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March 2018 News from Malaprop's!
A Note from Emöke
The fight for freedom and independence is in the air again. It is on my mind more than ever lately. I recently came across a coin that I have had a long time and it reads, “A NATION OF IMMIGRANTS…WELCOME TO 2018.” I started as an immigrant (relax, government agent), but now, after almost fifty years, perhaps I am a native.
I know I could not have opened a bookstore of my dreams in any other country, and I hope my and my staff’s contribution is good for our community and our country. Presenting a poetry selection within Malaprop’s was an act of rebellion. My parents’ generation used folk songs and poetry as ‘code’ in the Cold War era in Hungary, and earlier that that. I learned to enjoy poetry early in my life, and realized that it is a very important tool for the survival of our national soul.
The new Asheville Poetry Review has hit our shelves. It is once again a work that does not disappoint. I love the tributes to Kathryn Stripling Byer, North Carolina Poet Laureate from 2005-2009. She was also the first woman to receive this state’s honor. She was loved by many, as I can tell from the contributions by Lee Smith, Joseph Bathanti, Jacki Shelton Green, Fred Chappell, Mary Adams, Catherine Carter and more of our illustrious poets. In her blog, she wrote a kind review of my poetry, and I can assure you her attention meant a lot to me as a poet.
We continue our poetry events and support of emerging and well-known poets in the “Poetrio” format every first Sunday of the month. Reading new poems and finding inspiration on a daily basis are part of a practice I enjoy much, so let me share the one I liked today from Tracy K. Smith (current Poet Laureate of the United States).
Landscape Painting
It is as If I can almost still remember,
As if I once perhaps belonged here.
The mountains a deep heady green, and
The rocky steep drop to waters below.
The peaked roofs, the white plastered
Brick. A clothesline in a neighbor’s yard
Made of sticks. The stone path skimming
The ridge. A ladder asleep against a house.
What is the soul allowed to keep? Every
Birth, every small gift, every ache? I know
I have knelt just here, torn apart by loss. Lazed
On this grass, counting joys like trees: cypress,
Blue fir, dogwood, cherry. Ageless, constant,
Growing down into earth and up into history.
A favorite poet of mine is Naomi Shihab Nye, whose new collection is entitled Voices in the Air: Poems for Listeners. Indulge yourself and learn about your own feelings from the world’s poetry.
Muriel Spark once said that she was a ‘comic with serious intent,’ which I am making my own, also. We will have a presentation of her work of her famous sayings as they appeared to the editors of New Directions. I love the intensity of her language, for example:
“Ridicule is the only honorable weapon we have” or “We could make changes in government and later we could change the desert wastes and the sky even, if we could first make changes in ourselves.”
After reading White Houses by Amy Bloom, Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman, The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin and The Power by Naomi Alderman, the process of reading nonfiction is a good fit. Lyrical fiction can be rewarding and challenging, but The Informed Air and A Good Comb by Muriel Spark is what my palate enjoys most.
I wish that you would enjoy the thought of spring around the corner and the ability to choose a good book every day at your favorite independent bookstores: Malaprop’s and Downtown Books and News. We are Asheville strong!
- emöke
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Layers of a novel unveil themselves in a multitude of ways. The structure used to peel back these layers can be understated or obvious. When understated, it serves as the quiet underpinning of a story. But when decisively evident and apparent, the structure becomes a distinguishable part of the story, like audible mechanics functioning to propel the story forward relentlessly.
In his second novel, The Infinite Future, Tim Wirkus’ use of structure to expose various layers of the novel is original, complex, and apparent. The novel is designed like a Russian nesting doll: a story within a story within a story within a story, each opening upon another in an ever-expanding fashion. This frame narrative gives first-person voice to many characters and allows the author to thoroughly reveal the motivations of each.
The book is, in effect, two books. The first book is narrated by Danny Laszlo, a down-on-his-luck writer and translator, who, along with Sergio, a librarian from Sao Paulo, and Harriet, an excommunicated feminist Mormon historian, becomes entangled in the search for reclusive sci-fi author Eduard Salgado-MacKenzie and his final unpublished manuscript, also entitled The Infinite Future. The second book is the actual manuscript itself, a sci-fi novel about the adventures of Captain Irena Sertorian, whom the reader meets extensively in the first book.
The two stories merge and even mirror each other in unexpected ways.
Wirkus has created a mind-bending tale that has a meta feel to it, with nods to Borges, Vonnegut’s Kilgore Trout, and Ursula LeGuin, among other writers real and imagined. Ultimately, The Infinite Future is part road trip, part mystery, and part pulp science fiction that explores the way stories inform our lives, how we struggle with faith in our search for meaning, and how we deal with dissatisfaction throughout life.
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Bitch Planet v.1 by Kelly Sue Deconnick 
This dark science fiction thriller is something like The Handmaid's Tale meets Escape from Alcatraz, with just a dash of Enter the Dragon... in space! It's smart, bitingly funny, thought-provoking, and doesn't pull any punches.
Castle Waiting by Linda Medley
Expertly crafted, big-hearted, hilarious, strange, and lovely. Read this graphic novel under a tree, and let yourself drift off down a dreamy river of fairy tales with a warm, feminist bend.
Emperor's Soul by Brandon Sanderson
