Is J.D. Salinger Back From the Grave?

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There are some fantastic nonfiction titles coming out this fall, but one in particular is making a big splash before it even hits the shelves: Salinger by David Shields and Shane Salerno. The 720-page hardcover goes on sale this Tuesday, and last week, enough people had read advance copies to start the buzz. According to Shields and Salerno, Salinger had five unpublished works that he planned to release years after his death (he only published four during his lifetime).

The Salinger biography is coming out alongside a documentary of the same name, also produced and directed by Shane Salerno. Probably the most famous reclusive author of the 20th century, Salinger is a compelling topic for the media storm coming this fall. There’s plenty of tidbits we don’t know about him. Interested parties will not be disappointed, because the book and movie drop plenty of bombshells....Read More

A Dance to the Music of Time: The Soldier's Art

Second Lieutenant Jenkins, now stationed at Divisional Headquarters, recalls his entree into the army and chafes under Major Widmerpool’s command. He witnesses contentiousness between Colonels Pedlar and Hogbourne-Johnson (and is amused by their assonant first names, Eric and Derrick), also seeing Widmerpool dressed down by the latter. Jenkins converses with General Liddament about authors and shocks him with a low opinion of Trollope, but apparently impresses through his knowledge of Balzac, and so receives a recommendation to meet with Major Finn while on his next leave regarding a transfer. Stringham, a lowly private, slips briefly onto stage as a waiter in Jenkins’ mess. On leave in London, Jenkins’ French proves inadequate for Finn’s needs, and he learns that sister-in-law Priscilla has left Chips Lovell and taken up with Odo Stevens. At dinner, Jenkins finds that Moreland has moved in with Audrey, the abrasive widow of their mutual friend Maclintick, and their party of three expands to five with the surprise appearance of Priscilla and Stevens. That budding relationship fails to bloom, as she walks out on the meal and on Stevens. Later that night, she and Lovell are killed in separate air raids. Jenkins returns to Div HQ and despite Stringham’s assistance, fails to hide Bithel’s drunkenness from Widmerpool; Bithel is sacked and Stringham’s unit is reassigned to the Far East. Widmerpool’s various machinations lead to embarrassment before his fellow officers, but he successfully arranges a transfer and likely promotion for himself. Now without a position, Jenkins is on the verge of being sent to the undesirable Infantry Training Center, but is instead called to the War Office. 

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Am I right that Jenkins’ imagination is growing wilder? Still disconnected from his writing and intellectual life, it’s as if his imagery has turned feral. His description of the brass at dinner, with the general as pharaoh and his two colonels as Horus and Osiris, is positively lurid, almost surreal. The dialogue between the two colonels is like vaudeville banter, as absurd as any in the series so far, and Stringham’s conversation verges on the unhinged. Reality hasn’t entirely loosened its hold, though—the comic first section ends with a strong reminder that death hovers over the whole Third Movement...Read More

Elmore Leonard, 1925-2013

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When Elmore Leonard passed away on August 20th at the age of 87, he left behind more than 40 novels and nearly as many films based on his work. The public bought over 8 million copies of his books. He was the granddaddy of today’s crime novelist, a unique and confident writer with an unmistakable wisecracking style. Leonard knew what he was doing, plain and simple, and Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing contains timeless and simple advice that all writers should take to heart.

Incredibly, he always wrote in longhand on unlined yellow notepads. Today’s top crime fiction writers, including Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly, cite Leonard as a tremendous influence. When it came to writing crackling dialogue, he was the master. He was known to his friends and fans as “Dutch,” a nickname given to him as a sophomore in high school referring to Emil “Dutch” Leonard, a pitcher for the Washington Senators...Read More

Island Books Annual Summer Sidewalk Sale

We’ve sold books-by-the-pound at our annual sidewalk sale for over 20 years. But since buying more gifts and toys for the store in the last few years the sale has taken on a whole new frenzy. I just returned from the San Francisco Gift Show and am anxious to be out with the old and in with the new. Every day new titles, toys, and gifts arrive and we need more room! There are scarves, jewelry, ceramics, candles, table linens, and loads of great toys and games, including Moulin Roti plush, Uncle Goose wooden language blocks, science kits, Shrinky Dinks and more. So come by and pick up something you’ve been eying all summer or discover a treasure you’ve never seen before.

THIS FRIDAY AND SATURDAY, AUGUST 23RD AND 24TH

--Nancy

Breaking Bad By the Books

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Admit it. You’re as much of a junkie as the meth addicts on the show. Yes, I’m talking about Breaking Bad, the AMC show that’s dominating the awards, ratings, and media coverage as it enters its final season. If you need to get up to date, here’s a great video summary.

I don’t even know how I got into this series, since the premise—high school chemistry teacher turns cancer patient turns meth-cooking drug lord—doesn’t sound like my cup of tea at all. But my husband started playing it in the background while I was trying to read, and somewhere into the first season Walt, the chemist gone wrong in the name of his family, threw what looked like a bag of meth at a Tuco, the sociopathic Mexican drug kingpin, uttered the line “You got one part of that wrong. “That is not meth,” and blew out the windows of a building with his homemade explosive. I was suddenly compelled by the character development, and the next thing I knew my book had been left in the dust and I was watching Breaking Bad Netflix marathons late into the night.

