BookCourt BLOG


Monday, May 11th, 2009

Book Stores Going Under

Book sellers are in trouble, and not just from the poor economy. We’ll talk to Jonathan Friedman, media columnist for MarketWatch, Henry Zook, a co-owner of Bookcourt, in Brooklyn, and Chris Doeblin of Book Culture to discuss the state of bookstores toda

Friday, May 8th, 2009

The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet

by Reif Larsen / Hardcover - New Fiction $27.95-10%

From Publishers Weekly:
Fans of Wes Anderson will find much to love in the offbeat characters and small (and sometimes not so small) touches of magic thrown into the mix during the cross-country, train-hopping adventure of a 12-year-old mapmaking prodigy, T.S. Spivet. After the death of T.S.’s brother, Layton, T.S. receives a call from the Smithsonian informing him that he has won the prestigious Baird award, prompting him to hop a freight train to Washington, D.C., to accept the prize. Along the way, he meets a possibly sentient Winnebago, a homicidal preacher, a racist trucker and members of the secretive Megatherium Club, among many others. All this is interwoven with the journals of his mother and her effort to come to grips with the matriarchal line of scientists in the family. Dense notes, many dozens of illustrations and narrative elaborations connected to the main text via dotted lines are on nearly every page. For the most part, they work well, though sometimes the extra material confuses more than clarifies. Larsen is undeniably talented, though his unique vision and style make for a love-it or hate-it proposition.

When twelve-year-old genius cartographer T.S. Spivet receives an unexpected phone call from the Smithsonian announcing he has won the prestigious Baird Award, life as normal—if you consider mapping family dinner table conversation normal—is interrupted and a wild cross-country adventure begins, taking T.S. from his family ranch just north of Divide, Montana, to the museum’s hallowed halls.

T.S. sets out alone, leaving before dawn with a plan to hop a freight train and hobo east. Once aboard, his adventures step into high gear and he meticulously maps, charts, and illustrates his exploits, documenting mythical wormholes in the Midwest, the urban phenomenon of “rims,” and the pleasures of McDonald’s, among other things. We come to see the world through T.S.’s eyes and in his thorough investigation of the outside world he also reveals himself.

As he travels away from the ranch and his family we learn how the journey also brings him closer to home. A secret family history found within his luggage tells the story of T.S.’s ancestors and their long-ago passage west, offering profound insight into the family he left behind and his role within it. As T.S. reads he discovers the sometimes shadowy boundary between fact and fiction and realizes that, for all his analytical rigor, the world around him is a mystery.

All that he has learned is tested when he arrives at the capital to claim his prize and is welcomed into science’s inner circle. For all its shine, fame seems more highly valued than ideas in this new world and friends are hard to find.

T.S.’s trip begins at the Copper Top Ranch and the last known place he stands is Washington, D.C., but his journey’s movement is far harder to track: How do you map the delicate lessons learned about family and self? How do you depict how it feels to first venture out on your own? Is there a definitive way to communicate the ebbs and tides of heartbreak, loss, loneliness, love? These are the questions that strike at the core of this very special debut.

these just in …

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009
  • Weekend Walks in Brooklyn: 22 Self-Guided Walking Tours from Greenpoint to Coney Island

    by Robert J. Regalbuto / Local Interest PB - $16.95

Weekend Walks in Brooklyn: 22 Self-Guided Walking Tours from Greenpoint to Coney Island (Weekend Walks)

Weekend Walks in Brooklyn is an invitation to explore many Brooklyn neighborhoods, from trendy DUMBO to Coney Island, from the Hasidic enclaves of Williamsburg to the scenic Narrows of Bay Ridge, and from Brooklyn Heights promenade to the tree-lined streets of Park Slope. Each of this book’s twenty-two self-guided walking tours begins near a subway station and features step-by-step directions, a detailed map, as well as factual and fascinating vignettes about points of interest along the way. Whether your interest is Brooklyn history and lore, sports, architecture, ethnic foods, or famous Brooklynites, this guide will lead you not only to familiar favorites such, but also to refreshing discoveries.

  • Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life

    by Winifred Gallagher / Psychology HC - $25.95 - 10%

Rapt by Gallagher Gallagher: Book Cover

“As the 19th-century philosopher William James wisely understood, what you selectively notice and attend to is what makes up your experience. It is your life! Winifred Gallagher gets it. She has written a provocative, illuminating, and captivating book on the power and importance of attention in multiple domains of life – relationships, work, leisure, health. What makes some people happier, healthier, more fulfilled, more creative, or more engaged than others? Because of what they pay attention to.”
—Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness

“Many will benefit from this thoughtful book. Among other 21st century challenges, the increasing velocity of communication threatens to drive us into a permanent sea- storm of distraction. Thank you, Winifred Gallagher, for bringing our attention back to the essential matter of attention.”
—David Shenk, author, Data Smog and The Forgetting

“This wonderful and inspiring book asks readers to remember something so simple and yet so little appreciated—what you focus upon profoundly affects your quality of life. I can’t think anyone who wouldn’t benefit from the message contained herein. It’s a powerful and much needed prescription for these tumultuous times.”
—Sarah Susanka, author of The Not So Big Life and The Not So Big House series

  • This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life

    by David Foster Wallace / Essays HC - $14.99 - 10%

Only once did David Foster Wallace give a public talk on his views on life, during a commencement address given in 2005 at Kenyon College. The speech is reprinted for the first time in book form in THIS IS WATER. How does one keep from going through their comfortable, prosperous adult life unconsciously? How do we get ourselves out of the foreground of our thoughts and achieve compassion? The speech captures Wallace’s electric intellect as well as his grace in attention to others. After his death, it became a treasured piece of writing reprinted in The Wall Street Journal and the London Times, commented on endlessly in blogs, and emailed from friend to friend.

Writing with his one-of-a-kind blend of causal humor, exacting intellect, and practical philosophy, David Foster Wallace probes the challenges of daily living and offers advice that renews us with every reading.

  • Can Poetry Save the Earth?: A Field Guide to Nature Poems

    by Mr. John Felstiner / Poetry HC - $35.00 - 10%

Poems vivifying nature have gripped people for centuries. From Biblical times to the present day, poetry has continuously drawn us to the natural world. In this thought-provoking book, John Felstiner explores the rich legacy of poems that take nature as their subject, and he demonstrates their force and beauty. In our own time of environmental crises, he contends, poetry has a unique capacity to restore our attention to our environment in its imperiled state. And, as we take heed, we may well become better stewards of the earth.

In forty brief and lucid chapters, Felstiner presents those voices that have most strongly spoken to and for the natural world. Poets—from the Romantics through Whitman and Dickinson to Elizabeth Bishop and Gary Snyder—have helped us envision such details as ocean winds eroding and rebuilding dunes in the same breath, wild deer freezing in our presence, and a person carving initials on a still-living stranded whale.

Sixty color and black-and-white images, many seen for the first time, bear
out visually the environmental imagination this book discovers—a poetic legacy more vital now than ever.

  • What We Were Doing and Where We Were Going

    by Damion Searls / Fiction PB - $12.95

In his debut collection, Damion Searls gives us five extraordinary tales of the life of the mind in America today. “56 Water Street” and “Goldenchain” follow writers whose projects only lead them deeper into the labyrinth of modern relationships and friendships. The nasty office satire “The Cubicles” and the atmospheric “A Guide to San Francisco” take place in the sun and fog of West Coast dreams. In the final story, “Dialogue Between the Two Chief World Systems,” a Hungarian beauty creates a scholarly conundrum with surprising parallels to the book as a whole.

Set amidst Ethiopian healing scrolls and sponges of the Adriatic and the guy who invented flashing the temperature on bank clocks, What We Were Doing and Where We Were Going plays in the intersection of knowledge and life in contemporary America. Searls’s flights of fancy and painterly eye for detail introduce a range of intelligent characters feeling their way toward complex moral and personal truths.

these just in …

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009
  • Nazi Literature in the Americas

by Roberto Bolaño  / Fiction PB - $13.95

Nazi Literature in the Americas (New Directions Paperbook)

From Publishers Weekly:
The title chosen by Bolaño (1953–2003) for this slim, fake encyclopedia is not wholly tongue-in-cheek: given the very real presence of former (and not-so-former) Nazis in Latin America following WWII, this book, despite being fiction, still had j’accuse-like power when first published in 1996. The poets described herein, though invented, seem—even at their most absurd—plausible, which is the secret to this sly book’s devastating effect. And as one proceeds from an entry on Edelmira Thompson de Mendiluce (In high spirits, Edelmira asked for the Führer’s advice: which would be the most appropriate school for her sons?) to one on Carlos Ramírez Hoffman (His passage through literature left a trail of blood and several questions posed by a mute), it becomes clear that there is a single witness to all of these terrible figures, one who has spent time in one of Pinochet’s prisons and is bent on coolly totting up the crimes of fascism’s literary perpetrators. Some readers will recognize figures and episodes from Bolaño’s other books (including The Savage Detectives and Distant Star). The wild inventiveness of Bolaño’s evocations places them squarely in the realm of Borges—another writer who draws enormous power from the movement between the fictive and the real.

