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Updated: 2013-08-27T20:05:19Z

 



Customer Corner

2013-08-27T20:05:19Z

Kip Taylor is a newish customer of ours and we’re very pleased to have met him. He’s a thoughtful guy and, as you’ll see below, a thoughtful reader. So without further ado, take it away, Kip…   What was the last truly great book you read? Wow. This is a tough question to start with. […]Kip Taylor is a newish customer of ours and we’re very pleased to have met him. He’s a thoughtful guy and, as you’ll see below, a thoughtful reader. So without further ado, take it away, Kip…   What was the last truly great book you read? Wow. This is a tough question to start with. I’m in Southern New Hampshire University’s MFA in Fiction program, so I’ve been reading a lot of wonderful books by authors that I’ve neglected for a long time. I’ve read my first Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises, Woolf:  The Waves, Fitzgerald: Tender is the Night, and Rushdie: Shalimar the Clown. Despite these and others, I have to say that my favorite book of the past year has been Susan Vreeland’s Girl in Hyacinth Blue, a book of loosely woven short stories that follows the owners of a Dutch master painting. My favorite author of the year has been Anton Chekov, whose short stories are astonishingly good. It’s been a brilliant year of reading for me.   What’s your favorite literary genre? I was originally a pop science fiction and fantasy fan, but I’m finding myself more interested in historical fiction and speculative fiction the older I get. My writing is driving me more towards material with well researched settings that accompany heavy depth of character and carefully crafted prose.   What type of fiction or nonfiction do you absolutely refuse to read? I really hate horror of most all stripes in the fiction vein. I loved Stoker’s Dracula, when I read it a long time ago, but I think that it’s likely the extent of my foray into dark, horror pieces. As far as nonfiction, I’m starting to expand, but I’ve still never read a lot of biographies or memoir, they just don’t do it for me, usually, regardless of what I try.   Name your all-time favorite book. Hmm. Again, difficult, but if I go with my first response, I can’t deny the effect that Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings had on me as a young reader. I haven’t read the books in a decade and a half, but they still resonate with me.   Name a highly respected book, fiction or nonfiction, you found overrated and unsatisfying. I know that Kafka is well loved and brilliant, but I read The Trial this year and hated my life for the days that I was reading it. To be fair, it was unfinished and I may have had a bad translation, but I can’t envision it being a satisfying read however it might be doctored.   What’s your opinion of e-books? I think that e-books are a good thing for literature and the industry, as they will keep people reading in a world of easy technology, comfort, and convenience. I also love the idea of being able to carry multiple books in a single device that I can stand to stare at for more than a couple of hours. All of this said, I haven’t stopped purchasing and reading conventional books. There’s something about the tactile nature of holding the texts and turning the pages that connects me to the material more than the digital format. I’m sure the effect is the same when considering the mass change from spoken word to written word storytelling however many centuries ago throughout various cultures. Something is gained, something is lost.   Who’s your favorite writer? I couldn’t say for sure, but Virginia Woolf is quite literally intoxicating to me. Her prose, as dense and complex as it can be on the page, makes my brain happy and I love devouring her descriptions and narrative responses to the actions and words of the characters. It’s beautiful. I plan to write my term paper next semester on her work; purely an excuse to read as much of her work as I dare.   If you could meet any author, living or dead, who would it be? As far as living authors, I [...]



In the Margins

2013-02-23T01:03:26Z

All the gloomy talk about the supposed death of the publishing industry is overstated and spurious. Yep, e-books have upended the publishing paradigm and, true, far fewer people read books of any kind than watch TV and movies, surf the Internet, fulminate on Facebook and tweet-tweet on Twitter, or do all manner of things on their […]

(image) (image) All the gloomy talk about the supposed death of the publishing industry is overstated and spurious. Yep, e-books have upended the publishing paradigm and, true, far fewer people read books of any kind than watch TV and movies, surf the Internet, fulminate on Facebook and tweet-tweet on Twitter, or do all manner of things on their smartphones. That being said, there is no substitute for a well produced conventional book; that’s why a significant chunk of the book-buying public still likes acquiring them and prefers them to any electronic alternative. And a lot of these people own e-readers. Another thing about traditional books: they’re actually easily portable.

