Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The West Bank Social Center

Some good and loyal friends of M+Q have just opened a new events and art space called The West Bank Social Center. The WBSC is located (surprise) on the West Bank, above the Nomad World Pub at 501 Cedar Avenue South, on the Second Floor.

Equal parts performance space, speakeasy & living room salon, WBSC is an art space in Minneapolis where unpredictable things are happening. Join me there on Wednesday, July 8, from 7pm – 11pm for a library-building party.

Bring a book (or two or three) to help expand WBSC's library, and stay for a photo-documented book art project (inspired by Nina Katchadourian's Sorted Books project), storytelling, dramatic readings (with Paul Dickinson), and other geeky book fun.

Hope to see you there!

- JAY P.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Citizen Reviews: Faith, Hope, and Ivy June

We continue our occasional series of customer reviews with Aaron Wilson's reaction to the latest young adult novel from Phyllis Reynolds Naylor.
Faith, Hope, and Ivy June

Got to love Facebook! I hesitated joining because I saw how friends and family were addicted to it, spending hours searching for friends, family, and organizations. Well, after finally joining, I found my favorite Minneapolis bookstore, Magers & Quinn, and became a fan. A few days later, an update was posted that Magers & Quinn was looking for someone to review Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s new book “Faith, Hope, and Ivy June. I’m a big fan of Naylor’s novels, which include Shiloh and the addictive Bessledorf Mysteries. So, I jumped at the opportunity to get my hands on her newest book.

Faith, Hope, and Ivy June is a smartly written novel that explores, without apology, the sometimes painful class divisions that we take for granted in the United States. Specifically, Naylor opens wide the social, economic, and cultural, divide that exists between two seventh-grade girls in Kentucky. Ivy June and Catherine Combs will spend two weeks living with the other one, recording feelings and thoughts, paying special attention to how their lives are different and how they are similar, in separate journals so that they can report their experiences back to their respective schools.

Karl Marx wrote, “The history of all previous societies has been the history of class struggles.” Naylor uses Ivy June and Catherine’s characters to access a foreigner’s perspective on the mundane day-to-day reality of either living in urban Lexington or in rural Thunder Creek. Both girls, who once had strong stereotypical views of how the other lived, thought, and behaved, now have an enduring relationship based on respect and in each other’s humanity. However, it was a struggle for both Ivy June and Catherine to come to terms with their inescapable differences.

Before traveling to Lexington to spend two weeks with Catherine, Ivy June had to endure intense suspicion from friends and family alike. They distrusted her desire to experience the big city. There is a telling scene between Ivy June and her sister, Jessie, that begins, “Well, it’s not a Lexington bedroom, but at least I’ve got it to myself” (21) and ends a few pages later with Ivy June giving her mother the forty dollars that the school gave her for the trip (23). Ivy June knows that her family needs the money more than she does and hands it over knowing that it will be put to good use. However, it doesn’t lesson her family’s worries about Ivy June returning from Lexington a different person.

Her family’s fears are realized while Ivy June readies her home for Catherine’s arrival. Ivy June and her grandmother argue, “What you’ve been tryin’ to do this past week is making us change our ways, and I guess we got Lexington to thank for that” (148). Ivy June must come to terms with her life and is afraid that Catherine will judge her because her grandmother wears the same dingy apron, or her great-grandmother will not put on new slippers, and that they will only be able to bathe and wash their hair once a week.

Meanwhile, Catherine worries that when Ivy June arrives that she will need an introduction to basic hygiene, how to use a flush-toilet, and that she may refuse to wear the required school uniform. Catherine also wonders if she will be able to survive two weeks in Thunder Creek without her cell phone because there is no reception in the mountains where Ivy June lives.

Ultimately, Ivy June’s character is more interesting because the author assumes a middle to upper-middle class reader. Ivy June is not only Catherine’s guide into the world of Thunder Creek, but also ours. However, the girls’ journals delve into the tough issues that each of them is trying to understand. My only complaint about the books is that the journals feel underused in the second half of the story. Both girls experience a personal tragedy and the journals become less important, understandably, until the very end.

