Eric Jerome Dickey, Greg Iles and the 4 X 12 Reading Series

There’s a lot going on at Booksellers.  We’ve got Eric Jerome Dickey this Friday ejdnight, starting at 6:00 p.m. He’ll be there to sign his new book, A Wanted Woman.  His new book is a steaming-hot  thriller set in Barbados. Fans, you may want to get there a little early: the calls and inquiries have been pouring in.  Maybe drop by for a little browsing, a cup of coffee or a bite to eat at our Bistro. Beat the crowds and give yourself a little time to relax.

Greg Iles will be in store on May 1st. His new book is Natchez Burning , and will benb available on April 29th.  Again, another big star in the sky.  Avoid the rush by purchasing a voucher.  This will insure your copy of the book and a place in the queue. Again, you’ll want to come early for this event.  Just ask any of our booksellers about the vouchers, or give us a call.

A new page has been added to the blog.  Please take a look.  Booksellers has hosted many outstanding musical events, and will be hosting many more.  Our weekly music series in Bookseller Bistro represents some of the finest in local performers, and we have hosted everyone from Iris Orchestra to Aardvark Music during some of our Story Time events.

Finally this just in: Booksellers at Laurelwood will be hosting the 4 X 12 reading series. Our own Kat Moore will be one of the four talented MFA students presenting a twelve minute excerpt  from some of their work.

fourby

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The Narratives of War

“Here I Am:  The Story of Tim Heatherington, War Photographer.”  By Alain Huffman.  Grove press.
Best known for his film, co-produced with Sebastian Junger, “Restrepo,” which was nominated for an Oscar
documentary,  Tim Heatherington was an awarded war photographer who began his career in the Liberian Civil War and continued until his untimely death in Libya in 2011.
“Here I Am:  The Story of Tim Heatherington, War Photographer,” by Alain Huffman is a record of that extraordinary career.  Heatherington considered himself to be much more than a war photographer.  He was a photojournalist and filmmaker who happened to film war stories.  He was interested in telling a narrative of why young men were attracted harringtonto war.  He had a sensitivity for his subject that other correspondents overlooked.  He could get to the crux of his subject in subtle ways that other photographers struggled to find.  He came to the conclusion that many young men were searching for their purpose in life, and that the war experience was the ultimate test of that resolve.  He could have been speaking for himself as well.
“Restrepo” was an outpost in the Korengal Valley of Afghanistan that served as a huge middle finger to the Taliban.  It was named after a beloved fallen comrade, and what was evident more than anything else was the camaraderie of the soldiers, their closeness in battle, their sacrifices for each other.  In one sequence, Heatherington filmed the soldiers asleep, giving them the innocence of children in the most heatherington3difficult of circumstances.  One of the more interesting anecdotes in the book was the stark difference between the deprivations suffered in the Korengal and the surreal atmosphere of the Hollywood elite when he and Junger were attending the parties for the Oscar nominees.
Huffman is exceptional at pointing out the pains taken by the photographers in combat zones.  Many times their lives were on the line simply by getting to the battle, much less filming it.  To say that they are a band apart would be an understatement.  Some of them, of course, become addicted to the adrenaline rush of war, but in Heatherington’s case, he was quick to point out his fear of the experience.  His friends had warned him against the danger in Libya, where many of the soldiers were inexperienced not only in troop movements but in the use of their weapons.  There was a high risk of friendly fire added to the lethality of the government troops.
Where rebel fighters often seek to protect the journalists, because they know it’s the sympathy of the outside world that heatherington2will be a large measure of their success, government forces often openly seek to kill the journalists so that the story will not be told.  Heatherington felt compelled to tell the story.  Unfortunately, it’s a story that gets re-told over and over with little variation.  The capacity for human cruelty continues no matter how many times it’s told.
Heatherington’s death was tragic, no matter the circumstances.  What compels the journalists to tell the story is the strong desire that such devastation stop.  It’s a story that no amount of photos or films has been able change, only to situational diminish.  But that in itself is a worthy venture. War correspondents are often overlooked as victims of the wars they document, but the increasing number of them killed in battle make it impossible to neglect.
Steve Corrigan
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A Man Called Destruction: A New Biography of Alex Chilton

