Monday, March 30, 2009

Link-Mad Monday: Cool stuff from the internet

Apologies, Written Nerd readers: there's been a distinct lack of posting around here. I blame the truly frenzied level of real-ness which the bookstore project is approaching. More details and announcements as soon as I'm able, I promise. In the meantime, since I have no attention span, here's some random cool stuff I've noticed lately.

Via the ALP's friend Heather (thanks!): The Most Interesting Bookstores in the World. Can't argue with the title. These photos make me woozy with desire, especially the Lello bookstore in Portugal. (Watch out for the hairless cat, though -- rather disconcerting.)

Closer to home, Mona Molarsky of the New York Examiner website continues her series on Favorite Bookstore of New York with the Upper East Side (that's Corner Bookstore, Archivia, and Crawford Doyle if you're trying to get your bearings.) Check it out, then browse through the previous 7 articles in the series for an in-depth look at some of the city's best. I recommend the Village and SoHo, naturally.

Someday I should be so lucky. A Nova Scotia book club, too big to continue meeting in homes, just went ahead and opened a private bar to hold book discussions. It's called Fables, and it's beautiful. Sigh.

Can't wait to listen to this radio broadcast on genre fiction, featuring Michael Chabon, Richard Price, and Agatha Christie's grandson. I'm in kind of a genre mood right now; I'm reading and pondering G.K. Chesterton's The Man Who Knew Too Much, and looking forward to starting Berry's The Manual of Detection right after that.

My awesome sister who works in Santa Barbara, possibly the most beautiful town in Southern California, sent me this article on the one thing the town lacks: strong indie bookstores. The piece is typically doom-and-gloom (the internet is killing the indies!), but it does have a list of the few that are still around, an interesting interview with an indie internet entrepreneur, and a great quote from indie bookstore champion Roy Blount Jr.: “I'd say the more local and personal and informed a store is, the more it will provide what the Internet can't.” Right on, Roy (and thanks, Sarah).

Okay, I'll end on that note -- too antsy to keep pasting links. Better do some yoga, then get back to work. Will update you soon, promise promise promise.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Emerging Leaders Night Out, Spring 2009 edition!

Happy first day of spring! -- on which it's been snowing here in NYC. Weird. Spring is undeniable, however, and with it a young bookseller's thoughts turn to raising a pint with fellow industry professionals. That's right, folks: it's time for another Emerging Leaders Night Out!

This coming Wednesday, March 25, at 7 PM, we'll be gathering at Swift, one of my favorite Irish pubs, for some professional networking with fellow booksellers and industry folks. This time, we'll also be joined by members of HarperCollins program for young folks, HarperCollins Emerging Professionals (HCEP). It's a great chance to learn about what the publisher is doing, and meet some fresh faces coming up through the ranks. And the Independent Booksellers of New York City (IBNYC) will also have a presence, so you can learn about what that organization is doing to promote indie booksellers to consumers in NYC. EL, HCEP, IBNYC -- it will be an evening of acronyms, and beer. (This one is just for booksellers and HCEP folks -- sorry, other publishers, we'll get ya next time.)

With everything else that's been going on, I'm a little late in promoting this event. I just sent an email to our Emerging Leaders list, and Kelly at IBNYC will be doing the same to the many indie stores on her list. I'm gonna start spreading the word on Twitter, too. This will be an interesting experiment to see how fast we can gather a mob of booksellers in this connected age. Let's show them how it's done.

You do need to RSVP via email to hcep@harpercollins.com -- do that now, while you're thinking of it. And see you for a pint on the 25th!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Discoveries and discussions

Okay, I've got internet, but not wireless or phone. Stuck in text-only land until a friend comes by to figure out my network issues on Saturday. Sigh.

In the meantime, some stuff.

