Thursday, March 24, 2011

The bookstore in books

Green Apple may never have been in the middle of a literary movement like our eminent neighbor City Lights, but part of being a San Francisco establishment since 1967 (well, at a certain point it became an establishment: Barry Gifford's "used bookshop"--see Really the Blues below--became, in time, recognizable as Green Apple) means that the bookstore has inevitably made its way into cameo roles in a variety of novels and non-fiction works. Here's a non-exhaustive list of some of our better performances:

"Back in San Francisco, at the Green Apple bookstore, I found a copy of Phoenix: the Penguin edition. I saw it and snatched it up the way that one does in these circumstances, fearful that at the last moment someone else was going to beat me to it."

"...Well, no matter; I went out to Green Apple and stocked up, a huge carton of books, the day you left." - from "After You've Gone"

"We don’t know where he lives, but some days we visit him after school at Green Apple Records, on Clement, where he works." (Read an excerpt in the New Yorker.)

"I bought my copy of Really the Blues for a dime in a used bookshop on Clement Street in San Francisco in 1967. " - Barry Gifford, in the preface for a later edition of the book

"He went to Green Apple Books on Clement Street, opened the Buddhist Scriptures, and read..."

"A recent trip to the Bay Area reminded me of just how much I enjoy trolling through well-stocked independent bookstores. Among my favorites is the cavernous Green Apple Books on Clement St. in San Francisco, where I almost always discover some rare or unusual gem to add to my already overstuffed library."

"What a wonder is the used bookstore. You take in the books you've loved, books that have bored you, books that are ratty looking, and you get cash or credit with which to buy more books. If it's a combined new and used bookstore, like the vaunted crazy castle of San Francisco's Green Apple, then the lugging of those boxes across town makes the trip worth the back strain."

"Outside Green Apple Books, the wooden gnome stood sentry."

Why I Read by Julie Orringer

An occasional feature in our email newsletter is the "Why I Read" column. We've collected some wonderful short essays on the topic from fine writers over the years. Here's one from Julie Orringer, author most recently of The Invisible Bridge, our June 2010 Book of the Month. (blurb and funny video here). The Invisible Bridge is now in paperback, or the eBook is $9.99 here.

Here's Ms. Orringer's essay:

At first it was because I couldn’t help it. When I was four, those mysterious and ubiquitous symbols I saw everywhere began to resolve into units of meaning. I saw that the written word could stop cars, could get you out of a burning building; I was impressed, and kept reading. I wanted to possess the whole strange English language. I found it hilarious that the words “Crumb” and “Thumb” ended with B’s, and felt I’d uncovered an esoteric secret when I learned that SCHOOL contained an H. Of course, the whole point was to be able to attain that pinnacle of erudition: the ability to read a Chapter Book. Christopher Robin was the subject of my first crush. Soon I became a word-traveler; I inhabited the Hundred Acre Wood, the Secret Garden, the Little House on the Prairie, the Chocolate Factory, Middle Earth, Oz, and a thousand other places.

When I started writing, reading became an endlessly complicated and fascinating answer to the question, how? At times—as when I read Shakespeare,Tolstoy, George Eliot, or, more recently, Shirley Hazzard, Stephen Dunn, Charles D’Ambrosio—it leads only to a deeper and more awestruck restatement of the question. I read for the sheer pleasure of seeing them do it: again and again, with infinite variety, they say those things that are most difficult to articulate. They tell us what it’s like to be human, and what it means; they turn on the lights to reveal love and loss and pain, and I find it impossible to look away.
PS. Other installments of the series await you by Beth Lisick, Susan Choi, Peter Rock, Dave Eggers, Daniel Handler, TC Boyle, Joyce Maynard, Peter Carlson, Peter Coyote, and Jennifer Traig.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Magic, Opiates...

Over the last year or so I've tried to describe CF's series POWR MASTRS to some number of people with only the tiniest bit of success at doing it the justice I feel it deserves. At best I cite some kind of example of what I can closest equate the title(s) to, usually something along the lines of Dune or The Lord of the Rings. These are inaccurate comparisons however. POWR MASTRS is an epic world all it's own, bearing only minuscule similarity to Herbert and Tolkien's classic epics (most likely coincidental, merely the mention of magic and opiates), and it was last night after reading the introduction to Ivan Brunetti's Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice that I realized I'd been going about my mode of recommendation somewhat a bit wrong.

In Brunetti's book (a syllabus and lesson plan) he stresses to his students "When form and content diverge, only a specter remains, and nothing solid can be built. It is like those ill-fated relationships where we convince ourselves that we are in love, when actually we are just consumed with lust, desperation, jealousy, and need. It is also the reason dictatorships and military occupations never last: anything that does not organically evolve from the needs of a society, but is instead imposed by an external force, eventually topples like the flimsy house of cards it essentially is."

Instead of likening CF's series to other titles simply because they are considered as visionary classics, that I believe POWR MASTRS is driven with a charge similar to that of a novelist who is attempting to build their own personal landscape, my pitch (reverie) should be concentrating on his seamless marriage of form and content. The illustrations meander from black and white to brilliantly colored, from absurdly intricate to a near lazy simplicity page to page. Paired with a haunting and heady writing style a reality that is entirely of its own is created.

Sadly this book is published by a small, artsy press and definitely not as widely distributed as I wish it could be, let alone believe it should be. I am doing my part to push it though. Please read POWR MASTRS. A quick skim of it can be misleading. It's not about wizards and elves or drugs or space stuff... although maybe it is too. Whatever. It is pretty much the best thing.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Some days are just better than others

Take Thursday the 24th from 6pm - 8pm, for example. That's the night that I will be hosting one of my favorite authors, at my favorite watering hole, to celebrate San Francisco's favorite book of 2011! If you don't know already, I'm talking about Rebecca Solnit at Tosca for Infinite City!!! Sounds like exactly the kind thing needed to get me over this cold / flu thing and back into the land of the living. . .

This free event (at Tosca) will feature a multimedia lecture by Rebecca Solnit, and will also include participation from many of the artists that contributed maps and artwork to Infinite City... (click here for full details)

Then, just a couple of weeks down the line, our fine friends at Litquake are putting on a show that screams to be witnessed, Regreturature: An evening of readings that probably shouldn't see the light of day." From the Litquake newsletter: "Everybody has to start somewhere, and here’s what happens when good writers start bad. On April 7th, join some of the Bay Area’s most successful authors as they sheepishly read works they may now regret, from fiction to nonfiction, blogs, journalism, opinion pieces, even diary entries." Tickets for this are available here.

And you know that you'll see me there. . .