials reasonable? Will there be suitable integrity to the finished product? Those questions lingered always when mulling the execution of one of his creations. Where nourishment was concerned, he hypothesized endless possibilities and posed incomparable questions.

Norman and I shared many heavy conversations about writing, of course, but we also had countless discussions about food. Once he asked about using one of his favorite desserts, Haagen Dazs Raspberry Sorbet, as a base for salad dressing. I told him we could simply buy some raspberry vinaigrette as it was marketed widely. No, he said, he was not a fan of “corporate raspberry flavor,” but he did have a fondness for the essence one found in that particular sorbet. If only we could capture it! So, I spent an hour or two attempting to master a blend of oil, sorbet, balsamic and God knows what else. It was not a successful venture. In the end, I bought some Newman’s Own raspberry vinaigrette, thinned it with water and mixed it with a heaping tablespoon of sorbet in a blender. A bit later I made a salad for each of us. After a few bites he pronounced the experiment’s outcome as being sub-adequate because although it was not entirely bad, he was aware that one ingredient had come from a plastic bottle. Plastic, he maintained, adversely affected everything it touched. It didn’t occur to him that the whole concept was dreadful; that wasn’t the way his mind worked. Norman believed that anything awful could be fixed if enough work was put into it.

In the last year of his time in Provincetown, his food-lust was mainly satisfied by the simple, raw Wellfleet Oyster. A few friends who dined with him during that last year knew about this near-obsession because he would drag them to his favorite restaurant to enjoy the oysters with him. But what in all likelihood they didn’t know was that it was more than just the pleasure of the taste and the ease of ingesting the oysters. There was an importance attached to them for Norman that went way beyond the act of consumption. He brought the shells home with him always, intending to literally draw on them later; to illuminate the shadowed faces concealed upon their rough outer shells. He saw mysterious portraits etched by tidal waters on them; images of aged, droll characters that were not altogether different from his own doodle-drawings that he’d published in his book of poems, Modest Gifts. He saw it perhaps as a challenge to enlighten, for anyone who cared, what he interpreted as jagged brilliance hidden in the lowly, overlooked oyster shell.
Now these years later after his passing, I find myself mulling the same quirky thoughts in uneasy sleep when pondering a new piece of writing or a meal as Norman did. I don’t know whether to hail him or curse him but I do know I tend to wake up in a much better mood, stoked with ideas and typically looking forward to my day’s work—and to dinner.

love: the debate

  • About the author EB
  • February 12, 2010

was ever so lovely . . .

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from left to right: the optimist, the realist, the pessimist, and the moderator.

happy friday!

ask not what neal pollack can do for you, but what you can do for neal pollack

  • About the author EB
  • February 11, 2010

You may know Neal Pollack as a humor writer and the author of Never Mind the Pollacks, The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature, and Alternadad. But what you may not know about Neal is that he’s branched out . . . into yoga. We’re publishing his newest book, Stretch, a farts-and-all look at the discipline, this summer.

Neal has decided that it’s high time he gains some actual yoga expertise. But to become a yoga teacher, one must endure yoga teacher training. And to endure yoga teacher training, one must pay. And since, contrary to popular belief, semi-well-known humor writers aren’t exactly rolling in money, Neal needs some help:

But Neal won’t just take your money and run. He’s offering plenty in return, even beyond the joy of helping him achieve the perfect chair pose.

Go Neal!

love: the debate

  • About the author EB
  • February 09, 2010

As Valentine’s Day draws near, we here at Harper Perennial have yet another awesome contest for you!

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This Thursday, February 11th, we’ll be hosting “Love: The Debate,” a lively round table discussion at the Algonquin Hotel. The moderator will be Ben Greenman, New Yorker editor and author of the forthcoming What He’s Poised to Do, and he’ll be corralling the love and lust commentary from Ariel Leve (It Could Be Worse, You Could Be Me), Rachel Shukert (Everything Is Going to Be Great), and Simon Van Booy (The Secret Lives of People in Love.) Wine and appetizers will be served, and a good time will be had by all . . . including you!

