The Bookstore in Venom: Lethal Protector #3

Last week I made a brief sojourn back to the home I grew up in. There I found a box of old comic books that I probably hadn't opened in over a decade. After fumbling through a nostalgic miscellany composed mostly of tattered Spider-Man comics and old single issues of Bone I discovered something that made me laugh, and serendipitously goes along with Sparks' recent post regarding Green Apple's mention amidst many of the pages of our product.

In April of 1993 Spider-Man nemesis Venom took a trip to San Francisco (I was nine then, in case you were wondering), and guess which address he just happened to roll out from underneath a garbage truck in front of!

Okay, so the background is obviously based on New York City rather than SF, I don't ever remember there being trees planted along Clement Street, and there sure as heck aren't a bunch of brick buildings around here, but that definitely looks like a bookstore that he's bounding in front of. Maybe our neighbor Pacific Books? Well in that case then the awning next door has got to be ours. See it? See it? I'm calling it like it is. Nuff said, eh true believers?

Poem of the Week by Joe Brainard

Happy Monday. The poem, this week, is only sort of a poem. It's an excerpt from a book-length work I Remember by Joe Brainard. Paul Auster said this "modest little gem will endure. In simple, forthright, declarative sentences, [Brainard] charts the map of the human soul and permanently alters the way we look at the world." From pages 133-134:

I remember my mother picking up tiny specks of lint off things.

I remember, at the end of the sofa, a group of four little pillows that had only one casual arrangement.

I remember that no one sat on the sofa (light beige) unless we had company.

I remember (very vaguely) hearing my mother tell a story about an old lady across the street who died, and the people who moved in after her complaining becuase they could never quite get rid of "the smell."

I remember horrible visions of that island where lepers were sent.

I remember "the green stuff" inside my first lobster.

I remember (ugh) white nurse shoes.

I remember trying to visualize "the travels" of shit, after you flush the toilet.

What do you remember?

The bookstore in books

Green Apple may never have been in the middle of a literary movement like our eminent neighbor City Lights, but part of being a San Francisco establishment since 1967 (well, at a certain point it became an establishment: Barry Gifford's "used bookshop"--see Really the Blues below--became, in time, recognizable as Green Apple) means that the bookstore has inevitably made its way into cameo roles in a variety of novels and non-fiction works. Here's a non-exhaustive list of some of our better performances:

"Back in San Francisco, at the Green Apple bookstore, I found a copy of Phoenix: the Penguin edition. I saw it and snatched it up the way that one does in these circumstances, fearful that at the last moment someone else was going to beat me to it."

"...Well, no matter; I went out to Green Apple and stocked up, a huge carton of books, the day you left." - from "After You've Gone"

"We don’t know where he lives, but some days we visit him after school at Green Apple Records, on Clement, where he works." (Read an excerpt in the New Yorker.)

"I bought my copy of Really the Blues for a dime in a used bookshop on Clement Street in San Francisco in 1967. " - Barry Gifford, in the preface for a later edition of the book

"He went to Green Apple Books on Clement Street, opened the Buddhist Scriptures, and read..."

"A recent trip to the Bay Area reminded me of just how much I enjoy trolling through well-stocked independent bookstores. Among my favorites is the cavernous Green Apple Books on Clement St. in San Francisco, where I almost always discover some rare or unusual gem to add to my already overstuffed library."

"What a wonder is the used bookstore. You take in the books you've loved, books that have bored you, books that are ratty looking, and you get cash or credit with which to buy more books. If it's a combined new and used bookstore, like the vaunted crazy castle of San Francisco's Green Apple, then the lugging of those boxes across town makes the trip worth the back strain."

"Outside Green Apple Books, the wooden gnome stood sentry."

Why I Read by Julie Orringer

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 one from Julie Orringer, author most recently of The Invisible Bridge, our June 2010 Book of the Month. (blurb and funny video here). The Invisible Bridge is now in paperback, or the eBook is $9.99 here.

