Tag Archives: neil gaiman

Books Beyond the Veil

Since we’re a bookstore, we like to think of libraries as our cousins…non-identical cousins. Kissing cousins? Maybe. We welcome suggestions on how best to clarify and define this unique relationship. But ANYWAY, our awesome cousins have been the centers of some interesting action lately. Take the New York Public Library at 42nd Street, which despite valiant efforts in the ’80s, still seems to be suffering from a bit of a ghost problem:

(It’s also facing severe budget cuts; check out the behind-the-scenes info on how Improv Everywhere staged its bust and is helping to raise awareness for the library here.)

While we’re straddling the line between dimensions (and taking care not to cross the streams), we’d also recommend checking out The Hypothetical Library, where designer Charles Orr creates beautiful and eerie jackets for imaginary works by real authors. The latest is for Neil Gaiman‘s If You Read This Book the World Will End. So perhaps it is a good thing that it’s not a real book. Because, if it were, wouldn’t you be tempted?

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New Gods in Action

It’s not too late to join in on the inaugural One Book, One Twitter (@1b1t2010) party. Like the very cool One Book, One City program, the idea is to get an entire community reading and discussing a single work. In this case, the community is digital, and the book is Neil Gaiman‘s American Gods. You can view the full discussion schedule here.

Speaking of Neil Gaiman, he’s one of the many interesting people featured in this video for The American Library Association’s Choose Privacy week. This is an important issue for librarians, booksellers, and readers of all kinds. Check it out!

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The Game Is Afoot

Bookgasm has got the scoop on one of our favorite Dumb Book Stories in a long time. It seems the highly reputable business depicted above has sadly closed, due to involvement in a Ponzi scheme. “The name of the guy filing motions for the sale of Sure Lock’s assets? Moriarty!” So truth is stranger than fiction. Or truth steals all its best bits from fiction, anyway.

Meanwhile, we were amused when we saw that Neil Gaiman had posted on his Twitter that this Which Crazy Writer Are You? quiz claims he’s Tom Wolfe. Then we took it and discovered that we’re J.D. Salinger. We’d be disturbed by this level of accuracy, but we’re too busy packing up shop and moving to our compound in New Hampshire. (That said, we’d still be amused if you posted your results here.)

We could probably find some obscure and clever way to pretend the above two items are related, but they are not. Neither is Jon Stich in Oakland’s reading of Ferrucio Brugnaro’s “Buy, Always Consume,” but it is eerie and awesome:

Check out the full archive of poetry videos here!

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Travel Far, Pay No Fare

This cool post about literature that inspires travel inspired us to think about some of our favorite armchair adventures!

I spent one summer, one very long summer, reading Marcel Proust‘s Swann’s Way, getting wrapped up in the reverie and romance of 20th-century Paris, wanting to walk alongside his characters (or maybe a little bit behind them) down the Champs Elysees. I read the book in my backyard, waiting for the day I’d see Paris. The time finally came, and Paris for the most part lived up to my high expectations. Except for the Champs Elysees. I don’t think Proust’s avenue was lined with shoe stores and posh boutiques, was it? — Geo

When I was in elementary school I read Marjorie Braymer’s The Walls of Windy Troy: A Biography of Heinrich Schliemann, about the archaeologist who unpredictably located the actual legendary city of Troy. It lit my imagination so brightly that for the next five years or so I wanted to be an archaeologist. I started reading mythology, histories of the ancient Mediterranean, and the novels of Mary Renault. All of this helped to create an imaginary Mediterranean world that I was certain I would one day visit. In college, I took a semester in Vienna and went to Greece on spring break, spending two weeks by train, boat, bus, and ferry traveling through nearly all the parts of the country I’d been vividly imagining since childhood. I was accompanied by my new favorite book on Greece, The Blue Guide, which opened up a world of travel guides to me. — John Evans

