Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Catapult Notable List - #7

Great House by Nicole Krauss
For 25 years, a well-known, reclusive American novelist has been writing at a wooden desk that she inherited from a young poet who disappeared under Pinochet's regime in Chile. One day, she is contacted by a young woman claiming to be the daughter of the Chilean poet who asks after the desk. "I'd like to have it," she says.

An aging man sees his wife's memories begin to slip away like paper in the breeze and when he finds a secret hidden in her desk of many drawers, he begins to question whether he in fact has ever known her at all.

A German antiques dealer works tirelessly across his lifetime to reassemble a mysterious collection of items - with one more elusive than any other.

The subtle arrangement of characters and their stories within Great House is its great strength, overlapping in such subtle ways as to continuously surprise you with the depth of your own emotional involvement. The wooden desk, with its nineteen drawers (one permanently locked) and its mysterious history, is the quiet central character that it is the knot that ties all the others together. "So, Great House is really a novel about a desk?" you ask. "C'mon," I say, "Pay attention."

The desk of many drawers is ultimately what brings all the storylines fatefully crashing together, but the real stars are of course the human characters. It is a novel about a writer, so attached to her past that she cannot see the future. A man who unconditionally loves his wife, even as her memory fades and her secrets emerge. A family torn apart by anger and misunderstanding, yet hanging together by the thinest of familial bonds. An antiques dealer who sacrifices those who love him most in a lifelong attempt to reassemble a collection that has far-reaching meaning for him. The four storylines at first seem unconnected, of course, but eventually they emerge through the fog to become the multiple elements of one larger story.

What can I say, this book was right in my wheelhouse. (The easiest way to get your novel onto a Catapult Notable list is to feature multiple, intertwining narratives. FYI.) In that regard Krauss is more Colum McCann than David Mitchell - never leading the reader through a darkened labyrinth, she always leaves the lights on and you know that she has a firm grip on your hand. She is an immensely skilled writer - I found I could escape into the words of her creation with ease. The subtle worlds she creates are not unlike our own, in that they are normal, banal even, but always with a stark reality to them that is comforting and appealing. Yet even within that reality, there is always an element of the mysterious - that idea that the answers we seek are just around the next corner.

I'll leave things with a bit from my personal favorite storyline, that of Arthur Bender and his wife Lotte Berg:
The doorbell rang. We looked up at each other. It was rare for anyone to visit us unannounced. Lotte put her book down in her lap. I went to the door. A young man was standing there holding a briefcase. It's possible that the moment before I opened the door he had extinguished his cigarette, because I thought I saw a trail of smoke slip out of the corner of his mouth. Then again, it could have been just his breath in the cold. For a minute I thought it was one of my students - they all shared a certain knowing look, as if they were trying to smuggle something in or out of an unnamed country. There was a car waiting by the curb, the motor still running, and he glanced back at it. Someone - man or woman, I couldn't say - was hunched over the steering wheel. Is Lotte Berg home? he asked.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 Catapult Notable List - #8

Life by Keith Richards
In the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit that the Rolling Stones' 1972 album Exile on Main Street is my favorite by any artist, ever.  I listen to at least some of the album every week, without fail, like it's some sort of twisted security blanket.  I've even considered writing a piece-by-piece breakdown of the "lost tracks" from Exile that were released this past summer, but I figured that was something only a Stones nerd like myself would be interested in & might cost me readers, so I restrained myself.  So, Keith's memoirs were, of course, something that I was going to devour with abandon, regardless of the content.

In light of this information you still might ask, how does a rock star's memoir make it into my top ten list? Is Life only here because of my personal affinity for the band and the man or is it genuinely one of the ten best books I read in 2010? What kind of "literary" blog is this? James Patterson, Keith Richards, c'mon.

To that I say, bollocks.

Keith was the forerunner, the trailblazer, the first man into space for a whole generation - a series of generations. He was the antidote to Beatlemania. The giant middle finger in the face of the musical establishment. (Any establishment, really.) His band has been cranking out hit records and blistering riffs longer than anyone else - and he has done so with a decade-long heroin habit in his rearview mirror. Better yet, he remembers a whole hell of a lot of what he's done and has proven remarkably adept at bringing those tales of jamming, smoking, drinking, snorting, rocking, and grooving to the printed page. It turns out that Life is also well-written, insightful, coherent, witty, and eloquent. Considering the source, I mean, who knew?

