Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Free Lists!

TCD has a nice summer list piece by Amy Elliott up currently on the front page, featuring former Schwartzies of all stripes (Dave Mallman, buyer = awesome!), including yet to open former Schwartzies. Plus, NPR is pimping there list.

One of the regular drawbacks of lists from booksellers is what I call the "we're really trying to sell this book now (maybe because we;re getting co-op $$) and while we're not all that excited about this book, we can certainly pretend to be" factor. In reality, I've found indie booksellers do a good job of avoiding selling their souls via the short rec or newsletter review - but I'd be lying if I said it didn't happen, even in MKE.

So, I thought I'd follow suit with a similar list, plus variation, my version, hopefully free of swag-related influence*. I hope other Flappers will chime in, maybe even by editing this post to add their hand picks. (Can ex-booksellers still hand "sell"? Well, some current booksellers would be encouraged to participate, too)
Books Recommended

(* If you have swag to offer, please email me or leave a comment; I can produce a review of a book I've never read in about two days, if provided marketing materials.)

"Short" List - books you can kill in a matter of days, if not hours...

One of my perpetual favorites, The Invention of Morel, by Adolpho Bioy Casares. This is short (a few more than 100 pages) and will be read very quickly. It's a genre-bender that mostly lives in a fantastical dream world of an un/inhabited island. The main character, fleeing some law ins some country (murder!?!) takes refuge on the island, discovers a mysterious and luxurious hotel with enigmatic contraptions (kind of like a bizarre mechanical heart for the building/island) and is then joined by visitors, led by the bizarre Dr. Morel, that may or may not see him, that may or may not be real, or that may or may not be existing at the same time that the main character is existing.
Sure, it sounds like a *lot* to cover in 100 pages - and it is. However, Borges is right in calling this novella a work of masterful plotting. because, well, it is able to connect all of these narrative "contraptions" and "inventions" into a slippery adventure-mystery-fantasy. And, really, who are we to argue with Borges?

Another all-time fave short work is the equally masterful Crying of Lot 49, by Thomas Pynchon. It's funny, absurd, mysterious and euphoric - and ultimately intriguing and mind-bending enough to keep you thinking about it
longer than you'll think about The Invention of Morel - which, in estimate, is a very, very, very, very, very long time. The story of Oedipa Maas' execution of a will (her will? - oh Tom, stop it now!), this novel/ella (ella, ella, eh, eh, eh) moves quickly and hilariously from bizarro psychedelic rock bands and child actors watching discontinuous orderings of old films, to cigarette filter conspiracies, to philatelia, Jacobian revenge plays, and the exposure of a world-wide secret society/postal system - all while looki ng for Pierce Inverarity's inverse rarity. Hilarity - and a completely enjoyable, mesmerizing variety of vertigo - ensues.
Plus, you get the added benefit of saying you read a Pynchon novel! And without fighting the joys and traps of Gravity's Rainbow - which you should do, too.

City of Glass is another shortie novella, a semiotic sleuth story, by Paul Auster,
who our kids will likely be reading in college, since he's a white American male. As an added bonus, he's also a great storyteller and this, City of Glass, and the rest of the New York Trilogy are very good: entertaining, fast-paced, bending the typical genre trappings of both gumshoe and intellectual puzzle. A large part mystery, this meta-work explores authorship, identity and the descent into madness that is usually glossed over in the PI's search for intimate and complete knowledge.

Bonus: if you like this, which you will, obviously, you'll also read The Book of Illusions, a longer work by Auster that is more novel-ly in a "literary" fiction way, but just as experimental and contemplative - and meta, of course.
"Short-ish" - books that look long, but really are short on closer inspection...

When I read Annie Dillard's For the Time Being, it was a squat square of a hardcover, almost a board book of short, insightful natural (as in "nature") travelogue and sometimes-converging observations. The great part about this series of meditations is that they can be consumed as just that: short little bits of beautiful writing. Yet, if you'd like, you can also explore a more connected reading, mapping convergences - or, better, using Dillard's prompts, you can make your own meaning. Kind of a DIY-aesthetic, if you will.

I read Black Swan Green while on my honeymoon, which was great (in both ways). And, in honor of Bayard and Sarah's wedding on Sunday, I'm going to recommend it as summer reading. Plus, Bayard loves this book, too, as do many other former Schwartzies. This is David Mitchell's follow-up to the (as-yet-unread-but-I-hear-it's-[and-is-on-my-short-list-of-long-books-]) fabulous Cloud Atlas, a coming-of-age story of a boy in England, discovering all is not what it seems, making unlikely friendships and navigating the trials of family life and strife. This is one of those books you really, truly won't want to put down and might not. It's well-paced and populated with, what seems while reading, all the "right" people, places and problems.

Coming soon: the "Long" books... and more lists!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

New CoOp in Shorewood?

posted by Jay

With the news of a planned book CoOp at the old HWS Shorewood location, we're interested in your take on the prospect of a new/similar/different bookseller/bookselling model in the same location.

I think it's safe to say all of us at the Flap are happy when new independent booksellers open, as the loss of the Schwartz shops were a loss for the community as a whole. Bookshops are places for discussion, for the sharing and communication and debate of free ideas of all kinds - and for the formation of social capital.

However, the question needs to be asked: how will this bookshop succeed where Harry W. Schwartz failed?

Is the "CoOp" model different enough to succeed?

What are "competitive" prices and how does that enable success?

Follow the discussion at the Inside Flappers social network, where you can discuss books, authors, write your own blogs - share your voice, ideas and media. We're keeping tabs on the news and articles on this development.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

a short sarcastic bit about my time in the Hood

i’ve just read Robin Hood (a book club edition that unfortunately i can’t link to purchase…

… in fact, the edition i read was written & illustrated by Louis Rhead [see photo], and i can’t find an edition by him that is well in print. if you’re interested, you’ll have to fend for yourself… )

anyway, i love reading folktales & folklore & myths & mythology & any regionally significant tales for that matter, so this was great fun to read. but i couldn’t get over the fact that this is NOT the same foxy Robin Hood that i knew as a child. on the contrary, this “new” Robin Hood seemed to be more concerned with his inflated ego than that whole “stealing from the rich and giving to the poor” deal.

sure, there were times when his inner goodness & generosity came out and they all lived happily ever after. most of the tales in the book involved Robin picking a fight with a stranger, in which he was inevitably BESTED by said stranger, only to invite them to join the gang of merry men.

and the kicker? the offer that wound them all in, to join the gang? to steal and roughhouse, drink and party, to generally be lazy jerks taking advantage of others in order to finance their own self-interest. this certainly isn’t any Robin Hood i’d want my young impressionable self looking up to, i can fully understand Disney’s decision to emphasize certain better aspects & deeds of the character.

but then again, the book WAS a rollicking good time, and wouldn’t have been nearly as good if everyones feelings had gotten in the way.

this'll have to do for now as a legit update on the Flap.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

J.G. Ballard has Died

via GalleyCat:

J.G. Ballard, the influential novelist and namesake of the literary term "Ballardian," has died.

