Zidane to consult for Canal+

Zinédine Zidane is becoming a consultant to the French television station Canal Plus and will also be a commentator for the soccer matches they air.

“I don’t miss it (soccer) at all,” Zidane said in Thursday’s edition of L’Equipe. “When Real Madrid started the new season, I didn’t feel anything. I have just been jogging and playing tennis.”

The three-time FIFA World Player of the Year even finds the internet jokes and the chart-topping song “Coup de Boule” (“Head-Butt”) about his dismissal humorous.

“It amuses me more than anything,” Zidane said. “Although I what I did was not funny. Anyway, it’s better to laugh about it.”

Zidane also expressed an interest in playing for a club team in his hometown of Marseille.

With sadness: Gotham Book Mart in trouble

It looks like Gotham Book Mart in New York is in trouble once again. This is my favorite store in the country, and I hope something can be done to keep the store open.

From the New York Times story today:

In the last six months, the owners of the building have moved to evict the store and its owner, Andreas Brown. Friends of Mr. Brown’s say the building’s owners were only trying to help Gotham get on its feet. They say that Mr. Brown, who hoped to buy the building eventually, fell behind on his $51,000 monthly rent, and owes at least $500,000 in rent, taxes, interest and other fees.

Whether he fell behind because he lost momentum during the difficult transition after the move from the old building or because — as some friends say — he devoted his money to his first love, buying more books, and to paying his employees rather than his rent, the Gotham is fighting for its life once again.
What is clear is that a judge has authorized a city marshal to seize hundreds of thousands of items worth, perhaps, millions of dollars; that the store is closed, though employees are still allowed inside; and that Mr. Brown, who is 73, is no longer living there.

Mr. Brown’s lawyer, Lawrence D. Bernfeld, said yesterday that the current owner of the building, listed in real estate records only as 16 East 46th Street Property L.L.C., was willing, for just a brief time, to entertain offers to sell the building at below-market price to a new owner who would continue renting to the Gotham. “Should such a contract go forward, enlightened capitalism will be at work,” Mr. Bernfeld said.

I spoke with Andreas in the spring of 2005 for a story and posted previously on this blog about my love for his store.

Indies Under Fire screening September 30

Kepler’s is sponsoring a screening of the film Indies Under Fire about the decline of independent bookstores in America. The screening will take place at 7:30 pm on September 30 at 700 Santa Cruz Avenue in Menlo Park.

If the film’s trailer is a good indication of its actual content, it looks like the documentary is yet another sentimental, corporate-bashing look at indie bookstores that refuses to do the hard work of pointing a critical eye at indies themselves and asking why the independent bookselling business has been stagnant and so incredibly slow to innovate or pioneer new business practices over the past few decades.

Kristof on Easterly, Sachs, et al

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has an article in the current New York Review of Books that reviews four fairly new books on development aid. He devotes most of his coverage to Bill Easterly’s book The White Man’s Burden. I read Easterly’s previous book, The Elusive Quest for Growth, and found it to be a rather good summary of development history and theory over the past 50 years or so. However, Easterly now seems more concerned about taking down the whole movement behind development aid (and especially Jeffrey Sachs). Kristof writes:

Professor Easterly devotes his book to hacking away, with considerable satisfaction, at Sachs and the entire humanitarian approach taken by the UN. Frankly, I find that satisfaction off-putting, because Sachs’s evangelism for aid has saved countless lives in the developing world by raising money to provide drinkable water, distribute mosquito nets to protect against malaria, improve methods of raising crops, and much else.

Kristof goes on to differentiate himself from Easterly on the issue of military intervention in developing countries:

If Easterly is generally sensible, there’s one matter where I think he’s catastrophically wrong. That is his hostility toward military intervention. It’s true tha in the past, military interventions have often been foolish and ended up hurting the people we claimed to be helping. The long American proxy war in Angola was disaster for everyone. But it’s also true that the single most essential prerequisite for economic development is security: no one will invest in a shop or factory if it is likely to be burned down soon. And insecurity is immensely contagious

The Western failure to intervene early in Rwanda allowed the genocide in 1994 that claimed perhaps 800,000 lives. But that was only the beginning. That chaos in turn infected Burundi and especially Congo, which collapsed into civil war. Some 4.1 million people have died because of the Congo war, mostly from hunger and disease, making it the most lethal conflict since World War II.

