Friday, September 29, 2006

Indies Under Fire

"Indies Under Fire: The Battle for the American Bookstore", a recent, poignant documentary depicting the struggles of San Francisco Bay Area independent booksellers such as Cody's (see previous post), Keplers and Printer's Inc., and their fight for market share in the growing sea of corporate bookstores, will be screened on Saturday, September 30, 7:30 p.m. at the Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, 700 Santa Cruz Ave., Menlo Park, CA.

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Sony Reader

The book industry is being ushered into the modern era of on demand technology. Why it has taken so long, with the printed page appearing nearly esoteric next to other entertainment in the media market place of today's on demand world, is anyone's guess. Mega-media conglomerates know that consumers seek out portable, transferable content and harbor an ever diversified range of tastes-- which are catered to by handheld media players such as the iPod and Playstation PSP. That is why it's finally great to see that Sony has come out with the Sony Reader, basically a crystal clear iPod for your book shelf. Although nothing will ever replace the feel of an old, favorite novel, making tens of thousands of titles available for enjoyment at the click of a mouse is a very good thing.

Junior in a nutshell

The Bill Burroughs Jr. book, "Cursed From Birth", is like a twenty car pile-up unfolding before your eyes. For that reason alone, I haven't been able to put it down.

William Craddock, interviewed in the book, has this to say about Jr.,

He told me that whenever he saw "normal, hard-working, average, straight people" doing what they do-- mowing lawns, going to the mailbox, driving home from work, playing with the kids, washing the car, sweeping leaves-- it brought a huge lump of painful sorrow to his throat. He would think, "Look at those completely regular people! They're going about their business, getting by, having a pretty good time, not pondering too many unponderables, especially late at night. And here I am-- strung out (coming down, or expecting to be coming down soon, or on my way to score, or wondering where I'm going to score, or looking for a place to get down now that I've scored, or maybe like I'm clean going on three, four days and wondering why, and just what the fuck being all squeaky-clean and totally straight could ever offer me). But here I am, and I sincerely wish I wasn't. And I just know it'd be so great to be "normal" like them, like other people! But, I'm not. And just the fact that I know the difference and hang myself up worrying about it means that I probably never will be."

Cursed From Birth
Compiled by David Ohle
Soft Skull Press

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

It's that time of year . . . .


Nightboat Books invites submissions to our annual poetry book
contest. The winning poet receives $1,000, 10 copies of the
published book, and a standard royalty contract. Finalists will
receive personal responses and will be considered for future

JUDGE: Brenda Hillman
DEADLINE: Postmark date between October 2, 2006 and November 30,

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Need More Crumb

MQ Publications has announced plans for another Crumb comic retrospective, "Need more Love", this time by Robert Crumb's wife, Aline, a brilliant underground comic in her own right. It's a pretty hefty book, nearly 400 pages, and is said to memoir Aline's life from growing up in a Jewish suburb on Long Island, to meeting and falling in love with Robert, from the sexcapades and drugs of the 1960's and 70's to current comic collaborations keeping Aline hip into the new century.

Publication is planned for Valentines day 2007.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Woodward and Bernstein they're not

S.F. Chronicle reporters Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wada, who broke the now infamous BALCO steroids scandal and parlayed it into a multi-million dollar book, "Game of Shadows", have been sentenced to 18 months in prison appending appeal for refusing to reveal the source of the U.S. Grand Jury's leak.

While many in the sports journalism (oxymoron, anyone?) sect have been quick to laud these two as the new millenniums Woodward and Bernstein by standing up to the government and not forgoing their rights guaranteed them by the U.S Constitution, I believe their heroism is neither patriotic or precedent setting. Chalk it up to straight getting paid.

"Game of Shadows" has made both men rich and in terms of media exposure, very powerful. Any investigation into their book and discovering evidence that some believe could damage the credibility of "Shadows" would be devastating. The mere fact that the Grand Jury testimony, which was leaked to the men, has not brought about a single arrest or trial, speaks volumes about the kind of accurate reporting Fainaru-Wada and Williams did when writing their hard-hitting, accusatory book. Seems that these Chronicle reporters, much like the baseball players they accuse, seek downplay an unfair advantage they took not for the betterment of society but for the avarice of self-glory.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Writer Idol

Here's a great idea- start a for profit literary prize company, with a top prize of $100,000.00, open it to any unpublished writers for the nominal "registration" fee of $85. Promise the young writer that their precious manuscript will be read and graded by at least two "industry experts", who will give feedback as needed. From there, the best of each lot will be carefully considered by "highly ranked judges" for the top prize.
Sit back and watch the money pour in.
This is the business model of the Sobol Awards whose offshoot, the Sobol Literary Agency, coincidentally, will be the ones representing the awarded author in all their future endeavors.
Besides sounding a little like American Idol, last I checked, any literary agency or publisher who charged a reading fee, and that's what the $85 is, are rightly labeled scam artists, not artist representatives.
The Sobol Awards (like other scammers) prey on the most basic hopes and insecurities of any unpublished writer- namely that their voice will never get heard, that the writer is good enough, but big houses don't care about them and that unless a writer has powerful representation, they will forever wallow in obscurity and the world will unknowingly miss the second coming of Dickens.
Of course many of us know that isn't true, but the Sobol people are counting on one more thing too, that young, unpublished writers have an illogical, insatiable desire for acceptance... from anybody. Respect yourself, protect yourself.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Trouble at Mother Jones?

