Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Quiet time.

We're retooling this blog and should be back soon.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mastering the Art of the Bestseller

As a longtime fan of Julia Child, I'm delighted by the recent attention that her masterpiece Mastering the Art of French Cooking has received. Featured in the new movie (and the original book of the same name) Julia and Julia, Mastering is the achievement of a lifetime. And you can strive for similar heights. Although a recent New York Times article mentions that booksellers across the nation are sold out of Mastering, University Book Store has plenty of copies in stock. And as an added bonus, we're running Julie and Julia contest. Stop by our U District store before September 3 and enter for a chance to win fabulous prizes, including audio book copies of Julie and Julia, fabulous aprons, or the grand prize: cooking classes from Le Gourmand. You might not master French cooking in the class, but you'll be well on your way!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Simmons a Death Match Favorite

Read Local: Seattle predicts that one of our favorite writers (and University Book Store staffer) Matthew Simmons will win tonight's Literary Death Match at the Rendezvous. Simmons will face Peter Gajdics (Opium8's 500-word contest winner), while Reading Local Managing Editor Matt Briggs will battle Ryan Boudinot (author of the forthcoming Misconception). Judges include the delightful Mary Guterson (Gone to the Dogs), The Stranger's Lindy West and Luke Smith (a game designer at Bungie). We love a good death match, and will be there to root for our favorite.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Books and movies

Seija sent this from the book department:

There are some exciting book-based movies on the near horizon: Julie and Julia opens this Friday, based jointly on Julie Powell’s book of the same name and Julia Child’s My Life in France. This hybrid is refreshing, and I hope it’s representative of a new creative trend in Hollywood book-to-movie adaptations.

I’m looking forward to Where the Wild Things Are directed by Spike Jonze, and The Fantastic Mr. Fox directed by Wes Anderson. Both films could’ve gone in wildly different directions, but based on the previews I’m happily reminded of the dark, bizarre kid’s films of the '80s like The Neverending Story, The Dark Crystal, and Return to Oz.

The Fantastic Mr. Fox, based on the book by Roald Dahl, is done in stop-motion animation, as was the earlier Dahl adaptation, James and the Giant Peach. I’m a bit disappointed that the characters are voiced by American actors (George Clooney and Meryl Streep as Mr. and Mrs. Fox) as I used to listen to the book on tape version, which is read by the author.

I just bought a copy of the wonderfully strange children’s film, The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T. Released in 1953, it’s scripted by Dr. Seuss himself, and it’s a musical. It entertains on many, many levels: the set designs and costumes are works of art, and one of the best scenes takes place in a “musical dungeon” reminiscent of Dante’s Inferno.

I love it when I find out that a movie I like is based on a book; it’s an opportunity to go deeper into a story I thought to be finished. On my pending “seen it but haven’t read it” list: A Passage to India, The 39 Steps, No Country for Old Men, Rebecca, and right now I’m halfway through Brideshead Revisited and loving it.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Books Can Get You Dates!

From our ace reporter Elisabeth, comes this fun article on using books to flirt. Get a copy of Jack Murnighan's Beowulf on the Beach for yourself here.

Episodic or Narrative: Which One Are You?

Lee Siegel's article in today's Wall Street Journal tracks the change in the taste of American fiction readers and asks "Are you a Narrative or an Episodic personality? In other words, do you believe that your life tells a meaningful story? Or do you think that you live, like Huck Finn and every other picaresque hero, from isolated minute to isolated minute...?"
I'd like to think that my life tells a meaningful story--not because it might be meaningful to others-- but because that would indicate that I had learned from my individual episodes and have developed over time. What do you think?

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Good Morning, Tuesday!

• Here's a teaser for tonight's Amelia Gray/Evelyn Hampton/Lotte Kestner event at Neptune Coffee. First, a list by Amelia on Everyday Genius. Second, a story by Evelyn Hampton at elimae.

Should authors clean up their language when they read in a bookstore? Here's a statement from our Manager of Public Relations and Events, Stesha Brandon: "As a public space, it can be challenging to balance the different communities that use our store. Our children's book area is across from our event space, which has caused some concern when we've booked adult authors with adult-themed books. We support our guests' right to freedom of expression, and generally try to book those speakers at a time when children are less likely to be in the store."

A sign in the window of a bookstore in Georgia.

Sure, we're hosting Amelia Gray, Evelyn Hampton, and Lotte Kestner tonight at Neptune Coffee. But we're also hosting urban fantasy writer Kat Richardson in our store at 7pm. In Tacoma, we're hanging out at the Tacoma Public Library with Alan Bauer, author of Day Hiking from Mountaineers Books. And in Mill Creek, some of our favorite book reps will be talking about the best books for book clubs. Check out our Events page for details.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Hello, Monday!

• An examination of Raymond Carver's short fiction before and after it was edited by Gordon Lish.

• Electric Literature, a new literary journal, has produced a trailer for a Jim Shepard story featured in their first issue.


No events today, but we have an exciting one tomorrow. Amelia Gray, Evelyn Hampton, and Lotte Kestner will perform prose and music at Neptune Coffee in Greenwood. 7pm—Don't miss it!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Dog of the Week

That's Schroeder. He was being very well-behaved, waiting for his human, sitting under a table by the window. He gave me a very friendly lick of the hand when I said hello.

Is Schroeder named for Schroeder from Peanuts? I actually forgot to ask. I hope so, though. He's great, as was his moody, memorable creator, Charles M. Schulz.

Hello, Friday!

• Ed Park (author of the wonderful novel Personal Days) offers an appreciation of the way-too-underappreciated Charles Portis. For a little more Portis talk, check out this Bookworm interview of Walter Kirn, whose novel Mission to America was influenced by Portis's Masters of Atlantis.

• Ed Champion talks to J. Robert Lennon. Check out Lennon's new books. You'll enjoy them.

• SOME FREE STORIES! The new Smokelong Quarterly is up. It features two of my favorite writers, so check out Dan Chaon and Ray Vukcevich if you have a chance.


No events today. Maybe go outside and enjoy the fact that our heat wave has broken. Take the dog out. The dog could likely use a nice long walk.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hello Tuesday

• The Man Booker long list has been announced.

Jacket Copy on six literary feuds. Who doesn't love a good literary feud, huh?


Join us tonight for a visit from science fiction author and Clarion West faculty member Rudy Rucker. Here's a selection from his bio:

"An influential cyberpunk ally and the originator of the term 'transrealism,' Rucker is an inspiring lecturer and a proponent of 'gnarl,' the creation of art that lives at the boundary between order and chaos."

