Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Editorial Adventures of Pasternak's Masterpiece 

edited by Paolo Mancosu

A lucky find at Moe's leads Berkeley professor Paolo Mancosu on an exciting adventure in censorship and freedom in the time of the cold war. 

   I do not exaggerate when I say that Moe's has been a key element of my Berkeley experience since the time I moved here in 1995. I cannot think of another used bookstore anywhere in the world, and I have visited many of them, that compares in quality to Moe's. In addition to being a "trading zone" –namely a place where people with different languages, products and expectations interact and exchange goods and ideas – a constant renewal of the stock and fair prices keep bringing me back as a faithful customer. Of the many books I bought at Moe's, the chance encounter with one of them in particular can truly be described as a case of "serendipity". 

   About three years ago I began studying Russian again, a language I had studied in the late 1980s and early 1990s but which I had not continued to practice on account of more pressing commitments. As I often do when I start a  new project, I began buying some books in the area and this is how I stumbled, in November 2011, on a copy of Doctor Zhivago in Russian for sale at Moe's. I paid $20 for it without knowing exactly what I was buying. Once at home, I decided to check on line booksellers  just to get some information about the edition and its value on the market. I thus discovered that I had bought the first official edition of the Russian text published by the University of Michigan Press. I was stunned when I saw that some booksellers were selling it for $5000. Intrigued by the history of the book, I discovered that the first worldwide edition had come out in Italian in 1957 for the publisher Feltrinelli. It was through an agreement with Feltrinelli, who owned the copyright for Doctor Zhivago, that the University of Michigan press had published the Russian text in early 1959 (the copy I had bought!). I thus began reading more about the publication history of Doctor Zhivago and the more I read the more I wanted to know. I was puzzled by a few aspects of the publishing history and my research became more serious, eventually leading me to work in American, European, and Russian archives. 

   In the course of this research, I was also given access, for the first time, to the Feltrinelli archives in Milan, which were invaluable for reconstructing what is certainly the most complex literary-political case of the twentieth century.  The publication history of Doctor Zhivago features Pasternak, Feltrinelli (one of the richest men in Italy at the time and a member of the Italian Communist Party), the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, The Italian Communist Party, the KGB, the CIA, and countless other characters. All of this, and much more, is recounted in detail in my book "Inside the Zhivago Storm. The editorial adventures of Pasternak's masterpiece" (Feltrinelli, Milan, 2013), which is the outcome of that serendipitous encounter with the Russian Zhivago at Moe's. The reader of this blog, who is curious to see what the book contains, can access the the table of contents, the preface and parts of Chapter 1 here:
More information and other press materials can be accessed from the following site:

   I offer the above comments as an expression of gratitude for Moe's unique and irreplaceable role in our community.

Paolo Mancosu

Doctor Zhivago, the masterpiece that won Boris Pasternak the Nobel Prize in 
1958, had its first worldwide edition in 1957 in Italian. The events surrounding its publication, whose protagonists were Boris Pasternak and the publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, undoubdtedly count as one of the most fascinating stories of the twentieth century. It is a story that saw the involvement of governments, political parties, secret services, and publishers.

In Inside the Zhivago Storm. The Editorial Adventures of Pasternak’s Masterpiece, Paolo Mancosu, Professor of Philosophy at the University of California at Berkeley, provides a riveting account of the story of the first publication of Doctor Zhivago and of the subsequent Russian editions in the West.

Exploiting with scholarly and philological rigor the untapped resources of the Feltrinelli archives in Milan as well as several other private and public archives in Europe, Russia, and the USA, Mancosu reconstructs the relationship between Pasternak and Feltrinelli, the story of the Italian publication, and the pressure exercised on Feltrinelli by the Soviets and the Italian Communist Party to stop publication of the novel in Italy and in other countries. Situating the story in the historical context of the Cold War, Mancosu describes the hidden roles of the KGB and the CIA in the vicissitudes of the publication of the novel both in Italian and in the original Russian language. The full correspondence between Boris Pasternak and Giangiacomo Feltrinelli (spanning from 1956 to 1960) is also published here for the first time in the original and in English translation.

Doctor Zhivago is a classic of world literature and the story of its publication, as it is recounted in this book, is the story of the courage and of the intellectual freedom of  a great writer and of a great publisher.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Inaugural RC Race at Moe's Books!

