Woman, Define Thyself.

So for some reason the other night I was compelled to look up my own name in Urban Dictionary. I know everyone else Googles themselves (that sounds so dirty), but in a particularly shining fit of procrastination I decided to mix it up and hit up my go-to source when I hear an unknown phrase the kids are using these days (most recently: Hot Karate, my brother's band name).

So, I looked myself up. And this is what I got:

I just wanted you to know who you were dealing with. In case you were seeking a cabbage god to worship, you can pretty much stop right here. You're welcome.

And no, I didn't write these myself. (Was the GRAMMAR not a giveaway, people?) I didn't even know about this site until recently. Although whoever wrote these makes me want to party with some other Lillys. If you know some, send them my way.

My Crystal Ball: Writing the Future of Books

When word came of Borders' bankruptcy, I shrugged and went back to drinking my coffee. Go figure that the first time they'd have a proper, big sale was when they were forced into liquidation. Oh, that reminds me, should I go check my Amazon order status?

It's not my place to surmise what happened to Borders. Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn, for a number of reasons I won't list here.

What I am excited about is the opportunities that I'm seeing pop up for publishing as a result of this and some other changes happening in ye olde book world.

When I went to get my MBA a publishing colleague laughed and said, "After you get your MBA you won't be able to work in publishing anymore!" He said that publishing model would drive someone with a true understanding of business absolutely bonkers. I probably fake smiled- how could I ever leave publishing, the love of my life? Silly boy. But he was right -- it happened exactly as he predicted (maybe we should be looking into his crystal ball, not mine). Now I watch the sport of publishing books as a spectator rather than a centerfielder.

Humble opinions bedamned, this is what I think (hope!) will happen in my beloved book world in the not-so-distant future. These are my predictions not only as a businesswoman but, more importantly, as a reader and someone who will someday have to explain to her (unborn) children that she couldn't pay for their college education because once upon a time mommy just HAD to have multiple copies of the complete works of Kundera, leatherbound Agatha Christies, and...an imported copy of Boy George's autobiography.

So, looking in my crystal ball, here's what I see for the future of books:

1) Back to the Basics.

I hope it means we will see more bookstores that are bookstores, not multimedia toy stores. Once you start selling Gaiam yoga mats and Biggest Loser DVDs, you are kinda losing your focus. If I wanted to go to Costco, I would.

2) Rise of the Indie.

People will start going back to local bookstores, both new and used. Or maybe that's just me - I was thrilled to find out about The Last Bookstore, a massive used book store, opening in downtown LA. So enthused that I trekked over the 405 and got myself there to check it out, only to find out that the shelves weren't totally up yet. Whoops.

As I already griped, Borders' liquidation prices were still above what you'd pay elsewhere. Now that we realize we aren't getting that great of a discount, maybe we'll at least request the service to be rolled in. This is the me-conomy, and we want books that are "just right" for us. And here's where local bookstores win. The mom and pop shops know what their readers enjoy reading, because, well, they talk to their readers. A good bookstore (read: an indie) can talk to you about a few books you haven't been able to put down and then recommend another handful. It becomes a really fulfilling exchange. This is something Borders was never able to accomplish just right- handselling. It's a practiced fine art at my local bookstore, Warwick's in La Jolla.

Get caught up on your local indie bookstores here!: http://www.indiebound.org/

3) The E-Books Sales Graph Will Continue To Go Up.

You don't need Miss Cleo to tell you that people will use their internet-ready eyes to read more and more e-books. I think we have gotten so used to the glare of a screen that, for lots of folks, maybe books printed on boring old paper just didn't cut it. We want instant gratification, and e-books offer that.

As an aside, I think we'll see an e-boost from all the men out there who rush to download books in immense relief. For years men have yearned to read titles like Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus or The Notebook, but didn't want to risk public ridicule to do so. Traditional publishing wisdom is that women are the bigger book buyers, but that might only be because guys didn't have a way to sneak the titles they *really* wanted to read.

I'm hearing more and more friends talk about reading on their iPhones, which is impressive to me, and probably great news to the local opthamologist. Personally, I finally broke down this year and read a book on my iPad and... I loved it. I flew through it, actually; for some reason it was a faster read than I'd anticipated. My problems with lighting/reading in bed were solved. My sole complaint was that I couldn't write and underline in the book, but won't be a problem for people who borrow it from me.

