The best analysis I’ve seen of what amazon.com is doing to the book industry is Late Night Library’s conversation with Tin House’s Rob Spillman. Scroll down just a bit for the podcast.
And here’s a lovely antidote: Ann Patchett’s experience opening a new indie bookstore in Nashville. The Atlantiic titled this story “The Bookstore Strikes Back.” This is such a cool story–and if you don’t already like Stephen Colbert, you will after you read this. And here’s Andrew Piper’s piece from Slate, “Out of Touch.” He takes an interesting position on the physicality of reading (which he says can never be replicated by an e-book) couched in the hsttory of the printed book and its predecessors.
I started reading Adrienne Rich’s The School Among the Ruins, a gut-punch of a collection. Anyone who thinks political poetry is an oxymoron should pick up a copy. If you know me you probably know that I am unnaturally fond of coffee. I had just brought in a cup to enjoy with my reading and I forgot all about it after I picked up this book.
Speaking of political poetry, I received as a gift a copy of Old Shirts & New Skins, a 1993 collection by Sherman Alexie. Best opening lines award for the very first poem., “Introduction to Native American Literature.”
On the plane to San Francisco last month I read a couple of stories from Robert Kelly’s The Logic of the World. I can’t remember the last time short stories surprised me like that. We read at times for distraction, or for comfort. That long-running detective series you pick up every summer at the library, or the beloved novel you’ve dog-eared from rereading over the years. Also we read for surprise. That’s another way of saying freshness–of language, of insight, of structurral invention. Kelly’s got that in spades. So does John Yau, whose Further Adventures in Monochrome (with a full color cover, of course) I picked up at City Lights. It contains, among other gems, the sometimes sly, sometimes flagrant “Genghis Chan: Private Eye” series Yau’s been adding to since 1987.
I used to believe music choice was important when I wrote. One summer all I played was Sophie B. Hawkins’ Tongues and Tails. When I hauled out that piece of writing a couple years later I played Hawkins again to get it rolling but that didn’t work. I ended up writing for a couple years in a neighborhood cafe where the music was out of my control and often just plain bad and it didn’t matter. A painter friend told me years ago that it shouldn’t matter, that when you immerse in the work you won’t notice anymore. She was the person who introduced me to Van Morrison’s work. I probably own more of his albums than any other musician or group. A couple years ago I read his comments about how amused he was with the particular cubbyhole in which his work was placed, how it didn’t mean anything to him. He was keenly aware of the roots of his work and didn’t give a fig how record companies or critics chose to characterize it.
I suppose it’s a bit like analyzing love. Naming and boxing up the thing only gets you so far. In the end it’s just about what moves you, what you choose to lie down beside, every night while you dream.
I’m working on John Parras’s forthcoming collection of prose poems and flash fictions, Dangerous Limbs. John will be doing a panel at AWP in Boston with Daniel Green, Alissa Nutting, Ted Pelton, and M. Bartley Seigel on experimental fiction. We’re publishing John’s book as a limited edition hand-stitched chapbook, with Thai inclusion endpapers. That means there are little chunks of tree bark embedded in the otherwise ethereal papers, which is always interesting when cutting them to size. The combo of cover stock, text papers, Thai endpapers and hand-stitching makes for a beautifully hand-crafted, individually distinct book. We can’t wait to show them off.