  Boss Robot Hobby invites you to race electric cars at Moe's Books Sunday August 25th, 2013.

  This Sunday Moe's Books will host the first-ever remote-control car race on Telegraph Avenue. This free event, sponsored by Boss Robot Hobby and Kids In Motion, will run from 1 until 4pm in the "People Zone" in front of Moe's Books at 2476 Telegraph Ave. All are welcome. Racers must be under 13 to participate.

  If we bring remote-controlled cars to Moe's Books, will worlds collide? Race to Telegraph and bring the kids for this inaugural event to find out! We proudly welcome local super cool guys, Boss Robot Hobby and Kids In Motion, who will bring their deep passion for remote-controlled cars to the Ave.

  Johnny Williams, the owner of Berkeley’s only remote-control specialty shop, will be with us to answer any technical questions and make sure that there are enough batteries for everyone. Visit Boss Robot Hobby at 2953 College Ave if you’d like to look into robots or helicopters. Johnny is celebrating his 10th year selling servos  and getting kids into building their own toys. He has been involved with the Maker Faire, the Exploratorium, Cal Robotics Department, and many friends who are passionate about racing.

  Troy Thompson, an avid RC Car Enthusiast, knows how much kids love to play.  He is the leader of Kids In Motion, the beloved after-school program at John Muir Elementary School which provides children with a supervised environment where they can have fun and run around. Of course they offer help with homework, but other activities include soccer, kickball, capture-the-flag, arts & crafts, cooking, board games, riding bicycles & scooters, playground time, and exploring the creek. Summer activities also include swimming once a week, off-site bike rides, and field trips. On special days Troy brings out his RC cars and lets the kids jump, bash, and race them. It is lucky for them that he enjoys rebuilding them!

  Right now is the right time to try it out. This free event is open to everyone who would like to watch. If you’d like to race on our track you will have to be under 13 years of age.

Cheers, Doris

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Vegetable Season: Books for all tastes

Spring running to summer, and the cookbooks keep arriving. Many of the season’s books focus on vegetables – there’s plenty to do with items home grown or picked up at farmer’s markets.

Let’s start with Enrico Alliata’s The Duke’s Table (Melville House) and Elizabeth Andoh’s Kansha (10 Speed Press). The Duke’s Table was first published in Italy in 1930. Alliata, the Duke of Salaparuta, reimagined classic Italian dishes without the use of meat since he believed that a vegetarian diet would extend human longevity. Duke Enrico’s recipes have a casualness about them – ingredients are indicated, but measures are often left vague. These are charming, simple dishes designed for the home cook. As the introduction notes “Alchemy and ingenuity hover over every recipe.” 

Eighty-five years later, and from the other side of the world, we have Kansha. Elizabeth Andoh describes in deep and fascinating detail Japan’s vegan and vegetarian traditions. The very existence of this vegan/vegetarian cuisine may come as a surprise to western readers. The book describes an incredibly wide array of recipes and techniques from traditional Japanese cookery that does not involve meat or fish. Andoh describes the vegan kitchen as “a playful place where culinary tromp l’oeil transforms vegetable matter.” Bordering on the encyclopedic, Kansha offers interesting side notes on Japanese culture. Read, for instance, the description of rectangular vs. triangular tofu cutting and you are suddenly in the world of Shinto animal spirits, with fox ears represented by triangle cuts of tofu involving the fox’s mythological role as protector of rice fields. Read also of Hijiki – a sea vegetable banned in Britain because of its high concentration of arsenic in the water used to rehydrate it. The book is beautifully produced, heavily illustrated, and very strong on the idea of thrifty cooking – where nearly every part of the vegetable is put to use, with little waste, and little heading into the compost bin.

Also from 10 Speed Press, and also something of a magnum opus, is Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Literacy. Where to begin? This ample book – 400 pages – is a beauty to behold. It is divided into 12 chapters, each dealing with a separate vegetable “family” and offers some 300 recipes. Just the groupings of vegetables by family is an education. The carrot family includes carrots, celery, fennel, parsnips, cilantro, dill and parsley, among others. Oakland’s Camino restaurant hosted a special dinner last month to celebrate the publication of Vegetable Literacy. Several recipes from the book were prepared – all delicious. Here’s one recipe we look forward to cooking at home:

