Saturday, June 20, 2009

David Korten Speaks in Salt Lake City, Draws Plans for New Sustainable Economy

About ten years ago, i read an article by David C. Korten. I was immediately taken by the scope, basis, detail and hopefulness of David Korten's work, so i sought out other writings by him. He had already published four books, the best known of which is When Corporations Rule the World, first published in 1996 and revised in 2001.

What appealed to me in Korten's work was the detail with which he addressed nearly all the issues that concerned and troubled me, and the skill with which he took unwieldy and complex circumstances and put them in perspective. He described my concerns better than i could, underpinning them with his substantial experience in business and economics. I am a sceptical critical reader and it is uncommon for me to read about economics, politics, environment and labor without finding reasons to mistrust and i was especially encouraged to identify no flaws in David's assessment of the problems he addressed. Even more, i was encouraged that he actually saw means by which we might overcome the soulless consumerism and economic prestidigitation that has dominated our era.

So, back in 2000, i worked with a handful of local progressive organizations such as the Salt Lake Vest Pocket Coalition and the Utah Green Party to bring David Korten to Salt Lake City for a series of talks. Since i was the catalyst for the visit, i spent quite a bit of time with David and though i've only seen him once since then, i feel proud to consider him a friend.

When i learned that David had a new book that brings his prescient thinking to the current debate about how to repair our deeply messed up economic system, i was eager to coordinate another presentation and signing for him, and so i'm quite happy that he will speak and sign copies of his 2009 book, Agenda for a New Economy here in our bookstore on Thursday, June 25th, at 7:00 p.m. The sub-title of this new work is From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth and the front cover boldly presents the topic: Why Wall Street Can't Be Fixed and How to Replace It.

I won't attempt to explain David's theories here but i want to add that it was his work that convinced me that there is absolutely no way to earn money without providing goods or services, unless you are exploiting someone else or the earth itself. Yup, it sounds pretty radical but considering the present state of economic and environmental affairs, the imperative time is now, or maybe yesterday. It's a damned shame that the world is so slow to change, but since we are now forced to reconsider nearly all of our beliefs about economics, it is comforting to know that David Korten has been analysing these complicated issues for many years and has already crafted theories that can enable us to transcend this era of inequality, environmental degradation, and a headlong rush toward lunatic disaster, driven by greed, legal theft and the moron notion that growth can be perpetually sustained.

Most of my heroes are dead. David Korten is one who is not, and i encourage everyone who is concerned about our cultures future to hear him speak and read his books. I especially hope persons in positions of influence will see the ethical basis of the the sensible promise of his ideas and help to make them reality. It will take a super-majority of citizens to overturn the system as we know it. But face it, we have worshiped hollow gods and they have duped us. As long as we merely hope to become members of the exploiting class, we are part of the problem. But if we can look ahead and take true measure of the things that make life worth living and the basis of a sustainable economic system we can emerge from this dark era and leave our children more than waste. I believe Korten can show us the way.

To learn more about his work, in addition to reading his books and hearing him speak you can visit his website,

I hope to see you here, next Thursday.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Summer Reading with queereads

An update from the best LGBT bookclub in SLC, queereads.
Here we go...

This month, on 6/17/09 at 6:30pm in the basement of this fine bookselling establishment, we'll be discussing Luna by Julie Anne Peters. Luna is a young-adult novel (which makes it cheap! $7.99 before the 20%off!!!) about Regan and her transgender brother, Liam who is becoming Luna.

In July we'll be straying from the norm, breaking free of barriers, and reading a novel that isn't specifically LGBT. Geek Love by Katherine Dunn, with its poetic prose, is a wild, often horrifying, novel about freaks, geeks and other aberrancies of the human condition who travel together (a whole family of them) as a circus. It's a solipsistic funhouse world that makes "normal" people seem bland and pitiful. 7/15/09 6:30pm.

