Friday, February 29, 2008

New Bottle, Old Whine

An article in the latest issue of The New Yorker details the move by Farrar, Strauss & Giroux from its fabled offices on Union Square to digs in the Flatiron Building--birthplace of the phrase "23 skidoo". The writeup focusses on how outdated yet charming the old digs were. If there's computer or debt collection department in FSG, you wouldn't know it from The New Yorker. All is sweetness and light, happiness, elbow patches, and teabags.

What you won't learn is that FSG is moving to be closer to the other publishers in Holtzbrinck Publishers, the U.S. subsidiary of German media giant Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck, of which it is a part. Back in 2005, when Holtzbrink started moving folks into the unified offices, folks at FSG weren't so thrilled as they are reported to be now. Said the New York Observer, "For those toiling away at F.S.G., the idea of leaving the company's Union Square enclave triggers shivers of horror. 'A lot of people would be very upset,' said one F.S.G. staffer who requested anonymity, referring to the possibility of a move. 'It's kind of unfathomable.'"

How quickly we forget.--David E

Thursday, February 28, 2008


New York City's parks department is planting a tree in honor of Betty Smith, author of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. No points for guessing where they're planting it. Details are here.--David E

Free Trip to Vegas

Until the end of the day on February 29, you can download a free electronic copy of Charles Bock's novel Beautiful Children, a Dickensian trawl through the seamy side of Las Vegas. Click here for details.

Why? My theory is twofold: a) Random House wants to get folks talking about the novel, and b) they're testing to see just what the market for electronic books actually might be. The first goal is easily accomplished, but I'm not sure giving away a PDF is the way to go for electronic distribution. The Kindle aside, the emerging market for ebooks seems to be cell phones--see news on that here and here.--David E

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Fashion Forward

I know you don't visit bookstores for anything as crass as eye candy. But the folks at Vice magazine do, and they've compiled a little photo essay of the best fashion looks of some London bookstore guys. There are also brief interviews. Sample question: "Why work in this pokey hovel?"

I'm loving the double cardigan look above. Click on him for a look at the other bookish guys.--David E

Lovely... After a Fashion

Continuing with today's fashion theme, I'd like to point out a great book that came in the store just yesterday. Daniella Rosell's photo collection Ricas y Famosas is a fantastic assembly of Glamour Don'ts from Latin America's fabulous ladies of leisure. I don't know which is more gripping--the decor, the outfits, or the poses. The living room with the mountain goat shown below is one of the more tasteful images, I promise. It's all worksafe; only your aesthetic sensibilities will be disturbed. See more images here.--David E

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Judicious Editing

It's pure genius: Garfield cartoons with the Garfield removed. They're actually much, much better that way. See them all at

PS: We have plenty of unedited Garfield books in the store for you, if you prefer.--David E

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Not So Odd

Am I jaded? I don't think that this year's nominees for the UK's Diagram Prize for Oddest Book Title of the Year are actually all that odd. The six finalists are
That's what goes for odd these days? Last year's nominees are lunatics by comparison, with gems including
  • D. Di Mascio’s Delicious Ice Cream: D. Di Mascio of Coventry: An Ice Cream Company of Repute, with an Interesting and Varied Fleet of Ice Cream Vans
  • The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification
  • Tattooed Mountain Women and Spoon Boxes of Daghestan, and
  • Proceedings of the Eighteenth International Seaweed Symposium

The 2008 winner will be announced March 28.Wake me when it's over.--David E

Friday, February 22, 2008

Oscar Small Talk

Paul Thomas Anderson's movie There Will Be Blood (nominated for Best Picture) is based on Upton Sinclair's muckraking 1927 novel Oil!. Sinclair--a feverent socialist--hoped his novel would expose the greed and moral corruption inherent in capitalism--and generally smash the system.

And how faithfully has Tinseltown brought Sinclair's message to the big screen? Well, There Will Be Blood pretty much ignores the author's socialism in favor of rugged individualism, turning Sinclair's tale of a malignant system into a movie about a repugnant man. Unspool that one at your Oscar night party, I dare you. It makes a change from talking about gowns or Johnny Depp.

