The Hub

News, Notes, Talk

Elvis’s annotated copy of The Prophet, gifted to his bodyguard and close friend, is on sale now.

July 23, 2021, 12:35pm

Good news for fans of Elvis, or Kahlil Gibran, or annotation: Elvis Presley’s annotated copy of Kahlil Gibran’s prose poem collection The Prophet is on sale now from Peter Harrington for £19,500.

Presley loved The Prophet, reading it so often that he memorized it; he gave annotated copies to several friends. This particular copy was given to Ed Parker, founder of American Kenpo Karate, who became Presley’s close friend, sparring partner and occasional bodyguard after Presley introduced himself during a karate demonstration Parker was leading in 1960. Presley referred to Parker as “Kahuna”, and, on occasion, his “second daddy”.

In Parker’s memoir, Inside Elvis, Parker recalled that Presley “was keenly aware of his mortality, and felt impelled to learn how man and the universe interact.” So explains his deep connection to The Prophet. Said Pom Harrington, owner of Peter Harrington, of the copy on sale: “It is a really wonderful association copy, extensively annotated and underlined by the King himself, and has a compelling personal connection to an individual who had a significant influence on Elvis’s personal fascination with the martial arts.”

Peter Harrington’s summer catalog can be viewed here.

[h/t Fine Books Magazine, The 961]

The Belarus government has moved to liquidate PEN Belarus.

July 23, 2021, 11:51am

Yesterday, the Belarusian Justice Ministry moved to shut down PEN Belarus, sister organization of PEN America currently run by Nobel winner Svetlana Alexievich. This news comes amid widespread crackdowns on civil society activists and independent media by the Belarusian government this week, which president Alexander Lukashenko described as a “mopping-up operation” to stop “bandits and foreign agents.” This month alone, as the Associated Press reports, the Belarusian government has conducted over 200 raids of offices and apartments of activists and journalists; and in October 2020, police detained four members of PEN Belarus after their participation in peaceful protests.

The letter sent to PEN Belarus yesterday reads:

The Supreme Court of the Republic of Belarus initiated a civil case on the claim of the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Belarus against the Republican Public Association ‘Belarusian PEN Center’ for liquidation.

In order to prepare the case for trial, a survey is scheduled for 20/06/2021 at 10:00 a.m. at the premises of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Belarus (Minsk, Orlovskaya str., 76, entrance 1).

The representative of the Republican Public Association ‘Belarusian PEN Center’ must appear at the specified time with documents confirming the authorization to participate in the case.

No reason was provided for PEN Belarus’s liquidation. As well as PEN Belarus, over 50 NGOs, including the Human Constanta human rights center, Belsetka Anti-AIDS group, and the Press-Club, an organization offering education programs for journalists, face closure.

“When a government silences and stomps on its writers, it reveals a level of shame and decay that leaders are aiming to hide, but instead only expose,” said PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel. “Belarus’ leaders may think they can suppress the truth by muzzling those who dare tell it, but the story of the will of the people and the scale of brutal repression will find its way to the world. We stand in solidarity with the writers of PEN Belarus and are determined to ensure that their vital voices are heard and their rights to express themselves vindicated.”

Supporters of PEN Belarus can show their solidarity here.

Revisiting Raymond Chandler’s most iconic lines.

July 23, 2021, 11:45am

“I was as hollow and empty as the spaces between stars.”

Today marks the 133rd anniversary of the birth of Raymond Chandler, patron saint of Los Angeles noir and perhaps the most famous crime fiction writer of all time. Each of his nine novels, from The Big Sleep (1939) to the posthumously published Playback (1953), center around iconic gumshoe Philip Marlowe—Chandler’s wisecracking, whiskey-drinking, tough-as-an-old-boot fictional private investigator so memorably portrayed on screen by (among many, many others) Humphrey BogartElliot Gould, and Robert Mitchum—as he navigates the murky underbelly of the City of Angels. Our sister site CrimeReads has more fascinating Chandler content than you can shake a .32 revolver at, and to mark this auspicious anniversary I thought I’d follow their lead by tracking down (and roughing up) some of his most Raymond Chandler-y lines.


from The Big Sleep (1939)

· Dead men are heavier than broken hearts.
· It seemed like a nice neighborhood to have bad habits in.
· I been shaking two nickels together for a month, trying to get them to mate.

from Farewell, My Lovely (1940)

