Saturday, September 5, 2009

Books for Boys

School is back in session, and if you've got a boy starting first grade, he's going to be asked to start reading books without pictures. Now, I know that your daughter will be asked to read those same books, but often (certainly not always, don't start sending me hate-mail) the girls take to reading more readily than the boys. My son went through this a couple of years ago, and I have some reading suggestions for kids who may not be embracing the fine art of cuddling up with a good book.

1) The Ricky Ricotta books by Dav Pilkey. Sure this is a hedge, because they're illustrated, but they do require real reading. Boys will eat these books up: they are very very silly, and they feature a boy whose best friend is a giant robot.

2) The Droon books by Tony Abbott. Kids love series, because when one book is done, there is always another one to read. Droon, a fantasy series geared toward new readers, now has some 30+ books to choose from.

3) Roscoe Riley Rules. Now up to 7 books in the series, this one is near and dear to me, because these books were the ones that switched on my son's reading light. He would be oddly quiet in his room, then come running out and say "Dad, guess what page I'm on now. 45!" I tried to explain to him that it's not a competition, but I don't think he heard me.

The last thing I will say on the subject is that we love to see our youngest customers (Junior Green Applers in the store parlance) bringing books in to trade. We understand that at $4.99 for a book that a kid will read in half an hour, it's not a cheap habit. But bring those books back, get some trade, and it will ease the sting a bit, as well as give our Junior Green Applers as sense of independence.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

42 down, ten (+?) to go

Green Apple Books turns 42 this month. The store has evolved greatly since 1967, as has the book business, our neighborhood, the city, and so on. In fact, our evolution is one reason we're still here. Change or die, right?

When Green Apple first opened, it took up only half of what is the now the first floor at 506 Clement (the other half was a shoe repair business). That's about 900 square feet. The store only carried used books and magazines. But founder Rich Savoy soon doubled the width of the store. The photos below are from that era. Eventually, he added new books, comics, the mezzanine, the second floor, the Granny Smith room, and, in 1996, the music annex at 520 Clement. We're up to about 8,000 square feet. 28 employees. Countless good books.

About twelve years ago, Mr. Savoy recognized encroaching burnout and started trying to find successors. After a false start or two, he assembled a three-man team to buy the store from him. And as of today, the ten-year buyout is officially complete. Mr. Savoy is semi-retired at his vineyard in Boonville, where he grows pinot noir and other grapes for sale to top Anderson Valley winemakers. That's a mustachioed Rich Savoy below at the front counter in the 1970s (note the sign by the cash register: "no smoking near register"--that policy still stands!)

The new owners of Green Apple, who have been effectively running the store for about 7 years, are Kevin Ryan, who started in 1987; Kevin Hunsanger, who started in 1991; and Pete Mulvihill, the newcomer with only 16 years of service. Together, that's 56 years of Green Apple experience.

Oh, and Green Apple just signed a ten-year lease on both buildings, so as long as the readers of San Francisco (and the world) continue to support us, we'll do our damnedest to keep Green Apple the welcoming, unique, literary place it is.

Here's Kevin Ryan (far left and far right) with Pete (the cute one at left) and Kevin Hunsanger (in goatee at right). I'm sure there are better pictures, but these old ones leaped out of the historical archive drawer at me today.

Thanks to the last 42 years of customers and excellent booksellers, and here's to the next ten years of good books and good times.

Monday, August 31, 2009


A couple of notes on two of our recent blog entries. First off Pete's entry regarding the 'sure-thing books' coming out. I wanted to put a brief emphasis on the new Nabokov title that will be release. This is from the New York Times:

He wanted to burn “Lolita” too. Vladimir Nabokov instructed that his final unfinished manuscript be destroyed, but his son, Dmitri, decided last year to defy his father’s wishes and publish it instead. “The Original of Laura” will be published on Nov. 3 in the United States (Knopf) and Britain (PenguinClassics), BBC News reported. Vladimir Nabokov wrote the work on 138 index cards, which have been stored for the past 30 years in a bank vault in Switzerland, where Nabokov died in 1977. Each of the cards will be reproduced with a transcript of the text on the facing page. Alexis Kirschbaum, an editor at Penguin Classics, said, “It was quite emotional for Dimitri because it was a big decision to publish, which took him decades.” In 2010 Penguin plans to release a collection of Nabokov’s poems that have not previously appeared in English.

About a year ago I wrote a bit about the impending release of Nabokov's posthumous work in my own blog. Sadly I didn't cite (and don't remember) where I got the information, but The Original of Laura's working title in 1974 was supposedly "Dying is Fun." I'm not certain I like that better or anything, but I do think it may be giving us a strange little glimpse of what we're in for.

Secondly, Nick's latest post on Azorno. Now for one thing Azorno sounds like an incredible mind pretzel and, once I chip a few things off my current reading list, I'm sure I'll be devouring it soon. What struck me however is Anne Carson's likening of Inger Christensen's work to Hesiod.

I recently just picked up a copy of Hesiod's Works and Days due to stumbling across the work of one of my current favorite cartoonists Trevor Alixopulos, author/illustrator of The Hot Breath of War. If you look here you can see some of Alixopulos' work translating Hesiod's verse to the 'narraglypic picto-assemblage' format. Pretty awesome if you ask me.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


It is a shame that Inger Christensen passed away just fourteen days before her 74th birthday in January of this year. The Danish poet, novelist & essayist has been an inspiration to many. Now New Directions Press has released a new translation of her 1967 novel Azorno by Denise Newman.

Azorno is a complicated (though very readable) almost schizophrenic tale that may or may not have 6
characters...maybe there are five women and then two may be narrated by all...or by none. Each woman merges from one to the next so we never really see who is telling the truth & who is not...who is writing the novel...or even who Azorno is.

We are misled from the start...

"I've learned that I'm the woman he first meets on page eight. It was Azorno who told me. Come to think of it, I've never dared asked him why he's called Azorno."

Some of the more impatient readers may have to jump immediately to page eight. Others will hold it in the front of their mind, as I did, to see who this woman is. That is the beauty of this book. Each turn in story & plot becomes more mysterious & more real, a very visceral experience.

"Inger Christensen manages to make wit, passion & questioning, & astonishing design serve each other's ends as one, & she does it in a way that is utterly her own." - W.S. Merwin

"Like Hesiod, Inger Christensen wants to give us an account of what is-of everything that is & how it is said & what we are in the midst of." - Anne Carson