Monday, April 30, 2007

How to Win a Bet

The 2007 edition of the Guiness Book of World Records goes on sale tomorrow. Be the first on your block to know the past year's... umm... accomplishments. The early knowledge could win you some bets against less informed folk.

If you're feeling more do-it-yourselfish, the Guiness World Records website helpfully points out some records you could still set, including:
  • Farthest throw of a playing card
  • Most eggs held in the hand
  • Tallest sugar cube tower
  • Longest distance flown by paper aircraft
  • Fastest bed-making by a team of two
  • Largest M & M mosaic

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Sunny Side of the Street

Usually book launches are wine-and-cheese parties. But Larry Millet is celebrating the publication of AIA Guide to the Twin Cities with a walking tour of Uptown and the Lakes. The walk is free, but reservations are required; you can get on the list by simply calling M&Q at 612/822-4611.

Larry Millett has written extensively about Twin Cities architecture. His books include Lost Twin Cities, Twin Cities Then and Now, and Strange Days, Dangerous Nights, as well as a series of mystery novels featuring Sherlock Holmes.

It should be a very interesting and educational evening.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Weird and Wonderful and Available Now 3

Oh the things on the shelves. In the hope of finding suitable homes for some of the hidden gems in the stacks, I continue this irregular feature dedicated to the strange and strangely interesting stuff we stock. (I promise these are all real books in our store.)

Tenet Tells... All?

Former CIA director George Tenet's book At the Center of the Storm goes on sale Monday. Rumors about the contents are rife (here and here, for example). Word is that Condoleeza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz, and Dick Cheney are not going to be well pleased, but the big mystery is how Tenet will explain his statement that the evidence of Iraq's WMD was "a slam-dunk case." We'll get a preview on tomorrow's edition of 60 Minutes when Tenet makes an appearance.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Maguro, Kudasai

Ever wonder how it has come to pass that Minneapolis--hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean--can have sushi-quality fish on the tables of two dozen restaurants every night? Or why Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market has become a tourist attraction? Or why tuna ranches have become large enough that you can see them on Google Maps?

Well, wonder no more. The Sushi Economy : Globalization and the Making of a Modern Delicacy by Sasha Issenberg (to be published May 3) has the answers to all your tuna queries. It's also a fascinating glimpse into the mechanics of globalization--good and bad. And if it makes you hungry, you can always feed your yen just down the street from us.

Rocking Readers

Where do young readers come from? North Minneapolis' Plymouth Christian Youth Center knows that getting kids in the habit of reading pays off for the rest of their lives, so they run the Rocking Readers program. Volunteers meet once a week with kindergarters in one-to-one reading sessions in local public schools. Last year, they found adult readers for 530 children in seven elementary school sites.

To volunteer, contact program coordinator Andrea Witt at 612/522-6501 or email her. It's easy and makes a big difference.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

You Heard It Here First

Britain's Royal Society announced its shortlist of titles for the best science book of the past year. (See the details here.) Previous winners of the £10,000 prize include Bill Bryson, Stephen Hawking and the eminent string theorist Brian Greene (author of the bestseller The Fabric of the Cosmos).

I mention this because a) one of the nominated books is Robert Henson's Rough Guide to Climate Change, and because b) we had a reading by Mr Henson in our little store last November. You're not going to be able to talk to the author at the May 15 awards ceremony, but you can always ask questions at our events. We bring good folks to you, up close and personal. Check out our events listings, so you can hear from the big names, before they get too big.--David E

Tuesday is the New Monday

Tuesday is the day that new books are generally released, and next Tuesday (Uno de Mayo) is no exception. New releases for the day include

UPDATE: Paulo Coehlo's new novel The Witch of Portobello has been postponed until May 15.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Cue Triumphal Music

We've been working hard to expand our new book stock, so it's nice to be reminded of our roots. Magers & Quinn has been named the Best Independent Bookstore (Used) by the local free weekly, the City Pages. The write-up loves our used stock, saying, "M&Q's buyers are discerning, so the treasure-to-trash ratio is above average, but they're also democratic, so they have pulp paperbacks as well as the letters of Robert Lowell, a shelf devoted to books on "sexual fulfillment," and a good amount of German philosophy."

