Hope you had a wonderful May Day! Last week we had a fantastic Readers' Community Meeting at the store in Oakland. We have posted a video of the meeting online. A big thanks to those of you who participated, as it was not only a moving show of support, but an inspiring display of engaged, intelligent, and heartfelt community discourse. Your thoughtful, passionate, and articulate questions, ideas, and testimonies clearly expressed to us why we so doggedly and devotedly work at keeping our bookstore vitally alive and serving our community of readers.
At the meeting, many people expressed their surprise that we sell ebooks (and actual books) on our website and that, for the most part, the major publishers' ebooks are priced the same, no matter who you buy them from -- so why not buy ebooks locally? It's better for our local and state economy in a multiplicity of ways. They wanted us to put the word out more consistently so that EVERYONE knows that you can support your local bookstore, neighborhood, and community by buying locally online. So we're letting you know so that you can tell everyone YOU know -- via facebook, twitter, telephone, email, or face-to-face: online buying doesn't have to hurt your local stores -- you can support us via the internet, too!
That said, we hope that you enjoy this latest edition of news and reviews and that we see you at our in-store events as well as on our website, browsing the multimedia riches of our stores.
John and all Dieselfolk
Alice Hoffman is one of my top five authors. I've read almost all of her work, including her young adult novels, and The Red Garden is definitely one of her best. In fact, the first chapter of The Red Garden is probably the most haunting, magical piece of hers I've ever read. It sets the stage for this wondrous novel that follows the lives and loves of a small town in Massachusetts from when it is first settled in the 18th century through modern times. Hoffman does her magic that I love so well, weaving in a few common threads that appear in each generation of the town of Blackwell. There was always, of course, the garden with the red soil that sometimes turns its vegetation "scarlet" or "crimson." There were always eels, and bears, and the strong compulsion of the female characters to seek solitude, escape by running away, even find a peace and tranquility when sleeping out of doors alone, with no fear of the bears. The "apparition" of a young girl in a blue dress, haunting the banks of the river full of eels, also appears through the many generations. Yet with all these common threads, each chapter holds its own magic, its special singularity, making The Red Garden a book that may keep you up till the wee hours of the morning. Beautiful! -- Linda Grana
In Endgame, Frank Brady gives a 21st-century update to one of the most fascinating rags-to-riches-to-rags stories in recent memory. Born into humble circumstances (he and his mother were essentially homeless for the first months of his life), Bobby Fischer brought a fearsome intelligence and obsessive focus to the chessboard, culminating in his defeat of world champion Boris Spassky in Reykjavik in 1972. This defining moment, of both Fischer's life and the Cold War, proved to be short-lived: soon afterward, he spiraled into increasingly bizarre and antisocial, and eventually outright sociopathic, behavior. Brady's book gives equal space to the unlikely conquests of Fischer's younger years and the trainwreck of his later ones, and while it draws certain inevitable comparisons between the subject's life and the game of chess, it never oversells this idea, instead letting the story stand on its own. Endgame is worthwhile for being more than a catalog of impressive achievements offset in equal parts by sordid details: ultimately, it's a book about the relationship between intelligence, sanity, and happiness, and presents the unsettling possibility that moving too far toward one of these ideals may move us irrevocably away from the other two. -- John Peck
You Know When The Men Are Gone is a novel told in linked stories, which is currently my favorite literary form. Each story is a brilliant little gem in itself, and Siobhan Fallon has the unique ability to draw you into each one immediately and take you on a roller coaster of a ride until you're thoroughly engrossed. Then she puts on the brakes, leaving you gasping for breath. But, being a sucker for a well-told story, I could never linger too long: I'd just dive right into the next one.
The common thread in these stories is the waiting game played by soldiers and their families living in Fort Hood during the war in Iraq. Whether the story is told from a soldier's perspective, or that of his spouse and family waiting back home, Fallon is able to skillfully portray the tension, the desperation, and the sheer ache of deployment and separation. On the other hand, when the men finally return, there's a very intimate discomfort that takes place in reestablishing a normal family life, and this, at times, is gut-wrenching.
Two of the stories were particularly affecting for me. First, the story of a soldier who has a girlfriend back home, but begins to fall in love with a beautiful young interpreter, who then turns up missing. What do you do? How can your worry and desperation be public? Your suffering and anxiety must be kept to yourself. The second is of a soldier who is driving himself so crazy wondering if his wife is having an affair back home that he takes leave and spends it hiding in the basement of his own house, watching the comings and goings of his wife and daughter. Though I won't tell how this one ends, I can say that my heart was pounding just as hard as the soldier's!
I just can't express how these stories literally took my breath away. Fallon writes with such familiarity and passion. The result is not only an incredibly moving, but timely collection. -- Linda Grana
Zone is written in one sentence; that's a five-hundred-page sentence, a stylistic choice that may be intimidating enough to scare away readers from the otherwise fascinating story of a Croatian spy working for France, a story that takes place entirely over the course of a single train ride to Rome, and a mesmerizing expedition where Croat Francis Servain Mirkovic relives his memories of past loves, betrayals, and horrific episodes of the Yugoslavian conflict in narratives that hurtle along with the compulsive momentum of a bullet train -- so don't turn away in fear because, after all, it's only a single sentence! -- Cameron Carlson
In this memoir, Perry recounts how he moved back to his very small Wisconsin hometown and reintegrated himself into the community by becoming a volunteer firefighter and first responder. The stories he tells contain dozens of moments that are both hilarious and heart-wrenching -- often within sentences of each other. The details about firefighting and working as an EMT are fascinating, as are the portraits Perry draws of various figures in the community -- and of the community itself. Perry's writing revives in me a sort of innocent belief in American communities, although there's nothing naïve or whitewashed about his portrayal of his town and its people. Infrastructure crumbles; petty cruelties persist; bad things happen, often to good people. But Perry, it seems, has found whatever secret thing it is that makes it worth it to go on. And there's a taste of it here between these pages. -- Anna Kaufman
Hermes scarves are the ultimate iconic accessory. Their bold, intricate designs and vibrant colors are instantly identified as the epitome of style. The radiance of the silk makes you feel as if you are wearing a work of art -- which, in fact, you are. This book is as beautiful as the scarves themselves, with full-page, color illustrations and impeccable detail. Read about the origins of the Hermes company, its lineage, and the inspiration for the designs. Do not tuck it away on your bookshelf: leave it out for all to enjoy. -- Cheryl Ryan
Easily one of the most precious picture books of the year so far! Cloudette by Tom Lichtenheld shows us that being small has its advantages, even outside of just being cute and adorable. But speaking of cute and adorable, Lichtenheld's illustrations are just that. Paired with a simple yet essential story about believing in yourself, Cloudette will surely have your spirit up in the clouds! (Puns aplenty and lots of other fun dialogue round out this fantastic book.) As a friend of mine said, "I want to be friends with a cloud like Cloudette." Don't we all? -- Geo Ong