"I cannot live without books." -- Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

This Italian Cookbook inspired true love.

And I am not even a big Italian eater. When I eat out, I generally lean towards sushi or Thai or, for a splurge, French. Italian is basic tasty comfort food, in my general experience.

Or it was, until I saw Maxine Clark's Italian Kitchen. Now, I think I have been selling Italian incredibly short. This cookbook has inspired nothing short of lust.

Pure unbridled lust, I tell you, in everyone I have shown it to. The photographs made each of us groan while we looked through it. One employee even went so far as to say that our reactions to the cookbook were making him a bit nervous.

But if you haven't imagined eating Pea Pecorino Pear crostini or Tiramisu cheesecake while looking at these photos, I swear you haven't lived.

In the interest of full disclosure, we only got the one in, and I knew I had to have it by the time I carried it from the cart to the shelf. If you hurry and order it, though, we'll have it in while our 15% off sale is going on for the month of March.

Don't miss out. Power to the pasta!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Francis Bacon Incunabula

"Francis Bacon Incunabula" is an excellent and odd art book about the images that Francis Bacon left on the floor of his studio. In one way it's a book about how an image affects an artist's work, but also and even more interesting how Bacon used that image or images for his own painting. In a way you are seeing the world through Bacon, and that is one interesting trip!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Let's get down and domestic: The Gentle Art of Domesticity

It used to be that domestic arts were a no-no. It was far too frumpy to think of hanging about at home to make cookies or, god forbid, embroider or knit.

But now everyone is jumping on the craft bandwagon. Most of us feel a crazy tug in the direction of one form or another- yarn quickly took over my life a number of years ago, and only now am I thinking about sewing again.

The Gentle Art of Domesticity is for the indecisive crafter. Not sure if you want to cook, sew, knit, quilt or bake? Here, you experience a little taste of every option, complete with beautiful photographs and idyllic craft-laden scenes. Jane Brocket knows how to woo with pretty colors and lush materials.

You might have never known you wanted to make your own curtains and lay on the couch knitting away on a blanket. But this book makes it look so appealing you can't help springing into action.

As one who enjoys crafting time to a distracting degree, I have been so happy to see the boom in creative activities. Nothing says love like a handmade gift. If you are looking to make them or be on the receiving end of them, I think this would be a worthy investment.

Monday, March 16, 2009

On Thomas Mann

I have recently requested the ordering for more of the novels of Thomas Mann. Mann was instrumental in my literary education. I could say that he was the bases in which I measured modern literature and still to this day never tire of his prose.
Like most everyone in this country I started with Death in Venice and although this novella is a masterpiece, and in many a college English course, required reading, I strongly recommend going to his other works which bring to the forefront the greatness of modern German intelligencia which was abruptly suppressed and eliminated with the election of Hitler to the chancellorship in 1933.
The day after Adolph Hitler's assumption of this office in November of 1933 Mann, his wife and family along with his brother Heinrich, also a great writer, left Germany to avoid persecution which was one of the first acts of the Nazi party agenda, the suppression and arrest of artists and writers that were considered degenerate. Most certainly Mann's novels in Germany found their way to the pyres that burned all over the nation in that dark period. Mann remained in Switzerland and received Czechoslovakian citizenship but was forced to escape to Portugal over the Pyrenees, avoiding Spain, an ally of Germany, when the Nazi's marched in on France in 1940. From there he sailed to The USA where he taught briefly at Princeton and then moved with his family to Los Angeles where he lived in Pacific Palisades until the end of the war. He returned to Europe after the war and died in Switzerland in 1955. He never returned to his native Germany.
His early novels such as Buddenbrooks are a great look at late 19th century Europe. Buddenbrooks is about a well to do bourgeois Jewish family in Hamburg and follows a generation form the mid century into the early 20th century. It is a well conceived look at the hopes and ideology of the young and on to the cynicism and disappointments, failures and heartbreak as this generation moves on to middle age. Mann was a young man when he wrote this novel. It has the distinct background of the ideas of Nietzsche and Schopenhauer's philosophy of existence, a neo-realism in which the German's are so famous for.
Mann was also greatly influenced by Goethe and in his later novel Dr Faustus, 1947, most likely written here in Los Angeles, it becomes a parody to the Goethe poem. It is about a musician who sells his soul to the dark forces . The story takes place during WW2 in Germany and the satanic references to the Nazi Regime are interesting. It is a book full of mysticism and darkness for those who like that kind of story.
Other books include The Confessions of Felix Krull originally a short story and later written into a novel, The Holy Sinner, all I can say about that is read it! Its about incest, as is his short story The Blood of The Wulsungs, a Wagnerian short story of incest also.
I also recommend Joseph and His Brothers, a tetralogy novel about the biblical Joseph, 1933-42. Magic Mountain, 1924, and a book of his short stories.
Surely Thomas Mann was one of the great writers of the 20th century, so I strongly urge any serious reader of great literature to look beyond Death in Venice.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Influence by Mary Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen

Yes you read it right. And no it is not too easy and no no no it is not because Book Soup is in West Hollywood. It is because it is a damn good book.

Part scrapbook, part inspiration book and conversation with a friend or hero over coffee or cocktails. (I vote for cocktails!)

It is a personal look at what inspires us to wear what we wear and what inspires us to create. And remember often a few months after someone in the press says "These girls look awful!" It is the Twins who have the last laugh as the Olsen ladies launch another trend.

Influence touches on art, photography (do not get mad at me for listening them separately), all manners of design: contemporary fashion, jewelry design, vintage fashion, and culture. The impact of adornment on ourselves and each other.

There are amazing images of impeccably intricate rings that could be out of a page of an entomology book. Vintage photos of style icons like Laureen Hutton and DVF. Lovely portraits of contemporary designers, one image of Giambattista Valli as sexy as he wants to be in black sweater and a strand of pearls around his neck - a timeless nod to style and a reminder of how much our standards of masculine and feminine have changed.

And so what there a couple pictures of a mega watt diamond ring that one sister gave to the other for her 21st birthday. So what? Do not hate the playa. Hate the game.

Friday, March 13, 2009

st patrick's day cometh

We're only a few days away from St Patrick's day, which just happens to be my favorite holiday. In celebration, I have created a display of books related to Ireland and the Irish. Think of this as the perfect opportunity to acquaint yourself with the titles of a race better known today for their drinking skills than their writing skills.

Irish written culture is the oldest vernacular writing in all of Europe. Irish law was first recorded in the Early Irish period, between 600 and 900 AD, and is comprehensive to the point of ridiculousness to the modern mind. A whole law tract on bees? Seems a bit much.

But the Irish weren't just writing law texts - they had their own mythology and history, much of which they recorded in Irish. The Anglo-Saxons have Beowulf, but the Irish have the Táin Bó Cúailnge, the Cattle Raid of Cooley. And, unlike Beowulf, the Táin survived in numerous manuscripts, so we have the complete story. Queen Medb is determined to have the bull Donn Cualinge so she leads her army into Ulster to fetch it. The only Ulsterman who is not laid low by illness is Cúchulainn, who singlehandedly holds off Medb's army. A hero in the truest sense of the word, Cúchulainn fights challenger after challenger, including his beloved foster-brother Ferdiad. The Táin is full of battles and visits from otherworldly creatures, and because it was written primarily in prose, I find it an easier read than Beowulf. A new edition was just released by Penguin, which we have in stock.

If the myths of old are less interesting to you, the Irish still have a great deal to offer. Jonathan Swift, whose Gulliver's Travels everyone is familiar with, also wrote numerous short stories and essays, like "A Tale of a Tub" and "A Modest Proposal." Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, was also Irish. And of course Oscar Wilde was Irish. The Picture of Dorian Grey was his only novel, but that doesn't stop it from being just as spooky as Dracula. His plays are decidedly less creepy, full of wit and humor. Next time you're in Dublin, you can stop by and see his statue. Tell him I say "hi."

