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Author Archive: "Dave"

Nicholson Baker Stops Time, But Can He Save Jiffy Pop?

The author of such popular and provocative novels as The Mezzanine and The Fermata found himself thrust into the national spotlight when Kenneth Starr revealed that a famous former intern had given America's President a copy of Baker's 1992 erotic classic, Vox. With his most recent novel, The Everlasting Story of Nory, Baker continues to expand his literary turf, focusing his unique, digressive style on a precocious nine year old American girl.


The Robin Romm Papers

In a front page feature, the New York Times Book Review called The Mercy Papers "a furious blaze of a book." The Oregon native explains, "There are so many measured books out there about loss. This one wasn't to be part of that." Maybe that's why Romm's first nonfiction is holding readers in thrall. Did the author really just compare the hospice nurse to a cockroach? Is it okay that I'm laughing? Yes, and yes. The San Francisco Chronicle proposed, "The raw honesty of this book may be as healing to read as it must have been to write."


And the OED winner is…

Picking a winner turned out to be more difficult than we'd imagined.

We started by assigning 100 words each to 13 staff members (entries 1-100, 101-200, etc.). Each of us picked two favorites from our lot, and nominated one or two entries from the rest of the pool.

From 1,297 words, in this manner we winnowed down to a few dozen. Then we voted and cut further. Numerous department-wide emails followed. We held impromptu meetings. It got to feeling a bit like Survivor here in the office. A small clique would take a walk to the coffee shop and the rest of us suspected that a deal of some kind was being struck.

One more vote brought us the winner of a 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary:

crytoscopophilia: the urge to look through people's windows as you pass by their houses

Our winning entry was submitted by Christopher, a student at Portland State University. Here's how he justified his choice:

I often find myself walking through neighborhoods excited by the prospect that I might catch a glimpse of another's private world...in a by no means creepy way. Even

...


Paul Harding Beats the Tar out of Time

Paul Harding's first novel is only now arriving in bookstores, from Bellevue Literary Press, a small publisher affiliated with NYU's School of Medicine — but it's fast becoming one of the most talked-about books of the season. "Astonishing," says the L.A. Times. "An especially gorgeous example of novelistic craftsmanship," according to Publishers Weekly.

Paul HardingTinkers is the eighth novel to be featured in Powell's subscription program, Indiespensable. Our response to the book was not unique, however. Carole Goldberg might have been speaking for our staff when she wrote in the Hartford Courant:

A book by an unknown author, from a new and nearly unknown press, lands on a reviewer's desk. What are the chances it will command her attention? Or turn out to be a beautifully written meditation on life, death, the passage of time and man's eternal attempt to harness it?

Not great, you might say. But Paul Harding's Tinkers defies expectations and proves to be one of 2009's most intriguing debuts.

Harding, formerly the drummer for Cold Water Flat, now teaches at Harvard. In Tinkers' 191 incantatory pages, he somehow makes us intimate with three generations of a New England family. But the

...


The Squirrel’s Name? Morrison

In all, 414 people entered our name-the-squirrel contest. Some submitted only a name, but most included stories to support their choices (including a colorful, fake Wikipedia entry).

Why Morrison? Do you really have to ask?

Okay. Because we liked it. Hah!

In fact, the guy who designed the squirrel image — that'd be Trent — winnowed 414 entries to a dozen. I trimmed his list down to four. And finally the folks here voted.

Nancy, our winner, who claims the $100 prize, had supplied this explanation with her submission:

After spending every day of the first 18 years of my life waiting for the school bus in the rain (or so it seemed), I left Portland 47 years ago. But the city is part of who I am, and I visit family there often. The Morrison Street bridge was my favorite of all Portland's bridges, so I selected the name Morrison for the squirrel.

Look, it's not my favorite bridge — that'd be the Hawthorne, or maybe St. John's — but Morrison is one heck of a name for a Portland squirrel. We interviewed hundreds of squirrels this week. Every single one ...


Paul Harding Beats the Tar out of Time

Paul Harding's debut is only now arriving in bookstores, from a small publisher affiliated with NYU's School of Medicine. Already Tinkers is the talk of the literary world. Publishers Weekly calls it "an especially gorgeous example of novelistic craftsmanship." In 191 incantatory pages, Harding somehow makes you intimate with three generations of a New England family. Pulitzer Prize winner Marilynne Robinson raves, "It confers on the reader the best privilege fiction can afford, the illusion of ghostly proximity to other human souls."


Name Our Squirrel, Won’t You

The squirrel showed up this past summer on our reusable shopping bags. Next in an episode of Fup. Store Cat. (And another. And another.) Then on a Powell's mug made exclusively for staff and Indiespensable subscribers. Most recently, the squirrel appeared on this year's edition of the souvenir t-shirts we create for employees each holiday season.

But here's the thing: We're tired of just saying "the squirrel."

Help us pick a name. Too late!

Something bookish, maybe. Or woodsy — Forest Park-woodsy. Or not woodsy or bookish; maybe something pertaining to Portland. (If Terwilliger, Flanders, and Lovejoy were good enough for Mr. Groening...)

Post a name in the comments field by December 21st. We'll run our favorites past the squirrel. Winner gets a $100 Powell's card, a featured book shelf at Powells.com, and bragging rights into the future.

Need inspiration? Go talk to a squirrel. Come bearing acorns.

Update: Our submission deadline has come and gone. Further entries and comments are welcome, but only entries provided by December 21st will be eligible for the prize. Our winner will be announced on Tuesday, December ...


Fup Puzzle #1

Aziz S. Inan, Ph.D., a professor in the School of Engineering at the University of Portland, recently submitted several Fup. Store Cat. puzzles from a math puzzle book that he's working on.

Here's one called "Birth Year of Fup." Can you figure out the answer?

Fup was born in the year x. The product of the digits of x is a square number which is one hundred less than the square of the sum of the digits of x. Also, x exceeds another square number by twice the sum of its digits. What is x?


Annie Leibovitz at Work

In case it wasn't enough to photograph Nixon's resignation, Annie Leibovitz covered the story alongside Hunter S. Thompson. And while you may know that many of her celebrity portraits were shot for American Express campaigns, you probably wouldn't have guessed that Amex only gave her a credit card after she left an envelope with thousands of dollars in cash at a pay phone during one of those shoots. Leibovitz recently visited Portland to discuss At Work, a career-spanning retrospective of her photos and the remarkable stories behind them.


Win the 20-Volume Oxford English Dictionary!

Update: The deadline has passed! Our OED contest is officially closed.

Update #2: What's taking so long? When will you pick a winner? Oy. Unfortunately, our first "winner" did not respond to four separate notifications. According to the official contest rules (see rule #3), therefore, we must pick another winner. We'll notify that contestant today (January 23rd) and post the winning entry as soon as we get a response. Check your email!

÷ ÷ ÷

With nearly 2.5 million quotations, more than a half-million illustrated words, and 22,000 pages of definitions — from writers as disparate as Charles Darwin and John le CarreThe Oxford English Dictionary is a work like no other. The Washington Post once observed, "No one who reads or writes seriously can be without the OED." (Alas, I've been found out. A serious writer I am not.)

But now we want to hear from you.

What's your favorite word? And why? What, in your opinion, is the strangest, or most useful, or ridiculously specific word in all of the English language?

Don't be ...


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