Robert Byrd is Dead

Robert Byrd is dead. That made me think of one of my favorite gems hidden in the depths of our store, the tag "white" on one of our shelves zoned for books on famous Americans. Not totally true, I mean, Obama has some books in there, but whatever. I think it's pretty funny.

Robert Byrd is dead. I didn't catch an article on his death in the paper, although I'm not sure I read the paper on Tuesday. I can't remember. I know that I checked my Yahoo email account, and that the headline on their page said something-perfect summer barbecue, blah, blah, and as one of my personal heroes Sam McPheeters pointed out on his blog (where I gleaned this information in the first place, sadly), that the news was a mere footnote even on Weird, right?

Robert Byrd is dead. Before he went though, he managed to have a biography written about him, as well as a penning a couple of texts of his own, the most recent of which was published in 2008 and entitled Letter to the New President: Commonsense Lessons for Our Next Leader. Sound curious? The guy saw from The Great Depression to the Dot Com Boom, a couple of World Wars and the Summer of Love. I'd imagine that it'd be full of fantastic suggestions- "A filibuster against Civil Rights may sully your rep a bit," for example. Or maybe, "Avoid spending nine years in the KKK, 'cause y'know what? That legacy is gonna' hang around your neck like a big dead seabird." Well, my interest is piqued. Another reason to peruse the American History section. Boy, what a crazy ride it's been!

Gay Sex? In The Great Gatsby?

Since June is LGBT Pride month, I thought I would call out one of the great overlooked sex scenes in the western canon. Whenever I ask people if they remember that gay sex scene in The Great Gatsby, they look at me with wonder. But here it is, I'll let you be the judge. This event takes place on page 42 of my edition, at the very end of chapter 2, when Nick has gone on a drunken bender in New York City with Tom and Daisy:

...Then Mr. McKee turned and continued on out the door. Taking my {Nick's} hat from the chandelier I followed.
"Come to lunch some day," he suggested as we groaned down in the elevator.
"Keep your hands off the lever," snapped the elevator boy.
"I beg your pardon," said Mr. McKee with dignity. "I didn't know I was touching it."
"All right," I agreed, "I'll be glad to."
... I was standing beside his bed and he was sitting up between the sheets, clad in his underwear, with a great portfolio in his hands.
...Then I was lying half asleep in the cold lower level of the Pennsylvania Station, staring at the morning "Tribune" and waiting for the four o'clock train.

I like that part about keeping his hands off the elevator boy's "lever." Now I've never done any research into critical analysis of this little scene, but it is curious. What is it? A story line the Fitzgerald dropped?

Poem of the Week by Norma Cole

Happy Monday. Today's poem is by Norma Cole, from her book Natural Light (Libellum, 2009). Enjoy.

The Vision

fixed syntax
in our lifetime

as if they never heard of
such a thing

the figure in the strait
stirring occasionally

all the fragments
the rights of can-openers

any mystery

In Memoriam: Jose Saramago

Jose Saramago, the first Portuguese writer to win the Nobel Prize, passed away on June 18.

For a career that began only in earnest when Saramago was in his late 50s, his artistic output rivals that of any of his peers, and while his politics invited condemnation in some quarters, when all is said and done (when is that, exactly?), he will be counted among the literary luminaries of our age.

Saramago had an allegorical bent, most noticeable in his best-known novel, Blindness, a harrowing and viscerally shocking work that will not fail to leave you shaken. In The Cave, as well, Saramago played with allegory, updating Plato's Parable of the Cave for modern audiences.

Several of his novels deal with historical and political themes, including his masterpiece (my favorite), The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis, which expands on a character among the constellation of the poet Fernando Pessoa's universe to provide a reckoning of Portugal's dictatorship...

Saramago was a novelist of ideas (as they are called), but one of the more humane ones, a writer who understood and sympathized with the ambiguities of our troubled lives and who gave expression to those feelings that can be called, for lack of a better or more precise word, universal.

Not only that, but several, if not all, of his novels include a dog who often steals the show. In the aforementioned The Cave, the dog is called Found. Found is a remarkably memorable character. Go find out for yourself.