Before the publication, there was a good deal of press coverage (mostly in the UK) about what Keith had to say in Life about Mick. The nature of their relationship is no secret - they are not exactly BFFs, but not sworn enemies either. If you're looking for pages and pages of tell-all, forget it - he is rather candid (and perhaps a little hurt) when he does discuss their partnership but it never comes off as catty or petty. It somehow feels genuine enough that you never feel like you've wandered into a lovers' quarrel, as some critics would have you believe. He equates their relationship to that of brothers, rather than friends - "I mean, shit, if you work with a guy for forty-odd years, it's not all going to be plain sailing, is it? You've got to go through the bullshit; it's like a marriage."

One of my favorite bits - which gives you a good idea of what the rest of the book is like - is from Keith's recollections from the infamous 1972 tour in support of Exile - Truman Capote was a friend of Mick's and was accompanying the band on a leg of the tour:
...Truman was just Truby. He was on assignment from some high-paying magazine, so he was ostensibly working. Truby said something bitchy and whiny backstage - he was being an old fart, actually complaining about the noise. It was just some snide, queenie remark and sometimes I don't give a damn, other times it just gets up my nose. This happened after a show and I was already on cloud nine. Motherfucker needed a lesson. I mean, this snooty New York attitude. You're in Dallas. It got a little raucous. I remember, back at the hotel, kicking Truman's door. I'd splattered it with ketchup I'd picked up off a trolley. Come out, you old queen. What are you doing round here? You want cold blood? You're on the road now, Truby! Come and say it out here in the corridor. Taken out of context, it sounds like I'm some sort of Johnny Rotten, but I must have been provoked.
There's a certain degree of stream-of-consciousness to Keith's writing, as you can see - as if he's talking into a dictation machine, laughing, smoking his cigarette, sipping his drink. A swaggering storyteller with a captive audience. Running between all the tales of court appearances, hotel trashings, and drug-fueled brushes with death, however, is the true lifeblood that flows in his veins and that which has kept him going all this time. (It's even apparent in the Capote excerpt if you look hard enough.) Despite his faults, his bad behavior, his inability to deal with pain & loss, his rampant drug use, making music has been the glue that has kept the man together for the last five decades. It turns out, Life is all about the music, man.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010 Catapult Notable List - #9

Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart
Gary, Gary, Gary.  What to say about this marvel of a man?  He was recently named one of the 20 Under 40 by the New Yorker.  He likes weiner dogs.  He lives in New York but was born in Russia.  He visited Warwick's this year and took the debut Warwick's Questionnaire.  This novel, his third, has been named a 2010 New York Times Notable book AND comes in at Number 9 on our Catapult Countdown.

SSTLS (as I will hereby refer to this book) is a dystopic vision of our possible future - one where no one reads anything anymore (paper books, which smell awful, are referred to as "printed, bound media artifacts") preferring endless streaming videos instead. When not checking their GlobalTeens page, they're shopping online at places like Assluxury.com and scanning crowded rooms for higher "fuckability" indexes on their neighbors.  All have an unhealthy attachment to their "äppäräts" - handheld mobile devices that take care of everything.  Wait, this sounds vaguely familiar...

Overweight, slovenly Lenny Abramov works diligently for the Post-Human Services division of the Staatling-Wapachung Company, who promises their customers immortality if they follow the rigorous program of dieting and supplements.  He's just returned home to New York after a year "working" in Rome, where he accidentally fell in love with Eunice, a "super-healthy Asian" with a "very high life expectancy."  He failed miserably to sell "The Product" in Europe, where some people "actually want to die" and now his job seems to be in jeopardy - a prospect he cannot fathom, especially in light of his relationship with his boss/father figure, Joshie. If only he can lure Eunice to New York!

Meanwhile, the global economy seems to be collapsing - aided in part by the U.S.'s occupation of Venezuela and the falling dollar and the horrible credit of most our citizenry.  (Your credit scores are announced publicly when you walk past a "credit pole.")  In fact, it seems likely that the Chinese investors who are keeping the US economy afloat may be ready to pull the plug. It perhaps doesn't help that the government is highly militarized and secretive, with national "security" falling under the purview of the Big Brother-like American Restoration Authority.  This information, in front of a government tank, greets Lenny at JFK when he arrives home:

It is forbidden to acknowledge the existence of this vehicle ("the object") until you are .5 miles from the security perimeter of John F. Kennedy International Airport. By reading this sign you have denied existence of the object and implied consent.
-American Restoration Authority,
Security Directive IX-2.11
"Together We'll Surprise the World!"

