Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Help Wanted

Would you like to work at a bookshop? We are looking for temporary help for the spring semester. There is no application:  just come in, resume in hand, look us straight in the eyes (all of them, at once), and tell us how you love to shuttle boxes back and forth in your spare time.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Birds of America

A copy of John James Audubon's Birds of America has sold at auction for just over £7.3m (or 11.5 million dollars).

Of the 119 copies known to exist, 108 are owned by museums and libraries. The remainder are held in private collections.

The National Audubon Society has a gallery of plates available online here.

Monday, December 6, 2010

First snow of the season.

The world changes when it snows. It gets quiet. Everything softens.

That's more Gilmore Girls, less Charles Dickens.

Still, in celebration of first snow, come warm yourself in the glow of our holiday window. Or buy up multiple copies of A Christmas Carol! The Gift of the Magi! We can wrap them individually in gold paper and everything.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Finished reading: The Master Switch, by Tim Wu. Superb historical analysis on why net neutrality matters, and why Apple is actually evil.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

National Book Award winner announced

And it's Patti Smith. Sweet! I haven't read her new book yet, the autobiography Just Kids, but as a totally unrelated coincidence, I've been listening to her Radio Ethiopia album all week.

Once me and my little sister Siobhan went to get Patti Smith's autograph on (my) copy of her album Horses, and bickered over who she should sign it to, and Patti Smith yelled at us for fighting and signed it to both of us, which is a Solomonic compromise that somehow never occurred to either of us. True story.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Call Me a Dork, But...

So We have a new adventure in the bookstore and I'm running it... we get in a lot of packages from all over the world and I enjoy viewing the postage. So far, no one has been able to beat China in package display.

They've been stamped everywhere and I enjoy viewing it. Since I'm an art history major, to me, this package is an art in its own way. I thought I would share it with you, whether you have seen it before or not.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Hello, Daisy Buchanan.

I am rereading The Great Gatsby, full of appreciation for Fitzgerald. Just this morning, I was turning over who could possibly play Daisy.

And now we know.

PHOTO CREDIT: Carey Mulligan photographed auditioning for the role of Daisy Buchanan. New York City, November 2, 2010. Photo: Baz Luhrmann. Copyright: Bazmark

Thursday, November 11, 2010

How did I miss this?

Happy belated birthday, Neil Gaiman.

[Photograph by Kyle Cassidy, generously licensed under Creative Commons.]

Today is Veterans Day

Today is Veterans Day, which always makes me want to start re-reading Ford Madox Ford's Parade's End. But barring that, one thing I've always been keen on is donating reading material to our boys and girls in uniform, and have always been frustrated and flummoxed by the difficulties in just finding places to donate your stuff (for whatever purpose) in an intelligent fashion. MediaBistro's book blog GalleyCat has already scooped us on that one, though, with their post today: Sharing Books with Our Troops, which lists various resources and ways to donate books to our troops. Mostly e-books it seems, which I guess makes sense. When you're humping a 75-pound pack through the roughlands of Afghanistan, it's easier to carry the complete works of Charles Dickens on a thumb drive than in a giant shopping bag of dead trees.

Of these resources, probably my favorite is Operation Warrior Library (can't have any military operation without a snappy acronym). What about you folks, does anyone have a favorite book, military, or book/military charity they like to give to?

[Image of WWI veteran holding the flag of his son who died in the Korean War by Magnus Manske, generously licensed under Creative Commons.]

Monday, November 8, 2010

After Claude, Iris Owens

The end of this affair is an emotional bloodbath.

Hilariously brutal, a fair amount of your enjoyment of After Claude depends on ever having been or known a Harriet. If you are her, she is possibly a straight-shooting truth teller, looking for love in the absolute worst places. And if you only ever had her as a terrifying acquaintance in high school, then this serves as the barbed window into any savage, selfish relationship she ever went on to have. Either way, it quickly becomes an addictive, prickly pear of a read.

Harriet, in her idiosyncratic way, either drives the unworthy Claude away or leaves on her own, then cleaves to him as he tries to remove her from his life. In between alienating her equally terrible friends, she finds time to revisit the sequence of events that deposited her on Claude's doorstep in the first place. And that's all before going completely insane. Without giving too much away, this is the story of how Harriet outdoes herself, crashing not just in the same car but every car, over and over again.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Only the best day of work ever.

Bookmans Book Dominoes (via Boing Boing)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

“No one’s ever on your side, Betty.”

Months back, I posted a Mad Men Reading List. It was put down super quick and ended with a passing rebuttal to the hatred for Betty Draper I encountered in the comments of various recaps. In a show peopled with flawed individuals, there was always a ton of venom reserved specifically for her.

I only ever assumed that other people must prefer sympathy to accuracy in their television fiction. Anyway, this is a perfect analysis, one that does that hard work of nailing down why she represents some of the bravest writing on television.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

RIP Benoît Mandelbrot

Sad news today -- Benoît Mandelbrot passed away on Thursday of pancreatic cancer. Everybody knows Mandelbrot for the stunning images of the fractal set that bears his name (see above). Mandelbrot's pioneering work in fractal geometry helped apply mathematical rules to a real world that is, inconveniently, not constructed of straight lines, circles, and cubes; however, he is best remembered for the warmth and passion he brought to his writing and teaching.

To many, his work -- which demonstrated that even the most complex phenomena in nature could be described by simple mathematical laws -- "brought order from chaos."

So if you don't know anything about the man or his contributions, take some time out of your day and read up. Or just check out the beauty of his work:

"The nature of fractals is meant to be gradually discovered by the reader, not revealed in a flash by the author.

