Hello Book Loungers! Welcome to our February Newsletter. We had a great January, with some wonderful books coming in – especially from New York (more of which later); and we had our very first Book Club evening with the wonderful Dawn Garisch. Dawn read from her novel Once Two Islands and answered questions from the audience, then chatted with them over a glass of wine and some snacks – and everyone had a very stimulating and lovely time.
Our Lounger Loyalty Scheme is now up and running. Yes, this is the brand new no card, no number no plastic, no mess scheme that gives you back 5% of what you spent the previous time! Just like that! Pretty neat huh? All you have to do is register with us next time you come in.
New and Forthcoming Goodies
by Joe Dunthorne
Hello. I’m Oliver Tate, the protagonist. I like to use words like protagonist and, moments later, words like twonk. My ambitions are as follows: to find out why my father stays in bed for days at a time; to find out why my mother’s getting surfing lessons, and more, from a hippy-looking twonk; and to lose my virginity before it becomes legal – in just over a year. My parents have not had sex in two months which, research suggests, points toward impending marital breakdown. There are other, lesser characters in the book: Jordana, who is my love interest, despite her eczema. Then there’s my friend Chips, an outstanding bully. He made our Religious Education teacher cry. This book might not change my life. But there is no telling how you will react.
The Last Station
by Jay Parini
By 1910, Leo Tolstoy, the world’s most famous author, had become an almost religious figure, surrounded on his estate by family and followers alike. Torn between his professed doctrine of poverty and chastity and the reality of his enormous wealth, his thirteen children, and a life of hedonism, Tolstoy makes a dramatic flight from his home. Too ill to continue beyond the tiny station of Astapovo, he believes he is dying alone, while outside over one hundred newspapermen are awaiting hourly reports on his condition. Narrated in six different voices, including Tolstoy’s own from his diaries and literary works, The Last Station is a richly inventive novel that dances between fact and fiction.
I Don’t Like Chocolate
by Jesse Breytenbach
This charming and quirky graphic novel by a local author explores our complex relationship with food. The perils of pomegranate juice, broccoli conspiracy theories, the narcotic effects of tea and the secret life of toast are all explored in these quirky culinary tales. In I Don’t Like Chocolate, our heroine confronts hidden raisins, fights off ninja cookies and works out why mac’n'cheese makes her feel warm’n'fuzzy.
by Carol Topolski
Brendan and Sherilyn Gutteridge are a young couple in love. In fact, the Gutteridges are so wrapped up in each other that their neighbours barely know them, despite the woman next door’s nosy curiosity. Their families and their work colleagues see only the perfect couple in the perfect home. And then a baby is born – contaminating this pristine life in which there is only room for two. But they find the ideal solution. What may be one couple’s happy ending is everyone else’s indescribable nightmare – this perverse love story hurtles to the heart of evil – the evil that could be anyone’s next door neighbour.
The New Granta Book of the American Short Story
edited and compiled by Richard Ford
This is an essential overview of this vibrant tradition. Ford has rather played fast and loose with the meaning of “American”, and the result is a finely balanced and diverse collection, putting established writers like John Updike, Raymond Carver and Eudora Welty next to exciting young writers like Junot Diaz, Jhumpa Lahiri and Julie Orringer. Ford’s decision to plump for longer rather than shorter stories wherever possible, results in a chunky read that one can really get one’s teeth into. A must-have for any fan of the short story genre, and a wonderful primer for all those looking for a new writer to fall in love with.
Fresh in from the US
The Pleasures of the Damned
by Charles Bukowski
Edited by John Martin, the legendary publisher of Black Sparrow Press and a close friend of Bukowski’s, The Pleasures of the Damned is a selection of the best works from Bukowski’s long poetic career, including the last of his never-before-collected poems. A hard-drinking wild man of literature and a stubborn outsider to the poetry world, he wrote unflinchingly about booze, work, and women, in raw, street-tough poems whose truth has struck a chord with generations of readers.
by Harry Frankfurt
“The most audacious of the ancient alchemists desired to transmute lead into gold. They never succeeded. Who would have known that they should have started not with a base metal, but with bullshit? Harry Frankfurt offers a philosophical analysis of bullshit that is golden. The prose by turns employs irony, broad humor, and tongue-in-cheek high seriousness while at the same time manages to have a rigorous logical coherence that is always impressive.” William Chester Jordan, Professor of History, Princeton University
Have a Nice Doomsday: Why Millions of Americans Are Looking Forward to the End of the World
by Nicholas Guyatt
Guyatt searches for the truth behind a startling statistic: 50 million Americans have come to believe that the apocalypse will take place in their lifetime. They’re convinced that, any day now, Jesus will snatch up his followers and spirit them to heaven. The rest of us will be left behind to endure massive earthquakes, devastating wars, and the terrifying rise of the Antichrist. Are they devout or deranged? Does their influence stretch beyond America’s religious heartland – perhaps even to the White House? Bizarre, funny, and unsettling in equal measure.
