Sunday, August 16, 2020

ChezBurton: How Books Were Made: An Illustrated Timeline Of Publishing Technology


In a word, poetry can not exist without emotion, or, if you will, without a movement of the soul which regulates the words.
— Paul Claudel, born  in 1868


Burtons and home made pizza 🍕 create a relaxing Sunday afternoon ...

A eulogy for the secondhand bookshop. This most eccentric and likeable of institutions shows every sign of being being annihilated  

      At Publishers Weekly John Maher and Ed Nawotka report on how Three Indie Presses Make Moves in Nonfiction, as: "Three independent publishing houses best known for their fiction in translation are upping their nonfiction game": Deep VellumEuropa Editions, and Transit Books
       My preference of course remains for fiction, but there are some interesting-sounding projects here, including Deep Vellum's Dispatches from the Republic of Letters: 50 Years of the Neustadt International Prize for Literature; pre-order your copy at or

Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste: “An Instant American Classic”

While reading “Caste,” I thought often of a pair of sentences from Colson Whitehead’s novel “The Underground Railroad.” “The Declaration [of Independence] is like a map,” he wrote. “You trust that it’s right, but you only know by going out and testing it for yourself.”

Well, this is a hell of a book review by NY Times critic Dwight Garner about Isabel Wilkerson’s Caste (which I am starting the second it comes out tomorrow).

Caste” gets off to an uncertain start. Its first pages summon, in dystopian-novel fashion, the results of the 2016 election alongside anthrax trapped in the permafrost being released into the atmosphere because of global warming. Wilkerson is making a point about old poisons returning to haunt us. But by pulling in global warming (a subject she never returns to in any real fashion) so early in her book, you wonder if “Caste” will be a mere grab bag of nightmare impressions.

A critic shouldn’t often deal in superlatives. He or she is here to explicate, to expand context and to make fine distinctions. But sometimes a reviewer will shout as if into a mountaintop megaphone. I recently came upon William Kennedy’s review of “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” which he called “the first piece of literature since the Book of Genesis that should be required reading for the entire human race.” Kennedy wasn’t far off.

I had these thoughts while reading Isabel Wilkerson’s new book, “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents.” It’s an extraordinary document, one that strikes me as an instant American classic and almost certainly the keynote nonfiction book of the American century thus far. It made the back of my neck prickle from its first pages, and that feeling never went away.

I told more than one person, as I moved through my days this past week, that I was reading one of the most powerful nonfiction books I’d ever encountered.

I mean, how can you not want to read a book that stirs a seasoned critic like that, particularly when the author also wrote the fantastic The Warmth of Other Suns? You can buy Caste at Bookshopget the Kindle version, or read a lengthy piece adapted from the book.

The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Jean-Patrick Manchette's 1973 novel, No Room at the (Vrbov) Morgue, the latest Manchette in translation from New York Review Books. 
       Always good to see more Manchette -- and there are a few more to go. Not to mention the nearly thousand-page Journal 1966-1974 -- see the Folio publicity page -- or what about the recently published 'chroniques ludiques' collection, Play it again, Dupont -- see the La Table Ronde publicity page ..... 

How Books Became Cheap: An Illustrated Timeline Of Publishing Technology

From woodblock printing (3rd century) to movable type (11th century — sorry, Gutenberg) to stereotyping (in the original sense; ca. 1700) to paperbacks (ca. 1845) to hot-metal typesetting (ca. 1884). – Lapham’s Quarterly

What’s The Most Popular Book In Russian Prisons? Not ‘Crime And ‘Punishment’

No, Dostoevsky’s novel is only the second-most popular title among inmates there; Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita is in the top spot, with Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo at number three. The data was released by Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service as part of a nationwide government program to encourage reading called “Books Are Your Friends.” – The Moscow Times

Why It’s Important To Learn A Poem Right Now

Robust poems committed to memory can counteract the corrosive effects of self-pity. They can offer a different way of viewing the world, particularly to generations that did not suffer the buffetings of the early and mid-20th century, and are now bewildered by the calamities that seem to arise from nowhere, and leave them powerless. – The Atlantic

PREDICTION: WE’LL WIND UP BRINGING THEM BACK TO GET RID OF THE MURDER HORNETS, BUT IT WON’T GO WELL. Amber fossil reveals hunting prowess of ancient ‘hell ant.’

     At the Centre d'Art Contemporain Genève the exhibit Scrivere Disegnando: When Language Seeks Its Other runs through 23 August -- and it sounds fascinating

Its aim is to look back over a number of practices, from the early twentieth century to the present day, in which writing leaves the function of communication behind and moves into the sphere of the illegible and unspeakable.

       At hyperallergic Edward M. Gómez offers a nicely-illustrated overview, in When Writing Has No Meaning

The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Julián Ríos' Loves That Bind, in Edith Grossman's translation (she got her name on the cover, too -- but the translation copyright is in Ríos' name). 

       This was from the days when Knopf thought Ríos stood a break-out chance; they gave him one more shot at it three years later, with Monstruary, but that was all she wrote; it was back to Dalkey Archive Press (who admirably had already published Larva and Poundemonium) for Ríos ..... 
       Still, even the literary establishment seemed to think he might have a go at it with this one: this even got the rare The New York Times and The New York Times Book Review review treatment (but, given that it really got the treatment from the Kakutani, that wasn't necessarily a good thing; on the other hand, Steven Moore (of The Novel: An Alternative Historywrote in The Washington Post that: "I live for novels like this one" ...). 
       (The Brits, however, never bit: this doesn't appear to have found a UK publisher. And while they even got so far as a cover and an Amazon-listing for a German translation, way back in 2001, Liebe als schöne Kunst seems never to have seen the light of day.) 
       And, yes, I will get to Larva, which, whatever else it is, is also amazing. (See the Dalkey Archive publicity page, or get your copy at or 

How we won the Sydney Games: the inside story of diplomacy and panache