Friday, April 27, 2012

Tavern author Di Piero on News Hour

Click here to read / hear an interview with Tavern Books author W. S. Di Piero on PBS New Hour.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The death of books, or the death of the death of books?

Hey Folks, here's a link to a thought-provoking article about print culture produced by On The Media.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


It's no secret that we're huge Adrian C. Louis fans (for our money, he's absolutely one of the finest and most important North American poets now writing). And we know many of you are, too. We're soon to start his two-books-in-one Fire Water World & Among the Dog Eaters into production. To tide ourselves over, we've been watching the movie adaptation of Louis's heartbreaking novel, Skins (kept in print by the good folks at Ellis Press). We recommend both the novel and film...each looks straight into the fire, unflinchingly taking the vital signs of a country happy to glance away from those toiling at the margins.

To borrow Sherman Alexie's words:  "Louis has written a violent and dangerous book about twentieth-century Sioux Indians. This novel is a complex portrait of racism and brotherhood, sexism and affection, murder and redemption, alcoholism and laughter. These are not the simple Sioux of Dances with Wolves. These are not ‘Native’ Americans. These are Indians (yes, Indians) living, dying, and loving on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Skins is about the love between brothers, men and women, parents and children. Believe me, despite all the pain and because of the pain, this is a love story.”

Happy reading (or viewing)! 

For further reading: Archeology

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Ann Patchett's NY Times article on the Pulitzer Prize

WHAT goes on during a deliberation is a private matter for the jurors alone; the rest of us are privy only to the verdict. That holds true for book awards as well as murder cases. So when the Pulitzer Prize Board announced on Monday that there were three finalists for the fiction prize and no winner, we were left to draw our own conclusions.

So far I’ve been able to come up with two: either the board was unable to reach a consensus, or at the end of the day the board members decided that none of the finalists, and none of the other books that were not finalists, were worthy of a Pulitzer Prize.

What I am sure of is this: Most readers hearing the news will not assume it was a deadlock. They’ll just figure it was a bum year for fiction. As a novelist and the author of an eligible book, I do not love this. It’s fine to lose to someone, and galling to lose to no one.

Still, it is infinitely more galling to me as a reader, because there were so many good books published this year. I put Edith Pearlman’s “Binocular Vision: New and Selected Stories” at the top of that list, and so did many others. She was the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and a finalist for the National Book Award and the Story Prize. Her collection would have stood among the best winners in the Pulitzer’s history.
My other favorite was Denis Johnson’s “Train Dreams,” which did make it onto the Pulitzer Prize shortlist. I don’t think there is a sentence in that book that isn’t perfectly made, and its deeply American story fits with the Pulitzer’s criteria.

On that count, the prize could rightly have gone to two other books with important takes on the American condition: Russell Banks’s “Lost Memory of Skin” or Jesmyn Ward’s “Salvage the Bones,” the winner of the National Book Award. It could have taken a turn for the strange and highly imaginative and gone to another of the three finalists, Karen Russell’s “Swamplandia!” or to Kevin Wilson’s beautifully weird “The Family Fang.”

And while no one has ever won for two consecutive books, couldn’t this have been the year? I have no doubt that Jeffrey Eugenides would have won for “The Marriage Plot” if he hadn’t already won for “Middlesex.”
If I feel disappointment as a writer and indignation as a reader, I manage to get all the way to rage as a bookseller.

In November of last year, along with my business partner, Karen Hayes, I opened Parnassus Books in Nashville. The brick-and-mortar bookstore, as people seem to point out to us hourly, is not exactly a thriving business model (though we are doing fine), and the publishing industry, especially since the Department of Justice has decided to be Amazon’s bodyguard, is struggling as well.

So while it’s true that the Pulitzer committee has, since its inception in 1917, declined to award the prize on 10 previous occasions, I can’t imagine there was ever a year we were so in need of the excitement it creates in readers.

The winners are written up in papers and talked about on the radio, and sometimes, at least on PBS stations, they make it onto television. This in turn gives the buzz that is so often lacking in our industry — Did you hear about that book?

With book coverage in the media split evenly between “Fifty Shades of Grey” and “The Hunger Games,” wouldn’t it have been something to have people talking about “The Pale King,” David Foster Wallace’s posthumous masterwork about a toiling tax collector (and this year’s third Pulitzer finalist)? Wallace is not going to have another shot at a win, which makes the fact that no one could make up their minds as to whether or not he deserved it all the more heartbreaking.

Let me underscore the obvious here: Reading fiction is important. It is a vital means of imagining a life other than our own, which in turn makes us more empathetic beings. Following complex story lines stretches our brains beyond the 140 characters of sound-bite thinking, and staying within the world of a novel gives us the ability to be quiet and alone, two skills that are disappearing faster than the polar icecaps.

