Friday, May 27, 2011

New Videos on our Website!

I just posted two new videos on our website and on our Facebook page. On the website you can find them by clicking on the Events tab.

The first video is of Jim Shepard, reading from his fourth collection of short stories, You Think That's Bad. The second is Vivian Swift, author and illustrator of the book, When Wanderers Cease to Roam: A Traveler's Journal of Staying Put. They were both terrific events, and these tiny snippets don't really do them justice. But at least they'll give you a taste of what the evenings were like.

We've increased the number of reading events we're offering at the store, because we're firm believers that nothing you can do online equals the pleasure of being in a room full of readers, engaging with an author and with each other. And signed copies of the books make terrific gifts! You'll find our events schedule on our website, or you can subscribe to our monthly ink-on-paper newsletter that gets delivered to your actual house. Just drop us a note if you'd like to get on our mailing list.

Next Thursday we're thrilled to be hosting Lidia Yuknavitch, local writer and teacher, reading from her recently published memoir, The Chronology of Water, published by the wonderful local press, Hawthorne Books. Please join us -- the fun starts at 7 pm!

It's Short Story Month!!

Happy National Short Story Month -- for another week! I'm a big fan of short stories. Lately the big thing seems to be connected stories, or a novel told in short stories (think Olive Kitteridge). Not that it's a new thing; Jhumpa Lahiri did it beautifully in Interpreter of Maladies (which won the Pulitzer Prize, as did Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout) and again most recently in Unaccustomed Earth.

Sometimes people who think they don't like reading short stories just need some good suggestions. A good source for stories is the annual Best American Short Stories. The current edition (2010) was edited by Richard Russo, and the 2011 version, which will publish in October, is edited by Geraldine Brooks. I also like 20 Under 40: Stories from the New Yorker. Also try the annual PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories: The Best Stories of the Year.

Here are a few more suggestions for you: ANYTHING by the following masters of the short story form: Alice Munro, Lorrie Moore, Tobias Wolff, and Anthony Doerr. If you're in the mood for novels in short stories or linked short stories, try the two I mentioned above, as well as The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman, Day for Night by Frederick Reiken, Madonnas of Echo Park by Brandon Skyhorse, and Between the Assassinations by Aravind Adiga, who wrote The White Tiger.

Here are some other good collections: Nine Simple Patterns for Complicated Women by local writer Mary Rechner; You Think That's Bad by Jim Shepard, who just read here last week; Where the God of Love Hangs Out by Amy Bloom; The Boat by Nam Le; Gryphon by Charles Baxter; Saints and Sinners by Edna O'Brien; Last Night by James Salter (the last story always gives me chills); and Mrs. Darcy and the Blue-Eyed Stranger by Lee Smith.

There's a whole bunch more, but this list should get you off to a good start. Happy reading!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Kafka goes Kitty

Ok, tell me which version sounds most appealing to you:

THIS: "As Gregor Samsa woke one morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed into some kind of monstrous vermin."

OR THIS: "One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that he had been changed into an adorable kitten."

If your answer is the former, then you should probably stick to Franz Kafka's original version of The Metamorphosis. If, however, you prefer the adorable kitten version, then check out The Meowmorphosis, by Franz Kafka and Coleridge Cook, recently published by Quirk Productions. (Yes, the same people who brought you the literary mash-up Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.) It might not be great literature, and there might be a few too many hairballs, but it's worth it for the cover alone.

A Book of Singing Rocks

We just received a fabulous new kids picture book: If Rocks Could Sing: A Discovered Alphabet, by Leslie McGuirk, published by Tricycle Press. Over many years, on a stretch of Florida seashore, McGuirk has found rocks in the shape of each letter of the alphabet, as well as in the shape of a variety of objects. Now she has put them together in this delightful book. As a child, McGuirk wanted to be a game warden. Fortunately, for us, she grew up to be an author and illustrator, whose favorite topics are animals and the natural world. Here's a little video clip that will give you a good sense of this great new book.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Shteyngart Wins UK Comic Lit Prize

Gary Shteyngart has just been announced as the winner of this year's Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction, the first time an American author has won the prize. Shteyngart, who was born in Leningrad and emigrated with his family to the US in 1979, won the prize for his novel Super Sad True Love Story, published last year in hardcover and just recently out in paperback.

