Got Ink?

I just did!

Alon Shalev, author of The Accidential Activist, is also the man behind my new favorite blog, "Left Coast Voices." Earlier this week, Left Coast Voices published an interview between Alon and myself, focusing on community ties and, well. . . books! Enjoy it HERE.

Thanks for the interest Alon, and keep up the good work!

(oh yea - GO GIANTS!!!)

The Page 99 Test

I came across this article in the Guardian UK recently about what is apparently a well-known test devised by Ford Madox Ford to help readers determine if a book they're interested in is worthwhile. FMF (his friends called him "Fordy," I bet) wrote that if a reader were to "open [a] book to page 99 and read. . . the quality of the whole will be revealed to you."

While it seems to me that this is a sort of a rule of thumb that has more exceptions than applications, I wondered: how do we determine what's worth reading, especially when we're inundated with so many books? Covers sometimes do the trick, I think, as do recommendations from friends, critics, and booksellers (I hope). But how do you, a browser with nothing particular in mind but a desire to read something new, decide? Do you have an idiosyncratic method? Do you smell a book, judge its heft or flop (which I define as a book's ability to stay open in one hand or on a flat surface), sample paragraphs or sentences throughout, look at an author photo?

Maybe this test is more practical after all.

That's what the founders of the soon-to-be launched Page99Test site hope, at least. The site offers unpublished authors (and, one suspects, curious published writers as well) a chance to upload their page 99s and lets users rate whether they'd be willing to continue reading based on the contents of that page.

Out of curiosity, I scanned a handful of page 99s from recently released books. Judge for yourself:

. . . she thinks, now she has to get home, and has to make sure there's a lot of wood in the stove, she thinks and she walks up the little road and she stops and she turns around, because didn't she hear something behind her? footsteps? she heard something, she thinks. . .
. . . Haley Joel Osment went in the bathroom and removed his clothes and stood naked in the bathtub in sunlight. "I just need to feel good all the time," he thought. "When I'm happy everything seems okay. I feel happy when I'm happy. I don't know. I'll just keep going."
Tao Lin, Richard Yates
. . . The old woman clumped from the room to adjust her teeth in the pantry, and when she returned the dining-room was empty. She stood there for a moment gazing at the remains of the tea on the table and the hastily-pushed-back chairs. Her jaw started to tremble . . .
Barbara Comyns, Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead
Barry and I and Fred and Ivan and A.J. Sims sat in the kitchen nook at the little table and took shots of the whiskey. It was strong and burned, and I felt powerful at that little table. When people would wander through the kitchen we'd get smart with them because the whiskey was working on us.
James Franco, "The Rainbow Goblins," from Palo Alto



Here's a link to a great interview with Johnny Ryan on his new series, Prison Pit, a book I've been pushing over the last couple of months. It is probably one of the most gruesome, insane things we carry in the store, which is one of many reasons it's so interesting to read the creator's thoughts on the work's origin (horror manga and WWE as it turns out). The interview also gives nods to the works of C.F. (Powr Mastrs) and Benjamin Marra (Night Business), a couple of guys who are putting out some strange and inventive new books which really deserve more recognition than they're probably getting. Anyhow, I won't spoil the whole thing for you. Have a look yourself.

Note: Night Business is only out in single issue format, so visit your local comic shop!

Poem of the Week by Denise Newman

Happy Monday. Glad to see the sun is back in the Richmond District today. Here's a poem to start your week, from The New Make Believe by Denise Newman (The Post-Apollo Press, 2010).

The First Rip

then I went out new in my accident to see
if humankind looked new
and it did
looking up at people moving freely above the station
each living thing influential in its ability to move freely
along more or less the same lines
not that I was new but I was shiny and well tuned
with a new buoyancy limb, that is, my accident,
which hasn't happened but I know it
on instinct as I once was my animal,
animate, breath in that way
when it ripped through me going up the escalator
only lips moving at the tip of
a long spasm triggered from bottom like saturated
ground holding
all the dark water without
breaking and they thought I was drunk when I cried out
but this was the poem
and this is documentation, for now

WTF Is Up With Your Love Life?!