Gary and the Warwick's booksellers in August 2010
As absurd as all of that sounds, Gary does a spectacular job of satirizing and skewering so many layers of our actual society - it's frighteningly easy to see elements of who we are as a planet and where we might be headed if we cannot alter our behaviors.  Are we really so far off from all of this?  Sadly, I don't think so, which lends an air of gravity to the title and delivers SSTLS into the 9-spot on the 2010 Catapult Notable list.


#8 on the 2010 Catapult Notable list.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010 Catapult Notable List - #10

Citrus County by John Brandon
The full Catapult review.  In that earlier review I called this "a powerful, funny, bizarre little novel of adolescent longing, loss, and general, everyday misery that creaks along down the dark halls of narration with a resounding reality and clarity of prose."  Despite its tough surface subject matter (a teenaged boy kidnaps his friend's little sister and keeps her locked in an underground bunker in the woods. What?) there's an intangible magnetism to the characters and the story that unfolds at their feet.  Besides, a lot of it is hilariously funny!

Citrus County, Florida has "no beaches and no amusement parks and no hotels and no money." But it does have "rednecks and manatees and sinkholes (and plenty of) insects, not gentle crickets but creatures with stingers and pincers and scorn in their hearts."

Our narrators wander on the extremities of what is socially acceptable - teenaged kidnapper Toby in his blunted rage; the disaffected geography teacher, Mr. Hibma with his thinly veiled homicidal tendencies; Sherry, who seems to weirdly, quickly accept the fact that her sister has been kidnapped; and that her own life has a new path.  Yet even with that social blurriness, Brandon manages to create a cast of sympathetic characters who wallow in their malformed lives, leaving us feeling better about our own, yet comfortable with theirs.  This town of misfits clings to your clothing as you pass through, leaving you with the feeling that you had wandered into their lives at the worst possible moments - their most vulnerable, their weakest, the craziest points in their lives. And even in light of their weirdness, there is always a place for redemption and renewal - even if it comes from the most unlikely of sources.  Not to mention that the whole thing has a crazed, edgy hilarity that I found particularly appealing - hence it comes in at Number Ten for 2010. 


*One other note: this was published by McSweeney's, so the hardcover is totally awesome looking. No dust jacket, different colors for different editions - these guys are the ones that will keep books looking interesting for the purists among us. (See also last year's faux fur-covered The Wild Things by Dave Eggers.)
#9 on the 2010 Catapult Notable List.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Catapult Notable List 2010

After much debating, procrastinating, quantifying, & a little bit of rereading, it's time for some (self-indulgent) end of year list making. For the 5th annual Catapult Notable List, I have narrowed the best books that I read in 2010 to a tight top ten list - to be suspensefully revealed one-a-day for the next 10 days. I'm keeping this to books that were first published in the US this year, which eliminates a few great ones that I read, like American Rust by Philipp Meyer, The Death of Jim Loney by James Welch, and Already Dead by Denis Johnson. Also, deciding which ones make the cut is always a little tough and some really good books - like John Burdett's The Godfather of Kathmandu, The Black Minutes by Martin Solares, The Glass Rainbow by James Lee Burke, and Bandit Love by Massimo Carlotto - get left on the cutting room floor. Not to mention, The 9th Judgment by James Patterson was obviously the best book I have read all year - this should go without saying, thus it has been left off the list. However, like last year, in the interest of dragging this thing out as long as possible, there are several also-rans that I think deserve some recognition - a notable list for the notable list, if you will. So, before the real list commences tomorrow, here are some others that you should be reading:

Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco
A strange book that caught my eye because of the abundance of international awards that it received prior to even being published – namely the Philippines' top literary award, the Palanca Grand Prize and the Man Asian Literary Award. Imagine an unpublished manuscript winning the Pulitzer... Syjuco manages to deftly drop a century’s worth of Philippine history into this, while maneuvering around the central plot of a young writer’s search for his country’s most celebrated author. It’s one of those novels that plays with narrative, hovering on the brink of distraction or even detriment, only to have it cleverly reeled back in by the author to provide a shocking, revelatory ending. I can’t give away any more than that, but I promise you that if you stick it out until the end, through all the twists and turns of narration, you will be rewarded. But don’t trust its young narrator too much – he just might be lying to you...

