Friday, December 4, 2009

John Cage Review in ARTNews!

Dear Readers,

We are pleased to announce that our John Cage: Zen Ox-Herding Pictures appears in this month's issue of ARTNews! Click on the image above to see the wonderful review from Lilly Wei!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Nobel Prize? 30,000 to Afghanistan

As Obama leave for Copenhagen after announcing that he may send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, we wonder: can he accept the Nobel Peace Prize that awaits him in good conscience?

The war in Afghanistan has gone on for 8 years. Sending more troops will only get us deeper and deeper into the conflict. One can only think of Vietnam.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Reminder of Iran's Struggle

On June 20, 2009, Neda Agha-Soltan was slain during the Iranian election riots—a fearless activist, she was shot down and silenced. Images of her death, of the blood gushing from her body, instantly made their way around the world. Neda became a a focus for the Iranian opposition, and a topic of discussion for those had previously ignored Iran's unrest.

Part of me wishes that I had protested in front of the United Nations.

Tonight PBS will air a documentary about Neda, her sacrifice, and the struggle she represents. To say "I'm glad this documentary has been made" seems like an empty gesture, so instead I'll simply ask you to watch it with me.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

55 Years of Publishing... And Now This.

George Braziller, Inc., is pleased to announce that our spontaneous, unedited thoughts will now appear in packets of 140 characters or less on a new RSS feed site named "Twitter."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Holding the U.S. Accountable

In recent weeks we've read a number of articles criticizing the use of drones in U.S. military operations on the Afghan border. People are asking: How many civilian deaths will result from drone strikes? Are drones accurate enough for use? And now the United Nations wants the U.S. for transparency on the issue:

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) — The United States must demonstrate that it is not randomly killing people in violation of international law through its use of drones on the Afghan border, a United Nations rights investigator said Tuesday.

The investigator, Philip Alston, also said the American refusal to respond to United Nations concerns that the use of drones might result in illegal executions was an “untenable” position.

Mr. Alston, who is appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council, said his concern over drones had grown in the past few months as the American military prominently used them in the rugged area along the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

He said the United States may be using the drones legally but needed to answer questions he raised in June. “Otherwise you have the really problematic bottom line, which is that the Central Intelligence Agency is running a program that is killing significant numbers of people and there is absolutely no accountability in terms of the relevant international laws,” he said.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Home of the Wounded

While we usually focus on brighter news in this blog, today we find it urgently necessary to discuss a very serious issue—the lives of veterans returning home from war. Yesterday's New York Times featured an Op-Ed piece by a wounded soldier, discussing the difficulties he faced in his own life, and the solutions he hopes to find. In response, we want to make sure that his words are heard, and that we make room for further dialogue. If you have comments or experiences you'd like to share, please share them here.

We are proud to have published Wounded, a book that explores this subject in depth, and invite readers to join us in raising awareness of a problem too long ignored.

Maxwell Heller,

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Tooting our horn a bit for John Cage

The day calls for a little trumpet playing, what with Publishers Weekly unable to get enough of our Fall titles—they highlight John Cage: Zen Ox-Herding Pictures as one of 2009's great illustrated gift books.

Publisher's Weekly valiantly makes the argument for the joys of untying the ribbon, ripping open the wrapping reveal a beautiful old fashioned paper-and-ink book. Or to quote their intro: "As the industry watches--in most quarters nervously--the market for e-books slowly rise, there is consolation for some that, although you can give an e-book away, you can't give it as a gift. And there's no kind of publishing where the old rules still apply quite as surely as in illustrated books, in which full-color format and coffee-table book dimensions are their raison d'etre, and make them ideal for the gift giving season".

Among the many other lovely titles PW choose for the article is another Cage-related title--a book of Gerhard Richter's Cage Paintings with text by Robert Storr-- highlighting once again the ongoing significance of John Cage within the context of contemporary art.

But mostly this is about how great our book is (yes, it does seem to always come back to that.)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Reporting for the Next Generation

Speaking with a photographer last week about nimble little houses like Aperture and powerHouse Books—both of them produce unique and insightful photography titles—I realized that most readers expect publishers to break new ground with each publication. Is this possible? Is it even desirable? Yes, publishers are here to present us with new art & literature, distributing it in an durable physical form; but I'm not sure if it's their job to do so before everyone else. We already have magazines, blogs, and (ha ha ha) newspapers to break news for us, so it seems silly to put books to the same task.