His novels included "Crash," "Empire of the Sun," and "The Drowned World." His novel "Super Cannes" won the Commonwealth Writers Prize after its publication in 2000. According to the BBC, Ballard's agent, Margaret Hanbury, noted that the author had been sick for a few years.
Crash is on the shelf, courtesy of David Zimmerman. (Sorry for never giving that back, David.) I admit it's unread, except for the first chapter. I know Bayard is a big fan. I enjoy Baudrillard's review of Crash.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

i am holding it in my hand

i'm gonna tell you a love/adventure story about books. get excited.

just a few days ago i was in Bloomington, Indiana visiting my dear Anabelle, who attends Indiana University (which has an absolutely beautiful campus, but i digress). it was here that i stumbled upon something fantastic, something i've been coveting for a number of months, something i've had no luck (until now) obtaining. that something i'm telling you about is Tell Me Something by Jason. (the word play has no meaning other than my own personal amusement).

sometime last year i was first introduced to the work of Jason - while perusing the graphic novels section of the Downer Ave Schwartz - by the striking title I Killed Adolf Hitler. this book tells the simple story of a modern day contract killer who goes back in time to assassinate Hitler, fails and is stranded in 1939 while the Fuehrer returns to present day, learns of his would-be fate and disappears into our society. also included are a trans-time and trans-generational love story, jealous exes, conspiracy theories, bad dreams, etc.

yet when i say "simple story", i mean it. Jason is an expert at expressing a complex idea with simple visuals and dialogue. most of his works contain little to no dialogue, actually - entire stories can be read in facial expressions, twitches, color changes and movements. 

the entirety of Tell Me Something contains 7 lines of dialogue. it tells the story of 2 lovers and the trials they go through to be together, using dual layered story arcs differentiated simply by the panel borders to convey depth and reshape the story into an intriguing form.

back in Bloomington now: Anabelle knows me so well as to suggest that we pay a visit to a local non-profit bookshop, Boxcar Books (also on wikipedia) - a great shop in a converted house with small signs simply stating "We're not for profit, please don't steal from us!" of course i gladly agree to the venture  and remind myself before entering that i probably shouldn't buy anything (unemployment, you know) - unless, of course, it's something i just can't pass up. not 5 minutes into my exploration i find something that i just-can't-pass-up. 

sitting silently on a shelf is Tell Me Something - out of print, few copies available, not found in the 8 other bookstores i've searched - waiting for me patiently in the small backstreet bookshop i just so happened to visit on a rainy day after 3 years putting off my long overdue trip to Bloomington. we are finally united.

if the reader cannot find that scene superbly romantic, it must need to be described by a far better writer than i - or perhaps illustrated by Jason.

and the moral of this story? go to Boxcar Books, you'll be glad you did. stop into any small, out of the way bookshop and you'll be sure to find your personal literary unicorn.


Jason is published in the US by Fantagraphics Books. according to the rear flap of I Killed Adolf Hitler:
"Jason was born in Norway in 1965. Suddenly he spoke to a cat. Winter filled the room. They could see the ocean."

Thursday, April 9, 2009

mini-post that might encourage me to post more

i’m reading Wonder Tales by Lord Dunsany and loving every second of it. ex-Schwartz comrade Joe Lisberg introduced me to the Right Honorable Lord, but only recently have i begun exploring his works (unemployment begets free time).

his writing is superbly fantastic - and by that i mean it is steeped in surreal fantasy. these stories are short but exquisitely crafted and plotted, individual names speak volumes, specific words are chosen for the intense visual undertones they convey. everything is so damn epic that i can only indulge myself in short portions - i equate this phenomenon to slowly sipping from a glass of years-aged scotch, or gently tasting small squares of finely-wrought velvety chocolate.

indulge yourself, i implore you.

i’ve been looking for some excerpt that i could post, but everything is so long & involved that it’s difficult to find something short enough. i'll share with you this; it's the last paragraph from one of my favorite of the stories. i don’t think it quite adequately conveys the grandiose scope of the story, but it’s close.

"And Sippy very unwisely attempted flight, and Slorg even as unwisely tried to hide; but Slith, knowing well why that light was lit in that secret chamber and who it was that lit it, leaped over the edge of the World and is falling from us still through the unreverberate blackness of the abyss."

wow. epic? yes.

(this book was originally two books, the Book of Wonder and Tales of Wonder, repackaged into a single volume by Dover Editions)

also - check out what Joe is up to with Deep Sea Studios through their portfolio and blog.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Flap is Dead? Long Live the Flap! or Why some epilogues are premature

Below this post you'll see one that was previously -- and presumptuously -- titled "The Last Official Post on the Inside Flap".

This title supposes at least two things: that one person can speak as an "official" representative of a group of individuals, without their consent, agreement or blessing; that the Inside Flap is changing or ceasing to publish reviews, interviews, insights and opinions on independent books and publishing - and whatever else loiters in our individual warped minds.

Neither of these are true.

The Inside Flap will continue to provide reviews, interviews, general thoughts on publishing and whatever else we are motivated to type and post.

What is true is that Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops are now "officially" no longer open. And, while the Downer Ave Schwartz was the hub that brought all of us as individuals together and molded us into a group of friends and sometimes enemies (okay, not really; it just sounded nice...), The Inside Flap was always a collection of individual's creative efforts, not a product of Harry W. Schwartz.

The goal of this blog, since it's inception in May 2007, has been to provide honest and independent views on books and publishing - not to serve as a corporate mouthpiece. Those of us who founded the Flap (and more , importantly, those of us now contributing to this collaboration) wouldn't be interested in reading marketing copy - why should you?

This is the essence of independence.

This is the Inside Flap.

