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January 2009

Thursday, January 1st 2009 at 12:00 AM

Welcome to the January newsletter, and a very Happy New Year to you all. Here’s hoping you had a good break, and are ready to seize 2009 and shake it by its little ears!

Some new goodies just in…

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Climate Change: Carbon Trading and Civil Society

by Patrick Bond, Rehana Dada & Graham Erion
With climate change posing perhaps the gravest threat to humanity in coming decades, and with free market economics still hegemonic, it is little wonder so much effort has gone into creating a carbon market, no matter how much evidence has recently emerged about its flaws.
South Africa, a pilot site, has initiated a variety of carbon trading projects with adverse economic, environmental and social impacts. South Africa pollutes at a rate 20 times higher than even the USA, measured by CO2 emissions generated by each GDP dollar per person, so the idea of trading for carbon reductions is seductive – and potentially lucrative. Current state policy is supportive, and a former environment minister is a promoter, along with the World Bank, the Dutch governments and big oil companies. 
This book is a collection of essays by leading academics and collectives in the field of climate change, sustainable energy and social ecology, assembled by Patrick Bond, Rehana Dada and Graham Erion of the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the TransNational Institute, to highlight this urgent situation; and asks – ‘Can global warming be mitigated by carbon trading?’
The book has just arrived, hot off the press, at the Book Lounge, and is already proving very popular

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The Hour I First Believed

by Wally Lamb
The eagerly-awaited new novel from the author of She’s Come Undone – this latest explores the consequences of violent events, and the chaos that ensues when a life is blown irretrievably off course.
Caelum and Maureen Quirk move to Colorado to work at Columbine High School. When, in April 1999, two students go on the rampage with horrific results, Maureen and Caelum miraculously survive. Unable to recover from the trauma however, they move back to Connecticut, to the family farm. There Caelum discovers a cache of forgotten family memorabilia, and starts to unravel the history and secrets of five generations of his family, embarking on a quest for meaning that becomes a mythic journey that is both contemporary and quintessentially American.

Sons & Other Flammable Objects

by Porochista Khakpour
Growing up, Xerxes Adams is painfully aware that he is different – with an understanding of his Iranian heritage that vacillates between typical crushing teen embarrassment and something so tragic it cannot be spoken. His father, Darius, dwells obsessively on his sense of exile, and fantasises about a nonexistent daughter he can relate to better than his living son. Xerxes grows into adulthood determined to distance himself from his parents – but when he meets a beautiful half-Iranian girl on the roof of his building after New York’s own terrible catastrophe, it seems Iran will not let him go.
Compared to a young Philip Roth, and receiving exuberant plaudits in the US since its publication last year, Khakpour is one of her generation’s most outrageously gifted new talents.
Punchy conversation, vivid detail, sharp humour…Khakpour brings her characters vividly to life; their flaws and feints at intimacy feel poignantly real, and their journey generates real suspense.” New York Times

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What I Wore Today: Fashion Remixed Online from Beijing to Berlin

This is a quirky little delight – thousands of women around the world now post photos online of what they are wearing each day. This is the first book to collect together some of these fashionistas and flygirls, and their cutting edge, sleek and stylish, wild and wacky, and sometimes just plain unfortunate looks.

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Shakespeare Wrote for Money

by Nick Hornby
This is the final collection of Nick Hornby’s monthly column for the Believer magazine (the first two were The Complete Polysyllabic Spree and The Housekeeping vs. The Dirt). Each article details the books he bought and the books he read that month, and just what he thinks of them! Often extremely funny, always thought-provoking, this will inevitably sending you scuttling to your own shelves (or your nearest bookshop!). Great fun.

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Annie Leibowitz At Work

This is a must for all Leibowitz fans, as well as anyone interested in photography. This is one of the most celebrated photographers of our time talking, in her own words, about how she made her pictures. She talks about Hunter S. Thompson, The Rolling Stones, John Lennon, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Keith Haring, Mikhail Barishnikov, George W. Bush, Patti Smith, Kate Moss, Queen Elizabeth, Fashion, War, Advertising, Lighting, Cameras – as well as the ten things she is always asked.
Beautifully packaged, and still packed with stunning photographs, this is such a great insight into the amazing career of Annie Leibowitz.

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Then & Now: Eight South African Photographers

collected by Paul Weinberg
This book sold out almost immediately when it was first published, and has now been reissued due to popular demand. The work of all the photographers in this book straddles South Africa’s transition to democracy. They took part in documenting the struggle against apartheid in the 1980s, when more personal forms of expression were often suppressed; and then, after South Africa’s first democratic elections, they were at last free at last to follow their creative impulses. This book shows photos from both eras – in some cases works of great contrast, and yet in others a deeply saddening familiarity in the images of poverty and deprivation. This is a wonderful collection, with some truly stunning images of South African life – then and now.

