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

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sam Shepard's Day Out of Days

A new collection of short stories by admired playwright and actor Sam Shepard.

My introduction to Sam Shepard was first through The Right Stuff and then Herbert Ross' film Steel Magnolias (director of Footloose), which the women in my family played on what seemed to be some Groundhog Day-esque loop in my childhood. It was only in college while taking a theater class did I discover Shepard was a respected playwright as well.

Day Out of Days is comprised of dozens and dozens of micro stories ranging from a half a page to ten, and everywhere in between. There's even a few narrative poems found in the 281 pages. All deal essentially with the American West.

So, think the West as seen through a Beckettian lens.

Fred Tomaselli

This book was published in 2009, and it went unmentioned in our blog unfortunately. So, here it is now.

Tomaselli is known as one of the big names in the 1980's Downtown LA Art Scene. He had ties to Slash magazine and generally observed a punk-ish existence around the LA Art District.

Much of what you'll find in the Fred Tomaselli book belies his connection to 80s punk rock. The art found within is far more psychedelic and day-glo. Detailed patterns swirl like neon stars around whatever canvas or installation piece he's using. Some personal favorites: Comet, in which Tomaselli fashions a falling star made of Dexedrine pebbles and sugar; Cubic Sky, made of plexiglas boxes, paint and fluorescent light to simulate a night sky inside a cube; and, Breathing Head, which combines photo collage and paint to create patterned lines that flow fountain-like into a head made of many noses, eyes, lips and muscles. Much of his work includes embeded leaves and stems arranged into patterns or figures like heads, human bodies or other extremities. Tomaselli has a penchant for marijuana leaves, in fact, and this seems to be tied to being outdoors. Some of the nature-themed work even has a Henri Rousseau quality to it. In the book, he is quoted as saying:

"My love of nature has been a big part of my life since I first discovered that it wasn't a cultural fabrication. This is going to sound strange, but I didn't find this out until I was a teenager while hiking with some friends. We eventually came across a waterfall and I promptly began searching for the conduit that made it run. It blew my mind that it ran without power or plumbing! I found out nature was real and not just a construct. As a result, I slowly morphed into an amateur naturalist and casual birder and began collecting a library of various field guides. I guess it was only a matter of time before they found their way into the work."

The book was edited by Ian Berry and Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson, with essays by the latter, as well as Linda Norden and David Shields. The book also contains a dialogue between Fred Tomaselli and Ian Berry.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Banksy Invades Sundance

What exactly is Exit Through the Gift Shop? Here's what /film had to say about it:

"Exit Through the Gift Shop is…well, we’re not yet sure exactly what it is. Billed as a ‘pseudo-documentary’ and described by Banksy as 'The story of how one man set out to film the un-filmable. And failed,' the film might show Banksy at work and reveal something about the artist. Then again, it might not."

The film is premiering at the Sundance Film Festival. If you're not familiar with Banksy work, well then...there's nothing to be said, except check out one of his art books.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Signed Joe Sacco

How cool is this? Joe Sacco stopped by Book Soup and doodled inside our copies of his latest graphic novel, Footnotes in Gaza.

Want one? Act fast, as we only have a few in stock!

"[A] blow-by-blow retelling of how Sacco, on the eve of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, embedded himself in Gaza and set about interviewing every witness he could find who had been in the towns of Khan Younis and Rafah on those fateful days. Sacco's art is alternately epic and intimate," raves Publishers Weekly.

Title: Footnotes in Gaza (Signed Edition)
Price: $29.95

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

You Are Not A Gadget: A Manifesto

Jaron Lanier, a pioneer in virtual reality technology and self-styled Silicon Valley visionary, takes aim at the interwebs.

Lanier turns a critical eye to the World Wide Web, a tool that millions of people use daily as a means of commerce, socialization, voyeurism, piracy, education, etc. The author argues that the design of the entire system is flawed and has led to consequences that we're only just beginning to understand.

