The Bookshops in my Street

Hello from London!

I’ve had a great time frequenting the many bookshops here. I loved the London Review Bookshop with the classy cafe and history titles arranged by time period. I loved the British Library bookshop with its wide ranging collection and Virginia Woolf dolls. (I super regret not buying one.) I loved the multi-storied Foyles with a great set of author events. Most of all I loved the sheer number of shops selling books! And so to narrow it down I thought I’d introduce you to ONLY the bookshops that were on my street.

THE SCHOOL OF LIFE

I don’t know if this quite qualifies but it is definitely the classiest self-help centre ever. Apart from running classes on improving your life (with talks from Germaine Greer among others) they stock a heap of self-help books you wouldn’t be ashamed to be seen reading on the train. But the real reason they make the list is because of the excellently designed How To series they publish by writers and thinkers (such as How to Think More About Sex by Alain de Botton).

GAY’S THE WORD

Apart from being painted a shade of blue guaranteed to brighten a grey London summer (rainiest in 100 years apparently!) this great shop has a great selection ranging from gay themed fiction, memoirs, non fiction, philosophy and more. Aside from the books and the friendly staff there are also CDs, DVDs and a notice board full of stuff going on in the community.

COLLINGE & CLARK

This little antique bookshop has a very quirky selection. As well as a larger collection of antique typography books than you would think possible, I found a multi-volume Chaucer set next to a pamphlet of greetings sent by famous fingers of the early 1900s.

SKOOB BOOKS

Skoob is simply amazing. Down in a basement there are literally thousands of books on every subject imaginable – history, literary criticism, philosophy, learning music, art, a whole section of popular penguins, I don’t even know what else. There’s also a functioning upright piano! And plenty of nooks in which to sit and peruse.

JUDD BOOKS

While Skoob comes a close second, my favourite bookshop in the street would have to be Judd books. With fiction upstairs and non-fiction in the basement it had an extensive collection, but not so much as to be overwhelming. There are stacks of new books at bargain prices in the centre and a huge range of second hand titles in shelves up to the ceiling. But best of all was their silent policy! No phones, no ipods, talking frowned upon, no rushing. Such a lovely atmosphere to browse in.

So those are the bookshops of Judd Street! I hope you’re enjoying the lovely Sunflower back in Melbourne and I’ll catch you soon with more book related travel news!

Love Fay

 

 

Bookshop Crushes

Hello Melbourne peeps! I may be overseas but I am never on holidays (from books). As my patient hubby will attest, I insist on going into pretty much every bookshop we pass and have to persuaded not to fill my bag with books in languages I don’t understand, just because they’re pretty. Anyway I thought I’d share some of the lovely bookshops of Paris with you.

A very homey place in Tolouse

Just near Bastille station… check out that tree thing!

Excellent window stuff

With an appropriate window display

Love the ladders

And, of course, Shakespeare and Co

But none of them are as wonderful as Sunflower Bookshop! Come down and visit, I wish I could. I’m on holidays and I miss work, so that should tell you how cool Sunflower is. (Or how uncool I am.) And, as always, join me on my blog for more book reviewing, travelly goodness and shameless self promotion.

Fay out!

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Hello from not Melbourne!

Hey everyone! This is Fay, checking in. I haven’t died or been arrested or anything, I’ve just stopped checking and updating this blog obsessively. This is probably healthy, as Steven told me. But don’t worry, I’m still obsessively checking and updating mine, and I just posted about some books we (probably) have in stock. (Unfortunately I am not able to monitor Sunflower stock in real time. Otherwise I would probably end up doing a lot less sightseeing.) So if you want to hear my thoughts on The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan and Things We Didn’t See Coming by Steven Amsterdam then come on down to 1001booksimustread.wordpress.com. (Check it, Ste, I finally figured out how to link!)

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Miles Franklin shortlist!

Comrades!  The shortlist for this year’s Miles Franklin award has been announced and it is full of worthy and delicious books for you to eat read. The titles are below!

Tony Birch – Blood

Anna Funder – All That I Am

Gillian Mears – Foal’s Bread

Frank Moorhouse – Cold Light

Favel Parrett – Past the Shallows

Very exciting and all in stock!  Except for Birch’s, but we’ll be reordering that in toot suite.

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Introducing Jess!

[Editor's note: You guys!  New person!  It is my pleasure to introduce you to Jess D., who will be writing stuff on this here blog. J Dizzle, as her friends don't call her, has much better credentials for this thing than me.  She studied English Literature at the BEST UNIVERSITY IN AUSTRALIA and is now doing an editing and publishing degree at the same place.  Furthermore, FURTHERMORE, she also worked as Senior Text Buyer at the Melbourne University Bookshop (you guys did you know it's the best university in Australia?) before that place was privatised, and hopefully she'll be doing that again soon when they hire some staff!  Look, what I'm saying is we're happy to have her and read the words that she writes with her hands (presumably). xoxo Steven]

Hello Hello.