I could be wrong.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Size Matters - Five Thoughts on Art Books

Dear Readers,

Paging through new art book catalogs, I conjured a few rules that publishers might like to hear. I don't consider myself an expert, but I've learned a few things by accident in recent years

(1) Try to represent your artist's work.
We know artists not only through their images, but through the sizes, shapes, and textures of the art objects they create—so print your Rothko images big, your Bôsais small, your Francis Bacons on rough paper and your Ingres on glossy. Help readers understand what these art pieces feel and look like... If an Hiroshige print charms viewers because of its minute and dense detail, why would you enlarge it to twice its size? Why?

(2) Make yourself useful.
Anyone can print off an artist's complete work from Wikipedia, but your publishing house should rustle up something new—new information, perspectives, resources, unseen images—that will help people access the artist as never before. Try to include a remarkable bibliography, introduction and other material that will make the book not only a good finished product, but also a good jumping off point for other researchers.

(3) By the way, "complete" collections don't necessarily offer a complete picture.
Sometimes, printing an artist's complete work can actually confuse people. If her most important and productive years occurred late in life, should you really reproduce the dumpster loads of early junk she fumbled through? Would she want that? Will all of it , en masse, help us understand her impact on the arts? Focus. Otherwise we'll think you're trying to compensate for your tiny house by printing a big book. (Unless you're printing The Big Penis Book because you're Taschen and people know for sure that you're big, so you can flaunt it).

(4) Sometimes, the book makes the artist.
You want to sell 50,000 copies of a book, any book, so you run yourself to death looking for the next big artist because you think that a big artist will make your book succeed. Maybe that's the wrong way to go about it. Sometimes, an overlooked artist will reach people like never before when his/her work is presented in a well handled book. Look at Blackstock's Collections for a perfect example of this—a small smart publisher found some small smart work and gained attention for all involved.

(5) Sometime an artist predates another artist, without "predicting" him/her.
Michael Phelps is younger than me, and I bet that I was dog-paddling before his first sink-bath. But I won't say that my early swimming efforts "presaged", "predicted," or even "foreshadowed" his later swimming triumphs—because I would look silly if I suggested such a thing. If your introduction says that Jane McArtist "paved the way" for Cubism, or "utilized elements of Impressionism long before Impressionism" etc., you better be prepared to show a deeper connection, or you'll look like a name dropper. From now on, let us admire the Lascaux cave drawings for their own value... not because they predicted Giacometti.

Best regards,

Maxwell Heller, Editor

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Art from the Home of Cage & Cunnigham

The New York Times announced a Christie's auction of art pieces from the Chelsea apartment of John Cage and Merce Cunningham. The life-long partners kept a private collection of sorts, comprising works by friends Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and many others—but none of the pieces had been appraised or insured. Cage and Cunningham gathered art purely for the joy of having it nearby.

For updated information on our John Cage title, click here.

Friday, September 11, 2009

In Memory of Sultan Munadi

In recent months, Braziller, Inc., has followed a number of stories about struggling or fallen journalists, some suffering persecution for their political views, others entering battlefields to expose the realities of modern war. Their sacrifices are enormous. Two days ago, The New York Times lost Afghan journalist Sultan Munadi after he was abducted by gunmen along with correspondent Stephen Farrell. But he is survived by his remarkable words and unfailing hopes for a more peaceful Afghanistan. We post one of his blog entries here, as it is an incredible example of a journalist's dedication to his cause:

"I grew up in the Panjshir Valley, in a place that is a three-hour walk from the nearest road. We don’t have a lot of iron there, we don’t have concrete, we don’t have these artificial things. It’s a completely natural place.

I grew up there, and when I went to Germany to study for a master’s degree in public policy I saw concrete everywhere, a lot of glass, asphalt and artificial things. It was depressing, very boring for me. I was dreaming of the dust, I was dreaming of nature in my country, of the mountains. It’s really nice to be back for a while, it’s very hard to be away for two years.

If I were a teenager, it would be easier to be integrated into the society in Germany, but now at the age of 34, it is difficult to be away from my country. I would not leave Afghanistan. I have passed the very darkest times of my country, when there was war and insecurity. I was maybe four or five years old when we went from my village into the mountains and the caves to hide, because the Soviets were bombing. I have passed those times, and the time of the Taliban when I could not even go to Kabul, inside my country. It was like being in a prison.

Those times are past now. Now I am hopeful of a better situation. And if I leave this country, if other people like me leave this country, who will come to Afghanistan? Will it be the Taliban who come to govern this country? That is why I want to come back, even if it means cleaning the streets of Kabul. That would be a better job for me, rather than working, for example, in a restaurant in Germany.