The poster child for the magnificently executed (and, all things considered, pretty reasonably priced) print-and-paper, physical book is the Norton Annotated Edition. Let’s say you want a dependable classic like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or The Wind in the Willows. Each of these is easily available in a number of varying inexpensive paperback editions. Buy one of these paperbacks and you’ll get a nice edition of the original text with some additional notes and, almost always, a newly commissioned foreword tossed in. Maybe there’ll even be a few illustrations, original drawings, what have you. Your average cost’s going to run about, say, $12 to $16. Not bad. Double that amount, though, and you’ll score a keeper: a permanent hardbound addition to your library, one that you can pass down to your children, nieces, nephews, good friends — anyone you love who’ll appreciate a book that will weigh more in every sense than a simple paperback. A little extra money was never better spent.

Norton Annotateds are oversized, deluxe hardcovers; most of them are priced at $39.95. Pick one up and leaf through it and you’ll be surprised the price is this low. These books are beautiful and meant to keep over a lifetime. Each is copiously illustrated and impeccably designed, but it’s the annotations that really seal the deal. As we said, you can read a classic anywhere in any old format, but when you go with a Norton Annotated Edition, you get all the power of the original text amplified by an exhaustive, illuminating battery of auxiliary commentary compiled by scholars who specialize in the source material. These people have devoted their lives to learning everything there is to learn — and uncovering even more — about a particular author and his or her most famous book. Thus, when I picked up my Norton copy of The Wind in the Willows, within the first few pages alone I learned so much more about that ageless novel than I did by reading the (perfectly serviceable) Penguin Classics edition of it I originally bought a few years ago. The entire reading experience was enriched a hundredfold. And then there are those illustrations and photographs, all top-drawer. Enough of my persuasions. The books themselves do the best talking.




Customer Corner

2012-10-27T20:53:19Z

We recommence our customer-profile feature with apologies for the long delay since the debut installment. Hope to get back on track with this so we can profile many more of our friends who shop with us and love to talk books. John Lesser is probably our most loyal customer, bar none; he’s been shopping here […]We recommence our customer-profile feature with apologies for the long delay since the debut installment. Hope to get back on track with this so we can profile many more of our friends who shop with us and love to talk books. John Lesser is probably our most loyal customer, bar none; he’s been shopping here nonstop since Subterranean Books first opened back in October, 2000 (yes, we’re 12 years old now!). Here’s John in a convenient nutshell: opera buff; prodigious reader; nice guy — and, as you’ll see below, a highly cultured, extremely well-read man. We’ll let him take over and do the talking now… What is your all-time favorite book? A Man Without Qualities (Robert Musil) The first time that I read this massive work I spent almost a year at it. Who are some of your favorite authors? Roberto Bolaño, Leonardo Sciascia, Thomas Bernhard, John Banville, Jose Saramago, Salman Rushdie, Nikki Ducornet and Angela Carter. Interestingly, four of these authors I know only in translation. I wish that I could read Russian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, Japanese, Hungarian or Czech books in those languages. What are you reading now? I have just finished Bring Up The Bodies (Hilary Mantel), a worthy follow-up to Wolf Hall. [Our aside: Mantel just won her second Man Booker Prize, this time for Bring Up the Bodies.] Do you keep the books you read? Almost always. I don’t like to lend books, but I do recommend titles. When I moved to smaller quarters three years ago, I had to give up more than eight thousand books. I wish that I had them back, but I’ve already amassed two or three hundred new books and my shelves are bowing. Do you prefer a book that makes you laugh or cry, or one that teaches or distracts? I love a good book that makes me react and paints a clear picture; happy or sad, maybe just beautifully written. Books are never distractions. They are time machines, mirrors, passports and cabinets of wonder. So what was the last book that made you laugh, cry, or taught you something? They Eat Puppies, Don’t They? (Christopher Buckley) The Song of Achilles (Madeline Miller) Verdi’s Shakespeare (Garry Wills) What books have you found disappointing or overrated? Bel Canto (Ann Patchett) I was told that I would like it, but I didn’t like it at all. Most bestselling current fiction leaves me hungry for a really good book. The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown) was easily forgotten. I rarely, if ever, leave a book unfinished though I have occasionally had to force myself to reach the end. What are your favorite story collections? I really enjoyed St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves (Karen Russell), Interpreter of Maladies (Jhumpa Lahiri), The Bus Driver Who Wanted to be God (Etgar Keret) and any bit of insanity from David Sedaris. Do you tend to read more short fiction or novels? I read both. I also read biography, history and everything from the Classics to Steam Punk. I tend to shy away from poetry and plays, but there are exceptions. I the last few months I’ve read biographies of Catherine the Great (Robert K. Massie), Cleopatra (Stacy Schiff), Caravaggio (Andrew Graham-Dixon) and Joan of Arc (Nancy Goldstone). What author, living or dead, would you like to meet? Who wouldn’t want to chit-chat with Shakespeare or Dante? I would like to trade obscenities with Rabelais and meet any author whose work(s) I have enjoyed. Having worked with several book festivals and attended author programs, I have had the opportunity to meet and speak briefly with many contemporary writers — most recently Jasper Fforde who was as entertaining as his books. Which book do you plan to read next? American Canopy (Eric Rutko[...]



