December 01, 2017

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You can understand how an outfit with a collection topping 25,000 books would be disposed to riff on the subject, especially at a time when you have to come up with a holiday offering for that old uncle who wants for nothing. Worry no more. Our stacks contain books explaining why dirt is good in cooking, help to fix things (an unpleasant goiter?), bring our readers current on the latest thinking on polyvagal theory, or explain the conjugation of 601 Spanish verbs in just 727 pages. 

Many of the rest of us are partial to books written by magicians - those authors that can make an otherwise vanilla word or thought sing. High on everyone’s list of the best non-fiction authors is John McPhee. His latest, Draft No. 4, advances the point. Who would have thought any author could turn casting for shad on the Delaware River into an exquisitely crafted tale? The protagonist in Laurent Binet’s new literary whodunit The Seventh Function of Language asked: “‘What would you do if you ruled the world?’ The gigolo replied that he would abolish all laws. Barthes said: ‘Even grammar?’”

Our amazing collection of local authors would side with Barthes, much to your benefit if you read their work. Lately, two of “ours” are gaining national prominence. With exquisite timing, the Paris Review gave voice to Claire Dederer in her piece, “What do we do with the Art of Monstrous Men?” And coming in April is Jonathan Evison's Lawn Boy, a comic novel of contemporary realism, which, like great journalism, promises to comfort Bainbridge Island's afflicted and afflict Bainbridge Island's comfortable. It depicts a landscaper who dreams of being a great American literary figure — if only he didn't have to cross the "servant's entrance" of the Agate Pass Bridge each day to manicure the lawns of the island's wealthy for minimum wage. With boundless heart and biting wit, Lawn Boy promises to spark some stark conversations about white privilege.

Even though the body of work of Claire and the two Johns is superb, their many books in our bookstore must fight for second place. If any of you have a 3 to 8 year-old in your life, please read B.J. Novak’s The Book with No Pictures to your kiddo. In the reading, don’t be adult about it. The glee you hear from your charge listening to an adult making the strangest sounds and acting like a fool is to be treasured. What you won’t treasure is the insistence that you read it again, again and again. One of my grandkids made a fake dust cover for it to trick me into reading it one more time.

Could it be these authors have more in common than this note of their varied oeuvre suggests? In a November 20, 2017 New Yorker review of Tina Brown’s new memoir, Nathan Heller offers an answer:

Yet Brown rarely tires of writers, which is impressive, because writers, as a tribe, are strange.  They keep odd hours and have weird, often bad ideas.  At gatherings, they tend to skulk or to be over-present, like a recently uncrated Labrador leaping to lick your nose while piddling on your knees.  Hollywood is filled with stories of prima-donna actor tantrums, wild affairs, trashed trailers, and overnight benders.  Rather than erupting in this healthy manner, writers go home and quietly develop suicidal snacking habits, or necessary family troubles, or a rash. 

Dave


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