Get to Know a Bookseller's Shelf



Great books are a sad sight without great readers. Piled in the corner, they end up burdened by more dust than dog-eared or highlighted pages. We at Diesel are fortunate to have in our daily midst, as customers and coworkers, some of the greatest readers around. Case in point: longtime Oakland bookseller, Margaret Simpson

Margaret's reading tastes run diverse -- from picture books to young adult fiction to modern poetry to religious studies to contemporary literature, she's immersed herself in it all -- and this is one of the reasons we treasure her. (Another being her generosity when she's not reading!)

Time, as it does, though, is passing -- from new job to seasoned vet and now for her into retirement. With much sadness that she is leaving, partially offset by celebration of what she has meant to us all, this edition of "Get To Know a Bookseller's Shelf" (still haven't thought of a better title!) is in honor of Ms. Margaret Simpson. There'll never be another like ya at Diesel.


The World Misses You, Maya Angelou


As you no doubt have heard, we lost one of our great warriors and poets this week, Maya Angelou. We at Diesel are stung by this news, but take comfort that her legacy will endure long past the period of mourning.

There are, of course, many fine things one might read or view in homage to her, but I am particularly fond of the letter she wrote to her younger self a few years ago.

Dear Marguerite,

You’re itching to be on your own. You don’t want anybody telling you what time you have to be in at night or how to raise your baby. You’re going to leave your mother’s big comfortable house and she won’t stop you, because she knows you too well.

But listen to what she says:

When you walk out of my door, don’t let anybody raise you—you’ve been raised.

You know right from wrong.

In every relationship you make, you’ll have to show readiness to adjust and make adaptations.

Remember, you can always come home.

You will go home again when the world knocks you down—or when you fall down in full view of the world. But only for two or three weeks at a time. Your mother will pamper you and feed you your favorite meal of red beans and rice. You’ll make a practice of going home so she can liberate you again—one of the greatest gifts along with nurturing your courage, that she will give you.

Be courageous, but not foolhardy.

Walk proud as you are,

(from What I Know Now: Letters to My Younger Self)

Three Cheers for Small Presses

Nothing against the big publishers, they're our partners in all this after all, but my heart and soul go first to the small presses. Consistently, they bend toward plots askew like question marks and voices that linger like echoes. I thought I might give a shout out to three that are currently dominating my head space, in hopes that others will join me.

1) Valeria Luiselli's, Faces in the Crowd, is one of the most mesmerizing debut novels in recent memory. Two narrators, each haunting the narration and memory of the other, seamlessly swerve, recollecting their loves and losses. Is each fading into the other, or are they simply fading away? One of the narrator's description of her novel-in-progress matches that of Luiselli's achievement: "A horizontal novel, told vertically. A novel that has to be told from the outside in order to be read from within."

Coffee House Press has produced this lovely video introduction to the author and her novel (as well as her recently released essay collection, Sidewalks.) 



2) How to describe Jonathan Littell's The Fata Morgana Books? (Two Lines Press, 2013)

I attempted to do so in my shelf-talker in Oakland:

"These are delightfully lusty, often depraved stories, each crafted with a gorgeous and breathless ease. If you like your fiction to take you down darker corridors, into the pitch-black of self-reflection, around the circles of Hell, and outward like an oncoming bull's horn, then you need for the moment look no further."

Two Lines Press has some of the most beautiful covers in the business, and the authors to match them. (See, most recently, Xu Zechen's Running Through Beijing.) 






3) Last, but by no means least, there's Stanley Crawford and our friends at Calamari Press


This year they did us all a service by breathing new life into Crawford's raw and scraggly hallucinogenic classic, Travel Notes. My shelf-talker doesn't stand up to Calamari's description:

"TRAVEL NOTES could indeed read like Stanley Crawford's private travelogue, yet no real-world places or people are explicitly mentioned. Instead we're taken on a rompish tromp thru wild and often absurd landscapes -- in a bus that gets dismantled & reassembled to get around a broken-down car, in a biplane that only flies in the mind of the naked pilot, or on the back of a white elephant named Unable with untranslatable obscenities tattooed to his underbelly -- the traveller ever self-aware of the nagging fragility of routine customs, ever on the verge of having the magic carpet pulled out from beneath your feet if you stop to think."

Crawford recently sat down with Stephen Sparks and BOMB Magazine. The interview is worth your time. 

The Rumors Are True



The rumors are true. We have Capital, and loads of it.

Ah, but fear not, friends. We're not sitting on this kind of Capital, nor passing it on to our ne'er-do-well next-of-kin. No, far from. We're about the redistribution of Capital, comrades.

So come, one and all, and get yours at Diesel today.  

Author Luncheon with Lisa See

Lisa See's new novel, China Dolls, is coming out on June 3.  On Thursday, June 5, the author will be joining a lucky group of Diesel customers for lunch at the Godmother of Malibu cafe at the Malibu Racket Club.  To reserve a copy of China Dolls and your place at the lunch, call our Malibu store at 310-456-9961.