That is, if you win. We’re offering one lucky reader and a guest an invitation to the event. All you have to do is comment on this entry and tell us what you’ll be doing this year on Valentine’s Day. Do it!

book blogger con 2010!

  • About the author EB
  • February 09, 2010

Today I’m very excited to be participating in the book blogger convention blog tour!

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For anyone who doesn’t know, the book blogger convention is a one day event intended to provide support, instruction, and social time for people who blog about books. It’s being held on Friday, May 28, which coincides with Book Expo America (BEA), a yearly book convention held here in new york city. With many bloggers attending bea and visiting new york city for the first time, those of us on the blog tour have been asked to share our expertise. And so, I present my one kernel of advice for you, intrepid book bloggers:

VISIT BROOKLYN!

As an almost lifelong Brooklyn resident (we won’t talk about my three years in Manhattan), I want to encourage all of you to come to my fair borough, though it is not exactly near the Javits Center. Aside from the many, many wonderful reasons to visit Brooklyn, there’s one that’s best of all—its bookstores! So, to make things extremely easy for you, below is a list of my favorite Brooklyn bookstores, along with directions, places to eat, and places to shop nearby.

Spoonbill & Sugartown
Bedford Ave between North 4th and North 5th Sts

how to get there: from the Javits Center, take the A/C/E trains downtown to 14th st, then switch to the L to Bedford Ave.
what to eat nearby: Relish, located in an spiffed-up old-timey diner.
where else to go: Catbird, my favorite jewelry store
why visit: the cat! (and the excellent selection of art books)

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Word
Franklin & Milton Sts

how to get there: from Javits, take the E train uptown to 23rd St/Ely in Queens, then switch to the G to Greenpoint Ave
what to eat nearby: the pencil factory (ok, so there’s no food, but there are awesome drinks!)
where else to go: Alter has men’s and women’s shops right across the street from each other.
why visit: the ladies of word (Christine, Stephanie, and Kelly) are the best. plus, they sell bananagrams!

Greenlight
Fulton st between south portland and south elliott

how to get there: 2/3 to atlantic ave
what to eat nearby: smoke joint, the best bbq in brooklyn (and awesome mac n cheese)
where else to go: if you’re jonesing for some suburban-style shopping, the atlantic center mall, featuring the world’s worst target (last night I watched a man with his pants open get kicked out by security), is just down the street
why visit: greenlight hasn’t been around for long, but it’s already made a HUGE impression on the surrounding neighborhood of fort greene, which had been dying for a bookstore.

Book Court
Court st between pacific and dean

how to get there: a/c/e from javits, then switch to the F at jay st to bergen st
what to eat nearby: the baked eggs at clover club are insane
where else to go: court st and smith st (one street over) are lined with stores, but my favorite is bird
why visit: book court’s exactly as old as i am!

So now you have no excuse—come to Brooklyn!

It’s Totally Killer Week on Facebook, which could mean an iTunes Gift Card… for YOU.

  • About the author CS
  • February 08, 2010

Our friends at The Nervous Breakdown are hosting a feel-good contest this week, at the cost of making you relive your painful hairdo circa 1991 — publicly. But you could win an autographed copy of TOTALLY KILLER, and a $100 iTunes gift card, which due to inflation no longer gets you 100 songs — something that 1991 cackles ironically about to itself.

HOW TO ENTER

STEP 1. Change your Facebook status to this:

It’s “Totally Killer” week on Facebook. Change your profile picture to one taken in 1991.

STEP 2. Change your profile picture to one taken in 1991.

STEP 3. On the Wall of the TNB Facebook page, post your answer to this question: “In exactly three words, tell us what you were doing in 1991.”

That’s it. Easy-peasy.

Check out full rules and regulations at TNB — and get your Facebook AquaNet on before Friday!

Our Bacon book makes the Guardian’s Oddest Book Title list!

  • About the author CS
  • February 05, 2010

The Guardian UK’s Oddest Book Titles of 2010 includes our very own BACON: A LOVE STORY among its contestants. Even Jezebel is rooting for us!

Check out the full list here.

I Stopped Sucking My Thumb, Why Can’t You Stop Drinking, anyone??

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