· It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window.
· She gave me a smile I could feel in my hip pocket.
· The coffee shop smell was strong enough to build a garage on.

from The High Window (1942)

· She had eyes like strange sins.
· Until you guys own your own souls you don’t own mine.
· I looked back at Breeze. He was about as excited as a hole in the wall.

from The Lady in the Lake (1943)

· I’m all done with hating you. It’s all washed out of me. I hate people hard, but I don’t hate them very long.
· She looked playful and eager, but not quite sure of herself, like a new kitten in a house where they don’t care much about kittens.
· “I don’t like your manner,” Kingsley said in a voice you could have crack a Brazil nut on.

from The Little Sister (1949)

· She smelled the way the Taj Mahal looks by moonlight.
· Leave us do the thinking, sweetheart. It takes equipment.
· California, the department-store state. The most of everything and the best of nothing.

from The Long Goodbye (1953)

· The French have a phrase for it. The bastards have a phrase for everything and they are always right. To say goodbye is to die a little.
· The girl gave him a look which ought to have stuck at least four inches out of his back.
· I belonged in Idle Valley like a pearl onion on a banana split.

Playback (1959)

· I’m not a young man. I’m old, tired and full of no coffee.
· Guns never settle anything, I said. They are just a fast curtain to a bad second act.
· Don’t kid yourself. You’re a dirty low-down detective. Kiss me.

Cover reveal: Erika Robuck’s new novel, Sisters of Night and Fog.

July 23, 2021, 10:25am

In March 2022, Erika Robuck, bestselling historical fiction author, will publish Sisters of Night and Fog, a novel based on the true story of an American socialite and a British secret. The publisher, Berkley, describes it like this:

Set across the European theater of WWII, Sisters of Night and Fog tells the story of two women whose clandestine deeds come to a staggering halt when they are brought together at Ravensbrück concentration camp. A striking reminder of how deeply we are all connected, which forces us to ask, “Could I have done what they did?”

We’re excited to share the cover:

sister of night and fog

The cover is designed by Emily Osborne. She says, “When I read a manuscript, ideas for the cover usually pop into my head and I work to make them a reality. At first we didn’t have a clear vision—but there was a definite mood. So, I did what I usually do in those situations, particularly with historical novels: I dove into research! I was inspired by the two characters stories overlapping, and growing closer and closer to colliding—almost like the two faces on a playing card, not realizing they are connected. Inspired by the words in the title itself (how could I not be), 1940’s noir thrillers, WWII photographs of Paris, the mood of heels clicking on a foggy cobblestone street—I ran with the idea of these incredible women’s lives overlapping in that world, and compiled far too many stock images of women in hats and foggy streets, until I found the ideal ones to create this composite with (both by the same photographer!). I opted to keep the type simple and the focus on the energy between the two women—which is perfectly ambiguous—playing it cool while watching their backs in occupied 1940s Paris.”

For her part, Robuck writes: “I gasped when I saw the cover. In spite of the ruin of war, the real women protagonists featured in the novel lived bold, courageous, lives in full color, and the designer managed to capture their essence with cinematic brilliance.”

Sisters of Night and Fog will be available in March 2022.

Do yourself a favor and listen to Robin Sloan read Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

July 23, 2021, 10:00am

Robin Sloan, author of the delightful novels Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore and Sourdough has made something of a tradition out of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, that 14th century chivalric banger that’s been popping up in your feed because of the film adaptation coming out later this month. For the past few years, Sloan has presented a live reading of the book around Christmas—it’s a Christmastime story, if you don’t know—but this year, given the arrival of said adaptation, Sloan has announced that he’s moving up the action to the summertime. Tomorrow, to be precise.

“I will confess to feeling a bit ‘protective’ of the source material, which is totally absurd, given that I only encountered this story because it is beloved and ubiquitous,” Sloan writes. “Nevertheless! I am looking forward to seeing the new movie with the poem’s weird language shimmering in my mind; in fact, I think this will be the coolest possible way to see it; and, I want to make it possible for more people.”

If you want to read along, Sloan recommends Simon Armitage’s translation, but says that “as any Gawain fan knows, a huge part of the fun is the rollicking rhythm of the poem’s alliteration voiced aloud: the non-stop tongue-twister-ness of it.” As a huge fan of the original text, I totally agree—you’re going to want to hear this.

Do so tomorrow starting at 1PM ET on Sloan’s YouTube channel. And like every good magic trick, you’ll have to catch it live—it won’t be recorded.