Being a journalist is not enough; it will not solve the problems of Afghanistan. I want to work for the education of the country, because the majority of people are illiterate. That is the main problem facing many Afghans. I am really committed to come back and work for my country."

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Forthcoming John Cage book in the news again!

Publisher's Weekly decided that one review just wasn't enough on our fall release, John Cage: Zen Ox-herding Pictures, so they included another one in their recent Nonfiction Reviews:

"Known best for his music and performances, John Cage also painted and wrote extensively. Zen Buddhism influenced his approach to his work—nature as a path to self, collaboration in performance and happenstance in composition. The art and poetry in this book represent a collaboration both accidental and deliberate between Cage, Addiss and Kass. Cage was working on another series of paintings when he marked a series of brown paper towels. Artist Kass and artist/composer Addiss ordered the towels into a sequence, then Addiss culled Cage's writings to create a cutup or recomposition of found words and phrases into a new work.

Cage recognized the importance of the remix long before it became fashionable. The accidental circumstances of this work's assemblage doesn't diminish its charm or delicacy. The introductory material provides essential context, but the best approach may be to read and view the work, read the essays, then review the piece again. Addiss and Kass prove the continuing relevance of the tradition of ox-herding as a format for teaching and connecting the heart to the mind. 50 color and 12 b&w illus. (Oct.)"

—Publishers Weekly
Nonfiction Reviews: 8/17/2009:

John Cage: Zen Ox-Herding Pictures
Stephen Addiss and Ray Kass. Braziller, $34.95 (128p)

ISBN 978-0-8076-1601-7

Thursday, June 4, 2009

JOHN CAGE @ Le Poisson Rouge

DON’T MISS THIS EVENT! Many wonderful John Cage shows and exhibitions have already appeared in 2009, but on Monday, June 29, Le Poisson Rouge will present the renowned composer’s Sonatas and Interludes with live film and piano accompaniment by David Broome.

AND DON’T MISS OUR FORTHCOMING BOOK, John Cage: Zen Ox-Herding Pictures. It brings together fifty never-before-seen images made in collaboration with John Cage, revealing the powerful influence of Zen in his life and work. These exquisite artifacts date from the 1988 Mountain Lake Workshop, where they were preparatory studies for greater endeavors by the artist. Now, nearly two decades later, they have been utilized in a new collaboration as illustrations enlivening the classic “Ten Ox-Herding Pictures.” The story of this collaboration draws upon resources from Cage’s visual art, lectures, poetry, and the reflections of his colleagues and students.

John Cage's Sonatas & Interludes
With live film and David Broome, piano.
Monday, 29 June 2009 / 6:30 PM.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Re-Presenting III: The Designer

Designers transform plain text into something that readers can fall in love with at a glance; but they also bring the chaos of a manuscript into order, sometimes catching problems that everyone else misses. I meet with our designer, Rita Lascaro, on the Upper East Side to talk about her life as a designer—she's saved more than a few of our books!

How did you start in design?

Long story. I went to Parson's school of Design to study illustration because, when I was in 8th grade, I wanted my drawings and paintings to be in magazines with my name in little type next to them. I found out when I got older that this meant being an illustrator. After I graduated college I never got enough work as an illustrator, so I started doing mechanicals for various designers—this was before computers when every word in a book was pasted down with one-coat rubber cement by some troll like me. Well, I started doing mechanicals for a Braziller freelance designer named Ed Smith. At that time, if you were in George's office doing something, he'd ask you to do something else. One day, when I was delivering a job for Ed Smith, George turned to me and said, "Could you design a book jacket for me?" I said "Sure,"—not knowing about type or anything—and I went home to do a painting, because that's what I knew how to do. That first book was a novel called The Past. I did a strange painting of three people in green swirls for the cover that, somehow, George accepted. I put some type on it and that's how I started designing.

So—I don't know this and I don't know how many people actually do—how did you manage to do design before computers?

