Books in Translation...

As we start our major section moves this new year, the store will be a new maze to get lost in. One of these moves that I am excited about is a display in the front of the annex that will highlight books in translation. We have always prominently displayed foreign literature and fiction and this is just another opportunity to feature more of these books that are rarely featured in a lot of bookstores...

My most recent read was The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson, one of Finland's most widely read authors. It is for her Moomin booksa series of graphic novel/comic strip/innovative kid's booksthat she is most famous for...

(The Book About Momin, Mymble and Little My in on A's Staff Favorite Kid's Books Display)

The True Deceiver, though Jansson supposedly wrote it for eight-year-olds, is not to be taken lightly. This books describes, as Ali Smith puts it in her Introduction, "...a sharply pertinent discourse on the relationships between art, nature, fame and identity; a discussion of the place and role of the artist and of the mysterious sources of creativity." There is so much depth to this sleek, beautiful tale; so much loneliness and so much sadness.

The story of Katri Kling, her brother Mats and Anna Aemelin, the small town's resident celebrity and recluse, is a psychiatric thriller without the usual deception in plot, it merely compels you quickly through the landscape and the long winter months. It is, as I said before, a terribly beautiful book.

Amazon vs. Macmillan

Say there are four companies in the world who make widgets. These widgets are basically of the same quality of make, the only difference is the companies that sell them. And let's say that one of those companies, Ajax Widgets, is run by a charismatic, visionary leader who, using aggressive sales tactics and undercutting the prices of their competitors, manages to claim a significantly larger share of the widget market than the other three companies. But capitalism being capitalism, that's not enough for Ajax- they want the whole pie. So they set out to crush their competition, either by selling widgets at a loss until the competing companies can't sell any widgets, or just using their deep pockets to buy up the competition. In the end, there is only one widget maker in the world. And any small entrepreneurial company foolish enough to try their hand in the widget market will be set up and destroyed with lawsuits and unfair pricing. And we know what happens next: with no competition, the price of widgets goes up. That's why the government regulates monopolies.

Well, I was planning on blogging about something else today until I saw this article in the Los Angeles Times. Seems Amazon has gotten into a squabble with one of the largest publishers in the country, and has stopped selling their books. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I think Amazon is basically a criminal enterprise. They quite obviously want to use their market share, gained from years of selling at a loss while being propped up by venture capital and money from the sale of stocks, to become the only bookstore on the planet. And when that happens, I'm guessing the prices won't stay quite so cheap. And not just that. A company that is willing to stop selling an item that its own customers want just to make a point is a company that would make sure that a book it didn't want published, say an expose on Amazon, didn't get published. I'm just saying...

Winston Smith rocks!

San Francisco can lay claim to many famous residents over time, but while we all know that Jack Kerouac slept off many a late-night bender here, and that Mark Twain spent his coldest winter ever here during summer, there is one stalwart talent who has been here for decades but that you may not be familiar with - Winston Smith.

Winston, who took his name from the ill-fated protagonist in George Orwell's 1984 began working with Jello Biafra and The Dead Kennedys in the late 1970's when his iconoclastic sculpture of Christ crucified on a cross of dollar bills was used as the cover of "In God We Trust, Inc." This collaboration begot a relationship that lasts to this day, but while always sticking to his anarchistic guns, Winston has broadened his influence to include work for Spin, Playboy, Mother Jones and can even lay claim to a New Yorker cover!

Last night in a basement gallery, down a tiny alley in North Beach, Winston decided to clean out his closet and sell dozens of original collages, many of which were turned into flyers for some of the greatest punk shows ever, and most from that sweet-spot of his Alternitave Tenticles partnerships, the early 80's; trust me when I tell you that I was like a kid in a candy store!

So, maybe you've seen Winston's stuff on a Green Day record or maybe you own some of his books, but chances are you've never seen the stuff I just added to my collection. Until now! Thanks again for the great time last night, Winston (and for the killer deals) - you do San Francisco proud!

Poem of the Week: Robin Ekiss

It's about time we launch our poem of the week series, isn't it? For who among us couldn't use more poetry in our lives? From now on, each Monday you will be greeted by a poem. That's it. Here's today's, from local poet Robin Ekiss: "The Opposite of the Body."

The Opposite of the Body
Of the face in general, let me say it's a house
built by men and lived in by their dreams.

When you've been plucking eyes
out of the floorboards as long as I have,

you'll see this, just as you'd see
the patience it requires

to render an eyebrow, half an hour
and an understanding of architecture.

