The Hermit In The Bookstore

The last of the 2011 calendars

Having worked at Green Apple for a very long time, I have come to realize that I mark off my life in the seasons of the store: holiday decorations go up, I'm a year older. Calendar bins come back from storage, I'm a year older. James Patterson has a new book out, I'm 3 weeks older. And so I thought, if I were a hermit living under the stairs in the store, and I only came out at night after all of the customers and booksellers were gone, I would have a pretty good idea what time of year it was. Lots of books on display about love and kissing- must be coming on February. Big display of books about how great moms are, May must be around the corner, and I know that soon the military history and sports books will be coming in for Father's Day.

Calendar bins have been packed away and the
children's section has returned to its former glory

But there would be other things the observant hermit would know about the world outside from the safety of the bookstore. After Sept. 11, our Middle Eastern history section grew from a handful of books into its very own full bookcase, and now has shrunk down to half of that. As W.'s popularity waned in 2003, books that looked unfavorably on the president popped up like mushrooms in the store and, on Nov. 3 of 2004, they all disappeared overnight as W. won reelection and nobody (at least not Green Apple customers) seemed to think he was funny anymore. And then with the financial meltdown of 2008, books on economics and financial catastrophe were all the rage.

And so the moral of this story is, if you're going to hide away from the world underneath the stairs of a retail establishment, there are worse places you could do it than at Green Apple.

Jaimy Gordon at Green Apple

So Jaimy Gordon paid us a visit (two, actually) this week. Jaimy who? Jaimy Gordon, the surprise winner of the 2010 National Book Award for fiction for her latest novel Lord of Misrule.

She told a funny story about being in an elevator with Patty Smith at the National Book Awards. Despite winning the same prize as Patty Smith, Ms. Gordon was too tongue-tied to say hi.

She showed us an easy way to tell a first edition from later printings (the first printing--of only 1,000 copies--has elegant endpapers; later printings do not).

And she willingly posed for a photo in the bright sun with our mascot.

As for the book, several customers have remarked how great Lord of Misrule is; Green Appler Lali attended his first-ever Green Apple author event to hear Ms. Gordon because he so liked the book; and I'm about 100 pages in and marveling at the vivid, if grim, world she has created.

Finally, we have signed copies available, including some signed first editions. We also have signed copies of some of Ms. Gordon's earlier works, like Shamp of the City-Solo and She Drove Without Stopping. Please call the store to put any or all of these on hold, or order them to be shipped by phone.

Thanks, Jaimy Gordon!


In the shop window you have promptly identified the cover with the title you were looking for. Following this visual trail, you have forced your way through the shop past the thick barricade of Books You Haven't Read, which were frowning at you from the tables and shelves, trying to cow you. But you know you must never allow yourself to be awed, that among them there extend for acres and acres and acres The Books You Needn't Read, the Books Made For Purposes Other Than Reading, Books Read Even Before You Open Them Since They Belong To The Category Of Books Read Before Being Written. And thus you pass the out girdle of ramparts, but then you are attacked by the infantry of the Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered. With a rapid maneuver you bypass them and move into the phalanxes of the Books You Mean To Read But There Are Others You Must Read First, the Books Too Expensive Now And You'll Wait Till They're Remaindered, the Books ditto When They Come Out In Paperback, Books You Can Borrow From Somebody, Books That Everybody's Read So It's As If You Had Read Them, Too. Eluding these assaults, you come up beneath the towers of the fortress, where other troops are holding out:
the Books You've Been Planning To Read For Ages,
the Books You've Been Hunting For Years Without
the Books Dealing With Something You're Working On
At The Moment,
the Books You Want To Own So They'll Be Hand Just
In Case,
the Books You Could Put Aside Maybe To Read This
the Books You Need To Go With Other Books On Your
the Books That Fill You With Sudden, Inexplicable
Curiosity, Not Easily Justified.
Mow that you have been able to reduce the countless embattled troops to an array that is, to be sure, very large but still calculable in a finite number; but this relative relief is then undermined by the ambush of the Books Read Long Ago Which It's Now Time To Reread and the Books You've Always Pretended To Have Read And Now It's Time To Sit Down And Really Read Them.

