Friday, March 12, 2010

We (Heart) Our New Kids' Section

Every September when we put our huge calendar selection out, we need to move things in the store around a bit to make room for them. And every year when calendars go away in late January, we need to move things back. We always use this as an opportunity to mix things up a bit- expand sections that are selling well, shrink sections that aren't. If you've been in the store at any point in the last six weeks, you've noticed that we did more shuffling around than usual. We shrunk CDs a bit, and moved old-fashioned records more towards the front of the store. Travel books moved over to the annex, graphic novels moved to the front of the store. And so on.

And maybe one or two of you noticed that our children's book section has moved. It always felt a bit cramped in its old digs, so we decided to move it up to the mezzanine and give it some more space. In the coming weeks we'll be putting down a nicer floor, get a rug for the young ones to sit on and a nicer table and chairs than the ones you see pictured here. And we're hoping to start a Sunday morning story time soon. If you don't get our email newsletter, you should sign up here.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


My roommates and I were watching that old Marlon Brando movie The Wild One a while back, the premise of which is a bunch of bikers getting scolded by small townies for partying too much (well, basically). At some point not too far in to the film someone commented on how 'gay' the main characters, especially Brando, look. The tight jeans and leather jacket combo, that once meant 'bad boy,' has long since transmogrified, and in this day and age the face of masculinity is much different. In The Wild One, Brando looks like something straight off of Tom of Finland's desk. Familiar?

I'm not gonna' lie, Tom of Finland's illustrations aren't really for everyone. Heck, it's probably for very few in the grand scheme, but in all honesty, I'm an admitted fan. Aside from the big remaindered Taschen collections of his work (kept upstairs next to exhilarating titles such as The Big Penis Book, and Japanese Bar Girls Bare All) most of his books would be found in the fantasy and erotic art section of Green Apple, the most puzzling section that I am set to the task of maintaining. There, amongst the Boris Vallejo and Hajime Sorayama collections, Tom's work stands out- and not just because of its blatant homosexual content amid a myriad of clearly heterosexual artists. There is something in Tom's work that is inherently subversive.

Tom's drawings were appearing in 'men's health magazines' before the closet door had a handle. He was questioning gender roles and above all, authority. This was a time when most countries in the world still held on to archaic 'acts against nature' laws (Tom was born in nineteen twenty). Still it was not until the nineteen seventies that Tom began to receive public recognition. Fashion designer Viviennen Westwood picked up on Tom's art and incorporated it in to her own back in the heyday of UK punk, sometime before the genre had become a parody of itself. Floating around somewhere out there are some very famous photographs of Sid Vicious wearing her designs which feature Tom's art.

I suppose what fascinates me is (aside from the fact that his drawings crack me up), is the concept that two yoked dudes getting sweet on each other is so appalling in this world. Maybe I've been living in The Bay Area too long to understand. Regardless though, I'm happy Tom's work is out there, and I'm happy that he made it safer for us all to be a little weirder.

Touko Laaksonen (Tom's real name) RIP (and Marlon too).

Monday, March 8, 2010

Poem of the Week by Kit Robinson

Happy Monday. Here's this week's poem:


In poetry
you are given all the letters
and have to arrange them yourself

On a wall
in the next episode
you are a married couple with kids

Going between three houses
to pick up stuff
along a narrow stair

You are glad to be out of there
invigorated, unencumbered, hopeful
passing by the window of another

Man who knows you
roughhousing with a massive, naked bald woman
her husband comes in and says, "Walnuts!"

The sea is the color
of poetry
as defined in a guide

To leading questions
left out to dry
in the sun

The fish live under
the sign of the pelican
in a sea of answers

Not written in any book
the kids went back up to the house
you taste rock

And the salt stings your eyes
20 Spanish mackerel
in point of fact

Your pen is leaking water
like newly real details
of the world at large

by Kit Robinson, from The Messianic Trees (Adventures in Poetry, 2009)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Book of the Month/Books in Translation

Even with the amount of press that Roberto Bolaño has had over the last couple years, even from us, and with Horacio Castellanos Moya's- an author who's books She-Devil in the Mirror and Senselessness I consider to be a couple of the best books I read last year- article Bolaño Inc. damning North American press as being "squeezed dry", I would like everyone to read Monsieur Pain, the latest of Bolaño's novels to be released from New Directions.

My reasoning is this: Bolaño has been over marketed in the United States, primarily for Savage Detectives and 2666, both of which I found to be unstructured and a little to rambling for my liking and both of which I felt seemed a little unfinished.

But Bolaño is a master. He knew that his short fiction, short stories or novels, had to be exact and precise. This is the Bolaño that New Directions has been putting out since his death in 2003. These are books where every word matters, every action, description, and character planned out. They are books that deal with love, death, paranoia, and corruption. Monsieur Pain is no different.

Monsieur Pain is trying to cure César Vallejo, the Peruvian poet, who is on the verge of hiccuping himself to death from an undiagnosed illness. Meanwhile Pain is wandering through Paris trying to tie up the mystery that surrounds him.

If you want to read the true Roberto Bolaño, read Chris Andrews' amazing translations from New Directions...and why not start with Monsieur Pain? I guarantee you'll like it.