Gnarl! He'll be at our U District store at 7pm.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Good Morning, Monday

Victor LaValle's new novel, Big Machine looks to be a breakout for him and has garnered comparisons to Thomas Pynchon and Ralph Ellison. His previous, The Ecstatic is a favorite of mine.

Texan David Douglas looks just like Hemingway.

Merce Cunningham has passed away. Speaking as someone who writes about books under a photograph of one of Merce's artistic and romantic partners, I'd just like to say, Bye, Merce. Thanks for everything.


Tonight you can join our friend and coworker Nick DiMartino in our U District cafe to talk about this month's Nick's Book Club pick, That Mad Ache by Françoise Sagan.

Friday, July 24, 2009

It's Friday!

Tod Goldberg on Comic-Con.

Alison Bechdel has posted an image from her upcoming book.

Arthur Phillips writes about writing about music.

• Writer Justin Taylor is looking for people with literary tattoos for a book. Got one? Want to be in a book? Send a photo!


Tonight in our U District store, we welcome Portland's Jay Lake, a three-time World Fantasy Award nominee. He'll read from his new book, Green. The fun starts at 7pm.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Good Morning, Thursday

The New York Times blog Papercuts asks Aleksandar Hemon about his favorite music.

Jeffrey Eugenides (who, if the photo that accompanies this piece is to be believed, works part time at a Jiffy Lube) was fired by the Academy of American Poets for writing on the job. The Virgin Suicides, his fantastic first novel, is 16 this year.

• The fall promises some incredible fiction from some powerhouse authors. Will it help a down industry? (We certainly hope so.)

• Bookshelves of Doom embeds this video of Will Arnett (GOB from Arrested Development!) reading from Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. by Judy Blume.

• Indie author Shane Jones has sold the film rights to his amazing little book Light Boxes to Spike Jonze. (Shane and I share a publisher, and I'm ecstatic for him. I was an early advocate of that book, and seeing it go from the manuscript Shane emailed to me to its long search for a publisher to print to small press success to a possible film by some very creative filmmakers is heartening.)


Tonight University Book Store Bellevue will be out at the Bellevue Regional Library to sell books for David Morrell and his book Shimmer. The Seattle Times reviewed the paranormal thriller here. The fun starts at 7pm.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Happy Tuesday, Everyone.

Tonight, our U District store welcomes Clarion West faculty member David Hartwell. Hartwell is Senior Editor for Tor Books. He has edited or co-edited scores of anthologies, among them The Year's Best SF and The Year's Best Fantasy. A veteran instructor of four CW workshops, he founded the influential New York Review of Science Fiction. Hartwell works with many of the field's top authors, including Gene Wolfe, Greg Benford, and Michael Bishop. He has received the Eaton Award and the World Fantasy Award. Hartwell will appear in conversation with the remarkable local writer Eileen Gunn, whose book Stable Strategies and Others remains a favorite.

Also, we'll be at the Bellevue Regional Library to sell some books by Sarah Dunant. Dunant and Seattle Times book editor Mary Ann Gwinn will discuss Dunant's latest novel, Sacred Hearts. It's about a 16th Century daughter of noble birth forced to live in a convent in the Italian city of Ferrara. As the defiant girl schemes to escape, she finds scandal and conspiracy in the Renaissance world.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Good Morning, Monday

Frank McCourt passed away on Sunday.

• Today, forty years ago, man first walked on the Moon. (By the way: we did. We REALLY did.) Read about it in Buzz Aldrin's book Magnificent Desolation.


Tonight we are very pleased to welcome back to our District store our friend Paul Collins, who will read from his new book The Book of William. If you love Shakespeare like we do, we know we'll see you there.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Dog of the Week

Dog of the week, it's been good to have you back. We've had quite a dog dry spell at University Book Store, but the last few weeks have brought a new crop of four-legged, furry friends to our store, and we've been happy to share images of them with you.

Up there is a little boxer puppy named Bjorn. She didn't want her photo to be taken at first—preferring instead to sit in the photographer's lap—but when her human picked her up, she managed to pay attention and pose for the camera. Good girl, Bjorn.

Buenos Días, Thursday!

• Malachy McCourt has said that his brother Frank—author of Angela's Ashesis gravely ill and "not expected to live."

Aram Saroyan talks about the Beats on the Poetry Foundation's website.

• The film version of David Foster Wallace's Brief Interviews with Hideous Men will be out in September.

• Shop Independent. Be Independent. Be Green, Too.


Tonight we host local author and playwright Lisa Mantchev. She'll be reading from her theatrically fantastic novel Eyes Like Stars. Join us at our U District store for the event.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Good Morning, Tuesday

Here are some book-related links from the interweb.

• James Wolcott on his problem with the Kindle: You can't see what people are reading. (Which is, in fact, one of Sherman Alexie's problems with the Kindle.)

• Discovered on the NYRB classics blog, here's Jhumpa Lahiri in conversation with the wonderful Mavis Gallant. Get Gallant here.

Happy Bastille Day, Seattle!


Two events tonight. Here in the U District store, we are welcoming Nalo Hopkinson, author of The Salt Roads and Clarion West faculty member.

And at the Northgate branch of the Seattle Public Library, David B. Williams will read from his book Stories in Stone].

Monday, July 13, 2009

Good Morning, Monday!

Here are a few things that caught our eye in the literary sites on the internet.

• Laila Lalami, pioneering lit blogger, had her novel Secret Son chosen as the 2010 Seattle Reads book.

• From the New York Times, this essay about the novel The Ugly American.

• From The Onion: Unconventional Director Sets Shakespeare Play In Time, Place Shakespeare Intended.

• Local author Boyd Morrison goes from self-published on Kindle to book deal, and Galleycat notices.


Tonight, University Book Store is selling books for the Colum McCann reading at the Seattle Public Library's Central Branch. The event begins at 7pm. McCann will read from his new novel, Let the Great World Spin.

Of McCann, Peter Carey says: "Colum McCann is a giant amongst us—fearless, huge-hearted, a poet with every living breath."\

Here's a review of the book from The Seattle Times.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Good Afternoon, Friday!

Book-related stories that caught my eye today.

• Oregon indie publisher Tin House turned 10. Happy birthday.

Hemingway wanted to spy for the KGB? (H/t to Paul Constant at The Stranger.)

• The New York Review of Books Fiction issue includes this fine essay by Michael Chabon.


No events tonight. Our staff will rest.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Good Morning, Thursday.

Hey there. Here's a quick tour of the online literary world.

• Mental Floss magazine lists the longest-running novel series for readers who want to spend the Summer (and Fall, and Winter, and Spring, and next Summer, and next Fall, etc.) reading about only one character, group of characters, or setting. (Did you know that including spin-offs there were 709 Mac Bolan books!)

