Welcome to the official blog of Third Place Books

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

You Have an e-reader and Still Want to Shop with Us ? No Problem.

Did you or someone you know get an e-reader for the holiday? Third Place Books has partnered with Google to bring you the most flexible way to buy eBooks.

From New York Times bestsellers to old favorites, Third Place Books now offers you one of the largest ebook collections available with Google eBooks. Shop for your next ebook and begin reading on just about any device.

With Google eBooks, you can now:

Read seamlessly on any device
Google eBooks stores your library safely in the digital cloud, so you can read anywhere you go, using just about any device with an Internet connection. Google eBooks is compatible with most web browsers, Android phones, iPhone, iPad, and many eReaders.

As you read, your page positions are saved across all the devices so you can pick up reading where you last left off. That means you can start reading on your PC, continue on your laptop, and carry on reading on your smartphone.

Explore thousands of titles instantly
Discover your next ebook among thousands of titles in every imaginable category. From bestsellers to classics, top fiction to up-and-coming authors, all ebooks now offer instant availability and free preview before you buy. Google eBooks allows you to enjoy unlimited storage of books in the digital cloud.

Access your library anytime, anywhere
Support your local bookstore and shop with us, or at any of the Google eBooks retail locations. All your ebooks are stored wirelessly in one place, so you can access your library from one account anytime, anywhere.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Our Top 10 (actually 30) Books of the Year

Going into the Holiday season each year our staff gets together to discuss some of our favorite reads of the year. We put together the results of this year's discussions and thought we would share them with our customers.

1. Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes - This novel about the Vietnam War inspired more passionate discussions amongst our staff and customers than almost any other book this year. It's a novel that is equally enjoyed by men and women. If you don't know what novel to give as a gift this year, look no further.

2. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin - This literary mystery by an Edgar-award-winning author is a rich atmospheric novel set in Mississippi.

3. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest by Stieg Larsson - The third installment in this outstanding Swedish mystery series has kept fans satisfied this year.

4. C by Tom McCarthy - This is a dense anti-plot novel that is overflowing with codes, symbols, and secret messages. It's not for everyone, but fans of Pynchon will love it.

5. Skippy Dies by Paul Murray - It's hard to find really strong humorous fiction. This year the lives of students and teachers at an Irish boarding school provide the setting for one of the darkly-funniest novels of the year.

6. Dreadnought by Cheri Priest - Local author Cheri Priest's latest steampunk novel is a blast to read. It's captured the imagination of much of our staff and many customers.

7. The Lost Books of the Odyssey by Zachary Mason -  A blending of the Borges literary legacy with Zoran Zivkovic’s mode of “mosaic novel” writing, The Lost Books of the Odyssey refracts the story of The Odyssey and the person of Odysseus down a long corridor of funhouse mirrors--44 chapters of jazzy improvisation.

8. The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall - This is an unlikely hero in an unlikely setting for an American family novel. But it surprises its readers with how much they empathize with all the characters in this tragic-comic novel.

9. The Passage by Justin Cronin - This post-apocalyptic thriller is the biggest page turner on this list both in size and how quickly you'll tear through it. The good news is that it's the first in a trilogy--there's more to come.

10. An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin - For those who haven't read Steve Martin's fiction, there are two things to know: these are not comic novels, and the guy can really write. This one, taking place in the world of art and art auctions, is a gorgeous book with color reproductions of some of the art described in the book.

Non- Fiction

1. The Tiger - by John Vaillant - This true account of a man-eating tiger in Russia in the 1990's is thrilling, extraordinarily well-written, and full of fascinating historical, cultural, and environmental research. 

2. Were You Born on the Wrong Continent by Thomas Geoghegan - This in-depth look at German Social Democracy brings strong arguments for improving the general quality of life in this country by following their lead.

3. At Home by Bill Bryson - You couldn't ask for a better tour guide of how we live at home and the historical evolution of  our domestic lives than the ever-inquisitive and always engaging Bill Bryson.

4. The Shallows by Nicholas Carr - This eyeopening and sobering look at the neurological consequences of how we live, work, and play with our computers and other devices is a fascinating read.

5. The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee - Really good science books are hard to come by, great ones less so. This is one of the greats--a heartbreaking and inspiring book about the history of cancer.

6. The Possessed by Elif Batuman - For those who can't get enough of the great Russian novelists, you will find yourself in good company with the fun and insightful writing of Elif Batuman.