This is what we, the Flappers, will continue to bring you. The Flap has always been an independent creative collaboration of booksellers as individuals, receiving no monetary or material support from any business. Sure, we often talked about things happening at Schwartz on Downer - this was what was happening in our lives and in our reading community. I'm sure we'll continue to bring you news on events hosted at Next Chapter in Mequon, Boswell Books on Downer, at Woodland Pattern in Riverwest, at local universities, etc.

I'd personally like to take a moment to thank everyone who continues to read the Flap: encourage us to continue by subscribing to our feed, forwarding us to your friends and, most importantly, joining the conversation by commenting or sending us a review.

And, while I won't structure it as a epilogue, I will say "good luck" to Next Chapter in Mequon and Boswell Book Co in Milwaukee - I hope we have two great new indies in the area.

I won't presume to let you know what everyone else is up to in 150 words or less.

I will, however, presume to welcome you to the Inside Flap, again, on behalf of all the folks who have worked so hard to bring you this site.

And now: the future:
Stay tuned for

  • a slightly new look, as we'll respect Daniel Goldin's request that we remove the public domain image of Boswell from our logo. This was used as the logo of the former HWS and has been chosen as the logo for Daniel Goldin's Boswell Book Co. We liked the little guy, but we don't need to squat on anyone's identity for personal benefit.
  • more reviews: Nella Larsen's Passing might be the next book you should read, unless Justin, Stacie, Carl, Sarah or Jordan disagree
  • my sometimes coherent thoughts on the intersection of print, digital, reading, writing and ownership
  • whatever else my brilliant colleagues have in mind
And, final plug, we'll soon have a feed in the Arts&Letters>Books section of Third Coast Digest, the former VITAL Source.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Daniel Goldin's Last Official Post on Inside Flap--Schwartz Bookshop on Downer Closed March 21, 2009

As I transition to a new life at the new Boswell Book Company, I am saying goodbye to a lot of important parts of my old life. It's actually a bittersweet experience, but the adrenalin surges (they look like enthusiasm but they are really driven by fear) mask these emotions to the outside observer.

One of the things I am saying goodbye to is the Inside Flap, this very blog started by a team of Downer booksellers. It was started to engage readers with their distinct personality and vision both to Milwaukee-area book buyer and the wider literary world, which it did quite successfully.

Sarah, Carl and Conrad, ex-Downer Schwartz folk all (Sarah has also been one of the key posters on "Flap", and I discussed the idea of asking Jay if we could take over the blog at our new store. But we agreed that it would be best to start afresh.

We're hoping to have booksellers start posting at The Boswellians any day now. I'll continue to have my Boswell and Books blog with a somewhat different perspective. (Not totally different, mind you--Sarah just let me know that a big mystery author that I love was interested in doing something with us, a friend of a friend thing, and I was absolutely jealous).

The Inside Flap gang (aside from the above folks who are moving to Boswell Book Company) has not so much left as dispersed over the last year, like butterflies leaving their cocoon:

Jordan, having conquered Milwaukee from his native Cleveland, is ready to tackle Chicago

Justin is giving up his hourlong commute from the South Shore for a closer-in part-time gig, allowing him to devote more energies to his writing, his art, and his kids.

Stacie, as discussed in the "Chris Cleave visits Milwaukee" video, is looking forward to leaving here so she can come back and visit. She's traveling west in April, but has a number of tricks up her sleeve for the future.

And Jay is immersed in life at UWM's English department, and of course is editor-in-chief of the Cream City Review. Teacher, student, new father, writer--he's keeping pretty busy.

That said, Jay is mulling the option of a post-Schwartz, post-Boswell, reincarnated Inside Flap. I wish him the best.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

You Can Judge This One by The Cover

The paperback edition of the magical short story collection The View From the Seventh Layer by Kevin Brockmeier, flapped about in January of last year, landed yesterday.

The new cover is exquisite - its dark, beautiful, imaginative visage perfectly reflects the content inside. The painting that graces it, "Library", is part of a 'city without humans' series of paintings titled "The City" by Lori Nix. I highly recommend checking her out. She has an eye for disaster, nature and tableaux that is to be rivaled by few.

Also, the Fall 2008 issue of The Cream City Review (Volume 32, Issue 2) features a lengthy interview with Brockmeier, covering everything from writing to philosophy to fancy dijon mustard commercial reenactments.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Callisto - Torsten Krol

If Torsten Krol's debut novel went no further than the setup, a floundering young high school dropout getting in over his head in the go-nowhere titular town, it would be a great read. Krol has a fantastic gift for fleshed-out character creation and a command of quirk to rival that found in the best movies of the Coen brothers. However, like the Coens, Krol's story wades into the shallow end of strange and then something takes hold of its feet and drags it down into epic depths of weird and wonderful.

Odell Deefus is a loser by most objective standards. He's a drifter with no prospects who hits upon the terrible idea of joining the U.S. Army circa 2007 to fight "the mad dog Islamites" and gain recognition as a person who matters. His plan takes him in the direction of an Army recruitment center in Callisto, Kansas. Deefus's car, however, falls short of the goal by dying at a farm on the outskirts of town. You could call it fate, but only if you believe in a terrible God who enjoys laughing at the tribulations of the less fortunate.

This unscheduled detour assures that all of his plans, ill-thought as they were, have now gone off the rails, depositing Odell in a perfect storm of cross purposes and competing agendas. How does one man escape the entaglements of murder, lawn mowing, drug dealing, terrorism, local news, televangelism, small-town grudges, national politics and military "justice" armed only with a love of rum and Condoleeza Rice? Can not quite sharp enough instincts and a cracked spine copy of The Yearling guide Odell out of the troubles he's both fallen into and created for himself?

Callisto is a book equal parts George Singleton and George Saunders; exploring small town eccentricity and nation-sized paranoia; both a story of personal inventory and a chronicle of national dread. Far from another safe, 'there he goes again', funny, sad sack story, it's also a hilariously brutal indictment of a society too ready for story and not able to question what they're given. Odell Deefus is the post-9/11 Middle American Everyman, not stupid but unthinking; affable but less wise than the times demand. His journey may be highly improbable, but his part in the story rings true, God help us.

Friday, March 6, 2009

David Schwartz on Bookselling & Milwaukee (circa 1995)

we here at the Downer store would like to take this chance to share something with you that isn't ours. we do this often enough, of course, but this time it's a little something closer to home.

though some of us never had the chance to know David Schwartz, he's always represented to us the pinnacle of bookselling-as-it-should-be. we hear stories from all corners, tales of heroism and gallantry; first, second & third hand accounts that consistently paint the same picture - a man greatly loved, sorely missed, and forever held in the highest regard. 

with that said, we share with you a little blast from the past, a 1995 interview by Jim Peck on I Remember Milwaukee. recently we had the pleasure of speaking with Mr. Peck at the Downer store, and fondly remembered the interview we're about to share.