Something similar happened in West Africa. Upheavals in Liberia were allowed to fester and spread to Sierra Leone and then Ivory Coast; and now Guinea may be on the precipice as well. Because nobody was concerned to stop the killings in Darfur when they began in 2003, the genocide there is now spreading to Chad as well, and even to the Central African Republic.

So one of the most crucial kinds of foreign aid is simply security. And when we have provided that kind of aid, it has made a huge difference. The most successful single thing the US ever did in Asia, for example, was probably Truman’s decision in 1950, after the Korean War began, to send the Seventh Fleet to protect Taiwan. Otherwise China would very likely have invaded Taiwan sometime in the 1950s, hundreds of thousands would have died, and Taiwan wouldn’t have existed as a free economy in the 1980s and 1990s to provide both an economic model and investment for the Chinese mainland. The cost to the US of that deployment was negligible, and the benefit to the world was enormous.

Artforum covers Zidane: un Portrait du 21e Siècle

Zinedine Zidane: un Portrait de 21e Siecle

Zidane appears on the cover of the current issue of Artforum. The issue contains essays by Tim Griffin and Michael Fried on Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno’s film Zidane: un Portrait du 21e Siècle. Fried, who situates the film in the modernist tradition of photography, writes:

. . . the viewer’s conviction of the great athlete’s total engagement in the match is not thereby undermined. Instead, the film lays bare a hitherto unthematized relationship between absorption and beholding—more precisely, between the persuasive representation of absorption and the apparent consciousness of being beheld—in the context of art, a relationship that is no longer simply one of opposition or complementarity but that allows a sliding and indeed an overlap that would have seemed unimaginable to Diderot. . . .

And not only does Zidane lay bare this new relationship, it goes on to explore it . . . . Zidane’s inspired investigation of its protagonist’s capacity for absorption under conditions of maximum exposure to being viewed, as well as of the modified and shifting meaning of absorption itself under such conditions, makes it, if not quite a modernist film, at the very least a film that is of the greatest interest to anyone egaged by these and related topics.

Meanwhile, Griffin concludes his essay by returning to Zidane’s inscrutability:

. . . audiences leave the theater with the inevitable realization that Zidane, whether images, symbol, or hero—all real aspects of his being—is also a man we can’t pretend to know at all. Of course, that is his appeal.

For those interested in the film, a new, so-called “art,” version of it is being released soon. And, as previously posted, here’s a link to the film’s trailer.

Daniel Mendelsohn on the 9/11 films

Daniel Mendelsohn is right in form in his review of Oliver Stone’s World Trade Center and Peter Greengrass’s United 93 in the New York Review of Books.

The pretty much exclusive emphasis thus far on the “good”—the heroism and the bravery of ordinary Americans—in these entertainments is noteworthy, because it reminds you of the unwillingness to grapple with and acknowledge the larger issues, the larger causes and effects that culminated in what happened on September 11, which has characterized much of the national response to this pivotal trauma. That both films, like so much we have seen on various screens over the past five years, clothe their fictions and their editorializing in the pious garment of reverence for authentic reality—a pose that will elicit tears, if not serious thinking—should be cause for alarm rather than applause.

That 9/11 is necessarily treated with reverence and solemnity without question has bothered me on nearly every occasion on which the subject has been publicly raised over the past five years. I remember being at Ground Zero on the second anniversary of 9/11 when the girl the picture below was surrounded by a screaming mob who proceeded to tear up her sign. That people continue to limit the scope of the discussion surrounding 9/11 in the name of respect and nationalism is, of course, contrary to the very values of free speech, dissent, and critical thought that made our country in the first place.

9-11 Girl with Sign

Susan Sontag is King Kong

The New York Times Magazine published today a series of selections from Susan Sontag’s journals that she kept during the 1950s and 60s. FSG is going to publish the first volume of her journals in 2008. Here are a few gems from the NYTM excerpt:

In the journal I do not just express myself more openly than I could to any person; I create myself.