7. Hellhound on His Trail by Hampton Sides - This is an intense and chilling account of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., focusing on James Earl Ray and the greatest manhunt in US history.

8. The Wave by Susan Casey - As much a portrait of extreme surfing and the great Laird Hamilton as it is about the ocean waters, this book takes you up on 100-foot-tall rogue waves for a ride you won't forget.

9. What Ever Happened to Modernism by Gabriel Josipovici - This book coaxes out the inner lit-major in everyone. This is a strong, compelling argument that the way we look at the traditionally-acknowledged period of modernism in literature is all wrong.

10. Let's Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell - This touching memoir about friendship, grief, and dogs is the kind of book you don't want to end.

Kids' Books

1. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins - This third and final installment in the Hunger Games trilogy did not disappoint its fans. 

2. Adios Nirvana by Conrad Wesselhoeft - Set in and around the Seattle music scene, this powerful Young Adult novel wowed our Kids staff.

3. A Bedtime for Bear by Bonnie Becker - With rich language and fun characters, this is easily one of the most enjoyable books to read to young children published this year.

4. It's a Book by Lane Smith - While this is a picture book, it's clearly meant for older kids (7 & up) and maybe even more for adults. It's got one of the best punch lines you'll read this year.

5. Matched by Allyson Condie - So, you're bummed that the Hunger Games trilogy is over? Looking for what's next? You just found it.

6. Knuffle Bunny Free by Mo Willems - Possibly the best of the Knuffle Bunny books, this one had a few staff members tearing up at the end.

7. How Rocket Learned to Read by Tad Hills - This is a really charming little book that is perfect for kids who are just beginning to read or are trying to.

8. Countdown by Deborah Wiles - This story of a family during the Cuban Missile Crisis is filled with real-world documents and photos that make it a great and pain-free history lesson, as well as a gripping story.

9. Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness - Here another trilogy is wrapped up this year. The finale of the Chaos Walking trilogy is a thrilling novel of survival and the brutal realities of war.

10. My Life with the Lincolns by Gayle Brandies - If you are convinced that your family is the presidential Lincoln family reincarnated then you have one big task ahead of you--keep your father from being assassinated.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Where is the Green Sheep?

The Seattle Children's theater recently put on a production of Where is the Green Sheep, based on the book by Mem Fox. We love this book, its the perfect book to share with a toddler. So imagine our excitement when we received a shipment of fluffy green sheep stuff animals! He is so cute we couldn't help playing a game of "Where is the Green Sheep" around the store. You can play too! Here we go!
The Green Sheep loves children's books! He especially loves this display of Staff picks for toddlers to teens. To see the lists online, visit our website here.

Here the Green Sheep is checking out all the great Christmas romances we have! Just look for the handy signs labeled "Christmas Romance!"

Next the Green Sheep checked out the books in our Rare and Collectibles section. We have a great collection of Rare and Collectible books for the bibliophile in your life!

Don't forget to get a gift for your favorite pet! We have catnip toys and these adorable stockings for dogs!

What better way to get into the holiday spirit than enjoy hot apple cider while you decorate your home. The Green Sheep can't wait to try these new mulling spices. What ornaments does the Green Sheep decorate his tree with? Robot ornaments of course!

We have all these and more! Let us help take the stress out of Christmas shopping. Our staff is ready to help you find the perfect gift for even the pickiest of readers. Want to check if we carry a book? Give us a call at 206-366-3333! If we don't have it we're happy to do whatever we can to track it down. Most books we can have in under a week. The Green Sheep is waiting by the phone for your call! Happy Holidays from Third Place Books.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

What Would Vader Read? PART TWO!

This year he is enjoying Suzanne Collin's The Hunger Games and Jeff Kinney's Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth!

What Would Vader Read?

Today, from 4-6pm, we are excited to welcome back Darth Vader and the Storm Troops! These pictures are from last year's event. What should we get Vader to read this year?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Barcode Brouhaha

In the last couple of weeks the internet has been abuzz with the news of Amazon's recent release of an iPhone app that allows you go into a store, take a photograph of a product barcode, and then it will take you directly to Amazon.com where you can then buy it right then and there.

Let this sink in for just a moment.

At first blush it sounds kind of cool.  I mean, scanning and price comparing and being able to hold an item in your hands before you commit to buying it is a pretty nifty thing.  But if you stop and mull it over for a while the ramifications of an app like this become clear.

