Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Fairy tales to Film

Check this out for some fresh ideas for taking fairy tales to film. Some great stories, some I'd forgotten. I for one would love to see Tam Lin as a movie, after reading the modern adaptation of the story by Pamela Dean. I also love the legend of the swans adaptation by Juliet Marillier, Daughter of the Forest.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Style vs. Story

Recently, a favorite author of mine, Jonathan Safran Foer, released a new book. It had been so long since he last released a fiction novel that I had forgotten to keep tabs on him and the book slipped onto the shelf without my knowing. I was surprised and enthralled the second I saw it nestled next to his other novels (Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close). The title-- Tree of Codes-- immediately intrigued me as it sounded whimsical without stepping too far into fantasy. Before my mind was even aware of it, my hand was reaching for the book, nearly shaking with excitement. As the tips of my fingers made contact, however, I was distressed not to feel the firm paper texture of a normal cover, but the slippery slickness of plastic wrap.

DENIED! My heart sank. Furthering my frustration even more, the covers of the book contained no useful information as to the contents, and the steep $40 cover price (for a paper back!) made even the purchase of the book out of reach.

Quick! To the internet! I made a mad dash to the nearest computer to discover why my dear Jonathan Safran Foer would betray me so! The findings were intriguing:


I was shocked to find that the book looked more like a a child's craft project than a normal book. The insides were too delicate for me to run my sticky fingers over without handing over the money first. Foer had painstakingly dissected another book, Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz, in order to produce Tree of Codes. I flew into outrage.

Why produce a book so delicate that it can't even withstand the daily handling of a bookstore? And could this book even really be all that good if it's not Foer's original words?

I cannot answer these questions. Like I said before, the $40 is out of my price range, even with the employee discount, and as much as I love Jonathan Safran Foer, I can't bring myself to purchase a book I can't flip through first. But this leads me to my main question: When does the style of a book begin to get in the way of the story? And can the two ever work together?

I think the best examples of the Style vs. Story dilemma come from Mark Z. Danielewski, author of House of Leaves and Only Revolutions. House of Leaves uses stylistic choices like colored words, one-word pages, upside down pages to enhance and work alongside the unique and creepy story. Only Revolutions tries the same thing, only amplifying the techniques to the point where the book becomes convoluted and nearly impossible to read. While the former uses style to add a new element to an already excellent story, the former supplements with style where it lacks a cohesive story entirely.

So which category does Tree of Codes fall into? Is the $40 and plastic wrap worth the treasure inside, or do both serve to mask the fact that no story actually exists? I don't know. You fork over the $40 and then let me know.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Bestsellers or Off-the-Beaten-Path?

So, obviously, we get a lot of people looking for book recommendations. Helping people find a book they will love is one of my favorite things. I have noticed, in my book-recommending career, that there are two main types of people who will ask for my help. The first type is looking for that hidden gem that they will fall in love with. I have lots of those books- some are on my picks shelf right now. If you love historical fiction and aren't afraid of a complicated plot, then The Witch of Cologne is for you. Protestants versus Catholics versus Jews, and a royal succession scandal, and a star-crossed lovers story for good measure? Perfect. Prefer more modern literary stories? Maybe you'd like The Tricking of Freya, about a young Icelandic immigrant girl who loves her vibrant yet unstable aunt and old stories, but ends up in a frightening adventure.

I can go on all day. I read a lot of science fiction/fantasy and mystery too, so those genres hold no fear for me- they are old friends. If you're looking for a book, I like to ask about the books you've enjoyed most recently, find out what you loved about them, and find something that speaks to the same style or subject that intrigued you.

There is a second type of person too. This person does NOT want a recommendation that they have never heard of. They only want me to recommend them books that they already know about. Perhaps this is a way of staying safe. Maybe they don't trust me? Maybe they don't know that at our bookstore, we're not just going to hand them the most expensive book in the store to make an extra buck.

I haven't read everything on the bestseller list. That's partly because there's no way to keep up with it, partly because I actually distrust the bestseller list. Maybe it's because I wasn't one of the popular girls in high school, but I distrust popularity for its own sake. This goes for books, too. I wasn't the biggest fan of Water for Elephants or of The Da Vinci Code. However, I passionately love The Help and The Tiger's Wife. So, part of what I like to do with recommendations is promote things that aren't bestsellers, because you already know all of them by looking at the display shelves. Has anyone missed that Little Bee, Room, and The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks are great books? Those titles are all over the place. But what about my shy wallflowers, Mistress of the Art of Death, Possessing the Secret of Joy, or The Tea Rose? They deserve good homes, too.

So, do you peruse the bestsellers or the farthest corners of the bookstore? I confess, I do both.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Harry Potter for Sports Fans

Harry Potter fans everywhere can hardly wait for this Thursday at midnight, when the final installment of the Harry Potter series makes it to the big screen. What can they do to make the time go faster?

So, ever wanted to try quidditch? Some intrepid souls have brought this game to life in the world of the Muggles. No flying brooms, but you may want to try it! Apparantly, there's a league in Greeley. For more information, look here.

Sunday, July 10, 2011


Do your best to pronounce the title of this post. And be sure to do it out loud (while making an attempt to kind of scream it). Good. Very good. This is the sound that I am expecting myself to make a few times as I embark on a journey to read "House of Leaves" by Mark Z. Danielewski. I'm excited, but also scared. It gives me flashbacks of trying to read "Ulysses," which may have been one of the most disastrous reads I've ever attempted. I barely got a 100 pages through it to give you some idea... Summer is a good time for a college student to try and tackle these types of books though, so I might as well give my brain some real work. There are many other books that have reputations for being notoriously difficult (War and Peace, Moby Dick...) but I'm curious to hear from you blog reader: what books are you afraid to read? Post some comments, and if you, like me, are in the mood to brave dangerous literary waters during these summer days, then I wish you luck.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Call the plumber, we've got a Martin leak...

Being the book nerds that we are here at Old Firehouse, we came across some interesting information out there in the book world. As many of you may know, the fifth book called "A Dance with Dragons" in the very popular series called "A Song of Fire and Ice" by George R. R. Martin is finally due to be released on July 12. After a period of roughly six years, people are craving themselves a hunk of fresh Martin! This craving has apparently overpowered a certain distributor (who won't be mentioned, but if you're curious, they are big and powerful and just Google "A Dance with Dragons leak" to get their name) in Germany who has been rumored to release 180 copies early to the public. From what the blog world is saying, Martin is extremely angry. Or to take a guess at words that are more fitting for the famous author, the storms of a thousand years of hatred and anger have all gathered and been released by Arc Bishop Martin! All this as a result of a leak. This type of situation is common in the music industry these days, but it isn't your every day event to have a book with this much anticipation behind it randomly leaking. So just a reminder, if you for some reason come across a copy of "A Dance with Dragons" in the next few days, Mr. Martin would like to slay you and take back what is his. He said you can't have it until July 12. And apparently, he really meant it. Soon enough book lovers, there will be plenty of copies for all. Be patient though, Martin wants it of you. For more random and interesting things about books, scan through our blog and check for new posts. We are working on keeping it current and leak it out to every living soul you know. Thanks, and talk to you soon dear Old Firehouse companions.