Thursday, June 23, 2011
If you come into the store in the next few months (and why wouldn't you?), stop by our new Summer Staff Favorites display. We have everything from childhood favorites (A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L'Engle; Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome) to new nonfiction (Fire Season by Philip Connors; Tolstoy and the Purple Chair by Nina Sankovitch) and classic fiction (Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry; The Hunter by Richard Stark.) If all you can think about this summer is eating delicious things, there are some beautiful cookbooks to choose from (Fried Chicken and Champagne by Lisa Dupar; Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi)
I promise there will be no more parenthesis in this blog post.
These and many more great picks await your perusal. If you don't live around here, why not give our new "Ask A Bookseller" button a whirl and let us recommend something to you? Tell us what kind of books you like, give us a price range, and we will send you whatever sounds good. Personal shopper + free shipping = summer reading success!!
Big (medium-sized?) news around here: we've added an Ask A Bookseller button to our website. It looks like the green square above. Now, that one's not a link, because I'm not quite savvy enough to do that, but if you go to our books homepage, it'll be there on the right-hand side and clicking on the real one will make your computer send us an e-mail. Here are some kinds of questions you could ask us through e-mail:
1. Do you have any used copies of that new hardcover that was just on the radio? (Maybe.)That's it! Easy as pie. And if that button doesn't work for you, you can e-mail us at ubs [underscore] askabookseller [at] earthlink.net. Except you should put an actual underscore and an actual @ sign instead of those brackets. I think if I write it out fully, robots from space will start sending us e-mails about certain medications and princes who need our bank account numbers.
2. What's the perfect book for a precocious six-year-old who likes adventure-y or fantasy books? (David and the Phoenix.)
3. Can you put Zeitoun on hold for me at your U District store? No, wait, in Bellevue? (Absolutely. Do you want the paperback for $15.95, or the remainder hardcover for $9.98?)
4. Are you guys going to do a summer reading program? (Yes!)
5. What was Lewis Carroll's real name again? (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson.)
Ask us a question!
-Anna, Kids Books
More where that came from.
Mrs. Humphry Ward on Sensational Fiction, Sufferage, and the Servant ProblemContemporary fiction for domestics & humble persons is rife with explicit abuse, violence and depravity. Why is this considered a good idea?
Mrs. Albert Bunthorn-Pandowdy, wife and mother of thirteen, recently stood amidst the cheap paper novel section of her local commercial library, in Minge Lane, Worcestershire, feeling thwarted and disheartened.
Friday, June 17, 2011
The other titles I can remember getting me are parenting books, which seem to be really big on this, for some reason:
edited by Faith Conlon and Gail Hudson
(this one used to drive me crazy- that song is so hard to get out of your head!)
by David Sheff
--Anna, in Kids
Thursday, June 16, 2011
If books show us the world, teen fiction can be like a hall of fun-house mirrors, constantly reflecting back hideously distorted portrayals of what life is. There are of course exceptions, but a careless young reader—or one who seeks out depravity—will find himself surrounded by images not of joy or beauty but of damage, brutality and losses of the most horrendous kinds.I stopped reading the thing somewhere around there, annoyed by the whole tone and not interested in feeling defensive about this category I spend much of my life reading and selling. It doesn't sound like she even reads YA for fun, so I felt okay dismissing the whole thing to save myself from a weekend of teeth-gnashing.
Well, one of the reasons I love YA is that the community of people who read, write, publish, review, and sell these books are particularly awesome and loyal people, and I should've known that the responses to this article would be worth keeping an eye on. Compiled below are some of my favorite responses so far.
Saturday, June 11, 2011
Friday, June 10, 2011
You know the great Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys? Why, sure you do. The master of Western Swing, ol' Bob was a favorite of my Dad's. We'd be out together on a Saturday, delivering dog feed -- a little sideline of my Dad's-- and the old man used to sing "Cherokee Maiden", "San Antonio Rose", and "Ida Red", top of his lungs, driving country roads in the old panel-truck.
To this day, the sound of a party, somewhere in the back of my head, is still and will always be "Stay a Little Longer",. You know it. Sure you do:
Stay all night, stay a little longer,
Dance all night, dance a little longer,
Pull off your coat, throw it in the corner,
Don't see why you can't stay a little longer...
Now, that's a party, son.
