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book Levels of the Game
by John McPhee

At times, I feel McPhee can be too much of the over-intellectualized, classic academic journalist. A teacher once asked McPhee why he didn't include any illustrations in the Basin and Range/Assembling California series, as McPhee had chosen to describe fairly complex geological phenomena using words alone, sometimes devoting several pages to lengthy descriptions when adding a few simple diagrams would have explained things much more effectively. McPhee's response to the question? "Because that would spoil the fun."

D. H. Lawrence once called this kind of over-fascination with Language and Rationalityas opposed to feelings, man, feelingsbeing too much "in the head." And while the Basin and Range series is interesting because of that extreme polarization, and like McPhee's work in general is "about" much more than its obvious subject matter, it can still be somewhat jarring reading page after page of solid, well-constructed prose about ... geological plate layering.

To my mind, McPhee's probably at his best when he seizes upon a straightforward, obvious approach to a story and fulfills it emphatically, without irony or pretension. After the first few pages of Levels of the Game, his intentions are clear: alternate between descriptions of each point played in an Arthur AsheClark Graebner tennis match and biographical information about the two players drawn from extensive interviews. Observations of the players' styles and details about their personal lives gradually build upon each other until McPhee's argument reveals itself silently and gracefully: tennis styles and players' personalities reflect and transform each other; you play the way you are.

As in Encounters with the Archdruid, McPhee always shows instead of tells; instead of "taking sides" in the tennis match, the players are both in their own ways complex, thorny, frustrating, and transcendent. An example of journalistic portraiture at its best.
- Yi-Zhou
- a former bookseller (5/01) . . . title list


book Literature - A Crash Course
by Cory Bell
Literature--A Crash Course, by Cory Bell (a Bloomsbury scion), is a fast-paced, glib, often hilarious overview of writing from the Ancient Greeks (800 BC) to our contemporaries (2000 AD). Jam-packed with namesauthors, titles, movements, jargonthe book is a wonderful compendium of Lit picks we should know. Richly illustrated and only 144 pages long, the prose rushes with the accelerated head-on feel of a crash, and Bell has a few amusing qualms about preserving some of the survivors. (For example, while Proust-crazy, he seems to have no idea what to do with Melville.) The book is sloppily edited: Sterne is both Laurence and Lawrence; Wilfred Owens becomes Wilfrid on the same page. And Bell could use a crash course on film: the timeline lists Psycho in 1952 (only nine years too early) and a still from the 1949 version of The Great Gatsby (with Barry Sullivan) is credited to the Jack Clayton 1974 remake. Still the book is a fresh and refreshing reminder of much that has been--fragments to shore against our ruins.
-
Michael - a former bookseller
(11/99) . . . title list


book Me Talk Pretty One Day
by
David Sedaris
Do you want to laugh? Well, David Sedaris' new collection of essays is very funny, wonderfully strange, and not just a wee bit twisted. He writes about NOT learning French and surviving in France on a steady diet of American movies. He throws in a little bathroom humor and tells about his experiences growing up and coming out. Read ... laugh ... enjoy.

- John
- bookstore founder/owner (5/01) . . . title list


book The Muhammad Ali Reader
by
Gerald Early
What can you say about Ali? Anybody who has ever seen Ali boxing or just talking has something to sayhe gets a reaction. Gerald Early has collected, in The Muhammad Ali Reader, more than thirty powerful "reactions" to Muhammad Ali and has put them in chronological order, grouped by decade. The 1960's bring together George Plimpton, Gordon Parks, Irwin Shaw, Jackie Robinson, A.J. Liebling, and others, with one of my favorites, "The Marvelous Mouth," by Tom Wolfe. In the 70's collection, the reader gets, among others, Pete Hamill, Roger Kahn, Gary Wills, Hunter S. Thompson, Ishmael Reed, two interviews with Ali from The Black Scholar and Playboy, and a wonderful piece by Norman Mailer...oh so very appropriately titled..."Ego." The fewer works from the 80's and 90's reflect the fact that, other than at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, the former champion had slid from the media spotlight.

