Sunday, July 29, 2007

On Hiatus

Your ususally dutiful Magers & Quinn blogger is on vacation in Wyoming. I'll return on August 9. Until then, enjoy the scenery.--David E

Saturday, July 28, 2007

This Book Isn't Going to Sell Itself

An editor at Publishers Weekly is shocked--shocked, I tell you--to discover that a publicist with whom he thought he was having a deep and meaningful epistolary relationship is in fact a pair of interns writing the same not-so-personalized note in preview copies of a new book. The editor takes his revenge by informing of the publicist's epic insincerity. And thus is justice restored to the universe.

Click the pic for all the sordid details.--David E

Friday, July 27, 2007

Weird and Wonderful and Available Now 4

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.)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

When We Get Behind Closed Doors--Part 2

The Guardian has a very interesting article which pulls back the curtain a bit further. In it, we get a glimpse of life in today's Saudia Arabia: "In Rajaa Alsanea's Girls of Riyadh, sex in Saudi Arabia is sighs and tears, cruising, long telephone calls after midnight, instant messaging, arranged marriages, prayers to God, the verse of Nizar Qabbani, running from the religious police, unsatisfactory wedding nights, getting even and divorce."

See my earlier post about the impact of Alsanea's novel on Saudi publishing here.--David E

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Up and Down the Dial

I don't always think it's useful to listen to a personality make suggestions about something totally outside their usual area of expertise. For example, I wouldn't let Rachel Ray tune up my car. But when the New York Times posts a playlist from Sarah Vowell, I'll pay it some heed. After all, before her success on This American Life and her bestselling book Assassination Vacation, Vowell cut her writing teeth in the pages of Rolling Stone magazine, talking music.

I don't know most of the songs she mentions, but I do love number seven: Richard Thompson's cover of "Oops... I Did It Again," so I trust the other recommendations are just as good.

If you want more, check out Vowell's book Radio On for even more music writing.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

When We Get Behind Closed Doors

After its initial publication in Beirut, Rajaa Alsanea's novel Girls of Riyadh caused a great deal of protest in her native Saudia Arabia. It seems many didn't like her book's depiction of women's lives and loves behind the veil. But in the end the book was made available in the kingdom, and the result was not fire and brimstone, but instead more books.

Reports Reuters: "Saudi Arabia's literary output doubled in 2006, with half of the authors women, and publishing industry insiders suggest the growing interest is partly due to Alsanea's book, which centers on four women from affluent homes who must navigate a minefield of rules and taboos on sex, marriage and social caste to get and keep their men."

Granted, only 50 books were published in the whole of Saudia Arabia last year. Most of the country's authors publish abroad, rather than face the government's censorship machinery.--David E

Back to School

The University of Texas has posted the reading list for its "Freshman Reading Roundup." New students can choose from any of about forty titles to read this summer before classes begin.

For those of us not going to school this fall, the list is still a good source of inspiration for your summer reading. Titles range from An Inconvenient Truth and Black Like Me to Yevgeny Zamatin's Soviet-era sci-fi novel We.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Faking It--Part 2

The Encyclopedia Britannica continues its thumbnail guide to 20th century literary movements. This week it's E through I. My favorite:

Inklings, 1940s. English authors with strong Christian beliefs and a preference for pre-19th-century poetry and myth: C. S. Lewis, Perelandra (1943); J. R. R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings (1954); Charles Walter Stansby Williams, All Hallows’ Eve (1945).

The Inklings met at a pub named the Eagle and Child (pictured above), but more commonly known as the Bird and Baby.--David E

Friday, July 20, 2007

I Propose... Never Mind

Are you staying late sweating over your pitch for your Great American Novel, trying to get your proposal just right, hoping to woo potential publishers into giving you a huge advance? Don't bother. has posted William Gibson's proposal (.pdf) for the book which eventually became his forthcoming novel Spook Country, to be released August 7. The proposal sketches a story about two readers of a blog called "Warchalker" who are drawn into the blogger's search for a shipping container of hundred dollar bills liberated from the American occupying forces in Iraq and now lost in transit somewhere in the world. Trouble is, unnamed bad guys also want the millions. A novel ensues.

