Among the Angels of Memory/ Entre Los Ángeles de la Memoria is a new volume of poetry presented in a bilingual edition by poet, human rights activist and cultural icon Marjorie Agosín. We at Malaprop’s have had the honor of listening to this writer/poet from the anthology Home: An Imaginary Landscape and her presentation with writers in the anthology from the European diaspora. I hear the voices and receive the welcome space I need for contemplation and mind-work. The poem that speaks to me immediately is “The Memory of Water that is a Sky of Words.” You might also remember Agosín from the semi-autobiographical novel I Lived on Butterfly Hill.
Here, so far away,
The map is a mysterious discovery.
It assures me that I live in
another hemisphere, that
this language I speak today is not mine
nor can I be myself in it.
Agosín gives me memories of history, of family, of sadness, and of the ability for hope. I hear often that poetry is too difficult to understand or get into. I know we practice on the musical instrument, we work on craft to ‘perfect’ it, we train for gymnastics BUT we expect poetry just to speak to us on the spot. It is unlike fiction, where the author explains what they want to get across the page. Poetry allows the reader to fill in the space between the lines that the poet puts on the paper. It is full of knowledge for the mind of the reader. And that, my friends, we need to have. We need time to practice reading poetry.
It is also possible that reading a memoir by Jill Bialosky titled Poetry Will Save Your Life can help readers embrace poetry. I find that reading the biographical essays surrounding her chosen poems is a way to surround myself with the mind-space that will allow me to be in the landscape of the poem. It is a treat and highly recommended. The personal lead-in welcomes the poem that is part of the memory.
In 1982, poetry was a major section in Malaprop’s, and that has never changed. Our enjoyable, well-attended event called Poetrio presents three local poets every month. This is a way to meet local poets and have your questions answered. Another event, Poetry on Request, is a new addition to our monthly activities to reach-teach poetry in a surprising way. The poet writes a poem on the spot for the person requesting a poem. I did it once and enjoyed the surprise of it, as it taught me about how I write poems.
Now, to be able to read and view the progress of a poet like Mary Oliver is a real delight. I cannot help but hear her voice in each poem ever since I heard her at UNCA a couple of years ago. Devotions, due out October 10th, is a chronological selection by Oliver. It is important, timeless praise to our common Mother Nature. Reserve your copies early as she is a beloved poet among our readers.
Sebastian Matthew’s slim but powerful selection titled Beginner’s Guide to a Head-on Collision is a memoir in poems available now. He uses poetry to communicate the experience of moving from an auto accident to walking again. Healing happens many ways, as this selection reveals through the journey of one family.
Betty Alcock is always a welcome addition to our poetry selection. Here is an excerpt from the poem “Hold”
We have been torn, self by self, away-
The world clasps us that hard-until at last,
No longer able to keep its grip, it must
Let go despite briars and sunsets, long
fingers of hurt and light that grasps and grasps;
Despite stars and rainstorms and sweet moss,
The orb-web days that catch us up and dawn-lit,
Dew-strewn, struggling and star-crossed.
A timely selection of latest poems from Nikki Giovanni is A Good Cry: What We Learn from Tears and Laughter. It also works as a first-timer’s selection because it helps immerse the soul in the poetry. One line can break your heart, whereas in the next line, hope rises. It appears easy on the eyes, but the meaning is as deep as you can handle it. What you make of it as the reader is always up to you. How much do you allow your soul to benefit from poetry?
New book alerts! If you enjoyed reading Arundhati Roy, Denise Kiernan, Wiley Cash, Ron Rash, Paul Auster, Nancy Kress, Haruki Murakami--rest easy. They all have new books for you to read, and we do have them in the store. Come and enjoy the community of local and global readers.
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Julian, Manager of Downtown Books & News
|When I was a kid I loved going to used bookstores with my mom. They were always dark, with long rows of books placed too close together. They were mysterious and full of dust, and there were weird old books you couldn’t find anywhere else.|
If you have never been to Downtown Books & News, I will begin by saying that it completely lives up to my standards. That being said, DBN (as it is lovingly called by those who know it well) has an added touch of beauty and mystery in the form of zines, a/k/a small-circulation, self-published “magazines.”
I started as the buyer of the zines for the store six or seven months ago. In my youth, I would peruse skate shops and record stores and look at their zine selections. Now I see them in a whole new light. The subjects and craftsmanship are so impressive and lovely. I hadn’t noticed before.
