Saturday, October 9, 2010

Our friends at Melville House forwarded us this great trailer for Jean-Christophe Valtat's widely praised (see NPR, Paste, and Bookforum) and audacious new novel, Aurorarama. We like it so much we felt compelled to share it with you.

Oh, and hey, the book's pretty great, too.

Friday, October 8, 2010

An Argument for the Persistent Existence of Bookstores and Against Fear of Strangers

A couple of nights ago, a nice moment happened.

I was not in the mood for a nice moment, really. I was trying to swiftly but kindly close the Annex, doing the very unpleasant task of asking people to stop reading (something that always actually hurts me a little, even if I'm exhausted and have places to be) and there were a few stragglers, as there often are. There was a couple who had been pouring over multiple sections in search of a particular book, to no avail, and they moseyed toward the register lamenting the fact that they've had such trouble finding it as I was ringing up the last (particularly, um, healthy) stack of books of the night. The customer I was ringing up heard their conversation, and interrupted.

"I have about five copies of that book at home. It's one of my favorites, and I buy it every time I see it. If you're not in a rush I'd be happy to mail it to you."

I immediately handed over a post-it and a pen. They jotted. They offered payment, he refused. They talked about the book, how much they cherish it and how hard it is to come by. It was a book I'd never heard of, and I could tell that it was one that bonds the people who love it together because it's not a classic, not a "must read", but is nonetheless important to a few people for whatever reason (I like to hear people talk about their version of those; I have one of those).

There are, of course, so many quaint things to love about this story (Gift-giving! Real-life human interaction with strangers that is personal without being creepy! Unlikely common favorites! The mail!) but most of all it served as a nice little reminder as to the purpose of a bookstore as a space. A space can hold multiple people, it allows conversations to happen and glances at what another is reading, for listening in and reaching out. It's a function that is particularly crucial to the act of reading, I think, because, as wonderful as it is, reading can be such a solitary thing. It can get lonely. Come by the store at night sometime and stay a while, and you're bound to feel the value of having other people around for this very personal process. It's an aspect of book-buying, I think, that is crucial enough that it's hardly in danger of being replaced-- people just have to remember that in order to keep these spaces for ourselves, we have to buy books occasionally. Customers like the ones who exchanged an address the other night make me think that enough people aren't forgetting this. Maybe.

Now, because it's Friday and because as much as I want to wax nostalgic about "real books" I also don't want to wax too nostalgic about anything because, you know, it gets too serious and all waxy, I leave you with this drinking game to play while reading blogs like ours. Get a little toasted and go talk to a stranger, why don't ya.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Some new books we like.

"The question What Ever Happened to Modernism? is not one that Gabriel Josipovici is asking to academics or critics. He's asking us - those who look to art and, in this case, especially literature - what kind of art we feel is vital. Do we want the sentimental and easy or complex and possibly 'difficult'? To give us his answer, Josipovici extends Modernism back in time and also makes it current. By doing this, he demonstrates that Modernism will always be relevant as long as it holds true to its initial ambition to deal honestly with our place in a world largely unmoored from its traditional foundation. His argument is persuasive, passionate, and convincing." - Stephen

"Don't be dissuaded by its size, or by the fact that its protagonists are 10 years old, or by the fact that a few pages in you will realize you are in a world that resembles the one you know but whose inhabitants speak what is practically a foreign language. Rather, these are all reasons why you should read this book.

"In a debut novel that manages to be unique without ever being gimmicky, occasionally funny but never cute, page-turning yet narratively complex, Adam Levin has truly accomplished something of greatness in the story of Gurion Macabee. It's a story about belief, love, social uprising, war, and friendship that you won't want to end - and when it does, it will leave you breathless." - Molly

"If I had written this book, I'd be so purged of all the vile filth festering in my mind that I'd bake wondrous pastries for strangers out of pure saintly impulse. That's how satisfyingly sadistic Castel-Bloom's little masterpiece is. Gratuitously violent isn't a sufficient tag, as the story is also a finely crafted satire of statehood (Israel) and the art of mothering (f*cking up) a child. Orly, you're my new favorite matriarch and I'd light your cigar for you anytime." - Nina

"I've been trying to come up with sufficient praise for Daniel Robberechts novel, but each time I think I find an expression worthy of my feeling, I reconsider, worrying that I'm not getting it right. Despite this inability to properly convey my admiration (in itself a form of praise), I can unequivocally say that Arriving in Avignon is a revelation: parts memoir, novel, travel guide, and history (of a feeling as much as a place), that is not reducible to its parts. To me, this is a certain sign that what we have here is a masterpiece, a book well-deserving of its resurrection, and one that deserves to last." - Stephen

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


I stumbled across this online, browsing things. Yes, that's our comparative religion section. Maybe we'll find this in a Taschen book someday and then sell it to you. Who knows? Life is a mystery!

Photo credit: Celisse Berumen
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