Chatter's blog

Let Them Eat Cake!

So many thanks to everybody who came out to celebrate with us at DIESEL in Oakland during our 25th Anniversary Weekend. There was champagne and pie (a natural combination if ever there was one). There were cookies and milk (a previously unheard of combination if ever there was one). There was music and dancing, courtesy of our good friends Dodge's Sundodgers. There was an open mic and bourbon (oh my!). Oh . . . and stupendously gorgeous cakes that tasted as good as they looked, courtesy of the dear folks at Sweet Adeline Bakeshop.

 

Silver anniversary achieved, we're pushing onward now to gold. For twenty-five years we've been in conversation with our neighbors in Oakland, as highlighted in last week's excellent feature on our store in Oakland North. Our bellies filled with cake and heads with books (as are yours apparently), we're asking now for help to to make the conversation even better.

In the video below John & Alison quickly tell the story of DIESEL's past and their vision for its future, and unveil our IndieGoGo fundraising appeal. We hope you'll watch, click, & share. 

 

Three Authors, Three Congratulations

This year marks 25 years of bookselling for DIESEL, A Bookstore in Oakland and maybe it hasn't always been easy, but it has always been fun. We love this place. Over the years, we've had some fantastic authors and readers come into the store and fall in love with it too. Here, wishing us a warm congratulations, are three of them.

Up first is beloved local author, Michael Chabon, whose book Telegraph Avenue is perhaps one of the biggest bestsellers in our bookselling history. Thank you, Michael!

Up next is Mac Barnett, the author and illustrator of some of the best children's books ever, from the awesome Battle Bunny (repurposed from the far sappier and more boring, Birthday Bunny), to the new generation of kid sleuths series, The Brixton Brothers. Thank you, Mac!

And finally, we have author Edan Lepucki, whose book California rocketed into the bestseller stratosphere after booksellers, fellow authors, and the public united behind her (man, we wish all debut authors received such fantastic attention). Thank you, Edan!

People like Michael, Mac, and Edan are part of what makes bookselling a wonderful experience. They're the kinds of authors who understand the need for community and appreciate the chance to connect with the fans who love them. Help us keep bringing authors and readers together for another 25 years! Check out our upcoming Indiegogo campaign by clicking on the link at the top right.

Three Links: Three Books

(1) Given the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, which brought to brilliant light an issue too many for too long chose to ignore, one of the more timely paperback releases last week was Radley Balko's provocative book Rise of the Warrior Cop. Glenn Greenwald's endorsement graces the cover of this edition, and he goes considerably further in this piece at his new news site, The Intercept:

"Balko, who has devoted his career to documenting and battling the worst abuses of the U.S. criminal justice system, traces the history and underlying mentality that has given rise to all of this: the 'law-and-order' obsessions that grew out of the social instability of the 1960s, the War on Drugs that has made law enforcement agencies view Americans as an enemy population, the Reagan-era 'War on Poverty' (which was more aptly described as a war on America’s poor), the aggressive Clinton-era expansions of domestic policing, all topped off by the massively funded, rights-destroying, post-9/11 security state of the Bush and Obama years. All of this, he documents, has infused America’s police forces with “a creeping battlefield mentality.”

 

(2) Peter Mendelsund's new book What We See When We Read is delightfully puzzling -- the sort of thing you're unsure about until the very moment you realize you haven't set it down for nearly an hour. Because it is about what our mind's eye is serving up to us as we read, it's naturally enough hard to fit a description of the book itself purely into words. Thanks to the folks over at the Paris Review for serving up an excerpt-sized taster. Do check it out.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

(3) In his prime and well-beyond, Orson Welles could be one of Hollywood's most ornery visionaries and talents. As demonstrated in the recently transcribed lunch conversations he had with (and that were recorded by) his friend Henry Jaglom, My Lunches With Orson, Welles was as accustomed to holding court off-screen as he was on. Such was the lesson learned (and also recorded) by the producers of this commercial for frozen peas. 