As Lanier states in the opening chapter:

"Something started to go wrong with the digital revolution around the turn of the twenty-first century. The World Wide Wibe was flooded by a torrent of petty designs sometimes called web 2.o. This ideology promotes radical freedom on the surface of the web, but that freedom, ironically, is more for machines than people... Anonymous blog comments, vapid video pranks, and lightweight mashups may seem trivial and harmless, but as a whole, this widespread practice of fragmentary, impersonal communication has demeaned interpersonal interaction.... Communication is now often experienced as a superhuman phenomenon that towers above individuals..."

But it is Lanier's following sentence that more completely expresses his point-of-view on the subject:

"A new generation has come of age with a reduced expectation of what a person can be, and of who each person might become."

I recommend this book if you are at all interested in the impact of the internet (yes, the thing that I am currently utilizing to communicate to you, the reader) on humans, culture, art, economics, etc.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Brian Boyd on the Origin of Stories

Professor Brian Boyd delivers a fantastic study of how the findings of evolutionary biology and the cognitive sciences shed light on the origin and evolution of storytelling.

As Boyd states in his introduction, "On the Origin of Stories has two main aims: first, to offer an account of fiction (and of art in general) that takes in our widest context for explaining life, evolution; and to offer a way beyond the errors of thought and practice in much modern academic literary study, which over the last few decades has often stifled--and has even sought to stifle--the pleasure, the life, and the art of literature."

In doing so, he has linked the sciences and humanities in an exciting new way. Not that this is terra incognita as a research subject. Only that Boyd has created a popular book that can appeal to both the scientific and the artistic mind; which, as any scientist or artist knows, aren't so very different at all.

The Third (and Final) Part of the Millennium Trilogy

Have you been waiting anxiously for the United States to release the final portion of Stieg Larsson's explosively popular Millennium series? Well...you will have to continue to wait.

However, our friends across the pond have already published The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest -- so those of you needing your Lisbeth Salander fix have Book Soup to thank as we have a few copies remaining.

Come visit our store -- or place an order online. Either way, we know you won't be able to put this thrilling mystery down until the last page is finally turned.

Title: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (UK Edition)
Price: $28.99

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Harry Smith's Place in the American Avant-Garde

Issues & Debates publishes Harry Smith: The Avant-Garde in the American Vernacular... Book Soup is hosting the editors Rani Singh and Andrew Perchuck for a signing January 5th.

The Getty Research Institute has packaged a fine study of Harry Smith's contribution to the American Avant-Garde. Smith was many things. His intellectual curiosity led him into disciplines like non-narrative filmmaking, folk music, visual art, ethnography (which he incorporated into his artwork), and graphic art, to name a few. He was also particularly interested in mysticism and geometric patterns.

Singh and Perchuck delve deep into the often misunderstood work of one of the most unique post-war American artists.

Signed copies will be available for purchase at the store or online.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Hipster Lit Abounds!

So my New Year's Resolution is a lofty one this year. I'm co-opting the word hipster to mean something positive. Do I think it's ridiculous to wear gold spandex and sport a mullet? Yes. But there are some good things about hipsters too, and my favorite is that those pastiches of americana read like crazy.

At first, I was somewhat shocked/appalled at myself for having read or planning to read pretty much every single book on this list (click on the title for the link). Then I came to terms with it. These are a handful of absolutely awesome books that may be looked over by some (read most). Check it out and then come buy them here at Book Soup!

Happy New Year and Happy Reading,

Saturday, January 2, 2010

"Song Man" by Will Hodgkinson

This is such a charming book on a thirty-something British man's attempt to write songs. Especially when he doesn't have any obvious talents in doing so. So what he has done is made a goal for himself to write some songs and record them.

And with that in mind he interviews Andrew Loog Oldham, Lawrence (from Felt), Andrew Webber, Ray Davies, Richard Hawley, Lamont Dozier, Jake Holmes, Chan Marshall (Cat Power), Keith Richards, Chip Taylor, among others about the nature, the craft and the art of songwriting. And on top of that he interviews Patti Boyd of Layla and George Harrison fame on the subject matter of being a muse.

