CHANGE OF VENUE Monday, Dec 17 2012 

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Holiday Hints (A Maple Street Book Shop Guide to Gifting) Tuesday, Dec 11 2012 

Donna Allen (Maple Street Book Shop Owner)


A Unique Slant of Light:The Bicentennial History of Art in Louisiana by Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities (Hardcover, $120.00)
An absolute must have for collectors or anyone interested in Louisiana art history from the colonial period through the present day.


The Accidental City: Improvising New Orleans by Lawrence Powell (Hardcover, $29.95)
A perfect gift for newcomers to New Orleans! Powell offers readers a fascinating and detailed account of the founding of New Orleans. This is a must read for those that appreciate the history of our city!


I’m a Good Dog: Pit Bulls, America’s Most Beautiful (and Misunderstood) Pet by Ken Foster (Paperback, $17.50)
This heartwarming book is a perfect gift for the dog lover in your life. For years, Ken has fought tirelessly against the misconceptions surrounding this particular breed and once again he has accomplished his goals through his writing (and I’m not just saying that because he’s part of the Maple Street team or because I have 2 pit bulls!).

Cindy Dike (Children’s Buyer, Uptown)


1Q84by Haruki Murakami  (Paperback, 3 vol. boxed set, $29.95) If you like love stories, mysteries, or stories set in parallel worlds, you will devour this epic novel set in 1984 in Tokyo, Japan. I loved this book because it’s a gripping, page turner of a novel. Just when I thought I had the plot line figured out the author changed directions. I loved not knowing where the story was headed & following all the characters through the maze of it. Having read and loved A Wild Sheep Chase and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles by Murakami, I can say this is his masterpiece.


Liddabit Sweets Candy Cookbook by Liz Gutman & Jen King (Paperback, $17.95)
I love making candy at Christmas time. My family and friends have all been recipients of my pecan caramels and cashew brittle, but that’s as far as my limited knowledge of candy making has taken me. This little volume has all the tips, list of equipment, and recipes to make me or anyone a master candy maker. The index is rife with delights such as Brown Sugar-Coffe Caramels, Pates De Fruits, and Simply Perfect Dark Chocolate Truffles for starters. The photographs of the goodies alone are worth the price.


Puss in Boots retold and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney (Hardcover, $17.99)
I love this lavishly illustrated picture book about a clever talking tabby that helps his poor master win love and a princely fortune. If you like fairy tales, this picture book set in 1729 France is a sure bet, especially for ages 4 to 8.

Sarah Sky (Used and Rare)


What it is by Lynda Barry
(Hardcover, $24.95 (Drawn & Quarterly))
A book of beauty for just about anyone interested in art, creativity, the process behind it and writing.


Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson (Paperback $6.99)
If you didn’t get to fall in love with the strange world of Moomins as a child, you will as an adult. Be prepared for ships, flights from comets, adventures and quiet with a strange and supportive cast of characters. Great stories for children of all ages.


Rookie Yearbook One by Tavi Gevinson (Paperback, $29.95 (Drawn & Quarterly)) (Suggested by both Sarah and Maureen)
Remember how scary being a teenager was? This book, a compendium of content from the first year of online magazine Rookie, put together by 16-year-old fashion wunderkind Tavi Gevinson, goes a long way to assuage those fears. It’s chock-full of cool interviews (Joss Whedon! First Aid Kit! John Waters!); honest and genuinely helpful articles (“How to Not Care What Other People Think of You”, How to Look Like You Weren’t Just Crying in Less than Five Minutes”, “On Taking Yourself Seriously”, and, my favorite, “How to Approach the Person You Like Without Throwing Up”, to name a few); plus tons of extras like stickers, a paper crown, and a plastic record of killer tunes. It’s the perfect gift for anyone who likes glitter, and friendship, and summer vacation, including but not limited to: your sister, your best friend, and you.

