Monday, April 15, 2013

Uncommon Bestsellers l #82-89

#82: Love In Vain: A Vision of Robert Johnson, by Alan Greenberg - You can always tell when Bookseller Joe really likes something because his eyes ablaze, as if embroidering two stop signs on your forehead, and he says the word "amazing" as frequently as teenagers say "like" or "why?" or "no, this sucks." Alan Greenberg's vision is a screenplay without borders. With elements of fiction, anthropology, history, and blues, Robert Johnson's short life explodes off the screen, "even if it's just inside your head." See what I did there? I inserted a quote from Entertainment Weekly's blurb to complement and dovetail joint my own half-baked idea. Poets do this all the time when asked to blurb friends' books, culling lines of text to color up and fill the blanks in of the fact they neither understood nor read all of their friend's poems. You want to talk about suspending disbelief, read the back of Love In Vain and picture Werner Herzog, Robert Palmer, David Lynch, and Dylan sitting down to lunch, and Palmer saying, "Anyone read Greenberg's thing on Johnson?" as Bob Dylan nods and Werner Herzog launches into some haphazard, aimless scree about the nature of reality, when who should raise his hand but... who's on base... David Lynch, in protest, but before he can it's clear that Dylan fell asleep. Who then wakes up and, without saying a word, begins recording his next album. 

#84: Odessa, by Patricia Kirkpatrick - Poetry is 20% off this month. Normally, I'd leave it at that and get back to putting stickers on the books that have dull jackets. But as you probably know, the Minnesota Book Awards were just announced and this year's prize in poetry went to Patricia Kirkpatrick for her stunning collection, Odessa, which inhabits both the underworld of ancient Greek mythology and memory of a speaker diagnosed with brain cancer. At this point in the blog post I had planned to upload a video of Patricia Kirkpatrick reading from Odessa at Common Good Books. Wouldn't that have been something? Unfortunately, things don't always go as planned, and the video I took and tried to email to myself is either floating in the cloud and on its way or accidentally gone forever. I'm the glass half full type, so let's act as if it's on its way, still, and there's nothing to worry or feel bad about. Watch as I smile and continue on to #89. It'll be six years come August. Why? 

#89: The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green - The last book on our list is once again not an uncommon book, but one that I think demonstrates how working at a bookstore changes how you look at books. As a commodity, namely. I'm kidding. Please. Books are great. Who doesn't like books? Besides the vast number of Americans who don't, I mean. I'll be honest. I should pay closer attention to the papers than I do. Not even the papers so much as the news. Not even the news so much as npr. And--you guessed it--not even npr so much as Terry... Gross. If I had a nickel for each time someone came in looking for a book they heard about on npr, I'd treat myself to the first three seasons of Downton Abbey on DVD. Heck, I might even make myself some... let's see here... South of France Tomato Soup with Young Chevre to go with it ( Which is why last fall I was so caught off-guard when dozens of young people came in looking for John Green's book, without flashing their sustaining member cards and reminding me that members save 10%. Instead, it seemed, that word about Green's book got spread around the old-fashioned way: by mouth. Which, in case you're wondering, is the lone exception to the rule about not spreading things by mouth. But that's what I like best (Oh, come on, guys, grow up, some of us are trying to run a respectable blog here): looking at books not as preexisting certainties or advertisements in the flesh, but conversation starters, couriers of authors and ideas you've never heard or thought of. I love opening a box, or rather, watching Joe open a box, and waiting with anticipation to see what's inside, and hoping it's not cooking books. I love finding out that John Green is worth reading from a friend instead of online or inside a magazine. In short, I love it when the news of good books takes its time and comes as a surprise, and why I'm so taken aback when I see books I thought, irrationally, were ours, in airports or in line at Super Target. More often than not, though, I'm entitled to see books as an adventure, with its attendant implications of privacy, or specialty, in hand, as if dropped down from the clouds, wrapped in a blanket. Or plastic wrap. Whatever. The point is, each and every book is as uncommon as you make it; a treasure to behold. Oh, and don't worry about #90-100. It's mostly crap books about animals.

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