A fine dice of Chioggia beets and red endive with Meyer lemon and shallot vinaigrette 
1 Meyer lemon
1 Shallot
Dijon mustard
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb Chioggia beets
2 teaspoons finely chopped tarragon and parsley
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
3 red endive chicons
For the vinaigrette: Put one shallot, finely diced, grated zest of a Meyer lemon, 1-1/2 tablespoons of Meyer lemon juice, and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt in a bowl. Let it stand for 10 minutes, and then whisk in 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard and 5 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil.
Steam the beets. When cool, either slip off the skins with your hands or peel them neatly with a knife. Slice the beets into 1/4-inch rounds, then into 1/4-inch strips, and finally crosswise into 1/4-inch dice. A little larger is fine, too. Put the diced beets into a bowl. Toss with most of the vinaigrette  and the tarragon. Taste for salt, season with pepper, and refrigerate until serving.
Separate the endive leaves at the base, leaving each leaf whole. Toss them with the remaining vinaigrette, then arrange the leaves loosely on individual plates. Pile the beets in and among the leaves and serve.

For spring and summer reading, cooking and eating – it doesn’t get any better than this.

-- Stan Sobolewski

Thursday, April 4, 2013

From a Eulogy for Audrey Goodfriend delivered March 31, 2013 at the Hillside Club in Berkeley, California.

Hello. I am Doris Moskowitz, the youngest daughter of Moe and Barb Moskowitz and the owner of Moe’s Books. I was born In 1966, long after Walden School and Moe’s Books had begun, but even I can see how important Audrey Goodfriend was.

For those of you who may not know, Moe’s Books is the huge, terrifically independent bookstore on Telegraph doing business in Berkeley since 1959. Audrey worked as bookkeeper for Moe’s for somewhere around 30 years.

Let me make one thing clear and there is no mistaking this, Moe’s Books would not exist without Audrey.

Although she was in no way a bookseller, being much too interested in what was in the books, and a hoarder, with huge piles of interesting tomes on her desk, in the way and gathering dust, she played an intrinsic part in our survival.

Not only was she honest and fair with strong morals and an unwavering work ethic and very good with numbers, she could work with people. By people, I mean not only the truly unruly staff at Moe’s Books, some of whom have been with us since the beginning of time and have refused to change even though she berated and corrected them with red pens and lectures full of condemnation about foolish and lazy mistakes. And I include Moe himself in this group. And me.

By people, I also mean my parents. These strong, virtually impossible people, where her friends.

Although they raised a family and gave birth to the wonderful cultural icon that entertains so many and employed Audrey for so many years, they did not get along. When they separated in 1978, having just begun the construction on what we call our “new” building, Audrey was there. 

When they fought over money for the store, she was there.
When they fought over their children, she was there. 
When they fought about Moe’s Books, which they inevitably did over and over agin, she was there.

Growing up around her, her office was in our home on Lewiston here in Berkeley, I  always knew how important she was. Everything went through her.

Audrey’s desk.
Audrey’s office.
Audrey’s acting.
Audrey’s politics.
Audrey’s lunch... Cottage cheese, bell peppers, maybe an apple. Always watching her weight. I played at her desk, with the adding machine, the papers and pens, the pencil sharpener. These were my toys when she went home.

Later on, when she had a proper office on Telegraph, she continued to come to my mom’s house regularly to take care of all the things that only she could handle. As a student of music, I would often arrive there to practice on the piano that lived in her office. She always insisted that I play and sing for her while she worked. I am so grateful to be one of the many creative spirits that she encouraged with love and wonder. I know this means a lot to all of us.

When she retired from Moe’s 12 years ago, I found more than 50 pens in the back of her drawer that she was saving for something. They had been saved so long they’d given up their ink. She saved everything. By making and maintaining friendships with both Barb and Moe Moskowitz, she saved Moe’s Books. For us. 

Can any business survive if the partners divorce? Not many. Audrey made it possible for Barb, as mostly silent partner for so many years, to know everything about the store and to be able to keep the money and insurance and all the grown up stuff together because Audrey was the go-between for her and Moe. 

Of course she was always straight with both Moe and Barb and willing to wade through difficult financial times of which Moe’s Books has had many. They both saw her perspective on the business as fundamentally too focused on the details or what they called “the trees.” 

Although this is how a good bookkeeper needs to be, Moe’s Books also needed Moe, a fearless big picture guy with a lot of panache. He saw the forrest, she saw the trees. He often dismissed her fears and warnings and did whatever he thought was right which usually grew the business. They balanced each other.

