Us, by Michael Kimball is an understated, yet incredibly intimate story of aging, illness and death. The premise is quite simple: a man awakes one morning to find his wife beside him, no longer breathing. What follows is a complex story of the grim reality of what happens when we are met with mortality—that of our loved ones and of ourselves. While, by nature, the subject matter isn’t the endorphin releasing, warm-fuzzy type that I tend to look for in places other than books, this novel is an exceptionally tender portrait of the harsh realities of human existence, and of love. This book will make you think. I might make you feel a little crazy and a little sad. But it is completely worth it.
*Us is currently on our shelves, despite what our website may say. Call to reserve a copy, or come in to see it for yourself.
One of my other favorites from this year was the NYRB reprint of The Three Christs of Ypsilanti. I picked this up because the premise was just too intriguing to ignore. In the late 1950’s, three schizophrenic patients in the Michigan state hospital system shared one very distinct characteristic. They each claimed to be Jesus Christ. Social psychologist Milton Rokeach brought these patients together at the now demolished Ypsilanti State Hospital, where he performed experiments and studied the group for a number of years. Though this is nonfiction through and through, the larger than life personalities, and the pure emotive qualities of the three Christs are certainly the stuff of novelists’ dreams. From a psychological standpoint, this book provides a fascinating explanation and interpretation of the basic functions and modalities of identity and individuality. More than that, the three Christs call into question the very meaning of the term ‘mentally ill’, and the ways in which individuals, physicians, and the state view, treat, and interact with those diagnosed as such. By the end of the book, I found myself wondering exactly which players in this bizarre situation truly saw themselves as Christ; the schizophrenic patients, or the doctor who attempted to manipulate, by morally questionable means, the lives of three men deemed by the state to be clinically insane.
Ben Lerner's debut novel is a smart and ironic account of cultural, linguistic, and personal dislocation. Chronicling the rather unextraordinary adventures of a young American poet in Madrid (there under the false pretenses of writing a poem about the Spanish Civil War), Leaving the Atocha Station is a comedic portrait of the artist as a bundle of failures. Much more than an attempt to understand what poetry means in the early 21st century, Lerner's novel is an attempt to figure out what it means to be human.
Frank offers astute insight into what motivates the naïve and xenophobic Tea Ninnies aiming to “take our country back,” fearing burdensome, invasive regulation toward modest small business owners thus rallying for toothless oversight by the Federal Reserve, Treasury Department and SEC, much to the delight of fund managers at JP Morgan.
Frank delivers a seething survey of the “funhouse mirror of contemporary conservatism” where unions “oppress” workers and what’s left of the middle class became a cheering squad for paid-for politicians and the industrialist Koch Brothers, all aided by the stealth astro-turfing machinations of Dick Armey, and Glenn Beck’s socialist-baiting histrionics.
Democrats whistle as workplace unionism dwindles, while a bizarrely aloof President Obama capitulates and compulsively offers olive branches to Rep. John Boehner and his bullies.
The last, chilling, four-page chapter, “Trample the Weak,” foresees a future where the market-minded moneyed interests, no longer fearing incorruptible government agencies, are free to call highways and parks--wasteful subsidies, and FEMA and Medicare are just the unfortunates’ power grab from big government.
This is not bedtime reading unless you enjoy getting both fired up and terrorized before bed.
- Border's closing at Stonestown?
- our GroupOn and Scoutmob and Google offers?
- our incredibly capable and friendly staff?
- eBooks on our website?
- our new inventory system?
- our section development in LPs, children's, young adult, cooking?
- the new flooring on the mezzanine and in the red delicious room?
- the literature in translation section?
- our new t-shirt designs?
- our new subscription service?
- our website re-design?
- our better use of Facebook?
- the used books we sell at the Beachside and Devil's Teeth?
- our ClemenTime event with the Bold Italic?
- our (more or less) amusing videos?
- more people are understanding the power of shopping locally?
