Video: Mike Lowery’s ‘Doodle Adventures’

There’s something a little mesmerizing about watching author/illustrator Mike Lowery doodle in his Doodle Adventures books: The Search for the Slimy Space Slugs!, The Pursuit of the Pesky Pizza Pirate!, and The Rise of the Rusty Robo-Cat!

I like that he’s introducing the entire series, and that he’s showing and telling how to use the books–demonstrating that it’s actually okay to write in some books. (A hurdle I only recently cleared myself, but that’s another story.) The video production is well-done.

If you want to be mesmerized a bit more, check out more videos on Lowery’s Instagram. But don’t plan on getting any work done for a while.

And if you’d like to share this video with your customers, here’s the embed code:

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/PNXm1i1m8CA?rel=0″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

New employees? Show them off.

I saw an employee nametag at the grocery store the other day, and just above the name ‘TONY’ was a little sticker that read, “I’m new!”

I thought this was nice to know, because it made me a little more forgiving when ‘TONY’ couldn’t direct me to the cream of coconut. It also made me appreciate when he joined in my search, explaining, “This is how I learn.”

I recently wrote a post about ‘exposing’ your staff to your customers through images, specifically by showcasing their smiling faces on the staff page of your website. Meeting ‘TONY’ reminded me that new hires warrant a mention in both the store newsletter and on social media. You do not have to post a long biography. Instead share an image with something like:

“Jordan joined the Whatnot team this week! It might take her a few days to learn where the key to the towel dispenser is located, but if you’re looking for help in the art history section, she’s your gal.”

And if your new hire tweets about books a lot, you can encourage your followers to get to know her through a tweet of your own. Snap a quick pic and post something like:

Meet our newest bookseller @Jordan. (And follow her! She really knows her #bookstuff. 📚)

And don’t forget to introduce your new employees to your regular customers as you see them. It’s likely that they’ve invested a lot in you, too, and an introduction goes a long way in making them feel appreciated.

Little Boxes: 12 Writers on Television

Whether you’re still reeling from the AV Club’s cuts to television coverage, dissatisfied with the impersonal nature of most media commentary, questioning why that commentary so often lacks diversity, or just looking for insightful short-form nonfiction, Coffee House Press has a new essay anthology to help ease your Better Call Saul withdrawal and disappointment with Game of Thrones’ short season.

Rather than analyze or annotate the hottest new tv shows, the writers in Little Boxes discuss the way the TV shows of their childhoods and young adulthoods influenced them. Most of these shows haven’t aired in years. Some are streamable cult classics, while others are back on TV in different versions, but each is a marker of a specific shared cultural moment.

That these shows belong to the millions of viewers watching but touch us so personally is a paradox some of these writers address. Justin Taylor’s essay on Dawson’s Creek describes how the show taught him to hate plot blocking and the importance of theme songs, despite initially becoming aware of the show through its marketing, which he saw completely through. Jenny Hendrix talks about somehow absorbing things from of television despite being raised by latter-day hippies in a community that discouraged TV, and her essay raises interesting points about the relationship between cultural identity and individual identity. Elena Passarello digs into the ways syndication and licensing issues affect rewatching and second-wave viewers, the importance of music in a show’s overall affect, and the way a mainstream TV show can open doors to subcultures. Twin Peaks fans will appreciate Edan Lepucki’s examination of how the place where we view a show can affect how it feels to watch it, and Nina McConigley’s experimental essay expands and improves the discourse about representation in popular media. Justin Torres describes the difficult moment when you aren’t ready to see a version of yourself onscreen yet, and T Clutch Fleishman’s piece about a softcore porn show on Cinemax is such a treasure that readers may be tempted to put it in a wooden box, bury it on a small Caribbean island, and create a map that marks its location with an X.

Tiny Boxes is an exemplary collection. No two essays are overly similar, yet they fit together and relate to one another in a way that goes beyond just forming a cohesive book. It’s also full of smart and beautiful writing. My only complaints about it are that it made me want to read more from each of the writers, and some (like Ruman Alaam) are a bit difficult to find, and it’s a great injustice that there isn’t an essay about The X Files. Perhaps there will be a second season, er, volume? In the meantime, I will be rereading Danielle Evans’ reflections on Daria before rewatching the show, perhaps taking notes this time.


Little Boxes: Twelve Writers on Television edited by Caroline Casey (Coffee House Press | 9781566894722 | August 29, 2017)

Say As I Do: John Boyne

Say As I Do: John Boyne

John Boyne’s book The Heart’s Invisible Furies (Hogarth | 9781524760786) was released last week and I interviewed Boyne for this Friday’s Marginalia podcast. While I had him on Skype, I asked if he had a message he’d like to send to independent booksellers. Here’s what he said (as well as how to correctly pronounce his name):

 

 

This is John Boyne. I’m the author of the novel THE HEART’S INVISIBLE FURIES.

My younger sister actually works in an independent bookshop and has done for many years now in Dublin. And I worked in a bookshop for many years as well–for seven years–while I was getting my writing career off the ground. So I know what it’s like to be in those places, to work in them and the joy of really hand selling to customers… of feeling that kind of passion for books.

And you know that lovely moment where somebody comes in maybe and says, “My 13-year-old kid has just really got into reading and has read this and this. What would you recommend next?” And the bookseller goes, “Great! Well, come with me!” I miss that; I loved that; and I am grateful for the passion and support that all booksellers really bring to bookselling and to literature and to writers. I think all writers should be grateful for that.

Review: ‘The Burning Girl’ by Claire Messud

Review: ‘The Burning Girl’ by Claire Messud

Adolescence, those angst ridden years when friendships sometimes resemble love affairs and the whole world turns fraught, might be a time best appreciated in hindsight. The Burning Girl, Claire Messud’s latest novel, offers just that — a haunting, layered, elegiac story about the abiding intensity of friendship between adolescent girls and the inevitable, painful unravelling of that friendship. As with Messud’s last great novel, The Woman Upstairs, this is not a particularly lighthearted read, though it is overflowing with exquisite writing and sophisticated inquiry into the perennial question of whether we can really know those closest to us.

Julia, the novel’s cautious and cerebral narrator, befriends charismatic, bold Cassie in nursery school and counts her as a “secret sister” throughout their shared childhood. The book’s opening section introduces us to Cassie and Julia in the summer before seventh grade, the final, pre-lapsarian era of their friendship, during which they volunteer at an animal shelter and enjoy tanning, listening to Katy Perry, picnicking at the swimming quarry, and, most thrillingly, exploring an abandoned asylum in the woods near their very small hometown of Royston, Massachusetts. Both beloved only children, Julia and Cassie nonetheless come from different backgrounds — Julia’s father is a dentist and her mother a freelance journalist, whereas Cassie’s single mother is a hospice worker with a blank history. Cassie’s father is absent. During the course of story, Cassie’s mother marries a sinister and Puritanical local doctor whose motives seem at best misguided and at worst malicious. Though we never learn what is happening in Cassie’s household, it can’t be good since Cassie begins running away, and her friendship base shifts to the wrong sort as the story progresses.