But it is not just the subject matter of the book that makes this a charmer, but Will Hodgkinson's personality comes through the written page, and you are rooting for this guy to make good with respect to making music. He also has great taste when it comes to songwriters. It's nice that he chit chats with Webber on how to communicate in a song, and then noticing that underground iconic cult figure Lawrence is not that far off from Webber's aesthetic (as well as being a lot poorer, he also lived a few blocks away from the Titan of the Music stage.)

An incredible engaging narrative and I think this book belongs to the rock n' roll book classic category.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Best of 2009

Happy New Year and welcome to 2010, kids! We're all really glad to have made it, and for those of you concerned about the store's future will be happy to know we're sticking around. So thanks again for all your support...but on to the fun stuff. A few weeks ago I happened to see the New York Times 10 Best of 2009 list (http://www.nytimes.com/gift-guide/holiday-2009/10-best-gift-guide-sub/list.html) and my reaction came in the form of an underwhelmed meh. Don't get me wrong, they're probably great books. I haven't read any of them, but as I wracked my brain for books that we at Book Soup have gotten excited over throughout the year didn't match up at all with the New York Times. Publishers Weekly also does one (http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/CA6704595.html) and NPR links about a million (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=120499960). So if you're not already Best of-ed out or over 2009, I'd like to share some choice books my lovely, intelligent, and occasionally controversial comrades proposed as their favorites. And to celebrate the end of the decade, a few picks for the best of the past 10 years follow as well. Cheers and here's to another year of great reading!

Julian Fellowes' Past Imperfect
*Best of Decade* Jon Ronson's The Men Who Stare at Goats, Alexander Masters' Stuart A Life Backwards and Julia Child's My Life in France

Amy: "A good year for baking..."
Ad Hoc Thomas Keller
Big Fat Duck Heston Blumenthal
Momofuko David Chang
Pleasures of Cooking for One Judith Jones
Mad Hungry Lucinda Quinn
My New Orleans John Besh
The Blackberry Farm Sam Beall and Molly O'Neill
Born Round Frank Bruni
My Bread Jim Lahey
All Cakes Considered Melissa Gray
Heavenly Cakes Rose Levy Beranbaum
Unforgettable Desserts Dede Wilson
The Cake Keeper Lauren Chattman
Craft of Baking Karen DeMasco
Baking James Peterson

The Autobiography of Fidel Castro Norberto Fuentes

Inherent Vice Thomas Pynchon. "Raymond Chandler + The Big Lebowski = Doc Sportello"
The Death of Bunny Munro Nick Cave. "Words fail me, sorry."
PANORAMA "French people make the best childrens books."

There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor's Baby Ludmilla Petrushevskaya (I'm letting this count because the English translation dates in 2009. And I'm writing the blog and thus have all the power.)
Zeitoun Dave Eggers

The Child Thief Brom. "For all those that love dark fantasy, Peter Pan, mythology/folklore and things that go bump in the night."

This is Where I Leave You Jonathan Tropper
Last Night in Twisted River John Irving
Chronic City Jonathan Lethem
Ballads from Suburbia Stephanie Kuehnert
*Best of Decade*
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay Michael Chabon
Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs Chuck Klosterman
Beautiful Children Charles Bock
Persepolis Marjane Satrapi
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao Junot Diaz
Fun Home Alison Bechdel

D. J.:
Inherent Vice Thomas Pynchon
The Squirrel Machine Hans Rickheit
The Complete Stories of J. G. Ballard J. G. Ballard
All Star Superman Grant Morrison
20,000 Years of Erotic Freedom Alan Moore
Lost Girls Alan Moore & Melinda Gebbie
Winter Stories Paolo Ventura
Book of Dreams Federico Fellini
Artificial Intelligence: From Stanley Kubrick to Steven Spielberg edited by Jan Harlan

Bloods A Rover James Ellroy