• HBO will be making a television series out of Jeffrey Eugenides novel Middlesex. Also potentially exciting: HBO's collaboration with one of my favorite writers, Jonathan Ames, on the series Bored to Death.

Nabokov's The Original of Laura will come out in December, but one week before the pub date, an excerpt will appear in Playboy, giving his readers a chance to pull out that "I only read Playboy for the articles" joke.


Tonight University Book Store welcomes science fiction/thriller writer David J. Williams to the store. He begins at 7pm, and will be reading from his book Burning Skies, which Philip K. Dick award winner Stephen Baxter called "Tom Clancy interfacing with Bruce Sterling."

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Dog of the Week

Here's Brody. He's young. I expected him to be a little more energetic—being that he's a puppy and all—but apparently he was tuckered out from all the attention he'd been getting before I came at him with the camera.

Good boy, Brody. Nice posing.

Good Morning, Tuesday!

• Charles D'Ambrosio interviews Nam Le. That's a lot of short story genius, there.

• Slate reprints an article on History's Greatest Pedagogical Animals. (Have you seen the new Smokey the Bear ads? Now he's intimidating the careless with implied threats of violence! Good for Smokey.)

• Check out author Matthew Spektor's website for his upcoming novel That Summertime Sound. It includes an excerpt from the book read by James Franco.


Tonight at 7pm, our U District store is hosting Clarion West faculty member Elizabeth Bear. Join us!

Monday, July 06, 2009

Good Morning!

Here's a little tour around the net's literary side.

• Via Bookslut, here's Bill Watterson on Krazy Kat. (Watterson, of course, was the cartoonist behind the beloved and much-missed Calvin and Hobbes.)

• University Book Store favorite Kelly Link won a Locus award for the novella Pretty Monsters. Congratulations, Kelly!

• The Poetry Foundation's Travis Nichols (who recently moved to Chicago from Seattle) eulogizes Michael Jackson and Michael Jackson's haircut.


No store readings tonight.Our hard-working Events Staff will have to find some other way of filling their evening. Possibly by entering a creative writing contest of some sort.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Dog of the Week

This is Buck. He's nine months old. And 100 pounds!

He joined our Bellevue staff for their Dog-lover's Open House in February, and has doubled in size since. Doubled.

Good boy, Buck. Keep eating.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Good Morning

Here's a quick tour around the Literary Internet.

• James Arthur offers his appreciation of Conan the Barbarian on The Rumpus.

David Gates (author of, among others, the fantastic novel Jernigan) reviews Love and Obstacles by Aleksandar Hemon—who read with us in May. (Great reading.)

Lorrie Moore has another masterful short story in The New Yorker. World continues to turn as it will.


Don't miss tonight's reading:

Tuesday • June 30 • 7pm
Clarion West presents: Karen Joy Fowler
Reading & Book Signing
U District store

Karen Joy Fowler is the author of six novels and dozens of short stories, all marked indelibly by her remarkable, witty voice, yet as different from one another as chartreuse is from physics. Winner of the World Fantasy Award and two Nebulas, and a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, Fowler is a brilliant writer, a compassionate teacher, and an intuitive critic. Free and open to the public.

Friday, June 12, 2009

University Book Store and the Farmer's Market

This summer we have a growing series of events and chef demos in partnership with the Neighborhood Farmer’s Market Alliance. Last Saturday kicked it off when actress and cookbook author, Mariel Hemingway gave a cooking demo and signed her new book, Mariel’s Kitchen.

Our events team had a great time selling books outside next to stalls of leeks, lettuce, and peonies. Farmers Market shoppers crowded around the event space to listen to Mariel speak about healthy living and eating. The audience grew and grew as samples of spinach Swedish pancakes and eggs with spring greens were passed around. We are so excited to continue these events and hope you can join us for future ones!

Why not join us for one of the following upcoming events!

Friday • June 19• 4pm
Poppy Tooker
Crescent City Farmers Market
Phinney Ridge Farmer’s Market
67th and Phinney Avenue N

New Orleans cookbook writer and activist, Poppy Tooker will be giving a cooking demo and signing her new cookbook which raises funds for the Crescent City Farmers Market.
Plus Cajun Music by a bookstore staff member!

Sunday • June 28 • 10am – 2pm
10th Anniversary Berry Spectacular
West Seattle Farmer's Market, California Avenue SW & SW Alaska

The NFMA and the Junction association celebrate ten years of a thriving, vibrant farmers market with a huge blowout on market day. Come visit the University Book Store table for great bargains on a wide selection of berry and farmers market books!

Saturday • July 10 • 10am
Matthew Amster-Burton
Hungry Monkey: A Food Loving Father’s Quest to Raise an Adventurous Eater
University District Farmer’s Market
University Way & NE 50th

Local food writer and blogger, Matthew Amster-Burton will be giving a cooking demo and signing his new book about raising a child to love food.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Dog of the Week!

Been a while, Dog of the Week. Where have you been? Waiting for Spring, maybe?

That's Zulie. Zulie is a 7 1/2 week old English bulldog. She visited our Bellevue store.

We hope to see her a lot.

"Zulie" is, according to her human, the Arabic word for "peace."

Which reminds us, of course, that recently Richard Bausch's amazing short novel Peace came out in paperback.

Monday, June 01, 2009

A bookseller talks about her favorites.

I have this thing about favorites. Movies, paintings, cities, songs, types of food—hardly anything is excused from judgment. These lists are subjective and impermanent. For instance, I don’t think my favorite movie is the best movie ever made, it’s just the best for me. It aligns with my emotions and my narrative ideals. Other categories rely even more on subjective experiences. I’m sure some people love going to Tijuana, for instance, but because I went with my dad when I was fourteen and ate some bad enchiladas, I will most likely never return. I try not to focus on my least favorite things. Doing so negates the purpose of making these temporary lists, which is to seek out and eagerly anticipate new experiences.

With that said, I thought I’d start my first blog for the bookstore with a list of my five (technically six) favorite novels, in no particular order. I hope to elaborate on these in future posts.

Sophie’s Choice by William Styron
The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster
The Hours by Michael Cunnigham
Deliverance/To The White Sea (Irrevocably tied, blame James Dickey)
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

When I read, I’m chasing that feeling I had in my early teens when I first read Orwell’s 1984. I had picked up a badly used copy somewhere—the cover font was nearly identical to that used in the “Schoolhouse Rock” logo—and someone had underlined whole pages worth of text in thick blue marker. I stayed up late one night to finish it, and it wasn’t a pleasant experience. Finishing that book made me feel like I had been through the same psychological warfare as Winston Smith, especially in that last climactic, unbearable scene of betrayal. It was the first time I had been through such an emotional literary workout, and I loved it.

