Tuesday, December 7, 2010
In across the counter: Mark Twain's brand new award-winning uncensored 750 page doorstop, Thomas Bernard's long essay My Prizes (first appearance in English!), and 40-odd boxes of miscellaneous fiction and nonfiction, just unpacked this morning and currently piled 6' high end-to-end on the desk Plus some leatherbound gold-edged Franklin Library classics, a really nice hardcover edition of Marco Polo's Travels, and $800 of lumber for the new shelves that will be going up in the front room early next week.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
The NYT, apparently following the Giller Prize's lead of showering praise on the obscure, the unorderable, and the absurdly expensive, coughs up its Best-of-the-Year list for 2010. (With one brief concession to popular taste).
The Guardian has a longer and much more interesting list. Unsurprisingly, that Franzen guy is on it, too.
The PFB Best-of-2010 list isn't really objective or scientific, but here it is anyway:
John Valliant, The Tiger
Lydia Davis (trans.), Madame Bovary
Gary Shteyngart, Super Sad True Love Story
Michael Lewis, The Big Short
Daniel Clowes, Wilson
Sheila Heti, How Should a Person Be?
Sam Lipsyte, The Ask
Jennifer Egan, A Visit From the Goon Squad
Most of these are here on the shelves right now.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Our friend, long-time customer, and recent media celebrity Sarah Leavitt will be presenting a multi-media slideshow/reading based on her critically acclaimed new autobiographical graphic novel, Tangles, in Main Street's front room this Thursday, December 2nd, as part of the UBC Creative Writing Department's monthly Locution event. Doors @ 6:45pm; books and beverages available behind the counter.
Monday, November 29, 2010
"Out of Print celebrates the world’s great stories through fashion. Our shirts feature iconic and often out of print book covers. Some are classics, some are just curious enough to make great t-shirts, but all are striking works of art.
We work closely with artists, authors and publishers to license the content that ends up in our collections. Each shirt is treated to feel soft and worn like a well-read book.
In addition to spreading the joy of reading through our tees, we acknowledge that many parts of the world don't have access to books at all. We are working to change that. For each shirt we sell, one book is donated to a community in need through our partner Books For Africa."
(via Mr. Kurtis Kolt)
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Is it too soon to start nominating best-of-the-year titles? Lydia Davis' long awaited translation of Flaubert is out and it's a doozy. I read it once on a recent flight to Los Angeles and once on the way back, undistracted by the snowcapped volcanoes and flake-blue lakes passing by below. Davis' English sentences are flinty and precise. Coupled with Flaubert's exemplary psychological realism -- every character in the book is broken differently, and every word they speak affirms it -- it's an unbeatable combination.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Windy bright Tuesday morning new arrivals: Luka and the Fire of Life, Salman Rushdie's pseudo-sequel to Haroun and the Sea of Stories; Phaidon's humongous NOMA Cookbook (hyper-local Icelandic cuisine; hyper-abstract presentation); Jay-Z's oddball biography/lyrics collection, & etc. Plus a great whack of long out-of-print H.R. Giger art books and catalogs.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Lots of hue and cry in the media today re: Canadian-US$ exchange rates, big trouble ahead for Canadian retailers, "Black Christmas," lookout below, yadda yadda yadda.
99% of our new books and special orders are already cheaper than US cover price. And will continue to be.
And when publishers extend extra discounts to us, or print one price on a book, and charge us a lower one, we'll pass our savings on to you.
Lots of new stuff in house over the last few days, too, including Stephen King's new collection of nasty, gloomy novellas (above), Paul Auster's latest novel, a new Thomas Bernhard collection, Lydia Davis' superb translation of Madame Bovary, & etc. Plus about 500 new science fiction and fantasy paperbacks.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
We just received 4 double passes to a preview -- tomorrow night -- of the new Stieg Larsson movie. They're on the desk at Main Street. One pass per person. No phone or internet "holds." First come, first served. No nonsense, bribes, or pleading. Purchase appreciated but not required.
Friday, October 22, 2010
700-odd pages of stylish widescreen space opera. Early reviews claim a return to form after last year's deeply disappointing Transition, which, although heavily promoted by Orbit as an "M. Banks" novel, read like a sequel to the much-remaindered The Business, and also, like The Business, wasn't any good.
