Friday, September 26, 2008

Nothing to See Here

As you can tell, I've been very bad about keeping this blog up to date. It's been a busy few months, and I'm trying to get back into the swing of writing more, not to mention a hundred other things on various to-do lists.

It's not all that feasible to keep two blogs up and running, especially since my bookstore-opening advances aren't exactly advancing at the moment. This is not to say I'm giving up that goal; I am, however, mostly watching to see how other successful booksellers weather the changing industry, and sometimes that can be kind of like watching grass grow.

So, if you're following me on this little corner of the web, you probably already know about my other blog. It's where all the neat stuff will be for the foreseeable future, including the bookish things.

We're not turning the lights off here, merely dimming them for awhile before the grand reopening. In the meantime, feel free to switch your links and bookmarks around to point to L'esprit d'escalier, where I'll be kicking off the book bloggery over there in time for Banned Books Week.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Farewell, George Carlin

I don't remember when I first became aware of George Carlin. I like to think it was before Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, but I can't be sure. I know I'd heard A Place for My Stuff by then, but whether or not I realized that was the same person playing Rufus or not is unclear.

Somewhere between Bill &Ted and Dogma, I caught up on my Carlin education. We sold his books in the bookstore. If I heard a snippet of his routine while flipping channels, I'd pause and watch the whole thing. He was a comedian whose work I admired.

I was lucky enough to meet him.

One of the perks of my job is that every now and then I get to be in the same room with famous people. They write books, I sell books. It works out nicely. I'm not high enough on the totem pole to do much more than smile politely and shake a hand before moving on, but it's still one of those job benefits that isn't written down on any piece of paper. When I consider what I want to do after this, it's one of the things I know I'll be giving up, and it makes me a little sad.

In 2004, he wrote When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops? and came to sales conference to talk to us. He read a few pages, having to ad-lib some of it since either the print was too small or one of the pages he'd printed out had gone missing. He stood at the podium while we sipped at our post-lunch coffees and talked for a while about his career and his life, and what the book was about. He took questions from us. He was open and honest, and of course, hilarious.

We had some time after the Q&A was finished to introduce ourselves, and I waited around, intending to just dart in, say thank you, and leave. The knot of people he was talking to shifted and I edged my way into the circle, just to listen. He noticed the newcomer - he noticed every time one of the faces surrounding him changed - and for each of us, he'd pause to say hello.

I don't remember what he said to me. It was most likely that kind of small talk you make when you're shaking the hand of someone you've never met and will never see again, but it wasn't a plain "Nice to meet you." I was utterly charmed by whatever it was he said (and I'm kicking myself that I don't recall the words), and I stood there awhile, entranced, listening to him patter on with the other reps.

I was, for a few moments, in the presence of someone I greatly admired. His was a brilliant voice, speaking truth through humor, making us think about politics, language and our treatment of one another. The world is a little dimmer today.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Review: Robert R. McCammon's Boy's Life

In a conversation about favorite authors with some friends last night, Robert R. McCammon came up.

We discussed our love for his Blue World, and how we'd read Swan Song on the heels of The Stand, which made us love it all the more. We talked about how Usher's Passing was a wonderful, creepy follow-up to Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher," and about McCammon's general awesomeness.

But the book of his I love the very most, the one I have that is so tattered and dog-eared that it's held together by a rubber band, is Boy's Life.

Let's see if I can remember my handselling pitch: It's about a boy and his friends, growing up in a small town in 1960s Alabama. It's a coming-of-age story, and a murder mystery, and a story of how a family deals with a changing world. It's about a storyteller, and magic, bike rides and summertime, a carnival and a monster, the Beach Boys and ghosts, the loyalty of dogs, a single green feather, a boy with a perfect arm, and the history of a black arrowhead.

I cry every time I read it. Twice.

I could, if you asked me to right now, recite the poem at the beginning of the book. There are phrases from it that I'll never forget, and scenes that I can close my eyes and envision.

It's about friendship, and families, and how even the people you love the most have their flaws, and you love them anyway.

In McCammon's own words:

I say Boy's Life is not about lost innocence, because I believe we all maintain the pool of innocence and wonder inside us no matter how far we get away from our childhood. I believe this pool can be revisited, and we can immerse ourselves in its healing water if we dare to take the risk of knowing again the children we used to be. This is a risky thing, because once we look back---once we let that wonderful pool take us in again---we may not ever fully return to being the adults we are now.

Boy's Life, like The Stand, is one of the books I returned to every summer for several years. It's been a long while since I've revisited either of those worlds, my summers having been swallowed up by other things these past few years. But I'm feeling that ache again, for both of them. I think it's long past time for the rereads.

