Friday, December 24, 2010

New Audio Last Week of 2010!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

New on the shelves today:

Inside of a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz

Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls

Simple Times by Amy Sedaris Unabridged

Spoken Word American Poets compiled by the British Library

Peace and Plenty by Sarah Breathnach unabridged

The Autobiography of Mark Twain by (surprise) Mark Twain

Finding George Orwell in Burma by Emma Larkin

7 Events that Made America America by Larry Schweikart

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Geek Book Gift Guide

Just in time .... a Geek Book Gift Guide

'Twas the night before Christmas, when through the black hole

Not a fanboy or girl was stirring, not even a troll;

The MacBooks were placed near the Wi-fi with care,

In hopes that St. Geekolas soon would be there.

Have you been a good little geek this year? Have you kept your PS3 and Xbox consoles all shiny and neat? Did you get all A’s in Elvish and Klingon and Shyriiwook (aka Wookiee Speak)? Did you roll all 20’s the last time you went dungeon crawling? If so, perhaps you’ll find one of these geek-eriffic books under the tree this year.

But if you haven’t been good ... Well, Sauron’s eye, I mean Santa’s eye, is ever watchful. So you better watch out.

My Best Friend Is a Wookiee: A Memoir, One Boy’s Journey to Find His Place in the Galaxy

by Tony Pacitti ($19.95, Adams Media)

Certified Star Wars geek (and Massachusetts native) Tony Pacitti charts his life in relation to the Trilogy—from pathetic childhood and adolescence to Luke Skywalker-like coming of age. We see a painfully shy kid slowly trying out the Jedi-like powers of adulthood and using the transformative Force (and forces) of the Star Wars universe to get him there. A hyperdrive tour through Star Wars fandom that's more fun than shooting womp rats in Beggar's Canyon. But “My Best Friend Is a Wookiee” also a comical, tender, no-punches-pulled coming of age memoir.

Android Karenina

by Leo Tolstoy and Ben H. Winters ($12.95, Quirk Books)

What happens when you mash-up “Anna Karenina” with the world of 19th century Russia, this time retro-fitted with robotic butlers, mechanical wolves and moon-bound rocketships? You get “Android Karenina,” from the same folks who brought us “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” and “Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.” Here’s a sample line from Winters’ steampunked Tolstoy: “When Anna emerged [from the rocket], her stylish feathered hat bent to fit inside the dome of the helmet, her pale and lovely hand holding the handle of her dainty ladies’-size oxygen tank ...” A fun tongue-in-cheek romp for literature majors and science fiction aficionados alike.

We, Robot: Skywalker's Hand, Blade Runners, Iron Man, Slutbots, and How Fiction Became Fact

by Mark Stephen Meadows ($19.95, Lyons Press)

If you grew up like I did on a steady diet of “The Jetsons,” “The Six Million Dollar Man,” “Star Wars,” and “The Terminator,” then you’ve been wondering when all your robot fantasies might become true. But unlike personal jet packs (never happened) and hover craft (another back-of-comic-book pipe dream), cyborgs, androids, and avatars are real. With wit and insight, Mark Stephen Meadows separates science fiction from actual fact, navigating the ethically sketchy territory of domestic robots and autonomous military robots, artificial hands and artificial emotions. “We, Robot” raises the crucial questions that robot-makers largely ignore. In doing so, Meadows shows us that in our quest to create more and more life-like robots, we’ve become more robotic ourselves.

The Lord of the Rings Location Guidebook: Extended Edition

by Ian Brodie ($24.95, HarperCollins)

When I traveled to New Zealand to research my book “Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks,” and embarked on my own Lord of the Rings filming location geek-out quest, this guidebook was indispensable. With its detailed maps, directions, insider information and exclusive movie stills—even GPS coordinates—I was able to find dozens of sites, from the Shire (Matamata) to Mordor (Mt Ruapehu in Tongariro National Park) to Arrowntown’s The Ford of Bruinen, location for the famed “If you want him, come and claim him!” scene. Perfect for the Tolkien freak planning his or her own LOTR adventure Down Under.

by Tom Bissell ($22.95, Pantheon)

Must video games remain mere entertainment. Could they provide narratives that books, movies, and other vehicles for story delivery can’t? Might they even aspire to art? Tom Bissell's new book "Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter" aims a tentative mortar shot at these targets. His investigation is bedrocked upon personal experience; along the way, we also meet game developers at such megaliths as Epic Games, Bio Ware, and Ubisoft. Thankfully, the book isn’t pure fanboy boosterism. Video games can be great, he says, but they can be “big, dumb, loud.’’ A master prose stylist, the erudite Bissell is frequently insightful in the analysis of his video game obsessions.

Halos and Avatars: Playing Video Games With God

by Craig Detweiler, editor ($19.95, Westminster John Knox Press)

A thoughtful collection of essays at the cross-section of religious and media studies. The various contributors take on quirky topics such as the theological implications of apocalyptic video games like Halo 3, Grand Theft Auto IV, and Resident Evil; how avatars are changing social networks and our spiritual lives; and the medical ethics and theology in controversial games such as BioShock. Bonus material includes an interview with Rand Miller, cocreator of Myst and Riven, and other video game industry folks.

The Dream of Perpetual Motion

by Dexter Palmer ($24.99, St. Martin’s Press)

In the steampunk tradition comes this debut novel a greeting card writer imprisoned aboard a zeppelin who must confront a genius inventor and a perpetual motion machine. In creating his world, Palmer borrowed from archival source materials that predicted life how life would be in the year 2000, then retro-designed modern gadgets that use turn-of-the-19th-century technology. A kind of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” as Jules Verne might have envisioned it and a great, richly-imagined read.

Confessions of a Part-Time Sorceress: A Girl's Guide to the Dungeons & Dragons Game

by Shelly Mazzanoble ($12.95, Wizards of the Coast)

Dungeons & Dragons insider Mazzanoble (she now works for Wizards of the Coast, the company behind D&D) gives a sassy and informative look at D&D from the female gamer's POV. She tackles myths and realities of gamer stereotypes and proves that women should be, and increasingly are, welcome to roll dice and at Cheetos with the rest of the trolls. As Mazzanoble writes: “Let’s get one thing straight: I am a girly girl. I get pedicures, facials, and microderm abrasions. I own more flavors of body lotions, scrubs, and rubs than Baskin Robbins could dream of putting in a cone. ... I am also an ass-kicking, spell-chucking, staff-wielding 134 year-old elf sorceress named Astrid Bellagio.”