Friday, October 8, 2010
About 80 different Folio Society titles, heavy on English and ancient history, including some nice multi-volume sets. All with slipcases, as originally issued. Out in New Arrivals up at Main Street right now.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Thanks to the readers of the Georgia Straight newspaper for voting us Vancouver's 2nd best bookstore, new or used, in the annual Reader's Choice poll. This is the first time we have ever placed as a "New" bookstore, and we're enormously stoked to be listed alongside longtime Lower Mainland favorites Book Warehouse and Banyen Books.
In other news, it's still incredibly busy here. We've taken in close to 2000 used books in the last three days, and the new arrivals are neatly stacked (well, relatively neatly stacked) all over the floor, and waist-high in front of the "New Arrivals" bookshelves, which are still full, despite having been emptied twice since the weekend.
We have some interesting new books in house, including signed first Canadian editions of John Valliant's The Tiger, available on a first-come, first-served basis. And program guides for the Vancouver International Film Festival ($10, inc. HST).
It's also Locution tonight, a monthly spoken-word event that we host for the UBC Creative Writing department. Tonight from 7-9pm four different UBC MFAs are reading up at Main Street, along with special guest Lee Henderson, author of The Man Game.
Oh, and it's CSA Space's fifth anniversary today too, with a new exhibition of photographs by neighbor and friend Mike Grill. 6-9pm upstairs from the bookstore at #5-2414 Main Street. Drop by, drink a frosty cold beverage, elbow your way through the crowds.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
"'I put so much time into supporting my quirky local bookshop, with its charming window displays and us-versus-the-world attitude, and for what?' said Brear, adding that she even went through the trouble of befriending the husband-and-wife owners and their cat, Ulysses. 'Countless hours wasted quietly browsing their shelves when I could have just ordered this shit for way cheaper online.'"
Monday, September 13, 2010
Absurdly busy in both shops all weekend long. Waist high stacks of books three deep on the floor in front of New Arrivals. Two separate vendors with great stacks of used graphic novels, a nice set of leather bound, 14K gold-edged Easton Press hardcovers, a Folio Society Philip Pullman 3-volume slipcased set, some large format art books and cookbooks, and hundreds of other interesting things.
(Image: Easton Press On The Origin of Species)
Lots of back issues, maybe twenty in all, including a first printing of #3; #11 with the DVD; the Comics issue with the scarce wrapper and the zine inserts; the issue disguised as a pile of junk mail; the fold-out slipcase with the comb; the tiny books in the shallow tray; and many more. Plus a big stack of Believer back issues, and a few books signed by Dave Eggers, including the somewhat scarce Sacrament (a rewritten-and-expanded version of You Shall Know Our Velocity).
Monday, September 6, 2010
Friday, September 3, 2010
Early September, back-to-school rush, lots going on in both shops:
• Approx. 750 new graphic novels priced and out on Main Street's shelves
• Approx. 100 "For Beginners" books priced and out at Main Street
• Big collection of hardcover Heidegger titles, including a number of rare and out-of-print titles, purchased and on display behind the desk at Main Street
• Lots of new books in Kitsilano. New books are selling really well in Kits, and we've recently expanded the selection there, so that all the new titles we carry are now available at both stores. No more crosstown treks! Also, lots of new bookshelves going in at Kits as we speak.
• New lease in Kits! We really like the neighborhood, and plan to be in the 3100 block of West Broadway for the forseeable future. Also, huge shout-out to our new neighbors at Baugette & Co., located at 3273 West Broadway, for their awesome coffees, breads, croissants, pastries and chicken-salad sandwiches. Highly recommended by our staff, and a great addition to the neighborhood.
• Lots of quality used stock in Kits. Very few of our friendly West Side competitors seem to be doing much cash buying these days, and we're seeing lots of prime material. Hesse, Vonnegut, Murakami, Palahniuk, Bukowski & multiple etc.
As always, we're buying and trading books on a daily basis. No need to make an appointment; if you're in before 5pm, we will be happy to consider your books for cash purchase or trade. No limit on quantity; we have the interest and financial wherewithal to deal with collections of any size, and are always glad to see you.
Friday, August 27, 2010
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
We just bought a massive collection of used graphic novels. Approximately 750 different books, all in exceptionally good condition, many like new. Mostly recent (1990+) Marvel and DC/Vertigo titles, with a smattering of independents, manga, anime art books, and some locally published stuff (Steve Rolston; Rebecca Dart's great Rabbithead) Some are on the shelves right now, and we'll be adding more every day until they're all out, which will probably take a week or more of careful cleaning and pricing.