Faith, Hope, and Ivy June is recommended for ages 9 -12, but anyone interested in reading an intelligent book about finding common ground between social, economic, and cultural, divides in the United States shouldn’t miss this one. If there isn’t an exchange program like this in our country, there should be one. It seems to me that being able to empathize, walk in another class’s shoes, is something that is missing in our educational system. So, we turn to talented novelist to fill that apparent gap.
Aaron M. Wilson lives in Minneapolis with his loving wife and his two cats (one good and one bad). He reviews short stories for his blog, The Soulless Machine Review, and is an adjunct instructor of English, Literature, and Environmental Science at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, Minneapolis/St. Paul.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Turnabout is Fair Play

Some people burn books, but beware--that book might just burn you back. Fire investigators in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, have determined that recent fire began when a clip-on halogen book light fell onto a chair. The fall activated the on switch, and the heat from the bulb started the small blaze. The homeowners put it out, and there were no injuries or serious damage.

Details are here.--David E

The Big 30

Thirty years ago today, the first barcode was scanned. The first purchase was a pack of Juicy Fruit gum--the cost: 67 cents. The New York Times has the details.--David E

Thursday, June 25, 2009

It's a Keeper

The movie version of Jodi Picoult's novel My Sister's Keeper opens in theaters tomorrow. We'll have some free passes in a day or two--and we have the book right now.--David E

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Start Making Your Christmas List

One of the best events we've done at Magers & Quinn was when Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois came in to talk about their book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day last year. They were fun and informative--and best of all, they brought samples. The book has flown off the shelves since then. One went to an employee and we've benefited from his growing skills as a baker.

So I was very pleased to see that H&F will be back with a new book soon. Healthy Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Revolution Continues With Whole Grains, Fruits, and Vegetables will be published in November. I'm hungry already.--David E

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Watch Out, Uncle John

A Japanese paper company and a publisher have teamed up to produce a novella printed on toilet paper. Drop is a horror story about a goblin who lives in, you guessed it, a public restroom. Each roll has multiple copies of the novella, so you don't have to finish it in one sitting.

Thanks to the NYT's "Moment" blog for the tip.--David E

Loving Yourself

On Sunday, June 28, at 6:00pm, Magers And Quinn Booksellers, bloggers Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby discuss their book Lessons from the Fat-o-sphere.

When it comes to body image, women can be their own worst enemies, aided and abetted by society and the media. But Harding and Kirby, the leading bloggers in the “fat-o-sphere,” the online community of the fat acceptance movement, have written a book to help readers achieve admiration for--or at least a truce with--their bodies. The authors believe in “health at every size”--the idea that weight does not necessarily determine well-being and that exercise and eating healthfully are beneficial, regardless of whether they cause weight loss.

Kate Harding is a Chicago-based writer, editor, crazy dog person, humorless feminist, recovering grad student, and blonde. She also a contributor to Fatshionista, Shakesville, and Salon’s Broadsheet. And yeah, she’s on MySpace (more or less), Facebook, and Twitter

Marianne Kirby is an Orlando-based writer, editor, artist, cat-owning, feminist-theorizing, blue-hair-dyeing, fatty. She helps moderate the livejournal community Fatshionista, blogs at The Rotund, sells mixed media pieces and jewelry at a gallery called Naked Art (which is not to say it is all nudes--just that the art tends to be functional and unpretentious), and generally has herself a good time.

For more information on any of our readings, visit our events listings.--David E

Monday, June 22, 2009

So Funny Te Orinar Your Pantalones

On Saturday, June 27, at 6:00pm, Bill Santiago will be at Magers & Quinn Booksellers to read from Pardon My Spanglish: One Man’s Guide to Speaking the Habla.

Breaking down el nitty gritty of how inglés and español combine spontaneously in one seamless system of communication, Santiago shares the most hilarious rules of Spanglish--selected from the thousands his haphazard research has identified so far. With crash-course efficiency, cada página de este libro empowers your every step toward Spanglish mastery. Inside you’ll learn:
  • Advanced tricks of Spanglish conjugation (“to google”: Yo googleo, tú googleas, nosotros googleamos)
  • The Top 10 Best Things About Being Latino (#6: Guaranteed part in high school production of West Side Story)
  • Why People en Español should simply be called Gente
  • The latest Spanish word to make the leap into the American English dictionary--chancla (n.): a cheap sandal that doubles as a disciplinary device in Latino households
  • ¡And mucho más!
Affirming boldly que ya es hora to think outside the taco, Pardon My Spanglish deftly denounces extremist enemies of the habla who declare death a todos los Spanglish infidels. To which Santiago responds, “¿Por qué the hate, dudes? I mean really. No es pa’ tanto.”