With this app Amazon is using brick and mortar stores as showrooms for the products they sell.  Without having to pay the rent on a physical location or pay booksellers who have sales acumen and actual book knowledge they are poaching the customers who might have previously said "I want to hold a book in my hand before I buy it." Is it putting the power into the customer's hands?  Sure, I suppose.  But it's also eating away at the narrow profit margins which allow places like Third Place to survive. Besides, the app is ultimately self-defeating; if all goes according to Amazon's plan they will, through undercutting and sheer brute force, physical retailers will shut down and the book "showrooms" won't exist anymore.

Do our new books cost a little more than Amazon?  Typically, yes.  They're able to negotiate larger discounts with the publishers because they're able to order staggering quantities of books.  While Amazon can order 10,000 copies of the newest James Patterson thriller, we can only order 10.  Furthermore, they use loss-leaders as a way to get you to buy more items.  They'll sell you a $25 book for $9.99, taking the monetary hit themselves, with the expectation that the money you saved on that purchase will entice you to shell out more for other items.  We don't do that to our customers.

When you buy your books from us you're doing more than just buying a book.  You're helping to fund the Third Place Commons which offers free t'ai chi classes, writing groups, and a warm, comfortable place to gather with your community.  You're helping us continue our dynamic author events program which brings in almost 30 writers per month to talk about their craft and thank you, their fans, for making them a success.  You're keeping live music on the stage every Friday and Saturday night.  But most of all you're contributing to a locally-owned, independent business where 68% of every dollar spent STAYS in the Seattle area and re-energizes the local economy. And while Amazon may technically be considered "local" to here in Western Washington they are robbing other states of sales tax dollars that fund education, public safety, and health.  Furthermore, our stock isn't decided by a single buyer sitting behind a big glass desk but rather by a team of our booksellers who live in your neighborhood and talk to customers, like you, on the sales floor every day.  In short your book purchases at Third Place Books are contributing to everything that makes us a beacon in the community.

So next time you're tempted to scan a barcode and make a purchase at Amazon.com think about it a little first and ask yourself if Amazon is going to invite your favorite author to speak right in your neighborhood or if they'll encourage you make yourself comfortable in one of their chairs while a live band serenades you from their stage and sip a delicious freshly-made americano from their in-store cafe.  Oh wait, that's right, they won't.  Well, you know where to find us.


And if we're not your local book store for Pete's sake you need to find one!  Visit the IndieBound website to find your closest independent bookstore.  

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Meet our Booksellers: Halloween Edition

Jane & Emily
Rene K
Annie as Charlie Brown
Erin as A Pink Slip
Stan as King Kong
Monica as a Yoga Instructor
Sarah as Fancy Nancy

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Last Minute Costume Ideas (or five reasons to justify buying this awesome tutu!)

Who doesn't love a good tutu? Sarah, who can usually be found in our Kid's department, has combined two of her favorite things, kids' books and tutus, to bring you five (easy) last minute costume ideas!

1) LADYBUG GIRL = red tutu + red shirt painted with black dots + attach pip cleaners to a headband for antennae  (Bonus: does your LadyBug Girl have a little brother? Try Bumblebee Boy = black pants + yellow and black striped shirt)

2) PINKALICIOUS = pink tutu + pink shirt + pink tights + pink shoes + pigtails & a tiara

3)FANCY NANCY = any color tutu + lots of accessories! (bows, jewelry, glitter!)

4) LITTLE MERMAID = green tutu + bathing suit (try a long sleeve shirt under your swim suit if its cold)

5)ANGELINA BALLERINA = any color tutu + paint mouse nose & whiskers on (an eyeliner pencil works great) + optional: ears and tail

Already have a costume? The greatest thing about a tutu is they are fun for the whole year!  So stop by our kids' department today and grab yours before they're gone! (And maybe stay a little while to read a book or two. Sarah highly recommends the new Fancy Nancy, Fancy Nancy and the Fabulous Fashion Boutique, and Mo Willems' Knuffle Bunny Free.)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Publishing Through Print on Demand

This weekend marks the first public event in what we hope will be the beginning of an exciting and fun partnership. Publication Studio, a small innovative press in Portland, OR, is allowing us to "co-publish" an edition of their latest book, A River Story  by American Book Award winning author Anna Odessa Linzer. Publication Studio and Third Place Press are excited to partner on this real-time publication project that models the use of non-exclusive rights and multi-publisher collaborations.

