Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Book with orange polka dots

Around the BlockAround the Bloc, the choice for the 2007 Mayor’s Book Club, is to be found at every branch of the library. It takes no time at all to read. The connection with Austin seems a bit tenuous. Stephanie Elizondo Griest, the author, attended UT, lived in a co-op, and refers in passing to such local landmarks as the Drag, Eeyore’s, Cap’n Quack’s, the old High Times coffee place, Barton Springs, and a very few more. She was employed for a while with the Austin bureau of AP. In its paperbound edition, this book’s list price is $13.95 for 399 pages. I enjoyed the account of the author’s residences in Moscow and Beijing and her visit to Cuba. She associates with other young adults and pays the right amount of attention to food, which is a lot! This is an enjoyable travel account. The author wonders why she invested so much time in learning Russian and Mandarin while ignoring the Spanish that surrounded her while she was growing up. Big chunks of this book make for entertaining readling aloud. We all wanted to know, what’s with orange polka-dot teapots in Russia? She mentions several, and nearly every domestic establishment seems to include one. Google doesn’t help. The author’s schedule will bring her to Austin for several events, beginning on April 17 and ending on April 21.

Alternadad Live


I went and checked out Neal Pollack at Bookpeople tonight. He read a few excerpts from the book, Alternadad, a memoir set mostly during the time that he lived in Austin. He read a bit from his blog at the end. He followed the reading with a Q&A which included a question about his reaction to the David Brooks column that slammed his book without actually mentioning his name. Nice.

He’ll be appearing two more times: once at the Rock n Romp at Mohawk on Sunday and once during his SXSW panel on Monday.

I recognized Amanda Marcotte, who made the news recently as the blogger who was hounded out of the John Edwards campaign, in the audience along with Michael Barnett who used to write for Austinist and, apparently, several of Pollack’s old neighbors. From one Alternadad to another, I gave him a copy of my band’s CD. I picked up a copy of the book and he inscribed it “For Tim, there’s nothing in here you don’t already know. Rock On.”

Rock on, indeed. He’s here until Monday. Check him out if you have the chance.

Amy Stewart at Book People

If your tastes run more to Flora-rama than Obama-rama, you should check out former Austinite and garden writer Amy Stewart. She appears at Book People tonight to give a reading from her latest book, the acclaimed behind-the-scenes look at the flower industry Flower Confidential. Flower Confidential, Ms. Stewart’s third book, debuted #31 on the New York Times bestseller list.

From the blurb:

“What has been gained–and what has been lost–in tinkering with Mother Nature? Should we care that roses have lost their scent? Or that most flowers are sprayed with pesticides? In a global marketplace, is there such a thing as a socially responsible flower? At every turn, Stewart discovers a fascinating intersection of nature and technology, of sentiment and commerce. You’ll never look at a cut flower the same way again.”

Date: Friday, February 23, 2007 07:00 PM
Book People
603 N. Lamar (Map: 6th and Lamar)

Neal Pollack Coming March 8th to Bookpeople

Former Austinite Neal Pollack posted on his blog yesterday that he’ll be at Bookpeople to promote his new book, Alternadad, on Thursday, March 8. Mark your calendars.

He points out that 3/4 of the book takes place in Austin though he moved to Los Angeles a couple of years ago. He also announced that he’ll be at SXSW Interactive this year, but doesn’t have schedule information yet. According to the SXSW Interactive site, he’s scheduled for Monday, March 12 in the afternoon.

Nothing has its own name

paperback cover of novel WaterlooEven the river is the Alameda. Austin was once called Waterloo, but that’s as close as the nomenclature comes to congruency. In this very low-key novel set in an Austin analogue, sometimes it seems as though all the energy has been expended on devising names. There are glancing looks at at true-to-life people and scenes, and their intersections.