Note: We own no permissions for this video, all credits go to Milwaukee Public Television.

without further ado:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

and once more (for good measure):

Bookselling was and is for me a cultural and political expression, an expression of progressive change, of a challenge to oppressive authority, of a search for a community of values which can act as an underpinning of a better world. The true profit in bookselling is the social profit; the bottom line, the measure of the impact of the bookshop on the community.

A. David Schwartz
(July 15, 1938 - June 7, 2004)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Robison & HTML passageways & real life books

by Sarah Marine


O, stagnant blog!, idling Analogue,
week-long Blogroll fail!

End Poem.

I'm still obsessed with Mary Robison's new work 'One DOA, One on the Way'. Unfortunately, I seem to be alone in the universe as the only other mention of it on the web are some uninformed blurbs, synopses from it's planned/failed original pub date in 2006 and an excerpt on Paul Lisicky's blog. Therefore, someone needs to love it as much as me or, like I've warned in real life, I will splode.

Around the world wide web:
1. Two friends of mine were recently in Diagram (one internet friend and one real life friend). They are represented respectively here and here. The latter can also be read here.
2. Richard Nash is leaving Soft Skull/Counterpoint. Richard has been stupendous in sending us ARCs, reading this here blog and tending to our bookseller Facebook needs. He likes technology.
3. Daniel Goldin is deep into the new bookstore woods. It's very exciting.
4. I want this and this.
5. If I am not, sometime soon, able to click on The Available World here, I am going to click my computer to death.

At present I am immersed in 'Killing Mister Watson', the original first novel which makes up the National Book Award-winning 'Shadow Country' by Peter Matthiesen. It could be more violent. I love it mostly because it takes place in the Everglades- you know, backwoods, Mikasukis, crocodiles, plume-hunting Frenchmen. Also on the nightstand are 'The Good Pirates of the Forgotten Bayous' by Ken Wells (thanks to John Elkund), 'Why Did I Ever' by Mary Robison (recommended by Jack Pendarvis) and FreeDarko's 'Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac'. I made the mistake of attempting Gertrude Stein's 'Ida' simultaneously with Jesse Ball's 'The Way Through Doors' and it only led to sleeplessness and indecisiveness; therefore, both have been put aside for the time being. In conclusion, I couldn't be more pleased with current literary endeavors.

Friday, February 13, 2009

One D.O.A., One on the Way

by Sarah Marine

One D.O.A., One on the Way
by Mary Robison

'One D.O.A., One on the Way' is a post-modern Southern Gothic, unable in form to decide on sweaty fictions or steel gray truths. With its humidity, its heavy green stillness and three generations of an old-money family, the book is temporally choppy and elusive. The characters, these mortal storms of all evolutionary stages, the still lull, the torrential rain, the high winds, are in post-Katrina New Orleans.

The narrator, Eve, bold-mouthed daughter-in-law of the haughty patriarch and matriarch, gives us a singular view of the physical landscape as a film location scout. Her telling of the debris-laden city, with its belching sewers and wandering inhabitants, is interspersed in the narrative between lists of stats about the hurricane choked area, thoughts on her ailing husband, his ne’er sober twin Saunders and Petal, her institutionalized sister-in-law. Reading 'One D.O.A., One on the Way' is like riding a train through the city, through a succession of tunnels. In the light, out the window you glimpse the heavy flora and flooded avenues, the red X’s just beyond the front lawn. In the dark, in the tunnel, as your senses refocus you become intuned to the passenger's conversation, grabbing breathy, hurried excerpts of the dialogue of survival, tales of ambulances that never come, city blocks dark for miles, madness and regeneration all braided together. Robison's demure brilliance seduced me into three complete read-throughs since November. I love this book.

an outside observation: Whilst reading this novel I was often left with an apocalyptic sense of vertigo. The narrative and setting are in a strange relationship which straddles a dance and a battle. I will offer an obscure comparison- that to the devastatingly short-lived, brilliant HBO surf series 'John from Cincinnati'- most specifically the scenes at the motel.

Captain Freedom - G. Xavier Robillard

You've got super strength, superhuman reflexes, blistering flight, weather forecasting ability par excellence and a devastating eye towards fashion. You are globally known and celebrated, have a smoking-hot villainess girlfriend and have a secret headquarters requiring Segway use to traverse comfortably. Never mind that you can't connect meaningfully with an archenemy or kick this pesky cocaine habit; you're still on top.

Until you're not.

You've hit the bottom of the barrel, picked up the barrel, and chucked it into the engine of your corporate jet. It's tailspin time, and not even your talk radio-powered sidekick can help you now. What's a super powered narcissist to do? How can you see your name in lights again? Where's the exit to easy street?

Captain Freedom, he of the repressed childhood and urge for a good Q rating, begins this first-time novel from G. Xavier Robillard at a crossroads. What better way to find where you're going than by examining where you've been? In this clever satire, our (quasi-)hero is heavily invested in a life coach's instruction to explore his origin story. We're brought along on the ride through spot-on characterizations of callous celebrity mentality and image-conscious heroics to quest for the acclaim that's eluded the Captain.

For fans who can appreciate the absurdity of superhero comics and the dangers of living a life unexamined, Captain Freedom is a worthy addition to the growing canon of meta-comic novels. With a background in writing for McSweeney's and Comedy Central, Robillard comes well-equiped to dish out the snark, sarcasm and ridiculousness that his protagonist traffics in to great effect. While exploring the behind-the-scenes of superheroics isn't a new concept, Robillard's marriage of that start point and the behemoth industry of celebrity is a fresh twist of the knife that rewards us all for the inanity we've unwittingly absorbed through cultural osmosis.

Captain Freedom is a hilarious critique of what our heroes are, what they need to be, and what they are driven to do to stay on top. Remember; it's not how many people you saved from the volcano, it's how long you can wait until the news crews get there before going into action.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

a note from your ex.

there exists a certain breed of person, someone with a plethora of stories to be told, someone who Booksellers greatly respect and consider our brothers and sisters. this person is the ex-Bookseller. 

of course, "ex-Bookseller" is somewhat inaccurate, for no Bookseller ever really stops selling. perhaps their target audience may shift from the community at large to a select group of friends & family, but they still sell.

so, in an effort to promote nostalgia, we'd like to present to you now a selection of remembrances from one of our favorite ex-s, Mr John Eklund. as i'm sure you all know, the number of "ex-Booksellers" in Milwaukee will soon be increasing dramatically.  fear not! we'll still be around, somewhere.

