Friday, June 5, 2009

Free Books For Our Faithful Followers!

Inspired by the generosity and ingenuity of folks like ComicsGirl and Books On The Nightstand, we're offering a special gift to everyone who has signed up as an Inkwell Irregular. Here's how to claim it: Send us an email with your name, address, the name you use in our "Followers" box, and two or three of your favorite genres. We'll send you an Advance Reading Copy of something that sorta fits. Making a good deal great, you qualify for a free book even if you're just signing on as an Inkwell Irregular today! Yes, this offer doubles as a shameless membership drive!

Note: Unfortunately, this offer is only open to folks living in the USA. We're paying out of pocket for the shipping, and can't afford anything above book rate. Also, the free book cut-off is midnight EST, June 7th, 2009. I know it sounds b*tchy to even say such a thing, but if I didn't, we'd risk a latecomer's lawsuit in the year 2014.

Updated 6/8/9: THIS OFFER IS NOW OVER.

NYTimes Boldly Predicts: Sales'll Suck In June

From The Paper of Merit's crystal ball of obviousness:
Most retailers, from high-end chains to discounters, posted disappointing May sales as shoppers cut their spending. [...] For June, the International Council of Shopping Centers forecasts a decline of 3 to 4 percent in same-store sales, less than the 4.6 percent decline in May. Sales in June face a tougher comparison to last year as consumers then were spending much of the government stimulus checks, analysts said.
To read the whole thing, click here.

Book News, In Brief

David Sedaris is coming to Boston, and tickets are now on sale ridiculously expensive. $532 gets you a seat in the orchestra section, while $304 gets you one in the nosebleeds.

Remember Tuesday's post about the 7 Types of Bookstore Customer? Well, the author of that hilarious bit of bitter truth is back with more: 6 Ways To Capitalize On The 7 types.

Two fun links from Super Punch: The first is a cover so rad I couldn't wait until the next 'Cover Art' collection was assembled to share it with you; the second is a Garbage Pail Kids re-interpretation of Neil Gaiman's Sandman characters.

And we thought we had a generous Readers' Reward program: A Delaware school district gave 131 students $10 gift certificates and a limousine ride to Borders as a reward for reading 1000 books each. This is the sixth year that the Christina School District PTA has held this contest. For the whole story, click here.

I've gotta tell you, when I read articles about therapists using their patients' stories as "inspiration" for screenplays, novels and short stories, it doesn't make me want to delve too deeply at my next session. (Still, I guess it's better than finding out that your massage therapist has written a one act play about the time you refused to roll over onto your back and when you finally did, the towel fell away, and then she started to laugh and you started to cry and...and...and I think I need to call my therapist. Have a great weekend, y'all!)

Special Weekend Bonus: Free book links!
The following websites are giving away books. All's you have to do is ask.
800 CEO Read

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Frank Quitely Describes His Office Space
(causing you to hate yours that much more)

From the WE3, All Star Superman, and Batman and Robin artist's recent interview with Newsarama:

"I share a studio with Jamie Grant (colorist on All Star Superman), Rob Morrison (Blackheart), Dom Regan (Gamma Hed) and a few others, and we all share each others music and comics and stuff. In every room in our studio we have piles of comics and books; from Crumb and Sheldon to Moebius and Otomo, taking in pretty much every genre along the way. I can stretch in any direction and pick up something inspiring."

Well, here at The Inkwell, we don't need inspiration. We have a Keurig.

Book News, In Brief

AICN has the first photo of the Scott Pilgrim movie poster. To quote The Beat, "We’re told that the SCOTT PILGRIM key art will all be in the style of the comics, so score another one for our team." Indeed.

Longtime book blog readers have waited with baited breath for this day: The Written Nerd is getting her bookstore! Although I'll probably be the millionth person to say, 'Greenlight Books is a go,' f**k it, I'll say it anyway.

The NYTimes promises "Publishers are learning from music labels' struggle to make online music profitable and combat piracy." This sounds good, except for the fact that the music industry is failing miserably!

If your bookstore is planning to have Pan's Labyrinth director, Guillermo del Toro, in to do a signing of his new novel, The Strain, make sure you start the event early. Not only are the lines stretching out the door and down the block, but del Toro promises to stay until every autograph request has been fulfilled.

