Friday, May 6, 2011
Thursday, May 5, 2011
As our Facebook fans already know, Green Apple recently partnered with Ugly Duckling Presse to bring some of the finest contemporary poetry and artists' books to the Inner Richmond. Although we've long stocked Ugly Duckling's books, many titles are not made available for wide distribution. With this new partnership, however, we'll be carrying at least two copies of each new publication as they become available, as well as select backlist titles, and 6 x 6, a poetry magazine.
To celebrate the inaugural shipment from the Presse's home in Brooklyn's Old American Can Factory, I'd like to highlight some of the compelling books you'll now find on our shelves.
How does one translate from a language one does not know? In this daring act of literary ventriloquism, Christian Hawkey attempts to answer that question by translating the poems of Georg Trakl, a German poet of some stature who lived in the early part of the 20th century. Through a series of outlandish experiments (including one with w 12-gauge shotgun), Hawkey creates a monstrous, lyrical hybrid of a book: homage, translation, mad genius' memoirs. A remarkably invigorating work.One of the most exciting and beautiful--and honestly, a book I was desperate to get my hands on--works published this spring by Ugly Duckling is Erica Baum's Dog Ear, a collection of poems created by turning down the pages of old paperbacks. The photograph above (and below, I can't resist) provides a good example of the book and if you're curious, you can see more samples, as well as some of Baum's other projects, here. The brilliance of this collection lies in its utter simplicity and the fruitful, serendipitous juxtaposition of the happy accident.
While I could go on and on, I'll limit myself to one more recent arrival, Uljana Wolf's False Friends, being a German-English dictionary of false friends, true cognates and other cousins, translated from the German by Susan Bernofsky (translator and champion of Green Apple favorite Robert Walser, among others). On Translationista, her blog detailing the art and craft of translation, Ms. Bernofsky describes False Friends as an abecedarian, a poem or series of poems structured around the letters of the alphabet:
Each of the alphabetically inspired prose poems in Wolf's collection is based on words that exist in some form (homonymic, homophonic and/or homographic) in both German and English. Take for example the German word Mist, which translates as "manure." Or Igel, which is pronounced "eagle" and means "hedgehog." In her poems, the words flip back and forth between their English and German meanings, always on the cusp of signifying both at once. This approach results in a wonderfully playful book that also tells a hidden tale: there's a love story secreted between the lines of these poems, which - although written in prose - often slip into an iambic cadence. I liked the book so much that I translated it, even though much of the book's original bilinguality becomes invisible in English, replaced by wordplay of other sorts.
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Intimidated? Don't be. Even Sparky the Sock can do it (and he can barely turn pages in real books). Check it out.
Our site also offers title suggestions to get you started, and tutorials for any device. Getting set up will take a few minutes, but then your books will always be available (since they're stored in "the cloud") and ordering is super easy.
PLEASE help spread the word. Most people who read eBooks don't think of Green Apple as a go-to source. But now you can do your part to keep Green Apple thriving by telling your e-reading pals to buy them from us. Thanks!
When people read my novel, the question they usually ask is, “How much of this really happened to you?” They work up the nerve after the second round of beers, when things are a little loose and they think I’m more likely to rat myself out—because the way they ask that question always implies that I’ve cheated somehow at writing fiction, because my 12th grade US Government teacher really did show us Roger & Me, and I really did once leave a sweatshirt in a Pennsylvania hotel room. For shame!
That line of thinking is silly, of course. It’s hard to write, whether what you’re writing is true or not, and combining your own experience with fiction can be downright brutal, since doing so requires defying the biases of your memory—if what really happened isn’t all that interesting, you have to replace it with something that is, no matter how attached you might be to the truth. So I’m unapologetic when I tell people that, yeah, I did borrow from my own life. There are compelling reasons to do so. One, the living world is interesting enough—what’s the point in fashioning idiosyncratic details when you’ve got a billion at the ready? And two, some writers are great inventors while others are great observers, and I happen to fall into the latter category.
But if I’m being honest, neither of those reasons fully account for why so much of me is in the book. The reason for that sounds weird, but it’s true: it’s because I’ve got a wicked case of homesickness.
