Chatter's blog

Three Good Things: Stache, Slate, and Signed Copies


1. Litstache. Authors have long been purveyors of style, one of the many responsibilities of those who cultivate culture. I would like to share a recent feature from HuffPo, which celebrates the facial hair stylings of several great authors. My personal favorite is William Faulkner's mustache (right), but check out the whole slide show to find the perfect lit-stache for you or a loved one.


2. Slate's Book Review. The folks over at Slate noticed that many news sources were cutting down on book coverage so, to be contrary, they decided to devote their home page to book reviews for the first weekend of every month. With its attention to diverse subject matter and reputation for quick, pithy reporting, I turn to Slate for 90% of my information anyhow. This is just going to make my morning web-surfing easier. Read more.


3. Author Drop-Ins.  Sometimes authors stop by to sign books for us. Sometimes I embarrass them by taking photos. Left, Matt Ruff signing The Mirage and Richard Mason, right, with History of a Pleasure Seeker.

March Madness - The Tournament of Books


March: Time to fill out your brackets and trash-talk with co-workers. TIme to squish a you-shaped imprint in your side of the couch. Time to practice the rhythm of team cheer and the nimble acrobatics of creative insult. Time to wear that sweatband at the breakfast table. That's because it is time, once again, for The Tournament of Books! (What? Is there some other nation-wide competition in March?)

For those of you who don't know, tomorrow begins the 8th Annual TMN Tournament of Books, a fight to the death between 16 of the year's best and brightest novels, as decided by a panel of fiction's best and brightest reviewers.

You can follow the tournament HERE

You can (and should) print your own bracket HERE

And these are your champions:

Nathacha Appanah - The Last Brother
Julian Barnes - The Sense of an Ending
Teju Cole - Open City
Helen DeWitt - Lightning Rods
Patrick deWitt - The Sisters Brothers
Jeffrey Eugenides - The Marriage Plot
Chad Harbach - The Art of Fielding
Alan Hollinghurst - Stranger’s Child
Jesmyn Ward - Salvage the Bones
Haruki Murakami - 1Q84
Téa Obreht - The Tiger’s Wife
Michael Ondaatje - The Cat’s Table
Ann Patchett - State of Wonder
Donald Ray Pollock - Devil All the Time
Karen Russell - Swamplandia
Kate Zambreno - Green Girl

 All of these titles are available for purchase online through DIESEL or in any of our three locations! We'll be reporting on the tournament all month and would love to hear your thoughts on our Facebook page.


Three Good Things: Bad Blurbs, Backlash, and Love for Booklovers.

1. Good Writers, Bad Blurbs. A great feature from Greg Zimmerman: 8 Bad Book Blurbs By Good Writers. He's gathered eight exceptionally odd, off, or over-the-top reviews from otherwise technically sound authors and provided generally demeaning commentary on each. Nothing quite like taking Jeffrey Eugenides to task for abusing a colloquialism...

2. Slash-and-Burn Bookselling. Cory Doctorow (author of one of my favorite young adult novels, Little Brother) wrote this post about Jim C. Hines and the tyranny of self-published e-book contacts with Amazon. Says Hines:

"With my DAW books, if a bookstore offers a sale, I still get my royalties based on the cover price. Amazon is selling Libriomancer for pre-order at almost half-off, but I’ll get paid my full amount for every copy sold. Not so with self-published titles. Looking at my reports for last week, my royalties were slashed by 2/3 for every copy sold, because Amazon paid me 70% of the $.99 sale price, not my list price."

Read the rest.

3. Girls Who Read.
I thought my favorite ode to book-loving girls was Charles Warnke's "You Should Date An Illiterate Girl", but that was before I came across this video of Mark Grist performing his spoken word piece on girls who read. I blush every time I watch it.

DIESEL A.V. Club: Ausubel, Patchett, and Sendak

We here in the audio-visual club at Diesel would like to share a few videos with you. We have a Q&A from a recent reading and a couple great Colbert interviews--just hang on a sec while I run a few cables, just, yeah, but move your chair to the right, your head is blocking the projector.

1. Ramona Ausubel, author of No One Is Here Except All Of Us, answers questions in our Oakland store. 


2. Maurice Sendak talks to Stephen Colbert about the state of children's literature.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Grim Colberty Tales with Maurice Sendak Pt. 2
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive


3. Ann Patchett champions independent booksellers on The Colbert Report.


The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Ann Patchett
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

Thomas Peele comes to Diesel, Oakland


Last night we hosted Thomas Peele and Martin Reynolds, in dialogue about Peele's new book, Killing The Messenger. Look for the full reading, to air on Book TV within the next two weeks. 