Excerpted from chapter one of Italo Calvino's If on a Winter's Night a Traveler. This book is not available in eBook format.

Vote early - Vote often - Vote Green Apple

There's a pretty fantastic promotion going on right now by the fine folks at Lonely Planet Travel Guides. . .

You see, they have chosen 10 'landmark locations' in San Francisco and New York, they've organized them into head to head rounds of voting, and are waiting on the proverbial pins and needles for the results to be final. YOU get to decide who's got the best of the good stuff, East Coast vs West Coast style.

I mention all of this because of lucky #7, which has your beloved Green Apple Books up against their _______ed Strand Bookstore. As of this writing, just under 5000 votes have been cast, and Green Apple has a commanding 59% - but what's wrong with a little landslide among friends, eh?

It is certainly a thrill just to have been mentioned, we really do appreciate it, but let's take this thing in style, OK? Green Apple needs your clicks.

Please and Thank You!

Vera & Linus...

Vera & Linus by Jesse Ball and Thordis Thordis Bjornsdottir.

I have been a huge Jesse Ball fan since I first read Samedi the Deafness in 2007. His stories and style captivate me and yet seem to elude Green Apple customers. No matter how hard I try, people seem wary of taking the plunge into his innovative fiction.

Now I'm telling you to read Vera & Linus, Ball and Bjornsdottir's collaborative, self-published book from 2006. It is INCREDIBLE! This is a twisted and beautiful tale of cold-hearted love and murder. It is the kind of book you can read time after time and find more and more beauty in the dark recesses each time.

You are missing out on two original and amazing young voices if you pass this book by.

This Monday: National Book Award Winner Jaimy Gordon

After a slow couple of months for events (if you tried to navigate an aisle of the store in the weeks before or after the holidays without bumping into another shopper/their dog/their entire Christmas tree and/or lit menorah, you'll understand why events were not really an option during this time) we're jumping back on the horse (Ha! Hold on, you'll get why that's clever in a minute) with a truly exciting reading from Jaimy Gordon, winner of the National Book Award for her novel Lord of Misrule.

Lord of Misrule is hardly Gordon's literary debut-- she's been writing and publishing since 1973, but has remained relatively obscure compared to her current success -- but its surprise award-winning victory uncannily mirrors that of the novel's title character, a dark horse who plays a pivotal role in this story about the little-known underbelly of the racetrack. Check out the New York Times' glowing review of the novel for more information about this world and Gordon's rendering of it, some beautiful excerpts and more (also better) horse puns.

So come by the store on Monday, January 24th at 7 PM for a reading and signing with one of the most celebrated authors of 2010. Pick up your copy of Lord of Misrule here, and we'll see you there.

What the internet won't tell you

For the most part, our website does its job fairly well. When you visit it you can order books (real and, now, virtual), find links to our blog and Twitter feed, check out our "Book of the Month" selections and our revolving selection of personalized "Books We Like," &c.

Website aside, there are reasons to come into the store beyond the joy of losing yourself in the dusty, cluttery maze that is Green Apple: we have a lot of items on our shelves that you're not going to find on our website. Starting tonight, I'll start updating you regularly about these items.

1. The latest issue of Boneshaker: A Bicycling Almanac has just arrived, and at only $8 an issue, it's a must for the cycling enthusiast.

2. How many other bookstores in the Bay Area have signed, limited edition copies of Allison Schulnik's book in stock? (In case you're wondering who Allison Schulnik is, check out the Grizzly Bear video she animated below.)

3. We've also got a fine selection of small press titles--many of which I'll be highlighting in future posts. This week I want to point to Kevin Sampsell's Future Tense Books, a fine venture focused on publishing works by writers generally outside of the literary mainstream. Some highlights of the Future Tense list include the inimitable Gary Lutz (one of the great prose stylists of contemporary letters), East Bay's Chelsea Martin (think Tao Lin West), and Claudia Smith, author of the chapbook Put Your Head in My Lap.

