Friday, October 31, 2008

"Real America" and the World Mourn the Genuine Article

If you want to know what "real America" is, read Studs Terkel.


Sad news for anyone who loved Chicago's irascible (and I mean that in the nicest way possible) old man of letters: Studs Terkel has passed away at 96. Who the heck won't miss him?

Goodbye, Studs. It's been (and will continue to be) an honor to shelve your books.

Lobbing More Loebs at the Public

Greek & Latin readers! Exspectata! We've got another load of Loeb Classical Library books in; all used, all clean and in excellent shape, some with and some without dustjackets.
This does not happen that often. When it does, these books go pretty quickly. So stop by soon.
Among the authors included this time:
Demosthenes, Aristophanes, Menander, Isocrates, Apollonius Rhodius, Sophocles, Lysias, Aristotle, and "Minor Attic Orators."
These used books are priced at half or less of the price of new copies.
Come, my classicists, come.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


PopUpalooza has arrived in the lobby of our store! Featuring dozens of discounted pop up books from a wide variety of artists and writers, this is one of those unique little sales that make University Book Store (and independent booksellers in general) so very different from our more corporate competitors.

So hurry in, these are not the kind of books that last very long in our lobby and when they are gone, they are gone for good.

Otherwise you'll be missing out on pop ups from Robert Sabuda, Richard Scarry, Disney, Phillida Gili, The Enchanted Dolls' House... and all at discount prices.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

And Then I Turned to Anthony

To begin, a quote:

"Trollope's novels (are) solid, substantial, written on the strength of beef and through the inspiration of ale and just as real as if some giant had hewn a great lump out of the earth and put it under a glass case, with all its inhabitants going about their daily business and not suspecting that they were being made a show of."
-- Nathaniel Hawthorne

Now then. Does that make you want to read Anthony Trollope or not? If not, there's nothing I could do to persuade you, I'm sure. For me, that Hawthorne quote all but defines the pleasures of a Big Fat Victorian Novel. Nobody did them better than Trollope.

I am reading The Eustace Diamonds, the third in the Palliser novels, for the second time. (These are his political and high-society novels, rather than the more famous clerical novels set in Barsetshire.) But I'm not reading the series (6 novels) straight through this time. Whenever I need a break from grim modernity and or the thin substance of contemporary literature, I pick up Trollope. If it's been long enough, it may take me a few pages, but soon enough I know just where I am, who is who, and what is most definitely what.

Trollope, for me, is all about familiarity, but that isn't to say that his books aren't surprising still, and very funny. For example, this description of a rather difficult old lady:

"She was slow, or perhaps it might more properly be said she was stately in her movements. She was one of those old women who are undoubtedly old women, -- who in the remembrance of younger people seem always to have been old women, -- but on whom old age appears to have no debilitating effects. If the hand of Lady Linlithgow ever trembled, it trembled from anger; -- if her foot ever faltered, it faltered for effect. In her way Lady Linlithgow was a very powerful human being. She knew nothing of fear, nothing of charity, nothing of mercy, and nothing of the softness of love. She had no imagination. She was worldly, covetous, and not unfrequently cruel. But she meant to be true and honest, though she often failed in her meaning; -- and she had an idea of her duty in life. She was not self-indulgent. She was hard as an oak post, -- but then she was also trustworthy. No human being liked her; -- but she had the good word of a great many human beings."

Now that, to the life, describes any number of elderly ladies in my childhood, not least my paternal grandmother -- though I'd be scared to death to say so, had she not been safely dead these twenty years.

Anthony Trollope was one of the greatest English novelists. He is great good company on a cold Autumn evening still.

Go Nerdfighters!

Almost 400 nerdfighters came out to see John and Hank Green at Seattle Public Library and to celebrate the release of John's new book Paper Towns. Music from Molly of sweetafton23, and appearances by Kristina and Kayley of 5 Awesome Girls rounded out the evening's entertainment. Books were signed, prizes were raffled, dancing commenced. This was a wonderful way to celebrate the vlogbrothers, and a rousing finale to our Paper Towns scavenger hunt. Thanks to all who played and all who attended the event. DFTBA and Best Wishes!

John signs a manuscript copy of Paper Towns to be raffled off.