The Book : A River Story  is a novel about Fish Town, a self-invented community that took root along the banks of a river much like the Skagit, near La Conner, Washington, in the 1960s. Poet Mike Dillon calls it a "subtle, knowing" book that "nails the hubris, hypocrisy, and genuine hopes of the 60s and 70s all too believably."

 The Philosophy : Publication Studio is a press that is carving out new ways for books to be circulated, author's to be paid and the book industry to think about the "life" of the book. Here is part of their mission statement

Publication Studio is an experiment in sustainable publication. We print and bind books on demand, creating original work with artists and writers we admire, books that both respond to the conversation of the moment and can endure. We attend to the social life of the book, cultivating a public that cares and is engaged. Publication Studio is a laboratory for publication in its fullest sense — not just the production of books, but the production of a public. This public, which is more than a market, is created through deliberate acts: the circulation of texts; discussions and gatherings in physical space; and the maintenance of a digital commons. Together these construct a space of conversation, a public space, which beckons a public into being. - read more


The Edition(s) : Third Place Press is creating 2 editions of A River Story through its print on demand Espresso Book Machine (Ginger). Each with original art by two local artists, Charles Krafft and Eli Hansen.

The Event : Sunday 10/24 5:30pm  - Matthew Stadler founder of Publication Studio, Robert Sindelar Managing Partner of Third Place Books and Vladimir Verano of Third Place Press will all be present along with the author and artists to celebrate this book launch and new partnership. Those interested the book machine are reminded that they can arrive as early as 4:30 pm, when they can order a copy of A River Story and actually watch their book as it is produced by Ginger.

Monday, October 18, 2010


Here at Third Place we are very lucky to have the lovely and talented Wendy Manning as our Gift Buyer (and assistant manager, author event coordinator, music coordinator, marketing manager, and resident fashionista) because our Sidelines section is often praised by customers.  Whether you're just looking for a birthday card to send to Aunt Mary-Jo or you're on the hunt for the perfect wedding shower gift, our sidelines section has something for everyone.

If you're looking for something a bit more..."off the beaten path" shall we say, than a leather-bound journal or a booklight, we've got you covered there too.  In fact, you might say that we specialize a bit in the wackier side of the gift realm.

In this picture we have a set of miniature chattering teeth, ninja nesting dolls, a pink glitter-covered skull (To be or not to be fabulous?!), a squeezably soft Salmonella, curry flavoured mints, and the oh-so-classy Farts in a can.

So while books may be the name of the game here at Third Place don't forget about our fantastic gift selection!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Sloane Crosley Interview, part deux

VV: Take a Stab At It is a good example of what I kind of see as a bit of hyper-realism that approaches fiction. It was a very interesting surprise that happens in the middle of that essay suddenly I found myself in the middle of a ghost story and I didn’t expect it. Your essays made me think of – I had to look it up because I’d forgotten what the term was but now they call it New Journalism, Creative Nonfiction, authors like Didion and Wolfe and Truman Capote – were they a big influence on you?

SC: They definitely are. Oh my gosh! They’re so big that that I wouldn’t even name them as influences because I feel almost uncomfortable at all being mentioned in the same breath. It’s not like I was writing and I thought, “Well, God, you know, geez, what did Truman Capote do? Let me look.” And think that I could possibly even pretend to imitate. But I think there’s some sort of subconscious way that they’re influencing me while I write. I try not to read – I read those people or reread works of theirs that I love, you know, God, I mean, Truman Capote, Other Voices, Other Rooms, and Goodbyes and all that and the Didion and stuff like that. But you go back and visit something like Slouching Towards Bethlehem, but afterwards. While you’re writing it, I think it’s important to read the phone book, or the back of cereal boxes—or a big giant novel, or anything, anything else. But yeah, that particular essay, it’s funny, because people have all these tiny little things that seem embarrassing that really aren’t risking that much. And you know? That’s the gamble of the last essay, that’s risking a lot. And that essay you just referenced, Take A Stab At It, is risking a lot because it’s much more risky to say, “I full-on believe I saw a ghost when I was nine and here’s the story,” versus, you know, “Oh, I got caught picking my wedgie in the street.” Wooooooo! It’s not – it’s so funny that the things people think are everyday embarrassments, I don’t feel remotely shy about sharing.

