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.