Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Tales of the Road: HWY 61
It's been a while since we've posted! Thank you all for stopping and calling in to the store - keeping us on our toes to the point that we were too busy to post blogs!

Many thanks to those of you able to come out and make our Open House a great success! We helped Cathy Wurzer sell through her first print of Tales of the Road.

It was also a great night to meet up with Daniel Lancaster and discuss his book, John Beargrease: Legend of Minnesota's North Shore.

John Beargrease

Now, as we pat our tummies (full of egg nog, sugar cookies and general holiday cheer), we want to invite you to sign up for our weekly e-newsletter - The Northern Lights Gazer. It always has a little bit of what's going on around the store, some reviews, some details on upcoming events, and, especially this week, it has valuable coupons! Sign up this week and you'll receive the Gazer with a coupon worth up to 40% off!

We're trimming down stock for inventory, so all Calendars and Holiday items are 40% off. Print off the coupon from the e-newsletter and bring it in for up to 40% off on all regularly priced items in the store (bookmarks, candles, cards and books). See the newsletter or call for more details!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Why a Book this Holiday Season?

Create your own IndieBound E-card!

Fellow book blogger, Bookavore, asks this important question this holiday season. Why a book? Honestly, so many thoughts rush to mind that, like a troop of clowns, none seems able to make way all the way past my lips (or, case being, finger tips)!
IndieBound has suggested that one reason is that "a scented candle has never changed anyone's life" [for the better]. That reminds me of the many authors who tell of how books transformed their lives - with language - that communication between reader & author, and with the escape into new worlds, ideas and possibilities.

What stands out to you about books? The smell? The tactility? Engaging new subjects? Taking a quick vacation? Gathering in thrills? Losing oneself in the robes of history? Let us know!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Louis Jenkins breaks in European Shoes

Louis Jenkins, prolific prose poet, has just released a limited edition collection of poetry and prose, European Shoes centering on his travels in the late summer and fall of 2007. We'll be celebrating this release with a reading/reception on Sunday, December 7th, 3:30pm at the Quaker Meeting House 1802 East First Street, Duluth, MN.
the perfect combo of gruff and kind!
A bit about Louis Jenkins- a Duluthian since 1970; widely published and anthologized; a contemporary master of the prose poem known for his clever, dry wit; winner of awards; Prairie Home Companion star; and now skating his way on to just-off Broadway for a workshop of a play based on his poetry.
Visit his press and click on "listen" to hear him read various poems!

A bit about European Shoes- "useless as a travel guide and offers no insight whatsoever into European art, culture, politics or daily life" proclaims the preface. The insight may not be offered, per se, but is rather discovered through the journey. Jenkins alternates between journal entries on topics of travel, and art, people and history - emphasizing a sense of place through careful details of sights and gestures, as well as noting names of people and places. It recreates the feeling of being captivated in a new place - a lot familiar, a lot foreign, and the reluctant realization that you're the foreigner.

Limited Edition! Get yours today!
The poetry, like a viking ship, travels near and far, attacking quickly but also known to "slip sideways into the lee of the wind. So even with the most skilled sailors [readers] it [is] easy to get blown of course." But that's where we find the insights: a little bit sideways rather than straight on.
One of these insights that I appreciated is that of the writing process. Since these poems are dry and often border on the absurd, it's nice to see them in communication with the journal entries to see the initial spark, as it were (or may have been).
The subjects range broadly: shoes, breakfast, bicycle abandonment, masonry, trains, goddesses, and artists. The speakers change just as much as they remain still:
When it first happened I thought my acquaintance was speaking to someone else. I looked around but there was no one else there. I've tried moving to adjust the conversational direction, but the speaker only readjusts. I realized that if I kept moving our conversation would be going in concentric circles.
(from "Out of It")

Come on out. Enjoy the reading. Chat with Louis and other poetry lovers. Pick up your copy or copies of the book!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Spirit Lake Poetry Series - Beth Ann Fennelly

Beth Ann Fennelly will be reading on Saturday, 11/22, 7:30pm at Somers Lounge at the College of St.Scholastica as part of the Spirit Lake Poetry Series.

I was lucky enough to have seen Fennelly read a few years back shortly after the release of her book, Tender Hooks. Her poetry is playful and dramatic as it explores relationships, interactions, emotions and perceptions that don't always receive the depth of attention they deserve.

an example from Tender Hooks

From the kitchen, fixing her bottle, I hear it:
two milk teeth against my beer can.

Her new collection, Unmentionables is backed with quotes from Robert Hass, the Harvard Review, Nick Hornby and Tim Rauschenberger (apparently to disrupt the letter H). Admiring students, considering footed pajamas, remembering life in Illinois while living in Mississippi - Fennelly is able to "veer into unexpected depths" with an awareness and passion. She also gives us a Dream Song cycle and considers impressionism. Smart and endearing verse.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Peace Bell Event Report

Last night was a great evening for telling a moving story about peacemaking through a new children's book and the screening of a new documentary. On Wednesday, November 12th, our shop collaborated with the Arrowhead Reading Council to host Margi Preus for a reading of her newest children's book The Peace Bell. Also part the event was a screening of filmmaker Paul Creager's movie Resonance. Both of these projects tell us the story of Duluth's Peace Bell, located at Enger Park. How did a bell from a temple in Japan get to Duluth after WWII?
The story of the Peace Bell is amazing and profound. Margi's inspiration as well as Paul's passion for doing the research and collecting archival photos and film footage informed the audience of a long forgotten piece of history.
I highly recommend you take a moment to watch the youtube clip. If you are a teacher check out Margi and Paul's websites for more background material. This material is for students K-12 as well as community members.
I haven't been moved by a story and the passion of the story tellers since I read Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson.
Peace, Love, Books,
Anita Zager

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day

Hey all you Joe/Jane the Bibliophiles and Joe/Jane Sixpacks (of books) make sure to head out and vote! Find your polling center here!