Well, for one thing, you couldn't experiment as much with type. The client would give you pages and pages of typed text and you wrote in pencil on the manuscript what you wanted the type to look like—font, size, and leading. This was called specing type. Today, you use design programs like Quark or Indesign—but back then you did it in your head or with thumbnail sketches, using what you saw in type sample books or what you had learned from experience. Then you would give the marked-up manuscript to a typesetter and—I actually don't know how they magically did it—they would set the type and then print it out as repro. Repro was photographically-created type that came out of a typesetting machine in a roll, which was then chopped down into smaller sheets. You took a repro sheet, put rubber cement on the back, waited for the glue to dry, put the sheet on a plastic cutting board, got a straight edge, cut out blocks of type, and then arranged blocks of type on a mechanical board for each page. You'd have to separately glue down folios, running heads, headlines, captions, photostats of pictures—it took a tremendous amount of time and a bigger art staff than today. For a 300-page book you'd end up with 150 boards that you then had to carefully clean up with a rubber cement pickup to get rid of stray bits of glue. Just covering each board with a protective sheet of tracing paper cut exactly to the size of the board and taped to the top took forever. If you wanted to change one word in a line, you'd have to cut two parallel lines with your Exacto knife, one above and one below the whole line, cut between each word, remove or replace the incorrect word, and then shift all the words in the line so that they were spaced evenly. Sometimes you had to this between the letters in a word. Your mouth is dropping open, Maxwell! It was crazy labor intensive work; you needed a good eye and a good hand. Now you know why I don't charge for revisions: I can do them cheerfully now since the corrections don't involve knives and glue.

The next question obviously is: what was your big nightmare project?

I can think of one for Braziller: I was working with a Braziller designer named Dana Levy—he was wonderful—doing mechanicals on the first full book that I ever had to paste up. Dana had shown me his design, suggesting a certain number of lines per page, so I just started putting that number of lines on every page. But when I got to the last page of the book, I found that I was short copy. I didn't know that I was supposed to "cast off" and count to make sure that I had enough copy to fill out the book before I started pasting it all down. So I had to take up all the copy with rubber cement thinner and move the lines around to make the book fit the way the designer wanted it to fit. I remember a lot of glue, my hands cracked and dried from rubber cement thinner, and being very embarrassed that I had done it wrong. That was one nightmare project. But I would say that every book has some kind of nightmare, there's always a catastrophe. Remember the first book I did with you, dear Maxwell? I finished designing the entire book and then you realized that the Word file you gave me was not final copy. I did that book twice for you, my friend!

So what project was wonderful for you?

The book that I worked on for a couple of years with the Sleepy Hollow Country Club. My father was a member of the club and, at age 84, he was my agent, trying to get me a book deal with them. I not only designed that book, I did all of the picture research and I found that fascinating. I had a lot of control over the book, deciding which images to use, what size they would be, and where they went—it is very much a picture book—so that it ended up looking the way I wanted it to look. Sleepy Hollow was a club that my family belonged to for over thirty years and, even though I am not a golfer or a tennis player, it was an important part of my life. We spent almost every major holiday there for big family meals. We were there for family lunches, dinners, and barbecues. My father passed away while I was working on the project but, before he died, he helped me with the book from his hospital bed. It was very special to me.

Thank you, Rita, for talking with me.

I actually do have one great Braziller story to tell you before we finish this interview. I thought you were going to ask me for a memorable moment at the George Braziller offices, so I thought about this one. I worked on a book for Helen Frankenthaler—incredible artist—and she came to the office for a meeting on George's birthday. She brought a cake and paper plates and plastic forks for George. We all sat down, Helen Frankenthaler took out the plates and, in front of us, wrote "Happy Birthday George" on each plate. As she put the cake on them and handed them out, I know we were all thinking "I don't want cake, I just want to keep the plate with Helen Frankenthaler's handwriting on it!" But the plates were all ruined by cake and they were all thrown away. Helen told George that she baked the cake, but it was obviously store-bought. That's my memorable story.

I actually think we still have one of those plates somewhere . . . George managed to keep one!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Narwhal Award ® to Wyatt Mason

I am ashamed to say that I have not mentioned him before, but let me make amends by honoring Wyatt Mason with this week's Narwhal Award ®. Mr. Mason, whose Sentences blog represented Harper's Magazine online, posted intellectually stimulating notes on books both old and new for over a year. He considered not only recent publications, but possible publications, old classics, and the state of literature today. Unfortunately, Mr. Mason has now left Sentences, but I want to thank him for his work, and to direct readers to his wonderful posts.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Narwhal Award ® Gets A Logo!

Inspired by our Narwhal Award, Eva-Lena Rehnmark sent us this incredible logo! I'm now doubly inspired to continue these awards—and I challenge readers to keep their eyes out for exceptional people in the book community, too! Thanks to Lilla G. Weinberger for sending this along.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Great Janet Frame Titles from Braziller!