Snag this ferociously fun, bite-sized, well-written fantasy with a healthy dose of kick-ass action if you want a quick escape. The main character, a devilishly clever lady con artist and master thief, will win you over right from the get-go.
My Favorite Thing is Monsters v.1 by Emil Ferris 
This one is hard to sum up; it's so rich and deeply weird! A young girl who lives and breathes pulp-y horror becomes obsessed with investigating the death of her upstairs neighbor... Just trust me on this one - the story and characters are absolutely transfixing, and the art is gobsmackingly, jaw-droppingly gorgeous. (Heads up though, the subject matter is at times very heavy. Don't let this scare you away! It's too good to miss.)
Carrie by Stephen King
A disturbing, savage, compulsively readable tale of shame & rage. You know, teenage girl stuff.
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On Rereading
I spend a lot of time, an awful lot of time, thinking about the effects of repetition. Ideally, a repeated word or phrase subtly alters its meaning. To do otherwise would be redundant. Consider the opening lines to Annie Dillard's Holy the Firm, which also appear in the collection The Abundance as "Paganism."
“Every day is a god, each day is a god, and holiness holds forth in time. I worship each god, I praise each day splintered down, splintered down and wrapped in time like a husk, a husk of many colors spreading at dawn fast over the mountains split."
“I wake in a god. I wake in arms holding my quilt, holding me as best they can inside my quilt."
It reads almost like a pantoum, right?
(If you're into pantoums, check out "My Brother at 3 a.m." in Natalie Diaz's book, When My Brother was an Aztec.)
I've been thinking about repetition and I've been thinking about rereading, too, because a portion of that essay or chapter, the part about a moth flying into a candle and becoming flame, has appeared in at least three different places.
I've been thinking about repetition and I've been thinking about rereading and I've been thinking about rhetoric because thousands of people attended this year's Women's March in Asheville, and more than a million in other cities combined and I've been thinking about how, instead of being redundant, all those millions of repetitions subtly alter the meaning of a message, add to it, enrich it.
And so, naturally, I've thought of my own life and I'm reminded of something Annie Dillard mentions in The Writing Life, "How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing."
I want to spend more time rereading. The gift of rereading is this: You're never the same person as you were when you first read a book. You notice new things; you are the subtly altered meaning, gleaning new information from the unchanged, same source.
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These days, my driving companions are audiobooks. Once I dismissed them as “not really reading,” but that was because I didn’t know what I was talking about. Now I understand why oral traditions are the most profoundly enduring aspect of early human civilizations. Narratives well-told are the most enthralling, the most penetrating. The skillful, subtle narrator’s ability to tell a story embeds in my mind. Some are now permanent residents. And I didn’t even know there was a vacancy.
Authors like Annie Jacobsen narrate their own books. I feel like I know her a little more now because I am aware of what she wants to emphasize in her books. But, the one I wish I had heard straight from the mouth of the author is I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara.
This book shook me up. It disturbed me because it has a surprising story within a story that made the whole investigative endeavor even more poignant. Stop yourself from consulting Google on this matter if you plan to read this book!
The crimes themselves are stunning feats of homicidal prowess and compulsion. Worst of all, the murderer evaded arrest and, to date, has not been definitively identified. Active from 1976 to 1986, this man preyed upon women and heterosexual couples in California, even though many people saw him prowling around suburban neighborhoods and lurking around windows, He fled on foot, on bikes and in cars. I can understand why McNamara became obsessed with this case. It is ripe for solving, and now I probably think about the case every day. Weirdly powerful writing can do that to a person.
Now, when I’m in my car listening to an audiobook, I have a new appreciation for the talented, often theatrically trained, narrators whose voices bring vitality to the books that those of us decided not to read while driving. This could be a public service announcement -- cue the uplifting music.
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Love Note from an Author...
We love when authors love Malaprop's! This week we received this note from debut author Dawn Davies: 
Dear Justin,
Malaprop's is the one place I must visit whenever I am in Asheville. I am a diehard lover of your bookstore and have been there several times. I've wandered the store with jealousy of the authors whose books you already carried, but no matter...jealousy in this instance fueled me and wasn't terribly toxic, and your bookstore is a joy to visit.
I have true respect for whatever magic it is you perform that makes Malaprop's such a vital part of your community. It feels good to know that you understand the power of real, live books you can put on a shelf, carry in a backpack, or keep on the back of a toilet!
It means that much more to know that you rooted for Mothers of Sparta for the February 2018 Indie Next List.

Thank you, again.
Very gratefully,
Dawn Davies
Featured March Events
Thursday, Mar 8 at 6pm
Bill Kopp presents Reinventing Pink Floyd
Tuesday, Mar 13 at 6pm
Elizabeth Kostova presents the paperback launch of The Shadow Land
Wednesday, Mar 14 at 6pm
An Evening with Maira Kalman
Monday, Mar 26 at 7pm
An Evening with Elizabeth George*
*Event at Asheville Masonic Temple
Tuesday, Mar 27 at 6pm
Teach In: Everything You Love Will Burn: Inside the Rebirth of White Nationalism in America
See Full Calendar 

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Malaprops Bookstore/Café  •  55 Haywood Street  •  Asheville, NC 28801

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