 

Three Links: Living Between the Forgetting & Remembering

(1) It’s “funny,” isn’t it, how the most sobering of thoughts is often the very one most apt to send us rummaging for the closest intoxicant at hand?

Having said that, Charles Simic is always a joy. Choose for yourself whether his "Portable Hell" is a prose-poem, editorial-poem, or poem-poem. (via NYRBlog)

 

 

 

 (2) Philip Larkin's haunted commemoration of the First World War rings true still today.

 

 

(3) Who hasn’t awoken late at night — or possibly midday — and thought to themselves — or possibly out loud to nobody — there really should be — or possibly there is already — a Tumblr of Samuel Beckett Motivational Cat Posters?

Let's Sip Some Sentences

One needn't have an excuse so humdrum & ordinary as a birthday to quote the great William H. Gass. But hey, if you're lucky, you only turn ninety once. And today is Willie's turn! So let's raise our glasses high, friends, and sip some sentences with him.

“[The ideal reader] is skilled and generous with attention, for one thing, patient with longeurs [sic - intentional?], forgiving over error and the author’s self-indulgence, avid for details . . . ah, and a lover of lists, a twiddler of lines. Shall this reader be given occasionally to mouthing a word aloud or wanting to read to a companion in a piercing library whisper? yes; and shall this reader be one whose heartbeat alters with the tenses of the verbs? that would be nice; and shall every allusion be caught like a cold? no, eaten like a fish, whole, fins and skin; . . . oh, [the ideal reader] will be a kind of slowpoke on the page, a sipper of sentences, full of reflective pauses, thus a finger for holding its place should be appointed; a mover of lips, then? just, so, yes. large soft moist ones, naturally red, naturally supple, but made only for shaping syllables, you understand, for singing . . . singing. And shall this reader, as the book is opened, shadow the page like a palm? yes, perhaps that would be best (mind the strain on the spirit, though, no glasses correct that); and shall this reader sink into the paper? become the print? and blossom on the other side with pleasure and sensation . . . from the touch of mind, and the love that lasts in language? yes. Let’s imagine such a being, then. And begin. And then begin.”

– Preface to In the Heart of the Heart of the Country

Close readers & clickers of links will notice that the wonderful NYRB Classics is  breathing new life into Gass' indispensable collection In the Heart of the Heart of the Country this fall. Sentences are dribbling down my chin at the thought!

Congratulations, Maxine Hong Kingston!

Enormous congratulations are due Oakland’s own (&, let’s be real, she’s also one of Diesel’s beloved customers) Maxine Hong Kingston, for being awarded the 2013 National Medal of Arts.  Awards are rarely so deserving as this one.

For a wonderful interview from a few years back, where she reflects on what it means for an artist and activist to age, see here.

A Day in the Life of Diesel: 25 Things Overheard

(1) "A bookstore!"
(2) "I'm so happy you're still here!"
(3) "Is Goldfinch out in paperback yet?"
(4) "I need coffee."
(5) "Do you have Americanah?"
(6) "I just want you to know, I tore up my Amazon Visa."
(7) "This is the store I was telling you about."
(8) "Do you have Americanah?"
(9) "Can I help you find anything?"
(10) "Do you have a bathroom for my son?"
(11) "Oh! I missed Geoff Dyer?!"
(12) "You really should sign up for our weekly newsletter."
(13) "Do you have a bathroom for my husband?"
(14) "Yup. I'm holding a copy in my hand. You want me to hold it for you?"
(15) "Where on earth is my husband?"
(16) "I'm looking for this book called Americanah. Have you heard of it?"
(17) "Look at all this H.D.!"
(18) "Who needs coffee?"
(19) "Is it true this used to be a bowling alley?"
(20) "Stop what you're doing and read this."
(21) "You didn't cry at A Fault in Our Stars? You're a monster!"
(22) "What do you know about this Norwegian author everybody's talking about?"
(23) "Which one of you wrote this shelf talker?"
(24) "This bottle of wine is not going to drink itself!"
(25) "C'mon, let's go in the bookstore!"