Schwartz Bookshop Memories

- I was a nerdy bookish fourteen year old and spent hours hanging around the downtown Schwartz Bookshop. One day an older guy cruised me as I looked at some remainders. It was spooky, unnerving, but memorable. I’d never registered the look of desire pointed at me before. Later, I managed that store!

- I was not a great manager. I was only in it for the books, I hated the business aspects.  And my staff management philosophy boiled down to Please Love Me. I could never really settle disputes, even the most petty. I thought making a grumpy face would just make people fall into line. But I was mostly good at picking people. They were good booksellers and I liked most of them and loved some of them. Of course, there were some bad decisions. Once I needed a receiver urgently so I just hired the first guy who showed up. An older gentleman, he had a good story about being a veteran and seemed super responsible. But within a couple days it was clear he was an alcoholic, couldn’t open a box, and would disappear for hours.  Later I found out that he had “borrowed” money from every bookseller, and booksellers didn’t generally have money to lend. I should have re-imbursed everybody, this was my fault.

- There was one customer who came in every single day and every single day asked the same two questions:  1) what time do you close?  2) is there a tax on magazines?  Mainly it was sort of comical but one day I lost it and screamed at him “Six o’clock!!!  We closed at six o’clock yesterday, we’re closing at six o’clock today, and we’ll be closing at six o’clock tomorrow!!!”  It wasn’t fair, I was taking out frustrations about other customers on him. But I don’t think I hurt him too much, he was in the next day to find out what time we closed and whether there was a tax on magazines.

- I miss the rhythms of those days. Phones ringing like crazy in the morning, the lunch crowd, the quieter afternoons. I miss the regulars. John Norquist, the nerdy bookish mayor!  Many others. Some customers knew every bookseller by name and made the rounds greeting them in a ritualized way. Others would come in day after day, week after week, and we’d never exchange a word with them. But a bookseller could mention she’d seen “pop culture guy” on the #15 and we’d all instantly know who she meant.
- Book reps from the publishers would parade through the store on their way to meetings with buyers. It was sort of an upstairs downstairs situation. Some would march right by all the booksellers on the way to these more important things. But others would go out of their way to talk to the staff, invite them out for pizza, find out what they’re reading. As a rep, I’ve tried to model myself on these schmoozers but it hasn’t always worked too well. Social networking of any kind feels unnatural to me.

- Bookselling: it always seemed like the one honorable profession. Maybe the last place in retail where authenticity could be profitable. Maybe that’s not the case any more.

- Most of our books were delivered by Leroy, the UPS man. He was the sweetest, nicest, most consistently upbeat person with a really hard job I’ve ever known.  When I get stuck in some road ragey jam, even now, so many years later, I think to myself, “Be Leroy.”

- We had a nerve-wracking, stone-age, 1.0 version computer system that broke down or fucked up constantly. Fixes were always quite elaborate and required late night stays and many floppy disks. Occasionally the genius behind this system would fly out from San Francisco and crawl under the front desk and would take our computer apart. He was sexy, looked a little like Richard Gere, and wore shades while he worked. He made me nervous.

- Once, we had an author signing for a book about local beers and microbrews. The publisher supplied cases of ale. For some reason, not a single person showed up.  So the staff got drunk.

- Once, Deeelite was in town at the Riverside and Lady Kier came in to peruse the magazine section. This caused a stir, but not as big a stir as the time Lara Flynn Boyle was spotted in the poetry section.

- Once, some anti-abortionists from Wichita converged on the clinic down the street.  For days it was under siege, and for days a bunch of booksellers got up at 4am to join the defenders, who were trying to keep a pathway to the clinic open amid the scary mobs. David Schwartz didn’t allow political expressions in the store - “express yourself with the books you sell,” he’d always say - but half the staff would be bleary-eyed and out of it for the rest of the day. I remember standing in front of that clinic, screaming over and over until we became the words, as if by the force of our collective will we could make it true: THIS CLINIC IS OPEN. THIS CLINIC IS OPEN. THIS CLINIC IS OPEN. 
In my dreams there’s a wicked mad defiant crowd like that in front of every great Schwartz-style store in America, screaming THIS BOOKSHOP IS OPEN.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

SJH + HWS 4-ever

This note was taped to the bookshop front window sometime during the night. To think that SJH ventured out into the near-zero temperatures, bundled up tight to ward off frostbite, all for the love of a bookstore.

Dearest Harry,

I love you. I do. Truly I do. It makes me sad to think I've never told you this before. I guess it's too late now that you are leaving. Sometimes I think, if I would have only told you earlier you might not be leaving me now.

Maybe Saturday we can hang out one more time. I know, you want to be alone now. But I think it would be good for closure. We haven't had a chance to end things properly...Maybe we can visit St. Petersburg one last time or anywhere, I don't mind.

God Harry, now I'm crying. I'm sorry, I can't help it. Harry! We used to be so alive. We used to care about things. Remember when you introduced me J.D.S.? You would have thought I just discovered Jesus Christ. What happened to us? Why did everything have to get so messed up? Harry, I love you! Doesn't that mean anything?

I'm sorry Harry. I don't mean to be like this. I know you must move on. This is how things work - I understand. And I have to move on too. I just wish I were moving on with you.

I love you Harry-


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

In the spirit of LOST

I know Justin and I are looking forward to the LOST premier tonight (anyone else out there?)...

In that spirit, I'm "finding*" and reposting a review of one of my all-time favorite books - and the best book I read last year - The Invention of Morel. You'll find me masquerading around the network as "dr_morel" or "dr.morel".

Though I really dislike the whole "if you like ____, you'll like ____" review methodology (inherent flaws of comparisons and categories being part of the reason), it is often helpful and effective. Thus, I will claim that:

if you like LOST, you will indeed love The Invention of Morel.

And, to further the format, I'd love to see some fellow LOST fans take up the charge and give similar simple recs in the comments. (Our Mutual Friend, Turn of the Screw, and that "Gary Troupe" book need not apply.)

So enjoy the repost and stay tuned for more Flapiness.

