Sunday, July 31, 2011

We like stuff that hurts.






I went camping with my brother and his family. On night 2 of heavy guilt-free forest-drinking around a fire, my brother asked me what compels me to read poetry, and I thought to myself (YOU! You asshole, bought me my first collection of Emily D. when I was 8) and, well I did say that out loud I had to follow it with something a bit more eloquent; and here is the ugliness that unfurled.




"Mike, I like to read poetry because you can get away with a lot of weird shit."


"Like what?"


At this point I pulled out this poem I had written (a solid B minus at best) about eating dinner with a blind guy with blue prosthetic eyes, that always landed on my cleavage. I suspected their inauthenticity. My brother said and I quote:


"That is just messed up, why would anyone want to read about that? That's sick"


I chewed on that. Then I thought about a poem my pal Shawna had me read, and how it hurt to read, in the best "scratching an itch" kind of way:






Half Hanged Mary



by Margaret Atwood




7 p.m.

Rumour was loose in the air,
hunting for some neck to land on.
I was milking the cow,
the barn door open to the sunset.

I didn’t feel the aimed word hit
and go on in like a soft bullet.
I didn’t feel the smashed flesh
closing over it like water
over a thrown stone.

I was hanged for living alone,
for having blue eyes and a sunburned skin,
tattered skirts, few buttons,
a weedy farm in my own name,
and a surefire cure for warts.

Oh yes, and breasts,
and a sweet pear hidden in my body.
Whenever there’s talk of demons
these come in handy.

8 p.m.

The rope was an improvisation.
With time they’d have thought of axes.

Up I go like a windfall in reverse,
a blackened apple stuck back onto the tree.

Trussed hands, rag in my mouth,
a flag raised to salute the moon,

old bone-faced goddess, old original,
who once took blood in return for food.

The men of the town stalk homeward,
excited by their show of hate,
their own evil turned inside out like a glove,
and me wearing it.

9 p.m.

The bonnets come to stare,
the dark skirts also,
the upturned faces in between,
mouths closed so tight they’re lipless.
I can see down into their eyeholes
and nostrils. I can see their fear.

You were my friend, you too,
I cured your baby, Mrs.,
and flushed yours out of you,
Non-wife, to save your life.

Help me down? You don’t dare.
I might rub off on you,
like soot or gossip. Birds
of a feather burn together,
though as a rule ravens are singular.

In a gathering like this one
the safe place is the background,
pretending you can’t dance,
the safe stance pointing a finger.

I understand. You can’t spare
anything, a hand, a piece of bread, a shawl
against the cold,
a good word. Lord
knows there isn’t much
to go around. You need it all.

10 p.m.

Well God, now that I’m up here,
with maybe some time to kill,
away from the daily
fingerwork, legwork, work
at the hen level,
we can continue our quarrel,
the one about free will.

Is it my choice that I’m dangling
like a turkey’s wattle from this
more than indifferent tree?
If Nature is Your alphabet,
what letter is this rope?

Does my twisting body spell out Grace?
I hurt, therefore I am.
Faith, Charity, and Hope
are three dead angels
falling like meteors or
burning owls across
the profound blank sky of Your face.

12 midnight

My throat is taut against the rope
choking off words and air;
I’m reduced to knotted muscle.
Blood bulges in my skull,
my clenched teeth hold it in;
I bite down on despair.

Death sits on my shoulder like a crow
waiting for my squeezed beet
of a heart to burst
so he can eat my eyes

or like a judge
muttering about sluts and punishment
and licking his lips

or like a dark angel
insidious in his glossy feathers
whispering to me to be easy
on myself. To breathe out finally.
Trust me, he says, caressing
me. Why suffer?

A temptation, to sink down
onto these definitions.
To become a martyr in reverse,
or food, or trash.

To give up my own words for myself,
my own refusals.
To give up knowing.
To give up pain.
To let go.

2 a.m.

Out of my mouths is coming, at some
distance from me, a thin gnawing sound
which you could confuse with prayer except that
praying is not constrained.