Sunday, August 15, 2010
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Several boxes of interesting stuff showed up yesterday for the new mysteries section, including a complete run of Sjowall/Wahloo's Martin Beck mysteries (originally published in English in the 1970s, inexplicably out of print for years, and the blueprint for every successful Northern European mystery/thriller since then, Dragon Tattoo included), a run of Henning Menkell's Inspector Wallander books, and -- not to neglect North America! -- lots of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, a nice reissue of Jim Nesbit's Lethal Injection, and Savages, the new California noir thriller by staff favorite Don Winslow.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
I am Mrs Chantel Plentty from United Arab Emirate. I want to place an order from you. I know the difficulties encountered when shipping internationally, But that will not be a problem because i am registered with a shipping company whom i have used severally without any delay nor problems with my goods. Before i place these order, i want you to notify me if i am able to place the order and most important: If i can make payment with my credit cards MC/Visa because that is the only way we are set for payment now without no delay. I don't place online order can i e-mail my ORDER needed then you can give me a quote here? Looking forward to your swift response then we can proceed further as soon as possible.
Mrs Chantel Plentty
1611 Mina Road Al Mariah (Near Sharjah Cinema)
Sharjah. Post Code 211
United Arab Emirate
Dear Mrs. Chantel Plentty,
Yes we can! Of course! Absolutely! But FIRST you will need to send us a photograph of your driving license, so we know that you are not a Known Terrorist or an Internet Scam Artist.
Please be sure to send pictures of BOTH SIDES of your license. If you can't take a photograph, you can also DRAW a picture of your license and send that in to us in its place.
Please also send us a photograph or drawing of 1611 Mina Road Al Mariah (Near Sharjah Cinema), so we know that it is actually your Real Address, and not a Post Office Drop Box.
Once you have sent these things we will send a International Customs Export Form for you to fill out and your order will be On Its Way!
William "Billy" Lessingwell
International Orders Expediting Department
Friday, August 6, 2010
Monday, July 19, 2010
We might be hiring a part-time position(s) in the next month or two, and, to that end, are now doing the looking-at-resumes thing.
The successful applicant(s) will:
• Be able to work 14-24 hours a week at Main Street and Kitsilano, including weekends and evenings
• Read widely and eclectically, be able to think critically, and be able to confidently conduct basic Internet and paper-based research
• Be comfortable in a busy and occasionally confrontational work environment (eg., be able to confidently decline trashed "trades" and visibly stolen books)
• Have previous new and/or used bookstore experience
• Be able to work well independently, without direct supervision
Benefits include working with a great group of people, competitive compensation, and a hefty discount on used/new books.
Please feel free to drop off your resume at either store, or email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please, no phone calls or walk-in requests for work -- "You guys doin' any hiring?" -- sans resume.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
There's a pigeon nesting under Main Street's awning, right above the bargain table. I have mixed feelings:
1. It's essentially a rat with wings, BUT
2. It's all fluffed up and making pleasant cooing noises, AND
3. It's amusing to watch its mate show up with potential nest additions (bus tickets; twigs; torn scraps of Metro and 24 Hours) which are then rejected and flung down on the sidewalk.
So the pigeon stays for now. I'll take the nest down once the fledglings can fly.
Moral of the story: if you plan to browse the bargain table, bring a hat.
(Today's soundtrack: Genesis, Pigeons)
Monday, July 12, 2010
"Capitalism in Vancouver is an especially cruel mistress—by my last count there are only four business models left in this town that are guaranteed to turn a profit: sushi restaurant, grow-op, yoga gear supplier and being Bob Rennie.
So in a city where every day businesses (and individuals) fail and fall through the cracks, it’s not necessarily obvious why Vancouverites should care that their independent bookstores are dying.
The story generally goes that there are a tiny handful of people for whom the need to save these stores is a given, an article of faith; the rest of the population doesn’t particularly care, reads only a book or two a year anyway and doesn’t mind picking them up at a big-chain ‘bookstore’ that specializes in aromatherapy and exercise balls.
