28 June 2014

Upcoming Events @ Last Word Books

We have two events just around the corner that you should check out. Also, you can come in and see our new location if you haven't already. We have a long ways to go, but we're quite proud of what we have managed to scrape together.

The first event is "In Spite of Repression: Fighting for Liberation Under Surveillance" with scot crow & Leslie James Pickering. We'll be hosting Scot & Leslie at 111 Cherry St NE at 7pm Wednesday July 2nd. scot has visited us before at our old location and his return will be welcome.



The second event is the following day with Sean Davis, author of "The Wax Bullet War: Chronicles of a Soldier & Artist." 





from Sean's website:

Sean Davis is a veteran of the Iraq war, a talented artist, and a gifted writer with an interesting story. He attended art school before earning his bachelor’s degree in English from Portland State University and an MFA in Writing from Pacific University. He published the novel Motivation and Toleration under the name Ian Avi and has contributed to numerous publications including the Willamette WeekNailed Magazine, and The Good Men Project. He has also appeared on 60 Minutes and is cofounder of A Rock or Something Productions in Portland.

01 June 2014

Press Update

Its been a while since anyone's heard from our digital outpost. So much is happening that we haven't had a chance to update you on some of our printing projects, the moving of our base of operations and plans for the future. So here you go...an update!

If you haven't heard, Last Word Books and the press have moved to a new location in downtown Olympia. Come down and check out our new digs at 111 Cherry St. NE in the old Olympia Glass Building. Most of our inventory is still packed in boxes and scattered all over the place, but our retail store is up and running. We'll have a grand reopening celebration Saturday June 21st, so keep an eye out for forthcoming details. 

We're currently working on several book projects with the poets Mark Sargent and Alan Kaufman, both fantastic poets and growing friends. Mark Sargent's Li Ho Tour and Kaufman's Straight Jacket Elegies are powerful, evocative works we are proud to publish. Here are links to short bios of Alan Kaufman and Mark Sargent.

We're also hard at work printing the first issue of Tales from Nemo's Factory. Who doesn't like absurdist, dystopian comix with TVs walking around beating up robots? Look for it at the 2014 Olympia Comic Festival Saturday June 7th. 

There's so much more to tell, but we'll leave it at that for the time being. Check back for more updates  and news soon!

14 March 2013

Last Word Storms San Francisco for the Anarchist Bookfair

Beware Bay Area denizens as Last Word descends upon you for the 2013 Anarchist Bookfair. We'll be set up Saturday and Sunday slinging books. Look for us and our booth packed to the gills with everything we could shove into the hold of our ship. You have been warned!

16 October 2012

What Poetry Teaches Us About the Power of Persuasion

Found this article on The Atlantic website about teaching poetry in school. Read and discuss, class. Yes, there will be a test on this.

DOROTHEA LASKY - Dorothea Lasky is the author of three poetry collections including, most recently, Thunderbird.

Logic and grammar are important. But for students to truly own the English language, they need to read and write poems.

A few years ago, I was working for a science teacher professional development program. My job was to go into schools and watch how high school science teachers were integrating the program's curriculum and content into their lessons. Not many people knew that I was a poet, not a science teacher. In fact, everyone around me asked me science questions. Like "What is the normal sugar level for someone with diabetes?" Or "Why do metals behave differently at different size scales?" These were not questions I could answer easily, but I did my best. I hid my poet self relatively well.

It first started when one student in one of the underperforming schools (a school with national test scores in the bottom 25 percent in its state) gave me a CD he'd recorded of himself reading his poems. I said thanks and asked him about it. He told me he was aspiring to be a hip hop star. I told him I loved hip hop, so he invited me to one of his performances. When I took the CD home and listened to it, I heard a stark and powerful poetry. His eloquence surprised me a bit, because the student never talked in class and was always late. It would have been hard to know he had this much language at his disposal, because he didn't use it in class.I didn't expect to find any poets there, but I did.

All students can write, if we let them. The key, I think, is poetry.

