How I Resolved to Stop Buying From Amazon, and What I Discovered After


A wonderful, thoughtful piece on the feel and place of Independent Bookstores.

Originally posted on Fever Dreams | A Blog:

I have a guilty secret, and it is implied in the above headline.

Yes, I have long known of Amazon’s poor labor practices, hardball price reduction tactics, manipulation of publishers large and small, pressure on independent booksellers (though their numbers are fortunately growing), and potential for Armageddon once they have eliminated all competition. I also know similar unsavory facts about the meat processing industry, but I still had a hamburger for dinner last night. A psychologist might call it human nature.

Up until now, my solution for scrubbing away the ugly film that covers both activities has been the same: alter small habits without attempting a complete overhaul. Buy a book at an independent bookstore every time I found myself in one. Order beef and pork from our local CSA, let the kids meet the farmers and pet the cow so they learn where food comes from. Reduce the bad stream, gradually increase the good one. But Amazon and the bulk…

View original 1,199 more words

July 24, 2014 at 2:25 pm Leave a comment

Call for Submissions: Table Talk

Our friends at Table Talk have put out a call for new submissions!

table talk


          Table Talk is a new kind of magazine that brings together people, both renowned and unknown, from different professions, countries, and contexts. Each issue focuses on a rarely discussed idea or experience that appears in all of our lives. By gathering voices from seemingly unrelated perspectives, speaking through different media, we hope to create a new space for intellectual exchange.
          The inaugural issue released this past May focused on duende, the Spanish word for a heightened state of emotion we often experience as shivers up and down our skin when we are moved by a powerful performance. Contributors ranged from the contemporary American philosopher Alphonso Lingis, to Jazra Khaleed, a Chechen-born poet and boxer living in Athens, from the Australian anthropologist Michael Taussig, to Chris Buczinsky, an Illinois-based children’s book author and illustrator. The first issue is now carried internationally in top bookstores and magazine shops in Berlin, Istanbul, London, and New York. Online, the magazine has been read in over 27 countries, from South Africa to Japan, Brazil to Bangladesh.
          Submissions are now open for the second issue, centered on the idea of dyno. In rock climbing one normally needs three points of stability to safely navigate an ascent. There are some moments, however, when the climber reaches an area that she cannot overcome using this particular approach and must instead let go of everything, leaping through mid-air in order to surpass the obstacle ahead. Climbers call this dyno, a dynamic move. This decision to surrender all comfort and risk everything for one’s goal is not restricted to rock climbing. From fishermen who venture into dangerous waters for the big catch, to poets who abandon the rules of convention and risk their reputations to create new styles of writing, this moment of dyno is an intriguing lens through which to look at perseverance, innovation, and creativity across professions and disciplines.
          Any form of writing (essays, fiction, poetry, interviews, recipes, etc.) or visual art and media (photography, paintings, films, documentaries, etc.) that approaches the theme in innovative and accessible ways is open for consideration. Dyno can be explored directly or used as an underlying theme for the piece. Written submissions should be limited to 2,000 words, visual submissions 8 images, and video submissions 10 minutes. Any selected films will be featured in the print magazine as a QR code that links to the video on the website. Previously published submissions will not be accepted. Simultaneous submissions are allowed as long as we are immediately notified upon acceptance to a different publication.
          All submissions are due by September 16th, 2014.Please submit via this link: and address any queries or thoughts to:
          Issue II set to release early November.

July 23, 2014 at 5:10 pm Leave a comment

“Home felt a bit threatened”: an interview with the editors of Prufrock Magazine

 prufrock header (2)

Can you tell us a little more about the history of Prufrock? What was the motivation in starting a magazine of writing?

Well, back home in South Africa we don’t have many. So there seemed to be a space for it on the shelf. James, Annie, Nic and I had graduated not too long before, and seen many of our peers (and ourselves), go into jobs in social media – we knew there were good writers there, and guessed that there must be many more. Not only that, but South Africans who’d grown up after apartheid were going to graduate soon, and it seemed that this was a whole generation who needed a space to write too. These were the lofty ideals. The practical side of it is that we were young enough to take the risk, and wanted to do something that would be fun, satisfying, and meaningful. So we climbed up on stage at the end of events at a literary festival, and spoke to these big crowds of people, and tried charming them into buying the first issue. And they did!

