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“The final chapter has been written for the lone bookstore on the streets of Laredo (Texas).

“With a population of nearly a quarter-million people, this city could soon be the largest in the nation without a single bookseller.

“The situation is so grim that schoolchildren have pleaded for a reprieve from next month’s planned shutdown of the B. Dalton bookstore. After that, the nearest store will be 150 miles away in San Antonio.

“The B. Dalton store was never a community destination with comfy couches and an espresso bar, but its closing will create a literary void in a city with a high illiteracy rate. Industry analysts and book associations could not name a larger American city without a single bookseller.” (cont’d @ NY Times)

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D'Lugoff“Art D’Lugoff, who was widely regarded as the dean of New York nightclub impresarios and whose storied spot, the Village Gate, was for more than 30 years home to performers as celebrated, and diverse, as Duke Ellington, Allen Ginsberg and John Belushi, died on Wednesday in Manhattan. He was 85 and lived in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. . . .

“Opened in 1958, the Village Gate was on the corner of Bleecker and Thompson Streets. The cavernous basement space it occupied — the building’s upper floors were then a flophouse — had once been a laundry. . . .

“The club closed its doors in 1994, amid rising rents, a changing market for live music and the aftermath of some unsuccessful investments by Mr. D’Lugoff. It briefly reappeared on West 52nd Street in 1996 but sputtered out after less than a year. . . .

“The Gate may have lacked the cachet of the Village Vanguard, a more intimate West Village club, but it was a bright star in the city’s cultural firmament for decades. A young Woody Allen did stand-up comedy there. The playwright-to-be Sam Shepard bused tables there. A waiter named Dustin Hoffman was fired there for being so engrossed in the performances that he neglected his customers, though service was by all accounts never the club’s strength. Dozens of albums were recorded there, by musicians like Pete Seeger and Nina Simone and by comics like Dick Gregory.

“Though most often thought of as a jazz space — among the eminences heard there over the years were John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk — the Gate offered nearly every type of performance imaginable. There were blues artists like B. B. King; soul singers like Aretha Franklin; rockers like Jimi Hendrix; comics like Mort Sahl and Richard Pryor; and Beat poets.” (more @ NY Times)

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lonely_planet“It was bought amid a flurry of raised eyebrows and has sat uneasily in a global broadcasting and media stable ever since — and yesterday Lonely Planet was once again the subject of speculation, uncertainty and possibly even a little controversy.

“The backpackers’ essential guides to, well, pretty much everywhere may, it seems, be heading back into the uncharted territory of the marketplace, barely two years after BBC Worldwide paid £90 million for the company.

“As part of Lonely Planet takeover in October 2007, its founders Tony and Maureen Wheeler, who published their first guide — South East Asia on a Shoestring — 34 years ago, were left with a 25 per cent stake, valued at A$67.3 million before the credit crunch, which they could have sold to the BBC at any time before Saturday.

“However, BBC insiders said yesterday that the Wheelers’ put option had been extended, triggering speculation that the broadcaster is preparing to offload the travel publisher, whose original purchase has so damaged its reputation.” (cont’d @ Times Online)

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Matchcover“If smoking was their sole raison d’être, restaurant matches should by all rights have disappeared by now. After being overtaken by the disposable lighter, they have run into smoking bans of varying severity. (Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia now have laws prohibiting smoking in restaurants, according to the American Lung Association, and local jurisdictions impose their own smoke-free rules.)

Matches“Yet matches appear to be struggling back from the brink to reassert their pre-eminence among the rabble of coasters, business cards, cocktail napkins and swizzle sticks charged with hawking a restaurant’s good name. In an era of instant information access and viral publicity, logo-bearing matches may have the edge as ambassadors that convey distinction in their very physicality.” (more @ NY Times)

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pg-32-brothel-AFP-g_251491s“A Berlin brothel is claiming the title of Germany’s first ‘green’ sex establishment after offering clients eco-discounts if they can prove they arrived by bicycle or public transport.

