Friday, June 3, 2011

Looks Like People Still Like Actual Books

I was watching the fifth inning of Ken Burns' great baseball documentary recently. Part of that episode covers the 1930's, and one of the controversies discussed in that episode was Cincinnati Reds owner Larry MacPhail's decision to broadcast all of the Reds' games on the radio. For Free! His fellow baseball owners said he was crazy, that nobody would pay to come to the games anymore when they could just switch on their radios and hear all of the action. What happened instead, of course, is that Reds' attendance grew, as the fan base expanded, and women began to take an interest in the game.

My Wikipedia says that it was a guy named Robert Englund who said, "What's old is new again." And what brings this all up is the hubbub surrounding the publication of Adam Mansbach's Go The Fuck to Sleep. The problem started when a pdf of the complete book, including pictures, spread around the internet. You can download it here if you want (or you could pay money and order it from us here). Even though the book could be viewed in its entirety for free, it shot to #1 on Am***n and stayed there. The publisher, Akashic Press, rushed the book out to capitalize on all of the interest. And now the book is on our shelves and, yes, it is selling.

Because the fact is, you may be able to view a book like this on your laptop or your tablet, but you're not going to leave those gadgets lying on the proverbial (or literal) coffee table, turned on, ready to be flipped through on the merest whim. Books are like that, no power source needed, waiting on the shelf, some of them even looking pretty snazzy, ready when you are.


From The Guardian:

"In an interview at the Royal Geographic Society on Tuesday about his career, V.S Naipaul, who has been described as the 'greatest living writer of English prose', was asked if he considered any woman writer his literary match. He replied: 'I don't think so.'

The author, who was born in Trinidad, said this was because of women's "sentimentality, the narrow view of the world. And inevitably for a woman, she is not a complete master of a house, so that comes over in her writing too," he said.

'I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not. I think [it is] unequal to me.' "

Funny, even with my narrow view of the world I can tell from just one sentence if something was written by an asshole.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

An Author I Love and How I Came to Love Her So

A little more than a year ago, fumbling through the disorganized stacks of books that fill our lovingly and aptly titled 'Cave,' the sector of Green Apple where we process most of our used buys, I stumbled across a title that piqued my interest. Yoko Tawada's The Bridegroom Was a Dog appeared to me as a perfect little book, an undersized hardback with a plain white cover, the title elegantly printed across it in a black seriffed typeface with Tawada's name above in red. The only garnishes, a tiny illustration of an anthropomorphized Weimaraner, licking its chops, dressed in the suit of a Western groom, and a bit of fine print in one corner stating that the book had once been honored with Japan's Akutagawa Prize.

There was something sort of foreboding about the initial appearance of the novel. It looked a little nasty, if in an literary sort of way. I was thinking maybe like Nabokov, or one of those Angela Carter short stories that features a gruff sexual undertone. Unfortunately I was leaving the next day for a long vacation that would take me to a few of this country's major cities, and had already had planned my vacation reads (I'd been saving Karinthy's Metropole for New York City). So I passed the book along to a coworker who I thought likely to be interested in it as well, and it was the day before I left Chicago that I received a text message from her informing me that the Tawada book was definitely worth my time.

I checked at Myopic Books in Chicago first (probably my favorite bookstore outside of Green Apple), but to no avail. Lacking the time to scout out anywhere else in the midwest, I settled for a copy of Tove Jansson's The True Deceiver and moved on. Not having the advantage of living in Manhattan to make routine searches The Strand felt hopeless, but I made the effort anyhow. No luck of course, but the stressed out book buyer who helped me was at least able to let me know that the book was out of print before he had to resume being shouted at by some irate Austrian. I had similar though less colorful experiences at a small handful of used bookstores in Brooklyn whose names I have forgotten. I stuck out again at Seattle's Magus Books, but was provided a water damaged copy of The Invention of Morel for cheap as consolation. New Orleans' Faulkner House sold me a copy of A Happy Man (which returned to SF as my staff pick I might add) and Maple Street Books found me too poor to afford anything, although I did have an interesting conversation with an employee there about NOLA literacy, the need for bookstores post-Katrina both corporate and non, leaving me feeling like a spoiled yuppie brat for having home with an option to say "scram" to places like Borders.

I couldn't find a good used bookstore in LA. I think we drove past them all too fast. What gives, SoCal? Suggestions?

I ignored what I hadn't managed to finish of my new stack of literature without even thinking about it upon my return to San Francisco. I read The Bridegroom Was a Dog right away. It turned out to be everything I had hoped for and more. A strange and grimy few works of fiction beyond just the titular story. Not only that but Tawada's themes throughout the book were wrapped around travel, language, the sense of feeling foreign and the search for things missing both physically perceived and otherwise. The fact that I had looked for it cross country to find it at home exactly where I knew it would be seemed oddly appropriate.

Yoko Tawada writes in both Japanese and German, her works requiring translation from either/or depending on the book. Aside from The Akutagawa Prize she has been honored with The Gunzo Prize, The Goethe Medal, The Ito Sei Literary Prize, The Adelbert von Chamisso Prize (for foreign writers who contributing to German Culture), the prestigious Tanizaki Prize, and probably some more that I haven't read about. Also, shining above all of these impressive credentials, she is a total weirdo. Why not take a look? Believe me it is worth the trouble.

CLICK HERE to see our selection of novels by Yoko Tawada and note, a few we have as remainders. Excellent new books for cheap. You can't lose.

C'mon Down!

Interested in bookstores? Interested in the plight of independent businesses? Love watching good movies, on couches, in public? No plans tomorrow night?

Then join me at The Red Vic tomorrow night (Thursday June 2nd) at 7:30pm for an encore showing of Paperback Dreams, a wonderful documentary about the demise of Cody's and the survival of Kepler's. Immediately following the film, I will participate in a panel discussion on the importance of bookstores to community, with Paperback Dreams director Alex Beckstead, and Booksmith co-owner Christin Evans. Sure to be riveting. . .

Plus, the popcorn condiment bar at the Red Vic simply can't be topped!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

You asked for it.

Anyone who's ever visited our website knows that it's a simple creature -- you can read a little about our history, buy (most) (new) books, buy ebooks, learn about events, and probably do a lot of scrolling and squinting. Although a fancier website is on the long to-do list, as is typical of independent bookstores, our website is not the focus of our store. The books on the shelves are, and all their accompanying dust and creaks and whatnots.

But in an effort to have an internet presence that reflects some of the character of our store (and in response to requests from many of you), we are now pleased to announce that our legendary Staff Favorites (both from the main store display and a new case in the fiction annex) are now on the website. Click on a Green Appler's image to see a list of their favorite books and what they have to say about 'em. We add to/change these up regularly, so check back often.