Every good book should be re-read as soon as it is finished. After the sketchiness of the first reading comes the creative work of reading. We must then know the problem that confronted the author. The second, the third reading... give us, little by little, the solution to this problem.Although I haven't found the "solution" to the problem that inspired Stanley Crawford's Log of the S.S. The Mrs Unguentine, each voyage--I read the book three times in succession this summer, after reading it initially, and a little skeptically, in 2008 when it was first reprinted by Dalkey Archive Press--brought me closer to some essential truth about the prickly dilemmas inherent in human relationships and cohabitation.
Into deeper and lonelier waters the Unguentines then sail. In an episode that will resonate with anyone who has found him or herself in a relationship that seems to have gone off course, Mrs Unguentine discovers a blank map by which, it seems, her husband is steering. (A map that alludes, possibly, to another.) Silence grows between the couple just as the trees Unguentine has planted grow to render clear navigation impossible. Ages pass, time stops; the barge becomes more and more isolated. Unguentine and everything familiar disappears, then possibly reappears.
What Crawford has managed in this slim and perpetually overlooked book (of just over 100 pages) is marvelous. As with the best allegories, those that lend themselves to multiple and endless interpretations, Log of the S.S. The Mrs Unguentine can be read literally--as a seafaring tale, a creation myth, the story of an unusual marriage--and rooted around in for deeper meaning, each reading revealing just how dense, under its reflective surface, the novel really is: an amalgam of Adam and Eve, Noah and the Flood, Ulysses' journeys, Ahab's quest...
Near the end of the book, Mrs Unguentine wonders, "what would it be like to live without the presence of the sea?" which seems to me a question that perfectly embodies everything I love about this novel. It's a straightforward, if complicated, question and one that brings a reader to a similar precipice: what would it be like living without the presence of a book like this?
Bookstore owners everywhere have a lurking suspicion: that the customers who type into their smartphones while browsing in the store, and then leave, are planning to buy the books online later — probably at a steep discount from the bookstores’ archrival, Amazon.com. Now a survey has confirmed that the practice, known among booksellers as showrooming, is not a figment of their imaginations. According to the survey, conducted in October by the Codex Group, a book market research and consulting company, 24 percent of people who said they had bought books from an online retailer in the last month also said they had seen the book in a brick-and-mortar bookstore first. Thirty-nine percent of people who bought books from Amazon in the same period said they had looked at the book in a bookstore before buying it from Amazon, the survey said.
So dig that- If Amazon succeeded in shutting down all of their bookstore competition, their sales would go down! Maybe it's time for Amazon to start helping us out with the rent. It's in their own best interest.
The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm
“My starting point was friends and acquaintances,” says Morton, who developed his recipes through trial and error, seeking advice from contacts in his six years bartending at Beach Chalet, the old Broadway Street Enrico’s, Presidio Heights’ Spruce, and most recently the TenderNob’s Fly Bar. “I’d pick the brain of whatever chef I was working with.”
Jersey’s complex and time-intensive spicy chicken, for example, is brined in vinegar, then marinated in olive oil, rosemary, thyme, shallots, and garlic, which Morton then serves slathered in tangy chili pepper Sriracha aioli sauce.
Morton, 35, who grew up in the Manhattan suburb of Ramsey, New Jersey, poaches his meatballs in his own marinara sauce, and roasts the Angus beef and hormone-free turkey in the morning at Divisidero Street’s Solstice Restaurant.
The tiny Sixth Avenue storefront seemed a fit for both his small
convection oven and budget, without involving deep-pocketed partners.
“I saw the space available and it seemed affordable without getting a bunch of loans, just using personal savings to get a foot in the door,” said Morton, who has an SJSU Masters in Education.
"The small giant of modern literature. The plot, on its surface, is simple. A family in a quiet college town. A disaster strikes. Fear spreads. And, as it must, life goes on. But this is not a disaster novel. Around this form, DeLillo meditates on our relationship with fear, death, and the delusions of society. His prose is so clear and the way he handles his themes so gentle that far from bleak this book is a fascinating and insightful observation of our world. The barn scene itself is an iconic moment in literature. For good reason, this book has influence writers for over 25 years. One of the best novels I read in 2011 and in a long time."
