Category Archives: books

Sprawl

I finished rereading William Gibson’s Sprawl trilogy today. Read it back in the 90s, or at least the first two. Never read the third one, Mona Lisa Overdrive. I enjoyed the trilogy a lot. You can’t rush through ’em. You gotta read them with a good, relaxed rhythm, and really imagine the scenes. You can’t worry too much about not totally understanding what’s going on. It will become clearer the more you read.

Just started reading Virtual Light, first book of his next series, the Bridge trilogy. Digging it thus far.

Post 665

Oh yeah, next post will be #666, so I’d better make it a lot better than this one.

I just wanted to write a little note about Haymarket Books, and how a lot of the time if you buy an actual physical book from them they make an eBook available to your for download also. I think this is really, really cool. I love it. I read better, faster, and with less eye strain on my Kindle, but I still like to have the book in physical form too. I think all books should be this way. It’s rad.

Books to piss you off, educate you, or make you lose sleep.

Since perhaps the biggest asshole in the country has been elected our next President, and since he’s clearly going to be making other massive buttholes his cabinet members, I thought I’d pass along some great publishers and authors you might want to read.

EDIT: Was just thinking – I want to say this. As publisher of a small skateboarding magazine, I know it is not cheap to publish print materials. I encourage anyone who reads this to seek out small and/or independent publishers who are making quality reading available, buy their books, and keep buying them. They are perhaps one of the best things we have going in this country, and they need our support even more these days.

  1. Matt Taibbi — lots of good muckraking. I’ve read lots of his stuff. Hard hitting and funny. Good stuff.
  2. Naomi Klein – author of the Shock Doctrine and lots of other informative books.
  3. Haymarket Books – really good publisher of lots of political stuff. One of my favorite publishers. I order directly from them, rather than via Amazon or other middle-men. I’m particularly stoked about their Stop Trump Reading List.
  4. Deep Vellum – a publisher of literary translation out of Dallas, TX.  Reading this stuff will make you smarter. And that’s a good thing.
  5. Coffee House Press – not political, strictly speaking, but some really good stuff.
  6. AK Press – radical stuff.
  7. The Nation Magazine – I resubscribed this last year, when it became clear that things were going south.

Obviously just reading a few things does not equate to taking positive action against the coming bullshit, but arming yourself with some knowledge won’t hurt either.

I think the coming years are going to be challenging, as the right wing has taken over for the time being, and will seek to enact socially regressive policies. What can you do? I got no magic formula. I plan to try, in my own life, to show the sort of kindness to others that the rightwingers and angry will not. One can be kind and strong.

Books and Smart Friends and Bookstores

This will be kind of a rambling post, but there is the thread of a story here, so please keep with me…

I am lucky to have many talented friends. Artists, musicians, scholars, etc. Many of these friends come from the world of skateboarding, which attracts a lot of creative types (and some idiots too, but what doesn’t?).

I’m also lucky to have a really really smart wife, who’s working on a PhD in the Humanities. Because she is smart, and is involved in smart-people-stuff, I’ve met a lot of other really smart and interesting people from the wild world of academia — a world that I would otherwise not experience.

One of our friends is George Henson. George is a Spanish language instructor and is about to receive his PhD in Literary and Translation Studies. In other words, besides teaching Spanish, he’s a literary translator. Over the last few years, George has translated a number of great Spanish language authors, and recently scored massive points by being the first do to an English translation of any of the novels of Sergio Pitol, one of the most important living authors working in the Spanish language. The novel is The Art of Flight.

This is a big deal. The Dallas Observer interviewed George about his work. So cool!

Obviously I am really happy for our friend, who is finding a lot of much-deserved success and gaining a great reputation in his field.

So, a couple of weeks ago there was a book signing for this new translation at the Wild Detectives, which to my knowledge is the only independently owned bookstore in Dallas. George was there signing and speaking, as well as Dr. Ignacio Ruiz-Perez from UT-Arlington, who was a student of Pitol.

The Wild Detectives is such a great place. I wish it was closer to my neighborhood, but it is worth the trip to the Bishop Arts District in Oak Cliff. It’s a bookstore and coffee shop/bar in an old house. The book offerings are just fantastic. It’s not massive — but the book selection is well-curated, and seems to concentrate on smaller publishers. As a result, there isn’t a square foot of shelf space that doesn’t contain something fascinating to read. After the book signing event, I picked up a couple of new books. I could have filled a shopping cart. It’s not even the kind of stuff I’d normally think about reading, which is what makes it so great.

The store has a small area set aside for events like readings.

You just feel smarter walking into the place.

They also have Mexican Coca-Cola in a green glass bottle. So there you go. Case closed.

Which brings me to one final associated topic — Deep Vellum Publishing – the company that has published George’s translation of The Art of Flight. The company was started by a fellow named Will Evans. You can read about Deep Vellum’s mission here, so I won’t hack it up in this post. I’ll just say that Will started this thing from scratch, and aims to put Dallas on the literary map.

Allow me just descend to a lower rung of the intellectual ladder for a sentence, and say that these endeavors, the independent literature-loving bookstore and the small publisher, their DIY natures, their missions — are PUNK FUCKING ROCK. It takes energy to make good things like this happen. You have to get on it with damned near demonic power. Jerry Lee Lewis — young, sweating, destroying a piano’s keyboard with wild proto-rock abandon comes to mind.

So I’m looking forward to going back down there again, buying more books, drinking a Mexican Coke, and maybe consuming food with the skinny young hep-cats at one of the many eateries near the bookstore, which will all make me feel cooler and smarter for at least an afternoon.