Here's Ms. Orringer's essay:

At first it was because I couldn’t help it. When I was four, those mysterious and ubiquitous symbols I saw everywhere began to resolve into units of meaning. I saw that the written word could stop cars, could get you out of a burning building; I was impressed, and kept reading. I wanted to possess the whole strange English language. I found it hilarious that the words “Crumb” and “Thumb” ended with B’s, and felt I’d uncovered an esoteric secret when I learned that SCHOOL contained an H. Of course, the whole point was to be able to attain that pinnacle of erudition: the ability to read a Chapter Book. Christopher Robin was the subject of my first crush. Soon I became a word-traveler; I inhabited the Hundred Acre Wood, the Secret Garden, the Little House on the Prairie, the Chocolate Factory, Middle Earth, Oz, and a thousand other places.

When I started writing, reading became an endlessly complicated and fascinating answer to the question, how? At times—as when I read Shakespeare,Tolstoy, George Eliot, or, more recently, Shirley Hazzard, Stephen Dunn, Charles D’Ambrosio—it leads only to a deeper and more awestruck restatement of the question. I read for the sheer pleasure of seeing them do it: again and again, with infinite variety, they say those things that are most difficult to articulate. They tell us what it’s like to be human, and what it means; they turn on the lights to reveal love and loss and pain, and I find it impossible to look away.
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, Peter Coyote, and Jennifer Traig.

Magic, Opiates...

Over the last year or so I've tried to describe CF's series POWR MASTRS to some number of people with only the tiniest bit of success at doing it the justice I feel it deserves. At best I cite some kind of example of what I can closest equate the title(s) to, usually something along the lines of Dune or The Lord of the Rings. These are inaccurate comparisons however. POWR MASTRS is an epic world all it's own, bearing only minuscule similarity to Herbert and Tolkien's classic epics (most likely coincidental, merely the mention of magic and opiates), and it was last night after reading the introduction to Ivan Brunetti's Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice that I realized I'd been going about my mode of recommendation somewhat a bit wrong.

In Brunetti's book (a syllabus and lesson plan) he stresses to his students "When form and content diverge, only a specter remains, and nothing solid can be built. It is like those ill-fated relationships where we convince ourselves that we are in love, when actually we are just consumed with lust, desperation, jealousy, and need. It is also the reason dictatorships and military occupations never last: anything that does not organically evolve from the needs of a society, but is instead imposed by an external force, eventually topples like the flimsy house of cards it essentially is."

Instead of likening CF's series to other titles simply because they are considered as visionary classics, that I believe POWR MASTRS is driven with a charge similar to that of a novelist who is attempting to build their own personal landscape, my pitch (reverie) should be concentrating on his seamless marriage of form and content. The illustrations meander from black and white to brilliantly colored, from absurdly intricate to a near lazy simplicity page to page. Paired with a haunting and heady writing style a reality that is entirely of its own is created.

Sadly this book is published by a small, artsy press and definitely not as widely distributed as I wish it could be, let alone believe it should be. I am doing my part to push it though. Please read POWR MASTRS. A quick skim of it can be misleading. It's not about wizards and elves or drugs or space stuff... although maybe it is too. Whatever. It is pretty much the best thing.

Some days are just better than others

Take Thursday the 24th from 6pm - 8pm, for example. That's the night that I will be hosting one of my favorite authors, at my favorite watering hole, to celebrate San Francisco's favorite book of 2011! If you don't know already, I'm talking about Rebecca Solnit at Tosca for Infinite City!!! Sounds like exactly the kind thing needed to get me over this cold / flu thing and back into the land of the living. . .

This free event (at Tosca) will feature a multimedia lecture by Rebecca Solnit, and will also include participation from many of the artists that contributed maps and artwork to Infinite City... (click here for full details)

Then, just a couple of weeks down the line, our fine friends at Litquake are putting on a show that screams to be witnessed, Regreturature: An evening of readings that probably shouldn't see the light of day." From the Litquake newsletter: "Everybody has to start somewhere, and here’s what happens when good writers start bad. On April 7th, join some of the Bay Area’s most successful authors as they sheepishly read works they may now regret, from fiction to nonfiction, blogs, journalism, opinion pieces, even diary entries." Tickets for this are available here.