When you see your body,
think its opposite: not the bridge,

but its lighted face reflecting the water,
some other city as seen from a ship--

your forehead, once ponderous,
now light as umbrellas--

still not beautiful enough to make time stop.
The pleasure in being a woman's

knowing everything's borrowed
and can't be denied,

as when you take apart a clock,
there's always another inside.Link

from The Mansion of Happiness by Robin Ekiss, University of Georgia Press, 2009.

She can always buy from us...

A sad story coming out of Texas today - it seems that the Barnes and Noble is closing in the town of Laredo, which might have been welcome news to the independent booksellers there, except that there are no other bookstores in this town of 250,000. In fact, the next closest bookstore of any kind to Laredo is some 150 miles away...UGH! A 14 year old girl in Laredo named Zhuara Rivera is circulating a petition to try and save the store, but even though it is a profitable location, the chain itself is in the red - so it seems like curtains for the Laredo branch.

So, the big boxes move in and force the independents out (we've all heard this one before). But then the big box has fiscal issues and makes the corporate decision from afar to close a profitable store because the massive scale of their operation is losing money. With well over 700 Barnes and Noble bookstores throughout the U.S. employing some 40,000 people, it makes me wonder how many situations like Laredo we're going to see over the next few years.

Fight the good fight Ms. Rivera! But if you ever need the help of an independent bookseller who won't turn its back on you, drop us a line at and I'll make sure that you get free shipping for life!

In Defense of Complexity

this article comes from written by Michael Coleman

read the article here

Clobberin' Time

The cool folks (or folk, I'm not really sure) behind Hey Oscar Wilde! It's Clobberin' Time just updated their site. If you didn't catch my previous post then... well, heck. It doesn't really matter. Just check out the site and see what it is for yourself. It's a whole lot of fun.

Rabo Karabekian by Dustin Harbin

Panorama...Is Back!!

I you didn't get one before, get yours now!
Don't know what is is?
Here you go!

By Tom Gauld

Tom Gauld most recently produced a board book called The Gigantic Robot, illustrated the new Penguin edition of The Three Musketeers, and creates comics that (usually) satirize literature (in a loving way) for The Guardian UK, The Believer, and wherever else has figured out that he's funnier than The Fusco Brothers.

Moves afoot

It's that time of year. Calendars are almost gone (though there's a decent selection left at 50% off if you're not too picky). Which means we have 15 bookcases to fill until September.

Each year at this time of January, Tetris dreams plague my nights and sales per linear foot analysis fills my days. This year, we're moving with a little more boldness than in years past.

In short, we're responding to change: our customers are buying fewer CDs and DVDs but more books for kids. Audio books are losing ground as cookbooks hold steady. Blank books and journals still sell well, and graphic novels don't work as ebooks (yet?), so we'll expand those and contract other sluggish areas.

Which is a long way of saying two things:

1) Pardon our dust as we move. In the end, the store will offer more of what you want and less of what you don't want; and

2) Please ask if your favorite section moved.

It'll take a few weeks to move everything, get new store maps ready, etc. Meanwhile, we're here to help, and there are bargains to be had in new DVDs, CDs, calendars, holiday cards, etc.

Сигизму́нд Домини́кович Кржижано́вский

Sigizmund Krzhizanovsky is not the name one usually connects with one of the great early twentieth century writers. In his own time Krzhizanovsky was not even known as a great writer in Moscow. Spain's Enrique Vila-Matas could have added him to Bartleby & Co. as a silent writer...

With NYRB's release of Memories of the Future, this is not a likely mistake to occur again.

Krzhizanovsky described himself as being "known for being unknown." Though he was active in Moscow's literary scene of the 20's he was not widely published or read. It wasn't until 1989 that the Russian scholar, Vadim Perelmute, published the first of a series of stories written by Krzhizanovsky. He has now emerged as a leading Soviet writer, though of course, posthumously.

Memories of the Future is the first English translation of Krzhizanovsky's work, and it is incredible. The strangeness in Krzhizanovsky's world, is one that comes through an observation of the mundane and its eventual transformation into the sinister or twisted.

Just knowing that there are 4 more volumes of Krzhizanovsky's work makes me smile inwardly at knowing that there will be more for me to enjoy in the years to come.

Bye, Dudes / Look How Awesome I've Been

This is officially my last blog entry for the Green Apple Core, and my last day as a Green Appler (for reals this time). I'm moving on to work full-time with my film company, French Press Films (shameless plug). It's been a crazy few years for sure, but my favorite part has definitely been creating the Green Apple commercials.

They started silly and low concept, but then eventually got more and more involved-- you try telling Daniel Handler that "this is the part where the cyborg army attacks."

