Saturday, August 7, 2010

Vintage Contemporaries

In the Early 1980's, Gary Fisketjon at Vintage Books published a group of young authors under the Vintage Contemporaries imprint. The books were all paperback originals, and shared a common design scheme. Many of the writers published under the banner of Vintage Contemporaries went on to become the great authors of their generation: Richard Ford, Raymond Carver, Ann Beattie, Tobias Wolff, and a kid named Cormac McCarthy. I thought of this series recently when I realized that two of the authors from this series, Richard Yates and Frederick Exley, are the titular subjects of two works of fiction this coming Fall. Odd coincidence?

In Exley, by Brock Clarke, due out in October, a young boy in Watertown, N.Y. (setting for the great A Fan's Notes), goes in search of the author of his father's favorite book. The boy's father is hospitalized, and the boy thinks that Mr. Exley is the only one who can help. Doesn't help that Exley is dead.

And then we've got Richard Yates, due out next month by author Tao Lin, whose last book was Shoplifting From American Apparel. Not having read a word of this book, or even a description of its contents, I can't say whether the author of Revolutionary Road plays a part in the book beyond the title. I can say that, when I first started in the book biz oh so many years ago, Revolutionary Road was generally accepted as the best book you had never read. That's of course no longer true.

I'll finish with a short excerpt from Exley. In this scene, the young narrator examines his father's copy of A Fan's Notes, the talismanic book that holds such a powerful sway over and maybe holds the secret to the riddle of his father:

"I looked at the cover again. The corners of the cover were torn and wrinkled, the spine was split, and so many pages were dog-eared that you might as well consider the whole book dog-eared. It looked like it really was the only book my dad had read in fifteen years: it looked used, but more than that, it looked loved."

Hard to picture having that reaction to a Kindle.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Confessions, Cannons, and Lady Thoughts

SS passed his blogging post on to me for the day, and he picked a heck of a day to do it, because The Guardian recently ran an article that got me, and plenty of other lady (and non-lady) readers and writers on the internet*, pretty riled up.

The heart of the message of the article, which is about contemporary female writers who write about their experiences -- which coincidentally happen to include being female (funny how that happens) --- is not a bad thing. At the most interesting (ahem) point in this article, the writer quotes Emily Gould, saying "If a woman writes about herself, she's a narcissist. If a man does the same, he's describing the human condition." True, and important.

But where I take issue with this article is in its rather absurd attempt to trace all female writing about being female to Candace Bushnell's Sex and the City novels. Most specifically, this sentence: "Before Candace Bushnell, books like Gould's that sought to capture the dilemmas and dichotomies of modern womanhood with a wry, humorous honesty, were almost unheard of." The article concludes by rounding up what it adorably terms "Grin And Share It: American Confessional Classics", thereby doing exactly what it criticized: using the word "confessional" as a stand in for "girl-thoughts". The list, which contains some perfectly good and probably smart and entertaining writing, to be sure, defines this four book literary cannon as ranging all the way from Sex and the City to Julie and Julia. Which hardly seems like a range at all.

So, while I wouldn't dissuade anyone from reading any of the books mentioned above, I thought I'd put together an alternative list, some of which *gasp* pre-dates Sex and the City. And those that don't, well, certainly weren't written to be paired with a Cosmopolitan and designer footwear (but hey, read how you read). And I resisted the urge to throw in the cannon of historical bad-ass women folk like Sylvia Plath, Virginia Wolf and Joan Didion, and further resisted the urge to really shock and awe with some Kathy Acker or Monique Wittig. I stuck with the Guardian's parameters of "modern confessional". Here we go:

1. Beauty Talk and Monsters, by Masha Tupitsyn, is a collection of semi-autobiographical stories, mostly told through the lens of movies. In these stories, Tupitsyn blends actual experience with her own pop-cultural literacy, blurring (or revealing the already blurred nature of) the lines between reality and learned narratives.

2. Plainwater, by Anne Carson. This book of essays, poems, and essays that read like poems, meditates on relationships, travel, mythology and water almost seemlessly, as if all of the above are one topic. Carson's writing is hypnotic, her insight and vision of the world completely sharp and unique while being entirely relatable. A great traveling book.

3. I Love Dick, by Chris Kraus, is a collection of love letters Kraus and her husband sent to a professional acquaintance after meeting him once. The recipient's name is Richard, and I'd tell you to get your mind out of the gutter if it weren't for the fact that I think Kraus knew exactly what she was doing when she named her book. Raw, honest, and slightly disturbing, it will make all your crushes seem normal.

4. Flaming Iguanas: An Illustrated All Girl Road Novel Thing, by Erika Lopez, is a simultaneously lovely and gritty illustrated partially true coming-of-age-when-you're-already-an-adult story. It's shocking, touching, and laugh-out-loud funny.

Got more? Of course you do. Women have been writing about being women for as long as people have been writing about being people. So share 'em, and we'll all be the better for it.

*I refuse to use the term blogosphere, but that's what I'm talking about. And that kind of self-contradiction is exactly what footnotes are for.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Sharp new Green Apple shirts

We just got in some new Green Apple shirts. This design has graced our canvas bags for 20+ years, but we've never done a shirt. It took a request from a regular customer to get them made, and we only printed a few to test the waters. But staff is snatching them up quickly, so I thought I should spread the word before the test run sells out. We will, of course, get more in a few months.

Snazzy American Apparel "ringer" T. Behold:

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

This One's on Us

It's been a grim summer here in SF, that's for sure. The fog has been more relentless than usual and I can't blame anyone for wanting to take a trip out. The question is, what to read when making a quick sojourn to one of the currently sunnier parts of the state? Between all the swimming holes and horseback rides, what to do indeed? An audio book perhaps? Well if you're game, here's one on us:


Originally released in 1994 and now out of print, this audio version is narrated by Ice T himself. Click the links below to download and enjoy!




August's Book of the Month: I Curse the River of Time

Buy it here, thank us later

So many Green Applers loved the latest from Per Petterson (author of Out Stealing Horses), that it was a no-brainer selecting it as our "Book of the Month" for August. Below is Molly's pitch as to why we think you'll agree:
This novel caught and held me for an immersive three days of reading. It takes place in roughly that span of time in a journey through Norway and through memories, told via the monologue of a man whose most basic truths are crumbling around him. In his signature hauntingly precise prose and dreamlike narrative structure, Petterson subtly unfolds multiple stories that could have easily fallen to cliches (divorce, familial class struggles, cancer) in a unique, poignant, and inexplicably hopeful way. As with most books I love, when I finished this one I felt something like relief - not that it was over, but that it exists.
And here is our further attempt to get you to buy this fantastic book.  If you enjoy it, please help us spread the good word.

As always, we guarantee our monthly selections. If you don't love I Curse the River of Time, we'll refund you the cost of the book.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

GOAT: Greatest of All Time -- a Tribute to Muhammad Ali

If you look at the GOAT of old, you will see Jeff Koon's tribute to the great boxer and an idea of the immensity of the project. So you want a copy now? Well unfortunately it goes for $5,000.00+ these days...until now.

Finally, TASCHEN's collectible tribute to Muhammad Ali is going to be available for only $150.00 (no it's not signed but still). The book will be released in late August, but we're accepting presale orders leading up to its publication. Don't miss your chance to pick up this gorgeous commemoration of Ali at a downright steal of a price. Hurry, the first printing will still be valuable and will disappear quickly!