Friday, August 01, 2008

Comings and Goings and the End of the Book as We Know It

Ilan Stavans

September (Soft Skull Press)

Ilan Stavans' latest is a graphic novel that tells the story of Samuel Patricio Inocencio Cárdenas (Mr. Spic.) Soft Skull's website says: Weaving humor with social commentary, Stavans tells a tale of a Latino man taking Los Angeles' mayoral office by storm and refusing to stop there. Illustrated throughout by Roberto Weil, the story follows the life and political development of Mr. Spic as he upends the political machine by owning up to and embracing his rough-and-tumble past, refusing to bend to corporate pressures, and using his influence to promote pacifism and tolerance. The book can be ordered for $15.95 from the publisher.

The comedy duo announced plans for their first comedy tour in twenty-five years. Light Up America (or is it What's That Smell?) kicks off September 12 in Philadelphia and continues through December 20 with a smokin' finish in Denver. You can see tour dates here.

Cheech is 62; Chong 70. That's funny by itself. We've gotten to the age where we don't feel like fighting anymore, Marin said, because the end is a lot closer than the beginning. I hope Dave shows up.

August 20, 2008 7:30 p.m.
Tattered Cover Colfax Avenue
Julia Alvarez, the bestselling author of How the García Girls Lost Their Accents, will discuss and sign Once Upon a Quinceañera: Coming of Age in the USA (Plume). According to the Tattered Cover: The quinceañera, the fifteenth birthday celebration for a Latina girl, is quickly becoming an American event. The must-haves for a “quince” are becoming as numerous and costly as a prom or wedding, and yet, this elaborate ritual also hearkens back to traditions from native countries and communities, offering young Latinas a chance to connect with their heritage. In Once Upon a Quinceañera, Alvarez explores this celebration, offering an enlightening, accessible, and entertaining portrait of contemporary Latino culture as well as a critical look at the rituals of coming of age and the economic and social consequences of the quince parties.

Nan Wigington posted the news that she is closing the doors on her book store, Miss Prothero's Books at 1112 Santa Fe Drive, Denver. Sad news, for sure. A sign of the times? No future in books?

But Miss Prothero is going out in style. Here's her notice: Need a bookcase? Bookends? A bent wood rocker? We're selling it cheap -- books, furniture, fixtures and equipment! Starting August 1 at 6 p.m. Books will be half off. Bookcases will go at $20 per shelf full or $15 per shelf empty. We have stackable bookshelves and bookcases. The cases and shelves are all made of wood. The cases are approximately 7' tall, 2' wide, and 1' deep. The stackable shelves are 10" tall, 2' wide, and 1' deep. Furniture includes a book press, a bent wood rocker, an antique saddler stapler and an antique telegrapher's desk. Have too much stuff already? Bring a sturdy box and some bucks. Fill the box with some books. We'll use the bucks to ship the box to Biblio Charitable Works, an organization which supports literacy projects worldwide. If you can't make it on the 1st, we should be here until the 15th. Call 303-572-2260 for hours and information.

The 24th Rocky Mountain Book & Paper Fair takes place August 1 (5 - 9 PM, $6) and 2 (10 AM - 5 PM $4) at the Denver Merchandise Mart, 58th and I-25.

More than 65 exhibitors from around the world will offer thousands of books, maps, prints, posters, art, postcards, photographs, and other ephemeral and collectible items. Questions or information about RMBPF 2008:

The Rocky Mountain Antiquarian Booksellers Association (RMABA), sponsor of the fair, has been joined by the Book Arts League and the Guild of Book Workers for this year’s event, The Art of the Book. The fair will feature a Book Arts Row where members of these groups will present displays and demonstrations on the processes and art of bookmaking.

More info in this press release.

There's a certain irony in the above listing of people on the move. The news highlights a veteran writer and critic challenging his audience by producing a political book in an under-appreciated format, the graphic novel. A respected Latina writer promotes the paperback edition of her book that honors an old tradition presented as a new "American event." Then there's an event centered on collectible books and the ancient art of bookmaking set against the backdrop of yet another book store closing.

Meanwhile, the death knell has sounded for the Sunday book review section at The Los Angeles Times, and it's the talk of the blog world. Check out Daniel Olivas' letter to the editor.

The question of the day seems to be: Does it really matter that bookstores are closing and newspapers are giving up on book reviews? Because, after all, it's about the Internet, isn't it? The future is paperless, and books will float invisibly on electrical ribbons, always available for the magical "click" that will drop literature onto the computer screen of any teenager, housebound grandmother, caffeine-drenched housewife, bored student, and frustrated writer. Classic tales of love and courage, cold-blooded murder and supernatural fantasy, poetry and haiku and limericks will be at our fingertips, if not free, certainly easy, and the world will move into an eternal era of literacy and profundity and connection.

Or are we kidding ourselves? Are we about to drop off the edge into a chasm of pickled imaginations and dulled senses, carpal tunnel syndrome of the brain? Is this the final revenge of the nerds?

On the other hand, there is hope; don't give up on the future of the book, paper or otherwise. Just read the recent posts from Thania Muñoz about the great gathering of writing and writers known as Semana Negra. In straightforward, cogent prose, Ms. Muñoz narrates how dozens of writers converged in circus tents to dazzle audiences with words. How poets were celebrated. How a million people attended the party, and more than 50,000 books were sold - in ten days. How good versus evil monsters was the topic of debate. How respect was paid to writers who fought fascism with their sentences and paragraphs, and lives. How a labor of love by a writer and his family has created an annual wild festival built around the once-forbidden belief that reading is a necessity.

Good grief, she describes book riots!

As long as people are willing to get pushed and shoved and hit on the shins with chairs just to get their hands on a book, I think we are okay.



Paul Pedroza said...

The graphic novel sounds great, but the C&C reunion doesn't. Sounds more like another convenient reunion in what will probably be known as the decade of the rehash.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Paul Pedroza. Cheech and Chong are trying to make money off of the reunion of some marijuanos-viejitos-abuelitos who should know better than to glorify their bad habits to a new generation of Hispanic youth. It's a rehash, alright, of pendejadas!

Also, the "spic" book doesn't meet with fond memories for me. I had to fight kids out in the school yard because they taunted me with the words "Spic" and "Spig". Linguist that I am, I found out that "Spig' stands for "Spanish Pig!"

To Cheech and Chong and the author of the "Spic" book, I want to say, ya no me estén chingando!