Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Farewell Dorothy Parker and Other News

I can't believe that I missed this event, because I only read about it on Shelf Awareness after it was over, arg!
Last week, Seattleites witnessed a rousing book event at the EMP
(Experience Music Project) Museum, when the authors of The Mongoliad:
Book Three (47North) took part in their book's launch. Seven
authors--Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, Mark Teppo, Nicole Galland, Joseph
Brassey, Erik Bear and Cooper Moo--came for a q&a, free drinks and a
swordfight. Brassey (l.) and Teppo donned a bit of armor and wielded
swords to show the crowd what they had been learning from The Flower of
Battle, a 14th century treatise by Fiore dei Liberi, an Italian knight.
The study of martial arts is no mere whim on the part of role-paying
fantasists; rather, the many battle scenes in the Mongoliad trilogy are
carefully planned and described based on real movement (and sound:
"singing swords" is not a metaphor--steel swords actually make singing
sounds when whipped through the air). Those attending enjoyed the demo
("Swords and alcohol. What could go wrong?"), and the subsequent
discussion about a cohort of authors meeting every Sunday with coffee,
donuts and Skype; it was a "gloriously messy" process.
 "So much is different--technology-driven changes, the dynamics and scale
of the business, of the city, of the world--yet some constants have been
in place since Walter Carr and Nanci McCrackin opened Elliott Bay. We
find books to put in the hands of readers, book-by-book,
person-by-person, day-by-day. It's been that ever thus."

--Rick Simonson
senior buyer and co-director of Elliott Bay Book Company's reading series, explaining how his
job has--and hasn't--changed over the years in an interview with

 Now I have a reason to visit Toronto, Canada. I think I'd love this odd, unique bookstore:

Toronto's Monkey's Paw: 'An Oddly Modern Antiquarian Bookshop'

"You have these hip 26-year-old downtown Toronto kids--they've actually
literally never been to a bookshop. They come here and they're like: 'It
reminds of a scene in Harry Potter.' My wife put it nicely: the Monkey's
Paw is like someone's idea of a bookshop,'
" owner Stephen Fowler told the New York Times T Magazine in a profile
of his "tiny shop... specializing in the arcane and the absurd"
headlined: "An Oddly Modern Antiquarian Bookshop

"This isn't the store where you'll find the book you were looking for,"
Fowler observed. "It's the store where you'll find the book you didn't
know you were looking for." T Magazine noted that "you may find
something else surprising at the Monkey's Paw, too: a glimpse of the
future, a way forward for the old-fashioned bookstore in the age of the
iPhone and the e-book."

"Most booksellers can't adjust to the postprint era," said Fowler. "The
only way to sell books in the 21st-century is as artifacts. I'm a
20th-century person myself, but with Monkey's Paw, I've tried to adapt.
This place is a church of print. It's just that the old rules are a bit
scrambled.... The experience of Web browsing makes it possible for a
shop like this to exist. The randomness of the book displays, they're
like the Web--masses of unrelated information popping up next to each
other, their context pretty much wiped out. Basically, the Monkey's Paw
is a celebration of old print culture, presented in way that resonates
with digital-age people."

I've read a couple of Po Bronson's books, and this latest one looks pretty interesting. I think that Bronson has taken over for Studs Terkel as the bard of the American people.
Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing
by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman (Twelve Books).

Also, I just finished reading Code Name Verity, which I'd assumed was going to be like most YA books and have something of a happy ending, but it didn't, and "Farewell Dorothy Parker" by Ellen Meister, which I'd assumed would be research-heavy and somewhat biographical, but it wasn't what I expected, either. Farewell is actually  a light, fun, quick read full of romance and the trials and tribulations of the wee timorous cowering beastie that is the protagonist, Violet, who shrinks from pretty much everything in her life. The reason that she is such a chicken is because her sister was verbally manipulative and abusive to her as a child, which apparently scarred her for life. I found that rather hard to believe. I was bullied and tormented by many more people than Violet as a child, and it certainly didn't turn me into an emotional coward and a timid, cringing person who can't manage to deal with relationships or social situations without falling apart and running away. 
But Violet comes upon the ghost of Dorothy Parker, who shepherds Violet into a romance and out of an abusive relationship, and she also helps her get custody of her niece and get over her social timidness. Of course, there are all the great Dorothy Parker quips and quotes along the way, and we learn that Ms Parker had some family trauma to deal with as well. Still, I found Violet's choice of career (movie critic at a magazine) interesting, since she was able to be vituperative on the page but couldn't summon the courage to tell an old boyfriend to get lost in person. I enjoyed Violets interplay with other characters, especially with her niece, but I have to say I found her inability to cope with any kind of confrontation rather annoying and silly by the time I was halfway through the book. Still, the plot was so swift and the prose so clean and clear, I had the book done in the space of an afternoon. I'd highly recommend this novel to those who enjoy stories of the Algonquin Round Table and Dorothy Parker's legendary wit, while also reading a love story that has the requisite HEA. Solid A.

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