The Best American Magazine Writing 2007
An annual collection selected by American Society of Magazine Editors. “These articles manage to sing…in this volume the sum is as great as its parts.” Educational Book Review; “If this anthology were a magazine, everybody would want to subscribe.” Publishers Weekly
BEANS: A History
by Ken Albala
No really! Raymond Blanc (no less) calls this book “a vividly entertaining history of the humble bean that takes the reader on a curious, surprising and exciting journey across epochs, continents and cultures.” And he should know!
Hold Everything Dear
by John Berger
Subtitled ˜Dispatches on Survival and Resistance’. Berger tries to make sense of the world in the past six years – covering terrorism, despair, homelessness, poverty and war on his journey, which takes him to Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Serbia, Bosnia, China, Indonesia and many others. A profound book from a great thinker and cultural analyst.
Blind Date: Sex and Philosophy
by Anne Dufourmantelle
Starting with a great title, this renowned philosopher endeavours to uncover and examine philosophy’s blind spot and argues that sex is everywhere, and affects all kinds of thinking. True enough!
by Arthur M Schlesinger
A landmark publication in the history of American letters, and a unique opportunity to celebrate the legacy of one of the great public intellectuals of our time.
American Food Writing: An Anthology With Classic Recipes
edited by Molly O’Neill
The very best in food writing from the past 250 years. Includes articles and recipes by Henry David Thoreau, Herman Melville, Ralph Ellison, Walt Whitman, Willa Cather and many more – a whole, incredible, dinner party in a book!
Solve for X: Essays
by Arthur Saltzman
Essays on subjects ranging from child prodigies to chance, from cars and guns to phobias and foibles, with thoughts on Dante and Henry James, and the seductions and pitfalls of literary popularity. A delightful smorgasbord from an outstanding writer.
From Mervyn’s Bookshelf
The problem with literary prizes is that the choice of winners is an ultimately subjective exercise dressed up in objective terms. The winning announcement never reads “judge x, y and z’s favourite novel of the year is …” which would in a way be more true, but rather the “winner of the” x prize for sustained creative brilliance is etc etc. The annual announcement of the Booker Prize winner over the last few years has more often than not been greeted with a chorus of derision. Much of the time I suspect the conductors have been booksellers and book journalists eager for an easy-sell. The latest novel by a big name author is easier to write about, as such books are in the public domain anyway. A new novel by Ian McEwan, Martin Amis or Margaret Atwood that wins a prize sells itself by virtue of the celebrity status of the author. When an outsidery upstart such as The Gathering by Anne Enright happens to triumph (as it did in 2007), the collective sigh of “damn, haven’t read that, and don’t really feel like it” effortlessly mutates into a communal gnashing on the bones of the judges. For all those self-annointed chest-puffers who castigated the 2007 Booker judges for the obtuseness of their choice, I have three simple words: read the book.
If you want a box with which to label The Gathering, the best I can do is “contemporary Irish family saga”. Now please ignore the box, put some effort into the first 30 pages or so, and then recline and rejoice in Enright’s magical phrase-building. And for those who have already enjoyed The Gathering, I’ve ordered a previous book of hers called Making Babies, which sounds equally fabulous. If you want me to reserve a copy for you, give me a call…
When he’s good, American novelist TC Boyle is brilliant. When he’s not, well then he novelises the Kinsey report into American sexuality and calls it The Inner Circle. But we forgive him the odd aberration, because his latest novel, Talk Talk, is up to the high standard that he set with the likes of Budding Prospects, Riven Rock, The Tortilla Curtain and many others. Dana, the main protagonist of this engrossing novel, is pulled over for a traffic violation. Her license is routinely checked whereupon she is immediately cuffed and chucked into jail for a string of crimes she has supposedly committed in various states. Only Dana hasn’t committed the crimes; she is a victim of identity theft, apparently an increasingly common feature of contemporary criminal activity. Dana and her boyfriend, Bridger, decide to go find this horrible person responsible for screwing up her life. And so begins the chase; what follows is part road trip Americana, part suspense thriller and part investigation into the nature of identity. Oh, and one other thing. Dana is deaf, which just puts everything in a different context. Definitely worth a read.
