Thursday, February 4, 2010

This blog post is brought to you by Snuggie

Having spent most of my life on the east coast, San Francisco's subtle seasons often left me disappointed. I thought I missed the bracing cold of a January morning or August's oppressive humidity. Now that I'm four months into a Midwest winter (I'm promised it'll last only two more months), I realize I was being sentimental. I'm prone to that sort of thing. However! rather than complaining too much (on a public forum), I'll do my best to remain positive. Yes, I will. I will, yes. I am trying. It's just the wind... and the snow... and the way you can feel your breath freezing in your nostrils and you know that you're bleeding from your nose but the blood freezes on your face and everyone's looking at you and wondering why the hell you aren't wearing a hat and...

[Deep breath.]

One of the (few) positive things about being unable to disrobe from my Snuggie - which, of course, is covered in cat hair and crumbs - is that I have little recourse but to spend a lot of time finding out just how much interesting stuff there is on the Internet. (Oh, sure, I read books too. Sort of.) Who knew? Maybe you didn't, so I'm going to share some wonderful things I've found, like the photograph above of Billy Faulkner. Or this, which must surely be the work of the Devil. Or God, it's hard to tell. Either way, it scares me.

Without any former ado, here are the links:

1. The photograph of Faulkner was pulled from this gallery at Life Magazine of famous literary drunks and addicts. Not included was Alfred Jarry, who, in typical Ubu-esque fashion, offered this quip in reply to concern over his drinking habits: "We thought we had done once and for all with this question of alcoholism, and that all sensible people understood that the use, and even more the abuse, of fermented beverages is what distinguishes man from beast."

2. A few links for Bolaño enthusiasts: First, his story William Burns is available (for free) at The New Yorker. And second, Bolaño's "Advice on the Art of Writing Short Stories," originally published in World Literature Today, is available here.

3. Novelist and provocateur Tom McCarthy (Remainder, one of my favorites) has a long essay on Jean-Philippe Toussaint in the latest issue of the London Review of Books. (In case you forget how much we love Monsieur Toussaint, look here. He's good fer what ails ya.)

4. Coleridge or Wordsworth, eh? The former was an opium addict prone to wanderlust, the latter "the most sober of the great romantics, a water drinker, a walker of the hills, an exemplary family man." The choice is obvious.

5. Finally, Dolores Park will be closed for over a year starting sometime around September 2011. This is awful news, but take consolation in the Secret Spaces of San Francisco.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Word Gobblin'

A while back, I'm not sure how long ago exactly, I asked myself whether or not I might be a 'foodie.' I think around the time I had been sucked in to a semi-extraordinary number of conversations on the subject, and having previously denounced foodie-ism as, well, a kind of ridiculous pomp of American affluence, I decided to seek out some basic foodie literature, see what it was all about, and determine whether or not my attitude was hypocritical. As it turned out, no. I'm not so much a foodie. I like a good meal as much as the next person, and I enjoy cooking perhaps a bit more than the usual twenty-six year old American male, but the er... 'orgasmic' tone of some of the writing I encountered, it was certainly nothing I could abide by. So I happily (or perhaps begrudgingly, depending on my mood), decided to let the pomp continue on without me. On the other hand, on my food-lit expedition I came across a few interesting things.

Alone in the Kitchen With an Eggplant, a remainder book here at Green Apple, contains a haunting tale of solitary culinary by Haruki Murakami revolving around spaghetti, though it hardly seems to be about spaghetti at all. Really an obscure must read for fans.

Issue 102 of Granta, The New Nature writing issue, contained a silent comic by David Heatley which illustrated the process behind the preparation of the classic American lunch (cheeseburger, fries and a coke) in an honest, and what I consider tasteful manner. No pushing of ideologies, merely a diagram the factory farming process. The strip ends with a set table and the reader is left to decide its intentions. Kind of nice I thought, considering the murk of literature out in the world commanding people to eat that and not this, buy this and not that, liberate cow and not chicken, etc.

Michael Pollan holds three spots in the top ten on the SF Chronicle's paperback best seller list. Furthermore there are four other books holding top ten spots which are primarily about food. This information is essentially re-reporting gleaned from the Zyzzyva blog (the angriest literary blog around, which I enjoy being that some of my more unpopular critical views are shared on it), but I found the fact curious. What does this say about the state of literature in our beloved bay? To me things like Zagat have no place on a list such as this, being that it's something that's readily available in 'e' format. Even in the case of Michael Pollan's work, yes, it is nice to see that people are examining their eating and shopping habits, but I can hardly imagine reading In Defense of Food, The Omnivores Dilemma, and Food Rules back to back (let alone writing them). I read Peter Singer's Animal Liberation in high school, among a plethora of zines, articles, etc, which helped influence my own personal dietary choices. I suppose my question is what the current validity of this work is when there is such a world of infinite mystery for us to be exploring? How much truly needs to be said?

