Penguin Classics Newsletter | April / May 2008

Our First Classic from Peru!

In time for National Poetry Month, Penguin Classics is thrilled to publish our first classic from Peru: Cesar Vallejo's "Spain, Take This Chalice from Me" and Other Poems, which spans the arc of his career, bringing together more than eighty of his poems in a beautiful dual-language edition.

Born in 1892 in a remote village in the Andes, Vallejo is known for his intricate literary style and controversial political stance on communism. After becoming spiritually and emotionally involved in the Spanish Civil War, he published Poemas Humanos and Espaņa. The Penguin Classics edition of his poems, newly translated by award-winning translator Margaret Sayers Peden and edited with an introduction by Ilan Stavans, is an invaluable collection for anyone who wishes to enjoy the work of one of the greatest Latin American poets of the twentieth century.

  Guys and Dolls  

Guys, Dolls, and Gangsters...Oh my!

Roll the dice and hold on to your favorite gal because Damon Runyon is back in town! Guys and Dolls and Other Writings boasts an eclectic sampling from this iconic New York writer, from sports writing to poetry, short fiction to the renowned Broadway storiesincluding "Guys and Dolls," "Blood Pressure," and "The Bloodhounds of Broadway"for which he is best remembered. Introduced by acclaimed journalist and author Pete Hamill and annotated by Runyon scholar Daniel R. Schwarz, Guys and Dolls and Other Writings finds the pulse of 1920s New York and delivers an American legend to a whole new generation of readers.


Of Cockroaches and Crocodiles

Last month we published a new translation of Kafka, and this month we publish a writer who did Kafka one better: "Kafka wrote a story in which a man turned into an insect, while Bruno Schulz wrote stories in which a man turned not only into one insect after another but into a crustacean too" (J. M. Coetzee, The New York Review of Books).



Plant a Billion Trees Campaign

Penguin Classics is thrilled to support The Nature Conservancy's momentous campaign to plant a billion trees in Brazil's Atlantic Forest and bring this ecologically important area back from the brink of destruction. We at Penguin Classics are aware of the importance of adopting an attitude of stewardship toward the earth. With great pride we publish such groundbreaking environmental works as Rachel Carson's Under the Sea-Wind, John Muir's The Mountains of California, and Ralph Waldo Emerson's Nature and Selected Essays—just a few of the Penguin Classics that we hope foster an awareness of and respect for nature. While we participate in and support sustainable business practices, Penguin Classics would like to go one step further by supporting The Nature Conservancy in their plan to rejuvenate Brazil's Atlantic Forest with a billion newly planted trees. We encourage you to do the same—visit or  to find out how.

  Book Title Here  

A True Champion of Change: Cesar Chavez

To honor Cesar Chavez Day, celebrated in fifteen U.S. cities this March, and the fifteenth anniversary of Chavez's death in April, Penguin Classics is proud to publish the collected works of this nationally recognized civil rights and labor leader. Newly translated and with an introduction by Ilan Stavans, An Organizer's Tale collects the speeches of an iconic activist, environmentalist, and idealist, unveiling the trials of his childhood during the Great Depression, his tour in the U.S. Navy during World War II, his past as a farm worker and champion of nonviolent social change, and how he became one of America's great heroic figures of the twentieth century. Featuring previously unpublished material, as well as his well-known testimony before the House of Representatives about the hazards of pesticides, An Organizer's Tale is an indispensable book for all of us who believe that courage and conviction can generate positive change in America.


By Popular Demand!

From campus to campus, we heard the many requests from professors and are pleased to welcome into the Penguin Classics family Charles Kingsley's The Water-Babies. First published in 1863, this Victorian classic was a popular children's book until the late 1920s, when it became the subject of criticism over Kingsley's controversial views on Americans, Jews, Catholics, scientists, and the French. Our edition features the original unabridged text alongside illustrations from vintage nineteenth and early twentieth-century editions.



New to Penguin Classics, for the 175th anniversary of the Black Hawk War, is Life of Black Hawk, or Mā-ka-tai-me-she-kiā-kiāk, edited by Gerald Kennedy. 


  Dorothy Parker  

Pick up The Ladies of the Corridor and Get Ready to Gossip!

New York's Hotel Marlowe is a haven for idle, middle-aged women who, either divorced or widowed, fill their hours with gossiping, napping, and endless needlepoint. Co-written by Hollywood playwright Arnaud d'Usseau and the deliciously witty Dorothy Parker, founder of the famed Algonquin Round Table, The Ladies of the Corridor is a biting feminist commentary on the lives of women without children or men to care for. First published in 1954 by Viking, and staged at Broadway's Longacre Theatre starring Walter Matthau, these "hags in the corridor" teem with humor, pride, and heartbreaking frankness. Introduced by Marion Meade, author of the authoritative Parker biography, Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This?, The Ladies of the Corridor is Parker's last great work and a celebrated classic not to be missed.


Give Mom the Gift of a Classic!