As mentioned in the Editorial at the beginning, Volume 2, Issue 1: Magic Lantern has an “inky” feel to it. I really loved the piece in the middle, “Quarter-century, or, The Year I Was 25″ by Rosa Lyster, and found myself devastated while reading the Diane Awerbuck, “Harvest”. It is suggested that this inkiness may be a result of the idea of “feeling at home at the moment”. Could you elaborate on this feeling, and how it informed the selection and organization of the pieces?  

It’s eerie how an issue comes together with one feeling. Rosa writes for each issue – she’s written about picnics in books and dogs in books, and Narnia, and this piece came in and it was sadder, darker (though it ends happily, in summertime). The strange thing was that all of the best pieces submitted for that issue had been – we shy away generally from anything violent or horribly sad (overrepresented things in young writing), unless it’s very very good. At the time, Jacob Zuma had just been re-elected as our president (his first term was marred by corruption, violence, indifference). One of our big media companies had been sold a few months earlier to someone who seems to have scarily deep sympathies with the ANC, the ruling party. So home felt a bit under threat. There was frenzy over the Oscar Pistorius trial, and the Marikana massacre’s Farlam commission is ongoing. When the best nonfiction pieces we got centered on violence, it seemed linked. Many of the pieces reflected on the past, all of the fiction is told by child narrators. So that inkiness is the darkness, weight, permanence, of things that shape us.

Prufrock Volume 2, Issue 1

Prufrock Volume 2, Issue 1. Available at our 112th street location.

You have a small staff, but it seems like you’re building a large following and distribution. What is your role, and what is it like to work on a magazine like Prufrock?  

Oh it’s the best thing in the world! It’s also overwhelming at times, and it’s scary to feel so attached to something. We all do everything at the moment – distribution, social media, editing, though James is the design whizz. Our following is growing partly because we’ve had the support of some big guns back home – that’s been due to persistence, but a bit of luck too. This year Cape Town is the “World Design Capital,” and we were named one of the official projects, which meant we could crowd fund with the promise of having what we raised matched – and we did, we reached our top goal last week! Then, Exclusive Books, the country’s biggest bookstore chain has recently been sold, so there’s new energy and blood there. That’s helped, as well as the unwavering support of smaller independents. So there’s been plenty of good news to go around, which helps us get through deliveries and late late nights – though these have their appeal too. I came to New York in January to intern at Harper’s Magazine, and that’s how Prufrock met Book Culture.

What can we expect from the next issues? And where would you like to see the magazine go in the future?

Lots! More non-fiction we hope – as the magazine grows, we hope to be able to commission more pieces. One of the pieces that was written just for us has just won an award back home – “Vida Loves You,” from issue 3, by Nic Mulgrew, which is about drag kings and queens in Cape Town. We’ll also be bi-monthly from August. Perhaps we’ll add more regular features. We’re all mad about cooking, so maybe something there.

Where can people find out more about Prufrock?

This piece is a good place to start, but otherwise our website is (and we do offer international subscriptions for those of you who can’t make it to Book Culture), tweet @PrufrockMag, and

July 15, 2014 at 7:00 pm Leave a comment

Staff Pick





What is a culture of one? A fiction, not in its falsity, but in its invention. It’s the lyric space of the political, and a vehicle for exploring and repurposing the personal and historical myths that populate our consciousnesses. Alice Notley, a deserving celebrity of contemporary American poetics, has delivered in Culture of One a thoroughly accessible, yet defiant and penetrating novel in poems set under a vast horizon in the haunted and stone-encrusted desert of the American Southwest. Notley has proven once again her capacity to reach beyond even her own boundaries, yet always with her characteristic precision and irreverent candor. 

The story roughly unfolds around Marie, a dead outsider artist living with her dogs on the outskirts of town in a shack that keeps burning down. Then there’s her daughter Eve Love, a beautiful rock-and-roll star on a drug induced descent. There’s the roving gang of ‘satanist’ teenage girls who terrorize Marie, along with the implication of their fathers. There’s Leroy, the “nobody” shopkeep and pathological liar whose only truth-telling is of his newly discovered spirit mediumship. There’s Ruby, Leroy’s dead wife; Gray Tara; White Tara; and finally, Mercy, virtue personified and the goddess figure of art-making whose presence the poet and Marie take on as their own. 

Peopled by these strange, archetypical and often interchangeable characters, the narrative drive follows the machinations of personal memory and even mystical projection. But whose? 

