Saturday, December 25, 2010

two new reviews

Here are two new reviews of Fight for Your Long Day. Both writers have experience teaching college-level classes, but they are about 1000 miles away from each other, three decades apart by age, and have led radically different lives thus far. (For example, one knows tenure whereas the other knows Philadelphia.) Here's a quote I found to be highly relevant:

"Indeed, this middling nature reflects Duffy’s life as a whole. He exists purely in the middle, unable to move upward, terrified of sliding down."

OK. Here: http://freedomfromthings.com/post/2458438021/book-review-fight-for-your-long-day-by-alex-kudera

and the more recent "Steve" review at goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/8612461-fight-for-your-long-day

And yes, "Muriel" on goodreads is the author's mother, but please don't hold that against her.

philly bookstores, Christmas 2010

Bauman's Rare Books has left Walnut Street but still operates out of New York City. Larry Robin's has used books and speaking events but no longer carries new titles. Book Trader finally chased Big Jar off of Second Street, and the latter now operates a smaller store at the corner of 4th and Bainbridge. The Liberty Place Borders Express has been closed for months now, and the bookstore in the basement of the Bourse is long gone, closed down before I left Philly if I'm not mistaken. Skip at Giovanni's Room described holiday traffic as "slow," but he's open and would welcome a visit.

On the brighter side, as in, if there are bookstores in Philadelphia, there are likely more readers, jobs, etc., the chains I went into were bustling. Both Barnes and Noble and Borders downtown seemed to be moving plenty of "product," as in books, gift cards, games, etc. Joseph A. Fox on Sansom was quite busy too on the Tuesday afternoon before Christmas. Likewise, the Borders in Wynnewood had a long line of patrons waiting to purchase as part of Christmas-Eve routine. (It was tempting to stand outside and hawk discount copies of Fight for Your Long Day, but I resisted such extremes.)

In University City, House of Our Own and the Pennsylvania Bookstore, along with their own friendly deathstar neighbor, the University of Pennsylvania Barnes and Noble, are all open and selling new books, textbooks, and more. House of Our Own made my week because they are the first Philadelphia store to order, stock, and display Fight for Your Long Day. It was good to see familiar smiles in both of the independent locations. (When I grew up in University City, the bookstore scene was up on 38th Street, centered between Walnut and Locust, and you could move quickly from Pennsylvania Book Center to Encore Books to an older, smaller Penn Bookstore. House of Our Own came later, and there were also occasional attempts to book further west, such as Lame Duck Books on 45th Street, on the same side between Locust and Chestnut where used-everything Second Mile thrives today.)

And best of all, where I least remembered it, two underground bookstores in the Gallery seemed to be going strong or at least be ongoing. A Books-A-Million, a chain I associate with the Southeastern region has replaced what was a Walden's and then a Borders Book Express in the Gallery's basement, about where the main, middle escalator descends to a section of kiosks, some plants, and a newstand. And if you walk east toward the 8th and Market Elevated Blue Line stop, you'll see an African American bookstore, Basic Black Books, that looks like a lot of fun--positively an exciting place to book!

I may come back to this post and correct some of the details on names and dates. Feel free to drop me a line for adds or corrections if you like. OK, feel free to return to your Christmas kindle. Peace.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

European Horizons

Don Riggs's review of Fight for Your Long Day can be read in Romanian and English at our favorite bi- to trilingual literary blogspot (and print journal).

At the end of his journey, perhaps Cyrus Duffleman will rest easy, sigh aloud, but in a pleasant way, acknowledge his great debt to not just Romania but all of Eastern Europe.

Dr. Daniel Daniel, you are floating in a most mysterious way--with the Flying Duffler!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Free Book, No Pay!

Karen the S.P.L. is kind enough to host at her blog's spot a free-for-review contest for three titles from Dan Cafaro's Atticus Books. I'm guessing that if the two books just arrived/arriving are even half as good as Fight for Your Long Day, then this is one contest you can't afford to pass on!

Fight for Your Free Book!

cold kickin' it live with don riggs

I'm headed North on Sunday, home to Philadelphia, and as scheduled, I'll be reading, discussing, and signing Fight for Your Long Day at Larry Robin's Moonstone Arts Center on December 22 at 7 p.m. Discounted books will be available for twelve dollars (cash only). Don Riggs will also be available, introducing the festivities, but I have no information on his price point at present.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

American unemployment

The New York Times has a somewhat accurate portrayal of the situation in this op-ed.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/14/opinion/14tue1.html?hp

But then again, some of their statistics fail to give us a clear idea of the American economy or the desperation experiencd by millions of American workers. The article tells us that the pay of the median college-educated male is $72,000, but I bet you anything that does not include the millions of college-educated males in America who are no longer counted as working unless they are still counted as unemployed (actively looking for work within the last 6 or 9 months). But discouraged males, willing house husbands, college-educated men who have been "bought" off the rolls with disability, as well as our imprisoned, mentally ill, couched at Mom's, or drunk in older sibling's basement are not counted.

