Mark's Past Picks


Mark Ouillette is our senior bookbuyer, with over 32 years in the book business. He likes to read primarily contemporary American novelists and short story writers with a decidedly playful bent (Pynchon, Lorrie Moore, the McSweeneyites). A victim of a liberal-arts education, he knows his modern poets, essayists, and musicians too, and prefers the experimental to the tried-and-true.

Mark's Staff Picks:

(Head back to see my newest Staff Picks, here.)


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The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking Cover Image
$15.00
ISBN: 9780865478015
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Faber & Faber - November 5th, 2013

Bookseller: Mark
Title: The Antidote

Comments:
The Antidote serves up a really engaging, illuminating corrective to the spate of happiness prescriptions published recently. Burkeman investigates- and actually lives with- various proponents of a 'backwards law' or the 'negative path' to happiness. From modern-day Stoics, to psychoanalytic contraries, Buddhist writers & meditation practitioners, he shows ways of embracing uncertainty & living with unavoidable 'negative' circumstances. Alan Watt's Zen Wisdom of Insecurity, Eckhart Tolle's ego-less Power of Now, London's Museum of Failure, Mexico's Days of the Dead, poet John Keats' insight on 'Negative Capability' and many more positively 'backwards' approaches are reported on with great empathy and humor. Highly recommended for all thoughtful seekers...


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The Men Who United the States: America's Explorers, Inventors, Eccentrics, and Mavericks, and the Creation of One Nation, Indivisible Cover Image
$16.99
ISBN: 9780062079619
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Published: Harper Perennial - September 16th, 2014

Bookseller: Mark
Title: The Men Who United the States

Comments:
This is another triumphant Winchester exploration of the Forces and people that helped our country grow and that continue to innovate. Simon always finds the visionaries and the madmen, the previously unsung heores, who make human achievement such a captivating story to tell. From Presidents Washington, Jefferson & Eisenhower, the explorers John Wesley Powell & Clarence King, the inventors Marse & Tesla, Ted Judah & the railroad barons, to the daredevil pilot Cal Rodgers, they're all here. And Simon is here too, in the wonderful autobiographical pieces telling of his travels in the U.S.- when he hitchhiked all over the nation in the early 1960s, when he moved to Sandisfield in 2001, when he became an American Citizen on July 4th, 2011. Simon has truly brought it all back home.

Highly Recommended!


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Bleeding Edge Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780143125754
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Penguin Books - August 26th, 2014

Bookseller: Mark
Title: Bleeding Edge

Comments:
Pynchon's relentlessly inventive, hilarious, yet tender & wise portrait of America today- as it erupted into being on Sept. 11, 2001- is absolutely riveting, a sprawling masterwork disguised as a shaggy dog caper. Seeking to make sense of it all is Maxine Tarnow, a rogue fraud investigator, whose search runs up against unscrupulous internet entrepreneurs, Russian mobsters, technogeeks & bloggers; she encounters an inimitable New York array of the rich and strange, logs onto the untrackable internet zone DeepArcher and emerges into a new, weird America. Don't you recognize it? This is absolutely essential Pynchon: alternating currents of lyricism and tomfoolery, wacky acronyms, pop culture references flying fast and friendly, 49 shades of paranoia,... portraying the human cost of technology, its bleeding edge. & the audio version is a hoot too!


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Pulphead Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780374532901
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Farrar Straus Giroux - October 25th, 2011

Bookseller: Mark
Title: Pulphead: Essays

Comments:
When I knew John Sullivan in Sewanee, TN in the mid '90s - I was a bookseller there - he struck me as a curious and dedicated reader. He bought and sometimes ordered the most interesting poetry, novels, and history books. This remarkable collection showcases his wide-ranging interests (or assignments as a journalist) and displays his talent for writing with immediacy, an engaging humor, and, above all, honesty. Whether detailing his brother's near death experience as seen by the family, or profiling elusive musicians and eccentric scientists, he brings a signature empathy and curiosity about his subject that results in illuminating sentences and real steps toward understanding - all you can ask for in a writer.


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The Marriage Plot Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9781250014764
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Picador USA - September 4th, 2012

Bookseller: Mark
Title: The Marriage Plot

Comments:
Eugenides' Marriage Plot has all the elements of a classic romance novel, set in the college world of the early 1980's, with a love triangle of intriguing and maddening characters. Madeleine, a recent Brown University English grad, is poised between Leonard, a brilliant, troubled manic depressive (very like David Foster Wallace), and Mitchell, her admirer and an equally loose-ends seeker. The drama of their post-college year, the heady spirit of intellect and emotional turmoil, is portrayed with righteous dialogue and a superb cast of professors, mothers, theorists, and clueless others. Medeleine's coming-of-age tale rings with idealism confronting (or avoiding) modern realities, and is a very up-to-date portrait of an America struggling to be its best. This masterful novel is very Jamesian and very good.


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Dime-Store Alchemy: The Art of Joseph Cornell Cover Image
$14.95
ISBN: 9781590174869
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Published: New York Review of Books - September 20th, 2011

Bookseller: Mark
Title: Dime-Store Alchemy

Comments:
This is one of my favorite books of all time. Out of print for far too many years, this collection of meditations on the works of Joseph Cornell by poet Charles Simic is absolute brilliance. The pairing of artist and poet simply could not be more fitting. (Simic's Pulitzer Prize-winning collection The World Doesn't End is in many ways a perfect poetic analogue to the mysterious miniature box constructions of Cornell.)


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The Tragedy of Arthur Cover Image
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ISBN: 9781400066476
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Random House - April 19th, 2011

Bookseller: Mark
Title: The Tragedy of Arthur

Comments:
Phillips, that is - a very clever writer. Unless this newly-discovered Shakespeare play with Arthur's memoir is a scam and a fake, then he's a very, very clever fabulist and play-pasticheur. The Phillips family drama of twins, missing fathers and forgeries is quite compelling, a ripping yarn. This "Shakespearian Rag" is also very Nabokovian and if anything can be a cerebral hoot, this is it.

