Do you all have cabin fever yet? Break out of your igloos Thursday and head to Punch House for the first ever TALES FROM THE PUNCHBOWL, featuring drinks (I hear they have hot punch…) and great literature via some of our favorite small presses, Curbside Splendor Publishing and Two Dollar Radio. This is something you really, really don’t want to miss, so we’ll make sure to remind you over the next few days, too.
One of our booksellers, Jeff Waxman, is working his last shift at the store today (seems the weather is making the argument for him to stay: proven by the slushy window display of some of Jeff’s favorite staff recs, handsells, and what-have-you).
Jeff has worked here in some capacity for the last 6 years and in that time has handsold hundreds of books, invented 5 or 6 different ice cream floats (yeah, we have float days over the summer; it’s a hard life), and affected the store in countless ways.
He’s been a phenomenal bookseller, a great coworker, and a good friend. We will miss him (you’re very lucky to get him Other Press), but his staff recs and his influence on his coworkers and the customers that sought him out will remain.
Goodbye…for now, Jeff.
Happy New Years from 57th St Books! We know January can be a bit of a downer, what with the holidays over and -50 windchills around the corner, but at least we have British crime & costume dramas to keep us afloat! In honor of the return of Downton Abbey & Sherlock this month, we put together a window display of related literature, from a “downstairs” history of England to a collection of Victorian crime writing featuring female protagonists. Find a complete list of titles here: http://www.semcoop.com/sherlock-holmesdownton-abbey-0
I’d have a tough time classifying Hawthorn & Child as a literary detective novel (I mean, if we’re labeling things, which we probably shouldn’t, but too late on that front). Sure, the titular characters (who are almost more ghostly presences than anything else) are Scotland Yard detectives and, yeah, crimes and general shady goings-on are peered at through various darkened glasses, but…
There’s something about the novel that knocks around the head for some time after. A quieting of sunshine, a slanted look at the everyday. And the slow ecstasy of the prose and its dark sense of humor.
If we’re doing labels, I guess we’d have to call it gothic? Maybe? Or just incredibly, stunningly beautiful.”
"Raving about an Irish writer’s gift for gab is a cliche, but in this boozy and bawdy collection, Kevin Barry goes far beyond the shores of Ireland, traipsing through Wales, England, and lesbian bedrooms in Berlin to bring an Irish poetry to a wretched people inundated with fucking Anglo curse words, lager, and cider. Marrying clear-eyed and open-hearted narration with an optimistic nihilism and a very dirty mouth, Barry is in a class of his own in Europe, but he’ll be readily enjoyed by fans of Frank Bill and Dan Chaon here. So here’s the deal: I challenge you to stand in the store, read "Fjord of Killary", and not leave with this book. Do it now, while I’m watching you. Now."
- Jeff Waxman
“‘Why are women, who have the whole male world at their mercy, not funny? Please do not pretend not to know what I am talking about.’ So said Christopher Hitchens thus confirming that he was a misogynist and knew nothing about funny. Dummy. Don’t be like Hitch, may he rest, and learn up on the women who have defined what we laugh at for the last half century. Kohen will help you to adopt a more Perry-esque perspective, “This year we saw many hilarious performances by women-as well as many idiotic articles from men about how women suddenly became funny. This wasn’t the year women finally became funny, this was the year men finally pulled their heads out of their asses.” Pull your own head out of your ass by reading this oral history about the ladies who make this comedy nerd proud to be an American. Or at least proud of what, and who, we laugh at.”
This is stand-up comedy in book form, with crudely rendered yet uncannily expressive drawings taking the place of the physical presence of the comic and painfully funny prose ruminations on everyday absurdities and incidents standing in for the spoken word. Although Allie Brosch’s musings on procrastination and ill-behaved canines have caused me to shed laughter-induced tears in public places (including this bookstore), her writings on (and illustrations of) depression are breakthrough-level in terms of their accuracy, honesty, and refreshing lack of sentimentality while still managing to be both comforting and, amazingly, rather humorous. Buy it, read it, share it, give it.
A beautiful, sad memoir about a man investigating the death of his father. Currently the Deputy Editor of GQ, journalism runs in Michael Hainey’s family: Michael’s dad wrote for the Tribune & the Sun-Times. At age 6, Michael loses his father in a mysterious accident. His mother and extended family never discuss the death, and Michael grows up filled with questions and longing. Conversations, interviews, and lots of visits to Chicago haunts help Michael piece together who his father was and how the news biz operated in the 1960s. This read is a personal account of a son’s quest to learn about a man he barely knew…and a wonderful look at the neighborhoods & institutions of Chicago.
Our former bookseller Nicole has been doing intern-y things at Soho Press and here’s her homage to How the Grinch Stole Christmas:
It’s not that I don’t have a good sense of cheer
but the end of December I especially fear.
The windchill is dropping
and its getting colder.
My birthday is coming and I’m getting older.
The trains are delayed and the stations are freezing.
Tourists are shoving and commuters are sneezing.
They’re all making lists and checking them twice.
They’re maniacally shopping and dodging black ice.
I want you to know that there are people like me
who are perfectly happy without a gift or a tree
All we want is some peace and some time to ourselves.
It has nothing to do with toys or with elves.
When I’m trapped on a train with the unspeakably rude
and the ladies are all wrapped up in their snoods…
or is it a sneed? I don’t know! I don’t care!