Details are on our events page.--David E

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Change of Address

We're going to change the address for the Magers & Quinn blog on Tuesday. The new address will be blog.magersandquinn.com.
  • If you have bookmarked us, be sure to change your record. If you forget, nothing bad will happen, but you'll have to click through the redirect page before you see us again.
  • If you're reading us through an aggregator such as Google Reader, you don't have to do anything. You'll still get our feed as before.
Thanks for reading us. Your comments are always welcome.--David E

Friday, June 19, 2009

That Dustjacket is a Hairshirt

To promote the forthcoming Spike Jonze movie version of the title, McSweeney's is offering a special fur-covered edition of Maurice Sendak's classic kids' book Where the Wild Things Are. There's no news if the book comes with a comb.

The hirsute hardcover will be available in October.--David E

Read It Before They Screen It

I've got a free copy of the movie tie-in edition of Cheri--see Wednesday's posting for details. It's free for the first person to email me.--David E

Home Run

Baseball fans, take note: This coming Thursday, June 25, at 7:30pm, Monica Nucciarone will be at Magers & Quinn Booksellers to discuss her new book Alexander Cartwright: The Life Behind the Baseball Legend.

Alexander Joy Cartwright Jr. (1820–92) was present during the organization of the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club of New York in the mid-1800s. That much is certain. Since that time, and especially with his induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1938, Cartwright has been celebrated as the founder of our national pastime, much like Abner Doubleday. Through journal entries, letters, and newspaper clippings, Nucciarone traces Cartwright’s path from Elysian Fields in New Jersey to a gold-rush adventure in California, and on to Honolulu, where he became involved in the movement to annex Hawaii to the United States.

As an added treat, Peter Schilling will read "The Man Who Stopped Time," his short story of the unfortunate Theodore "Tarpaper" Turkleson, a young man whose one at-bat in the Major Leagues goes on seemingly forever. As discovered by disgraced Professor C. B. See, the legend of Turkleson's at-bat is stifled by the baseball establishment, and is told here for the first time.

Details on this and all our upcoming readings are always on our events page.--David E

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Adding Insult to Injury

Dateline: Taipei. A cheeky shoplifter is not content to simply pilfer books. He's also leaving instructions for others to follow in his felonious footsteps.

Says the Taiwan News: "A Taiwan bookstore is trying to catch a book thief who not only steals books, but also leaves cards in the store's books with tips on how to steal books, according to reports. The Eslite Bookstore, Taiwan's largest bookstore chain, said Wednesday that since April, someone has been leaving printed cards in books in several of its stores, with tips on how to steal."

The full story is here.--David E

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

La Cougar

Colette had one heck of a time in turn-of-the-century Paris. She married young, divorced quickly, took up with many notable women of the day (including Natalie Barney and Josephine Baker), married again, started a hospital for injured soldiers, had an affair with her stepson, was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor, divorced again, married again, hid her Jewish third husband in the attic during the Nazi occupation, and became president of the Académie Goncourt. In between all that scandal, she managed to write wildly popular novels about an aging courtesan and her young lover, Cheri.

Now the novel has been made into a movie starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Rupert Friend. You can win tickets to a preview screening on Thursday, June 25. Just email cherimoviemn@gmail.com to enter the drawing. Tell them M&Q sent you.--David E

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sit On It

It's not paper. You can't just throw it in your bag and go on with your day. The whole story is at Gizmodo.--David E

A Good Proofreader is More Precious than Rubies

Everyone who has ever sent out a resume with a typo on it--myself included--may find a bit of schadenfreude in some news from Chicago. It seems that the city's Pritzker Park enshrines notable locals by etching their names in stone. Among the honored worthies is Sandra Cisneros, author of The House on Mango Street among other works. Well, sort of. Her name is misspelled.

Thanks to publishchicago.com for the item.--David E

Monday, June 15, 2009

If I Had a Photograph of You, Something to Remind Me...

I see books go out the door here all the time, and that's as it should be. But we recently got a 1930 copy of Moby Dick with illustrations by Rockwell Kent, and when this beauty eventually finds a home, I for one will be sad to see it go. So I took a few photographs to remember it by.