I couldn't really tell ya what's, er, up with your love life, but maybe Jessica Massa and Rebecca Wiegand could. The two ladies behind WTF Is Up With My Love Life?! will be stopping by the store on Monday night (October 25, 7pm) for a lively reading of favorites from their blog, as well as a "love advice" Q+A session. There will be wine. There will probably be awkwardness. There will definitely be laughter. See you tomorrow evening!

Happy Birthday

The first thing I did today after coming in to work was sell a copy of Weird Al's greatest hits. Fact: Today is Al's birthday.

NaNoWriMo (there...I said it)

Yes, the National Novel Writing Month is almost upon us, and for the first time, I'm going take a stab at writing a 50,000 word novel, from scratch, during the month of November. What I need now are a couple of tips on working through the madness...lucky that there's BoingBoing!

In a BoingBoing column last week, one of Green Apple's favorite authors, Nicole Krauss, walks us through her creation process and really gets to the heart of the matter of 'doubt'. I suggest that you read it here.

Krauss says, "I begin my novels without ideas. I don't have a plot, or themes, or a sense of the book's form. Often I don't even have a specific character in mind. I begin with a single sentence of no great importance; it almost certainly will be thrown away later."

I guess that there's hope yet!

How about this weather?

"There are seven or eight categories of phenomena in the world worth talking about, and one of them is the weather. "
-Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Luckily for me, being in any sort of position of customer service involves talking about the weather a lot.

This is especially true, it seems, in San Francisco, where the very fact that there's so little dramatic variation in the weather seems to mean that people are that much more astounded and indignant about it on any given day ("This fog, huh? I mean, I've lived here for 27 years, and it's always foggy, but today, THIS fog..."). Don't get me wrong, I like this about San Francisco, because (like Annie Dillard) the weather is one of my favorite topics, mostly as an effort to reconcile the rather unreasonable extent to which the weather profoundly affects me, not the least of such effects being how and what I read.

Lately, for example, I've been reading more than my usual share of essays, short stories, and poetry: bits-n-pieces that are easily picked up and put down-- I wonder if my tendency towards this mirrors the fact that the weather in the Bay has been so sporadically sweltering and then fall-like, to the point that it influences my ability to commit to a novel that attempts to sustain a time and place. One novel that's worked for this reading mood is The Facts of Winter by Paul La Farge (translating the fictional Paul Poissel). The bulk of the novel is made up of a series of dreams dreamt by residents of Paris in the winter of 1881. Each dream is recounted in just 500 words or so, each one, even (especially) the sad or terrifying ones are perfect and lovely. I recommend it if, like me, you need to read brief, kind things in this uncertain climate.

Of course, I've already started looking ahead to winter reading. There seems to be a generally agreed-upon preference for long books in winter, books you can really hibernate in for a while, large and heavy, like caves. The season's new releases reflect this, with bulky, "cozy up by the fireplace and wish that it actually worked because you live in San Francisco and it almost certainly doesn't" reads like the Autobiography of Mark Twain, the Instructions*, and classics like a new translation of Madame Bovary rolling in.

Today it is rainy. What are you reading? Why are you reading it?**

* I read the galley of this one in July, which is basically winter.

** I recently joked with a coworker about how the easiest way to wrap up a blog post when you're on the run is to turn your too-big-for-a-blog-post topic on your readers, and end with a question. This is not one of those questions. See the Dillard quote above. I just wanna talk about it.


If you missed Raina Telgemeier (author of the award winning, graphic novel, Smile) at APE this weekend, you've still got a chance to meet her! Come to the store at 7pm on Monday October 18th (that's tomorrow) for a signing and perhaps even some drawing by Raina. I've heard nothing but nice things about her, plus she's a Bay Area native, so some fun is sure to be had!

Thanks Dave! (at least I think it's a good thing)

There's no doubt that Green Apple Books gets a fair share of the love.