The journal is a vehicle for my sense of selfhood. It represents me as emotionally and spiritually independent. Therefore (alas) it does not simply record my actual daily life but rather–in many cases offers an alternative to it.
It’s corrupting to write with the intent to moralize, to elevate people’s moral standards.

Nothing prevents me from being a writer except laziness. A good writer.

Why is writing important? Mainly out of egotism, I suppose. Because I want to be that persona, a writer, and not because there is something I must say.
The only kind of writer I could be is the kind who exposes himself. . . .To write is to spend oneself, to gamble oneself. But up to now I have not even liked the sound of my own name. To write, I must love my name. The writer is in love with himself. . .and makes his books out of that meeting and that violence.
There is no stasis. To stand still is to fall away from the truth; the inner life dims and flickers, starts to go out, as soon as one tries to hold fast. It’s like trying to make this breath serve for the next one, or making today’s dinner do the work of next Wednesday’s as well.. . .Truth rides the arrow of time.
I write to define myself — an act of self-creation — part of process of becoming — in a dialogue with myself, with writers I admire living and dead, with ideal readers
I want to be able to be alone, to find it nourishing — not just a waiting.
Art = a way of getting in touch with one’s own insanity.
one doesn’t learn from experience–because the substance of things is always changing
I’m not “saying something.” I’m allowing “something” to have a voice, an independent existence (an existence independent of me).
Self-expression is a limiting idea, limiting if it’s central. (Art as self-expression is very limiting.) From self-expression one can never arrive at an authentic, a genuine, not merely expediential, justification for courtesy.
One of my strongest and most fully employed emotions: contempt. Contempt for others, contempt for myself.
My mind = King Kong. Aggressive, tears people to pieces. I keep it locked up most of the time–and bite my nails.
The only people who should interest themselves in an art (or several arts) are those who practice it — or have — or aspire to. The whole idea of an “audience” is wrong. The artist’s audience is his peers.

France beats Italy 3-1 in WC final rematch

France beat Italy 3-1 tonight in a Euro 2008 qualifying match at the Stade de France in Paris. I took the day off from work to watch the game in which Sidney Gouvou scored twice and Thierry Henry once to propel les Bleus to victory. The game’s pace was incredible from the start and worth watching for anyone who enjoys good football. Fortunately, the fears that the game might get out of control were never realized.

Finally, and inevitably, the shadow of Zinédine Zidane was inescapable. The Guardian’s game story described his presence:

The outpouring of joy on the final whistle, a din to match a breathtaking occasion, reflected a nation’s belated satisfaction. La revanche had been on the locals’ minds and by the end it was on their lips. The rasped homage echoing around this arena was for “Zizou”. Zinédine Zidane will have enjoyed watching from afar even if Marco Materazzi, the man whose remark prompted the playmaker’s infamous butt in Berlin, was still suspended.

Zidane was everywhere last night. His name was emblazoned across the fans’ shirts, his image flickering down from the big screens above both goals. France rose to the occasion, easing their way to victory with a goal after 70 seconds, volleyed magnificently by Govou at the far post from William Gallas’s cross. That set the tone for the evening. “It wasn’t a perfect performance,” said the coach Raymond Domenech. “That would have seen us score with every attack and not concede, but we beat the best in the world, the world champions. That is satisfying.”

It didn’t appear that Zidane was actually at the game, although television cameras spotted Michel Platini in the stands.

Cody’s Books acquired by Japanese bookseller

Japanese bookseller and publisher Yohan, Inc., has acquired Cody’s Books. Yohan is the largest distributor of English-language books in Japan. Cody’s, which closed its Telegraph Avenue store in July, has locations on Fourth Street in Berkeley and on Stockton in San Francisco.

The press release announcing the sale does not disclose the terms of the deal and is, generally, rather vague about Yohan’s interest in the Berkeley-based Cody’s:

Cody’s will retain both its Fourth Street store in Berkeley and its Union Square store in San Francisco, its extensive author appearance program, its school, library, and corporate book services, and its expert staff. Ross will remain president of Cody’s Books, and Leslie Berkler will become vice-president, focusing on store operations, as well as rapidly growing off-site programs including book fairs, schools, libraries, and corporate sales. Cody’s will operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Yohan.

