Oh yea, we've got 'em. . .and then some!

Infinite City is Rebecca Solnit's reinvention of the traditional atlas, examining the many layers of meaning in one place, in this case the San Francisco Bay Area. It's one of Green Apple's favorite books this holiday season, we've got plenty of hardcover copies in stock (unlike many other stores), and as an extra bonus for our wonderful customers, we have also partnered-up with MOMA to distribute 6 FREE POSTER-SIZED MAPS as they become available. Each poster is a two-sided reproduction of a map from the book, as well as selected text from Rebecca Solnit, and others. We currently have 4 different maps in the store - yours for the asking.

Aided by artists, writers, cartographers, and twenty-two gorgeous color maps, each of which illuminates the city and its surroundings as experienced by different inhabitants, Solnit takes us on a tour that will forever change the way we think about place. She explores the area thematically--connecting, for example, Eadweard Muybridge's foundation of motion-picture technology with Alfred Hitchcock's filming of Vertigo.

Across an urban grid of just seven by seven miles, she finds seemingly unlimited landmarks and treasures--butterfly habitats, queer sites, murders, World War II shipyards, blues clubs, Zen Buddhist centers. She roams the political terrain, both progressive and conservative, and details the cultural geographies of the Mission District, the culture wars of the Fillmore, the South of Market world being devoured by redevelopment, and much, much more.

Infinite City is a real gem, the sort of book that you want to give as a gift, and yet greedily keep for yourself. If that seems like the kind of problem you might run into, allow me to suggest that you get a couple of extra copies (book or posters or both) to share. Problem solved!

The day after Thanksgiving

Ad Reinhardt, Abstract Painting


Click the image to enlarge.

- Green Apple Books and Music / 506 Clement Street / San Francisco / California
- November 18th, 2010 / Around 10:00 p.m.

Get 'em While You Can

In yesterday's New York Times was this article about the book that is shaping up to be the literary Tickle-Me-Elmo of the season, The Autobiography of Mark Twain. The article is about how the University of California Press has had a difficult time keeping up with demand. Just so you know, over here at Green Apple we've got a pretty good stack, but they are selling at a brisk clip, so if you think you want to put one under the tree, or want to pick one up for yourself to while away a long cold winter, you might want to act sooner than later. Here is what Green Appler Martin had to say about the book: "An appropriately oversized book (and just the first volume!) for an oversized personality, this long-awaited (100 years to be exact) tome arrives just in time for settling down for some serious - in a manner of speaking - winter reading. Full of Twain's signature wit, irreverence, and sarcasm, this is a book for anyone interested in one of the great American writers - and personalities."

The Emperor of All Maladies

The Emperor of all Maladies:

A Biography of Cancer

Convincing you to buy a book about the history of cancer and the search for its prevention and cure is either going to be easy or very hard.

For those already interested, all I will add is that The Emperor of All Maladies is expertly researched, clearly narrated, and hopeful, if realistic. It's everything you hope for.

For those not interested at first glance, I just have to say that this is one of the most compelling non-fiction books I’ve read in years. A page-turner chock full of scientists, discovery, failure, “victims,” genomics, politics, moral quandaries and a persistently evasive disease that will, alas, afflict one in three American women and one in two American men in their lifetimes. Knowledge is power, right? Get your knowledge here.

This book is fantastic (and totally readable for the curious layperson without being dumbed down). My highest personal recommendation.

Toilet Talk

Somehow this morning took a scatological theme at the front counter of 506 Clement. Early on the buyers were chuckling over an enormous French tome on the subject of dysentery. A woman bought her son a copy of Andy Griffiths' The Day My Butt Went Psycho. Someone somewhere who had a million dollars to piss away bought J.D. Salinger's toilet, I heard. We talked about that. And while this anecdote may not quite fall into the scatalog canon I'm crafting here, I finally got a look at the new Diary of a Wimpy Kid book, in which Greg decides he can't be friends with Tyson because he pulls his pants all the way down when he uses a urinal. Good choice Greg, but I still can't stop thinking about the can! Maybe I'll reread A's post on Stefano Benni's Timeskipper, and then track down a copy of Black Spring for that part where Henry Miller spends about a five pages just meditating on the idea of public urinals. Man, I gotta go!

