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Olsson's: Buyer's Corner
Olsson's is a locally Owned & Operated, Independent chain of six book and recorded music stores in the Washington, D.C. area, started by John Olsson in 1972. Each week the Head Book Buyer blogs about interesting new books that are available.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Joe Murphy On Thunderstruck
Well, I'm still working away at the buying for our upcoming Crystal City store, so once again, I'll just briefly mention a book: Erik Larson's brand new follow-up to The Devil in the White City (the Energizer Bunny of book sales), Thunderstruck. It features another seemingly hard-to-reconcile pairing: Guglielmo Marconi, creator and perfector of wireless communication, and Hawley Harvey Crippen, the put-upon doctor who commits one of England's most notorious murders.
Larson's new saga features the parallel storylines of Crippen's sad fate and Marconi's race to become the master of wireless before his many imitators and competitors could catch up to him. The parallel tracks compliment each other nicely, with Marconi's rush to perfect his invention (he starts by transmitting across his yard and before long is attempting a transatlantic message) neatly balanced by the slow, inexorable work of fate upon Crippen.
Marconi's and Crippen's stories finally intertwine when Crippen attempts a shipboard escape--with his mistress, and in disguise--and Marconi's invention plays a pivotal role in the authorities' attempt to capture him.
Suffice it to say that Larson has done it again, and this marvelously intriguing (and much anticipated!) work of historical drama is another great read in an outstanding fall season. Stop by and pick up a copy today!
Well, the process of buying for for the coming Crystal City store continues, so just another brief word this week. I'd like to mention another current Buyer's Choice: I Was Vermeer by Frank Wynne. It's the biography of Han van Meegeren, perhaps the greatest forger of the twentieth century (and one whose work mostly likely hangs in many of the world's most important museums to this day). Charged with selling a painting by Vermeer to Hermann Goering (considered treason in Holland and punishable by death), van Meegeren sat in jail rather than admit that he had in fact sold a forgery. The reason, according to this fascinating examination of the mind of a forger, was that he didn't want to risk the "immortality" of his paintings, housed in museums around the world as the work of other great artists. van Meegeren's story climaxes with his publicly painting a Vermeer to prove his innocence of selling a state treasure--and also prove his unparalleled skill as a forger. Wynne does a marvelous job with this inherently riveting material, and the book has another special connection: van Meegeren was at least partly the basis for Wyatt Gwynon, the forger at the heart of William Gaddis' brilliant novel The Recognitions.
I Was Vermeer is featured at 20% off at all our stores. Come pick up a copy!
I'm still working on the book order for our new Crystal City store--it's been a lot of fun, but there sure are a lot of books to consider!
And here's one for you to consider: I'm reading the new book Six Frigates by Ian W. Toll, and I'm enjoying it tremendously. It's about the founding of the U.S. Navy, beginning just after the Revolutionary War, starting with a commission to build -- you guessed it -- six frigates to challenge the Barbary pirates. I particularly recommend it because, in addition to featuring all sorts of fascinating naval battle stories, it fits the rise of the American Navy into the military, political, economic, and even social history of the times. It makes for both a great adventure story and a suprisingly complete history based on one intriguing aspect of the post-Revolutionary period, with equally vivid portraits of presidents and shipbuilders. It's a perfect tale for fall, and well worth a look, as well as being an Olsson's Buyer's Choice at 20% off.
I'm in the midst of buying books for our Crystal City store (coming soon!), so I'll get back to you soon with some recommendations for you. In the meantime, check out our sale on Everyman's Library titles: lovely hardback editions of the some of the greatest works ever written, with real sewn bindings and built-in bookmarks. All Everyman titles are 20% off starting tomorrow, so stop in and pick some up!
Alexis Akre, a DC-area native, has worked at Olsson's for almost six years. She received her BA in English from Barnard College,
and lived in New York for several years. Since her return to her home town, Alexis has honed her gift for skewering both vapidity and
pretension with concise, well-worded psychological assessment. She can be seen tooling around town on her minty green bike, reading
one of the hundreds of books she has stacked in her home, and teaching her cat to do tricks.