new england literary news

After a long, accomplished career, Harvard Press director to retire

William Sisler, director of Harvard University Press for nearly 30 years.
William Sisler, director of Harvard University Press for nearly 30 years.Stu Rosner

Power of the Press

William Sisler, director of Harvard University Press for nearly 30 years, recently announced that he would retire from the job on June 20. The Press, under his leadership, published works by E.O. Wilson, Stephen Jay Gould, Charles Taylor, and Catharine MacKinnon. A number of its titles became prize winners, including the No. 1 New York Times bestseller “Capital in the Twenty-First Century’’ by Thomas Piketty, the press’s most popular book ever.

“We are grateful that Bill has served Harvard with distinction for so many years,” Harvard Provost Alan Garber said, lauding his “dedication and editorial command.”

Sisler oversaw the opening of a UK office, expanding the reach of the Press in Europe. The Press, during his time, also launched the Emily Dickinson Archive, the Murty Classical Library of India, and the digital Loeb Classical Library. “I am grateful to have been able to work so closely with so many talented, exceptional people,” Sisler said.

A search for his replacement is soon to begin.


Postal Service honors Thoreau

The US Postal Service has announced that they’ll release a stamp this spring of Henry David Thoreau in honor of the 200th anniversary of his birth. Thoreau spent over two years living in a single-room house by Concord’s Walden Pond, and Walden continues to affect readers. The USPS honors Thoreau for “his personal example of simple living, his criticism of materialism and the questions he raises about the place of the individual in society and humanity’s role in the natural world.” The stamp shows a painted portrait of Thoreau looking calm and melancholy against a dark background with his signature in white on the right side of the stamp.

New addition to Provincetown

Provincetown has long been known as a fertile place for writers. Mary Oliver, Michael Cunningham, Tennessee Williams, Eugene O’Neill, Mark Doty, Kurt Vonnegut, and John Krakauer are a few of the literary lights that have lived or worked here. This spot where the land ends recently welcomed an addition to its literary landscape, with the opening of East End Books Ptown at 389 Commercial St. The independent bookstore, owned by Jeff G. Peters, a former arts and literary editor, had its grand opening over the New Year’s weekend and has already hosted readings by Paul Lisicky, Annie Weatherwax, Robert Winter, and Frank Muzzy. It’s a handsome, welcoming space, with lovely hardwood floors, well-designed shelves, and appealing displays of books, magazines, and records — the look as reminiscent of an art gallery as a bookstore. Come summer, the deck out back will be an ideal place to read post browse.


Coming 0ut

“Make Yourself Happy’’ by Eleni Sikelianos (Coffee House)

“Whereas’’ by Layli Long Soldier (Graywolf)

“Norse Mythology’’ by Neil Gaiman (Norton)

Pick of the week

Phil Lewis at the Bennington Bookshop in Bennington, Vt., recommends “Plainsong’’ by Kent Haruf (Vintage): This delightfully realized novel weaves together the stories of the people of the fictional town of Holt, Colo. There’s a lonely schoolteacher, struggling to raise his sons after his wife has left, a couple of old farmers wise beyond their years, a runaway high school girl, pregnant and desperate. Haruf gently reveals the intersection of their lives, their struggles, their compassion, their humanity. Novel writing at its best.

Nina MacLaughlin can be reached at nmaclaughlin@gmail.com.