Maureen Iverson (Uptown)


Birds of a Lesser Paradise: Stories by Megan Mayhew Bergman
(Paperback, $15.00)
Lovely, funny, and sad in all the right ways, Bergman’s perfect collection of short stories is peopled with big-hearted, guilty-conscienced characters, and teeming with creatures of both the domestic and wild variety. This is the way I wish I could write and the things I wish I could write about. I don’t even like animals.


Around the World with Mouk: A Sticker Adventure by Marc Boutavant
(Hardcover, $17.99)
I just want to look at this book all afternoon. Perfect for poring over, this French import is an oversized reusable sticker book illustrated by graphic artist Marc Boutavant. It’s like Richard Scarry’s Busy Town, BUT WITH KOALAS, postcard-writing, and international travel. Please disregard where I said I don’t like animals.

Gladin Scott (Manager, Uptown)

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"Toby's Room" by Pat Barker

Toby’s Room by Pat Barker (Hardcover,  $25.95)
From the author of the acclaimed Regeneration trilogy a new novel set during the first world war. Barker once again examines the love and loss faced by an English family in a turbulent time.


Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan (Hardcover, $26.95)
McEwan takes us back to the nineteen seventies and the cold war in this entertaining thriller. A great read from a master storyteller.


I’m Your Man by Sylvie Simmons (Hardcover $27.99)
This biography of the Leonard Cohen, great songwriter and enigmatic spirit, sheds light on his extraordinary life.


New Orleans Impressionist Cityscapes by Phil Sandusky (Hardcover $29.95)
This latest collection of Sandusky’s impressionist paintings brings the beauty and resilience of a great city to life. This is the perfect gift for locals or visitors.

Ben Jenkins (Manager, Healing Center)


The Sandman Slipcase set by Neil Gaiman (Hardcover,$199.00)
Neil Gaiman is currently my favorite author and I consider this to be his masterpiece. This box set includes all ten trade paperback volumes of the Sandman series where Gaiman follows Morpheus, the embodiment of dreams, throughout time. This is not your typical cape and tights graphic novel.


How Music Works by David Byrne (Hardcover, $32.00)
David Byrne of The Talking Heads discusses what music is and what it is to make music. This wonderfully written book is perfect for any music lover.


Art of the Dead by Phil Cushway (Hardcover, $45.00)
The Art of the Dead showcases the vibrant, charismatic Grateful Dead poster art that emerged from the streets of San Francisco in 1964 and 1966, while tracing the cultural, political, and historical influences of posters as art back to Japanese wood blocks through Bell Epoque, to the Beatniks, the Free Speech Movement, and the Acid Tests. It features interviews and profiles of the key artists and follows a chronological evolution of the art from the band’s origination through Jerry Garcia’s death. The book features iconic and rare images as well as extensive “process” material. Ultimately, The Art of the Dead makes the case that poster art is truly an original form of American fine art.

Michael Glaviano (Bayou St. John)


Madness, Rack, and Honey by Mary Ruefle (Paperback, $25.00)
Madness, Rack, and Honey is a moving and frequently hilarious collection of lectures delivered over fifteen years by poet Mary Ruefle to her writing students. Many of the lectures are specifically about the craft of writing poems, but don’t let that stop you if you don’t know any poets. Ruefle confronts headlong the questions that disturb the sleep of artists the world over. In “On Fear,” for example, the opening paragraph articulates her concern that in dedicating her life to poetry she may have ‘consecrated [her] life to an imbecility.’ The entire collection is dripping with this kind of superhuman honesty. An energizing and potentially life-changing read for the artsy person in your life.


Hot Pink by Adam Levin (Hardcover, $22.00)
The author of sprawling 2010 novel The Instructions is back with a relatively slender book of short fiction, wearing his influences on his sleeve and wearing them well. It’s extremely ambitious, but rarely is this ambition at the expense of emotional resonance. Levin is trying his darnedest to find and stretch the limits of American short fiction. RIYL George Saunders, Wells Tower, Kevin Wilson, and/or David Foster Wallace.