VV: Ah, yes. An Abbreviated Catalog of Tongues. It’s a great title and also the experience of raising countless amounts of animals is really spot on because that’s what happened with me and my family. My mother and my older brother were always having this just obsessive need to have pets around. You know, they did have a lot of pets in the family –

SC: [Laughs.] Oh, they’re family. Don’t confuse, yeah – if you have a loyalist in your household, do not make the mistake of calling them ‘pets’ – they’re brothers and sisters. [Laughs.]

VV: And it was really funny, because, you know, you’d think you’d go through as traumatic an experience as the loss of an animal and then, nope, a few weeks later or a few months later, there’d be a new animal.
Do you own a pet now?

SC: I’m so happy you asked, because I’m proud to be a crazy cat lady. Although I think you’re not a crazy cat lady if you have one. And I do have one, and her name is Mabel. And she was adopted from a family. She was abandoned in an apartment complex in North Carolina and my friend who went to West Point and was stationed at Fort Bragg and was renting out somehow an apartment in this complex and found Mabel as a kitten. She was given birth to by this cat who had been abandoned, I’m sure – and this is not a very interesting story – but the one funny part is that I ended up adopting her and she – you know, if you’re going to get a cat and adopt it, you should have it litter trained by someone who went to West Point.  Because the cat has never done anything wrong. She’s like the most perfectly affectionate, lovely animal, who’s never pissed or shat anywhere otherwise than where she’s meant to. So – it’s not my fault she’s so cute. She was born that way. So that is my story, to answer your question, “Do I have an animal?”

VV: Well, I was wondering if you had been burned out by the whole experience of growing up with animals.

SC: I had a long, long time in which I had no pets, and perfectly happily, so, I mean, obviously through college, and about the first four or five years in New York, and you know, and then I had no intention of getting one, actually, and then she came my way.

VV: Well, okay. So a couple of very brief questions, and I know you hate being put on the spot about this sort of stuff.

SC: I do? I do hate that? Have I gone the record saying that I hate –

VV: Phobias.

SC: Phobias. Oh yes do I ever. I hate knives. And little kids with sticky lollipops who are unmanned – just running around with sticky things, and I don’t know where their parents are. And then my biggest phobia by far is, I don’t like speed. Roller coasters. Planes taking off. Motorboats, that’s a big one. Just speed. Anything that moves super-duper-duper fast.  I really, really, really hate it. That is my biggest fear. So…

VV: Huh. So no dream of being an astronaut?

SC: No.

VV: [Laughs.]

SC: I hate planes; it’s funny. I have a pretty terrible fear of flying and turbulence and things of that nature because of that. It’s very specific –I have no claustrophobia, I’m not afraid the plane’s going to crash, I’m fine with being in that space for a while. None of that’s a problem. So it’s funny when you’re flying and you explain what it is to people and they’ll inevitably – even if you explain it’s takeoff – they say, “Oh, but it’s a short flight!” Well, do you have to leave the ground because of it? So I guess a speedy chamber with lollipops everywhere and knives sticking out would be my worst nightmare.

VV: Wow. That would be one interesting astronaut training program.

SC: Yes.

VV: So several of your essays involve traveling to places like Alaska and Portugal and so on. Any places you’re still craving to visit?

SC: Oh, my gosh. Yes, tons.
The truth is, if anyone expects this to be a travel book, they’re going to discover that I’m quite poorly traveled. I mean, I would love to go to Japan, Thailand, Africa especially, India.  I would love to go to Brazil. Yeah, places like that. So the list is endless. Unlike the fears, which are finite, the list of places I want to travel is pretty huge.
I can’t read a travel article without thinking, like, “Okay….now how am I going to do this?”

VV: How involved are you with the Internet?

SC: I am poorly involved with the Internet. I do have a Twitter feed and I do have a Facebook account. I try and keep them up, and I think certain writers, Colson Whitehead is a good example, we were just talking about him earlier, and he has taken to it like a fish to water. And certain writers have the humor of the pithy remark. And some just don’t care for the format of it. I do like it but I don’t do it nearly enough. But I also don’t have the Internet at home.

VV: [Laughs.] Really?

SC: Total Luddite. Yeah, I don’t have it at home. I mean, I have a day job where I have it all day long. I’m constantly exposed to media, all sorts of magazines, books, whatever. I’m constantly online, you know, refreshing various web pages. I have a BlackBerry for emergency emails, and I just don’t have it at home.
It’s rarely, rarely a problem.