I’ve never been fully convinced of this pessimistic scenario. I’m constantly hearing about how nobody reads anymore, and yet everywhere I go people are reading. Every day, newspapers paint the picture of book-reading as a fringe activity, while their business pages describe how the richest companies in the world are jockeying for position in a race to provide people the electronic books of the near and distant future. So I think books do matter to people—the question is whether bookstores do.
Well, they do—and not just on the level of civic pride, though that’s part of it. Seattle is a great book town not only because of its Koolhaas library, but because of Left Bank Books and the Elliot Bay Book Company. It’s hard to imagine Victoria without Munro’s, or San Francisco without City Lights. Fact is, cool cities have cool, non-chain bookstores."
"During the three-week trial Scott [...] painted himself as an honest, if eccentric, book dealer.
He claimed to have been told of the [First Folio] by a Cuban waitress called Heidi Garcia Rios, who introduced him to its owner, a retired major. It had been kept in a wooden Bible box for a century, Scott professed. He said he offered to take it to the Folger Library for authentication as a favour.
When police came to arrest him, Scott told officers: 'I'm an alcoholic and need two bottles of top-of-the-range champagne every day, but only after 6pm. I hope you have some in the police station.'"
Friday, July 9, 2010
How high were those "new" Stieg Larsson hardcovers that you recently shipped to us dropped from? TWENTY FEET? Their shiny metallic DJs look like tinfoil! WHY ARE YOU STILL IN BUSINESS?
Thursday, July 8, 2010
"Tin House, which is both a book publisher and a literary magazine publisher, recently announced that any unsolicited manuscript received by their book publishing arm that is postmarked between Aug. 1-Nov. 30 must be accompanied by a bookstore receipt for the purchase of either a hardcover or paperback book. The same requirement is made of any unsolicited submission received at Tin House magazine that is postmarked between Sept. 1 and Dec. 30. Any writer who cannot afford to purchase a book or cannot get to any bricks-or-mortar bookstore may have the requirement waived by writing in haiku or in one sentence -- of 100 words or fewer -- why they could not purchase a book. A receipt for the purchase of a digital book will be accepted only if the writer explains why he or she did not go to a bricks-and-mortar bookstore and why he or she prefers digital reads, as well as the preferred device and why."
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Thursday, June 24, 2010
The bailiff's locks are on the doors of Sophia and This Ain't The Rosedale Library, and everybody wants to know, Are you guys next? Should I come up and cash in my trade slips?
Well, don't run. Six months in, 2010 looks like it will be quite a bit busier than 2009, which in turn was busier than 2008, & etc. Both shops are packed to the gills with interesting stuff. Most stores in town aren't doing much cash buying and sending everyone who wants cash for their books on over. Yesterday at Main Street we added 500 or 600 new books to the shelves, and there was nothing unusual about that Wednesday, just a steady stream of people with interesting stock for sale, and more of the same going back out the door.
Lots of online commentators think that Amazon's gonna kill everybody, or that it's all Costco's fault, or that indie bookstores are full of snarky assholes and don't provide coffee, couches, free wireless, and tables where you can play World of Warcraft for hours (My first thought: a teenage boy's bedroom is not a viable business model). And my hunch is that rabid Amazon.ca and iPad fans aren't my customers and probably aren't any other independent bookstore's, either. So, no loss there.
If you want to look at the root causes of the recent contraction of the North American bookselling industry, you might examine:
1. Publishers who were more than willing to extend far-too-generous discounts and return terms to Amazon, Chapters, Costco & etc., who now find those terms onerous, but can't get out of them, because those same huge retailers now make up too much of the publishers' business.
2. Too many bad books; that is to say, books no one will give a shit about 12 months from now; books that we and every other surviving used bookstore will refuse to purchase for cash or credit when offered for sale. Sarah Palin's autobiography; teen vampire books; NASCAR cookbooks, etc. This stuff has a shorter shelf life than a jug of milk in the hot back seat of a car.
3. Useless Canadian book distributors who routinely back order major titles (Girl With the Dragon Tattoo? How can Raincoast Books and Penguin Canada both be out of this book simultaneously?); continue to charge an absurdly high US-vs.-CDN$ markup; and have enjoyed a culturally protected monopoly for years at the expense of Canadian consumers and retail booksellers.
4. Bookstore managers and employees who've never heard of teh intardnets, and can't accept that their customers often know more about what they're looking for than they do. Running a used or new bookstore without a computer in the shop -- hell, without several computers in the shop -- seems to me to be about as productive as performing brain surgery by candlelight.
