Friday, December 2, 2011

December's Book of the Month: Moby-Dick in Pictures

There are as many interpretations of Moby-Dick as there are splintered harpoons in the white whale's scarred skin, all of which tell a different story, none of which tell quite the whole story. Matt Kish's interpretation takes the form of an illustration for every page (all 552 of 'em) and is both a singular reading of Melville's epic and a piece of monumental art in itself. Like all imaginative readers, Kish creates from his voyages in search of the whale his own vision, referring back to the original, but full of its own mythology and the cultural influences of the 150 years since the publication of the original. As such, Moby-Dick in Pictures provides us with a fresh way of viewing a classic (and is likely to become a classic in its own right), reminding us that great literature both acts upon the present and is reimagined by it.

As ever, our Book of the Month is guaranteed.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Future of the Bookstore

There has been a bit of a buzz amongst booksellers about this recent Dan Clowes New Yorker cover. It would seem to disparage bookstores not only for carrying all sorts of knick knacks and gewgaws aside from books, but for pushing the books farther to the back of the store.

Now, it is a nearly universal fact that bookstores are carrying all sorts of "sidelines" that you wouldn't have seen in a "bookstore" 10 years ago. Even City Lights is selling onesies (very cute). At Green Apple, we've added all sorts of toys and games and puzzles to the mix over the last few years. When Raymond Carver lived in the neighborhood in the 1970's, he didn't ponder whether to add a refrigerator magnet or some finger tentacles to his purchases. But a business has to do what a business has to do to stay in business, and if finger tentacles help keep the lights on, then bring on the finger tentacles.

But Mr. Clowes does have a point, I believe. With the advent of e-books, there is much discussion (see here and here) about the future of books and bookstores. As more and more people read their books digitally, which is inevitable, then whither the bookstore. I'm not going to make an argument for the many positive things a bookstore brings to a community. I just want to stick to the reality that they are endangered. Every single person doesn't have to buy a Kindle to make the neighborhood bookstore go the way of the typewriter shop, just enough of them so that it no longer becomes a viable business to sell books for a living.

Which brings us to my answer to the question, what will become of the bookstore? As digital reading slowly (or quickly) replaces the reading of paper books, those sidelines will continue to expand and multiply, until what we consider a "bookstore" will actually be a gift shop or a clothing store or some other type of general merchandise emporium that also happens to have a good selection of books. How long this will take is anybody's guess. My personal guess is that it will be much slower than some people think, as readers generally have a strong attachment to the physical book. The analogy would be to vinyl records compared to compact discs. Audiophiles still love their vinyl, and at Green Apple we are selling more vinyl now than we did ten years ago. Compact discs, nobody has an emotional attachment to, and apparently there is talk that production of compact discs will cease all together in the next year of two. I think it will be a long slow transition from bookstore to store with books.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cat's Outta the Bag

November marked the first month of our new Apple-a-Month Club, a subscription service wherein you can receive a hand-picked (and eyeball-read) new fiction title in the mail once a month. Our hands are doing the picking, our eyeballs are doing the reading, and all you've got to do is check the mailbox and hug your postperson (or resist the urge) when they bring you a pretty little package like this in the mail.

And, now that November's subscribers have had the chance to be surprised by their new book and our handwritten shelf-talker, we can tell the rest of you that our inaugural Club selection is In Red by Magdalena Tulli, a beautiful new little translation from Archipelago Books.

The heart of Magdelena Tulli's novel is the imaginary Polish town Stitchings. Reminiscent of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's famous Macondo (in One Hundred Years of Solitude), Stitchings serves as setting for an array of darkly fantastic events: from a girl who refuses to acknowledge her death to the home of a man destined for a bullet that's circled the earth for years, Tulli's town offers the ultimate pleasure to readers: the impossible made believable. As such, we felt it was the perfect place to start our Apple-a-Month Club.

Want in? Why wouldn't you. If you're interested in subscribing for 3, 6, or 12 months, please do so by December 5th to get your first book in the mail about a week later. Got someone on your holiday shopping list who you want to surprise closer to Christmas? Purchase a subscription by December 18th and we'll send the recipient a card in the mail to let them know they're getting an awesome gift, and they'll get their first book in January.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

the Tuesday interview: Lucy Corin

[thanks for this goes to royalquietdeluxe]

Lucy Corin is the author of The Entire Predicament (Tin House Books) and Everyday Psychokillers: A History for Girls (FC2). She's currently at work on a novel about a hundred very small apocalypses and a novel about the brain. Her stories have appeared all over, including American Short Fiction, Ploughshares and Tin House Magazine. I'm pretty thrilled she's RQD's first interview.

RQD: What are you working on now? What's interesting to you about these characters?
LC: I'm writing a novel. Just yesterday, actually, I started a "character chart" to track the things I know so far about the characters, b/c I don't get interested in already-imagined characters so much as who they start being as I accumulate pages. So what interests me about these, is that I am developing them in relation to each other (trying to see how they counter and balance each other in the story) and struggling with fully imagining them the way I am writing them (rather than what in my life they spring from). I'm focusing on 2 characters who are obsessed with two possibly mad people, and trying to find the personhood within the context of madness is the point of writing the novel. There's a way that even including madness in the world of a book can dehumanize people/characters, and that's what I'm struggling with.

RQD: Who are some of the visual artists you're thinking about now in relation to your work?
LC: I spent some time looking at Marcel Dzama last year, and James Casabere photos of models of housing developments, and Simon Evans' maps. Going to SF MOMA today!

RQD: Is there a book or story or poem that you return to over and over?
LC: White Noise, Lolita and "A Good Man is Hard to Find," are probably the "most reread" things.

RQD: What are you reading now?
LC: Zeno's Conscience and Promethia

RQD: And as a kid, what were you reading? Did they impact your work? How?
LC: Incredibly important. My mother read me wonderful inappropriate things as a kid: James Dickey (The Sheep Child-- very formative!), Poe, Sylvia Plath, Dylan cummings (here is little effie's head whose brains are made of gingerbread...) she read me things she was into that were musical-- I remember how important musicality was both to her sense of what would appeal to a child and what the point of literature was. She also told me stories about British Royal history... the Stuarts and the Tudors and Anne Boleyn. It was great melodrama. I didn't learn to read until I was maybe 7 (dyslexia) but as soon as I could read I read intensely. Anne Frank was the first whole book I read by myself- I think I was 8. I wrote a poem about it. Z for Zaccharia (sp? author O'Brien?) was an important YA book for me. At 13 it was all about Jim Carroll's Baskeball Diaries.