Chatter's blog

The fiction you’re not able read right now builds worlds; poetry breathes.

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I've been hearing & reading a recurring sentiment since the election: I can't read fiction right now. That I hear it most commonly from those I consider "serious readers" (those who don't read fiction strictly for entertainment or diversion), is cause for concern -- as I understand both the importance they place on reading and the mournful loss they're experiencing at not being able to do so.

I have a suggestion. It will sound so pithy that some of you will stop reading. But here goes: try poetry.

Let me stop you at the first all-too-common, immediate objection: "But I don't know how to read poetry." Nonsense. You're not dead. If you're this far into this post, you're obviously still breathing: that's all it takes. The rest is negotiable. 

Some poems are meant to be read quickly, the ideas seemingly less important than their expression. I'm not going to tell you whose or which these are. Because like anything worth reading, poems beg to be read askew (I like that word): at different paces, in many places, and in enclosed (for a moment, like a photo) by as many frames as there are minds. The poem will tell you when to breathe -- but here's a secret, you can tell the poem, "No ... not just yet ... not here." The poet might object, but the poem won't suffer for it. It's really okay.

Some poems are stuffed with ideas. They're in a rage about something, even if you don't know quite what. You're not even sure if they do. The good ones are talking their way into a problem; beware the ones with solutions you immediately agree with. The ones that too quickly talk themselves out of trouble are usually not to be trusted. They're either a huckster or a friend -- though possibly both. Poets like C.D. Wright, my obsession this year, don't want to be your friend -- and the aces up their sleeves are clearly from another deck. They want you inhabiting the ideas. With or without them, they'll nudge you further along, in search of the last reference, until you're alone with it. From there, you're on your own. But only until the next page -- really, trust me, it's okay.

But why poetry at all, you might be wondering? There's political theory! There's philosophy! There's work to be done, Brad!

Because from time to time, you need to eat.

East Bay Booksellers in the News!

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When we made our big announcement about East Bay Booksellers, we had an idea it'd make a bit of news. We never would've imagined that two weeks after the big reveal, it'd be mentioned in the New York Times

The press continues to be great, but the best part about all this so far: your response! You crowded in, pie and apple cider in hand, for the informational meeting after our Customer Appreciation Party in Oakland; you listened; and you keep telling us, "I'm in." 

East Bay Booksellers still has a ways to go before it reaches $200,000 in pledged loans, but every day makes us all the more confident that you're as excited about this as we are! 

In addition to a short email answering some Frequently Asked Questions, here's a short word from Brad talking about the project:

Your enthusiasm means everything to the success of what we have cooking in Oakland, and can help us find eyeballs and ears of people we otherwise might not on our own. Please consider sign up for EBB's Mailing list ... following them on Twitter ... liking them on Facebook ... or simply share news of what we're up to on all your social platforms (even face-to-face!). In short: keep in touch

New Vision, Same Values

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There's been lots happening in DIESEL-land lately. We're always buzzing about this time of year, in preparation for the holidays -- the shelves burgeoning with beautiful books. That's unchanged, but . . . well, let's face it, it's been a, let's call it "weird," year. We've lost musical legends. Political heroes. What's more, though the social and political landscape is always changing, the abruptness of it all this year has left many of us reeling. We won't just remember 2016 as weird or tough -- we'll be dealing with its consequences for a while. In short, we believe we need more than ever stable cultural institutions like independent bookstores that honor and guard free expression. 

So when we announce, as many of you may have already heard -- either from us or from your newspaper -- our intentions (with your help!) to change the ownership of our Oakland location to one of its present managers, Brad Johnson, as well as its name, to East Bay Booksellers, we do so in a celebratory way. In an unexpected twist to an unpredictable year: we think this may very well be the best possible time to make such a change. We love that the vision Brad is casting -- which the entire DIESEL family has had a hand in molding -- has been a ray of hopeful, exciting light to so many already! 

DIESEL has never been opposed to experiments. We keep our management structure as horizontal as possible, and have been built from the beginning on the idea that mutual respect for one another, for the store, and for the community is what sustains the good times and gets us through the bad. East Bay Booksellers will be built around the same core value. Brad is a talker -- oh, is he ever! And his commitment to conversation is a downright passion. "Conversation changes everything -- which is why so many forces seem intent on getting in its way -- and it is the engine by which mutual respect becomes mutual regard and care."

We also think he's got a good head on his shoulders for business!

New Vision, Same Values

Body: 

There's been lots happening in DIESEL-land lately. We're always buzzing about this time of year, in preparation for the holidays -- the shelfs burgeoning with beautiful books. That's unchanged, but . . . well, let's face it, it's been a, let's call it "weird," year. We've lost musical legends. Political heroes. What's more, though the social and political landscape is always changing, the abruptness of it all this year has left many of us reeling. We won't just remember 2016 as weird or tough -- we'll be dealing with its consequences for a while. In short, we believe we need more than ever stable cultural institutions like independent bookstores that honor and guard free expression. 