I had to cross to the shady side of forty before I could listen to country again. Hillbilly was, frankly, everything I fled when I came away from home. Dinner parties, cocktail parties, the Socialist Party USA, just about any kind of party I'd seen in the movies, any party where people chatted about the latest books, sipped from glass-tumblers, pronounced the final "g" in words like "darling", ate sophisticated portions from little china plates, that was the kind of party at which I wanted desperately to be. Eventually, I even went to a few such. Not all one might have hoped, most of them. Now, I'm fine with a good shindy. Love me some Bob Wills now, too.
We're planning a little party here at the bookstore, come Thursday, July 14th. A month or so ago, I was shocked realize that the 200th birthday of the author of Vanity Fair was coming up on the 18th of July, and so far as I could see, there wasn't a damned thing planned for the occasion anywhere. (I've been searching.) How could such a thing be? William Makepeace Thackeray was one of the greatest, most successful novelists of the Nineteenth Century -- which is rather like saying the greatest and most followed "Tweeter" of the Twenty First, I suppose, for those that may not appreciate the three volume novel. Not a candle being lit nor a word said, save here. To celebrate, we're going to do a reading of Thackeray. I'll be doing my part, as I hope will at least a couple of others from the bookstore -- if all goes well, we may actually even have at least one genuine Englishman on hand.
As unlikely as it may sound, I believe the novelist would be pleased, with or without our Englishman. Thackeray was enormously popular in America. At the height of his fame he came over and lectured here on the four bad English kings named George, among other things. We loved that, and he was glad. Thackeray liked Americans. He came to see us twice.
The night of, I'm thinking we'll do a Thackeray story about a party. Not the kind of hoedown I remember from my rural childhood, and certainly not the dazzling ideal of the cocktail party as thrown in the movies by Nick & Nora, Thackeray's "A Little Dinner at the Timmons's" is a perfect little satire of mid-Victorian, middle class pretensions -- still perfectly recognizable today -- with a bit of slapstick and other silliness included on the bill, gratis. Should be great fun. Thackeray could be specially good describing snobs and climbers, and pretensions of every kind (see, for another example, his A Shabby Genteel Story) in other words, individuals like me, if I'm not careful.
It may seem specially strange, such a redneck as me proposing the memory of William Makepeace Thackeray, gentleman. I suppose it is a little odd that I should have become so devoted to such a writer. That's the beauty part, my dears. It is cliche of the slack reviewer to describe the writing of almost any Tom, Dick or Harry as being "universal in its appeal," and I would not say that everyone should like a novel like Pendennis, or The History of Henry Esmond, Esq., or even Thackeray's masterpiece, Vanity Fair. What I will say is that more should read Thackeray than do now, not as a duty or any nonsense like that -- I don't believe in reading books because they might be good for us -- but we should more of us be reading Thackeray because he is that good, in fact masterful in many instances. He can be deucedly funny. No lie. More than this though, he was a brilliant writer, capable of many moods besides the comic. He could be quite gentle, even sentimental about things like the superiority of the female, and the kindness owed to children. (I'll put up a short reading here somewhere, from Thackeray in a quieter, more thoughtful, even melancholy frame.) Rather than trust me about all of this, come to the celebration and see for yourselves, read one of the novels, and see if I'm wrong. Don't think you won't like it. You may well be surprised. Remember, if some rube like me can get to appreciate his finer qualities, well then anybody might.
Again, please don't be put off from coming to the reading then because of any unfamiliarity with the writer. You will have a good time, believe me. I'll do my best by him, I hope, try not to lower the tone much, keep my shoes on.
Tuesday, June 07, 2011
While this battle for legitimacy is still going on today, it’s obvious that comics have come a long way, baby, and that J Hernandez has contributed greatly to this shift in perception both with his own work, and also by inspiring other artists. With his knack for depicting believable (flawed, complex) characters in an elegant yet dynamic style, he has undoubtedly influenced many comics creators working today.
As a long-time reader of Love and Rockets, I was quite excited to stumble upon the book The Art of Jaime Hernandez: the Secrets of Life and Death by Todd Hignite. In this beautifully designed book, Hignite uses a wealth of images as well as text to paint a vivid portrait of his subject. The pictures – from family photos to punk rock flyers to pages from Jaime’s sketchbooks – are a fascinating collection for any L & R enthusiast. More importantly, however, these images are always the perfect complement to the writing that they accompany, and vice versa. The reader doesn’t get to see, say, the doodles on Jaime’s PeeChee folder just because, but because they serve some purpose in the larger narrative of the book.