Or is it, Lord?
Maybe it’s more like being strangled
than I once thought. Maybe it’s
a gasp for air, prayer.
Did those men at Pentecost
want flames to shoot out of their heads?
Did they ask to be tossed
on the ground, gabbling like holy poultry,
eyeballs bulging?

As mine are, as mine are.
There is only one prayer; it is not
the knees in the clean nightgown
on the hooked rug.
I want this, I want that.
Oh far beyond.
Call it Please. Call it Mercy.
Call it Not yet, not yet,
as Heaven threatens to explode
inwards in fire and shredded flesh, and the angels caw.

3 a.m.

wind seethes in the leaves around
me the trees exude night
birds night birds yell inside
my ears like stabbed hearts my heart
stutters in my fluttering cloth
body I dangle with strength
going out of the wind seethes
in my body tattering
the words I clench
my fists hold No
talisman or silver disc my lungs
flail as if drowning I call
on you as witness I did
no crime I was born I have borne I
bear I will be born this is
a crime I will not
acknowledge leaves and wind
hold on to me
I will not give in

6 a.m.

Sun comes up, huge and blaring,
no longer a simile for God.
Wrong address. I’ve been out there.

Time is relative, let me tell you
I have lived a millennium.

I would like to say my hair turned white
overnight, but it didn’t.
Instead it was my heart;
bleached out like meat in water.

Also, I’m about three inches taller.
This is what happens when you drift in space
listening to the gospel
of the red hot stars.
Pinpoints of infinity riddle my brain,
a revelation of deafness.

At the end of my rope
I testify to silence.
Don’t say I’m not grateful.

Most will only have one death.
I will have two.

8 a.m.

When they came to harvest my corpse
(open your mouth, close your eyes)
cut my body from the rope,
surprise, surprise,
I was still alive.

Tough luck, folks,
I know the law:
you can’t execute me twice
for the same thing. How nice.

I fell to the clover, breathed it in,
and bared my teeth at them
in a filthy grin.
You can imagine how that went over.

Now I only need to look
out at them through my sky-blue eyes.
They see their own ill will
staring them in the forehead
and turn tail.

Before, I was not a witch.
But now I am one.

Later

My body of skin waxes and wanes
around my true body,
a tender nimbus.
I skitter over the paths and fields,
mumbling to myself like crazy,
mouth full of juicy adjectives
and purple berries.
The townsfolk dive headfirst into the bushes
to get out of my way.

My first death orbits my head,
an ambiguous nimbus,
medallion of my ordeal.
No one crosses that circle.

Having been hanged for something
I never said,
I can now say anything I can say.

Holiness gleams on my dirty fingers,
I eat flowers and dung,,
two forms of the same thing, I eat mice
and give thanks, blasphemies
gleam and burst in my wake
like lovely bubbles.
I speak in tongues,
my audience is owls.

My audience is God,
because who the hell else could understand me?

The words boil out of me,
coil after coil of sinuous possibility.
The cosmos unravels from my mouth,
all fullness, all vacancy.









I love this poem. I'm reading The Art of Cruelty by Maggie Nelson, and I am becoming suspicious of why we are drawn to violence in art.




I don't know.




I just know it feels like a greater violence to be coddled and comforted and lulled into a soup for my soul.



I don't know.


I just know I like to read the ugly, it feels better.


Creepy. Isn't real beauty kinda ugly? There has to be something scary and vulgar to make it lovable, right?



Thoughts on literary masochisms?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Best part of my job.

I was lucky enough to play ambassador to the books this evening.
She came in the door and walked right up to me at the counter and told me that she wanted to read. On the bus, for starters, but hopefully, in the future, even more often than that. She hadn't ever met a book, in the course of her casual and frustrating reading life, that could hold her in its grip. Maybe I can find one a place for her to start? She knows that she wants in. She wants to find out why people read.

THIS IS THE BEST THING THAT CAN HAPPEN TO ME AT MY JOB.

