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Archive for the 'Guests' Category

Each week Powells.com invites a new author to be our Guest Blogger. Guests post new blog entries daily, and their featured books are on sale for 30% off the week before and of their tenure.

The Goldfinch

I used to think I got a lot of books. The mail carrier, the UPS truck, the Fed-Ex truck — they came to my house three or four times a week and brought me things that people wanted me to read. I look back on those days now and realize I had no idea what the phrase "I get a lot of books" even meant. Now I own half a bookstore. NOW I get a lot of books. Everyone who wants to find me now has an address, and every publisher who would like me to blurb a book, and every author who would like me to read their book or help them get their book published (let me spare you the postage: I can't do that for you) sends me a book or a galley or simply a huge pile of paper. I read my friends' books. I try to read the books of the people who are coming to read at the store. I read books I walk by on the new-release table that look good. I read books the smart booksellers in our store are ...

The Signature of All Things

My husband is a doctor, and he has a lot of friends who are doctors. It makes sense — he works in a hospital; it's full of doctors. When he needs to talk to someone about a patient, he doesn't call me. Likewise, a lot of my friends are writers. It's an occupational hazard. We meet in school, at artists' colonies, on panels giving talks, at cocktail parties. We read each other's books and write each other fan mail, and from there we become friends. Here's one thing I've found to be true about writers: we are very good at staying in touch even when we see very little of one another. We live in far-flung places and we like to write. Some of the people I love most in the world are people I see maybe once a year if I'm lucky. We count one another as very close friends, and so we make it work.

The truth is that every book I'm writing about in these five posts has been written by someone I know, and if I picked another five books that were going to ...

The Good Lord Bird

The truth is there are a lot of books I don't like, and even more books I have no interest in, but I made a decision a long time ago not to talk about those books, at least not in print. My opinions tend to be strong, and while I'm convinced that you should read the books I like, I'm not convinced you shouldn't read books I don't like. In 2005 I got to sit next to John Updike at a luncheon at the American Academy of Arts and Letters. I was nervous and thrilled and wondering what in the world we were going to talk about. Based on that lunch and one subsequent meeting a few years later, I will say that John Updike was the loveliest guy in the world. We wound up talking about Jonathan Safran Foer's novel Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which I had loved and Updike had panned in the New Yorker the week before. He asked me why I liked it, and then he told me all the things he had liked about it, and then he shrugged. "Maybe ...

Claire of the Sea Light

If I believed in the Evil Eye, I would say that titling my new book This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage was a huge mistake. It invites personal disaster. It would be like titling your book My Children Love Me and Get Good Grades and Have Zero Interest in Meth. It's a bad idea. But I don't believe in the Evil Eye (although I will admit that typing that sentence makes me slightly uncomfortable), so I can call my book anything I want. The idea is that these are stories about commitment. I write about friendship and family and my dog and my bookstore and writing. At a reading I gave years after my friend Lucy Grealy died, someone in the audience stood up and asked me why I'd stuck by Lucy through so many turbulent times. I told them my feelings about friendship were best summed up by the marriage vows, and that I thought that we should love and honor and cherish each other through sickness and in health and all of that for as long as we lived. Those vows actually ...

A Day at the Beach

In April of 2011 I met Karen Hayes for the first time, and over the course of a lunch we decided we should be business partners and open a bookstore together. It would be something of an understatement to say I hadn't given the matter much thought. Nashville's other bookstores had closed, and I didn't want to live in a city without an independent bookstore. The fact that I hadn't worked in a bookstore in almost 25 years, and I didn't know Karen, and I didn't want to be in retail, were the minor details I swept away. Our city needed a bookstore, and so the solution was simple — open a bookstore. By November of that year, we had done exactly that.

When someone starts a story by admitting they acted on impulse, you can pretty much be sure that the story is going to end badly (e.g., I saw him sitting at the end of the bar and knew we'd be married by Thursday). But the story of Parnassus Books doesn't go the way of bitter disappointment. In fact, everything about the place is wonderful ...

Last Rains of Consciousness

Thanks for joining me on my discursions on Oregon's greatest cultural asset — rain. The rainy season has rotated our way and the lakes will soon begin colliding overhead, perhaps as you read this. Are you ready? Are you rapturous at the thought? As Jack Kerouac wrote, "The taste of rain — why kneel?"

