It is the beginning of autumn and the tail end of Banned Books Week. This year, booksellers, librarians, writers, and readers made videos of people reading banned books, which were posted on the ABFFE website. Censorial challenges to books in libraries, schools, and communities continue, and it's important to remember to protect openness, diversity, and tolerance in our lives. We've posted some contributions from our store on our website's blog.
This fall is full of events at each of our stores with luncheons, author talks, and readings. We also welcome three new booksellers to Diesel: Alex Kantner in Oakland; Mia Wigmore in Brentwood (formerly at Village Books in the Palisades), and Maggie Sarkissian in Malibu (formerly at the Hammer Museum bookstore). Did I say Malibu? Yes, Malibu! Currently being painted and assembled, the Malibu store will have a soft opening sometime this month, with a Grand Opening on November 5th!
So, please come and meet our new booksellers, check out the new titles, and tell us about what you've been reading. We want to say thank you, as well, to those of you who have understood the relationship between our bookstore and online shopping, and have taken the supportive step of ordering your ebooks from us on our website.
John and all Dieselfolk
A book about the history of type -- from the earliest hand-carved punches to modern computer fonts -- has no business being this entertaining. Like fellow intellectual traveler Geoff Dyer, Simon Garfield mixes in healthy doses of humor, intrigue, and personal narrative in service of his subject. Interludes spotlighting various fonts, such as Futura, Vendome, and Doves ("the type that drowned") are pure pleasure, and the absolutely necessary chapters, "We Don't Serve Your Type" (a history of the ever-maligned Comic Sans) and "The Worst Fonts in the World" seal the deal. -- John Peck
Hirshfield has long been appreciated as a poet who skillfully and seamlessly combines the intellectual, the emotional, and the spiritual. Her wide and deep experience in academia, contemplative practice, and world travel continues to inspire poetry of great warmth and vision. Her latest collection continues to explore the mysteries of time and place, the manifold ways in which our desires and expectations cloud and distort, and particularly poignant, but not despairing, evocations of the formative role of loss in human experience. Hirshfield's poetry embodies the fundamental poetic function of returning the reader to the blood-red vein at the heart of our experience we so often deny. Her writing shimmers with an intimacy at once surprising and deeply stimulating. Her poems bring the world alive with breathtaking immediacy -- the collection a masterful combination of power and grace. -- Alex Kantner
Hillary Jordan, known for her Bellwether-winning debut novel, Mudbound, has taken a brave leap from the grimy Mississippi Delta into the technicolor future. When She Woke presents us with a dystopian America, somewhat similar to our own, but with a puritanical twist; a religious police state; a worst-case-Tea-Party-scenario, wherein sinners and lawbreakers are synonymous. Also important: a new technology allows people to be "Chromed," their skin pigment altered in brilliant colors to indicate their criminal status.
The devout seamstress protagonist, Hannah Payne, wakes up a brilliant red (the color of murderers) because she's had an abortion. This secretive motel room procedure was necessary to protect her lover: the pastor of a prestigious Texan mega-church. Yes, this is familiar. Jordan (purposely) draws heavily on Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. If anything she perhaps overdoes the allusions, which means, English majors, if you take a shot every time you notice a Hawthorne reference, this could be the most fun you've had with fiction all year.
Overall, the update of this well-worn narrative is imaginatively done, certainly departing from the territory of The Scarlet Letter when Hannah embarks on an underground-railroad adventure to freedom, complete with secret compartments and menacing vigilantes and a truly non-puritanical turn in the love story, there at the end. Politically, the unfurling of Jordan's "what-if" makes an enthralling read and a delightful thriller. -- Sus Long
Author Jean-Patrick Manchette was a veteran of French crime fiction famous on the European continent, though less well-known here. One of the few wonderful and available translations of Manchette's work, this book departs from the standard, blasé and cliché genre thriller by accenting the violent and unglamorous interruptions of life that a lesser writer would judge unimportant. Aimée is a killer, a beautiful, monstrous murderer who moves from one town to the next staging deaths for her own financial benefit. That is, until she meets an eccentric and bankrupt baron living in a destitute manor, who gazes through his telescope at the stars and passionately pontificates against the evils of contemporary capitalism. Aimée's story is unsettling, in the way of a good horror film, and self-mocking, and deeply, deeply weird. This is a surprisingly good book for those interested in uncomfortable encounters between tried thriller tropes and bourgeois life's little unanswerable horrors. -- Cameron Carlson
As a society, we are defined by our heroes -- and yet, our villains may help us see the shadows we cast upon the walls of history. Which is a somewhat melodramatic way of saying: when astronaut Lisa Nowak gets caught travelling across several state lines to threaten her romantic rival while wearing diapers -- excuse me, proper NASA terminology is "urine collection devices" -- the question isn't just, "What made her do that?" It's, "What does that say about us?" And perhaps that's why infamy seems to trump fame of late in our cultural subconscious. Certainly, the four cases Laura Kipnis examines in How to Become a Scandal involve people who were, before their explosive falls from grace, not more than moderately well-known; this is not meant to be, as Kipnis stresses in the preface, an examination of celebrity scandal. Rather, Kipnis' sharp, but far from snarky or unsympathetic, analysis probes less into...diaper contents, shall we say, and more into the societal reaction to said diapers. The result is a book that's as compelling as the best (worst?) piece of gossip -- but about a thousand times better for mind, body, and soul. -- Anna Kaufman
Let me start by saying, I am not a fan of fish. Seafood I adore, but things with fins rarely end up on my plate. I really do want to eat more fish, so when this book arrived, I started to browse through it. The first recipe I opened to was Mussels with Guinness Cream; needless to say, I was hooked (no pun intended). When I came to the segment "The Anatomy of a Flake," it occurred to me that maybe all the fish I haven't liked was cooked improperly. Ironically, I do like sushi, so the overcooked theory seems valid. The photos of perfectly cooked fish with spot-on descriptions make me feel confident I will never overcook fish again. So, secure in the knowledge of how to properly cook fish, I continue to peruse. The color photographs are so enticing, I have to see what the recipes are for. Roasted Black Cod with Bok Choy and Soy Caramel Sauce. Soy caramel sauce?! I think I'm in love. But wait, it gets better... Dungeness Crab Mac-n-Cheese. Gin and Tonic Cured Albacore with Dandelion Crackers and Lime Cream. Some of these need a little more prep work, but they sound like they'll be worth the effort. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to the fish market. -- Cheryl Ryan
This is the story of my new role model, Dog -- a charming little white mutt who loves books. He loves books so much that he decides to open a bookstore, so he can share his love and his books with the world. At first, things don't go well -- nobody wants books -- but he drowns his sorrows in adventure stories (and tea). When he reads about aliens or kangaroos or dinosaurs, he's not a little dog in a lonely shop without customers -- he's an explorer in outer space (or Australia). When he finally gets a customer, all that reading pays off; he knows the books so well that he's able to find the perfect books to make her happy. The cheerful text and simple, happy illustrations wonderfully capture both the joy and the frustration of working in a shop. (Don't worry: joy wins.) If you love books and dogs and bookstores, you just might love this book as much as I do. Be sure to compare the illustrations inside the front and back covers, to see just how good Dog is at matching books to readers! -- Alex Melnick