Two Spiritual Books

Kathleen Norris's Acedia & Me
Acedia is a state of mind in which one becomes incapable of sharing, appreciating or receiving God's love. Often overlooked or miscategorized as apathy or depression, Kathleen Norris explicates through memoir and meditation this all-too-familiar "noonday demon" and how to surpass its influence. Listen to her discuss her book in an interview with America Magazine

Donna Freitas's new YA novel, Possibilities of Sainthood

Also via America Magazine, is an interview with Donna Freitas, author of Becoming a Goddess of Inner Poise and co-author of Killing the Impostor God: Philip Pullman's Spiritual Imagination in His Dark Materials discusses her newest book, Possibilities of Sainthood, the story of Antonia Lucia Labella who very much wants to become a saint, while still alive. She carries on regular (one-sided) correspondence with the Pope, proposing new patron saints and nominating herself for the posts! Examines family, religion, growing up, and highlights strong women with dynamic faiths.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Poetry Events this Weekend!

Just noticed this off the wire from Lake Superior Writers:
November 1st, 2008, Saturday, 2 to 4 pm., The Green Room at
the Duluth Public Library, 520 West Superior Street, Duluth,

Please join us for a panel discussion on "The Future of
Poetry" led by 2008-10 Duluth Poet Laureate Jim Johnson,
with Ryan Vine, Chris Godsay, Jennifer Derrick, Paul
Lundgren, and Cecilia Lieder. There will be discussion and
demonstration of different formats for presenting poetry:
via the internet, rap music, poetry slams, blogging, and
print publication of poetry chapbooks and books.

Sponsored by Lake Superior Writers and community
organizations. Free and open to the public, with
refreshments provided by The Friends of the Duluth Public

For additional information, contact Lake Superior Writers,
writers@lakesuperiorwriters.org, 218-722-3094.


Sunday, November 2nd, Poet Al Hunter will be reading 3-5 to release his new book of poetry at Amazing Grace Cafe in Canal Park. We'll have his books available at the event!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wolf / Moose Study of Isle Royale Celebration

"Duluth will be celebrating the 50 years of wolf moose research in a way that honors special wild places." Documentary screening on Thursday at the Marshall Performing Arts Center and presentations at the Library rotunda (afternoon) and the Marshall Performing Arts Center (evening).

If you follow the wolf/moose study (I believe it's the longest single predator/prey study ever conducted), if you love the mystique of Isle Royale (mining, fishing, ships, lighthouses, backpacking, wildlife, the possibility of visiting the largest island on the largest lake on the largest island on the largest freshwater lake in the world), or if you are interested by the outdoors - include these events in your plans!

Also include a visit down to the bookstore November 8th, Saturday morning at 10am to meet Carolyn Peterson. Carolyn Peterson will be in the store (I think she'll have her husband Rolf Peterson with her...) signing copies of her book A View from the Wolf's Eye, a memoir detailing her life on Isle Royale, including raising a family in the back country and other impressions of life on the magnificent island.

Carolyn will be in the store on Saturday 11/8 at 10am
Check the study's site for background information, photos, news, and even artistic impressions of the study

Is your pocket not fulfilling its full potential?

These Olive Editions from HarperCollins are a great concept - good size and durability and featuring recent classics (beating Penguin Classics to the punch?).

Next step: make books the new bling.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Read before the Election

Or before Thanksgiving (Canadian Thanksgiving's already passed), Or before the harsh winter. Actually I read it this summer and enjoyed it, so anytime in the spring would be good too...

The main thing is that you should read Sarah Vowell's new book, Wordy Shipmates. In it she examines the lives of the second-wave Puritans that have left their mark in so many ways through to today. She pays special attention to John Winthrop's "City on a Hill," beacon of Christian living idea. She shows how he came up with the idea, who liked it, when and why, at the time, and the ways in which he tried to carry it out. She also notes how it's carried through into current politics and mindsets.

Also addressed in the book: mean-spirited pamphlet wars; apologies out to the King of England; Puritans and their connections to the land, the natives, and the future site of Rhode Island; courtrooms and other forms of justice; and what we chose to remember -> the buckle hats, turkey and witch hunts.

Sarah Vowell shares her research and insights with dry humor and incredible wit, as always. Here's a link to several of her clips from This American Life, the pertinent one being "Turkey in Pilgrim's Clothing" examining modern pop culture's view of the puritans/pilgrims in situation comedies:"17th century New England is all situation. No Comedy."

Friday, October 17, 2008

Twin Cities Book Festival and National Book Award

Thanks, again, to M&Q for giving a heads up to Utne's vlog coverages of the Twin Cities Book Festival. It's a fantastic event put on by one of my favorite zines, Rain Taxi (available at the store for free!). We were lucky to come across many of these books and booksellers and publisher reps at MBA. Now you can experience it second hand and be aware of the event for next year.