I'll always be a fan of the tactile reading experience, but e-readers aren't so shabby, folks.

4) New Platforms, New Voices.

I love that books are vetted by book publishers, but the fact is that they miss out on some great gems. Sometimes the work and the audience publishers need to sell to don't line up. And it used to be rare for authors to take matters into their own hands and continue to believe in their project. Granted, a lot of them shouldn't. I know, trust me, I've read their queries, and oh have I wanted desperately to stop them before the inevitable crash. But other times, the publisher is the one missing out. The old belief that all self-published books are ipso facto crap doesn't stand true.

Some say the book industry going the way of the dinosaur. But let's not insult dinosaurs; they didn't publish a book by Snookie.

High-level publishing has become a business, and by definition it requires business decisions that won't -- can't -- always be in alignment with artistic ideals or good, fun writing. Independent publishing and on-demand formats are filling the gap by allowing a bit more work to get out there.

Don't worry, I'm pretty sure the books that stink will continue to be sold only to 45 guilt-ridden close family members and friends, and that's fine. But as more people turn directly to sources, or to online to get their book content, and as word of mouth fuels sales and those sales are less expensive for the author to make, well, we might see some writers step up to the mic that pleasantly surprise us.

So, while I'll miss my place to stop off for a 9pm weeknight cup of coffee and scanning of the shelves, Borders will be gone and quickly forgotten by me, and probably many more people like me. Some people don't realize that the traditional publishing is heavily based on big-box stores, like Borders, having leverage before books are even *published*.

Did you know that a proposed book cover design, if it doesn't float with the Barnes & Noble buyer, gets sent back to the drawing board? So instead of books being dictated by outside forces, the rise of independent publishing means and lower costs suggests that maybe, just maybe, we'll see more people -- and publishing houses -- putting art out for art's sake.

5) Return to Library Row.

Things are changing in the media world. In an anecdote I love retelling, a friend's friend said to him "They should have a book thing like Netflix; where you rent them and then return them and someone else can read it."

Um, that's called a library.

Did I mention we're in a recession? I have this vague hope that, as our wallets tighten, we'll start to feel the outline of our library cards in there. You wanna talk about a green movement? Using your library is recycling at its sexiest.

Read about Save the Libraries here.

Must-See: Beats, Rhymes & Life

I've never been to the movies by myself before. This weekend I came damn close, when no one seemed that interested in seeing Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest with me. Yes, that's how much I wanted to see it that my compulsively social self was ready to buy a ticket and walk straight in - alone (gasp!). Eventually my kind sister took me, secured with a promise that I would return the favor and see Harry Pottah with her. The things I am willing to do for the love of a good movie.

I was late on the BR&L train; I only learned about it right around when there was some drama bubbling up over the relationship between A Tribe Called Quest, specifically Q-Tip and director Michael Rapaport. Without seeing the movie, I was quick to side against Rapaport because something about him bugs (yes, I dismiss people out of hand like that). It's probably the fact that he makes faces like this:

Going into the movie, you'd think it's going to be a light trip down memory lane. A reminder of the days when it was ok, in fact advisable, to wear baggy jean overalls in public (one strap undone, obviously). And you do get to relive a few memories- the rush of pushing RECORD-PLAY together to grab a song off the radio, or the feel of your first ghettoblaster. But the movie isn't just about the beats or the rhymes, the accent is on "life".

What's so fascinating about the film is that, yes, as has been publicized ad nauseum, Rapaport focuses in on the issues between Phife and Q-Tip. But his chosen emphasis couldn't be more timely. We live in a time when our popular music is manufactured (literally, in Sweden). We take our insight into the musical process from soundbites carefully fed to Rolling Stone or US Weekly. BR&L is much looser (Phife's attention is on the french toast he and his wife are baking, not saying the perfect thing, for example). So it ends up shedding light on the process but also the stresses of creating music when it is a collaboration and a group effort.

After we watched, my sister pointed out "What happened to hip-hop groups? Now everyone is solo." Sure, there are a few (I'm listening to Beastie Boys as I type this), but not many. ATCQ is a relic - how many major *new* hip-hop groups can you think of that have multiple emcee's? Exactly. The idea of getting three-plus groups to form a mega-group a la Native Tongues would never happen today.

