Thursday, November 29, 2007

Holiday Podcasts

I've recorded some conversations with staff members about their favorite books, gifts, and games for the Holidays. Check them out here.

Dog of the Week

Dog of the Week returns in a big, big way with a big, BIG dog!

This is Morgan. He's a Great Dane. And a very nice boy. Notice how he was kind enough to pose for me.

Here's an idea: in honor of Morgan's impressive size and kind demeanor, let's all spend the upcoming months reading some books of imposing size and well-deserved reputations. I'm talking about books like the new translation of War and Peace or Moby-Dick.

We haven't nailed down a date quite yet, but sometime in early February, University Book Store will be holding a Proust night. That means now's a great time to start reading In Search of Lost Time. I'll be picking up Swann'a Way after I finish the book I'm reading now.

(It's Millard Kaufman's Bowl of Cherries, by the way. Quite good.)

So, let's go. Let's read some big, BIG books. Let's do it for Morgan!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

William Blake

Don't forget that tomorrow we celebrate the life and work of William Blake at 7pm. Come out for readings, a slide show, and Heaven and Hell cupcakes!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Dog of the Week

Sorry. A day late with Dog of the Week. Busy with, you know, Campus Thank You Night and all. (A smashing success, by the way.)

The little one above is Hershey. Good gravy, that's a cute dog!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Celebrating Nigella Express

Hundreds of people turned out to help celebrate the release of Nigella Express, the newest cookbook from British Food Network star Nigella Lawson.

We ate, we drank, we were merry. We listened to Rosemary Clooney.

Nigella signed books for all before jet-setting to her next tour stop.

Brian Bouldrey tonight

Our used book buyer Brad asked me to remind you to join us for a reading by Brian Bouldrey, author of Honorable Bandit this evening. It will be at the cafe, fireside.

Brad's interview with Brian is here.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Goodbye Mailer

Norman Mailer, you no doubt have heard, has died.

From that obit, here's a quote from the opposite side of the Mailer coin, Gore Vidal:

“Mailer is forever shouting at us that he is about to tell us something we must know or has just told us something revelatory and we failed to hear him or that he will, God grant his poor abused brain and body just one more chance, get through to us so that we will know. Each time he speaks he must become more bold, more loud, put on brighter motley and shake more foolish bells. Yet of all my contemporaries I retain the greatest affection for Norman as a force and as an artist. He is a man whose faults, though many, add to rather than subtract from the sum of his natural achievements.”

Here's a moment with Charlie Rose.

Friday, November 09, 2007

More William Blake

Here's another William Blake reading to prepare you for our William Blake birthday celebration on Wednesday, November 28, 7pm, at our U District store.

Dog of the Week

If you attended our recent Cesar Millan event, you no doubt recognize the pup above. That's Georgie. He's one of the many, many (far too many) adoptable dogs you can find at PAWS.

(They have cats, too, by the way.)

Got plenty of room in your life? Lots of attention and love to give? Are you into long walks? Off-leash dog parks? Asking people to sit in a gentle but firm way? PAWS can help.


Here's a note from someone at PAWS:

"As of November 9th, Georgie is still eagerly awaiting his forever home at PAWS in Lynnwood. Stop by to meet him and all the other awesome animals. For directions, go to:"

You heard it here. Georgie is waiting. Seriously, look at him. Are you made of stone? Adopt this boy. I'm going to keep bringing him up until you do.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

William Blake's birthday is coming!

And we're having a little Blake celebration Wednesday, November 28 @ 7pm in our U District store. We'll have some Blake readings and discussions. It will be a fine time. Join us, why don't you.


It's, of course, Blake's 250th birthday, not his 150th, as the video stated. So, Booker is fixing the video.

(Owl's are poor at math.)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

A President at the Book Store

That's Brent, UW Class of 2001. He appears—in photographic form—on this blog for a very special reason. He was first in line at our recent Bill Clinton book signing. And in order to be first, he spent 12 1/2 hours in line.