We are vast. We contain multitudes.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Any Friend of Tom's...

We're hip. We have a myspace page for the store. If you're already on myspace you can see our events calendar and blog entries there, now.

What does that mean? I'm about the last person who can explain myspace to you, but I'll give it a try. Myspace lets you join social networks, which means you can talk to other myspace-cases, which in turn keeps you updated about what's going on. I don't understand it either, but if you want to enlighten me, you can post a corrective comment to this item.

I gather now it's all about acquiring friends. I'm inviting folks left and right, but the only one to reply thus far is Josh Kilmer-Purcell, author of the hilarious drag-queen dating a crack-addicted hustler memoir I'm Not Myself These Days. Be my friend, get a blurb.--David E

PS: I actually did like the book quite a bit, Josh.

PPS--Since myspace requires that everyone signing up include a gender and a birthdate in their profile, our store is presently a 38-year-old female. I'm not sure if that accurately reflects our vibe. What do you think? What age and gender should Magers & Quinn be? Post your thoughts in the comments section, please.

Yet More Complete

Just in time for the tail end of National Poetry Month, there's a new poem by William Shakespeare. OK, so it's not newly written, of course; in fact it was discovered about 30 years ago. But it was left out of the most recent editions of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. So it's new to you and most scholars, too.

“To The Queen, by the players” was apparently written as an epilogue to a performance of As You Like It on Tuesday, February 20, 1599. You can't read the poem online that I've been able to find, but you can hear it here, courtesy of the BBC.--David E

Check It Out

Public libraries in Minnesota--both Minneapolis and Owatonna--figure prominently in a recent newswire story on the growing foreign language collections (by the AP, via Forbes).

Monday, April 23, 2007

Road Not Taken

When I first saw the promotional materials for Driving over Lemons, I was struck by the description of the author, Chris Stewart, as "a former drummer for the rock band Genesis." After brushing up on my rock history, I now know that Stewart in fact left the band at the tender age of seventeen, so this isn't quite the story of a hard rocker gone rural.

Rather it's a tale of giving it all up and moving to the country. But unlike A Year in Provence, things in Stewart's book don't go so smoothly. But by all reports, Stewart's tale of life on a remote farm in Andalucia, Spain, is "a wonderful account of his Andalucian adventure" (Peter Gabriel) and "a true portrait of place" (Daily Mail).

The book comes out in paperback on May 1.--David E

Sunday, April 22, 2007

What the Dickens?

If you've ever loved a book so much that you wanted to crawl between the pages and live there, this story's for you--assuming that book was Martin Chuzzlewit or maybe Oliver Twist. Yes, bookworms, there will soon be a theme park based on the works of Charles Dickens.

The Guardian has all the details. "The centrepiece is a boat ride which, loosely speaking, is Great Expectations presented as a log flume." You can't make this stuff up.

The Guardian's Book Blog is also having fun with the topic, suggesting additional authors who might be ripe for the Six Flags treatment. Knotts Berry Animal Farm, anyone?

Saturday, April 21, 2007

How Cromulent

The good folks at Merriam-Webster are soliciting new words for their forthcoming dictionaries. Since lexicographers need to document words in action, your citations will be useful in helping MW decide whether or not a neologism deserves dictionary space in future editions.

Make your suggestion here, or just check out other people's submissions.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Quoted Without Comment

"The Internet is a fantastic creative tool that we don't yet fully understand. Most of the creative content of the Internet is rubbish, but you can say the same for much of the content in any bookstore."--Salman Rushdie, speaking at the University of Arkansas, as quoted in the Fayetteville, Ark., Morning News

Skin Deep

We have a number of good coffee table books for sale on a table at the front of the store. They're incredibly cheap--starting at $4.99--and quite good. You can get the book version of Ewan MacGregor and Charlie Boorman's TV travelogue Long Way Round for a measly $6.99, for example (instore purchases only).