Antigonick by Anne Carson (Hardcover, $24.95)
Rogue classicist Anne Carson is always doing the coolest stuff. Antigonick is her rather nontraditional translation of Sophocles’ Antigone. The play opens with Antigone and Ismene squabbling over whether to attribute a quote to Hegel or Beckett. Later, watching Antigone head off to be buried alive, the chorus asks, “How is a Greek chorus like a lawyer?” The punch line? “They’re both in the business of searching for a precedent.” These anachronisms have been derided as “populist witticisms,” but we humbly contend that they are Carson’s main weapon in her attempt at a translation that is cultural rather than merely linguistic. The book also happens to be a gorgeous object; the text is simply a facsimile of a manuscript in the author’s hand, and interspersed throughout the book are beautiful drawings on translucent vellum by artist Bianca Stone.

Clark Allen (Used & Rare)


The Map and the Territory by Michel Houellebecq (Paperback, $16.00)
The typically nasty little dissenter Michel Houellebecq released his fifth novel in 2010. After running the European circuit, winning praise and inpsiring disquiet alike, the book made its way to translation for eager English speaking audiences early this year. In The Map and the Territory, Houellbecq again displays his talent in portrayal of his grimmest, most unsettling of nihilistic tendencies, culminating in this novel in the brutal depiction of his own murder. Don’t miss out!


The Collected Writings of Joe Brainard by Joe Brainard (Hardcover, $35.00)
Collected for the first time in one volume, we finally have the writings of Joe Brainard, visual and literary darling of pop art era New York City. In his short life Brainard displayed a mirthful irreverence in mediums from writing to costume design to illustration and collage. His keen ability to sort, pick apart, and communicate life’s most extraordinary minutia garnered him praise from the likes of Frank O’Hara, Andy Warhol, Georges Perec and many more, cementing his name as one of the finest postmodern poets of the time. This volume includes his poetic autobiography “I Remember”, among countless notes, journal entries, short stories, sketches, and casual musings, effortlessly displaying the sweetness and exuberant potential that American writing has at its best.


We, The Children of Cats by Tomoyuki Hoshino (Paperback, $20.00)
Concocted by the award winning author Tomoyuki Hoshino, this is a strange and surreal collection of Japanese short fiction in which a journalist investigates crime in the seedy underground of an elementary school; two killers rediscover themselves as revolutionaries after their exile to Peru; and some people have bodies which just happen to sprout surprising new parts. We, The Children of Cats draws from forces ranging from traditional Japanese literature to Latin American magical realism, and stands proudly as one of the most unique works in translation of 2012.

Sara White (Bayou St. John)


The Storymatic (Boxed set, $29.95)
For those more interested in participating in the story than reading it, I recommend The Storymatic. This box set of 500 cards includes prompts for storytelling and is great as a teaching tool or parlor game. There’s also a kids’ version!


The Science of Good Cooking edited by Cook’s Illustrated Magazine (Hardcover, $40.00)
For those who enjoy cooking and those hesitant but interested to learn, I recommend Cook’s Illustrated’s newest book The Science of Good Cooking. This hardback includes over 400 recipes all paired with science experiments explaining why they work and will provide its reader with a foundation of basic cooking concepts.


Graphic Design Before Graphic Designers: The Printer as Designer and Craftsman 1700-1914 by David Jury (Hardcover, $60.00)
David Jury’s new book, Graphic Design Before Graphic Designers: The Printer as Designer and Craftsman 1700-1914, is a hardback gem filled with nearly 800 illustrations of printed ephemera such as engraved title pages, handbills, posters, type specimens, product labels, as well as accompanying text discussing the social and technological circumstances of the printing trade throughout history. This is a truly lovely gift for anyone with an appreciation for the printed page and the evolution of graphic design.

Matt Carney (Manager, Bayou St. John)



Detroit City is the Place to Be: The Afterlife of an American Metropolis by Mark Binelli (Hardcover, $28.00)
Mark Binelli manages to capture the daily absurdities inherent to post-crash Detroit without sacrificing (in the name of spectacle, narrative, or farce) the integrity of the city itself. Recommended for any lovers of highly readable location-specific non-fiction, or your uncle who enjoys interjecting dinner conversations with moments of “did you know…” regardless of the current topic at hand.