And how much of this actually made it into Gibson's eventual book? I've read Spook Country, and I can say with authority, not much at all. There's a shipping container, and there are bad guys, and that's about it. As Gibson says: ...I'm curious how you progress from one group of characters into another group as you're planning the book or writing it.

Gibson: Well, I think the key thing there is that I never really believe in the proposal. Does your publisher believe in it?

Gibson: I don't know--it seems to be a sort of ritual object and I've actually been afraid to find out whether or not I could get a contract without one....

Read the entire interview here.--David E

Thursday, July 19, 2007

With My Little Eye

As an inveterate reader of the "Missed Connections" type of personal ads, I was tickled pink to stumble upon Julie Wilson's blog Seen Reading. Julie is a master spy in Toronto who is putting her powers to good use, promoting reading--and literary voyeurism.

Her methodology is simple:
  1. I see you reading.
  2. I guesstimate where you are in the book.
  3. I trip on over to the bookstore and make a note of the text.
  4. I let my imagination rip.
Her observations and subsequent flights of fancy are well worth reading.--David E

Mix & Mingle

The Friends of the Saint Paul Public Library will hold its fourth annual Opus & Olives fundraiser on Sunday, October 28.

Mingle with guests including the poet Nikki Giovanni and Dave Zirin, author of Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics and Promise of Sports. Then hear them speak about their work, their lives, and anything else they want to talk about over dinner.

Buy your tickets online or by calling 651/222-3242.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Imagine All the People... Gone--Part 2

A few weeks ago I posted about a radio interview with Alan Weisman, author of the forthcoming SF novel The World Without Us. Now, thanks to the good folks at Very Short List, I can tell you there's a website for the book as well.

Besides the usual praise and reviews, has a very interesting slideshow depicting Manhattan in the 15,000 years after humans disappear and stop maintaining its infrastructure and a movie about what happens to houses which aren't kept up.--David E

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Other Murakami

I know I go on a lot about Haruki Murakami, but this is not one of those posts. Instead, I'm writing about Ryu Murakami, whose books include the surreal and down at heels Coin Locker Babies and the seedy, creepy In the Miso Soup. Now comes his latest, the incredibly distressing Piercing.

Piercing is the story of two damaged people, victims of past child abuse, who find each other and work through their issues using an icepick, a Swiss army knife, and various other less-than therapeutic implements. It's also a love story, in a very, very dark way. (You can also read a review of Piercing in the Japan Times.)

Ryu Murakami's books are on a downward trajectory, each one darker and scarier than the last. It's a sickening rollercoaster past Tokyo's neon lights, and I love it.--David E

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Punctuated... And How

Punctuation sure does get people angry. Witness the UK's Apostrophe Protection Society or this blog deriding unnecessary quotation marks.

And if any more proof was needed, you can find more than enough in the comments following David Crystal's article attacking Lynn Truss' "zero tolerance" policy towards punctuational incorrectness. Crystal really brought out the partisans. ("Contrary to what some posters above believe, the subjunctive has not disappeared in the English language, not at all." and "What I wrote was 'fully conjugated'. Your examples show the subjunctive is not fully conjugated. Indeed, it is not conjugated at all.") There are over 100 comments; it's fun reading.--David E

Friday, July 13, 2007

Be a Mensch: Visit Your Local Library

It's not too late to participate in the Friends of the St Paul Public Library's series of book discussions entitled ""Your Heart's Desire: Sex and Love in Jewish Literature." Held at 7pm every Tuesday in July at the Highland Park branch, the events are free and open to the public. This month's remaining books are Visit the Friends of the St Paul Public Library website for details and information on registering.

Newfound Tribe of Librarians Not Happy

So I'm not the only one who was irked by the New York Times' article on the newer, hipper librarian recently unearthed in deepest Brooklyn. (See my post "It's Hip to Be Pretty" here if you missed it.) Nicole Scherer at The Huffington Post has a nice roundup of snarky opinions from the blogosphere, particularly about the Times' depiction of the "guybrarian."