Where Have All the Flowers Gone: The Women of Folk Music by Bijou Karman is beautifully illustrated with pen and ink drawings and short biographies of singers from the 50s, 60s, and 70s. Ease Your Mind: Herbs for Mental Health by Janet Kent is a comprehensive guide to mental health herbalism. The zine is arranged by symptom rather than plant and has been a helpful resource for me, personally. Tomas Moniz’s To Be Whole Is To Be Part is a small collection of poems about things that inspire him. It is at times funny, sweet, and sad. These are only a few of the many zines we have in the store.
Downtown Books & News is one of the few stores in Asheville that sells zines. The artists that make these zines do it more out of love than for money. The prices usually do not exceed $10, and that is for one of the more expensive ones. Please come and support the artists, poets, and activists who create these wonderful publications. You may just fall in love.
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Bobby: Collecting Bookstores
|I collect bookstores. Not the way you are thinking. I don’t buy bookstores. I’m not some wealthy investor going around scooping up bookstores for their financial windfall. No, I collect bookstores by experiencing the store, by walking in and up and down the aisles, observing and listening. Bookstores are the perfect place to be exposed to the energy of a community.|
On a recent road trip to Chicago, my wife and I were able to add to my collection of bookstores.
We strolled into Town House. Stumbled into Myopic. We sought refuge from the heat and humidity in Carmichael’s in Louisville. No wonder Hunter S. never went back.
Town House Books is off North Avenue in downtown St. Charles, Illinois, west of Chicago. We have lunch in the restaurant half, delicious. Then stroll over to the bookstore and feast on a steady diet of Chicago history, staff favorites, fiction, current events and end up buying On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder and The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. The staff is busy trying to solve the latest puzzle given them by a customer: I think the book is about a boy growing up disfigured? Gotta be Wonder by R. J. Palacio, the staff figures. The owner tells us about the book signings and author dinners they host. It’s a great shop, eclectic and inviting and a fantastic place to feast on food and books. Add it to the collection
In the hip Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago, we came across Myopic Books. It’s nine-thirty or ten o’clock and the place is hopping. We’ve had dinner and drinks enough to want to settle in for a bit. It’s Chicago’s best used bookstore. Titles are stacked floor to ceiling and tucked into every nook and cranny. Skinny aisles, and a tiny staircase lead to a loft area and more books. The place is not big but seems to continuously unfold as we work our way through, sort of dreamlike (or maybe it was the buzz). Myopic seems a community hub and hangout spot. They do readings as well as live music. We picked up a Luis Borges short story collection, Dave Eggers’ And You Shall Know Our Velocity and The Duel: A History. As we are checking out, I mention Malaprop’s and one of the booksellers says he was just in Asheville and spent some time in our store. Maybe he collects bookstores, too.
On the way back to Asheville, we stop in Louisville, KY, and spend the afternoon and evening in teh Bardstown Road area. The city is dripping with humidity as we walk, checking out shops and restaurants. Finally, we reach Carmichael's Bookstore. We open the door, are met with a blast of cool air and I know we are home--for an hour or so, at least. Staff members discuss current events with the regulars that pop in. Carmichael's is a smallish store and serves as a community-gathering place, as any good bookstore should. It's been around since 1978, has a separate kids store a block up the road, and is committed to keeping Louisville weird. One thing I think is weird, wonderfully weird, is how the bottom shelves of all the bookcases are angled up so the titles near your feet are more visible. Brilliant! After perusing the carefully curated selection of titles, we settle on a copy of Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit (she's a new favorite). Consider Carmichael's collected.
I wonder what might be the next addition to my collection…
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Jacob's Farewell Post
So I’m going to write about a couple books I actually read a while ago, but which are both just now coming out (both to acclaim), one that I just finished, and one I’m only a quarter of the way through (bear with me).
I’ll start with A Loving, Faithful Animal, the debut novel by Australian writer Josephine Rowe. It’s the story of a dark, damaged Australian family, and is arranged with a section dedicated to each, and a different voice and perspective for each, too. Whether dealing with the struggles of being a young parent struggling with the superficial modeling industry, reckoning with Australia’s role in the Vietnam War, or a teenager’s dive into drugs and alcohol one night, the writing is always gorgeous, a bit hazy and dreamlike, but always precise and evocative. Stay tuned because the W.I.L.D. book club reads it later next year!
