Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Myspace for Readers

Call me a Luddite, but I'm underwhelmed by So the news that some big online bookseller with a riverine name has invested in the site has me puzzled.

Shelfari works like this: you sign up and then list the books you own or have read. This list is available for the whole wide world to see. You can post reviews of your books and meet likeminded readers with similar tastes. Then you can stalk your new virtual friends, peeking at what they have read and what they thought. See their virtual bookshelves at any time. And show them yours.

Or maybe it's like a terrible cocktail party where you can't get away from the book bore who's staked out the drinks table. Except that now he can follow you home and look in your windows.

My feeling is that if you want to see what's on my shelves you have to be charming enough to get an invitation to my house. If you can't do that, you'll just have to live in ignorance of my wonderful and diverse tastes and possessions.--David E

If you feel otherwise, feel free to post a comment.

Through Yonder Windows (or Mac)

The What Light poetry contest gives local writers a chance to show their stuff. Every week, the judges select a worthy work, which is then posted to our website. We also sponsor regular readings of recent winners; see our events page for the latest information. And there's even a book of the winning poems in the works.

Read a poem or two (the archives are here), then why not throw your hat in the ring as well? Judges for this fourth series are Ben Barnhart, associate editor at Milkweed Editions; Juliet Patterson, author of The Truant Lover; and William Waltz, editor of Conduit magazine and author of Zoo Music. Get writing and get noticed.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Voodoo Doughnut, or When Blogs Collide

Who to believe? Slushpile say Chuck Palahniuk was on the Travel Channel last night on Anthony Bourdain's show "No Reservations," showing him the sights of Portland, Oregon, including charming Voodoo Doughnut. (Get married in their chapel. Learn Swahili. Have a bachelorette party. Heck, have a doughnut.)

Ah, but the wildly enthusiastic Palahniuk site says it's just a repeat of an earlier show.

This isn't CNN, so I'm not going to make a call on this one. I will point out that we have copies of Palahniuk's own guide to the City of Roses (or Stumptown, according to some). Fugitives and Refugees : A Walk in Portland, Oregon is in the store now. It's cheaper than cable.

And fans of Palanuik's earlier books Fight Club, Choke, and Haunted will be glad to hear that his new book Rant : An Oral Biography of Buster Casey will be published May 1.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Weird and Wonderful and Available Now

Working in this store, I've learned to always answer the question "Do you have anything on __________?" with a firm "Maybe. It's worth a look." Because the fact is, we have some decidedly specialized books in our inventory. So in the hope of finding suitable homes for some of the hidden gems in the stacks, I inaugurate this irregular feature dedicated to the strange and strangely interesting stuff we stock. (I promise these are all real books in our store.)--David E

Today's featured titles:

Third Reich Belt Buckles

Precolumbian Dermatology & Cosmetology

Only in Arkansas: A Study of the Endemic Plants and Animals of the State

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Ding, Dong

Paulho Coelho, author of the worldwide bestseller The Alchemist, has posted preview chapters of his new book The Witch of Portobello, on his blog. The book, which will be published May 1, follows the varied and mysterious life of Athena, the title's "witch" and dwells again on Coelho's usual themes of destiny and spirituality.

Sam Harris Video

It turns out that Sam Harris' voice is as pretty as his face. And you can enjoy them both for a full hour and a quarter, courtesy of CSPAN's BookTV and YouTube. Sam Harris discusses his book, the controversial The End of Faith. He argues forcefully that logic and religion rarely meet. His verbal bomb-throwing is fun, funny, and deeply necessary.

Yeah, he's smart too. Some people have all the luck.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Charmed, I'm Sure

Bill Bryson's wit, wisdom, and talent have won over another formerly-dead-inside critic. Can this man be stopped?

War &

HarperCollins has announced plans to publish a shorter version of the epic War and Peace. It's an earlier draft of Tolstoy's classic, and while briefer, it still clocks in at 1,000 pages.

It's Like "Pirates of the Caribbean" Meets "A Million Little Pieces" Meets "Fritz the Cat"

Johnny Depp has announced his intention to produce and provide the lead character's voice for an animated film based on four short stories by Charles Bukowski, hard-living, hard-drinking author of Barfly, Notes of a Dirty Old Man, and (aptly enough) Hollywood.

