Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Revisiting Breakfast of Champions

Somehow my partner missed Breakfast of Champions in her first go round of Vonnegut and seeing her read it reminded me of how funny and brilliant I thought the book was when I first read it over ten years ago. I just had to put everything else aside and pick it up again. There is always some trepidation when returning to a book you loved when you were younger. Will it still seem brilliant or will it suffer from the Holden Caulfield effect? Or, worst of all, will it prove that I just went through a "phase?"

But Breakfast of Champions is just as funny, accurate, and brilliant as it was when I read it as a teenager. Vonnegut's dead-on critiques of racism, classism, and consumerism in American society are still, tragically, relevant. His play with the relationship between writer, character, and reader still feels fresh and vibrant. It's hard to imagine a writer more beloved in his or her life time than Vonnegut was during his, but, there's the possibility that Vonnegut's work can grow in importance as long as the America he described remains unchanged.

As good as that might be for the longevity of his ouevre, that lack of change in the world, seemed to contribute to some of the sadness that surrounded him at the end of his life. In a great essay from his collection Not That You Asked, Steve Almond does an amazing job capturing not only what Vonnegut meant to so many people, but also Vonnegut's own sense of melancholy from trying his hardest for as long as he could and failing to save the world from itself.

Friday, August 14, 2009

I was researching Joyce Maynard's bibliography preparing for her upcoming appearance at our store and came across a column she wrote for the New York Times in July that I had missed. Reading it brought me up short. Ms. Maynard will be reading here on Sept. 21 from her new book, Labor Day.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Cartoons That Shook the World

When I was ordering The Cartoons That Shook the World for the fall I was warned by our sales representative that the book would contain the controversial Danish cartoons that sparked worldwide protests. Apparently that will no longer be the case. The New York Times yesterday reported that Yale University Press has decided to drop the cartoons as well as all the other images depicting the prophet Muhammad that were originally to be included.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Dover Thrift Science and Mathematics

Books put out by Dover Thrift have always been great for filling out a library or trying an old classic you've been meaning to read. For a few bucks you can get copies of some of the great works of literature. The print is small and the paper cheap, but they're called Dover Thrift for a reason. However we just got a shipment today (8/12) that includes books from their math and science section and they have really out done themselves. General Chemistry by Linus Pauling, Quantum Theory by David Bohm, Thermodynamics by Enrico Fermi, and On Growth and Form by D'arcy Wentworth Thompson are just a few of the classic works of science Dover has brought back into print.

These are great additions to any science library, but they are also great reads for someone interested in the history of science.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

comfort books

Once again I am acting as agent for an author. I recently received the following message from Jennifer Ackerman who came to Porter Square Books a couple of years ago to read from her book Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream: A Day in the Life of Your Body. She is working on a new book and is looking for recommendations of good books "to curl up with". With her permission, I am enlarging the pool of respondents to our loyal customers and bloggers. All is explained below and I hope you will take the time to dash off a comment here and I'll send them along to Jennifer. Thanks so much for considering. I think we all have a couple in us.

Subject: a writer's query

Hi Folks at Porter Square Books,

As you may know, I'm a writer (and a fan of your bookstore, which I visited
on tour for Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream). I'm writing today to ask a favor.
I'm working on a book about the common cold called Achoo! The Uncommon Life of the Common Cold, to be published by Twelve in 2011. The book includes a chapter on The Real Cure: Recipes and Readings, which offers recipes for comfort food from chefs such as Lynne Rossetto Kasper, and also, a list of books recommended by experts such as yourselves, that make for great "curl up in bed when you're down with a cold" reading. I know there's no end to the possibilities here, but if a title or two strikes you as particularly fitting (something under the sun to warm the bones, for example), I would be most grateful for your suggestions, along with a line or two about why your choice makes for good sick-bed reading. I will of course credit you and the store.

Thank you so much for considering this. I look forward to hearing from you.

Warm regards,
Jenny (Ackerman)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Two great new graphic novels

I'll write more about both of these titles later, but I wanted to draw everyone's attention to two great new graphic novels, one that is out now and the other that is coming out in September.

Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli is out now and is garnering a lot of well-deserved praise. It's a beautiful book with many of the pages works of art in their own right. The titular character is a brilliant but self-absorbed architect whose invincible egoism leads him to a crisis point in his personal life. Subtle details connect events in the story and it concludes with such a powerful moment that I had to take a long walk to clear my head of the effect.

Logicomix will be out in late September and tells the story of Bertrand Russell's quest to find a universal language of logic. It doesn't sound like the kind of topic suited to the comic genre but the book's creators do a brilliant job using their medium to communicate complex and challenging philosophical ideas. They also make this a real story, casting Russell, and many of the people around him, as traditional, questing heroes for truth. Despite all the heavy thinking, the authors create moments of humor and triumph that make the work a great story as much as it is a philosophical exploration.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Inherent Vice trailer

Check out this way cool book trailer put together by the publisher for the new Thomas Pynchon novel, Inherent Vice. The book went on sale Tuesday and has been flying out of the store since!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tooting our own horn department: Lynette Benton, who writes about writing as a career for, has been surveying local bookstores. She recently posted a terrific piece about us. Thanks Lynette.

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