Oh Book Fairs, how I love you.

September 14, 2010 - 2 Responses

You, with your booksellers, book authors, book readings, book signings, book discounts, bookworms and you know, your books.

This past Sunday I decided to visit the Brooklyn Book Festival in… Brooklyn. It was raining, I got soaked, people kept hitting me with their umbrellas (I didn’t have one to hit them back) I missed meeting one of my favorite Graphic Novel authors by a couple of minutes, but I loved it. I truly fucking loved it.

The author I didn’t get to meet was Adrian Tomine. But hey, I still got a signed copy of his re-RE-released 32 Stories Collection of OPTIC NERVE comics. I won’t get into the whole “He doesn’t write comic comics, he writes about life and shit” so just check them out here. I saw a booth with his books, got the one I didn’t have and was told, “You just missed him! But he signed the copy you bought!” I thought, “Fuck!” And then I thought, “Nice! Signed copy baby!” And kept on walking from Publisher to Publisher.

I had one rule for the Book fair: Limit yourself to TWO purchases, no more you BOOK WHORE.

So I found this really cool, artsy, tiny book that unfolded into a sort of display of fantastically freaky creatures drawn by the artist. “How much?” I asked. “Six hundred dollars” The elderly woman replied, “You see, it’s one of a kind” I was a little shocked to say the least, “Fu-okay, thanks!” I really wish she had sold her artsy soul and mass-produced the shit out of that little book.

I ended up buying “Eeeee Eee Eeee”, a novel by Tao Lin. I must admit I totally judged the book by its cover, it seemed cool and as I’m reading it… maybe it’s trying a bit too hard to be cool, and I don’t know If I would recommend it… and the more I think about it I gotta say, every book by Melville House has disappointed me (granted I’ve only read a couple of books by them but still!) Damn their cool book designs!

Before I left the festival I sat in the rain, listened to Sarah Silverman read chapters from her book, laughed a lot, thought about buying her overpriced book, decided against it, stood up, noticed I had sit in a puddle of water and rode the subway home.

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A quickie…

March 9, 2010 - One Response

So one day I’m in a bookstore and browsing the shelves for something to read I come across “Snuff” by Chuck Palahniuk, author of “Fight Club”. “Suff” is a great example of EYE-CATCHING covers, honestly, don’t tell me you are not reading this mainly for the picture above (and because I’m writing it OF COURSE).

Anyway, the point of this post is not the book itself (it’s an OK read, nothing compared to “Fight Club”) but the actual dust-jacket, or should I say dust-jacketS? You see, when I took off the dust-jacket I found… you know what I found? I found another, yes, ANOTHER dust-jacket, incredible isn’t it? Well, not really, it’s just a curious incident. But being sex, sex and MORE sex the subject of the book I thought that maybe they (the publishing people) had done this on purpose, a Double-Bagging Condom sort of thing… yea, I thought about it A BIT too much. Since this was the only copy available in the bookstore I’m still wondering whether or not I’m right… though I don’t think I’m right.

Have any of you had any interesting “printing” incidents? And would any of you like my extra dust-jacket? You could frame it and hang it on your wall as a piece of artwork. At the very leas it’s bound to be an excellent conversation starter for when your mom asks what the meaning of SNUFF is.

Great New Mexican Publishers

March 2, 2010 - Leave a Response

Granted most of my favorite publishers are foreign (Penguin, Harper Collins, McSweeny’s, etc.) but over the last few years I’ve come across two amazing (mexican) Publishing Houses, Almadía and Sexto Piso.

Almadía was founded five years ago in Oaxaca and has the philosophy of creating beautiful books at affordable prices. And let me assure you that they are indeed beautiful, the thoughtful editorial design and particularly the dust-jacket and cover art is amazing.

Almadía prides itself on re-publishing valuable books, translating voices from other cultures and betting on new authors. I find myself collecting these books like a madman, and considering the great literature they publish, you’ll most definitely get your money’s worth. Incidentally, if you enjoy reading Saramago, you have got to check out Gonçalo M. Tavares, who’s books have been translated from the portuguese by Alamdía.

