Saturday, July 31, 2010

All Designery

How did Knopf arrive at the now-ubiquitous cover design for Wall Street Journal has a slideshow of rejected cover ideas for the American edition. (I still prefer the French versions.)

See all the covers here.--David E

Thursday, July 29, 2010

I'm Blushing

A coworker told me about the website I Write Like, and it's been quite the ego boost. The website analyzes your writing--using "a Bayesian classifier, which is widely used to fight spam on the Internet"--and then tells you which author's writing style most closely matches your own.

Your faithful blogger's prose has been likened to the work of Cory Doctorow, Stephen King, Vladimir Nabokov, and James Joyce. Try it out here and see if it doesn't lift your spirits, too.--David E

I write like
Cory Doctorow

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Twice as Nice

Authors Ira Sukrungruang and Kao Kalia Yang visit Magers & Quinn Booksellers to discuss what it means to be Asian in America--Wednesday, August 4, at 7:30pm.

Talk Thai is the story of a first generation Thai-American growing up in a Thai family, and his constant attempts to reconcile cultural and familial expectations. It is a first-generation Asian American story, a mama’s boy story, a Chi-town Southsider story, a child of the 80s story, a child of a broken home story.

Ira Sukrungruang is a Thai American writer born in 1976 in Oak Lawn, Illinois, a suburb just south of Chicago. He now teaches in the MFA program at University of South Florida. Sukrungruang is the author, with his good friend Donna Jarrell, of What Are You Looking At? The First Fat Fiction Anthology and Scoot Over, Skinny: The Fat Nonfiction Anthology. Visit him online at

When she was six years old, Kao Kalia Yang’s family immigrated to America.Her memoir The Latehomecomer evocatively captures the challenges of adapting to a new place and a new language. Through her words, the dreams, wisdom, and traditions passed down from her grandmother and shared by the entire Homng community have finally found a voice. The Latehomecomer won the 2009 Minnesota Book Awards Readers' Choice Award.

Together with her sister, Kao Kalia Yang is the founder of a company dedicated to helping immigrants with writing, translating, and business services. A graduate of Carleton College and Columbia University, Yang has recently screened The Place Where We Were Born, a film documenting the experiences of Hmong American refugees. Visit her website at

Details are here.--David E

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sneak Preview

Michelle Hoover’s The Quickening is an epic narrative of the bitter feud between two Iowa farming families—a feud lasting forty years, through two World Wars and the Great Depression. She knows what she's writing about--Hoover based her novel on her own grandmother’s diary and family oral histories.

Hoover will be at Magers & Quinn Booksellers on Sunday, August 1, at 4:00pm. Meanwhile, here's an excerpt from The Quickening.


It wasn’t until late in the summer of 1913 that your grandfather and I began to work this farm from the acres of weeds and grasses it was to a fine place. A place where we could earn a living. That’s what a beginning is. My father and his father and his father before that had lived within the same ten square miles of land. Even after I married, I didn’t move farther from home than a day’s wagon ride. I’d seen no other landscape as a child. Had never dreamt of it. A farm is where I was born. Where I would always live. I’d known it from the day my mother walked me through the fields and rubbed her fingers in the dirt, putting her thumb to my mouth so I could taste the dust and seed we lived on. She said this was home. When I asked her if there was anything else, she shook her head. “Nowhere you need pay any mind to,” she said. “Not for the likes of us.”

It was only a month after I’d lost my father that Frank and I first came to this place. We married on a Sunday, as Frank thought right, the chapel holding only our families and a few friends. There we stood, both in our thirties, Frank the older by eight years and graying at the temples. He wore a borrowed suit that showed his ankles and wrists, I in a dove-colored dress, my red hair combed smooth to lessen my height. Afterward we ate cake and berries and they tasted too sweet. We opened our gifts. My mother swept a spot of frosting from my chin and drew out my arms to look at the fit of my dress. I’d always been a big woman, suited more for the farm than for marrying, an old bride as I was back then. My cousins had to squint to find the ring on my hand.