The satiric novel is set in a post-literate, consumption-obsessed, hypersexualized America. The main character, Lenny Abramov, is a 39-year-old Jewish New Yorker who works as a Life Lovers Outreach Coordinator for a multinational corporation that sells immortality to High Net Worth Individuals.

Shteyngart is the author of two previous novels, The Russian Debutante's Handbook, which won the Stephen Crane Award for First Fiction, and Absurdistan. He has been named one of Granta's Best Young Novelists and the New Yorker's Best Writers Under 40. He received his degree in politics from Oberlin College in Ohio and an MFA in Creative Writing from Hunter College of the City University of New York. He currently teaches writing at Columbia University.

The Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction, the UK's only literary award for comic writing, was established in 2000 and named in honor of the great writer PG Wodehouse. The prize is sponsored by Champagne Bollinger, established in 1829 and still independently owned and run. (We love independent almost as much as we love champagne!).

Shteyngart will be presented with the award, as well as  a jeroboam [FYI: a jeroboam is a very big bottle, which holds the equivalent of four bottles of champagne -- very tasty, but challenging to pour] of Bollinger Special Cuvée, a case of Bollinger La Grande Année and a set of the Everyman Wodehouse collection, plus a locally bred Gloucestershire Old Spot pig, at Hay Festival on 4th June. (Although it seems to be up for debate whether he actually receives the pig or that a pig is just named in his honor. Either way, it's clearly a big deal.)

The other finalists for this year's prize were Manu Joseph for Serious Man, India Knight for Comfort and Joy, Sam Leith for The Coincidence Engine, and Catherine O'Flynn for The News Where You Are. Last year's winner was Ian McEwan for his novel Solar. Previous winners are Will Self, Marina Lewycka, Jasper Fforde, DBC Pierre, Michael Frayn, Jonathan Coe, and Howard Jacobson.

Here is an interview of Shteyngart by Jon Meacham on the PBS show Need to Know:

Friday, May 20, 2011

A One-Time Traveler Hits the Road Again

On Tuesday, May 24th, we're excited to be hosting Vivian Swift, all the way from the Long Island Sound. Swift is the author of a most remarkable book, When Wanderers Cease to Roam: A Travelers Journal of Staying Put, published by Bloomsbury for the amazing price of $20. I say the price is amazing because this is a hardbound book, hand-lettered, and full of the most delightful illustrations and watercolors.

For twenty years, Swift traveled the world. "In between my many years of foreign wanderings I worked as a receptionist, gift shop sales lady, luxury hotel concierge, clothing store manager, book shop clerk, office temp, retail jeweler, horologist, auction house executive, and Faberge expert. I've also worked as an au pair, a chamber maid, a jewelry historian, and in a factory making plastic bottles for bleach." Then one day in her late 30s she decided to see what it was like to stay put for a while, and, on a whim, chose a small village on the Long Island Sound as her landing spot.

She bought real furniture and settled down. And she reflected on her travels. And then she spent ten years writing her stories and creating more than 300 works of art to go along with the stories. And then she got it published. Now she's working on a new book about France, with the working title That Damn France Book. Clearly she has a sense of humor. And a LOT of cats. And more than a few single mittens. Interestingly, Swift was born in Missoula, Montana, so she's got a little Western blood in her.

The book has been described as "a seasonal collage." It is detailed, carefully crafted, whimsical, quirky, thoughtful, entertaining, and beautiful. Nancy Pearl, the uber-librarian from Seattle and author of Book Lust and other books about books, is a huge fan of When Wanderers Cease to Roam. Here's what she wrote about it: "I cannot adequately convey how much I ABSOLUTELY loved [this book]....It's charming, delightful, and captivating....This is a perfect gift for travelers, those with artistic souls, those with a sense of wonder, those who are hug-the-hearths -- in short, nearly everyone on your gift lift."