David Gates (New York Times ) reviewed Janet Frame's posthumous novel Towards Another Summer (Counterpoint) yesterday, declaring that "except for 'David Copperfield,' few novels have rendered a child’s viewpoint more convincingly and affectionately."

Janet Frame published many beautiful novels with us—at left, she can be seen seated at her typewriter, perhaps hammering out one the letters she sent (on mint-green paper!) to our office. If you're new to Frame's work, I recommend beginning with Faces in the Water, or enjoying the haunting Criterion Collection biopic An Angel At My Table. The film features one of the best and most heart wrenching bad-day-at-work sequences ever made—no one sees daily life more clearly than Frame!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Re-Presenting II: The Copy Editor

It's time for another look behind the scenes with George Braziller Blog.

BEFORE IT GOES TO PRESS, it goes to Maria Dering. Maria is a writer, editor, publicist, translator of Russian, French, and Czech, a historian, a lecturer—in short, she knows what she's doing. After wrapping up this season's most important project, we met near the Met to lunch and discuss the art of copy-editing.

George Braziller Blog: When did you start copy-editing?

Maria Dering: It was 1984. At the time, I was working as a technical writer for Smith & Barney, so I did a lot of documentation and interviewing about backroom processing procedures for stock trades and mutual funds. And I was very bored. So I started interviewing for new jobs. Along the way, I happened to meet somebody who worked for a book club, and she asked if I did copy-editing. I said "I don't even know what that is. I know what editing is, but what's the difference?" She said, "Go get the Chicago Manual of Style." [Laughter] I bought it. I remember my first copy was dated 1983. I started reading it and I said "Oh my God." You would think that somebody with a couple of degrees in English would know everything about grammar and style, but I didn't, so I really had to learn.

GBB: This brings up a good question: What exactly is copy-editing? When someone hands you a manuscript and says "Take care of this," how do you know what kind of copy-editing they have in mind? How do you know where to stop?

MD: I think it varies depending on the publisher and writer. I always figure that writers will get furious if I change too much, so I try to do less rather than more. But I read in the fabulous Chicago Manual that a copy editor has to know everything—basically you're a glorified fact checker, grammarian, and syntax technician, and you have to make all the pieces in a paragraph fit together. So I change as little as possible of the author's voice, but if poor grammar gets in the way, it's got to be fixed. When I wrote for HBO, every now and then they'd give me an article to edit, I'd clean it up and they'd say "Oh but it's lost its soul." I'd say, "No, the grammar has been corrected." You can't publish something that's incorrect. Maybe when you read it aloud it sounds wonderful, but when it's in print, it's different—it's permanent, and you look silly if something is wrong.

GBB: You reminded me of something when you mentioned glorified fact checkers—there was a four-page piece in the New Yorker about their fact checkers, and it actually did make fact-checking seem glorious.

MD: Well, you need to be a detective, you need to like problem solving, and you need a really good mind for trivia, because you never know when something is going to pop out of the attic in your head and become useful.

GBB: Do you remember a manuscript that was a nightmare for—

MD: YES. [Laughter] It was a chapter in a psychology book that was so colloquial and so conversational that it really wasn't suitable for print. The author got very angry when all I did was circle certain sentences and say “this is too slangy, you're playing a little fast and loose with facts, please tighten this up, please research this a bit more,” and so on. It's the only time an author has gotten furious with me in that way (and I found out that there had been trouble with this author before). I question why that chapter was even included, because it was jarring compared to the other chapters around it. It was the diference between an experienced psychologist writing and a student writing for a school project. It was that bad.

GBB: So that brings me to the opposite—what's a piece that brought you to new and fascinating things, that taught you something?

MD: Well, one was the Braziller book on Louis I. Kahn, because for that project, I had to really learn about that man. He was such an unknown figure to me that I had to research his life and work and projects. There were a lot of technical terms that I had to familiarize myself with, but I also had to look at blue prints and other books about him. It was fascinating.

GBB: What was it that first led you to Braziller?

MD: I needed a job! [Laughter] I had the directory of publishers, that big thick book, and he was in the B section. I called and I asked "Do you need a copy editor?" At that time, Mary Taveras was there and she said "O my God! We're actually looking for someone to read a manuscript for us right now!" That's how it got started. But I knew about Braziller because, in grad school, we all looked at the Très Riches Heures, and everyone drooled over that book. I knew him from that. I knew the name, I was looking for a job...

GBB: And now you've done over fifteen titles with us.

MD: It's been six years... ... Let's eat.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

George Braziller, Dingo

Our readers are probably wondering "Does George Braziller, Inc., have an official mascot?" Well, officially: no. But unofficially: yes! We have this Dingo named George Braziller.