As always, you can contact us directly by phone (415-387-2272) or email ( to order any of these or other titles.


by Tom Gauld

Four things to do with books besides reading them

Richard Baker paints books

Brian Dettmer alters them

Jannis Kounellis barricades himself with them

The Gleeson Library at USF makes a tree of them

Why I Read by Jennifer Traig

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 author Jennifer Traig (Devil in the Details, Well Enough Alone, etc.) had to say when we asked her:

I read because there are places I can’t bring my TV and if I’m not stimulated every second of the day my teeth ache with boredom. I read while I walk, while I knit, while I bathe, while I eat. Especially while I eat. My books are, essentially, two-hundred page placemats, stained beyond all recognition with greasy fingerprints and spilled spaghetti sauce.

I read because I can’t stand not to. I get panicky when I don’t have reading material, scanning my surroundings for any words I can find. I have memorized the Muni Night Owl schedule. I know exactly what to do in an emergency on BART. A short list of things I have read when nothing else was available:

· My parents’ Maxima owners’ manual

· AARP magazine

· “Iron: Are You Getting Enough?”

· “Some Facts on Herpes”

· LOTTOPeople Magazine

· Burpee seed catalog

· Map of Los Angeles

· The back of a Safeway receipt

· BEEF (America’s #1 cattle magazine)

· My Kaiser member handbook

· LL Cool J’s autobiography, I Make My Own Rules

I’m sort of lying about that last one. I had other things to read. But it’s true: Ladies Love Cool James, and the book has its moments.

PS. Other installments of the series await you by Beth Lisick, Susan Choi, Peter Rock, Dave Eggers, Daniel Handler, TC Boyle, Joyce Maynard, Peter Carlson, and Peter Coyote.

Dream Interpretation Throughout the Ages

I don't really get with the whole new years resolution thing. I mean, I do, but I usually drop it in a week or two. Where is my resolve? I don't know. I think I use it all playing rent, diligently, and shopping for groceries, diligently. Only once did I come close to sticking by my guns and holding down a resolution, but I just recently blew it. Here goes: At the beginning of the year 2000 I swore I would never pay for a haircut again, but toward the end of 2010 I just HAD to start trying to look like Corey Feldman in Stand By Me. The character he plays in that film shares a common bond with me, a mangled ear, and the haircut itself is so practical and makes so much sense I could not resist the temptation to follow suit. On this whim I entered a stylist's shop. I showed the lady a picture of Corey, got my mane trimmed, and broke the one promise that I had ever kept to myself for more than ten years and I'm not even sure if it was worth it because my hair just grew back anyway! 'This is why I came up with the whole idea of not paying for a haircut in the first place!' I remember thinking. Although the trim did look nice at first.

So now I aim low if I even aim at all. I mean, if I can't manage to not throw my money away on something I can do perfectly well myself, how can I ever hope to hit one of those lofty New Years goals like quitting smoking or whatever? This year I've made a commitment to read Suetonius' The Twelve Caesars. Sounds easy! I mean, that's only one Caesar a month and a whole year worth of Caesar gossip to bore my friends with. Furthermore at least once a month I think I'll pull out a striking excerpt from the life of each and put it on the blog here. Perhaps you'd like to join me? I've already recruited a couple of others who thought it was a good plan. Currently I'm somewhere in the middle of the exciting life of Julius, and I can tell you already that times sure have changed. For example:

"At Gades he saw a statue of Alexander the Great in the Temple of Hercules, and was overheard to sigh impatiently: vexed, it seems, that at an age when Alexander had already conquered the whole world, he himself had done nothing in the least epoch-making. Moreover, when on the following night, much to his dismay, he had a dream of raping his own mother, the soothsayers greatly encouraged him by their interpretation of it: namely, that he was destined to conquer the earth, our Universal Mother."

WOAH!! I dunno' Jules, I'd have kept that one to myself...

Wish me luck, I might just lose it.

Facebook this, Wikileaks that...