Currently Showing: Crap or Maybe Not Crap

I've got a few recommendations on some small gallery showings around the city this month. If you haven't caught any of these shows yet, then I'm figuratively pushing you to do so via blog. I should add that each of these artists also have put out books that are carried at Green Apple, books I will more literally push you to buy if you come in to the store because I am so violent inside.

At the Sandra Lee Gallery, regular McSweeney's contributors and adorable husband and wife team, Mark Todd (Monster Trucks!) and Esther Pearl Watson (Whatcha Mean, What's a Zine and Unlovable) are presenting their work in a joint show.

Over at Giant Robot SF, another joint show featuring Lisa Hanawalt and Aiyana Udensen has been hung. Hanawalt and Udensen's weird, weird, books are currently out of stock at our store (though hopefully not for long), but if you swing by GR it's almost certain that you could pick them up. It's even more certain that you'll get a glimpse of Hanawalt's classic 'surprise in a shoe' illustration. You have to go to find out what I'm talking about.

And lastly, our neighbors at Park Life have a group show themed around 'text' hanging currently. This one's got a whole grip of folks contributing to it, but I'm putting the spotlight on David Shrigley, whose recently released Red Book blows Jung's Red Book, with it's 'numinous beginnings' outta' the water.

All right, okay now. Yeah, uh huh. GO!PS- I probably won't really push you if you come in to the store to buy stuff.

Poem of the Week by Duncan McNaughton

Happy Monday. This week's poem is from A Passage of Saint Devil by Duncan McNaughton (Talonbooks, 1976). There's no link because it doesn't show up on our site. But believe me, we have it, and it's beautiful. Stop by or call if you want to buy one.


Open if honor for love and art
vanishes in the precision

we dishonor, others imagine
observing constance when it is instance

we dread, and resemblant
let it wither as stone wore

out for the old ones after wood--
it was never meant to

stay in place forever, much less to offer
chance divers exercises in time

or collapse so nearly
merely extension. But the knots

you cord events
disturb the looming

areal circumvention, our
breath. Esotericism is never

more than the near perfect practice
of the real, string,

carpets, eventually
commerce, not trade but

transaction of persons the secret
invitation found as result of

donative impression,
gravitational prehension.

We're Practically Giving It Away

A while ago the great Dave Eggers came by to sign copies of the fur-covered, limited-edition edition of The Wild Things, his novelization of Maurice Sendak's Where The Wild Things Are. We are offering this lovely book for the cover price of $28.00. And we sell a copy now and then, but not like you would think. So I went onto Ebay just to see what folks are asking for a signed first edition of this beauty, and check this out, the cheapest copy for sale there is $44.99, plus shipping. And the most expensive one is listed for a cool Benjamin. So if you neglected to add this one-of-a-kind tome to your collection, now is the chance. Best to call the store direct if you're interested.

Oh, what a night...

So yesterday was a pretty big one for me, as I tuned 40 - gulp! The cake was fantastic, but without a doubt, the highlight of my celebratory romp around The City last night was being able to catch the wonderful new production at A.C.T. called "The Tosca Project".

As any reader of this blog will tell you, many of us at Green Apple enjoy the periodic tipple (although we justify this interest well with our sterling book recommendations), and when we get to North Beach, there has only been one bar we prop our elbows on - Tosca Cafe, the most literary bar in San Francisco (sorry Vesuvio, but you know it's true).

"The Tosca Project" was a beautiful collaboration of theatre and dance; more dance in fact than I expected, but as many of the performers are active in the San Francisco Ballet, the dancing was top-notch. Curious that there was little (if any at all) dialogue during the performance. Indeed, the tale of Tosca's decades was told via moody lighting, kaleidoscopic colors and costumes, costumes, costumes. And dance.

Good news for those of you who haven't been able to score tickets to this World Premier - "The Tosca Project" has just been extended through July 3rd! Take someone special, dig some artistic history, then head north to the authentic Tosca Cafe for a nightcap. And if you catch Jeanette or Peter near that velvet rope, please tell 'em that the folks at Green Apple send our love.