New favorites stacked up quickly after that. I was lucky to attend a school with a brilliantly run Humanities department with a broad reading list. Hefty classics (The Grapes of Wrath, The Scarlet Letter, A Tale of Two Cities) mingled with less predictable picks (A Confederacy of Dunces, A Clockwork Orange, Darkness at Noon) and soon I was awash in great books. Coming from a family of readers helps as well; my mom seems to draw only from the new fiction cart at the library, while an uncle of mine is addicted to audio books. One of my cousins often reads books in their original Spanish, while another is just starting to get excited about his totally awesome 9th grade sci-fi lit class. I love talking to my family and friends about books, and there is something particularly thrilling about discussing my favorites. They have each changed me a little; in the way I think about writing, history, relationships, religion, and most of all, about people.


Friday, April 10, 2009

A Poem for the Day

This blog is re-tooling, and will be updated more consistently very soon.

It's National Poetry Month, though. How about a poem?

Friday, March 13, 2009

James Purdy

James Purdy, a favorite of many a University Book Store bookseller, but perhaps none more than our friend UsedBuyer, has passed away. We imagine his blog will have something to say about it soon.

Friday, February 27, 2009

A Northwest Flower and Garden Show Report from Kathy

The 21st, and with any luck NOT the final Northwest Flower & Garden Show has come and gone, but we still have some wonderful books from authors who appeared at the show. We even have some autographed books available while they last, from favorite authors like Marianne Binetti, Cass Turnbull, and Ciscoe Morris. Here are a few more:

Our Life In Gardens by Joe Eck and Wayne Winterrowd

This beautiful meditation on gardening by two renowned garden designers is a wonderful read for a blustery day when it's still too soon to get out in the garden. They lovingly tell the story of thirty years of gardening together at their place in Vermont, called North Hill.

Rhapsody in Green: The Garden Wit and Wisdom of Beverley Nichols by Roy C. Dicks

Prolific British author Beverley Nichols (1898–1983) is best remembered for his series of garden memoirs, including Merry Hall, and Garden Open Today. Now Roy Dicks brings us a delightful sampler of his work, in a beautifully designed palm-of-the-hand volume which will delight both fans of Nichols and those who have yet to discovered his work.

Paradise Found by Rebecca Cole

Rebecca designed the Smith & Hawken sponsored display garden "The Sky's the Limit" which won a ton of awards at this year's show. It featured a fantastic "living wall" and lots of other wonderful and innovative ideas. Her book Paradise Found is out of print, but we have a few copies left from her private stash that she brought to us at the show book signing. Get 'em while they last!

Perennial Companions: 100 Dazzlng Plant Combinations for Every Season by Tom Fischer

Fischer is the editor-in-chief at renowned gardening publisher Timber Press, and will be appearing right here at University Book Store on March 5 as part of the new "Get Gardening" series co-sponsored by Timber and University Book Store. His new book is a wonderful little guide which will inspire you to new heights of colorful experimentation in your own garden.

The Gardens of Frank Lloyd Wright by Derek Fell

Derek Fell has been putting out gorgeous coffee-table gardening books for years, featuring the gardens of folks like Van Gogh, Monet and Cezanne. Now he's hopped the pond, to bring us an American for a change. Wright's philosophy of architecture placed as much importance on the natural surroundings of his buildings as the buildings themselves, as he integrated his creations seamlessly into their environments in landmarks such as Fallingwater.

And stop by our store to see a huge selection of garden-related remainder titles in our Garden of Bargains...spring is on the way!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Lift Every Voice: Celebrating Toni Morrison

I have been reading selected interviews from the Paris Review Interviews collection, edited by Philip Gourevitch.Volume II contains a great interview with Toni Morrison, and I wanted to share this excerpt from her 1993 interview, where she discusses her place in the canon of literature.

MORISSON: It’s important not to have a totalizing view. In American literature we have been so totalized—as though there is only one version. We are not one indistinguishable block of people who always behave the same way.

INTERVIEWER: Is that what you mean by totalized?

MORISSON: Yes. A definitive or an authoritative view from somebody else or someone speaking for us. No singularity and no diversity. I try to give some credibility to all sorts of voices, each of which is profoundly different. Because what strikes me about African-American culture is its variety…I would like to write novels that were unmistakably mine, but nevertheless fit first into African-American traditions and second of all, this whole thing called literature.

INTERVIEWER: First African-American?


INTERVIEWER: …rather than the whole of literature?



MORISSON: It’s richer. It has more complex sources. It pulls from something that’s closer to the edge; its much more modern. It has a human future.

INTERVIEWER: Wouldn’t you rather be known as a great exponent of literature than as an African-American writer?

MORISSON: It’s very important to me that my work be African-American; if it assimilates into a different or larger pool, so much the better. But I shouldn’t be asked to do that. Joyce is not asked to do that. Tolstoy is not. I mean, they can all be Russian, French, Irish or Catholic, they write out of where they come from, and I do too. It just so happened that that space for me is African-American; it could be Catholic, it could be Midwestern. I’m those things too, and they are all important.

Toni Morisson won the Nobel Peace Prize in Literature in 1993. Read the entire interview in The Paris Review Interviews, Volume Two. Read Morrison's work.

--A.T. Micklin

And You Thought Your Childhood Was Messed Up...

We were talking about lists today, and the kids section’s funny habit of making lots and lots of lists. Books on a theme, like WWII or moving, or books set in Seattle, or books with Native American characters, and on and on. Notebooks of them clutter our desk. We mentioned in passing to a coworker that a favorite list was of books where the main character gets eaten, and she was amused. I’m not sure if she believed that we really had the list, but we were soon pulling out picture book after picture book with the same tragic plot development. As she requested, we have provided the list below. Enjoy!

Picture Books Where the (or a) Main Character(s) Get Eaten:

Rotten and Rascal: Two Terrible Pterosaur Twins by Paul Geraghty
Ugly Fish by Kara LaReau, illustrated by Scott Magoon
Tadpole’s Promise by Jean Willis, illustrated by Tony Ross
Wolves by Emily Gravett
I’m The Biggest Thing in the Ocean by Kevin Sherry
Pierre: A Cautionary Tale by Maurice Sendak
Beware of the Frog by William Bee

Not included were:
Mr. Maxwell’s Mouse by Frank Asch– because, our notes say, of a “last minute reprieve”
I’d Really Like to Eat a Child by Sylviane Donnio, illustrated by Dorothee De Monfried– because, though not for lack of trying, no child is actually eaten
Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag– because while “hundreds of cats, thousands of cats, millions and billions and trillions of cats…[eat] each other all up,” they’re not main characters. And three other older titles that are either out of print or we no longer carry…

Phew. Now, can you name any we’ve forgotten? Put ‘em in comments. And stay tuned for lists like “gender comedy in picture books” and “books where a duck adopts an alligator or vice versa” (we can name three right now, but won’t).