January is a quiet time for publishing, so we are taking this opportunity to share with you some books that have tickled our fancy, ignited our passions, pushed our buttons and made us quiver with happiness – from the moving to the passionate, the luscious to the delicious, and the classic to the downright weird…we present our very own

***Book Lounge Allsorts***

Read To Me


The Elegance of the Hedgehog

by Muriel Barbery
An unusual, beautifully written, extraordinary novel, and also a New York Times Bestseller. Renée is the concierge of an elegant hotel particulier in the centre of Paris. She is everything a concierge is typically supposed to be – grumpy, ugly, plump, with bunions on her feet and an addiction to TV soaps – which makes it so easy for the residents to peer down their noses at her. But Renée is also an autodidact – unbeknownst to the tenants she is furtively devoted to art, philosophy, music and Japanese culture. With biting humour she scrutinizes the lives of the building’s tenants – her inferiors in every way.
The Elegance of the Hedgehog won multiple prizes when published in the original French, and this translation offers it now to a whole new readership – this is a moving, witty and redemptive novel that exalts the quiet victories of the inconspicuous among us.


Kafka in Brontëland and Other Stories

by Tamar Yellin
A latter-day Jewish Odysseus spends his life planning an intricate journey to the Promised Land, while an English father stranded in London mourns for his faraway Italian son. In these 13 beautiful stories Yellin blends irony with pathos, the mythical with the mundane, and gives voice to those living outside the ordinary.

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My Life in CIA

by Harry Mathews
Harry Mathews is the only American member of the creative writing group Oulipo. In the early seventies, while living in Paris, his circle of friends became convinced that he was an agent for the CIA. Though at first increasingly frustrated as they refused to believe his denials, he eventually decided to act the part. Knowing a spy needs cover, Mathews sets up as ˜international travel counsel’ and the audience attending his seminar yields several recruiting prospects. ˜Patrick’, also in the ˜consultancy’ business, develops into Mathews’ boon companion to whom he confides his charade. This Walter Mitty-toned novella is a chronicle of 1973, a turbulent year on the world stage; and Mathew’s life becomes increasingly surreal as strangers contact him, he accepts a courier mission, Patrick vanishes, the Soviet embassy summons him, as does French counterintelligence, which warns Mathews a Stasi assassin is pursuing him. Evolving in mood from ludicrous to serious, the yarn’s inventive literary elements elegantly mesh into a stylish amusement


The Golem

by Gustav Meyrink
A European classic. Gustav Meyrink was born in Vienna in 1868, the illegitimate son of a Baron and an actress. His role in Austrian literature is similar to that of Poe in American literature. The novel is rooted in the Jewish legend about a rabbi who made a living being out of clay and animated it with a Kabbalistic spell – the golem (גולם). Set in the Prague ghetto, the main character is Athanasius Pernath, a contemporary artist who finds himself gradually transforming into the golem – although the reader must decide whether this is reality or psychotic hallucination. The Golem itself, though rarely seen, is central to the novel as a representative of the ghetto’s own spirit and consciousness, brought to life by the suffering and misery that its inhabitants have endured over the centuries. The novel was a huge success and sold an unprecedented 100,000 copies.
The Cabala found in the ghettos a suitable home for its strange speculations on the nature of God, the magical power of letters and the possibilities for initiates of creating a man in the same way that God created Adam. This homunculus was called the Golem. Gustav Meyrink uses this legend in a dream-like setting on the Other Side of the Mirror and he has invested it with a horror so palpable that it has remained in my memory all these years.”      Jorge Luis Borges

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Ask the Dust and Dreams From Bunker Hill

by John Fante
John Fante began writing in 1929 and published his first short story in 1932. His first novel, Wait Until Spring, Bandini, published in 1938, was the first in his Arturo Bandini series of novels, which also include The Road to Los Angeles and Ask the Dust. A prolific screenwriter, he was stricken with diabetes in 1955. Complications from the disease brought about his blindness in 1978 and, within two years, the amputation of both legs. He continued to write by dictation to his wife, Joyce, and published Dreams from Bunker Hill, the final installment of the Arturo Bandini series, in 1982. He died on May 8, 1983, at the age of seventy-four.
Dreams from Bunker Hill, a portrait of a disenchanted film writer is, believes Elaine Kendal of the Los Angeles Times, “suffused with an idiosyncratic blend of gritty vitality and good-humored irony” and further “its surface wryness does not distract us from the sense that it crystallizes a few decades of frustration.
John Fante [is] the Italian-American Hemingway.”               Fred Gardaphe
Among the finest fiction ever written in America.”         Neil Gordon



by Knut Hamsun
Norwegian born author Knut Hamsun won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1920. Hunger is his most acclaimed work of fiction. It follows the life of a desperate individual, out on the streets of Kristiania, out of money and out of luck. The novel traces the thoughts of the main character as he journeys aimlessly around the streets, yet despite his desperately dire situation he never relinquishes his lofty ideals of becoming a writer. The book has a definite surrealist aspect to it, and while Hamsun was a contemporary of Franz Kafka’s his absurdist technique is more subtle than Kafka’s was. Hunger was described as the most disturbing novel in existence. And although this might be somewhat excessive it is certainly (in Hamsun’s own words) an intriguing “attempt to describe the strange, peculiar life of the mind, the mysteries of the nerves in the starving body.” Hunger was first published in Norway in 1890 and, given Hamsun’s contempt for the novels of his time and what he saw as stereotypical plots and empty characters Hunger was a fore-runner of the New Literature.


