Literary Festival at TSL Celebrates New Directions Publishing House

Ian MacNiven

Ian MacNiven

(HUDSON, N.Y.) – A free reading and discussion devoted to the groundbreaking literary publishing house New Directions will take place at Time and Space Limited on Sunday, May 17, 2015, at 1pm. The event, “Literchoor Is My Beat: A New Directions Festival,” will feature a reading by Ian MacNiven, author of the biography “Literchoor Is My Beat: A Life of James Laughlin, Founder of New Directions,” plus a roundtable discussion with MacNiven, current New Directions president Barbara Epler, and former New Directions president Peggy Fox.

For more than 75 years, New Directions has been a profound force shaping literature in the US and abroad. Groundbreaking 20th-century novelists and poets whose work carried the New Directions logo include Tennessee Williams, William Carlos Williams, Jorge Luis Borges, Nathanael West, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, Dylan Thomas, Franz Kafka, Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Paul Auster, Robert Creeley, Denise Levertov, Gary Snyder, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Henry Miller, Mikhail Bulgakov, and many others. Today, New Directions remains at the forefront of contemporary publishing with such authors as Roberto Bolano, Cesar Aira, Anne Carson, and Rachel Kushner.

The program is a co-presentation of Time and Space Limited and Karen Schoemer, Bookseller. There will be a pop-up bookshop with current and classic New Directions titles for sale.

literchoorismybeatNew Directions was founded in 1936 by James Laughlin (1914 – 1997), then a 22-year-old Harvard sophomore. Intended as a home for literary creativity and experimentation, New Directions began publishing anthologies that introduced readers to the early work of such writers as William Saroyan, Louis Zukofsky, Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, Dylan Thomas, Thomas Merton, John Hawkes, James Agee, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

Soon after, New Directions began publishing novels, plays, and collections of poems. Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams, who once had difficulty finding publishers, were early New Directions authors, and have remained at the core of ND’s backlist of modernist writers. And Tennessee Williams first appeared as a poet in the early Five Young American Poets.

Although New Directions started in the service of verbal revolution, it also reprinted Henry James, E.M. Forster, Ronald Firbank and Evelyn Waugh when other publishers would not; when no one would print F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Crack Up,” ND did; when “The Great Gatsby” was out of print, New Directions brought it back. This tradition is carried on today in a series of New Directions Classics. Begun in 1981, this series has brought back works by Sherwood Anderson, Kay Boyle and H.E. Bates, among many others.

In the spring of 1993, New Directions introduced the Bibelot series of short, self-contained gems such as Henry Miller’s “A Devil in Paradise,” poems by Pound and W.C. Williams, together with reissues of short modern classics such as Muriel Spark’s “The Abbess of Crewe.” These inexpensive, pocket-sized volumes serve as introduction to the great modernist authors of the twentieth century.

Barbara Epler

Barbara Epler

In addition, New Directions has relaunched many classics recently with introductions by contemporary authors: these include Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire” (Introduction by Arthur Miller) and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” (Introduction by Edward Albee), John Hawkes’ “Second Skin” (Introduction by Jeffrey Eugenides), and John Gardner’s “October Light” (Introduction by Tom Bissell).

A finalist for the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award, “Literchoor Is My Beat: A Life of James, Laughlin, Publisher of New Directions” by Ian MacNiven has been called “a comprehensive, prodigiously researched biography of a transformative literary figure” (Kirkus).

In this deeply researched and deftly written biography, Ian S. MacNiven spiritedly recounts Laughlin’s incredible contributions to American literary culture. He also affirms Laughlin as an accomplished poet in his own right, a lovable raconteur and ladies’ man, a prodigious world traveler, and a pioneer in the history of American skiing.

MacNiven — best known for his authorized biography of Lawrence Durrell, a New York Times Notable Book of 1998 — has integrated these diverse facets of Laughlin’s life into a resonating narrative replete with vivid storytelling and empathetic, revealing insight.

Ian S. MacNiven’s authorized biography of Lawrence Durrell was a New York Times Notable Book for 1998. MacNiven has edited two collections of Durrell’s correspondence (with Richard Aldington and with Henry Miller), is the author of numerous articles on literary modernism, and has directed and spoken at conferences on three continents. He is also a past president of the International Lawrence Durrell Society and of the D. H. Lawrence Society of North America. MacNiven resides on the west bank of the Hudson, outside the town of Athens, New York.

Barbara Epler joined New Directions as an editorial assistant after graduating from college in 1984. She became Editor in Chief in 1995; named Publisher in 2008; and President in 2011.

Peggy Fox took a summer job at New Directions in 1975, fully intending to finish her dissertation at the University of Pennsylvania and return to college teaching. But she fell in love with the mission of New Directions and, since her graduate work had focused on modern American and British writers, particularly poets, she felt right at home and stayed for the next 36 years, retiring in 2011 as President and Publisher. She worked closely with New Directions founder James Laughlin to publish new scholarly editions of such New Directions “deceased giants” such as W. C. Williams, Ezra Pound, and H.D. In addition, she edited in a wide arc from being Tennessee Williams last editor (and publishing a number of his works posthumously) to introducing dissident Chinese poet Bei Dao to an American audience.

Time & Space Limited Theater Company was founded in NYC in 1973. In 1991, TSL moved to Hudson, where it expanded its role as an avant-garde theater company to include becoming a community arts organization, while always keeping theater at its core.

TSL’s programming spotlights the powerful role of the arts in awakening individual imaginations and fostering community participation. Whether offering people their first experience with live theater or opera, providing workshops and special enrichment projects for young people that include theater, art, movie-making, circus performance and gardening, or initiating discussions of local and global political issues, TSL is always looking to set off the spark that benefits and alters individual lives.

At its location in Hudson, TSL is both a beacon for change in upstate New York and a national model, providing its community with an arts organization that is committed to constructing relationships on a local level.

Karen Schoemer is a poet, author, journalist and spoken word performer. As an independent bookseller, she works to bring literary events to cultural organizations in Hudson and around Columbia County.


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