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Archive for the 'What We’re Reading' Category


Messieurs-Dames! Welcome to the perfectly new and merveilleux blog about the Powell's City of Books French aisle. The Red Room is home to a whole world of foreign-language books located on the deuxieme étage (second floor).

Allow me to introduce you to an entire bookstore within a bookstore in French located in aisles 817 and 818. We have hundreds and hundreds of beautiful French books from leather-bound tomes of the 1800s to slim 1970s paperbacks. You'll find a 1950s book by Simone de Beauvoir called Lettres à Sartre (Letters to Sartre) near an early '60s paperback called Balzac, Lui-Même (Balzac, Himself), as well as many of the best 2009 releases in fiction, history, grammar, and French audio. And let's not forget the latest band-dessinées, or graphic novels! Allons-y!

For this debut post, I would love to show you a cross-section of my personal faves, starting in literature. Feast your eyes on this DARLING five-volume set of Joseph Balsamo by Alexandre Dumas. Published in 1924 these sweet little volumes from Collection Nelson Editeur are tiny treasures each with its own beautifully illustrated cover. ...

Attractions and Oddities in Western Kentucky

I've never been to the Kentucky Derby, and I've never toured a bourbon distillery. Western Kentucky isn't quite as brochure-ready as sites such as Churchill Downs and the Lincoln Memorial, but we have plenty to be proud of — and if you're...

Double Play

There's something you should know about me: I don't like baseball. Which, I realize, makes me downright un-American. However, since Jill Shalvis's Double Play has baseball at its core, this fact was important for you to know. (And, please, don't try to convert me. I've tried to like baseball, but there just isn't enough beer in Portland for me to find it interesting.)

Pace Martin is a pitcher for the Pacific Heat, an expansion team based in Santa Barbara. He is only one of several absurdly good-looking players on the team. (Honestly, it's a whole team of hunkaliciousness, which just doesn't seem possible.) Holly Hutchins is a reporter working on a series of stories about the team. She, naturally, is a hottie who is unaware of her own hotness. Pace is fighting an injury that he's trying desperately to hide, which may actually be making said injury worse. Holly is relationship-shy after her last piece of investigative journalism ended up bringing down the guy she was dating. There's a doping scandal, some cute kids from a bad neighborhood whom Pace ...

Downtown Owl

Chuck — unleashed! Downtown Owl thrives on Klosterman's familiar brew of sharp commentary, pop culture references, and endlessly entertaining digressions into the inane and bizarre... served here in his predictably funny (but perhaps surprisingly sweet) fictional debut. Of course it all takes place in the author's native North Dakota, in the eighties, among characters who, for example, cite Black and Blue and Goat's Head Soup as the Rolling Stones' best albums. Fans will not be disappointed.

Howling Poetry

April. National Poetry Month. And, we're howling here at Powell's. If you haven't had a look at our poetry writing contest to mark this special month of celebration and effusion, please do so.

Now, onto the books...

÷ ÷ ÷

I have a real thing for Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Publisher of Howl, author of A Coney Island of the Mind (for more on that stellar classic, see below), founder of City Lights Publishers and the legendary City Lights bookstore in San Francisco, and defender of civil and human rights both at home and internationally, Ferlinghetti is an honest to God American original. I first read him while in my early 20s, and he changed my life. Poetry that was both ecstatically visionary and eminently readable, that was profoundly political and profoundly humane — he had me in his hand from the word "go."

And, now I'm in possession of a copy of Poetry as Insurgent Art, a tiny book that contains 90 pages of short thoughts on the role of poets and poetry in society, followed by the longer texts of his rightly famous (or infamous) "Populist Manifestos" I and II.

Ferlinghetti's maxims on poetry and the role of the poet are brief and to the point:

"Be a wolf in the sheepfold of silence."

"If you have to teach poetry, strike your blackboard with the chalk of light."

They're also intensely lyrical, politically incendiary, and they continually champion both the individual and collective imagination, as one would expect from this maverick maven of the written word.

Lying In Bed with Powells.com

That's "Lying In Bed," as in, what's on your bedside table?

I took an informal survey around the office to see what my co-workers are reading before they enter the Land of Wind and Ghosts each night.

