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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."

 

(3)

 

(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.

Weekly Links: To What or Whom is the Artist Responsible?

(1) Stacia L. Brown's essay reflecting on the Oscar-winning success of Lupita Nyong'o, "When a (Comparatively) Carefree Blackgirl Wins An Oscar," will get you thinking.

 

 

 "While I don’t get the impression that Nyong’o, having spent the last two years of her life immersing herself in study and portrayal of the American slave experience, would hold the same perception of American blackness as Adichie initially did, it is safe to say she can still hold herself aloft from it. For her, blackness, in a context of white American oppression, is a role. It is not intrinsic to her identity. [...] I already know what Hollywood will try to make her. I know the gradations of blackness they will implore her to learn. But I do not know how she will resist. I do not know what she herself will teach. But she is entering the field with just enough privilege and confidence to inspire my hope that she will do just that: instruct rather than simply accept — and learn from black actresses (rather than white directors) how best to navigate this space."

 

(2) I'm too afraid to look at how many times I've gone on about Karl Ove Knausgaard in this space. But hey . . . as you can see in this recent piece in the Guardian ("Norway's Proust and a life laid painfully bare"), he gives good copy. Volume three of his absolutely stellar (& provocatively titled) memoir project, My Struggle, will be available in May. Plenty of time to catch up on volumes one and two

"The critical reading of the texts always resulted in parts being deleted. So that was what I did. My writing became more and more minimalist. In the end, I couldn't write at all. For seven or eight years, I hardly wrote. But then I had a revelation. What if I did the opposite? What if, when a sentence or a scene was bad, I expanded it, and poured in more and more? After I started to do that, I became free in my writing. Fuck quality, fuck perfection, fuck minimalism. My world isn't minimalist; my world isn't perfect, so why on earth should my writing be?"

 

(3) Cory Doctorow has been blowing minds for years in his sci-fi novels. His recent essay for Locus Online, "Cold Equations and Moral Hazard," isn't fiction, but it is no less incendiary. Here he blows the lid off what he sees as the responsibilities of our storytellers, and what's at stake when they don't meet them. 

"The thing about lifeboat rules is that they are an awfully good deal for lifeboat captains.

"Even saints get exasperated with other humans from time to time. What a treat it would be if the rest of the world would just realize that what’s best for you is simply the best course of action, period. That’s the moral hazard in cold equations, the existential crisis of lifeboat rules. If being in a lifeboat gives you the power to make everyone else shut the hell up and listen (or else), then wouldn’t it be awfully convenient if our ship were to go down?

"Every time someone tells you that the environment is important, sure, but we can’t afford to take a bite out of the economy to mitigate global warming, ask yourself what’s out of the frame on this cold equation. Every time you hear that education is vital and taking care of the poor is our solemn duty, but we must all tighten in our belts while our lifeboat rocks in the middle of the precarious, crisis-torn economic seas, ask yourself whether the captain of our lifeboat had any role in the sinking of the ship."

 

Cry "Havoc!" & Let Loose the Tournament of Books

 

Are you a sports fan? Maybe an ambivalent observer? Whatever your position or persuasion -- whether you're a shooting guard whose shot rarely falls or a championship parade party-pooper -- if you're reading this chances are good you've imagined, in a feverish dream or daytime diversion, your favorite books lacing up, trash-talking, and competing against one another. I'm sensing some shaking heads. Bear with me, metaphors are wont to run wild -- they have their own March Madness.

That's right, fellow page-flippers, it's Tournament of Books time! [cue the dramatic music]

This is the tenth year of the Tournament, which means (if all the ancient oracles are to believed), the winner will enlarge in size such as to destroy a city the size of Oakland. I might've misunderstood the prophecy, though. (Short version for the uninitiated: sixteen of the past year's best and brightest novels are seeded and progress to a winner-take-all championship by way of quirky reviews written by some of the best and brightest reviewers.)

City-destroying destruction notwithstanding, you should definitely follow the tournament HERE.

Ongoing now is an epic play-in round, refereed by the great Geraldine Brooks:

 

 

You'll have to click the image to find out the victor! 

The opening round kicks off March 6. See below for what you can look forward to.

March 6 -- The Luminaries v. Hill William (Rachel Fershleiser)
March 7 -- A Tale for the Time Being v. How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia (Mat Johnson)
March 10 -- The Good Lord Bird v. The Tuner of Silences (Sarah Schulman)
March 11 -- The Signature of All Things v. The Dinner (Roger D. Hodge)
March 12 -- The Lowland v. Eleanor & Park (Jami Attenberg)
March 13 -- The Son v. At Night We Walk in Circles (John McElwee)
March 14 -- The Goldfinch v. Long Division (Héctor Tobar)
March 17 -- [Pre-ToB Playoff Winner] v. The People in the Trees (John Green)

All of these titles are available for purchase online through DIESEL or in any of our four locations! We'll be reporting on the tournament all month.

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