Unfortunately, the world of literature lacks the scandal, hype and pretty dresses that draw people to the Academy Awards, which, by the way, is not an institution devoted to choosing the best movie every year as much as it is an institution designed to get people excited about going to the movies. The Pulitzer Prize is our best chance as writers and readers and booksellers to celebrate fiction. This was the year we all lost. 

Let's celebrate W. S. Di Piero!

Tavern Books author W. S. Di Piero got some great and well-deserved news the other day! He's been named the 2012 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize winner by the Poetry Foundation, one of the nation's most prestigious awards honoring the life and work of a living poet. Di Piero's had many irons in the fire over his career. He's been publishing a steady stream of thoughtful art criticism for decades, he's been publishing a wide array of essays (both personal and cultural) for decades, he's been publishing amazing volumes of Italian poetry in translation for decades, and, of course, he's the author of numerous collections of poetry. The Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize is a lifetime achievement award, which may seem a bit odd, given that Di Piero is a young buck. But, if you stand back and admire the Di Piero corpus, you can easily see that his lifetime of admiring, loving, making, and writing about art is an accomplishment and a way of life that few have the talent or courage to take part in.

When Di Piero gave us his blessing to publish his translation of Leonardo Sinisgalli's selected poems, Night of Shooting Stars, we knew we had something special. This book is one that we constantly talk about, and it's a title that Tavern Books fans often rave about. Really, it's one of the finest books we've published, and it's a volume that has come, and will continue, to define Tavern Books. For further reading, check out his recently released Nitro Nights from Copper Canyon Press.

Our hats off to W. S. Di Piero!

Here's a link to the Poetry Foundation's announcement of the Ruth Lilly Prize.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The eagle has landed!

Dear Tavern Books fans,

It's official! Tavern Books is now a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit charitable organization!

Lots of big changes are now in the stay tuned.

Cheers, and happy reading!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Congrats Tavern author Joseph Millar!

Congrats are in order for Tavern Books author Joseph Millar--it was announced today that he's one of 10 North American poets to receive a Guggenheim Fellowship this year. Joseph's Tavern title, Ocean, is simply remarkable. Carnegie Mellon University Press just released his new full-length collection, Blue Rust.


It's here!

Finally, our 4th Tranströmer book has been delivered from the printer! All orders will be filled today. John F. Deane's translation of For the Living and the Dead is excellent, and we look forward to you cracking this book open!

The next book we're sending into production is Michael Hamburger's translation of Nelly Sach's book-length poem, Glowing Enigmas.


Saturday, April 7, 2012

Tavern Recommends....Keith Ekiss

Tavern Books author Keith Ekiss has many poetry irons in the fire. His first full-length collection, Pima Road Notebook (New Issues, 2010), is a knockout. Lurking beneath the surface of his pared-down realism is a wild, expansive, human landscape that shifts effortlessly between the internal and external, the public and private, the mystical and the quotidian. Though rooted in place, geography is not an arriving point; rather, Ekiss's Arizona is a staging area and launch pad for the author to explore the multifaceted conundrum of 20th century American life. 

Pima Road Notebook (II)

Always the abandoned mattress springs in the arroyo.
And sunlight dusting tattered afternoon curtains.
Down street, the boy who stuttered but could sing.
No one she could talk to like she wanted to talk.
I should’ve been her lovely girl.
My father said he made something from nothing, like sons.
Brothers were other animals.
Javalina bristled for water outside my sleep.
Coyotes gathered and chattered in guttural moans.
All night she thought the howls were only dogs.
My body’s better use, casting a shadow for a quail.
I watched the tame hawk return to its hooded wrist.
She dropped me off for school at Cherokee Elementary.
Heat pulsing in my temple and sweat.
I found a nest of rabbits hidden in the cholla.
The young are born helpless, naked, and blind.

But it gets better! In late 2012 we will be publishing Keith Ekiss's co-translation of Eunice Odio's The Fire's Journey (Volume 1), the first of four volumes we'll be publishing in the near future. It's an understatement to say that Odio's epic poem is amazing--it's absolutely a work of genius, oddity, lyrical invention, and unparalleled myth-making. This may be an apples-and-oranges comparison, but Odio's epic gave us the same shivers that Inger Christensen's Alphabet and It have been giving us over these past few years. Vicente Huidobro's Altazor also comes to mind. We can't express just how excited we are to be bringing you Odio's work, and in such a fine translation. Stay tuned...and get ready!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Tim Johnson, Tavernite and indie hero

Hey folks, a quick post to let you know that one of Tavern's biggest supporters, Tim Johnson of the Marfa Book Co., was featured in the New York Times today in an ongoing series of articles chronicling the visionary artists that make Marfa, Texas, one of the most interesting, curious, and vibrant art scenes in the US. Tim stocks all of our books, spreads the Tavern gospel, and runs one the finest indie bookstores in the country. Tim's got his ear to rail for all-things-art, and his book store / gallery / music venue is well worth a pilgrimage. Follow this link to see what the New York Times has to say. Of note: in the Times article, Portland's own Laura Gibson is featured doing an in-store at Marfa Book Co. What could be better?


