by The Panjandrums, April 16, 2015 5:55 PM
Disturbing, poignant, compelling, beautiful — these are just a few words that come to mind when describing Claire Fuller
's debut novel, Our Endless Numbered Days
. In 1970s London, eight-year-old Peggy Hillcoat lives with her concert pianist mother, Ute, and her father, James, an obsessive survivalist. After months of training and drills, James takes Peggy away to live alone with him in the forest, telling her that the rest of the world has been destroyed. Fuller's striking prose and description of Peggy's ordeal and resilience results in a page-turner that is hard to put down. Rarely has a novel captured our attention so fully and immediately, making Our Endless Numbered Days
an obvious choice for Indiespensable #52. We're pleased to present our subscribers with a special hardcover edition, produced exclusively for us by Tin House Books.
Also included in Volume 52 is an advance reader copy of The New and Improved Romie Futch by Julia Elliott, to be published by Tin House in the fall. This satirical Southern gothic yarn follows down-and-out 40-something taxidermist Romie Futch, who seeks experimental brain enhancement after replying to a medical test-subject ad. Wildly hilarious and downright bizarre, an exploration of science, culture, and memory, The New and Improved Romie Futch portrays a genetically modified, Dr. Moreau-like alternate reality.
Finally, we've added our newly released Powell's Marquee Coaster because, while you can never fully safeguard yourself from catastrophic disasters or ill-considered genetic engineering, you can at least protect your furniture from dreaded water staining. The coaster, produced by Portland's own House of Six Cats, features a photo of Powell’s landmark storefront on a sturdy laminated ceramic tile.
by The Panjandrums, February 10, 2015 5:47 PM
The days are dark, the snow and wind are unending, and Blackåsen Mountain holds silent watch over all in the breathtaking Wolf Winter
, debut novelist Cecilia Ekbäck
's evocative exploration of the isolation, despair, and superstitions of early 1700s Swedish Lapland. Maija and Paavo, along with their daughters, Frederika and Dorotea, are the newest settlers that summer on the mountain. The discovery of a body soon after their arrival leads to speculation: Was it unearthly forces, as the other settlers claim? Or, even more sinister… someone among them? In her attempts to investigate, Maija inadvertently sets into motion a chain of events that puts herself and her family at risk. At the same time, teenaged Frederika struggles to understand the strange visions she's been experiencing and her emerging powers. Secrets are revealed and loyalties tested, all while the brutal "wolf winter" threatens their very survival. With prose as stark and beautiful as freshly fallen snow, Ekbäck's novel left us chilled and astounded. We're delighted to present it as our featured selection in Indiespensable #51.
Also included in this volume is a bag of Classic Strong Man Granola from Portland's own Blackbird Food Co. This deliciously hearty granola — full of a variety of fruits, nuts, and seeds — is a sweet and salty treat, guaranteed to give you strength to face the coldest winter's day.
And, in case you find yourself snowed in, we've included Powell's extremely popular Smellbound journal, printed right here at the City of Books on our Espresso Book Machine. You may just find the inspiration to write a novel of your own.
by The Panjandrums, November 25, 2014 12:19 PM
Renowned Canadian author Miriam Toews
is a perennial favorite here at Powell's — so much so that for our landmark 50th volume of Indiespensable, we welcomed the idea of featuring her for a second time — a first in the subscription program's history. All My Puny Sorrows
is Toews's most heartbreaking and poignant work to date. The novel centers on the relationship between Elfrieda and Yolandi, two loving and incredibly close adult sisters raised in a small Mennonite community. Elf has battled severe depression all her life, and is determined to commit suicide (as their father did some years before). Yoli wants desperately to keep her sister alive, but also wants to respect her wishes and acknowledge her suffering. A remarkable and very autobiographical novel, the Giller Prize–shortlisted All My Puny Sorrows
is impossible to put down and, despite the difficult subject matter, showcases Toews's trademark wit. Yoli, Elf, and their extended family and friends are superb characters who will stay with you long after the book is over, and Toews writes with beauty, grace, and overwhelming love.