Hignite details Hernandez’ career chronologically, beginning with a childhood spent reading comics, and creating his own from an early age. In twelve well-researched chapters, Hignite guides the reader through the artist’s continuing love of comics in his teenage years, and then his prolific career, which has spanned more than two decades. The book explores how influences beyond other cartoonists have shaped Hernandez’ work, particularly Latino culture and the punk movement. Interviews with Hernandez, as well as a few family members and associates, offer personal insights and keep things from getting too dry.
If you are a fan of Jaime Hernandez, this book offers an excellent behind-the-scenes look at the life and work of a beloved artist. If you are interested in alternative comics and aren’t yet familiar with the works of Mr. Hernandez, I don’t know what you’re waiting for.
Sunday, June 05, 2011
While shelving in the Fiction section (ah, the sweet rewards of shelving!), I came upon a used copy of Nabokov's stories and began leafing through its pages. Years ago, I'd read his charming and much anthologized "Mademoiselle O," but all the others here were new to me, each luminous in its own way. They range from tender to devilish, whimsical to darkly funny, wry to deeply heartening. And now I've happily added Nabokov's to my bedside stack of favorite short story writers, like Graham Greene, Elizabeth Bowen, D.H. Lawrence, Mavis Gallant, and William Maxwell.
One of the first I glanced at was the sly, keen-edged, “A Dashing Fellow,” that grabbed me in its first paragraph. The first-person narrator speaks from the rather roguish viewpoint of “we,” which turns out to include a pair of inner accomplices plotting an act of brief, extramarital mischief.
We have a swarthy complexion, a network of purple-red veins, a black moustache, trimly clipped, and hairy nostrils. We breathe hard through our nose as we try to solve a crossword puzzle in an émigré paper. We are alone in a third-class compartment—alone and, therefore, bored.
When the trio's much-anticipated, but ultimately humiliating, fling with a young woman ends a couple of hours later, they're back on the crammed and heat-stifled train.
We feel out of sorts, but do not quite know if we are hungry or drowsy. But when we have fed and slept, life will regain its looks…. And then, sometime later, we die.
What I love most about these tales, besides their wit, is Nabokov’s enormous sensory appetite, and that of his characters—all fine by me since I’m definitely a reader (and a story writer myself) hungry for sensory details. One of my favorite writers, Claire Boylan, wrote, “I love the feeling, with the short story, that the world is in the detail and that small random acts can set ordinary lives alight or consume them to ash.” Nabokov's mother had nurtured his visual memory from a very young age, and fostered an acute sensory response to facets of color and light in, say, a handful of jewels or the play of sunlight through stained glass.
Throughout his writing, Nabokov joyfully savors, for himself and his wished-for readers, the rich life and complex people of the many vanished worlds he had known (Petersburg, Prague, Berlin, Paris, Switzerland) through scintillating combinations of detail. More than merely evoking his readers’ empathy with his characters, Nabokov invites his readers to perceive sensually, let’s say, the interior of a sleeping compartment on the Moscow-Petersburg night train of a hundred years ago in which, say, a drowsy Russian boy and his English governess are whisked away.
Two of his shortest and most radiant stories, “A Letter That Never Reached Russia” and “Beneficence,” are striking examples of his visual magic and the sensory ambience he wove around his characters to glean their consciousness, to capture fleeting changes of mood or attitude. Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Chabon remarks that “Nobokov’s English combines aching lyricism with dispassionate precision in a way that seems to render every human emotion in all its intensity but never with an ounce of schmaltz or soggy language.”
At the end of “The Fight,” the narrator confesses,
The story could have been given a different twist, and made to depict compassionately how a girl’s happiness had been mortified for the sake of a copper coin, how Emma spent the whole night crying, and how, after falling asleep toward morning, she saw again, in her dreams, the frenzied face of her father as he pummeled her lover. Or perhaps what matters is not the human pain or joy at all, but, rather, the play of shadow and light on a live body, the harmony of trifles assembled on this particular day, at this particular moment, in a unique and inimitable way."