 

Please join the Booksellers at Laurelwood and Crosstown Arts to celebrate the release of “A Man Called Destruction: The Life and Music of Alex Chilton”, the first biography of the influential musician and forebear of the indie-rock scene by Holly George Warren. Booksigning with the author and conversation with Andriachilton Lisle with performances by Loveland Duren (Van Duren & Vicki Loveland with Jessi Munson) Opening Act: Ross Johnson and the Klitz.

Exhibit by Vincent Astor
Mortimer’s Daily Special and more

story booth / Crosstown Arts, 438 & 430 N. Cleveland
free admission-starts at 6 p.m.

crosstown

 

 

 

 

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The Hermit Kingdom

Not much is known about the Hermit Kingdom, North Korea. One of the scholars trying to change that is Andrei Lankov, a native Russian who was an exchange student in North Korea in the 1980′s, speaks the language, and has stayed in contact with many ex-patriots as well as officials within in the country throughout his RNKcareer. His third book on the subject, the recently published  The Real North Korea, is a welcome addition to his previous work. Often portrayed in the media as a nation of madmen with little hold on the reality of public diplomacy, Lankov sees the Korean leadership as using brinkmanship and nuclear blackmail as the only way to sustain itself. The logic in its thinking is that it’s the only way left for it to get what it wants, that is, the aid that keeps it in power since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Lankov begins with the founder of the Kim family dynasty, Kim il-Sung, establishing a Stalinist model society after his tutelage in the Soviet Union. He wanted to provide everything his people needed, from housing to food to protection, in a collective state that could compete with the outside world and stand as a legacy to his great leadership. And with the benefit of massive amounts of aid from his benefactor, Stalin, he was able to do so for some time. That was before the economic miracle of South Korea, coupled with the dead weight of an economic system that was unsustainable, especially after the Soviet Union dissolved. Since that time, continuing with his son, Kim Jong-Il, and his grandson, Kim Jong-Un, North Korea has been a country that seeks the protection of China to keep it afloat. China, of course, much prefers the status quo in North Korea to any kind of confederation between the North and the South, that would surely be dominated by the South. But Lankov believes it’s only a matter of time, perhaps ten or twenty years at the most, that the Kim dynasty will remain in power, and that eventually the country will be united in some sort of way. He gives many reasons why, not the least of which is that the Kim dynasty has more interest in perpetuating itself than in making its own people the victims of its failed policies. Lankov demonstrates how this might be achieved. He is a champion of any kind of communication between the people of the North and the South. Even the staunchest supporter of the Kim family could see, without a doubt, the vast difference in the wealth of the two countries. He suggests joint economic ventures, exchange programs, the embrace of North Korean ex-patriots, giving them jobs in something that doesn’t condemn them to the underclass, but rather makes them feel like a part of the South, that they have a real stake in bettering their lives and the lives of their fellow countrymen. Further suggestions are made to the governments that deal with the Kim dynasty. It will never give up its nuclear capacity, it says, because it considers giving up that power would bring the same kind of ruin to their rule as what happened to Gaddhafi or Saddam Hussein. Therefore, the United States policy seems too stringent to him, although he sees the difficulty of allowing the North to keep its facilities when that would be perceived as giving in to blackmail. He thinks engagement between countries is essential to change. If no new facilities could somehow be a part of the bargain, the old facilities would become irrelevant. The Real North Korea is a sober look at a difficult situation, and one can only hope that our diplomats take it into consideration. There is much common sense here, as well as an opening into the mind-set of a dynasty that seems impenetrable. -Steve Corrigan

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Michael Connelly’s Latest on Judgement and Redemption