Maybe once or twice a year I am presented with the opportunity to introduce someone to reading, but the novice usually approaches books, and me, with embarrassment; almost apologetically. None of that with this woman. Perhaps in her late twenties, she told me she had only ever enjoyed biographies about people she already wanted to learn more about. Now it was time to experience reading for other purposes. She seemed unsure of what those purposes could be. But she told me about herself, what she does, what she wonders about when she sees books in other people's hands. She wondered why everyone seems to read the same books at the same time, and how all the other people find their way among the millions of other books there are to read.
And how did I start reading?

I told her a little bit about how I choose my next book, but that it was different for every single person. And the only way to know what you like is to gamble. To allow yourself the room to be disappointed maybe by this book; but to let disappointment guide you to the next one.
She loved to play soccer, I gave her Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch. An obvious step is the best step when it's your first. She obviously is someone who thinks a lot about people, and about what makes them do the things they do, so I gave her This I Believe. I tried to sell her Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis, because she said her boyfriend is English, and I only ever need the very slightest of provocations to try to get Lucky Jim into someone's hands.

It sounded like she wanted to form a habit.
Welcome to Booksmith: your local, independent pusher.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Great American Ne'er-do-well



If pressed, I would have to describe myself as "risk averse". I'm a born worrier, I was yielded by two prescription-strength worriers, it's a trait that runs deeper in my veins than red blood cells. I am always looking before I leap, sometimes never leaping but instead peering into some hypothetical chasm of worst case scenarios. It's held me back, sure, but its the same instinct that also sees me to work on time, secures that steady "C" grade point average my mom is so proud of, that doesn't let me fall in love with the wrong person (well. almost). I'm a planner, always keeping an eye out for the next available pitfall in order to avoid it, or at least, escape with minimal damage.

In 2006 I went to art school, and met a whole bevy of people that were the opposite of risk averse. Summer after summer I would watch them vacate the city, in painted vans and rusting two-door lemons, with trunks full of sleeping bags, drugs, and whiskey. I stood in the driveway and waved at them as they drove away, squinting into the sun with a feeling of "better them than me." Fall came and they'd come back, straggling into town, one by one, with empty pockets and festival stories of horrors and triumphs.

Reading "Gonzo" is similar to hearing those festival tales. Polaroids and photographs of Hunter Thompson's extensive travels peek out from the pages with little to no description, no key to name the characters until you reach the end. Only in the very last pages of the book can you go back, matching names to faces, putting time into context. Its one long experience, the scroll of a wild man who lived all over and then some. I think my favorite thing about Thompson is you can never quite tell if he's good or evil; he is always both, will first smash the bottle over your head only to help you bandage the wound later.

A book like this will, of course, give you the unshakable feeling that you've missed out, gravely, on the possibilities of life. The pictures of Thompson, in his trademark bermuda shorts, nursing a something-on-the-rocks in a highball glass while musing over a typewriter under black and white palm trees from the past will no doubt give you pause. For me, however, it's just a pause. I never claimed to be a Thompson; I wouldn't even have been able to be in his acquaintance. We can't all hit the road, throw caution to the wind and embrace the unknown. I mean sure, it was a different time he was living and writing in, but beyond that; some of us can never see past today, and that is an excellent way to live. Still, I see tomorrow. I can't help it, it fills my line of vision and I cough and sputter until the smoke clears and I remember where I am. This book, and others like it, are magic to me. Bona fide dark arts. Something to wave at while you squint into the sun, displaced from time for a moment. Just a moment.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Puppets?

Waiting in line to get a book signed is great...if you're a reader over the age of, maybe, 10.  That's why, for the little guys, we do more than just book signings.  I would not say that we are simply entertaining your kids, but opening their eyes to broader aspects of literature and stories.  Check out this video from David Hyde Costello's event for Little Pig Joins the Band

video

No, there are no giraffes in the Little Pig story (but there was in I Can Help).  It's quite an amazing puppet, isn't it?

The heart of great author talks is when an author gives more than a simple book signing.