And it gets better.

"How the Dead Live" will be directed by Gabor Csupo, animator and producer of the first three seasons of The Simpsons. Csupo recently directed "Bridge to Terabithia," based on the book of the same name.

Bonny Town

Scottish author Ian Rankin has written a fascinating article posted on the blog of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. (It's official: everyone has a blog now.) He writes on the long and rich history of literature in Edinburgh. Rankin is also the author of my new favorite series of police procedurals, the John Rebus novels.

Kate Atkinson's recent novel One Good Turn gives another view of the same terrain: her novel is peopled with Edinburgh's criminals both high and low.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Think Spring has profiled Amy Stewart, author of Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful in the Business of Flowers. The article focuses on the author herself, rather than on her expose of the international bloom trade. (You can read about that in the most recent New York Times Sunday Book Review.)

The Powells interview is good fodder for (dare I say it) budding gardeners itching to get out and plant this spring. It also includes Stewart's list of "Great Gardening Novels."

Take Off, Eh?

The Vancouver Sun has published an article entitled "What does it take to be a bestseller?" It's interesting, if you have a taste for the behind-the-scenes workings of bookselling, but I'll give you the dinner party nugget: The number four book on the British Columbia bestseller list is a book about chainsaws. I kid you not.

Fancy Meeting You Here

Orhan Pamuk's in New York, as you know if you're a regular reader. Now comes word that stalkers of Martin Amis will need to put Manchester on their travel schedules. He's accepted a teaching post there.

Archipelago Books wins NEA Grant for Translation

Brooklyn-based Archipelago Books has won a International Literature Award from the National Endowment for the Arts. Publishers Weekly reports, "The National Endowment for the Arts has named the three recipients of its International Literature Awards, which grant $10,000 to small presses to publish works in translation."

Magers and Quinn is pleased to have a large supply of Archipelago's titles including the award-winning Gate of the Sun (The New York Times Book Review Notable Books of 2006, Fiction, Christian Science Monitor’s Best Fiction of 2006, and San Francisco Chronicle Best Books of 2006: Fiction); Three Generations; A Dream in Polar Fog; and Auguste Rodin.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

I See the Resemblance

The news that Welsh book town Hay-on-Wye has become sister city to--of all places--Timbuktu still has me puzzled. I can only think they did it so that blogs would write about them both.

Mission accomplished, guys.

Hey Roller Girl

The Minnesota RollerGirls are hot. They'll chew you up and spit you out, and they won't say they're sorry. See them for yourself at the Roy Wilkins Auditorium on March 3.

And save us a spot. We'll be there because, yes, these girls have a literary side. Come early to meet Melissa "Melicious" Joulwan, founding member of the Texas Rollgergirls--the league that launched the new wave of the sport--tells her best tales from track in her mouthy, tough-as-nails style. In Rollergirl: Totally True Tales from the Track, she details the fierce rivalries, stirs up the thrill of a bout, explains the rules, and profiles the women (and their Rollergirl personas) who tear up the track. There are sidebars on how to find your own Rollergirl name and pictures throughout of the sexy women who elbow and slam their way to victory.

Get in line, get a book, and get an autograph. Doors open at 6:30. See the Rollergirls website for details and directions.

Silver Screen Soundly Snubs Supernatural Scribe

Christopher Moore sold the movie rights to his first novel Practical Demonkeeping back in 1992. Since then nearly all of his novels have been purchased by producers and studios. So why haven't we seen a movie of Bloodsucking Fiends or Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal?

Christohper Moore discusses that question and many more in a recent edition of The Business, a great radio show (and one of my favorite podcasts) from KCRW in Santa Monica.--David E

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Breaking News

Arundhati Roy, author of The God of Small Things has announced that she is at work on a new novel. Since the publication of her first (and only) novel in 1997, Roy has focused on non-fiction and environmental activism.

Details are few. Reuters reports, "Roy would say little about her next book, except that she had been spending a lot of time in India's troubled state of Kashmir. Nor is she sure whether her new project will work -- but she said she was relishing the writing process again."

We'll keep you informed as events unfold, as they say.

