Staff Pick

It’s a rare novel that reminds you of one by Virginia Woolf and doesn’t fall short in the comparison. Immediately engaging, Paige’s insightful prose grows more lustrous with each rereading. The proprietor of a small shop is “a strange creature, a puppet, brought to life by the short discreet ring of the bell as the door opened.” And he’s “not just small but scaled down in some peculiar way.” You don’t merely see Paige’s characters, you understand them in a flash. When a newly-wed notes “the first solitary moments of married life,” she foretells the long passionless union ahead of her. Similarly, an artist’s studio “had the feel of a painting itself…even the sky outside the window…seemed still wet,” and—in a sentence that could have come from Mrs. Dalloway—after dropping her daughter off there, a mother thinks how “something always happened between going in and coming out… a waking up, an arrival of life.” The novel centers on Ray Eccles, a loner who “preferred to be ignored and usually was” until he’s struck on the head by a seagull and transformed, like an Oliver Sacks  case, into a compulsive artist. It’s fitting that this forgettable photocopy specialist becomes an artist who paints the same scene over and over—the woman he was looking at when struck—and that he’s unable to forget anything from that revelatory moment. He’s helpless to move on, even as the accident changes his life radically, making him a pre-eminent  Outsider Artist—until another hit on the head abruptly breaks the spell, dramatizing “the truth: that all came to nothing in the end.” Perhaps so, but the visions of the beautiful persist, and repeated images of flames—from the image of a fire “rolling on the water as if the sun had fallen”  to a man’s cremation to people “burning” to have children or create—make ordinary life seem perpetually on the edge of epiphany.

Man with a Seagull on His Head Cover Image
$14.95
ISBN: 9781771962391
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Biblioasis - October 23rd, 2018

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Staff Pick

Like a massive trove of fossils, each skeleton with dozens of stories to tell, this phenomenal book is at once natural history and a history of paleontology; it’s a biography of fossil hunters from 1841—when Sir Richard Owen coined the word “dinosaur,” meaning “terrible lizard”—to today, when successful amateur hunters risk becoming felons; it’s an overview of women paleontologists, with fascinating profiles of Mary Anning, who began collecting and selling Jurassic fossils in Lyme Regis when she was a teenager, and Bolor Minjin, a Mongolian scientist who founded the Institute for the Study of Mongolian Dinosaurs and initiated science education programs for children in Mongolia; it’s a true crime story about the international smuggling of Mongolian fossils and the Mongolian government’s efforts to repatriate them; and, finally, it’s an authoritative presentation of the complex questions of natural history relics and who has the right to them. Williams, a vivid and energetic writer, organizes all this material around the story of Eric Prokopi, a Florida fossil hunter and dealer. Prokopi’s career coincided with discoveries like that of Tyrannosaurus Sue, a South Dakota skeleton that sold for $8.36 million in 1992. As “fossils became money,” scientists grew concerned that specimens crucial to research would disappear into private collections. Though efforts to restrict private ownership of fossils has been slow in the U.S., Mongolia passed strict laws prohibiting export of bones found within its borders. These laws caught up with Prokopi just as he’d prepared a rare Tyrannosaurus bataar—related to the T. rex—for auction in 2012. It would have sold for a million dollars, but the lot had originated in the Gobi Desert. The sale was cancelled, Prokopi was tried and convicted of smuggling, and the bones went back to their home. Williams presents the competing claims so compellingly that you root for both sides.    

The Dinosaur Artist: Obsession, Betrayal, and the Quest for Earth's Ultimate Trophy Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9780316382533
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Hachette Books - September 11th, 2018

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Staff Pick

With her first new collection of stories in twelve years, Eisenberg gives us a true, funny, and troubling picture of our world, and a chilling glimpse of the future. The present is unevenly divided between the haves and have-nots; the haves worry about insomnia and whether they’ll see the Taj Mahal before they die. “Merge” gives an indelible close-up of this rapacious class, focusing on the son of a corporate despot who’s been cut off by dad but is gamely following in his footsteps with impressive displays of entitlement and self-justification. So far he’s only really victimized his father—to the tune of a “borrowed” ten grand—but his moral blindness shows where he’s headed. In the title story Eisenberg’s outrage on behalf of workers and indigenous peoples of Western-exploited tropical paradises comes through in searing language. The gatherings at the beach paradise are “more tournaments than dinner parties,” and after a contingent of accountants blows through, there’s nothing left but “crumbs.” Here friendship isn’t mutual, it’s up to the power couples to decide “how well they knew you.” But while they pull the strings, artists often pull back. A progressive puppeteer stages the “simple moral fable” of a grasping monarch oblivious to the fact that “the serfs and donkeys are already inflamed with rage.” Sure enough, the island explodes. “The Third Tower” plays out an alternative scenario, one in which the powerful do recognize the threat posed to them by artists and workers. A woman who is both is sent to the City for treatment of a mysterious congenital condition. Her disease is imagination: she’s given to spells of “words heating up, expanding, exploding into pictures of things, shooting off in all directions.” Her hospital is as much prison as clinic; she’s there to learn to “cooperate.” In other stories Eisenberg follows actors, dancers, and musicians, exploring both social and psychological questions of identity. A coterie of aging film stars debates the different selves they find portrayed in other people’s memories, but all agree that “it’s pretending to be oneself that’s exhausting.”

Your Duck Is My Duck: Stories Cover Image
$26.99
ISBN: 9780062688774
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Ecco - September 25th, 2018

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