I love the Brookline Blogsmith's reference to Bambi: we are all "twitterpated" now. I've been tweeting (ugh, finally a word more embarassing than "blog") incessantly as @booknerdnyc and @mcnallyjackson, and learning a lot about books, book news, and what folks had for breakfast. My new favorite Twitter use: at last night's event at McNally Jackson, John Wray discussed his ongoing Twitter novel (@John_Wray). He allows as how he doesn't think it's the "wave of the future", but he likes the challenge of making something happen in every 140 character installment, as well as serving a larger narrative.


Seventy-one years ago (that's before Twitter), writers already valued "talks, rum, argument, politics and laughter", and a quiet place to write in the park. I wrote about the bench commemorating Richard Wright's sojourn in Fort Greene Park on the the New York Times Fort Greene/Clinton Hill Local Blog.

Speaking of Fort Greene, turns out local publishing mover/shaker Emily Takoudes has started a Fort Greene publishing group on Facebook. I'll definitely be checking in for their take on all things literary in FG/CH.


Looking forward, I was very impressed wit the ABA White Paper "Opportunities in the Digital Arena for Independent Bookstores: An Action Plan for the American Booksellers Association", authored by Len Vlahos. It might have been easy to miss in there, but the encouraging news is that 1) we're getting close to a standard file format for e-books, and 2) the ABA e-commerce websites are capable of selling them. I posted about this on the ABA forums, as follows:

"I'm proud of our trade association (and Len especially) for thinking about this issues so proactively. I'm very happy to learn that the e-commerce solution is "more than capable of supporting the sale of digital content in any form we deem desirable", and that the book industry is moving closer to adopting a standard format for e-book files across various platforms.

Yet even when we're fully e-book capable, the question we'll have to answer is "why would a consumer buy e-books through an indie bookstore." Kindle book sales are proprietary and therefore lost to us, so we'll be focusing on the other platforms -- iPhone, Blackberry, etc. We will need to work hard to market our curatorial function as a motivation for buying digital files through indies -- i.e., you'll come to our site for staff picks, recommendations, promotions, tie-ins, etc., and you'll buy the book digitally while you're there.

This is where the campaigns to raise awareness of IndieBound linking and buying are going to serve us well in the years ahead. We have a unique opportunity to educate people about their options when buying online/digitally, just as we have done about their choices in shopping at their local bookstore. Transferring the new awareness of the value of localism to the virtual/digital realm will be a good trick, since there's no "there" there.

But if anyone can do it, it's indie booksellers and the ABA. Thanks, Len, for bringing us to this point in our awareness and capabilities, and for pointing our eyes forward."

I want to write about e-books and indies more extensively (as others have done) but I'm off to a meeting now. Would love to hear your thoughts on the discussion, and hope to think/talk/write more when I'm back in the land of the networked.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Technical difficulties

We're having some trouble with our phone and internet this week -- something to do with multiple routers or VOIP lifespan or something. So blogging is unlikely as I'll be spending every spare moment on the phone with various communication-oriented companies. I have been Twittering a fair amount from work, though (this is allowed??) -- you can follow me @booknerdnyc. Some more long-attention-span thoughts in the works as soon as everything is humming along again.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Link-Mad Monday: Cool Newness!

Bloggin' on my break at the bookstore, crammin' it all in...

Via Vroman's: The annual Tournament of Books at The Morning News has begun! Click over for an irresistible death match between this year's top works of fiction, judged by the literati with unabashed prejudice and total transparency. Way more fun than the Booker or NBA, if far more tongue-in-cheek.

Brownstoner has a post on the borough's newest comic shop: Bergen Street Comics in Park Slope. Ha, scooped -- I blogged about that on Friday! Had a delightful retailer-to-retailer chat with owner Tom -- and it's totally awesome to have a new comics purveyor in the nabe.

Via Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn: TheBrooklynInk chronicles Heights Books' move from Brooklyn Heights to Smith Street.