For this special installment, we also wanted to draw readers' attention to a Portland-based author whose fiction and essays have astonished us for years. Charles D'Ambrosio has been compared to literary greats such as Carver and Denis Johnson for his short story collections, and his out-of-print 2005 essay collection, Orphans, has become something of a cult classic. Now our friends at Tin House are publishing his new and collected essays in a book entitled Loitering — which includes all of those hard-to-find gems from Orphans plus new and previously uncollected work. Says Powell's own Jill Owens: "Charles D'Ambrosio's essays are excitingly good. They are relevant in the way that makes you read them out loud, to anyone who happens to be around. Absolutely accessible and incredibly intelligent, his work is an astounding relief — as though someone is finally trying to puzzle all the disparate, desperate pieces of the world together again." We're incredibly excited to present to you a signed advance reader's copy of Loitering in this shipment of Indiespensable.
Finally, we included what could be the ultimate indulgence: a Pinot Noir Salt Chocolate Bar from Pitchdark, Portland's single-origin artisanal chocolate crafter. The company teamed up with another local favorite, Jacobsen Salt, to create this decadent bar featuring hand-harvested sea salt infused with Willamette Valley pinot noir. We hope you enjoy the salty-sweet richness, along with the inedible (but satiating) literary contents, of Indiespensable
by The Panjandrums, September 10, 2014 4:49 PM
is one of the most beloved authors amongst Powell's staff, so when The Bone Clocks
was first rumored earlier this year, we began whispering about its release with impatient anticipation. The novel begins in 1984 with Holly Sykes, a British teenager who has decided to run away from home following a terrible fight with her mother. Holly has heard unexplained voices from a young age, and her journey starts a whirlwind of reality-shifting, multifaceted events that echo throughout the lives of a variety of characters — mortal and... slightly otherwise — for the next 60 years. With the sweeping global vision and ability to sum up whole eras of time that he's become known for, along with a fascinating dose of fantasy, The Bone Clocks
is David Mitchell's most enthralling and illuminating novel yet.
We're also thrilled to include Kelly Link's newly reissued collection of stories, Magic for Beginners. Called "dazzling" by Entertainment Weekly and "darkly playful" by Michael Chabon, Link's stories about witches, superheroes, haunted convenience stores, and more are charming, disturbing, funny, and unlike anything else you've read. Link has been a cult hero here at Powell's as well as out in the world for years — former employee and Glaciers author Alexis Smith raves, "Kelly Link is the future of American short fiction."
We hope you enjoy these two wildly inventive works in installment #49 of
by The Panjandrums, August 21, 2014 10:00 AM
We've had our eye on Josh Weil
ever since his first book, The New Valley
, came out in 2009. The collection of three linked novellas won the American Academy of Arts and Letters' Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction and earned him a spot on the National Book Foundation's esteemed "5 Under 35" list of upcoming young authors. So we had high expectations when his new novel found its way into our hands. The Great Glass Sea
lived up to — and surpassed — those accolades with its inventiveness, originality, and incredible story. Yarik and Dima are twin brothers living in an alternate and dystopian version of Russia. Inseparable as children, their adult lives begin to divide along lines of power, ideology, and fortune. Drawing strong influence from Russian folktales, The Great Glass Sea
is a gorgeously written, intricately detailed look at how community, individuality, and love evolve in one imagined future. We are happy to be partnering again with Grove Atlantic, one of the country's premier independent presses, to present this excellent work.
We're also pleased to be working with the good folks at Mighty Leaf Tea, the San Francisco-based specialty tea crafters known for their innovative whole-leaf blends and eco-friendly pouches. Each Indiespensable package includes a trio of tea packets — Chocolate Mint Truffle, White Orchard, and Vanilla Bean — to savor while getting lost in The Great Glass Sea.
If a cool beverage is what you're after, we've got you covered on that front, too. And cool is just the word we'd use to describe our Powell's Literature Nalgene Bottle, a nearly indestructible drinking container that comes complete with literary nutrition facts. It holds up to 32 ounces of fluid, and because it's BPA free, all you have to worry about is what liquid concoction will best complement your literary cravings.
by The Panjandrums, June 2, 2014 12:10 PM
Since the release of his first story collection in 2002, Anthony Doerr has been hailed as a major literary talent. He's been awarded four O. Henry Prizes, the Rome Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, three Pushcart Prizes, the Story Prize, and a host of other awards and honors. In 2007, Granta
even named him one of 21 Best Young American Novelists. Still, despite all the acclaim, one wonders if fans will be quite prepared for his new book. Doerr's fifth book and second novel is a truly magnificent achievement, the kind that anchors a body of work and redefines a career.
