Happy birthday to us! Five years for the Book Haven!


We celebrate and sing ourselves! The precisebirthday cake anniversary was earlier this year, but we’ve just gotten round to thinking about it – so it’s a little more than five years actually. And it took us weeks and weeks to bake this cake. (Or maybe we should have baked one of Emily Dickinson‘s cakes – we wrote about that here.) Since the last weekend also coincided with the less public birthday of Humble Moi, we thought we would combine the occasions and make a sort of splash of it.

So let us take a moment to thank our readers, and do a bit of a victory lap for a few of our more successful posts over the years.

Most recently, our interview with Philip Roth here was widely picked up, leading to an article about Roth, the Book Haven, and Humble Moi in the pages of The Guardian here and in the Los Angeles Times here. French speakers might want to read Le Monde‘s republication here, Italian speakers in La Repubblica here, and an excerpted version of the interview also appeared in Germany’s Die Welt here.

It wasn’t our first time in Le Monde. When we wrote about Anaïs Saint-Jude‘s research on the communications revolution in the 17th century – which bore more than a passing resemblance to our own times – Le Monde spotlighted the piece, and we wrote about it here.  It even got a mention in the New Yorker here.

Andrew Sullivan has been a Book Haven friend, mentioning us here and here and here. And we made several appearances in The Atlantic Wire here (on the troubling case of Cat Stevens) and here. We even made the top ten in Publisher’s Weekly here.


Krasznahorkai made a splash here – and we covered it.

When we heard that a new edition of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn was being published without the “n” word – we were quick on the story here. It went around the world, getting a big spread in the New York Times, and just about every other American paper before the story went international. We wrote about it here and here and here and here and here and here and here. The Chronicle of Higher Education credited the Book Haven with starting the conflagration here.

When the Washington Post invited readers to make funny comments about poet Donald Hall, receiving a National Medal of Arts from President Obama, we were quick to respond here. Others joined us – including Sarah Palin in a tweet (we’ve always suspected she has a staff to do this, but still, it was under her name). Eventually WaPo responded – we discuss the brouhaha here.

His alma mater, Vilnius University (Photo: C.L. Haven)

You were in Vilnius with us!

College Education Online named us as a top lit blog. We sponsored a Cahiers Series giveaway with the American University in Paris here. We posted the first-ever English language video interview with Michel Serres here. My minute on Moscow television – the video is here – when, through our Lithuanian connections, a splendid Joseph Brodsky archive came to Stanford Libraries – we wrote about it here and here, and also mentioned it again when we wrote about it for Russia’s Zvezda and Poland’s Zeszytie Literackiehere and here.  We brought the Book Haven with us on trips to Poland, Lithuania, England, and France (ohhhh… here, here, here, here, and here, among other places). Our photo of the Kultura office in Maisons-Laffitte made it all the way to Italy in a permanent exhibition – read about it here. We became something of a Victor Hugo expert with our post “Enjoy Les Misérables. But get the history straight” (here). The post got nearly a hundred comments – a record – and led us into being a guest speaker and informal consultant when Les Miz came to Stanford (here).

There’s more, lots more, including our Orwell Watch series of injuries to the English language (you’ll have to search, I’m afraid, too many to list), our series of interviews with PBS filmmaker Mary Skinner about Holocaust heroine Irena Sendler (here and here and here and here), and sad farewells for wonderful friends who have died, such as Dostoevsky maestro Joseph Frank, poet and translator Daniel Weissbort, Polish scholar and author Krzysztof Michalski, Polish journalist Marek Skwarnicki, poets Regina Derieva and Natalya Gorbanevskaya, and, alas, more. We covered Jean-Pierre Dupuy‘s recent panel on nuclear deterrence here, the talk by Estonian President Tomas Hendrik Illves, László Krasznahorkai and  Colm Tóibín speaking in London, and so many others. Tired yet?  We are. We’re winding up.


A recent hit in the Book Haven.

According to the bit.ly links, our top-hitting posts were:  “Philip Roth: ‘The novelist’s obsession is with language,’” “Joseph Brodsky’s reading list ‘to have a basic conversation’ – plus the shorter one he gave to me,” “Baltic masterpiece in English at last, in a PEN-awarded translation,” “John Hennessy likes big, fat books,” and “Terry Castle: “Austen’s characters know nothing of date rape, unwanted pregnancies, hip-hop bitches.” Runners-up included Enjoy Les Misérables. But get the history straight”Martin Amis: “It’s the deaths of others that kill you in the end,” Talented artist goes into hiding: Molly Norris & “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day,” “László Krasznahorkai to Colm Tóibín: “I was absolutely not a normal child.” “Naimark on the Ukraine crisis: ‘It’s scary. Things could get a lot worse.’  The surprise was that our discussion of Paweł Pawlikowski’Ida few weeks ago was among the runners-up. Who knew?

There! That wasn’t so hard, was it? Why did it take us so long? Oh yes … the cake … let me go turn off the oven.

7 Responses to “Happy birthday to us! Five years for the Book Haven!”

  1. Elena Danielson Says:

    The Book Haven is simply a joy to read! Congratulations on all the notice you gotten over the past five years…you sound a bit surprised… I’m not surprised at all!

  2. Sally Black Says:

    Congratulations, Cynthia! It sounds like you have found your niche to help others and be rewarded yourself.

  3. Cynthia Haven Says:

    Thanks, Sally!

  4. Cynthia Haven Says:

    Thanks, Elena! You’ve been one of the Book Haven’s most stalwart allies over the years.

  5. Diana Senechal Says:

    Happy birthday to the Book Haven! My “new year’s resolution” is to visit more often, since I know of no blog that rewards its visitors more richly. It is thanks to you that I read William Maxwell’s So Long, See You Tomorrow–and there is much more here that I have learned and enjoyed.

    Thank you again for your wonderful review of my students’ philosophy journal, CONTRARIWISE. We had a delightful celebration in May and are now getting ready to work on the second issue, which will feature an international contest.

    Thank you for the recent posts on Melville; I wish I could fly in to Stanford to see the Moby Dick production! Unfortunately that would be a bit too expensive for me right now. I just returned from Dallas, where one of my duties was to give a lecture on Moby Dick. When giving the lecture its final touches at 4 a.m., I felt unusually attuned to Ahab; something about the dim light and the tinkering reminded me of him bent over his charts, “with slow but steady pencil” tracing “additional courses over spaces that before were blank,” as the pewter lamp rocked. But such comparisons work best within limits, which in this case are tight. Ahab cannot be brought down to the everyday or sane. The “bit of Ahab in all of us” is also the “vastness of non-Ahab.”

    Congratulations on all of your accomplishments with the blog and beyond. I look forward to reading it regularly and irregularly.

  6. Cynthia Haven Says:

    Thanks, Diana! And it’s gratifying to have such wonderful readers around the country and around the world!

    Say, that talk on Moby Dick sounds pretty interesting. Send us a copy?


  7. Diana Senechal Says:

    Thank you, Cynthia! I will gladly send you a copy after I touch it up slightly.