Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Fishing, A River Runs Through It, and Montana Sawdust Piles

Whether you're at your local creek, floating the Yakima Canyon on a multi-day trip, or cruising the beaches of Liberty Bay for the Sea-Run Cutthroats that clogged our waters some 75 years ago, there are few times like Summer to break out the old fly rod and "wet your line." The goal, as ever, is 1) netting some sea-borne monster to show off to your friends and, 2) enjoying the outdoors. While we're late in the season, across nearly all of land West of the Mississippi (and probably some areas East of it, though who cares about them), late summer and early fall still comprise a glorious time of year for flyfishermen and flyfisherwomen to get outside and chase the dream. And here's a book to stoke the fires.

Norman Maclean's A River Runs Through It (U. Chicago Press, 2001, $9.60) is one of those books that every flyfisher-person has read, heard too much about, or at the very worst, purposefully neglected with the mind that it's 'too mainstream'. In my estimation, it is a book that everyone should read (and maybe even especially those that have never heard of flyfishing, gearchucking, or the great outdoors). Made up of three short stories, "A River Runs Through It," "Logging and Pimping and 'Your pal, Jim," and "USFS 1919: The Ranger, the Cook, and a Hole in the Sky," the book is unerringly hilarious. The stories' titles convey that much, I think. In it, plaintive--and even beatific--descriptions of nature, fishing, Montana, etc. are regularly interrupted by crude sex jokes, cartoonish elaborations of early Montanans' drinking habits, and simmering jabs at Maclean's own Scottish Presbyterian church. One story captures this delightful mix of naturalism and humor particularly well: after nearly 60 pages of high drama in a Montana logging camp, the story degenerates into a joke about sex. Beautiful and tense throughout, we think this story has been schooling us in the ways of masculinity, the woods, and the mountains. In reality it's the distractingly long-winded build up of a joke about fat women. The irony is masterful and miraculous, as it is throughout the stories. And it serves to remind us that it's not Thoreau or Hemingway that we're reading; it's something completely new and completely different: a haunting book of jokes written by a Pulitzer prize winning University of Chicago professor who grew up drinking whiskey in Montana sawdust piles. It may or may not rekindle your passion to fish. But it will make you laugh. And it will definitely remind you of everything you're missing when you're inside watching reruns of How I Met Your Mother.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Childhood of Jesus

The Childhood of Jesus by J.M. Coetzee (Viking, $26.95, September 2013) -- Nobel-prize winner J.M. Coetzee's latest novel reads like that middle-school riddle that you never quite grabbed ahold of. Told largely through dialogue, the story is anything but straightforward. Large portions of the book are assigned to dialogues seemingly lifted right out of Plato ("Ideas are everywhere," he writes towards the beginning of the book. "The universe is instinct with them. Without them there would be no universe, for there would be no being.") Other sections wander almost heroically into the dreamy hinterlands (i.e. Purgatory) we visited in that other Coetzee masterpiece, Elizabeth Costello, before Coetzee's authorial restraint pulls them back. But this novel is even stranger. Why? Because this novel exists nowhere.

Let me explain. It begins with the arrival of a man (Simon) and a boy (David) to an unknown Spanish speaking country from some sort of refugee camp called Belstar. We do not know where they are, where they are from, or why they've been forced into this new world. Descriptors leak out of conversations slowly, revealing little more than the strange relationship between David and Simon and the inhumanly austere (and hyper-logical) character of those living in our heroes new land. (It turns out David is not Simon's son but a self-appointed guardian who feels bound to find the boy's mother, despite never having seen her or knowing her name. They boy doesn't recall her either.) As something resembling a story ensues, we find that everything in Coetzee's novel out of balance. Never can we be sure what universe this story is occurring in, just as we can never be sure of its time frame or the parameters of its (at least partially) intended allegory of Jesus's childhood. Everything is just beyond us. But don't get me wrong: this doesn't make The Childhood of Jesus infuriating or unreadable. These are the qualities that have always illuminated Coetzee's work: the tug between restraint of his prose and the philosophical, moral, metafictional, and even physical waywardness his stories invoke. Like the majority of his novels, this one is also worth reading. It will leave you with fragments and strands that point towards truths but come nowhere near explaining them outright; in Coetzee's hands this is always a good thing.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Liquid Sunshine Reads
What we're reading while waiting for the sun to come out again!

Suzanne just read:
Yes, an older book but a favorite read of mine. Told first person by Quothe, a wizard/hero of his adventures/mis deeds. I enjoyed it so much it's hard to pick up another book. So looking forward to reading Wise Man's Fear (book 2).

Madison just read:
This is a great new series by Alyson Noel that is based around Native American folklore in the town of Enchantment, NM. People are disappearing and the environment is dying. Daire discovers her heritage and is fated to walk the path of a Seeker, a person who fights for the light to keep the dark at bay. Great, exciting reads with book three coming out later this spring!

Kathryn just read:
A chilling and remarkable story of survival. The main character, Grace Winter, is one of the few survivors when the ocean liner she and her new husband are traveling on explodes. She is faced with tough choices and is on trial for her life. A real page turner!

Emily just read:
This collection converted me from a novel only reader to a lover of the short story format. Some of the stories are only a few short pages long but pack as power a punch as a 300 page novel. Set primarily in and around the authors home town of Spokane, these stories are populated by losers, junkies and vagrants. Walter's down and out characters try, and often fail, to set things right and make sense of their broken lives and they will bring you along for the heartbreaking ride.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Pacific Northwest Book Awards 2013

The Pacific Northwest Booksellers Assocation has selected their winners for the 2013 Pacific Northwest Book Awards! A volunteer committee of independent booksellers chose these six books from more than 250 titles published in 2012. We've read most of these books and have loved them. Here are the winners!

Blasphemy by Sherman Alexie - Always a favorite author here at LBB!



A store bestseller in 2012 set here in Poulsbo, Washington


Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey - Kathryn's favorite hand sell. 





Wild by Cheryl Strayed - Enjoyed by all who have read it!



Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson


ALSO! Please remember to sign up for World Book Night 2013! You have until January 23rd to sign up at Everyone who participated last year had a great time spreading the love of reading around our community and we hope you'll consider joining us this year! Also, when you visit the website, take a look at the scrolling pictures at the top of the main page...Participants from last years event at Liberty Bay Books are prominently featured right on the top as well as the boxes of books with name tags created by Madison at LBB! This is a national website, so its pretty cool to be the only store represented in the pictures. Hope to see you all at this fun, free event PLUS a free t-shirt when you participate!