Arthur Phillips's previous novels are also very different from usual fictional fare and evidence of his growing mastery. Highly Recommended!


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White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s Cover Image
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ISBN: 9781852424893
Availability: Out of Print
Published: Serpent's Tail - January 1st, 2011

Bookseller: Mark
Title: White Bicycles

Comments:
A fascinating memoir by a man who really made the scene; promoting the blues & folk explosions in America and England; as stage manager at Newport when Dylan went electric and as producer of Eric Clapton's "Crossroads" and early REM; at the center of British psychedelia's UFO club with Pink Floyd and Soft Machine. Joe Boyd discovered and nurtured many important musicians, here recounting times with Nick Drake, Fairpoint Convention and the Incredible String Band. He was a movie/music man too: here's a tidbit: his only #1 record was "Dueling Banjos" from Deliverance. Lots of great anecdotes make this a must read for any music-mad fan of real music. Highly recommended!


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A Visit from the Goon Squad Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780307592835
Availability: Special Order
Published: Knopf Publishing Group - June 8th, 2010

Bookseller: Mark
Title: A Visit from the Goon Squad

Comments:
Ellyne and I agree that Jennifer Egan's Goon Squad is a gem, an elegantly written, brilliantly structured novel that really delivers. Wow, I thought as I finished it, no wonder the NYTimes chose it as one of its 10 Best Books of 2010, it rocks - then I promptly started it again at the beginning. It circles around a group of '70s punk rockers who become variously music industry A&R men, cult musicians & their hangers-on. Their stories are pulled apart into non-chronological times of their lives, in scenes of shame & redemption, and reading them is sometimes disorienting, always intriguing and rewarding our understanding. One story's tangential characters become the protagonists of later stories, showing time's depredations - "time's a goon," says one of them. This "piercingly beautiful mosaic of a novel" [Booklist] is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!


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Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories Cover Image
$15.99
ISBN: 9780061702624
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Harper Perennial - November 1st, 2011

Bookseller: Mark
Title: Atlantic

Comments:
Simon Winchester's Atlantic is a fascinating, multi-faceted epic of natural and human history, a biography of humankind's co-evolution over and around the Atlantic Ocean's vastnesses. Told along the lines of the "Seven Ages of Man" speech in As You Like It, it is history encompassing geological time, exploration and the mingling of cultures, the sea's romance, pirates and the slave trade. Simon's personal experiences inform the narrative, which brims with fascinating facts and recounts heroic acts, innovations and turning points of Western civilization centered around the Atlantic. SW casts a cold eye on thee commercial ravages of overfishing and man's despoilment of the ocean's and Earth's ecological balance by pollution and climate change, even viewing the microscopic organisms sustaining life on Earth. Vastly entertaining.


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Freedom Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780312576462
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Picador USA - September 27th, 2011

>Bookseller: Mark
Title: Freedom

Comments:
I'm lovin' it! Even better than The Corrections, I think - this book really delivers interesting, complex contemporary characters and is thematically right on... I'll have more to say later... (but suffice it to say, better than Jodi Picoult & Jennifer Weiner's grouchy tweets let on...) Forget Franzenfreude. (Plus, I expect this'll be the book Oprah selects for her book club on September 17th...)


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A Gate at the Stairs Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780375708466
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Vintage Books USA - August 24th, 2010

>Bookseller: Mark
Title: A Gate at the Stairs

Comments:
Lorrie Moore is a masterful short story writer, brilliantly portraying characters as they cope (or not) with the stresses of their lives. Mixing the wry, playful perceptions of her 20-year-old protagonist Tassie with the inevitable losses & grief of the wider adult world, Moore shows her coming of age within "that strange hiatus between 9/11 & March 2003, when Iraq was invaded." Tassie's employment as a nanny plays out over a year fraught with drama & a kind of national & personal "passivity & acquiescence" that Moore locates thematically at the center of her story. It's a small-scale post-9/11 novel with brilliant & funny touches that keep stirring up our sympathies.


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Winter's Tale Cover Image
$15.99
ISBN: 9780156031196
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Harvest Books - June 1st, 2005

Bookseller: Mark
Title: Winter's Tale

Comments:
Helprin's best book is a fantastically rich and rewarding novel set in a New York City and Hudson Valley of the mind. Its central character, Peter Lake, comes from a Gangs-of-New-York underworld. In a magic-realist story of great thrilling invention, Helprin shows a Gilded Age NY with poetry and a captivating gallery of characters. (This is a world where a flying horse fits right in - so if fantasy is not your cup - be forewarned.) If you're looking for a re-roating story to lose yourself in during snow season, then Winter's Tale is the book for you.


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Selected Poems Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780307280473
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Knopf Publishing Group - August 25th, 2009

Bookseller: Mark
Title: Selected Poems: Wallace Stevens

Comments:
Wallace Stevens is the most fascinating American poet of the 20th Century. This new Selected Poems gives us all the best of his brilliant free verse, whether it's in his short poems of gnomic utterance or the longer philosophical meditations. "Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction" is a particular favorite in that latter mode, complete here, along with classics like "Sunday Morning," "The Snow Man" & "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird."

Knopf has an equally wonderful smaller hardcover Stevens selection in its Everyman's Library Pocket Poets series (stocked here) & we also have an inexpensive Dover edition of "The Emperor of Ice Cream & Other Poems." They're all nice intros to this seriously playful American master & Highly Recommended.

The Bookloft also has a great, new, variously brilliant anthology titled Visiting Wallace: Poems Inspired by the Life & Work of Wallace Stevens, containing among others the irrepressible Robert Lowell & the provocative Adrienne Rich's "Long After Stevens."


