Thursday, September 6, 2007

Weekend Links

Google steals from Goodreads, launching a new blog feature wherein users can find, organize, review, and boast about the books that they've read. has the official description, but in short, it's a book nerd's MySpace.

Those of you still emailing newspaper editors, demanding that they reinstate their recently canceled book review sections, might want to head on over to the Columbia Journalism Review. Their cover story this month is 'Goodbye to All That: The decline of the coverage of books isn’t new, benign, or necessary' by Steve Wasserman. It's a thoughtful and surprisingly optimistic piece on that very subject.
Update: Critical Mass just held a brief interview with Wasserman that addresses many of the issues that he raises in his article. To read it, click here.

According to the Associated Press, much of the blame for Wednesday's stock market plummet is being attributed to the the recent publication of the federal government's vaguely titled, Beige Book. So what exactly is this Beige Book, who writes it, how is it written, and why should we as bookstore folk even give a damn?

Stolen whole from the article, Whither the E-Book?:
"The New York Times offers some tantalizing nuggets from the perpetually fledgling e-book market. These includes deets on the expensive ($400 to $500) reader Amazon is set to release next month. Early users of the Kindle say it's quite limited as a Web browser, thanks to a screen that can't display color or animation. And it uses a proprietary format that means early e-book adopters will have to repurchase a lot of content from Amazon. More glad tidings from the money-grubbing frontier: Google allegedly plans to require payment for full access to certain digital texts in its database."

"Samedi the Deafness" by Jesse Ball

What follows is a review of Jesse Ball's recently-published novel Samedi the Deafness.

I will spare you specifics about the book, as this is well-covered elsewhere on these interweb-tubes. Another motivation for this is because I wish for each new reader of Samedi to discover the story on their own terms as much as possible. I was looking forward to reading this novel by the poet Jesse Ball ever since I saw it was to be released. Once I got my hands on the advanced reader's copy, I paused my reading only for sleep and eating. It can go by quickly if you aren't careful to savor it, yet you don't feel as if the book is whipping you along. At the same time, the wonder and preciousness of each moment comes through in the book. The story feels like a distinct character, as if it has it's own life and agency. You come across little wisdoms uttered by the characters which initially feel as if they are meant to remain within the realm of the book, but as the book seeps into you you start to wonder which ones might function well outside the pages. And there are deeper wisdoms here, stretching across pages and sections of the book, which take longer to seep in.

The imagination present in this story is inspirational, as it is not a separate entity but the well up from which the story is drawn. Scenes from the book are still swirling about my head. I say this in contrast to another author whom I enjoy, who blurs the line between reality and the sub-/un-conscious (imaginary?), thus making reality feel unstable and foggy. This is enjoyable on its own merits, if you enjoy such a challenge. Ball's work is assured in its vagaries and imagination, which imparts a confidence on the reader rather than a fog, bringing its own challenges to the reader and reinforcing the reader's suspension of disbelief. While I speak of confidences, I should mention that Ball's writing style makes it feels like the story is being told directly to you, bestowed in confidence not to be disclosed to others. What a feeling to be in collusion with an author while reading their words!

Samedi is a good introduction to Ball's fiction writing style, which has a feel akin to prose poetry. There is talk of another of his novels being released sometime in 2008, which promises to delve deeper into imaginative realms. His other publications are worth your time, including a collection of poetry, March Book, and a collection of short stories/prose poems about an atrocious couple with a stirring joie de vivre, Vera & Linus, written with poet Thordis Bjornsdottir.

I urge you to explore the website for Samedi the Deafness, which includes audio of the author reading excerpts, videos produced by the author, and promotional materials for the populace to spread the word about Samedi. The Flash plug-in is necessary.

Your Favorite Literary Classics, Now With 100% More Bodily Fluids!

Marquis de Sade, Hunter S. Thompson, Virginia Woolf...all of them were great literary minds who willfully ignored the accepted social and moral codes of their day in order to artistically examine and express the darker aspects of the world they lived in.

Johnny Ryan, author and illustrator of Angry Youth Comics and Comic Book Holocaust makes no such claims. He is just a filthy, funny, cantankerous motherf***er with no self-righteous excuses for the foul things he draws.

Ryan's officially licensed website is currently offering free peeks at a few of his comics. Making it marginally appropriate for inclusion on this blog is The Klassic Komix Klub, an X-rated collection of comic strips themed solely around the capital-G Great Works of Literature.

If, after clearing your hard drive of any evidence that you ever visited his site, you're curious to read an extensive interview with Mr. Ryan, head over to The Hooded Utilitarian. Then clear your hard drive all over again.

The Way We See It: At Least They're Not Bashing Bookstores

The popularity of crappy, new release bestsellers with the cheap and demanding public is forcing many libraries to restructure themselves into book-themed Blockbuster Videos. This sad turn of events has prompted the Guardian UK to ask, 'Where's the great literature in local libraries?'

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Do Bookstore Employees Dream of Shelving Philip K. Dick Novels?

We are now two days into our nine month hibernatory slumber. The self-reflective imagery that we had so eagerly looked forward to has already proved entirely disappointing. It lacks vividness and grows fainter with every passing hour. What were we thinking, asking for answers? There are no lessons to be learned in the downtime.

Shrill snippetts of garbled voices echo and drift in from the street. They belong to the lost and not the looking. I offer direction, but they crave only directions. Don't they know who we are? What we are? What we can do?

I step outside to check: Has our once proud sign fallen into disrepair? Have the shadows stretched so far as to obscure the letters, making our mission moot?

Or is it true what scientists say: That no one reads in dreams?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

What Does Your Store Do?

Summer is over. The crowds have left the Cape. No longer are the streets packed with people who forgot their intended summer reads and have no permanent address where can send their orders to. This leaves our shop with only the faithful year round residents and the occasional and possibly accidental walk-ins to pawn our paperback wares to.
Yesterday I posed a challenge to the members of my staff. I wanted each of them to try and think of an idea/gimmick/scam/kidnapping plot to attract a fresh, new audience to our bookstore and win back the crusty bottomed crowd that would rather sit at home and shop than peruse the aisles of a local indie. We already do in-store book signings and readings, as well as the seasonal museum tour or two. These work well, but we're noticing that it's the same faces attending every time. We've also been doing out-of-store events, mostly due to the tireless promotional work of one our store's best handsellers, Kay. These, too, have been highly effective. But now we need something new to add to our arsenal. So we're putting the question out to you, the readers.
As a bookstore employee/owner, what does your store do to attract a crowd?
And as a bookstore shopper, what sorts of things do you look for in the stores that you frequent?