Special Offers see all
More at Powell's
From the Authors
Authors, readers, critics, media — and booksellers.
Author Archive: "Chris Faatz"
Posted by Chris Faatz, March 21, 2011 2:46 pm
Filed under: Interviews.
Donald Lopez is the Arthur E. Link Distinguished University Professor of Buddhist and Tibetan Studies at the University of Michigan. He currently serves as chair of the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures and as chair of the Michigan Society of Fellows. His books include Elaborations on Emptiness; Prisoners of Shangri-La; The Story of Buddhism; The Madman's Middle Way; Buddhism and Science; and In the Forest of Faded Wisdom. His edited volumes include Buddhist Hermeneutics; Buddhism in Practice; Religions of Tibet in Practice; Curators of the Buddha; Buddhist Scriptures; and Critical Terms for the Study of Buddhism. In 2000 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
÷ ÷ ÷
Chris Faatz: Professor Lopez, you've just written a book entitled The Tibetan Book of the Dead: A Biography as ...
Posted by Chris Faatz, July 23, 2010 4:20 pm
Filed under: Interviews, Small Press.
Ramsey Kanaan is the co-founder of PM Press, one of the most interesting small publishers in the business today. Powell's Chris Faatz caught up with him this past month and asked him a few questions.
÷ ÷ ÷
Chris Faatz: Ramsey, what are the origins of PM Press? I understand you were one of the founders of AK Press. Could you speak a little about that experience, and how it influenced the founding of PM?
Ramsey Kanaan: For my sins, I am/was indeed the founder of AK. AK is actually named after my mother — Ann Kanaan — though I often used to tell folks me mother was named Kalashnikov. I spent the best part of three decades (I started young — 13) with AK, and when it became more than just me, we set it up as a workers' co-op in the U.K. So pretty much everything I've learned about publishing, distribution, propaganda, writing, editing, co-operative work, running a business, etc., etc., was all done through the rubric of AK.
Most of it was invented as we went along. I'm very proud of what we did with/at AK — and PM was started by me and another AKer, Craig O'Hara. We're now lucky to be able to do even more with PM. Same ends, similar means, just taking in a wider scope of formats, genres, and platforms, to get the ideas out there, and hopefully, folks interacting with them.
Faatz: It's pretty apparent from perusing your catalog and the books you've already published that you operate from a radical, left libertarian, even anarchist perspective. What kind of a market do you find for that kind of material?
Kanaan: Well, there's the market that already exists — largely what is left of "the movement" (however defined) from the '60s, and then the later generations of younger activists, who came up through punk, the alter-globalization movement, and suchlike. The challenge, I think, has always been not only to better inform 'the movement', but to figure out how to get the ideas across to everyone else. In effect, how do we actively contribute to building a movement (however defined) which is genuinely going to take on Capital and the state.
There's no one "correct" path. In terms of ideas, we're exploring all aspects of art, culture, genre fiction, music, video, academic texts, and inspirational manifestos to get the words and sounds and visuals across... and hopefully, to build an audience.
Faatz: Just briefly, how do you define anarchism or left libertarianism for those who are curious?
Kanaan: It'd depend on the audience, of course. To those not well versed in political theory (or practice), I'd define anarchism as the rather common-sense notion that folks are best able to organize their own lives, without the impediments of hierarchy, authority, the state, capitalism, et al. It's a particular form of horizontal, as opposed to vertical, social and economic organization. For the more sophisticated, the snappy response is that it's the self-emancipation of the working class.
Posted by Chris Faatz, May 19, 2010 3:47 pm
Filed under: Contributors.
Two thousand nine was a banner year for good books, and 2010 is rapidly turning out the same way. Here are a few titles — and one series — that abundantly tickled my fancy in the first few months of this year.
÷ ÷ ÷
What do you get when you put Javier Marias, Tennessee Williams, Yukio Mishima, and Federico Garcia Lorca in a blender and shake 'em up? New Directions Pearls — it's a new series (which, in the interest of honesty, has to be admitted to incorporate some reissues of New Directions's Bibelot series, an earlier foray into small book publishing) that includes both new and tried and tested works by these great authors. Mishima's Patriotism is a gripping paean to the Japanese military tradition of honor. If you haven't read it, you should; it's a concise and achingly beautiful short course in the rigorous rights and wrongs of Mishima's thought and passion.
The Marias story, Bad Nature; or with Elvis in Mexico, is hands-down an incredible piece of writing. As with Patriotism, this little book is a startling and captivating introduction to this great writer's work. It offers the fictional story of an ill-fated foray by Elvis into the cantinas of Acapulco while there to make a film, and tells of his run-in with a motley crew of local mobsters with edge-of-your-seat results.
Posted by Chris Faatz, April 29, 2010 3:13 pm
Filed under: Contributors, Poetry.
National Poetry Month should be a festival, a time to rival Mardi Gras in the imaginations of the American people. Poems should be read on the radio daily — and not just by Garrison Keillor — be declaimed in bars and from street corners, and every time one connects to the Internet, one should be offered the arresting opportunity to engage with the muse.
