by Kyle, August 11, 2009 2:40 PM
[Editor's Note: Did you miss the announcement? Indiespensable, Volume 13 is a custom edition of the acclaimed graphic memoir Stitches by David Small, available only to subscribers. Visit the Indiespensable page for full details.
When Jill finished her advance copy of Into the Beautiful North, she knew right away that she wanted to interview its author, Luis Alberto Urrea. A month or so later, the 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist came to Powell's, and they sat down for a conversation. Jill emerged from that room, and... well, it's funny how blasé we get sometimes about meeting writers, even great writers, after working among them for years — which made Jill's over-the-moon reaction all the more remarkable. Some of that admiration comes across in her extensive interview, which you can read right here.
Jill calls Into the Beautiful North "funny, moving, and gorgeously written." She suggests, "If you haven't yet read this lyrical, generous, and important American writer, his new work is a great place to start."
Poor Claudia splashed onto Portland's literary scene this spring with a stunning debut, featuring new work by Tom Spanbauer, Walt Curtis, and Monica Drake, among others. Within days of the new lit journal's launch, we approached the editors about creating a custom edition, exclusively for Indiespensable subscribers. The result: a 4" x 9" hand-bound book with French flaps and original art, featuring new work by 12 up-and-coming poets from the Portland area, many of whom will be publishing their first or second book in 2009. Most will be unfamiliar to you; some you might recognize, such as Michael and Matthew Dickman, twin brothers profiled by Rebecca Mead in the April 6, 2009, issue of The New Yorker.
To those of you who responded to the survey we posted this past spring, thanks very much! Your feedback is much appreciated; surely, it will help inform our choices as we prepare future installments. Among the more obvious lessons: People really liked our author trading cards. And so...
You might recall the name Jessica Anthony. ("From where? From where?" you're wondering. Keep reading, we'll tell you.) The previous edition of Indiespensable included a sampler containing excerpts from three new novels; the second excerpt in said piece was drawn from The Convalescent, Anthony's debut. We wound up enjoying her book so much that we asked her to help us revive the author card series. And here's your card, lovingly designed by Lenore and then signed by the author, herself.
Hope you're having a great summer. Enjoy the books!
P.S. We pour 16 ounces of book-lovin' into every Powell's pint glass! How will you fill
by Kyle, June 15, 2009 2:54 PM
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.
÷ ÷ ÷
[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
What We're Reading
by Kyle, June 5, 2009 2:13 PM
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
by Kyle, May 10, 2009 10:00 AM
Algonquin publishes smart books with a wide commercial appeal. Think Water for Elephants
. Think Mudbound
. A Reliable Wife
fits the bill precisely.
On a Friday in February, we gave an advance copy to Kim. After the weekend, we asked her, "Have you started it?" To which she replied, "Oh, my God, yes. And I just want to go home and read more."
Her response, it turns out, is common.
It was around this time that Carolyn Kellogg at Jacket Copy, the LA Times books blog, asked Dave, "Are you excited about any new fiction this spring?"
"Come a day," he told her, "you might get sick of hearing about A Reliable Wife — so many people will have read it and raved to you about it."
[Editor's note: Dave strikes again. As we prepare this note for the blog, A Reliable Wife is the bestselling book at Powell's Portland stores and #3 among online customers.]
The decision had been made. But what else would go in the box?
"Little blue vials?" someone suggested. Too macabre, we decided.
After several dead ends of that sort, we remembered something Robert Goolrick had said in the Powells.com interview: "When I started to write Reliable Wife," he explained, "I actually started with the final scene, the scene with Catherine and Ralph in the garden."
The garden — aha! And this box would be shipping in springtime... Fittingly, it was Kim who discovered Garden-in-a-Bag. And who doesn’t like basil? No one we know would admit to such a thing.
Next, we asked Craig Popelars, the marketing director at Algonquin, "What are you excited about publishing this coming fall?" "Going Away Shoes," he replied. Knowing Jill McCorkle, this shouldn’t have surprised us — five of her last eight books have been New York Times Notables.
We hope you're as pleased with Indiespensable's tenth installment as we are — and pleased once again in six weeks when your basil is ready to eat.
P.S. Hey, subscribers! How can we make Indiespensable even better? Please take our short survey and let us know! (Editor's Note: This survey is now closed. Thank you to everyone who participated and helped make Indiespensable even
by Kyle, May 7, 2009 1:05 PM
One of the most engaging, thought-provoking books I've read in a long time. Matthew Crawford has delivered an accessible, carefully reasoned examination of work and America's evolving ideas about it, addressing a host of important subjects — for example, how we prepare young men and women for the workforce, in terms of both education and the values we assign to labor. Whether you work with a computer (that'd be me) or power tools, Shop Class as Soulcraft
will get you asking important questions about what you put into your job and, maybe more importantly, what your job gives
by Kyle, March 30, 2009 5:41 PM
It's about time someone turned this subject into a great book. As the subtitle suggests, Schaffer found no lack of material in the crazy (and perhaps uncomfortably familiar?) world of American dog ownership. He brings an ideal blend of wit and insight to the
by Kyle, March 18, 2009 6:00 PM
[Editor's note (to the uninitiated):
Every volume of Indiespensable includes a letter describing the process by which Powell's staff settled upon its contents. The latest installment was shipped to subscribers today. Learn more about our exceedingly popular subscription program here
. (And sign up before #10 sells out!)]
Dear Indiespensable subscribers,
Have you tasted the chocolate yet?
