Saturday, March 21, 2009

A Good Read

Set in Berlin in 1940. The city is still functioning mostly normally: there is food in the stores, people go about their business. But it is a city where everyone feels they are being watched, where information can be traded to the Gestapo for a price, where citizens who won’t join the party are looked upon with suspicion or worse. When Otto and Anna Quangel’s son is killed on the French front, this ordinary German couple decides it is time to resist the totalitarianism suffocating their country. How they decide to resist (I don’t want to give it away) seems almost comically minor at first glance, but the reader soon realizes that no act of defiance is minor in such a time and place. And this act of defiance soon sets loose a chain of events that catches others, innocent and not-so-innocent, in its deadly web. Chilling, brilliant, written by a man who lived through it and based on a real Gestapo file, Every Man Dies Alone is a great work of literature.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Scribd, anyone?

So obviously, this whole e-book thing is a prickly situation for bookstores, authors and publishers alike. Those of us in the 'dead tree' business love the books we sell, but more than that, we cherish the tradition of bookselling itself; how then to reconcile this growing trend away from printed words of all types?

First, why not buy a book and just read the dang thing on a beach, or sit in your favorite chair and flip through a magazine? But if you really need to use batteries, and still don't want to give Amazon anymore power, check out Scribd, a social publishing site where tens of millions of people share original writings and documents. Think Napster, but with a sense of social justice...
If anyone uses scribd, please drop a line in the comments and let me know what you think.

And if you need a real book to toss in the backpack, may I suggest Don Herron's Dashiell Hammett Tour of San Francisco. This is an updated, 30th Anniversary edition of an absolute classic of trivia and tours (both walking and driving). Chock full of photos, this new edition is a must have, and Green Apple is thrilled to be hosting the launch of this tome as part of our Side Room Series - click here for full info (on this and other upcoming events), or just mark your calendar and be here on Thursday March 26th from 7-8pm in the Green Apple sideroom.

Mergatroid Speaks!

I don't know who did it, but someone's done gone and adorned me with a lovely crown to suit this beautiful weather!

All I need now is a faux-fur coat and a scepter (hint-hint)...

In other news, while I just can't find the time for Twitter (or "Tweeting"?), I did notice an awesome fan page on Facebook for Green Apple (editor's note: we don't know who started it, but we're all for it)!

Monday, March 16, 2009

I've got it covered

I'm jumping out of order here for three reasons: I'm bored, too jet-lagged to do anything other than stare at a screen (or sleep), and I've missed a couple of turns in the rotation. It may be tempting to misconstrue this interruption of our regularly scheduled blogging for an overzealous enthusiasm for books, but please refrain from doing so. Well, fine. I am as excited as someone who just got off of an 11 hour flight can be about the second of my occasional themes on the Green Apple Core: cover design.

A few weeks ago, Nick emailed me a link to a list of "30 novels worth buying for the cover alone" at AbeBooks. (It doesn't really matter if one reads the novels after buying them.) I doubt anyone would agree entirely with the selections, but that's the point. Are there books you've picked up solely on the strength of their cover design? And perhaps more interestingly, which books have you avoided because of their cover design?

The Fat Man and Infinity & Other Writings by António Lobo Antunes

Many know José Saramago, the Portuguese author of The Cave, Blindness (my staff favorite), & his most recent novel, Death With Interruptions. After winning the Nobel Prize for literature in 1998, there was a lot of controversy in Portugal as to who should have rightly won the award, Saramago or António Lobo Antunes. Despite the rivalry they are two of my favorite authors. Their styles are far from alike, though both represent a strong sense of pride for their native country.

Now that I've said all that, I want to talk about The Fat Man and Infinity & Other Writings by António Lobo Antunes. Translated by Margaret Jull Costa, the award-winning translator of Fernando Pessoa & Saramago, these stories read like the short & beautiful recollections of a gifted writer. His musings mostly run about three to four pages long; nonetheless, they are vivid sketches of the world around him. At times I read this book straight though, others I read as I randomly flip through. This is a beautiful work by an amazing writer. If you need to read a few to give you an idea, try "The Champion" (page 29), "The Book Fair" (page 113), & "Random Ghosts" (page 277).