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Showing posts from November, 2005

Chronicle: California and Catchup

Your friendly neighborhood BookNerd is back in Brooklyn after a lovely relaxing week in California, and newly energized to jump back into the ongoing conversation about books and bookselling. I've responded to several of your posts, so see below for my thoughts -- I'm grateful for your input and your words of encouragement. I'll be responding to your emails as I have time to give them the attention they deserve -- please bear with me as I deal with the surprising amount of backlog! I'm still working on my HTML skills too (woefully inadequate, due to my non-tech humanities education), so links may take some time to appear, and the format will hopefully only improve with time. Talk about encouragement -- I was floored to find myself mentioned in the daily email of Shelf Awareness , an extremely well-researched summary of events in the literary world geared toward booksellers. Thanks to everyone for the publicity -- I feel like an institution! Actually, I feel like m

Brief Hiatus

It seems like a silly time to take a break -- there are so many great conversations starting here! But I'm off to California until Saturday, and as it's the only time I get to see my family during the year, I probably won't have time for blogging. Please continue your interesting comments -- I look forward to engaging with all of you when I return next weekend (and I'll reveal who made the plane-reading cut). Happy reading!

Comment/Review: Airplane reading

For book people, the biggest question when taking a trip isn't What should I wear? What should I pack? Which suitcase should I bring? No, of course the vital question is, What am I going to read on the plane? I'm leaving pretty soon to spend Thanksgiving week with my family in California -- a six-hour flight, plenty of time to get into something good. I love recommending plane books to customers -- it's a chance for them to spend a big chunk of time reading, and a good way to sink deeply into books that would suffer from short bursts of reading time. I tend to favor books that are rich and meaty, but not too heavy -- you don't want someone to get off the plane in a blue funk. It all depends on the taste and mood of the reader, of course -- some people want a beach read, and some want to tackle the Dostoyevsky they've been meaning to read since high school. It's highly ideosyncratic, different every time, and lots of fun if you happen to be a book nerd. Si

Comment: My People

So, I somewhat tentatively sent out an email about this blog to a long list of the folks in my address book on Thursday morning. The response already has been embarassingly wonderful. Everyone from my high school English teacher to Larry Portzline of Bookstore Tourism has commented or emailed to say that they're reading and enjoying. And best of all for me, I've heard from a bunch of my fellow booksellers with notes of enthusiasm and encouragement. Thanks, guys. This last couple of days made me think of a time when I worked in a neighborhood where two independent coffee shops opened up around the same time. (Bear with me, this is relevant in the end.) As things settled out, they ended up serving very different clientele: one was the haunt of the older neighborhood denizens, and one was the hangout of a high-powered telecommuter crowd. But unfortunately, there was an intense amount of unfriendly competition between the two. The proprietors of the two shops were in print

Comment: Vollman and the National Book Awards

I was making coffee and listening to NPR this morning when my partner (and several surrounding apartments) might have heard me say "WHAT?!?" I had just heard that William Vollman's EUROPE CENTRAL had won the National Book Award for fiction. The announcement was made as a kind of footnote to Joan Didion's win in nonfiction for THE YEAR OF MAGICAL THINKING (which was almost a foregone conclusion, and must make things strange for her, as the award comes at the cost of the deaths of her husband and daughter). To be honest, I had forgotten that Vollman had even been nominated for the award -- I had glanced at EUROPE CENTRAL when it came out in hardcover and shuddered at how difficult it looked, filled with respect for those who would tackle its 800 pages. And my surprise (and initial indignation) came from the fact that he's not only difficult, but very little known, and it seemed like a purposefully pretentious choice on the part of the judges. But as I look ba

Chronicle and Comments: KGB & J.T.

(Disclaimer: Today's post was written in a hurry and contains some pretentious New York City namedropping. Read at your own risk of annoyance.) Last night I made an appearance at KGB Bar on East 4th Street for a goodbye party for an editor. She's graciously accepted my book reviews (and paid me) for a couple of years, and is now migrating west to work on her already-sold novel, so I thought it would be nice to stop by and show my face, since we'd never met in person. I hadn't been to KGB in a couple of years -- I used to go often when I was at NYU, since a professor of mine ran the Monday night poetry reading series. There's a gigantic neon "KGB" sign outside, and a set of stairs just inside the door. The first floor is a small theater, and the bar is on the second. It's just one room, all read, decorated with old Soviet propaganda posters and stencils of Lenin. Strangely cozy, in an ironic sort of way. My former editor introduced me to my new edit

Review: The Brooklyn Follies

THE BROOKLYN FOLLIES by Paul Auster Henry Holt Publication Date: January 2006 I'm sorry to be reviewing something that isn't available to most outside the publishing community for a couple of months, but I wanted to get my thoughts down before they fade. This is a book I read in one day -- an extremely rare thing, and like the books that make you miss your subway stop, a good indicator of how compelling this novel was for me. I'm a Paul Auster fan, though I started late with THE BOOK OF ILLUSIONS and ORACLE NIGHT, and am only now coming to some of his earlier work (I have yet to find the time to sit down with the NEW YORK TRILOGY, though it's high on the list of non-new releases I want to read). He seems to me an eloquent storyteller of the city, with plots that sometimes seem modeled after New York streets; he's unafraid of lots of plot, and he sometimes lets his characters get stuck down a dark alley or around an unexpected corner. He's the kind of "

Response: Why Amazon Is Not the Best Thing to Happen to Bookselling

On Halloween, Bookslut provided a link to an article by Alison Rowat in the Glasgow Herald titled "Why Amazon is the best thing to happen to bookselling." (It's now been archived; here is a link to the abstract, and I'm happy to email the entire article to anyone who requests it.) I forwarded it to my local booksellers listserve immediately for consideration, but I've been stewing about it ever since. My first reaction to Rowat's complete dismissal of independent booksellers as "fantasy merchants" and "dated as ration books" was so dumbfounded, so full of personal righteous indignation, that I didn't feel capable of gathering my thoughts for a reasoned response. Tonight, however, serving my quiet shift at the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Company (another quixotic venture I'll expand upon later), I feel ready to marshal my passion into the service of logic and offer my refutation of the points Rowat has put forward. (To some, it ma