Customer Corner

2012-10-27T20:53:49Z

We’re launching a new segment here on our blog, wherein we pose some questions to our loyal regulars, the good folk who make bookselling fun and keep us in business. We stole the idea from the New York Times Book Review, and we hope they don’t mind. We’ll commence with Paul Friswold: RFT staff writer, […]We’re launching a new segment here on our blog, wherein we pose some questions to our loyal regulars, the good folk who make bookselling fun and keep us in business. We stole the idea from the New York Times Book Review, and we hope they don’t mind. We’ll commence with Paul Friswold: RFT staff writer, lover of all things arcane and Celtic, prodigious reader, wise friend. What’s the last truly great book you read? A: The Sea Kingdoms, by Alistair Moffat. It’s a history of the Celtic people, but as seen through the lens of the modern UK. Moffat goes to those places where custom and culture linger (Padstow in Cornwall, the Isle of Lewis, the Isle of Man) and shows that the passage of thousands of years are incapable of stripping away the essential nature of a people. The clothes may change, but the soul remains the same. It’s a huge story well told, with the biases of the author (a proud Scotsman) on full display. It simultaneously made the world seem older and fresher, and human life smaller and vaster. I was sad to finish it, which is the surest sign I know that I just read a great book. What book changed your life? A: My heart says The Hobbit; my gut says the Ace paperback version of Conan with the Frank Frazetta cover of Conesy battling Thak the Man-Ape. My mom gave me The Hobbit when I was 7 or 8 — I was confused by all the songs in the first few chapters, and then I really got into it when Thorin & Co. get to Mirkwood. That was it for me — we meet the elves in Thranduil’s dark kingdom and I knew I’d found my people. Conan, however, I found on my own when I was 11 or 12. It was dark, gritty, full of sex and violence — very far from Tolkien and all the things I loved about Middle Earth. I hid the book from my parents because I was certain I’d get grounded for bringing this filth into the house. And of course, my mother caught me reading it and was unfazed. She was very cool about it, which I know now is because she did not (and does not) think there’s anything dangerous about any book. She trusted me to know the difference between fantasy and reality, and she trusted me. So Conan was the first book I bought with my own money that was clearly an adult book. I think that’s the book where the world changed for me. How old were you when you read it? And what changed? A: See above. What were your favorite books as a child? A: The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, the first four Tarzan novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Warlord of Mars also by ERB, Carola Oman’s retelling of the Robin Hood legends, D’Aulaires Book of Norse Myths, John Steinbeck’s version of Le Morte d’Arthur, and if we’re being completely honest, the Dungeon Master’s Guide by Gary Gygax. I read that thing like I was going to be tested on it. Incidentally, Appendix N in the DMG was a bibliography of books that influenced Gary and Dave Arneson in creating Dungeons & Dragons; I began hunting down as many of those titles as I could find. And there began my love affair with a well-composed bibliography. If the cut-off age for “child” is twelve, it pains me to leave Harlan Ellison off this list. But I found him in my teen years, and that curmudgeonly genius ruled my life for the next decade. I didn’t eat for two days when The Essential Ellison was published because I couldn’t put it down, and because I’d spent all the money I had at that time to buy it. I met him a few years later at the Chicago Comic Convention and he signed it, and he was a total sweetheart. Harlan, please don’t die — losing Ray Bradbu[...]



