At this spring's Book Expo America, I was asked to moderate the Editors' Buzz Panel -- an honor and a blast. You can see the video of the panel, with the editors' comments on bringing these books out, here. These books are now all out and the author of my favorite book of the year, Panorama City, will be appearing at our Oakland (10/3) and Brentwood (10/4) stores! Please read Cameron's review below and check out the events schedule in this email.
This is a great season for publishing, and the books are streaming in. The Editors' Buzz books are the tip of the iceberg, with more books to be found in each of our stores. Come on in and check out the latest and greatest.
John & all Dieselfolk
Antoine Wilson's new novel, Panorama City, tells the story of Oppen Porter, a man from Madera who moves to the big city of Panorama. He is questing to become a "man of the world," a man pulled by strangers towards born-again Christianity, servitude, and alienation from love. He is a being of extreme wisdom in objectivity, and as such, takes the reader through an ameliorative reconfiguration of their culture, whether it's a new way to experience french fries or the mechanical pleasures of a moving bicycle. Oppen levels consistent profundity at the reader, achieving that most sacred experience of encountering harmonious thought written by a stranger. Like the best food, the book's ostensibly simple ingredients reconfigure in the mind to form new and complex arrangements and an openness only achieved in the best literature. Wilson's impeccably original voice breeds a fresh literary language for experiencing the often overwhelming foreignness of local American culture, echoing structural similarities with stylists like Bohumil Hrabal, Tatyana Tolstaya, and Haruki Murakami. Contemporary writers of serious fiction are faced with an incredibly difficult task: adequately dealing with the complexities of modern American life. How can one mind's humble story on paper and ink compete with the transhumanist narratives of Apple, the byzantine dramas of the financial sector, and the inscrutable cultural significance of reality TV? Panorama City impressively challenges the hegemony of these national narratives and offers its own, an original artifice that bolsters moral strength with humility and wisdom with humor. -- Cameron Carlson
My recommendation of Jenny Lawson's memoir Let's Pretend This Never Happened comes with a warning: do not read this book in public unless you want others staring at you wondering if you've gone mad because you're laughing hysterically while reading. Yep, it's that funny. Growing up the daughter of an off-kilter taxidermist and a mother who, for the most part, turned her head the other way, Lawson writes about her issues resulting from having stood inside a dead deer at a young age, growing up with live raccoons in the house, and being an arsonist at the age of three. Those embarrassing moments that in our own lives we all wish had never happened...well, Lawson tells all. God bless her husband Victor for taking her seriously during an argument in which she continues to eat her dinner -- off of a Frisbee! Laughter really is the best medicine, so make sure you don't miss this one. -- Linda Grana
Sunny is bald. That's the moment, not 12 pages into the book, that I fell into Lydia Netzer's thrall. Sunny, pregnant housewife to the wealthy engineer and astronaut Maxon, a woman eager for normalcy, secures her mask of perfection with a set of occasion-appropriate blonde wigs. She sticks on eyelashes and eyebrows as well, because Sunny is bald as an egg, Netzer tells us, always has been, always will be. And Sunny's shiny, hairless head is just the tip of a fabulously absurd iceberg. Husband Maxon is not some Ken-doll model of a man, like the weatherman who lives down their upper-class Virginian street, but a genius with Asperger's syndrome. Their four-year-old son, who all call "Bubber," is autistic and heavily medicated. Sunny's dying mother is the widow of a missionary twice her age. And Sunny herself, we find out, used to be something else entirely, no pearls or minivans, no wig.
The story opens on Maxon's first mission to the moon, where he will set into motion a self-replicating robot colony. (Note: I haven't been this captivated by math and science jargon since Bill Nye was on the air.) Netzer uses the space of outer space to explore the long history between Maxon and Sunny. How they met when Maxon was seven. How they grew together and apart, the tangible bond between the two always stretching and flexing, but never breaking. And when Maxon's mission is compromised, Sunny's facade begins to crack furiously. The first thing to go, of course, is the wig.
I am most impressed by Netzer's seamless retrospective narrative, so akin to how we actually tell our stories: it is like this because it was like that. I saved the last 10 pages for an entire week, reluctant to let it end, so dear to me were these little lives in this completely charming, totally weirdo book. -- Sus Long
In this election season, which in America too often means the insistent grinding down of citizen interest in all things political, there is an interesting argument being put forward. It is not of a political party, or of an articulated movement. Its roots are in the French Resistance and in the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And, it's French. The book is a slim 67 pages, with extra pages for your own notes in the back. It is like a manifesto, but more quietly welcoming and open to all comers. It proposes a "politics of the quality of life," or The Path to Hope as it is titled. One of the authors, Stephane Hessel, wrote Time for Outrage, published in 2010, which has sold over 4 million copies in 30 languages worldwide. It is a global politics rooted in the local. It is worth the stroll reading it, worth the time contemplating it, and hopefully worth the effort realizing it. It also fits nicely in your hand, is beautifully crafted, costs eight dollars, and fits in your, and all your friends', pockets. -- John Evans
It's not common that I'm completely blindsided by a book, but that's exactly what Liminal States did to me. It begins as an Old West tale as ancient as people themselves are: two men in love with the same woman. That is fine, that makes sense. It's a struggle that is primal and pure. However, it all changes when both of those men are gifted (or cursed?) with eternal life. A subtle shift into existential horror when the man you hate more than anything else won't stay dead, and worse yet, when revenge actually becomes boring. Then everything changes again. And again. And again... Is there even a word for western-horror-noir-dystopian-cyberpunk-sci-fi? Oh, yes: awesome. -- Joey Puente
Glamour + Camping = Glamping. This newly coined phrase refers to the trend of camping following the "3G" motto, "grit, grace, and glam." These decked out homes-away-from-home range from canvas-wall tents replete with iron beds and linens to painted-up retro trailers that look like cheery little gumdrops. This is not just a book about kitschy camping, though: it is actually chock-full of very useful information. There are tips on what to look for when purchasing a trailer, renovation advice, and step-by-step photos on how to hitch up a trailer. Before you hit the road, take a peek at the checklists that cover the useful basics like jumper cables and insect repellent to the more frivolous glamping essentials like a vase for wildflowers and sticks for your homemade marshmallows (recipe included). Glamping is a fun, informative read meant to empower and inspire. Whether you are in your own backyard or deep in the boondocks, you will be as snug as a bug in your decked-out digs. Turns out, roughing it doesn't have to be so rough after all. -- Cheryl Ryan
Once in a very long while, a book will come along that is, for a particular reader, a perfect storm. Somehow, this quiet, unassuming volume will turn out to contain all the things that you love. All of them! In one book! A Brief History of Montmaray -- and the rest of the trilogy it's a part of, The FitzOsbornes in Exile and the newly-released The FitzOsbornes at War -- was a "perfect storm" reading experience for me. This young adult series contains, deliciously rendered, everything I have adored since I was actually part of the teenage set -- story elements that continue to delight me now that I am in fact a much more mature grown-up-type person. (Ahem.) Historical fiction spanning the lead-up to WWII and the British homefront! Fantastically vivid and hilarious characters, including a plucky and eccentric female narrator! Forbidden romance! I devoured these books and immediately rushed to recommend them to all my friends. Or, as the actual first line of the email said, "This is not a recommendation okay. This is some REQUIRED READING." I stand by this grammatically iffy sentiment. Whether for yourself or a favorite teenage reader, check out this trilogy. But first, be sure to batten down the hatches, because here comes a sea of feelings. -- Anna Kaufman