Joanna Kavenna‘s The Ice Museum, which tracks her present-day search for the land of Ultima Thule (the mythical Northern land first described by Pliny the Elder), is both a travelogue and a brooding tribute to the icy North. I’ve been to a few of the remote locales in this book (most notably Iceland), but it made me want to visit nearly all the others—Greenland, the northern coast of Norway, Svalbard, and particularly the Estonian island of Saaremaa, where Kavenna stands at the very spot that may have spawned the word “Thule.” It’s a fantastic read for anyone who, like me, has a bit of Tolkien-esque nostalgia for the mysterious lands of bygone eras. — John Peck

Paul Auster‘s books had been recommended to me before, but it wasn’t until City of Glass was heavily campaigned to me by the cute girl at the coffee shop two doors down that I decided to give Auster a shot. The story of a phone call to the wrong person set in New York City, this novel was so good I had to do two things upon finishing: 1) Buy everything Paul Auster has ever written and 2) Go to New York City. — Jon Stich

By Night in Chile, one of Roberto Bolano‘s shorter novels, flings you into a variety of new worlds. With great design, he sporadically jumps between the bucolic, metropolitan, and holy orders of Chilean cities and European countries. It’s always a god-awful hour as you’re murmuring and shouting among the political and literary circles of Chillán, Santiago, or La-bas. Dark evenings where night classes on communism are underway for men of the Chilean interior. Patios and endless paragraphs are overgrown with lush South American foliage. The Araucaria trees stand proudly. The bird life has not completely fled the industrial noise of humans and quick European trips across the old landscapes steer into cathedrals and monasteries protected by menacing falcons (not to mention the falconers themselves). A great trip through winding cities and the labyrinthine mind of Bolano. — Thomas

Neil Gaiman‘s Neverwhere is about an entirely fictional place: a mysterious, magical second London that exists beneath its streets and in its forgotten places, a London of everything—and everyone—that’s ever fallen through the cracks. London Below may not be real, but Gaiman’s descriptions of the (real enough) neighborhoods the characters visit are intensely vivid, to the point where even their names become imbued with special meaning: Blackfriars, Earl’s Court, Islington, Hammersmith, Knightsbridge. When I finally got to go to London—my white umbrella with a map of the Underground on it stuffed into my bag, of course—I found myself shivering pleasantly every time I passed a place-name I recognized, as if I’d brushed up against the uncanny. — Anna

Continue on your voyage with Cheryl in Brentwood’s recitation of Sylvia Plath‘s “Soliloquy of the Solipsist”:

Check out the full archive of poetry videos here!

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Touched by an Angel

It’s official: angels are the new vampires. The awesome folks at Bookslut are even announcing it (based on the existence of Danielle Trussoni’s new novel Angelology), so you know it’s true. In celebration of this deeply significant cultural shift, here are some of our favorite books featuring the heavenly host.

Eternal by Cynthia Leitich Smith
This book’s got it all—angels and vampires! In this wonderfully wry YA novel, guardian angel Zachary is demoted after he lets his charge, Miranda—who has made his duties very pleasurable, particularly at “shower time”—get turned into a vampire. Shenanigans ensue, but it’s not all fang-flashing fun and games: as funny as this book is, Smith doesn’t give her bloodsuckers a free moral pass. This is the perfect transitional novel from sharp teeth to shiny pinions.

Angels on Fire by Nancy A. Collins
Struggling artist Lucy finds a fallen angel on her roof, as one does. What we like best about this book is its unusual depiction of heaven and its servants: there’s a clockwork, steampunky vibe to the world the angel Joth inhabits before his tumble. It’s fun getting to watch him discover our world—and himself.

His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
Angels aren’t the focus of this controversial trilogy, though an extremely memorable pair do appear in The Amber Spyglass, the final volume. But besides being a thrilling and imaginative fantasy set in a brilliantly conceived alternate world (the concept of dæmons is so ingenious that, since it didn’t exist, Pullman had to invent it), these books are about some of the biggest questions out there, and are an awesome (in the original sense) reimagining of the battle between Heaven and Hell.

Paradise Lost by John Milton
Of course, this classic version of those events is pretty awesome (let’s go revised version), too. And it’s surprisingly readable. When contemplating Paradise Lost, we always like to think about William Blake‘s classic remark from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: Milton, Blake says, “was a true poet and of the Devils party without knowing it.” (For some bonus Blake, check out yesterday‘s National Poetry Month selection!)