And you know that you'll see me there. . .

The Library

“When I bought this flat, I promised myself: no books in the bedroom. I’m a terrible insomniac, and I thought having books in the bedroom, and all the psychological power they embody, would not be good for a quiet night’s sleep. However, the books demanded to be incorporated into my domestic world. And invaded my bedroom and there they are.” -- Duncan Fallowell

Nine Stories

I scanned these pocketbooks from my personal collection a long time because I enjoyed the cover designs as much as much as the content. In particular the rounded corners on the Singer title, the Rousseau inspired(?) cover of Animal Liberation, and the maniacal death mask adorning the copy of Frankenstein. I hope to never have to sell them for the pocket change that they're worth but if I do then here they are. They make me want to read.

The reason the birds attack is that global warming has caused them to be mutant, toxic and flammable.

On Saturday April 2 at 2pm, Green Apple will host James Nguyen, the "visionary creator" (his words, not ours) of what might be one of the great B-movies of all time: Birdemic: Shock and Terror. Produced for less than $10,000 and filmed in the Bay Area (and even partially on our own Clement Street), Birdemic is "a meditation on Hitchcock's classic and the environmental chaos caused by the industrial Age."

The film was recently written up in USA Today, which said "While Birdemic will probably never be honored at the Oscars — unless they add a Best Use of Exploding CGI Vultures category — Nguyen's enthusiasm for his so-bad-it's-good film and his do-it-yourself attitude were infectious to everybody around the low-budget production."

Nguyen has written a short memoir on his making of the movie, which he will be discussing on April 2. This might be one to mark on your calendar.

Browsing v. "Browsing"

If you're reading this blog, chances are you don't need to be convinced of the value of a bookstore in your community and are least a little skeptical about the relationship of e-commerce to bookselling, reading, and publishing.

With that in mind, I'll point you to The New Republic, which has just published a thoughtful piece by Nicole Krauss, author of Great House and The History of Love, called "The End of Bookstores." Krauss' perspicacious analysis includes a comparison of browsing online and browsing in a bookstore:

Both the Internet and Google Books strive to assemble the known world. The bookstore, on the other hand, strives to be a microcosm of it, and not just any microcosm but one designed—according to the principles and tastes of a “gatekeeper”—to help us absorb and consider the world itself. That difference is everything. To browse online is to enter into a search that allows one to sail, according to an idiosyncratic route formed out of split-second impulses, across the surface of the world, sometimes stopping to randomly sample the surface, sometimes not. It is only an accelerated form of tourism. To browse in a bookstore, however, is to explore a highly selective and thoughtful collection of the world—thoughtful because hundreds of years of thinkers, writers, critics, teachers, and readers have established the worth of the choices. Their collective wisdom seems superior, for these purposes, to the Web’s “neutrality,” its know-nothing know-everythingness.

Read the whole essay here.

Drunk on books

The molecular structure of lignin.

"Lignin, the stuff that prevents all trees from adopting the weeping habit, is a polymer made up of units that are closely related to vanillin. When made into paper and stored for years, it breaks down and smells good. Which is how divine providence has arranged for secondhand bookstores to smell like good quality vanilla absolute, subliminally stoking a hunger for knowledge in all of us."
- From Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez's Perfumes: the guide.

Eight more parking spaces!

Thanks to the SF Bike Coalition's leadership, the city and county of San Francisco, and taxpayers, there are now at least 8 more parking spots in front of Green Apple Books! No more excuses about not finding parking on Clement Street.

Sure, you need a bicycle. No bike? Muni lines 1, 2, and 38 all stop within a block of us.

Here's the process (well, the process started months ago; here's the installation).

Steps 1 and 2: remove car and meter, paint
Steps 3 & 4: install and chat

Steps 5 & 6: park and lock

A reminder that members of the SF Bike Coalition get 10% off at Green Apple, day in and day out. Ride carefully!

