We hope you enjoy this monthly missive from the heart of book culture-- the independent bookstore! We are voraciously reading the latest and the best books on current affairs, the human soul, the worlds of fantasy, fiction and poetry, stars and starfish. We are stocking our shelves with the previously unimagined and unrevealed, the unearthed and the uncharted, so we can all be more engaged, more fruitful, more imaginative, and more playful.
So here's to reading!
John & all Dieselfolk
Every once in a while a novel published for a young adult audience is so well written, so emotionally effective that it deserves a wider readership. While there will be inevitable comparisons to another such title, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, (also published as a young adult) Marcelo is actually an even better novel dealing with a similar subject. At 17, Marcelo has spent most of his school life in the protective, nurturing environment of a special private school for students with disabilities. He's looking forward to spending the summer between his junior and senior year training some foals at the school. His high-powered attorney father has other plans for "normalizing" his obviously bright son, insisting that he work in the mailroom of his corporate office. What sets this novel apart is the subtle and deft character development, as the author shows Marcelo facing challenges that neither he nor the reader are sure he is capable of facing successfully. As Marcelo narrates his story it is a gift to be inside his thoughts and watch him process the world around him. -- Margaret Simpson
This has been a largely neglected collection of interviews with some of America's most interesting and reflective artists: filmmakers, poets, actors, novelists. Monda is an Italian fillmmaker and devout Catholic curious about the ways of American religiosity and irreligiosity. Richard Ford, Spike Lee, Grace Paley, Saul Bellow, Elie Wiesel, and Jonathan Franzen are just some of the talented atheists, believers and agnostics speaking their thoughts on faith, grace, ethics and spirituality. Michael Cunningham's interview was particularly candid and useful. It's worth an afternoon testing your faith, or your disbelief, with these hearty minds who have already gained entry to yours through other means. -- John Evans
In a medium drenched in renditions of anatomically improbable women often wearing a scant outfit next to a mythical horned creature, digital illustration's beacon of light is James Jean. A trained painter and figure drawer, this book chronicles not only Jean's cover work for Vertigo's Fables comic books, but his process as well. Jean begins with a pencil or pen sketch on paper, then paints the sketch using oil, acrylic, or gouache, then scans the painted piece into Photoshop and digitally renders the file. Some are more digitized than others, but his roots in classicism and knowledge of the figure and composition manage to give his work more credibility than others in the field. There are hundreds of cover prints in this great hardcover edition, and it's reassuring to know that the original paintings would still exist if his laptop crashed. -- Jon Stich
Tremblay begins his book The Little Sleep with two epigraphs: one from Raymond Chandler and another from the Pixies. Both are apropos. The detective narrative as a genre has been played with so often (think Lethem's Motherless Brooklyn) and Tremblay makes a strong contribution with Mark Genevich - a Southie PI with one fairly sizable challenge: narcolepsy. Not only does he fall asleep, but at times enters a hypnagogic episode wherein he seems to function but is actually participating with hallucinations. Far from making light of this disability, Tremblay investigates this neurological disorder ("Sleep is heavy. It has mass. Sleep is a singularity") with a deft touch, illuminating its implicit absurdity, dolor, and black humor. - Trevor Calvert
In Brooklyn, Colm Toibin has written a small gem worthy of comparison to the work of Henry James, the subject of his earlier and celebrated novel The Master. The story begins in a village in post-war Ireland and centers on a diffident young woman Eilis, overshadowed by her rather glamorous, competent & protective older sister, and beginning to find her own tentative way in the work world. An unexpected kindness from a priest moves Eilis from the insular Enniscorthy to the street smart world of working class Brooklyn, circa 1950.
While reminiscent of Betty Smith's classic novel of an earlier era, or even an old Bing Crosby movie, Toibin's perfectly realized domestic details never slip into sentimentality. Any romantic notions you may have harbored about an ocean crossing or colorful new friends in a boarding house setting will be forever dispelled.
With a head for math and a determination to make something of herself, Eilis's life blossoms with night school, advancement at work and her first serious boyfriend. And then tragedy strikes at home and Eilis must decide where her loyalties and obligations truly lie. Part of the genius of this lovely novel is the reader is uncertain until the last page how this will all turn out. -- Margaret Simpson
I've recently come to the conclusion that the majority of contemporary fiction is not my cup of tea because it either embodies the perpetual hip complex that I loathe, or is so resentful of classical literature that the writing becomes whiny and aloof. That being said, the stories in Wells Tower's Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned are not only immediately enjoyable, but speak of contemporary and youthful times in a magnificently human voice. Glimpses of freedom, alcoholism, abuse, isolation, promiscuity, and experimentation are at the forefront of most of these short stories. Like most good figurative art, the stories are there for you to read, but there are many connections and emotions to be dealt with when the experience is over. Meeting the characters in Tower's stories is probably the best one-night-stand you'll have in a while, though I don't recommend reading while intoxicated. -- Jon Stich
A kids picture book about beer? Well, yes, but also not really. The beauty of this succinct volume is its witty dialogue and superb characterization of Gracie, a kindergartener curious about beer. Her distant father drinks it, as does her affectionate and good-naturedly misanthropic uncle. Robbins perfectly captures the mystery and dewy beauty of the world and its infinite possibilities as seen through the eyes of an imaginative innocent. Gracie sees a slippery world similar to our own only visible in the periphery, and longs to explore it, as the real world is often difficult, people frustrating and confusing. . .especially adults. Her desire to escape reality perfectly mirrors her father's, and her uncle's inclination to do the same, the difference being Gracie uses her mind, and the adults use beer. A whimsical and very funny journey I urge you to take on a hot afternoon with an ice cold brewski in hand. -- Grant Outerbridge