VV: The reason why I was asking is that it crops up with certain writers about how distracting the Internet is.

SC: Yes. I’m not really distracted by it.

VV: The other part of that question was, “Do you Google yourself?”

SC: Oh, yeah. Sure. I’ll self-Google. But not a lot.

VV: Is it surprising what you come across sometimes?

SC: Mmm – nah. I don’t think I’ve ever been just shocked or anything like that. I’m not surprised by reviews. I think sometimes people’s personal blogs can be surprising because I think, even if it’s negative, a weird part of me is flattered because I rarely have the urge to share my opinion with everyone constantly. And that can be good or bad. I’m certainly grateful for the people that have enjoyed my stuff and they do share it with their friends. I mean, word of mouth and buzz is really I think how a book like this exists. And sometimes it can be intense – really, really fun. I mean, critiques like, “Why are you not writing for somewhere else?” And sometimes the negative ones can be fun too. But I’ve just never had  the urge to directly interact with the person who either provided the entertainment or the horror.  I‘ve enjoyed something, or been appalled by it, and I’ve taken it into my own life and told people about it.

VV: How does it feel being in the publishing industry now you’re actually kind of the product rather than the promoter or the publisher? How does that inform your overall understanding publishing now?

SC: Well, think there was something I had lost a little bit when my first job was for a literary agent where you’re taught,  the author is right’ and you’re ‘protecting the author against the big bad publishing house,’ and then pretty quickly I ended up working for a big publishing house, and then another big publishing house, and I’ve been there for about nine years. And I think that you now realize, you see things a little more balanced. I think I’d gone too far the other direction of thinking that people’s expectations were too high, or not worrying enough about different authors’ feelings, and I now see what it’s really like to be on the road and it’s rough. But on the other side is, not that rough. You know, I’m sorry you have to wake up at 6:00 AM so that you can then go to a bookstore where people will listen to what you wrote, because someone’s bound it. Like, that’s a pretty sweet experience. So unless you’re AS Byatt, you’re Philip Roth, you’re Toni Morrison – who should never be woken up at 6:00 AM for a flight, you know – aside from that? Suck it up. That’s my conclusion.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Sloane Crosley Interview

Sloane Crosley stopped by Third Place Books recently to sign some copies of her newest collection of essays, “How Did You Get This Number?” While she was here Vladimir, who runs Third Place Press and operates ‘Ginger’, our Espresso Book Machine, had the opportunity to ask Sloane a few questions:

(Vladimir is introduced to Sloane Crosley. A brief moment of awkwardness while they discuss accents, podcasts, the Espresso Book Machine in the room, being a fan, and finally Vladimir figures out that his tape recorder is actually working)

VV: When you first started writing, was the essay form your aim, or just something that kind of happened to come up?

SC: I think the concept of making people laugh is certainly an aim. It’s not always the aim, but when I first started writing I thought I was going to write fiction – and I still might write fiction but the essay form for now, at least, is what’s coming more naturally to me.
Writing is a strange thing. I mean, you’re a volunteer. No-one needs you, so the question is sort of, “Why write?” Because you try to respect yourself and you try and get close to whatever it is you feel you have to say or whatever it is, the combination of what you feel you have to say and what you feel other people have to hear. It’s important to have the balance between that. I start writing essays, I generally know about 80% of what’s going to go in there. And then I generally end up learning, through a boomerang effect about 20%, something I didn’t know before I started writing about how I feel about an experience or really about what something means. And that’s what I do like about the essay format, and when you get that with fiction.

VV: How does the humor always slip in?

SC: Hopefully naturally and hopefully amusingly. I don’t really know. I think humor is a very difficult thing to talk about because the second you try and address why something is funny, how it’s funny, – when do you pull back,?when do you insert something? – . It kills it a little bit. Yyou do have a natural instinct when you’re editing, thinking, “Well, this is going too far in one direction. You know, too slapsticky, or this is trying too hard, not trying hard enough.” You have a sense when you edit it, but when you first write it, I have no idea. It’s a funny thing that – I mean, I don’t know how one gets funny or how –

VV: You’d rather leave it a little mystical?

SC: I would actually rather do the opposite. I’d rather know exactly how it works, because then I could harness it a hell of a lot better and make all these essays perfectly funny.