*shamless cream city review self-plug: new "found" theme issue should be hitting shelves shortly

Fiction Machine: Alfredo Bioy Casare's The Invention of Morel

By Jay Johnson

If you're in search of a tight, little novella to kick-off you're summer reading season, I must recommend Alfredo Bioy Casare's enigmatic The Invention of Morel. Written in 1940, this book may be short and a quick read, but imagery, text and questions will pleasantly linger for weeks after you've read it for the second or third time. As always, The New York Review Books presents an informed, stylish and durable edition of a work that is important to several areas of writing: science fiction, fantasy, magical realism, adventure and Latin American literature, in general.

Bioy, a contemporary and friend of Borges, weaves a trance-like confession of an obsessed fugitive into a search to discover the devices behind the bizarre actions of the deserted island's mysterious visitors and their leader, Dr. Morel. Science fiction and adventure readers, admirers of fantasies like The Island of Dr. Moreau and the television series Lost, and fans of Alain Resnais' film L'année dernière à Marienbad - the film, written by Alain Robbe-Grillet, author of The Erasers, is influenced by Morel - would thoroughly enjoy this brilliant and overlooked work.

In the introduction to The Invention of Morel, Suzanne Jill Levine writes, “for Borges and Bioy, the fantastic was a far richer medium compared to what they then considered the impoverished artifices of nineteenth-century realism” (vii). This sentiment certainly plays out in the novella through multiple layers of discourse.

Perhaps the most interesting and rich example of fantasy coming into conversation with the “impoverished artifices” of realism is centered on the climax of the novella, when Morel delivers his speech.[1] The narrator, whose is writing is posed as that of a diarist, writes that he had grabbed the notes that Morel read off of to deliver his address to the guests on the island. At this time, the reader is given the fourth footnote of the novella, which states:

“For the sake of clarity we have enclosed the material on the yellow pages in quotation marks; the marginal notes, written in pencil and in the same handwriting as the rest of the diary, are not set off by quotes. (Editor’s Note.)” (65).

First, it is important to note that the Editor is clearly a construction of the novel; there is no true Editor to the New York Review Books’ edition. One of the functions of the Editor, in this footnote, is to reinforce the artifice of the narrator as diarist. If there is an actual sheaf of yellow pages, ostensibly there is a narrator, who introduced us to this yellow sheaf. By extension, there is a Morel, who delivers a speech and invents a machine that captures perfect representations of its subjects—and all the other repercussions of Morel’s invention. In this respect, the existence of an editor’s footnote supports the artifice of realism.

While the existence of an Editor perpetuates the conceit of the novella, the actual text of the note achieves the opposite. The voice of this footnoted section is the same voice found throughout the novella, without exception. Moreover, the form of the text in this section casts serious doubt on the reality of the rest of the work. Morel’s speech takes the form of a scene, as prescribed by the footnote. His speech appears in quotes, while the narrators marginalia appear as narrative observation. The physical existence of Morel’s speech is differentiated from the diary conceit maintained throughout the remainder. If the appearance of this special section is indistinguishable from the other sections, however, how is the reader to believe in this artifice of realism? That two differentiated mediums are ultimately indistinguishable undermines the conceit of realism in The Invention of Morel.

Given the initial sentiment of the introduction, this destabilization of realism is ultimately not surprising. On a tertiary level, the “Editor’s Note” further problematizes notions of realism, as well as the boundary of where a text ends (in the sense of author-editor-reader relationship) as well as authority of narrators and editors. In the eighth footnote of the novella, the Editor refutes the narrator’s citation of his own text, declaring that the excerpt the narrator states to appear at the beginning of the text does not exist (95). Examining the text itself, the narrator is vindicated: the exact text does appear near the beginning of the book. Thus, the Editor has failed a basic condition of her position: that of existing outside of the text, in a position of reference to the artifact itself.

Entering The Invention of Morel through the instance of Editor’s Note to the climax—Morel’s speech—points to a reading supported by the introduction: “In Bioy’s paradoxical universe the symbol turns upon itself: his texts are filled with tantalizing allusions which are no longer keys but rather enigmatic ciphers” (xi). Rather than providing the reader with clues, the Editor undermines the possibility of a literal, realistic interpretation of the text.


[1] This is certainly one reason why Borges considers The Invention of Morel to be an example in excellent plotting. Morel’s speech is not only centrally important to understanding the text on the most basic level; it also holds many insights into a variety of interpretive avenues.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Harry W. Schwartz to close all stores

Here are a couple of links to the full story:

Publishers Weekly
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

And from two brilliant booksellers:

Justin Riley
Daniel Goldin

Very sad news, indeed.


And the excellent Jack Pendarvis (who knows and has met Tom Franklin! In person!)

What I don't need to say,

because Justin just wrote it far better than I can.

(Also, an answer to the "what next?" question involving non-hobo hook-hands.)

PS SCREW OFF GOOGLE! and take your darn ads with you, since they're *disabled* for this site...

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Downer Avenue Bestsellers, 2008 Edition

as we here at the Inside Flap are so obsessed with lists, it is fitting to sum up the whole of the year 2008 in a single, simple fashion. with that end in mind, we now present to you our 25 bestselling books of 2008:


  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
  • Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson
"Beautiful, sparse and unforgettable."
-Stacie Williams
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy
"The shock and viscera presented in The Road is made all the more striking when contrasted with the quiet desperation and deep bond between a man and his young son facing the end of the world. Fear and love are rarely presented in tandem with such class."
-Justin Riley
  • Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • Armageddon in Retrospect by Kurt Vonnegut
"These short stories blur and break the line between fiction and memoir, between criticism and submission to human barbarism."
-Jordan Gower
  • Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky
"Beautifully written. Stunningly so, considering the circumstances of its writing."
-Conrad Silverberg
  • Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
  • Gathering by Anne Enright
  • Lamb by Christopher Moore
"The funniest book you'll ever read."
-Conrad Silverberg
  • Chicago Way by Michael Harvey
  • No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July
"Miranda July's interpretation of everyday situations culminate in these grand stories of most appropriate misunderstandings. Through her art of romanticizing the ridiculous she has brought the reader close to the page and left them thinking about chlorine smells and swimming lessons for days."
-Sarah Marine
  • Girl on the Fridge by Etgar Keret
"Keret is a master of everyday language, yet his plots are always fresh, brilliant, wild and inventive. His characters go crashing through life, facing love, facing death, facing confusion, and often getting lost in the most wonderful and unimaginable blunders."
-Joe Lisberg
  • City of Thieves by David Benioff
"Delivering a buddy story that is really about great acts of humanity during times of evil, this novel is the true definition of 'unputdownable'."
-Stacie Williams
  • Best American Short Stories 2008 Edited by Salman Rushdie
  • Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich
"This tightly woven novel sings with a clear & beautiful voice, it deserves to be heard by all."
-Carl Hoffman

