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)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Poetry Week Day Three: Julia Alvarez

We're getting a little political with today's poem. It comes from the collection Cry Out: Poets Protest the War, which gathers the poems read by eleven contemporary poets in Manchester, Vermont in 2003 in response to the recent cancellation of a White House poetry symposium. Julia Alvarez contributed this poem, among others, to the reading and the collection. She prefaces the poem with this:

Many of you may know the poem by Auden in which the line occurs: "Poetry makes nothing happen," which he doesn't mean. so the title of this one is that Auden quote, "Poetry Makes Nothing Happen," but I add a question mark:

"Poetry Makes Nothing Happen"?
W. H. Auden

Listening to a poem on the radio,
Mike Holmquist stayed awake on his drive home
from Laramie on Interstate 80,
tapping his hand to the beat of some lines
by Longfellow; while overcome by grief
one lonesome night when the bathroom cabinet
still held her husband's meds, May Quinn reached out
for a book by Yeats instead and fell asleep
cradling "When You Are Old," not the poet's best,
but still... poetry made nothing happen,

which was good, given what May had in mind.
Writing a paper on a Bishop poem,
Jenny Klein missed her ride but arrived home
to the cancer news in a better frame of mind.
While troops dropped down into Afghanistan
in the living room, Naomi Stella clapped
to the nursery rhyme her father had turned on,
All the king's horses and all the king's men...
If only poetry had made nothing happen!
If only the president had listened to Auden!

Faith Chaney, Lulú Pérez, Sunghee Chen--
there's a list as long as an epic poem
of folks who'll swear a poem has never done
a thing for them...except... perhaps adjust
the sunset view one cloudy afternoon,
which made them see themselves or see the world
in a different light - degrees of change so small
only a poem registers them at all.
That's why they can be trusted, why poems might
still save us from what happens in the world.

for Jay Parini

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Poetry Week Day Two: Daniel Hoffman

We continue our week of poetry on poetry with this great opening piece from Daniel Hoffman's collection of sonnets, Makes You Stop and Think:

The Sonnet
(Remembering Louise Bogan)

The Sonnet, she told the crowd of bearded
youths, their hands exploring
rumpled girls,
is a sacred

vessel: it takes a civilization
to conceive its shape or know
its uses. The kids
stared as though

a Sphinx now spake the riddle of
a blasted day. And few,
she said, who would
be avant-garde

consider that the term is drawn
from tactics in the Prussian
war, nor think
when once they've breached

the fortress of a form, then send
their shock-troops yet again
to breach the form,
there's no form--

--they asked for her opinion of
"the poetry of Rock."
After a drink
with the professors

she said, This is a bad time,
bad for poetry.
Then with maenad
gaze upon

the imaged ghost of a comelier day:
I've enjoyed this visit,
your wife's sheets
are Irish linen.

(NB: The poem is presented here sans formatting, since html is unfriendly to unconventional spacing.)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Celebrate National Poetry Month with George Braziller

We kicked off National Poetry Month with a beautiful excerpt from Charles Simic's new book, The Renegade. Now that we're almost halfway done (!) with April, it seems like a good time to look at how our poets experience poetry in their work. Every day this week we'll be posting a poem from one of our books that deals with the theme of poetry and writing.

We'll start with Simic again, from his Selected Early Poems:


My father writes all day, all night:
Writes while he sleeps, writes in his coffin.
It's nice and quiet in our house.
You can see the specks of dust in the sunlight.

I look at times over his shoulders
At all that whiteness. The snow if falling,
As you'd expect. A drop of ink
Gets buried easily, like a footprint.

I, too, would get lost but there's his shadow
On the wall, like a perched owl.
There's the sound of his pen
And the bottle on the table sunk in thought.

When the bottle empties
His great dark hand
Bigger than the earth
Feels for the moon's spigot.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Meet Will Barnet on ArtBabble

After reading the piece on ArtBabble in today's New York Times, we decided to check the website out. It's a great resource for artist interviews, retrospectives, and just building an online community around art and artists. And what a fancy design!

What's more, there's a video on Will Barnet, the prolific American artist, talking about his work and influences. We're publishing Will Barnet: A Sketchbook, 1932-1934 a collection of Barnet's never-before-seen early sketches, in May to celebrate his 98th birthday.

