Author: Guy

‘Ranger Games’ is Lemuria’s inaugural pick for our Nonfiction FEC

I am thrilled to introduce our newest First Editions Club on Lemuria’s blog. This new club will focus specifically on compelling, eye-opening nonfiction. We will still look for collectible authors and debut books, but we will select  6 to 10 books each year rather than one book each month. As with our original First Editions Club, members of the new FEC for Nonfiction Readers will receive the highest quality, signed first editions covered in protective mylar jackets. I’m very excited to announce our inaugural selections, Ranger Games by Ben Blum (appearing Thursday, November 2) and Sticky Fingers by Joe Hagan (appearing Friday, November 3). Both authors will be at Lemuria later this week for events.

The original FEC, now called the First Editions Club for Fiction Readers, will continue with the same mix of novels, short story collections, and standout nonfiction with a strong narrative element such as Hue 1968.

Our first NONFICTION pick:

ranger games

In Ranger Games, Ben Blum delivers a powerful and deeply personal story, oscillating between investigation and memoir, psychological profile, and cultural criticism. On August 7, 2006, Alex Blum, the author’s cousin, participated in a bank robbery in Tacoma, Washington. Alex was on his final leave before his first deployment as an Army Ranger. He was 19. That “inexplicable crime” lies at the core of Ranger Games, an inscrutable question pulling the many tangents of Ben’s investigation into orbit. Ben circles this black hole by delving into the infamous Ranger Indoctrination Program, Alex’s problematic defense of brainwashing, his Ranger superior Luke Elliott Somner, and the affecting maneuvers of the rest of the Blum family.

This is a messy, convoluted, and achingly long search for Ben, tirelessly recounted in dynamic and moving writing.

It’s a book that defies easy classification. Mary Gaitskill comments, “Ranger Games is one of those rare books that illuminates its subject beyond what you thought possible—and then transcends its subject to become something more.”

I get the sense that Ben Blum is devoted to telling the whole story, to revealing the bigger, more profound and more complicated truth for Alex, for himself, and for us. I am very much looking forward to meeting the author of this tangled, swirling, and strong debut book.

Ben Blum will be at Lemuria on Thursday, November 2, at 5:00 p.m. to sign copies of Ranger Games. The reading will begin at 5:30 p.m.

Get to Know Guy

How long have you worked at Lemuria?
3 months

What do you do at Lemuria?
I’ve just started to help manage our First Editions Club.

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What are you reading right now?
The Foundations of Early Modern Europe, 1460-1559
Ranger Games – very much looking forward to the reading on November 2

What’s currently on your bedside table (book purgatory)?
The Iliad and The Social History of Art

How many books do you usually read at a time?
A few, usually different genres

I know it’s difficult, but give us your current top five books.
1. Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany
2. Hieronymus Cock: The Renaissance in Print
3. St. Paul: A Screenplay by Pier Palo Pasolini
4. The Temple of Dawn by Yukio Mishima
5. City of Bohane by Kevin Barry

Favorite authors?
In addition to Delany, Mishima, and Barry: Aldous Huxley, Jorge Luis Borges, John Berger, Frank Herbert, Roberto Bolaño, Alain Badiou, and too many others

Any particular genre that you’re especially in love with?
Science Fiction, always and forever, I hope

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What did you do before you worked at Lemuria?
I taught printmaking courses at Mississippi College

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If you could share lasagna with any author, dead or alive, who would it be?
(Vegetarian) lasagna with Badiou, drinks with Dante and Mishima.

What would you ask them?
How to live.

Why do you like working at Lemuria?
The spirit of the place. Everyone here deep-down cares about books and that’s a very cool thing.

If we could have any living author visit the store and do a reading, who would you want to come?
Patrick Rothfuss for book 3

If Lemuria could have ANY pet (mythical or real), what do you think it should be?
Very intelligent ferrets

If you had the ability to teleport, where would you go first?
In space only – Tikal
In space and time – Florentine Republic

You Say You Want a Revolution: ‘October’ by China Miéville

The months from February to October were a continuous jostling process, a torquing of history. What happened and the meaning of what happened remain overwhelmingly controversial. February and, above all, October have long been prisms through which the politics of freedom are viewed.

octoberChina Miéville’s October is an electrifying centenary tour through Russia’s axial 1917. Acting as expert guide, he whisks readers through the labyrinthine history of that land, past Tzars and Rasputin, to focus on the intimate details of factory-level debates, cabinet meetings, bureaus, letters, trains, revolutions, and the Revolution. Most of us have a sense of where this particular drama ends or at least what came later, but Miéville throws the reader into scene after scene of this spectacular story.

 

The man begged shelter from the downpour. Lenin had little choice but to stand aside and let him in. As they sat together listening to the drumbeat of water, Lenin asked his visitor what brought him to this out-of-the-way spot.
            A manhunt, the Cossack said. He was after someone by the name of Lenin. To bring him back dead or alive.

This powerful dramatic voice galvanizes a story frequently (though necessarily) saturated with committee vote tallies. Take for instance the following passage in which Miéville strikes a skillful balance between fact, gravity, and levity.

At last, after prolonged and impassioned back and forth, they voted. By ten to two – Zinoviev and Kamenev, of course – the resolution passed. It was hazy in its details, but a Rubicon had been crossed. Insurrection was now the ‘order of the day’.
            The tension eased. Iurii Flakserman brought cheese, sausage and bread, and the famished revolutionaries fell to. Good-naturedly they teased the Heavenly Twins: hesitating to overthrow the bourgeoisie was so very Kamenev.

Miéville’s October felt like the classes I loved in college. Classes where facts were not just data but invitations to think, and where teachers brought faraway subjects closer and pushed you to care deeply. When Miéville recounts the circumstances of a wonderful and infamous phrase from 1917, it’s not in anticipation of the punch-line to be delivered.

A big worker pushed his way through and came up close and shook his fist in Chernov’s face. ‘Take power, you son of a bitch,’ he bellowed, in one of the most famous phrases of 1917, ‘when it’s given to you!’

He wants the reader (you and me, right now) to wrestle with this event’s crucial questions.

Read October because China Miéville is a good writer and this is a great story. Read October because we are now 100 years from the events described. Read October because, as Miéville believes:

It is not for nostalgia’s sake that the strange story of the first socialist revolution in history deserves celebration. The standard of October declares that things changed once, and they might do so again.

P.S. The publisher, Verso, has a slew of new books centered on the Russian Revolution including an exciting gem coming in September, Lenin 2017. This book brings together a collection of Lenin’s later writings and an essay from the reigning “Clown Prince of the Revolution,” Slavoj Zizek.

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