Hey everybody, have you heard the news?

The San Francisco Giants are The Champions of the World!

But even though this magical 2010 season has ended, the hits just keep coming at Green Apple Books. Like what, you ask? Well, just try these on for size:

Our first batch of copies of the Sports Illustrated commemorative World Series edition sold out in less that 30 minutes! I was just about to bid one up on Ebay for my personal scrapbox, but lo and behold, we got in another BIG STACK yesterday. Don’t hesitate on this round folks…I expect them to fly outta here faster that Renteria’s dinger in Game 2.

Bigger, bolder and only slightly more expensive than the S.I. edition, Giant Surprise is a wonderful collection of the moments that will live in our memories forever. So even though you’ve memorized every pitch sequence in Timmy’s 14 strikeout shutout during his post-season debut, maybe your Nephew in Spokane didn’t watch with such vigor, or your Uncle in Miami, or your Nana in Nantucket; pick up this winner from Triumph Press.

Or, if you don’t want the walls of your pad to get jealous of the coffee table, nab one of these limited edition posters from McSweeneys featuring artwork by San Francisco’s literary MVP, Dave Eggers. Dave was turned loose during Game 1 of the World Series with a sketchpad and instructions to capture the random fandom for Bay Citizen, and the results were impressive! Sadly lacking is Texas newscaster Newy Scruggs, but I guess that’s what You Tube is for. The poster itself is a giant, as well, 24” x 36”.

These special and unique items are only available in-store, and while they last. So swing by Green Apple and support your local scene – plus, if you ask nice, we just may let you touch our bunting!

It's Beginning to Look A Bit Like Christmas

Despite the bright blue sky and the balmy weather, it's beginning to feel a bit like Christmas around the store. Lots of folks browsing in the past week, getting the jump on holiday shopping, buying things obviously meant to fill stockings, or be given out after the lighting of the menorah, or placed on a Wiccan Altar. So the question of the day is, when is the right time to put up the holiday decorations?
People always roll their eyes when they see the decorations go up too soon, but there is a reason stores decorate for the holidays: it reminds everyone that Chanukah and Christmas are right around the corner. I'm told some of the big Union Square retailers had the garland and tinsel out of storage by mid-October.
It's a question we wrestle with every year here at the Apple. We strive to get the holiday decorations up before Thanksgiving weekend, but not a lot before. Don't want to appear desperate. So we'll probably be putting the holiday drapes up some time next week.


Sometimes you're standing on a ladder putting books on the very highest shelf in the building and you hear one customer say to another, "This bookstore is better than a lot of sex I've had," and it just sort of makes your night.

Doing Good While Doing Some Bizness

W is out on his author tour, promoting Decision Points, his "candid journey through the defining decisions of his life." As we did last year when Sarah Palin's Going Rogue came out, we will be donating 100% of the profits of Decision Points to a good cause, which in this case is the local V.A. hospital here in the Richmond District of San Francisco. We already send lots of books their way, and this will allow us to send them even more. So if you want to do some good while reading W's side of the story, buy a copy from us (we'll be donating profits from sales from our website too).


After laying on the cement floor of my room, nude, with the lights off, the windows open, the rain blowing in and the newest SWANS album, My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to Heaven, playing at full blast, I have decided that indeed Michael Gira has not lost his touch and that despite about fourteen years between this album and the last, SWANS is nowhere near being a band worth forgetting. Click the link below to hear the second track off their new LP. Feel powerful, like a wild stallion or a cop.