Zeno’s Conscience

by Italo Svevo
Italo Svevo was the pseudonym of Italian businessman and writer Aron Ettore Schmitz. Zeno’s Conscience (La coscienza di Zeno) was his most popular novel. The novel is presented as a diary written by Zeno (who claims that it is full of lies), published by his doctor. The doctor has left a little note in the beginning, saying that he had Zeno write his autobiography in order to help him in his psychoanalysis, although the doctor has really published the work as revenge for Zeno discontinuing his visits. Self-published in 1923, the book might have disappeared altogether if it weren’t for Svevo’s friend James Joyce, who championed the novel in France, helping to have it translated into French and then published in Paris, where critics praised it exravagantly.

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Edwin Mullhouse: The Life and Death of an American Writer 1943-1954

by Jeffrey Cartwright
By the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Martin Dressler, this is a dazzling, rapturous, funny, elegiac novel. At the age of two Edwin Mullhouse was reciting Shakespeare. At ten he had written a novel that critics would call “a work of undoubted genius.” At eleven Edwin Mullhouse was mysteriously dead. Documenting every stage of his life is Jeffrey Cartwright, his best friend and biographer – and the narrator of this dazzling portrait of the artist as a young child.
One of the finest [novels] I have read in recent years…Such intelligence, with and compassion that a reviewer’s catalogue of superlatives is inadequate to it.”             Jonathan Yardley

And Now For Something Completely Non-Fictional


The Half: Photographs of Actors Preparing for the Stage

by Simon Annand
This simply beautiful book pays tribute to theatre and the art of acting. For 25 years actors have given Simon Annand complete access to capture them in the sacrosanct 30 minutes before the curtain rises – known as ˜The Half’. The result is a collection of beautifully evocative and atmospheric images showing some of the best loved actors of the past quarter-century preparing, each in their own inimitable, intense, and sometimes rather odd way, to enchant their audience. This book will enthrall anyone who has ever had a fabulous evening at the theatre…

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The Leather Nun and Other Incredibly Strange Comics

by Paul Gravett & Peter Stanbury
A superb little book of eye-popping (and absolutely real) comics from around the world, which inspired the compilers to wonder – ˜What were you THINKING?!’ – and very few of which are fettered by such unnecessary constraints as good taste. So we have Brain Boy, Amputee Love, Cosmo the Merry Martian, Chaplains At War, The Gospel Blimp – and many, many more that just beggar belief.
Quoth Jonathan Ross – “The perfect gift for any comic-book lover or pervert in your life.”


by Robert McKee
Subtitled ˜Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting’ this book is the Winner of the International Moving Image Book Award, and comes very highly recommended by one of our favourite customers, who says – “Nothing else I have read about scriptwriting has made this much sense. Robert McKee’s explanations and arguments are clear and compelling, and well supported with examples and analysis. A great guide to understanding the core issues: I’d recommend it for anyone who is serious about scriptwriting.”


The Pessimist’s Handbook/The Optimist’s Handbook

by Edworthy and Cramsie
A companion volume to Despair and Hope respectively, this quirky little number takes a selection of topics – Adventure, Animals, Books, Environment, Parenthood , Life, Smoking and more – and gives us the highs and the lows of each. With pithy quotes and facts, this book will give you the positive and negative on every topic, to perfectly suit your mood.

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The Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopedia Volume III

Yes, it really is what it says it is – Danzig Baldaev spent his life as a prison guard or ˜Kresty’ in the notorious Leningrad prison, documenting over 3000 tattoos of the inmates, and recording the meanings of the motifs. His work came to the attention of the KGB who, rather than prosecuting (he was already classed as the son of an enemy of the state) realised the social significance of what he was doing. An extraordinary and fascinating social documentary, and insight into an era.