As a poet myself, I have a love/hate relationship with schools. For the most part, schools have been a place for me to learn and grow. They've given me the chance to find readers of poetry and to connect with the poets of the past. I have found almost all my poetic brethren (dead poets who speak to me through their work) within a classroom setting.

However, because I am a poet, I am always searching for ways to change language. Schools are often a place for a certain sort of rigid language instruction, which can make them hostile environments for poets. Grammar and persuasive argument are essential skills for any student. But if someone is telling you that there is a set and finite way to construct a sentence -- and you're a poet -- you will naturally get a little annoyed. And you will be justified in feeling this way, because it's simply not true.

Nothing is more important to the future of humanity than the freedom to make new ideas. I would argue that the act of writing poetry is important for the creation of those new ideas. In her essay "Poetry and Grammar," the great American poet Gertrude Stein wrote:
That is the reason that slang exists it is to change the nouns which have been names for so long. I say again. Verbs and adverbs and articles and conjunctions and prepositions are lively because they all do something and as long as anything does something it keeps alive.
Supporting poetry in our schools is essential because it engages students' thinking and it keeps language alive. Over the past 14 years, I have worked as a teacher in a variety of educational settings. I have found that all students can write. And one of the surest ways to awaken their love for language is poetry.

The 60 students waiting patiently to get into one creative writing section at an elite private college where I taught loved writing poetry. The 2 year olds I used to teach over a decade ago in a wealthy day care loved poetry, too. Even in their pre-writing state, they recited poem after poem for me, and I wrote each one down for them to then illustrate. At an underserved elementary school, I read Merwin, Sexton, and Whitman poems out loud, and the 5 year olds in in the class loved to bounce around the rhythms and the sing-songy rhymes, along with the slanted ones. It was the music of poetry that they loved. The music of poetry is a delight for the mind.

28 September 2012

Instant: The Story of Polaroid

Found this interesting article on Core77 about the history of Polaroid. The most interesting facet of the article was the analogy of Polaroid to Apple fifty years in the past. Check it out.







Photograph by Fritz Goro for LIFE
"Marketing is something you do if your product is no good. Instead, you have to show something to people that they had no idea that they wanted but that is irresistible." -Edwin Land
In 1947, Edwin Land debuted Polaroid's Land Camera, an instant camera that revolutionized the way that people understood and used photography. Since it's introduction, Polaroid has become a cultural touchstone for an entire generation of artists and enthusiasts, with a new generation of photospammers adopting the analog format as their common digital language.
Instant: The Story of Polaroid is an upcoming book tracing the rise and fall of Polaroid. As the author, New York magazine editor Christopher Bonanos, tells it:
INSTANT is a business story, about what happens when a company loses its innovative spark. It is a fine-arts story, showcasing the amazing things people did with Polaroid film. It is a technology story, of a company that created and maintained a niche all its own for 60 years. And it is a pop-culture history, of a friendly product that millions of people absolutely adored. I like to think that it also tells a larger story, about the rise and fall of American invention and manufacturing.
A prolific inventor and restless visionary, Land's unique approach to innovation is intimately bound with the success of Polaroid and his unique leadership style deeply influenced Steve Jobs. Bonanos sees Polaroid as the Apple of its day, an innovation-driven company that disrupted it's industry by inventing and introducing products no one anticipated.
Princeton Architectural Press released this great "Book Trailer" in anticipation of the book's release in October.

29 August 2012

Ray Bradbury's FBI Files

Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury, the science-fiction writer who died at age 91 in early June, was the target of FBI investigations over a period spanning more than a decade, according to 40 pages of government documents obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request by The Daily Beast.
Bradbury was born August 22, 1920 in Waukegan, Ill., and enjoyed a literary career spanning eight decades. He is best known for his short stories and the novel Fahrenheit 451, which chronicles Guy Montag, a conflicted protagonist tasked with setting books on fire, and the detached society punctuated by a paranoid government in which Montag lives.
The government in Montag’s world, it turns out, was not so different from the government in Bradbury’s.
The FBI’s investigation of Bradbury in the late 1950s centers on alleged communist activity, and it reveals more about the author’s talent for holding up a dystopian mirror to reflect society’s flaws than actual communist tendencies. These government documents were first obtained by Bradbury biographer Sam Weller and described in his 2005 book The Bradbury Chronicles.
“I remember distinctly his response when I visited him and presented him with the files,” Weller told The Daily Beast. “He beamed ear to ear and dismissed it with a wave of his hand and laughed and he said, ‘I’ll be damned, I’ve had nothing to hide over the years—what are they going to investigate? What a bore.’”
Still, Bradbury was amused. He held the pages to his chest and asked Weller for a copy.
 