I asked him if he would mind sending this blog a little recap of his day, and he delivered this wonderful report:

“Bill Clinton will be at the University Book Store signing copies of his latest book, Giving, November 1st…” The quick three-sentence blurb in the Seattle P.I. sparked my interest immediately. “Oh, my mom’s going to want to know about this,” I thought to myself. I phoned her right away with the news. Big fans of the former President, my parents celebrated his landslide in 1992 with champagne. My mother in particular loves Clinton’s sincere demeanor and wit. She’s always been disappointed to miss past opportunities to meet the President. Unfortunately, this time around would not be any different for her. Much of her time these days goes towards her brother’s cancer care. Her commitment to my uncle wouldn’t allow a day off, but my schedule did. I figured that my mom was owed a signed copy of Clinton’s latest book, so with stockpiled vacation time banked at work, and no money to spend on a vacation, I put in for November 1st right away and got my rear down to the U Book Store to purchase my book voucher.

I have never lined up for a book signing before, but have seen them happen at the U Book Store in the past. Spending four years at the UW, you see all sorts of academics, fiction writers, and random celebrities come through the store. During my freshman year, shock rocker Marilyn Manson brought an interesting crowd. I remember the line going South on University Way and taking a left on 43rd, so for this signing, I figured I would start there. I absolutely wasn’t going to be denied a book (“Sorry, folks! The President only has a limited amount of time tonight!”), so I planned to arrive sometime before 9:00 AM, before the store opens.

I packed all one would need for a day in out in the cold. I had on long underwear, a folding chair, waterproof blanket, multiple sandwiches, snacks, and water. I took off for a quick trip on the bus and arrived at 8:15 AM. No one was at the alley entrance, so I moved on to my plan of lining up on the Ave. Coming up to the doors, I was surprised and amused to find I was the first one there. I kicked open my chair, got out my Seattle P.I., and began the 12 and 1/2 hour wait.

It was the beginning of a day interacting with all different kinds of people. From homeless Russians boisterously supportive of former Communist regimes, to hot-shot TV reporters, the day hardly ever had a dull moment. Every 10 minutes, my weak effort at finishing a book would be interrupted by one of two questions: “Is this the beginning of the line?” and, “How long have you been waiting?” It was fun to answer the first few times, then I began to wonder if the Book Store could put up a sign to keep traffic moving along: THE LINE BEGAN HERE AT 8:15 AM. NO, THIS GUY’S NOT “CRAZY”. PLEASE, DO NOT FEED HIM.

It was terrific to share stories and political ideas (go figure) with newly made friends. The U Book Store had the crowd come inside when it opened and the line never left the building, winding all the way to the back of the gift shop and then downstairs to the text book section. They did an awesome job at keeping the crowd out of the chilly weather. They even provided refreshments of juice and pretzels, just in case someone didn’t come prepared.

The day went by quickly and slowed down to a turtle’s pace at about 7:30 PM. Anticipation was all over the line of about 1,200 people. Items like cell phones, cameras, and such were not allowed upstairs and were surrendered to book-check. Then it was about another 30 minutes until Clinton would arrive. A table was set up with copies of his book stacked everywhere. There was a big chair for him to sit in and a large cup stuffed with at least 50 pens. The press was positioned for the best photos and everyone stared down the hall that President Clinton would eventually come through. His armored GMC Denalis (3 or 4 of them) pulled into the alley behind the store and a rush of applause greeted his entrance into the store. We would catch a glimpse of him as he reached the 2nd floor from the rear staircase, before he would dash into the restroom. I suppose any smart person would take a bathroom break before signing over 1,000 books.

After a quick break, he was back and ready to sign. The President came down the rest of the hall and, instead of taking his seat behind the table, he stood in front of his books, signing with his left hand and greeting each of us with a handshake from his right. This simple gesture meant a lot to me. Here is a former President of the United States going out of his way to personally greet everyone who came to see him. His smile was inviting and his eyes were wrinkled with happiness. He’s usually described as tall, but was about my height at 6’1”. His nose is huge.