The Transvestite Memoirs

by Abbé de Choisy
By a whim of his mother, Fran̤ois Timol̩on de Choisy was dressed as a girl until the age of eighteen. After a short spell in male attire he became, by all accounts including his own, the classic transvestite Рa male heterosexual who never attempted to disguise his sex, whilst going about in public in full female attire. Eventually falling foul of Parisian society for his increasingly extravagant behavior he became abbot of Saint Seine in Burgundy where he continued to delight in female attire and the seduction of young ladies.
“…a most fantastic and fascinating case; his erotic masquerade the stuff of adult fairy tales.”        Marina Warner

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The Mole People: Life in the Tunnels Beneath New York City

by Jennifer Toth
While it is generally accepted that some homeless people in large cities do indeed make use of accessible, abandoned underground structures for shelter, urban legends persist that make stronger assertions. These include claims that ‘mole people’ have formed small, ordered societies similar to tribes, numbering up to hundreds of people living underground year-round. It has also been suggested that these have developed their own cultural traits and even have electricity by illegal hook-up. The subject has attracted some attention from sociologists but is still highly controversial due to a lack of concrete evidence.
Jennifer Toth’s 1993 book written while she was an intern at the Los Angeles Times, is an account of her travels in the tunnels and interviews with tunnel dwellers. The book helped canonise the image of the Mole People as an ordered society living literally under people’s feet, reminiscent of the Morlocks of science fiction writer H.G. Wells.
We come to trust her as our guide to this subterranean world. And what a world it is. After snaking with Toth over fences, into manholes, down rusty stairs, across planks and catwalks, and through fissures in cement walls, we enter what one police officer describes as ˜a city beneath the streets’“.    Los Angeles Times

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Be Arsed: 365 ideas for getting off your backside and living life to the full

So it’s the New Year, and time to try something new and exciting. Rather than the same old same old resolutions and diets, this little book will give you a whole heap of ideas – from health to the environment, from parenting to the intellect. The tips are all explained simply with a bit of detail and reasoning, and they are all wonderfully manageable – a really super little book.

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Not Quite What I Was Planning

edited by Smith Magazine
When Hemingway famously wrote “For sale: baby shoes, never worn,” he proved that an entire story can be told using half a dozen words. When the online storytelling magazine SMITH asked readers to submit six-word memoirs, they proved a whole, real life can be told this way too this way too. The results are fascinating, odd, hilarious, shocking and moving…
“Catholic girl. Jersey. It’s all true”                        Mary Elizabeth Williams
“Fifteen years since last professional haircut.”    Dave Eggers
“Revenge is living well. Without you.”                  Joyce Carol Oates
“I wrote a poem. Nobody cared.”                         Joe Heaps Nelson
“I asked. They answered. I wrote.”                      Sebastian Junger
“Stole wife. Lost friends. Now happy.”                  Po Bronson

Very Important Book

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Ten Technologies to Save the Planet

by Chris Goodall
This book is as important as it is encouraging. Unlike so many environmental commentaries, this is a positive story for once – introducing key innovators, and the developments that will tackle climate change head-on. We all agree that global greenhouse emissions must be dramatically cut, but how do we actually achieve that? Despite targets being set, and you and me doing the recycling, the reality is that we will only avoid runaway global warming with the help of technological breakthroughs. In this fascinating book, Chris Goodall profiles ten technologies to watch, explaining how they work and telling the stories of the inventors and entrepreneurs driving them forward. Some of Goodall’s selections, such as the electric car, are familiar. Others are more surprising. Algae, for example, can soak up carbon dioxide and produce fuel, while charcoal made from waste vegetable and forestry matter can lock carbon into soils and reduce the need for fertilizers. Cutting-edge and accessible, this is popular science at its most crucial. Highly recommended.

A Tantalising Taster to Tickle Your 2009 Toes (I think I’ve still got champagne up my nose!)

There is so much to look forward to in 2009 – and here are just a few book morsels coming up from some of our favourite people, in no particular order…
Stieg Larsson – The Girl Who Played With Fire (second part of the series)
Linda Grant – The Thoughtful Dresser
Anita Brookner – Strangers
Kazuo Ishiguro – Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall by
Alain de Botton – The Pleasures & Sorrows of Work
TC Boyle – The Women
Toby Litt – Journey Into Space
Amartya Sen – The Idea of Justice
Chris Anderson – Free (new from author of Long Tail)
Monica Ali – In the Kitchen
David Eggers – The Wild Things (novelisation of ˜Where The Wild Things Are’ – to accompany the Spike Jonze film)
Amos Oz – Rhyming Life and Death
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – The Thing Around Your Neck (short stories)
Colm Tóibin – Brooklyn
AS Byatt – The Children’s Book
Iain Pears – Stone’s Fall
Javier Marais – Poison, Shadow and Farewell
Plus goodies later in the year from Thomas Pynchon, William Trevor, Martin Amis, Nick Hornby, Philip Roth, Orhan Pamuk and lots more…!!

“Bookshops, anywhere in the world, are a haven, and their stock is talismanic – no matter how bad one’s situation may be, a book can relieve it. Books are amulets against despair and charms for a better life.” Jeanette Winterson