We'll get that cataloged and out on the shelf soon. Expect to spend around $150 to make it your own.--David E

For Children of All Ages

This coming Sunday, June 21, at 3:00pm,
Matt Goldman reads from his debut children’s novel, Dingeltrot and the People of the Mill at Magers & Quinn Booksellers.

Television writer and author, Matt Goldman has written his first children’s novel, Dingeltrot and the People of the Mill, about the adventures of a twelve-year-old boy who stands fourteen inches tall. A writer and producer for many prominent television shows, Goldman has been nominated for numerous writing awards, including a Writer’s Guild of America award for his work on Seinfeld.

Like most twelve-year-old boys, Dingeltrot climbs trees, explores the forest, and gets picked on by his older brother. But, unlike most boys, Dingeltrot lives in a hidden colony where people average only one foot in height. He belongs to the People of the Barn, and Dingeltrot, at fourteen inches, is the tallest of them all. Though he suffers being labeled a “freak” and a “weirdo” for his unusual height, Dingeltrot knows he’s special. “You may be taller than the other kids,” his grandmother tells him, “and you may not be popular, but you have the best ideas.” Dingeltrot’s ideas include inventing a shirt that allows him to glide through the air like a flying squirrel, traveling in a sheepdog’s fur, and making a hat topped with a needle to thwart descending hawks. All of these inventions come in handy when Dingeltrot learns of his people’s darkest secret and sets out on a dangerous journey to find a banished member of his family.

Details on this and all our upcoming readings are on our events page.--David E

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Whole Worlds in a Book

Guy Laramée, Pétra (2007). Sandblasted encyclopedias, pigments
13 x 11.25 x 8.5 in. Courtesy Gallerie Orange, Montreal and the artist
Photo: Guy L’Heureux © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SODRAC, Montreal.

Thanks to Wessel & Lieberman for the tip.--David E

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Writing as a Spiritual Practice

Thursday, June 18, at 7:30pm, Janet Conner will be at Magers & Quinn Booksellers to discuss her new book Writing Down Your Soul: How to Activate and Listen to the Extraordinary Voice Within.

If you want to engage in a vibrant conversation with the wisdom that dwells just a hair below your conscious awareness, write. Write every day, at approximately the same time, with passion, honesty, and the intention of speaking with and listening to the voice within.

Today, research scientists in psychology, physics, biochemistry, and neurology are providing peeks into what consciousness is and how it works. Their findings give us intriguing clues as to what is actually happening in and through our bodies, minds, and spirits as we roll pen across paper. Writing Down Your Soul explores some of this research and instructs readers how to access the power and beauty of their own deepest selves.

Details on this and all our other events are here.--David E

Friday, June 12, 2009

I Turn the Radio On

Caleb Crain's awesomely-named blog Steamboats Are Ruining Everything has a post today about the forthcoming book Heavy Rotation: Twenty Writers on the Albums That Changed Their Lives. There is the usual list of publication events, but I was most struck by two of the contributors and their subjects:
  • Pankaj Mishra on ABBA
  • James Wood on the Who
They're both writers I've always pictured working in steely, productive silence. Now I have to add a soundtrack to those images.

Heavy Rotation will be available June 23.--David E

Hungry? You Won't Be After You Watch This

Michael Pollan's trajectory from curious (Botany of Desire) to puzzled (Omnivore's Dilemma) to educational (In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto) has gone all the way to homiletic with his new film Food, Inc.. Pollan wrote the film along with Eric "Fast Food Nation" Schlosser. Pollan and director Robert Kenner talked to salon.com about the movie.

Learn more, watch the trailer, and find screenings at Food, Inc.'s website.--David E

Thursday, June 11, 2009

We're #27!

Magers & Quinn is on the Star Tribune's Taste 50 roundup of foody goodness in Minnesota. They said, "New, used, overstock, out of print, pocket size-small to coffee table-huge, the cookbook selection at Magers & Quinn Booksellers--supplemented by a fine array of wine and food titles--can keep browsers occupied for hours."

The full list is here.--David E

Smooth Operators

WCCO ran a quick item on tomorrow's Nature Valley Grand Prix. You can get all the relevant details, including a sneak peek at the setup for making bicycle-powered smoothies, courtesy of the Hub Bike Co-op. Stop in tomorrow for your free drink.