And the art can be enjoyed for itself."

-Benoît Mandelbrot (November 20th, 1924 - October 14th, 2010)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Victor, Naked

"Victor Hugo would write naked and tell his valet to hide his clothes so that he’d be unable to go outside when he was supposed to be writing."

What does procrastination tell us about ourselves? A review of The Thief of Time: Philosophical Essays on Procrastination (Oxford University Press) in the New Yorker may point you in one or many directions. Really, I can only wonder if Hugo applied a similar process to his drawing.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Photoshop of the day

Man I am a sucker for things shopped to look like classic paperback covers. I really am. Today? Classic* comic book series. The design for a lot of these is actually really strong; a particular favorite of mine is the one for Power Pack, above, a series which was a favorite of mine when I was ten, and still makes me kinda love Weezie Simonson.

>Classic comic book series as old paperback covers.

(*I use "classic" advisedly because they also shop the likes of Spawn and Savage Dragon.)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What does your country sound like?

Oh, this is amazing. The British Library is creating a nationwide sound map. Everybody and anybody can upload tagged recordings, which are then added to an interactive map. Soundscapes captured so far include an office in New Southgate, a dishwasher in Sunbury-on-thames, a crow's nest in Cornwall.

(Via Crying All The Way to the Chip Shop)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Thank you British Library!

Holy koine! The British Library has just digitized and made publicly available almost 300 ancient Greek manuscripts in their collection! For ancient-language and old-book lovers like us, this is seriously ترنجبين from heaven. If you ever wanted to check out the pages of the Theodore Psalter up close and personal, now's your chance.

There is unfortunately no way to browse their new additions, so you kind of have to know what you're looking for among all the rest of their (admittedly amazing) digitized manuscript collection. But whatever. This is amazing any way you slice it.

*The British Library, Manuscripts Collection

[Image of page from the Theodore Psalter from Wikimedia Commons, generously licensed under Creative Commons.]

Friday, October 8, 2010

Hopefully he'll realize this "television producer" thing isn't working out

The recipients of this year's MacArthur "genius" grants were announced. As usual, it's a panoply of a bunch of awesomecrazy people, a high school physics teacher, a language preservationist, a quantum astrophysicist, a geneticist who looks like he got a really bad sunburn while wearing a pair of sunglasses, &c. Nestled among a phalanx of awesome obscuros, lo and behold, is writer/producer David Simon! Putting aside the fact that giving a half-million dollar "stipend" to the cable television producer responsible for super-hit The Wire (among other things), who's already richer than everyone you know put together, is probably a little beside the point for the guy, I couldn't be happier.

I've long thought Simon was the cat's pyjamas, long before everyone started jumping on his Wire bandwagon. The man, who started out as a journalist, wrote only two books: Homicide: Life on the Streets and The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood. But trust me, they are both doozies. To call them "probably the best nonfiction written in my lifetime" is really not even a little bit hyperbole. They are incredible, moving, unsentimental, novelistic, Big Important books. He's a little like what if Richard Price novels were nonfiction, or Ryszard Kapuściński didn't make so much stuff up and wasn't such a drama queen. They are the best social novels you will ever read, and they are real.

Seriously. These books. Find them. Read them.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

R.I.P. O Awful One

Last week, September 29, was the anniversary of the death of Scottish poet William McGonagall, the worst poet ever. No, really, ever. Such was his terrific awfulness that his is frequently described as being "the worst poetry ever written, in any language, at any time." Already well into middle age when he felt himself seized by a spirit commanding him to "write, write, write", McG spent the next twenty-five years crafting verse so mind-bendingly atrocious that a pelting with rotten fruit at a public reading was about the best reception he could expect. The list of satires of the man on his Wikipedia page is quite lengthy.

I, however, do not go in for this ridicule, even though some of it (particularly that which was perpetrated by the great Spike Milligan) is frequently hilarious. Yes, he wrote terrible, terrible poetry. Really horrendous poetry. Just, ungodly stuff. But this is a writer who kept his pen going, day in day out, who, once the muse was upon him, devoted a solid twenty-five years of his life to literature, even though the only reward he ever received for his trouble was ridicule and contempt. Therein lies a kernel of greatness, akin to that great Orson Welles of awful, Ed Wood. The refusal to surrender to discouragement is perhaps the sina qua non of greatness, and the discouragement arrayed around McGonagall was truly massive. And in that respect I feel a great deal of admiration for him. No bad review or audience booing could make him stop writing.

Even though he was too weak and sickly in the end to peddle them any longer on handbills in the streets, McGonagall wrote up poems until the very end; he died a pauper who was buried in an unmarked grave.

(via Today in Literature)

And the winner is ...

Not Haruki Murakami! Whew.

No, seriously guys, Peruvian Mario Vargas Llosa just won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Congrats Mr. Llosa!

[Image from Wikimedia Commons, generously licensed under Creative Commons.]

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Two things I really dig

One, is memes in graphic design in book covers. Two, is ridiculously specific blogs. One such blog, about such book covers, is WomenRunningAwayFromHouses. Take a moment out of your day to check it out. It will be time well spent.

[Via the Occasional Superheroine]

Myla Goldberg: Signing & Discussion

Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Brooklyn College Library
Room 411 (Multipurpose Room)
6:00pm to 7:30pm

Join us at a reading with the excellent Myla Goldberg this coming Wednesday!