Rain thoughts keep falling on my head. Some final observations:

• Invariably, when a new book comes out, a few days, weeks, or months later I discover (or remember) a fantastic story about the subject of the book that obviously won't be included.

It happened again last month when I purchased a 35-year-old pamphlet for $3 at a Lincoln City bookstore. The pamphlet is titled "Orygone III, or, everything you always wanted to know about Oregon, but were afraid to find out." The first sentence goes, "...it was Sunday and it was raining and it was in Oregon."


I read that sentence and felt dumbstruck: I had forgotten to include in my book about rain perhaps the greatest Oregon Coast rain story ever captured in literature, one I had ...

Send Rain to Cure the Civil War

A disease is haunting Oregon — the disease of a cultural infantilism. It's here, again, and the infection this fall is stronger than ever. We need rain and more rain as the cure, or at least to make enduring the sickness a little more interesting.

The disease is exhibited by adults in connection to the fortunes of the University of Oregon's and Oregon State University's football programs. And infantilism it is, naked, bawling, obnoxious, crushingly boring to witness. I would ignore its irritating presence if I could but cannot since it constantly invades my cultural space. Can Oregonians talk about something else, like rain or their sex lives or the death of rock?

It all brings to mind something I read by the Italian author/intellectual Umberto Eco, "Sports debate is the easiest substitute for political debate." He wrote that before the onset of ESPN and the Internet. Let me also loosely paraphrase something else Eco wrote: those who watch and obsess over spectator sports are not playing sports. They have lost the ability to play or an interest in sex, too.

UO and OSU football used ...

A First Date in Rain

How many of you have a story of lust or love or a date in the rain? If you live in Oregon, you most certainly do. Here's one of mine.

March rain sheeted across Highway 101 in such ridiculously daunting waves that no technology known to the universe could keep a person from becoming drenched after sprinting 20 feet from a vehicle to a restaurant. Meteorology has no term for this type of rain. Deluge is totally inadequate.

She was barely wearing any clothes, certainly not a coat. Coats do impair mystery sometimes. I don't think she owned one.

There was a distinct possibility the storm would blow her polka-dotted dress right off her nimble body. I wanted to see that. Who doesn't? Rain equals attractive skin, and umbrellas are the chastity belt of the Oregon Coast. I have heard that eunuchs love them, too.

A week earlier, she had magically appeared out of Newport rain on my birthday and helped obliterate the residual longing for a woman of the sun who dumped me from California dreaming. She came bearing a piece of writing that she said I inspired her ...

Where My Obsession with Oregon Rain Began: Lost Lake

My unique and eccentric relationship to Oregon rain began, I think, in the summer of 1973 or 1974 at the Lost Lake campground in the Mount Hood National Forest when a family friend, Katie Green, matriarch of a gyppo logging outfit, Green Brothers Logging from Hood River, the kind of hearty woman Hank Stamper should have married instead of Viv in Sometimes a Great Notion, a woman who was married to a logger named Melvin, the Hank Stamper of Oregon's share of the Cascade Range, a rugged yet gentle man who once saved my life by chasing off a charging Doberman pinscher with an ax, yes, it was Katie who took my family camping with her in a fifth-wheel trailer, no, not the fancy behemoths you see today, with preposterous names like Arctic Fox or Vortex Traveler, but a little rounded one made of metal and wood, yes wood, that slept four although there were five of us on the trip, including my older sister, and we ventured there for three days to hike, wander, bushwhack, swim, skip stones, fish, split wood, boat, build forts, pick ...

How Rain Inspired a Book

What inspires a book? Invariably, this is the first question asked of the author when it comes out.

My new book is about rain, particularly the year it rained 89.97 inches in Newport, Oregon, where I live. Despite unfolding during the second wettest year in recorded history, my story has very little to do with weather.

Inspiration began unexpectedly one Sunday in January 2012 when I learned that someone I loved was leaving me for someone else. She told me over the phone prior to boarding a plane flying to the sunniest places on earth with, presumably, her new boyfriend.

That afternoon, rain moved like a gray phalanx across the yard. As I looked out the window, I felt crushed. I had never seen this coming and was shocked how my intuition had betrayed me. At first I asked, How did it come to this?, which is the dumbest question in the universe. If you ask it, then you already know the reasons why.

I knew the reasons. The story now, however, was not about recrimination, but how to advance, always advance, and learn new lessons and a new ...

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