“The concept has been dreamed up by the Maison d’Envie (House of Desire) brothel in the city’s fashionable Prenzlauer Berg district where Germany’s Green party won 46 per cent of the vote in last month’s general election.

“Regina Goetz, the former prostitute who runs the establishment, explained yesterday: ‘The environment is on everyone’s lips around here and it’s pretty hard to find a parking space, so we came up with the idea of an eco-discount of €5 (£4.60) for anyone who leaves the car at home.’

“Ms Goetz, 56, said that the recession had cut the brothel’s turnover by almost half, but the introduction of eco-discounts has proved so successful that business was virtually back to normal again.” (cont’d @ The Independent UK)

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Food, Inc“MOVIES about food used to make you want to eat. . . .

“But that was then, before Wal-Mart started selling organic food and Michelle Obama planted a vegetable garden on the White House lawn. Before E. coli was a constant in the food supply, before politicians tried to tax soda and before anyone gave much thought to the living conditions of chickens.

“Into this world comes Food, Inc.,’ a documentary on the state of the nation’s food system that opens in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco on Friday. . . .

“‘Food, Inc.’ begins with images of a bright, bulging American supermarket, and then moves to the jammed chicken houses, grim meat-cutting rooms and chemical-laced cornfields where much of the American diet comes from. Along the way Mr. Kenner attempts to expose the hidden costs of a system in which fast-food hamburgers cost $1 and soda is cheaper than milk.” (more @ NY Times)

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Hitler Badge“The items were sometimes delicate, often minimalist and always haunting: a monogrammed silver matchbox; a gold locket with a butterfly design; a letter-opener, its sturdy handle embellished with an eagle and a swastika. Up for auction here on Thursday, the relics fetched record prices and even spurred bidding wars, purely because of their history: They are believed to be among items owned by Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun.

“While the recession may mean that many Americans have been wrestling their overworked credit cards back into their wallets and cutting back on expenses large and small, some collectors have been paying record prices for historic artifacts. At Alexander Autographs, a small auctioneer that expected to generate about $800,000 in sales at its two-day auction, sales reached nearly $600,000 on Wednesday. By Thursday, they were edging toward $1 million. . . .

“The most interest — and higher prices — went to the Nazi-related items once owned by the collector John Lattimer: $4,000 for Braun’s compact; $4,250 for Hitler’s teacup and saucer, with a rose and chestnut print; and $3,000 for his dessert plate.” (more @ NY Times)

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“TOMORROW, the seventh annual show of designs created in Brooklyn — Bklyn Designs — will open in Dumbo, drawing renewed attention to this neighborhood of former factories and warehouses, and its vibrant design scene.

“Over the last six years, the juried show, which features contemporary furnishings, lighting and accessories designed, and in most cases made, in Brooklyn, has grown from a Chamber of Commerce exercise in borough boosterism into a high-profile event and an effective springboard for local designers. This year, it has 45 exhibitors and is attracting attendees from as far away as Milan, the Netherlands and Japan.

“The show in Dumbo offers a good place to begin exploring what Brooklyn offers in the way of home furnishings. Just as the borough has become a center for locally produced, handcrafted food, it has also developed a broad population of independent, often artisanal designers.” (cont’d @ NY Times)

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mein-kampf“While it is regarded in most countries as a ‘Nazi Bible’, in India it is considered a management guide . . .

“Sales of [Mein Kampf] over the last six months topped 10,000 in New Delhi alone, according to leading stores, who said it appeared to be becoming more popular with every year.

“‘Students are increasingly coming in asking for it and we’re happy to sell it to them,’ said Sohin Lakhani, owner of Mumbai-based Embassy books who reprints Mein Kampf every quarter and shrugs off any moral issues in publishing the book.

“‘They see it as a kind of success story where one man can have a vision, work out a plan on how to implement it and then successfully complete it.'” (more @ Daily Telegraph)

[Ach mein Gott!]