First up, Pete, who selected books in four categories.
"This is a collection of healthy and vegetarian recipes that are perfect for weekday meals. Nothing too complicated, but everything more surprisingly yummy than you think it'll be. For those who want to cook quickly and healthily, this is a gem of a cookbook by a local author."
RQD: What are you working on? What interests you about these characters?
RQD: What art or artists interest you?
PO: The South African artist William Kentridge I find him amazing; his huge imagination, the way he uses history and politics in his work.
RQD: What book, story or poem do you return to over and over?
PO: A novel by great Nebraskan novelist Wright Morris called Plains Song, I re-read it every year. This and Moby Dick. And also the sea stories of Alvaro Mutis.
RQD: What are you reading now?
PO: Right now I am reading The Book of Ebenzer Le Page, one of the strangest novels I've ever come across, and loving it. Its about a guy on an island off the UK who remembers nearly every single detail about his life. I can't get enough of it.
RQD: What did you read as a kid? What is its impact on your work now?
PO: The Phantom Tollbooth. I often think about it at least every day, how easy it seemed in that book to pass from one reality to another. When we're a kid and we read a book like this, we almost take it for granted. These days it's like I'm wandering around looking for that weird and wonderful tollbooth. Where did it go?
Now, it is a nearly universal fact that bookstores are carrying all sorts of "sidelines" that you wouldn't have seen in a "bookstore" 10 years ago. Even City Lights is selling onesies (very cute). At Green Apple, we've added all sorts of toys and games and puzzles to the mix over the last few years. When Raymond Carver lived in the neighborhood in the 1970's, he didn't ponder whether to add a refrigerator magnet or some finger tentacles to his purchases. But a business has to do what a business has to do to stay in business, and if finger tentacles help keep the lights on, then bring on the finger tentacles.
But Mr. Clowes does have a point, I believe. With the advent of e-books, there is much discussion (see here and here) about the future of books and bookstores. As more and more people read their books digitally, which is inevitable, then whither the bookstore. I'm not going to make an argument for the many positive things a bookstore brings to a community. I just want to stick to the reality that they are endangered. Every single person doesn't have to buy a Kindle to make the neighborhood bookstore go the way of the typewriter shop, just enough of them so that it no longer becomes a viable business to sell books for a living.
Which brings us to my answer to the question, what will become of the bookstore? As digital reading slowly (or quickly) replaces the reading of paper books, those sidelines will continue to expand and multiply, until what we consider a "bookstore" will actually be a gift shop or a clothing store or some other type of general merchandise emporium that also happens to have a good selection of books. How long this will take is anybody's guess. My personal guess is that it will be much slower than some people think, as readers generally have a strong attachment to the physical book. The analogy would be to vinyl records compared to compact discs. Audiophiles still love their vinyl, and at Green Apple we are selling more vinyl now than we did ten years ago. Compact discs, nobody has an emotional attachment to, and apparently there is talk that production of compact discs will cease all together in the next year of two. I think it will be a long slow transition from bookstore to store with books.
And, now that November's subscribers have had the chance to be surprised by their new book and our handwritten shelf-talker, we can tell the rest of you that our inaugural Club selection is In Red by Magdalena Tulli, a beautiful new little translation from Archipelago Books.
The heart of Magdelena Tulli's novel is the imaginary Polish town Stitchings. Reminiscent of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's famous Macondo (in One Hundred Years of Solitude), Stitchings serves as setting for an array of darkly fantastic events: from a girl who refuses to acknowledge her death to the home of a man destined for a bullet that's circled the earth for years, Tulli's town offers the ultimate pleasure to readers: the impossible made believable. As such, we felt it was the perfect place to start our Apple-a-Month Club.
Want in? Why wouldn't you. If you're interested in subscribing for 3, 6, or 12 months, please do so by December 5th to get your first book in the mail about a week later. Got someone on your holiday shopping list who you want to surprise closer to Christmas? Purchase a subscription by December 18th and we'll send the recipient a card in the mail to let them know they're getting an awesome gift, and they'll get their first book in January.