Star Wars Jesus: A Spiritual Commentary on the Reality of the Force

by Caleb Grimes ($17.95, WinePress Publishing)

Is Obi-Wan Jesus? Why does Yoda speak like a character from the Old Testament? What inspires our devotion to this mythical universe of Jedis, Dark Sides and “feeling the Force”? Grimes gives us a different take on the LucasFilm empire, one that sees the Star Wars stories as potentially as powerful and useful as the ones we learned in Sunday school. In my case, I missed church entirely, but that didn’t stop me from quoting “There is no try. Do or do not” as a kind of spirtual/philosophical mantra.

Collect All 21! Memoirs of a Star Wars Geek: The First 30 Years

by John Booth ($14.95,

Not long ago, enviro-spiritual interpretations of “The Lord of the Rings” were all the rage. Now, paeans to “Star Wars” are popular. Here’s one that’s a deliciously warped nostalgia trip through Star Wars fandom. From collecting Kenner action figures to getting Star Wars birthday cakes from puzzled parents to scribbling fan letters to Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher, Booth shamelessly flaunts his lifelong lust for all things Star Wars. Like a tractor beam, this endearing account draws us in and makes us reminisce about our own geeky obsessions.

A Guide to Fantasy Literature: Thoughts on Stories of Wonder and Enchantment

by Philip Martin ($16.95, Crickhollow Books)

A diverse and thoughtful examination of the so-called “fantasy” genre: from Middle-earth to Narnia, high fantasy to dark fantasy, fairy-tale fiction to magic realism and adventure-fantasy tales. Peppered with meaty quotes by J.R.R. Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, C.S. Lewis and Stephen King, Martin’s book provides a concise primer for those wondering why it is we’re drawn to tales of magic quests and heroic derring-do.

The Mythological Dimensions of Doctor Who

by Anthony Burge, Jessica Burke and Kristine Larsen, editors ($15.00, Kitsune Books)

Dr. Who fans, rejoice! This collection of essays takes a look at the mythological undercurrent in this classic BBC television series considered by the Guinness World Records as the “longest-running science fiction television show in the world” and "most successful" science fiction series of all time.” (Take that, Lucas and Roddenberry). Topics connect Dr. Who to Arthurian legend, Batman and medieval Scandinavian Valkyries. An engaging discussion for the serious traveler of the Whoinverse.

Unplugged: My Journey into the Dark World of Video Game Addiction

by Ryan G. Van Cleave ($14.95, HCI)

Most of the time, playing video games is fine, fun and perfectly harmless. But every now and then, a player gets a little too immersed in a game’s imaginary word. In Cleave’s case, the game was World of Warcraft, and his playtime turned into an 80-hour-a-week, life-wrecking addiction. “Unplugged” tells a cautionary tale of hitting rock bottom, wising-up and climbing out of the dungeon.

How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack: Defend Yourself When the Lawn Warriors Strike (And They Will)

by Chuck Sambuchino ($14.99. Ten Speed Press)

Silly. Ridiculous. And a hoot. In the spirit of those “how to survive a zombie apocalypse” manuals comes this tome to tell us how to defend against the latest enemy. The book claims it is “the only comprehensive survival guide that will help you prevent, prepare for, and ward off an imminent home invasion by the common garden gnome.” Great color photos bring the spoofy goofiness alive.

Carl Warner's Food Landscapes

by Carl Warner ($22.50, Abrams Image)

For the food geek on your list. Sumptuous, jaw-dropping, eye-popping, mouth-watering fantastical landscapes made entirely from real fruit of this earth: vegetables, cheeses, breads, fish, meat, and grains (and fruit, too). The 25 photographs take you on a trip around the world... and the sweet treat is each photo is followed by making-of insights into the creative process. Don’t read on an empty stomach.

Geek Dad: Awesomely Geeky Projects and Activities for Dads and Kids to Share

by Ken Denmead ($17.00, Gotham)

The title pretty much says it all. You’re a geek. You have a kid who’s a geek (or you want to turn your kid into a geek). Read this crafty book for ideas to share your love of science, technology, gadgetry and MacGyver. Engineer and’s Geek Dad editor Ken Denmead offers projects so you and your child can, among other things: 1) launch a video camera with balloons; 2) make the "Best Slip n' Slide Ever”; and 3) build a working lamp with LEGO bricks and CDs. Soon, together, you can rule the galaxy as father and son. Mwahahah!

Ethan Gilsdorf is the author of Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms, now in paperback. Follow his adventures and get more info on this book at

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Perfect Book, Part 4

Niece, nephew, child, grandchild, friend of the younger reader persuasion, still unchecked on your list of gifts to give? Never fear. Our fourth installment in The Perfect Book series focuses on young readers. Here are links to parts one, two, and three.

It's a Book - For the one who can't live with out their electronic devices.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith: Wonderful coming of age story perfect for readers 13 and up.

The Evolution of Calpernia Tate, by Jacqueline Kelly – ages 10-14. Perfect for spunky outdoorsy types who love insects and animals almost as much as their brilliant grandparents.

They Called Themselves the K.K.K: The Birth of An American Terrorist Group by Susan Campbell Bartoletti – Ages 12 and up. A great book for readers curious about race relations and the origins of the KKK. Excellent classroom resource for teachers.

The War to End All Wars, World War I, by Russell Friedman. Ages 12 and up. Perfect for young readers curious about the birth of modern warfare or world history – excellent resource for school book reports!

Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature's Survivors by Joyce Sidman, ages 4-8. A beautifully illustrated picture book read for budding scientists and naturalists.

Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse, by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Josee Massee - For the lover of fairy tales turned upside down, poems or just something a little different. Ages 6 & up.

The Sky is Everywhere, By Jandy Nelson. Great for fans of Sarah Dessen, romance, teen realism, or someone interested in becoming a writer themselves. Ages 14 & up.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Perfect Book, Part 3

Time is running out to get all your gifts for this holiday season. Books are easy to wrap, easy to ship, and need no assembly or 90-day warranties. Here is part 3 of our Perfect Book series. Here are links to part 1 and part 2.

Gardens of the Moon (and sequels) by Steven Erikson: These books will appeal to fans of G R R Martin and lovers of complex, gritty, military fantasies.

The Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susanna Clarke: These short stories will be treasured by lovers of fairy tales and eighteenth-century England.