--Anna M.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Books I Never Want to Return

I have to say, I hate pulling for returns. We can’t keep every book forever, so we go through the shelves every once in awhile and check to see what just isn’t selling anymore. In the Kids department, we get a little attached and we often end up buying books out of the return pile just to give them a good home. Some almost-returned books become Staff Favorites and go on to live a long, happy, constantly-selling life. The completely charming Emily’s Balloon is one of those.

Some books are more devastating than others to return. Another unremarkable dinosaur book? Goodbye! A young adult novel that has more brand names per page than a glossy magazine? See ya! But it is agony to see a great nonfiction title, about some underrepresented but intriguing topic, just sit there, month after month, years even, quietly waiting to find an owner. Something as simple as pulling for returns in the sports section gets me all worked up when I leave with a pile of biographies of women in sports that have sat untouched for too long. (Just what exactly are you buying your sporty daughters, nieces, and granddaughters these days? Wii Sports? Give these books a try!)

So without further ado, here are a few of my favorite sorta niche-y nonfiction titles that I need to see walking out the door on a regular basis. They’re not in any immediate danger, I just don’t ever want to return any of these guys, okay?

Extraordinary Ordinary People: Five American Masters of Traditional Arts by Alan Govenar
Profiles five creative Americans: a Beijing Opera Performer in New York City, a woman in Oregon who makes paper flowers and coronas for quinceañeras, an Iowan rug weaver, a Mardi Gras Indian, and a boat builder in Maine.

Let Me Play: The Story of Title IX, the Law That Changed the Future of Girls in America by Karen Blumenthal
This is really well-put-together, with lots of photos, interviews, and old cartoons from decades when women playing sports was so ridiculous it was an automatic laugh. Joke’s on you now, dudes. Seriously, though, tons of girls have no idea what Title IX is. Educate ‘em.

Gay America: Struggle for Equality by Linas Alsenas
Aren’t we the 2nd gayest city in the country? This is a great book for political high schoolers (and everyone else, really) that covers parts of the gay rights movement and gay history that, unless you’re a scholar, you probably don’t already know.

Sophisticated Ladies: The Great Women of Jazz by Leslie Gourse, illustrated by Martin French
These ladies are so rad. Just come read about them.

No Choirboy: Murder, Violence and Teenagers on Death Row by Susan Kuklin
This is harrowing and not for the younger set, but a compelling and worthwhile read. A high school library necessity, and great for reluctant readers.

--Anna M.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The idea of Black History Month was first sprouted by Carter G. Woodson (1875-1950), an American historian who devoted his life to the remembrance and awareness of black history. Woodson recognized the neglect and distortion of black history in the American education system and in February 1926 he founded “Negro History Week.” This later would evolve into Black History Month. Woodson chose February for “Negro History Week” because, while the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery was signed in January, bondsmen and women didn’t start to hear of their freedom until February. Join University Book Store in celebrating the the importance of African American and Global Black Literature.
--A.T. Micklin

Friday, February 06, 2009

Read Dating: Matches Made in Heaven

We were thrilled to host our first "Read Dating" event last night. Billed as "speed dating meets book clubs," participants had eight minutes to chat with each other about their favorite books and authors before the gents moved on to the next lady. An enthusiastic crowd filled our second floor events space, enjoying the refreshments and the conversation. Look out for more Read Dating events in the near future!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Love is in the Air

Well, it's not quite February, but some of our customers are getting ready for Valentine's Day a bit early. Check out these two young men figuring out How to Talk to Girls. Figure that out guys, and you've got it made!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Passed away today.

On Charlie Rose, after his book Terrorist was published:

Here's a quote from the interview I quite like. He and Charlie are discussing the use of Arabic in the book:

"There's a certain mystery to a language you don't know, a certain beauty even—I don't know. Maybe it was a bad idea."

That post em-dash stuff was just sort of thrown in there. I love the fact that Updike happily admits to his own authorial fallibility there. "What the heck do I know? I'm just John Updike."

When an author dies, many readers—possibly out of a feeling of guilt—decide the time is right to familiarize or re-familiarize themselves with that author's work. I would like to suggest that readers who feel like they would like to become better acquainted with Updike's work also consider reading Nicholson Baker's remarkable book on Updike and his influence on Baker, U and I.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Our Little Love Peddler

Our very own Elizabeth, from the Gifts o' Love Department, has been busily constructing a virtual Ziggurat of romance: mountains of Seattle Chocolates' Assorted Chocolate Truffles in heart-shaped boxes, heaping piles of traditional Necco Sweethearts ("BE MINE") red & white Nerds Rope, rubber Love Rats, and on and on.

And don't forget books! How to Talk to Girls, by nine year old Alec Greven, from Collins, is just full of the kind of advice only a man of his years and experience could have to give. The Art of Romance: Mills & Boon and Harlequin Cover Designs, by Joanna Bowring and Margaret O'Brien, from Prestel, is a fabulous, full-color romp through the glory days of the chaste booty lit. of an earlier era. Dating Makes You Want to Die, But You Have to Do It Anyway: Getting Through the Absurdity of Dating with Your Soul Intact, by Daniel Holloway and Dorothy Robinson, from Collins Living, may help you survive the Season of Passion. And finally, Six-Word Memoirs on Love & Heartbreak, by Writers Famous & Obscure, edited by Smith Magazine, from Harper Perennial, is full of six-word wisdom like this from Matt Ruff, "She knows what my Kryptonite is."
So stop in and consult the Love Peddler. She's waiting to hook you up.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Big Ol' Box o' Lincoln

While this hardly mitigates the dustjacket design, seeing The Lincoln Anthology: Great Writers on His Life and Legacy from 1860 to Now, in a boxed set from Library of America, goes a long way to making me happier about trying to sell the book.
I've been trying to get the two volumes of Speeches and Writings back into the store in time for the Bicentennial, but I hadn't had any luck. Now I understand why. Redesigned with red and blue covers, and boxed with the anthology, they make a handsome, if a little on-the-nose design for this bran new presentation.

The two volumes of Lincoln are about the best presentation of Lincoln's words I've ever seen. They are certainly the best and most attractive collections of Lincoln that I own.