The ‘I’ shifts discretely between poet and character, and between belief and event, while the inscription of emotional interiority is only ever a means for transition:

What happened to your skin? I ask him, I mean ask the codex.

… blood-vessel skin. Doesn’t speak. A refugee from a fire. I’m hysterical

No. It only happened in the codex. A story linked by jeweled colors

and letters. O. It is a dream…

Notley reminds us that “everyone’s such a hack ritualist,” and this peculiar transiency of act and identity become a kind of manifesto, embodied by “the codex,” the testament of a culture of one. For Notley, the codex speaks to the ancientness of a self initiated into language; to the shared and often incoherent mythos from which we all think, live, and feel. Moreover, the codex—a culture of one— speaks to the power of revision of history and culture, beginning for Notley, from a personal narrative in a state of constant transformation, transposition, and improvisation. 

Marie wondered if she had to go to ritual hell with them again No

I have work to do on the codex. On my culture. 


 By Carolyn

July 8, 2014 at 7:10 pm Leave a comment

Resolution of Labor Dispute

We have re-hired all four store managers who were terminated last week. There is no longer a labor dispute. Book Culture has now recognized the RWDSU as the union representing our employees. We are respectful of the rights of our employees to unionize and of the views of our customers in the community and the university. As we have gotten to know the RWDSU this past week we believe that we and the RWDSU are well aligned in urging all customers to shop at Book Culture to support your local independent book store and to support the unionized employees who depend on your patronage of the two stores. Sincerely, Chris, Annie, and the Book Culture Team

July 3, 2014 at 12:24 pm 2 comments

Regarding Recent Events


On June 24th the employees of Book Culture participated in an election supervised by the National Labor Relations Board to determine whether they want to be represented by a union.  They voted that they want union representation.  Book Culture respects and supports U.S. labor law and its goals, including the right to union representation.  Once the NLRB certifies those election results, Book Culture will recognize the union as the bargaining agent for the employees.  We expect to be engaging in contract negotiations soon and we look forward to working amicably with the union.

As part of our country’s labor-management legal structure intended to prevent employer-dominated unions, labor law mandates that supervisors are not allowed to be members of the collective bargaining unit, because their job is to supervise the bargaining unit employees.  Following Tuesday’s election, it became clear that several of the store’s supervisors were not willing to continue to perform the role of supervisors within the new environment of having the unionized work force.  We respect them for their candor, but they could not continue as employees when they were unwilling to perform their job’s most essential functions.  We are saddened to lose some good colleagues.

Book Culture’s business model, as a bookstore in today’s challenging environment for independent brick-and-mortar book sellers, has been to survive by bring pleasure to our customers and by treating our employees with respect and fairness.  That will continue to be our business model.

If you have further questions, please feel free to contact the store.

You can also email the owners directly:

Chris Doeblin –

Annie Hedrick –

June 27, 2014 at 3:15 pm

Book Culture Spotlight: Books for the World Cup


As the World Cup begins, it is hard not to see in its popularity certain narratives about how the world is changing. In America, soccer is no longer just something we remember playing as kids — MLS attendance rates now surpass those of the NHL and NBA, European club soccer is exported to the States in lucrative cable deals, and seemingly every male under the age of 25 has played a game of FIFA. In the U.K., Saudi Arabian oil barons body check their way into the upper echelons of club soccer with record-setting transfer fees for players. Across leagues, the very best talent is increasingly concentrated on superstar teams. Globally, it seems fans are watching less out of parochial loyalty and more out of a thirst for quality entertainment. What are these trends if not the evidence of how we are losing hold on our imagined communities? Of inequality, pluralism, and globalization?

The World Cup works as a sort of historicizing punctuation: every four years it prompts us to reevaluate our international relationships. When West Germany dominated the stage in the 60s and 70s, it felt like a moral point was being made about the Cold War. When the United States languishes internationally, it feels revolutionary. Of course, these storylines are often effaced by the thoroughly visceral action of the game. (Who cares about the British Commonwealth when Tim Cahill scores a volley off the crossbar?) But it’s clear that soccer invites and fulfills these narratives about peoples, nations, and the world.

It comes as no surprise, then, that there are so many fantastic books about it. Literature, international studies, politics, economics — these are a few of the many lenses through which authors have approached the game. To help you find more stories for your World Cup experience, Book Culture has come up with the following spotlight.