About the book: On the morning of August 2, 2007, journalist Chauncey Bailey was walking to his office at the Oakland Post, a weekly newspaper. As he reached the corner of 14th and Alice streets in downtown Oakland, a masked gunman ran up to Bailey and shot him at point blank range.  Investigating police would soon uncover the motive behind Bailey’s shocking murder: it was ordered by Yusef Bey IV, leader of Your Black Muslim Bakery, and was intended to stop Bailey's forthcoming story on the organization.

Outraged by Bailey's murder, a group of California journalists banded together to finish his work. Known as the Chauncey Bailey Project, this group of reporters and editors has worked together to see that justice for Bailey is served and his work completed. In Killing the Messenger, award-winning investigative reporter Thomas Peele provides the first comprehensive narrative examination of Bailey's murder, and finally brings the whole, tragic story to light.


Diesel Loves You.


 --Just in case you had any doubts--


Travel Dispatch: The 7th ABA Winter Institute

Much to my surprise and elation, I was this year's recipient of the Glenn Goldman scholarship to the annual independent bookseller's conference, The Winter Institute. For those of you not familiar with Glenn Goldman, he was the owner of Book Soup on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. When he passed away in 2009, a scholarship was established in his name so that eligible Southern California booksellers could apply in the hopes of winning an opportunity to attend The Winter Institute. This conference is conducted by the ABA, The American Booksellers Association, whose sole purpose is to support the independent bookselling community. Let me tell you, this is no small task!

It was the 7th annual Winter Institute and this year's chosen city was New Orleans. The ABA board members put in countless hours, organizing a myriad of presentations relating to all aspects of bookselling. Structured days left you with just enough time to rotate fro
m meeting to meeting. Some topics included improving profitability, tools for demographic studies, and procedures for supporting the rights of free speech. Publishers and authors were there as well, showing us all new and exciting titles that are coming this spring. It was a whirlwind of activity but, I have to say, one of the highlights of the conference was listening to author/bookstore owner, Ann Patchett, speak. Her enthusiasm and passion for books was so infectious and moving, she got a standing ovation and I actually shed a tear or two.

Over the course of the three days, there were many opportunities to meet other independent booksellers from all over the United States. The available slots for the Winter Institute quickly filled to capacity, with around 500 attendees. That's an impressive amount, representing booksellers from almost every state. The wealth of knowledge and experience was astounding, not to mention the dedication.

our free time, we all ventured out into one of the most charming cities I have ever seen. This was my first time visiting New Orleans and I was immediately smitten. Its history, architecture, people, food, music, art are all so amazing...I could gush all day. On my last night there, I sat on Royal Street enjoying the balmy evening, trying to sift through my experiences over the past few days. Trying to sum it up in one word, the best description is overwhelming, but in a wonderful, life-changing way. I return having learned more about the business I love, grateful for the new friends I have made, and for the opportunity of experiencing a city that now feels like home.

Diesel, A Bookstore, New Orleans anyone?

-Cheryl Ryan


Become a Giver for World Book Night 2012

Hello Reader,


There is an exciting book event happening this spring, across this whole wide country of ours (as well as the U.K., Ireland and Germany).  It's called World Book Night 2012!  The idea is that on one night, throughout America, 1 million books will be given away by hand by tens of thousands of people.  Authors and publishers have enthusiastically agreed to print over 30 thousand copies of 30 different titles, to be delivered to pick-up locations throughout the country -- mostly independent bookstores and libraries.  Individual readers will sign up to be Givers who agree to hand deliver 20 copies of a title of their choice to strangers in locations outside of their homes, their bookstores, and their libraries.  It may be a park, a prison, a school, a hospital, an intersection, an airplane, a bus. 


You can sign up as a Giver, choose DIESEL as your pick-up location, and choose from this year's title list.  We will have a Pick-up Party at our store on April 16th, 2012.  World Book Night 2012 is April 23rd, which is UNESCO's World Book Day and is the day of both Miguel de Cervantes' death and William Shakespeare's birth and death.   


Last year this was done in the U.K. and Ireland with astounding results.  We hope to make this year's event even more wildly successful by expanding it to the whole United States!  The deadline for signing up as a Giver is February 1st!  Please take the time to go to the World Book Night 2012 website and sign up to be a Giver.  You can see video footage from last year's event on the site as well, to get a sense of the joy created by this generous sharing of the love of reading between strangers. 


The World Book Night 2012 website is here.  The direct link to the sign up form is here.  Please put DIESEL as your registered pick-up location and let's make this event one of the biggest and best feel-good events of the year! 