At $99.95 the new set is expensive, but had I not already bought separately the three books in it, I would be saving my pennies to get this one some day soon, before it disappears.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Their Lincoln (and Ours)

Eric Foner is exactly the kind of history professor from whom I wish I could take a class; erudite, serious and excited by his subject.  Reading his books, particularly A Short History of Reconstruction and Forever Free: The Story of Emancipation and Reconstruction, I've become convinced that if there is anyone who can teach me what it meant to be alive in America then, and what the lives of Americans then might and ought to mean to us now, it is Eric Foner.  

His book  The Story of American Freedom is one of those titles I have been pressing into the willing and reluctant hands of customers and coworkers since it's original publication.  I know the title sounds like one of those well intentioned freshman Seminars, taught in an anonymous, drafty lecture hall by some dessicated old party with a slide projector, and actually conducted by weary TAs roaming the aisles with dusty pages of "supplemental readings," but you must trust me when I tell you, it is actually one of the most breathtakingly wide-ranging and scintillating acts of American intellectual history I've ever read.  Reading Foner as he traces the progression of "freedom" and "liberty" through our history, is not unlike spending time, at least as I imagine it, in the personal library of a great bibliophile and conversationalist who darts from his chair every few minutes to produce the exact text he's been quoting from memory, just to show you yet another surprising instance of our mania for, and wildly contradictory usage of, the great watch-words and shibboleths of representative democracy.  It is the author's enthusiasm, as well as his scholarship, that makes him such good company.

Now, for the Lincoln Bicentennial, Eric Foner has edited a new collection of popular essays from noted scholars -- no mean trick in my experience as a reader of history -- on subjects ranging from his own thoughtful consideration of the embarrassing topic of "Lincoln and Colonization," to James M. McPherson's brief summation of "A. Lincoln, Commander in Chief" (which I highly recommend if you don't intend to read McPherson's recent full-length treatment of the subject, reviewed in an earlier posting here.)  Foner's new book is called Our Lincoln: New Perspectives on Lincoln and His World, from W. W. Norton.  In addition to Harold Holzer on Lincoln and art, and Mark E. Neely, Jr. on Lincoln and the Constitution, there are names less familiar to me and essays I was surprised to find myself enjoying thoroughly.  David W. Blight, for example, I did not know.  The very title of his essay, "The Theft of Lincoln in Scholarship, Politics and Public Memory," made me jumpy.  That word "theft" has the spin to it of literary-theory and "historiology" --id est gab about rather than history written.  But it actually proved to be one of my favorites in the collection; taking on the Lincoln pietists, bully patriots, politicians and revisionists all at a go!  Now I must find Blight's latest book, A Slave No More; Two Men Who Escaped to Freedom, Including Their Narratives of Emancipation, from 2007, and put my embarrassing suspicions to rest.

I would encourage anyone interested in contemporary Lincoln scholarship to seek out this new collection, without a worry that the common reader will find anything therein but consistently well written, thoughtful, and "theory"-free American history of the best kind. (Foucault, for example, is blessedly absent entirely from the index.  Can I get an "Amen?")

A Room of Their Own

If you've ever wondered about the rooms where writers go to work, check out this feature at The Guardian's website. The latest shows novelist Sebastian Faulks' office, complete with his cameo of Tolstoy.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Holzer & Company

In an earlier post, I already expressed my deep displeasure at just how awful the design of the dustjacket is.  But, as I suspected I would, I've now become convinced by the contents that I shall have to have my own copy of Harold Holzer's new Library of America title, The Lincoln Anthology: Great Writers on His Life and Legacy from 1860 to Now.  It is a rich and varied collection -- boy howdy and how.

Where else, exactly, can one find, between two covers, H. L. Mencken's sobering and mirthful essay from his Prejudices: Third Series, in which one finds the "Lincoln legend" so perfectly described as "... a sort of amalgam of John Wesley and the Holy Ghost," and also Langston Hughes' poem "Lincoln Monument: Washington?"  Holzer has bundled together a wonderfully eclectic collection of people, from contemporaries to biographers, from cartoonists to politicians; from H. G. Wells to Dale Carnegie (!), from Emerson to E. L. Doctorow, and on and on.

Better yet, Harold Holzer has written a brief, often quite pithy preface for each entry.  This from the introduction to Woodrow Wilson's contribution: "Left entirely unmentioned in Wilson's eloquent address were slavery and emancipation -- omissions that were not surprising in light of Wilson's segregation of black government employees and his effusive praise for D. W. Griffith's racist screen epic The Birth of a Nation."

Unlike some earlier anthologies from the Library of America, and here I'm thinking specially of their truly weird collection of Sermons, this volume, in the very capable hands of Harold Holzer, manages to present the familiar and the unknown -- at least to me -- in an entirely satisfying and endlessly surprising way.

As tributes go, this is one of the best, if not the best to date on the occasion of the Bicentennial. 

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Further Thoughts on Stacey's Bookstore and the Passing of the Independents

Since my first posting on the sad news that Stacey's Bookstore in San Francisco had announced it will be closing in March after 85 years in San Francisco, I've been following the story online and through friends in San Francisco.  On Facebook I was encouraged to discover a "grassroots" effort organizing to "Save Stacey's Bookstore."  I've also heard from many people, online and off, expressing shock and dismay at the news.  On behalf of Independent Booksellers everywhere, let me extend my thanks to all the good people out there who care about where they buy their books and from whom.  What we do, and the opportunity to do it, depends on just such thoughtful, community-minded patrons.  We have always been, and continue to be grateful for your support, and your business.  And if I may still presume to speak for the booksellers at Stacey's, I'm sure they are just as grateful for the many new and familiar voices joining the chorus now rising to try to save that venerable bookstore.

In my reading online, I have also discovered just how many people there are out there who seem to misunderstand the nature of just what it is we do; assuming, for example, that the prices of the books we sell are a matter of choice for independent retailers, that discounts to customers and variety of selection are dictated exclusively, or even primarily by considerations of profit and promotion, and that even the continued viability of independent bookselling is ultimately more a matter of management and competition than it is a matter of cultural or community significance.  Let me try, in my own unbusinesslike way, to address some of these points, as briefly and as well as I can in this space.

