‘Faulkner’s Southern Style’: My Latest at No Man Walks Alone

Faulkner wasn't hesitant to blow his own horn.

Faulkner wasn’t hesitant to blow his own horn.

The greatest American writer? The case can certainly be made for Yoknapatawpha’s own William Faulkner. Whether you like the Nobel Prize winner’s complex writing style or not you should certainly enjoy his Southern clothing style:

Although always teetering on the brink of financial ruin, Faulkner projected the image of the Southern squire. This was especially true of Faulkner during his years as University of Virginia writer-in-residence late in life. In the more aristocratic Piedmont South, Faulkner let the Anglophilia that first appeared during his Canadian RAF days have free rein.

Check out the full article at No Man Walks Alone.

Off the Shelf: Flannery O’Connor’s Cartoons (& Her New Stamp)

Flannery - Twas the Night

I looked up yesterday at the local Half Price Books to see a display of Flannery O’Connor’s The Cartoons. Despite being a fan of all things Flannery, somehow I had missed this volume’s release in 2012. But the remainder list is the way of (most) all books, and also the blessing to all patient bargain book shoppers.

Flannery Cartoons Cover

The cartoons were done by student Flannery O’Connor at Peabody High School and Georgia State College for Women mostly as linoleum cuts. They are funny–some more so than others, to be sure–and touch on typical student themes like the injustice of writing themes over Thanksgiving break or the joys of summer break.

Flannery - Teachers

We even find that Flannery O’Connor predicted Twitter:

Flannery - tweeet

The book contains an introduction by legendary illustrator and engraver Barry Moser and an essay by Kelly Gerald placing the illustrations into biographical context.

Published at a price of $22.99, you can buy it at Amazon for $18.16, but don’t pay even that discounted price. I bought a new copy at Half Price Books for $6.99, and the ever bountiful Hamilton Book will sell it to you for only $4.95 (plus $3.90 shipping). No Flannery fan can be without it.

Flannery stamp

As an addendum, Flannery received her own stamp last week, an event widely celebrated. Flannery youngSome have claimed the portrait of O’Connor on the stamp actually doesn’t look like Flannery O’Connor. However, the photo of a young collegiate Flannery O’Connor used in The Cartoons is clearly the photo used as a basis for the postal stamp portrait. Lovers of Flannery, Southern literature, and good writing in general shouldn’t look a gift stamp in the mouth.

‘The Well-Dressed Bookshelf’ & the Return of the Physical Book at No Man Walks Alone

Burke's Works

Books are often a topic of interest here at Pinstripe Pulpit, so it’s no surprise I might export such concerns elsewhere. You can read my new post ‘The Well-Dressed Bookshelf’ at No Man Walks Alone:

Research now suggests that we retain more from deep reading when we read from paper rather than a screen. Reading a physical book is not only visual, but also tactile. We feel the weight of the book. We turn a page. We remember a passage in relation to its placement on the page.

And if you’re going to have physical books then they at least ought to look good on the shelf. Hop over to No Man Walks Alone to read the entire post.

At NMWA: Wodehouse & the Dandy Set

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

There’s really no one more fun to read than P.G. Wodehouse, known to most as the author of the Jeeves & Wooster series so brilliantly adapted by Fry & Laurie for the BBC.

My latest at No Man Walks Alone is ‘P.G. Wodehouse: Comic Laureate of the Dandy Set’:

One might expect the author of nearly one hundred books over a seventy-five year career to produce checkout-line boilerplate. But despite his own self-description as “a writing machine,” P.G. Wodehouse earned the name “The Master” from none other than Evelyn Waugh. Decades later Douglas Adams said, “I aspire to write like P.G. Wodehouse,” a wish one can easily detect in Adams’s work.

Wodehouse began his writing career at the dawn of the 20th Century, and soon introduced one of his most enduring characters, Psmith (the P is silent, of course), the first of Wodehouse’s classic dandies. Through Psmith we are also introduced to Blandings Castle, a fictional setting Wodehouse returned to time and again, and currently the subject of the BBC television series Blandings.

Click on over to No Man Walks Alone to read the whole thing.

Wodehouse illustration

Off the Shelf: Wendell Berry’s ‘The Wild Geese’ From Black Swan Books

Readers of Pinstripe Pulpit well know that I am an admirer of the writing of Wendell Berry, the letterpress printing of Gray Zeitz at Larkspur Press, and the bookselling of Michael Courtney at Black Swan Books. It is always a happy confluence when the three come together.

Wild Geese title

This past year, 2014, was the 30th anniversary of Lexington’s Black Swan Books. I recently wrote a feature article at KYForward about Michael’s commemoration of the event with a new Larkspur Press letterpress printed broadside of a poem by Wendell Berry.

