Friday News: Beginnings and Endings
PENGUIN BOOKS AT 80 – Do you remember those wonderful Penguin Classics paperbacks? It would be many years later before I realized that Penguin published other things. In fact, early Penguins were all about affordable quality and broad access, selling in the UK at a mere sixpence in 1935. Eighty years later, Penguin is still known for the paperback format, and it will be interesting to see what volumes from this era they’re still publishing in the next century.
Penguin’s first overseas office was opened in New York in 1938. The first Penguin Classic was E.V. Rieu’s translation of Homer’s The Odyssey, published in 1946. In 1960, Penguin was charged under the Obscene Publications Act for D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover; the publisher was acquitted, and after the best publicity such a case could buy, the book sold two million copies in six weeks.
For the record, the first ten Penguins were: Ariel by Andre Mauros; A Farewell to Arms, by Ernest Hemingway; Poet’s Pub, by Eric Linklater; Madame Claire, by Susan Ertz; The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, by Dorothy L. Sayers; The Mysterious Affair at Styles, by Agatha Christie; Twenty-five, by John Beverly Nichols; William, by E.H. Young.; Gone to Earth, by Mary Webb; and Carnival, by Compton Mackenzie.–JSTOR
The ‘Green Book’ Legacy, a Beacon for Black Travelers – In 1936, Victor Hugo Green published the first volume in what became the Green Book series of travel books for African Americans, identifying African-American run businesses and noting those locations his readers should avoid because of racist proprietors or Jim Crow policies. Green had his own publishing house in near his home in Harlem, and he also delivered mail in New Jersey. His job allowed him to investigate different businesses, and his colleagues would similarly check out businesses for new editions of the Green Book. A celebration of Green’s legacy is underway, featuring a documentary and other exhibits, lectures, and even apps.
Candacy Taylor, a photographer and cultural historian in Los Angeles, is documenting architecture at addresses listed in “Green Book” guides in collaboration with the National Park Service’s Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program. The books, she pointed out, saved lives by steering travelers away from sundown towns, all-white areas where blacks and other minorities risked being attacked after dark. . . .
Next Friday, “100 Miles to Lordsburg,” a short film about a black couple crossing New Mexico in 1961 and anxiously searching for “Green Book”-approved lodging, will be shown at the Plaza Classic Film Festival in El Paso. Karen Borger, its director, and Brad Littlefield, who wrote the script with Philip Lewis, are also working on “The Green Book Project,” a series of fact-based short narrative films. –New York Times
A Personal Take on Go Set a Watchman – A very thought-provoking essay from Ursula Le Guin on Go Set A Watchman. I admit that I have been putting off reading the book, hoping to feel less bitter about the circumstances surrounding its publication before I dig in. This is the first piece on the book that has actually made me want to read the book, even though I don’t often agree with Le Guin’s take on book-related issues. I don’t even completely agree with her take on Mockingbird, but her reading is just so provocatively interesting. Le Guin engages me with the book even as I remain skeptical of its publication, which is a testament to the strength of her own writing and voice. Her piece reminds me of what I love about reading, including the exciting and creative energy those discussions that engage so many different points of view can generate.
It appears that the New York editor who handled the book was uninterested in the human and moral situation the author was attempting to describe, or in helping her work through the over-simplifications and ineptitudes of that part of the book. Instead, she apparently persuaded Lee to enlarge on the very charming, nostalgic early parts of the book, when Jean Louise was Scout. Lee was encouraged to go back to childhood, and so to evade the problems of the book she wanted to write by writing, instead, a lovable fairytale. . . .
Before Watchman was published, I was skeptical and unhappy — all the publicity made it sound like nothing but a clever lawyer and a greedy publisher in cahoots to exploit an old woman. Now, having read the book, I glimpse a different tragedy. Lee was a young writer on a roll, with several novels in mind to write after this one. She wrote none of them. Silence, lifelong. I wonder if the reason she never wrote again was because she knew her terrifyingly successful novel was untrue. In taking the easy way, in letting wishful thinking corrupt honest perception, she lost the self-credibility she, an honest woman, needed in order to write.–Book View Cafe
Here’s Jon Stewart’s Tearful Goodbye to The Daily Show – So after sixteen years, Jon Stewart has shut down The Daily Show, which he refuses to characterize as an ending, even though there has been a lot of genuine sadness expressed over Stewart’s transition to new projects:
“I want to thank my wife Tracy and my kids Nate and Maggie–I’m not going to look over there–for teaching me what joy looks like. And an artist I really admire once said that he thinks of his career as a long conversation with the audience, a dialogue, and I really like that metaphor for many different reasons. But the main one is because it takes away the idea of finality. This is just a conversation. This show isn’t ending, we’re merely taking a small pause in conversation. . . –Time