Related: ‘Turn Left at Gestapo Headquarters’

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hopper-new-york-restaurantJoseph Epstein on why New York food is so good:

“Manhattan must have 300, perhaps 400, splendid restaurants. I estimate that Chicago has, at the outside, 30, and San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., respectively probably not more than that. Why is this? How to account for this plentitude of good restaurant food in Manhattan?

“Demand has a lot to do with it. By this I don’t mean demand as in the old economists’ formula of supply and demand. What I mean is that New Yorkers are, and always have been, more demanding than any other Americans when it comes to what they eat. . . .

“New Yorkers tend to order food as if they are spoiled children dining in their mothers’ kitchens. They demand excellent service, which includes accommodation for their idiosyncrasies (that pickle on the separate plate). If they do not get what they want, they howl, return food, do not return to the restaurant, and verbally torch the place. If you open a restaurant in New York, you had better be good, or you will soon be gone.” (more @ Wall Street Journal)

[Thanks, John.]

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“During the late Thirties, some of Britain’s most distinguished architects, artists, musicians, film-makers and others, many of them Jewish, arrived on our shores with their meagre belongings having escaped from the Nazi threat in continental Europe. Many of them made their homes here and went on to leave a lasting mark on our intellectual and cultural life. Britain reaped a rich reward for its tolerance. . . .

“Among them were two refugees from Vienna, Walter Neurath and Eva Feuchtwang. . . .

“They met in London during the war, fell in love, and in 1949, 60 years ago, they pooled their passions, and set up a new art publishing imprint that would straddle the Atlantic.

“They named it Thames & Hudson, after the rivers of London and New York, and their aim was to publish reasonably priced books on art, sculpture and architecture, in which words and pictures were integrated and accessible to all. They wanted their books to educate, inform and entertain as a ‘museum without walls’. . . .

“Setting out to rebuild British culture Thames & Hudson has grown into a hugely successful company, and it remains one of Britain’s last family-held publishing dynasties.” (more @ Times Online)

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Whatever the future holds for printed books, this much is certain: there is no shortage of ink being spilled presently by writers offering their visions of the digital future –

In “How the E-Book Will Change the Way We Read and Write,” author Steven Johnson points to two key developments, “the breakthrough success of Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader, and the maturation of the Google Book Search service,” and proposes that “2009 may well prove to be the most significant year in the evolution of the book since Gutenberg hammered out his original Bible.” (more @ Wall Street Journal)

Related: The Social Dilemma of e-Reading

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rossetFrom NPR, a profile of publisher Barney Rosset, former owner of Grove Press and The Evergreen Review, in advance of the publication of his autobiography, The Subject Is Left Handed, which takes its name from his FBI file. The article includes a clip from Obscene,” a film biography (2007) of Rosset, in which Rosset discusses acquiring Samuel Beckett‘s Waiting for Godot.

“Independent publisher Barney Rosset was there for some of the most important — and controversial — developments in 20th century American literary history. The first to publish Samuel Beckett in the United States, Rosset has been honored by the National Book Foundation, the Association of American Publishers and the French Ministry of Culture.

“Born to a wealthy Chicago banker, Rosset served as a photographer in World War II and afterward tried his hand at filmmaking and writing before buying a small, nearly defunct publishing company named Grove Press in 1951. . . .

“Rosset knew nothing about the business of publishing, but one of the first books Grove put out in 1954 became one of its most important: Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett. . . .

“Over the years Grove did have a couple of best-sellers, including A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole and Games People Play, by Eric Bern. And Grove championed the avant garde and politically inflammatory. It published the work of noted 20th century playwrights like Eugene Ionesco, Harold Pinter, Tom Stoppard and David Mamet, as well as The Autobiography of Malcolm X, which had been dropped by Doubleday.