Anyway, we're still here; both stores are full of great stuff; and we are always happy to obtain any currently in-print book for you, always at 20% off, sometimes at even more. It was our 10th anniversary on June 12th. No special fanfare, just another day of buying, selling and trading books. (Though we are planning a big public celebration in September; stay tuned!) Hopefully we'll be around for a long time to come.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Not a day goes by that someone doesn't phone or email wondering what kind of books we buy and trade. The short answer: books we can sell quickly that we don't already have fifty million copies of. Thus: recent fiction, recent higher-end nonfiction, recent murder mysteries, recent science fiction and fantasy, and enduring literary classics (Huxley; Orwell; Hemingway; Hesse; Vonnegut & etc.). Plus anything that we are currently ordering in new copies of (Steig Larsson; Malcolm Gladwell; Thomas Bernhard; Zadie Smith; Hunter S. Thompson, etc.). The new book wall in the front room is a convenient Cole's Notes of the kind of books we'd like to see every day, and we always try to add a little extra when new books originally purchased from us are returned for credit or cash.
That said, certain kinds of books are never good candidates for trade or resale: worn or damaged books; most debut novels; stuff widely available on the bargain tables at Chapters and Book Warehouse; books that everybody's book club read 3-5 years ago (Camilla Gibb; Miriam Toews; recent Michael Ondaatje; Sue Monk Kidd); books on topics that our customers don't care about (sports biographies; travel picture books; manky mass-produced kids' series (Animorphs; Goosebumps), spiral-bound cookbooks; diet books; textbooks, etc. Plus most bestsellers that you can buy in an airport bookstore or at Costco (Dan Brown; John Grisham; Danielle Steel; Stuart Woods).
In general, we only buy and trade books that we know we can resell. That way, the shops are always full of recent and interesting titles, and you don't have to wade through thousands of mediocre or badly dated books to find the good stuff.
Our trading policy is largely identical to our buying policy, except that you receive a higher rate for trade credit, based on how quickly we think your books are going to sell. Unlike most other book stores, our trade credit doesn't expire, can be used at either one of our stores, and doesn't have to be combined with cash. That said, trade credit can't be used to purchase new books (everyone, even the staff, pays cash for them), and material that is being offered for trade has to meet a basic common sense test. (Eg., a box of John Grisham and Stuart Woods pocket books never equals a bag of used Bukowskis, Murakamis, Fantes and recent graphic novels).
We just spent the last week and a half building new shelves up at Main Street to accommodate a recent influx of cookbooks and kids' books, including out-of-print back issues of Art Culinaire magazine, a recent Cordon Bleu guide, and specialty titles by Rob Feenie, John Bishop, Charlie Trotter, Michelin three-star Pierre Gagnaire & etc. About 200 books in all.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
One of our best scouts just returned from a sale in the Pacific Northwest with a car full of classic paperbacks, including a stack of old orange Penguins, and lots of inexpensive popular favorites (Orwell, Huxley, Hemingway, & etc.). Almost 1000 books in all, which will be hitting the shelves over the next few days.
Monday, May 3, 2010
Via the New Yorker, a thorough and detailed look at Kindle v. iPad, Amazon v. everybody, print v. digital, & etc. Worth reading.
On a related note, I just spent two and a half weeks on the road in the USA, where I noticed several things:
1. Almost a third of the bookstores that were open when PFB first opened in June 2000 have now closed. Of the used bookstores that remain, most are no longer buying books at all. Sales at those stores, based on my first-hand, limited, and admittedly anecdotal observation, are awful. The few stores that still regularly buy for cash are, like us, seeing more good books than they ever have before, and almost all of their owners told me that they expect 2010 to be their "best year ever."
2. Books @ PFB, new and used, are by and large cheaper than those at stores located in major US metropolitan markets (Seattle; Portland; San Francisco; Las Vegas).
3. Paperback exchanges that only carry mass market paperbacks -- a concept that's always struck me as an incredibly flaky business model -- are done, a victim of rising rents and their owners' reluctance/inability to buy for cash. The survivors' stock, which ranged from great to middling ten years ago, is now uniformly terrible.