The 20th century was a heyday for Irish authors - W.B. Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, Samuel Beckett, and Seamus Heaney all won Nobel prizes for literature. Yeats' late 19th/early 20th century poetry paints a vivid picture of Ireland, from its natural beauty to the trauma of the Easter Uprising, the War of Independence, and the Civil War. I'm not a tremendous fan of poetry, but "Easter, 1916" captures the amazing sacrifice made by men who wanted their country to be free. The last verse is especially moving, and pays tribute to men who died in search of freedom.
Too long a sacrifice 
Can make a stone of the heart.

O when may it suffice?

That is heaven's part, our part

To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child

When sleep at last has come

On limbs that had run wild.

What is it but nightfall?

No, no, not night but death;

Was it needless death after all?

For England may keep faith

For all that is done and said.

We know their dream; enough

To know they dreamed and are dead.

And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse --
MacDonagh and MacBride

And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,

Wherever green is worn,

Are changed, changed utterly:

A terrible beauty is born.
George Bernard Shaw won the Nobel Prize only two years after Yeats, yet the two men could hardly be more different. Shaw was an ardent socialist who spent most of his life outside of Ireland. His play Pygmalion was the basis for the play My Fair Lady, and he is the only person to have won both a Nobel Prize for Literature and an Academy Award.

The intensely private Samuel Beckett is almost as interesting as the plays he wrote. Beckett went to France during the "Great Emergency" (the Irish name for World War II), where he served with the French resistance. Read more about his life in Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett, by James Knowlson.

Waiting for Godot, his most famous work was described thus by Vivian Mercer, an Irish critic: Beckett
"has achieved a theoretical impossibility—a play in which nothing happens, that yet keeps audiences glued to their seats. What's more, since the second act is a subtly different reprise of the first, he has written a play in which nothing happens, twice."

The most recent Nobel recipient from Ireland, Seamus Heaney, is a talented poet from Northern Ireland. His verse translation of Beowulf is one of the most popular interpretations of the epic poem. You can find both Beowulf and collections of his poetry on the Irish display.

As a list of Irish authors, this is obviously incomplete - the omission of James Joyce alone makes that obvious - but hopefully this gives you an idea of the breadth of Irish literature, and perhaps gives you an idea of where to start. Anyone interested in the earlier authors (those prior to 1900) can read a bit of their work at http://www.ucc.ie/celt/publishd.html#e20c.

When St. Patrick's day rolls around this Tuesday, enjoy a cold pint of Guiness or Magners or Smithwicks, and enjoy a culture that has given us so much.

án agus lá Fhéile Pádraig sona daoibh!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Brigitte Bardot

Brigitte Bardot

The very first movie I have ever seen in a theater is Roger Vadim's "And God Created Woman" starring Brigitte Bardot. At the time I was four years old, and the manager at our local movie theater refused to let me and my father in. My Dad yelled at the manager and told him that as a Father he wanted to take his son to see a Bardot film. After five or eight minutes of arguing back and forth, they finally let my Dad to bring yours truly to see his first film. Having Bardot as your first screen introduction to 'woman' was quite overwhelming. And to this day, I have been affected by that trip to the movie theater with my Dad.

And now we have this beautiful little Italian edition of Brigitte Bardot photos, movie posters, and e.p. jackets that fits in one hand. For years, I have been re-living the Bardot experience, and this book is an essential part of my collection. BB my true and only love!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Newsstand Stranded

Her father was a drunkerd
her mother was a whore
Her grandpappy sold newspapers till he was 84 (What a slimy old bastard he was)
Randy Newman

