Saturday, April 23, 2011

The end (of books)

Sean Kernan, The Secret Books

The Los Angeles Review of Books "is the first major, full-service book review to launch in the 21st century, and is designed to exploit the latest online technologies in ways that respond to a significantly transformed publishing world."

While the Review's website is being finalized they've created a teaser: a Tumblr on which they're sharing some of the kinds of pieces we can expect from the full review. judging by Ben Ehrenreich's excellent contextualizing essay on The Death of the Book, from which I've quoted below, I'm pretty excited about this new venture:

All of our words for book refer, at root, to forms no longer recognizable as such: biblos being the Greek word for the pith of the papyrus stalk (on which texts in the Greco-Roman world were inscribed); libri being Latin for the inner bark of a tree, just as the Old English bóc and Old Norse bók referred to the beech tree. Likewise “tome” is from a Greek word for a cutting (of papyrus) and “volume” is from the Latin for a rolled-up thing—a scroll, which is the form most texts took until they were replaced by folded parchment codices. Prior to the late 13th century, when paper was first brought to Europe from China, the great works of Western civilization were recorded on the skins of animals. The Inca wrote by knotting strings. The ancient Chinese scrawled calligraphy on cliffs. (Do mountains count as books?) The printed, paper book, as we know it, dates only to the mid-fifteenth century, but those early Gutenberg exemplars were hardly something you’d curl up with on a rainy Sunday afternoon. The book as an affordable object of mass production—as something directly kin to the books that line our shelves—was not born until the 19th century, just in time for the early announcements of its death.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Death / Modern Times / Comic Books / Drama / The Gnome

I've been absent from the Green Apple blog for a couple of weeks. I'm sorry. I've just been busy as a beast around the old bookshop lately. I really hope that didn't mess anything up for you. People are really serious about the internet nowadays, using it to synchronize their daily routines, bank, read books, schedule optometry appointments, and I'm kinda all like 'whaaa?' I mean I haven't been to the optometrist in years. I've got a twitter account and all, but that's just because I was hoping to get kinda famous (and maybe meet Shatner) like that Sh*t My Dad Says guy did. In the parlance of our times I am, for the most part, 'out of the conversation.'

So what have I got to blog about after a two week hiatus? Well, a bunch of things I guess. Here we go:

First off, on April 6th L.J. Davis died. At was seventy years old he had been a Guggenheim Fellowship recipient, husband, journalist, father, landlord, divorcee and a relatively obscure novelist. Oddly enough through what some would call a strange sort of serendipity I purchased my own copy of what is perhaps Davis' most famous novel, A Meaningful Life, on the very date of his death. Perhaps even at the same instant? Who knows? Not me. What I do know is that the novel was an excellent light read, a dry humor on banal attempts at middle class redemption (I relate!), and that we've got remaindered copies of it here at Green Apple for $5.98. Come in and buy it with one of those ScoutMob thingies that we've been promoting and that's like practically free. Daaaang.

Next item. Modern Times Bookstore. In just ten days Modern Times will have moved on from it's 40 year old seat at 888 Valencia Street and will be settled in a new location at 2919 24th Street between Alabama and Florida. This will certainly be complicated for all invested parties, probably much more than it even sounds, so in an effort to help our bibliophile friends across town we at Green Apple encourage you, please, to buy books from them if you find yourself out that way. Hell, maybe even make the trip. I hear there are a lot of places to get cupcakes around there too. They've got new and used books at slashed prices and will be hosting a party moving out this coming Saturday. More information HERE.

A requisite mention here, not to belittle any excitement I may have by using the word 'requisite.' Maybe that sounds too terse... er... I am really caffeinated right now. Notable new arrivals in my section, the "graphic novel" section, as the sobriquet stands:

-Mister Wonderful: A new-ish book by the ever reliable modern master, Dan Clowes. Although this has only now been collected, it serves a bit as a conceptual precursor to his other recent release, Wilson. Originally this was published as a serial in The New Yorker Magazine.
-POWER MASTRS III: A month or so ago I wrote a big fat post on how amazing and insane I think C.F.'s books is. It's not up on our website yet but I assure you that we've got it. I can see it from where I'm standing right now. Call me. 415-387-2272. I'll put it on hold for you.
-Mesmo Delivery: Rafael Grampá is an Eisner Award winning illustrator and author from Brazil, and his comic Mesmo Delivery is a colorful and mesmerizing display of graphic violence akin to Paul Pope or Moebius.
-Strange Tales II: The second collected volume of Marvel comic characters re-envisioned by indie artists, including a particularly hilarious take on Captain America by one of my new current favorites, Ben Marra.