“In 1957 Grove Press got into magazine publishing; The Evergreen Review became one of the most important magazines of the counterculture . . . Two years after launching The Evergreen Review, Rosset stepped into the national headlines when he decided that Grove would publish Lawrence’s novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover, which other American publishers had shunned because of its frank sexuality. After the postal service impounded more than a hundred copies of the book, Rosset went to court claiming it was protected under the First Amendment. He won, but that was only part of his strategy. His real goal, Rosset says, was to publish another banned book: Henry Miller’s 1934 autobiographical novel, Tropic of Cancer.” (more @ NPR)

Related

[INTERVIEWER: Didn’t you say somewhere, “I am for obscenity and against pornography”?

MILLER: Well, it’s very simple. The obscene would be the forthright, and pornography would be the roundabout. I believe in saying the truth, coming out with it cold, shocking if necessary, not disguising it. In other words, obscenity is a cleansing process, whereas pornography only adds to the murk.]

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nabokov“Penguin is to publish Vladimir Nabokov‘s unfinished final novel, The Original of Laura. Penguin Classics editor Alexis Kirschbaum bought the book, together with continuing rights to the Nabokov backlist, in a six-figure deal through Andrew Wylie. The Original of Laura will be published as a Penguin Classics hardback at £25 on 3rd November, and simultaneously by Knopf in the US.

“Nabokov left the novel unfinished when he died in 1977, asking for it to be destroyed. His son Dimitri Nabokov finally took the decision to publish, bearing in mind that his father once also intended to burn his best-known work, Lolita. . . .

“The novel is narrated by a man who, when young, fell obsessively in love with a young girl, but who is now unhappily married to a promiscuous wife with whom he is infatuated. Kirschbaum said the book was both dark and comic, and continued the theme of nostalgia for young love begun in Mary and continued in Lolita and Ada.” (more @ The Bookseller)

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05_Flatbed_1 - APRIL“Mexico is protesting what it says is a whopper of an insult.

An advertisement for Burger King‘s Texican Whopper burger that has run in Europe shows a small wrestler dressed in a cape resembling a Mexican flag. The wrestler teams up with a lanky American cowboy almost twice his height to illustrate the cross-border blend of flavors.

“‘The taste of Texas with a little spicy Mexican,’ a narrator’s voice says.

“The taller cowboy boosts the wrestler up to reach high shelves and helps clean tall windows, while the Mexican helps the cowboy open a jar.

“Mexico’s ambassador to Spain said Monday he has written a letter to Burger King’s offices in that nation objecting to the ad and asking that it be removed. Jorge Zermeno told Radio Formula that the ads ‘improperly use the stereotyped image of a Mexican.'” (more @ NY Daily News)

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kurt-vonnegutKurt Vonnegut’s longtime publisher, Delacorte Press, has announced it will issue 14 never-before published short stories by the author, who died in 2007, in a new collection, Look at the Birdie, slated for publication in November 2009. . . .

Look at the Birdie will include original Vonnegut illustrations and a foreword by Sidney Offit, a longtime Vonnegut confidant and the current curator of the George Polk Awards in Journalism. Bantam Dell publisher and editor-in-chief Nita Taublib and editor Kerri Buckley put the collection together. Taublib said, ‘Considered independently, these are 14 exceptionally intricate short pieces by an author whose voice we miss immensely. Taken together, they give the reader a clear sense of Kurt Vonnegut’s development into one of the most beloved and original American writers of all time.'” (more @ Publishers Weekly)

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bannedbooks“‘American Psycho’ is Bret Easton Ellis’ story of a sadistic murderer. ‘Unfriendly Fire’ is a well-reviewed empirical analysis of military policy. But it’s ‘Unfriendly Fire’ that does not have a sales rank — which means it would not show up in Amazon’s bestseller lists, even if it sold more copies than the ‘Twilight’ series. In some cases, being de-ranked also means being removed from Amazon’s search results.

“Amazon’s policy of removing ‘adult’ content from its rankings seems to be both new and unevenly implemented. . . .