Hank signs a Made of Awesome t-shirt (while wearing a DFTBA shirt!) Photo courtesy of Molly Stone

John and Hank Green with University Book Store staff (can you tell how thrilled we are?)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Best of the Best of the Best of...

Every year, come about this time, a new crop of "The Best of --" anthologies arrive. I remember when "The Best American Short Stories" started all this, back in the late Seventies. Since then, the selection of "The Best of --" has grown to include a great variety of writing. Each has, besides a "Series Editor" who oversees the selection process, a new guest editor each year who makes a final selection and writes an introduction. (This year's guest editor of "The Best American Short Stories" is Salman Rushdie!) Every year I collect the latest volume of stories and "The Best American Essays,"in hardcover, though the paperbacks are the more popular format. Herewith some, but by no means all, of the 2008 batch:

The Best American Science and Nature Writing, edited this year by Jerome Groopman, M. D., of Harvard Medical School and The New Yorker.

The Best American Comics, edited this year by the delightful Lynda Barry.

The Best American Travel Writing, edited by a personal hero of mine, that glorious gut with an attitude, Anthony Bourdain.

The Best American Spiritual Writing, with an introduction this year by Jimmy Carter.

The Best Buddhist Writing, comes from Melvin McLeod and the editors of the Shambhala Sun.

Dave Eggers, for the more irreverent reader, created The Best American Non Required Reading, this year with an introduction by Judy Blume.

There are also 2008 editions on Food Writing, Mystery Stories, True Crime Reporting...

Something, quite literally, for everyone.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Happy Birthday Dylan!

One of my favorite poets, Dylan Thomas, was born today back in 1914. In celebration of his birthday here is my favorite poem for your enjoyment.

Fern Hill

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green,
The night above the dingle starry,
Time let me hail and climb
Golden in the heydays of his eyes,
And honoured among wagons I was prince of the apple towns
And once below a time I lordly had the trees and leaves
Trail with daisies and barley
Down the rivers of the windfall light.

And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
In the sun that is young once only,
Time let me play and be
Golden in the mercy of his means,
And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the
Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
And the sabbath rang slowly
In the pebbles of the holy streams.

All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay
Fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it
was air
And playing, lovely and watery
And fire green as grass.
And nightly under the simple stars
As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away,
All the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the night-
Flying with the ricks, and the horses
Flashing into the dark.

And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white
With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it was all
Shining, it was Adam and maiden,
The sky gathered again
And the sun grew round that very day.
So it must have been after the birth of the simple light
In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking
Out of the whinnying green stable
On to the fields of praise.

And honoured among foxes and pheasants by the gay house
Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart was long,
In the sun born over and over,
I ran my heedless ways,
My wishes raced through the house high hay
And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, that time allows
In all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs
Before the children green and golden
Follow him out of grace,
Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would
take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
In the moon that is always rising,
Nor that riding to sleep
I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.

From Dylan Thomas Selected Poems 1934-1952

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Wild Things at 80

Maurice Sendak celebrated his 80th birthday on June 10th, this year. Few living authors or illustrators have had a longer, or richer career. In 1963 he published Where the Wild Things Are, a masterpiece of childhood nightmare and fantasy. Regularly decried, even withdrawn from libraries and banned, this classic has not always been admired by self-appointed moralists and overly protective parents, but, like all Sendak's work for children, it continues to be loved and immediately accepted by little persons.

In the Night Kitchen, my favorite children's book of of the the past 50 years, followed in 1970. Like it's predecessor, this book has frequently been banned by various bluestockings, convinced, I suppose, that any suggestion that little boys occasionally remove their clothes entirely is an idea so shocking as to require immediate suppression.

The delightful dream of floating through a fabulous kitchen, populated with series of cheerful Oliver Hardy chefs baking wonderful things, seems to me still an almost perfect idea of joy.

Sendack celebrated his 80th birthday in the company of many admirers and friends, including playwright Tony Kushner, Meryl Streep, Judy Blume, and film director Spike Jonze, who showed clips from his upcoming live-action adaptation of Wild Things.

Sadly absent from the celebration was Sendack's late life-partner of 50 years, Eugene Glynn, who died last year.

You can listen to a conversation with Sendak from 2005, at the NPR site.

Or check out the PBS "American Masters" documentary about him, if you want to know more.