When they talk about experiences or show other art forms they have delved in to, it gives an insight into their life and soul in a different way that their book could ever do.  Thoughts and creative objects, such as this giraffe brought to life -- no longer confined to the page -- inspire the imagination! Not to mention readers and listeners as well.

Thank you to all you wonderful authors who go beyond your written words.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Destination Literature, or "You Are There Reading"





One of our booksellers, Jes, is reading Moby Dick this summer. So when her family happened to go to Nantucket for summer vacation, Jes packed Melville. When she returned to the Booksmith, she told me excitedly about a beached whale she encountered while beach combing. I was jealous. When I read Moby Dick for the first time last summer, I was forever wanting to see just how big those beasts were. Jes had other convergences of literature and life as she explored the island, from which Ishmael and his companion, Queequeg embark on their fatal adventure. Jes may not have seen any white whales off Nantucket, but she was still thrilled to be reading Moby Dick there. "I was eating chowder, they (Ishamael and Queequeg) were eating chowder..."





I recognized Jes's Nantucket experience as what author Anne Fadiman calls "You Are There Reading" in her essay collection Ex Libris. "You Are There Reading" is exactly what it sounds like, "the practice of reading books in the places they describe." All you have to do is pack a copy of Thoreau's Walden on your next trip to Walden Pond to find out what Jes, Fadiman, and all of us here at Booksmith are so excited about.

Destination Literature is our newest section at booksmith that promotes "You Are There" reading like never before. We've culled our shelves and distrubuters to bring together an exciting collection of travel literature, as well as great international fiction, mysteries, and essays. The books are shelved geographically by continent and country, then alphabetically. Almost every bookseller here has at some point been stumped by a customer looking for a title by its location on the map. I don't think we'll have that problem anymore. Yesterday I found an Estonian title on our shelves. (Jaan Kaplinski's The Same River). Traveling to Zanzibar? We've got you covered (Zanzibar Chest by Aidan Hartley).

Shelving our Destination Literature section has been an adventure in itself; I can't imagine what browsing will be like. Something close to traveling the world, I imagine. I was shelving in "Spain" when a customer asked me for George Orwell's book on Catalonia. I pulled Homage from where it stood, a few inches away from us. "That was like magic!" he said, in an accent I couldn't place. I hope he reads the book on his way to Catalonia, to really see some magic, that of words becoming world.

Arranging the books geographically has tested my knowledge of the world, and I have to admit to keeping at Atlas nearby as I shelve. To what region of the world does Estonia belong, anyway? (I shelved it in Europe, between England and France.) Let us know if you'd like to see a particular author or region represented on our shelves.

One book had me completely stumped. I stood in the aisle, leafing through Ali and Nino by Kurban Said. The book, a novelization of one of Scheherazade's tales, is set in Azerbeidshan. To which continent, I wondered, did this country belong? I opened to a map in the book, but was still at a loss. Azerbeidshan, I learned, is located between the Black and Caspian Seas, east of Turkey and south of Georgia and Armenia. We had decided to shelve Turkey under Europe, but Azerbeidshan appeared to be just as close to Asia.



I decided that I would have to read the book in order to determine where to shelve it. On page one I read, "Some scholars look on the area south of the Caucasian mountains as belonging to Asia, while others, in view of Transcaucasia's cultural revolution, believe that this country should be considered part of Europe."

I had happened upon a professor lecturing students on their responsbility to establish the country's national identity. As I shelved the book (under Asia), I felt that peculiar thrill--perhaps not quite as intense as the joy that comes with "You Are There Reading," but something like it--that of seeing the impact of what I was reading on the larger world. This, I believe, is the true value of our Destination Literature section. The books shelved here have the power to bring the world to you, or to inspire you to go out into the world. It's a section for the armchair traveler as much as for the daring adventurer.

So come visit what Lisa likes to call our "Venetian Canal" of Destination Literature, located between aisles two and three of the store, a section worthy to be called a destination itself.

