Friday, February 29, 2008

Downer Ave News - Birthdengagement

Congrats to Sarah "the Birthday Girl" Marine and Bayard Godsave on their recent engagement. Both are booksellers and brilliant and kind friends to all of us. We wish you all the best today and in the future.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The e-book VS. Christine Schutt

The new year has thrust me ever so abruptly into that intangible chasm of mystery and ephemera feared most by bibliophiles/booksellers. This chasm is the e-book.

Some background info: as a left-handed, lit-obsessed liberal I have naturally never excelled much in the area of mathematics. Not to say that it isn’t possible for a person with those traits to overcome the anxiety induced by numbers, I’m reaching for something to excuse my inherent disdain for the subject. In fact, even when stumbling upon a signed first edition hardcover of Aimee Bender’s An Invisible Sign of My Own, a novel which features a mathematician protagonist, I couldn’t get past page twenty. Purchasing it was natural because I’m a book squirrel, tucking those treasures away in little stores around the house. Read it, however? Nope. It’s about math.

So, anyway, I digress. I am enrolled in a Statistics of Africology course. I chose the course over others because although it is stats. I hoped to perhaps broaden my Africology course base, which is already solid in foundation. But, in the end it’s really just a statistics course. Even worse, the class required the purchase of an e-book. The e-book is by far the most inconvenient , ineffective learning tool I have ever encountered. I went to the doctor to get my eyes tested for glasses the other day, 75 dollars out of pocket and what did I leave the shop with? Nothing on paper, I assure you. No prescription. Just the advice that I should “spend less time on the computer”. Leads me to wonder, will I be in any position to sue the university if in ten years I am blind from reading hundreds of pages of statistics jargon in my last year as an undergrad? Also, unlike a regular textbook the student doesn’t have the option of recouping any of the excessive funds used to purchase the book. Instead, the “subscription” runs out after a certain amount of time. Thus my relationship with the e-book is doomed. I mean, why get attached to something that will just end up leaving you anyway. My professor might buy that defense.

In closing , I am involved with a couple REAL books right now. You know how I do.
They are:

Our Aperture- The new chapbook from Ander Monson, available only online from New Michigan Press. This slight work requires a few reads, as it works a lot to challenge your notions of memory, cyclical narrative and the manipulations of language and meaning.

All Souls- The forthcoming novel from Christine Schutt. I received this upon request after Bayard Godsave introduced me to her work through A Day, a Night, Another Day, Summer, which blew me away. I have to admit that I will judge a book by its cover and All Souls really scared me upon first glance, for a second I thought, “Oh God, they’ve gotten to her.” But, upon reading, I can’t imagine Schutt could to turn out anything less than extraordinary.

Reading Christine Schutt is like entering a grand old mansion. A mansion built by some over-zealous speculator in early 20th century North Dakota, abandoned shortly after. Each sentence is a room in that house. You can just feel the potential energy. You look out the window, open and close the window, place your hat in the closet, take it out. You turn the light on and off. You take in the storied colors and smells. You know that this room is desperate for purpose and you feel comforted knowing that just standing there is fulfilling the wish and you start running from room to room until before you know it you’re out the front door again, outside marveling at this grand old mansion.

Verdict: e-books, bad. REAL books, best ever.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Resurrectionist - Jack O'Connell

The very fact that you read up on books on The Inside Flap says to me that you, the reader, are discerning in your tastes. Without tooting any unnecessary horns, I think it’s safe to say that the contributors to this blog know a bit about fantastic reads. In this spirit of congratulations all around on taste and meritorious reading, I’d like to ask a question…

How strange are you willing to get?

Jack O’Connell seems to ask this question at the close of nearly every chapter of The Resurrectionist; and it’s not altogether unlikely that you’ll ask yourself that same question while reading the book.

I hope you’re willing to get so strange that a troupe of alternate reality circus freaks led by a chicken boy doesn’t throw you off the exploration of what might be a window into the collective unconscious.

I hope you’re willing to get so strange that the hard-riding biker gang holed up in an abandoned prosthetics factory and dealing in human bodily fluids doesn’t blind you to the thoughtful meditation about fatherhood and family.

I hope you’re willing to get so strange that an egomaniacal neurosurgeon and his prized salamander don’t obscure the questions raised about ethics and motivation in medicine.

I hope you’re willing to get so strange that you can recognize how a story within the story has the power to teach a lesson about happiness and the dangers of seeking it from a storyteller who owes you nothing.

Most of all, I hope you’re willing to get so strange that all of the bells, whistles, oddities and weirdos populating The Resurrectionist serve not to distract, but steer you right to the ultimate point; forgiveness is transformative.

If the sort of insanity cited above doesn’t faze you, enjoy. If it does, make the leap. You know what they say; The first three hundred and four pages are the strangest.