Sunday, January 30, 2011

What are the odds on there being a second literature-related Saddam Hussein story in the news in as many weeks?

Pretty good actually!

Close on the heels of the news that there exists a personal Koran formerly owned by the late Saddam Hussein and written in the dictator's own blood, professional comedian (or mean-spirited jerkoff, depending on your perspective) Sacha Baron Cohen has announced that his next movie is going to be called The Dictator and will be based on Zabibah and the King, an allegorical romance ostensibly written by Saddam Hussein. I say "ostensibly" because in 2000, after going over it with a fine tooth comb, the CIA decided it probably wasn't actually written by Saddam Hussein, but that he had "suffused" the novel with his own ideas.

With a few notable exceptions, dead dictators have never been particularly satirizable, and it's hard to imagine how Cohen'll find any belly-laughs in a ghost's ghost-written opus. Isn't Saddam Hussein just kind of depressing to think about? I don't know. If Cohen's interested in doing it right, he should probably spend some time reading Kim Jong Il Looking at Things. That thing is hilarious.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

I Read This #1

So we received this in a box of advance reader copies generously sent from St. Martin's Press a couple months ago. I picked it up--I don't know why. I mean, I know why. I like Wonder Woman, and there's a pretty girl on the cover. I'm a soft touch in that sense. I didn't know who Olivia Munn was. I have since come to know her as "that girl on that laddish network I don't watch" and "that new girl on the Daily Show". I have alas not come to know her as "that girl who wrote the surprisingly interesting autobiography".

When my employees saw me standing over the box of galleys with this one in hand they clearly thought the idea of me reading Munn's autobiography was just heeee-larious, but the first few pages, about a weird awkward Vietnamese-Chinese air-force brat covered head to toe in Disney licensed clothing and growing up in Oklahoma, were actually kind of arresting, and the more my employees thought it was preposterous that I might read it, the more I wanted to read it. I brought it home and promptly chucked it in a corner and forgot about it.

Fast forward a couple months to now, when the Spring 2011 textbook season is starting and I'm working crazy long days and honestly don't have the energy or attention span for challenging books. Times like these I crave fun books, so it's out with Virginia Woolf, in with Olivia Munn. It was a quick read, but the promise of the beginning doesn't really pan out. About half the book is less biography than it is a collection of not-ready-for-TV bits about how to talk to girls or other disposable nonsense that I think you're supposed to assume is funny even though it isn't--the kind of filler articles you find in glossy magazines for dudes, which I suspect is probably more ghostwriter than Munn herself. And while the rest is ostensibly Actual Biographical Material the true biography peters out by around page 10, and everything after that is really just about the work of achieving and maintaining a solid level of c-list celebrity. Like, once on a photo shoot for a Playboy cover, the stylist was totally an asshole! Okay?

The problem with this stuff is that Munn remains utterly guarded the whole time, and never lets the reader get closer than the average red-carpet interviewer, so it just comes off like hearing a stranger on the train talking about their workplace. Like, can you believe Martin in accounting? Seriously! The nerve of that guy! Also, everybody knows that guy wears a toupee. He isn't fooling anyone.

It isn't all bad though. I do think Munn maybe has a real book in there somewhere. The more candid stuff about just being a weird Chinese kid in Oklahoma with a pretty, blond, blue-eyed sister whom people openly and quite cruelly preferred to her--Munn's still pretty hesitant to go deeper than what is explicitly happening on the surface, but you can see the iceberg below the waters at least. The later chapters, not so much.

Friday, January 28, 2011

We who are about to die, salute you

Oh yeah. Day 1 of the Spring 2011 college semester. It's on. To recap some important points:

*We accept textbook returns up to 10 days from the first day of the semester. That's TODAY. Take note: that's 10 days from TODAY, January 28, NOT 10 days from the date of your purchase. The last day to return your books without a drop slip is Monday, February 7. If you buy your books on February 6, the last day to return them is still February 7.

*The above applies only to RETURNS. That is, to items for which you are seeking a full refund. This is different from BUYBACKS. We always buy back books, all year round.

*You have to have a receipt to return books. You don't need a receipt to sell them back.

*Yes we are cheaper than the on-campus store, both in the sense that we charge less, and that we have waaaay more used copies of books than they do. Also we're just better and cooler and prettier and more sharply dressed.

*Got anything else you want to know? Try tweeting us @shakespeareco.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The calm before the storm

The Spring 2011 semester starts tomorrow, and life's going to be kind of crazy for us for a little while. But the trenches are dug, the rifles are loaded, the cash registers polished. College students, we are ready for you. All that's left is for us to go home early and get a good night's sleep.

For now, we'll leave you with a plethora of interesting lit links to peruse:

*Dudes who invented juxtaposing photographs of cats with ungrammatical captions raise $30 million in funding.

*There are five new Jorge Luis Borges anthologies coming out. I imagine there are actually an infinite number of Borges stories in an infinite number of combinations, so this news doesn't actually surprise me at all.

*DC Comics gets rid of the Comics Code Authority and replaces it with a kind of video-game rating system for its titles. Mostly I'm confused and surprised that the Comics Code Authority still existed at all. EDIT: Wait, now even Archie Comics is dropping the code? There goes the final nail in the coffin of Fredric Wertham's legacy. About time, we say.