What are you waiting for? Never mind this post; we won't be offended. True, a cup of coffee would indeed complement those delectables. Or a glass of red wine. My, what patience you have! The samples in our office disappeared faster than it's taken to type this paragraph.
Oh, but there are books in the box, too.
Christine Gillespie at Knopf told Dave about Sunnyside way back in October. She gave him a manuscript and shared Glen's idea for turning the novel's first section into the colorful, custom hardcover in your possession. (Careful of smearing that chocolate.)
We loved Glen's idea (and his novel), but we figured that subscribers should hear about his thought process, too. So we asked him: Could you give our readers that same background? And he did.
However, it would be unfair to send you just a tease of the full novel, we decided. Hence the advance reader's copy — in your hands more than a month before the novel's publication!
But back to the chocolate. Sarah Hart, the proprietor of Alma Chocolate, is the chocolatier. She's one of our favorite people in Portland; surely we don't need to explain why. We told her about Sunnyside, and she came up with the idea of a custom chocolate with stencils of Chaplin. Now you probably love her, too.
And Amplified — well, that one is right up our alley. Jon Langford! Laura Veirs! Chris Smither! We knew the folks at Melville House put out some great books, but we may have to recalculate their cool quotient after this
by Kyle, January 28, 2009 11:26 AM
Dear Indiespensable subscribers,
Erika Goldman, the editorial director at Bellevue Literary Press, was the second person to read Tinkers (after Booker Prize winner Barry Unsworth, one of Paul Harding's instructors at Iowa). Erika fell for the book immediately.
"For her to immediately say, 'This is the cover I want to use for it,'" Harding remembers, "that was a good sign. And then, even better news: When I saw the cover she wanted to use, I thought, Jesus, that reminds me of what I wrote!"
At Powell's, Megan read Tinkers first, an advance copy she'd scored from Bob Harrison, our Consortium rep. With high praise, Megan passed it on to Jill, whose reaction proved much the same. Next in line, Dave agreed, yes, what an impressive novel, and a debut no less, by an unknown author, from a tiny publisher we didn't even know. The exact format of our custom edition changed first this way and then that way during production; we're thrilled with the final product. We hope you are, too.
A wholphin is a cross between a whale and a dolphin. Now you know. The DVD magazine called Wholphin is yet one more kick-ass spawn of the way-less-evil-than-Google-even McSweeney's empire. Pronounce it accordingly.
Benjamin Parzybok lives in Portland. In Couch, three 20-somethings, just a few blocks from Powell's on Burnside, decide to carry a couch across America, but it turns out that the couch has other ideas. Small Beer Press co-founder Gavin Grant came up with the idea of the signed print now in your possession, showing off Andi Watson's great cover art. Together we came up with the idea for a greeting from Ben on its back.
We sent Harding a copy of Couch the week before our happy hour celebration at Someday Lounge in honor of Indiespensable: Volume 8. Paul emailed us to say: "What a mobydickheartofdarknesslordoftheringswhitejacket-foucaultspendulumhitchhikersguidetothegalaxy freak out. Delightfully absurd."
To see what Harding has to say about his own book, check out Dave's interview at Powells.com.
by Kyle, November 12, 2008 9:17 PM
[Editor's Note: Each new edition of Indiespensable arrives with a note that explains, sometimes in a roundabout way, how its items came to be selected by Powell's staff. Our subscription club's seventh installment ships on December 4. Here, we offer the note as a sneak preview.
The goal: to spoil you this holiday season with as much excellent and diverse writing as possible, by familiar authors and new discoveries, as well. And to support four great literary periodicals while we're at it.
On the corner of NW 26th Avenue and Thurman Street stands a tin house ? the headquarters of Portland's so-named, award-winning journal. It's just up the hill from the Powells.com warehouse.
An odd coincidence: Lee Montgomery, author of The Things between Us and the Books Editor at Tin House, grew up down the street from Dave (Powell's Dave, we mean), in Framingham, Massachusetts. She lived in the red house at the corner of Winch and Grove. The two didn't meet, however, until many years later, in Oregon.
But here's where things get truly weird: Joanna Yas, the editor of Open City, grew up about a mile in the other direction. She only met Dave a few years ago, in a slow-moving lunch line at Book Expo America. (Read Kevin Sampsell's interview with Joanna on our blog.)
Heidi Julavits is from Maine, which until 1820 was part of Massachusetts. She visited Powell's for an interview and reading when she published her second novel, The Effect of Living Backwards, in 2003. That same year, Heidi introduced (as co-editor) McSweeney's monthly publication, the Believer.
Until just a few weeks ago, Matt Weiland served as Deputy Editor of the Paris Review. With Sean Wilsey, he edited the recent State by State collection; we at Powell's liked it so much that we turned the book into a 38-minute film.
[Another editor's note (last one, we promise): We've omitted several paragraphs here that describe two very special mystery items in this edition that will enhance our subscribers' reading pleasure. Sorry; this part's a surprise. But there's still time to get Volume #7 for yourself or a friend ? it makes a heck of a gift!]
the folks at Powell's
by Kyle, May 25, 2005 12:38 PM
With access to thirty-two companies across a wide range of industries — from Craigslist to Southwest Airlines to Pixar Animation Studios — the cofounder of Fast Company
teams with one of the magazine's senior editors to profile the most innovative organizations in business. What traits do they share? Originality. Experimentation. A fearless commitment to their core customers. A distinctive and disruptive sense of purpose.... Now and then a business book transcends department borders — Good to Great
and Purple Cow
come to mind. Mavericks at Work
has that kind of big picture vision.