Three Links for Independence

(1) The Abbey Bookshop in Paris, France is mad as hell, and they aren't going to take it anymore.  Amazon, as you know, is a world-wide company. As such, it is also a world-wide threat to small businesses, whether it be an independent bookstore in Oakland or Oostend. Which is why we're so very enthusiastic about the Abbey Bookshop's recent "Pledge of the Independents": "In an effort to preserve the free and widest circulation of information and ideas, as well as the diversity, vitality and integrity of an increasingly uncompetitive and dehumanized book-trade, I pledge to buy my books mostly from independent bookshops, and above all without resorting to Amazon or its affiliates.

From their press release:

"Taking the 'Pledge of Independents' means spurning books from Amazon or its affiliates, and preferring independent bookshops over other suppliers. In return, customers will receive from the bookshop the maximum allowable discount on book purchases (5%), other concessions, and assistance in finding alternatives to Amazon.

City-hall statistics (see http://www.semaest.fr/) confirm Paris’ Latin Quarter has lost more than half its bookshops over the last 25 years. We are losing more than just neighborhood businesses and personal service, the greatest threat of Amazon’s near monopoly is the risk to our freedom of expression: already accused of tax optimization and degrading labor practices in Europe, Amazon is now also blocking sales of major publishers’ books (see recent dispute with Hachette U.S.). Cornering the market on selling cameras and clothes is one thing; controlling access to the printed word is another. We have arrived at an alarming point: authors and publishers are afraid to even speak out about Amazon because of their fears of reprisals.

Amazon’s prices come with a social, cultural, and fiscal cost. Now is the right time to act."

Liberté, Fratérnité, Egalité, mon amis.

(2) Javier Marias, one of Spain's most beloved authors, has seven very interesting reasons not to write a novel, and one very good reason to do so. All of which makes me wonder about the possibility of a similar piece about reading them. 

"Earlier, I said that fiction is the most bearable of worlds, because it offers diversion and consolation to those who frequent it, as well as something else: in addition to providing us with a fictional present, it also offers us a possible future reality. And although this has nothing to do with personal immortality, it means that for every novelist there is the possibility— infinitesimal, but still a possibility— that what he [sic] is writing is both shaping and might even become the future he [sic] will never see."

(3) Argentina's César Aira is like very few. Defying convention with each new book and embracing new forms at every turn, he is a store favorite. This interview with Peter Adolphsen at the Louisiana Literature Festival is a wonderful introduction.

Three Links: World Cup Edition

(1) There was much sadness in Diesel-land this week, with the United States men's soccer team falling to Belgium in one of the thrillers of the World Cup. Ah, but let's not hold it against our friends in the Lowlands of Western Europe. Without them we wouldn't have this transcendent cover by Nina Simone. Few imagined Jacques Brel's original could be rivaled. Ah, but like a late goal by an American in extra time, au contraire. 

 



(2) Speaking of the World Cup, that month every four years set aside for many of us to celebrate until the final whistle tells us it is time to sorrow, this is a striking bit of Facebook research.

Facebook has analyzed posts during the World Cup to see which countries celebrate goals the “loudest”—that is, add the most characters when typing the words “goal” in English, “gol” in Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese, “golo” in European Portuguese, and “tor” in German. (While other languages have their own written words for soccer goals—such as ゴール in Japanese or ประตู in Thai—Facebook says those are the only four where they saw “significant use of redundant characters in exuberant posts.”) 

 

 

Take from that what you will. 

(3) Jack Spicer's poem "The Sporting Life" isn't explicitly about soccer, but you who read this space know we're in the business of musing impressionistic and side-glancing stream-of-consciousness. Which is to say, we love excuses to quote writers we love.

 


 

 

Three Poems: Charles Wright

As you no doubt have heard, Charles Wright was recently named U.S. Poet Laureate. He is, it nearly goes without saying, very worthy. Here are three of our favorite poems by him, but we highly suggest you give his collections a look when you're next browsing our Poetry shelves

 

 

 

 

 


 

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