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Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780684831909
Availability: Special Order
Published: Free Press - October 6th, 2009

Bookseller: Mark
Title: Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original

Comments:
This long-awaited biography of jazz master Monk is a triumph. It's definitive & engrossing--& a lively portrait of the growth of modern jazz in New York City. It's all here: Monk's struggle for acceptance of his angular keyboard styles, his brilliant compositions, his musician cohorts in bebop (Coltrane, Blakey, Rollins). His 'eccentricity' is put in the context of his uncompromising genius, his humor, his family & his bipolar nature.

Any jazz fan will love this book. It's beautifully written & well-paced, & it makes me want to listen to all the Monk I can. We're blessed: there's a lot of it.


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Inherent Vice Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780143117568
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Penguin Books - July 27th, 2010

Bookseller: Mark
Title: Inherent Vice

Comments:
Inherent Vice finds Thomas Pynchon back in California circa 1970. It's not the baggy monster of his masterworks, but it has the same DNA (Do Nothing Average) as those awesome adventures & forms a loose trilogy as a hybrid of the psychedelic The Crying of Lot 49 & the more sinister Vineland. 'Doc' Sportello is out laid-back hippie PI on a breezy tour of beach shacks, surf-rockers'mansions, Mansonized paranoia (you knew it would be here, didn't you?) & the outer-limits hallucinations of America as it skews weirder from wonderful. The plot has shaggy-dog hairs all over it, but it ostensibly deals with the search for a missing billionaire, his shady real estate developments, dopers & detectives & assistant DA's, with the odd resurrected surf sax player thrown in. It reads like Cheech & Chong & Chandler, & sounds like a classic Firesign Theatre record, with stoned wordplay, "What's Up, Doc?" cartoony characters & the heady, high-low, trademark Pynchon mix spiked with even more sex, drugs & surf tunes. Dig this: Pynchon's written a great summer beach read---Far out!


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The Rough Guide to Bob Dylan 2 Cover Image
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ISBN: 9781843537182
Availability: Special Order
Published: Rough Guides - September 1st, 2006

Bookseller: Mark
Title: The Rough Guide to Bob Dylan

Comments:
THE ROUGH GUIDE TO BOB DYLAN is the perfect counterpart to his Chronicles. It's packed with info about the man and his music, gives us the nitty-gritty details and background to his songs, fills in the gaps in Dylan's book and provides critical assessment to all things Dylan. This compact guide will serve very well both with the budding and blownout Dylanologist.


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Chronicles: Volume One Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780743228152
Availability: Special Order
Published: Simon & Schuster - October 5th, 2004

Bookseller: Mark
Title: Chronicles, Vol. 1

Comments:
Bob Dylan's got ramblin' on his mind. This look back at his earlier freewheelin' years has all the idiosyncrasies you'd expect from Dylan: baggy-pants storytelling, folksy portraits of musical friends, sleight-of-word poetry. Among the "images & distorted facts" presented here: his Minnesota youth, the Greenwich Village denizens of the early '60's, his "mentors" Dave Van Ronk & Woody Guthrie. His education in blues & reading, from New York crash pads thru concert stages to his Calirofnia palace, is recounted infascinating detail.

The audio version has an engaging performance by Sean Penn, putting on his best subtly-Dylanesque voice. Highly Recommnded.


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The Early Stories: 1953-1975 Cover Image
$20.00
ISBN: 9780345463364
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Random House Trade - September 28th, 2004

Bookseller: Mark
Title: The Early Stories: 1953-1975

Comments:
These are the decidedly accomplished early wowrks of an American master - and evidence that Updike is one of hte greatest & most versatile short story writers ever. From the formerly out-of-print "Olinger Stories" with the ruminative masterpiece "Packed Dirt, Churchgoing, a Dying Cat, a Traded Car," thru the famous Maples stories of marriage & divorce, to "Far Out" gems like "Under the Microscope" & the sexy set-piece "Transaction," Updike gives us generous helpings of his matchless eye, psychological insight & deft language.

Here is "an embarrassment of riches," a great collection well worth reading & now in paperback.


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The Gathering Cover Image
$15.00
ISBN: 9780802170392
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Grove Press, Black Cat - September 10th, 2007

Bookseller: Mark
Title: The Gathering

Comments:
Irish novelist Anne Enright has written a compelling family story, told through the searching memory & ruthless voice of Veronica Hegarty, as she tries to come to terms after her brother's suicide. This well-written, prize-winning novel avoids sentimentality & is unflinching in its portrait of family truths, secrets, half-truths, & accomodations.

Veronica's voice is that of a ruefully witty realist, plumbing her resentment of her 'vague' mother, her own middle-age malaise & her search for meaning. The hard, sometimes bleak story is told in a tender, eloquent voice, taking us through the barely-perceived turning points & hidden wounds in a large family's history. Enright's & Veronica's memorably smart ruminations on how to survive a family provide a firece vision of 'how you become the person you are.' Well worth reading, her story will stay with you.


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1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die: A Listener's Life List Cover Image
$19.95
ISBN: 9780761139638
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Workman Publishing - August 28th, 2008

Bookseller: Mark
Title: 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die

Comments:
I love this book and will guarantee that any music-mad person of your acquaintance (or you yourself) will find it absorbing and fun to browse or read systematically and then seek out the music it so brilliantly describes. Tom Moon has fashioned an especially tasty array of ear-candy and the layout is easy on the eye too. Useful indexes in the back direct us to specific genre highlights and recommended playlists. The 1000 recordings are listed alphabetically by the musician or composer, making for some amusing sequences (like I sometimes hear on my random-shuffle ipod) and launching me on many more musical quests than I'll ever be able to attend to...before I die!