Sitting on a cold damp stool on the cold damp California winter, it never seems to end, and wishing I was some place else, Hawaii maybe, on the north shore, how about Noosa Heads Australia! But no, I am selling newsstand news and cold cigarettes to cold people in the cold evening with a crappy heater, I am reading history, why is history measured in wars? How many histories tell about constructive society, great thought, inventive and beautiful civilization? I'm thinking of Periclean Athens. But I am reading American history and how they kicked the snot out of the British in the war of 1812.
"How much are your Marlboro Lights?"
I try not to throw the cigarettes at the customer. I try to smile but I can't, I think I'm going to die tonight.
She's buying the Marlboro Lights, she's drunk anyhow and wouldn't know the difference if I smiled or frowned or reenacted the whole fucking battle of New Orleans. (That the war of 1812 in case you care to know)
But what has she done to me, nothing! Only she's drinking at the Red Rock and I'm out here on a cold stool on a cold night, in a cold frame of mind thinking of Periclean Athens and reading about the Philistines that drove the British off the east coast and how proud I am to be an American. How proud to be a gay American, how proud to be a bitch.
When does my break come? There's an event, everybody is cranking out books for a fab signing and what am I doing? Don't they know who I am? An intellectual?, A brilliant mind, smarter than the average bear? No! I'm only a cigarette vendor on a cold stool on a cold night,thinking cold blooded murder upon the human race, reading American history and thinking of the Greeks
Bitter! Party of one!

Thrifty Chic: This book inspires lust. Lust I tell you.

Paige and I have a problem. We love decorating books. And while this is not expressly a craft book, I like to think of decorating the home as a sort of craft.

This is the beauty of the approach here: decorating as an activity and a practice that doesn't have to require a loan or selling an organ. Liz Bauwens and Alexandra Campbell take up the challenge of thrifty decorating while not sacrificing style. Fans of Domino magazine will enjoy this beauty of a book.

So, crafters, take a look around your immediate surroundings and think about applying those diy skills to you home. There are more than enough great ideas in here. Yay!

In Defense of Comics

Within the past few weeks, I have had a couple of conversations concerning the merit of graphic novels. Some people seem to think that they are worthless, mind numbing nonsense. Sure, there are plenty of silly comic strips out there, but there are also some really beautiful, thought provoking and informative ones as well.

The stories in comics, if done well, transport you inside of the cartoonist’s psyche. You step inside the writer’s brain and experience their unique perspective of the events at hand. They combine visual and literary disciplines to create an almost cinematic experience for the reader.

Maybe it’s the 5 year-old inside of me that refuses to grow up and out of picture books, but I believe that some of the comics and graphic novels out there today are so sophisticated and well crafted. Try picking up a book by Chris Ware and not be moved by the melancholic, achingly lonely characters, not to mention the geometrically precise, spare compositions and gorgeous color palette. Or try picking up any R. Crumb comic and not fall in love with the geeky, hysterical, sex-obsessed cartoonist. See if you can read any Alison Bechdel books and not be impressed by her intelligence and her keen sense of detail and historical accuracy. These writers inspire me to make art, to put something beautiful out in the world and I am immensely appreciative of it.

And if you still doubt the quality of these books, look back to William Blake, illuminated manuscripts, or, hell, even the cave paintings in Lascaux. Since the dawn of time, humans have created images that portray some sort of narrative. These artists, like modern-day cartoonists, felt a strong inclination to describe events with words and pictures, and I believe that it is a wonderful means of expression and a worthy art form.

In a related note, we have two fantastic books by Art Spiegelman in the store. “BREAKDOWNS: Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*!” is a delightful collection of comics from the Pulitzer Prize-winning creator of Maus.
We also received a new collection of Spiegelman’s books, “Be a Nose”, recently published by McSweeney’s. These little books contain some really great sketches from Spiegelman’s personal journals. Check them out!!!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

SHE: Images of Women by Wallace Berman & Richard Prince

"SHE: Images by Wallace Berman & Richard Prince" by Kristine McKenna is finally out. The show at the Michael Kohn is still up till March 15th. Nevertheless here's the catalogue to the exhibition.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

It's still raining... keep knitting!

I fell in love with Boutique Knits at the Interweave Press booth at Book Expo last year. This thing is luscious. And the beauty of it is good photographs, great projects, and clear simple instructions typical of Interweave. Go Laura Irwin!

I am loving the hat on the cover as well as the sideways grande hat. Talk about some dramatic twists on your boring old hat. At this point in the winter, it's time for a new twist. Pick this one up, before Paige and I buy up all the copies at the store!