If it's not one thing it's another. I didn't know until a couple of weeks ago that the doors had been shut and locked over at Buenaventura Press in Oakland. I'd had my suspicions of course, due to the increased difficulty in ordering their books and the skyrocketing prices of their previous releases used on Amazon or Ebay. From the little I've heard, the small publisher received some kind of devastating financial blow. I'm not sure what the nature of that is. It was a good run though, that's for sure. Buenaventura published some of the most beautifully packaged art and comic books of the last decade. They produced the enormous Ignatz nominated Kramer's Ergot compilation, worked with world renowned artists such as Jaime Hernandez and Robert Crumb, and promoted up and coming artists such as Matt Furie or Lisa Hanawalt (both of whom now have monthly strips in The Believer, FYI). They even wrangled Microphones/Mount Eerie musician Phil Elverum for a book at one point....




...well, there it is. Another goodbye too many. Buenaventura, you will be missed. Best of luck to Alvin on any future ventures.

Panel from Jerry Moriarty's Jack Survives, from Buenaventura 2009

Poem of the Week by Laura Moriarty

Happy Monday, readers. Today's poem comes from A Tonalist by Laura Moriarty (Nightboat Books, 2010). Enjoy.

8. The Imaginary Community

Real as thought
When thought

Plain as paint or
Audible sings

In tones that
In times which

These darknesses
Seem light

As among beings
Or notes between them

When us means both
Many letters

Between us
This commerce

As fast as light
Sets the tone

Webern's Bagatelles
The dark light again

As with yourself
Though (I am) not there with

But aware of (you) on
The edges of everything

To be read as if
Our lives depended upon

Knowing there is one
Are ones who know

Books don't leak

This week started off with a bang for the Ifolks at Apple, as it seems that their hot new iPad has sprung a leak, leaving more than 100,000 users vulnerable to malicious hacks and spam attacks, and AT&T under investigation by the F.B.I.

Can you imagine the words falling off of a book's printed page?

In the spirit of this major kerfuffle, I encourage you all to enjoy the new video posted below. No, it's not the handiwork of your favorite independent bookstore, although the name rings a bell. This comes courtesy of a group of Northwestern University students, Project Green Apple, and truth be told, we couldn't have done better ourselves.

So on this scorching hot day in The City by The Bay we offer for your amusement, "How to Melt an IPad"

Isn't America Wonderful

When our UPS driver, Juan, came by this morning, it was all he could do to contain his excitement for the Mexico vs. South Africa match taking place at that moment in first round World Cup action. A little while later another of our regular delivery drivers, this one from Brazil, couldn't stop talking about his country's first match on Tuesday. It reminded me of two truths: that America is a great country, still the great melting pot of cultures from around the world where people come to strive for a better life while keeping a foot in their native culture; and that my beloved game of baseball is a mere provincial hobby compared to the worldwide phenomenon that is soccer/football/futebol/etc.

For those of you who, like me, don't know a bit about "the beautiful game" but are starting to get a contact high on World Cup Mania, a couple of guide books are out to offer you the general lay of the land.

The first, pictured above, by local publican and true Glasgwegian Alan Black, is the more thorough. The author describes it as "a smash and grab read with propellant laughs, and wicked satire. Expect some crunching tackles on the establishment with profiles on hooligans, World Cup villains and serious national grudges. Stuffed with country and player profiles, bags of footie history, and all you need to know about South Africa."

The second, the 2011 World Cup Survival Guide is by John Beck. Bruce Jenkins recently said of it on his SFGate blog:

Got a terrific little surprise in the mail yesterday: John Beck's "2010 World Cup Survival Guide," an extremely informative, 82-page book that literally fits into your back pocket and is geared specifically toward a Bay Area audience....Beck's work is a treasure. Not only can you bring it along when visiting your local pub, Beck suggests you "spill beer on it and throw it at the television." Admirable spirit, that.

Both books on our shelves as we go to press.

Ain't No Monkey Like a Crazy Ass Monkey on a Boat

Okay, okay. Even better than my last theme idea for summer reads (y'know, 'tropical'), I came up with another one- How about this summer we all try to read nothing but books that have scenes featuring monkeys going nuts on a boats? Or at least non-human primates. I'm aware that's a photo of an orangutan up there, but the fact is that this category is even more difficult to drum up books for the list than the last. Limiting the constraints to 'monkeys only' would probably be WAY too stringent. All I've got so far is A High Wind in Jamaica (previously mentioned the book, neglected to mention it's multitude of tumorous monkey madness) and Moravagine. Both good ideas I think, and Cendrars' masterpiece may just have the sailing monkey scene to end all sailing monkey scenes (well, it's an ape yet again in this case, and on a steamer too, so not even really sailing- still totally outta' control though!), I just need more to tide me over for an entire summer... seriously, help me out here, folks!