A broadside is a single sheet of paper printed on one side and meant for framing. The anniversary broadside features a poem by Kentucky writer Wendell Berry whose works are a specialty of Courtney. Black Swan’s broadsides are printed using century-old equipment by Gray Zeitz of Larkspur Press in Monterey, Kentucky. The work of Berry and Zeitz is in such demand that half of the copies of the anniversary broadside were sold within the first two weeks.

The broadside edition of ‘The Wild Geese’ is limited to only 150 copies, each of which is signed by Wendell Berry and numbered. Broadsides also serve as celebration of letterpress printing itself. You can see and feel the texture of the mouldmade paper, the bite of the type in the dampened printed paper.

Courtney Wild Geese

And with limited editions printed from handset type, there is a natural scarcity. Like true “first editions” of old, once the type is broken down and returned to its drawer, that exact edition can never be recreated. Thus a moment in time is captured–preserved–but it cannot be remade.

“What we need is here.”

Wild Geese colophon

Legendary Tailor & Holocaust Survivor Martin Greenfield’s Vow of Revenge

Greenfield Book CoverAnyone familiar with quality American tailoring knows the name Martin Greenfield. Now 84- years old, the Holocaust survivor has released a new memoir, Measure of a Man. In it he writes of his odyssey from the infamous Buchenwald concentration camp to becoming a Presidential tailor.

The New York Post ran an excerpt in which Greenfield writes of his revenge on a beautiful woman who was responsible for him receiving a severe beating:

“No! Please!” she quavered. “The baby, please!”

I aimed the machine gun at her chest. The baby wailed. My finger hovered above the trigger.

“Shoot her!” one of the boys said. “Shoot her!” The woman’s outstretched hand trembled in the air. My heart pounded against my chest like a hammer.

His joy ride with some fellow liberated prisoners:

What a sight we must have been: three teenage Jews in striped prisoner uniforms, armed with machine guns, driving a black Mercedes in Weimar, Germany, on our way back to the Buchenwald concentration camp. We smiled, laughed, and talked tough like the men we weren’t.

And the foreign policy advice he sent to President Eisenhower:

During the Suez Canal crisis, Greenfield was frustrated and thought the US needed a stronger response. So he wrote an anonymous note and left it in the pocket of a jacket he was making for Eisenhower.

Read the entire excerpt. The book sounds fascinating.

Portrait of the Artist: In Memory of My Friend Jane Gentry Vance

I will miss Jane Vance. I knew through mutual friends that Jane was sick, but one often underestimates such things from a distance, focusing on one’s own problems until it’s too late. I had checked for her at her house a couple of times when driving through Versailles, but hadn’t found her.

Jane Gentry VanceI knew Jane for over twenty five years, extending back to my earliest days as a student at the University of Kentucky. My cousin Jennifer and friend Dave developed earlier relationships with Jane. Jennifer idolized her. Dave worked with her on the Honors Program literary magazine JAR.

She was from old Kentucky stock that extended back to Daniel Boone’s Fort Boonesborough. She was raised not far from there in southern Fayette County on ancestral land in Athens (pronounced with a long “a”). Jane had left Kentucky for Hollins, then for the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. She was a student of the great Southern scholar Louis D. Rubin, Jr. But the pull of Kentucky is strong. She came back to teach English at the University of Kentucky.

Jane worked with my good friend Dr. Raymond F. Betts in UK’s then excellent Honors Program, which they built into a Great Books survey of Western Civilization. For many of us, the Honors Program was the defining experiencing at UK. It is one of life’s injustices that Jane Vance did not become director of the Honors Program when Dr. Betts left as Director.

I finally had Jane in class as a sophomore in Honors 202, a Great Books focus on the modern period. She loved, and taught, T.S. Eliot to us. Before I learned Eliot through the lens of my boss Russell Kirk, Jane introduced me to “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and “The Waste Land.” She was a thoughtful, and reasonable, expositor of texts, teaching us well how to think and write about these giants on whose shoulders we stood.

Jane remained one of my favorite teachers. I remember being invited to her home for a Christmas party, my first time on Morgan Street in Versailles. When I wrote my final column as Editorial Page Editor at UK’s student newspaper The Kentucky Kernel, I listed Jane along with Raymond Betts and Jim Force as my favorite teachers. I admit I gave some priority to Dr. Betts and Dr. Force (I had both in multiple classes). Jane joked to me that she felt like Shakespeare’s wife being left the second best bed.

Among my teachers, though, was Jane Vance who would remain my good friend for decades to come.

I moved back to Kentucky after graduate school in South Carolina, newly married and looking for a place to live. Jane told me about an apartment, a flat, in a historic home a few houses down from her on Morgan Street in Versailles. It was owned by Lexington art gallery owner Heike Pickett, who was (understandably) somewhat skeptical of us (particularly of my wife’s cat). I’m pretty sure she let us in because of Jane.