Read or watch the story here.--David E


From the Bookshelf blog--yes, an entire blog about bookshelves--comes this useful combo. It's both a bookshelf and a speaker. It was designed by Witek Stefaniak and Anielka Zdanowicz of Poland as part of a competition sponsored by designboom magazine.--David E

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

That Cloud Could Have an Emerald Lining

The Emerald Ash Borer killed over 30 million ash trees in southeastern Michigan. But from the loss came at least a little good. When the city of Ann Arbor needed to build a new branch libary at Traverwood, they were able to use the fallen trees in the building's construction. And the results are beautiful.

According to the Ann Arbor District Library's website, "[D]raft horses were brought in to remove the trees from the site, eliminating the need to damage or fall nearby trees in the removal process. ... Following their removal from the site, AADL contracted Johnson Hardwoods to mill the trees for use in flooring and shelving for the Traverwood Branch. A few of the trees were left intact and used as support beams along a row of windows on the south wing of the building to dramatic effect."

You can see more photos of the construction of the library--including the horses--here. (Thanks to The Detroit News for the tip.)--David E

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Ghost Comics Available at Magers & Quinn

Ghost Comics is just what it sounds like--two dozen scary tales of spectral mystery from comic book artist including
  • Zak Sally
  • Ed Choy Moorman
  • Sarah Louise Wahrhaftig
  • Maris Wicks
  • and Will Dinski
Not only is a fantastic assemblage of graphic artistry, but proceeds from the book go to benefit RS Eden, a substance abuse treatment facility in Minneapolis.

Buy your copy at Magers & Quinn or on our website.--David E

No Algorithms Here

Lewis Buzbee, bookseller and author of the memoir The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop was interviewed on Wisconsin Public Radio's fantastic show To the Best of Our Knowledge and opined about why you need to get off the computer to buy a good book. One of his more interesting pleas for the utility of the bricks-and-mortar bookstore is, perversely enough, the uncomprehensive selection. He argues that by picking and choosing from among the millions of books available, bookstores perform a useful editing function that online vendors can't match. That is, we make recommendations. And who are you going to trust? An algorithm or a real, live person?

Listen to "To the Best of Our Knowledge" here.--David E

What the Poem Wants

Please join us at Magers And Quinn Booksellers on Monday, June 15, 7:30pm, when Michael Dennis Browne reads from his new book What the Poem Wants: Prose on Poetry

What the Poem Wants contains fifteen essays and talks by a poet and librettist that cover a range of topics and themes. They represent an artist’s attempt to step outside his main genre and become conscious not only of the things it occurred to him, mostly intuitively, to write about, but also themes, patterns and processes in other writers and writings he admires.

Details on this and all the author readings at Magers & Quinn are on our events page.--David E

Monday, June 8, 2009

Citizen Reviews: Pygmy

Intrepid customer reviewer Ben Paulson is back with his reaction to Chuck "Fight Club" Palahniuk's latest novel.
Pygmy by Chuck Palahniuk
I am as uncomfortable talking about Pygmy as I was to start reading it. Surprisingly, that's not a bad thing. Chuck Palahniuk's tenth novel, Pygmy, is the story of a mysterious terrorist sleeper cell aimed at infiltrating the heart of the Midwest, disguised as foreign exchange students and prepared to wreak havoc upon our nation. The novel is composed of dispatches sent from the main character, known only as Pygmy, to his totalitarian government headquarters in an unknown enemy territory. Garbed in a shirt that reads "Property of Jesus," Pygmy must navigate the politics of American schools, churches, social groups and family circles with the aim of executing his insidious mission. He is armed only with his intellect, a handy book of quotations from the likes of Hitler, Mao and Stalin--and an admirable knowledge of lethal hand-to-hand combat. Through this character, Palahniuk pits the pinnacle of totalitarian training and ideology against the most average embodiments of American vice, creating a comedy that is both wildly entertaining and challengingly removed.

Pygmy's fragmented language and syntax may frustrate some readers at the outset, but Palahniuk uses this imaginative framework to create a very literal, if fumbled and occasionally caustic, understanding of our surroundings. As I negotiated the corpulent, apathetic American landscape, I was forced to reconcile the fact that Pygmy’s intolerance of America is not entirely wrong with the nagging doubts that it isn’t entirely right either. Pygmy is a scathing satirical post-mortem of our over-drugged, over-sexed, over-indulgent culture. Palahniuk hits uncomfortably close to home and then waits for you to start laughing. And I begrudgingly must admit that I was laughing all along.
Ben Paulson lives in St. Paul, where he obsesses about books, zombies and breakfasts.

