Reflections on Geraldine Brook’s The Secret Chord

October 19, 2015, by

This is the second of a two-part review of special events at Christ Church Cathedral, in partnership with Brazos Bookstore.

24611425In his witty introduction to Geraldine Brooks’s reading, Benjamin Rybeck jokingly accused her of not actually writing her own books. More likely, she traveled back in time to chronicle the rich historical backdrops and singular adventures of her characters.

When she approached the stage, Brooks gamely replied: “I wish I were a time traveler then I could go to Scotland and meet a hunky guy in a kilt.” It was just the sort of improvisation that you attend readings for—to witness the spirited mind of your favorite author (and to hear it in her slight Australian accent).

Brooks started with a few words about reading at a church, mentioning that she was rereading Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, one of her favorite books, which centers on the minister John Ames. She also noted that temple is the place where King David, the main character of her new book The Secret Chord finds “solace and peace.”

In researching the second Iron Age in Israel, Brooks endeavored to replicate aspects of life as it would have been lived—and experienced the origins of several Biblical idioms. She literally “separated the sheep from the goats” and learned how to “be a good shepherd.” Continue reading

Ben’s Hyperbolic Brazos Bulletin

October 6, 2015, by

One of the hot spots of Houston’s literary life is Brazos Bookstore. We are thrilled to have Ben Rybeck join An Open Book as a regular contributor to give us an update on all the exciting happenings with the store. 

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Using the time-honored tradition of exaggeration to combat the notion that only quiet, studious things happen at bookstores

IMG_4485Here at Brazos, we do many quiet things. We take books off shelves, we put books on shelves, we carry books in our arms, we sit and read books old and new, we take out the trash (usually not full of books), we drink water, we whisper to well-mannered customers about Jonathan Franzen and Alice Munro…

But then, sometimes, the store literally explodes (clarification: not literally) with excitement—and by sometimes, I mean this happens always, all the damn time. Consider October, for example, when we’ll host Houston’s own neuroscience rock star David Eagleman (10/8); a poetry night with Nick Flynn, Rachel Eliza Griffiths, and Gregory Pardlo (10/19); and other mind-altering literary luminaries like Sloane Crosley (10/16), Eileen Myles (10/24), and Richard Ford (10/26). Plus, we’ll have works of literary horror on display leading up to Halloween. (If you stare at the display for long enough and say “Brazos Bookstore” three times…well…look out behind you.)

But, as they say on infomercials, wait—there’s more! Here are three highlights of our October programming sure to literally blow your mind, literally (see earlier clarification re: use of the word “literally”). Continue reading

A Houston Independent Bookstore Day Celebration

May 11, 2015, by

IMG_4485On Saturday, May 2, perhaps your Facebook feed was filled with friends posting from their favorite bookstores across the country. It was a day to celebrate Independent Bookstore Day, honoring those special places that pull triple duty as retail stores, community centers, and performance venues.

Of course, there’s no team like the home team, and Brazos Bookstore scheduled a day of events to please every bibliophile. The inaugural celebration packed eight hours of special events, with an agenda including family-friendly story time and crafts, a drunk coloring part for adults in homage to the new book Hemingwasted: A Loving Look at Literary Lushes, a reception for the new Shakespeare-inspired mural on the front window of the store, and more.

Mark Haber, sales floor manager at Brazos, talked to me about the benefits and opportunities of the day’s activities. “Our bookstore is truly a community center,” he enthused. “Today, I’ve seen people who wouldn’t necessarily know each other rub shoulders. It’s just a great opportunity to talk about books and be around books.” Continue reading

A literary recap of MenilFest 2015

April 25, 2015, by

IMG_4458Although the weather was cloudy and grey, spirits were bright at MenilFest 2015 last Saturday. MenilFest is a multi-pronged cultural celebration, combining an indie book fair, literary lectures, musical performances, film screenings, and more.

The indie book fair flanked the northern, eastern, and southern sides of The Menil Collection museum building, providing an opportunity for local ‘zines, publishers, authors, and nonprofit organizations (I spied Friends of the Houston Public Library, the Hare Krishna Cultural Center, and the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, among others) to display their wares and welcome conversation.

There was printed matter for everyone—romances, poetry, mysteries, cookbooks, Spanish-language, spiritual, YA, and even some book-related crafts.

Brazos Bookstore touted literature by Houston-based authors, like Nick Flynn, Tony Hoagland, Lacy Johnson, Thomas McNeely, (and, in full disclosure, moiself). I spoke to Benjamin Rybeck, events coordinator, about the store’s involvement with MenilFest over the years. “We are first and foremost a community bookstore,” he explained. “We come every year to meet our neighbors.” Continue reading