 
Bradbury did not dissuade the government when, in 1952, he took out an advertisement in the trade publication Daily Variety and wrote, according to the documents:
“I have seen too much fear in a country that has no right to be afraid. I have seen too many campaigns in California, as well as in other states won on the issue of fear itself, and not on the facts. I do not want to hear any more of this claptrap and nonsense from you. I will not welcome it from McCARTHY or McCARRAN, from Mr. NIXON, DONALD JACKSON, or a man named SPARKMAN. I do not want any more lies, any more prejudice, any more smears. I do not want intimations, hearsay or rumor. I do not want unsigned letters or nameless telephone calls from either side, or from anyone.”
Bradbury got exactly what he didn’t want. The FBI investigation of Bradbury spans April 2 through June 3, 1959, and included surveillance from special agents.
“There’s some case notes to indicate they were parked outside the street of his house, watching his house. There were definitely agents stationed, watching his family and the goings on at the Bradbury home,” Weller says.
According to Martin A. Berkeley, a former member of the Communist Party and one of few named sources in the files, Bradbury, “was probably sympathetic with certain pro-Communist elements in the WGAw [Writers Guild of America, West].” He told the FBI that during a meeting of the Writers Guild, formerly the Screen Writers Guild, the union was considering whether to keep Communist Party members from joining, and Bradbury rose up and shouted, “Cowards and McCarthyites.”
At times the files venture into a sort of detached literary criticism, likely aimed at elucidating Bradbury’s worldview. Of Bradbury’s short-story collection The Martian Chronicles, which according to the documents sold over 200,000 copies in its second edition, special agent John S. Temple writes, “The stories were connected by the repeated theme that earthmen are despoilers and not developers.”
Bradbury may have been an inconvenient public figure to some, but the FBI ultimately concluded, “No evidences have been developed which indicate he was ever a member of the CP.”
Roughly 10 years after its initial investigation, the FBI again trained its sights on Bradbury regarding a suspected trip to Cuba to attend the Cultural Congress of Havana, a conference meant to “obtain unity of action in the anti-imperialist fight and in defense of the cultural nucleus of each country.”
Bradbury’s suspected interest in the Cultural Congress appears to stem from a confusion over a tip about a “Roy Bradbury.” Bradbury’s passport file was ultimately investigated. The FBI connected with two unnamed informants during the third and fourth weeks of July 1968, and another informant during the second week of August 1968, to attempt to nail down a link between Bradbury and Cuba.
One informant editorialized that “Bradbury would be a type person [sic] who might be invited to attend the Cultural Congress of Havana because of his liberal view,” but none of the sources could provide the FBI with any usable information.
“The files were so sloppy they called him Raymond at points in there—that’s not even his legal name,” Weller says.
The FBI decided it would be imprudent to continue their investigation and speak with him directly: “Due to Bradbury’s background as a known liberal writer, vocal in anti-United States war policies, an interview with Bradbury would be deemed unadvisable.”
Bradbury ultimately found resigned humor in the time and resources wasted on investigating his normal American life.
“The files were so sloppy they called him Raymond at points in there—that’s not even his legal name,” Weller says.

11 July 2012

The Great American Novel

This article originally appeared on slate.com back in late June but we've been so busy printing and binding we haven't had a chance to post this article until now. Enjoy.