Ali doesn't talk at all now on camera, and he only speaks in a whisper off. While there are claims that he can still "float like a butterfly & sting like a bee," the public only sees a slow-moving man with tremors in that once devastating body of his. Considering that his medical condition has robbed him of the very skills that made him so famous, his lip and his power, the last pieces are very poignant, andin literary termsreal knockouts. Mark Kram's "Great Men Die Twice," "The Cruelest Sport," by Joyce Carol Oates, and Gay Talese's "Boxing Fidel" alone make the cost of the book a steal.

This collection covers a wide spectrum of opinion and mood. Reading about how the fun-loving Ali wanted to box his next fight in a fright mask that Hunter S. Thompson snuck into his hotel room is oddly balanced by reading about the serious and threatening Black Muslim beliefs he expressed in The Black Scholar interview.

It's easy to feel sorrow for the self-proclaimed "Greatest of All Time," but Muhammad Ali is still using his pretty face and mischievous mind to bring happiness to the people he meets. As a public figure, a boxer, a religious man, a master of rap (before there was rap), he's always been able to get a honest, heart-felt reaction. This collection will bring a smile and, maybe, a tear.
- John -
bookstore founder/owner (4/99) . . . title list


book News is a Verb: Journalism at the End of the Twentieth Century
by Pete Hamill
In News is a Verb, Pete Hamill's passion for our country's remaining newspapers burns bright. He voices his strong concerns about the destructive influences that badly researched, irresponsible journalism has on our perception of the media and the importance of newspapers in our everyday lives.
- John - bookstore founder/owner . . . title list


book Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool's Guide to Surviving with Grace
by Gordon MacKenzie
For thirty years, the hairball that Gordon Mac Kenzie was orbiting was the corporate world of Hallmark Cards. Far from being another cog in a huge bureaucratic machine, he tried, in his own very unique way, to make the job situation there healthier for everyone. So what is this hairball thing? The concept was introduced to MacKenzie, by a former boss, to describe the morass of rules, written and unwritten, that govern relationships and workplace etiquette. Why hairball? Because it's always a mess that no one can make any sense of and it's created by hair after hair (rule after rule) tangling together.

MacKenzie rose up through the ranks to become manager of the Creative Division of card designers before one of the heads of Hallmark offered him a new administrative position. The newly created position had no boundaries or even a job description - something that truly was a fitting job for this man who looked at everything in a different way. He gave himself the title of Creative Paradox. The real beauty of this position was that, while anyone could go to him with their problems, few knew what power this new administrator held. MacKenzie' s solution was to say yes to all. His thinking was that his encouragement would help balance out the chorus of corporate no's that greeted anything new and original. He was offering a new model, allowing people to think more creatively without the fear of a complete rejection by the hairball of anything outside its norm. Stepping outside (orbiting) the conventional, time-tested methods and encouraging everyone else to do the same was what the Creative Paradox's job description became.

Giant Hairball is an interesting approach for a business management/organization book. It's also a very unique book package, with many types of doodles within a small format that has no dust jacket, but has a printed and doodled cover. The book has a style, like MacKenzie, all its own.
- John
- bookstore founder/owner (4/99) . . . title list


book Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace
by Gore Vidal
This small collection of alarming essays, which features an examination of the events of September Eleventh, questions the apparent consensus that the terrorist attacks were simply the acts of evil-doers. Gore aims to suggest that we may not know just how provoked our enemies have become. Vidal is perhaps the best all-around man of letters in the United States today.
- Jed
- a former bookseller
(8/02) . . . title list


book Poets on the Peak: Gary Snyder, Phillip Whalem & Jack Kerouac in the North Cascades
by John Suiter
I read this a few weeks ago...it's a GREAT book!
Poets on the Peaks by John Suiter is full of beautiful photographs. It tells about the period during the 1950's when Gary Snyder, Jack Kerouac and Philip Whalem all manned fire lookouts in the forests of the Northwest. This fine book draws on the letters, writings, and lives of all three poets and Suiter can't contain himself to just their lives on mountain tops. The book is full of the 1950's and how this group of writers so strongly influenced them, and so much that followed. John Suiter has put together a fine work combining the poets' words with his own writing and photos. Take a look ... take a read.
- John - bookstore founder/owner (5/02) . . . title list


