Thursday, May 31, 2007

Big in Japan

Japanese fans of haiku are rejoicing today over the news of a new game from Nintendo DS. Enpitsu de Oku no Hosomichi DS allows players to trace over the characters in the poetry of Matsuo Basho while actor Toru Nakamura reads the verse aloud. Think of it as karaoke for the literary set.

Basho is considered the master of the haiku, the 5-7-5 syllable format short poem. He lived from approximately 1644 to 1694, and his "Basho Hut" was a center of versifying in the Japanese capital. Classics of his oeuvre include this ditty:
iza saraba / yukimi ni korobu / tokoromade
now then, let's go out / to enjoy the snow... until / I slip and fall!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Wendell Barry Gets Local

Farmer/author Wendell Berry will be featured during "Keeping the Land and People Together" at the College of St. Catherine in Saint Paul Friday, June 29. This evening of readings and discussion, which is being held to launch the Land Stewardship Project's (LSP) 25th Anniversary, will also include Minnesota authors Mary Rose O'Reilley and Joe Paddock. The event begins at 7 p.m. and will be hosted by LSP co-founder Ron Kroese. A reception and refreshments featuring local food will follow.

Seating is limited. Tickets are $25 and must be purchased ahead of time by calling 651-653-0618 or e-mailing

William Gibson--Prophet of The New War?... Or Just an Author?

The blog Global Nerdy (great name, guys) has a posting comparing the recent cyber-attacks against Estonia (see the news here and here) to the cyberpunk hackers in the novels of William Gibson. He doesn't fare so well in the predicting game. Then again, he is after all an author, not a fortuneteller. (Sorry, SF fans, it's true.)

Gibson's newest novel Spook Country comes out in August.

Identical Twins Write Same Book

They grew up together, taught English together, and now the Mulgray Twins have written a book together. Read it with someone you love or at least closely resemble.

(Click on the picture to read the whole story.)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Titled Nobility

It took me a minute to get this; I blame decaf coffee.

Working IX to V : Orgy Planners, Funeral Clowns and Other Prized Professions of the Ancient World

The author's going to be on National Public Radio in June. I hope the book is as good as the title.--David E

No Attendance Necessary

Customers don't always make it to book signings. And now authors don't have to, either. Margaret Atwood has invented the Long Pen, a machine which gives you a signed copy of a book even when the author is on the other side of the world. The remote hand moves the pen, mimicking the author's motions, while a video camera mounted on top of the machine allows you to interact with the author. (You can watch the Long Pen do its work here.)

I can't help but wonder how long it will be before the announce a service that allows you to stay home, talk to the author over your own computer, and have the signed book shipped to you. It's an agoraphobe's dream.

Question for collectors: Is a LongPen-inscribed book still a signed copy? Discuss.

Burn, Baby, Burn

Tom Wayne, owner of Prospero's Books in Kansas City, was fed up with the unsold books in his warehouses. So Sunday, he burned them. That's right, to draw attention to our disregard for the printed word, Wayne lit a pile of books on fire. (You can read the local coverage here.

The fire department arrived shortly and put the blaze out--not because they're readers, but simply because Wayne didn't have a burning permit.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Not in This Country

I love the Moomin books by Tove Jansson; I've already written about that. So I was happy to hear that Jansson's novel for adults Fair Play will be published next month. I was then crushed to learn that no US publication plans have been announced.

Still, the Times of London has posted the new edition's introduction, and it's eye-opening. It turns out that the author was in a forty-year relationship with another woman. Penguin didn't tell readers that, claiming instead that Jansson was single. Fair Play's story mirrors that relationship, blending tales of art, work, and love.

At least, the Times says it does. Until I get to the UK, I won't be able to find out.--David E

Friday, May 25, 2007

Urgent Poetry

Former US Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky was recently interviewed on the BBC/NPR program The World about the University of Iowa's book Poems from Guantanamo: The Detainees Speak (to be published August 15). He was asked, to be blunt, is the poetry in this book any good?

I won't tell you his answer. You'll have to listen to the interview. And when you do, it's worth paying attention to Pinsky's very nuanced ideas of what constitutes poetry. There's also a further discussion of that question on the Encyclopaedia Britannica's blog.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

So Many Words

Since she won't be allowed a cell phone, BlackBerry, or computer in the clink, Paris Hilton is apparently going retro and stocking up on books. On the list, Eckhart Tolle's neo-Buddhist self-help guide The Power of Now.

Let's hope it helps.