In 2002 Sexto Piso was born, and along came amazing books from all over the world that were translated for the very first time into spanish. Joe Brainard’s “I Remember” and Etgar Keret’s “Missing Kissinger” are just a few examples of TRULY GREAT contemporary literature that is available for the very first time to the spanish public.

That’s what I love about these publishers, they only publish what the believe are good books, not necessarily the best selling books (sigh…) but the “different” books, the one’s you read and get stuck in your head for years, the books that make you think, the books you will want to read over and over again, the books that talk about the human condition, that let you have a glimpse of other cultures, the books that matter.

Lost in Translations

February 24, 2010 - One Response

When I used to work in a bookstore I had access to pretty much any book I wanted to read. About a month ago I started reading “The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana” by Umberto Eco and I loved it. The book was in spanish and a bit expensive, so I decided this would be one of those books that I would read at the bookstore, free of charge.

However, when I was about half way trough, I came across the same book, only this time in english, at a price so low it was laughable. My thought process was: Okay, I started reading the book in spanish, translated from the italian and I would continue reading it in english. Since I can’t read italian, either way I’m stuck with a translation, so I might as well buy the book I’m loving and read it in the “cheapest” (and ironically the most beautiful) edition.

So now I’m reading a book in english that I started in spanish, and I have to say, I can’t seem to “find my groove”, it just feels weird, like I’m reading ANOTHER book. I’ll keep going at it and hope that this feeling fades as I go trough the pages.

Has this ever happened to you? Honestly, when you start to read a book in a certain lenguage, best keep it that way, don’t change half way (unless it’s for the original text) otherwise you may find yourself lost in translations…

The World’s Largest Flower

February 23, 2010 - Leave a Response

“What if children’s stories were obligatory reading for adults? Would we really be able to learn what we’ve been trying to teach for so long?”

That’s what José Saramago, the author of “La Flor más Grande del Mundo” wrote for the back cover of his book. That frase pretty much sums up my opinion regarding children’s books, the way in which they take on any subject, only using the absolutely necessary amount of words and the apparent SIMPLICITY of the text, is what I find the most enchanting. Well THAT and the illustrations obviously.

Artist Joao Caetano does an excellent job for this book. The warm colors,  the photographic details, the carefully childlike strokes, all combine to create an exotic and yet “universal” atmosphere.

What I love about this book is that Saramago is constantly explaining to the reader that he is not very good at writing stories, children’s stories at least. He is writing this book because he is sure that somewhere some child will read the story, and he hopes that the child will find better, “simpler” words to re tell the story. “Who knows? Maybe someday I’ll read this story again, written by YOU who reads me, but much better”

After all, what most children’s books want is for CHILDREN to read and write, which is what Jose Saramago, one of the best writers of our times is trying to do when he says he sucks ass at writing and wants YOU to do it better than him. And although it’s OBVIOUS you can’t, there’s no harm in trying. Don’t  get me wrong, SOMETIMES THERE IS HARM IN TRYING, for instance you may find that what you’ve written is SO inferior compared to Saramago’s writing that you’ll just want to kill yourself. So… yea… I forgot what the point of it all was…

McSweeny’s Books

February 17, 2010 - Leave a Response

McSweeny’s is one (if not THE one) of my favorite Publishers ever. It began as a literary journal edited by Dave Eggers, whom you may know for co-writing the screenplay for “Where the Wild Things Are”, book I love and movie I have been eagerly awaiting to arrive to the god forsaken place that is my home town… Anyway, the project that started out as a literary journal has evolved into a big BEAUTIFULLYDESIGNEDBOOKS making machine.

McSweeny’s began in 1998 but I only just discovered their books a couple of years ago, when I was living in Madrid: “I remember it was raining, the bookstore was about to close when suddenly there it was, looking straight at me, with that beautiful design and a dust-jacket like I´d never seen before, McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern… number 23… 23? Just how many other books like this were there?! Oh, my life would never be the same, this is the kind of book that I would measure all the others to, this is what book making is all about!” Or something of that sort… the thing is these books are THE BOOKS to own. Aside from the FACT that the design is perfection (illustration, print design and book critics awards will back me up on this), the titles they publish are a great example of amazing contemporary literature.