I am thankful to Jane for opening the door to Morgan Street, which will forever be the most perfect place we lived. The old 19th Century house had slanting floors, no air conditioning, and cantankerous elderly upstairs tenants. We had no money. But Morgan Street was lovely and historic. You felt special living there.

And, of course, we had Jane herself just down the street. We would sometimes housesit for her, watching after plants and cats, playing with word magnets on her refrigerator. (Fun Jane fact, the exterior of her house was used in the movie Elizabethtown, which actually was filmed in Versailles, not in Elizabethtown.)

It was during this time that I apprenticed under Gray Zeitz at Larkspur Press in Monterey, Kentucky. Gray is one of America’s foremost letterpress printers, a key figure in Kentucky’s literary scene for four decades. I wanted to print some of my own projects, which I began doing under the imprint of Adela Press, named after the small community where I grew up in Clay County.

The most straightforward project to start with was a broadside poem. A broadside is a larger piece of paper printed on one side and, these days, often framed as a piece of art. But who of note would be willing to let me, an unproven and inexperienced printer, potentially make a disaster of a valued poem?

Well, my poet neighbor Jane, of course.

I nervously approached Jane about the idea, and, of course she graciously jumped on board the project. She had just written a poem about pigs as part of a poetry group of which she was a member. It was called “Portrait of the Artist as a White Pig.”White Pig illustration

White Pig broadsideAmong our Versailles neighbors was gifted artist Laura Lee Cundiff. She kindly agreed to illustrate the poem. The broadside came together as a Versailles confluence of poet, artist, and printer. I handset the poem and printed it in an edition of only seventy five copies (in hindsight, I obviously should have printed a hundred of them), signed by both Jane and Laura Lee. A few people even bought them. I’m just happy to have it hanging on my own wall.

Amazingly for me, “Portrait of the Artist as a White Pig” later became the title poem of Jane’s second collection of poetry for LSU Press. The artwork I commissioned from Laura Lee for the broadside was used on the cover. Such is my minor contribution to Southern belles lettres. I can’t help but confess how pleased I was that our little project made such a ripple.

White Pig bookJane later became Kentucky’s Poet Laureate, a well deserved honor. There was no confirmation that “Portrait of the Artist as a White Pig” put her over the top when the honor was bestowed.

I saw Jane infrequently in the decade I was away from Kentucky. A couple of years ago, driving home for a visit, we drove up Morgan Street as I do every single time I drive through Versailles. Jane was home, so we stopped, uninvited and unexpected, but always welcome. We sent our girls to play in the backyard, and sat on the porch talking to Jane, catching up on this and that. It was a visit I think about again and again, the last time I visited with Jane on Morgan Street.

I did see Jane one more time, at the funeral for my cousin Jennifer who had idolized Jane so, who had reached out to Jane for counsel when times were hard. It was an example of how kind and considerate Jane was. We hugged and spoke briefly.

St Johns window Versailles

Window at St. John’s Church

All of these things ran through my mind at Jane’s funeral. It was a beautiful service in Versailles’ beautiful St. John’s Episcopal Church, and it all well reflected beautiful Jane herself. I saw Heike and Irwin Pickett and Laura Lee Cundiff from those old Morgan Street days. (When I told Irwin I had just moved back to Kentucky he replied, “Kentuckians always come back.”) My friends lawyer Dave Abner and writer David King were there, fellow students of Jane’s at UK. The three of us went for coffee and talked about Jane, the UK Honors Program, and the old days. And I met local chef Ouita Michel, who I learned was Jane’s student, too. She told me Jane was her constant supporter and one of her best customers. If you needed Jane’s support, she would give it.

How wonderful, indeed, was Jane’s life. What a powerful impact she had on so many people. And I am thankful that I was able, in some way, to be part of that life. I will miss Jane Vance.

When I awoke one day, my bloom
was past. Those who loved me first were dead,
and promises had blown away like chaff
or clouds, which dazzle now only in the moment
of their height and roll.
The years have given back the thing itself.
from “My Life Story,” by Jane Gentry Vance

Watch this fantastic interview with Jane by my old friend, and fellow Eastern Kentuckian, Gurney Norman.

Bibliotheca: The $1.4 Million Bible & The Crave For Beauty

The reality is that consumers crave more than utility.
They crave elegance—even beauty. ~Michael Hyatt

How many niche Bibles have had a $1.4 million dollar budget? My guess is not many, and probably none, ever. But Adam Lewis Greene’s Bibliotheca Kickstarter clearly spoke to people as his initial goal of $37,000, to produce 500 sets, was dwarfed thirty-nine fold. 500 sets have turned into 14,000. Honestly, $37,000 to fund an American Standard Version (never a particularly popular translation) reprint in four volumes was pretty ambitious. Or everyone thought it was.