Building Stories by Chris Ware (Boxed set, $50.00)
Buildings Stories, one large highly-shakable box containing 14 separate printed pieces, is easily the most tactile holiday gift one could hope for. Recommended for anyone looking for new representations of the small private triumphs that rise from the mundane, or that one cousin who derails after-dinner drinks with both sides of the family whenever anyone refers to the graphic novel he’s been working on for six odd years as a “comic book.”


Big Class No. 2 by Big Class (Boxed set, $25.00)
Big Class No. 2 is a collection of coloring books (complete with crayons) divided by theme (food, sports, robots, etc) conceived from short stories written by a local 1st grade class at Lincoln Elementary (later illustrated by artists around the country). Recommended for anyone enamored with the spirit of collaboration and the wonderfully non-linear logic of youth or the education-oriented friends you invite over for the holidays even though they’ll probably just exasperate themselves explaining “creative agency” to the uncle you may have written off as a lost cause at the apex of a new-found and honestly foolish collegiate callousness but with time have come to appreciate for who he is.

Jeremy Blum (Uptown)



Orientation and Other Stories by Daniel Orozco (Paperback, $13.00)
Orozco leads the reader through the secret lives and moral philosophies of bridge painters, men housebound by obesity, office temps, and warehouse workers. Revealing the secret pleasures of late-night supermarket trips, exceptional data entry, and an exiled dictator’s occasional piss on the U.S. embassy, his stories are formally inventive and each with a gut-punch impact, softened only by lyricism and black humor. Featured in McSweeney’sHarper’s, and Best American Short Stories, Orozco’s work recalls the melancholic tone of Dave Eggers, but with a more overt wit. GOOD TIMES.


My Brain is Hanging Upside Down by David Heatley (Hardcover, $24.95)
Oh man. I got a lot out of this. Long a fixture in comics anthologies, David Heatley’s wickedly observant drawings have been reaching an increasingly vast audience through his work in the New York Times op-ed pages and various New Yorker covers. This is his life story told in six different but tenuously connected narrative threads. Presented thematically and with a self-lacerating tone, Heatley explores his relationships with such themes as sex and race in a very explicit and uncomfortably hilarious fashion. Using postage stamp-sized panels, he crams a massive amount of narrative onto each page. His naive, visceral drawings imply an unshielded honesty that, I think, truly pushes the medium. ENJOY.


Asterios Polyp
by David Mazzucchelli (Hardcover, $29.95)
This is a huge, knotty marvel, the comics equivalent of a Pynchon or Gaddis novel. Asterios Polyp, our arrogant, prickly protagonist, is an award-winning architect who’s never built an actual building, and is in the midst of a spiritual crisis. After the structure of his own life falls apart, he runs away to try to rebuild it into something new. There are fascinating digressions on aesthetic philosophy, as well as some very broad satire, but the core of the book is Mazzucchelli’s odyssey of style—every major character in the book is associated with a specific drawing style and visual motif, and the design, color scheme and formal techniques of every page change to reinforce whatever’s happening in the story. A powerful example of how comics use visual information to illustrate complex, interconnected topics. A lush, remarkable work whose greatest beauty may reside in its core tenet- the need to pay attention to life as it happens. REAL RECOMMENDED.

What to Read with Niku Udon Saturday, Sep 29 2012 

Maple Steet Bookshop’s Uptown location(s) gained a new neighbor about a month ago. Formerly the location for Door’s Pub, the building at corner of Maple and Hillary has been gutted, refitted, and reshaped to become Kakkoii, a coolly lit little Japanese bistro. Personally I’ll take just about anything over a, um, “boisterous” college bar. A nice quiet cement block would be just fine with me were it the only other option (it could be painted a pleasing color!). However as it stands I’m excited to have a new meal option for my lunches on Maple Street. Even better, thus far everything I’ve picked up from Kakkoii has been nothing short of excellent. So in their honor, or maybe in the honor of the delicious niku udon that they served me the other day, I thought I’d write up a few recommendations of Japanese literature and briefly profile their authors (it’s raining today). It goes well with the food for what I think are obvious reasons, and being that I have a penchant for both, our new neighbor’s arrival seems like a good opportunity for me to share lunchtime musings.

