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Posts Tagged ‘Penguin Classics’

Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered

November 16, 2015 | by

John O’Hara’s Pal Joey remains an exemplar of a rare form: the epistolary novella.

From Robert Jonas’s cover for an early paperback edition of Pal Joey, ca. 1946.

Ever see the movie? Well, do yourself a favor and don’t. You should pardon me for bringing this up right off the bat, but it’s so beyond being a mere stinkeroo that I get ahead of myself and must apologize. But you can trust me; I shall get back to it later.

It’s hard not to start sounding like Joey Evans after listening to him come up off the pages of John O’Hara’s novella. In fact, even if you’re holding paper and ink, Pal Joey is always an “audio book” in some other, fundamental sense of the term. The osmotic nature of Joey’s voice affects even the other characters. Vera—the rich older woman whom O’Hara added to the theatrical adaptation—says, in a moment of amazed exasperation: “Good God, I’m getting to talk like you.”

Joey’s is an American voice from the second act of the American century, a time when the country’s wisecracks and slang, thanks to movies and even to books, wrapped themselves around the thoughts and vocal cords of half the world. O’Hara had the upwardly mobile luck to be in possession of the best ear anybody had for catching and transmitting the national lingo.

Frank MacShane, one of the author’s biographers, explains that the first Pal Joey story, published in The New Yorker on October 22, 1938, got written after O’Hara went off on “a two‐day bender” instead of the stretch of work he’d pledged to his wife: Read More »

Click-Bait, and Other News

October 17, 2013 | by


  • College Humor improves bestsellers with click-bait titles (although we would have said Eat, Pray, Love was doing okay already).
  • The rough guide to why Penguin Classics is publishing Morrissey’s autobiography.
  • The most specific niche calendar ever created: “Tattooed Librarians of the Ocean State.”
  • Herewith, famous books from every state.
  • One in ten Icelanders will publish a book. As one young author tells the BBC, it can indeed get competitive. “Especially as I live with my mother and partner, who are also full-time writers. But we try to publish in alternate years so we do not compete too much.”


    Let the Memory Live Again

    April 9, 2013 | by

    Screen shot 2013-04-09 at 11.43.37 AMI remember in sixth grade a substitute teacher asked the class if we knew any poems by heart. Did I! I favored the assembled company with a little Wordsworth, some Blake, and, because I was cool like that, a soupçon of Ogden Nash. Needless to say, everyone was really impressed, and I was incredibly popular for the rest of the school year. My penchant for oversize flannel jumpers only helped!

    As usual, I was ahead of my time: Penguin Classics has released an amazing app called Poems by Heart, a memorization game that helps users learn poetry. For me the virtues of rote learning were their own reward. But for those who require slightly more incentive, the app provides a scoring program, a recording mechanism, and original art. Flannel jumper optional.





    Beautiful Books, and Other News

    November 19, 2012 | by

  • Stationer Mr. Boddington’s Studio does a series of whimsical Penguin Classics covers.
  • Raymond Carver’s OkCupid profile, as edited by Gordon Lish.
  • “On the Kindle, each screen shot floats in space, isolated from the previous or subsequent ones, an effect that left my memory of the book weirdly nebulous.” The challenges of reviewing on the Kindle.
  • Five books on anxiety.
  • Mr. Roth hasn’t given up writing entirely. He is collaborating on a novella, via e-mail, with the 8-year-old daughter of a former girlfriend.”