4. Thrift stores in the States are now charging as much for recent books as we are. This doesn't make much difference to me, but it should to any bookstore owner whose business model is predicated on heading to the local thrift store first thing in the morning and loading up.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
"If someone were to take out all of the useless part of 1984, it would be half as long. Why would he wirte so much about nothing? I havent ever meet someone who could wirte such a boring book about the goverment. I have meet many people who have loved this book, but i dispised it. I am not at all intrested in the goverment. This may be part of the reason that I didnt like it. I would advise you not to read this book."
Big collection of quality used cookbooks just arrived at Main Street, including lots of French/Italian/Spanish specialty titles, some of which have been inexplicably out of print for years. Also in over the last few days: about 750 recent pocket books (mysteries, thrillers, science fiction & fantasy), a dozen different Bukowskis, mostly modern Ecco Press reprints, and a collection of twenty different Philip K. Dick paperbacks, including my favorite Dick title, I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon, a collection of late stories bundled with the heartbreaking autobiographical introductory essay, "How to Build A Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later."
We probably saw 40 different vendors yesterday, a more or less typical Saturday of nonstop buying/cleaning/pricing/filing.
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Another 40+ boxes of mint condition science fiction pocket books and hardcovers just arrived up at Main Street, many originally purchased from my old employer, the Granville Book Company, c. 1986-2001. Shelves stuffed full; lumber for new shelves ordered and on the way.
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Just arrived: a new assortment of publishers' hurts and remainders, including a dozen different recent (2008/9) Rick Steves European guidebooks, just in time for the spring travel season, nicely illustrated kids' books by Beatrix Potter, Jhumpa Lahiri's acclaimed short story collection Unaccustomed Earth, Edward Bunker's long-lost novel Stark, with a new James Ellroy introduction, hardcover copies of The 100 Mile Diet, books on the history of modern graphic design, & etc. All at 50% or more off original Canadian list price. Plus a collection of approximately 400 recent mystery and thriller pocketbooks, which we haven't even had time to touch yet.
It's busy here today!
Thursday, March 11, 2010
No kidding. Great Cthulhu v. Philip Pullman's Lyra; Elric v. Roland Deschain; George R.R. Martin's Jaimie Lannister v. Hermione Granger, & etc.
(Some wag writes: "Honestly? Jaime vs. Hermione? I'm not perturbed about the matchup, but for the love of God, the TV version was just greenlit, and you flat out expose one of the best twists in the story? How the hell do you justify that?")
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
We just bought a 700 piece science fiction paperback collection, which includes 30+ vintage Philip K. Dick titles, c. 1968-1984, about a dozen H.P. Lovecraft Ballantine reprints, many Harlan Ellisons, a number of scarce Glen Cook mass market paperback originals, & etc. All of the books are in immaculate, as new, unread condition. If you collect high-grade vintage SF/fantasy, or are just looking for a particularly scarce title, now might be a good time to stop by.
(Update, 4pm: 16 linear feet of science fiction pocket books!)
Monday, March 8, 2010
Webzine of astonishing all-new tales of various shapes & sizes, by John Kessel, Kim Stanley Robinson, Cory Doctorow, John Shirley, Bruce Sterling, Charles Stross, Richard Kadrey, Eileen Gunn, and numerous other PFB science-fiction wall favorites.
R.A. Lafferty, being dead, isn't on the contributors list. But he should be.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
New Peter Straub novel, a long tale narrated from multiple unreliable points of view which describes, with much stopping and starting and chronological back-and-forth, an act of ritual magic carried out by a group of university kids and a slightly older guru-figure in the late 1960s, its repercussions on their later lives, and, as with all of Straub's novels, the intrusion of the supernatural into the clearly-delineated present day. A contemporary riff on Arthur Machen's 1894 novella "The Great God Pan," one of the creepiest and most deeply ambiguous horror stories ever written, echoes of which crop up in M. John Harrison's excellent, but now sadly out-of-print novel The Course Of The Heart, and in frequent Straub collaborator Stephen King's recent novella "N." (collected in Just After Sunset).