Next is Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie, which just made the longlist for the 2017 Man Booker Prize! It might be my lack of literary knowledge, but I had no idea until her note at the end that it’s a sort of retelling of Antigone set in modern times—surveillance states and religious ones, rebellious youth and misguided parents—but it doesn’t rely on that literary heritage at all. The story is absolutely captivating, and her grasp of the story (meticulously researched), characters, and amazing prose are all obvious indicators of why it’s on the Booker list.
Unfortunately, even though these are both international, neither of them is translated. So, the one I actually just finished is a small gem of a novel, translated from the Kannada language of India, called Ghachar Ghochar by Vivek Shanbhag. It reminded me a lot of Domenico Starnone’s newly translated (by Jhumpa Lahiri) novel, Ties, in that it’s a really short but densely-packed novel that focuses entirely on inter-family drama—and it’s barely more than a hundred pages, but packs so much of their history and so many of their quirks and personalities into that space, all wrapped up into a beautifully written delight.
This morning I started reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s memoir, In Other Words. Although I’ve wanted to read it for a while (she wrote it in Italian and they show both the Italian and English), I don’t think I’d realized how relevant it would feel, after just a few of the chapters. She starts by charting her early fascination and experiences with Italy and Italian, and how she ultimately decides to move to Italy and change what language she lives and writes in. The writing, in Ann Goldstein’s translation (I like reading Italian but barely understand it) is of course beautiful, just like Lahiri’s translation of Starnone’s novel—her first long-form piece in English since she moved—and although her experience with languages is much more fraught (English isn’t her first, and she says her “first,” her mother’s language, doesn’t feel like one to her—she has an accent, doesn’t know how to read or write in it), it felt like a timely thing for me to be reading.
Timely because, though it makes me truly sad to say, I’ll be leaving Malaprop’s probably just days after this newsletter is published, at the beginning of September, in order to go to Spain and teach English and have some more time to translate. It’ll be the longest continuous amount of time (a year) I’ve spent in a foreign country, and so the thought of being able to immerse myself in Spanish and Catalan—I’m going to Palma, on the island of Mallorca, so hopefully I can add to my knowledge of Spanish minority languages—is probably the main reason I’ve been wanting to do this, in truth much more than the English teaching (it’s an easy visa). Anyway, I’m not much good at goodbyes, so I won’t say much, but to anyone with whom I’ve interacted at the store, whether I’ve fooled you into buying one of my staff picks or not, it’s been an absolute pleasure. To everyone I work with at this store, the best place I’ve ever worked, and especially to Emöke, who’s created this magical place and kept it going for so long, I’ll miss you all dearly, and will be sending a postcard or two! (And one for you, too, Amy.)
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September Event News!
|One of the busiest months in publishing is coming up soon, and we want to make sure you are prepared to take full advantage of the literary riches that will pour into your favorite bookstore this September.|
First, a note for your calendar: due to popular demand, we will begin most of our evening events at 6 pm starting in September. The exceptions: book clubs will still meet at 7 and the monthly Writers Coffeehouse will start at 6:30.
Second, please check out the September events on our website or pick up a paper calendar next time you are in the store. It is no exaggeration to say that we will be hosting some of the best writers publishing today. Most are free and open to the public.
We do have two ticketed events in September. These will both sell out, so grab a ticket soon!
The first is with historians and NYT best-selling authors Denise Kiernan and Karen Abbott. Denise has written the history of the Vanderbilt family and the Biltmore Estate we've all been waiting for: The Last Castle: The Epic Story of Love, Loss, and American Royalty in the Nation's Largest Home. We are hosting the launch on September 26th and each ticket includes a copy of the book. It will be a night to remember: there is little doubt we will be spellbound by these two accomplished storytellers in conversation here. Help us celebrate this essential book for our city.
The second is with motivation coach Jen Sincero whose latest book, You Are a Badass at Making Money is already changing the way Asheville readers think about their income potential. You can pick up your ticket and book now, and be prepared with questions for Jen when she is in town on September 29th.
See you soon!
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Stephanie, Assistant Director of Marketing and Author Events
|Your subscription to the Malaprop's monthly newsletter includes a subscription to Shelf Awareness for Readers. This newsletter arrives on Tuesdays and Fridays and introduces readers to the best 25 books of the week, as chosen by booksellers, librarians, and other book world experts. It also includes reminders about upcoming events at Malaprop's, including author appearances and book clubs.|
If you have not yet received Shelf Awareness, you will start to see it in September. We know inboxes can fill up, so if you prefer not to receive Shelf Awareness, please just click unsubscribe at the top of any Shelf Awareness email. Unsubscribing from Shelf Awareness will not impact your subscription to our monthly newsletter.
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