Michael Ondaatje called us, "One of the best bookstores I've ever been in." The recent Frommer's guide said of The Apple, "Its extended sections...are superseded only by the staff's superlative service." We've been called The Winchester Mystery House of bookstores. We are a perennial winner of various Best of The Bay awards, and just a couple of days ago a Yelper posted, "Where does the green apple books support group meet? I've blown countless dollars and hours on this habit. Love this place" Well, we love this praise! Always music to our ears...
However, I think that if we were to use just one quote to sum us up, it may be the one from Dave Eggers that I got this morning. About an hour after the store opened, I received a nondescript tube in the mail, and was thrilled to find some original artwork from Dave inside; this was quickly framed and placed in the front window. His newest release from McSweeney's is a collection of his animal renderings called, "It Is Right to Draw Their Fur" and the prints it contains look an awful lot like the one above. Except that one is OURS!!!
I can almost see the tee-shirts now, "Green Apple Books: Better than an ennui-stricken goat!"

Thanks Dave, Michael, Frommer's and "She-Ra" - it's kind words like yours' that keep us strong enough to fight the good fight!


Below we have Anders Nilsen's design for the Penguin U.K.'s new edition of The Great Gatsby. It looks excellent, wouldn't you agree?

"I suppose the latest thing is to sit back and let Mr. Nobody from Nowhere make love to your wife."
- F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, Ch. 7

Memory lane: our catalogs

Many years ago, Green Apple had a mailing list.  Not an email list (which you should be on if you're reading this; join here).  And we produced a (quarterly?) catalog of new books.  I stumbled on a batch of them recently.  They're from the late 1980s and early 1990s, judging from the books featured therein.

Within I found some timelessness, both in the irreverent attitude of the production (see cover #1 below) and in the content: there's Philip Roth with a new book, and Martin Amis, and Alice Munro and a Jack London biography.

Key differences?  Sales tax (according to the order form on the back) was 6.5%. Hardcovers averaged $18.95.  How quaint, huh?

Here are scanned covers of four newsletters from years passed.  I kind of think that last one would make a nice Green Apple t-shirt, huh?

Our friends at Melville House forwarded us this great trailer for Jean-Christophe Valtat's widely praised (see NPR, Paste, and Bookforum) and audacious new novel, Aurorarama. We like it so much we felt compelled to share it with you.

Oh, and hey, the book's pretty great, too.

An Argument for the Persistent Existence of Bookstores and Against Fear of Strangers

A couple of nights ago, a nice moment happened.

I was not in the mood for a nice moment, really. I was trying to swiftly but kindly close the Annex, doing the very unpleasant task of asking people to stop reading (something that always actually hurts me a little, even if I'm exhausted and have places to be) and there were a few stragglers, as there often are. There was a couple who had been pouring over multiple sections in search of a particular book, to no avail, and they moseyed toward the register lamenting the fact that they've had such trouble finding it as I was ringing up the last (particularly, um, healthy) stack of books of the night. The customer I was ringing up heard their conversation, and interrupted.

"I have about five copies of that book at home. It's one of my favorites, and I buy it every time I see it. If you're not in a rush I'd be happy to mail it to you."

I immediately handed over a post-it and a pen. They jotted. They offered payment, he refused. They talked about the book, how much they cherish it and how hard it is to come by. It was a book I'd never heard of, and I could tell that it was one that bonds the people who love it together because it's not a classic, not a "must read", but is nonetheless important to a few people for whatever reason (I like to hear people talk about their version of those; I have one of those).

There are, of course, so many quaint things to love about this story (Gift-giving! Real-life human interaction with strangers that is personal without being creepy! Unlikely common favorites! The mail!) but most of all it served as a nice little reminder as to the purpose of a bookstore as a space. A space can hold multiple people, it allows conversations to happen and glances at what another is reading, for listening in and reaching out. It's a function that is particularly crucial to the act of reading, I think, because, as wonderful as it is, reading can be such a solitary thing. It can get lonely. Come by the store at night sometime and stay a while, and you're bound to feel the value of having other people around for this very personal process. It's an aspect of book-buying, I think, that is crucial enough that it's hardly in danger of being replaced-- people just have to remember that in order to keep these spaces for ourselves, we have to buy books occasionally. Customers like the ones who exchanged an address the other night make me think that enough people aren't forgetting this. Maybe.