Out of the Book, On to the Screen

On Friday June 15 at 7:30 pm, Magers and Quinn will host a screening of the film documentary about McEwan's latest novel, On Chesil Beach, a story that gives a deep understanding of the innocence of a newly married couple--both virgins--in 1962, when marriage was presumed to be the outward sign of maturity and independence. The first film in the Out of the Book series is directed by Doug Biro.

The screening of the movie On Chesil Beach at Magers and Quinn will treat literary and film buffs to interviews with McEwan in London, commentary from peers, critics, and fans, and on-location footage from the novel's setting. Magers and Quinn is one of over 40 independent bookstores across the country which will host a special screening of On Chesil Beach.

Check out the preview:

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Rare is Still Rare in Russia

There's a nice portrait of the secondhand bookstores of Russia's capital in the Moscow Times today.

The market in antique and rare books in Russia has been tight for years. Before the collapse of the Soviet Union, censorship was the cause. Today, ironically enough, capitalism is to blame. Says one Moscow bookstore employee, "There are less and less [collectible] books available now, with the oligarchs buying them up and locking them up in their castles.... Maybe their children will sell them on one day but who knows."

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Marketing by Mail

Harry Potter fans in the UK will be able to purchase commemorative stamps celebrating the final book's publication. Stamps will go on sale July 17, so you can have them in time to send spoilers to all your slow-reading friends after the July 21 release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

It also appears that non-Brits will be able to purchase stamps online.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Tlk 2 Me Lk Lvrs Do

T-Mobile held a contest in the UK to crown a "text-laureate," a poet of the 150-character SMS format. The winners are here. The first- and second-place entries are fine, but I'm a fan of bronze-medalist:

Tru Lve
@}--{-- on d 14th
wlkN h& n h&
caricatures n tym
20 yr.z NXT 2 yor luvR
cooking washing pikN ^ sOkz
n wrd of complaint o regret
stAz d tst of tym

Except for the picking up socks part. I want more exciting love than that, thanks.--David E

Gimme Gimme Gimme

The good folks at are giving away a free copy of Curtis Sittenfield's new novel The Man of My Dreams, the second book by the author of Prep.

Details of the contest are here. Good luck, readers.--David E

Friday, May 18, 2007

A Million Little Claimants

The headlines will read, "James Frey readers to get cash settlement." But don't get your hopes up.

True, a federal judge has ruled that Random House must set aside $2.35 million to be divided among purchasers of A Million Little Pieces. But according to the stipulations described last fall in the Wall Street Journal, anyone who wants a piece of the pie must be able to produce
  • proof of purchase (ie, a receipt)
  • page 163 of the hardcover edition or the cover of the paperback
  • and a sworn statement that he or she would not have purchased the book had the buyer known that it was a tissue of lies.

And this offer is only good to those who purchased the book on or before January 26, 2006, when the truth came out. Does anyone really keep their receipts that long? If you're a packrat, this could be payback time for everyone who told you to clean out your files.

The domain name has been reserved, but is not presently active. Check it out for more information as it becomes available.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Book as Feeler

Is Al Gore testing the presidential waters with his new book The Assault on Reason? Talking heads have thought so since the book was announced last fall. On Tuesday, we'll find out, as the book is released and Gore goes on a five-city tour.

Subtitled "How the Politics of Fear, Secrecy, and Blind Faith Subvert Wise Decision Making, Degrade Our Democracy, and Put Our Country and Our World in Peril," Gore's latest book is a critique of the non-fact-based reasoning we've seen lately. It's a call for reason and evidence and what we can do to make them part of our everyday lives again.

Time magazine has posted an excerpt so you can see how successful Gore has been as an author. As to how he's doing as a presidential candidate, only time will tell.--David E

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Girl, with Gun

Among the lots for sale at Bonham's on June 20 is a 32-page notebook containing the complete poetic works of Miss Bonnie Parker, gangsterette.

While she was in jail and separated from partner-in-crime Clyde Barrow, Parker passed the time crafting her magnum opus. But clearly, her life on the lamb was not far behind her. Here's a sample: "Pat O'Neal, at the Paris Wheel/Makes a grab for a hidden 'gat'/McCall let go and Pat sags low/As the 'sub' went rat-tat-tat."

The estimated sale price is $30,000 to $50,000.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Tickets, Please

Mike Jones discusses his memoir I Had to Say Something : The Art of Ted Haggard's Fall in our store on June 21, at 7:30pm. Tickets are $3.00 and are available now in our store.

