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Writing and farming with Julia Shipley

Mary Simpson

Writing and farming

When author Julia Shipley was in her 20s, she worked on farms in the Northeast. A decade ago, she set down roots in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.

Her new book, “Adam’s Mark: Writing from the Ox-House,” is published by the 10-year-old Vermont-based Plowboy Press, which focuses on rural life, farming, and its home state. In it, she invokes Robert Frost and Seamus Heaney, two poets well connected to the earth. Illustrated by Mary Simpson, Shipley’s book is a loving look — in prose and poetry — at the pleasures of writing and farming. Getting up early to milk cows holds its own reward, she finds: “I saw the woodshaving–thin moon rising out of a break in the trees on the still dark blue night.” While her dairy farmer boyfriend Adam baled hay, she writes, “I baled sentences into paragraphs of prose.”


The Patrick Modiano buzz

When Patrick Modiano last month was named winner of this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature, it was a particularly happy day at Yale University Press. It already had an English translation of Modiano’s “Suspended Sentences” in the works. The publication date was moved up from January to Tuesday, and the printing was increased from 2,000 to 20,000 copies.

In the introduction, translator Mark Polizzotti writes, “Few French writers have evoked Paris with as much fondness and nostalgia as Modiano.”

Each of the three novellas in “Suspended Sentences” contains a variant of a real-life episode in which Modiano’s father, arrested during wartime as an undocumented Jew by the French police, was released without explanation. The Nobel Prize committee praised Modiano for “the art of memory with which he has evoked the most ungraspable human destinies and uncovered the life-world of the occupation.”

The Boston-based David R. Godine received a boost when a spokesman for the Nobel Prize suggested that those unfamiliar with Modiano’s work start with his 1978 novel, “Missing Person.” It was a moment publishers hope for, and Godine was ahead of the curve, having published an English translation by Daniel Weissbort in 2004.


Antiquarian Book Fair

The Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair takes up residence at the Hynes Convention Center Friday through Sunday. There will be 134 dealers from around the world. Highlights include rare and first editions of works by Charles Dickens, Betty Friedan, and George R.R. Martin as well as George Washington’s 1789 proclamation declaring Thanksgiving a national holiday (valued at $8.4 million), and Mick Jagger’s handwritten lyrics for his 1987 song “War Baby.”

A panel discussion on “Starting Your Own Collection” will be held at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. A free appraisal of books is being offered from 1 to 3 p.m. on Sunday. Ticket prices start at $10. The full schedule is at www.bostonbookfair.com.

Coming out

 “Christ Actually: The Son of God for the Secular Age” by James Carroll (Viking)

 “The David Foster Wallace Reader” by David Foster Wallace (Little, Brown)

■  “The Future of God: A Practical Approach to Spirituality for Our Times” by Deepak Chopra (Harmony)

Pick of the Week

Annie Philbrick of Bank Square Books in Mystic, Conn., recommends “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” by Bryan Stevenson (Spiegel & Grau): “I found this true story about punishment, incarceration, and corruption within our prison system very compelling and readable. That our country has allowed disturbing practices to continue was disturbing. There are lessons in here that should be shared widely, especially with those who may be broken and need mercy and compassion.”


Jan Gardner can be reached at JanLGardner@yahoo.com.