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Against the Day Cover Image
$22.00
ISBN: 9780143112563
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Penguin Books - November 1st, 2007

Bookseller: Mark
Title: Against the Day

Comments:
Against the Day is phenomenal! Like Gravity's Rainbow squared, it has more polyhistorical breadth, multi-dimensional characters, conceptual playfulness, baroque-amazing sentences & more rewarding reading-feel than anyone could possibly hope for. Radiating from the gnomic Monk epigraph, its expansive themes play out in precisely-drawn scenes with a global cast, resonant emotions & brilliant corners of surreality. Set at the dawning of the modern age, Against the Day encompasses verifiable history--western anarchists, silent-era moviemakers, revolutionaries & robber-barons--& an alternate, shadow history of dream, featuring magicians, mathematicians, mystical seekers & other oddfellows. The writing dazzles & puzzles, mixes high art with raunchy sex, dime-novel derring-do with genuinely affecting characters, including some marvelously tough & savvy women. The whole world is here, making this a great book to get lost in & a wonder-full treat for a literary novel reader who appreciates both the challenge & the beauty of the writing. Contrarian & illuminating, Against the Day will not disappoint.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. What more can I say?

(And the audio performance is equally entertaining...)


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Edmund and Rosemary Go to Hell: A Story We All Really Need Now More Than Ever Cover Image
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ISBN: 9781416545491
Availability: Special Order
Published: Simon & Schuster - May 22nd, 2007

Bookseller: Mark
Title: Edmund & Rosemary Go to Hell

Comments:
Edmond and Rosemary Go to Hell--a New Yorker cartoon expanded into a graphic novella--is an hilarious, deadpan look at modern life by one of the best, acerbic comic artists now writing & drawing. His characters look pretty vacant, but--gulp--they also look disquietingly like us. Ed & Rose feel assaulted (&, more, insulted) by popular culture, reaching a crisis point where they try to do something about it. This modern-day INFERNO also has its Purgatorio & Paradiso, but Ed & Rose don't seem to end up anywhere like what Dante saw in his Comedy. Bracingly smart & funny.


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Names Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780330524865
Availability: Special Order
Published: Picador USA - March 1st, 2011

Bookseller: Mark
Title: The Names

Comments:
DeLillo's great novel about international expatriates is truly a mystery novel on several levels: murder, mayhem and the mysterious nature of language. An engrossing cast of characters, well-written dialogue and a sharply humorous take on contemporary culture make this his most readable book and-next to Underworld, his best.


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The Emperor of Ocean Park Cover Image
$14.95
ISBN: 9780375712920
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Vintage - May 27th, 2003

Bookseller: Mark
Title: The Emperor of Ocean Park

Comments:
Stephen Carter has written a compelling, character-driven legal thriller comparable to Grisham's "The Firm." I couldn't put it down. Talcott Garland comes from a prominant family whose secrets start coming to light after the death of his father, a distinguished judge once nominated to the Supreme Court. Charged with carrying out his father's mysterious "arrangements," Tal encounters a string of family friends and frauds trying to manipulate him into divulging the secretshe has yet to discover. Ranging from Washington and an Ivy League law school to the family's cottage on Martha's Vineyard, the story builds skillfully and features well-drawn characters and cunning plot twists. Highly recommended.


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Backstage Passes & Backstabbing Bastards: Memoirs of a Rock 'n Roll Survivor Cover Image
$27.99
ISBN: 9780879309220
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Backbeat Books - February 1st, 2008

>Bookseller: Mark
Title: Backstage Passes & Backstabbing Bastards

Comments:
Al Kooper gives us an enormously entertaining (& updated) memoir of his rock'n'roll life. From his teen years in the Aristo-Cats, to his organ part in Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" (helping develop his mid-60s "wild mercury sound"), through the various Super Sessions he was instrumental in producing, Kooper's no-BS tale is breezy & funny- I couldn't put it down, man.

The wonderfully wry illustrations & captions are an essential ingredient too; cehck out the "Norman Rockwell Experience" on page 140.

Any Dylanophile or fan of classic rock (or one who's curious about how music gets made) will find lots to engage with in this beautiful book.

You'll love it.


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The Interrogative Mood: A Novel? Cover Image
$13.99
ISBN: 9780061859434
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Ecco Press - October 5th, 2010

Bookseller: Mark
Title: The Interrogative Mood: a Novel?

Comments:
Why would anyone want to read a book made up of an endless series of questions?

Because it's funny? And it makes you think of your own life? And who cares if it's not a novel per se? Wouldn't it be more descriptive to call this a prose poem? (What's this?) Isn't the idea (& the actuality) of a book that'll both put a smile on your face & make you examine your life just irresistable?

Want to hear some of my favorite queries? "Can you think of a musical instrument useful in murder other than piano wire?" "Is it your impression that people who worked in animation in the 1930s did more drugs than people who work in it today?" Have you ever tried to carry on a conversation with someone all in questions? As you're prompted to give an answer, isn't it all about you? Aren't the "advance praise" blurbs on the book jacket's back just the best question-settling addenda to this Staff Pick?


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Angels and Ages: A Short Book about Darwin, Lincoln, and Modern Life Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780307455307
Availability: Backordered
Published: Vintage - February 9th, 2010

Bookseller: Mark
Title: Angels and Ages

Comments:
Taking as his organizing conceit the ambiguous utterance by Secretary Stanton over the last breath of Lincoln - was it "Now he belongs to the angels," or "Now he belongs to the ages"? - the New Yorker's brilliant Adam Gopnik explores the lives of exact contemporaries Charles Darwin and Abraham Lincoln. The epoch-making changes their work ushered in - democracy and evolution created the modern age - are illuminated by their struggles and successes; the 19th century background (Civil War & emancipation, scientific & religious controversies) is just brilliantly evoked in this dual biography. It's a very moving, briskly paced intellectual/cultural history that is elegantly written as well - highly entertaining and rewarding.