I, Jessica, former employee of rival bookstore, Melbourne University Bookshop (RIP), will be a guest blogger on this delightful store’s blog.

To begin: WHY IS THERE NO PULITZER PRIZE FOR FICTION???

Thank-you Steven H. for addressing this issue already.

My first real blog, beyond this one, will be a delightful debate starter.

Which is better literary buffs, the Pulitzer Fiction prize (RIP) or the Booker fiction prize?

I was schooled on this matter a number of years ago by a colleague who claimed every fiction book he’d ever read that was either a winner of the Big P, or a Long/Short list entrant was immediately added to his own personal favourites list. The same, could not be said for the Booker.

So my quest for this blog begins today:

I am currently reading Julian Barnes’ The Sense of Ending, and will compare my reading enjoyment with A Visit From the Goon Squad to indeed inform readers whether the Pulitzers’ Fiction prize disappearance will severely affect our reading pleasure or not.

Stay tuned and goodnight.

Kisses.

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INTERVIEW WITH THE PULITZER PRIZEWINNER FOR FICTION

In a MASSIVE coup for Sunflower Bookshop, I, Steven Helfenbaum, am delighted to present to you the first ever interview with this year’s Pulitzer prize winner for fiction.

Steven: First, may I just say what an honour it is to meet you in the flesh.  I’ve been reading your books for, god, years now and I am very excited to hear about your first Pulitzer win after 35 years!

No one:

Steven: Ha!  Ok, let’s get down to the interview.  How did you feel when you learned that you, rather than any of the literally hundreds of very deserving authors who released books last year, were announced as the winner of this year’s prize?

No one:

Steven: Mm, quite.  This isn’t the first time you’ve won the prize, but lately you’ve been a bit under the radar.  Do you think this will be a boost to your career?

No one:

Steven: Ah yes.  Would you say indeed, that it has been a boost for literature as a whole, and for reading?

No one:

Steven: How would you say your win reflects on the judging process, and do you think that there’s a particular reason that your win occurred this year?

No one:

Steven: What I particularly liked about your book were the deep insights into the arbitrary and unthinking nature of certain book prizes and those who judge them.  When did that become aware to you?

No one:

Steven: And now of course, I should ask you the questions my coworker and I developed in a bygone chat.  What book do you wish you’d written?

No one:

Steven: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

No one:

Steven: What book changed your life and how?

No one:

Steven: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

No one:

Steven: Franzen or Kanye?
WAIT WAIT
In a fist fight.

No one:

Steven: Oh.  Um.  That’s actually pretty racist.  Well thank you for coming in today.  Ladies and gentlemen, the winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

GET IT?

(See also this and this)

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The New Republic by Lionel Shriver

Journalists, you guys.  Does it naturally draw the sanctimonious or do you just have to be that way to apply for the job?  And is any profession more self regarding?  If I have to read another defence of journalistic free speech/vitriol against regulation/hagiography of the Reporter, praising the nobility of taking photos of lady celebrities’ vaginas I will… not be remotely surprised.  Like shoegaze was known in the early 1990s, journalism is the scene that celebrates itself.  Except, you know, shoegaze was actually worth listening to.  So it is wonderful that Lionel Shriver’s book, written in 1998 and full of this smug, self important type has been released now.    If I needed another reason to be a fan of hers after So Much For That (my favourite book of 2010, and in our shop for only $19.99!  Though the trade off for that is a TERRIBLE cover).  It follows misanthropic former lawyer Edgar Kellogg, who all his life has longed to be a larger-than-life character, someone popular on whom every conversation would hang, someone that inspires awe, instead of merely a follower.  Ironically it is his following of his old high school idol Toby Falconer which leads him to journalism as a method of becoming this person.  Kellogg is posted to Barba, a backwater, desolate province of Portugal which is nonetheless home to a violent terrorist group, the Soldados Ousados de Barba or SOB (lol good one Shrives).  Mysteriously, attacks claimed by the SOBs (still funny) have dried up, just as Kellogg’s predecessor Barrington Sadler (just the type of person who Kellogg wants to be) has disappeared.  What follows is a rollicking romp (yup) which, while definitely humorous in tone, has a lot of questions to ask about terrorism, journalism, ethics, and, to lamely quote the blurb, “What makes charismatic people so magnetic, while the rest of us inspire a shrug? Whats their secret? And in the end, who has the better life – the admired, or the admirer?”.  As usual, Shriver’s writing is crackling and full of attitude (I hate myself for saying that but it’s true), and she vividly brings Barba to life in such a way that you never question it’s awfulness.  The characters too are highly entertaining, characters, especially the collective of fellow journalists and Edgar’s mental image of Barrington, with whom he converses often.  An important theme in the book is how we perceive things: Edgar is a master of ‘inversion’, or how the same fact can be presented in two diametrically opposed ways, which allows him to see the positive side of the thoroughly un-positive things he is doing, and his slide into immorality, like the metaphorical train wreck, is engaging in a horrible way, and even though you know what’s going to happen it’s still it remains eminently readable.  Also, unlike a train wreck it’s hugely fun.