Thursday, July 12, 2007

007 @ 100

Word today that the estate of Ian Fleming has annointed Sebastian Faulks, probably best know as the author of Charlotte Gray, to write the next official James Bond novel. Faulks' book, to be called Devil May Care, will be published in May to coincide with the hundredth anniversary of Fleming's birth.

The Guardian also reports the news, along with a satirical excerpt from the new novel, a segment in which Bond stares down his arch-rival Jaws, a thinly veiled contemporary British writer obsessed with his teeth.--David E

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Put Your Pants On and Read

On the heels of last week's news of a clothing-optional book signing in Vermont, comes this great theory from the sages at underwear created literacy. According to Dr Marco Mostert, a historian at Utrecht University, an increase in discarded underpants (itself primarily the result of folks moving to the big city where underwear was the custom) made cloth-based paper cheaper than the earlier parchment, and thus reading material was more widely available than ever before to the huddled, jockeyed masses.

Follow this link to see more on the story and a picture of what medieval underwear looked like.--David E

It's Hip to Be Pretty

Ever on the cutting edge, the New York Times "Styles" section has discovered that there are librarians under the age of fifty. And, this being the "Styles" section, these newly-found booksters are fresh and trendy, in their "thrift-store inspired clothes and abundant tattoos."

Of course, anyone who's ventured into the blogosphere has already encountered plenty of lively librarians; my favorite is Your Neighborhood Librarian.

And while we're objectifying the bookish, I'll point you towards the winner of's "Hot" Straight Men Of Book Publishing" contest. Enjoy.--David E

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Sheer Genius

Judge the Book has hit a home run with this one. Count the hands.

Did you get five?

Faking It

Today the blog at Encyclopaedia Britannica begins a handy series of postings sure to help literary fakers everywhere. "20th-Century Literary Genres in a Nutshell: Part 1" lists movements and key authors. So if you're not clear on Acmeism ("Russian poets who reacted against the mystical, vague, and allusive qualities of symbolism: Anna Akhmatova, Chetki (1914); Osip Mandel’shtam, Kamen’ (1913)") or just want a quick refresher on the Black Mountain Poets ("1950s–1960s. Teachers and students of Black Mountain College (1933–1953) in North Carolina whose poetry was aligned with the rhythms and spontaneity of consciousness: Charles Olson, The Maximus Poems (1960); Robert Creeley, For Love: Poems, 1950–1960 (1962)."), this is the place for you.

This first post goes through D; further posts will come each week.--David E

Monday, July 9, 2007

Fly on the Shelves

Design Observer has posted an article about Jack Stauffacher's storied Greenwood Press. My favorite bit, though is the slideshow of Stauffacher's shelves. I'm always reading the titles on bookshelves in the backgrounds of photographs, so I'm glad for a chance to be able to stare openly for a change.--David E

Sunday, July 8, 2007

The 80s Weren't So Good the First Time Around

I've just been dying for an excuse to blog about the logo for the 2012 London Olympics, and at last I have it: designer and critic Michael Beirut was on WNYC talking about the logo, product packaging, and fonts, and his book Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design. So I can with a clear conscience tell you that an animated version of this ugly, ugly logo has been shown to cause seizures in photosensitive epileptics and to cause aesthetic nausea in anyone who is old enough to have seen Miami Vice on broadcast television.

There, I feel better for venting. Thanks.--David E

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Embarassment of Riches

I can't resist a headline like the one I saw today:
"Blind author to hold 'clothing optional' book signing."

It seems a bookstore in Vermont is holding an after-hours reading by the author of Nudity & Christianity by Jim Cunningham, lifelong promoter of both causes through his "Theology of the Body Retreats." He calls his latest book (no pictures, by the way) his "magnum opus... the best of his twenty-three years of naturist publishing." Customers can get naked if they choose during the event.

Bring a towel, if you're attending, please.--David E

Friday, July 6, 2007

Hiding in Plain Sight

There's an excerpt from one of the three novellas in Paul Theroux's forthcoming book The Elephanta Suite posted at the Times of London's website.