Only late did we return to what Frank had made our home. This same house, with borrowed furniture in the rooms. The house smelled of earth and smoke. Frank had polished the wood and swept the floors, leaving the broom to rest on the front porch. He’d spent most of his years working to buy the house and land, much of it still in sorry condition. Though he didn’t speak of it, his family were croppers. He’d seldom had a thing of his own. Now the both of us had a fair bit, and after the loss of my father, I was as determined as Frank to keep it. When I hurried in, Frank took that broom under his arm and strummed me a song, a sorry frown on his face when he pretended the broom had snapped a string. I grinned, dropping a penny at his feet. This was my husband, a string of a man himself with a good bit of humor in him. He was fair-skinned with black hair and long limbs, his eyes fainter than any blue I’d ever seen. If anything, I knew him to be kind and hardworking, and that was enough. Behind a curtain of chintz was the bed he’d made. The sheets were white and damp with the weather, and in the night they proved little warmth. Outside, the animals in the barn were still. I could smell them through the window. But inside, this was what marriage was.

From The Quickening by Michelle Hoover. Reprinted by permission of Other Press, LLC.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Iowa Stories

Years ago, Michelle Hoover discovered fifteen poorly-typed pages. Written during the last year of her great-grandmother’s life, they preserved the story of seventy years of hardship and loss on her family’s Iowa farm. The account eventually formed the basis of Hoover's first novel, The Quickening. "I consider the novel a restoration--a successful pursuit of what otherwise might have vanished," she says.

“Michelle Hoover’s fine debut novel recreates for us a way of life and a set of personalities that have vanished from our current scene, and she does so with a solidity of detail that will impress these people and these places forever on your memory.”--Charles Baxter, author of The Feast of Love

Based on her great-grandmother’s account and family oral histories, Michelle Hoover’s novel The Quickening tells the epic story of a bitter feud between two Iowa farming families--a feud lasting forty years, through two World Wars and the Great Depression. It is a story of survival and hardship, violence and betrayal, and the discovery and loss of lifelong love.

“I grew up among Iowa farm women, and Michelle Hoover has perfectly captured their voices and stories with great wisdom, tenderness, and beauty.”--Ted Kooser, U. S. Poet Laureate, 2004-2006

Michelle Hoover will read from her new novel at 4:00pm, Sunday, August 1, at Magers & Quinn. Details are here.--David E

Monday, July 19, 2010

Vendela Vida reads from The Lovers

Vendela Vida, author of the 2007 New York Times Notable Book Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name comes to Magers & Quinn Booksellers to read from her new novel The Lovers, Tuesday, July 27, 7:30pm, at Magers & Quinn Booksellers.

Yvonne is a widow, her twin children grown. Hoping to immerse herself in memories of a happier time, Yvonne returns to he beautiful coastal village of Datça, Turkey, where she and her husband Peter honeymooned twenty-eight years before. But instead of comforting her, Yvonne's memories begin to trouble her.

“Stunning. A masterful meditation on grief and love. The Lovers is a sensational novel from one of our finest writers at the height of her craft.”--Stephen Elliott, author of The Adderall Diaries

This event is free and open to the public. Details--as well as information on all our upcoming readings--are on our events page.--David E

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


From the very necessary Bookshelf Porn blog (don't worry--it's not actually dirty), comes this panoramic shot of a baroque library. I think it's in Portugal, but there's no explanation. Still, you can pan around almost 360 degrees. Fasten your seatbelt and click here.--David E

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Super Funny

Random House pulled out all the stops when they made their trailer for Gary Shteyngart's latest novel Super Sad True Love Story. The cast includes Edmund White, James Franco, Mary Gaitskill, and Jay McInerny.

Is Gary Shteyngart this funny in real life? You can decide for yourself when he reads at Magers & Quinn, Tuesday, September 21, at 7:30pm. Details are here.--David E

Monday, July 12, 2010

Love, Money, Family... What Could Go Wrong?

Emily Gray Tedrowe's debut novel Commuters is a tale of love, family, and money.

After losing her husband of many years, upstate New Yorker Winnie Easton has finally found love again with Jerry Trevis, a wealthy businessman. But their decision to buy one of the town’s biggest houses ignites an outburst from Jerry’s family--particularly from his daughter, Annette, who goes so far as to freeze Jerry’s assets. Meanwhile, Winnie’s daughter Rachel is secretly humiliated by her mother’s newfound love and money--all the more as Jerry begins lending her money. And Avery’s twenty-year-old chef grandson Trevis has just moved to Manhattan, looking to start his own restaurant--with none other than Jerry’s friendship, advice, and money to back him up.