...but here's a new one that you may not have heard of: Figment, a social networking site for young adult writers! And I don't just mean it's for writers of young adult novels (although there is a strong forum for discusson there), but rather it's a site for writers who are young adults!

Figment was co-founded by Dana Goodyear, a staff writer at The New Yorker, and Jacob Lewis, the former Managing Editor at The New Yorker and Condé Nast Portfolio, so you know it's got good folks behind it.

So, hey kids - have your voice heard. . .er, I mean, have your voice read; join Figment and write on!

Nationals (Throw)Back to the Future

image from Bran New Blog

the Washington Nationals have unveiled their new logo system. a system that seems to be a throwback to an era that never was, at least in Nationals history and even Exos history. it does grab inspiration from the old Senators team however.

still, it seems like a strange move. this is a franchise thats moving its identity all over the place. the Senators are a team thats gone and forgotten. the Nationals used to be the Expos. why are the Nationals branding themselves as the Senators and abandoning their entire identity equity? not only have they reverted to a time period that they were never a part of, they've also made themselves a baseball cliche'; red and blue script font logo. at least the "old" logo was modern, unique and appropriate for the team. even if you dont like the illustrated bevel-and-emboss look, that mark fit very well with the local architecture. the use of gold a nice touch that separated them a bit from the other red and blue teams.

image from Bran New Blog

the "W" mark reminds a lot of people of Walgreens, and thats certainly an issue. sure its the old Senators mark (still dosnt make sense to me) but its too close to something thats larger than the team and has a larger resonance in America. the swirly "W" is visualy claimed by Walgreens even though the Senators may have had it first. (Walgreens was founded in 1901, not sure when their current logo came into use).

think of it this way, that number font the Dallas Cowboys used in the 70s was first used by the Eagles. but even though Philly had it first, it became "owned" by the Cowboys over time. no way would another team think of using that font because it now screams "Dorsett's and Staubach's Cowboys".

i think the thing that bothers me the most is that it just looks old. its simpler, its classic, it should last longer. but its like a manufactured throwback. and now they dont look like anyone, because they look like everyone. theres nothing visually appealing and they seem to be riding on the throwback trend (which i love) to carry their identity into the future. but what makes throwbacks so great is that you see those old designs on modern players/uniform templates and they bring back a nostalgic feel. theres just no substance, no equity, nothing special about this team here.

Oprah's misogyny & ten great novels by women

We may be a little late in noticing this, but props to for highlighting that Oprah's book club hasn't read a woman novelist since 2004. An no living woman novelist since 2002.

I don't even know what to say.

Not sure what Green Apple can do other than pitch you some great recent novels by women. Here are ten of ours favorites of late, with links to buy them (on paper or as an ebook where possible).

Room by Emma Donoghue (ebook $11.99)
The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer (ebook $26.95)
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender (ebook $18.94)
The Lovers by Vendela Vida (ebook $9.99)
City of Veils by Zoe Ferraris (ebook $11.99)
The Great House Nicole Krausse (ebook $24.95)
Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon (event here 1/24!)
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (ebook $13.49)
A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (ebook $18.94)
The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis by, um, Lydia Davis

Best book (so far) in 2011

Hot off the press, and just in time for the Chinese year of the hare in 2011, may I encourage you to check out the aptly-named novel, Year of the Hare:

While driving acros the Finnish countryside, Vatanen, a young journalist, accidentally hits a bunny with his car. Leaving his companion, Vatanen finds the hare, nurses him back to health, and then decides to leave behind the life he knows in search of grand adventures, the rabbit his new companion.

In the finest traditions of the picaresque novel, Year of the Hare takes the reader on an anarchistic romp across the Finnish landscape: Ch.5 - Arrest; Ch.8 - Forrest Fire; Ch.14 - The Sacrificer; Ch.20 - Humiliation. . .well, you get the idea (ALMOST).

By turns hilarious and gripping, sparse and outlandish, Year of the Hare introduces a modern master (with more than 30 novels published in his native Finland) to a clamoring English audience. A fine read to be sure, and also a wonderful way to celebrate 2011 - The Year of the Hare!