The Milkweed and Coffeehouse books are on my to-read list, Once and Future Celt is on my table at home, and Graywolf's Refresh Refresh sounds right up my alley!

If none of these great books leap out at you, then check out these National Book Award nominees for 2008. We'll do our best to get them in/ keep them on stock at the store for you!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

So behind on posting!

Ok. Last few weeks in review:
Midwest Booksellers Association meeting in Minneapolis. It was my first trip and I enjoyed it greatly. Click here to see the article. I'm going to claim to be one of the blurs in the picture until proven wrong. (many thanks to David @ M&Q for the link that he posted to their great blog in a very timely and adept fashion!)

Interesting takes on Nobel Literature Award at the Poetry Foundation and Banned Books Week from a Banner of Books Bookbuyer.

Standing Ovation for Johnson and Family The Laureate Standing Behind His Publications
Duluth Poet Laureate Jim Johnson had his inaugural reading complete with music from the family! The Mayor popped in for a declaration full of "Whereas" statements to warm the heart!

Margi Preus brought in green tea for her book The Peace Bell. You can still see her in the store later on if you missed her, or check out her event at Harbor City.

Beatrice Ojakangas and her sister brought in a rosemary parmesan bread. It was very tasty and made the store smell wonderful. It's one of over 500 recipes for caseroles, which go by many names but can be just about anything baked and served in a single dish. (who says I don't pay attention?!)

Some ladies posed in a parking lot next to an old spring factory across the street. I guess too many people have the picture with the bridge in the background. Or the Lake. Or one of our more historic buildings. Or Rose Garden. Or public park.

And I'm way behind on my grading for school and blogging and store holiday cataloguing for the store.

We're on the tail end of our color peak, but it's still quite gorgeous out.

This weekend Duluth's own Cal Benson as he opens the twelfth season of the Spirit Lake Poetry Series with a reading on Saturday, Oct. 18, at 7:30 p.m., in Somers Lounge at the College of St. Scholastica

more soon as I continue to catch up. Nary a dull moment.

Friday, October 3, 2008

I want circumstances such as these in my future

Kash's Blog from Boulder, CO: wherein he details being fought over to go to dinner with John Hodgman and Chuck Klosterman. And the hilarity that ensues.

If you haven't checked out Downtown Owl, make sure you pick it up, or at least some of Klosterman's other works.

Push to shove, I have to say I'm a Hodgman fan through and through. He had me at 700 Hobo Names. As such, I'm looking very forward to the 21st, when More Information Than You Require hits the shelves with more made-up knowledge than any shelf could hope to hold!
Here is More Information than You Require

and while we're thinking about the end of the week...

here's a story that appeared in the The Duluth Budgeteer this past week about our very own blog and beloved store.
Read our fame before it's archived!

More Banned Books Thoughts as Banned Books Week Draws to a Close

Via Powell's Bookstore Blog another perspective on Banned Books Week that acknowledges the possible complacency through self-congratulatory posturing, a la "Good thing we saved Harry Potter from those barbarians!"

In a lot of ways, David Ulin's piece could be applied to many celebrations and memorials and the over-simplifications involved. His L.A. Times piece asks us to respect the responsibility of fighting censorship while acknowledging the full power of books (often at the root of people wanting to ban them - not to be dismissed as "simply" fanaticism). Read his full story here.

As Banned Books Week Comes to an End

I think the best part of this week is to reflect on the great literature out there that may have been ripped from the collective conscience because someone disagreed with the politics, the characters, the religion, the relationships and/or the author. To think that book bans are in the past is to open the door to those who would seek to stamp upon the discourse of ideas now and in the future.
This post says it all VERY well

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Say what?!

Nobel Judge dismisses US Literature.

I tend to agree with person who offers up a reading list to the callous judge. There is something to be said about Americans not having the availability of translations or seeking them out as much as we might, but the longer recorded histories of Europe and close proximities of cultures and languages do not automatically equate better writing.

I guess this means we won't be seeing any Flarf poets crowned on the Nobel stage for a few more years.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Achewood, Onstad, and The Great Outdoor Fight

It's a nice retro cover, but you'll need to check the achewood site for a better feel of the comic!
Not everyone is familiar with Chris Onstad's online comic Achewood, but hopefully more people will come around to his quirky/absurd/original/and occasionally crass brilliance.
Achewood- there's a few cats, some teddy bears, a young otter, a couple of robots, and a drug abusing squirrel. They quarrel, the go on adventures, and they come to each others' aid when needed while writing newsletters, getting married, flying across the country, or creating daring new recipes. If it seems far fetched and absurd... it is a bit. But it's also tempered by the minimalist style and pop-culture references. Ultimately, it is the character development and relationships of the characters that drives the story arcs. While the strip has been running for years now, it only takes a handful of strips to understand and appreciate the characters - and, ultimately, begin to follow them closely! Onstad even writes blogs from the perspective of the majority of his characters' points of view. There are also t-shirts and cookbooks and signed strips.
And now, there's a book put out by Dark Horse Press. The Great Outdoor Fight which is the print edition of a story arc that followed Ray and Roast Beef to the Great Outdoor Fight- "Three Days, Three Acres, Three Thousand Men."
For more info on Onstad, Achewood, and The Great Outdoor Fight, check out the article and interview over at NPR.I hope to pose with cartoon characters for an NPR story some day...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Newspaper News Blues

I know I'm a little slow on the draw on this issue, but I do like to ponder when I can.