With the end of the series dangerously close, I can safely say the obsessed fans will be left wanting more. Since we’re not going to get our fix from television much longer, it seems like a good time to compile an appropriate reading list....Read More

(Our store journal keeps you posted on books we're excited about, our literary musings, and other reading-related rambles. Remember, you can sign up to receive our posts by email.)

The More Bard the Better

As part of our ongoing effort to bring you the most current reporting from the world of literature, Message in a Bottle shares with you today a story about the latest work from one of today’s hottest writers. We’re talking, of course, about that up-and-coming poet and playwright William Shakespeare. What’s new about this very old author? A professor at the University of Texas is attesting that Shakespeare contributed a few hundred lines of verse to Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy. According to this researcher, awkward expressions in these lines are the result of typesetting errors, mistakes that perfectly match those that other compositors made from known samples of Shakespeare’s handwriting.

Fairly abstruse stuff that might not stand up to scrutiny alone, but the study supports earlier claims. Those were based on language analysis of the kind that revealed the author of the anonymously published Primary Colors (and is also regularly used to detect student plagiarism). Together, it’s enough evidence to convince the Royal Shakespeare Company. They’ve added The Spanish Tragedy to their forthcoming anthology Collaborative Plays, which contains what we might call the Outer Canon, those dramatic works that orbit around the core Shakespearean planets....Read More

Let's Talk Shop

On a recent trip to Bainbridge Island, my family wandered into Eagle Harbor Book Company on Winslow Way. If you haven’t been to that indie bookstore, I highly recommend a Sunday morning excursion. If you’re coming from Seattle you get the pleasure of a lovely ferry ride (particularly great in the summer), a stroll along the charming town of Winslow, perhaps brunch, and the experience of a homey, impeccable book buying experience.

I couldn’t help but notice the qualities Island Books shares with Eagle Harbor, like the welcoming staff counter, the children’s section tucked magically in the back, and the prominent display of shelf talkers highlighting the booksellers’ unique tastes. Whenever I visit another bookstore, I note the aspects I like and ponder how we could do better. I enjoyed the extensive staff pick shelf and vacation-like atmosphere.

The recent hubbub about Obama endorsing Amazon, Jeff Bezos purchasing The Washington Post, and William Lynch’s departure from Barnes & Noble has inspired renewed rumblings about the value of independent booksellers. I’ve read countless soapbox statements about the importance of indies and physical books and I’ve spouted my own self-righteous monologues about the subject on this very blog. I’ll try not to regurgitate anymore of what you’ve already heard, but more than the latest news, my experience shopping at Eagle Harbor Book Company brought the subject back to the forefront of my mind....Read More

First Line Friday Returns

"Now, what I want is, Facts." Well, you’re not going to get them. Not here, not today. Instead we’re offering fiction, and plenty of it. The first lines of it, anyway. Yes, it’s another episode of First Line Friday, in which we share some of the best pick-up lines in literature. The one that opens this paragraph is by Charles Dickens, by the way, spoken by the serious-minded and aptly named character Thomas Gradgrind.

Then there’s this, from Pete Dexter’s novel Spooner:

Spooner was born a few minutes previous to daybreak in the historic, honeysuckled little town of Millidgeville, Georgia, in a makeshift delivery room put together in the waiting area of the medical offices of Dr. Emil Woods, across the street from and approximately in the crosshairs of a cluster of Confederate artillery pieces guarding the dog-spotted front lawn of the Greene Street Sons of the Confederacy Retirement Home.

A sentence full of facts, and yet it has an impudent tone that I don’t think Sir Gradgrind would approve....Read More 

A Thought-Provoking Read: Me Before You

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Summer reading season is almost over, so as you pack your bag for your final August vacation, I have one new paperback to tuck into your suitcase: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. Before I give you the description, let me preface it by saying, yes, this could have been a maudlin tearjerker, but what makes it so good is that it’s not.

Louisa is the most ordinary girl you can imagine. Uneducated and unskilled, she works as a server in a local cafe, doesn’t have hobbies, and still lives at home with her parents, sister, and nephew. Her small British town sits under the shadow of its one tourist attraction, a castle, and she’s never left. Her long-term boyfriend Patrick is a personal trainer and as boring as Louisa.

Enter Will, a former high-stakes businessman, risk-taker, and playboy whose wealthy parents own the town’s castle. After a freak accident renders Will a quadriplegic, he attempts suicide and puts his family on high alarm. They decide to hire someone to monitor him, and when Louisa loses her job at the cafe, she’s the person who enters their lives....Read More

(Our store journal keeps you posted on books we're excited about, our literary musings, and other reading-related rambles. Remember, you can sign up to receive our posts by email.)

Summer Re-reading

Recommending summer reading for adults isn’t too complicated. For many, a martini glass or a trenchcoated silhouette on a book cover is enough to satisfy. I’ve found, though, that it’s not so easy to keep the younger set interested while they’re on vacation. At least the ones I know best. I have two kids who love books, one of whom can actually read them. He’s an avid reader, and when school ended I was looking forward to watching him work his way through a shelf or two of the titles I’d been saving for when he was old enough. It hasn’t worked out quite as I’d imagined....Read More

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