Speaking of comics -- our Graphic Novel Book Club discussion of Watchmen on Thursday night was AWESOME. I was so happy with the size and diversity of our group, and the conversation was totally exciting. I saw the movie over the weekend, too -- some thoughts up at the McNally Jackson Graphic Novel Book Club Facebook Group, and some on Twitter too. (Oh yeah, I'm Twittering: @mcnallyjackson for the store, @booknerdnyc for lil' ol' me.)

However good the movie was, though, it couldn't compete with this Saturday morning edition, via And Now The Screaming Starts:




It's so very weird and sad and funny to see the alternate reality version of the characters, where they're just pure and simple heroes. And now I can't get the theme song out of my head: "Strong together, united forever, they're the best of frieeeeends..."

Friday, March 06, 2009

Writing Elsewhere

Sorry I haven't been writing much around here lately, but I have been writing for other forums.

Reverend Daniel Meeter was kind enough to post some thoughts on Lent I wrote last week on Ash Wednesday. Not my usual sort of topic, so it made sense to post it on the Old First blog rather than here. But it was very satisfying to express those thoughts, and I'm grateful.

And as you may have noticed, I am now one member of the intrepid blogging crew of the New York Times' new Local blog project for Fort Greene/ Clinton Hill. I'm playing the role of the literary blogger, which means I'll be writing once every couple of weeks about the literary life of the neighborhood, past and present. Andy Newman, the Brooklyn-based reporter who's running the blog, approached me about contributing several weeks ago, and I'm having a great time working with him on this new blogging project.

I'm pretty excited to have a byline in the Times. It's a fascinating project, and I'm learning as much as I'm contributing. But as seems to be the norm with Brooklyn neighborhoods as they are manifested on the internet, the expressions of enthusiasm and interest are occasionally (often) tempered with comments by people who think you don't know what you're talking about. One problem is that yeah, I'm a carpetbagger -- I live in Park Slope, not FG/CH, though my store plans are most definitely FG centered. I don't honestly think that precludes me from being involved in the literary life of the neighborhood -- I know that I am -- but the comments can rankle. But it's probably good practice for doing what I know is best in spite of some slightly snarky opposition. Even if not, I'll just take it as my Lenten discpline.

By the way, if you've got any ideas for Fort Greene or Clinton Hill writers, literary happenings, trivia, or projects -- let me know! I can use all the help I can get. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The Handsell: Comics Roundup!

As promised, I'm catching up on reviewing some of the many comics I seem to have been reading lately. This will be Handsell style: just a quick description/pitch.

A note on linking: I'm trying something new. I'm using my own images and linking them directly to the IndieBound book info page, rather than using the affiliate links, which require an extra several clicks before you get to the book. It takes a bit longer for me, but seems more likely to be click-through-friendly for you. Let me know what you think.

Miss Don't Touch Me
by Hubert & Kerascoet

(NBM/ComicsLit)

This graphic novel is a study in contradictions: it combines a somewhat lighthearted tone - "prudish girl finds herself working in a high-end whorehouse, bring on the sex comedy!" - with some rather grisly plot points, including some pretty dark perversions and more than one bloody murder. The very French drawing style -- quick and flowing, almost sketchy, a la Joann Sfar of The Rabbi's Cat -- contributes to this strangeness. It's a grippingly suspenseful plot and the characters and images are very well-done and sometimes even sexy, but I'd suggest it only to readers with strong stomachs and a high tolerance for cognitive dissonance.


Luke on the Loose
by Harry Bliss

(Toon Books)

This is my favorite of the latest season's offerings from Toon Books, the comics-as-early-readers line created by Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly. The plot and dialogue are intended for early primary kids: Luke, while on a walk with his dad, gets interested in chasing some pigeons and rampages across New York City like a hurricane -- but grownups will enjoy reading along for the fun of recognizing both many NYC landmarks and scenes and the unstoppable energy of a small boy. Harry Bliss, a Brooklyn native, brings this episodic tale to life with kinetic drawings perfect for the target age group, who will likely see themselves in Luke's exuberant flight.


