Arts & Entertainment

The Best of NYRB in 2022

New York Review of Books

We were thrilled to see so many of our books land on best-of lists for 2022. We are proud of every book we published this past year and it is nice to see our authors and translators recognized for their great work.

Below are some highlights from the best-of lists. You can find a more comprehensive list here.

Marie Dorléans’s Our Fort was selected by The New York Times for their “Best Children’s Books of 2022” list. Columnist Jennifer Krauss highlighted the illustrations, “reminiscent of Japanese woodcuts,” from this picture book about three friends who run into a dramatic storm on their way to their fort in the woods.

The Marginalian chose Haleh Liza Gafori’s translations of Rumi in Gold as one of their favorite books of the year. Maria Popova wrote that “what emerges [from Gold] is a testament to the Nobel-winning Polish poet Wisława Szymborska’s lovely notion of ‘that rare miracle when a translation stops being a translation and becomes… a second original.'”

Martin Vaughn-James’s The Projector and Elephant was selected by The Globe and Mail as one of the top five graphic novels of 2022. Sean Rogers wrote: “Vaughn-James takes the jejune language of cartooning – funny animals, advertising art – and torques it into the realm of the surreal.”

Gwendoline Riley’s My Phantoms was selected for the inaugural edition of The Atlantic 10, a list of “the books that made us think the most this year.” The editors called Riley’s novel about a troubled mother-daughter relationship “formally daring ” and “indelible.”

Boyd Tonkin chose Vladimir Sorokin’s Telluria, translated by Max Lawton, as one of his picks for The Spectator‘s Books of the Year list. Tonkin calls Sorokin’s novel “wildly inventive,” remarking that his writing is “Orwell, Vonnegut and Calvino in one.”

Vivek Narayanan’s retelling of the Ramayana, After, was selected by Jeremy Noel-Tod as one of his favorite books of 2022 for the TLS. Noel-Tod describes Narayanan’s epic poetic work as “a grand literary experiment, an act of ‘radical translation’ and a major critical text, all rolled into one.”

NPR selected All Your Racial Problems Will Soon End: The Cartoons of Charles Johnson for their 2022 Books We Love list. Book critic Etelka Lehoczky writes that Johnson’s collection “invites the reader to roll their eyes at society’s absurdities and ponder what’s changed since the ’70s.”

Celia Paul’s Letters to Gwen John was selected as one of The Best Art Books of 2022 by The New York Times. Roberta Smith, who chose the book, called Paul’s memoir “a marvel of interwoven narratives.”

Vulture selected Seduced by Story: The Use and Abuse of Narrative as one of their ten best books of 2022. J. Howard Rosier calls Brooks’s work “a terrific critical survey.”

 

“The bliss of solitude”: An Excerpt from Arabesques by Anton Shammas

This month, we reissue Arabesques, an autobiographical novel by Palestinian writer Anton Shammas. The novel is divided into two parts, the first about family life in a rural village and the second about the young protagonist’s departure from that world for Paris and the United States, where he follows his ambition to become a writer.

In the first part of the book, the narrator remembers the day he was tasked with cleaning the family cistern, an adventure he eagerly takes on. Here are a few passages from the riveting scene:

At summer’s end, when the voices of the water exploding had ebbed entirely from my pillow, and when the bucket that was let down into the cistern too soon in the year touched only the muddy water at the bottom, the house would resound with accusations that whoever it was had turned away the drainpipe too soon. This was also the time talk would begin about the need to clean the bottom of the cistern of the silt and the remnants of the leaves that had sunk into the concavity at the center of its rounded and sloping floor, in order to get it ready for the rainy season, though no one knew on which day the first rain would choose to fall.

I was ten years old when one night as we sat around the dinner table it was said that the time had come for me to perform this task no one else was eager to perform, because of the dubious pleasures of spending his time at the bottom of a deep cistern covered with a slippery layer of dark silt. But with the eager heedlessness of childhood, I immediately volunteered to take on the task early the following morning. I had a troubled sleep that night, anticipating the adventure awaiting me. In my dream I am lowered down into the dimness, pulled up and drawn back into the light, lowered and pulled up, in and out, back and forth, between the anxiety and the pleasure of discovery that lurked at the bottom of the pit.

Since the archway was in the western wall, we had to wait for the sun to slant westward and illuminate in the end-of-summer light the opening of the cistern and a few tiers of stone in the slope of its throat. When the shadow over the cistern has gone, a rope is tied around my waist, and my oldest brother ruffles my hair affectionately before sending me down. I take off my shoes, and standing with my legs spread across the mouth of the cistern, I attempt to adopt a heroic pose for the benefit of Nawal, the neighbors’ daughter, who is watching me on the sly and trying to hide her admiration.

