Thursday, April 29, 2010

Books and Bands

If you're like me, and I know I am, I love the rock 'n' roll so here's a marriage of two of my favorite things--the music and the books:

Tuesdays With Morrisey!
The Ben Folds Five People You Meet In Heaven!
HA!  And those are just Mitch Albom titles.   

Got this from my dear friend, the real Joe Pope, fans of Ferris, and thought I'd pass it along.  May you larf long and hard.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Reed Next Round Up

Greetings all.  I took a couple of weeks off as Mrs. Next was on Spring Break and we spent considerable quality time together.  Lovely, of course, but I'm behind so a couple of quick hits before I post on Howard Norman's upcoming What Is Left the Daughter.

* I Tweeted this just the other day but just love the idea of Keef being at the library.  He would certainly bring a bit of swagger to any collection

* Sherman Alexie won the PEN/Faulker aware for War Dances, his last book for Grove, against some serious competition (  As an avid Alexie admirer, I enjoyed it though it was obvious he was moving on to another house.  The short stories collected alongside his poems and lists seemed a mix of contractual obligation and permission to "let the kid do as he pleased" as though this was his last summer at home before leaving for school.  Still, that's not to say I didn't love parts.  He can still a turn a phrase and tell a story with the best of them and his ability to create and flesh out little vignettes of human desperation reminds me of Carver, if Carver were funny. 

* Went to a used bookstore for the first time in what seemed like ages.  I had almost forgotten how enjoyable it was to roam the aisles with no real agenda and just allow the books to present themselves.  While I could have spent far more time and money, I was stingy with both and left with Joe Meno's Hairstyles of the Damned, and two Richard Russo titles, Straight Man and Nobody's Fool.

* Happy to report that Reporting At Wit's End is a delight.  St. Clair McKelway's collection of New Yorker pieces from the 1930's through the 1960's show their age at times but the stories are of a time and place we'll never see again told in a way that captures the spirit, soot and savvy of a New York about which we can only smile and reminisce.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Dreaming Deeply with Richard Russo

Just got back from a lovely little affair: a discussion with Pulitzer prize-winning author Richard Russo.   The school where Mrs. Next teaches assigned the brilliant Empire Falls to the eleventh grade and then had him at the school to speak to the kids.  Sadly, I missed his presentation but was able to attend a lunch attended by eight faculty/staff types and Mr. Russo.  While he was peppered with questions, the esteemed author ate a turkey on wheat and pasta salad. 

A few high notes: 

*He just finished editing the next edition of Best American Short Stories.  He spoke highly of work by Wells Tower, Steve Almond, Lauren Groff and Brendan Mathews.

*Work on his next novel begins soon.  That said, it could take him anywhere from a year and a half to six years until it's completed if his track record is examined.

*His daughter is a bookseller at an indie bookstore.  I wish I could explain why this makes me so happy.

*He never pictured Paul Newman as Sully in the HBO adaptation of Empire Falls but as soon as Newman walked toward him on the set, limping in character, he knew it would work out well. 

*A Kindle is a likely purchase for him in the near future.  He's never read a book on one but thinks the ability to have all the books, magazines and papers he reads with him on an upcoming trip to Italy makes sense. 

*After our discussion, he was headed to a local NPR station to be interviewed by Bob Edwards whose featured topic this week is The Future of the Book.

*Favorite quote du jour: "When I read, I want to dream deeply."  

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby

I was but a young bookseller when I was given a copy of High Fidelity and was sold immediately on the author's talents.  There have been some peaks and valleys since but I am happy to say Juliet, Naked is my favorite Hornby book since About a Boy

Hornby has always been adept at, and has become expert in, portraying his characters with depth despite their shallowness, honesty despite their self-deceit and the ability to change after hitting bottom.  He has a way of imbuing his characters with a marvelous sense of humanity while also keeping them normal and real and even mundane.  I believe it is this sense of the mundane that makes them so readily identifiable.  Not only do I know Rob from High Fidelity or About a Boy's Will, I am Rob, I have been Will and, in this instance, Duncan and Tucker AND Annie.  (here's a question I've always had: does Hornby write women well?  After all these years, I still can't decide.)

So, to Juliet:  in short, Duncan, a university teacher, worships an obscure American singer/songwriter named Tucker Crowe, whose retirement from music is shrouded in rumor and innuendo, much of it fueled and speculated on by Duncan and his like-minded Internet cohorts.  Duncan and girlfriend Annie long ago lost sight of each other and muddle through life as DuncanandAnnie, a sort of loveless blob, together more by habit than affection.  When Annie strikes up an unusual email correspondence with the reclusive Crowe, everything comes unglued though it doesn't become the sitcom it could in less capable hands.  Fortunately for the reader, Hornby tells a story that is entertaining and emotionally honest and is filled with warmth, growth and humor.

Remember all the hubbub about Hapworth?

Here's how it happened: 

This fantastic piece from New York magazine tells how a small publisher caught the biggest fish of all, J. D. Salinger, and, despite his best efforts, somehow still managed to let him get away. 

Heartbreaking but true to form, I suppose.