The Great American Novel

We’ve been looking for one since the 1860s. Why?
By |Posted Friday, June 29, 2012, at 11:45 PM ET


I’m Russian. A proud U.S. citizen, mind you, but Russian all the same. Born and raised by Russian parents in Moscow. I also happen to be a writer. Could I, then, ever write the Great American Novel? That is to say, we’ll take it for granted that I’m fully capable of writing a Great novel. Naturally. (Or so I hope.) But am I American enough to produce a GAN, as Henry James dubbed it in 1880?
Since its inception, the GAN has been a remarkably enduring concept, staying stubbornly put in critical and popular discourse alike despite numerous—some, almost successful—murder attempts. But though the GAN as such seems here to stay, the way we think about it has evolved significantly from its original conception to the present day. And that evolution is as inevitable as it is profound.
The first time I heard the phrase, it struck me as an altogether bizarre idea. After all, there’s no such thing as the Great Russian—or English, or French, or what have you—Novel. Great novels, to be sure, and ones written by great men. But why the requirement of a nationality—and why only here, only in America? (I’m not alone in my bewilderment: Martin Amis, another foreigner, was struck in a 1995 essay by how “essentially American” the very notion was. He defended the idea, though, and even named a winner, The Adventures of Augie March.)

21 June 2012

Why Should Books Still Be Books When They're on Tablets?



Yet another article from The Atlantic! Not sure how we feel about this, but then again the jury is still out on e-books in general. Is it reading? Does it connect ideas in a synaptic explosion of thought? Are we being too paranoid? Where did you put the mayo?!


citia1 615.jpg
One company's new app distills the big ideas in works of non-fiction into a set of shareable "cards."


One company's new app distills the big ideas in works of non-fiction into a set of shareable "cards."
For all the disruption in the publishing industry wrought by the Internet, e-readers, and tablets, reading a book still feels like, well, reading a book: tabbing through pages, digesting information linearly. But maybe that will change. The company Semi-Linear is hoping so: Its recently unveiled Citia iPad apps reinvents long-form non-fiction for the tablet, turning books into something that resembles less a sequence of chapters and more a digital spread of sharable, customizable, collectible cards.

"Faking books and page-turns and location numbers on screens is somewhat functional, but can't be the best solution for devices as nuanced as the iPad."
For example, the premiere book in Citia's library, What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly, is segmented into various, smaller stand-alone yet interconnected mini-chapters. "Kelly writes that what technology wants is for this app to realize its ideal, most 'convivial' form," says Linda M. Holliday, the founder and CEO of Semi-Linear. "So we've tried to build an e-book that's optimized for digital life. We've done away with the endless unspooling text of PDF-based e-books and replaced it with discrete stacks of cards, organized according to concept. The result is a very detailed synopsis of a book—one that always offers users the option to buy the full-length original in any format."

Citia's three-dimensional table of contents allows readers to survey the ideas in each mini-chapter, get an overview of the book's thesis, and dive in wherever they like. Readers can explore according to their interest, prior knowledge, or any other entry point. The idea is to make reading faster, easier, and more social. There's an economic motive, as well: "In this model authors get paid for metered 'micro-publishing,' but each card also promotes the author's original work and allows users to purchase it directly," Holliday says.

Grammar is Dead, Long Live Grammar Nerds


Here's a good article from The Atlantic that made us think of all times we have corrected our friends' emails, text messages and social media postings due to the total disregard and lack of grammatical structure. That probably makes us Crypto-Fascist Grammarians. So, what?



Some of us never forget the first sentence we conjugated*. Others of us are, like, LOL, WTF? Conjumugation? Unfortunately, it appears the LOLers are encroaching, ruining everything that is good and holy, i.e., grammar. A terrifying piece in The Wall Street Journal by Sue Shellenbarger reveals that employers are cringing each time they hear their staffers say something ungrammatical and not-smart sounding—not only cringing, but also imposing fines for offenses ranging from saying like, you know, all the time to combining there and are into the totally incorrect there's to things far worst, like ginormos, mortifying typoze. 

20 June 2012

Henry Miller and Anais Nin



While we don't have much to report at the moment, we thought you might enjoy this video of two fantastic writers. Enjoy!