The Gods of Guilt – Michael Connelly.  Little Brown Pub.
Michael Connelly doesn’t need me to sell books for him, instant best-sellers every one, but his latest novel, his 26th, “The Gods of Guilt,” is worth a mention.  A Lincoln Lawyer novel, Michael Haller is the protagonist, as opposed to Connelly’s other main character, Harry Bosch, Haller being the public gofgdefender of the often very guilty, while Bosch is the ex-LA cop turned detective.  Both are damaged, Bosch maybe a bit more, but both have their demons to live with.  In Haller’s case it often has to do with the type of people he defends, but the law, in his justification, has to be defended if it is to have any integrity.  The title of the novel refers to the jury, which holds the power of guilt or innocence in its hands.
“The Gods of Guilt” could be used as a primer for a tour through the criminal court system.  It’s well-plotted and the prose is clean and direct.  Haller knows what strings to pull to make the system work for him, which doesn’t sit well with his daughter, with whom he has a distant relationship, owing to her disgust with some of his clients.  She is one of the Gods of Guilt who sits on the jury in the eyes of his judgment.  It’s obvious he’s a long way from redemption, but it’s a road he continues to travel with that in mind.
Connelly is at his best when guilt is the theme.  He probably does it better than anyone else.  “The Gods of Guilt” might stand alongside his best novels to date.  He seems to get better as his career moves steadily forward.
Steve Corrigan
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Author Bill Cotter to Sign Parallel Apartments

 

 

The Parallel Apartments is a literary tightwire act executed almost flawlessly. Author Bill Cotter isn’t just a sure handed storyteller…he’s cocky. He tosses off cotterwords long withered from disuse within the pages of an unabridged OED. He ratchets up the absurdity level and challenges you to get off the ride. He offers up the most whacked-out rogue’s gallery of deeply flawed (and frequently pitiful) characters and dares you to care about them.

Bravo, Bill Cotter. You pulled it off. The Parallel Apartments is a sui generis farcical exploration of personal identity, delivered with delightful descriptive specificity, uncommon brio and unexpected compassion.

The story centers on three generations of women, Charlotte, her daughter Livia and Justine, Livia’s daughter, and how their personal “sins” are not just revisited on their offspring, but create the very form their lives will take. Cotter jumps around in time from Charlotte’s 1950’s youth, depicted as mostly realistic and recognizable, to 2005, which is presented as a funhouse mirror version of our reality. The world in The Parallel Apartments becomes increasingly absurd and grotesque, the supporting charters more outrageous. Beyond providing reliable humor (ranging from broad, to sly, to cutting), this absurdity helps bring to the forefront the humanity and universality of Charlotte, Livia and Justine’s wants, desires, and fears. Regardless of how strange or awful or wonderfully weird or libertine the world becomes, our brains, bodies and egos need to be expression and protection.

The cover image features a set of matryoshka nesting dolls, an object revisited in the book’s coda. The Parallel Apartments explores how the previous generations—in their experiences and mistakes—creates the very shape we start out seeing the world. With each passing generation, even while the world changes and becomes more rife with possibilities, we’re always laden with the accumulated baggage of past generations. In this way, they create the very shape of the walls, barriers, and hurdles we strike out against. Personal rebellion is intrinsically defined by the very thing we rebel against. The book’s secondary characters play out this theme in various bizarre and delightfully unexpected ways.

My enthusiasm for The Parallel Apartments is tempered by the personal allowance that I may have a limited reading of the sexual politics inherent in the story. It takes confidence, nerve… hubris …for Bill Cotter to craft a multi-generational female-driven story that traffics so heavily (yet largely implicitly) in female sexuality. Prostitution, miscarriage, sexual promiscuity, pregnancy fears and gender-based power dynamics all play significant roles in the story. Someone with a more sharply honed feminist reading may (rightly) find Cotter’s representations naïve, inaccurate, outright dismissive or worse. I found Cotter’s depiction of the modern world (and the recent past to a lesser extent) as absurd and grotesque an effective distancing technique, highlighting the goodness and humanity (with all its flaws) in Charlotte, Livia and Justine. Cotter is is never cruel to them, and provides them all with a relatively full-fleshed humanity. They are not perfect, they have made terrible mistakes, but they all have earned their dignity and deserve our compassion, care and even respect. That’s my reading and I would very much be interested in an opposing or more nuanced reading.