I know we post that one a lot, sorry. The Kindle videos were huge for us, created by me, Pete, "Simple" Nick, "Internet Sensation" Stephen Sparks, and Alex & Joelle at 4SP Films. They're still raking in thousands of hits. As for the Book of the Month ads, almost every single commercial we've done has garnered responses from the authors (Still waiting for that call, Herzog!). You can watch them all on our YouTube channel here. My favorites are still "Little Bee", and "Conquest of the Useless".

(I'm the creepy dude on the right)

Working at Green Apple has been the best job I've ever had. I have friendships that will last me a lifetime, and piles of books that will last me throughout the upcoming zombie apocalypse. Whether you're a customer or a hard-workin' employee, remember that you are standing in the middle of one of the greatest bookstores on the planet.


If you've got 'em, we'll come get 'em

If you've got a bunch of books that you want to get rid of, and i mean a bunch of books (think hundreds, not dozens) we may be able to come to your house armed with a blank check, a grip of empty boxes and at least one strong back to buy those used books and take them away! We call these house calls "Out Buys" and with a little planning, it just may be the easiest way for you to make some extra cash (or trade).

Here are a couple of photos from the collection I purchased yesterday - or at least the halfway stopping point - I'm going back in a couple of weeks for the rest. They don't all look like this, but if the books are good enough (and this batch certainly was), then this is what we're willing to crawl through to help you out. And believe it or not, I've been in worse...

So think of us, the Green Apple used book buyers, when you need to clear some space or just get some extra scratch. We're like The Marines of book buyers, except that we're much sweeter, and some of our hair is longer.

Scam Blog

I'm not reading Stig Staeterbakken's Siamese. Not yet at least. When I do I'll be sure to let everyone know what I think, and whether or not I agree with the New York Times Book Review had to say about it. Before I could pick up the book itself I got a little distracted by this crazy illustration that The Times had found Henning Wagenbreth to do of the novel's two main characters.Pretty creepy. It kind of reminds me of some of the old Nickelodeon stuff that I grew up on. Anyhow, I took a look in to the work of this Wagenbreth guy and was pretty intrigued with what I found. Not only does he have a cool mountain of previous work (that had never caught my eye till now for some reason), he just released a book called 36 Scam Mails From Africa, which is his illustrated version of just that. Sound weird? Well, it is. Go take a look at it.

Oh and if you read Siamese before me, please don't ruin the ending. I hear it's good.

Hairy diversions

I admit. It's a hectic week at Green Apple. As for our blogging team: one Green Appler's out after a bad bike accident (he looks like Frankenstein, but will be OK, and has learned the value of helmets). Another's on vacation, skiing in Tahoe. A third is moving on to pursue his film career. Another has a mean cold. And the rest of us are just trying to keep the books flowing and the register staffed. Such are the trials of this indy bookstore's blog team . . .

So to amuse you, gentle readers, for another day until we have something worthy to share, we offer our mustachios. I don't know quite how it started, but many male Green Applers grow a Christmas Eve mustachio. And most (but not all) shave the very next morning. First, here's 2008's posse.

And here's 12/24/2009:

We'll try to have something legitimately book related on the blog tomorrow, I assure you.

Oh, and can you spot the one fake mustachio in 2009's shot?

Math is Hard

In episode 7 of our Book vs. Kindle video series, for absurdity's sake, we had the Kindle "read" The Unimaginable Mathematics of Borges' Library of Babel by William Goldbloom Bloch to the kids. Well, Professor Bloch got wind of it at some point, and last week, we got an email from him with the self-deprecating subject line "Famous author wants to come to your store." While this book is clearly beyond our puerile minds (or mine, at least), we have sold over 40 copies, so we invited Professor Bloch to visit.

Are you up for meeting Professor Bloch? He'll be here this Saturday, January 16th at 2:00 p.m. Even if you have yet to read his insightful (so we are told) mathematical analysis of Borges, come talk math, or whatever it is math people do. We're honored to welcome him. And you.

Thanks, Book Angels

Every December we set up a little Christmas tree at the front of the store and hang little paper angels upon it and solicit donations from our customers. For the last several holiday seasons, the recipient of this largess has been BookPALs. BookPALs is run by members of the Screen Actors Guild, and they undertake projects to promote literacy. The local chapter does regular readings in schools and family homeless shelters in San Francisco. The books our customers purchase to donate all go to kids in these shelters. We at Green Apple give all of the money collected (not just the profits, mind you) in trade for the volunteers to pick out even more books.
Well, Green Apple customers came through again this year, with over 70 books and more than $300 in trade for the BookPALs. Customers often say that it is nice of Green Apple to do this, but seriously, it's our customers who do the heavy lifting. We just make it easy. So a big thank you to all of you book angels, and if you're interested in reading at a shelter, the contact information is on the BookPALs webpage.