Friday, July 15, 2011

surprising volumes

There is a wise man in one of Douglas Adams' books who lives in a very strange house on the beach in California. He's the one to whom the dolphins gave their only parting gift when they abandoned the planet before its destruction. The house is an insane asylum for the world, and its builder employed some architectural wizardry to give one the impression that the exterior was an interior, and only by passing through the front door could one enter the real world, where things make sense. I don't recall right now what the "outside" (inside) of the house looked like, but the literal exterior of the house was crown molding and lighting fixtures, mind-bending junctions of wall and ceiling, wallpaper and chairs.
The building was an insane asylum to house the entire world, and the one man who knew beyond a doubt that the world had gone mad - and that therefore he must live outside of it if he must live at all - had built it in brilliant desperation.

There is of course the Wardrobe in which the Pevensies find Narnia. Even better, in the sixth and seventh book (if you are reading them in the original and good order), there is the Garden on the other side of the Stable doors. It is larger inside, and larger again inside that, and again inside that...like an onion whose layers are paradoxically greater in circumference the deeper you peel.
Further up and further in!

Borges' aleph, which contains the entire universe. Fellow bookseller Jodie just came up with that one. There is a story I must read now.

I'm in the studio thinking about this as I look at the equivalent of the blank canvas. I'm collecting ideas on the topic of : larger within than without. The hidden enormity, hopefully good, that cloaks itself in the tiny shell of the everyday.
Let me know if you think of anything along these lines in books you've read.
Thanks!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Misery loves company, but its a terrible hostess

I had an awful and exhausting day today and I'm too exhausted to write anything here, my dearest internet surfers.

This is all I really want you to look at right now: What You Will Be Reading At Every Stage of Your Life (caution: some mildly spicy language involved. Ask an adult for assistance, kids!)

Also, be careful what you read in the laundromat. I just totally alienated myself by reading "A Stolen Life" stuck in a dreary room with a bunch of monotonous machines. The book is plenty alienating itself, (a real life Emma Donaghue's "Room") you don't need to mix it with the boundless ennui of laundry.

I'm going to go drink champagne on a balcony now. It's a thing I gotta do.

Night Brookline.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Young Candles

In response to Shoshana's post (below), the debate of content within young adult literature (YA) is quite the hot topic!  How dark is too dark and has the YA selection become a vast black hole with no light? 
 
I do agree in the fact that much of YA is filled with heavy references to sex, drugs, violence, addiction, and what-not.  However, this is not necessarily a bad thing; unless, you are not ready for said content, just want a break from it, or are sick and tired of it.  As a front line bookseller and an often more-conservative-than-liberal reader, I do wish there was more of an equilibrium weight between heavy-content YA and wholesome/light reads for the same age.  Hopefully this will change over the years.  Nevertheless the darker edge of YA holds a vital place on our shelves.
 
Literature is a valuable tool in exploring the world through the eyes of another.  At times, a book becomes a window, where you look into an unfamiliar world. For example, Judy Blume's Forever.  Blume is very detailed in her descriptions of sex to help readers really see the whole situation -- those who see it as a how to guide are completely missing the point.  At the end of the novel, Katherine, a sexually active teen, is left wondering what forever means?  Her boyfriend, Michael, said they would be together forever.  To be blunt, by the end, it's just a line that guys use.  Katherine is left with a whirlwind of emotions after the break up. Was having sex with her boyfriend really a good idea; and, is this regret going to stay with her the rest of her life?  The benefit here is that you can see the consequences of an action you may one day be faced with. I know many adults who grew up reading this book and it really made them think about the value and intensity of relationships, especially on the physical side, and the vitality of establishing boundaries before you start dating.
 
When a book is a mirror, a reader who has experienced the protagonist's situation can know they are not alone.  Reading a dark content book for a mirror-reader can be an invaluable tool in recovery and understanding.  For example, if someone has a friend who constantly pressures them to do things against their will, and is reading Jo Knowles' Lessons from a Dead Girl, they may be able to see themselves in Laine's confusion, anger, and resentment.  This book does not endorse abuse, rather, it gets to the foundation behind it and how it traumatically effects others.  Right now we have an article posted by Shelf Life on our shelves for 13 Reasons Why, which highlights the fact that Asher's novel is saving lives and helping families cope with suicide deaths of a loved one.  Why is dark automatically considered bad for some?
 