Take a look HERE for an excerpt of what I'm talking about in Moravagine.
And then watch THIS over and over and over and over, just 'cause.

Cocktail anyone?

"Whiskey and vermouth cannot meet as friends and the Manhattan is an offense against piety."

Today I'd like to put a quirky classic, lovingly reissued by Tin House Books, on your radar: The Hour, a Cocktail Manifesto by Bernard DeVoto (with a witty introduction by our neighbor Daniel Handler).

From Handler's intro:
Bernard DeVoto's name may not ring a bell now, but people were certainly listening in his time. DeVoto was an historian and a journalist, a scholar and a polemicist, a novelist and a soldier. He curated the papers of Mark Twain and edited the journals of Lewis and Clark. He wrote a column for twenty years at Harpers' Magazine, incurring the ire of the FBI and the state of Utah. He won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, and his immense, three-volume history of the American West is still in print and still read.

So now that you know roughly who the author is, here's a taste of the book:

There are only two cocktails. One can be described straightforwardly. It is a slug of whiskey and it is an honest drink. Those who hold by it at 6:00 p.m. offend no canon of our fellowship. Scotch, Irish, rye, bourbon at your will--but of itself alone. . . .
To make a slug of whiskey, you pour some whiskey on ice. (Lately the fashionables have been saying "whiskey on the rocks"; suffer them patiently. But do not let tolerance get out of hand. A few months ago in Chicago, at a once respectable bar, I was offered "Whiskey on the Blarney Stone"--the ice was colored green. Let the place be interdicted and its proprietor put to the torture.) The slug of whiskey is functional; its lines are clean. Perhaps the friend for whom you make it will want two or three drops of bitters. Fine: there is no harm in bitters, so long as they are Angostura--all others are condiments for a tea-shoppe cookbook. If he wants fruit salad in it, remind him that cocktails are drunk, not eaten, but go along with him as far as a thin halfslice of orange or, better, one of lemon peel. Deny him pineapple, cherries, and such truck as you would cyanide. If he asks for sugar, tell him you put it in to begin with, and thereafter be wary of your dealings with him. For sugar means he is backsliding and will soon cross the frontier to join the heathen, with bottles of grenadine and almond extract in his pack. But before you give a slug of whiskey to anyone be sure that it is cold. Cocktails are cold.

Sure, there is some dated stuff in here (the book was published in 1951): DeVoto is NOT a feminist, and his distaste for olives in a martini can be a bit precious. But overall, this a thoroughly amusing polemic about that magical hour when day turns into night, work ends, and the best meal of the day is on the horizon. Thank you, Tin House Books, for keeping me from having to pay $100 online for an out-of-print edition of this quirky gem of a book.

Want to know the other cocktail? You'll have to buy the book here.

Poem of the Week by Jack Spicer

Let's start the week off with a little Spicer, shall we?  This is from my vocabulary did this to me: the Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer (Wesleyan University Press, 2008).

Aquatic Park
A Translation for Jack Spicer

A green boat
Fishing in blue water

The gulls circle the pier
Calling their hunger

A wind rises from the west
Like the passing of desire

Two boys play on the beach

Their gangling legs cast shadows
On the wet sand

Sprawling in the boat

A beautiful black fish.


Appropriated from Tom Gauld & The Guardian Saturday Review, all the way over on the other side of the pond.

Robert Wasler — Microscripts

New Directions has been putting out some really classy, good-looking books this year. I've mentioned Roberto BolaƱo's Antwerp quite a couple of times, and last week I talked about Anne Carson's Nox; well here is another exciting and beautiful addition for your bookshelves...

The long awaited translations of Robert Walser's (The Assistant & The Tanners) Microscripts!

When Walser passed away in 1956 the executor of his estate, Carl Seelig, assumed that the small strips of paper were covered with markings around a millimeter or two high. Seelig figured that Walser had been writing in an undecipherable code while being hospitalized for schizophrenia in the Waldau Sanitarium.