Books & Babes

We're not your run of the mill bookstore. For example, last night's reading by Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting. His latest novel, The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs, dwells on both sex and food. So how better to bring that to the reading than to have burlesque dancers serving eclairs to the audience?

Thanks to the ladies of Le Cirque Rouge for helping us out. It was a great evening. Watch our events page for the upcoming reading by the author of Water for Elephants; we're in touch with the Minnesota Zoo. I'm kidding, but watch our events page anyway.

Oh yeah, and folks liked that Welsh guy a lot too.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Big Woods

A while ago, I wrote an item about a prize for the UK's oddest book titles of 2006. One of the titles is How Green Were the Nazis? edited by Franz-Josef Bruggemeier, Mark Cioc and Thomas Zeller. Although the book is still not available in this country, we can at least see the cover. And the story behind the image is as intriguing as the title itself.

According to Reuters and the website, the swastika-shaped group of larch trees in northeast Germany was planted among the darker pines in the 1930s. A spokesman for the Brandenberg state agriculture ministry said, "It seems to have been something of a fashion among Nazi loyalist forest wardens." The trees were visible for only a few weeks each autumn and spring when the leaves change color. In 1992, after reunification, the trees were cut down as a result of Germany's ban on the public display of swastikas.--David E

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Salty Tang of Brain Death

Worried that your book club will be just too much work over the lazy summer season? Have I got the group for you, slacker.'s book club is discussing the forthcoming book Don't Hassle the Hoff by the Baywatch star himself. The book doesn't come out until Tuesday the 15th, but you can get a preview at the St Martin's site.--David E

Friday, May 11, 2007

Judge A Book

As you may recall from an earlier posting about the various covers for the forthcoming Harry Potter book, US and UK versions of the same book often have very different covers. For example, here are two pairs of covers--American first, British second.

With thanks to my new favorite book blog, The Book Design Review.
--David E

Thursday, May 10, 2007

You Heard It Here First

Psst... On June 21, we'll be holding a reading and signing with Mike Jones. I know, you don't know who Mike Jones is, so here's the story:

Mike Jones is the Denver masseur who realized that his longtime client was none other than Ted Haggard, then-president of the National Association of Evangelicals, which represents more than 45,000 churches with 30 million members. When Jones told his story last November, Haggard resigned as pastor of the 14,000-member New Life Church in Colorado Springs. Mike has written his memoir about the whole affair, I Had to Say Something, coming out June first.

Pastor Ted has been to counseling and is now "completely heterosexual", but we promise that Mike is not going to be that boring. He'll dish the dirt and you can be there to hear it. Mark June 21 on your calendar. We'll be announcing more details of the event as they become available.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

First and Foremost

Roy Richard Grinker, author of Unstrange Mind : Remapping the World of Autism. After Grinker's daughter Isabelle was diagnosed with the condition, he set out to learn more about the illness and its treatment. What he's learned has set the conventional wisdom on its ear.

Grinker was just on Minnesota Public Radio's Midmorning program. It was a good, lively discussion, but if you were listening on the radio (or if you listen online), you weren't able to call in and participate.

Thing is, MPR is following a path we've already blazed. Roy Richard Grinker was in our store about a week ago, reading from his book and answering questions from the audience. So if you want to see the newsmakers before they hit the airwaves, watch our events page. You'll hear it here first.

Glorious and Free

In April, Canada's House of Commons passed a proforma (even perfunctory) resolution lauding the Canada Council, the country's arts funding agency. Among those watching the event was author Yann Martel, author of The Life of Pi. He was so distressed at the Parliament's lack of attention, and at the Prime Minister's distraction in particular, that he has vowed to send PM Stephen Harper a book every two weeks, in the hopes of drawing more attention to Canada's arts.

All well and good, but what really interests us here south of the border is that Martel is sending a very interesting and detailed cover letter with each of his offerings. They're fascinating mini-reviews, and you can read them on Martel's website

So far, he's sent Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilych and Orwell's Animal Farm. I'll post more of Martel's recommendations over the next months.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

News from Across the River

Carol Erdahl, owner of St Paul's Red Balloon Bookshop, is the subject of an article in the Minnesota Women's Press today. It includes a nice anecdote on how Erdahl and founding partner Michele Cromer-Poiré decided that they could work together successfully. The best news, though, is that they're still there, bringing children's books to Grand Avenue and St Paul.

Shop Locally

The San Francisco Retail Diversity Study was just published and contains this astonishing fact: hometown bookstores in the City by the Bay returned $55 million dollars to the local economy. Chain stores contributed only $8 million. Granted, independent bookstores in San Francisco command 55% of the book market in the Bay Area, but even so, this is yet another reason that shopping locally benefits customers as much as it benefits local businesses.