Her bestselling first novel, Bee Season, was a New York Times Notable Book for 2000, winner of the Borders New Voices Prize, and a finalist for the Hemingway Foundation/PEN award, the NYPL Young Lions award, and the Barnes & Noble Discover award. It has been adapted to film and widely translated. Her second novel Wickett’s Remedy grew out of her fascination with the 1918 influenza epidemic. Her third novel, The False Friend, concerns a woman trying to untangle a 20-year-old memory and explores the complexities of moral judgment, the fallibility of memory, and the adults that children become.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Crossing my fingers for Cormac McCarthy. Or at least not Haruki Murakami. Come on not Haruki Murakami.

UK bookmakers Ladbrokes (is that pun intentional?) has the odds listed for the various people believed to be shortlisted for this year's Nobel Prize for Literature, which will be awarded this week. Today? Tomorrow? I forget. The odds-on favorite right now is Kenyan novelist Ngugi wa Thiong'o, which doesn't really mean that much I guess, since last year the winner turned out to be longshot Herta Muller, a laureate that had the whole world resoundingly cheering, "Herta who?" So you never know. Barring Cormac McCarthy I'd really like to see crazy longshot John Banville win.

Also, wait, there's a modern poet whose name is just "Adonis"?

Bookmaking aggregator (or gambling addiction enabler) BettingPro also has some analysis. Check it out, place your bets.

*Ladbrokes, 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature
Finished reading: Nat Turner, by Kyle Baker. Harrowing stuff. No word balloons, just excerpts from the Confessions. Comparisons to Will Eisner are no joke.

R.I.P. Antoninus, Sidney Falco, et al

Apropos of yesterday's post about out of print favorites, I read that the late, great Tony Curtis was buried today with a number of prized possessions, among them his copy of the novel Anthony Adverse, by Hervey Allen. What's Anthony Adverse you ask? I have no idea. It turns out it's been out of print for a really, really long time. It's also the novel from which Bronx-born Bernard Schwartz got his stage name of Tony Curtis, and it was made into a 1936 film with Fredric March and Olivia da Havilland. Now I am super curious. I have to get my hands on a copy now!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sic transit gloria mundi

I just heard that Berlin Alexanderplatz is out of print! Sheesh. It's always sad when great lit vanishes from bookstore shelves like that. I mean, I know these things are cyclical, and it's only a matter of time before some other publisher realizes no one's putting out an edition, and they lovingly design a handsome new edition of this "lost classic". But still. It's always a bummer.

Of the writers I really adore, there are at least two I can think of off the top of my head that have been almost entirely unavailable for a decade (at least): American pulpster Fredric Brown and Austrian metaphysical mathematician Leo Perutz. I've had a copy of Perutz's The Swedish Cavalier I've been meaning to give away to a friend for years. But I'm petrified that once I give it away I'll never find another copy. It really is a treasure in every sense of the word.

So what are your lost treasures? What is everyone missing out on?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Dungeon Master

American novelist Sam Lipsyte, whose new novel The Ask I've been dying to read but have been paradoxically put off it because of all the people who tell me I'd love it, has a short story in the new New Yorker called "The Dungeon Master":
The Dungeon Master has detention. We wait at his house by the county road. The Dungeon Master’s little brother Marco puts out corn chips and orange soda.
It's a good story, although I must be honest and say the short story form is not my favorite. As far as fiction in the New Yorker goes, however, I was not unpleased by it. Worth checking out. Mostly I was drawn to it because we're all such huge D&D nerds here at the Brooklyn Shakespeare & Co.

Also, wait the LA Times is calling Lipsyte "America's bard of highly educated disgruntlement"? Crap, that's what I wanted to be! Damn you, Lipsyte.

*"The Dungeon Master", by Sam Lipsyte

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Candy Man Can

When I was growing up, the Daily News was the paper of choice in my house, and while I've grown apart from it (it's mostly like the New York Post without the catchy headlines), I still do pick one up from time to time. And I did the other day and I saw: the venerable NYC bookstore The Strand is now a candy store? Yes, THAT Strand.

I, okay what? Well, no, not really. They still sell books, but now they also sell a whole lot of candy too, because it's pretty tough selling books these days. Okay, let me tell you, there are two things upsetting here: 1) The Strand is now selling candy, 2) We didn't start doing it first. After we here in Brooklyn got our shiny new shelves before the start of the semester that were, well, largely empty at the time, I did think to myself "Students, students are coming, we need to fill these shelves with candy." Although given our own proclivities here at Shakespeare & Co., it would probably be more like Clif Bars. A large percentage of our staff subsists on these and nothing else, as far as I can tell.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

How to keep from getting lost in a book

Have you ever finished a great sci-fi or mystery or romance novel that was part of a series and then tried to find out which was the next one you had to read? It is often a giant pain in the butt. For whatever reason, lots of series novels are kinda bad at indicating where in the series they might fall, what came before it and what comes after. Have you had this problem? Is it just me?

Anyway, enter FictFact. They are a database of serial fiction that keeps track of that stuff for you. Just look up an author or series and voila. Oh hey, do you need to know what order you should read all your out-of-print Ellis Peters "Cadfael" novels? Done.

Shakespeare & Co. Fixing all life's problems for you.


(via LifeHacker, via makeuseof.com)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

No, really, Canada has a publishing industry, too.

Milestone in Canadian publishing! (It's not every day I get to write that). The Book of Negroes, the lauded novel by Afro-Canadian writer Lawrence Hill, has sold half a million copies in Canada. Seldom do you see such numbers with our bookselling brethren up North, rarer still for an author who is himself Canadian. I've never read him but I've heard Hill praised by a bunch of people whose opinion I respect, so I really need to give this thing a try.