A collection of dust and decay

In my early 20s, while living at the New Jersey shore - don't even think it - I frequented a used bookshop (now, I hear, replaced by a store selling tires, which in turn replaced a liquor store) in one of the rundown neighborhoods at the edge of Atlantic City. In that desolate nether region of the state, cut off from the civilized world by the Pine Barrens and, well, the rest of New Jersey, used bookstores were few and far between, so this particular one - I've forgotten the name - was a dusty and cluttered haven. Never during any of my visits did I encounter another browser; I was left to think, a bit wistfully, that I was the only person who shopped here. The owner, a frail old man whose look belied his pugnacity, seemed reluctant to engage with his customer(s) and only did so with a sort of shuffling and begrudging respect.

Despite the lack of business, I cannot remember him ever acknowledging my arrival. He kept his head in a book, as if unwilling to let the presence of a mere human being interrupt his idyll. I liked his version of customer service: not unfriendly, but neither was he overeager to engage in conversation. He struck me as a man who didn't need to flip an "Open" sign around each morning, but did, perhaps, out of a desire to see some of the collection he'd gathered find other homes. (Occasionally, I would make a purchase that would delight him - I could see in his movements, a little more sprightly, as he wrote down each title I was buying on a carbon copy receipt.)

I bought dozens of books there and after a while noticed that many of them, mostly classic novels and works of philosophy, were inscribed with the same name and university on the top right corner of their title pages. The name is unimportant now, or is a story for another time, but a series of coincidences led me, then, to find out who this person was whose secondhand books I was buying...

All of which is to say in a roundabout way: Molly's post a few weeks back got me thinking about my relationship with bookstores as physical spaces in which one picks up books, carries them while browsing, where strangers may tell you, enthusiastically, "That's a great book," where you may accidentally stumble across something you didn't even know you were looking for, where you may meet your future partner, or sometimes just go to escape the house, and even where the sheer quantity of reading material is enough to make you want to give it all up in favor of... a beach somewhere, maybe. (Ah, but what would you read on that beach?)

I'm also reminded of an article I read this summer, about the late (and sadly neglected) novelist David Markson's relationship with his favorite bookstore, The Strand. It seems that after Markson's death his heirs sold his library, his books heavily annotated (if you've ever read one of his novels, you'll understand why), back to his favorite bookstore. As it happened, a customer picked up a copy of one Markson's secondhand books, noticed the name inscribed on the title page and dived into the stacks, seeking out more. (Read the story in the London Review of Books for a glimpse of some of these humorous annotations.)

And to really (finally) bring home this rambling point about serendipity, things that can only happen in the real world, and the delights of treasure hunting, there's this interview with Sylvia Beach, founder of the legendaryParisian bookstore Shakespeare and Company, where writers and artists as important as Paul Valery and Pablo Picasso came in search of conversation and books. (And where, in return for shelving books, lucky visitors can spend the night.)

Why I Read by Peter Coyote

An occasional feature in our email newsletter is the "Why I Read" column. We've collected some wonderful short essays on the topic from fine writers over the years. Here's what actor and writer Peter Coyote had to say back in April of 2006 when we asked him:
I read, because I prefer being the casting director for my own imagination and expanding my circle of friends to include Odysseus, Anna Karenina, Julian Sorel, Richard III, The Snopses, and old ambidextrous Portnoy. There is no coffee shop or lecture hall in the world that can offer the breadth and depth of humanity I get from spending several hours with a good book. In non-fiction, reading is the perfect antidote to sound-bytes, spin, leaden-headed reporters and talk-radio, which usually sounds like an ad for anger-management classes. Print can be highlighted, reviewed, clipped, scanned and pondered. It is, in effect, in-depth conversation with great and informed minds or wits that make what passes for comedy on TV seems like a runny ichor (a word you won't hear on TV). Surrounding yourself with the concentrated work of men and women who have had the guts and temerity to wrestle with a subject for the length of time required to write a book is a corrective to shallow thought, leaping to conclusions, and running blindly through cross-fires of argument armed only with a pundit’s opinion masquerading as fact. Reading is the deliberate slowing down of the acquisition of knowledge and sensation, based on the time-tested truism that good ideas, like good whiskeys, need to mellow and accrete complexity and flavor over time. Finally, I love the company of books. They rest on my shelves like old companions who are ever ready to summon up shared memories and re-engage and review humanity's finest moments from earlier times.
--Peter Coyote

PS. Other installments of the series await you by Beth Lisick, Susan Choi, Peter Rock, Dave Eggers, Daniel Handler, TC Boyle, Joyce Maynard, and Peter Carlson. What other authors should we solicit?

