Monday, November 29, 2010

STACK 1: Spring Awakening, The Odyssey, Le Corbusier, The Paris Review

I'm going to start a new semi-regular series on the blog that will be called "Stacks" (at least until I come up with a better name). These posts will be very short, and will simply feature an aesthetically-connected stack of books (selected by myself and my girlfriend, an Interior Designer). The idea of staging books is something that I've always thought was interesting -- I can't help but connect the themes of the books along with their designs/colors, which often creates peculiar literary webs.

Frank Wedekind, Spring Awakening (ARC from Faber & Faber)
Homer, The Odyssey (Penguin Hardback Classics)
Le Corbusier, Towards A New Architecture (Dover)
The Paris Review, Spring 2009

Currently Reading:
You Bright and Risen Angels, William T. Vollmann
Ayako, Osamu Tezuka

Currently listening to:
Saigon Rock & Soul, 1968-1974 (Sublime Frequencies)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Where We Know: New Orleans As Home (Chin Music Press)

The folks at Chin Music Press were kind enough to send me a review copy of their beautiful new book Where We Know: New Orleans As Home. My love of New Orleans has unexpectedly seeped into this blog in past posts (Loujon Press books, specifically) and I'm always looking for an excuse to drift my mind back there. Many thanks to Chin Music for a stunning new window onto this incredible city.
What I'd like to focus on in this post is the wonderful design of the book. Chin Music has been the subject of previous entries--they've got one of the best understandings of how to make a paperback not feel like the "cheap" version of a better book. It's interesting in this case, as Where We Know is the second volume of a projected New Orleans trilogy, the first volume of which is an equally well-designed hardcover. You rarely see publishers change format/design in a series--this could be for any number of reasons (new designer, costs, who knows?)--but when the book is this well done it doesn't matter at all. In fact, I'm even more excited for the third volume. Will the format change again?
The book features about twenty true stories about how people interact with New Orleans as a home. The collection is a perfect balance of current and historical testimonials of the city: with pieces dating back to the mid-19th century, Where We Know puts today's post-Katrina sentiment into a surprisingly overlooked context.
It's difficult to explain why I think Chin Music's New Orleans books work so well. It's impossible to deal with this subject matter without tapping into the tragic, ethereal quality of the city. These stories hint at a place that won't be around forever, but Chin Music's created books that have an unquestionable permanence on your shelves due to their exquisite craftsmanship. It's a curious balance of subject and format, one that gives a feeling of reassurance for both the endurance of New Orleans and of publishing as an art form.

Currently Reading:
Madame Bovary (trans. Lydia Davis) by Gustave Flaubert

Currently listening to:
Bikini, "RIPJDS" EP

Sunday, November 7, 2010

REVIEW: Adam Levin, The Instructions

I'd like to direct you to one of the most enjoyable novels I've read in a long time: The Instructions by Adam Levin. Clocking in at over a thousand pages, The Instructions follows four days in the life of Gurion ben-Judah Maccabee, a scripture-writing 10-year-old boy who may or may not be the messiah.

The Instructions is a deeply engrossing and genuinely funny novel, and I encourage everyone who follows contemporary fiction to check it out. I've written a thorough review over at, which you can read at the embedded link.

I'll admit that the "McSweeney's" aspect of this book made me very apprehensive; years ago I'd fallen out of touch with them and I didn't suspect I'd return. The Instructions not only is a great novel, but it's managed to rekindle my interest in McSweeney's as a publishing house. Not since William T. Vollmann's Rising Up and Rising Down have they gone so far out on a limb for something great, and it truly pays off.
The design of The Instructions is outstanding as well. The book is available in two other variant colors--one is bound in blue and the other in red. The printed boards and spine remind me of old Folio Society editions (and makes me want to post my John Buchan box set soon). I was also surprised that the book held up physically for four weeks of reading on the subway... McSweeney's has done everything right with this one.
Currently reading:
Luka and the Fire of Life, Salman Rushdie
Heavy Liquid, Paul Pope

Currently listening to:
Blue Water White Death
Group Inerane, Guitars from Agadez vol. 3