You know times are tough when even the Catholic Church is hard up for some quick cash. California Catholic Daily reports, "Some faculty members at the Jesuit-run University of San Francisco are up in arms over economic contingency plans that include selling some of the university’s rare books collection and auctioning off pieces of valuable art owned by the school. [...] 'Selling parts of the library collection in order to pay current costs is like burning the furniture to keep warm.'" Via.

Of course, there's other, less 'Christ-like' ways to make a buck. The New Orleans Metro has an article about two criminal masterminds/functioning idiots who stole over 4,000 books (worth appr. $325,000) from area Barnes & Nobles, re-selling them at half the cover price to a lone, local, indie bookshop. Somewhere around the 3,999th book, said indie began to suspect something was amiss and called the cops. Or, as the paper puts it, "Staffers certainly took note as the women began turning up with so many books to sell, including multiple copies of certain textbooks, according to Villegas. 'No student uses five copies of a Photoshop book. No student has a bunch of medical dictionaries,' he said."

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Comic Book Review:
Likewise by Ariel Schrag

The fourth chapter/third book in Ariel Schrag's 'High School Chronicles,' Likewise details not only Schrag's senior year at Berkeley High, but also the aftermath of her parents' divorce, her search for a "scientific" explanation for her homosexuality, her continued heartbreak over her boy-crazy ex-girlfriend, her do-or-die devotion to her comics, and her self-image as it relates to her appearance and intelligence. That Schrag is able to do all of this with a wit and wisdom that makes her constant contradictions completely credible is quite an accomplishment.

So why couldn't Likewise have come out before Dash Shaw's Bottomless Belly Button and Alison Bechdel's Fun Home? If it had, it would've been so much easier to sell. I mean, how many NPR-listening, casual comics readers do you think are gonna go for a third cartoonist's coming-of-age magnum opus in just as many years? What makes this even worse is that -- in my opinion -- Likewise is the best of the bunch.

Covering a lot of the same terrain as BBB (parents' divorce, lingering heartbreak, complicated sibling dynamics) and Fun Home (gay teens, sexual politics, questioning one's identity, art as a life raft), Likewise manages to surpass both by blending the strengths of each while simultaneously skirting their weaknesses.

Lemme break that last line down a little.

To me, Fun Home's sole shortcoming was its almost complete lack of comics magic. There are so many storytelling devices unique to comics, it seemed a waste of the artform for Bechdel to stick to a basic picture-describes-words/words-describe-picture template. You can open up to any page in Fun Home and see what I mean. In its 240 pages, I can count only a handful of instances where the illustrations actually add anything to the narration (or visa-versa). While Bechdel's words do an amazing job of expressing her emotions and experiences, I can't help but feel that Fun Home would've been just as effective as a 50 page prose story. Contrasting this, Likewise could've only been a comic book.

I had the opposite problem with Bottomless Belly Button. Shaw clearly has a mastery of/fascination with the many possibilities of a comics page. Open up BBB to almost any page and you're sure to be wowed by his technical trickery. But the story itself? Pretty predictable. Part of it, I think, is the fact that Shaw was attempting to tell a highly emotional story while having never experienced any of those emotions himself. That's not to say that a writer needs to have lived everything they write about, but if you're making up a story from scratch, you'd better have one helluva an empathetic imagination. Shaw, at least in BBB, does not. The tale he tells contains zero surprise details or up-til-then unidentified emotional nuances. It's almost as though he was attempting to re-tell a divorce-themed family drama he'd seen on TV or heard from a friend of a friend. It never feels authentic. Likewise, on the other hand, is so much weirder, so much messier, so much more full of insightful observation and -- I don't know -- realness?

(Quick side-thought: I've always felt that making a comic is a lot like making a movie. You've got the screenwriter/writer, the cinematographer/artist, and the actors/the manner in which the characters are drawn. In movies, these positions are filled by anywhere from three to three hundred people. In comics like the ones being discussed here, they're all done by one. Expecting one person to do all of these jobs to perfection may be asking a lot, but that's what the combination writer/artist has volunteered to do. To keep this questionable logic going a little longer, I'd say that Shaw excels as a director and special effects coordinator, Bechdel as a screenwriter, actor and cinematographer, and Schrag as all five.)

With Likewise, Schrag has crafted a comic that is as structurally daring as it is emotionally affecting. Every time she plays with panel layouts or switches art styles or f**ks up her fonts, she is intentionally entrancing the reader with an explicit expressionistic effect. Sometimes it's giddy, drunken glee, sometimes it's the harrowing disorientation of a recurring heartbreak, but there's always an extra layer of emotional imbalance being added. If I had to criticize Schrag for anything, it would be her aping of James Joyce in the narration. While it works most of the time, there are moments when it reads almost like a slam poetry parody of Ulysses. Much more effective is her ear for dialog. Nearly every word bubble echos one's own memories of high school -- the good, the bad, and the ugly.

