D-Day, June 6, 1944. What Americans heard back home.

In the early hours of June 6, 1944, radios across America came to life with the news everyone had been anticipating. The invasion of Europe had begun. One widely listened-to-broadcast was from the NBC Studios in New York by Robert St. John, the legendary journalist and also our long-time friend.  We are honored to again share the beginning of his D-Day Broadcast that day.

“This is the European Front. Once again being established in fire and blood.” — Robert St. John

“Bartleby Press” explained.

Over the past thirty-five years, we had often been asked about the name “Bartleby Press.” Some people do get the obvious reference to “Bartleby the Scrivener” by Herman Melville, first serialized in Putnam’s Monthly Magazine in 1853 and a few years later included in a collection of Melville stories in The Piazza Tales.  Of course, not only is the company name a homage of sorts to Melville’s tale, it led to the name of our website BartlebythePublisher.com and this space, “The Reluctant Blog.”

We have now issued a Commemorative edition of Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street.  It includes the exact text as published in the original and is introduced by our Publisher, Jeremy Kay. He not only why he chose the name for our publishing enterprise, but Melville’s up and down literary history.

Thumbs down, a positive sign? The New York Yankees may be on to something.

When a spectator at a New York-Tampa game, played at the Met’s Citi Field, expressed his displeasure at a home run by Yankees third baseman, Todd Frazier, with an extended thumb down, it was seen by millions.

The gesture, seen by most people as a sign of disapproval, was soon adopted by the Yankee players to celebrate a hit or other positive play. In this way, it can be seen as a signal of defiance, sort of an “us against the world” sort of sentiment.

Yet as Professor Ori Soltes points out in his latest book, God and the Goalposts: A Brief History of Sports, Religion, Politics, War, and Art, we don’t really know what the gladiator era hand gesture exactly signified:

When a man went down, the amphitheatre resounded with cries of habet, hoc habet!—“He’s had it!” (literally, “He has it!”)—and with cries of mitte! (“Let him go!”; literally, “Send forth/away!”) or ugula! (“Kill [him]!”). A mortally wounded fighter (in other words: already dying) was not killed before the arena audience but was carried from the site to be properly killed away from public view. One fallen, but not yet fatally, would lay down his weapon if he could, and raise his index finger (usually of the left—or in Latin, sinister—hand) to ask for mercy from his opponent, the judge, and/or the crowd. If the spectators approved that he be spared, because
he had fought gallantly enough, they would signify that approval by turning their thumbs: police verso—“with the thumb turned.” But the interesting thing is that we have no clear idea of whether verso—“turned”—means turned up or turned down, so in spite of the evolution of the English phrases “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” to signify approval and disapproval respectively, we cannot with any certainty say which direction the Romans were signifying.

The Yankees players may have inadvertently gotten it right.

A little contribution to the Bloomsday celebration

Today is Bloomsday where the more literary-minded drunks among us, gather to read passages from James Joyce’s most celebrated novel Ulysses and, well, drink.

The novel is set in one day–June 16, 1904–in the life of the protagonist, Leopold Bloom.

As our contribution to this day, we offer a brief except from Lower than Angels: A Memoir of War and Peace, written by the pseudonymous, W. W. Windstaff. He is writing about his time in Paris in the 20s.

Windstaff’s identity remains one of the great literary mysteries.

“No matter where the Americans came from, you could usually sell them a volume of Joyce. Most were not literary, but had heard it was a “dirty” book. You had to split with a reporter on the Herald who could do the James Joyce signature with a real feel, and even add a personal message. Of course Joyce, if you caught him before he got plastered on white wine, he’d be happy to sign one of the blue-covered books. He sang too, but I couldn’t make any money on that.”

We still promise, Tom

It’s been a year since Tom Lodge left us. Every time we listen to a song from the early days of the British Invasion, like those from Georgie Fame or the Zombies, we immediately think of Tom.

Shortly before his death, he wrote to a few of us, imploring us to do what we could keep the remarkable story of Radio Caroline and Tom’s role in  it alive.

It was a promise that we gave eagerly.  And now, a year later, we re-dedicate ourselves to that task. Today, have another look at Tom Lodge,  “The man who launched the British Invasion”

Windstaff on The (Not So) Great Gatsby

The much-anticipated release of Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby has millions of fans and literature lovers flocking to the theaters this weekend. While we sit back and revisit F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic American tale of extravagance and disillusionment in the Roaring Twenties, we remember what W. W. Windstaff had to say about living among the Lost Generation in Paris and his impressions of Fitzgerald’s magnum opus:

“The way I see it, the American expatriates were kidding themselves. They thought they were hard nuts, realists. They were bloody romantics; we all know that crap about ‘the lost generation’ and Scott’s ‘all the sad young men.’ Few really knew life down in the dirt, a lousy job and a noisy family. That’s what’s wrong with Jay Gatsby. Scott never knew a real killer, a gang lord, a mean hard-nosed bootlegger, which Gatsby was supposed to be. A big-shot rackets man. If he were, he’d not have show Daisy silk shirts, he’d have pistol-whipped Tom, her husband, and ended up running New York City. Romantics don’t love Al Capones, nor do real Gatsbys yearn over a lost love. It’s still a fine book, but it’s the dream of a lace curtain Irish poor kid snob, writing about scoring with the quality.”

—W. W. Windstaff, Lower than Angels: A Memoir of War and Peace

Jacques Haeringer to appear on the Today Show

Jacques Haeringer, Proprietor of the internationally-known restaurant, L’Auberge Chez Francois and author of The Chez Francois Cookbook and Two for Tonight will appear on the Today Show, March 29th between 10 and 11 am.

Now in its 4oth year in Great Falls, Virginia, a new Anniversary Edition of the Chez Francois Cookbook is expected to be published this year.

The Man Who Launched the British Invasion

We are pleased to announce that our latest video about Tom Lodge, Radio Caroline and Pirate Radio can now be viewed on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gxnYkd6DO9s

It’s got some terrific audio clips of Tom on the air during the mid 60s.  If you missed our original video, put out when we released Tom’s book The Ship that Rocked the World: How Radio Caroline Defied the Establishment, Launched the British Invasion and Made the Planet Safe for Rock and Roll, it can also be found on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SPZ0h6q2zSw

Or you can visit www.shipthatrocked.com for even more audio clips, to read the foreword by Steven Van Zandt and more.