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Suite Francaise Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781400096275
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Vintage Books USA - April 10th, 2007

Bookseller: Mark
Title: Suite Francaise

Comments:
This 'masterpiece rescued from oblivion' is a very good read and has a highly interesting back story as well. Here are the first two novels in a planned five novel 'suite' showing France under Nazi occupation. 'Storm in June' portrays a disparate range of Parisians fleeing the city and the venal, outrageous and heroic measures each took to survive. The 2nd movement 'Dolce' is set in the countryside and shows farming families, the Germans billeted with them and collaborationists, in a brilliant, compassionate and mordantly witty portrait of the insidious devastation of wartime occupation. Panoramic and intimate, vivid and unforgettable, Suite Fran


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The Old, Weird America: The World of Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes Cover Image
$20.00
ISBN: 9780312572914
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Picador USA - April 26th, 2011

Bookseller: Mark
Title: The Old, Weird America: The World of Bob Dylan's Basement Tapes

Comments:
Greil Marcus' best book gives the deep background and cultural history of the American "roots music" that Dylan and The Band drew on to create their seminal Basement Tapes. There's also a vivid recounting of Harry Smith and his Anthology of American Folk Music recordings that spurred the folk boom of the 50's and 60's. I really enjoyed reading this book and can recommend it highly to Dylan fans or those who like reading about "hidden history" or American cultural obscurities.


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Let Me Finish Cover Image
$18.95
ISBN: 9780156032186
Availability: Usually Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Harvest Books - June 1st, 2007

Bookseller: Mark
Title: Let Me Finish

Comments:
Now this is a memoir. (Forget Frey's Million Little Pieces.)

Roger Angell has lived a charmed life in his 80+ years and has written about it with grace, modesty and wit. his prose style has an emotional and mindful immediacy that enthralls. From stories of his love of baseball (Ruth, Gehrig and DiMaggio) to brief sketches of his New Yorker colleagues (William Maxwell, Donald Barthelme), Angell delivers a series of greatly pleasing reads. I especially liked the family portraits of his aunt and mother and (most moving) his stepfather, E.B. White.

his recollections of driving cars in the 30's, his army experience of WWII, as well as his worl editing fiction at The New Yorker, are fascinating and free of expected sentiment. Like its author, this book covers a lot of ground and doesn't disappoint. I recommend it highly.


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Selected Poems Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780307280473
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Knopf Publishing Group - August 25th, 2009

Bookseller: Mark
Title: Selected Poems

Comments:

Wallace Stevens is the most fascinating American poet of the 20th Century. This new Selected Poems gives us all the best of his brilliant free verse, whether it's in his short poems of gnomic utterance or the longer philosophical meditations. "Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction" is a particular favorite in that latter mode, complete here, along with classics like "Sunday Morning," "The Snow Man" & "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird."

Knopf has an equally wonderful smaller hardcover Stevens selection in its Everyman's Library Pocket Poets series (stocked here) & we also have an inexpensive Dover edition of "The Emperor of Ice Cream & Other Poems." They're all nice intros to this seriously playful American master & Highly Recommended.

The Bookloft also has a great, new, variously brilliant anthology titled "Visiting Wallace: Poems Inspired by the Life & Work of Wallace Stevens," from the University of Iowa Press, containing among others the irrepressible Robert Lowell & the provocative Adrienne Rich's "Long After Stevens."


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At Large and at Small: Familiar Essays Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780374531317
Availability: Backordered
Published: Farrar Straus Giroux - May 27th, 2008

Bookseller: Mark
Title: At Large and At Small

Comments:
These "Familiar Essays" are wonderfully conversational trains-of-thought following a wide range of subjects. Some of my favorites: ice cream, coffee (with recipes), & a nice take on being a "Night Owl" & "Moving" to Western Mass. from NYC. "Collecting Nature" recollects her childhood obsession with butterflies & such & her introducing her kids to its joys. There are also some literary essays on the unique geniuses of Coleridge & Lamb, a quick take on the degeneration (or improvement?) of mail to email & a meditation on flying the American flag after 9/11. I highly recommend this very friendly & thought series of wide-ranging essays.


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About the Author Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780060932176
Availability: Special Order
Published: Harper Perennial - July 23rd, 2002

Bookseller: Mark
Title: About the Author

Comments:
John Colapinto has a wicked wit and a great way of creating suspense in this satire of the literary world. I couldn't put it down. The story of a young bookstore clerk who publishes a novel that becomes a huge bestseller - and the unfolding & unraveling of his success story - is a combination thriller/put-on of the publishing industry that really kept me guessing. What all the blurbs say is true - this is a very entertaining book. Highly recommended.


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Project X Cover Image
$15.00
ISBN: 9781400033485
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Published: Vintage Books USA - April 12th, 2005

Bookseller: Mark
Title: Project X

Comments:
Edwiwn Hanratty, the narrator of Jim Shepard's novel, is a cross between Holden Caulfield & your favorite miserable 8th-grader. He struggles, endlessly put-upon & beaten-up, through a gauntlet of junior-high hell. With his only friend, Flake, he hatches a Columbine-like scheme for revenge. The story is a brilliant portait of a teen's growing pains. As Edwin's bad situation gets better, Shepard builds the suspense masterfully. A timely novel - highly recommended.


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Family and Other Accidents Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780767925884
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Broadway Books - April 4th, 2006

Bookseller: Mark
Title: Family and Other Accidents

Comments:
Shari Goldhagen has written a first novel with tremendous insight into family dynamics. Everything rings true in this story of two brothers; the situations & exasperations, the push & pull of life's affections, the brilliant dialogue, the real characters will enegage most readers. The writing is sharp & funny and "the sex in constant," as Frederick Busch says in his 'advance praise' on the book's back. All the advance readers have it right; this is one of the best contemporarry, realistic, sympathetic-yet-ironic, complexly human novels I've read in quite some time. Jack & Connor & their lovers, wives & children are a family you'll not soon forget. Highly Recommended.


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The Sirens of Titan Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780385333498
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Published: Dial Press - September 4th, 1998

Bookseller: Mark
Title: The Sirens of Titan

Comments:
When Kurt Vonnegut died & people sought to evaluate his achievement, I knew that I wanted to reread TSOT, my favorite of his early sci-fi novels I'd read as a teen. It really holds up. The time-travel exploits of the millionaire-prophet Rumfoord through the Chrono-Synclastic Infundibulum, the war with Mars seen by space cadet Malachi Constant--this story is like a wild carnival ride. With elements of Orwell & Flash Gordon, it's also a dark satire on human freedom & achievement. Vonnegut's light touch makes it a fun read & a great alternative/addition to that summer reading list you may be grappling with--I high recommend you give it a try!