So when we announce, as many of you may have already heard -- either from us or from your newspaper -- our intentions (with your help!) to change the ownership of our Oakland location to one of its present managers, Brad Johnson, as well as its name, to East Bay Booksellers, we do so in a celebratory way. In unexpected twist to an unpredictable year: we think this may very well be the best possible time to make such a change. We love that the vision Brad is casting -- which the entire DIESEL family has had a hand in molding -- has been a ray of hopeful, exciting light to so many already! 

DIESEL has never been opposed to experiments. We keep our management structure as horizontal as possible, and have been built from the beginning on the idea that mutual respect for one another, for the store, and for the community is what sustains the good times and gets us through the bad. East Bay Booksellers will be built around the same core value. Brad is a talker -- oh, is he ever! And his commitment to conversation is a downright passion. "Conversation changes everything -- which is why there so many forces seem intent in getting its way -- and it is the engine by which mutual respect becomes mutual regard and care."

We also think he's got a good head on his shoulder for business!

Extra! Extra! Get yer November Newsletter!

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It's a busy, anxious time, we know. Perhaps some top-notch book recommendations will take your mind momentarily off things electoral. See the link for the picks, but here's a word or two -- from the top to the bottom of the newsletter -- from John and Brad. (Reminder: you can use the links on the bottom-left of this page to sign up all our newsletters!)

Dear Reader,

Okay the season is upon us. No, not the election season, but the season of gathering together for large meals with extended family and friends. The season of gift-giving. This is so much fun in the bookstore -- readers looking for the finest, most unexpected, most desired books to give as gifts. The bounty of cookbooks that are released this time of year are filling our shelves awaiting readers' attentions for making delectable meals.  Great gift books of all varieties abound in the store -- come in and peruse them!

I wanted to also draw a little attention to some writing that's been going on at DIESEL (please see Editor's Notes, below, for more).  DIESEL bookseller and professional writer Aaron Bady has penned two worthy pieces recently: one was posted on Lithub -- Did Imbolo Mbue actually write the Great American Novel? (Lithub, by the way, is a great source for all things literary.)  The other was an op-ed in the L.A. Times.

Check them out, along with all the other creative and imaginative events, book selection, display, and reviews radiating out of DIESEL this season.

Happy Reading,
John and all DIESELfolk

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Editor's Notes

A Spoooooky Book Review -- on David Mitchell's SLADE HOUSE

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I don’t like horror. I don’t read horror novels, I don’t watch horror movies and if I played video games, they wouldn’t be called Resident Evil. As a genre I find it boring, derivative, and generally lacking in imagination. “How is [insert murderous psychopath] going to gore, or mutilate, or terrorize the (flat and poorly written) characters?” Frankly, my dear…

And yet, as so many afflicted with the Netflix virus, I sat transfixed as the Duffer Brothers unraveled their nostalgia-horror story, Stranger Things. How clever! How Weird! “It’s like, if Spielberg [80’s Spielberg] gave David Lynch [any-era Lynch] a script and told him to go wild, but the whole thing still had to make sense, it would be Stranger Things!” I loudly shouted at baristas and joggers and other unfortunates in my neighborhood. Being late to the game, as I tend to be, I’m sure my already unasked for insights were even less interesting to people who had watched, talked about and moved on to the next thing weeks ago.

And now, what would otherwise have been a minor, behavioral aberration is starting to feel like a pattern. First I watched Stranger Things, then I read Slade House by David Mitchell. Before you judge me, I promise, I didn’t know it was a horror novel before I read it. Sure the summary on the back jacket says things like, “A stranger will greet you by name and invite you inside,” or, “For those who find out, it’s already too late…”, but that could mean a lot of different things. It could be a sci-fi story about a house that transports you to another dimension, or a sword-and-sorcery tale of beleaguered knights becoming entrapped by an evil magician, or a whole host of others things it is decidedly not. For, as much as it pains me to admit to liking this type of thing, Slade House is a horror story. And a damn good one.

On the outing of Elena Ferrante

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It was inevitable, I suppose, that Elena Ferrante's true identity -- whatever that is -- would one day be uncovered. One would hope, though, that it would've been on her terms, as one's true identity -- again, whatever that is -- is rarely something that somebody owes another. 

It was also inevitable that such a thing would cause conversation. Happily, most people seem less interested in the Who behind the author than they are the Why behind the exposure. Among our favorite contributions to the chattering storm comes via a friend and neighbor in Oakland, Lili Loofbourow. We highly recommend you spend some time with her piece, "The outing of Elena Ferrante and the power of naming." It is a doozy. 

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