Little, Big by John Crowley: Perfect for lovers of beautiful language, dreamlike stories, and subtle magics.

The Player of Games (and all the Culture novels) by Iain M. Banks: Just the things for science fiction fans who like grand ideas and witty writing.

Night of the Living Trekkies by Kevin David Anderson: The logical choice for trekkies looking for a laugh.

The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis by Lydia Davis: Perfect for the serious reader of interesting fiction.

Spun by Sorcery (and the sequels) -- Barbara Bretton: For the geeky knitter or the sewing S/F fan this is perfect fit.

Buddha by Karen Armstrong: Perfect for students of religious history and those wanting a clear and balanced account of the Buddha.

The Long Ships by Frans Bengtsson: Perfect for the fan of historical fiction, nautical adventures, and, well, Vikings, and anyone who reads to be transported to a foreign place and time.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol is Charles Dickens distilled to his best. It has the pathos of The Old Curiosity Shop, the humor of the Pickwick Papers, the dark tension of Bleak House, the joy of David Copperfield, and the psychological depth of Great Expectations. In Ebenezer Scrooge Dickens has created, in so short a space, his most memorable character; Scrooge is cunning and surprisingly witty; his transformation is wondrous yet wholly credible, he is equally believable as a capitalist monster and as the giddy soul of generosity.

The Yuletide season seems to have inspired Dickens to go beyond the realities of his other writings. While many of his novels features tall tales and vivid imaginings, his Christmas stories are resplendent with spirits, visions, and magic that give Dickens an even greater license than even his wildest metaphor. And A Christmas Carol is the epitome of this freedom with its ghost of Christmas past, present, and future, and its simple yet compelling vision of an afterlife.

While much of this is captured in the best adaptions of the story (my favourite stars Patrick Stewart), the full joy of the tale can only be found on the page. Dickens' language is so emotive, and he speaks to the reader with such sincerity, that his sorrows catch in the throat, his terrors quicken the pulse, and his joys bring smiles and laughter. William Makepeace Thackeray called A Christmas Carol "a national benefit, and to every man or woman who reads it a personal kindness". It is a kindness which I accept every December with growing gratitude.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Holiday Gift Items at PSB

Porter Square Books is carrying a lovely line of soy wax candles and aromatic fragrance diffusers with scents suggestive of Thoreau, Whitman, Dickens, and Whitman, all attractively boxed for gift giving. Plus, a small tin with scented wax in the same fragrances. All would make thoughtful gifts for the readers on your list, or for yourself.

We're also carrying great gifts from Arghand. Along with their soaps, we're now also carrying their lip balm, body lotion, and face creme. All of Arghand's products are hand made in Afghanistan, with all profits going to the Arghand Cooperative.

For the holidays we have a great assortment of boxed holiday cards, enclosures, and gift wrap. No matter your taste I’m sure you can find just the card from one of the following vendors, Lizzy Boyd, Unicef, Green 2, Sierra Club, Smudge Ink, Great Arrow, Good Cause Greetings, Pomegranate, Mudlark, Borealis Press, Mara Mi and many more. By now, the pile has diminished substantially so don’t wait much longer. Plus, an array of fun and lovely counter cards for the holiday season.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Ebooks Holiday Sale

Porter Square Books is now having an Ebooks Holiday sale. From now until January 31, thousands of ebooks will be 5-45% off the list price including bestsellers like The Autobiography of Mark Twain, The Confession, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest, and Luka and The Fire of Life, as well as titles showing up on end of the year top ten lists like A Visit from the Goon Squad, Super Sad True Love Story, and The Warmth of Other Suns.

If you're giving a digital reading device like an iPad, Sony Reader, Nook, tablet, etc, as a gift this year, we have gift tags that you can download and print out from our Ebooks Holiday Sale page. There are a number of different sizes and varieties that can be included with the card, wrapped with the gift, or attached in an email, as a reminder to your friends and family to shop independent.

For more questions about ebooks, Google ebooks, and digital reading in general, please visit our EBOOKs Resource page, give us call, or just stop in the store.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Interview with Lydia Davis

Lydia Davis is one of the most innovative and important writers of short fiction in contemporary American literature. Her work is playful, funny, insightful, and intelligent. She plays with the form of the short story, stretching and bending and twisting it and should be credited as one of the originators of flash fiction. Along with her Collected Short Stories, her translation of Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert had been released to much acclaim. She has also translated Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust and No Tomorrow by Vivant Denon, and has written the novel The End of the Story. Her short story collection Varieties of Disturbance was a finalist for the National Book Award.

How does an organization of words become a story?

A line or a sentence occurs to me, or even just a sentence containing an idea for a story. Or I discover a line or a sentence in something I'm reading, and see how that could be part of a piece of writing of my own. Usually the germ of a story lies in a piece of language that may be funny at the same time that it's moving, or just odd and unsettling.

How would you define what are often considered the fundamental components of a story; plot and character? Can a story exist without them? Are there ways to define or understand plot and character that limit how we read and write stories?

I like to define the word "story" in a very fluid way, so that it can include a Katherine Mansfield short story, a Flannery O'Connor short story, but also something less traditional, like one of Russell Edson's "poems," as he calls them--really, to my mind, short and bizarre prose narratives of domestic drama. Or Kafka's parables and paradoxes, the short-short stories of J. Robert Lennon or Daniel Grandbois, or the philosophical meditations, logic problems, and one- or two-line narrative suggestions that I've included in my own books of stories alongside more traditional forms. Kafka's paragraph-long story about Alexander the Great includes a character and a minimal plot--a man standing on the bank of a river and deliberating, presumably. Some of my stories, even shorter, have a character, such as the historian Herodotus or a seal, but almost no action. Still, they grow from the impulse to write a story.

In your work, you’ve bent, twisted, stretched, and played with the short story form, to the point where some readers consider you a poet as much as a prose writer. What value do categories like “short story,” “poem,” and “novel” have? Is there a different category that you think better describes your work?

Well, these different categories are handy for moving quickly into a discussion of John Keats or Isaac Babel or Jane Bowles, but there is really a continuum, as I see it, from the longest, most complex novel down to the shortest poem by Emily Dickinson or the contemporary Woodstock poet Sparrow. Its a very rich continuum, and I like to embrace it rather than worry too much about where exactly all those dividing lines fall.

Where do you think the short story can go from here? What exploration is still left for the short story form? What are you hoping the short story will do or look like in the future?