book The Professor & the Madman
by Simon Winchester
I, usually, have to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into a non-fiction book because I find most of the writing, even if the subject is interesting, awful. This was not the case with The Professor & The Madman. Simon Winchester has clearly crafted a tale stranger than fiction, inhabited by eccentric, fascinating characters who, by virtue of the fact that their lives have crossed, have influenced an enormous legacy to the English language, the Oxford English Dictionary. Professor James Murray and Dr. William Minor crossed paths in 1880 when Murray advertised for volunteer readers who might be prepared to work on the new dictionary by reading extensively through specific periods of literature to find quotations for entries into the tome. Minor responded and the mysterious friendship, which was to last for over thirty years, began. The revelations of the circumstances of the two men, before and after they meet; the history of the period; and the slow development of their friendship and the O.E.D., which became a character in its own right, is a truly incredible story.
- Vicky
- bookstore founder/owner (4/99) . . . title list


book The Rise of the Image, The Fall of the Word
by Mitchell Stephens
As the owner of a bookstore, someone who lives by the word, I found The Rise of the Image, The Fall of the Word by Mitchell Stephens, a disturbing book to read. Looking around at our society with its hundreds of cable stations, its ever-growing movie multiplexes, the constantly increasing visual style of books, magazines, newspapers and the Internet, one has to see that Stephens certainly has grounds for part of his argument. The raw excitement that the author obviously feels from the quick cut, rapid-fire MTV style is for him the beginning of the road to the ultimate use and style of the image. My unease and doubts stem from his thought that once a way is found to use the full potential of the image, it will not only surpass the word, but will replace it. As this man is an author, contributor to the New York Times , Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and Columbia Journalism Review, and a professor of journalism and mass communication at New York University, he obviously knows, values, and, of course, makes his living by the word. But, interestingly, at the same time, Mitchell Stephens seems to want to give all of our words over to the image.

For this reader, the most interesting area of the book was his history of communication. Reading of the constant resistance and condemnation by the Church for each major change in the medium of communication was fascinating. The Church's condemnation and the public' s sometimes reluctant acceptance of the inventions of paper, the pencil, and movable type have now been replaced by our society's present discomfort with the general effects that television, videotape, and computer images are having on our civilization. Maybe I just don't see the same potential in the power of the image as Stephens does, but I certainly found much of what he had to say to be most thought provoking.
- John
- bookstore founder/owner (4/99) . . . title list


book Shakey - 2 reviews
by Jimmy McDonough
Here's a big book (700+ pages) for fans of Neil Young written by a journalist, Jimmy McDonough, who spent years and years trying to get a feel for one of rock's major, and long-lasting players. It's a big and rambling read. It's full of so many details about Neil, the Buffalo Springfield, Crazy Horse, CSN&Y and many other bands, players, lovers, managers, dogs, fans and much more. The book is written and put together in a disjointed and rather bizarre manner, yet it kept me interested and reading all the way to the end. Disjointed...rather bizarre...rock and roll...it all goes together. Shakey reveals rock artists living on the edge, trying to be creative, maintain relationships, all the while surrounded by sex, drugs, and rock and roll. I challenge anyone to read this book and not think of the word ego. For this reader, Shakey was a trip to another dimension, back to a wonderful time, and while it explained much, it kept much a mystery. It also got me listening to some of Neil's older albums that I have only on LP (oh remember those black plastic things with hisssss) and I it quickly became apparent again that CD's just don't offer the same feel, nor the same opportunity for including lyrics and photos you can actually see. If you're a Neil Young fan, I say, The Best Trips are in Your Head ... READ Shakey.