Ah well. Perhaps we can all have a discussion sometime. For now let me close this post by drawing your attention to two final things-

1: My coworker Jenn has done an excellent job preparing and arranging a new shelf in our fiction annex, an impressive display of Green Apple's selection of translated foreign literature, with very little focus on food. I cannot recommend taking a look at it enough the next time you happen by the store.

2: My favorite meal still consists of the same thing that it has for the bulk of my life. Here:

Track me down at the store someday if you are interested in going out for some lunch.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


As I created a shelf-talker for the Young Adult display of Dino Buzzati's, The Bears' Famous Invasion of Sicily, I realized the words I had written (brutal and horrific) are probably two words parents don't necessarily want to be used to describe their son or daughter's next book choice. This got me thinking, again, about the blurry line which oftentimes divides Young Adult (YAX) and adult books.

Buzzati's book is a perfect example of a story which I'm certain many adults would love, yet it's published via the New York Review of Books Children's Collection, thus making its home the shelves of YAX, a land not frequented by many adults without a child in mind. Buzzati has works in both the adult and YAX sections, as do: Roald Dahl, James Patterson, Jules Verne, Sherman Alexie, Orson Scott Card, Hans Christian Andersen, Oscar Wilde, Robert Louis Stevenson and numerous others. Many of the deemed "classics" are read in middle school and high school classes, therefore those books are sometimes shelved in multiple places as well.

In an attempt to know the product I'm surrounded by, I try to read a few YAX titles, which are usually books I'd otherwise never come across. "Grimble" (Clement Freud/McSweeney's), Against the Odds (Marjolin Hof), The Wolves of Willoughby Chase (Joan Aiken), The Magician's Elephant (Kate DiCamillo) and Pam Munoz Ryan's forthcoming, The Dreamer, are all YAX titles I read last year; they stand proudly on their own as quality literature and are some of the best I read in '09.

I suppose the bottom line is this: a good YA title should be able to be read by adults. So if you're at a blank as to what your next read will be while perusing the regular fiction, you should give the Young Adult section a go.

Also, if you want to read more about the publishing aspect of YA vs. Adult, check this article out from the NY Times.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Poem of the Week: Alan Bernheimer

Happy Monday. Today's poem is by Alan Bernheimer, from his 2009 collection The Spoonlight Institute. Without further ado, here's "Visible Means."

Visible Means

Here for now a small wonder
tea's velvet tongue on fluted teeth

nobody's fault prevents the poor
from being born, with spectators

no wonder foreign objects
contrary to light
touch and go numb
possibly people or plants

half indoors, top half outside
seeing stars at the edge of insomnia
and gray apples at dawn

number, uneasy and underfoot
in some lifelong radio outskirts

from Alan Bernheimer's The Spoonlight Institue, Adventures in Poetry, 2009.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Books in Translation...

As we start our major section moves this new year, the store will be a new maze to get lost in. One of these moves that I am excited about is a display in the front of the annex that will highlight books in translation. We have always prominently displayed foreign literature and fiction and this is just another opportunity to feature more of these books that are rarely featured in a lot of bookstores...

My most recent read was The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson, one of Finland's most widely read authors. It is for her Moomin booksa series of graphic novel/comic strip/innovative kid's booksthat she is most famous for...

(The Book About Momin, Mymble and Little My in on A's Staff Favorite Kid's Books Display)

The True Deceiver, though Jansson supposedly wrote it for eight-year-olds, is not to be taken lightly. This books describes, as Ali Smith puts it in her Introduction, "...a sharply pertinent discourse on the relationships between art, nature, fame and identity; a discussion of the place and role of the artist and of the mysterious sources of creativity." There is so much depth to this sleek, beautiful tale; so much loneliness and so much sadness.

The story of Katri Kling, her brother Mats and Anna Aemelin, the small town's resident celebrity and recluse, is a psychiatric thriller without the usual deception in plot, it merely compels you quickly through the landscape and the long winter months. It is, as I said before, a terribly beautiful book.