Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sci-Fi/Fantasy Featured Author

Karl Schroeder was born to Canadian Mennonites and is the author of 10 science fiction books including Lady of Mazes and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Science Fiction.

His books combine hard SF ideas, Space Opera action, well-drawn characters, and solid writing. His latest quartet of novels is set in the fascinating world of Virga: a 5,000 mile wide sphere filled with miniature suns, floating oceans, and zero-gravity. Within this magnificent piece of world-building, Schroeder unfolds a thrilling story of pirates, politics, war, plot and counter-plot.

Karl Schroeder now lives in Toronto with his wife and daughter and divides his time between writing and working as a technology and future-studies consultant.

This is a writer of bold ideas and captivating storytelling. If you enjoy the world-building of Ring World, the action of Star Wars, and the politics of Dune, you'll enjoy spending some time in Virga.

The Virga series includes: Sun of Suns, Queen of Candesce, Pirate Sun, and The Sunless Countries.

The Best Book You've Never Read, Sheppard Lee

"The psychologist (I hate big words but one cannot do without them) and the metaphysician will discover in my relation some new subjects for reflection; and so perhaps will the doctor of medicine and the physiologist: but while I leave these learned gentlemen to discuss what may appear most wonderful in my revealments I am most anxious that the common reader may weigh the value of what is at least in appearance more natural, simple, comprehensible."

So begins the adventure of Sheppard Lee, a lazy property owner who discovers an ability to reanimate dead bodies with his own spirit. Through this power, Lee experiences life as a wealthy brewer, an impoverished dandy, a miserly usurer, an exploited philanthropist, and a slave, and other lifestyles of Jacksonian America. Through the body-hopping Lee, Robert Montgomery Bird creates a scathing satire of American society as brutally honest and as humorous as the best of Mark Twain, that still celebrates the depth and breadth of American character. Lee narrates with a vibrant cynicism that reminds me of Lawrence Sterne's masterpiece The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy and Bird's talent with image and event prefigures Moby-Dick. And, in a lot of ways, there is something very Dude-like about Sheppard Lee. Originally published in 1836 Sheppard Lee is a uniquely American novel and should be a corner stone for the canon of American literature.

But the book is more than just a compelling artifact from our past. Occasionally Sheppard Lee breaks from narrating his adventures to reflect on what he has learned about society from his possessions. Lee's lessons are as wise and potent today as they were in 1836:

"It is no wonder that poverty is the father of crime, since the poor man sees himself treated on all hands like a culprit."
"In this way I have known a stock tossed up and down like a ball, while every ascent and downfall served the purpose of filling the pockets of the fraternity and emptying those of the victims."
"Why should the folly of a feudal aristocracy prevail under the shadow of a purely democratic government? It is to the stupid pride, the insensate effort at pomp and ostentation, the unconcealed contempt of labour, the determination manifested in a thousand keep the 'base mechanical' aware of the gulf between him and his betters--in a word, to the puerile vanity and stolid pride of the gentile and refined that we owe the exasperation of those classes in whose hands lie the reins of power, and who will use them for good or bad humour."
"The same arguments, varied categorically according to circumstances, convinced me that if my imperial elevation, or the notion thereof, was not sheer insanity on my own part, my doctors thought so--which was the same thing in effect."
"I can be happy or not just as I may choose to make myself."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Earlier this week Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol was released and was an instant best-seller. So it seems the perfect time to remember one of my favorite books, Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum.
This brilliant, exciting, and surprisingly funny novel is a piercing examination of conspiratorial thinking and thinkers. With sly wit and byzantine reasoning, Eco builds, dismantles, then rebuilds an ever-increasing series of sinister puzzle boxes. The sheer amount, depth, and pace of the esoterica, histories, and pseudo-histories is nearly overwhelming. Unless you are a polyglot and student of esoteric histories (and I'm not) you will miss some of Eco's references, but do not be deterred; keep reading and you will not be disappointed. Like a trio of over-educated European postgraduate students arguing metaphysics over too much wine, too late at night, this novels grows madder and madder until it reaches its crazy, subjective, inevitable conclusion. This is the perfect book to read before, after, or instead of the new Dan Brown novel .

A Chair for Leslie

Some of our customers might have noticed a new chair in the store which is usually at the big round table in the back. It looks like one of those college chairs that normally has a college insignia on the back. But in this case, you will find a dedication:

To honor our dear friend and colleague, Leslie Riedel, reader extraordinaire.

We have worked with Leslie at our old store for many years and then here at Porter Square Books since we opened in 2004. Indeed, she is one of the owners. Leslie used to be a children's librarian and has an abiding interest in and great knowledge of children's books; a veritable expert. Her interests don't stop there, however. Mention a book for adults and chances are she's read that as well.

Leslie has recently been diagnosed with ALS and is home with her family. We miss her cheerful spirit, her enthusiasm, and the wonder and appreciation she has for books and life in general.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

sherrie flick/ladette randolph

On Thursday evening September 24th Sherrie Flick and Ladette Randolph will be at the store reading from their new novels, Reconsidering Happiness and Sandhills Ballad. Sherrie sent us the following link to an interview with her published in Pittsburgh City Paper - she is a native of Pennsylvania. This is an encore performance here for Sherrie and we look forward to it.

Joining her is the new editor of Ploughshares, Ladette Randolph. Both she and Flick have previously written short fiction and now a novel. Randolph knows of what she writes here having grown up in the region of Nebraska featured in Sandhills Ballad. A good part of Flick's novel is also set in Nebraska, so come to this event prepared to steep yourself in the Great Plains landscape and hear some great storytelling.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Sci Fi/Fantasy Featured Author

Starting this month, we will be featuring a 'new' Sci Fi/Fantasy author. We may highlight a debut author or focus on an established author but the purpose is to present him or her to new readers.

The recommendations will be written by more than one staff member so we won't have you reading vampire romance all the time! We will even be adding in some graphica.

Our author for September is local and since 2007 has published 4 novels.

Mark Del Franco

Mark Del Franco's stories are set in a turbulent world where Faerie and modern reality have uneasily merged.

The 3 books of the Connor Grey series, located in Boston, feature Connor Grey, a former great Druid and investigator for the Fey. They are Unshapely Things, Unfallen Dead, and Unquiet Dreams.

Del Franco's latest book, Skin Deep, is set in the same fascinating world but located in Washington, DC and features Laura Blackstone, PR director for the Fey.

Mark lives with his partner, Jack, in Boston.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Great Issues this Month

A few cool issues have come out in the world of magazines this month.

The current issue Smithsonian Magazine is a special travel writers issue that is a who's-who of our top travel writers. Susan Orlean writes about Morrocco, Francine Prose writes about Japan, Frances Mayes writes about Poland, and Paul Theroux drives coast-to-coast across America. The special issue is introduced by none other than Jan Morris.

The literary magazine Tin House is celebrating their 10th anniversary with a special issue of new work by major authors they've published over the decade. It's an amazing list of contributors; Colson Whitehead, Jim Shepard, Stephen King, Steve Almond, Amy Hempel, Lydia Davis, and Sherman Alexie to name a few. They've also included a short story by David Foster Wallace that was previously only seen in his college literary magazine. This issue of Tin House is less a magazine and more an anthology of contemporary American fiction.

A couple of weeks ago, I highlighted the online lit mag The Exquisite Corpse and did an interview with their editor and all around literary badass Andrei Codrescu. They have released their first annual magazine. Hopefully it will be the first in a long line of annuals drawn from that great website.

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