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How We Assembled Indiespensable #11

The Twin

    Caution: Spoiler Alert!

    Subscribers, if you want to save the surprise for the moment you open your package, read (or scroll) no further. Below we reveal the full contents of this week's shipment. You can of course read the letter below when it accompanies your box, to be mailed on Wednesday.

We didn't set out to choose a book in translation, but we were excited to find one that we enjoyed so thoroughly.

Even after passing the book around, few of us realized that Archipelago Books is a not-for-profit press, devoted (in its own words) "to publishing excellent translations of classic and contemporary world literature." This belated discovery pleased us, too.

In our continuing effort to surprise and delight — more specifically, to create original, one-of-a-kind editions for Indiespensable subscribers — we enlisted the help of Jill Schoolman, Archipelago's publisher, to design the custom book jacket now in your possession. (The standard American edition is blue, with a different back.) Gerbrand Bakker, The Twin's author, and David Colmer, its translator, signed and numbered our custom wraps, fresh off the press. Then Powell's dedicated elves wrapped them in Mylar for safe keeping. (Kind of makes you want to protect all your first editions this way, doesn't it?)

Bakker's novel, first published in The Netherlands in 2006, begins when an aging farmer moves his invalid father upstairs, out of the way, in the home they share. Separately, each notices a hooded crow roosting in an ash tree beside the house. Helmer, the son, narrates:

I slide my chair back, walk through the hall to the front door and step out onto the gravel path. "Kssshh!" The crow cocks its head and moves a leg. "Go!" I shout, and only then do I look around uncomfortably. Weird, semi-elderly farmer shouts at something invisible from his open front door.

The hooded crow stares at me condescendingly. I slam the front door. When quiet has returned to the hall I hear Father saying something upstairs. I open the staircase door.

"What d'you say?" I yell.

"A hooded crow," he calls.

"So?" I yell.

"Why chase it away?" Whatever else, he's not deaf.

That crow, which makes several appearances in Bakker's novel, made us think of Northwest artist Nikki McClure, whose intricate, expressive paper cuts were featured in a recent exhibition at Powell's. We were thrilled to hook up with Buy Olympia to create your limited edition "scout books" featuring McClure's moody designs.

In the midst of this process, we stumbled upon an advance copy of Crow Planet, which will reach bookstores in July. The publisher (Little, Brown) was kind enough to provide an excerpt — see those homemade (here in Portland; good work, Lenore!) cards pictured above. And, okay, those aren't crow's feet on the cover of McSweeney's summertime sampler, but we couldn't resist sharing a sneak peak at three forthcoming titles from the iconic indie publisher.


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[Editor's note: A very small number of Indiespensable #11 boxes still remain. Not an Indiespensable subscriber? Join now to receive our latest limited edition package! Cancel at any time. (As if.)]

Books mentioned in this post

3 Responses to "How We Assembled Indiespensable #11"

    lyn5 June 17th, 2009 at 6:43 am

    Wow! I can't wait for my box!

    Rolvsbakken June 17th, 2009 at 11:19 am

    Indiespensable. Still one of the best kept secrets in the book world... but it shouldn't be. If you've bought used modern fiction at our store in Colorado, I've already harassed you to subscribe.

    Patricia Pritchard June 25th, 2009 at 9:48 am

    Thank you for the pure pleasure I receive each time my Indiespensable package arrives. The Twin was such a good read that I went in search of the publisher and have purchase 3 more of their books. This has given me an additional gift. Thank you!

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