The Nearest Exit by Olen Steinhauer
Steinhauer's followup to last year's The Tourist continues the adventures of recovering CIA deepcover operative, Milo Weaver as he tries to untangle himself from his own complicated life. This is the life of the modern, post-9/11 spy - devoted family man & leg-breaking killer all wrapped up into one messy package. A blistering pace, sharp dialogue, vibrant characters, & a riveting complexity makes for a brilliant addition to this oft misappropriated genre. Olen's previous series of under-appreciated Eastern bloc detective novels are some of my favorites, so the critical & commercial success of the Milo Weaver books is pretty awesome. 

Holy Water by James Othmer
Othmer’s hilarious novel of one man’s battle with conglomerate super-companies taking over the third world, strikes a perfect balance between uproarious absurdity and the dire seriousness of rapid globalization. Henry Tuhoe, recently vice president of underarm research in the antiperspirant division of the giant conglomerate that he works for, is suddenly downsized (in his marriage, as well) and sent to the Kingdom of Galado to set up a phone bank for his company’s new bottled water division. Tiny Galado has a water problem to begin with (as in, there isn’t any) so the appearance of a bottled water company isn’t exactly welcome. Before chaos & anarchy ensues, Henry must decide whether to continue his spiral of self-pity or to step up and save the kingdom. 

Zulu by Caryl Ferey
The full Catapult review. Zulu won France's Grand Prix for Best Crime Novel in 2008 with good reason - it's a flat-out brilliant crime novel, but ultimately it rings truer as an exposé of the current socio-political climate in South Africa. Ethnic Zulu, Ali Neuman is the quintessential product of apartheid violence - driven from his home after the brutal murder of his family, he has spent his adult life hiding his deep emotional scars working as a detective in Cape Town. But Cape Town is no place to hide – rife with shocking gang violence, rampant drug use, & a deep-seated hatred on both sides of the racial divide – we soon learn that no character is safe within the pages of Zulu. Férey delivers a terrifying, almost hypnotic look into a society that has struggled so hard to mask the dark underside of its history, only to leave it all simmering just below the surface.

The Devil by Ken Bruen
Denied entry into America, my good friend Jack Taylor is back on the booze & pills – not that this would dull his wits or be any sort of problem. In fact, he seems to have reached some sort of equilibrium within himself, until he is faced with his most sinister nemesis to date. Could this Mr. K be the devil ‘is own self? There’s no one better than Bruen and this is truly one of his best novels to date. Even if you’ve never had the pleasure of being in Jack Taylor’s company, you could step right in to the series here – Jack’s more than willing to accommodate you, but just don’t expect him to buy you a pint.

Panopticon by David Bajo
Bajo’s fantastic, dream-like second novel (The 351 Books of Irma Arcuri) explores both San Diego's dusty southern borderland and the electronic network of cameras that are always watching us. Border reporter, Aaron Klinsman stumbles into what could be the story of a lifetime when he is clued into the fact that there is a vast network of watching eyes scattered all across our urban landscape. But who is doing the watching? And down the rabbit hole we go. The real star here is the balance between Bajo’s delicate, elegant writing & the crazy, almost insomniatic images that skip across Klinsman’s vision: mysterious luchadors in suits, motels that vanish overnight, warehouses filled with last season’s clothes, nymphs in Balboa Park. Is Klinsman even awake at all?  Are we?

War by Sebastian Junger
Junger, the celebrated author of The Perfect Storm, spent a collected fifteen months entrenched with US Army troops stationed in eastern Afghanistan's Korengal Valley to get the story for War. At the same time, along with his colleague Tim Hetherington, Junger also shot reels and reels of video footage that would become the acclaimed documentary film, Restrepo. Now, I'm no ultra-patriotic flag-waver, but either way, whether you watch the film or read the book, it is important enough of a topic that every American needs to sit up for a minute and understand the circumstances our soldiers are facing in this absurd war. I felt that War, as a book, just sort of fizzled out as Junger's time in Afghanistan came to an end, but the overall arc of the story is powerful enough that I would recommend it to anyone.

The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean by Susan Casey
With the exception of The Autobiography of Mark Twain, this was the book that we could barely keep in stock at the store this holiday season. (There are a lot of SD surfers with moms in La Jolla, I guess.) Even with the doe-eyed star-gazing that Casey does with big wave surfer, Laird Hamilton, her journalism skills are strong and she creates a superbly compelling narrative by combining the Laird's philosophy of oceanic respect with first hand big wave experiences and (an all-too brief) study on why 100-foot waves are more common now than ever before. Never turn your back on the ocean, friend.

The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival by John Vaillant
Journalist Vaillant weaves together the fascinating history of the Far East of Russia - an area I knew virtually nothing about - and the search for a remarkably intelligent, man-hunting, revenge-seeking Siberian tiger. The moral herein: don't steal food from a tiger and if you shoot him, make sure he's dead. A fascinating, extremely well told story, made all the more compelling by the truth of it all.

