Monday, August 1, 2011


New Directions, the innovative, trailblazing, super awesome publishing house that's introduced American readers some of the best international and experimental literature from the 19th to the 21st centuries, is celebrating its 75th anniversary. From early-to-mid-century stalwarts like Henry Miller, Ezra Pound, Marianne Moore, Dylan Thomas, and Louis-Ferdinand Celine (the first ND book I read was Celine's Journey to the End of the Night) to contemporaries Cesar Aira, Anne Carson, Enrique Vila-Matas, and Laszlo Krasznahorkai, New Directions is proving itself quite the feisty septuagenarian.

We've always had a deep and abiding love for New Directions here at Green Apple and would like to offer our gratitude and best wishes for another 75 years by offering you, gentle reader, a selection of our current favorites.

My Emily Dickinson is a poet's book about the life and work of a fellow poet. Largely through the lens of one of her best-known poems, Howe reveals Dickinson to have been astutely aware of the literary community and tradition in which she wrote, even as she famously did so from the confines of her room, raising some profound questions about fame, isolation, and what defines a writer in life and in death. It's not an easy book; Howe writes both as a scholar and as a poet herself, her style a windy mix between academic and poetic as she weaves together pieces of Dickinson's influences and wide-reaching world. The result is a breathtaking and revelatory examination of a poet, a poem, and a life.

If you don't already have a grasp on how incredible the work of Tennessee Williams is, well then let me emphasize his brilliance. Williams was a friggin' baller. We should be calling him Tennessee Chill-iams he is so cool. His presentation, slang, and many other things about his work can come off as antiquated, especially true for a child of the 90s like myself, but the guy understood some things about girls, dudes, ludes and bad attitudes. The plays in The Magic Tower range in tone from Williams' two best sides as an author, both stinking drunk and hilarious drunk. I cannot encourage people enough to take a look at this awesome new collection, especially if your only contact with his work is the already critically lauded.

I made the mistake of reading my first Bolano novel (By Night in Chile) on a flight to London in early 2008. As I finished the book somewhere over the mid-Atlantic, I realized with a sinking feeling that it would be weeks until I was able to race through the rest of his theretofore published work. And as soon as I returned home, I did just that: reading Amulet, Distant Star, Nazi Literature in the Americas, and Last Evenings on Earth all in about a week and a half.

The stories in Last Evenings on Earth are among the finest pieces he ever wrote. Concise, abrupt, and compulsively readable, they form a fine counterpoint to his later sprawling novels.

Each novel that I read by Queneau quickly becomes my favorite. Not just my favorite work by Queneau, but my favorite novel period. The Flight of Icarus is no exception. A novel masquerading as a play in which a cast of unruly characters decide they have better places to be than in this story promises--and delivers--on its riotous premise.

The first part of Vila-Matas' title refers of course to Melville's laconic clerk who answers all questions and demands with a mysterious and vexing "I prefer not to." The Co. refers to a cast of writers who, for reasons often mysterious (J.D. Salinger, or a lookalike, makes an appearance), sometimes heartbreaking (Juan Ramon Jimenez), and yes, even vexing, have become "artists of the refusal" or artists who prefer not to. Some of the names are familiar, some deserve to be more familiar, and others, in a fittingly Borgesian manner, never existed. Bartleby & Co. is that perfect book: one that leads to another, that leads to another, and another...

Carson's fans know her interest in deconstructing and reappropriating all things ancient--Greek myth, Sappho's poetry, the tango...--in her haunting poetic verse. And so it is fitting, while tragic, that her latest work Nox is a scrapbook of sorts eulogizing her late brother. Aside from being an eerily gorgeous object, this uniquely bound book will surely resonate with anyone who has lost someone and attempted to piece together what they left behind.

For more of our selections and recommendations, please visit the store or see our Staff Picks page (you'll see why most of us agonized over selecting just one book for this post).

And once again, Happy Anniversary, New Directions!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday New Directions and excellent picks Green Apple core! Tennessee Willaiams here i come!