“In the beginning of See’s stellar ninth book, three young women, Grace, Helen, and Ruby, meet and form an unlikely but strong bond in San Francisco in 1938. . . . The story alternates between their viewpoints, with each woman’s voice strong and dynamic, developing a multilayered richness as it progresses. The depth of See’s characters and her winning prose make this book a wonderful journey through love and loss.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Get to Know a Bookseller's Shelf

We're starting a new series this week, tentatively titled "Get to Know a Bookseller's Shelf." That sounds wordy, doesn't it? We might amend. 

The concept is simple, really? A photo of a Diesel worker's current recommendation shelf, links to the books . . . and when the spirit or opportunity strikes, additional commentary or analysis (psychoanalytic or otherwise).

First up, we'll focus on Brad's shelf in Oakland, which we think you will agree lives up to his staff bio

"Poetry is probably my deepest love, even if I do gadabout more with the likes of fiction and philosophy. No matter what I read, I tend to be most interested in how a writer is using language -- what they do with words and the spaces between them. There is, I find, often more poetry shacked up in the paragraphs of prose than at its home in verse. I love a good story as much anyone, but more importantly still are the worlds created in the telling of that story. One result of this is that I tend to err on the side of reading slowest the books I value the most." 


From left to right

Anne Carson's Nay Rather
Paul Griffith's Tilted Cup: Noh Stories
William H. Gass' On Being Blue
Hilda Hilst's With My Dog Eyes
Leslie Jamison's The Empathy Exams
Allen C. Shelton's Where the North Sea Meets Alabama
Robert Coover's The Brunist Day of Wrath

He would, I'm sure, love to talk to you about any of these. 


Shakespeare's Tragedies Infographic

This has been lurking on the internet for a while now, but having just today come back across it I am reminded of its genius. I think it might've helped me on my Shakespeare final in college Ah . . . internet, where were you then? 



May Day 2014

As is our tradition, our Oakland store will be closed today, May 1, in honor and celebration of May Day. Whether you’re working or not, though, are fingers-crossed in sympathy or locked-arm in solidarity with the struggle of May Day, we hope you have time today to haunt a capital-C Capitalist with its spirit. 

Springing Links

(1) The action remains fast and/or furious -- choose your own appropriate conjunction! -- in this year's Tournament of Books. Some upsets in the first round, I have to say. Who foresaw The Luminaries flaming out so early? Certainly not the author of its first-round opponent, Hill Williams, who didn't even want his book involved in the competition. I like to think Ruth Ozeki kicking his tail in the second round hurt at least a teensy bit. Sad to see The Son going up so soon against Eleanor & Park. Nobody wins this one, I'm afraid. Both are too good: we all lose when either bow out. 


(2) Jarret Middleton's essay on "the beauty of forgetting" is wonderful, whether you know who Jacques Ranciere is or not. 

"Returning to so many early influences has again reminded me to thrive in partiality. Like a good mentor, I have been prompted not to be a vampire, to not be a tourist, to make the first maneuver toward originality by looping back around and returning to where I departed, reexamining the point of origin and all the detritus that litters and hides it from me. Not to relearn what has been forgotten, but to forget what has been learned. To search deteriorated notions and oppressed positions. These microscopic transgressions form the phenomenal ground of varied arts that help me live. The message has been a relief: adhere to the indeterminate in all of us. Go small, go slow, go weird and unknown, and you won’t have to worry about being interesting."




(4) Christopher Tignor sets to music a recording of John Ashbery reading his 1956 poem "A Boy," and upward the heart jumps and ears perk. Gorgeous, simply gorgeous. (Hear the rest of his album, "Thunder Lay Down in the Heart," at his website.)

Weekly Links: Make no mistake, the Ides of March is as wary of you as you are of it

1) The art blog Colossal links to some exquisite images from the recent exhibition of Tyrus Wong's pastels. I really can add nothing to this amazing biographical paragraph. It's like a mini-short story. 

"Painter, muralist, ceramicist, lithographer, designer and kite maker Tyrus Wong was born in China in 1910 and emigrated to the United States with his father at the age of 9. As a child his teachers noticed he possessed exceptional artistic skills which would land him a scholarship at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles. By 1930 he was working in Hollywood for Warner Bros. and from 1938 to 1941 he became a 'Disney inspirational sketch artist' where his lush pastel drawings of forests and deer would serve as inspiration for the movie Bambi where he served as lead artist on the film. Wong retired in 1968 and began a second career of making kites which he would fly on the Santa Monica Pier. He is now 103 years old."

See your local DIESEL to inquire about the availability of the catalog.


2) "Cat in an empty apartment," by Wislawa Szymborska



3) Journalism lost another great this week with the tragic death of Matthew Power while on assignment in Uganda. The New York Times obituary perhaps says it best: “He was always searching for the human truth beneath the sorry facts." In remembrance of Power as a friend and in celebration of his work, Harper's Magazine is granting free access to many fine essays he published in their pages. All are well worth your time, though my personal favorite is "Mississippi Drift," about his time spent on the Mississippi River with a collective of anarchists.