What becomes

of fear and wonder on a long late night in the annex.


Entitled to the Throne

The son of Yuga Khan and Queen Heggra, Prince Uxas, second in line to the throne of Apokolips, plotted to seize power over the planet. When his brother attempted to claim the fabled Omega Force, Uxas murdered him and took the power for himself; transforming him into a rock-like creature, and taking a new name: Darkseid. With his newly found power and ability along with his charge as ruler of Apokolips, Darkseid has since sought to wipe all free will from the universe, believing there to be solace for all living things in ubiquitous servitude under his rule. Henceforth Darkseid imposes his unwavering opinion that he is entitled to not only his own throne, but all thrones. Darkseid is in your chair.

I want to know how he came to be sitting on Swamp Thing in that last one. What the hell?

Well, tingle my spidey-sense - it's a whopper!

Economic downturn? Not if you you were the lucky seller of a private auction for a Silver Age funny book that happened to feature the debut of SpiderMan. . .

That's right folks - if your mom hadn't of thrown out your stack of comics when you were away at college you too may be a millionaire - just so long as you had a near mint copy of Amazing Fantasy #15. . .

$1.1 million.

Anyone selling?

Shaun Tan

As a perennial favorite here at Green Apple and elsewhere, you may have heard something about Shaun Tan. His stunning illustrations are imaginative and emotional; his words are thought-provoking. Lost and Found, the latest from Tan is a triple threat, with three of his previously out-of-print/hard-to-find stories bound together. " The Rabbits" is a cautionary tale of how destruction to the earth and to other beings will never end in happiness, while "The Red Tree", searches for something to hope for. As well as being a curious tale, "The Lost Thing" is also an Academy Award winning short film. Rather than babble endlessly about how much I admire this one, take a look at the trailer:

Not just for children, Lost and Found, is for anyone who can appreciate the beauty in everyday life.

How San Francisco was almost called Don Gaspar

From Chapter XVII, How the Leather-Jackets rode north:

During all those decades of the wars, the Spanish rule in Mexico had sunk further into languor, but at last the King sent a man to stir life up. This was Jose de Galvez, Andalusian-born of the fiery south, with full shares of Spanish pride and Spanish cruelty, and a triple share of restless energy. Wherever the tight-lipped Galvez went, the land seemed to break into a sweat of energy. No careful man wished to arouse the cold glitter of his eyes, and sometimes he crossed the line of sanity, imagining himself King of Sweden or of Prussia, or even God Almighty.

Most of his energy he loosed upon the western coast. He looked at what charts and reports were available, and saw the notations of harbors with the names Viscaino had given them--San Diego and Monterey. There was also a vaguely known bay, not mentioned by Visaino, called San Francisco.

It had come by its name in 1595. A certain Sebastian Rodriguez Cermeno, commanding the galleon from Manila, made a landfall far along the California coast, and sailing southward, entered a good harbor. On November 7, he landed and took possession. The time of year was well past the day of St. Francis, but there was with the ship a Franciscan father, whose own name was also Francisco. This father "baptized" the land, doubtless by pouring water upon it symbolically as in baptizing a child, and the bay was thus named San Francisco. The galleon itself was wrecked, but Cermeno and his men got back to Mexico in a longboat.

Seven years later Viscaino reached the same bay, but as usual, displacing the names of others, he called it Don Gaspar, for the Viceroy. Nevertheless the name San Francisco remained, somewhat dubiously.

* * *

I'm enjoying mentally substituting Don Gaspar for San Francisco: the Don Gaspar Giants, "I left my heart in Don Gaspar," Rice-a-roni would be a Don Gaspar treat, "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in Don Gaspar"... You get the point.

Also, we've just received Stewart's delightfully entertaining book, in which he uses expressions like the abovementioned "the land seemed to break into a sweat of energy," in remainder, which we're selling for $7.98.

An eUpdate from the eWorld of eBooks

If you're at all a regular reader of this blog (and we know you're out there. Right? Hello?) it can't possibly have escaped your notice that we now carry Google eBooks through our website.