But the pick of the litter has to be perennial Magers & Quinn bestseller Skin Shows : The Tattoo Bible. It's an exhaustive look at tattoos and tattooing around the world. No stone is left unturned; no patch of skin is left unmarked. I wasn't able to find any pictures from the book to show you, but I did find this page of "Amazing Facts about Tattoos".--David E

Thursday, April 19, 2007


As author websites go, Miranda July's site promoting her forthcoming book of short stories No One Belongs Here More Than You (available May 15) is nicely lowtech and actually rather winning.

I only wish the top of my fridge was as clean as hers is.--David E

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

In A Theatre Near You

The Time Traveler's Wife has long been a book club favorite. It's also been the subject of movie industry gossip since the then-married Brad Pitt and Jennifer Anniston bought the movie rights in 2003. It was long rumored that Pitt would star in the film version. Gus Van Sant was said to be considering directing.

Now the guessing game is over, reports Variety. The male lead, a man whose "Chrono-Impairment" causes him to involuntarily travel through time when he's under stress, will be played by Eric Bana, Pitt's costar in Troy. His longsuffering, non-timetraveling wife will be played by Rachel McAdams. Robert Schwenke will direct; Pitt is still producing. There's no word on how Jennifer is taking the news.

The movie begins shooting in August and is slated for a December 21 release.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A House Is Not a Home

Architect and critic Witold Rybczynski has a long list of books and articles on architecture (Looking Around), the pleasures of the metropolis (City Life), and even leisure time (Waiting for the Weekend). Informative and entertaining, he's a fascinating guide to the reasons behind things we see every day, but take for granted.

His new book is out today. Last Harvest : How a Cornfield Became New Daleville: Real Estate Development in America from George Washington to the Builders of the Twenty-first Century, and Why We Live In Houses Anyway focuses on the ubiquitous subdivision. It's excerpted at, so you can get a peek.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Dulcet Tones

Granted, half the fun of Rupert Everett is looking at him, but he has a lovely voice, as this conversation posted by the Sydney Morning Herald demonstrates.

He's down under launching his latest book, the memoir Red Carpets and Other Banana Skins, which Simon Callow called "a startling self-portrait, unapologetic but not in the least confessional, in-depth but not analytical, of someone who has done exactly what he has wanted when he has wanted, and to hell with the consequences... a superb and unexpectedly inspiring achievement."

All well and good, but Everett's book dishes the dirt on acting, sex, heroin, and Hollywood generally. If he does it in glittering, Firbankian prose, that's just gravy.--David E

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Teeny Ted from Turnip Town

It's finally spring in Minneapolis, and I don't expect even loyal readers will spend much time indoors today. So I suggest a quick read: Scientists at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver have made the world's smallest book. Engraved on a 30 silicon pages, it's 8,000 times smaller than you could see with the naked eye. The book, Teeny Ted from Turnip Town, is sadly unavailable in more conventional bindings, so I can't tell you what the critics are saying.

Details on how to make a microscopic silicon book are here, in case your gallium ionizer is free this weekend and you're feeling creative.--David E

Friday, April 13, 2007

Naked Truth

Last month, Alex Heard wrote an article in the New Republic (read it here; registration is required) in which he takes David Sedaris to task for leavening his writing with untruths. Various book world figures have weighed in, mostly in defense of Sedaris. Now Jack Schafer has posted his summation of the affair at He's quite critical of Sedaris, and the core of his argument is this: "If writing fiction is the license Sedaris and other nonfiction humorists need to get at 'larger truths,' why limit this exemption to humorists? Let reporters covering city hall, war, and business to embellish and exaggerate so they can capture 'larger truths,' too."

But the article only leaves me wondering: Why does Schafer seem to feel work of art must be true to be worthwhile? I need truth from reporters, because I base my actions and opinions on their words. I need truth from friends, for the same reason: because what they tell me will affect what I do and how I act. But I don't know Sedaris, and the impact of his work does not depend on its veracity.