Green Apple Books and Music (and MAGAZINES)

Green Apple is known far and wide for our wonderful selection of new and used books; at this point, that much seems to (thankfully) be a given. You've heard from us lately about our musical CDs (and the fact that they have been on sale) as well as DVDs (of which ~500 are currently on sale at 50% off!), but I'm wondering how many of you know that we also stock well over 1000 titles in our magazine section. Now that's a lot of mags!

Fresh out this week is an amazing issue of my favorite food mag, Saveur. This is sure to be an invaluable addition to any home chef's library, as the editors have put the readers on task for their annual Saveur 100 issue. From the introduction: We asked for your ideas, your inspirations, your favorite food finds. And you answered, from every corner of the world, on every imaginable culinary subject, from family recipes to treasured cookbooks to time-honored tips. The result is a saveur 100 unlike any other. Thanks to you, this year’s roundup is richer, tastier—and bigger—than ever. No dixie-whistle here, as this issue certainly rocks!

At only $5.00, this is a bargain, if just for the spread on a dozen interpretations of the Bloody Mary. My favorite, The Heirloom Bloody Mary is illustrated above, but the receipe can be found here! And there are 99 more things to be thankful for in this perfect periodical...


I was doing a bit of maintenance in the graphic novel section the other day when I stumbled across not one but four wayward used copies of Dan Clowes' ICE HAVEN, which just so happens to be a particular favorite of mine. If you missed this gem back when it came out, now is the time to drop by and pick it up on the cheap from Green Apple.

Coincidentally Blog Flume posted THIS article about the ICE HAVEN just a few weeks ago, punched up with a few pictures to help illustrate the points that the original reviewer was making. Pretty cool. Check it out if you haven't already, both article and book. Certainly worth the time if you ask me (and you just did).

Presenting our 2009 best-sellers

Always a fun exercise around the new year here: checking out what sold best last year. 77 new books sold over 75 copies each. The #1 item was McSweeney's Panorama. Should we count a literary journal's one-off newspaper as a book? Either way, we sold 273 in a matter of days and probably could have sold 500 or more if we'd had it longer.

The top ten books of 2009 at Green Apple are:
10) The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan, a 2006 book about the American food system that's a favorite of many staff members (and customers, clearly)

9) If You Want To Write by Brenda Ueland, a 1938 manual for writers that has been on our staff favorites display for a very long time

8) The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, a French novel in translation

7) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, the first in a crime trilogy by the late Swedish author

6) City of Thieves by David Benioff, the paperback edition of our June 2008 Book of the Month

5) The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga, the Indian novel that won the 2008 Man Booker Prize

4) Zeitoun by Dave Eggers, a splendid book about a Syrian immigrant in NOLA during and post-Katrina (and we currently have signed copies!)

3) The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, the 2007 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by a Dominican-America author

2) Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson, my personal favorite book of 2007, a quiet yet powerful novel

1) Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith, the self-explanatory sensation (which is on hand despite what our site says--I'm working on it).

Come in and start elevating your next favorite book to best-seller status. We have, oh, tens of thousands to choose from.

It's the...Book of the Month!

In his introduction to El Monstruo, John Ross starts small and immediate as he describes his room in the crumbling Hotel Isabel where he has lived since the disastrous earthquake in 1985 that left Mexico City leveled in the same way the 1906 left San Francisco.

Ross starts out small but there is nothing small in his history of Mexico City. In fact his tale of the down-and-outs, the prostitutes— those who make up his teeming city— is more of a love affair with a haggard and desolate lover; much like Bolaño’s Chile or Saramago’s Portugal.

This book consumed me. It made me yearn for and recoil from Mexico City all at once. It is the literary and historical heartbeat of a city that always seems on the brink of destruction but somehow lives on.

It is beautiful and heroic tribute to this incredible city.

Palpitations and Secretions

From Wikipedia:

The word critic comes from the Greek κριτικός (kritikós), "able to discern", which in turn derives from the word κριτής (krités), meaning a person who offers reasoned judgment or analysis, value judgment, interpretation, or observation. The term can be used to describe an adherent of a position disagreeing with or opposing the object of criticism.

