10.25.2014

Absolute Truth on Bookstores



Below is an old Bookshelf Awareness quote of the day. It's so good and so apt and gospel true, I'm quoting it here today:

"I have never met a bookstore that I didn't love. And I've met a lot. I can't seem to help myself. It's a habit, an obsession, a life's work. Drop me anywhere and it's like a homing device starts blinking in my brain.... Every bookstore is different, just like the people who own them, and yet there are threads that tie them together. The books for one thing. All those covers. All those blurbs. The dim nooks and corners where shelves meet. The spines, lined up, row upon row, covers turned face out every so often, calling you to come a little closer. I always feel, if I could just stand quietly enough, I might actually hear the faint whispering of thousands of stories jostling together on the shelves, waiting to be chosen."

~ Author Kate Morton, speaking at the Australian Booksellers Association's annual conference (via the Australian).

Bruce Wagner's autograph (Memorial) after some brief comments on Memorial's brilliant book cover design



I love Memorial's book cover. Dust jacket designer, Jennifer Lew, made the right choices for the covers of Bruce Wagner's novel. By reversing the image taken from Katsushika Hokusai's classic painting, Fuji of the waves (1836) -- the same painting featured on some first printings of Yukio Mishima's classic The Sound of Waves, coincidentally -- and then by removing the painting's colors (save black and white) you don't immediately notice that iconic windblown foam of the wave at the top of the cover seeming to undergo its ancient, mystical metamorphosis.  That is until you turn the book over and see the white birds (are they doves? or could they even be ... bats? -- look closely, I'm not kidding!) that have been ever so subtly added to Hokusai's painting descending in the foreground toward the distant summit of the sacred, snowbound mountain.  The gold embossed rectangles kept the raised letters of the title, "by the author of...", and author name as well, from getting lost in the black lines of the swelling wave.   Add veteran book designer Karolina Harris's exquisite interior design of the book, and you've got a contemporary classic of book design in Bruce Wagner's sixth novel; a novel in which the author, too, took chances and ventured beyond the usual and sordid Hollywood strictures of his first five novels.

"Rick Jackson rules        for Robyn No 1--------
this dark memo,

Bruce 

Wag
__________"


(more autographs)

10.12.2014

Amanda Knox and The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum by Heinrich Böll








There were eerie similarities surrounding the circumstances of Amanda Knox's real life false imprisonment in Italy and what Heinrich Böll subjected his own histrionic heroine to in his controversial 1974 novel, The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum.  Did you see Amanda Knox's terrible ordeal reflected in the polemical book that Böll published before Amanda Knox was even born, too?

10.11.2014

Wanda Coleman's autograph (Heavy Daughter Blues: Poems & Stories 1968-1986)



Yesterday an online friend asked me what he thought the chances would've been of Wanda Coleman winning the Nobel Peace Prize had she still been alive to receive it.

pub. by Black Sparrow Press
My first thought was 'zero chance' -- and I say that as a fan of Coleman's in-your-face poetry.  I love her attitude (even when it was bad) though it pains me to think about what the circumstances that forged the genesis of that inimitable style and attitude -- that poetic rage of hers, feisty and furious -- were, considering it from my safe, masculine, lighter-skinned distance, inexperienced as I am in living personally with the daily consequences of racism and sexism and other pertinent unjust instances of shit.

My reply to my friend, after I'd considered Wanda Coleman and the Nobel Peace Prize:  "I love Wanda Coleman, and though the oppression she wrote of was universal, it's wasn't as clear cut, as black-and-white in a good vs. evil sense, I don't think, both from her perspective of what she experienced and what anyone might have seen looking in at her life, as what writers living under fascist regimes, say in China or Russia or Eastern Europe, endured; which is not to say I think it was necessarily any less or more egregious, but I do think a Nobel committee would deem it less, and thus not take her voice of outrage as seriously.  Why is she so angry, I could hear them think?  How bad could her suffering be; I mean doesn't she hail from the USA?  From the land of plenty!  The home of the free?"