Nabokov believed that the ability to marvel at the mundane world—to “wonder at trifles”—is the key to understanding his characters’ pain of loss or mortality’s destructive power, and the life force that is then mysteriously released within and around them. In the beautiful story, “Gods,” a father refuses to share his wife’s sorrow over the death of their child. Rather, the strange beauty of arbitrary things around him persuades him that “there is no death.” He tells his wife,
“Forgive me if I am incapable of weeping, of simple human weeping, but instead keep singing and running somewhere, clutching at whatever wings fly past…”
It’s as though this man’s utterly nondiscriminating vision of ordinary things—of intersecting wires in the sky, of the hazy mosaic of factory chimneys, the afterglow of lightbulb filaments on a suddenly darkened underground train—lends him a kind of clairvoyance into what lies beyond.
In her new and delightful book, The Enchanter: Nabokov and Happiness, Lila Azam Zanganeh agrees with this.
Literature is but scintillating texture… [for Nabokov] “The demonic artistry of words perhaps conceals ‘galaxies divine’, where death might be no more than a lifted corner of the eternal present.”
Nabokov tells in his memoir Speak, Memory that he experienced instances of “a strangely translucent” state in which he could envision in vivid detail simultaneous events that he couldn't possibly have known. One senses that this surely informed his abiding preoccupation with gazing into a timeless ‘otherworldliness’ in his stories.
According to Stephen Jay Gould, Nabokov’s vivid and patient attention to detail in writing stemmed from the same source as his devoted attention to the fine points of butterfly genitalia as he stared through a microscope for hours on end at the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology. It was his love not only of detail, but of the contemplation of detail and the hidden symmetry to be found there. In the most autobiographical of his novels, The Gift, the main character describes “…the odors of butterflies—musk and vanilla…the voices of butterflies…the incredible artistic wit of mimetic disguise” as a cunning Brazilian butterfly imitates the whir of a local bird.
Nabokov once explained to an interviewer,
When I was younger, I ate some butterflies in Vermont to see if they were poisonous…. I didn’t see any difference between a Monarch and a Viceroy. The taste of both was vile, but I had no ill effects. They tasted like almonds and perhaps a green cheese combination…. Will you eat some with me tomorrow for breakfast?
But there’s something more to this, as Barbara Wyllie points out: His expertise as a butterfly specialist “informed his themes of transformation and transcendence that seem to dominate his work.” After all, what’s more transformative than the life stages of a butterfly?!
One of the shortest and most touching stories in this book, titled simply “Christmas,” describes a grieving Russian widower on a snowy Christmas Eve, returning home alone from his young son’s funeral who discovers by lantern light in the boy’s cold, dark room his butterfly net and mounting supplies and trays of specimens—and an English biscuit tin containing a large exotic cocoon that was “papery to the touch and seemed made of a brown folded leaf.” He brings the tin back with him to his own, warm study, when suddenly there’s a snap that brings him out of his revery. The cocoon in the biscuit tin had burst open…” and though the ending may seem predictable, it catches you by surprise and takes my breath away with each reading.
Another fascinating quality of Nabokov and his writing is that, like his mother, he was a synaesthete. At a young age, he equated all the letters of the alphabet with distinct colors. In his memoir, Speak, Memory, he tells us that “I see ‘q’ as browner than ‘k’, while ‘s’ is not the light blue of ‘c’, but a curious mixture of azure and mother-of-pearl.” He often gave his protagonists the same synaesthetic senses. There’s a famous line from The Gift, in which the main character, an auditory synaesthete (as was Nabokov’s mother), says, “If I had some paints handy, I would mix burnt-sienna and sepia for you so as to match the color of a ‘ch’ sound.” Nabokov’s wife Vera and their only child Dimitri were also synaesthetic. The colors Dimitri associated with some letters were blends of his parents’ hues, which, he describes, “is as if genes were painting in aquarelle.”
Nabokov’s extraordinary range of gifts, of which he was joyfully grateful, plays out for us in his fiction and in his spectacular memoir that, through the years, I’ve relished more with each reading.
Thursday, June 02, 2011
Because of the journal I can talk to my mom about all that awful, awkward puberty stuff and not have to face the embarrassment of saying it to her face.Her mom adds:
Another thing about the journal is how well we get to know each other through it. Do you know your mom's favorite dinner? [...] Or who she had a crush on in middle school?