New from the author of The Kite Runner

Khaled Khosseini's first novel The Kite Runner was a runaway success: 103 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and with four million copies sold.

Now fans are abuzz with the news that his second novel A Thousand Splendid Suns will be released May 22. As before, Hosseini's setting is Afghanistan, and the publisher promises "a haunting, heartbreaking, compelling story of an unforgiving time, an unlikely friendship, and an indestructible love."

Publishers Weekly has posted its review of Hosseini's novel for booksellers: "Afghan-American novelist Hosseini follows up his bestselling The Kite Runner with another searing epic of Afghanistan in turmoil. The story covers three decades of anti-Soviet jihad, civil war and Taliban tyranny through the lives of two women. ... Hosseini gives a forceful but nuanced portrait of a patriarchal despotism where women are agonizingly dependent on fathers, husbands and especially sons, the bearing of male children being their sole path to social status. His tale is a powerful, harrowing depiction of the plight of women in Afghanistan, but also a lyrical evocation of the lives and enduring hopes of its resilient characters."

He knew human folly like the back of his hand

Today is the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of WH Auden. He was a noted scholar and critic, but if you're anything like me, you are probably familiar mostly with his poetry. (Here's a good, if slightly worn, biography for those interested in learning more.) So, in honor of the occasion, here's a quick poem.

    Epitaph on a Tyrant

    Perfection, of a kind, was what he was after,
    And the poetry he invented was easy to understand;
    He knew human folly like the back of his hand,
    And was greatly interested in armies and fleets;
    When he laughed, respectable senators burst with laughter,
    And when he cried the little children died in the streets.

I know I'm oldfashioned, but I do like a poem that rhymes.--David E

The Guardian has posted this MP3 of Ralph Fiennes reading Auden's poem "As I Walked Out One Morning."

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Sedaris on the Cheap

Amy Sedaris' hilarious book I Like You : Hospitality Under the Influence and its central tenet ("Accentuate the positives--medicate the negatives") can help turn even the most nervous host into a scintillating party animal. And now it's available at a further 25% off our usual price. At $18.75, you can't find a better guide to get you through life's trying social times with grace and style. Plan the perfect Lumberjack Party for forty or just whip out a Li'l Smokey for your next evening in:

    Amy Sedaris' Li'l Smokey Cheeseball

    2 cups of shredded smoked Gouda cheese
    16 ounces of cream cheese
    1/2 cup of butter
    2 1/2 tablespoons of milk
    2 1/2 teaspoons of Steak Sauce
    1 cupped of chopped nuts

Bring all ingredients to room temp. Add milk and steak sauce and beat until completely blended. Chill over night. Turn it into a ball the next morning. Roll it in the nut mixture. Serve it room temp, spread on a Ritz cracker.

This special deal is only available in our store, while supplies last.

All About Alice

Poet, author and gourmand Calvin Trillin will be on Minnesota Public Radio's Midmorning show Wednesday at 9am CST. You will be able to listen to the show live here.

Trillin will be discussing his latest book About Alice, a memoir and love letter to his late wife, the subject of not only this book but also Alice, Let's Eat and Travels with Alice. She was also a constant steadying presence in his essays and a familiar character to Trillin's many readers. She died in 2001.

Now Trillin has expanded an earlier New Yorker essay, writing a book which the New York Times called "slim but walloping."

James and White: Separated at Birth?

The blog Baroque in Hackney has posted a pair of photographs of Edmund White (see the M&Q posting of February 7) and Henry James. I'm not sure I see it myself.--David E

Doctor, Doctor

Pauline Chen, author of Final Exam, is on Minnesota Public Radio from this morning. The award-winning surgeon and transplant specialist discusses the difficulty of coming to grips with death. If you missed it, the show is archived here.

We have copies available, and in fact, her book is on the 25% off shelf in the front of the store.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Orhan Pamuk, New Yorker

Following the assassination of the Turkish/Armenian journalist Hrant Dink and the string of prosecutions of Turkish authors (usually for "defaming Turkishness"), Nobel Prize-winner Orhan Pamuk has moved to New York City, reports The Telegraph.

The news comes on the heels of the cancellation of a reading tour by Elif Shafak, author of The Bastard of Istanbul, nixed because of safety concerns. The Village Voice posted a profile of Shafak yesterday.