Cody’s, founded by Fred and Pat Cody in 1956, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Andy Ross acquired the business in 1977, and then opened a second Berkeley store in 1997 and a downtown San Francisco store in 2005. The flagship Telegraph Avenue store in Berkeley was closed earlier this year due to declining sales. Ross notes, “With Yohan’s support, Cody’s will continue to be both an essential voice in the community while exploring a number of growth opportunities around the corner and across the globe.”

Hiroshi Kagawa, CEO of Yohan, says, “I’ve loved Cody’s ever since I first visited the store in 1983.” Founded in 1953, Yohan is the largest distributor of English-language books and magazines in Japan. It owns 18 bookstores in Japan, including the art and design-focused Aoyama Book Center, as well as the publisher IBC Publishing. “It is our ultimate mission to promote culture and communications worldwide,” says Kagawa. Yohan also owns Berkeley’s Stone Bridge Press, run by Kagawa’s longtime friend and colleague Peter Goodman. “Hiroshi loves books,” says Goodman. “Yohan and Cody’s share a sensibility that venerates the written word.”

Kepler’s selling books online again

Kepler’s is selling books online for the first time since the store closed in August 2005. However, it appears that the store is using the same BookSense template that is used by many other independent bookstores to create a sort of token online presence. Why it took them a year to put up a site that is nearly identical to the one the store had before it closed is beyond me. One of the major problems with the BookSense sites is their lack of metadata, including reviews and reader comments.

Zidane: un Portrait du 21e Siècle

The National Galleries of Scotland have paid a reported £70,000 for a special cut of Douglas Gordon’s film Zidane: un Portrait du 21e Siècle. The film, which follows Zidane throughout a game between Real Madrid and Villareal on April 23, 2005, will premier in the UK at Edinburgh Film Festival before its theatrical release in September. Being the occasional pessimist that I am, I suspect that we in the US will have to wait until the film’s DVD release to see it. The DVD release is scheduled to take place before Christmas of this year.

In the meantime, the film has enjoyed surprising success at CineQuanon in Tokyo, Japan. Audiences have been leaving messages for Zidane at the theatre that will eventually be sent on to him.

Scotsman.com has posted a review of the film here:

Zinedine Zidane is a footballer. (If you didn’t know that, stop reading now. This film is not for you.)

In many ways, this is the soccer equivalent of Derek Jarman’s Blue. If you love the beautiful game, this will captivate you.

The Herald also has a capsule review of the film:

Gordon and Parreno’s portrait is as much a meditative piece of art as it is an elegy to a sportsman, and will appeal to football fans and film-goers alike.

The trouble with book reviewing

Ruth Franklin has a review of David Mitchell’s Black Swan Green in this week’s New Republic. She bemoans the trite superlatives that populate positive book reviews, praises Dale Peck, laments the decline of standards we have for great books, and bashes Heidi Julavits and the Believer’s anti-snark stance. She then goes on to laud Black Swan and Mitchell’s writing in a review that, except for its opening complaints about the state of book reviewing, is the exact sort of engaged, anti-snark essay that the Believer favors. In other words, it’s a good, well-written review. Perhaps, she should stick to reviewing books and stop trying to take down other book reviewers. I would also like to point out that suggesting that Dale Peck has high standards for fiction is a bit suspicious. Franklin would have been much better off citing James Wood. But of course, Peck is provocative, which she seems to think is better than simply appreciating good novels. I must admit that I have at least one thing in common with Franklin: I, like her, read and liked Black Swan Green.

Fifa suspends and fines Materazzi and Zidane

Fifa announced today the suspensions and fines of both Zidane and Materazzi. Zidane will be suspended for three matches and fined 7500 Swiss francs. Materazzi will be suspended for two matches and fined 5000 Swiss francs. This means that Materazzi may potentially miss France’s rematch with Italy in the Euro 2008 qualifier match that takes place in Paris on September 6.

Fifa to investigate Materazzi’s comments

Fifa has launched a probe into Marco Materazzi’s comments that provoked Zinédine Zidane to headbut him in the 110th minute of the World Cup final on Sunday, summoning both players to appear in Zurich on July 20.