I was not the first to get a book signed. There was a group of about a dozen folks with disabilities that were to go first before the main line was to move on. This was a great opportunity to observe and watch people interact with Clinton first hand. It was amazing to see how personal this experience was going to be. With the President out front of his table, there was no intermediary. There sure was a lot that went into coordinating the event, but it was special to see that this is what it was going to come down to; a simple face to face greeting from President Clinton. People pay $1,000 a plate for this kind of experience. I paid around $22 for a book.

I had been playing with the question, “what will I ask President Clinton?” all day in my head. Would I really ask him a question or just tell him thanks for being here? Would I ask him a serious question, the kind the press asks him every day? Or would I ask him something about pop culture that you wouldn’t read about in Time or Esquire? Who is Bill Clinton’s favorite Beatle, anyway? There was one person left in front of me when I figured out what I would say.

The last person in front of me pulled away, and there was President William J. Clinton looking right at me with a big smile (and a big nose). He put out his hand like he was opening the door of his home to family at Thanksgiving. He said to me a comfortable, drawn out “Hiiii.” I replied, “Hi, President Clinton,” as he shook my hand easily, not too firm, not too weak. I then thanked him for his work on federal student loans during his term and let him know that it helped me get through school. His smile stopped for a brief moment, his forehead wrinkled upward about a centimeter and he said as he patted my left shoulder, “We’re working hard to bring that back.” I assumed he was referring to Hillary and himself. “Thank you,” I said back, and swiped one more hand shake from him. I slowly moved on with a satisfied smile on my face, took one more look back at the former President, then was ready to go home.

Waiting for a signature from President Clinton may seem like a waste of time to some, but it was absolutely worth it. I walked away with a priceless experience and my mom gets a wonderful signed first edition. I will enjoy telling my friends and family about my brief experience with the former President. If you get the chance to meet a former President, you should go for it. Like I told KING 5 TV, there’s not many of them left, so you should take the opportunity when you have it.

Monday, November 05, 2007

We hate it when our friends become successful...

So sang Morrissey.

Oh, heck, though. That's not true. We LOVE it when our friends become successful.

If I was reading right now, I'd be reading Our Dumb World, the latest book from The Onion. It's an atlas!

And I wouldn't be reading it simply because it's pretty much guaranteed to be a laugh riot like everything else the Onion folks make. It's because a former coworker worked on the darn thing:

We're awfully proud of you, Brittain! Out there making your way in the big city—just like Marlo Thomas in That Girl!

Brian Bouldrey Interview

Brian Bouldrey is the author of the nonfiction books Honorable Bandit: A Walk Across Corsica (University of Wisconsin Press, September, 2007), Monster: Adventures in American Machismo (Council Oak Books), and The Autobiography Box (Chronicle Books); three novels, The Genius of Desire (Ballantine), Love, the Magician (Harrington Park), and The Boom Economy (University of Wisconsin Press); and editor of several anthologies. He is recipient of Fellowships from Yaddo and Eastern Frontier Society, and the Joseph Henry Jackson Award from the San Francisco Foundation, a Lambda Literary Award, and the Western Regional Magazine Award. He teaches fiction and creative nonfiction writing at Northwestern in Chicago, when he's not traipsing around the world. He will be reading from his new book, Wednesday, November 14, at University Book Store, at our Cafe fireside, at 7PM. Bookseller Brad Craft, an old friend, interviewed him for us.

Brad Craft Why Corsica, of all places?

Brian Bouldrey If you've done any traveling in the past decade, the world
seems overrun, completely colonized, CNN-ified, no mystery there, or there, or
there. But walking takes you into small villages with a dearth of fast food, souvenirs, and sometimes, even, beds. But we're all looking for something authentic, so I, myself, am guilty of overrunning the authenticity. I was walking to Santiago de Compostela in Spain a second time back in 2002, and met a nice Swiss guy who raved about Corsica--an entirely different terrain, an entirely different culture, preserved on an island.

BC You've written before about your experiences "on pilgrimage." Still consider yourself a pilgrim?