Although I will definitely try to get myself a Canadian copy. It was published here in the states as the altogether more forgettable-sounding Someone Knows My Name, a bland, generic and focus-group sounding title if there ever was one, seemingly predestined for the remainder bin of history. If I saw that thing in a catalog, I'd totally just page right past it. I probably did.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Brand new branding.

Come swaddle yourself in Shakespeare.

A Literary Geography

Q: Where was that guy's apartment in Herman Melville's "Bartleby the Scrivener"?

A: 14 Wall Street

The New York Times Book Review has posted an interesting little widget that lets you look on a map of Manhattan and see the locations mentioned in literature, and how. Pity the other boroughs weren't included.

*A Literary Map of Manhattan - New York Times Book Review

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Finished reading: Lost Children of Wilder, by Bernstein, about NY, fostercare, poverty. Unputdownable. Reads like a crime novel.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

London Review of Books tells MFA candidates to "Get a real degree"

This week's London Review of Books features of a review by Elif Batuman of The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing by Mark McGurl. Her thoughts on the dominance of writers churned out by the conveyor belt of American MFA programs are both scathing and deeply resonant. Sez Batuman:
"I had high hopes that McGurl ... might explain to me the value of contemporary American fiction in a way I could understand, but was disappointed to find in The Program Era traces of the quality I find most exasperating about program writing itself: oversophistication combined with an air of autodidacticism, creating the impression of some hyperliterate author who has been tragically and systematically deprived of access to the masterpieces of Western literature, or any other sustained literary tradition."
Ouch. Also, yeah!

On her blog, Batuman posted a missive saying she hadn't written the mean-spirited (but hilarious) title of the review, and seemed apologetic. And she also posted a picture of her hugging a koala, so I guess no harm, no foul.

Friday, September 17, 2010


Kooky French writer Michel Houellebecq (pronounced WELL-beck) is in hot water again. Last novel it was because he had said some things about Islam. Now he's written a new novel, La carte et le territoire (The Map and the Territory), and it's because he's ... cut and pasted some things from Wikipedia? Uh, okay. I'm not sure that's exactly in keeping with his image as the "bad boy of literature", but whatever. (Also, for a 54-year-old man to be the "bad boy" of anything is pretty gross. Why do adult journalists insist on continued use of the term?)

Houellebecq, despite his flaws, remains one of my favorite living novelists, but this new controversy seems somewhat, I don't know, what's the word. Ridiculous? The new book, up to now considered a heavy to win the Prix Goncourt, is a satire on the French art world, in which Slate.fr alleges Houellebecq copied large blocks of text from the French Wikipedia's articles on a French hunting activist, the town of Beauvais and the common housefly. Also that he copied descriptions of a police officer from the website of the French interior ministry, and the description of a hotel from that hotel's own website.

In his defense, Houellebecq said ... "Yes, I copied all that stuff from Wikipedia. So what?" He also basically said that most of his critics wouldn't know literature if it bit them on the derrière, and invoked the names of other writers who'd routinely mixed in "real" texts with their own writing, like Argentina's Jorge Luis Borges (whom we here at Shakespeare & Co. adore) and France's own Georges Perec.

While most of the French critical establishment gave the book rave reviews, it has some vocal detractors however, like French-Moroccan writer and notable buzzkill Tahar Ben Jelloun, who is not coincidentally a judge on the Goncourt prize board. He's apparently annoyed that he spent three days reading a book about how a cynical jerk becomes the darling of the art world by photographing outdated Michelin maps. Whatever, after reading Don Thompson's The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art, I'm pretty sure the art world deserves all it has coming to it and then some.

My favorite quote about Houellebecq's new novel from the AFP article on this whole story? "Some critics deduced from its lack of weird sex, misogyny or anti-Islamic rants that Houellebecq might finally be showing a softer side."

I can't wait to read it.

[Image from Wikimedia Commons user Kmarius, aka Mariusz Kubik, generously licensed under Creative Commons.]
It never ceases to amaze me how often the books on the NYT bestseller list are completely unknown to me, how far out of the NYT demographic we are.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Book auction to be held, just in time for Christmas

If you like birds and books and have around $9,250,000 to spare, boy, have I got a deal for you. Auction house Sotheby's has announced that on December 7 of this year they'll be auctioning off several books, manuscripts and letters from the collection of dead British book collector (and presumed Harry Potter villain) Lord Hesketh. Among these items will be an illustrated folio of Birds of America, which is one of only 119 known copies, just 11 of which are in private hands. The book was written and illustrated by some Norman Bates type figure named James Audubon who used to travel the country killing birds and then posing them in little scenes and painting them. People are weird.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Fiery End of F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre

I'm a couple days behind on this one, but there is an article you must read in the New York Times about Scottish-Brooklynite and venerable sci-fi author F. ("Froggy") Gwynplaine MacIntyre. He was a writer of no mean accomplishment, and also an eccentric of the first water. Sadly on June 25 of this year MacIntyre killed himself by setting himself on fire in the Bensonhurst apartment in which he'd lived for the last 25 years. The story of his life is pretty spellbinding.

"The Last Story of F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre", by Corey Kilgannon (The New York Times)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Aaaaaand we're back

The Fall 2010 textbook season has washed over us like a tsunami and is now mostly behind us. Yikes. It's like one full month that gets deleted from all our lives. Something we missed in all the higher-education hoopla: the Hugo Awards were given out on September 5 at Aussiecon. For those who don't know, the Hugo is one of the most prestigious (perhaps the most prestigious) award for literary science fiction or fantasy. Also the Hugo has always had a special place in my heart; the first winner was a novel that continues to be very dear to me: The Demolished Man, by Alfred Bester.

