Friday, January 27, 2012

We've Got Friends in Far Places

A bookseller can dream.

When we first launched our Apple-a-Month Club subscription service in October, it was with a mix of excitement, trepidation, and, to put it bluntly, low expectations. Admittedly, this was a defense mechanism, so that each new subscription would thrill us rather than the small numbers of people who blindly trust our taste feeling like a slight.

Instead, the number of new subscriptions that came rolling in over the holidays made us feel overwhelmingly flattered and just darn proud of how loyal and great Green Apple customers are. The biggest indicator of this is the reach our little subscription service already has -- whether you're subscribing because you've moved away from San Francisco and miss our dusty index cards or trust us to recommend the perfect new fiction book for your best friend/grandma/pen pal who's never even been to Green Apple, that's pretty cool.

Also pretty cool would be a giant wall map with thumbtacks where each subscription is going. I want to make one of these. That way, when they make a feature film about the making of the world-famous Apple-a-Month club in which we'll all get zingy dialogue and a super intense soundtrack by Trent Reznor, there can be a montage to carry us through the month of December where we'll be putting little pins in:

Carrboro, North Carolina
Oberlin, Ohio
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Gresham, Oregon
Fairfield, Texas
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Los Angeles
Mountain View
and just up the street in San Francisco, California

...and then some. Pins in a map. Montage. The stuff (my) dreams are made of.

This is all to say that January's Apple-a-Month Club pick, which by now should have reached all of the corners of the land for which it was destined, was Invitation to a Voyage by Francois Emmanuel.

The characters in this collection of linked stories are, as all characters are, on quests. But the quests herein take place in the smallest of spaces -- a detective's search for the inner truth of a person, the footsteps of an aging cartographer, everyone's desperate dialing in search of the click that means you're home. Emmanuel's writing, an ode to Baudelaire with echoes of Kafka and Borges, is both so precise and so vague as to attain something like universal meaning, spurring the reader into their own such reveries even as they tumble into those on the page. You're invited; you should go.

We hope you like it.

(To subscribe...)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Gsquid, fulfilled

I went to college in the middle of nowhere. In the library I found the legendary cosmopolitan newspaper, The Village Voice. In the back pages were the comics, including Lynda Barry's Ernie Pooh's Comeek. It blew my mind! The troubled and resilient children, the awkward cadence of their excited speech, the deft illustrations of their wild spazz-athons, and her disgust at the (then) mostrecent war--it all kept me excited for the next week's installment.

Years later, living here in the big city, I would check used bookstores and thrift stores for her out-of-print collections. At first, I had some successes, but as the years went on the supplies dwindled. Supposedly, Drawn and Quarterly was to reissue her complete works. I kept waiting. At the end
of 2011, extracted from corn-based packing peanuts in receiving, I saw it. Blabber Blabber Blabber - Everything Vol. 1 had arrived! Pre-da
ting her work for The Voice, this comics here were drawn during her days at Evergreen College and feature more desperate and confused adults than wild and reckless children. Of course this edition is beautiful. The best is still to come, this is just a taste!

Growing up in the suburbs on the East Coast, I would take the bus to bigger towns to rummage through scary-looking cassettes, searching for a powerful musical experience. I found it in a number of Bay Area and California thrash metal bands--Metallica, Exodus, Slayer, and Megadeth, among many other acts of lesser notoriety, if not quality. While I did grow older and wiser, my love
of this mid-80s scene remains a part of my life to this day. I made the international metal signal (pinky and forefinger up--the devil's horns, the goat, whatever) when we got our copies of Murder In The Front Row (Bazillion Points). Brian Lew and Harald Oimoen put their ears, equipment, and livers on the line to document the above mentioned titans of thrash (and tippling!) Especially close to my heart are the shots of Debbie Abono, a middle-aged woman who managed many second- and third-tier acts of this era. Teenagers Possessed shot their album photos in her backyard, and the dry golden hills offset the blood and flames nicely. I would like to have seen more bands who aren't as famous (Blind Illusion!), but we can wait for Volume Two. Liner notes of sorts add context and history. Praises due!