Write from wrong
“Books are the most enduring propaganda of all,” according to a memo from the Office of War Information (established in 1942) and quoted by author Duncan White in his gripping and lively new book, “Cold Warriors: Writers Who Waged the Literary Cold War ” (Custom House) out this week. White, a journalist, critic, and assistant director of studies in history and literature at Harvard, explores the part played by writers and their books in the Cold War years, with attention on Graham Greene, George Orwell, Anna Akhmatova, Ernest Hemingway, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Mary McCarthy, as well as Stephen Spender, Václav Havel, Lillian Hellman, and Isaac Babel, positioning them as powerful soldiers on a battlefield of letters. Exploring espionage, imprisonment, and authors played like chess pieces by powerful heads of state, White’s book weaves together deeply researched Cold War machinations with a savvy and intelligent look at the literature produced in its midst, who created it, and how. The book serves as potent reminder of the power played by literature in times of international conflict; and White aims his flashlight beyond the cultural capitals in the US and Russia, looking as well to Vietnam, Accra, Havana, and Nicaragua. White will read and discuss the book on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Harvard Book Store.
Two new independent bookstores are making their arrival in New England, one in Western Mass, one in Rhode Island. In October, Florence, Massachusetts will see the opening of High Five Books and Art Always, a spot that brings together a children’s bookstore with an art studio offering classes for kids. Though separate businesses, they’ll collaborate, each working to fuel excitement for the other: Those coming in to take a painting class might end up browsing for a new book; while those wandering the shelves might find themselves pulled to a collage class. High Five Books will pay particular attention to graphic novels, middle-grade books, and illustrated books from local writers and artists. Last month saw the opening of Books on the Pond in Charlestown, R.I., a 700-foot store that mixes new and used books. Owner Alexandra Lehmann plans to work with Narragansett Indian Tribe (who host a powwow in Charlestown every year, dating back nearly 350 years) as well as with the Tomaquag Museum in Exeter to bring two books about the Narragansett back into print. She’ll also expand the events programming this fall, offer language classes, and host a book-to-screen club.
Poet Miriam Levine turned 80 in December, and her latest collection “Saving Daylight ” throbs with an engagement to living. Levine, a former poet laureate of Arlington who now splits her time between New Hampshire and Florida, writes with a vital sensuality – alert to touch, loss, myth, and natural rhythms. “Petals wheeled / from the hub’s soft button. / And there seemed no end of you.” Orpheus and Eurydice appear, as do Aphrodite and Emily Dickinson. She writes of witch hazel, asters, cattails, and bees; and she reminds us what beauty there is in the world, amidst changing seasons and stories told and re-told. “Better the far scene,” she writes, “the small spume, pink, breath-hush rosettes, pinwheels / spun to extinction . . . The long view saves my neck tonight.”
“Doxology ” by Nell Zink (Ecco)
“Everything Inside ” by Edwidge Danticat (Knopf)
“Human Relations & Other Difficulties ” by Mary-Kay Wilmers (FSG)
Pick of the Week
Liza Bernard at the Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vermont, recommends “The Beekeeper of Aleppo ” by Christy Lefteri (Ballantine): “In recounting the daily brutality as well as the glimmers of beauty, this novel humanizes the terrifying refugee stories we read about in the news. Lefteri explores questions of trust and portrays what trauma and loss can do to individuals and their relationships. A beautiful rumination on seeing what is right in front of us — both the negative and the positive.”