And the winners are:

[Tie for first place]
The City & the City by China Miéville (Del Rey; Macmillan UK)
The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi (Night Shade)

“Palimpsest” by Charles Stross (Wireless; Ace; Orbit)

“The Island” by Peter Watts (The New Space Opera 2; Eos)

“Bridesicle” by Will McIntosh (Asimov’s 1/09)

This is Me, Jack Vance! (Or, More Properly, This is “I”) by Jack Vance (Subterranean)

Girl Genius, Volume 9: Agatha Heterodyne and the Heirs of the Storm
Written by Kaja and Phil Foglio; Art by Phil Foglio; Colors by Cheyenne Wright (Airship Entertainment)

Moon Screenplay by Nathan Parker; Story by Duncan Jones; Directed by Duncan Jones (Liberty Films)

Doctor Who: “The Waters of Mars”
Written by Russell T Davies and Phil Ford; Directed by Graeme Harper (BBC Wales)

Patrick Nielsen Hayden

Ellen Datlow

Shaun Tan

Clarkesworld edited by Neil Clarke, Sean Wallace and Cheryl Morgan

Frederik Pohl

StarShipSofa edited by Tony C. Smith

Brad W. Foster

Seanan McGuire

(via Wired)
(image generously licensed under Creative Commons from the Flickr photostream of the renowned blogger and prolific spaceman that Earth people call Cory Doctorow)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Zero History

The io9 review of Zero History makes me very happy. I love love loved Pattern Recognition and while I had issues and troubles with Spook Country, I was still looking forward to Zero History.

And to read the following - "Only Gibson could tell a story that plausibly takes place in the liminal space where the frayed edge of the paramilitary marketplace touches the hem of the fashion industry." - only reminds me about why I am so excited. Because it's true.

Sartorial science-fiction forever.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Come early, come often.

In honor of the first full week of classes at Brooklyn College, we will open at 8:00am, this Monday through Friday. We will also be open on Sundays until September 19th. After that, it's back to normal hours. We have a store of charming new employees, too. Plus, the charming old ones.

We have all your textbooks at the best prices, plus stationery and totebags. Also, rental. And haiku!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Will Eisner: A Dreamer's Life in Comics, Michael Schumacher

It is officially rush. As the fall semester approaches and our book-army works at shuttling books back and forth all over the store, I find myself thinking about Will Eisner's work ethic. The man was seriously disciplined. Just reading about his life leaves me exhausted.

In addition to everything Eisner, this biography also generally charts comics from its Golden Age through the appearance of the CCA, underground comix and the invention of the graphic novel. Aside from early chapters about his childhood, the second half of A Dreamer's Life was most interesting for detailing Eisner the active, engaged old master. From the business acumen that protected his legacy to PS to his classes at SVA and many, many autobiographical masterpieces, Eisner had plans that begat plans. Also, the enthusiasm and backbone to work them all into fruition. Ultimately, the best part about him as a creator is how much of a fan he is. He never stopped learning about and loving comics.

So, pretty much the greatest. Will Eisner: A Dreamer's Life in Comics will be in stores November 9, 2010.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Gettin' em while they're young

The new big wave in kids books? Advertising. Not, like, ads in the books. But kids books that are ads. Clothing giant Ralph Lauren has released an e-book for the iPad about the exploits of eight young children called the RL Gang, and narrated by the dulcet pipes of crooner Harry Connick, Jr. Reading or listening to the story, children (with their parents' credit cards, presumably) will be able to touch the characters and click through to a page where they can buy the clothes the characters are wearing.

(Via Quill and Quire's post: Creepy Book Pimps Out Ralph Lauren Clothes to Tots.)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Read a book, defend equality

In honor of the striking down of California's Proposition 8 by U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker, Jacket Copy at the LA Times Book Review has posted a list of 20 classic works of gay literature. And while a tiny bit predictable and bland (I've never really liked Fun Home, and Well of Loneliness, while groundbreaking, is a bit of a snoozefest) there are also some truly stellar works and oddball picks too. Definitely worth checking out.

*20 classic works of gay literature

[Image from the Flickr feed of BlackHawkTraffic, generously licensed under Creative Commons.]

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Shakespeare & Co. DOES have a great sex books table

Just the other day I came across this photo of one of our sex tables in a Flickr set appropriately titled Shakespeare & Co. has a great sex books table! The table is at what I'm going to assume is our 716 Broadway location, which indeed does have the best sex table in the company (which we internally call the "Ron Jeremy Area"). The photo is by author and editor Rachel Kramer Bussel, whose book Fast Girls: Erotica for Women is right there in the foreground, and, to my everlasting regret, whose autograph I was too exhausted to obtain this year at BEA when she was signing copies of her book Please, Sir: Erotic Stories of Female Submission. Oh well. There's always next year, right? Anyway, thanks Rachel for taking these pictures, and for making so many great books for us to put in the Ron Jeremy Area.

[Image from the Flickr of Rachel Kramer Bussel, generously licensed under Creative Commons.]