  I am a Cat by Natsume Sōseki
Natsume is considered one of the most widely influential Japanese authors since the dawn of the modern era. Writing in the late eighteen and early nineteen hundreds, his work exemplifies a stark descriptive quality infused with an underlying satire, still massively present in the body of Japanese work since. The title of his book I am a Cat itself is a joke, though unfortunately lost a bit in translation, it should more literally be “We” are a Cat in a royal sense, though someone along the line felt that didn’t have such a poetic ring to it in English (personally I agree). Still, the book is very funny, chronicling the observations of a common house cat in the home of some pretentious middle class pseudo-literati, their silly habits and conversations. Furthermore and best of all, Natsume somehow manages to pace the whole thing in a lackadaisical  manner, the kind you’d expect some sunning feline to tell the story in the first place. His other famous novels include Kokoro and Botchan, though I am a Cat remains my best and favorite introduction to his work.

In Praise of Shadows by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki
Tanizaki closely follows Natsume Sōseki in the world of Japanese literary acclaim. Though I highly recommend his fiction, the collected Seven Japanese Tales or Diary of a Mad Old Man, In Praise of Shadows remains my favorite work of his for a handful of reasons. Not being a wide reader of nonfiction I’d expected kind of a bore, but Tanizaki cooly and lucidly explains his take on the Japanese aesthetic and why he prefers much of its charm over what manifest as the Westernization of his country. Covering topics from basic lighting (as the title insinuates) to personal outhouse design, he makes strong arguments against the brash conveniences brought with Western industry and instead honors the quieter, more traditional ways of living. And he’s funny about it. In a way it’s kind of a fantastic roundabout reminder of why collapsing into a book at the end of the day is a whole lot more psychologically rewarding than Netflix.

No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai
Probably the author who had the most profound personal effect on me in this short list, in particular with the short novel No Longer Human, is Osamu Dazai. No Longer Human is another title in which the translation changes then meaning a bit. The Japanese title literally means “disqualified from humanity,” which is the self image held by the (according to all other accounts handsome, witty, wealthy and talented) title’s protagonist. Or at least the image he feels people at large should hold of him. So in light of this grand depression he sets off on a rapid downward spiral eventually leading to his demise (not a spoiler, this is revealed in one of the first passages in the book). The story however lies essentially in the mental journey, the main character’s failed quest to uncover his own worth at a slightly later junction in life than, say, Holden Caulfield, who in opposition leaves us with some hope. The only stipulation I feel need for mentioning regarding No Longer Human is that, much like the novel in which Caulfield stars, is that it could very well be one of those ‘particular time in your life’ kind of books, and if an early adulthood existential crisis doesn’t sound relatable or interesting then you may be better off reading one of his other titles- Blue Bamboo, a collection of stories based on Japanese fairy tales, or The Setting Sun perhaps, both of which are excellent in totally separate ways.

Typing this out I realize I could go on for pages and pages. The Bridegroom was a Dog by Yōko Tawada, a Japanese author who writes in not only her native language but also German and English, is one of my favorite collections of surreal short stories of all time. Woman in the Dunes by Kōbō Abe is a Kafkaesque novel of nightmarish imprisonment that I will never forget. Ryūnosuke Akutagawa, Haruki Murakami, Sei ShōnagonMasuji Ibuse

Shoot. I’m getting hungry. Perhaps it’s time to choose what to order now. Well you can look into Kakkoii on the internet HERE, and the next time you drop by either of Maple Street Books’ Uptown locations, maybe take your book to the corner and start it with a beer and a salmon roll.