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The Dew Breaker Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781400034291
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Published: Vintage Books USA - March 8th, 2005

Bookseller: Mark
Title: The Dew Breaker

Comments:
Edwidge Danticat is my new favorite writer. This is the best-written new fiction I've read this year. The story of a former Haitian torturer & his attempt at a new life in NYC, this novel unfolds from the varying viewpoints of serveral characters. "The Book of the Dead" is a great introduction, featuring the 'dew breaker's daughter as she learns of his horrible past; there's also a wonderful story in which one of his victims recognizes him in the city & wrestles with what, if anything, he should do.

Danticat's writing elevates what could be a relentlessly grim story into a moral & humane tale that is very rewarding in its multifaceted nature.


Highly Recommended


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The Mammoth Cheese Cover Image
$13.00
ISBN: 9780802141354
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Published: Grove/Atlantic - April 28th, 2004

Bookseller: Mark
Title: The Mammoth Cheese

Comments:
Sheri Holman's great election-year novel has a large, well-drawn cast of characters & is a very human story of a community of sould who yearn for more. This is accessible literary fiction of the highest order. Just look at the uniformly rave reviews - & add this to the list.

This is one of the best American novels of the last few years: well-written, with characters that you care about & a satisrying-yet-realistic resolution at the end.

This'll make a great film. Don't miss this Great American Novel.


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The Geography of the Imagination: Forty Essays Cover Image
By Guy Davenport (Essay by)
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ISBN: 9781567920802
Availability: Special Order
Published: David R. Godine Publisher - January 1st, 1981

Bookseller: Mark
Title: The Geography of the Imagination: Forty Essays

Comments:
Guy Davenport has the kind of far-ranging intelligence, clarity and verve that is a pleasure to experience. When I read this collection 20 years ago, I was stunned by the sheer virtuosity of his discussion. Like the best art critics and men of letters, Davenport pulls together disparate strands of culture and helps to make sense of modernist artworks. From prehistory and classical forms to Pound and Joyce and "Hobbitry," this polymath always surprises with the connections he makes and the felicity of his discoveries. I found it a great bedside table book, for bite size reading before sleep, a s well as a great source for English papers. A bit recondite, but highly recommended.


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White Teeth Cover Image
$16.95
ISBN: 9780375703867
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Published: Vintage Books USA - June 12th, 2001

Bookseller: Mark
Title: White Teeth

Comments:
What impressed me most about this first novel of Zadie Smith's was its wit and inventiveness. She tells her story with ironic sizzle and from odd angles, all teh while giving us a serious view of modern Britain in all its multicultural hues. Her characters, the Jones and Iqbal families, are funny in sitcomish ways, but are drawn with a warm understanding as well-and the dialogue is very snappy and accomplished too. The plot, such as it is, is a bit of a shaggy dog, but this is a book to be read for its humor and modern style than for a neatly bowtied story. Although there is an unsuspected, dramatic resolution at the end, delightful in its own way...read this for the fun of it.


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How to Breathe Underwater Cover Image
$15.00
ISBN: 9781400034369
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Published: Vintage - April 12th, 2005

Bookseller: Mark
Title: How to Breathe Underwater: Stories

Comments:
Julie Orringer is a real discovery: a young writer witha strong narrative sense & a great empathy for her characters, mostly kids & teens. Nick Hornby (in his column in The Believer) said this was the best first story collection he'd read in a long time & I'd have to agree: the dramas & the not-so-small conflicts in these youngsters' lives are deftly portrayed & one really comes to care about how they will grow into adults. "The Isabel Fish" & "The Staitons of the Cross" are my favorites here, but the stories are all strong & memorable. This'd make a nice gift for a young aspiring writer or for someone who appreciates literary fiction.


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Melville: His World and Work Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780375702976
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Published: Vintage Books USA - September 12th, 2006

Bookseller: Mark
Title: Melville: His World and Work

Comments:
Andrew Delbanco has written a wonderfully accessible critical biography of Melville, certainly the Berkshires' preeminent literary master. In his 12 years at Arrowhead in Pittsfield, Melville completed Moby Dick (and in the process invented the modern novel) and his last attempts at novels (save Billy Budd), but enjoyed little success in his lifetime. Delbanco gives us glimpses of the mind and moods of the writer, tempered with nuanced readings of his major works. (After M-D I've always been partial to the Confidence Man.) Coming after heartbreaking scenes of his humbled life as a customs inspector, failed poet and public lecturer, the story of Melville's final artistic triumph in Billy Budd provides the crowning touch to this absorbing, gracefully written, biography.


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Long Time Leaving: Dispatches from Up South Cover Image
$15.95
ISBN: 9781582434582
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Published: Counterpoint LLC - January 1st, 2009

Bookseller: Mark
Title: Long Time Leaving

Comments:
Having been a longtime fan of Roy's columns in the Oxford American, I'm really pleased to see them collected here. His sly & wise essays on food (chicken & things tasting like chicken), music (Ray Charles, Memphis Minnie, the Bozzies), favorite writers & this country's cultures seen through South/North bifocals are great fun to savor.

I got downright helpless with laughter while reading some of the wackier pieces (see "The Best of Gaynelle").

As a master of the personal essay, his free-ranging speculation always delights & informs--who knew 'motion upholstery' even existed?--& his word-play is phenomenal. There is verse both political & song-lyrical (lots of it) here, as well as appreciations of writers we should know better; he got me to read finally my copy of Portis's Dog of the South. Roy's audio version of Long Time Leaving is a tasty performance too. I highly recommend that you sample it all.