Found Keys

A customer turned in a set of four small brass keys that she found on the sidewalk in front of our store. If you've lost yours, ask at the register.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Redheaded Stepchild of Bilbo Baggins

The Tolkien blogs are alive with the news, but it's out of the basement: There's a new Tolkien novel on the horizon. OK, of course it's not from the late JRR himself, but it's based on his notes and completed by his son Christopher.

The Children of Hurin will be available April 17. List price is $26.00, but we can order you a copy now for $23.40. Get your visa for Middle Earth. It's minus four charm points if you miss this one.

Plan Now for Potter

We're taking advance orders for the seventh and final Harry Potter title, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Our price is $20.99, down from the list price of $34.95. Stop in today and reserve your copy.

And while we're on the subject, many folks have been wondering a bit over the title. Ever helpful, Wikipedia has this to say on the subject:

The meaning of "Hallows"

When asked "What does 'Deathly Hallows' mean?" J.K. Rowling responded, "Any clarification of the meaning of 'Hallows' would give away too much of the story - well, it would, wouldn't it? Being the title and all. So I'm afraid I'm not answering." She also declined to say what her two other shortlisted titles had been, at least until after publication.

Hallow is a word usually used as a verb, meaning "to make holy or sacred, to sanctify or consecrate, to venerate". However, in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, the word hallows appears as a noun. In modern English, the word is used as a noun in "All Hallows' Day" or "All Saints' Day," which is the day after Halloween or "All Hallows' Eve". Hallows can refer to saints, the relics of saints, the relics of gods, or shrines in which the relics are kept. Since the essence of these saints or gods were often considered present at their shrines and in their relics, hallows came to refer to the saints or gods themselves, rather than just their relics or shrines. So, the hallow (relic) of a hallow (saint) is hidden in a hallow (shrine).

Clears it all up, right? Only JK herself knows for sure... until July, anyway.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

What Would Socrates Do?

Join us be in our store at 7:30pm, Wednesday, February 21, for a reading and discussion with noted philosopher Christopher Phillips.

Don't be scared by the P-word. Phillips' discussion groups, which he calls Socrates Cafes, are easy. They bring together groups of people to discuss topics of the day and to stimulate your curiosity. His modern interpretation of the Socratic Method teaches strategies for thinking about matters great and small with clarity. You'll be philosophizing in no time.

Phillips' latest book Socrates in Love concerns the timely subject of romance. If Valentine's Day left you wondering about the ways of the heart, bring your questions and get ready to hear your fellow citizens' thoughts on life and love.

This is sure to be a popular evening, so plan to arrive early for the best seat.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Think Spring

There's a small notice on the University of Minnesota's Bookstore's webpage, listing an April 2 appearance by Jonathan Lethem. There are no more details as yet, but we'll keep you posted.

Meanwhile, you can catch up on an old Lethem work. We have a nice stack of his early short story collection The Wall of the Sky, The Wall of the Eye. You can also find other titles in our store.

Survey Says

We recently received a great selection of books from the folks at the Zagat Survey. Made up of the reviews and recommendations of thousands of diners, these guides are comprehensive and opinionated. Their thumbnail sketches will help you find good eats wherever you're headed.

Our selection includes the standard Zagat Survey books ($5.99), Pocket guides ($3.99), and boxed sets with guides and maps ($11.99). They're shelved with the rest of the travel guides, by location.

PS: "Zagat," according to their website, rhymes with "the Cat."

DreamHaven Robbed

According to Neil Gaiman's blog, DreamHaven Books was robbed over the weekend. The thieves also did a lot of damage to the store and offices. (Try to find coverage in either of the local daily newspapers; I didn't.)

DreamHaven is a great local resource for comic books. Like Gaiman, we encourage you to stop in and make a purchase, now more than ever. The Twin Cities needs all the bookstores it can get.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Through the Airwaves

Pete Dexter, longtime Philadelphia (and Scramento) newspaper columnist, was on NPR Saturday morning, touting his latest book Paper Trails. We have copies on the back side of the first table in the back room.

If you missed it, you can listen to the interview here.