They had been friends in their early 20’s in New York City. Audrey was one of the friends that Moe had in California that brought him out west in the 50’s in the first place. Actually, my parents met at a party at Audrey’s house. Barb, who she knew because they had started Walden School together, was on a blind date with someone else, but she found Moe charming and he could be.

So actually, not only would Moe’s Books not have survived without Audrey, but I would not exist.

She loved me from the beginning. She loved all my mother’s children. Roger, Ali, Katy, and all the children at Walden. And everyone at Moe’s. She loved us all from the beginning and never stopped listening and caring and growing. She loved my son, my husband and even our ugly little dog. I really can not express the loss I feel. My good friend is gone. Who will hold up the world?

When she told me she would be retiring from Moe’s around her 80th birthday, I was surprised. I thought she would be with us always. Since then we have modernized and tidied but we have not become more efficient or better organized. We have not saved more money or made better choices. She kept everything on actual ledgers in an actual file which I actually return to to find actual information that she has saved for me. 

She handled everything for us from her office on the 4th floor with her view of the Golden Gate Bridge. It will always be Audrey’s Office to me.

Thank You, Doris 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Cedar Sigo

Cedar Sigo reads tomorrow night (Tuesday, March 19th, 7:30).
Go to moesbooks.com for more information.

After Self Help
                  for Simon Evans

All my rooms are alien
Towers of books tilt & crumble
                                                 at the least extended breath
A matinee beyond recall
Brown birds pale breasted darting through
Too Late-Hello-Later
Kiss the lights and they change
                                                 out over The Stardust
Cities are huge machines for sorting poets
Starting down the cellophane enfolded hills
Even cast off lines have their own pull and rhyme
Man at leisure ripped out of my mind
Lonesome after mine own kind
Hot black-soft white- warm reds
Mine a thinking mans cartoon western
Mine the one enters the stories
Mine the evergreen tears brushed with coral
The boat in the box is mine and mine the full sky

Friday, March 8, 2013

Books for the Golden Age of Mixology

Matching the renewed interest in classic and artisanal cocktails at the bar, there are a number of interesting books on the subject as well. The rediscovery of classic drinks from the early 20th century, and the explosion of interest in developing new and ever more complex cocktails puts us in a golden age of mixology.

Mitte Hellmich’s Ultimate Bar Book (Chronicle Books) is a handy guide to over 1,000 drinks. It defines the anatomy of the cocktail as having three principal components: the base, the body and the perfume. The base is the alcohol in the drink, the body modifies the main flavor, be it juice, vermouth, champagne, etc. The perfume can be a syrup or bitter or liqueur that completes the balance between base and body.

My standout favorite bartending book is Ted Haigh’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails (Quarry). Now in its second printing, this book presents 100 classic cocktails, thoughtfully illustrated with photos of many now extinct cocktail ingredients, bottles of a bygone age. My own copy of this book is getting annotated (in an unsteady hand!) over time — with personal adjustments to these excellent recipes. (In our household we tend to make drinks less sweet and use more bitters than called for.)

Two books from the first classic age of cocktails deserve mention: The Savoy Cocktail Book (Pavilion) collects and updates drinks from London’s American Bar at the Savoy. It includes the idea that the best way to enjoy a cocktail is “quickly, while it is still laughing at you.”

Jerry Thomas’s How to Mix Drinks (Hesperus) is now back in print and includes a wealth of obscure knowledge, including how to properly serve absinthe.

Two other books worthy of the bar shelf are William Grimes’ Straight Up or On the Rocks (Macmillan) which offers a history of the American cocktail as well as a tightly edited set of cocktail recipes. I think Grimes, a New York Times writer, offers the best for a number of classic drinks. The Old Fashioned and the Sazerac are excellent.

David Wondrich’s Imbibe! (Perigee) is a tribute to Jerry Thomas, whose How to Mix Drinks from 1862 is the first bartending book. Wondrich’s book offers some fine drink recipes, including the three “improved” cocktails which are quite delicious. Wondrich’s other book Punch (Perigee) is a fine (and funny) intro into large-scale drink making.

For martini fans, there is a new edition of Shaken, not stirred (Morrow) by Anistatia R. Miller and Jared M. Brown. It offers a dizzying 217 martini drinks. The online site for the Guardian UK has a great video on “How to make the perfect martini”. Check it out!