Without becoming too mired in the jargon of bookselling and publishing, let me just begin by suggesting that the whole business of books is, has always been, and Gods willing, will always be an irrational, impractical and frankly foolhardy enterprise.  The suggestion that anyone can, or has, or ought to make a proper, well organized, smooth-running machine of Market Capitalism out of writing, printing, publishing or selling books, is as familiar, and touching to booksellers, however humble, as it is to anyone else who may have spent their lives in the service of books.  Many a better man and woman of business than me has been broken on that wheel.  Business, and in particular the business of books, has seen many an entrepreneur rise and fall in the tide of print.  Many have made fortunes, or at least reputations as innovators and great capitalists from books, from the man who opened bookstalls in Victorian train-stations, to the popularizer of classics in paperback, to Jeff Bezos of   Each is to be well remembered and applauded for their contributions to the culture as well as for their business acumen  and willingness to risk their own and other people's money in such, for the time, questionably profitable gambles.  But for every innovator in publishing and selling, there have always been hundreds or possibly even thousands of less daring souls, readers and retailers, bibliophiles and buyers and tradesmen more like... well, me.

We no more set the price of a hardcover from Random House than we determine the value of stock.  And we live, as do the independent publishers, the freelance writers, editors and translators, and, it would seem, the readers and collectors of less established, or well remembered authors, on the narrow margins of solvency, not because we are reckless or stupid or undisciplined, but because what we love is the company of books more perhaps than we do the business of books, and will, it seems, often as not, sacrifice, to our own ultimate ruin perhaps, the latter to secure the former.

A short discounted title from an academic press on an obscure subject?  But surely, Stacey's must have at least a copy of such a book on the shelf when, and if, the right customer comes in to find just such a book?  Else how will the reader know he or she needs it?  Not one, or even a few of the newest or the best books on Lincoln for the University Book Store, but all the titles we can get that might be worth having when we set up a display table to celebrate the Bicentennial of his birthday, else are we not doing a disservice to our customers and to the writers and scholars who have labored to preserve our history and his memory?

And if we can not discount the New York Times Bestsellers list as a result, or choose to promote our own selection instead... And if we can not sell every bestselling new children's title at prices to compete with Costco, but choose to celebrate the PNBA Lifetime Achievement Award winner Alexandra Day by carrying every available title in multiple copies instead... 

That is the value that is lost in the passing of Stacey's.  Those who criticize or sneer at the incompetence of the independent bookstore in the face of the more elegant and profitable business model of the chain store, or whose purchasing is dictated by the automated suggestions provided by the wizardry of online marketing, rather miss the point.  We do not do this, and Stacey's did not do what they did for 85 years, because we, or they, hoped one day to be rich as the result of of our labour.  We, and they, did and do consider ourselves rich in the books and authors we've known, the customers we've met, the generations whose reading and opinions we've cultivated and cared about, in the culture we've supported and sold.  We simple booksellers, in all our enthusiasm and old-fashioned amateurism, have done what we do because we believe, ultimately, more in the supremacy of the word than the dollar.  

And if that sounds too grand for such as us, perhaps it is.  We are ultimately peddlers, not artists.  But do please at least give us this: should Stacey's, and all like it, be allowed to go, do you really think the world will be a more art-full, or a better place?  Or will it be, simply, a more profitable and convenient market?  Nothing wrong with that, of course.  As you like it.

Meanwhile, my thoughts and my heart go to Stacey's and all who still love the books, and the booksellers therein.  

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Dog of the Week

This is Sydney. She genuinely enjoyed sniffing the store thoroughly. She also seemed to enjoy her cookie, once it had been thoroughly sniffed. She was about as friendly as a dog can possibly be without actually bursting.
Good Dog, Sydney!

Cliff Mass Brought the Sunshine

Cliff Mass is here! Join our favorite Weather Guru while he signs books, answers questions, prognosticates and has a nice kibitz with the folks.

And, he cleverly arranged for the sky to clear (presumably only while he's here in the bookstore, so hurry in before the fog rolls back.

In the Bleak Midwinter

This morning in Seattle the sky is paper white. Coming in to the bookstore, Brooklyn Ave., as I cross it, disappears at either end in a fog as dense as pipe-smoke. At this hour of the morning -- early for a Saturday -- University Way is empty but for baggy-kneed runners and a very small lady walking a very small dog. The occasional crow with a bagel too large to be lifted from the gutter semaphores threats to rival diners real or imagined. The air burns just a little with each breath taken.

Now this is Winter in Seattle, as I've come to enjoy it. Not that mess of snow and ice we had in December. This, this is what winter weather is meant to look and feel, and even smell like in the greatest city in the Northwest.

Someone, and I think we all know who I mean, still has a great deal of explaining to do. Cliff Mass (his very name suggesting geologic time and the grand mutability of nature,) will be here at the bookstore today at 1PM to sign his book, Weather of the Northwest. Cliff Mass, our local weather Magus and hero of the booksellers' Christmas. Drop in to get a signed copy and tell him about the sand in the streets and the rain in the Scablands.

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Follow-Up Question for Michael Downing

A new question from the Seattle Gay & Lesbian Book Club for our author Michael Downing, about his novel Breakfast with Scot. Nick & Co. wanted to know if Scot -- the little boy inherited by the central characters Ed and Sam -- was based "on a real boy." Herewith, Mr. Downing's response:

Michael Downing: As a preamble to my response, I should say that I don't subscribe to the mystical school of writing. I'm never attended by a muse. I'm so conventional that I don't think I really understand what is real about magical realism.That said, I have to say Scot invented himself. It's true. I didn't intend to write a book about a boy. I had latched on to Ed and Sam and the intention to write a comic novel about nosey neighbors--something I know something about, as I have long been one of them.It's gets more complicated. I had actually signed a contract to write Shoes Outside the Door--a narrative history of the San Francisco Zen Center, the first Buddhist monastery outside of Asia in the history of the world. After several months of research and interviews, I realized it was going to be a much bigger project than I'd understood--not least of all because I understood that I didn't understand the first thing about the 5,000-year history of Buddhism, never mind trying to get a handle on the slip-knot of zen.I got depressed and wanted to cheer myself up, and that's when I decided to stop and write a comic novel. The only thing wrong with the many first drafts I ditched was that they weren't funny. Then Scot turned up. He entered my imagination fully formed. He was wearing some really bad red corduroy slacks and dragging a boa. I had no idea who he was or what he wanted with me, but he'd just stand there is his slouchy, hands-on-the-hips way and stare, occasionally widening his eyes to convey his astonishment at my failure to introduce myself and get him a cold beverage.Maybe he was an amalgamation of boys whose flamboyant bravery I'd admired. Maybe I hauled him out of my fear that he was the boy people saw hiding inside of me. Whoever he was, he made it clear he wouldn't go away, no matter how often I raised my eyebrows or sighed audibly to let him know I was too busy to entertain visitors.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

An Interview with Michael Downing, Part Two

Further conversation with Michael Downing, author of Breakfast with Scot, the first book being discussed in the Seattle Gay & Lesbian Book Club. To read Part 1, click here.

