Congrats to Press 53 on 5.3 years of business!

Press 53

Fellow Winston-Salem publisher Press 53 is celebrating its 5.3-year anniversary this weekend (fun, no?). Founded in 2005, Press 53 is an independent publisher of literary fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. They’re always hosting poetry readings and other events (including a 5.3-year celebration this weekend), so if you’re in the Winston-Salem area and need a little culture, check out what they’ve got on the calendar. Learn more about Press 53 and the kind of works they publish here.

All of us at Blair would like to extend a big congratulations to Kevin Watson and his whole team on this milestone. Cheers to you!

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Edith Pearlman’s “Binocular Vision” taking the literary world by storm

Binocular Vision by Edith PearlmanWe’re reading the same thing from the east coast to the west–reviewers at The New York Times and the LA Times are asking why they weren’t already familiar with Edith Pearlman, author of the new Binocular Vision. “It certainly isn’t the fault of her writing, which is intelligent, perceptive, funny and quite beautiful…” says Roxana Robinson of The New York Times. “In the world of literary fiction Pearlman is hardly unknown: she’s the author of three previous collections, Vaquita, Love Among the Greats and How to Fall; she has won several prizes; and her work has appeared repeatedly in ‘Best American Short Stories.’ So she should be known all over the place.”

“At the same time,” counters LA Times reviewer David L. Ulin, “had I been familiar with Pearlman for all those years, I would have been deprived of the great joy of discovering her, the thrill of coming upon a writer with an eye, and a command of language, so acute.”

And with a starred review from Publishers Weekly, we’re so thrilled to be distributing Pearlman’s latest publication, Binocular Vision, for the new literary book imprint of the Department of Creative Writing at UNC Wilmington: Lookout Books.

Spanning four decades and three prize-winning collections, the 21 vintage stories and 13 scintillating new ones in Pearlman’s masterpiece take us around the world, from Jerusalem to Central America, from tsarist Russia to London during the Blitz, from central Europe to Manhattan, and from the Maine coast to Godolphin, Massachusetts, a fictional suburb of Boston. These charged locales and the lives of the endlessly varied characters within them are evoked with a tenderness and incisiveness found in only our most observant seers.

No matter the situation in which her characters find themselves— a lifetime of memories unearthed by an elderly couple’s decision to shoplift, the deathbed secret of a young girl’s forbidden forest tryst with the tsar, the danger that befalls a wealthy couple’s child in a European inn of misfits—Pearlman conveys their experience with wit and aplomb and a supple prose that reminds us, page by page, of the gifts our greatest verbal innovators can bestow.

Binocular Vision reveals a true American original,  showing us, with her classic sensibility and lasting artistry, the cruelties, the longings, and the rituals that connect human beings across space and time.

The book is available in stores and online now, but if you can’t wait to get your hands on it, enjoy this excerpt from Lookout Books:

Celebrating the “foodiest” place in America: Durham, N.C.

Big news for North Carolina in the new year: Durham has been named one of The New York Times’ places to go in 2011. Why? For the restaurants of course. Here’s what they had to say:

35. Durham, N.C.
A downtown turnaround means food worth a trip.

A decade ago, downtown Durham was a place best avoided after sundown. But as revitalization has transformed abandoned tobacco factories and former textile mills into bustling mixed-use properties, the city has been injected with much-needed life. In the heart of downtown, a crop of standout restaurants and cafes has recently sprouted around West Main Street, where low rents have allowed chefs and other entrepreneurs to pursue an ethos that skews local, seasonal and delicious.

The farmers’ market favorite Scratch Bakery has a brand-new storefront for its seasonal homemade pies that include chestnut cream pie and buttermilk sweet potato pie. At the cafe-cum-grocery Parker and Otis, the menu features sandwiches made with freshly baked bread from nearby Rue Cler and locally roasted java from Durham’s Counter Culture Coffee. And at the sophisticated Revolution, squash tamales, mascarpone gnocchi, and tuna with wasabi caviar rotate through the seasonal menu. 

Durham restaurants: Chefs of the Triangle by Ann ProsperoI can vouch for that Counter Culture Coffee–it’s the only stuff I drink! And if this NYT article is enough to whet your appetite for local eateries in the Triangle, check out Chefs of the Triangle by Ann Prospero. With stories of 34 leading local chefs, Ann delves deep into the history of Revolution’s executive chef Jim Anile and Rue Cler’s French-trained chefs John Vandergrift and Chris Stinnett (both mentioned above in the NYT article). The best part? Sixty exclusive recipes straight from these geniuses. And to celebrate Durham’s national recognition as the “foodiest” place in America by Bon Appetit magazine, we thought we’d share one with you today. Bon appetit!

Coq au Vin

from Rue Cler’s Chef John Vendergrift and Chef Chris Stinnett

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • Small bag of pearl onions
  • 3- to 4- pound chicken, cut in pieces
  • 1 cup flour
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 6 strips bacon, diced
  • 4 stalks celery, diced to the same size as pearl onions
  • 4 cups red wine
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 to 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened

Directions

Peel pearl onions by cutting a small x in the root end of each. Pour boiling water over onions and soak for 2 minutes, then drain. Cut off root ends with a paring knife; the papery skin will peel right off. To save time, peel onions up to 2 days ahead, then chill.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Dust chicken with flour and add salt and pepper. In a braising pan or pot, heat oil over medium heat and brown chicken. Remove chicken, add bacon, and render until brown. Add pearl onions, celery, and carrots and brown in fat with bacon for 4 to 5 minutes. Deglaze with red wine and place chicken back in over vegetables.