To summarize, The Duluth News Tribune, the primary paper in Duluth, has laid off many fine journalists, editors and staff in an effort to save costs. In the cuts: Ann Klefstad, who has dedicated herself to covering and helping to publicize the immense and diverse arts and entertainment in the greater Twin Ports region.

This great loss triggers a lot of emotions and thoughts. I took my day to ponder and still feel in a bit of a tailspin. Before I lose coherence, I want to urge any and all of you who, like me, feel that this is, at best an unfortunate shame and at worst a horrible sign of times to come, to contact the Duluth News Tribune and share your thoughts and opinions on the matter.

I've just re-written this paragraph 8 times. So instead of my over-simplifications, here are my questions about some of the difficulties:
How does the News Tribune retain its validity for the arts communities? For the greater community as a whole? How many alternative sources for coverage, criticism and publication do the arts have in this area (or any one area, to extrapolate the issue that is pervasive well beyond the Twin Ports)? Should there be a centralized source of information? How do blogs fit into this larger equation? Should we increase online communities or scale back in the face of developments such as these? What viewpoints are we privileging/supporting through a centralized Arts coverage compared to the dentralization/small community/fragmented communities of different blogs - both personal and communal?

There are many other considerations out there. I've never been much of a newspaper reader, but I've always liked the notion that I could pick one up at anytime and read news relevant to my experiences. Am I part of the problem? Can I be part of the solution?

My personal online stats: 4 email accounts, myspace, facebook, 2 livejournals, 2 blogspots, indiebound, mnartists 10 blogs actively (at least once a day) and about 20 more semi-actively (once a week). Itemized it seems like a lot, but I can think of many people who dwarf my numbers in any given category. More often than not, these medias enhance the personal interactions (I still find time for those!) day to day. They've also opened my eyes to many publications and authors out there who I value very dearly. All this online presence is being, in part, blamed for the current state of affairs for news print media.

Please, leave a comment, or come by the store for a quick chat. Let the DNT know your questions and concerns. I know that I don't have any answers or solutions right now, but I do know that this is an issue we need to address in our community.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Report on the Reading and Reception for Shelter Half

L to R: Laura McLean, Malcolm McLean, Bill Holm, Jim Perlman, Judith Niemi, Mara Hart, and Cynthia Loveland
It was a very fine evening to end our series of September Anniversary events and gather with friends, family and admirers of Carol Bly and her last work, the novel Shelter Half, published after her passing this past winter by Holy Cow! Press of Duluth.

In addition to Jim Perlman, editor Holy Cow! Press, readers included Malcolm McLean (brother), Laura McLean (niece), Judith Niemi (author, teacher, friend), Cynthia Loveland (friend and colleague), Mara Hart (author, teacher, editor), and Bill Holm (author, teacher, friend). The passages read were gorgeous pieces in and of themselves, and, as Bill Holm noted, a testiment to Bly's tremendous skill to give life to such unique characters and bring them together so brilliantly throughout the novel.Cynthia LovelandBill Holm Was Here!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Bukstoor Can Has Fezbuk page!

Ok, so my lolc@t isn't very advanced. I tried to start a lolbook by taking amusing pictures of my shelves and all their funny antics, but all the captions were far too literary, correctly spelt and had the persistent desire to adhere to something akin to good grammar. But that hasn't stopped me in my search to bring great books to the attention of the interwebs using the latest in teknawledgee!

Unveiling our new presence on Facebook! If you facebook (and if you do, you know it's a verb!), swing by and become a fan of our store. Events, pictures, updates and more to come! If you don't facebook yet, we're all still very pleased to meet people in person and don't see that enthusiasm ever waning!

Here's a lolbook for you:Really, they should be sold together as a combo-pack Jamie Lee Curtis's book, Big Words for Little People and Neil Stephenson's Anathem came in the same box. Just the two of them. Stephenson is the bestselling author of Crytonomicon. The instructions are for one of the more complex cardboard displays I've ever assembled in the store for the new Riordan sensation 39 Clues.

If it's still not funny, you are proof as to why lolbook has hardly a chance...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A true loss

Our hearts and thoughts go out to Wallace's family and community. David Foster Wallace dead at 46

Friday, September 12, 2008

Night of Music, Poetry, and Stories!

Just found out about this great event in the northland for all and any of you who enjoy reindeer and things Scandinavian!
Friday, September 19: Duluth, MN The Reindeer Show is a program of poetry, music and stories celebrating the reindeer, with current and former Duluth Poet Laureates Jim Johnson and Barton Sutter, and special guests Stina Fagertun and Anita Barth-Jørgensen of Tromsø, Norway, located way up at the arctic circle. The performance will be Friday evening, September 19th, 2008 starting at 7:30 p.m. at the Quaker Meeting House located at 1802 East First Street in Duluth. Suggested donations for the performance are $10 for adults, $5 for students and $20 for the whole family. Special refreshments will be for sale during the break provided by Takk for Maten, the new Scandinavian restaurant in downtown Duluth. Ross Sutter, working to arrange the tour. Please contact me at: 612-331-1968 or at my email address: rosssutter at qwest dot net for more information.

Stop by, have some great food, and listen to some wonderful music and poetry! More events to follow that weekend.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

A quick note on Sarah

Sarah: How a Small Town Girl Turned Alaska's Political Establishment on Its Ear still has yet to rise to the ranks of "most picked-up" books, but has quickly risen to the "most commented upon" books. The comments generally being, "Wow... that was fast!"

