Sunday, September 25, 2011

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[Short Title, please]

I finished Noisy Outlaws, Unfriendly Blobs, and Some Other Things That Aren’t as Scary, Maybe, Depending on How You Feel About Lost Lands, Stray Cellphones, Creatures from the Sky, Parents Who Disappear in Peru, a Man Named Lars Farf, and One Other Story We Couldn’t Quite Finish, So Maybe You Could Help Us Out this afternoon. It's a short story collection edited by Ted Thompson, published by McSweeney's in 2005. The book mostly contains heart-warming/ mildly disturbing tales that can be appealing to both young and adult readers. The entire collection was a delight, but my particular favorites were "Monster" by Kelly Link and "Grimble" by Clement Freud.

Kelly Link writes so cleverly and subtly that you can't tell that the eerie has made a home in your spine. By the time I was finished with her story, I wanted to burrow into my blankets and turn on all of the lights. It was mid-morning. Another thing I wanted to do was read all of her stuff.

I loved "Grimble." It reminded me so much of when I was growing up, when my parents had to travel a lot for work. So, very much like Freud's plucky title character, I learned how to be alone at a young age. In the story, Grimble's parents leave him a list of neighbors he could go to for help. These dears would help him make dinner through notes and thoughtfully written recipes. When both my parents were out of town, I had my grandmother. She told me stories about funny relatives and let me read while she did the crossword puzzle. Grimble was quite the sensible young man, smart and observant in the ways only small people can be. But even more endearing was, he was really still just a little boy missing his parents. I have been missing mine, too.

Neil Gaiman's "Sunbird" and Jonathan Safran Foer's "The Sixth Borough" were also in the collection. It made me happy to read those stories again. "The ACES Phone" by Jeanne DuPrau was the real surprise. I tried hard not to cry. But come on. A puppy and a boy. A recipe for tears.

The stories in the collection were affecting in a deep, quiet way. They alone were a genuine pleasure. But the book itself was an interesting encounter. I'm a sucker for pretty books (yes, I do judge books by their covers). Who would not be drawn to a round, green monster imploring you to hold it? But there's more: inside the dust jacket is the beginning of a story by Lemony Snicket. It was to be finished by brave, willing souls and sent back to the publisher as a contest entry. "The winning entry [was to] be published in a future book, and the author [to] receive a complete set of A Series of Unfortunate Events, signed by Mr. Snicket himself, along with eleven pounds of chocolate, a Venus flytrap, six hundred tiny glass bottles, and a large sack of dirt from Winnipeg."

The proceeds of the book help fund a reading program for young people. A very worthy book for a very worthy cause.

Please read this book.

Looting at the 32nd Manila International Book Fair

Well, this is awkward. I really want to start writing about this big book fair but my brain is obliging me to explain my long absence. I would have to go back a quite a ways because the last time I wrote here was the beginning of June and it is, in fact, the end of September. So, how about we skip that and go straight to the book porn?

I am temporarily putting my blog sabbatical (cough) on hold because I want to write about the 32nd Manila International Book Fair. There were these lovely blog posts on the fair (namely Carina's at Nothing Spaces, Aldrin's at The Automaton, and Bloo's at Bookmarked) and I was inspired to write my own. I love it when people take photos of their books. Hanna and I put up loot posts regularly on The Exchange. It's our mechanism of enablement (this is not a word goodness, it is a word).

Anyhow, I went to the MIBF with Lem. We were there on September 17th, so the fair had already been going on for four days. We got to the convention center pretty early so the crowds were still a bit thin. This is when things started to get crazy:

This is me sniffing around in the National Bookstore bargain bins (I spent most of my time here).

This is Lem smiling behind a new edition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. The folks at Penguin sure know how to make pretty covers. And look, an introduction by Lev Grossman.

A copy of Jonathan Safran Foer's Tree of Codes. It is a beautiful book. We admired the pages in hushed, reverent tones. I took a photo because I couldn't afford it.

There was a cosplay next door. The Joker and the rest of the Arkham gang came out to play:

These are Lem's bags:

These are my bags:

A third of Lem's buys. He found these during the first five minutes and, just like that, his money vanished into the cash machine. He was particularly taken with the Justice League of America Volume 1: The Tornado's Path. He asked me to read it, and I did. I cried. Damn you and your heart, Roy Harper.

This is my haul:

The most expensive of the lot was the graphic novel Black Hole by Charles Burns, which I got for 20% off. The rest were rooted from the bins. I'm especially pleased with Little Brother by Cory Doctorow and Zeitoun by Dave Eggers. I have long been curious about Little Doctor because Neil Gaiman likes it. And since reading You Shall Know Our Velocity, I've been wanting to get me some more Eggers. Also, he has such pretty books. During a quiet moment at the fair, I started reading Zeitoun and it took my breath away. Look:

On moonless nights the men and boys of Jableh, a dusty fishing town on the coast of Syria, would gather their lanterns and set out on their quietest boats. Five or six small craft, two or three fishermen in each. A mile out, they would arrange their boats in a circle on the black sea, drop their nets, and, holding their lanterns over the water, they would approximate the moon.

I've always wanted to own Fevre Dream, George RR Martin's classic vampire novel. This was before A Song of Ice and Fire. On a side note, I finally have (okay, borrowed) a copy of A Dance with Dragons. I will read it when there are no more papers to write and no more workshops to document.

I bought Girl at Sea by Maureen Johnson because YA is the source of my happy while living in The Big City. Also because she'd already won me over with a bunch of blue envelopes (and yes, cute English boys). It had a green sticker, and I took that for a good sign. I was lucky, because it did actually mean a 40% discount. Not bad in the way of deals.

My funds are still recovering from that single day of reckless sensible spending. These days, my default financial state is broke. It has been a week since then, and already I am suffering from book-buying withdrawal.

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