Bibliotheca stack

What led this explosion? Well, not a few have pointed to the hand of Providence, and I certainly won’t argue. But we can also see that this is the culmination of what has been a growing trend.

J. Mark Bertrand has been beating the drum for better Bibles for years now on his Bible Design Blog. A lot of us have spent a lot of hours there. Bertrand’s push for “reader’s Bibles” has been a constant theme, one that has resonated with thousands of people. Greene has acknowledged his own debt to Bertrand. As a result, we have seen real steps forward with the work from Bible publishers like R.L. Allan, Schuyler, Cambridge, and Crossway. Don’t discount Bertrand’s work as a visionary behind Bibliotheca.

Crossway’s new ESV Reader’s Bible, available delivered for a twenty dollar bill and change, was another great step forward for a commercially produced Bible. I have seen how excited people have been about it. I think one of its keys is its affordability. We all love our Highland Goatskin semi-yapp bindings, but relatively few are going to splurge on such expensive Bibles. And even those Bibles still look “Bible-y” with their traditional leather covers and thin Bible paper.

And that’s where Bibliotheca comes in. Greene took everything to a new level, one of his most radical, and counter-intuitive, decisions was to go with four small volumes. Producing it as traditional, albeit well-designed, cloth over boards books was also a move that opened the type of reader who has never heard of Bible Design Blog, Allan Publishers, or Highland Goatskin. That production approach combined with relative affordability—you can buy the four volume set for $75—clearly touched a chord.

Greene also used a popular, and modern, method to reach out with Kickstarter. His beautifully produced promotional video explains his vision, and also introduces us well to the personality behind the project. Each of these elements was important to Bibliotheca going viral.

Well worth your time is this assessment of Bibliotheca from Michael Hyatt, a well-known success guru, but also former CEO and Publisher at Thomas Nelson Publishers, one of the Big Boys in Bible publishing. His observations are spot on, but I especially appreciated his point number three: “Elegance is always right.”

The Bible, and the search for God, is also a search for divine beauty. Shouldn’t the word of God be presented in as beautiful and elegant a way as possible? That doesn’t have to mean expensive or inaccessible. Adam Lewis Greene embraced accessibility and affordability.

If you missed out on the Kickstarter window, which ended on Sunday, you can still order the Bibliotheca set until the final order is placed with the printer. I honestly believe that the Adam Lewis Green’s Bibliotheca Kickstarter is a milestone project that will not only become legendary, but will cause reverberations in Bible publishing for years to come.

The Bibliotheca Four Volume Reading Bible Kickstarter

An exciting Kickstarter project called Bibliotheca is taking the Internet by storm with three times the funding goal reached with, at the time of this writing, three weeks to go. Who would have thought a four volume Bible project would attract such demand?

Bibliotheca founder Adam Lewis Greene is a typographer who has been brave enough to take a giant leap forward, pushing the boundaries of where the readable Bible movement has gone. His project is to publish an updated text of the old American Standard Version (ASV) using typefaces of his own design. I found his inspiration for his page proportions fascinating (watch the video). Greene clearly has thought deeply about the topic, and has done the hard work in the trenches to prepare himself for such a mammoth project.

Be sure to read the interview (Part 1 and Part 2) with Greene by the man who has led the charge in the Bible design movement from his Bible Design Blog, J. Mark Bertrand.

There are exciting possibilities for the future of Bible publishing, and Adam Lewis Greene clearly will be one of the visionaries who helps take us there.

Bibliotheca pages

C.S. Lewis on Fairy Tales & Five Recommendations to Get You Started

CSLewisFairyTales

There’s been a bit of a hullabaloo over the past fortnight over whether fairy tales are dangerous, and just what is suitable reading for adults. In a fine response to the controversy, Gracy Olmstead affirms that, indeed, fairy tales are dangerous, and in all the right ways.

C.S. Lewis agreed with her. In his dedication of one of the great Twentieth Century fairy tales, The Lion, the Witch, & the Wardrobe, to his goddaughter Lucy Barfield, Lewis wrote:

My Dear Lucy,
I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.

Lewis believed it, for his favorite reading for relaxation throughout his life was The Wind in the Willows.

From the old classics of Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen to the Eighteenth Century forerunner of Lewis and Tolkien, George MacDonald and his contemporary Oscar Wilde, give fairy tales a try. You might find you’re old enough to read them again.

Here are five recommendations to get you started. You might even try finding someone to read them to.

Andrew Lang, The Blue Fairy Book

George MacDonald, The Complete Fairy Tales

George MacDonald, The Princess and the Goblin

Oscar Wilde, Complete Fairy Tales of Oscar Wilde

E.A. Wyke-Smith, The Marvellous Land of Snergs