And in August, our favorite lesbian cartoonist, Alison Bechdel with Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, a graphic memoir (think Persepolis) about Bechdel's coming of age as a young woman and a lesbian in a meticulously restored gothic revival house, filled with gilt and lace, with her closeted father who was an English teacher and proprietor of the local funeral parlor. 8/19/09 6:30pm.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Video Show pics are up

For those who missed our opening reception for the video show last month, there is now documentation of the event on our flickr account. The installation components of the show were a one-night-only engagement: Brian Patterson's video projection of "The Watch, The Wait" onto the wall of our lower stairwell, Shantel Bennett's video projection of "mesh" onto a blank canvas hung on our upper stairwell, and Milad Mozari's video projection onto an impressive bookstack built on the dance floor in the basement. The overall effect of the projections in the bookstore was magical and strange. While in our last art show, ANALOGUE island, the bookstore was energized with vibrations of sound, this time it was activated with waves of flickering light.While the projections are no longer running, you can still view the artist's video works on monitors we have installed down the length of the mezzanine.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Favorite Books

When someone asks you what your favorite books are, how do you respond? In my youth i believed that musical taste effectively sorted people into their social groups. But then i met persons who had no musical interests and that was confusing. No musical interests!? They seemed like another species. Of course non-readers are much more common than non-music-listeners. And a person's reading taste tells considerably more about her or his personality and sensibilities than knowing what music that person likes.

As a bookseller, i have been asked frequently what are my favorite books. There are so many books i have liked and loved that it is hard to know where to begin. There are numerous ways in which i appreciate books and when i am asked to name my favorites, i precede my answer by explaining that i divide my favorite books into two main groups: Books i loved the most and books that influenced me the most. The former are generally literary and the latter are more often non-fictional. Today i will focus on books i have loved. I have loved them for transporting me to other worlds. Some i have loved so much that the mere sight of a copy makes me breathless. Before i list this short list of favorite books, i want to tell you why they are older titles and explain a few things about my taste.

In our bookstore, i have had access to some of our city's most literate minds. And i have been overwhelmed by the choice of books for my entire life. In a former blog, i believe i mentioned that i sequence my reading of the books i want to read by rolling dice. It has been a long standing conflict for me whether, i should read newly released books or whether i should read the best books from the gigantic backlist of books published before my time. More often, my philosopher self wins out and so i am maybe surprisingly behind on recent releases. My preference for excellent books versus new books, combined with my dice system also leaves me with big holes in my literary knowledge. For instance, i have read Gargantua and Pantagruel, but am yet to read John Steinbeck.

The main two components of a book's content are its narrative and the style in which it is written. I think them as a room: writing style is the door and the story is the decor and furnishings, which one will never see if one can't get through the door. So don't mistake me for a shallow reader when i assert that writing style may not be more important than the narrative, but that the narrative is inaccessible without the door of good style, which involves many things. The very best books have both, but i believe that a well written book with little to say will be better received than a poorly written good story.

In my reading, style is primary. There are too many books and too few years in our lives to waste time with badly written books. The novelist and great teacher John Gardner (American) has elucidated what i am saying as well as anyone.

So here is a list of eleven books i truly love. They are stylistically wonderful and i enjoy the stories. I lead a fairly stable and thoughtful life without too much chaos, so it might be surprising what odd, indeed lunatic narratives, some of these stories have. I love oversleeping and fever dreams, and i find pleasure even in my nightmares.

These titles are culled from a larger list i keep. I will list them by their age.

Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse. 1927. Many call it dark and depressing. I found it enlightening and enchanting.

The Last Nights of Paris by Philippe Soupault. 1929. A surreal dreamy romance.

The Journal of Albion Moonlight by Kenneth Patchen. 1941. An irrational psychotic tale of madness induced by world war II. Beautiful prose. Troubling.

Silence by John Cage. 1961. Though generally found in music, i think of it as poetry and philosophy. This is the only book on this list that i also put on my list of most influential books.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick. 1968. A touching distopian novel.

Pricksongs and Descants by Robert Coover. 1969. A collection of mysterious and sensual meta-fictional stories, many based on tales you know.

The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart. 1971. A very funny lunatic tale of a man who lives his life by dice. No, i didn't learn my habit from this book but i am friends with the author because of my habit.

Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon. 1973. Almost as hard as Joyce. Crazy tale of the final days of World War II. Amazing prose. Read it out loud for best experience and survival.

Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany. 1975. A thick and dark post apocalyptic tale about a nearly dead world. liked by Pynchon fans but much easier to read.

What We Talk about When We Talk about Love by Raymond Carver. 1981. Tight nuanced stories about troubled working class people and how they worsen their problems by making bad decisions.

The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster. First published separately as City of Glass (1985), Ghosts (1986), and The Locked Room (1986). The novellas read like hard boiled mysteries written with the tight prose of Carver from the outlook of Franz Kafka. Wonderful.

If you love these books too, please send me your recommendations. I live in fear that i will miss great books.

C'est tout for now.

Bone... from Thon, from Anthony, from Kip. You know, bones are dice and what holds our bodies up.