Our transition into this market has been deliberately gradual -- we wanted to make sure the staff was fully trained to help you with any questions you may have before renting the 20 foot banner advertising our new product (for example), and, just as importantly, we've been slowly building an ebook shopping experience for you that almost sort of comes close to approximating the things you love about Green Apple, minus the creaky floors.

This has been getting a little bit easier, as more of the major publishing houses adopt the agency model of eBook sales, which allows us to sell our ebooks at the same price as a (wealthier) entity such as Google. This is great news for us, and for you, as it allows you to still support real live independent bookstores while filling your e-library. And as more ebook options open up and we're able to offer them at competitive prices, we're doing our best to suggest titles to you that are the same ones we recommend
in our store.

For example, if you check out the old (new) Green Apple eBooks Staff Picks section, you'll see an ever-growing list of titles that represent Green Apple's real book taste in ebook form. Click on any of the cover art in this here post for a Green Appler's review (all of which are also available as "real" books with "real" shelf-talkers written by "real" employees of our "real" store.)

I must mention, however, as the person who has spent hours plugging our favorite books into the search bar, that this task has proved to be both occasionally frustrating and a source of pride in Green Apple at the same time. While we're happy to offer bestsellers, local favorites, and books with rightful mass appeal, we are also proud champions of small presses, translated literature, and, frankly, some pretty arcane stuff -- what's more, so are our customers. Unfortunately, though not surprisingly, many of these great and important works are not available as ebooks. As the ebook market is becoming an inevitability and a necessity in the publishing world, many small presses will likely start to offer their titles in this form as well. But to ensure that they're around long enough to adapt to this changing market, we hope you'll continue to check out our recommendations in the store itself, so that you don't miss out on things like this and this and this.

(P.S -- thanks to our ebook customers who've given us feedback on the purchasing process, many of whom suggested some website layout changes. We hear ya. Stay tuned.)

James Baldwin 1963

Take This Hammer from Brendan Nee on Vimeo.

I found this video on the SF BayView's website, a short documentary on James Baldwin's 1963 visit to San Francisco, in which he explores the Fillmore/Western Addition and Hunter's Point neighborhoods.

“There is no moral distance … between the facts of life in San Francisco and the facts of life in Birmingham. Someone’s got to tell it like it is. And that’s where it’s at.”
-James Baldwin, 1963

Author in the Grave

Victor Martinez, not quite 57, passed away about two weeks ago. I learned this today from a customer, a Mission District resident who was Martinez's neighbor. He had come to Green Apple to pick up Parrot in the Oven, his neighbor's sole (published) novel, the winner of The National Book Award in 1996, a required text in many US high schools, and a banned book in several others. I sold him a used mass market edition for three dollars and tax.

Martinez's life was characterized by struggles not unlike those faced by many immigrant families in California. He was the fourth of twelve children, guided in his earlier days toward a life of manual labor but veered off of that course due to an interest in the arts and a display of proficiency for writing. He became a poet, but of course neither quickly nor with ease, contending to discover his audience until his early forties.

And so, Victor Martinez, Green Apple offers a tip of the hat and a solemn nod of the head. Our local authors are always, always sorely mourned. Especially when the loss is of one who confronted a steep incline in the face of a strange class system to achieve position. Rest in peace.


and NBC11 tonight

KNTV stopped by Green Apple this morning to discuss the implications of the recent and coming closures of Borders and Barnes and Noble in San Francisco and beyond.

Watch at 6pm tonight to see what kind of mumbling know-it-all helps run Green Apple.

KFOG in the AM

Hey there Cats and Kittens. . .

Tune your radio dial to the KFOG Morning Show(104.5fm (or 97.7fm in the South Bay)) tomorrow (Wed) at 8:15am and catch another riveting visit from Green Apple's Book Guy (me). Or you can stream it live here.

Good stuff will be discussed (grab yourself a peek), you can bet on that.

Catch you on the flipside!