But how to arrive at such an exalted state? In the words of Dana Gioia's famous book of criticism, Can Poetry Matter in our harried, twittering, dog-eared age?
I stand with my colleague Jae, who blogged on poetry earlier this month, on this issue. Poetry can matter, and it can come to play an important and irreplaceable role in our lives. The crux of the problem is to find the book, the author, even the poem that serves as a "good entryway" (in Jae's words) to the world of poetry. It is in that light that I offer up a few of my favorite books of poems of all time.
Posted by Chris Faatz, March 23, 2010 12:15 pm
Filed under: Interviews.
War has always been a rich source for literary excavation. From The Iliad to War and Peace, from All Quiet on the Western Front to The Things They Carried, writers have drawn rich and universal insights from the depths of the most horrendous experiences that humanity has faced.
Vietnam is no different. Tim O'Brien, Bao Ninh, Larry Heinemann — the list of authors whose work is rooted in that conflict is long and illustrious. Now we can add Karl Marlantes to those rolls. Marlantes's debut novel, Matterhorn, is the epic story of young men pushed to the edge in the jungles of Vietnam, and of how they respond.
Even before its publication by Grove/Atlantic, the book has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal, as well as enthusiastic praise from booksellers around the country. Powells.com chose Matterhorn as the 17th volume of our Indiespensable subscription club. Galleys of the novel disappeared quickly from our offices, never to be seen or heard from again.
Clearly, Matterhorn is a debut novel to get excited about — and it only took Marlantes 30 years to write it.
÷ ÷ ÷
Chris Faatz Matterhorn is an exceedingly complex and visually rendered tale of young men at war. Does the story accurately reflect your own experience in Vietnam? Is it more or less autobiographical?
Karl Marlantes: Well, I'm not like any of the characters, really. If I had to chose the one most like me, I'd pick Cortell, who's more of a minor character. Like him, I'm more of the introverted, quiet type. I'm not a politician, like Mellas. If I were as good as he was, I'd be a lot richer and a lot more powerful. [Laughter] But what the characters see — almost all of it — I myself experienced. I was in firefights. I assaulted hills. I saw a guy, not in my company but in the same battalion, get eaten by a tiger. So, all of those things are pretty much true.
Of course, the dialogue is pure fiction. But a lot of what the characters see are things that I experienced or that were similar to my experiences as a second lieutenant — and those were similar to the experiences of thousands of soldiers that went over there. In that sense, we're all the same. So is that autobiographical? I don't know.
Faatz: Well, I'd say it's somewhat autobiographical, because it reflects your experiences, even if it's in a more general sense.
Marlantes: Oh, no doubt about it. I don't have that good of an imagination. [Laughter]
Faatz: How long did it take you to write the book?
Marlantes: I first started writing it about 1975.
Posted by Chris Faatz, March 12, 2010 2:44 pm
Filed under: Shelf Talkers, Staff Pick.
Karl Marlantes's Matterhorn is visceral, raw, and gripping; an exceptionally moving and insightful novel of young men at war. If you love Bao Ninh and Tim O'Brien, you can't fail to be moved by this immensely compelling foray into the leech- and tiger-haunted jungles of Vietnam.
Posted by Chris Faatz, December 18, 2009 1:32 pm
Filed under: Book to Film, Contributors, Poetry.
Well, it's that time of year again. Let's see if I can recommend a few books to make your shopping easier...
First of all, let me bring to your attention Margo Berdeshevsky's haunting and lyrical collection of short stories, Beautiful Soon Enough. This is a strange and wonderful book. It shares the stories of 23 women as they navigate the shores and shoals of their lives, their triumphs and failures. It whispers, really; there's nothing clarion about Beautiful Soon Enough. It's elegant and understated, richly textured and deeply hypnotic. It's no surprise, really, that it won FC2's American Book Review/Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Prize.
Really, I should let this book, which brushes close to the beauty of poetry, speak for itself. Just a taste now, pulled at random from the text:
What she sees at once is the hump. The very old woman. Then a woman with a cascade of hair, her face buried in her reddened hands. Then, again, the older one. Who is methodically shredding her newspaper whose huge headline is mostly visible. Russia's Day of Knowledge. We are a country in the dark.
Posted by Chris Faatz, December 9, 2009 2:37 pm
Filed under: Interviews, Small Press.
Powell's own Chris Faatz had a chance to speak with Joseph Bednarik, the marketing director of Copper Canyon Press.
÷ ÷ ÷
Chris Faatz: Joseph, when was Copper Canyon Press founded? How many books have you published? What's your mission?
Joseph Bednarik: Copper Canyon Press's mission: Publish poetry well.