And it was. But not in the full sense people may be thinking when they note the speedy publishing. Epicenter Press put Kaylene Johnson's book out in April. It's hard to say that the press, that specializes in Alaskan subjects, anticipated then what a book about a little known Governor would mean. The Friday morning of McCain's announcement, Epicenter sold out of its remaing stock of hardcover books. The speed in publishing really comes in when Lightning Source Print on Demand through Ingram Publisher Services worked overtime on the holiday weekend to meet over 40,000 orders within days! More on the story at Shelf Awareness's Archive.

So, yes, it was very fast, but not in a "do they write biography books up like obituaries?" kind of way!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Literature based Geek Test!

There are plenty of geek tests out there on the inter-webs, but most give high scores for math and star trek, leaving those of us who are on the more literary side of the geek spectrum relegated to Second-Class Geek standing. But here's a test inspired by Junot Diaz's pulitzer winning novel (see earlier post)to judge your geekiness! Arrived at via ABA Blog via Galley Cat -> How Big of a Geek Are You?

I tallied a 54 of "could describe" with about half of those being geeky, in-depth descriptions rather than just placements. How many can you get?!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Another Adorable Animal Book

Well, perhaps adorablity is subjective. And it could also be noted that Gappers are not found in any reputable wildlife guides. But The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip written by George Saunders and illustrated by Lane Smith is extremely charming, and does involve some animals (even if a few are very made-up).

This is the story of goats, children, child labor, blessings, tradition, ingenuity, and gappers: burr-like creatures that so love goats, that whenever they get near a goat, "it gives off a continual high-pitched happy shriek of pleasure that makes it impossible for the goat to sleep." This is not usually good for goats or those who depend upon goats for their livelyhood. So the children of the three households of Frip spend their nights picking the Gappers off the goats and dumping them back into the sea.

But the Gappers get smarter and gang up on the house of Capable and her widowed father. See how Capable deals with the Gappers, her goats, her neighbors, her father and her incredible ammount of lost sleep!

The story is very endearing and the illustrations are stunning.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Animal Tales to Warm Your Heart

I admit it…I’m a sucker for anything to do with animals be they wild or domesticated. I recently read two books that stick in my mind as great reads about pets with whom we share our lives.

Run (quietly), don’t walk to your nearest animal shelter and adopt a homeless cat. Then sit down together and ready Vicki Myron’s book titled Dewey: The Small Town Library Cat Who Touched the World. This non-fiction story tells of Dewey Readmore Books who was abandoned in the Spencer, Iowa’s library book return depository on the coldest night of the winter. He was rescued by the librarians and went on to live in the library for nineteen years where he was an ambassador for the city and a friend to all. If you know the spirit of cats, you will not be surprised by Dewey’s skills and activities but you will be touched nonetheless. If you are not a cat fan, you may well become one by the end of the read. Oh that every place of business could house an abandoned pet!
To be published in late September by Grand Central Publishing.

The Art of Racing in the Rain is a novel by Garth Stein which is told (almost) completely from a dog’s point of view. Anyone who has a dog harbors no doubt that a canine understands 90% of what is being said. Stein assures us that this is indeed true. The story takes a predictable turn or two but it is a sweet story about loyalty and friendship. Stein shows us that although humans consider it their duty to take care of their dogs, dogs actually are taking care of us. Available now. Published by Harper Collins.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Human Dark with Sugar

I'm glad no one was in the store when I found out that Brenda Shaughnessy has a new collection out. I did a little dance (pinioned my arms like a 4 yr old and hopped around a bit... it probably looked like I was in the early stages of passing a kidney stone) and may have squealed a little bit. Shaughnessy was one of my first poetry loves after I entered grad school. We read Interior with Sudden Joy, and I wanted to read everything she'd ever written, which, at the time, was mainly found in the book we'd just read.

Now she has a second collection,Human Dark with Sugar and I'm still very much infatuated. As were the judges of the James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets. Her poems are smart, lively, sexy, funny and surreal. Exquisite Corpse said of her first collection, "Brenda Shaughnessy... writes like the love-child of Mina Loy and Frank O'Hara." Her word play, confessionalism, sensuality, boldness, theory and sureality stand at the forefront of this comparrison.

In the new collection, seeking/missing/finding/losing/forcing love compells the quick wit and awareness. I leave you with a section from a poem titled, "One Love Story, Eight Takes."
It's only fair that I present yet another side
as insidious as it is,

because two sides hold up nothing but each other.

A tentacled skepticism,
a suspended contempt,
such fancies and toxins form a third wall.

A mean way to end
and I never dreamed we meant it.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Books to Prisoners Challenge

As booksellers, we are acutely aware of the negative effects of censorship on society. An effective democracy requires the open exchange of ideas, and many important ideas are contained in book form. Books and reading can have an especially profound positive impact on prison inmates, giving them tools for learning and personal growth during their time of incarceration. The education of prisoners reduces their burden on society in many ways once they are reintegrated.