It's the rare autobiographical work that doesn't make me at least occasionally question the author's authenticity, but three books in, and I've yet to doubt a single detail in Ariel's art. Maybe it's the fact that she admits to keeping extensive files on her friends and family, or maybe it's the way that she continually shows herself jotting down conversations in a notebook, or maybe, just maybe, it's that one panel on page 100 where, in the middle of having a "freak-out," she pauses to remind herself to use it in the comic. Yeah, that's probably it.

I've only ever read one interview with Schrag. Still, thanks to her comics, I feel like I've come to know her. She's funny, smart, fragile, self-centered, manipulated and manipulative, undeniably endearing and, ultimately, awe-inspiring. I'd rank her high school books up there with the autobiographical work of Eddie Campbell and Harvey Pekar, with Likewise standing shoulder to shoulder with Pekar's Our Cancer Year and Campbell's Alec: The King Canute Crowd. It's DEFINITELY RECOMMENDED.

See Also:
Ariel Schrag's website
TimeOut's awkward, panel-by-panel, two page preview
More sample pages, this time from the folks at National Public Radio
Noah Berlatsky's interview with Schrag (This is what pushed me to finally buy her books!)

2 Lists, 2 Links

Over at The Millions Book Blog, Edan Lepucki discusses Gifting Books in the Digital Age.

Feminist nemesis, Marie Claire Magazine, offers 8 Ways to Use Books to Flirt (Even if You Don't Read Much).

Matt Blind clearly works in a bookstore. How else could he perfectly classify and identify The 7 Types of Customer? Via.

Remember that Where The Wild Things Are blog I mentioned a couple of weeks ago? Well, they've got a list of 5 Things That Maurice Sendak Enjoys or Enjoyed At Some Point.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Cover Art Cavalcade:
DC Wants Your Daughters To Read Comics

#1 face is up here.

Gotham Sirens #3
Somebody check the new Previews catalog for me. Does this thing come on mudflaps?

Secret Six #12
How do you off-set the fact that your superhero comic is written by a woman? Hire this guy to do your cover art.

Supergirl #44
Please tell me this is a flashback comic where we re-visit the crappy art styles of the 90's. It would still be ugly, but at least it'd be appropriate.

Alright, in the interest of fairness, here's two DC books that don't alienate their intended audience.


Wait, this one was already canceled.

Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures In The 8th Grade #6
...And this one just wrapped up its limited run. Well, there's always J.H. Williams and Greg Rucka's upcoming run on Detective Comics. While their take on the new Batwoman looks to be li'l much for the li'l ones, maybe we should just be thankful for well-written, well-rounded female characters...wherever and whenever they appear. Still, is it so tough to keep a couple of good books for girls on the stands? Marvel's been taking a loss on Runaways since the git-go, but at least it helps to lessen the PR damage done with sh*t like Marvel Divas.

Salinger Still Hates Phonies!

The Courthouse News Service reports, "Reclusive author J.D. Salinger claims a man writing under the name of J.D. California is about to publish an unauthorized sequel of The Catcher in the Rye, violating Salinger's copyright in the novel and its main character, Holden Caulfield. Salinger also sued London-based Windupbird Publishing, Sweden-based Nicotext, and SCB Distributors, of Gardena, Calif. Salinger calls the new book 'a rip-off pure and simple.' [...] In his lawsuit, filed Monday, Salinger asks that publication of 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye be enjoined, and all copies destroyed."
To read the whole piece, click here.

Tuesday's Tips for Flailing Writers

Worried that your 999 page erotic-thriller isn't long enough for a "real" publisher? The Guardian UK says not to worry, Life's Too Short For Thousand-Page Novels.

Socks? Check. Underwear? Check. Easily concealed bottle of gin? Hiccup. YodiwanWordpress has compiled A List Of Items Authors Ought Not Forget On Their First Book Tour.

Kim Kenney has some good advice for those of you documenting the continuing failures of your high school rivals (and those dullards among you penning peans to your old hometowns): How To Write A Local History Book.