A review is an evaluation of a publication, such as a movie (a movie review), video game, musical composition (music review of a composition or recording), book (book review); a piece of hardware like a car, home appliance, or computer; or an event or performance, such as a live music concert,a play, musical theater show or dance show. In addition to a critical evaluation, the review's author may assign the work a rating to indicate its relative merit.

Okay, terms defined, assuming everyone's okay with Wikipedia. Let's talk about critical response to literature. Specifically, reviews in the form of a blurb. I've recently been keeping a pretty close eye the blurbs printed on books as I shelve here at Green Apple, often (and sometimes to my chagrin) chuckling over absurdity in them. They are most often laced with awkward metaphors, comparison, and ridiculous alliteration. Sometimes they are totally nonsensical, but other times they go so far as cut down the art of literature itself. A fine example being in a previous entry we had posted, around the time Dan Brown's most recent slab was released. The book was touted as bringing "sexy back to a genre that had been left for dead." If anyone out there read The Lost Symbol, can you maybe explain the what of that statement to me?

A testimony as such kind of blows my mind. They're weird, I don't understand them, and apparently they aren't an all too uncommon tactic in promoting a book either. Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child's Dance of Death has printed on it- "A rare second book in a trilogy that actually improves on the first..." Wait, seriously? A book so compelling that you actually want to finish the story?! I guess it must take two authors. Move over 2666!

In all seriousness though, I'm having trouble understanding this trend. Is there another art form that approves genre-disparaging ad tactics to promote itself? Film? Graphic design? I've certainly never seen an article on a MOMA exhibit proclaiming anything like that. I mean, what if they did? "Not since Goya have we seen such a pulse pounding tour de force!" (yuck). So what gives? If print is supposed to be a dying format, why promote it in such a self defeating way? Wouldn't you want to punch up the idea of interest in the art form itself rather than pushing just one end all be all? Is this promotion at all?

Today I went on a quest to pick out some book titles that feature some real treasures of the terrible blurb world. I'm going to bite my tongue so to speak as far as further commentary goes, but keep in mind the definitions proffered;
reasoned judgment or analysis, value judgment, interpretation, or observation. Enjoy.

New York Times Book Review on Red Dragon

-Kirkus Reviews on Dance of Death

Glamour on The Two Mrs. Grenvilles

Kirkus Reviews on Wild Fire

Etc, etc, etc...

Marketing of "Men"

My favorite new show has quickly become Men of a Certain Age, which airs on TNT Monday nights. Besides the fact that it’s a great show to watch, what I really love about it is the branding and marketing of it. Ill review and critique some ads to show you what I mean.
The premise, in case you haven’t seen it, is 3 middle aged men in LA all dealing with their own issues (divorce, kids, job, etc) and finding support in one anothers friendship. Everyone is dealing with these changes in their lives, and are forced with decisions every day that will shape their immediate futures. In a sense, at least one character finds himself at a cross roads every episode.

--> In the promo for the series, you see the use of an intersection then the 3 main characters standing there a couple of clips later. The message here is just what I described above and gives you an idea of what the show is about. (Does this road remind anyone else of Cast Away?)

Also used in the promo is, I think, the best song they could possibly have selected: The Beach Boys’ “when I grow up”. The song’s teenage character is pondering what life will be like once grown up. “Will I dig the same things that turn me on as a kid?” The song has a line or two that seems to directly deal with each character in the show. Its so perfect its like Brian Wilson wrote the song just for the show. Id also like to add that the music selection throughout the episodes so far have been great. No one likes Joe’s (Ray Romano) musical taste, but he always insist how great it is, on top of the songs being relevant to the story. In episode #4, after Joe and his bookie friend enjoy a “wild night out” at the hotel where they periodically talk of ex wives and what-ifs , they wake up hung over at the pool the next morning while Marshall Tucker Bands’ “Cant You See” plays. “…cant you see what that woman has done to me

Finally, this may be my favorite piece of promotional material. The obvious element is the glass half full or empty? There’s pessimistic and optimistic traits between each of the characters, so it gives you a bit more insight to each one of them. They all look as if they’re trapped inside and a bit helpless. So is the everyday life of these 3 men. The glass appears to just be a glass but I think its also the same style used at the diner they regularly meet at for lunch. The water level may also signify their lives being half over.

Marketing 101 note: You’ll notice that in almost every picture of the 3 guys together, Romano is in the middle. That’s not because he plays a more important character but because he brings the biggest star power to the show, attracting the most attention and being the most recognizable and prominent figure. That’s who they want you to notice. The same technique is used in political debates. Remember the ’08 Democratic debates? Obama, Clinton, and Biden always were positioned in the middle. Same for the Republican debates with McCain.