This... This is a love letter to quality bookstore and bookstore owners/employees everywhere. Eighty-one (usually short) essays and one comic detailin...moreThis... This is a love letter to quality bookstore and bookstore owners/employees everywhere. Eighty-one (usually short) essays and one comic detailing authors' love for independent bookstores, bookstore owners, bookstore employees, and books and reading, in general. This book will make you want to go out and buy your own bookstore, or at least find one and apply to work (or live) there. It makes me wish we had a good independent bookstore near me. A good, neighborhood bookstore is at the top of my list of attributes of my dream town: bookstore, coffee shop-type gathering place, restaurant, and everything accessible by walking along small, tree-lined streets. Basically, I want to live in Everwood... or Capeside. You know, nice, comforting towns you see on TV. So when I find that place in real life--that has a friendly bookstore, neighborhood hangout place, and yummy restaurants that I can eat in three or four times a week (with a nice neighborhood grocery to get fresh, tempting food in for the other three or four nights a week)--I'm moving there.
Oh, right. The book. The essays describe--sometimes clumsily, but usually beautifully--bookstores in 35 states, plus D.C. Which means it not only acts as a love letter to bookstores, but it would make a great travel guide. If I were a traveler, I'd buy this book and take it with me on every trip so I could experience first-hand all of the bookstores these writers drool over. And speaking of beautifully describing the bookstores: Leif Parsons' illustrations beautifully depict the bookstores. They're so stunning, they make you feel like you're right there, in the store or on the sidewalk, about to enter.
And, of course, you can play the game of "Did anyone write about my favorite bookstore?"
Plus, Rick Bragg seems to feel the same way that I've felt for years: What's with cats in so many bookstores?!? As he says, "there are no cats in the Alabama Booksmith in Homewood, Alabama, and that is almost enough, in a literary world lousy with people who think having a damn cat in the stacks or on the counter or lolling in the window is somehow quaint and almost by God required, to proclaim it a great bookstore..." Right on!
So, you know, if anyone's ever looking for a gift to get me, the hardback edition of this book would be wonderful. (It's one of those books that should always be read just the way this version is. The hardback edition is so beautiful, with deckle-edged paper, vibrant colors on the cover... So wonderful! I think owning it in paperback would almost be a sin.)(less)
It was okay, but not quite what I was expecting. There were some interesting tidbits, but since the book is laid out like a reference book, the facts...moreIt was okay, but not quite what I was expecting. There were some interesting tidbits, but since the book is laid out like a reference book, the facts seem boring. They're more interesting when in books about math, not a reference book of numbers.(less)
This is a book about Oulipo, a group of writers, mathematicians, and linguists in the 1960s on, who experimented with language and writing. That's a w...moreThis is a book about Oulipo, a group of writers, mathematicians, and linguists in the 1960s on, who experimented with language and writing. That's a wretched explanation of the group, but the entire idea of what they do blows my mind so much that I can't even explain what they do. Oulipians experiment with--among other mind-blowing challenges--lipograms, leaving out a specific letter, as in the case of Georges Perec's A Void, which NEVER uses the letter e in the entire book; combinatorics, as in the case of Raymond Queneau’s A Hundred Thousand Billion Poems, which allows the reader to combine the 14 lines of 10 different sonnets to create her/his own new sonnets, or Italo Calvino's explanation of his "The fire in the cursed house" novel, or Raymond Queneau’s "A Story As You Like It" (which is basically a "Choose Your Own Adventure" story); and shifting words and phrases, such as in Jean Lescure's S+7 method, where a signifier in a story is replaced with the signifier that is 7 places away from it in the dictionary, or Harry Mathews's algorithm where he places the major parts of a sentence into a matrix, does the same with x number of other sentences, does some weird shifty-shifty movements within the matrix, and voila, composes a new work.
As the title says, this is a primer, so there are very few actual works of Oulipo in it, but many essays that describe what Oulipo did and what various authors accomplished (i.e. what experiments they performed) in their writings.
In reading some of the works described, I've found that the works can be interesting, or sometimes not so much (like A Hundred Thousand Billion Poems); but when you read the descriptions of *what* was done to create the work, and you think about the sweat and brainpower that must have gone into creating a work like that.... mind blown.(less)
A quick but quirky and witty guide through some of the most basic catchphrases of an English class, and how to understand what those elements mean to...moreA quick but quirky and witty guide through some of the most basic catchphrases of an English class, and how to understand what those elements mean to a story -- symbolism (e.g. rain is baptismal, eating is communion); setting; irony; if a story's plot seems vaguely familiar, think Shakespeare or the Bible; etc.
If you've taken many literature classes, this book is a cute companion to all those class times, and serves as a trip down memory lane, but nothing you didn't know already; if you weren't an English major or a literature geek, it's a nice introductory/refresher course to "how to read" a book. (I put the scare quotes around it because I have never been one to believe that authors *always* [or sometimes ever] mean what English teachers/students interpret them to mean.)(less)