And, because my tattered old copy might not be able to withstand another reading, Pocket Books is reissuing Boy's Life in trade paperback in July. Excellent timing.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Sign Me Up

I had this post planned about Indie Bound, the new program that will be replacing Book Sense, which I think looks really neat and has the excitement and momentum to do amazing things.

However, I then saw this and all rational thought flew out of my head.

The Stand.

In comic book form.

And I have to wait until September before it happens.


The adaptation of The Dark Tower has so far been excellent - the writing, the art, the feel of that world. I will only imagine good things for the translation of my favorite book of all time into comic book form.

So, help me out here, O Those Who Read My Ramblings - what books would you love to see done as comic books? Which ones have already been done that you think are particularly good or particularly bad? Which titles would make you gnash your teeth and go "Nooooo! They'll fuck it up!" if a comic version was to be announced?

Friday, May 30, 2008

To Tide You Over

I'm spreading in Shannon's book meme. (Which was spread from somewhere else, and somewhere else before that, and so on, as all good memes are.)

The rules!

Copy the list of books, then bold the books you have read, underline the ones you read for school, and italicize the ones you started but didn’t finish.

Here goes (with occasional commentary)...

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (I could swear I bought it, but I can't find it. I am ashamed.)
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi : a novel
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre (The first pop quiz I ever had came when we were reading this book my freshman year in high school. I actually hadn't read the chapter yet (le gasp), but somehow I managed to squeak out a passing grade.)
The Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler’s Wife (Loved, loved, loved it.)
The Iliad
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner (I keep intending to read this.)
Mrs. Dalloway (Read it for school and loved it. It gets a bolding.)
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran : a Memoir in Books (No, I don't know why I haven't read it yet, either.)
Memoirs of a Geisha (At an airport flying home, had given away whatever ARC I was reading to a bookseller I was visiting. The magazine stand had a bunch of meh paperbacks and this. I almost missed the call to board my flight, I was so entranced.)
Middlesex (No, but I have read The Virgin Suicides and loved it. Middlesex is on the list to buy.)
Wicked : The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West
The Canterbury Tales
The Historian : a novel (I expected to hate it - I did my honors thesis on vampire literature (the English department collectively /facepalmed, I'm sure), so it takes a lot to impress me. Then I found out Kostova did ten years of research for this book. I loved it. I wouldn't shut up about it the whole summer.)
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (Y'know... I didn't hate it.)
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
Anansi Boys
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible
Angels and Demons (I want those hours back, plzkthx)
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes : A Memoir
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States : 1492-Present
Cryptonomicon (So, uh. My friend Eric has been recommending this forever, but when I was wandering the bookstore trying to remember which book he'd raved about, I got confused and thought he'd been talking about Neuromancer (hey, airport bookstore, 6:00 AM, no coffee. My brain wasn't on.) I loved Neuromancer. Now I need to go get Cryptonomicon.
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots and Leaves (Spent the whole book nodding. I would have shouted "Amen!" every few lines, but I read most of it on the train. People tend to look at you funny when you do that.)
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood: A True Account of a Multiple Murder and its Consequences
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield


There are a lot of books on this list I'd still like to get around to. I'm kind of sad more of them aren't highlighted, but somehow the teachers and professors I had in high school and college deviated wildly from the lists of standard assigned reading. I can't complain, but the list feels light.

Of course, my genres-of-preference, sf/f and horror, don't have a lot of entries on the list unless the books are hugely successful. Hmph.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Brief Interruption of Service

It's been a while since I've rambled at you. I've fallen a bit behind on industry news, and I spent most of last weekend doing family things and planting herbs, so there wasn't a lot of time to catch up on my reading. I've also been bitten by a writing bug, so while that's a good thing for me, it's made this blog a lonely place.

Unless there's a way to plug the eReader directly into my brain, I am going to be reviewless this week.

Back Tuesday with more yattering about bookish things. Until then, I might spill words onto screen over at the other blog. Come visit!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Technology and Me, a Love-Hate Relationship

There was no review on Friday because the internet gods decided I didn't need to be connected to the outside world for the day. However, I have sweet, sweet connectivity now. Rejoice!

Also, I believe my Sony Reader might be fried, somehow. It had about half-battery on Thursday. I didn't touch it all weekend. Then, this morning, while I was waiting for the train to arrive, I pulled it out of my purse and tried turning it on.


Assuming that, somehow, the battery simply ran out, I plugged it into my computer when I arrived at work.


No icon letting me know that it's charging, no acknowledgment that something is plugged into the USB port on my computer. I haven't the faintest idea what might have killed it this dead, but it's not responding to anything.

Yet another argument for why paper books will always, always trump these devices. Right now, it seems to me, I have a $300 lump of metal and plastic and parts with no entertainment value whatsoever.