VV: Do you think the label of a “humorist” can get in the way of a writer’s ability to grow?

SC: I think any kind of label does that, I mean, unless your label is, you know, “Pulitzer Prize winner.”
You could probably grow under that, with that kind of soil. But it does get in the way a little bit. You just want to make sure people know what they’re buying. It’s the same thing as if you label something “chick lit” and it’s not, or you label something as “Memoir” but this doesn’t really feel like a memoir to me. I mean, they’re essays. That’s something very different. I don’t think of myself as telling my life story, you know. If people are disappointed because they don’t like your book, or they think they wanted it to be better, or they don’t think it’s “whatever” enough, that’s fine. That’s totally their right, but it’s dangerous if they think, “Oh, this is going to be just like this other writer,” and then it ends up being maybe a little sadder, maybe a little darker than they thought it was going to be. You just want to make sure that everyone knows what they’re getting into.

VV: So, it must be risky to lay your life out so honestly. What kinds of reactions are you getting from friends and family?

SC: Mostly good. While this sort of a slightly darker, more melancholy book [Than the first collection, “I Was Told There Would Be Cake’], it is nicer in a way. I think [the people I’ve written about] could take it in a lot of ways and there are a couple tributes to certain friendships and obviously those people aren’t going to complain. Most of them sort of aim the ridicule at me, and sometimes they turn the shield outwardly [toward] people that I’m not really talking to so I don’t know what they think. But they know that they’re buried, any identifying characteristics or salient details are completely glossed over. They’re not their real names or where they work and they’re also essays, so therefore they’re not, you know, permeating the entire collection, so at a certain point the responsibility comes off me and is back on to them. If they want to tell everybody that they’re outraged that I said that I had a roommate I didn’t get along with—I’m not telling anyone who it is.
It is kind of a funny line to walk, though. At what point does the responsibility no longer become you. It’s the same thing with reading in general. At what point have you lost control of what you’ve written and the fact that it’s now public domain?

VV: True. When people sit around and discuss your book and it turns out they’ve pulled things out that were never there?

SC: Mmm. That’s amazing. I mean, that’s actually something everyone learns in fifth grade when you start reading the sonnets or whatever, and you start: “ the host of golden daffodils” and what this means and you think, “I had that, Marshall McLuhan moment from Annie Hall when Woody Allen is, you know, on a line and someone’s debating about the director’s work and what it means. And all of a sudden the director appears and says, “Actually, no, that’s not at all what I meant. You’re totally wrong. You’re way off base.” You kind of wish for that.

VV: This is kind of a follow-up to what you just mentioned, but I did notice that your new book is – it’s more nuanced. It’s still very funny, but you’ve developed a deeper sympathy towards the world at large and how your personal experiences fit into it which I think enriches the whole experience of your essays. Was it harder to write this book because of that?

SC: It’s interesting. I mean I thought maybe people might read this one. [Laughs.] I didn’t write the other one thinking that anyone would, and I think that honestly maybe it boils down to something as simple as that. But beyond that, I wanted to challenge myself a little more. I wanted to write about things that were objectively unfunny. Being lost; Having a weird crisis about furniture; Having a violent experience with a bear; Being broken up with; almost moving into a crazy old brothel. You know, these are not always really funny. And I think the trick is to make them funny, and if you can do that—I don’t know if all of these pull it off or not—but when they do, I think that’s the writing I’m most proud of. And really the last essay, which is almost novella-like, was really hard to write —I’ve never really written about relationships because it’s not something I’m particularly interested in writing about. These aren’t very female-oriented essays except that one. That is the only one that kept me up at night.

VV: Well, speaking of that essay, that was probably the one that I connected with the most, and I think any writer’s hope is to be able to make that kind of connection with someone. You mentioned that was more of a female kind of perspective, but I think you really managed to walk that line. I have to say, vouching from a guy’s point of view, I think that the things you explore in that story are universal. I personally found it cathartic for personal reasons so I really appreciate it.

SC: Oh good! I mean, that’s the thing. It’s so hard, especially with narrative non-fiction – if something—not bad, even, but just off-kilter—something significant happens to you, the world is not your therapist. What are you working out on the page? And that line between essentially blogging and journaling and actually creating something that has structure, that has meaning, that is at least trying for something. I would never say that all of these succeed in that. But I know I can say with authority that they’re all at least trying to connect somehow.
I think the “only connect” thing – might be the answer to why I’m writing to begin with. [Laughs.]