Encourage your friends, your mayor, the media, your family, your favorite organizations -- all of them! -- to sign up and join to help to make this as big an event as we can!  It will take all of us to work together to get books into the hands of those who least expect them. 


Happy Reading! 

John and all Dieselfolk



Three Good Things: Endtimes, Vampires, and The American Heritage Dictionary



1. The 2012 Bucket List. As we all know, the world is probably ending in December. The Mayans were right about a lot of things: architecture, chocolate, the gold standard. It's not that I'm jumping on the apocalyptic bandwagon, I just want to hedge my bets. I want to eat a lot of good food and go standing paddle-boarding and see Kiefer Sutherland in person. I want to participate in one of those restaurant specials where you eat a piece of meat bigger than your head and then win the meal and a t-shirt and get your polaroid up on the wall next to pictures of big, red men with mustaches. This also means that the books released in 2012 will be the last new books ever printed. All your reading between now and December 21st is the most important reading you'll ever do! So, if you need help compiling your 2012 Bucket-List-Reading-List, refer to this handy guide from The Millions, The Most Anticipated: The Great 2012 Book Preview. (If you need help compiling your non-literary bucket list, come into the store and we can talk about it.)


2. Twilight redux. I've been waiting for this, ever since the Harry Potter spoofs have died off. This is completely silly, but the ones for Kate Chopin and Ayn Rand made me chuckle. If Famous Writers Had Written Twilight.


3. A Good Podcast is Hard to Find. Confession: when given the choice between fantastic nonfiction and fairly mediocre fiction, I usually choose the latter. I think it's too many years spent in the American school system, choking down over-simplified history books, or else let's blame the glitter-allure of fantasy instilled by Disney. Yeah. Disney. But I've stumbled across a podcast that's changing my attitude towards nonfiction. June Thomas caught my eye with the first installment of her new Slate-based podcast, The Afterword, which features nonfiction authors and their books, with a piece on the fate of the print dictionary. I know. It sounds riveting. But something about hearing the executive editor of the American Heritage Dictionary talk about the project in all its complexity had me wanting a copy of my own. The podcast comes out every other Saturday, look forward to episodes about Robert Neuwirth and his book Stealth of Nations: The Global Rise of the Informal Economy and Matthew Polly and his book Tapped Out: Rear Naked Chokes, the Octagon, and the Last Emperor: An Odyssey in Mixed Martial Arts.




The linkages between the books we read in a week a month a year, are mysterious, usually unconscious, and occasionally surprising.  You can play connect-the-dots from one title to another and to another, until a picture seems to arise.  A picture which looks like an intention a plan even a necessity.


I had meant to read The Ticking Is The Bomb ever since Alison had told me how much she liked it and how much she thought I'd like it too.  I did and I did, I read it and liked it immensely.  It's an immense book in a driftingly wideranging way.


In connecting dots you don't connect all the dots just the dots that seem to need or want to be connected.  I'll tell you now that the other dots are A Thousand Lives and The Old Man: John Brown at Harper's Ferry. Barely a line these three books an arc an arrow.


I read all three I thought for very different reasons.  Ticking as I said by recommendation curiosity and an interest in poets who write in other forms than poetry.  A Thousand Lives I read for a dinner with the author, though I am interested in Jonestown and in other extreme social events.


Reading Old Man arose from an ignorance of John Brown's history and a fascination with defiantly moral conviction.  Where does conscience arise come to proclaim itself and be heard?  The boundaries of principle violence and history.


I hadn't intended to read these three books let alone in close proximity.  They all deal with the farthest reaches of the social contract.  Torture, mass suicide, violent overthrow.


I don't usually read crime thrillers mysteries, whether fiction or nonfiction, or movies for that matter.  I'm not attracted to violence except as a flaring edge of human choice.  I am intrigued by powerful resistance to systems that repress human rights.


The three books congeal around the commitment to violence against a fellow human made with the cool eye of seeming reason.  Moral principle rationalizes the destruction and certifies its necessity.  Torture is justified in certain cases; revolutionary suicide is required to confront the oppressive status quo; violence is the only means left to catalyze an uprising to end the greatest evil of slavery.


After reading all three books I became like Flynn at the beginning of Ticking anxiously confounded by the human capacity for intentional violence.  The dot to dot penetration of that capacity in the everyday forms of our speech our media our government our lives.  The recognition that the righteousness in each of these books is just a few degrees away from where each of us speaks thinks acts.


It wasn't intentional.  I just read these books this summer of all the hundreds of books that surround me.  The dots joined up like silver in a mirror.


John Evans