Thursday, April 28, 2011

Soup and Salad: William Lychack on William Maxwell, Los Angeles Review of Books Launches, Richard Ford on Raymond Carver, Jonathan Evison on Brick-and-Mortars, An Author's Monobookist Bookstore

On today's menu:

1.  As part of NPR's "You Must Read This" series, William Lychack (The Architect of Flowers) writes about William Maxwell and the advice he once gave the young writer: "There is so much that we know that we don't know we know.  Try to listen to your feelings as you would to the sound in a seashell, and then put them down on paper."  Lychack shapes this small essay with as much care and intelligence as he does the brilliant stories in his new collection.  He also reminds me that it's about damn time I pull Maxwell's So Long, See You Tomorrow off my bookshelf.

2.  If you haven't done so already, you need to bookmark The Los Angeles Review of Books.*  The site is just 10 days old, but it's already fulfilled its promise of a force to be reckoned with among book review sites.  The LARB's manifesto says it hopes to be a place where readers can find "deeply informed discourse" on books and writers in the 21st century.  Look no further than the highlights of its first week:
Jane Smiley on Nancy Mitford
Geoff Nicholson on Buster Keaton
Ben Ehrenreich on The Death of the Book

3.  The thing I carried away from this short New Yorker interview with Richard Ford about the new anthology he edited, Blue Collar, White Collar, No Collar?  His comment on why Raymond Carver, his best bud and champion of the working class, was not included in the collection:
The book is dedicated to Raymond Carver, but you note that you did not receive permission to include Carver’s “Elephant.”  Was a reason given by the Carver estate for declining?
The reason was not given. It’s ridiculous, of course.  A rather glaring loss. His work belongs in this collection. He was my great pal, and was the pal of many of the writers in the book. At the very least, you could say that the forces in control of his estate may not have his readers’ interests at heart.
Nice bitchslap, Richard!  (Though I wholeheartedly agree on the "glaring loss" of Carver from the book.)

4.  I'm late in bringing this to you, but Jonathan Evison's short sermon "Why Brick and Mortars Still Rule the Book World, and Why We Must Shop at Them Even If It Costs a Couple Extra Bucks and Few Extra Minutes" is a definite must-read.
In the past eight weeks, I’ve visited more than forty independent bookstores all over the continent, and every one of them had its own personality, and virtually every one of them was owned by an impassioned soul, who had bought themselves into a low paying job by buying bookstore.  Oh, and virtually every one of them was a pillar of their community, who put their money right back into said community. And guess what else?  All their employees were impassioned people, who happe ned to be local, and happened to like working for a low wage, if only because it allowed them to work around books, and to spread the word about books and authors, and none more so than the those who otherwise might fall under the radar, or the search engine.

Think about that the next time you click “buy” online to save a couple bucks.  Ask yourself: what have I lost, what has my community lost, in the name of convenience?  You wanna’ live in a town with wide boulevards, no sidewalks, and box stores on both sides?  Then don’t spend your money at indiebookstores, or indie hardware stores, or indie grocery stores.  Don’t seek out conversations.  Just keep clicking and saving, and serving yourself in the name of convenience.

5.  And if you're only looking for one book in particular, you can visit Andrew Kessler's "Monobookist Bookstore."  Don't ask for Lolita or Pillars of the Earth because you won't find them at the Hudson Street bookshop.  In fact, the only book you'll be able to buy is Kessler's Martian Summer.  The shelves are stocked with 3,000 copies, so you're pretty much guaranteed not to be put on a wait list.

*Full disclosure: I'm a contributor.

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