In Wisconsin, the staff of Rainbow Bookstore in Madison has run a statewide Books to Prisoners Project since 2006, and has sent over 4,000 packages of books to prisoners since then. (They welcome donations - see their website for information on donating). But in early August, I received a press release from the organization with the news that the state's Department of Corrections was barring Rainbow from delivering books to adult prisoners. A letter sent to the bookstore on May 13 by Department Administrator John Bett stated that, "effective immediately, the WI-DOC Division of Adult Institutions will no longer allow books or publications from Rainbow Bookstores in any DOC facility." As of the time of the press release, the two sides were communicating to try and work out the problem (though perhaps slowly on the DOC's part).

Wanting to help spread the word, I e-mailed the press release around to some friends and allies. It was picked up by our friend and fellow traveler in the book business, Claire Kirch, who writes for Publisher's Weekly. She delved into the story, and the resulting article will run nationwide in the magazine's next issue. Says Claire:

I just filed a report that'll run in Publishers Weekly's magazine Monday on booksellers sending books to prisons, and all the red tape and ridiculous hoops they have to jump through. Thanks, Carl, for the story idea that blossomed out of your tip! Re Wisconsin's DOC and Rainbow Books, the update is that Wisc's DOC was concerned that the Books to Prisoners book donation program was collecting used books offsite and mixing them with new books from the bookstore. They told me there's an incredible volume of books coming in; they are concerned about safety and security with so many used books going through their system. But, they sent a letter to the Books for Prisoners program and the bookstore, dated Aug. 22, asking to meet with them to find a solution to the problem. Of all the DOCs I spoke to for my report, I found the Wisc. DOC to be the most sincere and most receptive to making sure that books get into the hands of prisoners who wish to possess their own books. If anyone is interested, I can post a link to my entire report Monday. Utah is particularly restrictive when it comes to providing prisoners access to their own books. It's unbelievable.
Thanks Claire! A little citizen action and a media spotlight can do wonders for keeping our rights intact. Here's the article.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Obama Book Mishaps Prove to Be Non-partisan

We posted recently about why we do not stock Obama Nation (for very similar reasons as when we declined to keep If I Did It on the shelf). Politics really have little to nothing to do with the decision: it's a matter of integrity and choosing not to participate in sensationalistic mudslinging and slander.

Now a book from the Democratic side of the political aisle is forcing the hand of independent booksellers across the nation. Obama's Challenge written by Robert Kuttner and put out by Chelsea Green will be available exclusively through the large river website for it's first few weeks. Chelsea Green is very proud of the book and hopeful for the conversations that it should inspire. Chelsea Green then goes on to tout its success in books in politics and sustainability. They apparently are very excited about the speed the mythic women warriors site can offer, but are ignoring the other questions of open market and supporting local businesses: both of which are integral to discussions on politics and sustainability. Giving exclusive rights to one vendor during the prime time for the conversations they hope to engender serves only to limit those conversations and alter people's impressions for reasons not related to the content.

Much thanks to Gayle Shanks, ABA President, who wrote on this subject at Bookselling this Week and goes into more details there.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Why we haven't stocked "Obamanation"

This is a helpful explanation of the "Obamanation" issue. Article from Media Matters

How to Build Your Own Fortress (of Knowledge!)

Image taken from a bookcase bedroom plan; a plan I want so badly to use in my room!

Step One Commit yourself to the process of building a Fortress of Knowledge. While a typical Fortress of Knowledge (FoK) is just as much fun as a typical Pillow-Blanket-Cushion Fort (PBC Fort), the FoK takes a bit more diligence.

Step Two Embrace the unique spirit of the FoK: sharing. PBC Forts are all about keeping things out- light, dogs, roommates and members of the opposite sex. But the FoK is built, not only with books, but also the intention to talk about books. To lend a book (with stringent warnings pertaining to any possible failure on the other party's part to return the book), make a recommendation, share an anecdote, win a team trivia tournament... these are the aims of the FoK!

Step Three Come to Northern Lights Books and Gifts and examine our quarry of books that we've just put on clearance! You'll have to do this in person rather than using our search feature, because choosing materials for an FoK is a tactile exprience.

Step Four Vary the composition of your FoK. It's easy to think that you'll be set for life with all political non-fiction and one cookbook, but think on a larger scale: throw in history, memoir, environment, novels, mysteries and poetry (especially grand for filling in any gaps). Also remember that bigger books are often better on the bottom and at corners.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Youth Obsessed Culture?

There is certainly a lot to be alarmed about in a culture obsessed with youth and beauty (such as spawning delusions of immortality), but a hotel here in Duluth, MN seems to be accepting our human condition very well!

I guess they may pass on the Twilight Series that splits its time between teenage love and immortal vampires. Then again, they might really like vampires and adolescent romance so much that they're reading the entire series before the movie comes out this fall! I'm not going to be one to speculate too broadly.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Junot Diaz geeks out

Many authors attempt what Diaz does so well- the intelligent portrayal of both brutality and tenderness. I became a big Diaz fan when I read his collection of connected short stories, Drown in a Latino Literature class. I was captivated by the grit and wit combinations in his stories. I wanted more.

So, I was excited when The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao came out and even more excited when I heard that it won the pulitzer this spring. The novel is impressive with its flawed narrator, casual code-switching to Spanish, and blending of story, history, fantasy, family, love, pity, lust and finding one's spot in the world. Diaz does not deny hope nor offer any clear redemption. He creates a narrative that invites us to examine our own lives, and lives around us, to see the forces that sweep through our lives and how we react to them.

Out in paperback this fall.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Not New News, but certainly still news worthy

We're still new in this blogging endeavor and we couldn't let this news item slip!