08: A Graphic Diary of the Campaign Trail
by Michael Crowley and Dan Goldman

(Three Rivers Press)
Admit it: you kind of miss the never-ending drama of campaign season. This unique work manages to recapture the suspense and comedy and nobility and absurdity of it all, even though we know how it all comes out. Goldman, co-author of the Iraq/media/blogging satire Shooting War, is no stranger to capturing political realities and metaphors. Through the personae of two reporters who have seen it all, he and Crowley let you relive the political year moment by moment, and use the graphic novel format to get across the non-verbal subtleties as well as the rhetoric (every line of dialogue spoken by a candidate or other figure in the book is from their actual recorded words). Highly recommended for political junkies and those interested in what this medium can do with recent history.


Frankenstein: Prodigal Son 1
by Dean Koontz, Chuck Dixon, and Brett Booth

(Del Rey)
This book for me is that rare challenge: a negative handsell. I found the dialogue unintentionally laughable and the art cliched -- in fact, what amused me most about the book is that while the plot involves a still-alive Frankenstein creating an army of creepily perfect artificial people, it was impossible to tell his creations from anyone else in the story, as EVERYONE is creepily perfect, in a boring superhero comic kind of way. However, the plot kept me reading (against my better judgement) through the end of this installment, and the newly imagined Frankenstein's monster is kinda sexy. I suspect I'm just not the target audience for this sort of thing -- at ComicCon the folks behind this book touted it as a way to bring Koontz's work to teen readers, and it might work for teens. I'd sell it to those who were interested in Buffy or Twilight-style melodrama, with the caveat that there's much better work out there.


Scott Pilgrim #5: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The Universe!
by Bryan Lee O'Malley

(Oni Press)

This is it! The big book of ComicCon 2009! So popular that you can't find it in stores! The penultimate book in O'Malley's manga/kung fu/video game/slacker culture/coming-of-age masterpiece! Could it possibly live up to the hype? Well, yes actually. Scott Pilgrim, still working through his quest to defeat the seven evil ex-boyfriends of the mysterious Ramona Flowers, is becoming a character of more depth and maturity, and the story is beginning to focus more on the limitations of a battle fighting, rock and roll playing, partygoing approach to solving the real problems of love, friendship, identity, and one's place in the world. Because it's the second to last, this one ends on an Empire Strikes Back-level cliffhanger, which means I will be in agony for the next two years or whatever it takes O'Malley to bring out number 6. But I can always go back and read 1 to 5 in the meantime, reveling in the layers of humor and visual motifs and hints about the outcome that the work provides in spades. I'd recommend you do the same, if you are the kind of person who likes fun, especially when it gets serious. Seriously, please just buy (or reserve) #1 at your local indie bookstore or comic shop as soon as possible and begin the Scott Pilgrim adventure.


Nocturnal Conspiracies
by David B.

(NBM/ComicsLit)
David B. is one of the stars of the very sophisticated French comics scene; his memoir Epileptic was a bestseller and highly acclaimed here in the States. I'm still reading my way slowly through this rich, eerie, atmospheric and thoroughly enjoyable book, a compendium of some of the author's own dreams over a period of decades. It's a kind of counterpoint to another recent favorite, The Night Of Your Life by Jesse Reklaw; while Reklaw compresses other people's dreams into four surreally humorous panels, David B traces his own dreams at length through their irresistible desires, pressing demands, and French Resistance-influenced atmospherics and drama. I found each meandering episode both deja vu familiar and utterly other, as other people's dreams often are. The combination of words and pictures seems like the perfect -- maybe only -- way to convey both the visual nature of dreams and the fact that our understanding of a dream situation goes beyond what we can see (the "it was you, but it didn't look like you" phenomenon). Another example of the best of what's going on in the genre -- some nudity and dream violence make it unsuitable for the youngest readers, but for all others it's definitely recommended.