Meanwhile, Materazzi has said that Zidane deserves the Golden Ball award, which he won for being voted the best player of the World Cup. Materazzi said, “He won it for what he did on the pitch. He was the best.” Yesterday, Fifa president Sepp Blatter suggested that Fifa may strip Zidane of his award.

Videos of Zidane’s appearances on TF1 and Canal +

You can watch Zidane’s interview on TF1 here. The Canal + video can be found here.

The BBC has also posted an incomplete transcript of Zidane’s interview on Canal +.

I enjoyed the TF1 interview more than the Canal + one as Zidane seems more at ease and less defensive. He comes across in this interview as someone who seems to genuinely accept his fate, while contending that Materazzi should be disciplined as well.

The Guardian has posted an article about reactions to Zidane’s comments, including this translated snippet from the French paper L’Equipe:

“Never, during a long career during which he heard such things hundreds of times, had he touched on this subject,” the paper wrote in an editorial.

“These interviews by Zinedine Zidane were a fairly solemn way of saying goodbye, after the missed opportunity of Berlin.”

Zidane to speak tonight; FIFA may strip award

Zidane will speak tonight at 19:00 Paris time (2 pm EST) on Canal + about the World Cup Final.

Fifa president Sepp Blatter has suggested that the organization may strip Zidane of his Golden Ball award as the World Cup’s best player. Of course, this should come as no surprise from an organization as corrupt as Fifa.

UPDATE: Zidane did not reveal exactly what was said to him. However, he did confirm that the insult concerned his mother and sister and was repeated by Materazzi. Although he apologized for his actions, Zidane did not regret them after Materazzi repeatedly insulted him. Here’s a translation of Zidane’s comments:

“It started when we pulled each other’s shirt.

“I said to him to stop, stop pulling my shirt – if you want I’ll change it at the end of the match.

“He said words that were very difficult to accept which he repeated many times – they were more difficult to accept that just gestures.

“It was difficult to turn away as they happened so quickly.

“They are very serious and personal. He mentioned my mother and my sister.

“He mentioned them once and I feel bad but you hear them a third time… these words, I would rather someone punch me in the face than hear them.

“I reacted – it certainly wasn’t a gesture to make.

“It’s true that two or three muillion people saw that and children and I apologise to them.”

ESPN has posted a more thorough story about Zidane’s statement.

Additionally, here’s a nice compliation of Zidane highlights:

Zidane “provoked,” to speak about World Cup final

In the Guardian today:

Zinedine Zidane’s chestbutt on Marco Materazzi was “provoked” by a comment from the Italy defender, according to the player’s agent. And, while Alain Migliaccio did not know what Materazzi said, he confirmed that Zidane would reveal the exact nature of the comments soon.

The group SOS Racism has further reported that Materazzi called Zidane a “dirty terrorist”:

“According to several very well informed sources from the world of football, it would seem that the Italian player Marco Materazzi called Zinedine Zidane a ‘dirty terrorist’,” SOS Racism said in a statement.

The Daily Mail has used a lip reader to decipher what was said to Zidane:

With the help of an expert lip reader the Daily Mail was able to decipher what led to the violent outburst.

First defender Marco Materazzi spoke in Italian – a language understood by Zidane who once played for Italian side Juventus – grabbed his opponent and told him ‘hold on, wait, that one’s not for a n***** like you.’

It is not clear whether the Italian was referring to the ball heading their way or his own groping of Zidane.

The expert, who can lip read foreign languages phonetically and translate with the aid of an Italian interpreter, was unable to see what Zidane said in reply.

But she saw that as the players walked forward Materazzi said: ‘We all know you are the son of a terrorist whore.’

Then, just before the headbutt, he was seen saying,: ‘So just f*** off.’

The New York Times reports that Zidane’s family speculates that he reacted to a racial insult regarding his Algerian heritage.

Zidane has yet to say anything publicly about the incident. But family members, in telephone interviews, said they believed the Italian defender Marco Materazzi had called Zidane, the son of Algerian immigrants, a “terrorist.”

“We think he either called him a terrorist or a son of Harkis,’’ said Mokhtar Haddad, one of Zidane’s cousins, who with friends and family studied the pivotal scene on a big screen in the family’s home village Aguemoune, 160 miles east of Algiers.

