Given that you're reading this and are thus presumably interested in some way in some aspect or other of what goes on here at Harvard University Press (ever wonder what the building looks like? Click here! See all those window ACs? That's because this is Boston, we don't do central air! Also since the building was constructed around the time of the First World War, we'd have to gut the place to pieces in order to actually install it), some of you might be wondering what Harvard University Press employees actually read when we're not hard at work freaking out about page counts, typos, orphan lines (that's when a single line of a paragraph appears all by its lonesome at the bottom of a page--it looks hideous, and if you should ever find one in a book you've purchased you should drown it in red ink, mail it back to the publisher, and demand a refund of five to six times the purchase price in order to pay for the therapy you'll need to recover), or any number of matters that sadly to most will appear pedantic to a degree that borders on the offensive (no apologies here--to people like us, kerning really does matter).
Anyway, we read the books we publish, of course (someone's got to, not to mention the fact that YES THEY ARE AWESOME), but in order to get a break from "academic non-fiction," sometimes we read other stuff, like magazines! And not just The New Yorker! And although it's easy for us to forget what the word "fiction" means, sometimes we read that too. With that in mind, a representative sample of our ultra-cool and sophisticated employee base was consulted in order that we might ascertain what non-HUP material they are reading right now, i.e. no cheating or cherry-picking something you read six months ago because you think will make you seem cooler. This is HUP unvarnished and (somewhat) free of vanity, plus it gives us a chance to link to other publishers who are putting out cool stuff, and for once, to stop talking about ourselves. So, after the break please find our humble suggestions for your fall reading list (like anyone has time for one of those)--enjoy.
Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton (Europa Editions)--unjustly ignored British novelist chronicles life in the seedy pubs of Earl's Court in the years before the Second World War engulfed Europe, extinguishing this world forever. Hugely boozy and awesomely depressing.
Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (published in the US by Random House)--six intersecting, genre-hopping narratives, "from Melvillean high-seas drama to California noir and dystopian fantasy." "Virtuosic," says The New Yorker. Complicated but rewarding.
Posthumous Keats by Stanley Plumly (Norton)--Keats' friends were convinced that it was all those horrible reviews that killed him, not the tuberculosis that had him hacking up blood (elegantly, delicately, of course). Plumly's book is "a study in the vicissitudes of poetic reputation," says the New York Times, that shows us how the Keats we think we know and love didn't truly emerge until the twentieth century.
Scott of the Antarctic: A Life of Courage and Tragedy in the Extreme South by David Crane (Harper Collins)--heroic failure at its melodramatic best.
The Rivers North of the Future: The Testament of Ivan Illich, as told to David Cayley (House of Anansi)--by institutionalizing the Gospel, the 12th-century Church paved the way for the "epoch of instrumentality" that we inhabit today, says (well, said) the eclectic philosopher Illich.
An American Dream by Norman Mailer (Vintage)--one of the most popular novels by this American legend, "a writer of the greatest and most reckless talents," as The New Yorker put it upon the book's publication.
Selected Letters of John Keats (Harvard University Press)--Keats' letters, according to T. S. Eliot, are "what letters ought to be; the fine things come in unexpectedly, neither introduced nor shown out, but between trifle and trifle." Keats is big right now.
The Sister by Poppy Adams (Knopf)--like "a mash-up of the campy 1962 chiller "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?," starring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, and Arnold Bennett’s 1908 novel 'The Old Wives' Tale,'" says Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times. Do you really need more convincing?
In September, the Light Changes: The Stories of Andrew Holleran (Hyperion)--the famed chronicler of the late-twentieth-century gay experience tries his hand at the short story. In these stories, simultaneously comic and melancholic, it's not the 70s anymore, and it's starting to feel a bit like "the party's over."
Of Water and the Spirit: Ritual, Magic and Initiation in the Life of an African Shaman by Patrice Malidoma Some (Penguin)--a "vivid autobiography" that "takes readers into a world of black magic, palpable spirits, walking dead people, force fields, transdimensional journeys — a world as strange as anything in imaginative fiction," says Publishers Weekly. Ok, sold!
A Manual of Acupuncture by Peter Deadman (Journal of Chinese Medicine Publications)--back pain? We can cure it!
Fascination: Stories by William Boyd (Knopf)--"We are inside the story, firmly grounded in the words and gestures and sensory experience of the characters. Forget epiphanies! The insights arrived at in Boyd's stories are experienced rather than merely witnessed. They strike deep, and they stick," said Ann Harleman in the Boston Globe. Good--we hate cheap!
Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art by Shizuo Tsuji--free sushi now enclosed with every HUP order! Hope it gets there fresh!
The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon (Harper Perennial Modern Classics)--the publisher's name says it all, no?
Black Sabbath's Master of Reality: 33 1/3 by John Darnielle (Continuum)--Black Sabbath's 1973 masterpiece seen through the eyes of a 15-year-old psychiatric patient in Southern California. One of the few fictional entries in Continuum's venerable and unique 33 1/3 series. [ed note--CANNOT RECOMMEND THIS ENOUGH, EVEN IF YOU SOMEHOW DO NOT THINK BLACK SABBATH RULES].
Besieged by James Lasdun (Norton)--James Wood: "When we read [Lasdun] we know what language is for again, we know again what a story does, how it performs, with a refreshing novelty." One of these stories was adapted for the Bernardo Bertolucci film Besieged.
According to Queeney: A Novel by Beryl Bainbridge (Da Capo)--"Bainbridge's spare prose is perfectly suited to her purpose, conveying an immediate sense of experience, in the muddle and intensity of the present," said Adam Sisman in The Observer. This book is partly about Samuel Johnson. Guess who's got a book about Samuel Johnson coming out in just a few short weeks?!
Big list, a lot of worthy material. So for those rare moments when you've not got an HUP book in your hand and another in your pocket, maybe try one of those on for size...