The Routes of Man: How Roads Are Changing the World and the Way We Live Today by Ted Conover
Conover’s first book in over a decade is a series of 6 loosely linked essays about the culture of the road across the globe - how those roads connect us, divide us, and alter our world, for good & for ill. Conover doesn't just report on a story, researching from afar, he fully immerses himself in the issue, no matter the circumstances or discomforts. Riding with ambulance drivers in Nigeria, trucking mahogany out of the forests of Peru, trekking on foot over frozen rivers in northern India - Ted has an unparalleled skill at giving the reader the sense of total immersion (see also his other books, Newjack, Rolling Nowhere, Coyotes.) This is not pedestrian journalism here - his life is often as in danger as you would imagine it to be in such rough corners of our world, which makes for some pretty riveting reading.

Check the Catapult tomorrow for #10 of 2010.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Thanks Johannes!

Last night, almost as a subconscious counterpunch to all the eBook talk going on in my world, my wife and I attended (at her behest) a talk at a local library on "Johannes Gutenberg and the Printing Revolution" given by local historian, Lawrence Ludlow.

In 1455, Johannes Gutenberg printed his famous bible using his newly invented moveable type printing press.  The press was ground-breaking in that it utilized individual metal letter stamps - unlike the traditional wood-carved & basically single-use stamps - which were durable enough to produce many more copies than anything before it.  Well, before that, monks were still copying out every book by hand, so anything would have been an improvement.  Although, interestingly enough, there was a bit of an uproar in the hand-written book industry where the monks believed that they would be run out of business by this new technology & thus railed against it.  As it turns out, Gutenberg's press and its high level of production speed only promoted the spread of literacy on an unprecedented scale, which essentially kept the monks in business for quite awhile.  Sound familiar?

In his talk, Lawrence reminded us that that the printing press was essentially the most important invention of the last 1000 years - are we to honestly believe that that something so fundamental to the advancement of the human race should be so cavalierly dismissed as "outdated?"  The printing press promoted literacy unlike anything before or since.  By providing a cheaper, more easily produced book, more people throughout the world learned to read in order to advance along with the technology of the age.  (In the 100 years after Gutenberg, it is estimated that the worldwide literacy rate jumped from 30% to 60%.  We're now somewhere around 90%.)  While I can see how, in our era, the eBook can been viewed as a similarly inexpensive promotional device, I don't think it should be seen as an advancement, as it is nothing more than an alternate version of a printed book.  The delivery is different, but the product is the same, which is why I don't think electronic books will ever fully replace anything.  There is space in our world for both technologies and since the printed book has long been such a staple of our society, I cannot see that it will be so easily dismissed. 

However, I was reminded of how Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com CEO & my self-perceived arch-nemesis sees things:
The physical book really has had a 500-year run. It's probably the most successful technology ever. It's hard to come up with things that have had a longer run. If Gutenberg were alive today, he would recognize the physical book and know how to operate it immediately. Given how much change there has been everywhere else, what's remarkable is how stable the book has been for so long. But no technology, not even one as elegant as the book, lasts forever.
(What I can never understand is how Bezos has convinced himself that he is providing a technology that will supplant something as admittedly stable as a book.  Is this simply ego or is he just not listening to himself speak?)  To look at a book as a simple technology at this point is a fatal error, I believe.  The book has been the building block of our modern society - none of us would be doing any of the things that we're doing today had Johannes not built his press in 1455.  There would be no Amazon.com, no internet, no Book Catapult. To dismiss the printed word as an over-and-done technology is naive and shortsighted.  

Besides, electronic books lack the soul that a bound book has and are nowhere near as freakin' awesome looking as a well-made book.  Do yourself a favor, if you're ever given the opportunity to be in the same room as an actual Gutenberg bible, don't pass it up.  I have seen the copy housed at Yale University's Beineke Library and I can honestly say that it is the most incredible book I have ever laid eyes on.  (This image is from the British Library's high-resolution scans of their copy of the GB, which are available online as a taste.)  I think my viewing of the Gutenberg set the tone for the last decade or so for me & has provided me with an undercurrent of perspective in the wake of the eBook revolution.  How can you gaze on something like that and think that it could ever be replaced by a "better" technology?  Can you make improvements on a Matisse painting or a Mozart composition?  You think I overstep, but they are no different - books, paintings, music = art.  Perhaps we've moved too far away from the elegance of books that those of Gutenberg's age produced and this is why books are seen as simple arrangements of texts to modern eyes.  Maybe we need to return to producing more beautiful volumes of printed books in order to renew that sense of beauty we're lacking in our average bestseller.  Let's evolve by stepping back a bit.