I couldn't agree more with what Nancy says. Come see for yourself; I bet you'll agree to. And we hope you can join us next Tuesday to hear Vivian Swift talk about traveling. And about staying put. And about creating art. And making books. And who knows what else!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Little Something for Everyone This Week

Looking for great evening activities this week? Look no further than Broadway Books, as we've got three wonderful readings lined up for you this week: Kelly Rodgers will be here to talk about Portland's food cart revolution and the book Cartopia on Tuesday;  Jim Shepard will read from his newest collection of stories, You Think That's Bad on Wednesday; and Molly Gloss and Bette Husted will be here Thursday night as part of our monthly Comma reading series. All events start at 7 pm and are free.

Kelly Rodgers and Kelley Roy, and their aptly named Roy Rodgers Press, are the creators of Cartopia: Portland's Food Cart Revolution. Through stories and photography, the book documents Portland's independent culture, artisan economy, and "foodie" scene that created the food cart revolution. As the authors explore the factors that have placed Portland in the street food spotlight, they also document the personality and character of the Portland carts, and, by extension, of Portland itself. With photography by Andrew Burdick, Cartopia is a visual feast and a celebration of food, architecture, creative entrepreneurship, and civic spirit.

The two Kell(e)ys have been collaborating on projects since they met in 2001. Since moving to Portland in 1995, Kelly without the "e" has worked in a variety of areas to support the development of a sustainable city, including neighborhood planning, green infrastructure, community design, renewable energy, and sustainable transportation. She is the principal of Confluence Planning. Her passion is working to create cities where people know their neighbors, where resources are used efficiently, where people don’t have to get in the car to meet their basic needs, and where it’s possible to work collaboratively on creative energy, food, and housing solutions. Kelley with the "e" is the Director of ADX, a membership-based art and design facility in the heart of Portland’s Central Eastside. Her passion is all things Portland, and she provides business and marketing consulting services for Portland artists and designers who want to make a living doing what they love.

I think I'm going to dedicate my summer to exploring in greater depth the Portland food cart culture - what a yummy way to spend the summer!

Jim Shepard is the author of six novels and four story collections. His previous collection, Like You'd Understand Anyway, won the 2008 Story Prize and was nominated for a National Book Award. His stories are published regularly in such publications as The New Yorker, The Atlantic, McSweeney's, Tin House, and Zoetrope: All-Story, among others. In his newest collection, You Think That's Bad, Shepard offers us an even more wildly diverse collection of astonishingly observant stories. Like an expert curator, he populates the vastness of human experience—from its bizarre fringes and lonely, breathtaking pinnacles to the hopelessly mediocre and desperately below average—with brilliant scientists, reluctant soldiers, workaholic artists, female explorers, depraved murderers, and deluded losers, all wholly convincing and utterly fascinating.

One reviewer described Shepard as a writer who "thinks big and writes short," whose short stories "do the work of entire novels in capturing different places and times." And the author Richard Ford says that "His instinct around a sentence is virtuosic and masterful." In an article about writing, Shepard wrote, "We need to do everything we can, when writing, to stay in touch with pleasure. With fun. With the passionate engagement that we all manage, as children. Not only because that will keep us going but also because it will generate the freedom and the energy that allow us to exhilarate ourselves, and so exhilarate others." He lives in Willamstown, Massachusetts, where he teaches at Williams College and in the Warren Wilson MFA program.

On Thursday it's time once again for our monthly reading series Comma, hosted by Kirsten Rian. This month we are honored to welcome Oregon authors Molly Gloss (Portland) and Bette Lynch Husted (Pendleton). Gloss, a fourth-generation Oregonian, is the author of five novels, the most recent being The Hearts of Horses. Her writing has won numerous awards, locally and nationally. She says her life of writing began with motherhood: "I might have become a writer eventually without first having become a mother, but it's hard for me to imagine it."
Husted's stories, essays, and poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Northern Lights, Northwest Review, Fourth Genre, and Best Essays NW. She is the author of a collection of memoir essays (Above the Clearwater: Living on Stolen Land) published in 2004 and a full-length collection of poems (At This Distance) published in 2010. In an interview, Husted said personal essays and poems aren't as different as they might seem: "Of course, poetry is more condensed -- like freeze-dried backpacking food, I used to tell students, a poem offers the crystallized essence, and the reader's mind adds the water."