I lived in the Bay Area from the time I was born until I was 24. As an undergrad in Oakland, I had a workshop professor who told me every fiction writer ought to live somewhere uncomfortable—comfort, she said, is the enemy of good work. So I figured I’d head for the most uncomfortable place imaginable. Months later, I found myself holed up in your typical New York cliché—a tiny, barely livable room—in an utterly charmless upper Manhattan neighborhood, working toward an MFA. I’ll spare you the other cliché stuff (awful roommate, bizarre jobs, major lack of fundage) and instead say that, as I plugged away on the novel, one thing became abundantly clear: I only wanted to write about the Bay Area.
Here’s what I’ve learned: If you want to write about a place in a way that gives it real depth, that makes it feel like another character in the story, you need to know it, then leave it, then miss it—and you have to do that last part often, and a lot. Before moving to New York, I’d set everything in a nondescript invented location I gave zero thought to (at best a missed opportunity; at worst a violation of a cardinal rule of fiction: “nothing happens nowhere”). But once I was 3,000 miles from home, all I wanted was to live in the version of the Bay Area that existed in my psyche. So I built it on paper, word by word, and furnished it with my memories. The book started with the place I loved, and then came to encompass the experiences I’d loved there, too.
Of course, there are tactical advantages to setting a novel in San Francisco, drama-wise: it’s a rare city that sits beneath such a heavy atmosphere. There’s the bridge, siren to the suicidal. There’s the fact that the populace can’t even count on the ground not to open up beneath them. There are those two terrifying acts of God in a single century. There’s the fog. But my motivation was rooted more in longing—which, not coincidentally, is the most pervasive theme of the book. I missed the place I loved. And being confronted by New York, a city that was too new to make sense of and that, by virtue of that newness, meant nothing to me personally, showed me how well I understood San Francisco and Berkeley and Oakland and Vallejo, which are the places that mean everything to me. I had enough distance to finally see each of those cities, and yet enough mental proximity, via two-plus decades of memories, to know how they worked and what they felt like from the inside.
So I wrote a novel in which the characters, in and amongst the many things they do that I never did, live many things I lived. I sent them to the Botanical Garden, where they trudged around in the rain, talking about nothing (which I did one marvelous day, with a marvelous friend), and to the Conservatory of Flowers, where they stuck their fingers in the flesh-eating plant (my friend really did that; nothing happened) and to Berkeley Aquatic Park (where another friend and I used to get drunk and play badminton). I made them hang out next to the odd, out-of-the-way stream at Mills College, where I went to school. I made them walk aimlessly around Fourth Street in Berkeley, where I was a data processor for a weird and wasted year after graduation (the characters get a cupcake at Bette’s, natch). I made my protagonist live in Vallejo, my hometown, which I hated while I was there; living far away from it has made me love even that dump. (In fact, it’s the setting of the book I’m writing now—amazing what a little distance can do.)
Part of me wonders if, once I leave New York—which I will, someday—I might be possessed by a burning desire to write about it, too. After all, in the last five years I’ve made plenty of memories and friends; I have a good life here. But then I think about how, whenever I land at Oakland Airport or SFO, my whole body relaxes, and I feel some internal switch flip, and then I get my luggage and go outside and find that the air smells familiar and right, and the world coheres and make sense. I look around and in every direction I’m confronted by some association—like I’m surrounded by my childhood and adolescence and early adulthood, like I’m literally standing inside my coming of age—and I know there’s no way I’d ever feel that way about anywhere else. New York is where I’ve made a life; the Bay Area is the place that gave me life. Consider this book my thank you note.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
For example, just dig this complete run of Believer Magazine, the ground-breaking fiction / essay / film periodical from the fine folks at McSweeney's. . .seriously, dig it!
Then, there are the dozens of beautiful Modern Library Editions that were purchased last week from a condition conscious collector, enough in fact for us to give them their own bookcase in the annex. Check out these beautiful copies, in dustjacket, of some classic classics, most priced less that $20. Ahem. . . a bargain.
Everyone loves the lurid covers of those mid-century pulp and paperbacks, so why not kick-start your new collecting passion by nabbing a copy of 'Sex Slaves', 'Halo for Satan', or a beautiful copy of 'Astounding Stories' from the 1930's? Many of these paperback original 1st editions are priced quite reasonably, and most are even between $6 - $15! Again, they have a new bookcase in the annex, and also. . .another bargain!
Of course this is all just a drop in the bucket, as Green Apple has one of the most active buy counters on the West Coast; and what that means to you is endless variety in a store that's never the same place twice.