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The Year of Magical Thinking Cover Image
$26.95
ISBN: 9781400043149
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Published: Knopf Publishing Group - October 4th, 2005

Bookseller: Mark
Title: The Year of Magical Thinking

Comments:
The Year of Magical Thinking is Joan Didion's remarkable, pitiless recounting of her grieving process after the sudden death of her husband JOhn Gregory Dunne and during the critical illness of their daughter. Likeall of her work, the precision & clarity Didion imparts in her reporting gives us an indelible self-portrait during her 'magical thinking' year. "Information is control," she thinks, as she researches her loved ones' medical conditions & takes the notes that become this book - & yet her tenaciously truthful view of this illusion of control (m.t.) gives this book its great heart & triumphantly positive tone. This is not a depressing book - it gives a wonderful portrait of her marriage. In showing us the particulars of her time of grief, in looking at illness & death without false sentiment, Didion's book gives us a great gift. It deserves every award it will get.


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The New Sins Cover Image
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ISBN: 9781932416589
Availability: Special Order
Published: McSweeney's - October 1st, 2006

Bookseller: Mark
Title: The New Sins/Los Nuevos Pecados

Comments:
Now with Extra Added Sin, The New Sins are Charity, Sense of Humor, Beauty, and a host of positively questionable attributes that Byrne rakes thru this po-mo inferno. It's an art book--it's a breviary of 'new' philosophy--and it's drily hilarious and lavishly illustrated in deadpan snapshots. It's also in a Spanish translation--and easily portable. I read it on the plane to Las Vegas and in the casinos of Sin City--and nobody noticed at all.

A great gift for a Talking Heads fan or for those admirers of quirky art objects.


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The Body Artist Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780743203968
Availability: Backordered
Published: Scribner Book Company - February 5th, 2002

Bookseller: Mark
Title: The Body Artist

Comments:
This novella is a real gem. A series of vignettes from the life of performance artist Lauren Hartke, the book offers a poetic miniature of the interplay of art, experience and meaning. DeLillo's playful, elliptical style teases meanings from words and silences-he writes some of the best sentences-evocative and funny. The Body Artist also gives us a richly ambiguous mystery to keep us in puzzling suspense.


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Oh Pure and Radiant Heart Cover Image
$27.95
ISBN: 9780156031035
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Published: Harvest Books - July 1st, 2006

Bookseller: Mark
Title: Oh Pure and Radiant Heart

Comments:
Starting from its magical realist premise, that the architects of the atomic bomb--Oppenheimer, Szilavd, and Fermin are somehow brought back to life in modern America (to do what? to deal with their legacy of war?), Lydia Millet's novel plays outlike the best Vonnegut.

Surreal, yet morally-centered in intimate human experience, the story features Ann and Ben, a young couple coming to their own terms with life and death. While the plot seems to accelerate out of control (but really doesn't lose sight of the madder aspects of American life), the writing is a marvel of nuance and humor, and the ending didn't let me down at all.

I loved it.


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White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s Cover Image
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ISBN: 9781852424893
Availability: Out of Print
Published: Serpent's Tail - January 1st, 2011

Bookseller: Mark
Title: White Bicycles

Comments:
White Bicycles is a fascinating memoir by a man who really made the scene: early on, promoting the blues & folk explosions in America & Europe; at the center of British psychedelia at the UFO Club with Pink Floyd & Soft Machine; as stage manager at Newport when Dylan 'went electric,' & producing Eric Clapton's "Crossroads" & early REM. Joe Boyd 'discovered' & nurtured many important musicians, here recounting times with Nick Drake, Fairport Convention & the Incredible String Band. He was a movie/music man too; here's a tidbit: his only #1 record was "Duelling Banjos" from the soundtrack to Deliverance. Lots of great anecdotes make this a must-read for any music-mad fan of real music.

Highly Recommended!


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Birds of America: Stories Cover Image
$15.95
ISBN: 9780307474964
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Published: Vintage Books USA - January 12th, 2010

Bookseller: Mark
Title: Birds of America

Comments:
This spectacular collection by - to my mind - one of teh best "younger" American fiction writers is the best of her books. People Like That are the Only People Here is a masterpiece - heart-rending and wry at the same time. If you like humor with significance - and very human characters with all their blemishes - then Lorrie Moore is for you.


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Falling Man Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781416546061
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Published: Scribner Book Company - June 3rd, 2008

Bookseller: Mark
Title: Falling Man

Comments:
Don DeLillo is a great American novelist. 9/11 is a difficult subject to treat fictionally with anything like the complexity we expect and the understanding we seek. But DeLillo mostly succeeds in showing the horrible nitty-gritty of the attacks and the emotional numbing in the aftermath, focusing on a couple attempting mightily to more-than-survive the terror. DeLillo's style is somewhat chilly, though precise, and his scenes and sentences are wonderfully composed. Some say Messud's The Emperor's Children more successfully dramatises pre- and post-9/11 New York with her characters. I don't know--I guess I'll read that next... The converging action at Falling Man's end left me nearly breathless--vainly hoping for a different outcome.


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How to Be Alone Cover Image
$17.00
ISBN: 9780312422165
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Published: Picador USA - October 1st, 2003

Bookseller: Mark
Title: How to Be Alone: Essays


Comments:

"The first lesson reading teaches is how to be alone." This fine collection of magazine journalism & think-pieces explores the dilemmas of the modern American fiction writer - and the nation's literary climate- as well as the average citizen's grappling with privacy issues, aging & the Post Office. It celebrates being a reader & writer and - as a kind of thinking person's Stupid White Men - portrays various fronts in the Counterforce against creeping Bushism.

This highly recommended collection contains his notorious Harper's essay "Why Bother?" as well as his moving New Yorker piece "My Father's Brain."