Hellblazer by various authors, Lucifer by Mike Carey, and Preacher by Garth Ennis
Angels in comic book form! In none of these books are these your grandmomma’s angels—unless your grandma was pretty sick and twisted. However, despite being deliberately shocking, all three of these series are frequently theologically fascinating. And a lot of asses get kicked and wing feathers shed, too.

The Vintner’s Luck by Elizabeth Knox
In the early part of the 19th century, a young winemaker named Sobran sees an angel out in the field behind his house. Sobran and the angel, Xas, talk for a while, and eventually agree to meet every year on the same night. Through the years of Sobran’s mortal life, their bond grows. Knox’s rich prose is seductive, and the relationship between the characters is beautiful and nuanced. It’s a gorgeous and unusual love story.

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett
Um, best angel book ever? Aziraphale—angel, oenophile, rare book dealer, and “gayer than a tree full of monkeys on nitrous oxide”—teams up with his demon BFF Crowley to stop the apocalypse in the form of four motorcycle-riding “horsemen” and a young antichrist named Adam who just wants to save the whales. This book is hilarious, and in general a thing of great, irrepressible joy. Read it; we have faith that you’ll feel the same.

And if you’re still not feeling fully blessed after that, here’s Oakland’s Karen reading Brian Teare‘s “The Love Poem”:

Check out the full archive here!

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The Ten Random Books Meme

Anna in Brentwood reports:

Being a cutting-edge type of person, I thought I’d do a meme that almost everyone else in the universe was doing months ago. But I’m bringing it back! It’s going to be the leggings of internet book memes!

1.) Go to your bookshelves…
2.) Close your eyes. If you’re feeling really committed, blindfold yourself.
3.) Select ten books at random. Use more than one bookcase, if you have them, or piles by the bed, or… basically, wherever you keep books.
4.) Use these books to tell us about yourself – where and when you got them, who got them for you, what the book says about you, etc.
5.) Have fun! Be imaginative. Doesn’t matter if you’ve read them or not – be creative. It might not seem easy to start off with, and the links might be a little tenuous, but I think this is a fun way to do this sort of meme.
6.) Feel free to cheat a bit, if you need to…

It was hard for me to be truly random, as I sort my books by subject and alphabetize them—which says something about me right there. (Paging The Subconscious Shelf…) So here’s a blind grab from some of the bigger shelves:

1. The View From the Seventh Layer by Kevin Brockmeier
This was actually one of my staff recs for a while, joining a proud tradition of weird books I have a hard time convincing people to take a chance on. (Hello, The Sparrow!) It’s a short story collection, and two of the tales still really stand out for me: “The Lady With the Pet Tribble,” which is the world’s most literary piece of Star Trek fanfiction, and “The Human Soul as a Rube Goldberg Device: A Choose Your Own Adventure Story.” The latter still wows me with how original and twisty and weird it is; it’s also what got me interested in reading Italo Calvino.

2. Weathercock by Glen Duncan
I bought this in a little used bookshop in Camden Town on my first day in London; I’d gone from the airport to my hostel and then directly to Camden to buy a pair of Doc Martens, in something like my 36th hour without sleep. I didn’t end up liking this book very much (Duncan’s I, Lucifer is better), but I don’t ever want to get rid of it because it helps me remember that tiny little shop by the canal.

3. The Sagittarius Command by R.M. Meluch
Space opera! I love space opera, or as I like to call such books, Adventures in spaaaaaaaaace! Lois McMaster Bujold‘s Vorkosigan Saga is still my favorite space opera series, but Meluch’s books come close.

4. Voyage Along the Horizon by Javier Marías
Marías is a relatively recent discovery for me—I still can’t properly, consistently pronounce his name. My coworker Thomas and I both got into him around the same time because we read his thrilling and darkly funny novella, Bad Nature, Or With Elvis in Mexico. Voyage Along the Horizon is my third Marías: it’s one of his earliest, written when he was only 21, which makes me feel old and unaccomplished. I’m slowly working my way up to reading his 1,000-page epic, Your Face Tomorrow.