The Press was founded in the early 1970s by several energetic visionaries who loved poetry and were willing to tangle with cranky printing equipment to produce beautiful books: Sam Hamill, Tree Swenson, William O'Daly, and Jim Gautney. Since then, the Press has published over 400 books, including scores of translations from a dozen languages. In the past few years alone we've published bilingual volumes of poetry from Arabic, Chinese, Belarusian, and Norwegian.
CF: Copper Canyon is pretty successful as small presses go. Why is that?
JB: I'd suggest very successful, given two recent Pulitzer prizes — The Shadow of Sirius by W. S. Merwin and Delights and Shadows by Ted Kooser — and a number of other awards. The reasons for success include focus, editorial vision, and book design. And an unshakable belief in the power of a good poem. We also treat all our constituents — poets, readers, booksellers, printers, librarians, funders, reviewers, volunteers — with abundant respect. As a result, we have a very loyal readership. In fact, we have readers who decorate their bodies with permanent tattoos of our pressmark, which is the Chinese character for "poetry." That's commitment.
Posted by Chris Faatz, September 5, 2009 10:05 am
Filed under: Contributors.
Recently, Chris Faatz of Powell's had the opportunity to interview Barbara Epler, publisher and editor-in-chief of New Directions Publishing.
Chris: New Directions is an amazing institution, one of the great publishers in American literary history, and one of the premier publishers of literature today. But, as I understand it, it got off to a fairly humble start. Could you tell us a bit of that story? If our readers want to glean a little bit more about New Directions' colorful history, to what books or resources would you direct them?
Epler: It was fairly humble — an office room in Cambridge while James Laughlin (J. L. to us) was still a student at Harvard; his aunt's stable was converted into an office up in Norfolk for the next spell. J. L.'s first book was the first number of what would become the annual anthology, New Directions in Prose and Poetry. Ezra Pound introduced him to many writers, and that first issue included work by Wallace Stevens, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, Jean Cocteau, Marianne Moore, William Carlos Williams, E. E. Cummings, Elizabeth Bishop, Lorine Niedecker, Henry Miller, and ...
Posted by Chris Faatz, June 26, 2009 2:06 pm
Filed under: Interviews.
One of the joys of my life has been the discovery of, and periodic immersion in, the work of Indian thinker Jiddu Krishnamurti. Recently, I had the opportunity of interviewing Derek Dodds, Krishnamurti Foundation of America Trustee and Director of Publications.
Chris Faatz: The Dalai Lama called him "one of the greatest thinkers of the age." Rollo May describes his work as "a profound and fresh approach to self-understanding and deeper insights into the meaning of personal freedom and mature love." Just who was Jiddu Krishnamurti?
Derek Dodds: Who Jiddu Krishnamurti was is a real mystery. I don't even propose to have a good understanding of who I am, let alone another individual. So, I'll just give you my opinion which is based on two decades of daily exposure to his work — that doesn't make my opinion any more special, by the way. Krishnamurti was a man that had a life-altering experience in the late 1920s; if one reads his lectures from 1925 through 1933 it is evident that something profound happened to his mind. In scientific terms they would say his brain synapses got rewired. He started to communicate his ideas differently in that period, and in that expression a great truth and insight into life was revealed, and that insight continued to flow from him until the end of his life in 1986. K was a man who understood the limitations of man's psyche and he dedicated his life to helping humanity understand the self-imposed impediments to freedom, or in his own words his life purpose was, "to set man unconditionally free."
Chris: Krishnamurti famously declared that "truth is a pathless land." What did he mean by this? What is the nature of his teaching?
Dodds: I think Krishnamurti meant with that statement that any method or guide couldn't approach truth, and that ultimately nobody could usher us to freedom or show us the map to truth — it truly is a personal journey. In fact, what I understand is that truth isn't somewhere out there at the end of the somatic rainbow, and that the only possible thing to do is to be aware of the entire movement of thought as it interfaces with and creates a separate "me" in a time-based illusive reality. My daily journey is a dance in and out of sensitivity to all the subtle psychological movements of life as they arise in "me." Is it possible to honestly look at my behaviors, reactions, fears, and illusions and have an insight into their origins, exposing my own psychological nakedness and unearthing all of my vulnerabilities and insecurities? At the core, K's teachings are about love, not the love most people think about, but a love so profound and true that it is incorruptible, indivisible, and unconditional.
Chris: Are there salient points that bear noticing when approaching his work? I know he dealt with such issues as the nature of fear, conditioning, attention, and ultimate freedom. What other things did he tackle? How did he approach them, and how did he recommend that we approach them?
Dodds: K spoke about everything that we are made of — fear, joy, conditioning, compassion, greed, intelligence, etc. — the inner movements of what we are at our core, and he used questions to help untangle our confusion. I think it is important to note that K felt all humans had the potential to be free, to live a life without fear, conflict, and violence, anchored in love, compassion, and intelligence. He encouraged us to read the book of ourselves, and he stated that if one is attentive and sensitive to life's inner movements that all the right answers to life will appear. The alternative, he expressed, is to live life as a second-hand human being, the result of a lifetime of conditioning, fear, and insecurity.