What You're Reading

Bookstores get a lot of what the trade calls "advance reader copies." We're trying to put ours to good use by farming them out to customers in return for a few words about the book. We post these "Citizen Reviews" on the blog (read them all here), include them in the newsletter, and even put them in our new display (above). Check out the current recommendations from your fellow customers.

Want to be a citizen reviewer? I'm always looking for more contributors. If you're an avid reader--and an avid M&Q fan--email me.--David E

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Very Special Episode

The Big Bang Book Club--which discusses popular science books every month--meets at 7:00pm, Tuesday, June 23, at Grumpy's Bar & Grill (1111 Washington Ave S) to talk about The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson. It's a history of the worst cholera epidemic to hit Victorian London--and the scientist who finally won the battle against the disease.

As a special bonus, there's going to be an epidemiologist at this month's meeting. Tracy Sides, PhD, MPH is the epidemiology outreach coordinator for the BioWatch program at the Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy. She has graciously agreed to hoist a beer with us and make sure our discussions don't go too far astray.

The Big Bang Book Club is a monthly book club for non-scientists that relishes in folding arts and science into a heady brew. The club is sponsored by Magers & Quinn Booksellers; the Center for Science, Technology, and Public Policy; Secrets of the City; and Grumpy's. This event is free and open to the public.

Join the BBBC on Facebook for updates, discussions, and links.--David E

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Patronize the Arts

Magers and Quinn Booksellers hosts a poster sale by 8 Minneapolis designers Sunday, June 14. Come browse the aisles as we display assorted screen-printed works from these talented concert poster artists throughout the store. The Minneapolis poster artists are:As an added bonus, Magers & Quinn’s entire selection of music books will be an additional 10% off all day Sunday, June 14.

Friday, June 5, 2009

A Worthy Goal, Indeed

This gem came in the store just the other day. It's got an awesome title: How to Be Kind of Good Looking in an Otherwise Ugly World. We toyed with the idea of keeping this gem for the employee break table, but we can't deny you the chance to get your hands on it.

We'll have this book priced and out on the shelf very soon.--David E

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Citizen Review: Shanghai Girls

We're back with another M&Q customer review. This week, Jess Horowitz recommends a summer novel you won't be embarrassed to be seen reading.
Shanghai Girls
Lisa See’s latest novel, Shanghai Girls, begins in 1937 and follows the adult lives of Pearl and May Chin, sisters who work as “beautiful girls,” epitomizing the modern, Western lifestyle to sell cigarettes, alcohol, and household products. Lively, international Shanghai was considered the Paris of the East, insulated from the Communist regime of the rest of China.

The Chin family was wealthy and respected; the family lived happily until the day Mr. Chin’s debt collectors came calling. Forced to marry a pair of suitors from America to repay their father’s debt, Pearl and May suddenly understand what lies outside of the walls of Shanghai. As the Japanese bomb their beloved city in what would lead to World War II, they begin the long journey to meet their husbands in Los Angeles.

As Pearl and May go from beautiful girls of privilege to overworked servants for their in-laws’ tourist attraction, China City, See sheds light on an underrepresented piece of American history and the immigrant experience. Her strength lies in her rich appreciation for detail, from the fibers of the traditional Chinese dress, the cheongsam, to the cameos of Chinese American film stars of the 1940s and 50s.

The reader is enveloped in a world torn by tradition, segregation, and the imaginary American Dream. Shanghai Girls is a great choice if you're looking for a summer read with substance. It is a good starting off point to See’s canon of critically-acclaimed novels about Chinese history and culture.
Jess Horwitz lives in Uptown Minneapolis and works in book publishing.
We're always looking for avid readers. Email me if you're interested in becoming a citizen reviewer, too.--David E

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Geek Out

If you've ever turned over a book, you've seen the barcode on the back. That code represents the ISBN--the International Standard Book Number. Every book has its own unique number. Until now, they've been 10-digit numbers. The first set of digits represents the language--0 and 1 for English, 2 for French, 3 for German, and so on up to 99963 for Cambodian. The next set is the publisher's code, followed by the title identifier. The last digit is the check digit. (A fuller explanation of the system is here.)