The format in wich the books are presented changes constantly, for example, the latest Quarterly Concern was named “The San Francisco Panorama” a Sunday-edition-sized newspaper. One was a book completely devoted comics, another took the form of a bundle of mail. Issue 23, the first one I got, had a dust-jacket that unfolded into an enormous, beautifully illustrated poster. The books are just breathtaking, I mean, just see for yourselves here.

The Fur-Covered edition of “The Wild Things” by Dave Eggers is a MUST for any Maurice Sendak fan. This is the adaptation of “Where the Wild Things Are” that was made for the movie.

These books are impossible to buy in Mexico (ugh…) and VERY expensive to have sent from the U.S.A. So, until the time comes to move to NY, I´ll be browsing ever so often The McSweeney’s Store and salivating…

Here are some Quarterly Concern examples:

You can also fallow McSweeny’s on twitter or you may prefer to read their blog… Nope, I´m not being paid by them, they are just that good.

Jerome is dead!

February 13, 2010 - 2 Responses

When I first found out that J.D. Salinger, one of my favorite authors, the mind behind two of my favorite books of all time, “Franny and Zooey” and, of course, “The Catcher in the Rye” was dead, the first thing that came to my mind was… finally. I mean, I’m not exactly happy about his death, it’s just that… well… the crazy old bastard kept on writing all these years, FIFTY years or so, and did he publish anything? Absofuckinglutely not.

I’m very sorry, but the future publisher in me is leaping with joy at the chance that we could all finally get to see what this reclusive limelightscared nutcase had been doing all this time.

Supposedly, there are about 15, that is FIFTEEN! manuscripts locked up in his safe. All this according to one of his neighbors (who I will do my best to murder if it all turns out to be his idea of a joke). This is a publishers dream, or more specifically, this is MY DREAM. I sure am glad I´ll be living in New York to see how it all pans out.

Incidentally, “The Catcher in the Rye” has one of my favorite cover arts ever:

You may ask, what would I do if I was given the opportunity to publish a NEW book by J.D. Salinger? Honestly… I… I’m going to stop writing. But it could happen you know? YOU KNOW? Nah… you don’t know…

Always judge a book by its cover

February 13, 2010 - 6 Responses

I really hate the phrase “Never judge a book by its cover”. I mean, I´m not saying there aren´t GREAT books with LOUSY editorial design. But honestly, the whole reading experience is so much better when you are holding a beautiful book in your hands. And by beautiful I mean great cover art, font, paper and overall design.

Many years ago my aunt gave me a copy of “El Laberinto de la Soledad” by Octavio Paz. “If you are mexican you have GOT to read this book”, so, of course, I started reading the book. HOWEVER I´m not sure if it was the minuscule font, the bible thin pages, the crappy cover art, or the overall lack of editorial design but I just could NOT finish the damn book, it was hell trying to keep this tiny book from closing itself!

But, along came PENGUIN. A few months ago I came across a beautiful copy of the same book and may I just say it´s fucking awesome. I´ve always loved Penguin books, especially their deluxe editions (more on that in later posts I promise), and this time they exceeded  my expectations, specially because I was pleasantly surprised to find a Penguin book in spanish at my local bookstore.

The simple fact is, CONTENT is just as important as EDITORIAL DESIGN. Great design can make me buy the same book over and over again. For example, although I have a beautiful copy of “Alice´s Adventures in Wonderland” I can NOT wait to get my hands on the new book illustrated by Camille Rose García!

Hello Internet People!

February 12, 2010 - 2 Responses

I’m here to write about books and other AMAZING things… but mostly books. I’ll be doing this in english (I’m mexican) mainly because I need to practice my writing, I’m going to NY to study an incredible M.S. in Publishing and having a BOOK BLOG just feels right, RIGHT?

What I’ll be doing here is mostly book reviews, however I will be focusing on the actual book DESIGN rather than the content itself (that doesn’t mean I wont be writing about the latter of course)