Brad Craft: Religion is at the center of some of your earlier books, but not so much Breakfast with Scot.

Michael Downing: I’m very bad at religion. I gave it up when I realized my practice was a fantastically complicated method of wishing it weren’t so.
I’m not unaware that one of the few tenets common to religions around the world is the illegitimacy of GLBT people—in fact, it seems to the one of the criteria for ascending into the ranks of the so-called Great Religions of the World. It also helps to have a lot of preposterous advice for women. And I know this has made for a lot of misery. But I wanted to get at something that resides well below the level of stupidity and hate and codified bigotry.
I nixed religion in the neighborhood for two reasons. First, I could. Second, I wanted to place Sam and Ed and Scot in a benign world—a world in which more people than not are trying to get it right. (Cambridge really seems like such a place to me.) I’d read a lot of novels about gay people whose identities were formed in opposition to the culture. I got interested in what was at stake when gay people were embraced by the culture—what was at stake for gay people and for the culture.

BC: Our Book Club host, Nick DiMartino is, to use his own word, "obsessed" with first-person narrators.

MD: I share Nick's obsession.

BC: Your earlier novel, Perfect Agreement and Breakfast with Scot both have narrators who seem to share, for want of a better term, a gay sensibility; bemused, ironic, self-consciously, almost preemptively, self critical.

MD: I love the phrase preemptive self-criticism. It conjures up the cartoonish image of somebody constantly punching himself to beat everybody else to the punch. It's funny while it's happening -- and then you see the bruise.

BC: You've said elsewhere that you "wanted to write a genuinely comic novel about shame."

MD: In the most highfalutin terms. For what it's worth, I wanted to make the literal text of the novel transparent. This was in part a measure of how deeply I had fallen in love with the declarative sentence. And it was also something about my own sense that Scot -- all of us, I guess -- was first and foremost a kid, not a cryptogram or a problem to be solved. I figured if the literal text was plain, readers would be in the position all of the other characters -- especially Ed -- are in whenever they encounter Scot: staring at the obvious and turning it into a Rorschach test.

BC: And a first-person narrator, in this case Ed, puts the reader in Ed's position.

MD: The simple answer is that both Perfect Agreement and Breakfast with Scot are novels about community and the first-person narrator created a natural tension. Both Mark Sternum (the narrator of Perfect Agreement) and Ed are reluctant to surrender their singular sense of themselves.
Also, I think I might feel most confident as a writer—maybe I mean, least self-conscious—when I am inhabiting a character who wants nothing more than to talk, talk, talk to the reader. Frankly, nothing makes me weak in the knees like a good conversation. My most rewarding and intimate relationships are fueled by conversation. After a dinner at our house on the first night of a long weekend with several long-time friends, a relative newcomer said he felt like he’d been shipped off to Camp Can’t Shut Up. That’s my idea of heaven: Camp Can’t Shut Up.

BC: Ed is also very funny. I was reminded of other funny first-person characters, like Bertie Wooster. Ed seems to me to have something of that same innocence when we first meet him...

MD: I am a devoted Wodehouse fan. I’d love to think something of him rubbed off on me besides the ink from all those Penguin paperbacks. And I think it is very generous of you to call Ed innocent. If you mean, Ed is one of those people who is constantly astonished that the rest of the world still is not behaving as he would prefer, I agree.
My sense is that the quality all the characters (in Breakfast with Scot) share is almostness. Sam, as a chiropractor, is almost a doctor. Ed, as an editor at an arts magazine, is almost an artist. The neighbors, the Burlingtons are almost a family. Sam's brother Billy is almost Scot's father. Scot is almost a boy. And so on. You get it, I'm sure. The tragic (or more often in bad novels, melodramatic) version of this quality is a sense of fraudulence, of course. I liked the idea of almostness because it gives credit for people trying, for having ambitions and hopes, for taking a shot at something -- love, style, a neighbor's window -- even though they have bad aim. Unlike fraudulence, which is a lonely, unspeakable secret we carry, almostness is something others can do something about, should they be so inclined. Fraudulence gets solved (if it ever does) by the self. Almostness is susceptible to others, to the possibility that completeness is not a singular achievement.

BC: Nick and others have all asked about the movie made out of Breakfast with Scot.

MD: I am so grateful they made it -- I mean both that it got made and that it got made by that particular creative team and not any of the previous people who'd optioned it and seemed not to understand that it was meant to be funny -- that I am a bad reporter. I know that the screenwriter and director and producer were very nervous about showing me the first draft of the screenplay because of the hockey business (the character of Ed goes from being an arts magazine editor to being a former professional hockey player in the movie) -- which I really loved, oddly. It seems to me a genuine idea, and it also had the virtue of turning the project into an adaptation, not a film version of my novel. I love the cast. I wish we had more time with the women characters, each of whom struck me as spot on, as portrayed in the movie. I totally admire Noah Bernett, who plays Scot, and the choice to cast a kid who was not conventionally cute or elegant. I didn't love the choice to make him a great skater. I preferred the idea that Scot didn't come with any compensatory skills or adroitness often assigned to outcasts. And though I didn't love the choice to put Ed (renamed Eric in the film because Tom Cavanagh, who played him, was too identified with his TV show "Ed" -- really) in the closet, though I thought Cavanagh was superb, and I think he put on the screen something really new about what a man will do to himself and everyone around him not to feel what he is feeling.

BC: When are we going to get another novel from you?

MD:All I want to do is finish my memoir, I’ll Make it Up to You, and write a novel. I've been waylaid by the facts for way too long.

BC: Has being labeled a gay novelist limited you at all? Gay fiction seems to be disappearing as a bookstore genre.

MD: As for limits—well, I think the project of my life has been learning to love my limits. I really don’t think my career has ever been adversely affected by my being a gay man or by my choice to write about gay people. There have been three editions of Breakfast with Scot and my publisher is bringing out a new edition of Perfect Agreement at the end of this year. Frankly, the only thing holding me back is what I don’t do every day.
As for “gay fiction”—it occurs to me that genre is a lot like gender. I don’t trust the various categorical distinctions, and I really never think about them while I am writing. I mean, who feels confident about drawing the line between fiction and nonfiction these days?

BC: Thanks, Michael. We'll be checking in again I'm sure before we're done with Breakfast with Scot. Any last thoughts today?

MD: For now: David Geffen throws a million-dollar party for Barack Obama before anybody thinks Obama has a prayer of being elected and two years later Obama invites Rick Warren to say a prayer at his inauguration party—that’s a sublime gay novel just begging to be written.

tell all your friends!