  • This I Believe by Jay Allison
  • Milwaukee’s Brady Street Neighborhood by Frank D Alioto
  • Goodnight Bush: A Parody by Gan Golan & Erich Origen
  • Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv
  • Art of Living by Epictetus
"This book saved my life, and brought me back to the bookstore."
-Doug James
  • The Post-American World by Fareed Zakaria
  • Milwaukee at Mid-Century by Lyle Oberwise
  • Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein
"When opportunism knocks, Klien is there to knock some sense into us - and, in a perfect world, into the filthy lucre mongers."
-Myra Poe
  • Handmade Nation: The Rise of DIY, Art, Craft & Design by Faythe Levine
"This book is invaluable in its presentation of some of the hardest working crafters in the nation. Faythe is our own renaissance lady; co-owner of Paper Boat, organizer of the righteous Art vs. Craft, and overall champion and supporter of all things indy creative."
-Sarah Marine
  • Nixonland by Rick Perlstein

there you have it, folks.

tune in next year for our followup segment.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Who *reads* fiction on teh internetz, anyway?

or, Two More Meaty Ways in Which the Platform Changes, but the Song Remains the Same.

by digi-jay < partially x-posted from impoverished artifices >



BBC's Digital Planet discusses a South African mobile web app story serialization project.

NPR's All Things Considered compiled a story about the "wovel", which is, in essence, a roughly interactive serialization of a novel on a blog or on the web (web + novel = wovel).


How interactive does interactivity have to be?

Are physical spaces that sell books doomed?


Listening to the very good Digital Planet podcast from the BBC World Service on the iPhone at the grocery store, I heard about a South African story project, Novel Idea. It's sent to subscribers over mobile texts, but it is not like the Japanese mobile text novels that the NYT had a feature on in January 2008. Rather than being a story in a text message, the text delivers a link to a WAP site that hosts the stories. There are several authors working on the project, with a variety of types of work (I *so* resist the word "genre" here...).

The form mimics serialization, as it condenses the space of composition into a word limit. The WAP rather than SMS, though, increases the amount of text that can be published per installment. "Punchy" was one term used to describe the mode of creative composition, as the author needs to hook the reader in a small space.

The manager of the project, Emma Kaye, mentioned that mobile technology in South Africa is more prolific than internet access. According to Kaye, mobile phones have a penetration rate of 90% in South Africa. One reason for this could be that, again according to Kaye, SMS is cheaper than voice rates. Thus, this form of literature can have a greater reach than the form that I'll discuss next.

The form, while not interactive, is certainly portable and a result of adaptation to new technologies. It can also be shared with friends, by forwarding the text link - though a believe the R$1.50 charge for establishing a subscription. It's also a competition: readers vote on the best story, until only one author remains. So, I suppose, in a way it is interactive--readers can end stories.

The "wovel" First World, as featured on NPR's All Things Considered is a similar development of writing meeting new modes of reading. Published in blog format--though, really, one could say published on the web, with abilities for comments; blog is just a catch word--this serialization offers readers a collective interactivity. They are allowed to vote for a binary option of how the story unfolds in the next installment. Through comments, they are given the opportunity for a digital rhetorical discourse on how the story should unfold.

The most interesting aspect of Novel Idea and the wovel to me, as an author, is how the act of writing is being adapted to fit new methods of reading and publishing media. Neither of these styles of publishing are necessarily new, as the serialization of fiction has a very long history and has been far more interesting. For instance, sensation fiction publications in Victorian England purposely blended fiction and nonfiction to break down lines of categorization. These tehno-forms are just plain storytelling--on a new platform that may require some new limitations on length, predominantly.

I'm interested in the interactivity offered by the wovel, in that it is collective rather than individual. I would tend to prefer the individual choose your own adventure style of reading, rather than being offered a binary decision in which I only have a small say. Reading has traditionally (to me and in "Western" culture, I'd venture) been an individual act. Thus, this collective is both interesting and limiting. The limiting almost makes it identical to authorial decision-making, though that power is spread out. Again, I'd be interested in seeing that power dissolve, by offering infinite outcomes.

Why not paper? If we're talking about brevity, there are plenty of excellent flash fiction collections out there, such as Flash Fiction Forward (< /bayard_plug >). With paper, you do lose the technological convergence of the hand-held: voice, data, network -- and everything that accompanies these. Paper does have the advantage of the brain's mode of memory, however, in that the rigid layer of paper offers a static spatial sequence that can be internalized -- the paragraph at the top, the sentence on the left-hand page.

As bookseller, electronic distribution of texts is usually a generally threatening proposition. What happens when War & Peace is available for download on my iPhone or your Curve? OMG, we're all going to disappear!!1!

And, while this *is* slowly happening -- indies closing, chains starting down that road, Project Gutenberg delivers War & Peace to my phone for free, what I'm sure is a majority of reading now being done online (Lessig says so...) -- I don't think it's because I've actually read or would prefer to read The Society of the Spectacle or even Free Culture on my mobile, rather than in bound paper form. (For starters, I can't highlight my touch screen and write marginalia.) Rather, one giant reason is that readers are individually living online and letting the evil A and their superior algorithm tell readers what they might like. It isn't e-texts that are being distributed to problematize paper and bricks-and-mortar, it's paper being distributed from an electronic source that endangers your neighborhood bookshop.

Does that mean that the "real" is doomed to succumb to the "virtual"? I don't think so, and not just because I think that binary isn't accurate ("real" and "virtual" overlap and bleed and are much more porous than a binary realtionship allows -- see this blog and the bookshop we all happen to work at where we talk about this blog).

My hope lies in the fact that the evil A doesn't really offer a place for readers to organize or form commnunity. They are very much about commerce and have not been able to hide or complement that with a social aspect. In fact, there isn't a predominant or set of predominant social networks for readers -- at least that I've found. They all seem partial or don't offer the community we come to expect from more popular social networking experiences, like Facebook.