Now, because it's Friday and because as much as I want to wax nostalgic about "real books" I also don't want to wax too nostalgic about anything because, you know, it gets too serious and all waxy, I leave you with this drinking game to play while reading blogs like ours. Get a little toasted and go talk to a stranger, why don't ya.

the Gap logo Fiasco

The reason for this article is that i feel this moment in time must be documented. I feel that we, the design community, are in the middle of something important, something big. As a logo designer, its part of my job to keep up with redesigns, rebranding, and trends especially from large corporations. Theres been plenty of logo changes ive seen over the last 15 months since graduation from college (Full Sail love!) that i didnt like and ended up generating a buzz online. United Airlines comes to mind. But, i have never seen such a widespread backlash and hate for one logo than the newest Gap mark.

Earlier this week i clicked a Twitter link in my news feed that took me to the new logo. My first reaction was laughter. Yes, i actually LOL'd. As i closed the window i thought to myself "this is the worst logo ive seen all year". As the week has progressed, it seems every designer has chimed in through twitter (i swear over half of the tweets ive read this week are about Gap) written articles, shared links, made post on forums, and shared their own concept for a new logo. Thats why ive been following it all so closely. This is a fail of epic proportions, and Twitter has played such a huge part of it. The news and opinions that is constantly flying through is almost mind boggling. I think we've finally felt the full power of social media, and how quickly it can strike. London 2012 concepts came just before Twitter, but i believe it would have the same online result as Gap if introduced today.

Currently on the Brand New blog, which specializes in keeping up with rebrands, 90% of designers (5,964) have given the new Gap mark a vote of "bad", which is a nice way of saying "fail". Its hard to imagine how a major firm like Laird & Partners even let this fly. How does a design that is so obviously bad get approved? But, I dont want to into that client/firm relation too much here, thats a whole other article.

What may be the most hilarious thing about the situation is how the top Gap people have responded. Everything they've said up to this point about the large negative reaction has been twisted into "customer excitement". Yes, People are so excited about it, that Gap will be turning to a crowd sourcing option to fix it. I actually think thats the best move for them to make, though i discourage any designers from entering. Gap has spent a lot of time and money on this idea that is a total flop, and the fastest and cheapest way to fix it (a couple more weeks and less than $2,000) is to turn to the crowd sourcing sites which will no doubt provide something for them that is much better than what they have now.

Like i said, i think this is an important moment in design, one where instructors at design schools will be re-writting their lectures to include it, and one which should be documented. So below is a list of articles i have kept up with on the subject. happy reading.

Gap redesigns logo but why?

Gap logo changes: renaissance or mistake?

Dear Gap, I have your new logo.

The Gap's New Logo - Marka Hansen

Branding's Greatest Misses: The New Gap Logo

New Gap Logo Hated by Many, Company Turns to Crowdsourcing Tactics - Forbes

Deciphering the Meaning of Gap’s New Logo

Don’t Mind the Gap, or the Square - Brand New

Follow-up: Gapgate - Brand New

GAP rebrands with a graduated missplaced square.

Gap's Retro Redesign Incites Flaming Logo Rage

Why Does The Gap Have A New Logo?

Gap Speaks Out: Yes, the Logo Is Real

Lessons for Next time

if it isnt broke dont fix it


Gap and the neuroscience of logo design

Some new books we like.

"The question What Ever Happened to Modernism? is not one that Gabriel Josipovici is asking to academics or critics. He's asking us - those who look to art and, in this case, especially literature - what kind of art we feel is vital. Do we want the sentimental and easy or complex and possibly 'difficult'? To give us his answer, Josipovici extends Modernism back in time and also makes it current. By doing this, he demonstrates that Modernism will always be relevant as long as it holds true to its initial ambition to deal honestly with our place in a world largely unmoored from its traditional foundation. His argument is persuasive, passionate, and convincing." - Stephen

"Don't be dissuaded by its size, or by the fact that its protagonists are 10 years old, or by the fact that a few pages in you will realize you are in a world that resembles the one you know but whose inhabitants speak what is practically a foreign language. Rather, these are all reasons why you should read this book.