Not sure what to get Mom for Mother's Day? We do! Choose from a selection of Penguin Classics' exciting new releases:

The Garden Party and Other Stories by Katherine Mansfield

Selected Poems by Alfred Lord Tennyson

Other perennial favorites sure to make Mom smile:

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Little Women (Classics Deluxe Edition) by Louisa May Alcott

The Poems of Marianne Moore by Marianne Moore

Under the Sea-Wind by Rachel Carson

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda

The Lost Estate (Le Grand Meaulnes) by Alain-Fournier


Guest View

As we reported in the December 2007 / January 2008 newsletter, several Penguin colleagues have agreed to read a Penguin Classic as part of their New Year's resolution, to challenge the assumption that many classics, however deserving, go unread. Below you'll find Viking/Penguin Director of Advertising and Promotion Dennis Swaim's response to George Eliot's Middlemarch.

First off, let me that I simply loved Middlemarch.

Loved it! Though it centers on the young, fervent, yet broad-minded Dorothea Brooks as she grows from her home into the world, its real subject is the individual minds of a large cast of characters from all parts of society and the social world that they form—and that forms them. I can't think of another book that does such a good job of capturing all the nuances of different people's psyches, emotions, and motivations while at the same time showing you the social tissue that all of these characters share. You really get to know the characters' inner worlds, helping you understand exactly why they respond to people and events in the way they do. Plus, the humanism of this book is very appealing. No character is just a type: no one is entirely without fault or virtue. Even Mr. Bulstrode, the closest the book comes to having a villain, is not presented without compassion. Everyone in this book is a human being—and that's a rare and special thing, if you ask me. (True human beings are rare in fiction and even rarer in movies!) And so, I leave you with what I take to be the moral of this wonderful novel:

"There is no doctrine which is not capable of eating out our morality if unchecked by the deep-seated habit of direct fellow-feeling with individual fellow-men."
Middlemarch, page 619



Award-Winning Designs

Design Penguin art director Paul Buckley has been awarded the design world's equivalent of an Oscar for the Graphic Classics, which feature cutting-edge covers by some of the leading graphic cartoonists at work today, among them Daniel Clowes, Chris Ware, Joe Sacco, Roz Chast, Frank Miller, and Art Spiegelman. On March 11, London's Design Museum designated the Graphic Classics one of the most innovative and progressive international designs from the last twelve months.

Upon learning of the award, Paul Buckley said: "It is a thrill and an honor to be a part of the Design Museum's Designs of the Year. These particular Penguins are a real favorite of mine, and everyone involved—whether from the art side of things or the editorial side—was so enthusiastic from the get go. There were no differences of opinion or visions, just an innate understanding as to how fun these books could be—and in our business it is never easy to talk folks into taking risks . . . so when it pays off in so many ways it is truly a wonderful thing to be a part of. I think it is important to note that all the artists who created these wonderful covers share this award with me, especially Helen Yentus and Chris Ware, who were the sparks that led to the series . . . and last but not least, Penguin's publisher, Kathryn Court, who saw the potential."


Campus Classic

For each Penguin Classics newsletter we invite a professor to share an experience of teaching with a Penguin Classic. Alfred Mac Adam of Barnard College—Columbia University shares his thoughts on teaching the Penguin Classics editions of Choderlos de Laclos's Les Liaisons Dangereuses and Gustave Flaubert's Sentimental Education.

"Mad Love," a comparative literature course, traces the history of overpowering passion (and the flimsy means allotted us to avoid it) from Plato to the twentieth century. The students move forward like reluctant mules through Greece, Rome (Dido in The Aeneid), the Bible (David and Bathsheba), the Middle Ages (Dante), and the Renaissance (Fernando de Rojas), and then suddenly come alive when we read P. W. K. Stone's admirable translation of Laclos's epistolary novel, equipped with a frankly inflammatory cover by Fragonard (The Bolt). The godlike and doomed miscreants, Valmont and Merteuil, send the students into paroxysms of admiration and puritanical rage. This cools when they confront Robert Baldick's version of Flaubert, with its cover from Courbet (Man with Leather Belt), not because of the splendid translation but because they discover they are Frédéric Moreau and share both his youth and his susceptibility to a love that can culminate only in disillusion. These Penguin Classics are the pierced heart and suffering soul of the course.

Alfred Mac Adam
Professor of Spanish and Portuguese, Barnard College—Columbia University
Course: "Mad Love"

  Click for Penguin Classics Website  

Now available to add to your Penguin Classics library.


In Memoriam

On March 26, Robert Fagles, who represented the very best of Penguin Classics in his bestselling, award-winning translations of the Homeric and Virgilian epics, most recently The Aeneid, died after a long battle with prostate cancer. He was 74.


Reading the Classics from A to Z

To view the current blog from Alan Walker, Senior Director of Academic Marketing & Sales,
visit here.


Famous Reads

New York magazine revealed in its March 24th issue that new Vegas showgirl and eternal entertainer Bette Midler received the entire Penguin Classics Library as a "welcome to Vegas" gift from her husband. "I'm reading Chesterton right now. The Man Who Was Thursday. I thought I'd start light." —Bette Midler


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