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Things in the Shop that You Should Buy: Money

Welcome to (what will possibly become) a new feature on this here blarg, Things in the Shop that You Should Buy, in which I, Steven Z. Helfenbaum, recommend to you, I don’t know your name, books, not necessarily new, that we have in the shop and that you totes owe yourself to read.  Starting today with Martin Amis’s classic, Money.

Money by Martin Amis

“It must be the booze, it must be the junk, it must be all the pornography

Money tells the story of John Self, a successful ad executive turned movie producer, and the perfect consumer of fast food, drink, drugs, and pornography.  Throughout he travels between New York and his home in London, making a semi-autobiographical film (his father, Barry, hilariously and terribly, sent an invoice to John on his maturity for expenses involved in raising him) with young, tanned, athletic producer Fielding Goodney.  Money is a satirical look at all the excesses of late 1980s ‘greed is good’ capitalism (and not surprisingly it works just as well today).  Self is a hideous character concerned only with gratification and a desire for greater riches, and is the very embodiment of his self-centred age.  But he’s also very funny.  Consumerism and pornography saturate everything, creating an oppressive, ugly mood that Amis can create so well (see also London Fields, which is amazing), and the book rife with clever literary allusions to Shakespeare, in particular Othello.  Important to the book is the question of motive, or rather the lack thereof in late modern society.  Money is also very clever: Amis writes himself into the novel, in doing so implicating himself (and the reader as well) in the hyperconsumerist monster, and also allowing some interesting meta-fictional exchanges about Amis’s role in the novel (as character and author).  As vital today as it must have been 30 years ago (I’m too young for the 80s buddy), Money is a fantastic novel.  It’s in our shop and you should buy it.

Money by Martin Amis, $12.95

ToB: The Sisters Brothers vs Open City CHAMPIONSHIP ROUND

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You guys!  Yes!  A surprising and surprisingly large victory for The Sisters Brothers aka The BEST Brothers over the also fantastic Open City.  Look, when it comes down to it Open City probably has more literary merit.  It’s deeper and stays with you longer, and if you want a proper (mini) review see what Vivienne said the other week.  I haven’t read any Sebald, so I don’t have that as a reference point (I CHALLENGE YOU to find a review that doesn’t refer to him) but it’s a beautifully lyrical and haunted book, and Julius is a fascinating and evasive narrator.  That said…

F YEAH (family friendly small business blog) THE SISTERS BROTHERS!  That book was the best!  I loved it, AS YOU KNOW.  Did you love it?  If you didn’t GET A COPY NOW ($19.99 at the incomparable Sunflower Bookshop!).  If you did, I know right!  Hands down the most entertaining book I read last year, full of rich evocation of place and time, picaresque characters and adventures, fantastic protagonists (for sociopaths) and a wonderful story about greed, conscience, fate, mercy and murderin’ folks.

And to think I thought the CHAMPION would lose in the first round!

And with that victory celebrated thus ends the 2012 TOURNAMENT OF BOOKS!  My favourite literary event of the year is over, and now the long drudge of the REST of the literary awards.  I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.  And, although the excitement of the tournament is over, keep reading the Sunflower Bookshop blog for more news, reviews, and whatever else I post on a particular day.

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Miles Franklin longlist

Oh yeah ASIDE from ToB stuff some less interesting things have happened today in the land of books, most importantly the announcement of the longlist for the Miles Franklin Award for Australian fiction.  Here it is bellow fellas:

Blood – Tony Birch
The Spirit of Progress – Steven Carroll
Spirit House – Mark Dapin
The Precipice – Virginia Duigan
All That I Am – Anna Funder
Sarah Thornhill – Kate Grenville
Five Bells – Gail Jones
Autumn Laing – Alex Miller
Cold Light – Frank Moorhouse
Past the Shallows – Favel Parrett
The Street Sweeper – Elliot Perlman
Animal People – Charlotte Wood

Aaand that’s that.  As you can see Fay’s bffl Elliot Perlman is on there so, you know, good for him.  And everyone else too!  After last year’s controversies on how the judges were sexist pricks the pressure for them not to be this year was PALPABLE.  And so it’s a pretty equal list.  Especially for white people!

And that’s all I have to say about that.  Most of these books we have in stock, the ones that we don’t we can order, call me back when the short list comes out.

Fay: Yay for equality! Though may I remind you that last year’s longlist was pretty even too, the shortlist is where they weed out the ladies. I am personally excited for Favel Parret who has a cool name and had written a completely beautiful first novel that flew kind of under the radar until the indies. And, of course, our Elliot.

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