Also, if anyone is looking to start a Mexican place on this block, we can talk Latin American fiction too…

Post About Nothing (That I’ve Read) Tuesday, Sep 11 2012 

One of the funny things I end up doing a ton as a bookseller is promoting books I haven’t actually read. For the first couple of years I totally avoided this. I just wasn’t sure how yet. I mean, what if I was wrong about the title and it turned out to be totally sucky? I’m proud of being on at least the minimal end of what is considered “well read” in this country, and I usually stand by my recommendations without flinching- I have good taste in books. Or at least I try to believe that. Suggesting someone read something I haven’t actually taken the time to digest myself puts this self image in danger however. I mean, how could I  keep it up with that nagging doubt in the back of my head? The concern that there is somebody out there saying, “See this book? It’s awful! The guy who sold me it is an idiot! A fool with no sense of poetry! I bet he read the whole thing upside down!” it’s a dreadful thought.

I pushed these grim fears aside finally of course, I finally managed to get it together and recommend something I hadn’t actually touched to someone and on my first try, with Todd Balf’s book Major, I nailed it. The fact that Major actually is a really good book helped (I read it a couple of years later) , but I had the pleasure/confusion of running into the customer again after he’d finished it. Pleasure because they’d enjoyed it and thanked me for the recommendation, and confusion because at that point in time I still hadn’t read the book and I was suddenly sucked into some Seinfeldian scenario where I had to live this brief moment in the face of my own lie and discuss the book. It went okay though. Nobody called BS on me at least.

Having developed a method for talking about books I’ve never read finally developed of course. Obviously culling a knowledge of who’s who in the respective worlds of publishing, editing, and criticism has allowed me to make reasonably informed statements about a title without actually having seen them in the physical. Then there are just those super easy ones. The ones that I’m always thankful for when the release date approaches. Case in point, David Byrne’s new book, How Music Works. It helps having read his previous, Bicycle Diaries, a book which reads brisk and smooth as a ride on the vehicle he promotes,  but even so How Music Works bears a name that I know I can get behind. I mean it’s a book about music by David Byrne. He would know. I mean, JUST LOOK AT HIM:

So just putting it out there. We’ve got Byrne’s new book at each of our locations, and even though I haven’t read it (yet), I know it’s good. Who wants to be the first to confirm this for me though?

Sunnier Spaces Sunday, Sep 9 2012 

A toast to that old tree that formerly stood alongside Maple Street’s Used & Rare location. After thanklessly shading our porch for so long it was still kind enough to fall the other way in Hurricane Isaac’s wake, not damaging the store in the slightest, rather letting lots of fresh sunlight through the window to the fiction section instead. RIP.


Tradition vs Invention Tuesday, Jul 31 2012 

The e-book versus the, er, traditional book has been a hot topic of conversation in the bookselling world basically since the invention of the former. It’s a weird territory to tread. Selling the content of a book through a digital source isn’t exactly something that most booksellers are thrilled about. The technology isn’t old enough for people who’ve turned their love of literature into a modest career for the e-book format to occupy a space in their hearts. Part of selecting a good book is the physical act of browsing for it, and the little bit of enchantment that comes along with doing so. On the other hand incorporating the sale of e-books online or in stores has become a necessity for small businesses like us to stay afloat in a dynamic and currently economically crippled market. So it becomes the duty of the bookseller to at once encourage people to embrace his or her personal passion for books, but still accept the fact that they times they are a-changin’ and to make people aware that whatever the platform one chooses to read upon, there is still no reason to bow to the big business corporate booksellers who’d have the neighborhood bookstore be a thing of the past to further line their pockets. Maple Street Book Shops sell e-books, as do many other locally owned book shops throughout New Orleans and the world.

It’s a conversation that at this point I’ve had so many times that I try not to get into it too deeply anymore. I’ve got some great friends who swear by their e-readers and at this point I’m mostly of the “have it your way” kind of viewpoint (just shop local!). Most arguments I can come up with can be countered because they all boil down to personal preference. There’s just this one thing I can’t get over, and I was reminded of it again today when I got into a conversation with a customer about Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind.