George (the dingo) lives in Australia with Boro Wongar, author of Braziller titles Karan and Walg. George is getting up there in dingo years, but he still takes his walkabout every day. (This picture was taken in July, 2007.)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Readers' Books Responds

Unable to accept yesterday's Narwhal Award® in person, Lilla Weinberger sent along this fine portrait of a co-worker at Readers' Books in Sonoma Valley, California. That reminds me—if you have any nominees for the Awards, please let me know their story!

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Narwhal Awards

I'm starting the Narwhal Awards® today to recognize booksellers, agents, publishers, and other industry folk who are doing something unique during these allegedly difficult times.

The first Narwhal Award® goes to Readers' Books in Sonoma Valley, California, a shop that recently made an unusual addition to its shelves—organic eggs. Readers' has begun selling eggs from the owners' family farm, and plans to follow up with vegetables and preserves this Autumn, so that bookworms can save themselves a stop to the grocery store on the way home. Co-owner Lilla Weinberger says that she has no intention of competing with local farmers' markets, but I'm sure that other local booksellers are feeling a bit threatened. I hope that this Narwhal Award® brings Readers' the attention it deserves—and I think we should all... take a page from its book.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Bride Price Reviewed!

Buchi Emecheta's Bride Price received a thoughtful review on the Cuban In London blog yesterday—comparisons are drawn between Emecheta and Wole Soyinka, whose play Death and the King's Horseman recently premiered in London.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Will Barnet in ARTnews!

Will Barnet is center stage again, this time in an ARTnews review featuring our Will Barnet: A Sketchbook, 1932–1934. Here's what Deidre S. Greben says about the title:

"Will Barnet: A Sketchbook, 1932–1934 is an excursion unto itself. Discovered in files buried in Barnet's studio, the plein-air sketches of lovers, strollers, thinkers, and loungers were a relief from the labored compositions of the artist's early academic training. Their only purpose was the delight he obviously felt in making them. As a New Englander just arrived in New York, Barnet was drawn to Central Park, which he called a front lawn for Depression-era city dwellers packed into airless tenements. These bold, direct drawings capture the openness of the setting, but also the subtle interactions among the figures. As critic Robert C. Morgan keenly note in his introduction, these are intimate even romantic works of youthful discover, yet they suggest the foundations of a classicism that was to characterize Barnet's long career."

Friday, May 1, 2009

See What's New at George Braziller!

Summer is almost upon us, and soon publishers along Madison Avenue will begin running on summer schedules, which means a Monday-through-Thursday schedule for 9-to-5ers, and a Monday-through-when-I-head-off-to-Maine schedule for editors. Even so, George Braziller, Inc., is still working around the clock to bring you new titles in 2009 and 2010. Check out our home page and download a free copy of our Spring / Summer 2009 flyer. You'll learn about our upcoming projects, and some great back-list titles, too.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Save The Narwhal—Don't Self Publish Yet!

Dear Readers,

This month's Smithsonian offers an unusual look at a very unusual beast: the narwhal. Long thought to have magical powers, the narwhal has been enthusiastically pursued over the centuries, but its peculiar, solitary habits make him nearly impossible to approach. Even today, we know little about this hornèd* sea mammal—we only have evidence that his numbers are dwindling. It seems that, if we want to learn anything about the narwhal, we have to start learning now.

Well, that brings me back to independent publishing. A few odd decades after the Golden Age of Publishing made us fall in love with the magic of independent publishers, we are still just beginning to discover their potential. Unfortunately, those pub houses (old and new) are now struggling to survive the many changes mentioned already on this blog, especially the advent of self-publishing. (Certain self-publishing house profits have grown by 30% in recent years, while indie houses have been forced to shrink their operations by 10% or more.) Small houses are in danger! If we want to know what they can do, we have to start working now—before they're gone!

That's why George Braziller is asking you to get out to the post office and submit your manuscripts this May. We'll get back to you with a thoughtful reply within two weeks, which means you have everything to gain and nothing to lose.

Don't self publish yet. If our house doesn't suit your project, find one that does. It's time to save the small publisher. Ready, go.

Best regards,

Maxwell Heller

*Actually, it's an enormous tooth, not a horn.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Will Barnet is Profiled in Art & Antiques

Will Barnet, the prolific American painter and printmaker, is profiled in the May issue of Art & Antiques.