VV: I get that. I think ego is kind of out of the equation when it comes to writing. At a certain point, everybody just wants to get in touch with the world at large sometimes.

SC: Yeah, it enters back in when you’re thinking, “Which one of these should be my author photo?” But you cannot possibly be in your head when you’re writing, if you want to write anything.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of the Sloane Crosley interview coming tomorrow!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Knuffle Bunny Meets Cormac McCarthy

Three things that landed this week that everyone should know about.
Knuffle Bunny Free – One of the many joys of having young kids is having a chance to read Mo Willems books over and over again. The Knuffle Bunny books are huge in my house and this third and final installment in the trilogy may be the best yet. Its warm, funny and has a really positive message without being preachy. A number of staff members here got a bit misty eyed at the end.
Blood Meridian 25th Anniversary Edition – Hooray for the marketing and design department at the Modern Library for choosing to use the original artwork from the 1985 edition of the classic for this newly released anniversary edition. If you want an original hardcover first edition of this book, you can get one that has been stepped on and has spent time floating in someone’s bathtub for about $700. A clean copy will probably run you about $1,500. So this handsome new edition at $22.95 is a steal. Some argue that this is McCarthy’s best book. That’s kind of  like arguing about whether you like Van Gogh’s Starry Night over his Sunflowers. If you’ve only read McCarthy’s latest works, do yourself a favor and check out this masterpiece.
Paris Review Issue 194 – This is the first issue under the new editorial leadership of Lorin Stein and I find it to be a stand-alone case for not only literary journals but the value of print over electronic media. If I were to have received this issue electronically, I probably would have skipped quickly to the story by Sam Lipsyte (whose novel, The Ask, I loved) and possibly moved onto Lydia Davis’ translations of Flaubert’s stories. I would have stuck to what was familiar and then moved onto the thousand other things that are asking for my attention on my laptop and iphone. But sitting down with the journal without distraction, I found myself reading it cover to cover. I discovered a great new voice in fiction, remembered how much I like and am challenged by the poems of Frederick Seidel, and learned that I could be moved by an essay about, Andrew Lytle, someone I knew nothing about previously. If you haven’t checked it out yet, there’s a great review of this issue by Maud Newton and an offer on that site for a discounted subscription rate. Of course we have it on our shelves as well.

Posted by Robert

Monday, September 27, 2010

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

No, no.  Not Christmas.  Though that is pretty great from a retail point of view.  I'm talking about CALENDAR SEASON!  We've been busy little bees here at Third Place Books unpacking box after box full of 2011 calendars.  Wall calendars, desk calendars, page-a-day, mini locker calendars; our calendar racks are bursting at the seams and we're still unpacking more every day.

Some of our staff members have picked out their favourite calendars and we want to share them with you:

Emily is excited to welcome back the Edward Gorey mini-wall calendar.  Every year it's based on a different Gorey book, this year's installment is The Osbick Bird and quite sure, like its forebears, to sell out quickly.

Chris is channeling the Black Bear on the cover of this year's Beth Van Hoesen wall calendar featuring portraits of animals staring straight into your soul.  Who wouldn't want a chinchilla or a cougar boring holes into you while you get dinner ready for the family?

 Moleskine has long been known for their finely crafted and beautifully designed journals but several years ago they ventured into the world of engagement calendars and the results were electric.  Autumn's favourite calendar this year is Moleskine's "Colour a Month" daily diary/planner.  Each month is separated from the whole in its own jewel toned notebook perfect for slipping into a pocket or purse and jotting down thoughts, observations, poems, or song lyrics as they occur.  Seriously, Autumn's in love with this gorgeous little set.

 Hit any calendar stand and you're inundated with puppies, artists, half-naked firemen, and questionably talented teen hearthrobs (*coughjustinbeibercough*) which is why Robert's favourite 2011 calendar is so very refreshing.  Though it looks to me like he's a little concerned about the lack of kitties... 

Swing on by the bookstore any time to pick out your favourite calendar but keep in mind that a lot of the really cool calendars can sell out pretty quickly so time is of the essence!  If you have a special request for a calendar let us know, we might be able to order something in for you.  

As we march ever closer to the madness of the holiday shopping season the calendars keep appearing.  If anything else pops up that's just too awesome we'll be sure to let you know!