- John - bookstore founder/owner (6/02) . . . title list


book Shakey - 2 reviews
by Jimmy McDonough

Neil Young is one the most important figures in the history of rock and roll, yet few people know anything about him. In Shakey, journalist Jimmy McDonough tries to get at the mystery that is Neil Young. After six years and thousands of interviews, with Young as well as an immense list of his associates, McDonough unveils his best effort at exposing the enigmatic rock star.

- Jed - a former bookseller (6/02) . . . title list


book Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea
by Gary Kinder
This book brings two stories, separated by more than 120 years, together 8,000 feet beneath the waves, miles off the Carolina coast. The first story is the disastrous 1857 sinking of the S.S. Central America. A killer hurricane sent the huge ship to the bottom with the loss of 400 lives and (key to our second story) 21 tons of gold. The gold on the ship's manifest wasn't close to the total wealth on board. Many of the passengers where returning, via the Panama Canal, from the California Gold Rush, laded down with varying amounts of gold. While the ship slowly sinks, the human tragedy is bizarrely heightened by the incompatibility of the weight of gold and the chances for survival in the waters of the deep blue sea.

Tommy Thompson is the central force behind the second story - not only the locating and recovering of those tons of gold, but the development of some of the tools and methods that make it all possible. Kinder gives the technical details of modern engineering, fund-raising, and legal matters vital to the recovery, while also relating the very human history of the ship's sinking, as told through the survivor's tales passed on through old papers and relatives.

The willingness to take incredible risks in hopes of great rewards applies to Thompson and his cohorts, just as it did for those passengers making the long trip back from their own private gold rushes in California. For all the detail contained, this is a very human story. The image of a doomed man at the sinking ship's railing tossing his entire fortune, one gold piece at a time, out into the angry sea will always stay with me.
- John
- bookstore founder/owner . . . title list


book Team Rodent: How Disney Devours the World
by Carl Hiaasen
In Team Rodent, newspaper man and best-selling mystery writer, Carl Hiaasen, takes us to Florida to enter the artificial and meticulously engineered (both mechanically and socially) world of the big rodent. Twisted humor abounds because we are inside Hiaasen's words, but this doesn't stop him from voicing some very strong opinions. "Disney is so good at being good that it manifests an evil...." Hiaasen's is an unforgiving view of the Magic Kingdom. OK, one last quote, "Sleaze lives."
- John
- bookstore founder/owner . . . title list


book Temperament: the Idea that Solved Music's Greatest Riddle
by Stuart Isacoff
In Temperament, we find that music has fallen from divinity to become a tangible object. Music, specifically the tonality of the modern piano, becomes the subject of much passionate debate between philosophers, religious figures and scores of others. Temperament shows us that with music's once-perplexing riddle solved - that of the now universal tonal scale - the infinite harmonic possibilities continue to intrigue us.

-
Leo - a former bookseller (6/02) . . . title list


book Values of the Game
by Bill Bradley
Before Bradley got knocked out of the Democratic primaries, Greil Marcus wrote a Salon column talking about how Bradley, in search of some kind of charisma, had been watching old Elvis movies at the Library of Congress. Marcus continued: "I admit I haven't tried it, but watching Elvis movies at the Library of Congress sounds like eating ribs with a fork."

Fortunately, Bradley's a more adept author than he is a popular speaker. In a series of ten progressive meditations, Values of the Game moves seamlessly between basketball and politics, illustrating the common values that undergird both arenas. A bit too straight-laced and stiff, but always intelligent and upright, Bradley's prose demonstrates both the fair-mindedness that made Bradley an effective, responsible Senator and the somewhat too-lofty noblesse oblige that, in retrospect, probably lost him the primaries. I still voted for him, though.
- Yi-Zhou
- a former bookseller (5/01) . . . title list