Barnet will turn 98 in May, and to celebrate George Braziller is releasing Will Barnet: A Sketchbook, 1932-1934, a collection of previously unreleased drawings from the beginning of Barnet's career. Here's what Art & Antiques says about the book:

The artist himself had forgotten it existed, so the freshness of the drawings, executed en plein air in Central Park, was as much a revelation to him as it will be to those who know Barnet's more finished works. Here are spontaneous, emotionally intense pen-and-ink snapshots of ordinary people taking refuge in the park from the city's stresses--sailors with their dates, young parents with babies, lovers embracing in the grass--and finding some relief from the worrisome times in each other's company.

Barnet had only recently arrived in the city when he begain the sketchbook. "It was the deep Depression, and I cuaght these people who were its victims," he recalls... "I was living like they were living... I used to sleep in the park on top of big rocks across from the St. Moritz Hotel. I wanted to catch the moment. My sketch pad and pen were a means of expressing my feelings about the city."

Friday, April 24, 2009

Buchi Emecheta's Joys of Motherhood Enters Its 28th Printing

We're proud to announce that Buchi Emecheta's The Joys of Motherhood, one of the most popular titles on our list, is going into its 28th printing. The book, which John Updike called "a graceful, touching, ironically titled tale," follows a Nigerian woman who has devoted her entire life towards the raising of her children, and who suddenly finds herself struggling to adjust to the colonial influences that threaten to overturn her entire way of life.

The book cuts very close to Emecheta's own experience. Born in Nigeria in 1944, she struggled under the gender bias of the time, fighting to receive an education. After marrying, she moved to London, where she raised five children and suffered her marriage. Writing was her only reprieve. Finally, she left her husband to raise her children alone while earning a degree in sociology from London University. Today she lives in London and is widely recognized as one of the most significant voices in modern African literature.

Emecheta's story is inspiring and her influence continues to be felt throughout the world. We're proud to have published so many of her incredible titles:

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Poetry Week Two, Day Four/Five: Jorge Luis Borges

Okay, so we missed yesterday, but we're closing out the week with a stunner, and probably one of the most appropriate caps to our theme of poetry on poetry. Today's piece is by inimitable Argentinian poet and writer, Jorge Luis Borges. The poem can be found in the collection, To a Nightingale, edited by Edward Hirsch, which tracks the presence of the sonorous bird in the work of some of the world's greatest poets, from Sappho to, well, Borges.

To The Nightingale

Out of what secret English summer evening
or night on the incalculable Rhine,
lost among all the nights of my long night,
could it have come to my unknowing ear,
your song, encrusted with mythology,
nightingale of Virgil and the Persians?
Perhaps I never heard you, but my life
is bound up with your life, inseparably.
The symbol for you is the wandering spirit
in a book of enigmas. The poet, El Marino,
nicknamed you the "siren of the forest";
you sing throughout the night of Juliet
and through the intricate pages of the Latin
and from his pinewoods, Heine, that other
nightingale of Germany and Judea,
called you mockingbird, firebird, bird of mourning.
Keats heard your song for everyone, forever.
There is not one among the shimmering names
people have given you across the earth
that does not seek to match your own music,
nightingale of the dark. The Muslim dreamed you
in the delirium of ecstasy,
his breast pierced by the thorn of the sung rose
you redden with your blood. Assiduously
in the black evening I contrive this poem,
nightingale of the sands and all the seas,
that in exultation, memory, and fable,
you burn with love and die in liquid song.

Poetry Week Two, Day Three: Gongora

We continue our poetry journey with a poem from Luis de Góngora y Argote, the sixteenth-century Spanish poet, whose work Pablo Picasso transcribed and illustrated in the late 1940s. This centuries-spanning collaboration between artist and poet was presented in Gongora, first published in Paris in 1948. The English translation is by Alan S. Trueblood.

The Poet
On the Most Critical Year of His Life

Lycius, in this, the westernmost,
the span most critical of all your life,
any unsteady footing is a fall,
any slippery fall a precipice.

Your gait is faltering? Shore your mind up then.
Finding that solid earth is giving way,
would any prudent man, forewarned by dust,
stay on to see the edifice collapse?

Not just its skin, but with the skin, its years
the venemous snake shall cast away.
Mankind, not so. Oh blindness of man's thought!

How happy he, who having laid away
the burdensome part of self in silent stone,
consigns the weightless to the sapphire sphere.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Poetry Week Two, Day Two: Gu Cheng

Today we travel China in the final quarter of the 20th Century for a poem from Gu Cheng, who found his way out of obscurity and rural exile to international acclaim, making a name for himself as the voice of a new generation of artists and thinker in China. His work is translated by Aaron Crippen in the collection Nameless Flowers: Selected Poems of Gu Cheng.