Kill your idols

Reading the Twitter feed of the Grand Central Library yesterday morning I came across this article/slide show in the Huffington Post: The 15 Most Overrated Contemporary American Writers. I clicked through hesitantly; I don't usually read the Huffington Post, and these sorts of lists tend to be nasty and bitchy and not really about literature at all. I prepared myself to disagree with most or all of this guy's picks. But ... wow. Writer Anis Shivani hits the nail on the head fifteen times in a row with really very jaw-dropping insight and clarity. Letting you know he's not messing around, the article begins: "Are the writers receiving the major awards and official recognition really the best writers today? Or are they overrated mediocrities with little claim to recognition by posterity?" and Shivani keeps cutting into literary mediocrity with a surgeon's scalpel. Terrific stuff.

Another fave quote: "The MFA writing system, with its mechanisms of circulating popularity and fashionableness, leans heavily on the easily imitable."

Check it. The 15 Most Overrated Contemporary American Writers.

[Image from the Flickr feed of Steve Rhodes, generously licensed under Creative Commons]

Monday, August 9, 2010


You know what's just about the scariest thing in the world? Children's books in Japan in the 1970s apparently. Comics Alliance contributors David Brothers and Chris Sims dug up a bunch of amazing and utterly terrifying illustrations from Japanese kid's books from the 1970s from veteran manga artist Gojin Ishihara, aka "Japan's Norman Rockwell". All I have to say is wow. And I thought the illustrations in my D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths were bad ass.

There's many, many more macabre examples here at Pink Tentacle. As you glance through all these, remember these are all from children's literature. For extremely terrified children.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Kraken, by China Miéville

Full disclosure: I've been looking forward to Kraken for a long time. Miéville has, by now, blossomed into a full-on weird-fiction rock star ("New Weird" is what we're calling it these days, but Miéville himself refers to his work as "weird fiction" and that is, and I, who often grapple with genre-naming conventions, find that 110% legit). His last novel, The City & The City, really knocked my socks off. He won an Arthur C. Clarke award for that one, or, as I call it, "The Prize I'm Pretty Sure They Invented To Give Margaret Atwood So She Would Get Something For The Handmaid's Tale After It Got Shafted For The Man Booker." If I'm not mistaken, that makes an absurd three for Miéville, which is more or less unheard of for such a young writer.

Did I mention he's got awesome tats and piercings? I'm pretty sure no piece has ever been published on Miéville that doesn't mention either that or the fact that he's apparently totally ripped. It's a requirement for these sorts of things.

So: Genre fiction superstar.

Kraken is, on the head of things, a book you've read before. "Urban Fantasy" conjures up a certain subset of the genre with its own rules and conventions. Boy or girl with wrenchingly normal life discovers that the world (or the city; or, more often, London) is, in fact, teeming with magical creatures and sorcerers and oddities of all sorts. Or just vampires, primarily, but that counts, too. At first I wasn't terribly impressed; what makes Kraken is how refreshingly light it is. I'll explain: Not "easy reading" light, and since this is a book with Miéville's name on the cover, it's got a sprawling, byzantine plot with an equally sprawling cast of characters. No, after the weighty downers of Perdido Street Station and The City & The City, Kraken unravels like a black comedy. It's Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels with wizards. Kraken approaches the well-trod genre with a sense of humor, even though the tension -- and the novel is, essentially, a very long chase scene -- remains fairly taut throughout.

The maturity that Miéville displayed in The City & The City is in full effect here; his prose gets leaner and less purple with each outing. Compare to Perdido Street Station and you'll see what I mean. The pacing is well-handled, which is no feat juggling between three or four plots. Characterization could bear to be a little less lean, which is disappointing after the really excellent portrayal of the lead character in The City & The City, but one supposes that the author has an awful lot on his plate with so many characters running around magical London.

Not all is quite right: A few gags fall short; while the Tattoo's eerie weirdness is off-set, successfully, by the oddball goonishness of him and his henchmen (like I said, think "British gangster flick" and you've just about got it), the magically functioning Star Trek phaser probably would have been better off showing up for a scene and going away instead of popping up again, and again, and again. The three sub-plots that form the bulk of the narrative advance unevenly and don't quite meet up in any satisfactory way.

Still, Kraken solid all the way through, and is maybe most impressive for the dramatic shift in tone from what I, at least, was used to seeing from Miéville.

Did I mention he's like a Communist rock star with awesome tattoos? They won't let me publish this if I don't.

The iPad's Secret Bestsellers

Do you know what the bestselling ebook on the iPad is? Blonde and Wet, the Complete Story. Do you know what the iPad's bestseller list says is their bestseller? Not that. A couple people have recently noticed that the iPad's bestsellers lists, which were typically chock full of erotic titles, have now been apparently purged to present a more respectable face of ebook reading. Apple has issued no comment (although Steve Jobs is on record saying that he doesn't want "porn" on the iPad) although analysts are pretty much unanimous in saying it looks like Apple pulled the titles from their lists deliberately. They're still selling a whole lot of erotica (presumably), they're just not saying how much they're selling any more.

Come on, Apple! Why so prudish? Erotica is a perfectly legitimate literary genre. Stop selling books to people and then making them feel creepy for buying them.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Here's a cute little widget

International bookseller The Book Depository has a real-time map that shows you the purchases made from them. It's pretty fun to sit there and ... watch people buy stuff I guess? What! I know I do that all day at my job, but it's still interesting.

*Book Depository real-time sales map

Friday, August 6, 2010

Care to make a wager on that?

Last week we mentioned that the longlist for the Man Booker Prize had been announced. This week: UK bookmakers William Hill have announced the odds for the winners for those of you who can't resist the hot literary-prize betting action.

