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