Even though not every teen constantly struggles with violence, sexual matters, drugs, or abuse, this dark YA realm cannot be considered forbidden (or banned as we call it). Yes, there is more to life than all of this, and it does lead me to wonder why there isn't more of a selection where conflict does not revolve around something so gut wrenching.  At the same time, these are the kinds of things our teens face.  Isn't it better that they read about it rather than having to experience it themselves?  Books have always been great disussion starters -- especially for hard topics.
 
I often remind customers that YA is just another genre. It's not like YA lit is the only books for teenagers.  Many fourteen-year-olds decide to read adult fiction, get caught up in a mystery, immerse themselves in history, or explore the realms of science.  A genre does not define a reader's ages!
 
Yes, we believe in free expression here, but what you (or your child reads) is ultimately up to you.  In closing, I would like to highlight the fact that without sorrow, there is no joy.  Sometimes, yes, it can be hard to accept the dark and brutal side of literature.  But without them, I think we would be even more lost than we already are.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

YA saves... and it doesn't need saving

A customer today brought up this article, as many people have in the month or so since its Wall Street Journal appearance. The article's gist is that young adult literature these days is too dark and a bad influence on teens. That's a simplification, and I encourage you to read the article and think about the author's assertions, which do come with qualifying statements. But I also encourage you to search for "YA Saves" and see what you find, because lots and lots and lots of people have responded to the article with great points and real stories. It seems novels that discuss some of the less pleasant experiences our world has to offer have helped teens understand those experiences and even get through them.

Our Young Adult section has plenty of books that are dark in the way the article says YA novels are dark. They portray teens who suffer from depression or eating disorders, teens who are physically or sexually abused, teens who abuse drugs or alcohol, teens who are marginalized far beyond having no one to sit with at lunch. The fact is, such teens exist, and books about these problems can help them and those around them feel less alone. Other teens, motivated by curiosity and very likely compassion, might just find such novels more informative than, say, TV shows with similar content.

There's another kind of dark on the YA shelves, too: the fun kind. I doubt that many teens seek out books to help them process their encounters with vampires, but they do seek out vampire books. Whether one is having a relatively easy adolescence or a difficult one, there's a lot to be said for escapism.

Beyond all that, though, we have plenty of YA novels (and graphic novels!) that are much "lighter." If you're looking for something funny or something hopeful, we've got it. Really. Many of my favorites fit into this category.

The WSJ article was touched off by a parent's complaint that she couldn't find anything in a bookstore to give her thirteen-year-old. Ask us! We love to talk about this stuff. (We'll probably approach you first.)

Ask your kids, too. They're the experts.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Ritterpics!

During our reading with singer-songwriter, novelist, and champion hugger Josh Ritter, you may have noticed a dashing figure with a large camera and a devil-may-care attitude towards gravity and Boston traffic. That was Mike Ritter. And it turns out that what Josh is to music, Mike is to photography. He sent along a few snaps from that night so we can help you relive the joy.


All of these are owned and copyrighted by Mike Ritter, and we make no claims to any of them. You can check out his other work and get in touch with him at http://ritterbin.com/.


Copyright Mike Ritter

Copyright Mike Ritter


Copyright Mike Ritter


Copyright Mike Ritter

Copyright Mike Ritter

Copyright Mike Ritter

Copyright Mike Ritter





Friday, July 8, 2011

Interactive.

"CHAPTER 2
His father said,
'Get off your head
or I will march you
up to bed!'
Pierre said,
'I don't care!'
'I would think
that you could see-'
'I don't care!'
'Your head is where
your feet should be!'
'I don't care!'
'If you keep standing
upside down-"
'I don't care!'
'We'll never ever
get to town.'
'I don't care!'
'
If only you would
say I CARE.'
'I don't care!'
'I'd let you fold the folding chair.'"


-Dad?

Yes, Jackson?

-What if I hit him in the face?