  • The Winter Vault

    by Anne Michaels / Fiction HC - $25.00 - 10%

The Winter Vault

From Publishers Weekly:
Profound loss, desolation and rebuilding are the literal and metaphoric themes of Michaels’s exquisite second novel (after Fugitive Pieces). Avery Escher is a Canadian engineer recently moved to a houseboat on the Nile with his new wife, Jean, in 1964. Avery’s part of a team of engineers trying to salvage Abu Simbel, which is about to be flooded by the new Aswan dam. His wife, Jean, meanwhile, carries with her childhood memories of flooded villages and the heavy absence of her mother, who died when she was young. Now, the sight of the entire Nubian nation being evacuated from their native land before it’s flooded affects both Avery and Jean intensely. Jean’s pregnancy seems a possible redemption, but their daughter is stillborn, and Jean falls into despair, shunning the former intimacy of her marriage. When the couple returns to Canada, they set up separate lives and another man enters the picture. Michaels is especially impressive at making a rundown of construction materials or the contents of a market as evocative as the shared moments between two young lovers. A tender love story set against an intriguing bit of history is handled with uncommon skill.

  • Dear Husband,: Stories

    by Joyce Carol Oates / Fiction HC - $24.99- 10%

Dear Husband by Oates Carol Oates: Book Cover

From Publishers Weekly:
The family ties that bind (and choke) are the overarching theme of Oates’s grim but incisive collection. The title story takes the form of a rambling letter from an Andrea Yates–like mother after her infanticide is completed, detailing her belief that God has instructed her to drown her five little children who have not turned out right. A Princeton Idyll gives us a series of letters between a chipper children’s author, granddaughter of a famous physicist, now deceased, and his sometimes sentimental, sometimes-bitter former maid; the result, in true Oatesian fashion, is dark family secrets and a good deal of denial. In Vigilante a son, struggling with his recovery from substance abuse, helps his unknowing mom by exacting revenge on his estranged dad. Special is told from the perspective of an elementary-school girl who moves toward desperate action watching her autistic older sister strain her parents’ marriage and, worse, garner all their attention. Throughout the collection, Oates seamlessly enters the minds of disparate characters to find both the exalted and depraved aspects of real American families.

  • Shadow and Light: A Novel

    by Jonathan Rabb - Fiction HC - $26.00 - 10%

Shadow and Light by Rabb Rabb: Book Cover

From Publishers Weekly:
Starred Review. Set in 1927 Germany, Rabb’s superb sequel to Rosa correlates the advent of talking movies with the rise of Nazism. When Kriminal-Oberkommisar Nikolai Hoffner investigates the apparent suicide of an Ufa film studio executive, the trail leads the Berlin policeman to the sex and drug trade as well as to the National Socialist German Workers Party’s local leader, Joseph Goebbels. Working with Helen Coyle, an attractive American talent agent for MGM, Hoffner learns how cutthroat the picture business is. Rumors of films with sound threaten to change the industry. Without sound, all you have is shadow and light, an inventor tells Hoffner. With sound, movies can do a lot more than entertain, as soon to be shown by Nazi propaganda films and newsreels. Rabb’s meticulous research brings to life a corrupt society vulnerable to extremism. Well-conceived cameos by director Fritz Lang and actor Peter Lorre add to the intrigue.

  • Enclave

    by Kit Reed / Fiction HC - $25.95 - 10%

Enclave by Reed Reed: Book Cover

From Publishers Weekly:

In this gripping dystopian satire, ex-marine Sargent Whitmore has a plan to make millions while protecting children from the self-destructing modern world. He turns an old Mediterranean monastery into a combined impenetrable fortress and school, and enrolls 100 filthy-rich children, most of them already well-known for legal troubles, drug problems and paparazzi run-ins. Once there, everyone is cut off from the outside world, fed only canned news stories about wars and natural disasters. When things inevitably go horribly wrong, young hacker “Killer” Stade, physician assistant Cassie, drug and sex-crazed Sylvie and monastery-raised orphan Benny all attempt heroics, but remain deeply flawed. Reed (The Baby Merchant) displays unflinching willingness to explore all the facets of all of the characters, and her refusal to paint anyone as a simple villain makes this far more than a typical disaster novel.