BB I think pilgrim has somewhere in it the sense that there's an end place, a
specific, physical goal. As with Santiago, or Rome, or Shinto shrines or Mecca, it seems the thing we lose in this age of flight and speed is the experience of moseying back home after arriving at our goal. So lately, I've found myself either embracing my one-way nature, or removing the goal altogether.

BC Do you read travel books, or "travel narrative," as we call it in the
trade? If so, do you have any favorites?

BB I do read travel narratives, but weird ones. Old ones. I love the stuff that came out of the period between the two World Wars, as described by Paul Fussell in Abroad. The Road to Oxiana, Graham Greene's Journey Without Maps, Norman Douglass' Old Calabria. That doesn't mean I don't read contemporary travel writers, but I'm a little odd in my taste: Redmond O'Hanlan's No Mercy about the Congo River, The Art of Travel by Alane de Botton, This Cold Heaven by Gretel Ehrlich, Bruce Benderson's The Romanian, Rowing to Latitude, Jill Fredstone, those great armchair travel essays by Evan Connell (I suspect Connell doesn't even LIKE to travel, but he sure gets his mind)--those are some of my recent favorites.

BC Noel Coward famously wrote, "why do the wrong people travel, travel, travel..." You've encountered some bad travelers along the way. Are they as amusing on the trail as they are in your book, or do you try to avoid them whenever possible?

BB Oh, I didn't know that Coward line, but it is true, true, true. The terrible thing about getting better at travel is that you get better at avoiding some of the real characters as well as the real...tourists. Tourist are the wrong people--they aren't interested in being away from home. Yoo-hoo!--it's okay not to like traveling. I have many friends who would be perfectly happy sitting in their living rooms for the rest of their lives. But in my ability to spot the tourist, I've often avoided another odd breed, the occasional hilarious grotesque--people who may cause me trouble but are always good for a story later. I love being with a friend and encountering that kind of goof--our eyes lock as the goof goes off, and we're saying telepathically, "Oh boy, here comes a good story now!" Walking also forces you to spend time with people you would try to avoid in other situations. There were these two guys walking in France who were called, for weeks, "Quixote and Sancho Panza" for their body types more than anything. Very late in the trip, I was cornered into a dinner with them--they were both celebrating five years clean from heroin addiction, and had lost all their other friends--they were celebrating being alive, and they had so many good stories to tell--I kept myself from hearing a lot of them by avoiding these guys for so long.

BC In this book, you aren't traveling alone. Can you tell us something more about how the delightful Petra became such a good friend to a "stupid American boy?"

BB In an alternate universe, Petra and I are married and have stupid German-American children. We met on the road to Santiago back in 1996, and she and I have seen each other through breakups, major moves,
and several good hikes. She never panics when we're roughing it. But she loves to play "the girly card" when hiking. "Today," she would capriciously announce, "I will have you boys carry me in a litter. I don't feel like walking." And I would play along and say, "And I will feed you chocolate as the others carry you?" and she replied, "Yes, but also, sometimes, something salty." She had it all figured out. I am happy to report that she is now the mother of a beautiful daughter, Julia Johanna. This, of course, ruins my hiking expeditions, but for now, I'm letting this pass.

BC As a novelist, do you find yourself narrating as you go? Even when you get yourself hopelessly lost, there seems to be part of you "writing" the scene. Is that your experience of the moment, or something that only comes after, when your safe and dry and drinking a beer?

Anybody who has seen my travel journals--and I suspect SOMEBODY here has seen some of my travel journals--knows that there is a suspiciously coherent "through narrative"--complete with dialogue, gesture, all the major senses. I mean, who DOES that in a journal? A fiction writer. I usually write in my journal at the end of the day, "great emotion recollected in tranquility." Then I can transform the day's events into a shape that I can examine for myself, too. I have to say, I'm very grateful for all my journals. I have a pretty good memory, or used to have a good memory, but there are things you forget, and it's such a pleasure to go flipping through an old journal and be reminded of some minor episode. Good food. Sex. Political argument. Trouble with the locals.