...do you want to try?


WHAP. Closed fist punch right in the tiny Pierre's face.
On my left, in her pj's, Libbie, unmoved, sucks her thumb.


Did it work?

-No.

Yeah, looks like he still doesn't care. Let's read on.



I was relating this story to my fellow bookseller Jamie, and it all spun out into some very interesting places. I thought Jack was just playing with me on my level: let's joke about smacking the kid and get him to stop being annoying. Jack knows that he can be annoying. In the exact same way as Pierre. But Jamie related to me what she is reading and talking about in her classes right now, and how the discussion brought up the idea that kids get from A to B indirectly, completely unconnected to how an adult, who has had a lifetime of experience/brainwashing, would consider getting from A to B. And maybe Jack thought in that moment that he could actually change the book.

Then I came up with an idea that I want to write down before someone else does.
I have my problems with the idea, actually, but they might only be the problems that a 34 year-old bookseller in 2011 has.



The newly software has the ability to synthesize, in an almost intuitive and creative way, an author's entire ouvre of written work. From precocious grade school stories to embarrassing teenage poetry, to even more embarrassing undergrad short fiction, to heavy-handed first attempts at the great novel, to all of the author's published work, and their unpublished correspondence, notes to roommates, lists, directions jotted down...all of it is fed to the software. Tendencies are analyzed, sent back to be authorized and prioritized by the author, and established as future stylistic guidelines.

A new novel is written. The novel is set upon by the software.

A number of points of derivation are plotted within the text by the author. As few as one, or as many as there are words in the story.

Our customer downloads the novel onto their preferred handheld or headset device, and the biofeedback algorithms in the machine do their thing, monitoring and adjusting for the hot palms, the loose grip, the tight squeeze, the nervous fingering...the drop of sweat, the rhythmic fogging of the screen.

What would you like the story to do now?

Would you rather it did exactly what you least expect?

The software acts as author, in the absence of the author. Authorized to speak with an adopted voice, any book can bring endless variations, endless endings.

Rockets - Red Glare

I was doing fine until about 4 pm, when the scotch came out and I started to really feel those glasses of hot wine we had quaffed hours earlier on the roof. That was when that deep tired set in, that bone tired, and the first insidious tinglings of a sharp and shameful day-drinking hangover started to crawl up the back of my neck. In my best sundress, the pink one with the flowers, my seat on the floor quickly became my languid chez lounge on the floor which became my day bed on the floor as the incline of my posture decreased. Cool tile on the bits that were exposed, my legs, now with an awkward shorts-tan. I have sex appeal until just above the knee caps. Somebody far, far away down a long, lonely tunnel said "Lets go get pizza" and I thought Good God, I thought Good God, do I love this country.

Happy. Birthday. America.

It goes without saying my July fourth was exceptional, although firework free. I remember going to see the fireworks in high school, and beyond - and while they're always a spectacle, sometimes I'm not into the crowds. This year, I was only into sunbathing, wine, and pizza, as the above excerpt from my future memoirs clearly outlines. I understand your concern, but I'll have you know that the pizza was exquisite. Why do people insist on getting pizza without garlic? Is this some kind of self-flagellation that I have not been apprised of? It's just wrong. Without garlic, you're just wasting time. Precious, precious time.



I'm working my way through this right now. I've talked about Karr's poetry before, which is jaw-dropping, by the way. However I haven't read any of her memoirs, this being my first one. It's unbelievable, I can't stop thinking about it. Karr has a way of telling her own story in such precise detail and pacing that I don't know if I believe it's not nonfiction. I'm not suggesting that she's lying, I'm just saying, whatever kind of magic she's wielding to keep me interested as she describes her life of less-than-worthy towheaded surfer boys and a wayward, artistic, alcoholic mother, it's potent, because it's working. I'm hooked. I care.