Golazo, Andreas Campomar (Riverhead, May 2014)

Before the Aztecs were conquered by the Spanish, they played Ōllamaliztli, bumping rubber balls off their knees and hips into stone hoops. Though often played for sport, the game was also used as a proxy for warfare and sometimes preceded human sacrifice. This is where Andreas Campomar begins his history of fútbol in Latin America — and it is quite appropriate, because it seems that, at least in its relationship to ball games, not much has changed in Latin America since the 15th century, where bitter sporting rivalries have fueled political developments and roaming bands of hooligans have been known to attack one each other after matches. Interweaving the history of club soccer with that of international play, and setting it to the backdrop of colonial influence and political upheaval, Campomar’s history will certainly be relevant as the World Cup opens in Brazil and other Latin American powerhouses like Uruguay and Argentina vie for the cup.



Papers in the Wind, Eduardo Sacheri (Other Press, May 2014)

Argentinian writer Eduardo Sacheri is already quite famous in his country of origin for his four earlier collections of short stories. In the States, he is best known for The Secret in Their Eyes, his first novel, which was adapted for the screen and won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2009. His new book tells of a hapless ex-investor, Alejandro “Mono” Raguzzi, who spent his severance package on the transfer fee for Mario Pittilanga, an up-and-coming forward in the lower club leagues. Pittilanga inevitably performs poorly, and as he languishes Mono is diagnosed with cancer. After Mono passes away, it is up to his brother and two best friends — all equally hapless — to dump off the forward’s contract on another ill-fated investor. Part comedy-of-errors in the vein of The Big Lebowski, part mystery-of-personality in the vein of The Savage Detectives, Papers in the Wind is a book that should be welcome to literary soccer fans tired of all the commercial hoo-ha surrounding the World Cup and more interested in the emotional bonds that tie fans together.


the damned utd

The Damned UTD, David Peace (Melville House, March 2014)

red or dead

Red or Dead, David Peace (Melville House, May 2014)

What list of soccer books could be complete without David Peace, the author best-known for his controversial book The Damned UTD, a fictionalized account of Brian Clough’s 44-day stint as manager of Leeds football club in 1974. In this story of a troubled anti-hero struggling with alcoholism and the lingering effects of his predecessor, Peace weaves together fiction and rumor with documented facts to produce “a fiction based on fact.” A minor classic in the U.K., where it was published by Faber & Faber in 2006, the book has just been released in the States by Melville House, which also picked up Peace’s new, equally World-Cup-relevant novel, Red or Dead.  In Red or Dead, Peace turns his attention to another U.K. club manager of 1974, Bill Shankly, who over 15 years transformed Liverpool from perpetual Second Division underachievers into one of the biggest  powerhouse clubs in the U.K. — winners of two F.A. cups and one UEFA during his tenure. In these two books about tough-minded Brits dealing with the injustices of upper level sporting management, it is hard not to recognize the similarities to the American incarnations in books like Moneyball – and, perhaps, to find a salve for England’s poor international results.


And some backlist Extras:


Soccernomics, Simon Kuper (Nation Books, April 2014)

Kuper, who wrote a lengthy piece in the most recent Harper’s about the globalization of soccer, explores in this book how economics influence the performance of club and international teams. Why do the English perform so poorly internationally? Why are the Italians so poor at relocating their players? The answers lie in this book, just re-released this April.



How Soccer Explains the World, Franklin Foer (Harper, 2010)

Also focused on the intersections of economics and soccer, Franklin Foer’s How Soccer Explains the World looks at the increasing globalization of the game and how it parallels the “flattening” of the global economy.


soccer in sun and shadow

Soccer in Sun and Shadow, Eduardo Galeano (Nation Books, August 2013)

A poetic history of the game and its political undercurrents, Soccer in Sun and Shadow is Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano’s lyrical masterpiece about his cherished childhood sport. Written in 1995, it was just translated into English this past August.

By Ryan

June 22, 2014 at 6:10 pm Leave a comment

Older Posts


Book Culture is an independent community bookstore with two locations in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of New York City on 112th street and 114th street and Broadway. Visit us online at

People Like Us!

"The Upper West Side's literary standard"
- Gothamist

"Simply beautiful."
- Not For Tourists

Book Culture




Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 18,539 other followers