The Harkis reference is a term for Algerians who fought on the French side in Algeria’s war for independence, and it is a severe insult for someone with Zidane’s heritage.

“The insult went in that direction,’’ said Djamel Zidane, the player’s brother, adding that Zidane was expected to call his family in Algeria on Monday evening or Tuesday to tell them exactly what had happened. “Otherwise he would not have reacted that way.’’

Materazzi is quoted as having said, in denial of the terrorist comment, “I am ignorant, I don’t even know what an Islamic terrorist is.” That sounds like a pretty lame excuse to me. To live in this time, in this century and not know what an Islamic terrorist is–how is that possible except for someone truly ignorant?

Click here to see a video of some of Materazzi’s previous fouls.

Weekend Round-up

The Contra Costa Times summarizes and laments the state of independent bookstores in the Bay Area. In their article, a local writer, Linda Watanabe McFerrin, is quoted as saying, “A bookseller like Cody’s or Book Passage doesn’t just participate in the scene. They help create it. They are actually generating the literary culture. They’re not just serving it, and that’s very, very different.”

This, unfortunately, seems to me the exact opposite of what Kepler’s is doing these days with their market research, trying to find out what customers want so the store can be everything to everyone. The consequence, of course, is that they still have yet to establish a clear voice in the literary landscape. What does Kepler’s stand for–i.e. what kind of books does it stand for? I’ve been shopping there for a decade, and I have no idea.

Some out of town news:

Tattered Cover in Dever has moved to a refurbished theater.

In developments reminiscent of what happened with Kepler’s last year, Brazos Bookstore in Houston has been bought and will not close.

A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books in San Francisco is Closing

ACWLP in San Francisco will be closing as soon as the store can liquidate its inventory. The store’s owner, Neal Sofman, has posted the following message on the store’s website:

Dear Esteemed Customers and Friends,

We deeply regret to announce that we will be closing A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books as soon as we can liquidate our inventory.

Beginning Friday, June 16th we will be selling our stock at 20% off regular price.

Our hours will change to 11am until 7 pm beginning Monday, June 19 th .

We thank you all for the wonderful support you have provided A Clean Well-Lighted Place. It has been our great pleasure to work with you and be part of the same community over the years.

Many will ask why this is happening. The reasons are many and complex. The simple answer is that the book buying market has moved on, either geographically or culturally.

Thank you for your many years of support. We had a great run. We will miss you.

Neal Sofman


Meeting to Save Cody’s on June 8

As reported in the Oakland Tribune and elsewhere, the Berkeley City Council has approved a plan to revitalize Telegraph Avenue. This action seems to be largely in response to the impending closure of Cody’s.

However, David Lazarus expresses skepticism about the City Council’s plan in the San Francisco Chronicle. Lazarus suggests that the City Council is only working on a short-term fix, and he proposes the more radical idea of transforming the four-block stretch of Telegraph near UC Berkeley into a pedestrian mall.

Andy Ross has been in talking with investors interested in saving the store. If you are a qualified potential investor, please email me.

On June 8 at 7pm, there will be a community meeting in Berkeley to discuss the prospects of saving Cody’s. The meeting location is still to be determined. We will post any updates as they become available. Andy Ross will attend, and I encourage everyone to do the same.

Do Bookstores Have a Future?

Paul Collins asks this question in his Village Voice article, which is essentially a review of Laura J. Miller’s new book, Reluctant Capitalists: Bookselling and the Culture of Consumption.

Collins writes,

Today’s field, though, may not be the future’s. Superstores live and die by generous zoning, massive inventory, co-op money, and deep discounts. Zoning laws may stiffen, return policies change, or price controls curtail loss-leader strategies. All these possibilities, however unlikely, have precedents; indeed, it was the owner of Nantucket Bookworks who last month spearheaded a chain store ban in that island’s downtown. Ultimately, though, the greatest vulnerability of chains may be their muscle-bound nature. If print-on-demand technology, though still poky and faintly disreputable, ever achieves the availability and quality of traditional books, the need for overstock returns, remainders, and huge retail spaces may evaporate.