For women, this median is only $52,000, so yes, they most likely experience greater want than men (on average). But again, all the same factors are in play. Not counted? For example, married women with college degrees who might like to work but have become "discouraged workers" or stay-at-home Moms because no one beyond Starbucks and the local collections agency seem to be hiring. So they have accepted not being in the workforce although to call this a "choice" is deceiving.

Another group of workers who just recently rallied to raise the false medians would be Temple University's adjunct faculty, who by trying to protect themselves, lost their employment. Presumably, we'll have to wait 6 or 9 months until they are no longer counted in the employment statistics, but once they and their below-the-median salaries disappear (no, not in the Stalinist sense), we can all rest easy knowing that median American income is on the rise.

If the major American newspapers can not be counted on to give reliable and accurate pictures of American employment, is it any wonder that their employees are also increasingly fortifying the false medians of American employment statistics through layoffs and attrition?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

the world made straight

i'm reading my first ron rash, the world made straight. so far, i can see he is cursed with being able to make something difficult look easy. maybe polished fiction with great transitions is always like that?

this reminds me of ultimate teams with great throws and spacing on their cuts. all the spectator sees is one perfect 40 yard pass after another, with no sense of the endless practice that led to the live performance.

back to rash, he also knows a whole bunch of words--big ones, small ones, rural ones, etc.--that i've never used in my life. and some i've never seen.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

free lunch

In Greenville, South Carolina, we stumbled upon a free lunch at the grand opening of the new Carolina Ale House. There was so much tasty pub food we didn't have to pay for that I left almost certain something bad would happen later in the weekend. I'm not sure of why I believe in such balance, and hey, perhaps the bad thing has already happened?

After lunch, we found a free ounce of wine and French bread with olive oil in the kitchen store. The give-aways reminded me of the precarious economy, how it still seems like we're a couple months removed from revisiting a bottom or creating a new low. Still, it was impressive to see how one restaurant could instantly create 100 jobs or more, and the regional chain has plans to open up several more locations in the Carolinas, Florida, and Georgia. (To the best of my knowledge, Temple U. Freshman English isn't paying to bus their unemployed adjuncts to the next Carolina Ale House career fair.) Our server told us she had five children, and the general manager of the location introduced himself and said he has been on the payroll since August.

With all the worry about saving and the future and everything else, at home in the evening, it wasn't too difficult to decide that all the lunch leftovers would make for a fine dinner. Cyrus Duffleman would not be disappointed in me or in the hot wings we tasted.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Exley and the book resurgent!

This morning, I read an e-mail about my lone interview on Exley's A Fan's Notes, and it made me feel like the book is alive. Not just A Fan's Notes but books in general. The kind interviewee, Eleanor Henderson, has the galleys for her own first novel, and millions around the world will give and receive novels and other books this holiday season.

How do I know this?

For one, it was what my father gave me in the late seventies, the winter my father couldn't afford more than the upper two feet of a Christmas tree (yes, for ten dollars, he asked the man to cut off the top of the tree), and so A Wrinkle in Time and another Madeleine L'Engle were my gift for that Christmas. I remember that these were mass market paperbacks with green trimming on the sides (back when the edges of the pages could still be colored).

I also know, or at least hope, because I worked in the old Philadelphia Borders Bookshop during the winter recession of '91-'92 and remember how mobbed the store was with people who decided books were the more affordable gift option. Of course, at the register, if paying full retail for multiple hardcovers, they could be in for a rude surprise.

Then, in the winter of '94-'95 with the economy still in the tank (but beginning to show signs of late-nineties life), I managed a seasonal remainder bookstore, and again, I saw business boom. In fact, our Bala Cynwyd Shopping Center location was the top seller in that rinky-dink chain. (If you click the last link, you'll see now it's not just the books for a dollar but the whole strip mall is for sale, part of the much heralded American mall collapse no doubt.) And now, I'm left wondering if only Philadelphians buy books during hard times or in fact this is a national or global trend.

Did I mention that Fight for Your Long Day could be the right complement to all that spirituality, self-help, and Heideggar already settled in your shopping cart?