One speculation for this might sound something like the long tail of media consumption. TV and film have limited programming options to offer, due to methods of distribution (networks, basic cable, expanded cable, web-only, in a descending manner for TV). While this has grown with Web 2.0/RW/remix culture, the number of offerings for TV and film must be dwarved by the number of books published yearly by major houses. Add in small presses and academic publishers and that number probably doubles. (And that's not including self-publication outfits, as the RW culture has not crossed into the book world. "Self-published" and "vanity press" are very dirty words.)

So what, dude? you're asking. My point here is that it's easier to form community around a show like Lost, as so many more people view it, as their viewing options are intrinsicly less on TV than they are in a bookshop. Where's that message board for Gone Away World, Jordan? It's harder to find people who want to talk about the same books that you've read, as, not only is reading ficiton less common than watching TV, the number of ficticious books you can choose to read is far greater than the number of TV series you can choose to watch.

What's this have to do with bookshops with front doors, that pay local taxes to support schools and infrastructure and employ members of your community? In theory, it should hurt them, as ecnomies of scale and the long tail should make it easier and cheaper for small groups to connect online. (I'm sure there is a group of three people talking about Gone Away World somewhere in some corner of the internetz -- and I'd like you to give me the names of the other two folks, Jordan, so I can properly cite them.) But -- and here's the turn -- there's a difference between talking about and selling things, no matter how closely they're related. And, personally, this is where I see the advantage of the community bookseller over the evil A or equivalent.

The bookseller(s) is better than the algorithm.

The good bookseller can tell you what people enjoy, what's new to the shelf, what people who read are enjoying -- and why.

The algorithm can tell you what other people bought.

Pick up your mobile and find out where your nearest (indie) bookseller is and start a conversation with anyone: a bookseller, that girl in the "science fiction" section or that weird guy over in the corner by magazines.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

call me copy cat

i think we're a bit late for the 2008 lists, we're behind the vogue. but here they are, my lists for the past year.

my top five (in no exact order) of...

... books i read and loved, from 2008:

1) machine by peter adolphsen
2) little brother by cory doctorow
3) the gone away world by nick harkaway
4) armageddon in retrospect by kurt vonnegut
5) the view from the seventh layer by kevin brockmeier

... books i wanted to read, but never accomplished, from 2008

1) milk & melancholy by kenneth hayes
2) ringolevio: a life played for keeps by emmett grogan
3) userlands: new fiction writers from the blogging underground edited by dennis cooper
4) content by cory doctorow
5) girl on the fridge by etgar keret

... books i read (and loved) in 2008, returning from the past

1) the mayor of castro street by randy shilts
2) the passion by jeanette winterson
3) i am not myself these days by josh kilmer-purcell
4) exploits & adventures of brigadier gerard by sir arthur conan doyle
5) willful creatures by aimee bender

that's as far as i go. it's a new year, suddenly, and countless prospects are already appearing on the horizon. this'll be a good year for the bookish types, i can feel it.

until next time, friends.

"read that book!"

Monday, January 12, 2009

2008 Pages (list version)

In honor of end of year lists, here are a few 2008 lists about books.

Five Books I...

...Read & Loved (Newly Published in 2008)

  1. The Tsar's Dwarf by Peter H. Fogtdal
  2. The View From the Seventh Layer by Kevin Brockmeier
  3. Serena by Ron Rash
  4. City of Thieves by David Benioff
  5. Outlander by Gil Adamson

...Read & Loved (published prior to 2008)
  1. Selected Poems (1945-2005) by Robert Creeley
  2. Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay by Nancy Milford
  3. Poachers by Tom Franklin
  4. No Shortcuts to the Top by Ed Viesturs
  5. Herland by Charlotte Perkins-Gilman

...Intended To Read, Really Wanted To, But Didn't
  1. 2666 by Roberto Bolano
  2. Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen
  3. Burning Down the House by Charles Baxter
  4. Other Colors by Orhan Pamuk
  5. Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

...Think Look Good That Other People Read
  1. Machine by Peter Adolphsen
  2. As a Friend by Forrest Gander
  3. Farther Along by Donald Harrington
  4. The Invention of Morel by Alfredo Bioy Casare
  5. A Better Angel by Chris Adrian

Friday, January 2, 2009

The Blog Influence

by Sarah Marine

The latter part of 2008 was an ongoing conscious incorporation of more and more technology in my life. For starters, I started watching TV. Secondly, the online presence of our bookshop became a cornerstone for immediate conversation and anticipated reviews from co-workers. I feel that the Inside Flap has worked to create a shop vibe in which we all know what we’re losing our minds over, what we’re lukewarm about and created more frequent avenues for excited discussion. It has also inspired in us the desire to explore the greater possibilities for booktalk online. We’ve discussed an online lit mag.(which I predict may be forever doomed to idea stage), expanded onto Facebook and developed relationships with others who have found the blog medium to be a revolutionary tool for cross-country networking and reading recommendations. Overall, we may have been late to the scene, but nonetheless are embracing it. With all that’s going on in the publishing world, in the economy, it has added a dimension to the bookshop that has pumped SUPERBOOKLOVE into every day.

The blog has also influenced some interesting reading of my own- including the fantastic Becoming Beside Ourselves: The Alphabet, Ghosts and Distributed Human Being by Brian Rotman- inspiring some personal lit-quilting ventures- which explores the invention of the alphabet, the suppression of gestural communication and the rise of internet communication as parallel in the ongoing evolution of communication. This in turn led to a sturdy throwback: Antonin Artaud’s The Theatre and Its Double which cries for the abandonment of language and the assumption of our irrational natural selves. Next came the X-Men extravaganza, heaving me into the abstract obsession with Warlock from the New Mutants. What most attracted me were his unique techno origins and his mutation, which made him more human as opposed to unhuman. In becoming aware of his mutation refers to fellow New Mutants as “self-friend”.

I have now begun a new thread of reading which deals specifically with early childhood reading and comprehension. John Holt’s Learning All the Time discusses how children learn to read and understand numbers without instruction and the Opie’s The Lore and Language of Schoolchildren has become an obsession with its sobering objectivity in analyzing the origins and purpose of children’s sayings, songs and rhymes. It is also complete with regional maps of The United Kingdom wherein boundaries are layed out to illustrate the distinct difference in popularity of phrases geographically. The most interesting factor in the evolution of these schoolyard sayings is how they mirror the wars and economic climates of the times. For example, they sure sang more about ice cream during peacetime.

I’m down with robots and computers and reading and stuff.