Yo Bay Area folks!

Small Press Distribution, indie heroes and distributors of Tavern Books titles, is holding their annual fundraiser. Please see below for full details. Supporting SPD is really an act of supporting Tavern Books and the several hundred like-minded indie publishers that SPD serves. Thanks! 

Tickets are now available for the sixth annual BEE-IN, A Spelling Bee to Benefit Small Press Distribution.  Don't miss your chance to attend this exciting event, coming up on May 14th!


THE BEE-IN is an old-fashioned spelling bee but with alcohol, tasty nibbles, and more fun! Thank you to Crown Point Gallery for providing the beautiful setting for this event. Proceeds support the work of SPD, the nation's only remaining non-profit distributor of literary small press books.
Food & Drinks kindly provided by ThirstyBear, Kermit Lynch & St. George Spirits.
6:30: Drinks, Delectables & Auction
7:30: Spelling Bee
Emcee: Sedge Thomson of KALW & West Coast Live
Judge: Geoffrey Nunberg, NPR commentator, professor at UC Berkeley, and board member of the American Heritage Dictionary


Note: all tickets purchased online will be held at will-call at the event.
(Please list all guest names in the "comments" section during order checkout.)  
$75 Ticket
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$30 "Starving Artist" Ticket
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$125 Couples' Ticket (2 Guests on 1 Ticket)
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$250 Patron Ticket (Includes Priorty Seating & Special Acknowledgment)
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SPELLERS (More to come!)
Cy Musiker Dennis Bernstein Cara Black
  Cy Musiker Dennis Bernstein Cara Black

Dennis J. Bernstein has been a longtime front line reporter specializing in Human Rights. His articles have appeared widely including in the Boston Globe, New York Times, The Progressive, and The Nation. Bernstein was chosen by Pulse Media as one of "20 Top Global Media Figures of 2009." His first book of poems, Special Ed, is just out from NYQ Books.

Jack Boulware is a San Francisco Library Laureate, co-founder of Litquake, and the author/co-author of three books, including the Bay Area punk oral history Gimme Something Better. He grew up on a ranch in Montana.

Cara Black, bestselling mystery writer, is the author of the Aimee Leduc mystery series including, most recently, the 12th book in the series, Murder at the Lanterne Rouge (Soho Crime).

Jewell Gomez is a writer and activist and the author of the double Lambda Award-winning novel, The Gilda Stories from Firebrand Books. Her adaptation of the book for the stage "Bones & Ash: a Gilda Story," was performed by the Urban Bush Women company in 13 U.S. cities.

Kate Levinson, a psychologist who practices in Oakland, came out with her popular Emotional Currency: A Woman's Guide to Building a Healthy Relationship with Money in 2011. She her husband own Point Reyes Books in Pt. Reyes Station, CA.

Joshua Mohr is the author of the Termite Parade, which was an Editors' Choice on The New York Times Best Seller List and an SF Chronicle best-seller. His third novel Damascus came out in 2011 to much acclaim including a starred review from Library Journal suggesting it reads "like a cross between Harry Crews and Armistead Maupin."

Cyrus Musiker is a reporter for KQED. He has been a frequent contributor to NPR's Crossroads, Latin File, Living on Earth, Marketplace, and other shows.  Cy's work has been recognized by the Society for Professional Journalists with their Sigma Delta Chi Award for Public Service in Journalism.
Jacqueline E. Luckett's Finish Party, which she founded along with seven other women writers-of-color, was featured in O Magainze in 2007. Her first novel, Searching for Tina Turner, came out in 2010 from Grand Central Publishing. Her second novel, Passing Love, also from Grand Central, is just out this year.
John Jay Osborn, Jr. grew up in San Francisco, attended local schools, then went to Harvard College and Harvard Law School. A movie and television show were made from his bestselling novel The Paper Chase, which has recently been re-issued as a 40th anniversary edition from SPD publisher Peninsula Road Press.  
D.A. Powell is the author of Chronic (Graywolf Press, 2009); Cocktails (Graywolf Press, 2004); Lunch (Wesleyan University Press, 2000); and Tea (Wesleyan University Press, 1998). He teaches at the University of San Francisco and lives in the Bay Area.

Tavern recommends Memories Look at Me

We'd like to recommend Tomas Tranströmer's Memories Look at Me, the Nobel laureate's micro memoir recently published by the good folks at New Directions. At sixty-four pages, and taking up about as much space in your book bag as a passport, this tiny volume contains a vast, heartfelt account of the poet's youth. No matter what genre he dives in to, Tranströmer defies the expected, revealing vast interior and exterior landscapes in writing that is concise and lyrical, guarded and expansive.

In related news, our forthcoming Tranströmer volume, For the Living and the Dead, has been printed and is currently riding the rails to our distributor. We'll be filling orders early next week.

Happy reading!