Medium of the Story

I don't think books or comic books should be adapted into movies.

Unless perhaps you're talking about something like Andy Warhol's Empire, filmmaking is very rarely a solitary endeavor (actually I think even that was a two man job). Typically it requires the minimum involvement of a small cast and crew, and more often than not additional producers, backers, film processors and so on, each by virtue of mere presence altering the final product in their own particular way. Sadly, despite consistent failures, Hollywood attempts again and again to create a formula that will translate the novel to the screen, and it is a consistent trend of the ambitious film crew to mangle the work of authors. Even in the most favorable of situations, a team of filmmaking virtuosos collaborating on a cinematic version of, oh I don't know, Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow (but seriously, try to imagine that as a film), are unlikely to crack the outer shell intense private vision behind the novel itself. The art of writing a novel, a good novel, is internal. It is a matter dealing with the thoughts, ideals, obsessions and base complexities of a particular individual, the author. The camera, as astounding an invention as it may be, cannot replicate these particulars. Being that it is neither eye nor imagination, but a mechanical abstraction of the eye directed by the imagination of not one, but a team of people, further tangles the matter. The novel is not duplicated by whirring cogs or digital vidcap, and neither is its contemporary, the graphic novel.

Following the recent tragic disassembly of stories by comic authors Alan Moore and Stan Lee (although Stan Lee endorses this) I found this excerpt of Dan Clowes' 1997 essay Modern Cartoonist: The Naked Truth quite appropriate (penned pre crappy Ghost World movie):

They [comics] are in a sense the ultimate domain of the artist who seeks to wield absolute control over his imagery. Novels are the work of one individual but they require visual collaboration on the part of the reader. Film is by its nature a collaborative endeavor. The filmmaker's vision, filtered through "reality," is more accessible to a general audience but in most cases less a precise, pre-conceived vision than one based on compromise and serendipity. Comics offer the creator a chance to control the specifics of his own world in both abstract and literal terms. As such, the best comics are usually done by a single creator, often an obsessive-compulsive type who spends hours fixing things and making tiny background details "just right." Nabokov (whose favorite artist was Saul Steinberg) has a good line: "There is nothing I loath more than a group activity, that communal bath where the hairy and slippery mix in multiplication of mediocrity." At its highest level of achievement, comics allow the creator to transmit vivid images from one specific imagination to another individual who may react as passively or actively as he sees fit, without an editor or panel of executives tweaking it to make it more "audience friendly."

And so my dissent has been expressed. Meanwhile Hollywood unbuckles, preparing to drop another Cleveland steamer on my childhood.

Recommended reading:
The entire Tintin series.

Armistead in the house!

Yes, Armistead Maupin, silly. You didn't really think I meant respected jurist Armistead Mason Dobie, did you? He's been dead for years!

We were just graced with a visit by Armistead Maupin, local literary icon known best for his Tales of the City series. His most recent installation, Mary Ann in Autumn, was released today, and we now have signed copies! It's not too early to buy holiday presents, and what's more unique than an autographed copy of a fine new novel by a local legend?

PS Here's a review from Sunday's Chronicle.

"BOOKS ARE GOOD!" screamed the very excited Giants fan, while running past the store.

Congratulations, San Francisco.
Don't forget to vote on Tuesday!

Design with personality, culture, and history

head over to LogoDesignLove to read my latest article. Many thanks to David Airey for the opportunity.