Again, I don't worry too much about that. There seems to be a hunger out there in the reading public for the traditional short story and the traditional novel. I'm not sure that will go away anytime soon. I like the trend I see toward incorporating a lot of reality in fiction, of researching "real" material in order to create believable fictional characters interacting in the aftermath, for instance, of the Chernobyl disaster, as Jim Shepard does; or--another innovation, I think--basing a novel on extensive interviews with a participant in an even more contemporary tragedy, as Dave Eggers does in What is the What.

Why do you think there is that hunger for traditional short stories and novels?

I think people take great comfort in what they're used to, especially in reading, which is often a comforting activity rather than a stimulating one. Writers tend to be more open to stimulation, and more likely to be actively seeking new forms, which is why an innovative writer might tend to be more a "writer's writer." But even we writers find deep enjoyment in reading the traditional forms, which have been developed and refined over time and reach a certain perfection in writers like Flannery O'Connor and Hemingway.

Do you believe, like Flaubert, that there is a “perfect word?” If so, what is the reader’s responsibility to that word, or book of perfect words? How can readers appreciate its perfectness? If not, what should writers strive for instead?

I don't really believe there is a "perfect word," since too often I have seen how many different directions a story can go in, depending on which particular word you set down. A story can always develop in an infinity of different ways. (Like those alternate worlds in Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy--a very powerful notion.) On the other hand, within a story that is nearly finished, that needs just one more read-through, the choices of revision seem to be very limited--and I've experienced the truth of this on those occasions when I take a first draft of a story and revise it, forgetting that I've already revised it elsewhere, and find, when I compare the versions, that the revisions are the same.

How can readers tell how good a translation is if they can’t read the original language?

They really can't. They can tell if it's written in a way they like or don't like, but that doesn't tell them if it is true to the original. I can remember how conflicted I felt doing the final draft of the translation of the opening paragraph of a novel by Pierre Jean Jouve, years ago. The first few sentences of the novel were quite awkward in French, and I reproduced that awkwardness in English knowing that a reviewer might well blame me for the awkwardness, not the author of the original.

Is there a work you would really like to translate?

I've been enjoying translating short pieces of autobiographical fiction (what the French call auto-fiction) written about 90 years ago by the Austrian writer Peter Altenberg. I would like to go on doing short pieces by him and by others from various languages. I would also like to finish an "autobiographical essay," as he called it--a four-volume work--by the French Surrealist Michel Leiris. I did the first two volumes years ago (I called it Rules of the Game in English) and would like to finish the third volume and translate the fourth. Sooner or later. But aside from that, probably no more books--they eat up too much of my life!

Is there a language you wish you understood so you could read the works in the original and if so, which language and which works?

Oh, there are many languages. Russian for Eugene Onegin; Persian for Omar Khayyam; Swahili and Hindi so that I could explore what we Anglophones have been missing all this time. Hungarian, Romanian, Dutch? There is such a wealth of literature that never makes it into English.

What are you reading now?

For fun, Stieg Larsson (like everyone else) and Henning Mankell. Then, I'm just finishing Mary Robison's Why Did I Ever (not that it's a long read, but I've been savoring the language and the humor), I've recently finished Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals, and I'm about to start Roland Barthes Mourning Diary, translated by Richard Howard, and will be at least dipping into the correspondence of Ingeborg Bachmann and Paul Celan, translated by Wieland Hoban.

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Perfect Book, Part 2

The perfect book is a gift that remains important, year after year, read after read. The perfect book becomes more than just a gift, but an event in the lives of the giver and receiver. The perfect book is the start of a new phase in the life of the receiver. Having trouble finding the perfect book? Never fear. Here is part 2 of our The Perfect Book series. Click here to see Part 1.

Virga (and sequels) by Karl Schroeder: Perfect for fans of steampunk, well-thought-out science fiction, piratey action, and intelligent characters.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley: Perfect for readers of 1984, fans of "Brazil", and the connoisseur of dystopias.

Yellow Blue Tibia by Adam Roberts: Just the book for lovers of UFO conspiracies, sardonic wit, and Soviet absurdities.

World War Z by Max Brooks: Perfect for fans of Orson Well's War of the Worlds, harrowing stories of survival, and global apocalypse.

Shark vs Train: For the energetic 3-5 year old (boy, most likely) with a rambunctious imagination.

Mulliner Nights by PG Wodehouse: Perfect for lovers of wit, lightness, and joy.

To Serve Them All My Days by R.F. Delderfield: Perfect for fans of Dickens, school novels, and the English countryside.

This Republic of Suffering by Drew Gilpin Faust: Great work of Civil War history for the American history buff and/or fan of Mary Roach’s Stiff

A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz: Perfect for the rebellious teenager trying to figure out a world that just doesn’t make sense.

Google Editions at Porter Square Book

Starting today, Porter Square Books will be offering Google Editions Ebooks along with our other Ebooks. A Google Ebook is a cloud-based digital book that readers will have access to from almost any device, regardless of where they made their purchase. For example, you can buy a Google Ebook from Porter Square Books on your lunch break at work, read it on your smart phone on the train, and on your home computer when you get there. The Google Ebook will keep your place and will even reformat the Ebook for you so it matches the device that you’re using. But what might be the most exciting is that Google Ebooks will work on the iPad. There is an app coming soon, but for now, simply use your browser to purchase and read Google Ebooks on your iPad.

Google Ebooks are also a great opportunity if you’re not sure you want to do any digital reading. Because you don’t have to purchase any kind of hardware or even download any kind of software you can just give it a try and see if you like it.

To purchase a Google Ebook from us, just search for the book as normal. At the top of the search results will be a number of tabs, “Books,” “Google eBooks,” and “Other eBooks.” Just click on the “Google eBooks” tab and you’ll be taken to the results. Also, every book record will have a list of “Related Editions” of the title. If there is an ebook edition, there will be a link to it in that list. Just click on that link. Click here for a step-by-step explanation of purchasing a Google eBook. There are hundreds of thousands of Ebooks available on our website, from new releases, to bestsellers, to older classics and that list is always growing. For example, you might not be able to get a physical copy of the Autobiography of Mark Twain vol 1 before the holidays, but you can have a Google eBook for it right now.