Schafer wants the words on the page to tell him about the world. I want the words on the page to tell me about an idea and in turn to make me think about the world. If an author can do that, then whether his points and observations are drawn from literal truth or made up from whole cloth doesn't matter.--David E

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut Remembered

Kurt Vonnegut died yesterday. Obituaries and tributes are legion, but I want to point out this brief passage from an unnamed writer at Shelf Awareness, a bookseller industry newsletter:

"In our house, Vonnegut remains a legend for once inspiring our engineer brother, who has rarely read fiction unless it was assigned to him by a teacher, to engage in an unusual spurt of reading simply for the fun of it."

What more can you say of an author than that he makes you want to read?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Number One Ladies Unite!

The redoutable Mma "Precious" Ramotswe may claim to be "just a tiny person in Africa," but to her legions of fans, she's a smiling force of nature, solving all the neighborhood's problems--from witchcraft to philandering spouses. Ramotswe returns next week in the eighth installment in Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series The Good Husband of Zebra Drive, available Tuesday, April 17.

McCall's Botswana-based novels know they stem from his abiding love for the country. "You feel it when you get off a plane... something about the atmosphere of good in the country," he has said.

If you've already read the other books in the series, there's an excerpt from the next one in Edinburgh's The Scotsman newspaper. You can also download an interview with the author from our friends north across the border at Chapters.


Question: Who wrote Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus? Answer: According to John Lauritsen, in his forthcoming book The Man Who Wrote Frankenstein (to be published May 1), the answer is Percy Bysse Shelley. Oh.

Even before its publication, the book is generating a lot of verbage. Camille Paglia uses the book as a stick with which to beat academics in her blog at She also loves the book itself: "I haven't been this exhilarated by a book about literature since I devoured Leslie Fiedler's iconoclastic essays in college back in the 1960s."

Now, Germaine Greer has posted an article in the UK's Guardian newspaper. She defends Mary Shelley's authorship, but it's a faint praise indeed: Greer says of the novel, "[I]t is not a good, let alone a great novel and hardly merits the attention it has been given." But it's all yours, Mary.

Mark Your Calendar

Thursday, May 3, 2007, 7:00pm, Walker Art Center,
1750 Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis

Rain Taxi is presenting a special Free Verse event being held in conjunction with the exhibition Kara Walker: My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love, currently on view at the Walker Art Center. Poet Kevin Young, a contributor to the exhibition catalogue, will read from his work and discuss the use of language and writing in Walker’s art. Young is the author of several acclaimed collections of poetry, most recently For the Confederate Dead, and has edited the Library of America's John Berryman: Selected Poems as well as the anthologies Blues Poems, Jazz Poems, and Giant Steps: The New Generation of African American Writers.

Free Verse is co-sponsored by the Walker Art Center.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Cooking the Books

The Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library is hosting the "Incredible, Edible Book Contest." Dishes depicting the title of famous books are on display, but through the wonder that is the internet, you can see them without venturing to the Kansas capital. The couscous representation of Frank Herbert's sci-fi classic Dune is a naive triumph.

The report says, "The tradition takes place in 28 states and 15 countries, but this is Topeka's first edible book festival!" [exclamation theirs]. There's been a Rice of the Ancient Mariner in Texas and a Finnegan's Cake in the UK. How did I miss this? --David E

Friday, April 6, 2007

Say It Soft and It's Almost Like Praying

One of the most euphonious titles of the season has to be Kevin Sessums' Mississippi Sissy. It's a memoir of growing up "different" in the South. As an example of the book's wide appeal (and as a glimpse of its subject matter), I offer this tidbit: Andrew Sullivan has posted this quote from Michael Cunningham: "We have, as it turns out, been sorely missing a book by a writer who is equally at home with Flannery O'Connor and Jacqueline Susann; who understands that Eudora Welty and Johnny Weissmuller are not only members of the same species but are intricately related...."