Unlike national chains who use out of town printers, lawyers, accountants, and the like, local businesses spend their money just down the street. According to the Twin Cities' own Metro Independent Business Alliance, which works to promote local businesses, an average of 68 cents per dollar spent at a locally-owned business stays in the area. For national chains, that figure is only 43 cents per dollar.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Murakami Junkies Unite!

After Dark, the new novel from Haruki Murakami, comes out tomorrow. Read the first chapter. Then visit The Complete Review, and you'll find a long list of blurbs (positive and a few negative) from reviews of Murakami's entire body work plus an exhaustive list of links to other articles, reviews, and interviews with the author.

I know, I write a lot about Murakami, so I'll just say that this new book is good. It's a good book. Buy it, OK?--David E

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Photos de Mexico

Today is Cinco de Mayo, Mexico's Independence Day. If you're not celebrating you can still get a taste of the festivities south of the border. Here are some photos from In the Eye of the Sun: Mexican Fiestas by Geoff Winningham. It's on the shelf now.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Black and White and Green All Over

Harry Potter is a big deal to readers worldwide, of course. But did you also know that it's a big deal to environmentalists as well? Twelve million copies of a 784-page book adds up to 16,700 tons of paper, and that's a lot of dead trees.

Last time around, there were calls to boycott Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince because it was not going to be printed on recycled paper. This time the American publisher, Scholastic, has announced that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will be printed on 30% recycled paper and that the remainder of the wood for the paper will come from certified "forest friendly" suppliers.

So you can rest a little easier: finding out Harry and Hermione's fates won't have to mean you clearcut another mountaintop. Stop in today and pre-order a copy with a clear conscience.--David E

Thursday, May 3, 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 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.

This month's book is Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart. It's a comic novel of post-Soviet Russia. The New York imes called it "immodestly vigorous, so burstingly sure of its barbaric excellence."

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.

Big Day for Gawande

The reading by Atul Gawande that we held last month, you missed a good one. The doctor and author of Better : A Surgeon's Notes on Performance was fascinating, and the audience's questions were informed and insightful.

Don't take my word for it. Minnesota Public Radio recorded the talk and will be broadcasting it today at noon. You can hear it here. But wait... there's more. Gawande was also on National Public Radio's "Day to Day" program yesterday.

And if you want to be ahead of the curve, check out our events page. You might just get on the radio, too.--David E

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

No Tickets Required

Tickets are almost gone for Roy Richard Grinker's appearance at Minnesota Public Radio this afternoon, but don't worry. He's also going to be in our store tonight at the much more sociable hour of 7:30. You have a much better chance of asking questions here than at the MPR event. We encourage you to come. This event is free and open to the public.

Remember, information about this and all our events is always on our website's events page.

Bill Bryson Is Not Amused

There's a new Trash Czar in Britain. Well, maybe not Czar, but Bully Pulpiteer, at least. According to the Guardian, it's none other than the gentle humorist Bill Bryson.

As head of the country's Campaign to Protect Rural England, Bryson (a resident of Norfolk in the eastern UK) is calling for tougher enforcement of anti-littering laws. "Fly-tipping," he says, "in particular is a scandal...." Despite Bryson's Des Moines roots, fly-tipping is not overturning insects after a drunken binge at Iowa State; it's the illegal dumping of trash. I looked it up.--David E

They Paved Paradise--An Update

Witold Rybczynski, author of 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 and subject of a post here last month, was on NPR earlier this week.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Another Great Leap?

China's largest bookstore, the state-owned Xinhua chain, celebrated its 70th anniversary today. The bookstore is older than (Communist) China itself, having been founded in 1937, twelve years before the People's Republic was declared in 1949.

But all may not be well for the stores. The official Chinese newsagency (confusingly also called "Xinhua") reports this remark by Li Changchun, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of CPC [Communist Party of China] Central Committee: "I hope Xinhua Bookstore can feel the urgency to carry out speedy reforms, in order to meet the public's growing demands for 'food for thought' and in the face of a boom in global culture," Li said.

It's unclear exactly what that means. It could well be a call for greater openness, at least in the run-up the the Beijing Olympic games. Then again, in 1956 Chairman Mao encouraged free speech, famously saying "Let a hundred flowers bloom, let the hundred schools of thought contend." But a year later, he changed his mind and things ended very badly for those who'd spoken out.

For now, you can always get your Chinese language books right here in Minneapolis.