All the Light We Cannot See tells the parallel stories of a blind French girl and a young German radio engineer during World War II. Whether he's describing the locks in Paris's National Museum of Natural History, the history of a notorious diamond, or the streets of a medieval French port, Doerr lends an expert's eye to the details of the world he brings to life. But what truly elevates his second novel is how skillfully he uses each of his lyrical, evocative sentences, one after the other, to gradually reveal the complex inner lives of his truly memorable cast of characters. Abraham Verghese wrote: "It's been a while since a novel had me under its spell in this fashion," and we, too, feel absolutely enchanted by this book.
Also in your package, you'll find a signed paperback original of The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison. We can't say enough about this extraordinary collection of essays, though Jill gave it a shot: "I can't think of another book I've recommended to so many people so fiercely. I'm already happy to declare it the best nonfiction book of 2014."
In the spirit of empathy, we've also included one of San Francisco artist Agelio Batle's die-pressed graphite hearts. Specially designed to be used as a writing tool without smudging the skin, these remarkable little sculptures are as beautiful as they are
by The Panjandrums, April 1, 2014 12:00 PM
After publishing five novels, including two international bestsellers, Siri Hustvedt
is best known as a writer of fiction. But according to Salley Vickers of the Observer
, "She is even more to be admired as an essayist (in this regard I feel that she resembles Virginia Woolf)." Fluent in the concepts and the language of psychology, neuroscience, the visual arts, and many other fields, Hustvedt is a world-class polymath. So it came as no surprise that her new novel is as intellectually provocative as it is emotionally moving. Yet The Blazing World
was still a revelation.
Told in a patchwork of journal entries, personal reminiscences, interviews, and transcripts, all compiled after her death, The Blazing World tells from competing perspectives the story of middle-aged artist Harriet (Harry) Burden, who conducts an experiment in which three male artists agree to show her work and claim it as their own. The work is received well, but when Harry steps up to reveal the ruse, things get interesting. And complicated. While the setup sounds like a revealing intellectual exercise, what makes The Blazing World such a triumph is Hustvedt's extraordinary ability to generate emotional momentum as she reveals, bit by bit, the complexity and power of these relationships, the psychological depth of her characters, and the transformative capacities of art.
To further illustrate art's transformative abilities, we've included a set of seven postcards, each replicating one illustrated page from the forthcoming title from Tin House Books, Whitman Illuminated: Song of Myself. Taking for his muse Walt Whitman's poetic masterwork, "Song of Myself," artist Allen Crawford transformed the 60-page poem into an extended work of art, with words and images blending together into a single imaginative vision.
Also included is an advance reader's edition of one of the most remarkable debut novels we've read in recent years, We Are Not Ourselves, by Matthew Thomas. We're excited to give you a first look at this incredibly assured, moving, and quietly heartbreaking novel, due to be published in September. Joshua Ferris expressed our feelings precisely: "It's humbling and heartening to read a book this good." We hope you enjoy
by The Panjandrums, January 28, 2014 12:43 PM
When one of young Richard Powers
's college professors told him that literature was the "perfect place for someone who wanted the aerial view," he abandoned his plan to become a scientist and switched his major to English. As Margaret Atwood would one day quip, "Powers is not a painter of miniatures." The aerial view is where he lives. Powers has a deep knowledge of a remarkable array of subjects and at times seems to be incorporating them into one overarching view. He's written about physics, history, photography, computer science, genetics, economics, and many other topics. But the motif Powers has returned to most often throughout his career is music, which takes center stage again in his brilliant new novel based loosely on the myth of Orpheus.
Peter Els, a classical composer who dabbles in microbiology, gets fingered as a bioterrorist and, after a national manhunt is launched, spends the rest of the novel on the lam. He revisits the seminal people and music from his past and contemplates the decisions that shaped his life's work. A gorgeously written, masterfully plotted, deeply moving story of one man's quest to create something genuinely new, Orfeo is both a thrilling read and a deeply satisfying novel of ideas. We are thrilled to be able to feature it in Indiespensable Volume 45.