BC You've written about some very personal, even painful memories in this book. How hard was it to do that, and how hard was it to use that experience honestly in what is, otherwise, a very light-hearted book? How do you balance those voices?

BB Paul Reidinger, bless his hide, called me "One of our cheeriest bards of sorrow" in the Bay Guardian this month. I like that. So many awful things happen in a lifetime, but so many great things happen, too. It would seem ungrateful to whine about all the bad stuff when there has been no end of hilarity and ridiculous event, too. But I also want people in this entertainment culture of ours to know that living is a serious business, and my m.o. is to present a jolly holiday at first, then pull the rug out from under the reader--if only for a paragraph or two, showing the dark tunnel down which life can go. I hope that by bringing them back to the hilarity creates that balance, just to keep the reader's trust. I'm that friend who will unscrew the cap on the salt shaker and laugh at you when you dump it on your food, and then buy you a whole new plate of food to buck you up.

BC One of the most enchanted moments in the book is when you hear the locals making music. Do you travel for such encounters? Can you?

BB That's the stuff that keeps me going. You can never plan it. You can make educated guesses (that's what travel guides are for), but you can never guess when a faraway place is going to just open up the heavens and rain down beauty. It often happens just when being in a foreign place has ground you down to nothing. You're in southern Spain and you've just ordered what you thought was a sandwich and got lamb intestines instead, you've just pissed off the barkeep by asking for an ice cube in your wine, and you nearly got run over by a crazy taxi, when all of a sudden, you see an old man dancing sevillanas with a 9-year-old girl under an orange tree while two gypsies clap and ululate--it's as if you have to be torn down like a tenement so they can build a spiffy new kingdom of heaven on your lot.

BC How much did you miss your dog, Thurber?

BB It was actually Grace at the time. I sometimes have terrible remorse--that my traveling might have hastened her end. I would be gone for months at a time and while Grace would be with friends and family who loved her, it has been reported to me that (and these are my mother's guilt-ridden words) "every day, she died a little bit." I've started planning walking trips that accommodate my dog. Thurber, who is half pug and half basset (a baguette, if you will), has short legs, so we can keep up with each other. We're going to walk the Appalachian Trail together. I'm having him fitted for a backpack. In a pinch, his juicy haunches will keep me alive if we get snowbound or something.

BC Where are you going next?

BB Oooh, I shouldn't tell. But I'm a little excited. There is a trail that basically circumscribes Northern Ireland. It's not very well known and not well-supported, and reports are that there are parts of the trail that are in complete disrepair. And people still shy away from Belfast and environs because of the "unpleasantness". But they haven't had bombs in a dozen years or more--I'm safer, statistically, there! The terrain looks incredible. And if it doesn't pan out, I'll head back to town and drown my sorrows in Guiness!

BC Thanks Brian. We look forward to you coming to read to us in Seattle.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The 5 Ws

Look for the students in yellow. Find the answers. Know your bookstore.

(And maybe get a chance to win free textbooks.)*

Who? What? When? Where? Why?

These are the five Ws. The question words one uses to learn more about something.

At University Book Store, we’d like you to learn more about us. So we created this promotion, University Book Store—the 5 Ws.

Here’s the game: print out this scorecard, and check over the questions. From November 6 – 8, you’ll find fellow students in yellow ponchos in high traffic areas around campus. Ask them to help you answer the questions.

Students with the answers to questions 1 – 4 will be hanging out in the morning (10am – Noon), and 5 – 8 in the afternoon (1pm – 3pm).

Get answers to all 8 of the 5 W questions, and you’ll be able to use the scorecard as an entry form for a chance to win FREE textbooks for the upcoming Winter quarter*!
Click here to download the scorecard.


* There will be three winners. We will hold the drawing at our HUB store at 12:30 on Wednesday, November 14. For eligibility, entry forms must be filled out completely. This contest is open to UW students ONLY. Completed scorecards can be turned in at the HUB or the Husky Shop in the U District store.

tell all your friends!