I gingerly let down my foot to touch the mossy stone in the highest tier. The coldness of the stone and its greenish slickness set off a shudder in my body I have never experienced before. I hold on to my brother and slide the lower portion of my body down, trying not to hide my queasy reaction to the contact of the slippery stone against my bare legs in shorts. My brother tightens his grip on the rope tied around my waist and braces his foot against a stone at the mouth of the cistern and tells me to release my hold on the metal frame of the cover. My eyes closed, I grasp the rope and let go the tips of my toes from the stones. With some last words of warning and encouragement, and promising that he will not sell me to the Ishmaelites, my brother pays out the rope bit by bit. Temporarily reassured by his steadiness and competence, I shut my ears to the sound of the rope scraping on the frame at the opening of the shaft, and shut my eyes to the sight of the walls of the cistern going round and round, as I twist on the rope, which is taut and released by turns. I breathe in the chill of the mildew and the ancient odor of the stones and the dark scent of the silt rising from the bottom of the cistern, suffusing the space around me with the feeling of porous ground waiting to touch the soles of my feet as I am dropped farther and farther down. The scraping sounds ebb away and I seem to be getting closer to its echo, which rises from beneath me and wraps me in a sort of dim solace. I open my eyes and look up at the square of light receding above me, to which I am still tied by this rope, and then look down at the bottom coming closer to me. I try not to think of the approaching meeting between the soles of my bare feet and the crust over the silt and murky water lying in the pool at the center of the rounded and sloping floor. My eyes have become accustomed to the dimness, and I see my own reflection in reverse rising toward me from within the dark mirror of the pool. Then with a shake of the rope my feet sink into the mirror, which shatters into a myriad of fragments glimmering in the darkness and then begins to build anew the reflection of the square of light that is above my head. My legs sink up to the shaking knees in the mixture of mud, straw and foul water that lies beneath the purity of the water drawn from the cistern during the year that has passed. Now the light dims in the square and I see the silhouette of my brother’s head looking down from above me and asking whether I have arrived safely and can I untie the rope. I do so, and without taking the time to tell him, I hasten to wade out of the pool to a surface that looks drier and more solid to me. As the rope is drawn upward I try to maintain my footing in the slippery silt while my feet sink deeper into it. After several attempts I manage to do so. Then I begin to be aware of the enchanted presence surrounding me, and the bliss of solitude permeates my anxiety. But all of a sudden I hear a scream. Nawal is trying to frighten me. Her scream explodes into a host of echoes, and from somewhere within my throat comes a kind of wail, which I hasten to stifle with my hand, stained by the hardening silt.

 

Arabesques is the January selection for The NYRB Classics Book Club. If you join the book club by January 11, or if you were gifted with a membership during our holiday promotion, Arabesques will be your first selection.

Image above: “A Cistern in Midas Ancient City,” by Raicem, 2021. 

 

Celebrating Our Books for Young Readers: A Spotlight on 
Jenny and the Cat Club

This November, we will be celebrating twenty years since we first began publishing books for younger readers. Over the last two decades, NYRB has put out a wide variety of titles for young readers of all ages, from picture books for preschoolers through to chapter books and novels for older children and young adults. These titles include resurrected classics, books translated into English for the first time, and new work from some of the finest children’s book authors and illustrators working today.

Over the next year, we’ll be featuring books and authors from across our back catalog to celebrate this milestone. Esther Averill’s Jenny and the Cat Club is one of the first books for children we ever published, so we had to start there. Averill wrote her first book about the red-scarfed, mild-mannered cat Jenny Linsky in 1944, modeling its heroine on her own shy cat. Averill would write twelve more books about Jenny and her Cat Club friends. NYRB publishes seven of these delightful titles, all of which are favorites of our readers and staff.

Find a bit about Jenny and her gang of Greenwich Village cats below.

Jenny lives in Greenwich Village with Captain Tinker, who rescued the orphaned Jenny when he found her being chased by a dog in the street.

Good Captain Tinker knitted Jenny her bright red scar himself, and when she puts it on, she feels braver. The scarf gives her enough courage to attend the Cat Club that meets by the maple tree in Captain Tinker’s garden.

This is the Cat Club. That’s the Club secretary, Concertina, in the tree. The twins are named Romulus and Remus. The fluffy cat is Butterfly. There are many others.

All of the members of the Cat Club have special skills. Macaroni, for example, is very good at dancing. Here is Macaroni doing a waltz.

