For many years we concluded our newsletters with the sentence: "Thank you for supporting the fragile ecology of free speech independent bookstores help to sustain." We still feel that way, every word of it. When we opened in 1989 we also proclaimed our commitment to celebrating diversity and celebrating all things local. Keeping diverse ideas and experiences in circulation in our communities is one of independent bookstores' essential virtues, as well as being meetingplaces where all of our voices can be shared. This month's newsletter happens to focus on difference, with reviews by our diverse booksellers, of some of the various books currently hitting our shelves and enriching our reading and communal lives. We hope you enjoy the fruits of these commitments of ours, here in the newsletter, and every day in the store.
John & all DIESELfolk
Modern love, and with it life and family, looks different than it used to. Or perhaps we're just finally beginning to see what was always there. The sacks of blood attending the removal of tissue that had separated one's body from one's self. The syringes and thermometers that become new ways of measuring time. The looks, always the looks, of those who misunderstand (at best) and disagree (too often) with who you are, let alone who you might love, and the laws that can invite and impede you. In Maggie Nelson's latest book, The Argonauts, she identifies a truth at turns painful and hopeful: we, with our multi-formed and positioned pleasures, the directions and modes our loves take, and the languages we use to speak or stay silent, are only ever just beginning. The deeply personal nature of Nelson's writing is tectonic, as she shifts between autobiography, poetry, and critical analysis in such a seamless way that the seismic rumbles may not be immediately noticeable. Until, that is, you look up from your reading, and see that the landscape around you has changed. The Argonauts will be a revelation for many who have never read Maggie Nelson, and a new beginning for those who have. -- Brad J.
A trip to the zoo becomes a revelatory experience in J.A. Tyler's beautifully conceived and written The Zoo, A Going. Each animal, trapped in its artificial environment, becomes a jumping-off point for explorations of the uncertainty of growing up, the comforts and complications of our relationships with our parents, and the ability of children to live in a world that blends the real and the imaginary, and is at once simpler and infinitely more complex than adults like to believe. No summary can do this work justice. It is exactly the sort of thing that excites me as a reader, and illustrates that the written word is alive and well, and still full of surprises. -- Will K.
The glaciers have melted and most coastal cities have had to be abandoned as the waters rose. New Yorkers, however -- being New Yorkers -- refused to relinquish their city, instead transforming it into a kind of futuristic Venice: connecting the skyscrapers that still stick out of the sea by bridges and converting the streets into waterways patrolled by taxi ships. It's in this eerie, enchanting setting that Lev AC Rosen unfurls his wonderfully original bit of detective noir. But what really elevates Depth is a piece of gender reversal. Rosen's PI is not your typical Bogart wannabe, waxing lyrical about dames: she's Simone Pierce, and she's a delight to follow through the traditional beats of the genre because it's so rare to get to see a woman in the role. There's even an homme fatale with legs that just won't quit. Depth breathes fresh air into both mystery and post-apocalyptic fiction. -- Anna K.
A typical hotel-murder mystery (a detective trying to take a long-overdue vacation; a grab-bag of odd guests; a remote resort easily cut off from the outside world) in the hands of the Strugatsky brothers quickly becomes the launching point for an entire host of different genre standards. Ghosts, aliens, robots, magicians, gangsters, a doomsday device, a preternaturally sentient dog, and a creepy physicist serve as an incomplete list. What might easily become mired in its own ambitiousness is, for the Soviet-era duo, a perfect vehicle for the sort of cutting social commentary that usually got their works censored. Good thing no one takes sci-fi seriously! -- Chris P.
Recently republished by Rizzoli, Ranches of the American West fully lives up to the greatness its title suggests. Twenty-five ranches in seven western states are presented in 300 color photographs with rich accompanying text. Built mostly of raw materials these structures feel completely of the land they sit upon. The photographs are divided between authentic interiors and the sites they inhabit to present a complete picture of the buildings. The people and the animals, both domestic and wild, bring them to life. For those of us who cannot live it in person, this book brings the romance of the American West to our coffee tables. -- Alan D.
I'm a sucker for pattern, color and texture, and tiles are one of the mediums that express this so well. Whether they are an individual decorative tile or grouped together to form a larger design, tiles can transform a surface and space. This book is a collection of contemporary tiles broken down into the categories of illustration, pattern, texture, art and architecture. The array of designs are vast -- from a whimsical rendition of a frozen TV dinner from the 70's by Greg Hicho to a unique watermark technique created by Deborah Osburn -- and result in ethereal images. While glass, porcelain, and concrete are the primary media used, artist John Whitmarsh makes tiles out of reclaimed materials such as chopped up shipping containers or used asphalt! Cheerful, classic, sleek or whimsical, all of these tiles will charm and inspire you. -- Cheryl R .
The first book in a new series of magical adventures where children are chosen as Keepers of arcane magical objects, only to discover themselves in danger from the monstrous Makers of those objects who want their creations back at any price. This book takes a welcome step away from the "magical school" plot that has been holding sway over kids' magical books for some time. The Keepers have the support of one another, the magical powers of their objects, and some rather haphazard advice from a few magical adults. Meanwhile they are responsible not only for protecting themselves, but also their families, even though some of those families are less than perfect. I loved how the fantasy and the very real-life situations stand side by side in this book. -- Clare D.