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The Song Is You Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780812977912
Availability: Backordered
Published: Random House Trade - March 23rd, 2010

Bookseller: Mark
Title: The Song is You


Comments:

Arthur Phillips has a great ear for the music of his characters - their dialogue pops and the riffs of their interior stories play cool improvisations of their lives. This novel is deeply centered in the alternative music culture and portrays it with dark humor. Julian acts as a sort of muse to Cait, the up-and-coming singer, and while their approach/avoid dance seems somewhat unlikely, it brings narrative tension and is spoofably suspenseful. Charismatic Cait spars lively scenes and writes snappy song lyrics (a la Neko Case) - her music moves Julian through his personal dilemmas, just as his deep interest (obsession?) inspires Cait. Phillips can really turn a phrase - his style is precise.


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Song Cycle Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780826429179
Availability: Special Order
Published: Continuum - June 3rd, 2010

Bookseller: Mark
Title: 33 1/3 Song Cycle #74


Comments:

In 1968 Van Dyke Parks created an ambitious masterpiece of pap orchestral Americana, a cinematic musical trip to L.A. where Charles Ives meets Brian Wilson. Critics called Song Cycle "the most important, creative, and advanced pop recording since Sgt. Pepper" and "The Album of the Year," yet the public mostly ignored it. This richly detailed mini-biography of VDP, his work and world, has page after page of wonders: as a child actor on "The Honeymooners," a caroler singing "Silent Night" accompanied by Einstein on violin, an early creator of music videos, VDP seems to have been everywhere. Richard Henderson's close listening highlights the studio innovations (the Leslie vocal, a Farkle echo) in each measure of Song Cycle, the culture of movie musicians and starving artists, the beat poetry mixed with jaunty, haunting tunes, making this a fabulous addition to 33 1/3's revolving rediscoveries of classic music.


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Walden Cover Image
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ISBN: 9781590306383
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Shambhala Publications - October 14th, 2008

Bookseller: Mark
Title: Walden


Comments:

This beautiful Shambhala Library edition of an essential American classic of philosophy, nature & spirit is a perfect gift for a young seeker of the truth. Middle-aged & older seekers will find much to enjoy & ponder in this fine, easy-to-carry-&-hold book. The striking woodcuts by the Berkshires own Michael McCurdy add a wonderful dimension to the reading experience.

American literature doesn't get much better than this classic meditation on "Where I Lived & What I Lived for." Sure to inspire & reward your attention. This edition is Highly Recommended.


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The Man Who Loved China: The Fantastic Story of the Eccentric Scientist Who Unlocked the Mysteries of the Middle Kingdom Cover Image
$15.99
ISBN: 9780060884611
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Published: Harper Perennial - April 28th, 2009

Bookseller: Mark
Title: The Man Who Loved China


Comments:

Both Linda & I agree: Simon Winchester has a fascinating subject in Joseph Needham & he's written a lively history of the man's intellectual adventure & wartime derring-do in China. Forget pretenders like Indy Jones- this man was a real, amazing scientist-adventurer who spent most of his life researching & cataloguing "Science & Civilization in China" (the title of his 24+ volume magnum opus), attempting to answer the "Needham Question": After such a long history of scientific advancement & innovation, why did China's material development essentially stop 500 years ago? Simon draws an appealing portrait of the eccentric Morris-dancing, brilliant, Communist, lover of China & makes his rediscovery of the wonders of that amazing country our own timely introduction to it. We highly recommend it!


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Let Me Finish Cover Image
$18.95
ISBN: 9780156032186
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Published: Harvest Books - June 1st, 2007

Bookseller: Mark
Title: Let Me Finish


Comments:

Now this is a memoir (forget Frey's Million Little Pieces.) Roger Angell has lived a charmed life is his 80+ years and has written about it with grace, modesty, and wit. His prose style has an emotional and mindful immediacy that enthralls. From stories of his love of baseball (Ruth, Gehrig and DiMaggio) to brief sketches of his New Yorker colleagues (William Maxwell, Donald Barthelme), Angell delivers a series of greatly pleasing reads. I especially liked his family portraits of his aunt and mother and (most moving) his stepfather E.B. White.

His recollections of driving cars in the 30's, his Army experience of WWII as well as his work editing fiction at The New Yorker, are fascinating and free of expected sentiment. Like its author, this book covers a lot of ground and doesn't disappoint.

I recommend it highly.


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The Shadow of the Wind Cover Image
By Carlos Ruiz Zafon, Lucia Graves (Translator)
$17.00
ISBN: 9780143034902
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Published: Penguin Books - January 25th, 2005

Bookseller: Mark
Title: The Shadow of the Wind


Comments:

This highly-satisfying melodrama has all the elements of old-style literary novels & reads as if from the pen of Victor Hugo. Starting with an indelible scene of our hero Daniel being taken to "the Cemetery of Forgotten Books" by his bookseller father, it propels us through suspenseful small chapters of domed love in post-war Barcelona, whee Daniel's quest to uncover the story of forgotten author Julian Carax doubles-dare I say shadows - his own need to recover htrough reading & make real his own life's memories (Huh?)

Mysterious, gothic scenes of relentless evil paired with the 'immortal life-force' unreel like a noirish film of the 40's with stock characters, some of whom, like your favorite actors, rise above the action to moments of resonant courage. This is a 'good read' on many levels, an old-fashioned' page-turner & I recommend it heartily.


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Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Farina and Richard Farina Cover Image
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ISBN: 9780374281991
Availability: Special Order
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - June 1st, 2001

Bookseller: Mark
Title: Positively 4th Street: The Lives and Times of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Mimi Baez Farina and Richard Farina


Comments:

If you've ever wondered about the back-story of Dylan's vitriolic song "Positively 4th Street" or wondered how young Zimmerman became world-weary Dylan (and such an elusive chameleon too), this'll be a fascinating book for you to read. Hajdu also writes the story of Joan and Mimi Baez and the adventures of the charismatic Richard Farina as they help define the folk music scene of the early 60's. Positively 4th Street gives a wonderful sense of these young musicians learning from everything and everyone around them. It tells you the story of the perhaps forgotten Farina for the first time-he's the quintessential hipster who died young. An engrossing group biography-highly recommended.