James Erwin Book Signing On April 26th

2012-04-24T20:39:53Z

 Subterranean Books is very excited to welcome James W. Erwin to the University City Library for a signing of his book, Guerillas In Civil War Missouri  on Thursday, April 26 at 7:00PM. In his book Erwin has taken a forgotten chapter of Missouri’s difficult history during the Civil War and brought it to life in vivid detail. Beginning […]

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 Subterranean Books is very excited to welcome James W. Erwin to the University City Library for a signing of his book, Guerillas In Civil War Missouri  on Thursday, April 26 at 7:00PM.

In his book Erwin has taken a forgotten chapter of Missouri’s difficult history during the Civil War and brought it to life in vivid detail. Beginning with the Kansas-Nebraska Act and how its passage rippled through our state through the bloody Centralia Massacre and winding up with the postwar violence that devasted the state, Erwin has richly rescued this turbulent chapter of our history from fading away into obscurity.

Like any good novel Guerillas In Civil War Missouri has its own share of great characters. Athough this is a work of nonfiction you could not ask for a more colorful or intereresting group of characters. Joseph C. Porter, ‘Bloody Bill’ Anderson,  General Thomas Ewing Jr, the soon-to-be-even-more- famous Frank and Jesse James and of course Willaim C. Quantrill (the most famous guerilla leader in the State’s history) all leap from the pages, larger then life. Erwin is dead on in that in order to understand the impact of guerilla warfare in Missouri you must also know who these men were and what drove them. 

A lot of people do not know what a bloody and dangerous place Missouri was during the Civil War. Its strategic location made it not only a coveted prize but also a hotbed for spies, recruting and especially guerilla warfare on each side.

As Erwin points out,  guerilla warfare in the Missouri was more then a series of random nasty skirmishes or petty raids. It was, in its own way, an ugly, bloody theater of the American Civil War. 

What: James W. Erwin Book Signing

When: April 26, 7:00pm

Where: University City Library (6701 Delmar Blvd.)

This event is free and open to the public.  Subterranean Books will have copies of Mr. Erwin’s book for sale at the event.

Missouri State Representative Rory Ellinger will introduce Mr. Erwin at the event.

For more information call (314) 862-6100.




The Hunger Games At Subterranean Books

2012-03-28T03:15:58Z

Unless you have been hiding under a rock you may have noticed that the film adaption of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games is in theaters. It has been a pretty big deal in the media and also in the book world as well. This 2008 young adult novel and its follow-up titles have been big sellers for us […]Unless you have been hiding under a rock you may have noticed that the film adaption of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games is in theaters. It has been a pretty big deal in the media and also in the book world as well. This 2008 young adult novel and its follow-up titles have been big sellers for us at the store this month. As booksellers we get excited when a book gets some hustle to it and sells like crazy. There’s the fun of getting the book on the shelves and into the hands of customers. There’s also the joy of knowing we have a book that, in some cases, someone went all over town looking for. Plus, there is the joy of having the money come in which is, sadly, an essential part of the business. But the best part is that people are buying books and reading. As for the book itself, it is set in the post-apocalyptic country of Panem where peace is kept by having an annual ‘tribute’ which collects warriors from 12 districts and throws them into a nihilistic gladiator arena of sorts where the participants must hunt, track and kill each other to survive.  It’s a very esoteric substitution for war that has been glossed over by the government and media and turned into entertainment.  However, when Katniss Everdeen volunteers for the Games all hell breaks loose. One of the reasons for the success of The Hunger Games is that it touches on a lot of ideas. There are cultural and social clashes, the morality of killing for sport, sexual politics, regular sneaky politics, the ideas of family and community. Collins also tackles poverty, oppression, war while turning the notion of self-preservation on its ear. She’s also thrown in a wacky love triangle just to make things interesting. Collins has also taken the Orwellian idea of Big Brother and merged it with our culture’s strange predilection for reality TV.  It’s a book with  a lot going on in it. We’ve found that kids and adults both are devouring the series and enjoying the books. It has a lot of intrigue, action and is written at a breakneck pace that makes it a pretty quick read. I was told by a customer the other day that these books are not the next Twilight or Harry Potter series that get charged by Hollywood and turned into a pop culture event. It was pointed out to me that The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay are, like lots of other great fiction, books that have a soul that enables them to resonate with the times they mirror when they were published.  Check out our website for all of your Hunger Games needs. Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favor! [...]