Check out more of the project images below...

Boutique Knits

Writing like it is.

We all could have sent or received these cards from time to time. If this is your week, come pick one up.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

In Celebration of Poe

This year marks the 200th anniversary of Edger Allan Poe’s birth.

What better way to celebrate than to immerse yourself in his dark world?
I urge you to pick up and read (or reread) one of the many wonderful Poe anthologies available or perhaps take a quick jaunt through his melodic poetry pieces, like “Annabel Lee”. (My personal favorite)

Or if you wish to read a fiction novel inspired by him then I recommend:

Black Plume: The Suppressed Memoirs of Edgar Allan Poe
by David Madsen

As the book states, this is a must for any of Poe’s fans. A word of caution though as you need to be familiar with Poe’s work to really "get" this book.

Did personal events inspire his work?

How close to reality do these dark tales come?

You be the judge.

Then treat yourself to the new Poe stamps offered by the US Post Office. It will make paying your bills less painless…I promise!

“The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?" - Edgar Allan Poe

-The Dark Accountant

Portraits of the Artists by a Young Man

I copied this image of Joyce from a photograph at the Vanity Fair exhibit at LACMA.

Here is a quote from Ulysses that I memorized as soon as I read it: "I see the ruin of all space, shattered glass and toppling masonry, and time one livid final flame."

Right now I'm reading Cormac's Blood Meridian. I have to wash my hands each time I put it down, the pages are so blood soaked. It is an epic unlike anything I've ever read before. Within the pages I'm riding with a gang of bloodthirsty marauders, so vial and unrepentant that I find myself often unable to justify why I don't simply put down the book to let the madness end.... Instead I read on, an accessory to their crimes.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Adopted Dog Bible by Kim Saunders & Petfinder.com

If you are thinking about getting a dog, or know someone who is, this is the book to get.
Petfinder.com is a brilliant website that is literally the used car lot for all the second hand pets in the country.

This book will help you navigate your way through the vast, (and I mean vast) array of dogs (all makes, models, ages & colors!). Any breed you want, you can have. They are all out there waiting for a home.

I think we all know that buying a dog from a pet store is a really bad idea. Even Oprah did a show on puppy mills (I know you watch her). It's not just that the animals are bred in deplorable conditions and badly treated, but you are literally sentencing a shelter dog to death.
A bit harsh? Well, have a quick look on line at the number of animals destroyed in animal shelters across the US because there is simply no room for them. The numbers are in the millions.
The majority are not ill, not old and have nothing wrong with them. They are destroyed because we don't want them.

Have a look at this great book and keep it in mind for a gift. We live in such a disposable society and animals are the ones who suffer the most.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

First Ladies of Style

So Martha Washington was a babe.

Michelle Obama does sit-up, push-ups, arm curls or all three.

First Ladies are all in the news these days, their style and their purpose got me thinking about books about First Ladies of the good ole ' USA and other ladies as well.

Michelle Style: Celebrating the First Lady of Fashion by Mandi Norwood (May 2009)

It also got me thinking about the lack of books about gentlemen leaders and their clothes. I wonder why? Is it because they all wear the same thing? I remember some mention of Obama's lapel pin or lack there of, he wears one now all of the time. And one picture with Former President Bush and Former Prime Minister Putin of Russia wearing some tunic-y, gown like thing that did not flatter either very well.

But all in all if men wear dark suits, light shirts and ties in blue, black, red, purple or yellow, all is right in the world.

Anyway back to the ladies.

So hear are some interesting tomes on women who held power or sat next to the throne. What they wore, thought (thank you) and why.

Jacqueline Kennedy : The White House Years: Selections from the John F. Kennedy Library by Museum by New York Metropolitan Museum

My Dearest Friend: Letters of Abigail and John Adams

Queen of Fashion: What Marie Antoinette Wore to the Revolution by Caroline Weber

Anyway I am going to go do some push-ups I want guns like the First Lady.

Here we go: 1, 2, 3, 3... 3..okay one more try 3.. damn.