It's something you don't think about- I mean, novels are written by one author. Or paintings are painted by one artist. There's no "Hold on- give me your brush. Wait, let me dip it in red. Ok, now try that." If there was, the homocide rate in the world would rise instantly. This sort of collaboration is rather unique to music, and it's something that has become more rare in the hip hop genre.

Put simply, it seems like hip hop artists just don't play as well with others as they used to. They're more likely to bag on each other than to talk them up. It's done for promotion (example: Kanye and JayZ getting ready to release an album together) but they don't melt into one group. The amazing thing about Tribe is that, growing up, most people didn't focus on (or probably even know) the individual members. It's true- you might have known Q-Tip but 99% chance that was after he made his name when he appeared on the Beastie Boys' track Get it Together.

BR&L attacks another nagging question, one that I think about a lot: What happens when you turn what you love into what you do? It's dangerous business. We forget, when we're listening to a record, happily drowning in its beats and sounds, that it took a process to get there, that someone probably stayed up at night, sleepless, trying to figure out a transition or a track list, or how to produce that particular beat just right. We're swamped with so much music now that we can barely keep up, much less on the dynamics or process of one group. We just consume and move on, music bingers. As a result, seeing a famous artist (here: Q-Tip) take his time sorting through records at a store, or sitting in his room to personally pick out a hook is incredible and pretty rare footage.

But this talent comes with risks and challenges (I didn't say I felt bad for them, I'm just observing!). At one point Q-Tip points out that for an artist, "there is no retirement". And he looks depleted when he says this. This isn't a money-making endeavor for him, it's a compulsion, and one that seems to inspire him but also weigh him down. For Jarobi there are other decisions to make; what happens when you are multi-talented?

It's a movie we debated through our lunch afterwards (and in that you have the makings of a great film, because if you can distract me from my food, that says a lot about your work.) And it's easy to talk about for a long time because the story of ATCQ serves as the backdrop to something even bigger. The movie is as much about the rise of the hip-hop scene as about friendship, about the dangers of mixing business and pleasure, the dynamics of making your own art in a commercial space, and the stressors of figuring out who you want to be when you grow up and who you're gonna take with you on that journey. Ultimately, being a Tribe fan is bonus on the journey, but if you're not already, the movie will probably make a fan out of you.

In case anyone is going to do a biopic, I've already thought about this and I'm casting Bill Cosby as Q-Tip and Cedric the Entertainer as Phife Dawg. My casting consultation services are available upon request.

Must-Read: Cloud Atlas

Ironically, I rarely blog about books I love. Technically I could probably have an entire blog devoted to my love of books, my desire to consume them all day every day, and the collection I have that makes my shelves sink. For the most part I figure my Goodreads feed covers the important stuff. But in case you have other things to do, allow me to call your attention to a book I haven't been able to shut up about: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell.

This book is a reminder of everything I love about being a passionate reader, about fellow readers, and about the potential for great writing in our day and age.

I've been trying to figure out for the past week what it was about Cloud Atlas that so mesmerized me. I barely left the house during the weekend I was reading it. If it was beautiful, I walked outside, still reading. I lay in the sun until I was a crispy red because I couldn't bear to stop mid-chapters. And I had a hard time explaining to my friends what it was that was so compelling. It's tempting to fall upon the words of reviewers - whether it's spellbinding or compelling or tour de force. All those cliches and more apply here.

So here's why you need to read Cloud Atlas:

1) Because it has a cool cover.

Guys don't go up to a girl because she has a great personality, they go up to her because she's hot. You should pick up this book, if not because of anything else I say, because the cover is really beautiful and will look nice as decoration until you heed #5 on this list and crack it open. It's a great reminder that you CAN judge a book by its cover. Whoever says otherwise hasn't talked to Susie G., book butler to the stars (me). (She can call a book based on its cover and has found me some of my favorite reads that way.)

2) Because the concept is cool.