*William Hill: 2010 Man Booker Prize odds

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Books for people who like weird dares

There was an interesting column by Matthew Honan in Wired magazine a couple days ago about "stunt" books. These are the kinds of books wherein the author sets him or herself some usually preposterous goal like "I'm going to read the whole encyclopedia/OED/Bible in one sitting", and then writes about the wacky results. They're the literary cousins of stunt documentaries like Super Size Me. I think the phenomenon is quite a bit older than Honan supposes--he reckons it to be very recent--but agree that these kinds of books, while offering an immediate thrill of interest, are ultimately kind of irritating, in the way that a lot of the halfhearted spawn of Cod are--those books that look at history through the microscope of [x mundane thing, whether it's or bay leaf or plywood or women's undergarments]. Although all of the above are no more or less irritating than a lot of other nonfiction books that are basically little more than grotesquely inflated magazine articles. These genres are not inherently tainted; the only thing is that their success is diluted by authors hitching their wagons to successful trends in hopes of a nice fat advance. I guess the message is: don't write lazy books.

Wired: "One Man's Journey into Stunt Books", by Matthew Honan

[Image from Wikimedia Commons, by User: Rumata. I also really kinda wanted to use this ridiculous one, but it was too blurry.]

Big-box bookstore chain for sale, slightly used

I'm a little late to the news, but the Barnes & Noble chain, apparently not doing so well these days, is up for sale? Holy mackerel. I know that the gleeful schadenfreude I feel isn't exactly the right response to this, because while it's fun to see a competitor tank (particularly a corporate competitor like B&N), this kind of news is generally an indicator of bad biz all around. But I am happy to report that we here at Shakespeare & Co. Brooklyn are doing just fine, thank you very much.

In other book news: the superlative Christopher Hitchens talks about his cancer diagnosis, and Justin Bieber tells his publisher to stop telling people his new book is a memoir.

[Image of the Apocalypse taken from Wikimedia Commons.]

Photograph by Rebecca Miller. Originally found via Booooooom™ forever ago.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Inquire within

It's getting to be that time of year again boys and girls, for us to hang out our shingle and appeal to the literary minded and under- or unemployed in the community. August is company-wide our biggest hiring push of the year, in advance of the Fall college semester, and we've got too much work and not enough hands. Send us your résumé! Or you know, just stop in, say hi, whatever. Knowledge of the (English) alphabet is necessary, but previous bookstore experience is not; having read a book once, at some point in your life, is a plus.

If you're a Brooklyn College student or are just interested in working with us here in Brooklyn, you can contact me directly at davidm@shakespeare-nyc.com. Or if your life
is oriented more Manhattan-wards you can e-mail our general employment address at emp@shakespeare-nyc.com. If you've got any questions, you can e-mail me, or even post them here as comments.

(I really wanted to use this image for our help-wanted advertisement.)

[Image taken from the Flickr feed of Michael Carian, generously licensed under Creative Commons.]

Diamonds for Penguins

This past Friday was the 75th anniversary of publisher Penguin Books. Happy anniversary guys and gals at Penguin! In celebration, Penguin Books has a Mini Cooper emblazoned with the distinctive Penguin Books logo driving around the country all summer, giving away copies of the most iconic Penguin books to libraries and lit groups. In September, they'll wind up the tour in Shakespeare & Co.'s home town with a big fundraiser for the New York Public Library.

What was the world like when Penguin started publishing? Answer: pretty crappy. In 1935 the world was suffering a pretty severe recession and in North America in particular the Dust Bowl had ruined the livelihoods of many across the continent. And in Europe, some dude named Hitler had just made an announcement that Germany was going to start re-arming itself. Penguin founder Sir Allen Lane had the brainwave to make great literature accessible to the average reader on the street by offering well-made but inexpensive editions through unusual outlets like train stations and magazine stands. He wanted to make books as easy to purchase as cigarettes (although these days a pack of cigarettes will probably run you more than many paperbacks). Traditional publishers at that point all thought he was a crazy person, but his almost immediate success proved them all wrong.

Also, 75th anniversary? What is that, Plutonium? Unobtainium? Turns out it's diamonds.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Word of mouth

Hey! First it was New York magazine, and now it's the New York Observer giving Shakespeare & Co. a shout-out for the good prices we pay on used books. The Observer became my favorite New York paper a while back when the legendary Andrew Sarris was reviewing movies for them (which I guess he doesn't do any more?) So, pretty cool for us, right?
Books spied on the train today: Curse of the Wolf Girl, by Martin Millar

Toy Story 3, by Cormac McCarthy

Your favorite dystopian-old-testament writer rewrites Buzz and Woody, as imagined by the Village Voice.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Winner and still champion

Boom! New York magazine in its latest issue has published an analysis of New York bookstores that buy and sell used books. They have also, with a random sampling of used books, gauged what you can get for your books at these stores. And guess what? Shakespeare & Co. comes out on top! We need to hang a sign out or something, because I feel like a lot of people don't even know we buy used books. Also, it's worth mentioning that they only sampled our store in the Upper East Side, by Hunter College, which only accepts used books with a student ID card. Not all stores in the company have this policy; we here in Brooklyn, e.g., have no such hard requirement, although we do reserve the right to request one for some buybacks.

Also, what the heck is Book Thug Nation?

Girls To The Front: The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution, Sara Marcus

"Riot Grrrl, by encouraging young girls to turn their anger outward, taught a crucial lesson: Always ask, Is there something wrong not with me but with the world at large? It also forced us to confront a second question: Once we've found our rage, where do we go from there?