Bring to a boil and add chicken stock, thyme, and more salt and pepper. Bring to a boil again. Cover with foil and place in oven for one and a half hours. Remove from oven and check tenderness of chicken; if not tender, return to oven in 20-minute increments. Remove from oven, let rest 10 minutes, and remove chicken from pot. Add butter and stir to thicken. Adjust seasonings. Replace chicken and serve with crusty bread.

Your last chance to see Gov. Jim Hunt and Gary Pearce in action

Gov. Jim Hunt, Gary Pearce, and Blair Publisher

Gov. Hunt, second from left; with Gary Pearce, center; and assistant Lisa Pace, right with Blair staffers at the Winston-Salem booksigning

 

In recent months, former governor Jim Hunt and his longtime aide and official biographer Gary Pearce hit the familiar campaign trail one more time to sign copies of Jim Hunt. Since 1975, Pearce has worked as Hunt’s press secretary, speechwriter, political/policy adviser, campaign co-director, and campaign consultant through five statewide campaigns, including four successful gubernatorial elections. They will hold the final appearance in their current campaign on Tuesday, January 11 at 5 p.m. at The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines.

On February 7-8, Governor Hunt will lead the 26th Annual Emerging Issues Forum. The Institute for Emerging Issues, which is chaired by Hunt, is a public-policy “think-and-do” tank that convenes leaders from business, non-profit organizations, government, and higher education to tackle some of the biggest issues facing the state’s future. The upcoming forum focusing on healthcare issues will showcase the best innovations and ideas for how to deliver better health care, lower costs, and create new, higher-paying jobs. For more information about the institute and the forum, see www.emergingissues.org.

Publishers Weekly joins the Mark Twain debate

Mark Twain's Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry FinnEntertainment Weekly isn’t the only one buzzing about NewSouth‘s upcoming volume of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Tom sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, edited by Twain scholar Dr. Alan Gribben. Publishers Weekly has plenty to add to the debate after an interview with Dr. Gribben:

“This is not an effort to render Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn colorblind,” said Gribben, speaking from his office at Auburn University at Montgomery, where he’s spent most of the past 20 years heading the English department. “Race matters in these books. It’s a matter of how you express that in the 21st century.”

The idea of a more politically correct Finn came to the 69-year-old English professor over years of teaching and outreach, during which he habitually replaced the word with “slave” when reading aloud. Gribben grew up without ever hearing the “n” word (“My mother said it’s only useful to identify [those who use it as] the wrong kind of people”) and became increasingly aware of its jarring effect as he moved South and started a family. “My daughter went to a magnet school and one of her best friends was an African-American girl. She loathed the book, could barely read it.”

Including the table of contents, the slur appears 219 times in Finn. What finally convinced Gribben to turn his back on grad school training and academic tradition, in which allegiance to the author’s intent is sacrosanct, was his involvement with the National Endowment for the Arts’ Big Read Alabama.

Tom Sawyer was selected for 2009’s Big Read Alabama, and the NEA tapped NewSouth, in Montgomery, to produce an edition for the project. NewSouth contracted Gribben to write the introduction, which led him to reading and speaking engagements at libraries across the state. Each reading brought groups of 80 to 100 people “eager to read, eager to talk,” but “a different kind of audience than a professor usually encounters; what we always called ‘the general reader.’

“After a number of talks, I was sought out by local teachers, and to a person they said we would love to teach this novel, and Huckleberry Finn, but we feel we can’t do it anymore. In the new classroom, it’s really not acceptable.” Gribben became determined to offer an alternative for grade school classrooms and “general readers” that would allow them to appreciate and enjoy all the book has to offer. “For a single word to form a barrier, it seems such an unnecessary state of affairs,” he said.

Read the full article here.

Unnecessary censorship or necessary evil?

Please pardon our holiday hiatus! We were busy ringing in the New Year–we hope you had a chance to celebrate as well. Now we’re back and ready to take on 2011.

And we’re off to a good start! Yesterday, Entertainment Weekly picked up on NewSouth‘s upcoming combined volume of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Tom sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. We mentioned this volume before during Banned Book Week–its editor, Twain scholar Dr. Alan Gribben, has removed the racial slurs completely from the work. Dr. Gribben explains that Mark Twain’s novels “can be enjoyed deeply and authentically without those continual encounters with hundreds of now-indefensible racial slurs,” and he hopes this volume will increase readership of Twain’s two masterpieces.

Entertainment Weekly weighed in on the debate that’s been raging since this book was announced:

Unsurprisingly, there are already those who are yelling “Censorship!” as well as others with thesauruses yelling “Bowdlerization!” and “Comstockery!” Their position is understandable: Twain’s book has been one of the most often misunderstood novels of all time, continuously being accused of perpetuating the prejudiced attitudes it is criticizing, and it’s a little disheartening to see a cave-in to those who would ban a book simply because it requires context. On the other hand, if this puts the book into the hands of kids who would not otherwise be allowed to read it due to forces beyond their control (overprotective parents and the school boards they frighten), then maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to judge. It’s unfortunate, but is it really any more catastrophic than a TBS-friendly re-edit of The Godfather, you down-and-dirty melon farmer? The original product is changed for the benefit of those who, for one reason or another, are not mature enough to handle it, but as long as it doesn’t affect the original, is there a problem?

Read the full article here.

What do you think? Is this unnecessary censorship or necessary evil? We’d love to hear your opinions on this debate.