book The Victorian Internet
by Tom Standage
I first heard of The Victorian Internet, appropriately, from another bookseller over the Internet. The author very convincingly uses the development of the telegraph to parallel the current growth of the Internet. Tom Standage gives the reader a good understanding and thorough history of how that invention " unleashed the greatest revolution in communications since the printing press." The resistance to this change in communication is described along side the rapidly growing clamor for something new and improved. While telling about the importance of the work of Wheatstone, Morse, Volta, Edison, and Bell, the author takes the telegraph from its early signal towers to the thousands of lines that dramatically, and truly, changed the actual pace of life at that time. Once the transatlantic cables connected the different hemispheres of the world, global communications changed from being measured in months to being timed in mere seconds and minutes. Never had an invention so substantially changed the pace at which people lived their lives and how they viewed the distances that separated them. The Victorian Internet clearly shows that changes brought forth by the telegraph far surpassed those following the development of the telephone or those of the present Internet revolution. The telegraph was the quantum leap of communication's speed - all other inventions are simply faster steps.
- John
- bookstore founder/owner (4/99) . . . title list


book Wanderlust: A History Of Walking
by Rebecca Solnit
As much a history of thought as of walking, Wanderlust details the relationship between walking and thinking with graceful prose and a wide perspective. From a great poet's stroll down the avenue, to the treks of mountaineers, Solnit chronicles the myriad pleasures of the world's oldest and most reliable mode of transportation.

-
Jed - a former bookseller
(6/02) . . . title list


book Wind*Water*Sun
by Ed Darack
I've just finished Ed Darack's book, Wind * Water * Sun, and it was a great story! Reading any book by Ed Darack is always very informative AND entertaining. The photography is striking, and his experiences with all the people he meets along this journey are most interesting. But what I enjoy the most about Ed's books is what is going on in his head - how he drives himself to the edge so many timeshangs there for a whileand then crashes back into what most of society calls reality. If you're spending all your time living your own busy life, it's a real gift to have people like Ed Darack going out there, taking the journeys that he does, and then coming back and sharing it all with us through his books, slides, and words. I would say that you could not go wrong with this book as a gift for yourself or a friend.
- John
- bookstore founder/owner (4/99) . . . title list


book Worst-Case Scenario Handbook
by Joshua Piva & David Borgenicht
Small and strange, this little, yellow book is under 200 pages and stuffed full of advice on bettering your chances of survival in forty different emergencies. Now, most of our lives aren't full of situations where we need to escape quicksand, know how to use a defibrillator, or hot-wire a car, but one never knows. Tomorrow, you could get up and suddenly need to be able to take a punch, deliver a baby in a taxicab, or know what to do if your parachute doesn't open. If you survived those, after lunch, you might possibly need to know how to win a sword fight, make a fire without matches, or jump from a moving car. Or, any evening now, knowing how to fend off a shark, perform a tracheotomy, or wrestle free from an alligator could be the difference between making it to breakfast ... or not.

This bestselling book is a kick to read, and you're guaranteed to learn something you don't know. I'm just glad to have it straightened about which is better to punch in the nose - an alligator or a shark. The answer is the alligator. He might just let you go. Punch a shark in the snout, and you're likely to just tick him off ... GREAT!

Now that I've learned all these things, I'm hoping to never have to use them other than in clever conversation.
- John -
bookstore founder/owner (5/01) . . . title list


book You Cannot Be Serious
by John McEnroe and James Kaplan
Love him or hate him John McEnroe is one of the most gifted players that ever went after a tennis ball. I read his new book,
You Cannot Be Serious, co-written with James Kaplan, in a couple of days...let's say I was very interested. He is very blunt and honest about what a brat (or bore, or ___ ) he was when he was playing. He's pretty blunt about just about everything in the game and out. John tells about what a long strange trip his tennis career was and how he wishes that he could have handled many things differently, but he was going with what he thought worked best for him at the time. Now married for the second time and the father of six kids he looks at many things differently. I could pick this book up tomorrow and enjoy reading about John, Bjorn, Vitas, Jimmy, and the whole tennis world all over again. I'll always be a tennis nut. Any other tennis nuts out there ... come take a look.
- John - bookstore founder/owner (6/02) . . . title list

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