Among the characters are politicos, both elected and lobbying, of at least three eras. Austin’s history of racial segregation is not overlooked (the veracious examination of the history of library service is just one example). Standing in for the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick-maker are Austin equivalents: former bandmembers now with day-jobs, mostly in the bowels of state government, plus a lawyer, a muffin-shop magnate, a construction contractor, and a reporter for the local daily as well as a reporter for the local weekly.

I look forward to the next novel by Karen Olsson, and I hope there’ll be one. There are sections here and there that cry out for reading aloud. My favorite is the bit involving an old-style Austin landlady of a certain age and the monthly obligation to accompany her to dinner at one of the oldest and worst Tex-Mex restaurants in town. We all guess the same one. Although the tone of Waterloo is on the melancholy side, there’s plenty of humor. I hope that somebody has optioned this for a movie and that the movie will be made.

The physical paperbound volume is beautiful, in proportions, typefaces, whitespace, and paper. Waterloo has garnered excellent reviews, including from national publications, but I find that its chief interest for me lies in the Austinesque and that otherwise it’s a somewhat generic effort, a not-quite-coming-of-age narrative whose characters take slight steps in the direction of adopting conventional notions of maturity and may or may not in the future think better of it. Waterloo is a light romance, and “Waterloo,” the town, is the true object of desire.

WorldChanging In Austin

WorldChangingThe WorldChanging Book Tour is coming to Austin this Wednesday, November 29th at 7pm at BookPeople.

Their mission statement does a pretty good job of describing what they’re about:

Worldchanging was founded on the idea that real solutions already exist for building the future we want. It’s just a matter of grabbing hold and getting moving.

Austin’s own Jon Lebkowsky is one of the contributors to the project and blogged about the book back in October. There’s a reception after the BookPeople event next door at the new REI location. Alex Steffen, WorldChanging ring leader, and Bruce Sterling, itinerant Austinite, author and WorldChanging ally, gave a keynote conversation at SXSW 2005.

So get down there Wednesday night and pick one up as a holiday gift!

Areas of My Expertise

Hodgman.jpgMost of you probably already know John Hodgman as PC from the Get a Mac ad campaign for Apple. He’s also a contributor to This American Life and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

He’ll be at BookPeople tonight at 7pm, plugging the paperback release of his book, Areas of My Expertise. BoingBoing had a post earlier this month on the book tour and other Hodgmania. He’s supposed to be very funny. Go check it out!

It’s that NaNoWriMo time of year again!


Who wants to write 50,000 words in 30 days? Everyone, right? Really, who doesn’t? November approaches, which means it’s once again time for NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. It’s a creative challenge to write a 50,000 word story in 30 days. It’s all about quantity, not quality, though some people do strive for both. It can be a great creative exercise to get the brain energy flowing, either way. This year the Austin group is considering a challenge with the state of Maryland to see who can write the most words. Yes, that’s right, the city of Austin may be challenging the state of Maryland. It’s a great bunch of people and can be a lot of fun. There are organized write-ins where Austin Na-No’s get together at various coffee shops for camaraderie and support. Check out the above links for more info, and get involved.

Coming in December: National Carpal Tunnel month, or NaCaTuMo.

Local Celebrity Round-Up

I noticed a few interesting tidbits about former and current well-known Austinites on “The Internets” today and thought I’d share:


Helen Thomas, a member of the White House press corps since the Kennedy administration, will be in town on Thursday to promote her new book, Watchdogs of Democracy? : The Waning Washington Press Corps and How It Has Failed the Public. She’ll be a guest of Writers’ League of Texas at the Austin Marriot (701 E. 11th) at 7pm. Admission is a $5 suggested donation to the Writers’ League.

Thomas was recently on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart promoting the book and was featured in a short skit as part of Stephen Colbert’s roast of G.W. Bush earlier this year at the White House Correspondents dinner (that starts at the 16:50 mark of the video). She’s been a thorn the side of many White House press secretaries and recently drove Tony Snow to make a few exasperatedly stupid comments. The Statesman had a short interview with her in Sunday’s paper.

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