Monday, April 7, 2014

Homeward Stay: Why I Love My Neighborhood of Westville in New Haven

Donald Brown, writing at New Haven Review, asked the following at the end of his post here:

So, a question to any long-standing or native New Haveners reading this: what do you consider to be definitive aspects of New Haven … the kinds of things one shouldn’t miss while living here? Or: what’s a change you’ve seen in your time here that had some effect on you?

How could I not answer about the neighborhood I've come to love as follows...

I grew up in Brooklyn. There I attended all my life public schools to which I walked nearly every day of the thirteen years I had to go. At the age of 17, I left my family home and never came back, which is not the same as saying that I didn’t return to New York or even Brooklyn. I did. But I didn’t return “home” in that most traditional of senses: taking up residence, as my brother did till age 35, in my parents’ five-bedroom home on Glenwood Road.

When I left New York for the last time, after a two-year stint as an editor, to return to New Haven (yes, I lived here twice), my wife and I were not only overjoyed, we even returned to the neighborhood in which we had rented the first time around: that part of Westville between Whalley & Derby on the north and south respectively; and Yale Avenue and Forest Road as far as east and west go. We have had no regrets since in the last 10 years that we have resided here, and we both chalk that up not to New Haven itself, but the neighborhood in which we reside.

I could write electronic ream after ream on the wonderfulness of this neighborhood. My children walk two blocks to school (Edgewood School); my wife walks two blocks to work (Mitchell Library); we walk two blocks to synagogue (Beth-El Keser Israel); we have farmer’s market directly across the street in the summers; access to tennis courts in Edgewood Park (across the street) and Yale fields (three blocks) respectively; sledding at the Yale golf course in the winter five blocks away we can walk less than a block to five art galleries, four bars, five restaurants.

It’s the neighborhood thus that has made New Haven home for us (and our children) and not “New Haven” itself. The spatial proximity of creature comforts, leisure activities, the necessities of food and culture have created a latitude and lassitude in time: it moves more slowly, more relaxedly, more satisfactorily, with fewer alienating effects as I wave hello to friends going north along my block to synagogue or walking their children south along it to school or heading in either direction with dogs in tow or on bikes or in jogging suits.

Were I to leave New Haven, what I would miss is not its individual places or events--this restaurant or its much celebrated Festival of Arts and Ideas or remarkably Long Wharf Theatre--but the entire gestalt of the community that occupies its small corner of this small city.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Small Presses & Books

Since becoming publisher of The New Haven Review, I've received a slow but steady exposure to the universe of smaller presses. These are precious commodities in our country. They are the publishers, sometimes of last resort, for writers of fiction both great and good who can get neither the ear nor eye of a literary agent or a major publishing house. Since these last are always considering the respective costs and benefits of publishing a book that may never sell more than 500 copies, the many authors who feel neglected should hardly come as a surprise. This reality is especially onerous for poets.

Notwithstanding the suggestion that there are more writers than ever, the presence of an Internet or the existence of desktop publishing software do not in and of themselves bequeath the mantle of author to anyone. Owning a bit of software or blogging away do not supply in some automated fashion the length and coherence required to generate this thing we call a "book."

Even as digital phenomena, Kindle-ized, books demand a level of structure and craft, whether long novel or collection of essays, that no software or hardware tool can pre-generate.

A book is, first and foremost, an act that rarely repays, one born of love and desperation. It matters not if we speak of disseration or science fiction novel: it is an investment of time and sometimes of money--if not directly from your bank account then as some type of opportunity cost. Little presses play a critical role in providing that stamp of approval, even if it is a small one, to this act. It acknowledges such achievements more profoundly than, say, this blog entry I'm writing, which will sail out into the digital nethersphere, without an eye to eyeball it.

So let's hear it for little presses. We need them more than we might imagine.

Bennett Lovett-Graff
Publisher, New Haven Review

Monday, November 24, 2008

How It Started...Sort of

When I was a child, I read comic books. Then one day I returned home with one of those book order forms that are still distributed by the publishing company Scholastic. For reasons that I will discuss some other day, I checked off all of the titles that I knew--with my limited scope of knowledge--were literary "classics." A week or two later, I came home with copies of Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, The Taming of the Shrew and a several other titles I no longer recall.

It was my first foray into something clearly a cut above my previous reading--no small feat I soon discovered as I muscled my way through the adventures of Katherine and Petruchio with an able assist from the ample notes that ran on the verso pages of my Folger paperback edition. (God bless those editions!) I was not so lucky with Wuthering Heights as I sank ever deeper into the moorish clutches of incomprehensibility. And as for Jane Eyre, well, there seemed to be an awful lot of pages, so I thought I'd wait on it. Probably a good idea when you're only in 8th grade and trying to take on some of England's greatest writers with little more than a deep knowledge of the Silver Surfer's tragic origins or the workings of Thor's mighty hammer.