Richard Russo and John Irving stopped by the BEA to gloat about how well they're doing financially despite the book industry's current, sh*tty, post-Twilight, economic situation. Oh, and while they were there, they offered the crowd some writing advice.

Ben Whiting says, "Every good story has some degree of underlying tension. Even in a character-driven novel like Pride and Prejudice, which is totally devoid of exploding helicopters and other modern action conventions, is full of internal and external conflict. The question is not if? but how much?" To continue, click here.

Monday, June 1, 2009

For Those Of You Who Just Like The Idea Of Books...

The trailer to Twilight: New Moon is now online. To quote Movie City News, "Interesting that 2/3 of the trailer features the character who leaves for what is, according to the book, most of the film."

All you child-wizard fetishists have one more reason to hang around the house all day in your underwear. CHUD reports, "Warner Brothers and TT Games have just announced the latest Lego game- Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4. As you might guess it's based on the first four Harry Potter books and will tell the story in the Lego games' usual quirky, silent film way."

Now that Marvel has messed up the Wolverine franchise, one wonders what their plans are for the Deadpool film. HitFix quotes Ryan Reynolds as saying, "It's going to be just like the comic books. I'm gonna have a messed up face and you may see some flashbacks of Wade earlier in his life, but primarily what you see is what you get in the comics and that's the goal. And there is no better place to draw material from then the comics which are incredible." Whatever. This lucky bastard's married to Scarlett Johansson, so even if what he says sounds good, I hate it on principal.

The Monday Menagerie:
Creepy Curiosities Found In Other People's Books

1. Let's start things off with a classic: Makeshift weapons found in prison library books. This impressive array of shivs, scalpels and rusty nails comes courtesy of The Vladimir Central Prison Museum. Late fees, coupled with a life sentence in solitary confinement, make this a risky way to store one's weaponry.

2. I've only got one word for this next one: Yuck. Oh, wait. I thought of another: F**k! The Seattle Times reports, "Librarian Susanne Caro was leafing through an 1888 book on Civil War medicine when she spied a small, yellowed envelope tucked between the pages. Freeing it, she read the inscription "scabs from vaccination of W.B. Yarrington's children" in the corner, with the signature "Dr. W.D. Kelly," the book's author. [...] Researchers think the scabs found in March are either from smallpox-vaccine patients or from victims, whose scabs were used in an early inoculation procedure."

3. Dialing the gross-out factor back a bit, get a load of this: Two 19th century condoms found stuck between the pages of an 1857 newspaper. It's amazing what some folks will use as a bookmark. For all the dirty details, click here.

4. Alright, this one's pretty weird as well, but at least it didn't come encrusted in any ancient bodily fluids. (I hope.) It's a semi-oedipal note found in an Urbana, IL library book and forwarded to Found Magazine. Found has tons more like it on display here.

5. It's a fact. A customs official's day is never boring. Reuters identifies this reptilian treasure trove as, "a hollowed-out book containing two adult and two baby southern leaf tail geckos." And take a look at the little holes punched through the cover -- that's PETA approved!

6. And now a li'l something to take the edge off...
The caption reads, "Mechanical ingenuity of narcotic smugglers is constantly being tested in devising new methods of bringing their contraband goods safely into the country. The picture shows a Bible which has been hollowed out in the center to provide a hiding place for thousands of dollars worth of morphine and other opiates. The book was confiscated by Internal Revenue inspectors." Via.

Book News, In Brief

If you skimmed through Sunday's online book news, you'd have noticed two recurring themes. 1. BEA was BEAutiful! (Here, here, here and here.) 2. Motherf**k bathing suit season. (Here, here, here and here.)

There's a secret war being waged right now, and it's got nothing to do with North Korean nukes or borderline psychotic volunteer border patrolmen. It's the ebook pricing wars (and it's as boring as it sounds).

If you'd noticed a dip in the number of free books coming your store's way in the past few months, you're not alone. Hell, even the Lexus leasers at The LATimes are wondering, Where have all the galleys gone?

Last week we pointed y'all to the Tony Millionaire cover to Elvis Costello's new album, Secret, Profane & Sugarcane. This week, we're pushing you towards GalleyCat's reworded press release for Iggy Pop's "literary album," Preliminaries.

Described as "a cheap and uplifting break from life" and an escape "into sweet and heartening stories of love and passion," romance novels are one of the few genres currently experiencing a sales boom. In related news, we've decided to hire some male strippers to work our events room on Wednesday nights. There will be no cover charge, but a two book minimum will be strictly enforced.