I love that we communicate a little differently when we write because we have time to think. My mind often wanders when I write, so I think I share even more than I do when we talk. It's quite possible that she "hears" me better when I write. And, she's braver when she writes.Anyway, I kind of want to do this with my mom, even though I'm all grown up. Also, even though it has some mom-specific stuff, it'd be just as fun to use with an older sister or aunt or grandma. With a great cover, sweet illustrations and a well-executed format and design, this is an excellent gift.
by The Women's Foundation of California
by Rachel Kauder Nalebuff
by Nancy Amanda Redd
Are you someone's rebel aunt? Come on. Everyone has one, and if you have a niece (or a young cousin or just your friend's kid who you know), it might be time to check yourself out. Are you planning on buying her tickets to concerts in a couple of years, or sneaking her into R-rated movies? Maybe you just occasionally let a curse word slip out around her? Buy her clothing made out of leather? Were you the one who bought her that skull-and-crossbones onesie? Well, then you're the perfect person to get her one of these books. If her mom gives them to her, the shine is off. But they contain a lot of really life-changingly great information, and the just-right cool person giving them to her could mean she actually reads them. My Little Red Book, which is not aimed exclusively at young people and would make a great gift for grownup friends too, would be an amazingly sweet gift for a fifth grade graduate (yes, they will be SOOOO embarrassed, but they'll probably read it cover to cover). It's a collection of first-person accounts of first period stories. You'd be surprised, if you think about how common this experience is, how little we talk about it, especially to gals who are just about to or have just experienced it themselves. Seriously, this book is awesome. The subject index in the back cracks me up: "Caught Between Two Cultures," "Disposal Challenges," "I Was Dying," and "Judy Blume" all have their own list of stories. Ha! PLEASE GET THIS NOW (for everyone).
Body Drama would be better for eighth grade grads (or at least middle schoolers). Written by a Harvard-educated beauty queen, it's full of color photographs illustrating all the body questions and answers a teenager could ask (it was quite educational for grownup ladies in our department). Because of the graphic pictures and the really direct language, it's one you should page through first to make sure you're comfortable giving it as a gift. But man, is it chock full of information, and the photographs of all different kinds of bodies and body issues are the kind of education everyone needs and we rarely get as teens. From "I bathe every day but I still smell" to "I'm a virgin, but I missed my period" to "My piercing isn't healing well," there are a lot of questions it'd be embarrassing to ask a knowledgeable adult and this book answers lots of them. It has step-by-step instructions for how to make the best emergency pad out of toilet paper, for goodness sake (with photographs)! I love this book.
Local author Debbie Reber has two books (at least two, she writes a lot for young women and girls, see her website here) that I'd comfortably give as a gift to any teen or tween girl. In Their Shoes is a comprehensive and conversational set of profiles of women who have successful, rewarding careers. Unlike some career books that are just quizzes about your personality, this one works hard to uncover what a day in the life feels like, what the actual work is, so that you can really get a feel for what a job entails instead of just getting a quick explanation somebody looked up online. Some of the women kept diaries of what they did all day, some gave in-depth interviews. All of the profiles include sections on other jobs in that field and what you can do as a teen to prepare for a job like this. It's a feel-good read whether or not one is interested in future careers, since if you read the whole thing, you've just met around fifty happy, smart, successful women.
Chill is just what it sounds like, and if you know any high-strung gals who are looking toward middle or high school with a certain amount of perfectionist dread (or scatterbrained dread) this would be a sweet thing to pair with a gift certificate for something relaxing (I'll leave it up to you to decide whether that's a manicure or parasailing, everyone's different). Full of varying tips and tricks on managing stress and practicing good self-care, I love this book's focus on the importance of creating healthy boundaries. Lots of people talk to teens about stress—"Gee whiz, young people these days, with all their iTalking and their Spacebooks!"—without offering specific, direct advice and strategies. This one is straight-shooting and helpful.
-Anna, Kids Books
Wednesday, June 01, 2011
"My work is all narrative, and it’s always word based, and speaks, really, to literature. This is my way of writing. I’m very connected to the feeling that I get from reading books, and the information I get from reading books, and the hopefulness I get from reading books—the text and handwriting, word becoming image."
We love her!