Away! Away! for I will fly to thee,
Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
Though the dull brain perplexes and retards…
–from Ode to a Nightingale
I have definitely dawdled and procrastinated on this review of the Barbarian Press’ latest treasure, Fancy: 8 Odes of John Keats. Maybe it makes more sense to call it indolence since that is one of the subjects of Keats’ Odes. And unfortunately not because of the “evenings steep’d in honey’d indolence” of which Keats speaks. The business of life has been keeping me from writing but not from reading: I have read and re-read this beautiful, slim volume two or three times since I received it. The poems are masterpieces. We all already know that; whether or not they are to our taste. Continue reading
…“Whom again do I persuade
to take you back into her love? Who,
Sappho, is doing you wrong?”
These lines from a poem of Sappho speak to us across the millennium. It’s been twenty-six centuries since this intriguing and unforgettable woman lived on an island on the seam between ancient Greece and Asia. Her poetry and fame is transmitted to us in tantalizing fragments, in commentaries by admiring poets, writers, and scholars from near her own time and up through the millennia. Classicists are still finding, translating, puzzling over, and debating fragments today. In her insightful Introduction, Paige duBois says
Judgments on Sappho’s erotic life have troubled the readings of the poems for millennia.
In any case, for the classical Greeks, Sappho’s desire seems to have been a matter of some interest, but no of negative judgment. Continue reading
This marvelous essay by French Philosopher, activist, and Christian Mystic Simone Weil came along at just the right time for me. I’ve been studying the Yoga Sutra of Patañjali while completing my 200 –hour yoga certification and thinking a lot about the yogic discipline of Ahimsa, or non-harming. In doing some research on Weil after reading the essay, I find that she learned Sanskrit after becoming interested in the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads of India. I wonder if she might not also have run across the Yoga Sutra or maybe she absorbed the concept of ahimsa from the other two texts. Either way, the ideas she develops regarding the use of force and war in The Iliad really resonated with the term. Her familiarity with the Iliad makes sense as she had already mastered ancient Greek by the time she was twelve, maybe in part due to her love for this first, and according to her, only epic of the Occidental world. On top of this resonance with my personal situation right now, it’s a timely reminder in this age of perpetual war of the futility of force and war as a way to make the world better. Continue reading
This short novel by Willa Cather is a great example of the Schiff-era output of The Limited Editions Club as he changed the direction of the LEC from using book illustrators and graphic artists to using “fine art” artists to produce Livres d’Artiste style books. While I haven’t seen a lot of the Schiff produced books, the emphasis does seem to be on the artist over the writer and the work of literature. In this case, the choice of author can certainly be justified. Willa Cather was a well-respected writer of the early 20th century and was a Pulitzer Prize winner. The illustrations are perfectly suited to the text. The book itself is beautiful and it was a joy to read. Continue reading
I’ve read a lot of Dickens in my life, but I believe the only one of his Christmas books that I’ve read before this review is The Chimes. I love his novels and hope to get through them all at some point in this too-short reader’s life, including the rest of his Christmas books. I have reviewed two of the stage adaptations as published by the Barbarian Press. For this year’s holiday review, through the kind loan from a fellow fine press lover, I had the opportunity to read and review the Limited Edition’s Club edition of The Cricket on the Hearth. Continue reading
It is with great sadness that I honor the memory of David Johnston of the Prototype Press, who passed away suddenly last month. Your energy, enthusiasm, and love of books and printing will be missed. Rest in Peace, my friend.
Please check out this link to learn more about this amazing program that is being threatened by shortsighted college administrators.
If you are a regular reader here, you will know how rare programs like the Mills College Book Arts are. Sign the petition and help them generate 5000+ signatures. Write the administration if you want to go the extra yard.
I met Lisa Rappoport of Littoral Press at CODEX 2013, where I remember having a delightful chat with her about her books and other sundry things, bought a couple of raffle tickets (only because my daughter was with me…I never win those things), and went on my merry way in the book heaven that is CODEX. A few days later I got a note from Lisa that I had won, and I promptly received a Littoral Press book that is one of the treasures of my library. You can see that book here. After loving that book, I didn’t think twice when asked about reviewing the latest book from Lisa. Continue reading
I take pleasure in tea, appreciating it with my spirit and therefore cannot explain why. ~Sen Joo
Ah, yes. I’m very behind on my book reviews because I have been very deep in my cups. Cups of tea, that is. I’ve just opened my own on-line (for now) tea shop that actually has lots of parallels to the books I review on The Whole Book Experience. Tea with people behind it, hand-crafted in small batches by artisans. Private, small press books; private, small garden teas. I’d love for you to check it out. My tea business is called Leaves of Cha…a riff off of one of my favorite all time books, an edition of which was recently reviewed here.
And, now that the store is open, you can expect to see some backlogged reviews showing up here shortly. Thanks for your support and your patience.
Let me start by stating unequivocately that I love this press. Not only are the books from the Barbarian Press a source of wonder to me but the proprietors, Jan and Crispin, are simply delightful people that embody the “love of craft” and respect for the word that shines through the best private press books. I’ve been a subscriber since Venus and Adonis, I’ve had the joy of having a tour of the press and a cup of tea in their kitchen, and the pleasure of their conversation at a couple of CODEX’s.
They don’t just talk the talk, they walk the walk; living predominantly on the earnings from their small edition runs (usually less that 150 copies). When big projects come up, the outlay for materials in advance can be a burden. So for one of their most ambitious projects, they are going the Indiegogo fundraising route. A couple of years ago, they acquired the Curwen Press archives of Monotype ornaments and borders. This in and of itself was a huge financial effort, not the least of which was shipping all of that heavy type over from the U.K. Since then, the plan for Bordering on the Sublime: Ornamental Typography at the Curwen Press have rumbled along. I can’t wait to see this book.
I encourage you to check out their fundraiser here. If you can participate, that would be wonderful. But regardless, you will will be enriched and enthralled by the time you spend with the Barbarians.