If your gaydar isn't going off like a tornado siren in a trailer park by now, you're just not paying attention. Come in and get a copy of Gloria Goes to Gay Pride, and we'll get you up to speed by June.

In the meantime, you can read Sessums blogging about his book tour. He's namedropping like a pro (I guess fourteen years writing celebrity profiles for Vanity Fair will do that), and it's fun. You can also hear Sessums in this SF Chronicle podcast.--David E

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Norman Mailer on Bookworm

KCRW's estimable program Bookworm has just posted part one of a two-part interview with Norman Mailer. You can also read an excerpt of his latest novel The Castle in the Forest, which tells of the fictionalized childhood of Adolph Hitler.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Have Your People Call My Veterinarian

Diabetics beware. In an article published today, the New York Times tells the story of the late Dewey, a cat found in the book drop of the Spencer, Iowa, library. There he grew up and "lifted the spirits of residents hit hard by the 1980s farming crisis." Some cat, to steal a phrase from Mr EBW. Now Dewey's story has been sold to Grand Central Publishing for the princely sum of $1.25 million.

Oh, how Hollywood-ized bigtime publishing has become. From the "it's like Marley & Me meets Bridges of Madison County, written by Nicholas Sparks!" description to the account of the agent negotiating the deal while on a bike trip, it's a backstory right out of Tinsel Town.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Ralph Nader to Read and Sign Books

We are pleased to announce a reading by Ralph Nader. The event will be Wednesday, April 18 at 7:30pm at the Plymouth Congregational Church, 1900 Nicollet Ave S, Minneapolis.

Ralph Nader was recently named by the Atlantic as one of the 100 most influential figures in American history, one of only four living people to be so honored. The son of immigrants from Lebanon, he has launched two major presidential campaigns and founded or organized more than one hundred civic organizations. His groups have made an impact on tax reform, atomic power regulation, the tobacco industry, clean air and water, food safety, access to health care, civil rights, congressional ethics.

"My boyhood in a small town in Connecticut was shaped by my family, my friends, our neighbors, my chores and hobbies, the town's culture and environment, its schools, libraries, factories, and businesses, their workers, and by storms that came from nowhere to disrupt everything.... Yet childhood in any family is a mysterious experience.... What shapes the mind, the personality, the character?"

So begins The Seventeen Traditions, the unexpected and extraordinary book by Ralph Nader. Known for his lifetime of selfless activism, Nader now looks back to the earliest days of his own life, to his serene and enriching childhood in bucolic Winsted, Connecticut. From listening to learning, from patriotism to argument, from work to simple enjoyment, Nader revisits seventeen key traditions he absorbed from his parents, his siblings, and the people in his community, and draws from them inspiring lessons for today's society. Warmly human, rich with sensory memories and lasting wisdom, it offers a kind of modern-day parable of how we grow from children into responsible adults--a reminder of a time when nature and community were central to the way we all learned and lived.

THIS IS A TICKETED EVENT Advance tickets are $5 at Magers and Quinn, $7 at the door (if any remain). Three dollars of each ticket goes to the Groveland Food Shelf.

Plymouth Church is currently celebrating 150 years of ministry in the heart of Minneapolis with liberal theology, social justice, traditional worship and the arts as integral to spiritual life. The Groveland Emergency Foodshelf, located in the Plymouth Congregational Church building, distributes over 25,000 pounds of food to about 900 individuals and families each month in nearby downtown neighborhoods.

We hope you can join us for this great event.

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 10th) 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.

April's book is Black Swan Green by David Mitchell. The novel recounts a year in the life of Jason Taylor as he growing up in a small village in Worcestershire, England, in 1982. The SF Chronicle said, "With this novel, Mitchell has stripped away much of the surface flash without sacrificing intelligent prose and has created a genuinely pristine and personal work. Comparisons could be made to Roddy Doyle or Mark Haddon, and those comparisons are not shoddy by any means."

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