The Shadow of the Wind is a novel about a book of the same title, features a book graveyard, and just in general revolves around the existence of these objects that have come to play the foremost role in the intellectual world as we know it. It’s a book I have a hard time imagining reading in reverie off of a screen. Borges The Library of Babel, Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler, and many more bear this same burden. Reading on the madness and magic of the printed word, not printed. Gosh it’s almost DADA or something when you think too much about it. Perhaps therein lies the appeal that I’m just confounded by.

In the shop window you have promptly identified the cover with the title you were looking for. Following this visual trail, you have forced your way through the shop past the thick barricade of Books You Haven’t Read, which were frowning at you from the tables and shelves, trying to cow you. But you know you must never allow yourself to be awed, that among them there extend for acres and acres and acres The Books You Needn’t Read, the Books Made For Purposes Other Than Reading, Books Read Even Before You Open Them Since They Belong To The Category Of Books Read Before Being Written. And thus you pass the out girdle of ramparts, but then you are attacked by the infantry of the Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered. With a rapid maneuver you bypass them and move into the phalanxes of the Books You Mean To Read But There Are Others You Must Read First, the Books Too Expensive Now And You’ll Wait Till They’re Remaindered, the Books ditto When They Come Out In Paperback, Books You Can Borrow From Somebody, Books That Everybody’s Read So It’s As If You Had Read Them, Too. Eluding these assaults, you come up beneath the towers of the fortress, where other troops are holding out:
the Books You’ve Been Planning To Read For Ages,
the Books You’ve Been Hunting For Years Without
the Books Dealing With Something You’re Working On
At The Moment,
the Books You Want To Own So They’ll Be Hand Just
In Case,
the Books You Could Put Aside Maybe To Read This
the Books You Need To Go With Other Books On Your
the Books That Fill You With Sudden, Inexplicable
Curiosity, Not Easily Justified.
Mow that you have been able to reduce the countless embattled troops to an array that is, to be sure, very large but still calculable in a finite number; but this relative relief is then undermined by the ambush of the Books Read Long Ago Which It’s Now Time To Reread and the Books You’ve Always Pretended To Have Read And Now It’s Time To Sit Down And Really Read Them.
-Italo Calvino

THE RETURN Saturday, Jul 28 2012 

Upon returning from a week plus a day long vacation, I see the used shop has been busy. Happily though the work backed up for me is far less daunting than I feared. I was pleased to see that a good amount of the titles which had been on display before I left seem to have found homes, being replaced with those of equal or even higher quality. A pile of now-classic accounts of punk and post-punk through the 70s, 80s, and 90s, now grace our music section (Please Kill Me, Our Band Could be Your Life, Rip it Up and Start Again, to name a few), I was able to place copies of Knut Hamsun’s Hunger and Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller on my staff picks’ shelf (exciting for me). Contemporary favorites like Jonathan Safran Foer and Vonnegut and Kingsolver are again in ready supply, and even a signed copy of Al Gore’s Our Choice has made a nest for itself on the new arrivals shelf.

It is indeed nice to be back. My only sadness is that although the dollar rack in front of the store has been pillaged, those unabashedly Kafka-esque Animorphs books still remain there untouched. Is it possible that nobody wants them even for a buck?! Please! They kinda freak me out!

I did quite a bit of reading on my trip. A seven hour layover in Phoenix AZ paved plenty of time for it. Later this week I’ll post some thoughts on a few recent works I had the chance to digest. Again, wonderful to be back home in New Orleans. Hope to see you at the shop!

MID-SUMMER SALE Saturday, Jul 14 2012 


So now (or tomorrow) would probably be an excellent time to stop by for that first edition, first printing copy of A Confederacy of Dunces that we’ve been hanging on to for you at the used and rare shop (20% off of $2,2500!). Or if you’ve already got that, maybe swing by any of our other locations for a new hardcover. They’re pricey when they’re first released so catch a deal! Houellebecq’s new novel The Map and the Territory, Jame’s Beard’s The Best of the Best, Lawrence N. Powell’s The Accidental City.  In fact, there’s even a first edition hardcover of 1Q84 still waiting for a home at our uptown location. There aren’t too many better ways to spend a rainy day outside of a creaky old bookstore. We’d love to see you.