Curriculum Vitae

I'm a sorrowful child,
never grown up.
From the grassy north shore
I followed
a bright white road into
a city full of gears,
narrow alleys,
wooden shacks, each lowly heart.
In a bland haze of smoke I
keep telling green stories.
I believe in my listeners--
the sky, and sea spray.
They will cover my everything,
cover my undiscoverable
grave. I know then
the grasses and wildflowers
will gather, as the light dims,
kissing over my sorrow.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Even More Poetry for National Poetry Month

Since last week was so much fun, we're extending our poem-on-poetry-a-day run for a few more days!

Today, we're moving slightly out of Braziller territory with two prose poems by Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert, whose work is considered by Charles Simic in his new book, The Renegade.

Here's Simic's commentary on Herbert's distinct sense of humor, followed by the poems:

One of the favorite strategies of Herbert is what Baranczak calls "unmasking," the unveiling of the true face of some object or idea which up to that moment had been concealed by its false appearance. A clock, for example, may appear as the placid face of a miller, full and shiny as an apple with one dark hair creeping across it, when, in fact, if you were to look inside, you would discover a nest of worms or the bowels of an anthill. Although Herbert's intentions are often satirical, his way of defamiliarizing the familiar reminds me of folk humor. It's the same freee play of the imagination and jocularity one encounters in fairy tales, riddles and creation myths, which thrive on making the familiar strange. These two prose poems show how such unmasking works:


I don't understand how you can write poems about the moon. It's fat and slovenly. It picks the noses of chimneys. Its favorite thing to do is climb under the bed and sniff at your shoes.(1)


The hen is the best example of what living constantly with humans leads to. She has completely lost the lightness and grace of a bird. Her tail sticks up over her protruding rump like a too large hat in bad taste. Her rare moments of ecstasy, when she stands on one leg and glues up her round eyes with filmy eyelids, are stunningly disgusting. And in addition, that parody of song, throat-slashed supplication over a thing unuterably comic: a round, white, maculated egg.
The hen brings to mind certain poets.

(1. Translated by Alissa Valles.)
(2. Translated by Czeslaw Mislow and Peter Dale Scott.)

(This essay was originally published by the New York Review of Books in 2007, reviewing Zbigniew Herbert's Collected Poems: 1956-1998, from HarperCollins.)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Poetry Week Day Five: Langston Hughes

Poetry week closes with two short, sharp Langston Hughes poems from The Langston Hughes Reader. Think of these as a response to Julia Alvarez's "Poetry Makes Nothing Happen"? Have a great weekend!


Cheap little rhymes
A cheap little tune
Are sometimes as dangerous
As a sliver of the moon.

A cheap little tune
to cheap little rhymes
Can cut a man's
Throat sometimes.

Poet to Bigot

I have done so little
For you,
And you have done so little
For me,
That we have good reason
Never to agree.

I, however,
Have such meagre
Clutching at a
While you control
An hour.

But your hour is
A stone.

My moment is
A flower.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Poetry Week Day Four: Taslima Nasrin

For our fourth day of poetry, we have a poem from acclaimed Bangladeshi poet Taslima Nasrin, whose book, The Game in Reverse, was the first volume of her poetry available in English translation. Her work speaks out against the persecution of women in Bangladeshi Muslim society, and she was awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 1994.


My sister used to sing wonderful Tagore songs.
She used to love reading Simone de Beauvoir.
Forgetting her midday bath, she immersed herself in Karl Marx,
Gorky, Tolstoy, and Manik's novels.

When she wanted to feel nostalgic, Laura Ingalls Wilder was her favorite.
When she saw a play about war, I remember her crying half the night.

My sister used to read wonderful poetry;
her favorites were Shanka, Niren, Neruda, and Yevtushenko.
My sister loved the forest, not the garden;
she liked sculpture so much she once bought a ticket for Paris.

Now in my sister's poetry notebook
she keeps meticulous accounts of green vegetables,
now she walks around very proudly, loaded with metal ornaments.
She says with pride she no longer thinks about politics.
Let culture go to hell, she couldn't care less.
Dust collects on her sitar, mice nest in her tanpura.
Now she's a smart shopper, bringing home

porcelain dinnerware, fresh carp, and expensive-looking bed sheets.

(Translated by Carolyne Wright)