Meanwhile, I'm sure all our customers join us in wishing the amazing Mr. Sendak a very Happy 80th Birthday. And many more.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Notes from a Devoted Lobbyist

Our lobby is ever changing. It is important to keep watch for new bargain books, recent arrivals on the Used Books display (changing almost daily,) movie passes at the Concierge Desk, new bus schedules...

And pay attention to the special sales! As I type, we have a sale of 20% Off of O'Reilly computer books, 40% to 60% Off a selection of Oxford Classics paperbacks, 20% Off selected titles from Yale University Press, and a selection of mathematics titles on sale from Princeton University Press!

This is a seriously serious collection of Sales.

And don't forget the Springer Yellow Sale!

Most of these special sales run for, at most, a month, so stop in and hunt before the game is up and your chance is gone.

Celebrating Style from the Stacks!

Check out the photos and video from the Illinois Library Association's fashion show Style from the Stacks. I particularly loved this "Book Jacket!"

Thursday, October 23, 2008

"If I can't have too many truffles, I'll do without truffles."

The above is a quote from Colette. The other day we bought a stack of used paperbacks by same. (It is a sad and sorry day when the only way to get a stack of Colette is to buy used copies, but let that pass.) These paperbacks are not in perfect shape, but there are titles I haven't seen for years. Someone sold her whole collection of Colette, and some titles had simply been read and reread too often and threatened to fall apart in my hands as I took them from the box. These, with regret, I had to return. But even the survivors can't be sold for much.

I've decided that that is a good thing. Think of finding Colette for the first time, of meeting Sido or Claudine for the first time! At only a dollar or two per book, anyone can discover a great writer.

If you don't know, Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette (January 28, 1873 -- August 3, 1954) was the greatest modern French writer after Proust and one of the greatest writers of the 20th Century(though born in the 19th, with the morals of the 18th.) She is also witty, amusing, warm-hearted and, as the Brits would say, "dead sexy."

So look for these slim volumes, new or used, when next you're in the bookstore.

I'll close with another quote:

"I love my past, I love my present. I am not ashamed of what I have had, and I am not sad because I no longer have it."


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wall Street Fall Down Go Bust

In response to the utter chaos and confusion resulting from what Senator John McCain has so aptly described as "excess and greed" -- among other factors -- we offer a special selection of new and classic titles on the subject of Wall Street.

The display is in the middle of the first floor, appropriately enough, very near the cash registers. Just look for the Wall Street sign (and the weeping stock-brokers, huddled 'round, furiously reading, reading, reading... hoping to understand the errors of their ways, before it is too late.)

Included are the three titles featured on a recent NPR story on "essential reading" to understand the crisis:

The Great Depression & the New Deal: A Very Short History, by Eric Rauchway, one in the series of "very short Introductions" from Oxford University Press.

Liar's Poker, by Michael Lewis. This is a now classic first-person account of when the go-go eighties went "bust" on junk-bonds, "excess and greed," etc.

Traders Guns & Money: Knowns and Unknowns in the Dazzling World of Derivatives, by Satyajit Das. This was described as the "toughest" of the three to read, but perhaps the most important.

Welcome Nerdfighters!

We would love to discuss 014303927X with you on the Omnictionary.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Halloween is coming...


A list of Halloween stories from one of my favorite writers, James Hynes.

Well, I could make dinner, or I could just eat this cheese and read about food

Food... reading... reading about food.

To my mind, this is a logical progression, which explains why I own so many cookbooks and cook so infrequently anymore. The nice thing nowadays is, I can read some really interesting, informative books about food, like the following, without guilt (and with take-out.)

A Revolution in taste: The Rise of French Cuisine, by Susan Pinkard, from the august Cambridge Press. (Is Bakery Nouveau still open this late?)

Tuna: A Love Story, by Richard Ellis, who's coming to the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture on October 30th, to give a talk on tuna, presumably. (Maybe I want Sushi.)

And, new in paperback:

The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food, by Judith Jones, a who's who memoir of modern cookery.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Look for Hot Dads

A new movie's coming soon of a delightful novel, Breakfast with Scot, by Michael Downing. The movie (also called Breakfast with Scot, easily enough) looks great.
Downing's novel is the story of a handsome, successful couple, suddenly and completely unexpectedly getting a son. Sad circumstances, but not the end of the world, right? Well, Scot is not the son with whom these guys are prepared to cope. Very funny stuff.
The novel will probably be our own Nick DiMartino's first selection for the new citywide Seattle Gay & Lesbian Book Club, set to start up in January. Keep looking here for details.