  • All the Living: A Novel

    by C. E. Morgan / Fiction HC - $23.00 - 10%

Cover Image

From Publishers Weekly:
Morgan’s enchanting debut follows the travails of a young woman who moves to Kentucky with her bereaved lover in 1984. Aloma, herself an orphan from a young age, leaves her job at the mission school where she was raised to help her taciturn boyfriend, Orren, with his family farm after his family is killed in a car accident. Once at the farm, he retreats into himself and working the land, leaving Aloma to wrestle with her desire to pursue her dream of being a concert pianist. As her relationship with Orren becomes more collision than cohabitation, Aloma finds in a local preacher a deep friendship that complicates her feelings for Orren, who drags his feet on marrying her. Young Aloma’s growing understanding of love and devotion in the midst of deep despair is delicately and persuasively rendered through the lens of belief—be it in religion, relationships or music. Morgan’s prose holds the rhythm of the local dialect beautifully, evoking the land, the farming lifestyle and Aloma’s awakening with stirring clarity.

  • How It Ended: New and Collected Stories

    by Jay McInerney / Fiction HC - $25.95 - 10%

Cover Image

From Booklist:
McInerney’s name is most associated with his splashy first novel, Bright Lights, Big City (1985), which helped define contemporary urban-chic fiction. Other novels followed, and it may come as a surprise to readers of such trendy fiction as McInerney’s that he is a splendid short-story writer. He writes about the same people and places as in his novels; on the other hand, he certainly understands the special qualities of the short story, saying in the preface to this career-spanning collection of 26 stories that “a good one requires perfect pitch and a precise sense of form; it has to burn with a hard, gem-like flame.” His stories are reminiscent of those of F. Scott Fitzgerald, John O’Hara, and Irwin Shaw (in fact, a line from McInerney’s “Smoke” refers to women “in their summer dresses,” and one of Shaw’s most famous stories is entitled “Girls in Their Summer Dresses”). McInerney shares with these predecessors a focus on the appurtenances of his characters: that is, the personal accessories that give away the characters’ social status and intentions (but McInerney contemporizes his stories by detailing what drugs his characters take). A New York slant colors every story, even those not actually set there (as in “The Business,” in which a New York writer transplants himself to L.A. to write screenplays). Another outstanding story is “The Queen and I,” a brief, beautiful instance of self-recognition in the streets of Manhattan’s meatpacking district (“Poised on high heels, undulant with the exaggerated shimmy of courtship, a race of lanky stylized bipeds commands the street corners”). A very compelling collection.

  • Bridge of Sand

    by Janet Burroway / Fiction HC - $25.00 - 10%

Bridge of Sand

From Booklist:
By strange chance, her Pennsylvania senator husband’s funeral takes place on 9/11 within site of the smoking wreckage of United 93. As the country goes into shock, Dana, 38, sheds her high-profile, low-satisfaction life, takes to the highway, and returns to a small Georgia town where she lived briefly as a teenager and harbored a crush on an African American co-worker. She and Cassius now fall wildly in love, but malevolent forces drive them apart. Fleeing to Florida’s Gulf Coast, Dana soon finds herself tangled up in a web of shameful secrets, schemes, and betrayals. Burroway, known best for her popular creative-writng guides, revels in the beauty and dangers of hurricane country, where racial, class, and sexual conflicts surge and boil. With a possum in the kitchen, a snake in a piano, and a trailer-swallowing sinkhole, Dana, a brilliantly drawn character of conviction and adaptability, forges a surprising new identity. Suspense mingles with insight in this sensuous novel as Burroway reminds us that we can’t extract ourselves from the wider world, that everything is always in flux, and that to survive, one must hold on to kindness, fairness, and love.

Monday, April 20th, 2009

2009 Pulitzer Prizewinners and Nominated Finalists

Fiction - Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout (Random House)

Drama - Ruined by Lynn Nottage

History - The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family by Annette Gordon-Reed (W.W. Norton & Company)

Biography - American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House by Jon Meacham (Random House)

Poetry - The Shadow of Sirius by W.S. Merwin (Copper Canyon Press)

General Nonfiction - Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II by Douglas A. Blackmon (Doubleday)