I think that the printed book will long survive any other technological advance that aims to replace it.  All it's going to take is one well-placed electromagnetic pulse and all your precious eBooks are going to be wiped out - meanwhile, I'll be reading one of my 1000's of paperbound books by the burning embers of our civilization.  And no, you can't borrow any of them!

(FYI: there are several Gutenberg bibles in the United States available for public view.  There is an incomplete copy at the Huntington Library in San Marcos, if you're in Cali, and complete copies at the Library of Congress in DC, the Widener Library at Harvard, the University of Texas at Austin, and again, Yale's Beineke Library in New Haven, CT.)

Monday, December 06, 2010

Google eBooks

Big news in the book world this morning: independent bookstores are now selling Google eBooks online. That's right, your local, neighborhood indie is no longer being completely left in the dust by the likes of Amazon - the American Booksellers Association (ABA) has announced a partnership with Google that will allow for the sale of the "cloud-based" eBooks on all participating ABA member stores' websites (110 across the country to date.)  The "cloud" means that you can access your eBooks from any web-connected device through your Google account - nothing is downloaded to your device unless you want it to be. (So, good and bad, I guess.)

Pricing is based on the agency model, which means they are set by the pubs, rather than the seller - which makes for some relatively competitive pricing. (In my initial scan of some titles on warwicks.com, I saw quite a few at $11.99 - $14.99. Granted, there are some still at the same price as the hardcover book, but...)  And Google eBooks are compatible with pretty much every device with the exception of the locked-out, proprietary Kindle. In all honesty, if I were so inclined to purchase an eBook reader, I would want one that did other things besides displaying books - I think the Kindle has to adapt or fade away. (Please fade away.)

Sorry, this post seems like an ad for Google, but this shit's been a long time coming and it's nice to at least be able to offer something to customers. I'm still sticking with my paper and glue, though.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Back in the Black

Ocho Rios, Jamaica
I have returned, relaxed, wedded, ready to rumble through another retail holiday season. What have I missed?  What have you missed? 
  • I read Walker Percy's classic New Orleans novel, The Moviegoer, Philip Caputo's border novel, CrossersLondon Boulevard by the always excellent Ken Bruen, and The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death by Charlie Huston while sitting on a beach outside Ocho Rios, Jamaica.  In your face.
  • I missed the National Book Award announcement - the Fiction Award went to Jaimy Gordon's novel Lord of Misrule (I had never heard of her, the book, or her publisher, McPherson & Co. before this) and Patti Smith won the Nonfiction Award for her memoir of her friendship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, Just Kids.  Nice.
  • I met Mike Huckabee, Apolo Ohno, and Rick Springfield in a 72-hour period last week. (see below)
  • It appears that an announcement about how the American Booksellers Association will be handling eBooks is "imminent."  Top secret, but "imminent." I can say no more.
  • Right before I went on vacation, I was generously awarded the Glenn Goldman Booksellers Scholarship by the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association (SCIBA), which will be sending me to the ABA Winter Institute in D.C. in January.  (The scholarship is open to all booksellers working in SoCal indies, you just have to apply & pray.) I'm super excited about it.
  • The New York Times announced their 2010 Notable List - and managed to include David Mitchell, Anthony Doerr, Olen Steinhauer, and Gary Shteyngart.  Shocking!  They also revealed their 10 Best Books, which proved to be not as revelatory.  Franzen, The New Yorker Stories by Ann Beattie, Room by Emma Donaghue, Selected Stories of William Trevor, and A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan.  I guarantee you that when the Catapult Notable List is revealed in the coming weeks, it will be far more interesting than that.
  • If you live in San Diego and can skip work on a Tuesday morning, I will be resuming my monthly Coffee with a Bookseller at Warwick's on Tuesday, December 14th at 10am. The Catapult Notable List will be revealed in its entirety...
Since I no longer have to devote all of my free time to planning a wedding, I will return to the Catapult on a more regular basis - or whenever I have something to say.  I am in the process of compiling the 2010 Catapult Notable List - not sure of the date I'll get it going, but the format will be like last year.  Thanks for sticking around!
One Catapult Operator and Rick Springfield.
Rick's head looks A LOT bigger than mine...