Check out the video here:

Thursday, April 2, 2009


The best part of producing art books is working with the art itself. We spend a lot of time with art pieces, making sure that our reproductions are faithful to the originals—we want you (our readers) to see something perfect, something that lets you know how it feels to see the art in person. Here's what we do:

Step One: Viewing the Work

After Braziller, Inc., decides to move forward with a new illustrated title, I arrange a viewing of the art. It is impossible to gather everyone involved—perhaps the art collector can't fly into New York, so s/he allows his/her irreplaceable property to travel by FedEx—but we do what we can. A standard viewing session can include a photographer and his assistants, Mr. Braziller, myself, a designer, a printing specialist, a museum director, and even (when absolutely necessary) an author, all of us wearing cotton gloves à la Mickey Mouse. The first five minutes after the art has been arranged on the table are the happiest of the production process.

Step Two: Understanding the Work

Immediately thereafter, the problems begin. Someone says that the art's textures and jagged edges must be perfectly reproduced or the effect will be ruined, but the photographer asserts that this is impossible. The art's owner says that the work needs to be returned quickly for a forthcoming exhibition, and though the designer agrees to work in this time frame, the author wants to keep the pieces on hand for reference. There are flecks of gold in the medium used, and I wonder if these can be reproduced somehow... I start sweating.

Step Three: Photography and Scanning

After the meeting, we leave the art in the hands of a photographer or scanner. They do the most absurd things to art, they really do, and I only vaguely understand them. I've seen a photographer hang sketches by slapping them onto a vaccuum-suction wall. I've seen art adhered to drum scanners, bent painfully in the process. In any case, it's really best that we don't know about this process.

Step Four: Proofs

After a photographer or scanner sends their digital files to the printer, the printer sends us a packet of proofs. Proofs usually arrive when we're right in the middle of something important, but all office work grinds to a halt, and everyone gathers round—are the proofs too red? too green? too dark or light? warm or cool? Is the paper so thin that the ink bleeds through? If the original art is on textured paper, shouldn't the book's paper be textured too? We run the back of our hands over the paper, flick the corners, compare its weight to the weight of other papers we've liked before. If we have the original art on hand, we stare back and forth between the proofs and the originals for over an hour. If we don't have the art, the proofs need to be mailed to someone who does... and hope that we hear from them soon.

Step Five: Proofs. Again.

Seriously though, this second set of proofs is better, but it's still a little red, don't you think? Oh, maybe it's just that the paper color is too cool.

Step Six: Proofs. Again.

Didn't we tell them to remove that smudge?

When the book goes to press, we still have a lot of worries. On a big run of books, the first thousand might come out too dark, and the last thousand might come out too light, but the middle 15,000 are just right. On a small run, the first are too light, the last too dark, and there are no perfect copies in between. The next time you pick up an art book, have a look and ask yourself: is this 140 gsm paper? does it have too much tooth? should it have been printed 6c instead of 4c? Or just sigh with relief that we think about that stuff so that you don't have to.

—Maxwell Heller, Editor

The Renegade Reviewed in New Hampshire Magazine

Charles Simic's new book, The Renegade, was reviewed yesterday in New Hampshire Magazine. At first, it seems like the review might not be very positive:

"If it’s a quick read you want, this isn’t the book for you."

But editor Barbara Coles quickly explains:

"If you want a book that you can ponder, absorb and marvel at, then this is the one."

Then she hits it out of the park:
It’s no surprise that “The Renegade” by Charles Simic [George Braziller Publishers, $19.95] is such a stunning book — he is, after all, an acclaimed poet (worthy enough to have been chosen U.S. Poet Laureate two years ago), teacher (professor Emeritus of American Literature and creative writing at UNH) and essayist.

The book — a collection of essays that explores the lives and work of poets, novelists, artists and playwrights — is so exquisitely written that even the chapter titles are carefully rendered — “When night forgets to fall” and “The power of reticence” among them.

With his sturdy guidance, Simic allows even the not-too-familiar-with-poetry reader to enter confidently into his world. (If you are one who was never sure what Dada is, for instance, there’s an easily understood explanation here.)

Simic’s title signals his celebration throughout the book of the renegade spirit, including his own. Don’t miss his remembrances and observations of his growing up during WWII in war-torn Serbia. In fact, don’t miss a word of it, period.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009