Let’s round this out with two final books, a barware suggestion, and a cocktail recipe. The two books, Bitters (10 Speed) by Brad Thomas Parsons is, in David Chang’s words, “a must have for all booze nerds”. Making your own bitters is great fun, and aligns nicely with all the preserving and pickling that modern cooks pursue. The newest arrival is Amy Stewart’s The Drunken Botanist (Algonquin). This book focuses on the plant sources from which all alcohol derives. Steward brings scientific taxonomy to the table—listing in exhaustive (and entertaining) detail a dizzying array of herbs, flowers, trees—even fungi that contribute to one of mankind’s oldest sources of pleasure.

Speaking of pleasure—another fun part of the cocktail building trade is the need for simple, but specialized barware—from glasses to shakers, strainers and stirrers. Downtown Oakland’s Umami Mart (815 Broadway) offers a wide range of Japanese barware—they even have ice trays that make ice in the shape of a sphere.

Finally, my favorite cocktail, taken from a New York Times article that I can’t locate: The Negroni. This is a version dark and bitter and delicious.

1 ¾ oz. Hendricks Gin
1 oz. Campari
¾ oz. Punt e Mes

Shake with ice, strain into a chilled glass, orange peel garnish.


-- Stan Sobolewski

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Vincent Katz

Vincent Katz will read with Cedar Sigo Tuesday March 19th at 7:30 in the Moe's Basement. More information at moesbooks.com.

             Journal De La Nuit


humbled by rain
shuttled between
suburb and cobble
a day's unfair
lightness walked
towards cathedrals
shops, feet
soaked to the core
under skies
of Paris, beauty
hesitates, allows
one pass
excess from umbrella's
"ballet" mineral
water rockstar
memory emotion
validate once
why they like it
telephone call
Louise fĂȘted
band jump
boy couples
dancer meet
Cafe Beaubourg
bad seed joke
world's banalities
museum closed
10 pm, feu
rouge cloud
clear lit
in her bath
above lawn
in park


Journal De La Nuit - 26.vi.97 Paris

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Three Savory Cookbooks

Canal House Cooks every day, by Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton

A late arrival in 2012, Canal House Cooks every daycollects many pieces from the annual series of three seasonal books that appear from Canal House, “home cooking by home cooks for home cooks.” I have the good fortune to be surrounded by cooks and great food. I don’t cook, but this book makes me want to try. I think I’ll hard-boil an egg to start (see page 70).  If you decide to do this, I am almost sure you’ll be lured further into this book, from variations on said egg to the delights awaiting you with summer peaches and berries, or wintery lasagna Bolognese.

Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton are the creators of the Canal House food website and a series of seasonal cookbooks for the home cook. They both worked at Saveur magazine in various capacities and do everything at Canal House — cooking, writing, photography and design. The book is arranged seasonally from spring through winter — these are east coast winters with food kept frozen in the snow.

The Kimchi Cookbook, by Lauryn Chun

Two books on preserving have caught our attention around the house. Lauryn Chun’s The Kimchi Cookbook from 10 Speed Press presents 60 traditional and modern ways to make and eat kimchi. Chun, the founder of Mother-in-Law’s Kimchi, offers a wide range of pickling techniques, both in terms of intensity of flavor and the amount of time needed for different kimchis — ranging from long fermented winter cabbages to ready-to-eat kimchi. The cooking with kimchi section pairs all manner of items with the pickle — noodles, dumplings, squash, oysters, chicken, skirtsteak all make appearances. Flounder with brown butter, capers and kimchi — I’m ready.

salt sugar smoke, by Diana Henry

Diana Henry’s new book is titled salt sugar smoke. The lower case letters and simple words of the title convey something of this book’s values (and value). If cooking evolves over time, I think that our era is all about a move toward the simple, the primal, the direct. Now that many of us are shopping at the farmers markets and growing food in our own gardens — and moving away from (heaven help us) the frozen/canned food of a few generations past — the issue of preserving arises fairly quickly. To get seasonal flavor off season, to deal with too much of any produce at hand, to concentrate flavors—all are good reasons to learn preserving, and Henry’s book is an excellent guide.
I’m back. I went to look at something in salt sugar smoke and an hour has passed — so many delicious things! From jams and quince paste, black currant vinegar, spiced feta in olive oil, hot smoked mackerel, rhubarb schnapps! I cannot say more.

Stan Sobolewski