Showing posts with label Books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Books. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Remaining Joesph-Beth Bookstores to be Autioned

Joesph-Beth Booksellers is in bankruptcy and has closed four of its nine stores, but reportedly a financing plan was rejected forcing the remaining five stores to be sold at auction. This of course includes the store in Norwood near Hyde Park, which is a main stop for well know authors on book tours.

The impression I get from the article is that the auction would intend to keep the business going, but I don't see how that can be assumed. In an auction the buyer usually has pretty much no strings attached if they pay the price bid, but in this type of business auction, there may be other rules or requirements.

It will be a dark day for books if Joesph-Beth closes. There are so few book stores left and e-books are becoming so common that the future of retail book selling is not bright for small or even medium sized companies.  Book stores used to be a core pillar of American Intellectualism.  Now, Walmart sells more books than any other company.  They have a horrible selection and censor books at the drop of a hat.  Knowing what to read should not be left to the Walmarts nor to online popularity lists at Amazon.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The New Outlet Mall: Be Wary

Cincinnati's traditional media are agog over tomorrow's grand opening of Cincinnati Premium Outlets (here's the Enquirer's coverage). The media coverage--almost at a frenzied pitch--interests me, largely because I'm in the midst of reading Ellen Ruppel Shell's new book, Cheap: the High Cost of Discount Culture. I suspect that in the next few months, I'll succumb to the temptation and visit the new outlet mall. But Ruppel Shell's chapter on outlet malls ("The Outlet Gambit") should be required reading for anyone who can't wait to grab the kids, hop in the car, and drive out to Monroe.

Ruppel Shell argues forcibly that when we go to the outlet malls, we're not really getting the deal we think we are. There's two reasons for this. First, the outlets tend to use exaggerated reference prices to convince us we're getting a better bargain than we really are. (You know what I'm talking about: those price tags that say something like, "Normally: $1,000, Your Price: $1.50.) Second (and perhaps more nefarious), the merchandise offered at an outlet often isn't the same as what's offered in a department store. Does the price on a bag at the Coach outlet seem great? Sure. But that same bag is probably not offered at a regular Coach store. In fact, Ruppel Shell tells us, about eighty percent of the stuff at Coach outlets is lower quality merchandise manufactured specifically for the outlet store.

Perhaps most interesting is Ruppel Shell's discussion of the geographic placement of outlet malls. They always seem to be a not insignificant distance from urban areas. Doesn't it strike anyone else as a bit cheeky that a shopping center outside the I-275 belt--more than a half-hour's drive from downtown--appropriates the name "Cincinnati"? This is all no accident, but instead helps the outlet perpetuate a certain atmosphere:
Generally [the location of an outlet mall] is a long drive from any particular population center--25 to 100 miles outside the metropolitan shadows, where real estate is cheap and the tax incentives sweet. . . . But the remote location of outlets is not merely a defensive, cost-saving maneuver. It is also a deliberate strategy. In the public mind, convenience is a trade-off for price, and price is traded off for convenience. Inconvenience connotes cheap, while convenience connotes pricey. . . . In a very real sense, outlets are the anticonvenience store. Visiting the outlets demands an investment in time, deliberation, and energy beyond what we invest in most other leisure activities. And because the effort to reach and shop at them is substantial, even extraordinary, the experience of going to the outlet is elevated in our minds to "special occasion" status. . . . The mall has extracted a price, and in demanding repayment, we are in fact taxing ourselves. Our expectations are raised at the same time that our guard is lowered, and in making this bargain we are willing to forgo many things that we once demanded from a satisfying shopping experience: variety, serendipity, aspiration--and fun.
(Cheap, p. 91.) I'm not suggesting that you shouldn't go to the outlet mall. I'm just saying that when you do, go with your eyes open.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Summer Reading

For those of you interested in the death penalty in Ohio, you should check out No Winners Here Tonight by Andrew Welsh-Huggins. It's a thorough examination of the history and present application of the death penalty in Ohio. The author also discusses the philosophy of various Ohio prosecutors--including Joe Deters--in handling death penalty cases.

Hat tip: Streevibes, where I first learned about the book.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Summer Reading

I know that Jack is our resident book reviewer, but I thought I'd commend two books (that couldn't be more different) for your summer reading needs:

1. Kafka Comes To America: Fighting for Justice in the War On Terror. This book is written by Steven Wax, a Federal Public Defender charged with representing some of those who have been held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay. He also represented Brandon Mayfield, the Oregon lawyer who was falsely accused of participating in the Madrid train bombings in 2004. It's a terrific insider's account of the process of defending accused terrorists. One of the details in the books that particularly surprised me: lawyers were permitted to bring food to their clients in Gitmo.

2. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. This is the debut novel of David Wroblewski that has taken up residence on the bestsellers' list for the last several weeks. The bulk of reviews will tell you that the novel evokes Hamlet and White Fang. But I also sense (though I'm far from a literary critic) the influences of Catcher in the Rye and John Steinbeck. It's a terrific story, wonderfully told, that you won't be able to put down until you're through. The last week, I literally haven't been able to wait to finish up at the office to get back home to the book. It's a must-read for anyone who loves either dogs or good stories or both.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Books of 2007 -- For What Its Worth

Not that anyone really cares what a gay lawyer and writer in his 50’s in a middling town in the Midwest thinks were some of the best books published in 2007, but since everyone else is coming out with “best of” lists here at the end of 2007, I thought I would throw my list out there as well. These may not be the best books published in 2007, because with a couple of exceptions, all books I read this year were either written in English or translated to English. Therefore, I begin with the huge caveat that there were no doubt many great books published in other languages in the past year. I also acknowledge that this list is not representative of the demographic face of America, particularly when it comes to gender. However, in putting my list of ten (ok, really eleven) books together, I did not say to myself I need 50% men and 50% women (5 male/5 female authors), 78% white (7.8 white authors), 9% black (.9 black author), 5-7% gay and lesbian (an author who was about half gay or lesbian, I suppose), 13 % latin / Hispanic (1.3 latin / Hispanic authors --- well you get the picture. I also did not include Harry Potter or any of the great children and young adult novels that were written this year, most notably Hero by Perry Moore. Instead, I simply put together a list of the books that were published in the last year that I enjoyed a lot. I had to make some very difficult exclusions, in that there were a lot of great books published last year.

So here goes in alphabetical order:

Andre Acimen
Call Me By Your Name

A beautiful and passionate gay coming-of-age tale set in Italy – a fine follow up to the Egyptian born Acimen’s Out of Egypt.

Junot Diaz
The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao

Another fine younger writer trying to make sense of the cultural stew that 21st century American has become despite the rantings of Lou Dobbs.

"You really want to know what being an X-Man feels like? Just be a smart bookish boy of color in a contemporary U.S. ghetto," Díaz writes. "Mamma mia! Like having bat wings or a pair of tentacles growing out of your chest."

Like his previous book Drown, Diaz understands that geeks rule. Perhaps the best novel of 2007.

Susan Faludi
The Terror Dream: Fear and Fantasy in Post 9-11 America

One of our finest social observers and commentators writing about how all the hooey about how 9/11 changed us all forever is just that --- hooey. Yet Faludi observes how this event rekindled some ancient myths about the role of men as protector and what happens when the myth is shattered – when men don’t protect.

Joshua Ferris
Then We Came To The End

Simply a funny novel about the arrogance and insecurity in work that is at the heart of contemporary corporate America --- in this case at an ad agency where people are being shitcanned.

Christopher Hitchens
God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything (or published in the UK as God Is Not Great: The Case Against Religion)

Agree or disagree with Hitch about religion or the divine, this is a challenging and brilliantly argued manifesto about the poisonous history of religion and things done in the name of the divine. In an election year where a central question seems to be who is religious enough to lead this secular nation (please, don't tell me this is a christian nation -- we have no state religion ---- yet), this book is timely.

Denis Johnson
Tree Of Smoke

My pick for novel of the year --- a magnificent Vietnam story about war and faith and love and loss and lost faith.

"Once upon a time there was a war . . . and a young American who thought of himself as the Quiet American and the Ugly American, and who wished to be neither, who wanted instead to be the Wise American, or the Good American, but who eventually came to witness himself as the Real American and finally as simply the Fucking American. That’s me."

“She had nothing in this world but her two hands and her crazy love for Jesus, who seemed, for his part, never to have heard of her.”

Mildred Armstrong Kalish
Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits On An Iowa Farm During The Great Depression

Mrs. Kalish is in her 80’s and has a story to tell --- settle in for a joyous ride.

Alex Ross
The Rest Is Noise

I have been a fan of Alex Ross for years through his New Yorker reviews and his blog, but Ross has done us all a favor in presenting the history of 20th century classical music in a manner that is enlightening and fascinating. This book seems to be on everyone’s top ten list.

Colm Toibin
Mothers and Sons

There are very few writers working today with Toibin’s interior and introspective voice. It was awesomely displayed in his Jamesian turn in The Master and it is put to great use in this magnificent collection of stories.

Jeffrey Toobin
The Nine

Want to understand the importance of the conservative shift in the Supreme Court and how nine unelected judges decided the 2000 election and put W in power, then read this book by one of the most astute court observers in the country.

Tim Wiener
Legacy Of Ashes

What Toobin does for the Supreme Court, Wiener does for the history of the CIA. A marvelous read that leaves you with an understanding of what it means to say that the more things change the more they stay the same.

I look forward to reading additions and corrections in the Comments. Everyone party safely and let's hope (and pray, if you do) for a good 2008.