"Mt. Sac." is a community college in Walnut, CA
From Heavy Daughter Blues, here's one of my favorite vignettes of hers that's neither a poem or a short story--it's just pure Wanda Coleman--riffing about a single incident in her life, seemingly innocuous at first blush, yet riddled, upon closer inspection, with more of the consequences of racism that she and millions like her here in the States, had to deal with (and still do) everyday:

APRIL 15th 1985

"It's been a wonderful trip and I'm feeling great! But fun costs and I've overspent on my trip to San Francisco and go to the bank to cash a check. There's an old white woman damn near eighty in front of me. She needs a deposit/withdrawal slip from the counter across the room, but hesitates to leave the long Monday A.M. line because she might lose her place. Rather than ask me to hold it for her, which I don't mind doing, she talks around me, as I'm not standing there, to a white woman in her sixties directly behind me. (I'm 6'2" in my brown leather boots and have the darkest skin in the place.) When the woman in her sixties reassures her, she leaves the line. When the line moves up I move up a step, leaving enough room for the eighty-year-old's return. Suddenly, the sixty-year-old addresses me boldly: "She wants her place back when she returns!"

'I heard. I got ears,' I say extremely rude and loud.

'You don't have to talk to me like that!' she says--half whine and half revulsion.

'Fuck off lady!' I say loud enough to silence her and the entire bank. Then I allow the eighty-year-old to re-enter the line ahead of me.

I'm satisfied my behavior will puzzle the sixty-year-old for time to come; wondering what she did to evoke such nastiness. Or perhaps she'll dismiss me as just another hostile young nigger wench. I'm not feeling so great any more.

Save me from bigoted old white bitches."


10.04.2014

Alison Lurie's autograph (The Last Resort)




I like The Last Resort's book cover a lot. I haven't read the book, but I can still talk about the cover! It's bold design was by Michelle McMillan, whom I attempted Googling in order to locate more of her work but, lo, the world is apparently full of many Michelle McMillans, and I could not pinpoint the Michelle McMillan, cover designer, I was searching for, assuming she was even listed among the several entries and pages of Michelle McMillans available to click on.

Henry Holt and Company put out an odd sized hardcover first printing -- 5 3/4" x 7 1/2" -- though that seems to be the norm for the publishing house, founded in 1866, publishing differently, more artistically.  The Last Resort looks almost square.  Penguin Classics stand a quarter inch taller.   The idea of the overplayed "American Dream" dead ending off a decadent highway built literally atop the ocean (what hubris, these dead end Americans, who think they can drive on water, let alone walk on it!) just west of Key West was a fresh image-take on the American dream's demise.  From the back cover of The Last Resort:

"Streets and shops and restaurants were crowded with adults dressed like children at play, in colorful shorts, T-shirts, sneakers, and sandals.  Their garb was the outward sign that for these few days or weeks they were free to enjoy and indulge themselves, like kids on vacation.  They had no responsibilities or chores: they did not cook for themselves or make their own beds.  They stayed up late at night, and ate when they liked, preferring the childish foods disapproved of by parents and health experts: cheeseburgers, hot dogs, sodas, chips, fries, pizza, and candy."

The quote echoes David Foster Wallace's observations regarding a nation whose ultimate collective dream it sure seems, whether they're working stiffs or retired CEOs, is to be "pampered" (think Pampers!), brought back to a state of Depends diapers (dependency!) or -- infantilized into some sickening infinite infancy, in other words -- that he collected as the title essay in A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, about his week on board a luxury cruise liner, that, coincidentally, shipped out not far from the southern Florida setting of The Last Resort and also around the same time that Alison Lurie published her novel. Brilliant minds, perhaps.  I think perhaps, too, I need to actually read this novel of Alison Lurie's, The Last Resort, and not only because a beloved song by a California band also called "The Last Resort" (whose lyrics found the American Dream ending in Malibu and then Hawaii), happens to be one of my all time favorite songs regarding the American Dream's manifest metastasizing, but because the novel in its own right -- at the time the first novel Alison Lurie had published in ten years -- sounds like my perfect savory cup of social commentary.


(more autographs)