Want to know what I think when I’m stuck under there?
That I want to READ. Let me read, read, read, read!
“Personal space!” I silently plead.
I know that is something every New Yorker needs.
But I can’t move my arms.
And I can’t really breathe.
I get these ideas.
These awful ideas.
I just get these WONDERFUL, AWFUL ideas!
What if I was alone?
No one else in the town?
No holiday madness?
No pushing around?
I’d fill my house up with books. So many books.
With Edward Said and lots of bell hooks!
Hemingway! Russell! Austen and Heller!
Kafka and Didion! Renata Adler!
New York would be quiet.
No subways, no planes.
No honking of taxis as they try to change lanes.
And I’d sit and I’d smile with a hand to my ear
because quiet’s the sound that I most like to hear.
But after a while of reading alone
I’d finish a chapter and let out a groan—
“oh man what’d you think”—
but no one is home.
I’m sharing my thoughts with the cold, empty air.
This isn’t fun. No one’s there. It’s not fair!
I have so much to say about what’s in my book
but everyone’s gone and I can’t make them look.
I can’t ask them to listen
because it’s only me.
And somehow your fun is diminished by three
when ideas are boinging around in your head
but you can’t talk about all the great things you have read.
So as much as I hate it
The ribbons! The wrappings!
The tags and the the tinsel!
The trimmings! The trappings!
I’ll swallow my misanthropy
(there’s no rhyme for that).
I’ll wrap up my scarf and I’ll pull on my hat.
I’ll smile at commuters who read books on the train
as we shuffle and wriggle, always in vain.
New York is better with people around
even with all its smells and its terrible sounds.
Though I don’t want to go
I will trudge through the snow.
The bookstore will make things better, I know.
It’s been a while since Edwidge Danticat has written a novel but this is well worth the wait. The story centers around Claire but it also is about the about the small town where she lives. What is so engaging is the lyrical way in which Danticat tells Claire’s story and that of the townspeople. She takes the reader on a journey through Claire’s short life going chronologically backwards - from her disappearance to her entrance into the world. Once you start you won’t be able to put it down.
Whether acting in Academy Award winning short films, reading on This American Life, or publishing his biting yet tenderhearted essays David Rakoff proved himself to be a true wit over the course of his lifetime. His posthumously published novel in verse is as moving and funny as anything this pseudo Canadian wrote through the years. If there is one book that can rescue you from the potential terrors of Christmas-family-mandatory time while simultaneously making you crave it, this is it. Rakoff saw our weaknesses yet loved humanity dearly. His satire was full of longing because he desperately wanted us to be better and believed we could. These characters are flawed, they are weak, but they are trying to transcend themselves. All of our lives need more poetry and this novel in verse accomplishes that. Break your heart and read the last thing he wrote.
A fantastic piece of nonfiction that shows you life in a small village in the south of Spain seemingly so peaceful and idyllic that it feels unreal. This is not a book about communism, this is a book about the hope and strength of the people. The people of Marinaleda who decided after the fall of Franco that they had a responsibility and desire to take care of each other and that a democracy alone couldn’t solve their problems. They spent decades performing sit ins, peaceful protests and marches all in an effort to build a utopia. In this village no one goes hungry, no one is homeless and property is communal as are almost all aspects of life. This book showed me that a better world is possible because it already exists in this little town in Spain.
I read a lot of books about young girls, all of them wonderful but none so appealing as this. Translated for the first time since it’s publication in 1931, Gilgi is both the story of a young girl struggling to find her independence and a revolutionary work for it’s time dealing with issues such as abortion, and single motherhood. A powerful novel filled with Gilgis determination to make something of herself. Working and taking language classes in an attempt to leave Germany she spends her days fending off advances from her boss sure she wants no romantic attachments. Until she meets Martin a poor travelling writer living off his wealthy friends, he’s not exactly who she pictured falling in love with. Superbly written and translated, this is absolutely the best novel I’ve read all year.
Obsess much? Nora Eldridge sure does. In this case, over a family. Nora is a teacher, an artist, a daughter, & a friend to many. The Shahids enter her life, and she’s totally taken with them—-especially Sirena Shahid. Nora narrates her story & tells you all she sees and feels. With the recent death of her mother, the Shahids fill a void. However, the devotion & attention Nora dotes on the family lead to devastating consequences. Intense, insightful, and creepy writing make this novel quite satisfying.
Not only for those physically “locked down”, but for those seeking to break the bonds of mental shackles.
With the success of Hill Harper’s motivational books many fan letters came his way, seeking further guidance and support. Harper had noticed an alarming amount of letters coming from corrections institutions. Faced with those letters and the United States’ horrifying statistics of African American incarceration, Harper sought to answer some of the very tough questions that this devastating epidemic has brought on. By using a personal correspondence with a young man facing time in jail, readers are given a front seat in what goes on in the mind of someone locked down.
Knowing that he does not have all the answers, Harper is smart enough to gather wisdom from the likes of Dr. Rudolph E Tanzi, Russell Simmons, Charles “ the rock “Dutton. He places quotes from Aristotle, John F Kennedy, and Malcolm X along the way. The book has a layout that is simple and clear, with illustrations, charts and highlighted quotes it feels partially like a journal. Included in the back of the book is an “owners manual”. Letter to an Incarcerated Brother convinces readers that a “hard time” does not have to be the thing that breaks you.