It tells the story of a backpacker's encounter with a kind Indian man who is perhaps more than he seems to be. (The picture at the top of the page gives a clue to his identity.)--David E

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Judging a Book

I'd hoped there was some great story behind the drab jacket design for the hardcover version of Cormac McCarthy's latest novel The Road. Now, thanks to an interview with renowned cover designer Chip Kidd at Esquire, I know that in fact there isn't any good excuse.

Says Kidd, "[McCarthy] didn't even want his name on the front. We had to gently persuade him that that was not a good idea. So the cover just became this black hole." All well and good, but a little resistance from an author is no reason for such a poor cover, and no rationalizing about the colors reflecting the drabness of the book's grim subject matter really makes up for that.--David E

My Hero

Edna Foulds, of the town of Redcar in the north of England, is my new hero. Over the last 40 years, she's borrowed an estimated 20,800 books and only once been late returning them! I wish I could do as well.

Read the full article here.--David E

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The Highs... The Lows has posted a funny excerpt from Andrew Ferguson's book Land of Lincoln: Adventures in Abe's America. It tells the state of Illinois' first steps in the making of its Lincoln library and museum. Would you believe Lincoln's manias and melancholies dramatized by a roller coaster? It was on the table for a while.

Book with a Beer Chaser--July

Join us 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 Pretty Little Mistakes by Heather Mcelhatton. Like the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure books of your youth, this book contains hundreds of possible endings. Pick your favorite, debate with your friends, and even meet the author at this month's book club.

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.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

A Whole World On a Napkin

Esquire magazine sent paper napkins to authors across the country, asking them to write whatever they'd like and return the result to the magazine for publication. The result is the Napkin Fiction Project.

The newest additions include work by Joshua Ferris and the very Esquire-appropriately-named Angela Pneuman. The backlist includes the mandatory story of sexual inconsequence by Jonathan Ames and Christopher Sorrentino's monologue from a paper company sales rep.--David E

Poor Richard, Poor

Mike Jones, whom succintly calls the "Haggard Outer," will appear in Colorado Springs, even though none of the local book stores (including otherwise feisty independent Poor Richard's) was willing to sponsor an event. They claimed there would likely be no audience--in the town that was home to Haggard's very own church, no less. But DJ's Bar & Grill has bravely stepped forward. On July 8, they'll kick off Colorado Springs' gay pride weekend with an appearance by the not-so-haggard-actually-quite-well-rested-looking Jones.

(See the full article here.)

Sunday, July 1, 2007

What Light Details and FAQs

Information on our judges:

Maria Damon
Maria Damon teaches poetry and poetics at the University of Minnesota, where she is Professor of English. She is the author of many essays on poetry and poetics as well as The Dark End of the Street: Margins in American Vanguard Poetry (Minnesota UP) and the forthcoming Bagel Shop Jazz: Selected Essays for a Post-literary “America” (Iowa UP), co-author (with mIEKAL aND) of Literature Nation, Eros/ion, and pleasureTEXTpossession, and co-editor (with Ira Livingston) of the forthcoming Poetry and Cultural Studies: A Reader (Illinois UP). She is a fellow-traveler in the Flarf Collective.

Poetics Statement: I am enamored of the raw and the “wrong,” the micropoetries of everyday life, and so forth. Favorite poets right now: bpNichol, John Wieners, Adeena Karasick, Kamau Brathwaite, Alan Sondheim, Talan Memmott. What I’m reading right now: a pretty mediocre collection of critical essays on Hans Christian Andersen, and a pretty wonderful collection of Walter Benjamin’s unpublished notes, including a section of “Opinions et Pensées” of his toddler son.

Patricia Kirkpatrick

Patricia Kirkpatrick has published a poetry book, Century’s Road (Holy Cow! Press), two letterpress chapbooks, Orioles and Learning to Read, and books for young readers. Her awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Bush Foundation, Minnesota State Arts Board, Jerome Foundation, and, in 2006, the McKnight Fellowship Loft Award in Poetry. Poetry is forthcoming in The Poets Guide to the Birds, edited by Judith Kitchen and Ted Kooser, Prairie Schooner, and on Saint Paul sidewalks through the Saint Paul Everyday Poetry Project. She teaches in the MFA program at Hamline University where she is Poetry Editor for Water-Stone Review.