"In a debut novel that manages to be unique without ever being gimmicky, occasionally funny but never cute, page-turning yet narratively complex, Adam Levin has truly accomplished something of greatness in the story of Gurion Macabee. It's a story about belief, love, social uprising, war, and friendship that you won't want to end - and when it does, it will leave you breathless." - Molly

"If I had written this book, I'd be so purged of all the vile filth festering in my mind that I'd bake wondrous pastries for strangers out of pure saintly impulse. That's how satisfyingly sadistic Castel-Bloom's little masterpiece is. Gratuitously violent isn't a sufficient tag, as the story is also a finely crafted satire of statehood (Israel) and the art of mothering (f*cking up) a child. Orly, you're my new favorite matriarch and I'd light your cigar for you anytime." - Nina

"I've been trying to come up with sufficient praise for Daniel Robberechts novel, but each time I think I find an expression worthy of my feeling, I reconsider, worrying that I'm not getting it right. Despite this inability to properly convey my admiration (in itself a form of praise), I can unequivocally say that Arriving in Avignon is a revelation: parts memoir, novel, travel guide, and history (of a feeling as much as a place), that is not reducible to its parts. To me, this is a certain sign that what we have here is a masterpiece, a book well-deserving of its resurrection, and one that deserves to last." - Stephen


I stumbled across this online, browsing things. Yes, that's our comparative religion section. Maybe we'll find this in a Taschen book someday and then sell it to you. Who knows? Life is a mystery!

Photo credit: Celisse Berumen
Did you get permission for this?

Tonight is the night!

Yes, it seems that the Giants could win the National League West this evening behind birthday-boy Matt Cain, but that isn't the really big event tonight...

Tonight is finally the official start of LITQUAKE (insert applause here)!!! Below are some suggestions and highlights to help you make the most of the next 9 days.

Kicking off the 11th year of books taking center stage throughout San Francisco, The Litquake Festival is welcoming any and all comers to 111 Minna Gallery for their 'Night of the Living Read' happy hour, a FREE event from 5-9pm. Slide down there tonight and mingle with authors and event organizers while sipping drinks and listening to the literature related songs of Suzie Williams and Brad Kay.

Green Apple Books will be the official booksellers for numerous Litquake events, but a couple that we are particularly excited about include Words and Waves: An Evening of Surf Lit at The Park Chalet, starting at 6:30 on Monday Oct. 4th. Featuring Matt Warshaw, Dan Duane, Doug Dorst, and seven other writers whose names don't begin with "D", the sliding-scale admission fee of 5-10 bucks allows you to grub from the happy hour menu all-night long.

The Funny Side of Sex springs Kristin Schaal from the Daily Show to the historic Cobb's Comedy Club stage on Oct. 6th at 8:00pm. This ticketed event is a bargain at $15 when you consider that A) she's famous and B) she's sharing the spotlight with friends like Michael Kupperman and Ted Travelstead.

It's All Over But the Crying is a night of authors on sports and it's gonna be quite the doozie! Six authors will take over The Hemlock Tavern, which is really pretty cool, but the kicker will be a slide-show and discussion of how pro sports have changed due to corporate interests from my favorite wild-man photographer, Michael Zagaris. If I were you, I'd grab that $10 ticket in advance from BrownPaperTickets, as this one is certain to sell-out.

While the above seems to be shamelessly self-promoting, I can do better, as you slowly start to realize now that I'm plugging 2 other Litquake events that don't involve Green Apple, but rather feature my lovely wife, Alia Volz. She's going to be my favorite reader at the unfortunately named (but FREE) Barely Published Authors event on Oct. 3rd at the Make-Out Room. Plus, Alia is hosting the 100th episode of the (much better named) Literary Death Match. This special Litquake edition of LDM will feature multiple Pulitzer Prize Winners on the Jury panel, so the advance tickets available here seem to be the way to go if'n you want to go...

Oh, yea...just one last thing - GO GIANTS!!!