Spurred by A Dark Matter's wonky potboiler plot, gorgeously crafted sentences, and genuine air of supernatural unease, I'm currently rereading his 1999 Lovecraft pastiche, Mr X., which was one of the first books I ever ordered new for the shop, which attracted exactly zero attention and no sales upon its release on our shelves. We still have maybe half a dozen copies of this complexly plotted doppelganger tale in the back room, which turns out to be a very enjoyable read: a tale of a young man, his "evil shadow," and their time-travelling psychopathic killer father, the "Mr. X" of the book's title, who imagines himself the servant of H.P. Lovecraft's Great Old Ones, and communicates in a kind of pidgin Lovecraftese (Exclamation marks! Deeply purple prose!) that's as dead-on its target as Don DeLillo's Lenny Bruce riffs in Underworld. Funny, scary, and suspenseful in turn, Mr. X is that rarest of creatures, a truly great genre novel.
(Recent short interview with Straub here, plus some pictures of his writing desk and the manuscript of A Dark Matter)
(New Straub-edited Library of America volume of American weird, uncanny & fantastic tales, which we should have in early next week)
Saturday, March 6, 2010
A six-pack of suggestions for platoon leaders, courtesy Small Wars Journal.
I find suggestions for new books to carry in many places. Lists of books professionals in any field are recommending to other professionals are often far more useful to me than mass-media bestseller lists. This is one of the more specialized and interesting reading lists I've recently found online.
(Image credit: US Army Center for Company-level Leaders)
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Paul Auster's new novel Invisible, his best since The Invention of Solitude. It's 1967. Adam Walker, a young New York City student and poet-in-training meets, then becomes hopelessly entangled with, a professor who may or may not be an American intelligence operative and his slinky French girlfriend. The shock of a brief affair with the slinky girlfriend either does or doesn't cause Adam to sleep with his own sister. Murder possibly occurs. Adam Walker may actually be "Adam Walker," that is to say, John Smith or John Doe. Adam's story may be a nonfiction memoir that's purposely ambiguous on key details, or a novel-in-parts in which "Adam Walker" is a character created by "Paul Auster." Memoir blends with twice-removed third-party recollections and other texts that keep interrupting, and rewriting, Walker's story. A thoughtfully conceived and gracefully written psychological mystery that keeps you in suspense right up until its ambiguous final page. Disturbing and highly recommended.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Top ten bestsellers, January-early March 2010:
1. Food Rules: An Eater's Manifesto, by Michael Pollan
2. In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts, by Gabor Mate
3. The Master and Margarita, by Mikhail Bulgakov, trans. Peavar and Volokhonsky
4. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson
5. When You Are Engulfed in Flames, by David Sedaris
6. The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan
7. Me Talk Pretty One Day, by David Sedaris
8. Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
9. In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan
10. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
Surprise #1: Michael Pollan and David Sedaris have a pretty firm lock on 50% of the list.
Surprise #2: no women writers on the list, though we do carry plenty of books by and about women. Some recent favorites: Zadie Smith's terrific essay collection Changing My Mind; Zoe Heller's just-released-in-paperback The Believers; Kelly Link's collections of short fantastic stories, which we specially imported from the US after discovering that no one in town seemed to have ever heard of her; and Nicole Krauss' breakthrough novel The History of Love, which just sells and sells and sells, new or used, has been read by at least half a dozen local book clubs, and is definitely one of the bestselling books in the shop's history.
Via our friends at the Vancouver International Writers Festival:
The acclaimed author of Atonement and On Chesil Beach will make his eagerly anticipated Vancouver appearance. In conversation with Jerry Wasserman.
His new novel Solar, is a darkly comic, satirical look at climate change—a stylish new work by one of the world’s greatest living writers.
VIWF members: Receive a $2 member discount for Ian McEwan event tickets. (If you have not received an email with your special member discount code, please call 604 681 6330.)
7:30pm April 15, 2010
St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church (Burrard at Nelson)
$20 general / $18 students & seniors (plus service charges)
For tickets, phone Vancouver Tix at 604 629 8849 or purchase online.
The Man Booker Prize for Fiction winner and the author of Oscar and Lucinda and True History of the Kelly Gang in conversation with Hal Wake.
Peter Carey’s new novel Parrot and Olivier in America is a dazzlingly inventive reimagining of Alexis de Tocqueville's famous journey, brilliantly evoking the Old World colliding with the New.
7:30pm May 7, 2010
Frederic Wood Theatre, UBC (6354 Crescent Road)
$20 general / $18 students & seniors (plus service charges)
For tickets, phone Vancouver Tix at 604 629 8849 or purchase online.
We'll have new, discounted copies of both titles as soon as they are published by Random House of Canada.