Not Constantinople

The most recent installment of the BBC's program (they call it a programme, really) The Word is about the publishing scene in Calcutta (more correctly called Kolkata). Hear about the Calcutta Book Fair's search for a home, and listen to Amit Chaudhuri discuss his work. Then you can call yourself informed.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Book with a Beer Chaser

There's still time for you to get ready for next week's installment of our lubricated reading group Books & Bars. Join us Tuesday night (the 13th) at Bryant Lake Bowl (map) for conversation and a beverage with some very interesting folks. Doors open at 6:00pm for socializing; discussion begins in earnest at 7:00pm.

This month's book is On Beauty by Zadie Smith, the author of White Teeth. It's a novel of morals and manners. Struggling with a stale marriage and the misguided passions of his three adult children, long-suffering art professor Howard Belsey finds his family life thrown into turmoil by his son's engagement to the socially prominent daughter of a right-wing icon.

The Los Angeles Times said, "Oh happy day when a writer as gifted as Zadie Smith fulfills her early promise with a novel as accomplished, substantive and penetrating as 'On Beauty.' It's a thing of beauty indeed."

Books & Bars is not your typical book club. We provide an atmosphere for lively discussion of lesser known authors, good food and drinks. You're welcome to come even if you haven't read the book.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Tattoo You

Sometimes we get a book in the store that makes us all gather round to take a look. I recently found one while was shelving books: Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopedia is a two-volume collection of photographs and line drawings depicting the tattoos decorating some of the hardest of the hard in late-Soviet and post-Soviet Russia.

There are tons of great images for any artist, tattoo or otherwise. A lot of the designs are too adult for us to post, but here are some examples of the nicer ones.--David E

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Books... for Dummies

We recently received a large quantity of books from the for Dummies series. I'm not suggesting you need one of these for yourself, but we all have dummies in our lives and we all have to buy them gifts. Maybe some dimbulb you know wants to know more about champagne or cryptography or classical music. We can help you out with books on these and about seventy other topics, especially written for the ... ummm... relaxed reader.

Mashup Made in Heaven: Google Maps Books

While I'm not a big fan of Google's plan to capture all the world's books and put them online, even I will admit that there's a pretty cool feature they offer. Search for a title, then click the "About this book" link. Down towards the bottom of the page is a section called "Places mentioned in this book" where the cities and other places mentioned in the text of the book are laid out on a Google map.

For example, here are the towns from On the Road (scroll down to see the maps). And here are the locations from (shameless plug here) Tim Flannery's The Eternal Frontier. Not all books listed at Google have maps, but looking for those that do can easily kill a few slow hours online. Beware.--David E

Edmund White recalls Nabokov imitating Borges

Edmund White is a strange and exciting mix of the scholarly and the scandalous. So whether you're favoring the mind or the body, you'll find something to like in just about anything he's written. (We have a hardback copy of The Burning Library, a collection of his essays, for an absurdly low $5.99; that's a good place to start.) has posted a long interview with White. It's all worthwhile, but if you're in a hurry, here's a great bit from the conversation.

EW: Nabokov was quite a clown. He pretended to be Borges, and he pretended to be all these things…

Q: How do you pretend to be Borges?

EW: He put on a poncho and blind glasses.

We have a great selection of White's work in the store, including my own favorite Our Paris. And we also have a copy of Original Youth: The Real Story of Edmund White's Boyhood, in case you're feeling investigative.--David E

Ryszard Kapuscinski: News and Two Views

The late, great Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski died last month. He wrote atmospheric, poetic--and, it's been charged, unsubstantiated--accounts of upheavals in Angola, Iran, and Ethopia.

The good news: Granta has posted an interview with Kapuscinski from 1987. Meanwhile, dueling articles at present the man as either a novelist masquerading as a journalist or a great reporter who wrote in verse, depending on who you believe.

Now the bad news: Kapuscinski is currently out of stock and hard to get. But you can sign up on our website to be notified when we get copies of his work again. It's worth the wait, I promise.--David E

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Jonathan Ames at

If you have a taste for the odd and funny, you don't want to miss one my my favorite authors (and perhaps the most appealing deviate writing today), Jonathan Ames. He's like Woody Allen with a taste for transvestites. A good place to start is his recent article at in which he attends a sex class for men.--David E