From the first page of The Parallel Apartments, author Bill Cotter puts on an Elvis jumpsuit replete with blinking neon lights, steps to the mic and announces that he’s going to drive his urine-powered mini-bike—blindfolded—to victory in the Indianapolis 500. It’s bold, hubristic, full of foolish confidence, likely regrettable, but attention-grabbing for sure. By the time I finished The Parallel Apartments, I’d experienced every emotional stage a spectator would in witnessing this scenario.
“What?”…
”Really?”
“C’mon…”
”Hmmm…”
“Wow”…
“This is awesome, but no way he can pull this off.”
”Oh man, if he can pull this off…”
“I’ve never seen anything like this!”
“Please! Just don’t crash down the stretch.”
“YES!”

Bill Cotter deserves the trophy and accolades, but the readers of The Parallel Apartments are the winners.

-Matt Nixon

Bill Cotter will be signing and discussing his books at Booksellers on Tuesday, March 18th, from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

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“The Hotel on Place Vendome”  by Tilar J. Mazzeo.  Published by Harper.  Releases  on March 11.
“The Hotel on Place Vendome” by Tilar J. Mazzeo is an informal history of the Ritz Hotel in Paris, built in 1898 during the Belle Epoque.  It’s a short delight to read because of all the famous patrons that once lived there and considered it at least a semi-permanent residence.
Marcel Proust used to write there.  Jean Cocteau painted there.
Special attention is paid to the period of the Second World War when so many well-known figures established a home away from home residence in its bar, if not its rooms.  Artists like Ernest Hemingway, Martha Gellhorn, Coco Chanel, Robert Capa, Mary Welsh, Irwin Shaw, Marlene Dietrich, hoteland Ingrid Bergman play primary roles in the narrative.  It gives an interesting portrait of the life of occupied Paris, where the deprivations of so much of the rest of the city didn’t exist in a legendary Hotel occupied by so many German officers who protected it from destruction, perhaps its heyday in historical interest.
In some ways it reminds the reader of Rick’s Place in “Casablanca.”
Who wouldn’t be interested in some of the antics that took place in the rooms?  Perhaps the liaison between Simone de Beauvoir and Ernest Hemingway was a standard for the type of behavior during such intense times.  Jean Paul Sartre finally took the hint his presence was no longer desired, and went home alone by three in the morning.  But what could be expected of Hemingway, who began each morning at the Ritz with a bottle of champagne.  The Chelsea Hotel in New York twenty years later had nothing on the Ritz for the shenanigans of its artists.
Mazzeo concludes with an update on the present condition of the hotel, which is in dire need of much repair.  It would be a shame for such a magnificent building with such a rich history to fall into disrepair.  Perhaps this book can do its part in bringing attention to landmarks that need to be restored, if not for the respect of the past, then for the generations to come.
-Steve Corrigan
“Astoria” by Peter Stark.  Published by Ecco Press/Harper.  releases on March 4
It was John Jacob Astor’s dream to establish a major trading route in the Pacific Northwest in the early years of the nineteenth century that would eventually trade furs bought from the Indian tribes, or hunted by his own voyageurs, to China, and then to trade those goods for Chinese silks and teas to the Europeans and the Americans in a global enterprise that would require his own fleet of ships to sail around Cape Horn, and his own private company of explorers and backwoodsmen to brave the privations and the elements overland to accomplish the goal.  Naturally, one of the most important aspects of his dream would be to have the leadership available to make his dream a reality.
The genesis of the idea could well have been the recent Lewis and Clark expedition.  President Jefferson was an early believer in the project, wanting the lands to the West of the Louisiana Purchase to be astoriaexplored and colonized by Americans in a grand sweep of Manifest Destiny that would reach the ocean.  At the time the area was occupied by the British, the Canadians, The Russians, as well as the Indian tribes, and the threat of the Spanish from the south in California.  In order to escape the Balkanization that Europe suffered and to protect the American colonies, the visionaries always had an American empire in mind that would reach from sea to sea.  It was necessary to occupy the land to accomplish that goal.  Astor’s vision included such a colony.