“In her wonderful and original novel Commuters, Emily Tedrowe explores the reconfigurations of a family and the strange alliances that can occur between young and old, love and work. And she writes brilliantly about money. ...A deeply satisfying debut.”--Margot Livesey, author of The House on Fortune Street

Emily Gray Tedrowe was born in New York City and lives in Chicago with her husband and two daughters. Her short fiction has appeared in several literary journals, including Other Voices and the Crab Orchard Review, and has won a Literary Award from the Illinois Arts Council. Commuters is her first novel.

Details are here.--David E

Friday, July 9, 2010

Turkish Delight

The New York Times likes Vendela Vida's new novel The Lovers. Reviewer Josh Emmons says, "Vida is a subtle writer whose voice is spare and authoritative, at times sounding like a less gothic Paul Bowles, and her third novel is further evidence that she can fashion characters as unpredictable as they are endearing." (The full review is here.)

The Lovers is available now, and you can meet Vendela Vida at M&Q later this month. She'll be reading from her novel at 7:30pm, on Tuesday, July 27.--David E

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Wee Beasties

The Bookshop Blog has posted a fascinating bestiary of various creepy-crawlies you might find living in a (badly cared-for) book. The list includes silverfish, firebrats, booklice, and my favorite Armadillidium vulgare--more fun to say than it is to see.

Read the whole story here.--David E


You can meet Scott Sigler, one of the best science fiction writers of our day, this coming Thursday, July 8, at 7:30pm, right here at Magers & Quinn.

"Michael Crichton may be gone, but he has a worthy successor in Scott. This book takes thriller and science fiction conventions and slams them together to make something new and fascinating."--Simon R. Green, author of The Good, the Bad, and the Uncanny and Agents of Light and Darkness

Sigler will be reading from his latest novel, Ancestor, a chilling a tale of genetic experimentation gone awry. On a remote island in the Canadian Arctic, PJ Colding leads a group of geneticists who have discovered this holy grail of medicine--life-saving transplant organs at almost no cost. By reverse-engineering the genomes of thousands of mammals, Colding's team has dialed back the evolutionary clock to re-create humankind’s common ancestor. The method? Illegal. The result? A computer-engineered living creature, an animal whose organs can be implanted in any person, and with no chance of transplant rejection.

Details are here.--David E

Saturday, July 3, 2010

France is a Different Country

Not only are the covers of the French editions of Steig Larsson's books incredibly different from their American counterparts, but the titles too are much more continental. What we know as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo hews closer to its Swedish original; it's called Men Who Didn't Like Women in French. The Girl Who Played With Fire is the much more poetic The Girl Who Dreamed of a Can of Gasoline and a Match. And the third book--The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest--is the fantastic The Queen in the Palace of Drafts.--David E

Author. Reading.

I recently read Nature Noir: A Park Ranger's Patrol in the Sierra. It's a work memoir by Jordan Fisher Smith, about his time working at a park in California--dust, boredom, flood control issues, suicides, doughnuts, campers, cougars, and so on. I recommend it highly.

So I was charmed to find this video of the author reading from the book--literally reading from it--on his deck. It's summer reading at its simple best.--David E

Friday, July 2, 2010

God Bless the Kent District Library

Working as I do in a bookstore, I am several times a day asked imponderable questions such as, "What's the fourth book in the Dragonlance series?" or "What is the latest Sweet Valley High book?"

Until very recently I've used a combination of Google and bluster to answer these queries, but no longer. The invaluable database What's Next? Books in Series allows me to search by author, title, series name, and so on. And all the answers are grouped by series, so I can appear learned and informed and helpful.

This miracle of the internet is here.

Thanks to the Swiss Army Librarian for the catch.--David E

Thursday, July 1, 2010

All men live enveloped in whale-lines.

Scientists unearthed the fossilized remains of a big whale in Peru in 2008, but not until now have they been sure what they had found. It turns out to have been a whale-eating whale--between 45 and 60 feet long, with teeth bigger than those of a T Rex.

The scientists who made the find have a literary bent. They named the new cetacean Leviathan melvillei, after Herman Melville, author of the whaling clasic Moby Dick.

Science News has the details.--David E

All the News

The July newsletter edition of the Magers & Quinn email newsletter has just gone out. It includes suggestions for great summer reading, upcoming author readings, and other literary gems.

August's newsletter will have the first word of some fantastic author events coming up this fall. Sign up here, and you won't miss a thing.--David E