Horrifying Moral Lessons

Hilaire Belloc was an English Man of Letters of the old school. Not a single form was neglected by him: essays, novels, politics, biography, history, theology, editorials and poetry filled page after page, book after book (some of them quite good and even still in print.) Nowadays, he is chiefly remembered (and reprinted) as a defender of the Catholic Church. But do not let his reputation as a very serious patriarch daunt you. Belloc was also a delightful and funny fellow. Witness his children's verse, available again in a new Dover reprint: Cautionary Tales & Bad Child's Book of Beasts. This edition restores Belloc's own, very funny and rather weird illustrations.

I recommend, this Halloween, sharing his appalling (and hilarious) stories of very bad children indeed, with any very bad children of your own. Herewith, a favorite:

by Hilaire Belloc

The Chief Defect of Henry King
Was chewing little bits of String.
At last he swallowed some which tied
Itself in ugly Knots inside.
Physicians of the Utmost Fame
Were called at once; but when they came
They answered, as they took their Fees,
``There is no Cure for this Disease.
``Henry will very soon be dead.''
His Parents stood about his Bed
Lamenting his Untimely Death,
When Henry, with his Latest Breath,
Cried, ``Oh, my Friends, be warned by me,
That Breakfast, Dinner, Lunch, and Tea
Are all the Human Frame requires...''
With that, the Wretched Child expires.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Last Poem in the World

Hayden Carruth, an American poet, died September 29th. If you don't know his work, you should. In more than thirty books of verse, published over a long lifetime, Carruth wrote some of the best poems -- and created some of the best sustained reading in American poetry -- in the past half century.
Carruth's poems reflect his liberality of mind, his respect for American speech and character, and his deep appreciation for American forms, particularly jazz.

Late in life, the poet finally began to receive the respect and recognition he deserved; winning prizes, seeing collected editions of his work, being discussed and taught, at long last, in academia. His life, particularly his later life, was never easy and he was forced to struggle with serious health issues, mental and physical. Yet of all the poets of his generation, he remained perhaps the greatest celebrant of common moments: of life as seen from his window, of common meals, of simple kindness, of a Charlie Parker tune.

by Hayden Carruth
Sometimes we don’t say anything. Sometimes

we sit on the deck and stare at the masses of

goldenrod where the garden used to be

and watch the color change form day to day,

the high yellow turning to mustard and at last

to tarnish. Starlings flitter in the branches

of the dead hornbeam by the fence. And are these

therefore the procedures of defeat? Why am I

saying all this to you anyway since you already

know it? But of course we always tell

each other what we already know. What else?

It’s the way love is in a late stage of the world.

from “Collected Shorter Poems” Copper Canyon Press, 1992

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire roars back

Used books have, in most cases, but a little time before they become either "classics" or end up on the "price reduced yet again!" table. But, now and then, a movie comes along, and, surprise! a really good book, like Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire, by Amanda Foreman, comes roaring back. And those used copies in hardcover and paperback are looking good again and going fast.

Look for new and used copies, before or after seeing the new movie "The Duchess" staring Keira Knightley.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Welcome, Nerdfighters!

Clue #2

Which book by John Green comes to mind when you see this band?

Search for the title in our stock HERE!

Monday, October 06, 2008

Congratulations, Nerdfighters!

We love Accio Deathly Hallows, but here at University Book Store we're mad about one of Hank's other songs on Brotherhood 2.0.

Nick interviews Aravind Adiga


By Nick DiMartino

Nick’s Picks, University Book Store

I've read The White Tiger twice. It’s my favorite novel of 2008, and currently shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

The author is 34-year-old Aravind Adiga, a former correspondent in India for TIME Magazine. Born in southeastern India on the Bay of Bengal, he was raised partly in Australia and currently lives in Mumbai. The White Tiger is Adiga’s first novel, a word-perfect satirical delight, one of the best first novels in years. The writing is so natural and laugh-out-loud funny that the book zips along, a banquet of moral complexity that keeps the reader laughing and thinking long after it’s finished.