While absolutely a history of Riot Grrrl and seminal bands deeply involved with and responsible for the subculture, Girls To The Front is also about every girl ever. It is a credit to this book how uncomfortable I was reading it. Marcus writes, "I reconnected with my own rage while writing this book." And oh God, me too. The galley I read has circulated among five other people in the month's time it's taken to process my impressions and here's why: Marcus never loses sight of what made its message of empowerment and self-expression important to so many. This is a thoughtful, careful exploration of that cultural moment. And it's a taut, visceral read.

It's not just the good times, either. Along with media appropriation (even respectful coverage was reshaped as a knife in the back by editors in the time it took to go to press), Marcus meets headlong the class/cultural/group politics that accumulate to divide participants. It would be easy to refer to that splintering as the end of everything except it's less rise and fall, more creation and commodification. In one form or another, someone is always discovering this message, for the first time, and being empowered by it. And that's a serious legacy which has long deserved a book like this. Coming to bookstores September 28th.

Additional resources:
Slate Interview with Sara Marcus & Marisa Meltzer
Kathleen Hanna's Blog
Tobi Vail's Blog

Friday, July 30, 2010

New Best American Comics coming out

A couple days ago Neil Gaiman tweeted the cover of the new installation of the Best American Comics series that he is editing. I've been kind of ambivalent towards the series in this past but I'm kinda looking forward to this year's edition.

Gleaning the wheat from the chaff

Buried in the utter avalanche of nerd-related news coming out of San Diego Comic Con International this past week were a few tidbits of things we're actually super excited about here. One of the most notable was the news that Jeff Smith is going to be coming out with new Bone books. If you don't know ... Bone is one of the greatest comics ever made and we all love it to death. It's up there with Watchmen I think, as one of the most enduring works of the medium. The best point of reference I can think of is what if Disney was utterly awesome (and not just, you know, Disney) and made a Lord of the Rings cartoon. It's just ... NEW BONE BOOKS! Right? Awesome.

Well, mostly new. First is a new series called Bone: Tall Tales, which is only going to be drawn by Smith (written by Tom Sniegoski), which will be a reworking of Stupid, Stupid Rat-Tails, colorized, and with extra material. That should be in stores next month I think. Then, more interestingly to me, there’s going to be an altogether new series of Bone stories called Quest for the Spark, in which the character of Bone return to the valley years after Bone ends. First one should be out February 2011.

The other bit of news I found interesting is that the late Will Eisner's A Contract with God is going to be made into a movie? It'll be an anthology film, with four different directors for the four separate parts. Which I hope heralds an Eisner renaissance. There's a bio of Eisner on the horizon (November 2010 to be precise) that some people here are already reading that sounds really fascinating.

Was there anything else utterly awesome that I missed?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Prepare to be creeped out just a little

I don't know what distresses me more: a) that there is an annual contest in Key West, Florida, to find the most convincing Ernest Hemingway lookalike, or b) the fact that this year there were 123 entrants. I sure love A Farewell to Arms, but the idea of being in a room with 123 guys who look so much like Ernest Hemingway they thought they should travel to Key West and enter a competition to prove it is ... mildly petrifying.

Man Booker Prize longlist announced

Yesterday they announced the longlist for the Man Booker Prize, one of the most highly esteemed literary brass rings out there. For those who may be unfamiliar, the prize is awarded "for the best original full-length novel, written in the English language, by a citizen of the Commonwealth of Nations, Ireland, or Zimbabwe." It's such a big deal that even being shortlisted for it is still pretty prestigious. It's also one of the few publishing prizes I am personally invested in, and still always make it a point to check out the honorees of.
  • Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey (excerpt)
  • Room by Emma Donoghue (excerpt)
  • The Betrayal by Helen Dunmore (excerpt)
  • In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut (excerpt)
  • The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson
  • The Long Song by Andrea Levy (excerpt)
  • C by Tom McCarthy
  • The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell (excerpt)
  • February by Lisa Moore (excerpt)
  • Skippy Dies by Paul Murray (excerpt)
  • Trespass by Rose Tremain (excerpt [scroll down])
  • The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas (excerpt)
  • The Stars in the Bright Sky by Alan Warner
[Excerpts dug up by more diligent and industrious hands than mine, over at The Millions.]

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Jane Austen's Fight Club

Enough said. (Via Bookninja.)

The Book-Suer of Kabul

Two weeks after the September 11 attacks a Norwegian woman named Åsne Seierstad entered Afghanistan and donned a burqa to conceal her identity and moved in with a guy named Shah Muhammad Rais, a bookseller, and his family. While there she soaked up the day-to-day realities of ordinary family life in Afghanistan and later wrote a book about her experiences. You may have heard of it? It was called The Bookseller of Kabul. It sold like hotcakes and everyone was happy. Except for Rais's family, who disputed the book's factual accuracy, and especially Rais, who wasn't crazy about how the book made him look like a tyrannical domineering jerkwad. Ordinarily this might just be a case of he-said-hun-said, but Rais's wife Suraia, who also alleged the book jeopardized their safety in Afghanistan, sued Seierstad in a Norwegian court. And won:

"The information [in the book] about Rais's thoughts and feelings is sensitive ... They are attributed to her as true, and neither Seierstad nor [Norwegian publisher] Cappelen Damm can be considered to have acted in good faith to ensure they were correct and accurate."

The court ordered Seierstad's publisher to pay Suraia Rais 250,000 kroner--about US$40,000, or, more importantly, $1.76 million Afghanistan Afghanis. Sounds like somebody's movin' on up. I hope this occasions an Afghani remake of The Jeffersons. I miss that show.

[Photo of piles of Afghanistan Afghanis from the United States Agency for International Development via Wikimedia Commons.]