For more information about Ebooks in general visit our EBOOKS Resource Page on our website, give us a call, or send an email to

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Perfect Book, Part 1

We all know books make great gifts and when it's the perfect book it can be a life changing gift. But finding that elusive title is not always easy. There are just so many out there and they're all designed to say "Buy me! I am the perfect book!" The best way to find the perfect book is to stop by the store and chat with one of our booksellers for a little while. We also have staff picks, featured books on our blog, and reading recommendations on our Facebook page. But many of you will have long lists and be short on time. So we've put together "The Perfect Book," a list of books and their perfect readers to help. We'll be posting these lists throughout the holiday season. And please add your suggestions in the comments.

Blind Descent: The Quest to Discover the Deepest Place on Earth: For the adrenaline junkie who lives on the edge (as well as those who prefer to live vicariously--safely!--through others’ adventures).

French Essence: Ambience, Beauty, and Style in Provence: For the sophisticated Francophile who loves to decorate, cook, and celebrate all things français.

NOMA: For someone who likes to read cookbooks even if they never make a recipe from them or for someone who knows what “cloud berries” are.

George, Nicholas, and Wilhelm: For the Guns of August fan looking for another perspective on the build up to WWI

Sunshine by Robin McKinley: Perfect for Twilight fans looking for a fix.

Rosemary & Rue (and sequels) by Seanan McGuire: Perfect for Urban Fantasy readers and fans of the Dresden Files.

The Children of Hurin by JRR Tolkien: Perfect for lovers of The Silmarillion, Beowulf, and epic poetry.

I Hotel by Karen Tei Yamashita: For the radical young and old looking for a novel with a taste of revolution.

Sailing to Sarantium (and the sequel) by Guy Gavriel Kay: Perfect for fans of fantasy, political intrigue, and Byzantine history.

Lies of Locke Lamora (and the sequel) by Scott Lynch: Perfect for fans of swashbuckling adventure, cunning rouges, and surprises.

More perfect books coming soon.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

How to choose a translation.

Choosing a translation can be a daunting task and a bad translation can turn you off a great novel. So if you don't happen to know a native speaker what are you to do? Here are three steps I have found helpful:

1) Read the translator's preface or introduction. Translation is a complex and difficult process and translators have different methods. Most translators will explain their theories and methods. Some strive for word-for-word exactitude, others seek to recreate the tone of the original; some set the work in its historical context, others update the work. Consider whether you agree with the translator. There is no correct way to translate a novel, it is a matter of taste and as the reader it is your taste that matters.

2) Consider the date of the translation. Like original authors, translators are products of their times. This is especially important with historical translations. Alexander Pope's translation of the Iliad, for instance, is a beautiful work of art but is very much an eighteenth-century retelling of Homer.

3) Carefully read a few passages, including some dialogue. If there are several translations you are considering, read the same passages in each. Do you like the writing? Does it sound right? Can you imagine reading it for several hundred pages? Again this is a matter of personal taste; unless you like the writing you are unlikely to finish the work, and that would be a shame.

And if you can't find a translation you like? Don't read the book. A bad translation of the best book will be a terrible read. Wait for a better translation. There are thousands of books worth reading in the meantime. Of course you could always learn the original language . . .

Finally, here are three translated works that I can enthusiastically recommend:

The Master & Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
translated by Diana Burgin and Katherine Tiernan O'Connor

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevasky
translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky

The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri
translated by John Ciardi

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

75 Years of DC Comics

There's been a lot of buzz ever since Taschen announced a number of months ago they were publishing 75 Years of DC Comics by Paul Levitz, longtime DC Comics editor and publisher. It has just arrived in the store in time for the holidays. Produced in their large format XL edition it is, as they say, "the single most comprehensive book on DC comics" with over 2,000 images reproducing covers, interiors, original illustrations, film stills, collectibles and more. Some interior views can be seen on Taschen's website. Better yet, come into the store and take a look at our display copy firsthand.

Book Donations for Kids in Shelters

It is a very busy time of year, we know. But next time you are in the store, please take a moment to purchase a book for a child, newborn to age 18, and drop it in our donation box. For the last three years, we have been helping the Cambridge Public Library collect new books for kids in transitional housing in the Cambridge area. You will get a 20% discount on any books purchased for this program. The staff at the library then wrap and distribute the books to shelters. One among them houses over 300 kids so the need is great. Thanks in advance for your help.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Carlos Eire

I happened to catch yesterday's broadcast of Fresh Air while sitting in the cell phone lot at the airport. The time passed almost without notice as I listened to Carlos Eire's sonorous voice describe the experience of leaving his homeland, his parents, and all that was familiar to escape Castro's Cuba in 1962. He tells the story in his new book Learning to Die in Miami: Confessions of a Refugee Boy. This can be read in conjunction with Eire's Waiting for Snow in Havana which describes his childhood in Cuba and won the National Book Award in 2003. Either would make a great gift and together they paint a fascinating portrait of a life lived very consciously.

Tree of Codes

The word is spreading about the "new" Jonathan Safran book, Tree of Codes. I say "new" since the novel is created by excising text from the novel Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz. Whatever its merits as a work of fiction, the production of the physical book is impressive (and so also carries an impressive price). New York Magazine just published a short piece with a terrific photo about it that's worth a look. Our original order was shorted by the publisher as the demand for the book outstripped the initial supply so if you would like a copy act soon. A reprint is expected in mid-December.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

NEIBA Holiday Catalog

Every year the New England Independent Booksellers Association puts together a holiday catalog filled with great book recommendations. The catalog is organized into sections featuring suggestions in Cooking, Fiction, People, Nonfiction, Arts, Children’s, and Young Adult. It also highlights the 2010 New England Book Award Winners: Father of the Rain, by Lily King; Let’s Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell; and City Dog, Country Frog by Mo Willems.

You can see the full list here or pick up a physical copy in the store.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Borrowing a Critics's Brain

Too often, I find that contemporary criticism is more interested in proving a particular point than in helping readers deepen their understanding of the book in question. I believe book critics are like park rangers or tour guides in museums; readers don’t need critics to get a lot out of books, but critics provide the skill and knowledge to open up a whole new understanding of books. They give readers the opportunity to see things they otherwise never would have and to do so with a better overall understanding of the context of the book. Though I think there is a lot of value in “making a point” criticism (criticism whose first goal is to convince readers of something in relation to the book in question), I wish there were more general criticism; criticism that demonstrates the kind of exploration that great readers do while they read. (The New York Review of Books is filled with the latter and that's probably why I like it so much.)

One way to understand Declan Kiberd’s Ulysses and Us is as the story of an intelligent sophisticated reader, reading an intelligent and sophisticated book. Kiberd organizes his reading around daily actions that he believes are explored and celebrated in Ulysses; walking, eating, reading, ogling, teaching, etc, but his writing goes beyond a strict adherence to showing that episode X is devoted to mundane activity Y. He essentially allows us a look into his mind as he reads Ulysses; the mind of a Professor of Anglo-Irish Literature at the University College Dublin, of the author of Inventing Ireland: The Literature of the Modern Nation and Irish Classics, and of the editor of The Annotated Students’ Ulysses.

You don’t have to have read Ulysses to enjoy Ulysses and Us and though I always hope more people read Ulysses, Ulysses and Us is interesting even for those with no plans whatsoever to read Joyce’s masterpiece. Kiberd gives us a chance to borrow the brain of a critic and use it to read for a while.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Rut - Concord Free Press

Once again we have an offering of free books from the Concord Free Press. If you follow our posts regularly you might recall that they give away the books they publish only asking that you donate money to a person or organization that needs it and when you've finished the book to pass it along so the giving can continue. Ideally you'll also let them know that you donated on their website so they can keep tally of their impact. To date their readers have donated over $165,000!

This season's title is Rut by Scott Phillips. Stop in right away as it's first come first serve and we only have a case to distribute.

The Walking Dead

Now that AMC has run the first episode of "The Walking Dead" I thought it would be a good time to talk about the source material. AMC's show is based (rather closely it would appear) on a series of graphic novels by Robert Kirkman. There are a dozen volumes so far and the series shows no signs of stopping.

From the very beginning The Walking Dead proves to be a cut above the typical zombie epic. The art is well executed in a realistic style ideally suited to the writing. The writing itself is dramatic, surprising, and tightly paced. Though the characters often wander at a loss the story never does, maintaining a forward momentum that pulls the reader along. Each issue offers new and horrific surprises that will leave readers waiting for the next volume with anticipation and dread. The characterization is almost painfully deep, especially considering the suddenness of some of the many, many deaths. Characters that the reader has watched survive and grow for volumes are suddenly killed with no warning. No one, it seems, is immune and death -- whether it is slow or sudden -- is always catastrophic and harder for the survivors than the dead.

The Walking Dead is a story of hard choices and harsh consequences. The violence comes in sudden shocking bursts and very often the living are worse than the dead. The zombies may be average shamblers but these comics are anything but average.

Keys to Good Cooking

Not a square inch of space was wasted in the production of Keys to Good Cooking: A Guide to Making the Best of Foods and Recipes by Harold McGee. Right on the jacket cover are the chapter headings and the endpapers are packed with invaluable information such conversion charts, target temperatures, substitutions, and often used formulas.

McGee is an authority on the science of cooking and is also the author of On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen and a column for the New York Times, "The Curious Cook".

The above mentioned chapters cover basic material such as kitchen tools; handling food safely; eggs; nuts and oil seeds; coffee and tea; and sauces, stocks and soups to name just a few of the 24 chapters. The material is presented crisply and thoroughly. There is always Bittman and Rombauer and The Silver Palate, but this volume just seems more accessible and informative. It makes a great gift for newlyweds setting up house; for the young grad starting out on his/her own; or for any cook whose working library lacks a volume with just enough chemistry to keep it really interesting.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Dig This Best of Boston Award

Porter Square Books has been nominated for a 2010 Dig This Best of Boston award for Best New Books Bookstore. Click here to take the survey and vote for us.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Halloween Reads

With Halloween just over the next tombstone, there are a few newly published books that are worthy of attention:

The Book of the Living Dead -- edited by John Richard Stephens.
This fascinating collection of horror stories contains works by such masters as Poe, Lovecraft, Goethe, and Mary Shelley. But the real worth of this collection are the unexpected stories by writers such as Mark Twain, Jack London, Sir Walter Scott, and Alexander Pushkin. There is even a news piece by the Evening Telegram entitled "the Corpse that Ran Away". This book is great fun and full of creepy classics and shocking surprises.

Handling the Undead -- John Ajvide Lindqvist
After the success of his vampire novel, Let the Right One In, Swedish author Lindqvist applies the same psychological scrutiny to zombies. Following a string of unusual events in the city of Stockholm, the newly dead have begun to rise. But these are not faceless hordes but loved ones taken and now horribly returned. A beautiful, haunting book, Handling the Undead is not so much about the zombies as those who mourned them.

Dead City -- Joe McKinney
Of course, maybe you prefer your zombies with less depth and more gore. In which case you should check out Dead City. Reeling from an incredible five hurricanes in three weeks the Texas Gulf Coast suddenly finds itself awash not just in dead bodies but undead bodies! Yes, along with sewage and FEMA trailers these storms bring a mysterious zombie plague and it's up to one San Antonio cop to save the day. Packed with suspense, violence, and bloody mayhem, Dead City is a solid entry into the ever-growing horde of zombie novels.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Google Editions and Porter Square Books

This summer Google and the American Booksellers Association (ABA) announced a partnership to distribute Google Editions through independent bookstore websites. Google Editions is Google’s foray into eBooks and many ABA members, including Porter Square Books, will be selling Google Editions eBooks from our websites when the service is launched.

Google Editions eBooks can be read on any device that connects to the Internet either through a browser or an app. This means that you could read eBooks purchased from Porter Square Books or your local independent bookstore on an Ipad, Iphone or other smart phone, tablet, laptop computer, desktop computer, or even other dedicated digital reading devices (except the Kindle). Furthermore, you’ll be able to read the same book on multiple devices. Since the file will be stored in the “cloud” or rather, on Google’s servers instead of on your device, you’ll be able to access it from anywhere and Google will recognize the device you are using and format the book to fit the device. This means that you could start reading the book on your laptop and continue it on your iPhone.

If you’re interested in trying digital reading, Google Editions will be a great opportunity because, not only will you not have to buy anything, you also won’t need to download any other programs. So you can support your local independent bookstore and give digital reading a try. Here is more information about the launch of Google Editions. And for more information about ereading in general visit our Ebooks Resources page.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

New Audio Week of October 4th

The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo read by Juliet Stevenson

The Search for Wondla by Tony Diterlizzi read by Teri Hatcher

The Moral Landscape by Sam Harris read by the author

Painted Ladies by Robert Parker read by Joe Mantegna

At Home by Bill Bryson read by the author

The False Friend by Myla Goldberg read by the author

Dewey by Vicki Myron read by Susan McInerney

Oogy by Larry Levin read by Joe Barrett

Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow read by Scott Brick


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Long Attention Span is Not Dead

Bound up in the debates and discussions around digital reading and the more general effects of media on the reading experience (Hi, Philip Roth!) is the idea of attention span. Of course, I have no doubt that attention spans have been shrinking in the last few decades (and I would argue TV already did the most damage and texting, twittering, and other small bite social media are just exploiting and exacerbating the new human attention) but this hasn't stopped some authors from churning out huge books. The Millions posted an article a few weeks ago that deals more thoroughly with this topic but I just wanted to highlight two big books on our shelves now that might be worth your attention.

The biggest of the big is The Instructions by Adam Levin. A 1,030 page behemoth is described thusly by the publishers: "Beginning with a chance encounter with the beautiful Eliza June Watermark and ending, four days and nine hundred pages later, with the Events of November 17, this is the story of Gurion Maccabee, age ten: lover, fighter, scholar, and potential messiah. Expelled from multiple Jewish day-schools for acts of violence and back-talk, Gurion ends up in the Cage, a special lockdown program for the most hopeless cases of the Aptakisic Junior High. Separated from his scholarly followers, Gurion becomes a leader of a very different sort, with righteous aims building to a revolution of troubling intensity."

I'm currently reading and loving Witz by Joshua Cohen, an ambitious, funny, dangerous, linguistically playful intellectually dense 817 pages about a mysterious plague that wipes out all of the Jews on Christmas Eve 1999 (though I'm almost 150 pages in and have only sort of encountered the plague) with the exception of first born males. What happens, though, is far less important than how it is told, and Witz has the narrative ambition of Joyce's Ulysses.

And if you're looking for a door stop vetted by time there are a few classics in the genre; Infinite Jest, Underworld, Gravity's Rainbow, and the doorstop to end all doorstops the seven volume In Search of Lost Time (or Remembrance of Things Past).

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Part 2 of our Interview with Christopher Higgs

Below is part 2 of our interview with Christopher Higgs, author of the The Complete Works of Marvin K. Mooney. To read Part 1 click here.

Your Marvin K. Mooney joins a long list of writers as characters/heroes in literature. What can writer characters say about life in general? Is there something universal about the challenges that writer characters (and, thus, writers) face?

Again, I don’t believe in artistic novels saying anything about life in general. I also don’t believe in universals of any kind, except maybe the universal fact that the Los Angeles Lakers are the greatest basketball team in the NBA. (Sorry, Celtics fans.) Other than that, I resist the reduction of singularities to generalities, particulars to universals. I affirm difference, as a general rule.

As a writer, I cannot say anything to anyone; all I can do is produce and present my work. This is the major error sign that pops up in the eyes of undergraduates when you explain to them the intentional fallacy. They, like most of us, were taught the Hegelian model of aesthetic purpose: that authors intend to say something with their works, intend to send a message, and that the job of the reader is to decipher that message. I adamantly disagree. As Nabokov famously put it, “I leave my messages at the post.” In other words, if I wanted to say something about life I would write philosophy or write for a newspaper. Journalists say stuff about life, artists do not. Artists make shit and people view it and that is all. We get in trouble when we start assuming significance where no significance resides, or when we start to think that art is a means to an end rather than an end unto itself. It’s like the young man who has a one night stand with a woman and then waits anxiously by the phone every night for the rest of the week waiting for her to call him – she’s not going to call! It was meaningless. It was just a fun time. It was an end unto itself. It was just a one night stand. Art is just a one night stand. Art is fun and that is all. Art is not a long term relationship. Art is not significant, which is what makes it significant.

If more people would come on board with this way of thinking, we could get a lot more out of art and a lot more out of life; but alas, the human creature is sick with this ugly disease that makes it desire meaning, crave meaning, want meaning, need meaning in everything, and this same human creature will gladly go insane giving meaning to meaningless things at every turn at all costs and therefore unhappiness always has and always will plague our species. Yikes! This answer took a somber turn. I need to add some levity…have you heard the one about the Platonist and the deconstructionist who walk into a massage parlor?

Is this human desire for stable, specific meaning inherent or constructed, or has the difference between the two collapsed? If it’s inherent what is gained when art pushes against the desire? If it’s constructed, who constructed it, how was it constructed, and to what end was it constructed?

The only things I believe to be inherent are biological conditions: morphogenetic principles guiding organisms toward nourishment and procreation. All else is culture. Who constructed our desire for stability, specific meaning, etcetera? Unknown. We are all simulacra. We are all part of a system that created a system from a system that is pure trace. I could point to Aristotle, which is what I tend to like to do: blame everything on Aristotle for codifying the principles of storytelling in his wretched Poetics, but the truth is that Aristotle only codified what always already existed.

So the closest thing we can come to in terms of an identifiable culprit is Aristotle: he who codified the system. But Aristotle is more than the codifier. He represents the worship of cosmos (order); while art represents the worship of chaos (disorder). Aristotle represents society; while art represents nomadology. It takes an exertion of cultural force to create and maintain order -- the benefit of which is perceived safety: order is safe while chaos is scary. This idea is ingrained in the human animal. Art challenges that which is ingrained by exciting the freeplay of the imagination – imagination is chaos, imagination is creation, imagination offers escape from the real while entertainment binds us to it. Order and chaos are the yin and yang of everything -- wow, I never thought this answer would go all Chinese philosophical, but here I am saying "order : meaning :: chaos : mystery". Order makes sense. Chaos does not make sense. Order is logical. Chaos is paradoxical. Order is convention. Chaos is experimentation. I like this train of thought, but have to stop here or I might start producing some haiku, which would be so embarrassing that it would surely cause my Alma Mater to revoke my MFA.

Are contemporary novels that experiment with the forms of storytelling, inherently post-modern novels? Have we moved into a different era? Are terms like “post-modern” or “literary realism” or anything else useful in helping readers get more out of the books they read?

Critics made a big, huge, monstrous mistake affixing the prefix “post” to everything –“postmodern” “poststructuralist” “post-avant” – because it puts us in an apocalyptic position. I mean, what are we supposed to do now? Where are we supposed to go from there? “(Post)postmodern” literature? The whole critical obsession with the prefix “post” is just so bloody unfortunate. (I actually take it to signify the critic’s death impulse.) Also, attempting to affix temporal signification to terms like “postmodern” continues to prove problematic in the face of overwhelming evidence supporting the argument that “postmodern” literature can be identified further and further into our past. It’s hard to think of Diderot as a “postmodern” (read: after modern) author, given that he wrote Jacques the Fatalist in 1765, or Sterne who wrote Tristram Shandy in 1759, but both of those texts display strikingly postmodern tropes, most notably the element of metafiction. Or what about Don Quixote, probably the most postmodern book ever written, published in 1605 & 1615?

I would put it another way, I’d say contemporary novels that experiment with form are inherently experimental. Experimentation has always and will always exist as one current, a progressive current, a current compelled to produce difference, which competes with at least one other current: a conservative current that desires the reproduction of sameness. Understanding that these two currents exist, that there are texts attempting to dispel convention as well as those attempting to recuperate convention, and learning how to distinguish these two types could certainly help readers get more out of the books they read. If, for example, one picks up The Complete Works of Marvin K. Mooney expecting it to enact conventional literary techniques, then that reader will undoubtedly be disappointed. But, on the other hand, if that same person picks up the same book with the knowledge that there are certain books that purposefully attempt to deviate from the convention, then the reader is much more equipped to handle the book and might therefore be quite satisfied with it.

What needs to happen for people to start reading more daring and risky fiction?

Okay, here comes my soapbox rant: I believe there will come a day, relatively soon in fact, when experimental literature is the dominate current. I foresee this being a consequence of the dwindling number of readers plus the desire of those remaining readers to be challenged in imaginative ways. I foresee a future where literature becomes more purely an art form and less a means of entertainment. Already we see this tendency: television and videogames far surpass books as the source of entertainment sought by young people. The role of books is changing. The era of “reading a good book for entertainment” is coming to an end. I teach undergraduates, and I can tell you first hand that even those who are majoring in English are reading very little for pleasure – not to mention the seeming nonexistence of pleasure readers outside the English major. Eventually, the internet will phase books out of the entertainment industry all together. Harry Potter and Twilight were two of the industry’s last gasps. What has come to fill the lacuna? I’m afraid there will not be a replacement. King, Grisham, Brown, those mass market paperback writers will find that in one generation’s time their audience will have vanished. Even, I would wager, the mega-dollar romance industry, will come to an end with the passing of the baby-boomer generation. I just don’t see Millennials reading for entertainment the same way as previous generations.

But rather than viewing this negatively, I think we should consider it as a positive move. Small independent bookstores, like Porter Square Books, will thrive by virtue of their affinity with the movement of the market toward an embrace of the experimental, toward a foregrounding of art over entertainment, while mega-entertainment-center-bookstores like Blorders or Barnes & Ignoble will soon sink because they cling to the sinking ship of entertainment and refuse to embrace the unconventional, the hard-to-categorize, the experimental. Literature will transform. We will see it happen. And that sounds pretty exciting.

What are you reading now?

For fun I’m reading Steven Moore’s The Novel: An Alternative History, Francois Dosse’s Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari: Intersecting Lives, and two by Steven Shaviro Without Criteria: Kant, Whitehead, Deleuze, and Aesthetics & The Cinematic Body.

I’ve recently received and am eagerly anticipating Tom McCarthy’s C, Stephanie Barber’s these here separated to see how they standing alone or the soundtracks of six films by stephanie barber, Alissa Nutting’s Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls, Tao Lin’s Richard Yates, and Ben Spivey’s Flowing in the Gossamer Fold, to name just a few of the new additions to my “must read soon” stack.

For school I’m teaching a course on experimental short fiction, for which I am right now re-reading Julio Cortazar’s Cronopios and Famas; I’m also teaching a course on the lyric essay, for which I’m re-reading John D’Agata’s Next American Essay anthology; all in addition to finishing my last year of Ph.D. coursework, for which I’m right now reading Smollett’s translation of Don Quixote, Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, Linda Hutcheon’s Narcissistic Narrative, and a bunch of theory on “the poetics of everyday life.”

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Ilan Stavans

In anticipation of Ilan Stavans' visit here on October 12th at 7 pm, we
sent him a few questions, which he promptly answered, with regard to
the NEW Norton Anthology of Latino Literature of which he is the
editor. If you missed his recent appearance with Tom Ashbrook on On Point, check it out AND be here on October 12 for an encore performance.

What does the creation of a literary canon do for a culture, especially
after there has been so much debate over the last few decades on the
validity of canons at all?

A: A canon is a map. It isn’t a replica of a portion of our cultural landscape but its chart. A canon
is also a portable library, suggesting where to place our reading attention. Itisn ’t prescriptive but descriptive. Loving and hating canons is essential to democracy. To make canons is dangerous but danger is a feature in most of what we do in life. Being an academic, for instance, is dangerous too.

Q: Do you even see this book as a canon?

A: Yes.

Q: What's the best way for a reader to approach literature written by a different culture?

A: A different culture according to whom? Latinos in the United States aren’t a different culture. We shouldn’t be: numbering close to 50 million (the demographic data of the 2010 U.S. Census should be reaching us fairly soon), roughly one of every six people in this country has Hispanic background: William Carlos Williams was Latino. There are Latinos in the Bush family. One of our Supreme Court Justices is Latina and so is Dora the Explorer. In other words, Latinos are part and parcel of the experiment called America. By the way, all literature, no matter where it comes from, is about difference, just as every writer, even those trapped in a monolingual
cell, write in translation.

Q: To put this in another way, how should a white American read the works in this anthology?

A: As any other reader hopefully should: with curiosity. The rest—hypnotizing the reader—is up to the book. Of course, the anthology has a total word count of 1,403,804. It features 201 writers in almost 2,700 pages, accompanied by 3,271 footnotes. It took the team 13 years to complete. Maybe the ideal reader of The Norton Anthology of Latino Literature is the same as that of James Joyce’sFinnegans Wake. When Time magazine asked Joyce, who had spent 17 years I think composing the novel, how much he expected the common reader to invest in the act—and
art—of reading it, he answered: 17 years. I’m equally modest…

Q: Of all the authors this anthology should introduce to the general
public, is there one you think deserves particular attention from the
reading public?

A: Yes, but I’m not telling. Otherwise I would be creating a canon within the canon, which seems to me redundant.

Q: Who would you say is the most accessible?

A: Accessibility is a mirage. A fine piece of writing finds its own reader.

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