And happy holidays.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

my father the italian

Mistaking Mark SaFranko for Italian reminded me of my childhood, where for a while there, I thought we were Italian on my father's side. I think this related to all the spaghetti, ravioli, Italian sausage, and meatballs with caesar dressing on the salad along with the many trips to Pagano's for pizza, which if I'm not mistaken was located across from where the R&S Strauss is at 48th and Chestnut. (I believe I could be off a block or two here.) I also remember a white and purple storefront. And then there may have been acquaintances thinking "Kudera" was Italian and perhaps I misunderstood these overheard conversations with my Dad. Or I never really thought we were Italian, or I wasn't even old enough to know this kind of thing could be considered, or I invented this thought years later, after I already knew we weren't Italian but liked this kind of story, or the way I could add it as an interesting section to the memoir (which in fact I would have to write and if written one day will include some sections from his diaries of memories of his father, which in fact, I encouraged him to write).

What are we?

With my father, when we were to head to South Philly, The Triangle Bar was where we would get our pasta. I believe this could have been connected to the affordability of the spirits. There was another place he'd take us to, one I associate with the Whitehorse (or Blackhorse?) Pike and spaghetti. But I'm wandering into weedy memories now.

OK. Mark SaFranko and Joseph Kudera. Two Jersey kids born about 10 years apart who dreamed of writing all their lives and got a lot of it down on paper or screen while raising kids, hell, money to pay the bills, and more. Catholic School? AA? Childhood poverty? I'm not exactly sure of how much there is in common here.

Enough.

Monday, December 6, 2010

delillo on bellow

Their names share four letters, split between vowels and consonants, and now Delillo has won a PEN award in the more ashen man's name: http://www.pen.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/5442/prmID/1865. For lifetime achievement defined by quantity of good to great novels, could there be a post-war American writer greater than these two? Don't give me Roth and don't tell me Bellow isn't only post-war.

Delillo I've read: Americana, End Zone, Great Jones Street, Ratner's Star, Players, The Names, White Noise, LibraMao IIUnderworld, and Cosmopolis. (I think that's it.) I've also read Delillo's somewhat famous essay on 9/11 as well as a short story or two.

Bellow I've read: Seize the Day, HerzogMr. Sammler's PlanetThe Dean's December, Ravelstein, and perhaps a short story or two. A short piece by Bellow I like is his introduction to Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind, where, to me, he makes it clear that he does not necessarily see things the same way. I'm not sure that the university is still a place where people with even strongly opposing political views might support each other's work or at least respect its place in print. (Well, I guess these days everyone is too busy with their teaching overloads, publication schedules, and "specializations" to read each other's work. And that would more likely be online, yes, indeed.)

OK. In conclusion, I've read more Delillo than Bellow (and I'm willing to wager that you have too) although Bellow would seem to be a more significant influence in my own literary efforts, if either of these guys is any kind of influence at all. (Well, I guess you can't have an alienated male protagonist or antihero in an American novel without implicitly referencing these two.) I've tried to describe Fight for Your Long Day as a cross between novels by Saul Bellow and Dan Fante, but I'm not sure it would be understood that way, and I doubt many of my readers will have read much by those two anyway. (This does not imply I have "many readers" as of this blogging.) I'd probably be better off comparing it to movies. . . ah, humanity.

As an aside on Italian American novelists, I should note that for me, Don Delillo completely kicks Richard Russo's ass and is the undisputed lone heavyweight in the category although Dan and John Fante would be my sentimental favorites on this list and I'm pulling for Dan Fante's buddy Mark SaFranko (who was kind enough to let me know soon after this post that in fact he is not Italian; okay, we'll handle that another time but keep his name under the bright lights of USK) as well as two of the guys Dan Cafaro has signed up for publication at Atticus Books. Maybe we'll Jew-list another day. Oy vey.

(Mark's correction just reminded me of a thought I had on the way to the library. Saul Bellow was born in Quebec.)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

kalder, lipsyte, pocket wockets, and misprints

I finished Daniel Kalder's Strange Telescopes and heartily recommend; I intend to write an assessment of that and Lost Cosmonaut at some point. But for now, I jumped right back into Sam Lipsyte, so to speak, and am now fifty pages into The Subject Steve, his first published novel. I doubt Cyrus Duffleman would have time to indulge in Kalder's longer books, but he might enjoy his recent cynicism on the joys of social-media marketing for writers. And I doubt Sam Lipsyte would mind reading it at all (but this doesn't imply I found Lipsyte's e-mail on the Columbia U. MFA website and spammed him with Kalder's essay, my own malaise, or any other set of steak knives.)

Meanwhile, over Thanksgiving break, I picked up three Dr. Seuss books for the price of two at a Walden Books in Charleston, and although I mistakenly grabbed a misprinted copy of There's a Wocket in My Pocket, we are still enjoying it a great deal at home. The Foot Book is also of interesting although not as amazingly compelling as the Wocket book. 

Well, say hello to the Zamp in your Lamp; I intend to get the Zower in the Shower on an exercise regimen soon.