“Our research shows that these books have lost their ranking: ‘Running with Scissors’ by Augusten Burroughs, ‘Rubyfruit Jungle’ by Rita Mae Brown, ‘Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic’ by Alison Bechdel, ‘The History of Sexuality, Vol. 1’ by Michel Foucault, ‘Bastard Out of Carolina’ by Dorothy Allison (2005 Plume edition), ‘Little Birds: Erotica’ by Anais Nin, ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’ by Jean-Dominque Bauby (1997 Knopf edition), ‘Maurice’ by E.M. Forster (2005 W.W. Norton edition) and ‘Becoming a Man’ by Paul Monette, which won the 1992 National Book Award.

“Books that remain ranked include: ‘Naked’ by David Sedaris, ‘Tropic of Cancer’ by Henry Miller, ‘American Psycho’ by Bret Easton Ellis, ‘Wifey’ by Judy Blume, ‘The Kiss’ by Kathryn Harrison, the photobooks ‘Playboy: Helmut Newton’ and ‘Playboy: Six Decades of Centerfolds,’ ‘Naked Lunch’ by William Burroughs, ‘Incest: From ‘A Journal of Love” by Anais Nin, ‘The Diving Bell and the Butterfly’ by Jean-Dominque Bauby (2007 Vintage International edition), ‘Maurice’ by E.M. Forster (2005 Penguin Classics edition). . . .

“But as troubling as the unevenness of the policy of un-ranking and de-searching certain titles might be, it’s a bit beside the point. It’s the action itself that is troubling: making books harder to find, or keeping them off bestseller lists on the basis of their content can’t be a good idea.” (more @ LA Times)

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Update

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The Crumpled Press, the brainchild of [Jordan] McIntyre and [Alexander] Bick, publishes work by new authors and sets previously unpublished, notable lectures and articles into proper books — hand-sewn — on culture, politics, self-reflection, and poetry. ‘It’s original, thought-provoking work that might otherwise be tossed aside,’ says Bick, who is pursuing a history PhD at Princeton. ‘Hence the name Crumpled Press.’ In the four years since the outfit’s birth, they’ve published nine titles — from a series of fictional voicemails placed on 9/11 to a meditation on Darwinian selection, sexuality, and fashion — priced from $5 to $25. . . . 

“Today the four editors work with each author to create a book’s artisanal feel, reproducing journal sketches or deliberating fonts, flyleaves, and covers, to savor the printed-page aesthetic in an era of digitized technology — including sites for e-books, such as Google Books or the Amazon Kindle. [Anthony] Grafton’s Codex in Crisis reflects on this very topic. Expanded from a 2007 New Yorker article, the book was first released in a limited edition of 250 copies, each hand-numbered with a letterpress cover and holding a fold-out color plate.” (more @ University of Chicago Magazine)

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housingworksOn Saturday, May 2nd, “The Millions.com” will lead their first annual “Walking Tour of New York’s Independent Bookstores.” The 11-stop itinerary begins in the East Village, continues through NoLita and SOHO, crosses the Brooklyn Bridge into DUMBO, and ends after 4 or so hours of walking and book-browsing in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

The complete, 11-stop  itinerary includes: 

Additional information on the event can be found here.

A full-size Google map of the tour, with walking directions, can be found here.

RelatedLiterary DUMBO: An Afternoon Walk Under the Bridges in Search of Books

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Walgreens has announced that the commander in chief will not sprout a Chia Afro on its shelves. . . .

“We decided to pull the product because it didn’t fit with our corporate image,” [Robert Elfinger, a spokesman for Walgreens] said in a company statement. “We also didn’t want to be subject to any misinterpretation over the product. People could interpret it through a political viewpoint or other viewpoints and we want to avoid that situation.” . . .

“News of Walgreens’ removal of the presidential planter has led at least one enterprising Internet seller to offer the Chia Obama for $50—more than double the $19.99 shelf price.” (more @ Chicago Tribune)

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