*And speaking of comics, sorta, LitKicks publishes a list of the 10 Best Crime Novels of 2010. One of them is Expiration Date by Duane Swierczynski. I've never read his unillustrated fiction, but I've found myself pleasantly surprised by his work on Marvel Comics titles The Immortal Iron Fist and Cable, a thankless unwritable character if ever there was one. I've got to check out Expiration Date, asap.

*The genesis of the hunt for the "Great American Novel" tracked down to 1868 article in The Nation.

*Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez are teaming up to write a memoir together. I'm guessing Charlie Sheen will soon announce he's writing a joint biography with three kilos of cocaine and seven hundred sex workers from Los Angeles. (Ah, cripes. Why couldn't they have made that memoir announcement a little earlier? Sheen-bashing jokes are so two weeks ago.)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Speech

Hey, remember a couple weeks ago when Vermont senator Bernie Sanders mounted an eight and a half hour filibuster in opposition to the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010? That was amazing, wasn't it? Okay, yeah, I know it's not technically a filibuster, since it didn't actually block anything, but still. Everyone I know stopped what they were doing to tune in one way or another to see how far Sanders could go to tell Congress to shove their tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy. If you want a piece of Sander's speech, I have good news for you: Nation Books has announced they're going to publish the entire 510-minute slab of verbiage as a book titled, simply, The Speech. Time to special-order one for myself.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Fear of draculars

Here's an old favorite of ours at Shakespeare & Co. Developmentally disabled man Michael Bernard Loggins made lists of the things he's afraid of and published them in two zines titled Fears of Your Life and Fears of Your Life: A Whole New One. At first it seems like the world of Mr. Loggins is a scary place, there's falling down, and there's cars that might hit you, and you might get lost, or your friends might stop liking you, but when he starts getting to things like "fear of dinosaurs bird" and "fear of draculars", the world through his eyes starts to sound pretty amazing. This American Life on NPR recently had on actor Tom Wright to read about nine minutes of list items. Audio below:

It starts about 33 minutes in.

(Posted with gratitude to our pal Jenny who first found this.)

Monday, January 24, 2011

That doorknob is fucking huge.

We continue to be too busy for silly internet shenanigans here at Shakespeare & Co., as the start of the Spring 2011 semester is four days away now, so we briefly submit for your your pleasure: The Monkeys You Ordered. They post New Yorker cartoons with the captions made utterly literal. Somehow they manage to be way, way funnier than the original New Yorker cartoons.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Renowned Zionist stooge to accept literary award in Jerusalem

Some people are hopping mad at British writer David Carradine Ian McEwan right now apparently. It turns out he was nominated for, and won, an Israeli literary award, the Jerusalem Prize. And, don't you know, accepting anything from Israel is tantamount to being a vocal supporter of insidious anti-Palestine policies? Uh, okay, sure. I mean, my last landlord was Israeli, so I guess my rent checks could conceivably have been considered financial support for the creation of new settlements. And by "conceivably" I of course mean: if you are a crazy person. People want him to refuse the award as a political gesture. Seriously guys, McEwan has even explicitly denounced the policies at issue. Let the guy accept his award and eat his buffet plate and make a speech. Sheesh. The last winner, Haruki Murakami, was also pressed to decline the award, but also declined to decline.

(Image from User:Jamesmh2006 at Wikimedia Commons, generously licensed in the public domain.)

Friday, January 21, 2011

H. P. Lovecraft documentary

Watch more free documentaries

It's a busy time for us here at Shakespeare & Co., what with the Spring 2011 semester approaching. Things are hectic. But here's a new (free!) documentary from Snag Films about the life and influence of everyone's favorite supernatural existentialist horror creep-o, H. P. Lovecraft. Enjoy.

That's just a preview. The whole documentary can be seen here.

(Via The Rumpus. Via GalleyCat.)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

One Week Away

The start of the semester fast approaches, Brooklyn College. And this semester, we are so ready. We're going to be stocked with notebooks, folders, pens, pencils, highlighters, paper clips, so many much stuff. ALL THINGS.

Fill your academic instrument needs here. Also, textbooks.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Setting the Scene

Having just caught this exhibition at the Morgan before its run ended, I found myself thinking about the utility of spaces. The featured libraries (from public to ecclesiastical to academic) were stunning. Cavernous, gilt-edged marvels. But I couldn't imagine what it would be like to actually use them, as libraries. Movies have taught me that with places like these, what you really need to do is tear up their floors to access their catacombs. Because you never know.

Anyway, it made me consider what my bookstore requirements are. The places I enjoyed as a child were basically hazards. Dark, near silent, floor-to-ceiling stacks of moldering paper. And that introduction to books really stayed with me. While I can appreciate a clean, well-kept store now, too much light in a space unsettles me. Because I still appreciate cloistering, places that let you and others hide while browsing. What qualities do you look for and appreciate in your favorite book haunts?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Bookstore Cats

Thank you mental_floss for answering the question, "What would David Bowie look like as a cat?" The answer is to your right. Where does this majestic creature do its haunting? The inside of Seek Books.

Oh, this list of 12 bookstore cats is amazing. In the comments, the downtown Shakespeare & Co. gets a shout-out for their store cat. And for those of you on a store cat tour, our Gramercy store has two, although customers usually only ever meet one. Stop in and say hello, with your hands.