Each package also includes a bag of raspberry truffle popcorn from Portland's celebrated artisanal popcorn company, Poplandia, and a Hot Chocolate on a Stick variety bag from Popbar, a dessert shop based in New York's West Village known for their handcrafted treats-on-a-stick. Just stir one of the three flavors in a cup of steamed milk for an instant cup of hot milk chocolate, hot dark chocolate, or hot vanilla. Thrilling and deeply satisfying indeed.
by The Panjandrums, December 14, 2013 11:16 AM
In his introduction to The Best of McSweeney's
, Dave Eggers
recounts the time he met an Irish couple with the surname of, coincidentally enough, McSweeney. Even more coincidentally, the man's name was Timothy, but the heart of the story is about his wife. Describing a writer she loved, Maura McSweeney told Eggers that he wrote "like he's seeing the world for the first time."
According to Eggers, that's what he looks for as an editor: "writers who make us feel like they're seeing their world, whatever world that is, with fresh eyes, and allow us to experience it through their words." Over the past 15 years, the journal he founded, Timothy McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, has published such authors in droves.
But, for many, it's the magazine itself that takes center stage. Rick Moody recalls receiving a galley of the first issue:
I saw, was astonished to see, was arrested to see, how beautiful the thing was, how idiosyncratically and thoughtfully the thing was designed. I mean, my idea of a literary magazine was that it was primarily a sleep-inducer....Nevertheless, this magazine turned out to be beautiful, and its editor, uh, rather savvy, or even, let’s say, visionary....In due course, I received issue number one. Which as we know now changed the literary magazine for good, if not American publishing entire."
Timothy McSweeney's Quarterly Concern took about two issues to become the hottest thing around. Known for its maverick spirit, its playfulness, its eye for talent, and its innovative experiments in style and form — one early issue had an entire David Foster Wallace story written on the spine — McSweeney's has become, as the New York Times put it, "a key barometer of the literary climate." Since its debut issue in 1998, the journal has published some of the most important, interesting, and just plain fun literary voices around. Now, the editors have collected their favorites in a single volume. We're immensely proud to feature The Best of McSweeney's, signed by a selection of McSweeney's writers, in Indiespensable Volume 44.
We realized it would be difficult to find an item special enough to accompany The Best of McSweeney's. But when we tasted the Blackberry + Tangerine Gumdrops made by local candy maker QUIN, we knew we'd hit on something. QUIN describes their own candies as "reimagined, updated, modernized," but to us, it was like tasting a gumdrop for the first time.
by The Panjandrums, November 10, 2013 12:00 PM
In addition to her novels, Donna Tartt
is known for her obsessive fans. As a freshman in college, her writing had already caught the attention of an eminent editor, who introduced himself by saying, "My name's Willie Morris, and I think you're a genius." With the publication of her magnificent debut, The Secret History
, Tartt became the focus of something like an international cult. Her second novel, The Little Friend
, was one of the most anticipated literary events of the past decade. So it is with particular pleasure that we are featuring The Goldfinch
, Tartt's long-awaited third novel, as our selection for Indiespensable Volume 43.
This story about a boy named Theo Decker, who loses his mother in an explosion at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, does so many things well, it's hard to know where to begin. Its sprawling Dickensian plot? Its extraordinary cast of characters? Tartt's sublime sentences? Or complex, compelling, heartbreaking Theo at the center of it all? As Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times put it, The Goldfinch is "a novel that pulls together all [Tartt's] remarkable storytelling talents into a rapturous, symphonic whole and reminds the reader of the immersive, stay-up-all-night pleasures of reading." Tartt's fans old and new will devour it.
To complement this delicious novel, we've included a box of Smoked Salt Caramels from Seattle-based Fran's Chocolates. Fran's chocolates are legendary. But don't take our word for it. Culinary icon Ina Garten likes them, too: "I've tried a lot of salted caramels but I always come back to the original ones. OMG I love Fran's chocolate covered caramels with sea