I've got a new staff favorite. The Magic Tower. It's a collection of one act plays by Tennessee Williams, many of which have never before seen publication. If you don't already have a grasp on how incredible the work of Tennessee Williams is, well then let me emphasize his brilliance. Williams was a friggin' baller. We should be calling him Tennessee Chill-iams he is so cool. His presentation, slang, and many other things about his work can come off as antiquated, especially true for a child of the 90s like myself, but the guy understood some things about girls, dudes, ludes and bad attitudes. These plays range from in tone from Williams' two best sides as an author, both stinking drunk and hilarious drunk. I cannot encourage people enough to take a look at this awesome new collection, especially if your only contact with his work is the already critically lauded.

All the classic info. I would like to note just how difficult it is to incur Mergatroid's visage without making him look like a criminal. It is important to see that his hands are full. Then the tension is eased...

Monday, April 18, 2011

Help us sell eBooks

Crowd-sourcing time!

We're starting to brag to our customers about how Green Apple now sells Google eBooks, how we match the big boys on price, how you can Go Digital and still Buy Local.

What we need are some creative in-store signs. This is where you come in.

What would the people below say if they were pitching eBooks at Green Apple? Enter via comment for your chance to win a snazzy new Green Apple t-shirt featuring artwork by Paul Madonna.

Here are the blanks for you to fill in.

Here's on that we came up with to give you an idea of what we're looking for:

1. This book is hilarious, but it’s so darned heavy, and turning pages is so tiresome!

2. Gosh Mary, don’t you have an iPad or anything? You can buy Google e-books from Green Apple! And most of them cost the same as at Amazon!

3. I can’t wait until someone figures out how to deliver books intravenously.

4. I prefer to rocky my reading old skool!

And here's the shirt you could win (men's shown; women's is eggplant and lovely).

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A new book I really like: Fire Season

Fittingly enough, I reached the peak of my Kerouac phase at sixteen, when I read Desolation Angels, his account of a summer spent as a fire lookout in the North Cascades in Washington. Although I’ve long since outgrown this phase, the romantic daydream sparked by that novel—of retreating into the wild to spend a season in solitude—continues to smolder on. Kept largely in check by my (reluctantly admitted) reliance on creature comforts, there are still moments when this desire bursts into a bright conflagration, leaving me ready abandon all these coffee shops and wireless devices, these sidewalks and brunches and the dust of bookstores to go off into the wild for what promises to be an experience unobtainable elsewhere (or in our virtual age, at secondhand).

It should come as no surprise, then, that the publication of Fire Season, Philip Connors’ memoir of a season spent as a fire lookout in the Gila National Forest in New Mexico (an area of over 5,000 square miles), rekindled my interest in this solitary and, as seems a sadly common fate of many of the things I cherish, increasingly rare profession.

Connors’ book offers several lessons in what it takes to survive a season in the wild. (As well as a dose of reality: a fire lookout works in ten day stretches, taking four days off between.) To be a successful fire lookout (i.e., one who returns season after season), a person must possess a curious mixture of character traits. One must be equal parts dreamer and pragmatist, be tough and sensitive, patient and persevering. Even this rare combination may prove inadequate when you realize just what the job entails: a fire lookout perches in a metal tower designed to attract lightning strikes on the peak of a mountain, exposed to buffeting and clamoring winds, alone in a true wilderness (full of bears, mountain lions, and rattle snakes), left largely to fend for him or herself through hours, days, and months of tedium and idleness.

My youthful daydreams were tinged with romance and grandiose aspirations. I was certain a few months secluded in a cabin would be all I needed to get writing a great novel or tap into some heretofore unexplored region of my psyche. By virtue of experience, Connors, who admits to being temperamentally inclined to similar fantasies, tempers his philosophical speculations and instead focuses his attention to the contours of the land and sky, the changes in his dog’s demeanor from timid suburban pup to fearless mountain wanderer, to stories he’s accumulated over the course of his eight seasons as a lookout... and to frisbee golf. This isn’t to say he completely lacks self-reflection: looking out so insistently naturally leads one to correlate the outer with the inner.

One of the great pleasures of Fire Season is the manner in which Connors’ strikes a balance between the outer (captivating descriptions of a rugged and remote wilderness, a history of the changing relationship between humans and fire) and inner (the effects of weeks of isolation). In a genre prone to self-indulgence, this is the highest praise I can think of and, coupled with its important ecological message, is a reason why this book feels vital and necessary.

Nota bene
: excerpts of Connors' lookout diaries have been published in the latest issue of The Paris Review and are available here.