In the interest of fairness, I guess I should throw myself onto the fire first.

Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean by Douglas Wolk

Enlightening essays about the history of comics, the modern scene, and its innovators. The book has been promoted as a terrific primer — which it might well be, although actual newcomers would be well served by having a copy of the books under discussion close at hand.

Personally, I think Reading Comics works best for the more seasoned comics reader, who will enjoy Wolk's penetrating analysis, which is always interesting, whether s/he agrees with him or not.

Screen Plays: How 25 Scripts Made It to a Theater Near You — For Better or Worse by David S. ...

Powell’s Gets Crafty

A little-known fact about Powell's employees is that we are super crafty. In fact, we're just as crafty as we are sexy (thank you very much, Portland Mercury readers). To celebrate, Tracey (one of our craftiest) suggested that we put our wares on display (or, at least, pictures of our wares), along with the books that inspired or guided them. So, that's just what we did.

I say "we," but in fact, I am not very crafty myself. I am what you might call an enabler of craftiness, mostly within my family. I regularly send my mom fabric and yarn that I find at thrift stores in the hopes that she will knit or sew something for me (never fails). I email her links to wool felting sites, and to pictures of fancy pillows that "would be so easy to make with a sewing machine" (which I don't have). Now that I'm nine months pregnant, I drop hints for things like homespun diaper stackers and housecoats, handmade plush toys, and tiny T-shirts that say cute but relevant things like "Save the Bees."

Thanks to Tracey's brilliant idea, I'm now getting paid for my ...

Wild in the City

It is not unusual for me to see peregrine falcons on my morning commute. On my evening commute I can bet on seeing a sharp-shinned hawk perched on a light post. It wasn't until I read The Life of the Skies: Birding at the End of Nature that I realized how incredibly wonderful that is. In the book, Jonathan Rosen muses about how we take the birds for granted. As he puts it, if buffalo migrated through Central Park every year, New Yorkers would be crowded around to watch, but a flock of little South American canaries... eh, who cares?

The subtitle of the book, Birding at the End of Nature, has an ominous ring to it, but the book is hopeful. Watching birds can be something more than a pleasurable pastime. It is part of our American heritage and a way to connect with the rhythms of the earth. After reading the book I find myself watching the skies over Portland more than ever.

Thinking about the wild ...

Dreaming at the Gates of Fury

The literary community suffered a great loss in late December with the death of Alexander "Sandy" Taylor, poet, publisher, and fierce proponent of the written word in the service of humanity. Sandy, co-founder of Curbstone Press, one of the nation's leading independent publishers, was a gifted visionary, a warm and unassuming man who dedicated his life to the written word.

As co-publisher at Curbstone, Sandy brought to the attention of North American readers the likes of Roque Dalton, Leonel Rugama, Daisy Zamora, Ernesto Cardenal, and other great poets and novelists of Central and South America. He discovered the gifted U.S. poets Luis Rodriguez and Martin Espada, and went on to pioneer the publishing of Vietnamese literature in this country — a veritable conversation between two once-warring cultures.

Sandy was a great poet, too, although that was a role that he remained very quiet about. He was published throughout Europe, and his last book in this country, Dreaming at the Gates of Fury, was published by Azul Editions, a New England-based publisher of politically conscious literature.

Sandy is survived by his partner and ...

Actors in My Head

The Bourne IdentityMatt Damon is in my head and he won't leave. I am finally reading The Bourne Identity and I picture Matt Damon as Jason Bourne. I know what you are thinking: "Oh! How horrible! Don't movies just ruin books?!" But I don't feel that way. I loved the Bourne movies so I am happy to see Matt's dimples in my mind's eye.

I felt more strongly about the movie version of Michael Cunningham's The Hours. I liked it so much more than the book! It wasn't just the high-powered talent; the medium of film made the story immediate and intense in a way that the page just couldn't match.

What's not to love about the film versions of Lord of the Rings? Ok, I miss Tom Bombadil, too, but how long did you want the movies to be? Something had to go.

Jane AustenIs there anything left in the Jane Austen (seen here as a lovely action figure


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