Oh and I'm sorry this is late, friends. I worked today, and ya'll did not give me a chance to sit down and write this while I was at the store. Although you are missing out an a pretty stunning retelling of a story from my adolescence involving DIY body modification. When I can't think of anything to talk about, I just talk about myself. Or maybe I just always talk about myself? Let's just gloss right over that confrontation of personal shortcomings and remind ourselves that, without my narcissism, my blog posts would be hollow and sad. Plus, this is America, don't forget.

Also, I did the staff recommendations on Wednesday. I have two up, and one of them is nonfiction.

....the other is about vampires. OKAY you know what, just come in and see for yourself, okay? As usual, stay classy Brookline. Don't think I'm not thinking about you on this glorious Thursday eve.

Kisses.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

July Kids' Events

You've asked, and now they're nearly here!  Our kids' events coordinator, Jamie, is at work with Evan to provide you with great kids' events.  Come on downstairs and join us.


Saturday, July 16th at 11 am
Little Pig Joins the Band by David Hyde Costello
Seriously funny (I laughed out loud)!  Little Pig (but, his real name is Jacob) is always too little.  When a box arrives full of Grandpa's old marching-band instruments, there has to be one small enough for him, right?  No.  But a button will change everything...  Don't miss this great event!







Sunday, July 24th at 2pm
Gwendolyn the Graceful Pig by David Ira Rottenberg
Gwendolyn cannot dance and Omar is just clumsy.  Yet, Natasha, the new ballet teacher is convinced anyone -- ungraceful pigs included -- can dance.  Join us for a reading and some dancing from the Peanut Butter and Jelly Dance Company.


Though all are welcome, both events will be geared towards children 3-7. Also *every child must be accompanied by an adult for the duration of the event*.  Thank you and enjoy!

Monday, July 4, 2011

... independence.







in·de·pen·dence noun \ˌin-də-ˈpen-dən(t)s\

Definition of INDEPENDENCE

1: the quality or state of being independent

2 archaic : competence

I have always felt that the fourth of July is sorta the New Year's of the summer. I've never cared for the decorations. The screaming. That being what it is, fireworks are lovely,--but what a weird way to celebrate...."hey look up there in the sky...remember the noises bombs made when we killed people?" I wonder if the squirrels know we are only playing pretend-bombs, technicolor bombs.

At the register today I had a surge of pride, our country is only 235 years old. How lucky I am to be on this land. How lucky that I can yell, and criticise and bitch to anyone I want, that my mouth is protected. Think of all the inventions that came for from this country...(seriously...check out Wikipedia.) We were borne from brilliant extremist rogue savants.

I think about how glad I am to work where I work. How there is something in this store to offend everyone, and to please everyone. How Brookline chooses everyday, to support this store, and how grateful we are to try and reflect back the fierce intellectual independence of this town.

Enjoy your independence, and your independents.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Elizabeth Bishop, the poem I can't live without. Thoughts on the new collection.







Cirque D'Hiver
Elizabeth Bishop



Across the floor flits the mechanical toy,
fit for a king of several centuries back.
A little circus horse with real white hair.
His eyes are glossy black.
He bears a little dancer on his back.

She stands upon her toes and turns and turns.
A slanting spray of artificial roses
is stitched across her skirt and tinsel bodice.
Above her head she poses
another spray of artificial roses.

His mane and tail are straight from Chirico.
He has a formal, melancholy soul.
He feels her pink toes dangle toward his back
along the little pole
that pierces both her body and her soul

and goes through his, and reappears below,
under his belly, as a big tin key.
He canters three steps, then he makes a bow,
canters again, bows on one knee,
canters, then clicks and stops, and looks at me.

The dancer, by this time, has turned her back.
He is the more intelligent by far.
Facing each other rather desperately—
his eye is like a star—
we stare and say, "Well, we have come this far."







There has been some controversy over the new collected of Bishop's. I still dig the original...but the new collected offers something different. It offers her dirty napkins with scribbles, and calls them her "letters" and her "poems". Granted I love the idea of totally access to a writers private and public oeuvre, but there is something unsettling about it not being mindfully delineated from the rest of her intentionally "finished" poems. Thoughts?


(this doubtfulness offered in part by April Bernard and Paul Muldoon)