From my local is lekker bedside table (and yes the legs are straining under the weight of all the fabulous SA stuff that I haven’t yet read), comes Breyten Breytenbach’s A Veil of Footsteps, a series of vignettes spun by one Breyten Wordfool. Nothing autobiographical here, I’m sure. I’m halfway through and what can I say except that I bow in awe…this book will deservedly win prizes. Watch this space…
And then perhaps my favourite book of the month…The Believer Book of Writers Talking to Writers. Edited by Vendela Vida, this is one of those treasures we’ve sourced from the US, comprising a series of interviews of writers being interviewed by other writers. Conversations include Julie Orringer talking to Tobias Wolff, Gary Zebrun with Edmund White, Zadie Smith interviewing Ian McEwan, Jonathan Lethem quizzing Paul Auster, Dave Eggers chatting to Joan Didion and Sean Wilsey tuning howzit to Haruki Murakami. It’s a stunning book to dip into, full of stimulating surprises and something which I think makes a lovely gift for anyone interested in modern literature.
Jonny’s New York choice
The Echo Makers
by Richard Powers
On a winter night on a remote road in Nebraska Mark Schluter’s truck turns over in a near fatal accident. His older sister, Karin returns reluctantly to their hometown to nurse Mark back from a head injury. But when he emerges from a protracted coma, Mark believes that this woman is really an identical impostor. Shattered by her brother’s refusal to recognise her, Karin contacts the cognitive neurologist Gerald Weber. But what he discovers in Mark begins to undermine even his own sense of self. Meanwhile Mark attempts to learn what happened on the night of his accident. Set against the spectacular spring migrations of American Sandhill cranes, The Echo Maker is a profound novel that explores how memory, instinct and relationships make us who we are.
From the Little People’s Corner
Not all animals live in the jungle
If you were casually asked who your favourite Elephant was, surely a vast number would jump up and down and chant “BABAR!” (well, at least two of us would) Babar was born in France in the early 30′s under the beautiful penmanship of Jean de Brunhoff and after his death, his son Laurence continued the adventures of this city slicker elephant for many years. The reason we mention it here is that we stock Babar books! (enthusiastic screaming in back ground).
With the U.S. primaries really heating up in February, we bring you the chance to become better acquainted with the Democratic candidates, each of whom has a remarkable story to tell.
A Woman in Charge: The Life of Hillary Rodham Clinton by Carl Bernstein – the famous Watergate journalist’s account of Hillary’s transformation from dowdy Midwestern Republican, to brilliant, groundbreaking Democratic frontrunner, and the person most likely to become the first female President of the United States. Her political pedigree is illuminated by her own memoir – Living History – of her years in the White House as First Lady to husband Bill.
In a campaign almost certain to see a “first”, Barack Obama has been the big surprise. In the aptly-titled (if perhaps slightly premature!) From Promise to Power, David Mendell gives a definitive account of Obama’s political trajectory to date. Obama himself has written a lovely and very personal account – Dreams from My Father – of his family’s life, and especially his fraught relationship with his father. Personal memoir rather than political tract, this gives an invaluable glimpse at the man behind the spin.
On a lighter note, acclaimed thriller-writer Richard North Patterson, has written a timely and breathtaking fictional account of the machinations behind the U.S. Presidential elections. The Race is sure to keep both the heart and the head racing in time-honoured and patented Patterson-fashion.
Aural Poetry, or, The CD of the Month
Australian songsmiths The Lucksmiths (and, yes, they were influenced by…The Smiths ) released Warmer Corners last year to great acclaim. Another slice of glorious guitar-driven indie-pop, basking in warm horn and string arrangements to underpin the typically witty lovelorn lyrics, there is nothing not to love about this winsome record. Drummer/vocalist (yes, that’s right) Tali White’s baritone is in fine fettle, and the simple melodic lines of all 3 songwriters sit comfortably with a bigger sound and more upbeat tempo than on previous outings. The Lucksmiths should be massive, and this album once again shows why!
The Satanic Verses
by Salman Rushdie
An obvious one perhaps – The Satanic Verses was banned in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Somalia, Sudan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Qatar, Indonesia, South Africa and India – but on 14th February 1989 Ayatollah Khomeini issued a very public death threat against the author and his publishers – Happy Valentine’s Salman! These days, we are pleased to report, Mr Rushdie lives a very comfortable and public life.
The things they said…
“You get old and you realise there are no answers, just stories.” Garrison Keillor
“One drink is too many for me, and a thousand never enough.” Brendan Behan
“If thought corrupts language, then language can also corrupt thought“ George Orwell
What do the following have in common…?
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Lord of the Flies
They were all originally rejected by publishers! What a crazy world!!