Monday, November 23, 2009

The Holidays at Anthology

The staff decorated the store this past Saturday; I came in to find golden snowflakes, red and green bulbs, and ornaments adding a festive touch to the displays. We celebrate Thanksgiving this Thursday, and my mind holds still to the harvest colors, pumpkins, colored corn and gourds. But in our society, Thanksgiving marks the start of a mad-dash of holiday shopping, Black Friday deals and the ever-increasing need to find the perfect gift for those on your list.

Anthology Book Company is offering a wonderful collection of regional books from the Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association Winter Catalog. We have been excited to bring these excellent titles to you since we first previewed the collection in late September. Our shelves are stocked with copies of new books ranging from history, fiction, cooking, children's titles and memoirs, to books that speak especially well to the issues and people of the West. As our gift to you, we are able to extend a 20% discount off any title in the Winter Catalog and will order titles in for you, should our supply run low. And of course, our stacks hold many used, rare and collectible books sure to please, as well. What could be better than combing the shelves of an independent bookstore?

My mantra is take things slowly, live in the present, be mindful. So I will slowly take down my fall decorations in my home and then bring in holiday items acquired over the years. And I too will think of loved ones and review the catalog as I move into holiday shopping mode. There couldn't be a better place to shop, than here at Anthology. Peace.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pattern Recognition

It's been a while since William Gibson's Pattern Recognition came out, and I still haven't managed to read it. I enjoyed Neuromancer very much, but haven't been impressed by some of his other work.

Nevertheless, this interview in the Blackbird Archive is fantastic. Most of it, you'll notice, is an extended meditation on what constitutes Science Fiction. This is important. I know I can't give a real answer as to why it is- many more eloquent than me have tried. But I get so tired of the dismissive, "oh, I don't read scifi."

There is an extraordinary body of work that satisfies all the requirements of science fiction but is not marketed as such. The Time Traveler's Wife is about a time traveler, for example, but it's still in the Contemporary Lit section so everyone reads it. Likewise Gregory MacGuire's fairytale re-imaginings like Wicked would be perfectly at home in the scifi section - you wouldn't even have to change the covers. Hundreds of CIA and crime thrillers deal with future weapons and genetic engineering and spy technology - but they have lots of guns, so that's okay.

But more than the tropes listed above, science fiction is a way of thinking.

As the review says;

The next matter to be settled is genre. William Gibson is a science fiction writer, so is this science fiction? The answer is yes and no. Unlike Vonnegut, who goes to some pains to say he's not writing science fiction even when he is, Gibson never shies from the label, even though he's perfectly aware it's not so simple a tag as it once was. Pattern Recognition is set in the present with no aliens or secret technologies. The plot turns on nothing more exotic technologically than chat rooms and posted film clips in a very recognizable Internet. Recently, Neal Stephenson's Cryptomonicon, as fat as Pattern Recognition is lean, was largely treated as a science fiction novel by reviewers, bookdealers, and readers, even nominated for sf awards, though the main action involves the breaking of the Enigma code of World War II and isn't science fiction in the usual sense. China Mieville's Perdido Street Station, on another end of the spectrum, seems science fictional even though it takes place in a Dickensian steampunk world with no connection to ours.

Science fiction, in effect, has become a narrative strategy, a way of approaching story, in which not only characters must be invented, but the world and its ways as well, without resorting to magic or the supernatural, where the fantasy folks work. A realist wrestling with the woes of the middle class can leave the world out of it by and large except for an occasional swipe at the shallowness of suburbia. A science fiction writer must invent the world where the story takes place, often from the ground up, a process usually called world-building. In other words, in a science fiction novel, the world itself is a distinctive and crucial character in the plot, without whom the story could not take place, whether it's the world of Dune or Neuromancer or 1984. The world is the story as much as the story is in the world. Part of Gibson's point (and Stephenson's too for that matter) is that we live in a time of such accelerated change and layered realities, that we're all in that boat, like it or not. A novel set in the "real world" now has to answer the question, "Which one?"

Via Science Fictional. That post also has a link to this interview with William Gibson, equally interesting.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Autumn brings change

When I was young, I welcomed the start of autumn more than any other season. It meant new shoes and notebooks, colors and grasses dying back, and the daylight slipping away into night. Autumn still is my favorite time of year, as I find myself pulling on a sweater for warmth and searching for just the right book in which to lose myself.

I too am changing with the season, as far as reading preferences go. No longer do I want the quick light reads of summer; books that are easily picked up and set down as you carve out of few minutes to read between outdoor activities, vacations and muggy nights. No, autumn demands books with depth; tomes that draw the reader in and offers a respite. Animals begin their task and order of hibernation, preparing for months of quiet sleep. Ahhh...sounds blissful, huh?

So, what to read on this cold November night? I look forward to starting the latest E.L. Doctorow book, Homer and Langley (Random House). Although a novel, I like historical fiction. The lives of New York's fabled Collyer brothers will intrigue and hold my interest, much like Doctorow's Ragtime and City of God.

Then there are the well-noted titles that remain on "my list": The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Diaz; People of the Book, by the impeccable Geraldine Brooks; Out Stealing Horses by Petterson (I tried this in the summer; it's definitely a winter book); The Book Thief by Zusak...I am afraid my list goes on. I am never short of books to read, but find myself quite particular about the mood and timing of my choices.

Some people say they will read whatever they can get their hands on. I tend to be more selective. Perhaps that leads me back to my thoughts on autumn and books. As a child we gathered by the fire on cool fall evenings and my father read the poetry of Robert Service and James Whitcomb Riley to my siblings and me. I can see the leaves falling outside the farmhouse window, watch the corn stalks die back after harvesting, hear the cattle settling in the barn...yes, autumn is about change, but perhaps more than not, it remains the same.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Lovely Poem

The Summer Day by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean--
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down--
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

I was extremely fortunate to have a wonderful teacher share this poem with me over the weekend. Even though it is not summer it holds meaning for all seasons. There is not much to say about this except that have learned a lot from this poem and the context in which it was given. I will always remember and refer to this poem in times when I know that changing the self is a necessary process. To be able to change ones perspective and admit ones faults seems extremely essential to me. I think this poem represents the frailty and ever changing life in and around us all. I love it and I'm sure it means different things to different people. For me it is a precious gift and a wonderful reminder.