Shakespearean actor Mark Rylance, in his acceptance speech (for Best Actor) at the Tony Awards this past June, recited a poem written by Duluth's own Louis Jenkins. He did a fine reading - worthy of Jenkins's own delivery - and left the audience more than a little perplexed and a lot more than a little amused.

The attention garnered by the unique approach to an acceptance speech has given rise to talk about a possible production to be made of a series of Jenkins's poems. More of the story here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Wet Collection by Joni Tevis

It's hard to review a book that's already made it to the level of being a Minnesota Book Awards Finalist, but after finishing it, I felt compelled to tell more people about it.

Written throughout with vivid and poetic prose, Tevis connects short essays that, in addition to careful examination of their subject(s), often center on questions of reclamation and preservation. The title itself comes from a collection of animals and animal pieces preserved in the basement of a natural history museum and the interactions she had with the curator while looking through the various specimens.

So, what's reclaimed and what's preserved? What then is left behind and abandoned in those processes? Who has the ability and desire to sift through what's been forgotten and restore it? Tevis gives us histories, family legends, scenic vistas, and minute artifacts that swirl and blend time, emotion, religion, distance, attention and affection.

There are paragraphs that shine on nearly every page, like the specimens in jars that entrap a visitor's gaze/attention/imagination. Here's a quick taste from an essay focusing on the life of a single pioneer woman who lived very near where Joni spent the summer working as a guide for the Forest Sevice in Oregon. She's writing at the start of a burgeoning relationship:
Today we watched doves drop like rain from a black maple; yesterday I felt his throated speech thrum beneath my fingertips' this morning I woke with him, convinced we had just dreamed the same dream. All these things are mine, but I've given something up, too: late at night, by the lake, meteors pitch toward earth, and I'm not there to see it. A solitary life I turned away from. A life another woman lived ("The Rain Follows the Plow" p.76).

If you enjoy rich prose, careful reflection and writing that seems to defy genre, I strongly suggest this book.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Compare and Contrast and Review

I just finished reading City of Thieves by David Benioff and I really enjoyed it. I found that I enjoyed it on many of the levels that I enjoyed The Road last year. I thought a quick compare/contrast might help bring it all into focus.

Both are similar in their settings: famished and bare, populated by the desperate. That City of Thieves is Stalingrad under siege and The Road is an apocalyptic future landscape seems to make little difference when characters are looting, hoarding, sharing what little they can and fleeing cannibals.

But, in City of Thieves the narrator is the younger of the pair. Rather than the sparse, bleak and haunting prose of McCarthy, Benioff has a character who quotes from literature, some delightful dialogue and, while not verbose in description, he is allows pieces of the landscapes to really come alive. This difference is continued in the names- a man and his boy : rich Russian names with splashes of German. While City of Thieves is, ultimately, a coming of age novel, The Road is a man looking back on all he's lost- wondering at the futility of continuing forward.

So: what's left to compare? That against the backdrop of what's worst about mankind, there are still relationships that endure and even flourish because of their strange circumstances. One needs to be somewhat optimistic to read that into McCarthy, but Benioff nurtures that impulse as much as he exposes us to the murder, malice and desperation.

OK, my notions of some deep connection between the titles may be a little more fleeting than they originally seemed. Here's what to love in City of Thieves: Benioff captures a lot of the experience - the good, the bad, ugly and unexpected. Some stellar dialogue. An interest in incorporating other literature (a device that can be tedious in other works, but Benioff makes integral). Engaging characters that keep the reader intent on what will happen next. I really recommend it to anyone who read The Road and anyone else who's looking for a very solid read this summer.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Carol Bly video

Carol Bly was a tremendous literary force. She worked tirelessly with writers seeking to hone their craft. Insightful, sharp, stern and caring: she made a mark with many authors. Her only novel, Shelter Half, was published by Holy Cow! Press after her recent death.

We will be hosting an event to honor Carol Bly's life and celebrate her novel with a reading by friends and family at the Duluth Women's Club on Thursday, September 18th, at 7:00 pm.

Thanks to Jim Perlman of Holy Cow! Press for letting us know about this video. Entitled "The Lucky Predators," it features Carol Bly on the psychology of violence. It was recorded in 1991 during the first Gulf War.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Used up all those summer recipes?

Then come on down to the store!  We have a veritable smörgåsbord of cookbooks that are marked down 40% in our discounted books section. A real feast for the eyes... and then a feast for you and your family and friends after you put the book to use!

While you're down, check out the delectable best-sellers, regional tastes, and many other flavors of fine literary merit. If we don't have it out on the table, we can always order-in!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Caught Off-Guard

I was called out and lost some book-selling cred this afternoon. Asked if we were having a party for the new book in the Inheritance Cycle, rather than admit that I didn't know the Inheritance Cycle by that name, I stabbed in the dark to see if he meant to ask if we were having a Breaking Dawn Party. Swing and a miss. Ignorance displayed on two best-selling YA series.

In my defence, it was kind of noisy in the store, I've been thinking more in the realm of maritime titles than YA Blockbusters, and I had just sold 5 copies of Breaking Dawn in the previous 10mins. But, ultimately, I failed this caller.