He referred to it as Astoria, which is the title of Peter Stark’s new book.  “Astoria” is as much an adventure story on the level of Jon Krakauer’s books as it is a neglected history of America’s far western beginnings.  The harsh conditions of the climate, the difficulty of even reaching the destination as much as conquering it for civilization, the hostility of the Indian tribes, all combined to make it an astonishing accomplishment that anyone would attempt such an enterprise. To be successful once getting there would be a bonus of unexpected proportion.
Stark follows both an overland and a by sea expedition begun by Astor.  The chances of material wealth were enormous.  Beaver and seal skins were in great demand and the game was plentiful beyond measure. Millions of the animals were available.  It would not be unheard of for 80,000 seal skins to be sent to China.
But perhaps the odds were too enormous.  Astoria never became a colony of America, but the beginnings of what would be the far western territories of the United States was established, and the rival countries were eventually overwhelmed by the American presence.  Stark concludes that Americans like success stories such as the Lewis and Clark expedition.  In  contrast Astoria was not immediately a success.  Perhaps this is the reason that the story is seldom told.  It’s a bit of an unknown chapter in our history.  But Stark gives credit for one of the return trips to the east of an Astor expedition marking the foundation of what would become the Oregon Trail through the Rocky Mountains, which would make it possible for future wagon trains to colonize the western territories and claim them for the U.S.
Washington Irving was hired to write a history of the colony, which was published in 1836.  It was a collection of several personal diaries kept by members of Asor’s company.  The book was a huge success at the time, lending more interest in the far west as American territory, the importance it would mean to the new republic.
Stark’s book is an interesting account of all the trials and tribulations that were encountered along the way, a very enjoyable book about men and women on the edge of civilization, suffering deprivations that seem unbelievable now.  How they survived is story enough.  Their accomplishments add to their legacy.
Why wasn’t Astoria a success?  Astor blamed it on poor leadership at critical times.  But he was never on the frontier in the front lines with his men.  The conditions were too harsh, the time wasn’t right, and perhaps Astor was correct.  Leadership always seems to be an important key.  Perhaps there was no one like Lewis or Clark there to make the decisions.  But the story is no less remarkable.
-Steve Corrigan
“Redployment”  by Phil Klay.  Published by Penguin Press.  Releases on March 4.
“Redeployment” by Phil Klay is a collection of short stories about Iraq War veterans which will rank with the best of the fictional accounts of the war, such as “Little Birds,” “You Know When the Men Are Gone,” and “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk.”  Because of the quality of the personal memoirs of redeploymentsoldiers in the war, the fictional accounts sometimes get overlooked.  This won’t be the case with Klay’s book.  It allows the author to jump from one place to the next, to have multiple narrators, to consider more than one aspect of the experience.  There’s not a wasted word here.  “The dialogue is impressive. The writing is clean and direct.  After reading this book, it would seem impossible to ever again view war as a romantic venture.
The title story, as well as “Money as a Weapons System,” and “Psychological Operations” are especially difficult to forget.  This book brings home without any doubt the cost of war on an individual’s future life, the problems in returning to society after being required to do what has been asked of him or her, and how veterans view civilians who have no concept of what the veteran goes through.  In a war where only 1% of the population has participated, isolation would seem like a natural state of mind for a veteran.
It will be interesting to see where Klay goes from here.  He seems on the verge of a prosperous future as a writer and a social commentator.
-Steve Corrigan
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