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.