Battling the hysteria of BEA Tuesday, Jun 19 2012 

If you have ever seen the annual news coverage of Walmart riots the morning after Thanksgiving, as people happily trample their neighbors in order to purchase whatever it is everyone else seems to want, then you have an idea of what the annual Book Expo America is like.  Replace the shoppers with booksellers and librarians, replace the loss-leader appliances with the advance copies of Michael Chabon’s new novel, Telegraph Park.  You get the picture. 

But seriously, for anyone who loves books, and loves selling them, BEA is a big, overwhelming orgy of geeks in all their glory.  Head Geek Junot Diaz made this clear at a breakfast discussion of his upcoming collection, This is How You Lose Her, which he described as being about young men who privately identify themselves as wanting only to be someone’s boyfriend–but who can’t allow themselves the vulnerability necessary for success.  Sharing the panel with Diaz were Stephen Colbert and Barbara Kingsolver, along with Jo Nesbo, which provided Colbert with his funniest joke: suggesting that Nesbo’s protagonist Harry Hole was also featured in the Fifty Shades of Gray trilogy. 

Other must haves included a nifty little attache case promoting a new Lemony Snicket novel; a bevy of Top Chef cookbooks (we invited Carla Hall to come visit us in New Orleans); a slew of new Batman titles, including one by smarty-pants designer Chip Kidd; literary horror from Victor La Valle and Scott Spencer; and something new from the marvelous Zadie Smith, who was also featured at a breakfast talk (although we heard a surprising number of attendees saying “Who?”). 

The bottom line is: there is some great great stuff coming our way, which means it is coming your way too.  And whether you want it in print or eBook form, you can get it all at Maple Street Book Shops. 


Guilty Banana Monday, Jun 11 2012 

I love bananas. No lie. Alone or as a garnish, a flavoring, a thing to heft, a television trope. In slapstick comedy, in the lowbrow, on the bunch or alone. Without bananas what would we split? We’d have no banana boat song, my third favorite Woody Allen movie wouldn’t exist (well maybe, but it would have been under another title, though undoubtedly less fun), and that incredible 1997 Jenny Piccolo album that shaped so much of my attitude in my teenage years, Information Battle to Denounce the Genocide, would never have been possible without the installation of vicious dictatorships in South America made possible by American corporate moguls seeking to get rich off of, yep, bananas!

Oh, but that last part is actually impossibly tragic isn’t it? Through no fault of the banana itself, the exotic fruit has found itself a lucrative placeholder in the world economy. It’s not necessarily the sort of thing we find ourselves chatting about at whatever local watering hole all that often, but  once or twice in a while book is printed on the matter of bananas, their history and trade, because as is the nature of any commodity powerful enough to shift the global market, powerful and dangerous men are drawn to it, involving in business of stately highs and grim lows. Bananas feed good stories, or so it seems.

Rich Cohen (Sweet and Low, Tough Jews) has penned another odd tale of American History, the somewhat biblically titled The Fish That Ate the Whale. It’s the rare story of Samuel Zemurray, America’s banana king, who made his home here in New Orleans while conquering the world of international fruit trade. While I missed the galley myself (I was slogging through the 200+ pages of cruel dismemberment that garnishes the middle part of 2666 at the time and bananas would have been inappropriate to have on my mind), the mix of international relations, corporate intrigue, local interest, and flat out insurgent violence makes promises for compelling reading. Cohen has been known to cover tales such as these blending skilled research and a clever sense of humor. I’m looking forward for my next chance to pick it up, and even more so for my chance to broach the topic publicly. Where is the venue for this conversation?

Nate Martin over at Room 220 has been kind enough to read and proffer a fine piece of review on Cohen’s book. Look HERE if you are further interested. Recommendations come in high.

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