The concept: six stories, lightly interweaving. You read one, it stops halfway, and picks up with a second story. It's been described as nesting Russian dolls, and that's the best analogy I can give you. He takes you around the universe but manages to tie it up. It's high concept but it delivers. Once the concept is laid out, he focuses back on the art of writing. So it's enough of a concept to carry you through times when the writing is harder going, but not one of those high concept/low delivery books. Because, you know, we have enough of those.

3) Because it's work, and we don't work hard enough on our reading.

At times while reading this book you will feel like you're in a graduate class, accomplishing something by getting through the pages (see also: Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl, another favorite). He uses words you won't know, refers to times and places you may not have thought about, and creates future worlds you had never imagined. End result: you will feel smarter. And you should, because you're reading six story lines at once.

4) Because Mitchell doesn't dumb down his writing for anyone.

While I love that certain books encourage readers to read, I fear that more and more people are writing for the lowest common denominator. It's true: simple books are easy reads, and so lots of people read them. If you want a book to sell like Twilight, apparently you need to write as if an ambitious 7th grader took pen to paper. (For a fantastic send-up of the writing in Twilight, check this out- you can thank me later.)

Sophistication makes for awards, not bestsellers. Now that everyone has figured that out, they don't bother writing in a style even a notch more complicated if they can avoid it. But you can tell that Mitchell can't help it. He *is* smart, so his book is smart. His story simply couldn't be told any other way.

5) Because you should learn from my mistakes.

Cloud Atlas was recommended to me years ago by a great bookseller in the Village in NY. I am kicking myself that I can't remember the name of the store or the girl, because I ended up liking the books she sold me very much. And then I'd see it recommended over and over again at my favorite indie bookstore in San Diego, Warwick's. I love bookstores that take the time to personally recommend books, and their recommendations are always, always on point. So on a recent visit I grabbed this and finally done what I should have years ago.

Or maybe you should just read it because I said so.

Look What the Inbox Dragged In.

Once upon a time many years ago a little sister found herself not a big fan of her older sister's dating choices. So rather than roll her eyes, she rolled up her sleeves and quietly stepped in to see if SHE couldn't do better...

Cleaning my inbox tonight, I found a Craigslist post...about me... that my sister had put up moments before admitting the same to me (the admission came via IM. smart girl)

In honor of our sisterly mutual admiration of Millionaire Matchmaker, and mostly because I don't want to ever lose track of this entertaining piece of history, I'm sharing it with you here.


i have a sister who is awesome (and 28 years old). she's been single for awhile, and i feel like all the guys she dates are eye candy/dumb/just not right or nice to her (she usually goes out with hunky tall, dark and handsome assholes - if you're tall, dark and handsome, please keep reading, but if you're an asshole, then there's no need to continue.)
i hereby am holding auditions for the role of 'potential future boyfriend', which may develop into the role of 'potential future friend' or 'potential future funny story to tell everyone we know' to apply for the position concerning my awesome sister who does not know i am writing this, please read the following.

things you need to know about her:

1. she has an irrefutable love of madonna that you can attempt to hold against her, but if you do, then you should probably stop reading at this point.

2. she has sarcasm and wit to boot, so be on top of your email and your comebacks because no one can dish it like her. i would also venture to say that she's probably the funniest person on the planet.

3. she also has an irrefutable love of books: milan kundera is one of her favorites, she likes salman rushdie and rainer maria rilke and 'the prophet', lots of middle eastern literature, david sedaris, etc.etc. her aforementioned wit and humor are a product of her love for books. can you read? do you read? let's start there!

4. she loves to do stuff. i feel like she's always out and about. she runs, she dances, she gets really big groups of friends together to do ridiculous fun things like bar crawls complete with scorecards and 'rex kwon do' lessons. she is always up for adventure, laughs a lot, and has a good time everywhere she goes.

5. she really does not like guys who are players. you must return her phone calls, and you must not annoy her little sister (me) because i will vote you off the island. you must treasure the art of the mixtape, even when it has things like britney spears "toxic" on it and maybe have a really funny blog that she can read when she misses you or wants to be reminded of how awesome you are.
interested? give me the 5 things she'll need to know about you.
p.s. if you own a faux silk shirt that you usually wear unbuttoned exposing all your jeri-curl'ed chest hair, i think you need not apply.
this is in or around san diego, ca
no -- it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests