Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Kevin Young Primer

On February 7, Kevin Young, one of America’s great living poets will be reading at Porter Square Books. This is an event not to be missed for fans of poetry and of contemporary American literature in general. Kevin Young’s style mixes a roots blues sensibility, with the intensity of gospel music, and a broad artistic imagination to produce unique and powerful works of poetry. Young’s collections are usually organized around particular themes giving them an almost novelistic coherence. If you’re not familiar with Kevin here’s a quick primer on his work.

To Repel Ghosts: The Remix, is a poetic reimagining of the life of graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat as a concept album. Art, class, race, drugs, painting, and poetry all converge in a powerful exploration of what it means to create.

Jelly Roll was a staff pick here a few years ago. Drawing on the the legacy of the great blues pioneer Jelly Roll Morton, Young invents a shimmying, comic, low-down, and high-hearted language. Discovering Jelly Roll is like passing a random bar with live music and turning in, on a whim and loving it, shaking your head and saying, “Hell, yeah.”

In Black Maria, Young bends another conventional form of expression into a totally new kind of work. Black Maria is a gritty noir movie as poetry collection. A twisting tale of suspicion, passion, mystery, and the city, Young channels the world of detective movies, picking up its lingo and dark glamour in five “reels” of poetry–the adventures of a “soft-boiled” private eye, known as A.K.A. Jones, and an ingenue turned femme fatale, Delilah Redbone. We follow Jones and Delilah through a maze of aliases and ambushes, sex and suspicions, fast talk and hard luck, in Shadowtown where noir characters abound. The Killer, The Gunsel, The Hack, The Director, The Champ, and The Snitch are among the local luminaries and beautiful losers who mingle with Jones and his elusive lady as they stalk one another through the scenes of the poet’s dazzling “treatment.”

For the Confederate Dead, a twist on Robert Lowell’s famous poem For the Union Dead, won the 2007 Quill Award in Poetry. In this passionate collection, Kevin Young takes up a range of African American griefs and passages. For the Confederate Dead finds Young, more than ever before, in a poetic space that is at once public and personal. In the marvelous "Guernica," Young's account of a journey through Spain blends with the news of an American lynching, prompting him to ask, "Precious South, / must I save you, / or myself?" In this surprising book, the poet manages to do a bit of both, embracing the contradictions of our "Confederate" legacy and the troubled nation where that legacy still lingers.

Begun as a reflection on family and memory, Dear Darkness became a book of elegies after the sudden death of the poet's father, a violent event that silenced Young with grief until he turned to rhapsodizing about the food that has sustained him and his Louisiana family for decades. Flavorful, yet filled with sadness, these stunningly original odes—to gumbo, hot sauce, crawfish, and even homemade wine—travel adeptly between slow-cooked tradition and a new direction, between everyday living and transcendent sorrow.

In The Art of Losing, Young has introduced and selected 150 devastatingly beautiful poems that embrace the pain and heartbreak of mourning. The Art of Losing is the ideal gift for a loved one in a time of need and for use by ministers, rabbis, and palliative care workers who tend to those who are experiencing loss.

His newest book is Ardency, and tells the story of the Africans who mutinied onboard the slave ship Amistad. Written over twenty years, this poetic epic—part libretto, part captivity epistle—makes the past present, and even its sorrows sing.

Kevin Young reads with us on February 7, at 7pm.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Featured SF/F Author: Orson Scott Card

Orson Scott Card is best know as the author of Ender's Game, which along with its sequel Speaker for the Dead won both the Nebula Award and the Hugo Award. He went on to write 10 Ender novels, one short story collection, and there is at least one more novel forthcoming. The chronology of the novels are a bit complicated. As a public service I'll list the chronology (and pub. date) of the novels here:

* Ender's Game (1985), Ender's Shadow (1999), and A War of Gifts (2007) all take place at the same time and should probably be read in this order.

* Xenocide (1991)

? Shadows in Flight (forthcoming)

Card's other award-winning series is The Tales of Alvin Maker, an alternate history of the American frontier heavily influenced by American myths and folklore. Unlike the Ender books the Maker novels are chronological published. They are: Seventh Son, Red Prophet, Prentice Alvin, Alvin Journeyman, Heartfire, The Crystal City, and Master Alvin (forthcoming).

A prolific author, Card has written many other books and short stories including The Homecoming Saga, the Hidden Empire books (as author and editor), The Women of Genesis, and many others.

His newest books Pathfinder and The Lost Gate both concern young men who, like Ender, must master their unique gifts. They are cross-over young adult novels.

On a sadder note, Orson Scott Card suffered a mild stroke on January 1st, 2011. He is now recovering at home.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

New Audio Week of 1/10/11

A bumper crop this week. Enjoy!

Poser: My Life in Twenty-three Yoga Poses
Claire Dederer

The Knife of Never Letting Go: Chaos Walking: Book One Patrick Ness

Will Grayson, Will Grayson John Green, David Levithan

Inner Circle Brad Meltzer

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother Amy Chua

Clara and Mr. Tiffany Susan Vreeland

The Squeaky Wheel: Complaining the Right Way.... Guy Winch

Conversations with Myself Nelson Mandela

This I Believe Jay Allison

Our Kind of Traitor John le Carre

Wise Blood Flanner O'Connor

Nudge: Improving Decisions.... Richard H. Thaler

A Visit from the Goon Squad Jennifer Egan

Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris Graham Robb

The Long Walk Slavomir Rawicz

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Darwyn Cooke’s Parker

Richard Stark’s Parker is one of American crime writing’s iconic characters. However you choose to assess the character, his stories are a lot of fun to read. It is always a challenge to adapt a popular character or story into another medium, especially when you adapt a book into, well, anything else. There is no easier way to make a lot of enemies than badly adapt a beloved (though that’s probably not the right term for Parker) story.

Darwyn Cooke adapted the first Parker novel The Hunter last year and absolutely nailed it. The style of art looks like an edgier version of Eisner’s The Spirit, or perhaps a more sophisticated version of Dick Tracy, using the expected style of past noir comics without relying or parodying them. The faded coloring makes you feel like you’re watching The Big Sleep, or some other classic noir without being completely in black and white. Perhaps the greatest success in the adaptation are the wordless panels that perfectly evoke Richard Stark’s blisteringly fast-paced prose. No matter what is happening in those frames, they vibrate with narrative energy.

Now Cooke’s Parker is back with The Outfit, an adaptation of the third novel by Richard Stark. Cooke decided to skip The Man with the Getaway Face, because he wanted to get to some of the other stories. If Cooke continues the series the way he started, we may one day talk about his Parker, with the other great crime comics series, like Ed Brubaker’s Criminal, Brian Azzarello’s 100 Bullets, and Frank Miller’s Sin City.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Help with Our Ebooks Presentation

On February 24, at 7pm, Porter Square Books will be hosting/facilitating an educational presentation about ebooks, dealing with all aspects of digital reading, from its effect on independent bookstores, to how to purchase ebooks through our website, to general questions about digital reading. But we need your help. We want to do some short sections on the various ereading devices, but we don’t have the time (or the money) to familiarize ourselves with all of them. Do you have an iPad, Nook, Sony Reader or other digital reading device? Would you like to give a short presentation on the device? If you are interested please get in touch with Josh, our online presence manager with an email to

For more information about ebooks visit our EBOOKs resource page. And don’t forget, our ebooks holiday sale is still going on. Thousands of titles are 5-45% off from now until January 31.

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