Plenty of numbers, right? Actually, no. We're running out of ISBNs under this system. The solution is to move to the new, improved 13-digit ISBN. At first, this just meant tacking "978-" to the front of the old ISBN. That doesn't solve the problem, and today it was announced that phase two of the plan has begun. The first "979-" prefixes have been assigned to the French book numbering authority. It's a new era. It is now possible to have duplicate 10-digit ISBNs; the only distinction is in the prefix. I know this doesn't mean much to the average book buyer, but trust me, it's a big deal among people who are concerned with bibliographic databases.

So spend a moment today in silent thanks for the geeks who keep the book industry running smoothly. They're working hard. Details--for anyone who's still reading this article--are here.--David E

Andre Dubus at the Loft

Andre Dubus III reads from his novel The Garden of Last Days at the Loft Literary Center on Monday, June 8, at 7:00pm. The event is co-sponsored by Magers & Quinn Booksellers and The Loft Literary Center.

In The Garden of Last Days, his stunning follow-up to the #1 best-selling House of Sand and Fog, Andre Dubus draws us into the lives of three deeply flawed, driven people whose paths intersect on a September night in Florida. April, a stripper, has brought her daughter to work at the Puma Club for Men. There she encounters Bassam, a foreign client both remote and too personal, and free with his money. Meanwhile, another man, AJ, has been thrown out of the club, and he’s drunk and angry and lonely. From these explosive elements comes a relentless, raw, and page-turning narrative that seizes the reader by the throat with psychological tension, depth, and realism.

"So good, so damn compulsively readable, that I can hardly believe it." --Stephen King, Entertainment Weekly

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Think Globally, Read Locally

Local poets Greg Watson and Jude Nutter will be at Magers & Quinn Booksellers to read from their new work on Sunday, June 7, at 5:00pm.

Greg Watson is the author of The Distance Between Two Hands, Things You Will Never See Again, Pale Light From a Distant Room, and Cold Water Memory. He lives in St. Paul.

Jude Nutter is the author of Curators of Silence, Pictures of the Afterlifea, and I Wish I Had a Heart Like Yours, Walt Whitman. She lives in Edina.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Citizen Reviews: When to Go in the Water

We continue our occasional series of customer reviews with Ben Paulson's thoughts on the new novel from Larry Sutin. Larry will be at Magers & Quinn to read from his book on Saturday, June 6. See our events page for all the details.
When to Go in the Water by Lawrence Suttin
You won’t be sure, but you will think you’ve read this book before. There’s something familiar about it, something you can’t place, and that, dear reader, is because it’s all familiar. You have read it all before, in different places and at different times in your life. And yet, this book seems to be something new. Lawrence Sutin’s new novel When to Go in the Water contains a rich fusion of influences and it wears these influences unabashedly. When to Go in the Water tells the tale of Hector de Saint-Aureole, a Dickensian protagonist that meanders through his life and across the globe, writing a book of meditations on the nature of the world and his place in it. This narrative is interrupted sporadically throughout by descriptions of the responses of his imaginary readers, some of whom exist long after Saint-Aureole’s death. Sutin’s use of this framework allows him to playfully shift between characters and styles, alternating fluidly between whimsical fancy, coy nostalgia, and a sense of stark poignancy. Part Dickens, part Plascencia, and part Fitzgerald, When to Go in the Water is a meditation on the subtle erosions of existence and the unintentional effects of simply participating in life. And while you may find its pieces eerily familiar, the whole will be something wholly original and affecting.
Ben Paulson lives in St. Paul, where he obsesses about books, zombies and breakfasts.

A Book and a Beer Chaser

The next meeting of the Twin Cities' most unusual and interesting book club is Tuesday, June 9. Books & Bars meets at Bryant-Lake Bowl, 810 W Lake Street, in Minneapolis. Doors open at 6:00pm; the discussion begins at 7:00pm.

June's book is Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex. Our most intimate moments are under the microscope in this review as Mary Roach looks at sex and sex research around the world.

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.

We Totally Do This to You

I'm a big fan of the blog Swiss Army Librarian, where Brian Herzog shares stories from his job behind a reference desk in Massachusetts. A recent anecdote is a good example of why.

A man phones the library with an inquiry: "Does Laurence Maroney have tribal tattoos on his arms?" The eventual answer is all well and good, but the best part is the footnotes, in which Herzog explains his strategy for dealing with vague questions: let them talk. It's a trick that works in bookstores, too.

The full posting is here.--David E