The book’s narrator, Balram Halwai, is a self-confessed murderer, a man who has killed his boss and wants to tell you why. Balram has lived a life of brutal poverty in a backward village in North India, and is now determined to succeed as a rich man’s driver in ruthless, crowded New Delhi. Balram likes to call himself an entrepreneur, which means he’s a hustler, and he hustles for a living, and he’s hustling you, the reader, as he tells his story. Adiga takes you inside Balram’s mind so that you grow to love him, and when he misbehaves you suffer and worry and sweat. You will never forget the murder scene.

Among Adiga’s many writing aces are two of my favorite elements of fiction, character comedy in the narration, and behind it all a simmering rage at human injustice.

University Book Store and his publisher, Free Press, recently encouraged me to ask Aravind Adiga a few questions at his home in India. He’s such a personal hero, I was thrilled for the chance. We exchanged emails:

NICK: Beneath the comic surface of The White Tiger is a genuine anger. That anger feels like it's been earned. How much of Balram's anger is your own?

ARAVIND ADIGA: This is a hard question to answer. The novel is written in "voice"—in Balram's voice—and not in mine. Some of the things that he's confused by or angry about are changes in India that I approve of; for instance, he is uncomfortable with (as many men like him are) the greater freedom that women have in today's India. Some of the other things he's unhappy about—like corruption—are easier for me to identify with. When talking to many men whom I met in India, I found a sense of rage, often suppressed for years and years, that would burst out when they finally met someone they could talk to. But their anger was not the anger of a liberal, middle-class man at a corrupt system; it was something more complex—a blend of values both liberal and reactionary—and I wanted to be true to what I'd heard. Balram's anger is not an anger that the reader should participate in entirely—it can seem at times like the rage you might feel if you were in Balram's place—but at other times you should feel troubled by it, certainly.

NICK: Balram is one of the most charming characters of the year, really and truly, his voice is a delight—a hustler who's hustling the reader but not quite as well as he thinks he is. How did you put together such a complex, truly likeable guy, a victim and yet a murderer? Did you use bits and pieces of anyone you know?

ARAVIND ADIGA: Many of the Indians I met while I traveled through India blended into Balram; but the character is ultimately of my own invention. I wanted to depict someone from India's underclass—which is perhaps 400 million strong—and which has largely missed out on the economic boom, and which remains invisible in most films and books coming out of India. My aim was to draw aspects from the people I'd met to create someone whom I see all around me in India, but never in its literature: someone whose moral character seems to change by the minute—trustworthy one minute, but untrustworthy the next—who would embody the moral contradictions of life in today's India. I'm glad you point out that he is a hustler—which he is!—one of the frustrations of writing a book like this is that so many critics seem to think that Balram's views are meant to be taken objectively!

NICK: The device of writing to the Chinese premier is a clever way of allowing Balram to open up to the reader, while at the same time providing a springboard for some telling comments on the India-China interface today. How did you come up with such a clever narrative technique?

ARAVIND ADIGA: He's not actually writing; he's talking out into the night, in his isolated room. He has to tell his story to someone, but he can't ever do so because it's a terrible story. Indians, traditionally, are stimulated into reflecting on their society and nation by the arrival of an outsider who asks questions; in the past, this outsider was the European or the American—today, it is the man from China, which is India's alter-ego in so many ways. Indians today are absolutely obsessed with the Chinese, and keep comparing themselves to China out of a belief that the future of the world lies with India and China.

NICK: What are you currently involved doing in India? Are you working on another novel? Can you tell us anything about it?

ARAVIND ADIGA: I continue to be a journalist here. I quit my full-time job with TIME magazine some years ago, after working for them as a correspondent from 2003 to 2005. I still write for TIME occasionally, but also for British and Indian newspapers. I've been working on another book for some time now; I hope it'll be completed soon.

So do we, Aravind Adiga! I'm not much of a one for young novelists, but let me tell you, this man is a standout. In The White Tiger (in paperback on October 14), he has written a superb little monologue that's smart and sensitive both, with pathos and slapstick and real moral bite all rolled into a swift, economical tour de force. I can't tell you how earnestly I'm hoping that for once those crazy Booker judges get it right.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

The New Weird

University Book Store is proud of Matthew Simmons who was featured in Brangien Davis's article on local up-and-coming writers. Matthew will be a featured reader at Hugo House on October 7 and having worked with him, we can confirm that he is indeed weird

tell all your friends!