Jenny is intimated by the talented cats at first, but discovers a special skill of her own: she can skate. This impresses the Cat Club very much.

Jenny is invited to join the Club. You can see all of the members here, minus Sinbad, who “refused to have his picture taken.”

All of the above images are from Jenny and the Cat Club.

NYRB also publishes these other Jenny Linsky books by Esther Averill:

Captains of the City Streets
Jenny Goes to Sea
Jenny’s Moonlight Adventure
The Hotel Cat
The School for Cats
Jenny’s Birthday Book

You can check all of them out here.

 

Upcoming Events

Wednesday, January 18, 6:30pm ET at Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, MI: Anton Shammas will discuss his novel, Arabesques, with Alia Persico-Shammas. More information here. IN-PERSON.

Thursday, January 19, 6pm GMT with The Idler, London, UK: a discussion of Paul Lafargue’s The Right to Be Lazy with the book’s translator, Alex Andriesse; the introducer, Lucy Sante; and Tom Hodgkinson, editor of the Idler. Register here. VIRTUAL.

Tuesday, January 24, 7pm CT at the Henry Zarrow Center for Art & Education, Tulsa, OK: Maxim Osipov will read from his new collection Kilometer 101, followed by a conversation with Boris Dralyuk. The event is sponsored by Magic City Books and the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities. Register here. IN-PERSON and VIRTUAL.

Wednesday, January 25, 12pm PT at the Mechanics’ Institute, San Francisco, CA: a “Fête de Colette,” a virtual event part of a three-day celebration of the 150th anniversary of Colette’s birth and the reissue of her novels Chéri and The End of Chéri. Translator Paul Eprile will be in conversation with biographer Judith Thurman, moderated by poet Zack Rogow. Register here. VIRTUAL.

Thursday, January 26, 4pm ET at Parkside Lounge, NYC: Anna Badkhen, author of Bright Unbearable Reality, will be reading with Robbi Overbey, Autumn McClintock, and more as part of Alexandria Quarterly and Friends. IN-PERSON.

Tuesday, January 31, 6pm ET at the Remarque Institute, NYU: Maxim Osipov will be in conversation with Joanna Biggs about his new collection Kilometer 101. Register here. IN-PERSON and VIRTUAL.

 

January with Thoreau

Our monthly foray into Henry David Thoreau’s The Journal: 1837–1861. This month, we have an entry from January 7, 1856. Thoreau was thirty-eight and admiring the frosty windows in his home. 

Jan. 7. . . . It seems that the snow­storm of Saturday night was a remark­able one, reaching many hundred miles along the coast. It is said that some thousands passed the night in cars.

The kitchen windows were magnificent last night, with their frost sheaves, surpassing any cut or ground glass.

I love to wade and flounder through the swamp now, these bit­ter cold days when the snow lies deep on the ground, and I need travel but little way from the town to get to a Nova Zembla soli­tude. There is but little life and but few objects, it is true. We are reduced to admire buds, even like the partridges, and bark, like the rabbits and mice. Even a little shining bud which lies sleeping be­hind its twig and dreaming of spring, perhaps half concealed by ice, is object enough.

Illustration: Old Holley House, Cos Cob, John Henry Twachtman, 1901.

 

January Books

THE WOUNDED AGE AND EASTERN TALES
by Ferit Edgü

ARABESQUES
by Anton Shammas

ON THE MARBLE CLIFFS
by Ernst Jünger

W THE WHORE
by Anke Feuchtenberger and Katrin de Vries

 

In the Press

“Do you like Russian speculative fiction? They have The Slynx by Tatyana Tolstaya. Are you more into mystic Persian poetry? Try their collection of Rumi’s poetry, Gold. New York Review Books covers the gamut, and the consistent aesthetics of the books are also definitely appealing to the eye.” —Shelbi Polk, Shondaland, “Small Presses to Celebrate”

“The qualities of his prose are clarity and simplicity, as a superbly lucid new translation by the husband-and-wife team of Nicolas Pasternak Slater and Maya Slater again demonstrates.” —Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal, on Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev

The Stone Face, republished this past year after nearly six decades, remains a novel downright fearless in its quest to unsettle. . . . The insights may not all seem new, but they are profound, and many readers will find the storyline as startlingly radical now as it was in 1963.” —Alan Wald, Against the Current on The Stone Face by William Gardner Smith

“A literary experience that is honest, searching, and luminously personal.” —CULTURED, on Letters to Gwen John by Celia Paul, “12 Books That Captivated the Art World This Year”

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