PS: This rant was cribbed from an article in the San Jose Mercury News by Ernest Freeberg. Check it out.--David E

Thursday, February 21, 2008

But We Don't Fall Down

The Minnesota Daily's John Sand has a nice review of our recent event with poet Li-Young Lee. (Read it here.) He has a lot of nice things to say about Lee and his poetry, though I have to take issue with his description of our podium as "wobbly." We have over a dozen events a month; it's well-used.

Check out our events page for all our forthcoming events. Highlights include Richard Price, the author of the classic Clockers (and a featured writer for HBO's show The Wire) and David Shields, author of The Thing About Life Is That One Day You’ll Be Dead.--David E

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Nooks and Crannies

If you think you have no room for any more bookshelves, you're wrong. London's Levitate Architects has built a library in a staircase. Click on the picture above for more views of the project.

So don't tell us you can't buy another book. It's just not true.--David E

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Maybe Bronze Ain't So Bad

UnBeige shows you some of the ugliest statuettes awarded by literary prizes. They're enough to make you glad you got second place.--David E

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Loveliest Quaker in Christendom

For Joe, on Christmas
1978. This is the only
book I know that moves
as incessantly as you…

with affectation,

P.S. I couldn’t find a Star Wars game.

Working as I do in a used bookstore, I see a lot of previous owners' inscriptions. They're often heartfelt but apparently just didn't have staying power. I find them a little touching, a little poignant. Now I see that The Book Inscriptions Project has an online collection of these ephemera, so you too can know the melancholia of the previously-owned book world.--David E

Friday, February 15, 2008

Michael Oren Event Canceled

The reading and discussion with Middle East scholar and author Michael Oren--originally scheduled for Monday, February 18--has been canceled. Mr Oren is ill and unable to travel.

You can keep track of all our upcoming events on our website.--David E

Free Your Wallets!

The Villager of New York City profiles Drougas Books, a spunky little remaindered bookstore living in the shadow of the Strand behemoth. My favorite part of the story is the awning, which advertises "Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Books." That's a good standard to hold to.--David E

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Is Liev Schreiber Available?

According to Variety, Joel and Ethan Coen have signed on to direct a movie version of Michael Chabon's bestselling book The Yiddish Policemen's Union. The novel--which tells the story of an alcoholic detective in a fictional Jewish homeland in Sitka, Alaska--will be the Coen's next film, after they finish their current project. Neither a release date nor stars for the movie have been announced.--David E

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Fewer Words

There's news today that the future of Minneapolis' Amazon Bookstore Cooperative--a mainstay of both the literary and feminist communities in the Twin Cities--is in grave doubt. This is the news story from the Pioneer Press in full:

"Amazon Bookstore Cooperative, specializing in feminist and gay and lesbian books, is for sale after 37 years in business, the store said in a press release today.

"Barb Wieser, general manager of the Minneapolis bookstore for 21 years, is leaving. None of the staff are in a position to take it over the store at Chicago Avenue and 48th Street, so the cooperative members have decided to sell.

"They hope to find a buyer by this summer who will carry on the vision of the store or recreate it into a vision of their own."

We wish them well in their search for a buyer. The area needs all the independent bookstores it can get.--David E

Fundamental, But Not Free

The Inexpensive Book Distribution program, part of Reading is Fundamental, Inc., distributes 15 million books annually to about 4.6 million children. But the program's funding is not included in the Bush administration's proposed 2009 budget. Without that funding, according to RIF, the program will not be able to continue.

You can read RIF's full press release here; you can find contact information for your Congressional representative here.--David E

The Word... Now Available With Pictures

It was only a matter of time: the bible (if a much-abridged version) is available as a graphic novel. Read about it in the New York Times.

You've got to give the publisher credit for their blurb,too. It's from no less a personage than the Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the worldwide Anglican communion. He says, in an almost Midwestern understatement, “It will convey the shock and freshness of the Bible in a unique way.” You bet it will.--David E

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

News of Florence

We have already heard that Salman Rushdie has a new book in the works, but there have been very few details beyond the title--The Enchantress of Florence, will be published on June 3.