The S.F. Chronicle is reporting that left leaning, investigative news magazine Mother Jones is hitting the financial skids. Even though the fodder for political exposes have grow tremendously over the past eight years, MJ, is finding its readership and circulation declining.
"A bimonthly newsmagazine -- how is that not an oxymoron in 2006?" said Jay Harris, publisher of MJ since 1991.
Mother Jones was one of the first magazines to launch a website back in 1993. Plans, however, to do away with what appears to be an increasingly costly and outdated print issue aren't seen to be in the immediate future.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Cursed From Birth

Followers of the Beat Poets loved them for their enchanted flair, their anti-social mantras and perhaps most of all, their knack for living out personal, poetic versions of melodramatic, self-destructive tragedies. Cursed From Birth gives us the account of one more unwitting participant in the Beat mystique, William Burroughs Jr.
Compiled by David Ohle, the book consists in part of Billy Jr's unfinished last novel, his journals and letters. Within these bits and scraps we find a lost Billy Jr groping continually for the pieces of his wasted life and affection and guidance from his father before ultimately descending into addiction.
Interview in Hobart of David Ohle

Cursed From Birth
Complied by David Ohle
Soft Skull Press
November 2006

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Dzanc Books Launches!

Dzanc Books is a 501(c)3 organization set up to operate exclusively for charitable, literary, and educational purposes. Our mission at Dzanc is 3-pronged: To assist literary journals in reaching the largest reader base possible; to develop educational programs within the schools in the areas of reading and writing; and, beginning in 2007, to publish two excellent works of literary fiction per year.

Click HERE and HERE for more info...

Monday, September 11, 2006

Books for Understanding

The Association of American University Presses has compiled a thoroughly immense collection of titles relating to or about September 11th- all published by scholarly, not-for-profit presses.

Cody's sold to Japanese independent publisher

Twenty-three years ago Hiroshi Kagawa, fresh off the plane from Japan, walked into Cody's on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, CA, to marvel at the famed stores large collection of great, independent book titles. Today, the CEO of Yohan, the largest Japanese importer of English language titles, is buying it.
Cody's, two months removed from closing its flagship store on Telegraph due to lagging sales, has long been rumored to be on the auction block. Claimed Andy Ross, Cody's former owner,

"I kept hoping some Berkeley radical would help us out," Ross said about his search for an investor. "I never expected that the help would come from Japan."
Bay Area reaction, of course, hasn't been completely welcoming. Scott Esposito says...
The San Francisco Chronicle is cautiously optimistic.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Small Spiral Notebook gets a SWEET nod!

SSN Contributor Sara Gran, pens a hilarious article about being a writer from Brooklyn in the Sunday Times.

SHE dreams, our young writer, of the day when she, too, can walk her blond Lab down Seventh Avenue on a Sunday afternoon, stopping at the organic bakery for a $7 loaf of whole grain winter wheat bread, and maybe give her new best friend Elissa Schappell (“Use Me”) a call to see how she’s coming along with the new issue of Tin House — the issue, of course, that’s publishing our writer’s own brilliant first works.

If the hip-lit magazines One Story or Small Spiral Notebook haven’t already snapped up all her stories, that is. And when our hypothetical bright-eyed kid finishes her masterwork of a novel, she won’t even have to stray too far to find a publisher, not with the upstart presses Akashic Books and Soft Skull right in the neighborhood.

Click here to read the article...

Friday, September 01, 2006

9.16.06 Save this Date: Brooklyn Book Festival

On Saturday, September 16, join Borough President Marty Markowitz and America’
s finest literary talents at Brooklyn Borough Hall for the first-ever
Brooklyn Book Festival. More than 70 top authors -- including local bards Jonathan
Lethem, Colson Whitehead, Jennifer Egan, Jhumpa Lahari, Rick Moody, Emily
Barton, and many more -- will be on hand to read from and talk about their work. Two
outdoor stages, two indoor “reading rooms,” readings on Brooklyn history,
politics, hip-hop, food, even comic books, and 70-plus book vendors will
transform Borough Hall and its surrounding plaza into a literary bazaar for the day.

For more information,

**Small Spiral Notebook will be sharing a table with Ballyhoo Stories!