Each of the writers at the Comma event will read from current work and engage in dialogue with each other and with the audience about their writing.

Pick one or two or come to all three -- it's a great week of literary entertainment at Broadway Books!

The Passage in Paperback Today!

Justin Cronin's blockbuster bestselling novel The Passage goes on sale in paperback today. The book, the first in a trilogy, is a sci-fi end-of-the world vampire-laced thriller. Cronin is an award-winning author of literary fiction (The Summer Guest, Mary and O'Neil, etc), a graduate of the Iowa Writer's Workshop, and a professor of English at Rice University in Houston. Needless to say, this book was a bit of a departure from his previous writings. "With every book I write I always want to do something different," the author says. But the real inspiration for The Passage was his eight-year-old daughter, an avid reader way beyond her age level, who told him she was afraid his books were boring. Not that she'd actually read his previous books; her judgement was based on the book covers and jacket flaps. She suggested that Dad write about a girl who saves the world. And with that the seed was planted.

The Passage hit the streets in hardcover to great acclaim. Horror-meister Stephen King said, "Read this book and the ordinary world disappears." And Jennifer Egan, author of the Pulitzer-Prize-winning A Visit from the Goon Squad, had this to say: The Passage is the literary equivalent of a unicorn: a bona fide thriller that is sharply written, deeply humane, ablaze with big ideas, and absolutely impossible to put down." Washington Post book reviewer Ron Charles was skeptical about the whole vampire thing: "But by the third chapter, trash was piling up in our house because I was too scared to take out the garbage at night. It's a macabre pleasure to see what a really talented novelist can do with these old Transylvanian tropes."

Of course, Hollywood came calling pronto, with film rights going to Ridley Scott. Cronin won't be involved in writing the screen play, but he is consulting with the team, giving them insight into what's to come in the remaining books of the trilogy. Condensing an almost-800-page book into a two-hour movie is a different skill, the author says. He's content with writing the novels.

"The first rule of writing," says Cronin, "is the same as any job: You must show up." It also helps to have kids. "One of the best things a writer can do is have children, because not only do they give you lots of material they make sure that whenever you sit down at the keyboard you get something done. You have to get something accomplished."

While The Passage is part of a trilogy, Cronin says it's important for him that each book is a strong novel on its own terms. At its heart, he says, The Passage is a road novel. The second book, The Twelve (due out in 2012) will draw a lot from espionage fiction. The concluding novel, The City of Mirrors, will be a war novel, a clash of armies, and is scheduled for publication in 2014.

If you're looking for a good meaty, engrossing book to kick off your summer reading, you won't go wrong with The Passage -- out today in paperback.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Kevin Desinger to Read from Debut Novel

In Kevin Desinger's debut novel, The Descent of Man, we meet Jim Sandusky, a quiet wine steward who lives in Portland with his wife, Marla. One night they wake to hear two men trying to steal his car. Jim makes a bad decision and ends up over his head, mired in a sinister situation and estranged from his wife.

The unfolding events of the story challenge the reader with a number of ethical issues that lead to the recurring question, “What would I do if faced with a similar situation?" The book is a suspenseful page-turner that will force you to consider how quickly it can all go bad and spiral out of control.

Author Bob Shacochis said this about Desinger's novel: "There are books that you can't put down, and there are books that won't go away even after you put them down, the force of their moral conundrums haunting the stories of our own lives. The Descent of Man is a spectacular showcase for both literary virtues—the riveting tale of a modest but perfect life under assault, and a resonating challenge to our own self-knowledge, the authenticity of that knowledge, which can only be confirmed through crisis." 

Kevin Desinger spent his first seventeen years in Coos Bay, Oregon, finished high school in Fairbanks, Alaska, and worked summers on the Alaska Railroad to pay for college. After graduating from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, he moved to Portland, where he has lived for the past thirty years. In the '80s he wrote for Willamette Week, the Oregonian, and a number of regional publications.

Desinger will read from his new novel at Broadway Books on Tuesday, May 10th, at 7 pm. We hope you can join us for the event.