So, caller from this afternoon, I can say that I've learned from my faux pas. From this moment on, I will no longer irreverently refer to the Inheritance Cycle as "the Eragon books." I will be able to say that we are taking pre-orders for Brisingr, but, at this time, we have no special party in the works. Please keep reading and please continue to support local booksellers, even if we may be caught off-guard (say in a noisy store) from time to time.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Tall Ships

This is a bustling weekend here in Canal Park. Lots of excitement and interest in the Tall Ships coming in this afternoon/evening. We'll be hosting a table featuring a selection of our maritime themed books in the Vender's area of the Maritime Festival in the DECC - so stop by and say hello!

In addition to the tall ships, we also have half of our author booksignings for the month are this weekend!
We start Friday Evening with John Henricksson and Betsy Bowen with the memoir The Gunflint Cabin from 7-8.

Saturday we have Jeffrey Woolf with his novel, Apples of Arcadia, 12-1; Julie Kramer with her new mystery novel, Stalking Susan, 1-2; and Stephen Daniel with his guide, Shipwrecks along Superior's North Shore, 2-3.

Sunday we host Jenifer LeClair signing her new novel, Rigged for Murder, 1-2; and Paula Ellis will be signing her Minnesota's North Shore Activity Book from 2-3.

Come be part of the hustle, bustle and excitement with the great literary events and maritime attractions!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I don't think of myself as a book snob...

but on occasion, I think it's important to evaluate one's likes and dislikes - especially the ways in which one comes to and expresses those likes and dislikes. Am I picky in what I choose to read because I know what I like or because I've passed judgement on other genres and styles? Do I judge other people by what they choose to read? Do I have hierarchies of literature that are the root of my book prejudices? Those are rather weighted questions without definite answers, but, since I'm going to be writing a lot on this blog, I figured today would be as good a time as any to bare some of my aesthetics, so you can better read into future postings!

Potential Book Snob Traits accompanied with explanations/apologies:
1. I rarely read books that are on any bestseller list. This isn't out of some disdain for the populous. (Although it does give me pause that the say-so of a tv host can make an author and/or vilify an author) By and large, these books are popular because center on interesting topics, engage the readers and are written by quality writers (sometimes quality ghostwriters). I often skip over the bestsellers because I already have a long list of titles and authors, from classics to first novels coming out in a month. The visibility and talk about bestselling books and authors allows me to be familiar with their work without necessarily having to read them. That allows me to spend more time to find books that others may not have heard of yet (or, worse, forgotten).

2.I rarely read mysteries. Often the focus in mysteries is on the plot and other aspects of the book are not as successful. A case of good story: poor storytelling. That's a blanket statement for the less successful in the genre. I grew up on Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot, so I love a good mystery. I was put on to a great series starting with The Coroner's Lunch. So, while I don't go straight to the mystery section of any store, I am no longer disappointed to find myself there.

3.It's very rare that I read a memoir. Memoir should be elegant, soulful, honest, fierce, and insightful: forming an intimate connection between the reader and the writer. Sadly, too many memoirs are sensationalistic and hinged upon name recognition: engendering a type of voyeurism on the part of the reader. I solidly affirm and support those who write memoir/biography in the first description, but, sadly, those in the latter category have made me highly suspicious.

4.I'm a McSweeney's Press Fan. Now, this is on the list because of some stereotypes out there that accuse McSweeney's press of delighting in being elitist by publishing with a focus on the absurd, obscure and all things somewhat hipster. While that may attract many book snobs, not all of us aficionados should be lumped together. They have some incredibly clever titles and authors. They may play toward an inside crowd, but, ultimately, they thrive when being a part of the community.

5.I too often ignore book suggestions that are given to me. Not because I don't trust the suggestion, but mainly because I'm comfortably set in my ways and already have a pile of books to read that my landlord infers is a fire hazard. For every book that I wouldn't enjoy that I dodge, I miss out on a real treasure. I am honestly very gracious for the suggestions and several will stick. Please don't interpret my side-stepping to be the result of not valuing your opinions.

OK. So, ways to redeem myself?
1. I vow to pay more consideration to your recommendations. Especially if you can talk about a book that I've enjoyed in reference to your suggestion. I'm very willing to go into suggestion for suggestion exchanges if we'll have the chance to chat later on.

2.Stop letting the bad keep me from the good (and great). I'll read more memoir and mysteries. One problem I have is the near inability to stop reading a book, no matter how much I dislike it, once I've started. I'll try to be more open minded in selecting books, and allow myself to be slightly more judgemental in deciding which books to read all the way through!

3.Focus on the Love of the Written Word. So what if we're not all attracted to the same collections of words?! There are far too many great stories out there to be intimidated and questioning if we're reading the exact right ones. So, I'll follow the advice I'd like to give anyone else out there questioning his/her reading habits: "Read! Enjoy! Discuss! Discover!"

Prognosis: If I follow my own advice, I should be able to avoid the dangers of falling into some dark, elitist camp. Knowing is half the battle! Keep me honest if you sense me slipping!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

A new breath of fresh air!

We at Northern Lights love to be inspired. That word alone, "inspiration" is a culmination of inferences- creativity, discovery, and the very act of drawing air into our lungs.

Celebrating 15 years, we're still inspired everyday: to organize engaging events, discover new (and old) authors and stories, and to sustain the tradition of independent bookselling that we believe is an integral component to an active and engaged community. Several of the blogs in our links section (and many, many other fine sites) have inspired us to add our own voice into the larger literary mix! We hope that you find our topics, ideas and experiences inspiring in your own life. We hope that you share your thoughts and ideas as well.