Monthly Archives: February 2010

I have a really depressing dream.

Every Day the Same Dream

Emily St. John Mandel, over at The Millions, points to a beautiful, depressing browser game:  Every Day the Same Dream.

Every day the little man gets up, goes to work, is yelled at by his boss, finds his cubicle, and sits down to work.  Until little things start to change…

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Steve Almond on self-publishing

Steve Almond: This Won't Take But a Minute

Steve Almond writes in The Rumpus about self-publishing with the Espresso Book Machine.

The idea of self-publishing via print-on-demand technology has been coming up for me over and over lately.  Is it me?  Is it the sea change in the publishing industry?  Is it really good marketing by the print-on-demand people?  Probably all of the above.

Upshot: I can see this getting more mainstream, more feasible, more done, as we work out the kinks.  It takes four minutes for the EBM to cough out a book.  If you have some way to distribute, promote, and sell that book?  (As Almond does, because he’s an established author who sells at readings, and Harvard’s bookstore prints and stocks copies of his book.)  There’s no reason this can’t be one of your publishing options.  I can see us moving toward a publishing model where authors publish and sell books in a variety of ways, even simultaneously.  The way we’ve already adopted different ways of publishing and selling articles–some to print publications, some to websites, some to online journals, and so on.

A book pirate sends mysteries

I would be most remiss if I didn’t send out big thanks to Colin Matthew, The Book Pirate, who kindly sent me a mysterious wrapped parcel of mysteries from Murder by the Book.  It was indeed a mystery, since Colin didn’t know what was in the parcel either (thanks to MbtB’s crafty pre-wrapping ways.)

And so, the reveal:

Getting Old is a DisasterThe Hooded HawkeDown Among the Dead Men

That is:

Getting Old is a Disaster, by Rita Lakin, The Hooded Hawke, by Karen Harper, and Down Among the Dead Men, by Patricia Moyes.  A quick spin through the Internet reveals that Ms. Lakin wrote for television for many years (Dr. Kildare, The Mod Squad, and OMG DYNASTY!!) She looks awesome.

Rita Lakin

Ms. Harper also looks pretty great, though maybe a bit more austere.

Karen Harper

Patricia Moyes is downright elusive.  (Mysterious?)

I grew up in a house where the shelf in the front hall was dedicated to an ever-changing array of mystery novels–my parents were big mystery readers, and big library users.  Still are, as far as I know.  And in some sense, isn’t every book a mystery?  Isn’t life?  I say it is.  And I say that calls for dancing pirates.

Thanks, Colin!

LA Times: Cellphone novel sells a bazillion copies

Novels written on cell phones (keitai) are getting popular in Japan.  The LA Times jumps on one (by an author named “Bunny”) which has sold 110,000 print copies.  And counting.

I changed into a suit for the party. . . . When I stepped out of my room . . . Miku was there. Miku was in a pink one-piece dress, wearing white heels. She looks mature because her hair is lightly curled. She’s looking straight at me. It’s hard to keep my cool when she’s looking at me like that.

I am so depressed.

Guilty Pleasure, or, Why I Love Powell’s as it Expertly Fleeces Me

Louise Erdrich, Shadow Tag cover

In January I cast caution to the wind and signed up for the Powell’s Indispensable subscription–$39.95 every six weeks for an undisclosed shipment of small-press books, books by emerging authors, and assorted book-related stuff.  This week I got my first shipment, which included a special slipcovered edition of Louise Erdrich’s new novel, Shadow Tag*, as well as a red-backed writing journal (it ties into the theme of the novel), and an ARC of Lionel Shriver’s So Much for That.  Oh, and a little box of cookies from Two Tarts (delicious) as well as some personally-worded postcards from Erdrich and Shriver.  (“Dear Indispensable Reader…”)

Basically, Powell’s has its act together, and it also has my number.  Would I have bought these books (in hard cover, no less) on my lonesome?  Probably not.  Am I glad to have them?  Definitely.  Sometimes the book buyer just needs a little extra help pulling the trigger.  Sending me a surprise package in the mail, complete with cookies?  Is all the help I need.

*  No, this is not a book by an emerging author or a small press.  I am okay with this.

Books packaged to look like cigarettes.

Tank Books

Tank Books is republishing classic works in cigarette-like packaging.

I do not know how to feel about this.

News post is newsy

Charles Portis True Grit OverlookBrother From Another Planet John Sayles

Two great tastes that taste great together…

A quick round-up post:  my life in coffee spoons.

  • I recently watched John Sayles’s cult classic, Brother From Another Planet on Netflix.  Joe Morton is fantastic, and there’s something so strangely nostalgic about seeing the old New York City of the 1970s and 80s.  The dirty, downcast, dangerous city that made Griffin Dunne afraid for his life.  The city of Sesame Street and Lo Pan.  The city you used to have to escape from, like the Thunderdome.  I lived for a while in Morningside Heights, and ah yes, on more than one occasion I was one of those dopey white kids who strayed from the Columbia campus and walked at a brisk clip, whistling nervously, in what I hoped was the direction of home.  No one ever bothered me.   Anyway, BFAP is short on plot and budget but long on style, character, and smarts.  The goofy barfight choreography alone is worth the price of admission.
  • I’ve been listening to Charles Portis’s novel True Grit on CD, read by Donna Tartt.  The book was recently reissued by Overlook Press, with a gorgeous cover and an essay by Tartt.  It is, as Tartt points out, a masterpiece.  I was struck in particular by how sad it is, and by how much it made me nostalgic for another dingy, unpleasant past–the Old West, in this case.  I have zero reason to nostalgize the American Southwest, and the nostalgia I feel is strangely impersonal, or maybe impartial.  It’s as if I feel nostalgia on behalf of the characters–as if Mattie Ross and Rooster Cogburn are so real to me that I mourn their younger years for them.  It’s one of the stranger reactions I’ve ever had to a book, and also one of the stronger ones.  I came away feeling that Mattie Ross had her best years as a child, that she never fit into the adult world (or she fit too well into its stereotypes), and that even though she lived to old age, a large part of her life was over when she came home from the hunt for her father’s killer.  The hunt itself is so alive, so purposeful and directed–and what’s left after it’s done?  Mattie’s father is still dead, and she has to grow up and find her own way in the world, and Rooster Cogburn is no help with that.  It’s a brilliant, brilliant book, and I recommend Tartt’s reading of it.  (She does accents.)
  • In completely other news, the Internet has been recasting popular movies and television  shows (and now books!) with people of color.  I love this.  You can find a list of many sample recasting jobs here.
  • Leaping away again, I continue to post semi-regularly at Reading Local Portland.  One recent highlight:  a reading at Powell’s bookstore by Nick Flynn.
  • And in a final segue, I’ve been working on a lightning talk for the last week–who knew five minutes’ worth of monologue could take so.  Bloody.  Long.  To prepare?  Not I.  The fault is mine; the topic is “the future of publishing,” with an emphasis on the digital.  Well done, me.  Of course, I’m working on this in the midst of the iPad release and the Amazon/Macmillan kerfuffle, and everything is feeling very WAIT WAIT HOLD ON WHILE I TYPE THAT UP.  It’s also feeling very much like Amazon is perhaps not the best and greatest thing for authors, publishers, and booksellers.  I’m frustrated with Amazon, and growing more and more determined to spend my money with local bookstores.  Which I just did, ordering a copy of True Grit.  Thus closing the circle of my post, almost.  Ta da.

Seriously, buy local.  Read local.  It matters.