In a speech at Emory University, where Rushdie is on the faculty, the author said that he will not be writing himself into the story, as he has done in the past. "Too much of my life story has found itself into the public domain already," said Rushdie.

Details of the speech are here.--David E

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Rising Damp

The folks at the University of Illinois' Rare Book & Manuscript Library haven't exactly covered themselves in glory. They--or rather their facilities--are covered in mold. Details are here.--David E

Logrolling in Our Time

Alex Lemon has written a brief review of the work of poet Li-Young Lee in the Minneapolis StarTribune. In it, he called Lee's poetry "poignant and potent, filled with compassion and longing. His poems are laced with adoration and unadorned suffering."

Lee will be in our store on Friday, February 15, at 7:30pm, reading from his latest book--his first in seven years--Behind My Eyes. Lemon has read at Magers and Quinn several times. We're pleased to be the premier venue for poetry readings in the Cities. Check out our events page for information on all our upcoming events.--David E

Friday, February 8, 2008

Museum of Innocence

Apparently undeterred by recent death threats, Turkish author Orhan Pamuk will open a museum based on the one in his forthcoming novel The Museum of Innocence. Reports Bloomberg News, "Pamuk was inspired by the Gustave Moreau Museum in Paris, based in the 19th-century painter's home, [the Turkish newspaper] Sabah said. Pamuk is building the museum in Cihangir, an upscale neighborhood in central Istanbul, his architect Ihsan Bilgin said, according to Sabah."

There's no word yet on when the book or the museum will be completed.--David E

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Book With A Beer Chaser

The next meeting of the Twin Cities' most unusual and interesting book club is Tuesday, January 8. Books & Bars meets at Bryant-Lake Bowl, 810 W Lake Street, in Minneapolis. Doors open at 6:00pm; the discussion begins at 7:00pm.

February's book is The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. The novel blends humor, religion, and science fiction in a fascinating story that will provoke a lot of discussion.

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

PS: Check out the StarTribune's article about Books and Bars. They loved it!

A Literary Escape

The website is touting the bookstore culture of Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. There, as the day draws to a close, Serbs crowd the bookstores. Not for them the beerhalls or bistros of other European capitals.

The article goes on to posit a slightly grim reason for this literary enthusiasm: "Belgrade’s book craze ... is motivated by a mixture of nostalgia for the erstwhile splendour of the federal capital and of the yearning for a different reality." The author also suggests several bookish venues around town--perfect for the budding Serb yearning to be elsewhere for a little while.--David E

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Behind the Scenes

The intrigues. The plots. The kickstools. Bismark, North Dakota's KFYR goes behind the scenes of a local Barnes & Noble as part of its "Try My Job" series and blows the lid off the scandals lurking below the calm, bookish surface. OK, they don't really, but it's still a funny segment. Watch it here.--David E

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Dinero, Por Favor

The town of Noblejas in Spain is paying its children one euro an hour--about a dollar and a half--if they spend the time in the library. The plan is in response to an amazing eighty percent dropout rate among the village's children. Details are here.--David E

What's On Your Plate Today?

Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food, brought his cri de coeur against High Fructose Corn Syrup and other "edible foodlike substances" to Minnesota Public Radio's "Midmorning" program today. His book, which rails against processed foods, has been boiled down to seven words ("Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."), but there's a lot more to his ideas. Listen to the long version before you eat something you'll most likely regret.

Hear Michael Pollan here.--David E

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Snoopers Beware

Canadians seem mildly obsessed with what their fellow citizens are reading--at least to judge from their blogs. I've already discussed Seen Reading wherein Torontonian Julie Wilson posts brief, poetic descriptions of folks she sees in her daily life along with what they're reading, and even an excerpt from the book.

Now I've learned of another Canadian website dedicated to confounding just that sort of book voyeur. will sell you provocative dustjackets (book not included) to help you scandalize your neighbors on the bus.--David E

Friday, February 1, 2008

Raise Your Hand, Please

Voting is now open in Florida's Ask A Librarian video contest. High school students from around the Sunshine State submitted videos (via YouTube) to promote the AAL program, which lets users chat live with a reference librarian to get their questions answered. The videos are quirky and charming.

See the five finalists and choose your favorite video here. Voting ends February 9.--David E