Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Introducing Hogarth Books

Yesterday I got a package.  Scratch that, I got THREE packages yesterday, each of them containing one or more books.  I am excited about each of these packages, but the one I'm going to tell you about now excited me the very most.

First, some background.  Hogarth Press was founded by Virginia Woolf and her husband, Leonard in 1917.  The books were typeset by hand by Virginia and Leonard operated the press.  The first publication was Two Stories, which included Leonard's "Three Jews" and Virginia's "The Mark on the Wall".  The work involved in typesetting these early volumes by hand influenced Woolf's writing and changed the way that she thought about text.  Working with the layout of text and the placement of each word caused her to literally consider the shape her words and paragraphs in her own writing.

In later years, The Woolf's began to use commercial printers and they went on to publish over 500 volumes.  Hogarth Press operated until 1946 when it was sold to Chatto & Windus.

This year Crown is reviving the Hogarth imprint.  In their words, Hogarth will feature "contemporary, voice-driven, character-rich books that entertain, inform and move readers."  Shelf Awareness ran a giveaway in which they offered the inaugural collection and I was lucky enough to snag a set for myself.  

Shiny!  And still in plastic!

Number 875 of 1500

I almost didn't want to unwrap them

About Hogarth

All spread out

As you can see in the photo above, each book has a special cover that overlays about 9/10 of the actual cover of the book.  Let's look at each of the titles and gaze upon the artwork.

I Am Forbidden 
Anouk Markovits
320 pages
Available May 8th

Sweeping from the Central European countryside just before World War II to Paris to contemporary Williamsburg, Brooklyn, I Am Forbidden brings to life four generations of one Satmar family.
     Opening in 1939 Transylvania, five-year-old Josef witnesses the murder of his family by the Romanian Iron Guard and is rescued by a Gentile maid to be raised as her own son. Five years later, Josef rescues a young girl, Mila, after her parents are killed while running to meet the Rebbe they hoped would save them. Josef helps Mila reach Zalman Stern, a leader in the Satmar community, in whose home Mila is raised as a sister to Zalman’s daughter, Atara. As the two girls mature, Mila’s faith intensifies, while her beloved sister Atara discovers a world of books and learning that she cannot ignore. With the rise of communism in central Europe, the family moves to Paris, to the Marais, where Zalman tries to raise his children apart from the city in which they live.  
     When the two  girls come of age, Mila marries within the faith, while Atara continues to question fundamentalist doctrine. The different choices the two sisters makes force them apart until a dangerous secret threatens to banish them from the only community they’ve ever known. 
     A beautifully crafted, emotionally gripping story of what happens when unwavering love, unyielding law, and centuries of tradition collide, I Am Forbidden announces the arrival of an extraordinarily gifted new voice and opens a startling window on a world long closed to most of us, until now.

The Kissing List
Stephanie Reents
240 pages
Available May 22nd

An inventive debut that recalls the imagination of Aimee Bender and the sardonic wit of Lorrie Moore.
The interlocking stories in The Kissing List feature an unforgettable group of young women – Sylvie, Anna, Frances, Maureen – as their lives connect, first during a year abroad at Oxford, then later as they move to New York on the cusp of adulthood. We follow each of them as they navigate the treachery of first dates, temp jobs and roommates, failed relationships and unexpected affairs – all the things that make their lives seem full of possibility, but also rife with potential disappointment.
Shot through with laugh-out-loud lines, yet still wrenchingly emotional and resonant, The Kissing List is a book about women who bravely defy expectations and take outrageous chances in the face of a life that might turn out to be anything less than extraordinary.

The Watch
Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya
304 pages
Available June 5th

Following a desperate night-long battle, a group of beleaguered soldiers in an isolated base in Kandahar are faced with a lone woman demanding the return of her brother’s body. Is she a spy, a black widow, a lunatic, or is she what she claims to be: a grieving young sister intent on burying her brother according to local rites? Single-minded in her mission, she refuses to move from her spot on the field in full view of every soldier in the stark outpost. Her presence quickly proves dangerous as the camp’s tense, claustrophobic atmosphere comes to a boil when the men begin arguing about what to do next.
   Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya’s heartbreaking and haunting novel, The Watch, takes a timeless tragedy and hurls it into present-day Afghanistan. Taking its cues from the Antigone myth, Roy-Bhattacharya brilliantly recreates the chaos, intensity, and immediacy of battle, and conveys the inevitable repercussions felt by the soldiers, their families, and by one sister. The result is a gripping tour through the reality of this very contemporary conflict, and our most powerful expression to date of the nature and futility of war.

The Dead Do Not Improve
Jay Caspian Kang
272 pages
Available August 7th

In this glorious debut novel, Jay Caspian Kang gives us a story of murderous intrigue, hippie detectives, and an MFA student on the run—a true original in terms of story, voice, language, and humor.
Philip Kim, stymied recent MFA recipient and a scathing, expert capturer of the filth and glory of our modern times, becomes the focus of an elaborate, violent scheme after the murder of his elderly next-door neighbor. Philip maneuvers through a suddenly menacing, unknowable San Francisco, fending off militant surfers, overpopulated quinoa cafes, and aggressive Advanced Creative Writing students as he—and the laconic cops who land his case—tries to determine who’s causing trouble in this city he loves to hate. Exceedingly unique, pulsing with vigor and heart, and loaded with fierce, fresh language, The Dead Do Not Improve will have Jay Caspian Kang standing alongside Junot Diaz, Gary Shteyngart, and Jonathan Lethem as a true American original.

Thank you so much to the fine people at Hogarth.  I'm really thrilled to have the opportunity to read these.

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