brooklyn book store

these just in … 16 February, 2008

Bambi vs. Godzilla: On the Nature, Purpose, and Practice of the Movie Business
by David Mamet

Paperback $13.95

Mamet’s a veteran screenwriter and director (currently producing The Unit for CBS), but that doesn’t mean he has any great love for the industry—his Hollywood is the stereotypically corrupt and cutthroat world where screenwriters willingly change their stories to accommodate every stupid suggestion from producers, who are blatantly lining their own pockets, while stars bicker over who has the bigger trailer. But his stories are entertaining even when they’re unsurprising, and though loosely organized, a few broad themes emerge. He expounds at length, for example, upon his well-known penchant for straightforward storytelling, where drama boils down to “the creation and deferment of hope,” and every scene should be able to answer three questions: “Who wants what from whom? What happens if they don’t get it? Why now?” At other times, he’s happy simply to explain why he thinks Laurence Olivier was a terrible film actor or to test out a theory that the early film industry owes its development to Eastern European Jews with Asperger’s syndrome. As usual with Mamet, each word is precisely chosen for maximum effect, and nearly all hit their mark.

Oil on the Brain: Petroleum’s Long, Strange Trip to Your Tank
by Lisa Margonelli

Paperback $14.95

Oil on the Brain is a smart, surprisingly funny account of the oil industry—the people, economies, and pipelines that bring us petroleum, brilliantly illuminating a world we encounter every day.

Americans buy ten thousand gallons of gasoline a second, without giving it much of a thought. Where does all this gas come from? Lisa Margonelli’s desire to learn took her on a one-hundred thousand mile journey from her local gas station to oil fields half a world away. In search of the truth behind the myths, she wriggled her way into some of the most off-limits places on earth: the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, the New York Mercantile Exchange’s crude oil market, oil fields from Venezuela, to Texas, to Chad, and even an Iranian oil platform where the United States fought a forgotten one-day battle.

In a story by turns surreal and alarming, Margonelli meets lonely workers on a Texas drilling rig, an oil analyst who almost gave birth on the NYMEX trading floor, Chadian villagers who are said to wander the oil fields in the guise of lions, a Nigerian warlord who changed the world price of oil with a single cell phone call, and Shanghai bureaucrats who dream of creating a new Detroit.

Deftly piecing together the mammoth economy of oil, Margonelli finds a series of stark warning signs for American drivers.

The Double Bind
by Chris Bohjalian

Paperback $14.95

Best known for the provocative and powerful novel Midwives, Chris Bohjalian writes beautiful and riveting fiction featuring what the San Francisco Chronicle dubbed “ordinary people in heartbreaking circumstances behaving with grace and dignity.” In his new novel, The Double Bind, a literary thriller with references to (and including characters from) The Great Gatsby, Bohjalian takes readers on a haunting journey through one woman’s obsession with uncovering a dark secret.

The New Penguin History of the World
by J. M. Roberts, edited by Odd Arne Westad

Paperback $22.00

“A stupendous achievement . . . Unrivalled world history for our day . . . it is unbelievable in its facts and almost incontestable in its judgements.”
—A. J. P. Taylor, The Observer

Ultimate Blogs: Masterworks from the Wild Web
by Sarah Boxer

Paperback $14.95

With this collection of 27 blogs culled from disparate corners of the Internet, Boxer, who writes for the New York Times, attempts to impose some kind of fixed order on a form that generally relies on the satisfaction of timely updates. For many blog-savvy readers, this collection would appear to have all the appeal of a new MP3 converted into 8-track format, but much of the writing contained in the book is well worth browsing for even the most hardened Web aficionado. The highlights in book format, predictably, are the blogs that maintain relatively tight spelling and grammar standards and focus on subjects beyond the writer’s petty complaints. Benjamin Zimmer’s Language Log reads like a wonderfully expansive and more self-aware William Safire column, while Sean Carroll’s Cosmic Variance manages to be wryly humorous even while discussing theoretical physics at the Ph.D. level. Ringers like Alex Ross of the New Yorker and Matthew Yglesias of the Atlantic Monthly hardly seem like fair choices to demonstrate the democratization of the Web, but their blogs, on music and classical politics, respectively, are must-reads. Other, less conventional highlights include the neocon-spoofing comic Get Your War On, the ruminative expat diary How to Learn Swedish in 1000 Difficult Lessons and the cheerfully hyperactive idea stockpile Ironic Sans.

Blubberland: The Dangers of Happiness
by Elizabeth Farrelly

Paperback $19.95

Welcome to Blubberland-a world of quadruple-garaged mansions, vast malls, gated communities, stretch limos, and posh resorts. Blubberland is a place, but it is also a state of mind: we expect to be happy (trophy house, SUV in the driveway, home entertainment system, pension fund, cosmetic surgery), but in fact we’ve grown increasingly bloated, bored, and miserable. In Blubberland, award-winning critic Elizabeth Farrelly looks at our “superfluous superfluity,” our huge eco-footprint, and asks why we find it so hard to abandon habits we know to be destructive. Why can’t we build human-scale cities, design meaningful public spaces, eat reasonable meals, and stop assaulting nature?

Farrelly, trained as an architect, begins this story with architectu