Poetics Statement: I’m a lyric poet: we want to sing! I’m intrigued when a ‘highly charged lyrical phrase,' colloquial even plain language, and/or experimental velocities express the inner life, dream and feeling. But the inner life takes place in a world where one civilization overtakes another, where ‘progress’ fractures landscapes, ways of life, and poetry too. Certain subjects interest me: birth, death, landscape, the historical moment in which we live, our power--or lack of power--as Americans. Yet no subject works separately from how a poem is made, and the creation of music and metaphor in poetry mean everything to me.

Carol Muske-Dukes
Carol Muske-Dukes is author of seven books of poetry, most recently Sparrow, a National Book Award finalist published by Random House, 2003. Her fourth novel, Channeling Mark Twain, from Random House, is in stores now. Carol’s collection of essays entitled Married to the Icepick Killer, A Poet in Hollywood was published in August of 2002. Her collection of reviews and critical essays, Women and Poetry: Truth, Autobiography and the Shape of the Self was published in the “Poets on Poetry” series of the University of Michigan Press, 1997. She is a regular critic for the New York Times Book Review and the LA Times Book Review. Her work appears everywhere from the New Yorker to L.A. Magazine and she is anthologized widely, including in Best American Poems, 100 Great Poems by Women and many others. She is professor of English and Creative Writing and founding Director of the new PhD Program in Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Southern California. She has received many awards and honors, including a Guggenheim fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, an Ingram-Merrill, the Witter Bynner award from the Library of Congress, the Castagnola award from the Poetry Society of America, and several Pushcart Prizes.

“What Light” FAQ

Q: What is your preferred format for receiving poems?

A: Word docs (with .doc following the title) or pasted into the email. Those are best. I can’t deal with PDFs or .docx at all. If you have put all your poems together in one doc (which you don’t need to do), use real page breaks, not just a bunch of returns, to separate the poems.

Q: Should my name be on the poem?
A: No—judging is anonymous. However, I firmly believe that publishers should avoid being nit-picky, so if you have all your poems formatted so that your name is already on the thing, that’s fine, I’ll just remove it. Otherwise, no need to add your name.

Q: Do I need a cover letter?
A: No. I feel reassured when I see “Please consider” etc, though. No need for a bio; I don’t read them. Do put your name on your submission.

Q: Should I resubmit poems that have been previously rejected?
A: That depends. Judges come and go, but the screener, who weeds out about 50% of the poems, remains the same. If your poem got by the screener but was rejected by a judge, it makes sense to send the poem again. If your poem was rejected by the screener, it makes no sense to send the poem again. How can you know the difference? Politely ask the screener (via the address). Do not get upset if the answer is slow in coming.

Q: How do you feel about poems with specific spacing (tabs, spaces, etc)?
A: Personally, I like them. I write them. But online journals in general deal poorly with formatted poems, and “What Light” is no exception. Why? Too many “translations” of the poem—the font, and thus the spacing, will almost certainly be changed before the poem gets to the website. So (sigh) try not to send your fanciest-spaced stuff here. A few tabs we can deal with.--Lightsey Darst

Every Man a Medici

Author Michael Thomas Ford has launched a website to raise money for writers and to draw attention to the lack of funding for working writers generally. At he's writing a novel one word at a time, as he gets sponsonship from individuals like you. Give him a dollar and he'll write another word. Give him a thousand and get a chapter or so. When the money runs out, so does the novel--even in the middle of a sentence. You can read the beginning of the book here.

So dust off your checkbook and become a patron of the arts. If he gets enough money to finish the book and is able to sell it to a publisher, Ford will end up donating $100,000 to various organizations which support authors. At the very least, tell your friends about the project and discuss Ford's big question: What is art worth?--David E