What have now been termed Walser's Microscripts, turned out to be a miniaturized form of the Kurrent script, a kind of shorthand for German-speaking countries that was used until the mid-twentieth century. These Microscripts turned out to be early versions of Walser's novels and countless stories. New Directions has collected some of these stories, along with full-color plates of the original Microscripts.

These short stories are wonderful, masterful examples of the great storyteller Walser was. Susan Bernofsky has done an excellent job translating and Walter Benjamin's afterword is captivating.

Any fan of Walser (or literature) will get endless pleasure from this book.

The Metaphysical Misadventures of Dr. David Throckmartin (and Other Tales)

I began Richard Hughes' A High Wind in Jamaica a couple of days ago, drawn to one of our remaindered copies due to the Henry Darger illustration NYRB had decided to slap on the cover of their edition. Not only did Hughes' 1929 masterpiece (#71 on The Modern Library's list: The 100 Best English Language Novels of the 20th Century, FYI) draw me in immediately, but it has also inspired multiple themes that I'm looking forward to applying in my summer reading list. Most importantly, tropical adventure. Last summer my reading, for whatever reason, revolved around major bummers. Example: In 2009 suddenly saw myself outside of my own body, lounging in the grass of one of San Francisco's many beautiful public parks, toggling between Suicide and Nausea. Though proud to have tackled an existentialist classic and a staunch psychological text back to back, still I asked, "What the hell is wrong with me?" and vowed that the next summer I would get it right. So, tropical reading '10 it is.

What's exciting about this is to me about this idea is the inherent insanity of the tropical setting. It, in theory, gives a book a strong backbone to begin with. Along with the fun of attempting to visualize what is to most an intriguing, foreign setting, the questionable moral state we call human nature seems to easily compose its dramas on remote islands or wayward vessels- human isolation and the dynamic will of the world (extreme weather conditions) ultimately must to come in to play. Man versus nature versus man versus man themes are practically unavoidable.

Here's a brief list of a few I'm excited to start. The what I've got so far and the little I know of them:

-Peter Mattheissen's Far Tortuga
What Mattheissen originally intended as a short article became a novel, a meditation on the sea itself.

-Stephen Marche's Shining at the Bottom of the Sea
A documentation of an island that never actually existed. This one comes with a high recommendation from my colleague, NPB.

-Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor
Short non-fiction surrounding the life of a sailor who survived some dubious set of circumstances at sea, eventually found washed up on a Colombian beach.

-A. Merritt's The Moon Pool
A 1919 tale of some sort of a man named Dr. Throckmartin and his metaphysical misadventures in The South Pacific. This book has chapter titles like Larry and the Frog-Men and looks to me like it will be the most sci-fi novel I have ever even expressed an interest in reading.

So far any other ideas that I've had fall under the categories of ALREADY READ (Island) and DON'T PARTICULARLY CARE TO READ (The Beach), so if you have any suggestions I'd be obliged to listen. Four books is not gonna' cover the next three months, y'know?

Book of the Month: The Invisible Bridge

Each month, Green Apple selects a brand-new book that we love and recommend unconditionally. In fact, we guarantee you'll love the book--if not, we'll refund your money.

Since we know you like to laugh, we have produced an amusing video to accompany this month's selection. If you like it, pass it on.

This month's book is a first novel by an ex-SF writer. Her earlier collection of short stories (How to Breathe Underwater) was highly lauded, and her debut novel, The Invisible Bridge is also receiving wonderful reviews like this and this.

Here's Samantha's "shelf-talker:"

It is hard to list all the ways in which this ambitious novel (set in Paris & Hungary before & during WWII) succeeds. It is a sweeping historical account (I swear I kept thinking of Anna Karenina as I read) grounded in what is, at its core, a love story.

To try to do justice to its long and looping plot would be to sell it short, so suffice to say that it's the best book I've read in at least a year (and I read a lot of books) and that it manages to be both thoroughly engaging and important, with a capital I. I'm in awe of Orringer's talents as a story teller. And now I'm just gushing. You will, too.

Convinced yet? Buy the book by clicking here.