5. The Truelove by Patrick O’Brian
Huh, another sea story! I totally owe my passion for seafaring adventures to Patrick O’Brian. I read all 20 of his Aubrey-Maturin books in less than a year, back in, uh. 2004, I think. I still adore them, and very little historical fiction can come close to charming me quite so much. (Though Naomi Novik‘s Temeraire series is up there!) This particular book is the 15th in the series, and I mostly remember it as being the one to (in)famously contain the line, “Pray take off your breeches and bend over that locker,” said Stephen.

6. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
My favorite Hemingway, perhaps the only Hemingway I truly love. I’m much more of a Fitzgerald girl, really. Though along with the last line of The Great Gatsby, I know the final words of The Sun Also Rises by heart. (“Isn’t it pretty to think so?”) This is a party trick absolutely nobody asks me to perform.

7. Don’t You Have Time to Think? by Richard P. Feynman
I like to call Richard Feynman my dead physicist boyfriend. (This is to differentiate him from all my other imaginary boyfriends.) From the moment I read Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman, I absolutely adored him: his humor, his generosity, his brilliance, his bongo-playing. I bought this collection of his letters—which was released in the U.S. under the title Perfectly Reasonable Deviations From the Beaten Track—in Dublin, where I was living at the time, at a shop called Hodges Figgis, which is not the best bookshop I’ve ever been to, but which does have the distinction of sounding most like a store out of Harry Potter.

8. Max Perkins: Editor of Genius by A. Scott Berg
Another connection! Perkins was both Hemingway and Fitzgerald’s editor at Scribner’s. I can’t remember how I got turned onto this book; I think one of my parents lent me their copy, and I later acquired this coffee-stained used edition for myself. I have pages 350-351 marked with a Christmas card my aunt sent me in 2006: it’s so I can find the letter Thomas Wolfe wrote to Perkins on his deathbed. I’ve made a long voyage and been to a strange country, and I’ve seen the dark man very close; and I don’t think I was too much afraid of him, but so much of mortality still clings to me… If I get on my feet and out of here, it will be months before I walk back, but if I get on my feet, I’ll come back

Gives me shivers every time, right down to that absent period!

9. The Enigma of Japanese Power by Karel van Wolferen
This is a very serious, impressive-looking book, and like most books of that type on my shelves, I haven’t read it. (Yet.) Ever since I started reading Haruki Murakami a few years ago, I’ve been ravenously interested in Japan; I want to go there desperately, so until I can, I keep reading about it. This book was mentioned in Will Ferguson’s Hitching Rides With Buddha, one of my favorite Japanese travel narratives; I was very pleased to stumble upon it at a library sale for $1. I’m sure I’ll read it soon…either that or some more manga.

10. Smoke and Mirrors by Tanya Huff
I own at least three books called Smoke and Mirrors, the other two being Neil Gaiman‘s excellent short story collection and a book by Barbara Michaels that I’ve never read. This one, however, is the middle volume in Huff’s hilarious Tony Foster series, a wonderful trio of books about a guy who works as a P.A. on a Vancouver-based TV show about a vampire detective…who’s one of the few people aware that vampires (and demons and the forces of darkness, etc.) really exist. The books are deliciously meta, and this one—which involves a lot of haunted house shenanigans—is actually my favorite. I remember that I read it on a plane, but no longer have any idea where I was going.

I’d love it if you all shared ten random books from your collections, too!

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The First Rule of Write Club

The first rule of writing may honestly be that there are no rules…but that doesn’t mean that all the aspiring authors out there can’t do with some advice from time to time. Inspired by Elmore Leonard‘s book 10 Rules of Writing, The Guardian asked a bunch of different writers—including Margaret Atwood, Geoff Dyer, Anne Enright, Richard Ford, P.D. James, and Neil Gaiman—to offer up their personal commandments of good prose. The results are helpful, humorous, and occasionally “huh?”-worthy.

However, none of these esteemed authors mentions the second official rule of writing, which is, obviously, “Don’t talk about Fight Club.”

(Cartoon by Austin Kleon.)

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