Shelf Awareness for Friday, April 18, 2014

St. Martin's: How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky by Lydia Netzer

Little Brown Books for Young Readers: The Young World by Chris Weitz

Workman: Man Made Meals by Steven Raichlen

Harlequin: Swan Point by Sherryl Woods

Feiwel + Friends: Swoon

Orbit: The Girl With All The Gifts by M R Carey

Ecco: Charleston by Margaret Thornton

DK: Frozen Tie-Ins

 

Quotation of the Day

'Real People Pouring Their Hearts Out'

"I think it's easy for authors to forget that there are real people out there pouring their hearts into the work of making good judgments, helping readers find books that might interest them. We may not always like the results, but I think we should at least appreciate the work."

--Daniel James Brown, author of Boys in the Boat, in a note to Shelf Awareness publisher Jenn Risko

Rare Bird Books: Shrink Thyself by Bill Scheft

News

$64 Million Question: Why Are Big Stockholders Selling B&N?

On Wednesday, Barnes & Noble chairman Leonard Riggio sold 3.7 million shares of the company, about 6% of common stock outstanding, leaving him with 10.6 million shares, about 20% of the company. He sold the shares for $17.30 a share, grossing $64 million. B&N said that Riggio made the sale as "part of his long-term financial and estate planning and that he has no plans to sell more stock this calendar year."

"After this sale, I remain the company's largest shareholder, a position I feel very good about," Riggio said in a statement. "I love this company and I believe in its future as I do in all of the wonderful people who work here."

Last December, Riggio made his first sale of B&N stock in years, selling 2 million shares for $13.81 a share, lowering his stake in the company to about 26.3% from about 30%. At the time, he said he didn't have "any intentions of selling more shares." Earlier last year, he had considered buying the company and taking it private.

Riggio is not the only major shareholder trimming his B&N holdings. Early this month, Liberty Media, controlled by John Malone, sold most of its 16.6% stake in B&N, leaving it with less than 2%. At one point, Liberty Media wanted to buy the entire company.

Wall Street didn't like the Wednesday sale, seeing it as another vote of no confidence in B&N. Yesterday, on a day the Dow Jones was down 0.1%, B&N stock fell 12%, to $16.37 a share.

Speaking with the Wall Street Journal, Maxim Group analyst John Tinker called the sale "obviously negative... it's an insider selling, and it's his second sale. That's always a cause for concern."

The company's Nook division has drained money for several years, although B&N's traditional bookstore business has proven resilient--although B&N continues to close about 20 stores a year. Some analysts want the company to separate the three basic parts of the business: the Nook division, the trade bookstores and the college bookstores.

Riggio defended his sale of stock to the Journal, saying, "I think it tells people I'm 73 years old. I understand there could be questions. What am I going to do with the money? That's my business. The timing for an executive [selling shares] is never good."

Abrams Children's: Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

Colorado House Passes Sales Tax Fairness Bill

On Monday, the Colorado House of Representatives passed the Marketplace Fairness & Small Business Protection Act (HB 1269), which "clarifies Colorado's sales tax laws to note that remote retailers that maintain a warehouse in the state, or that have online affiliates that generate $10,000 or more in gross sales per year, are required to collect and remit sales tax to the state," Bookselling This Week reported. The bill is now being considered by the state Senate.

Picador: Love Affairs of Nathaniel P by Adelle Waldman

Upshur Books to Open in D.C.'s Petworth Neighborhood

photo: popville.com

Paul Ruppert plans to open Upshur Books in late summer at 827 Upshur Street in D.C.'s Petworth neighborhood, adjacent to his book-focused bar and restaurant, Petworth Citizen & Reading Room. Washington City Paper reported that Ruppert and his team have been working on the concept for about six months, since their landlord approached them about renting the space next door. The two businesses will operate independently. Kristina Bilonick, a visual artist and founder of Pleasant Plains Workshop, is taking the lead on the project with Ruppert, City Paper noted.

"Upshur Street has this great retail direction with Willow and Bentley's [Vintage Furniture and Collectibles] and Fia's [Fabulous Finds]," he said. "We thought that doing something retail-related and having it be related to what we were doing at Petworth Citizen could work really well.... It's a business that really resonates in the community and that's really important to what we're doing."

With 800 square feet of space, Upshur Books will focus on literary fiction, poetry, art books and works by local authors, as well as a children's section and a small selection of cards and sidelines. Upshur Books is soliciting donations via an online campaign, where Founders Circle members can pledge $250, $500, or $1,000 in exchange for store credit and discounts. They are also looking for a full-time manager.

Harlequin: The Apple Orchard by Susan Wiggs

Harris Poll: More Americans Reading E-Books

Americans "seem to be embracing their broader options," with 54% now reading e-books, including 66% of Millennials, according to the results of a recent Harris Poll of 2,234 American adults. The survey also found 84% said they read at least one book in some format in an average year, with 36% reading more than 10. Respondents who favored e-books purchased roughly twice as many titles as those who preferred hard copies.

Compared to a Pew Report in January that indicated the number of adults who had read an e-book during the past year rose to 28%, the Harris results further emphasized the challenge of calculating digital readership in a fast-changing climate.

Nonetheless, other highlights from the Harris Poll included:

  • Respondents read approximately 17 books per year, with Baby Boomers (19) and Matures (25) reading more in a typical year than Millennials (13). Women (23) read twice as many books as men (11).
  • 65% purchased at least one book in the past year, with 9% purchasing more than 20 and an average of more than 8 books purchased. Women (10) purchased more books, on average, than men (7).
  • 30% of Americans who read either more or exclusively in the e-book format are more likely to read 20-plus books in an average year, compared to those who read more/only in hard copy (18%) or those who read in both formats equally (21%). They also reported a higher average readership per year than either hard copy hardliners or equal-opportunity readers (22.5 books vs. 16 and 15, respectively).
  • 46% of respondents read only hard copy books, with an additional 16% saying they read more hard copies than e-books; 17% read about the same number of hardcovers and e-books, while 15% read more, and 6% read exclusively in the digital format.
  • 51% read the same amount in the past six months as they did before, while nearly a quarter (23%) read less in the past six months and fewer than two in 10 (17%) read more. Younger Americans often get blamed for declining readership nationally, but Millennials (21%) were more likely than their elders (14% Gen Xers; 15% Baby Boomers and Matures) to have read more in the past six months.
  • 29% of those who read either more or exclusively e-books indicated they had read more over the past six months than those who preferred hard copies (13%) or both formats equally (16%).

WBN U.S. Update: NPR Underwriting; NYPL's 7-Author Launch

World Book Night U.S. will have an underwriting message on NPR's Wait Wait Don't Tell Me program Saturday: "Support for NPR comes from member stations and... World Book Night. On April 23rd, volunteers across America will give half a million books to people in need. Learn more at WorldBookNight.org." The messages will also run on Fresh Air Monday and Tuesday.

"We felt this was the perfect market and timing, and will supplement nicely all the local and national media already in and coming. We've scored the New Yorker calendar for the first time, and we'll have more to announce next week," said WBN U.S. executive director Carl Lennertz. "The wording of the message is limited, but I felt this hit the key points in the time allotted."  
 
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Lennertz is also encouraging publishing staff in New York City to let WBN know if they plan to attend Tuesday's seven-author New York Public Library WBN launch event, featuring Victoria Bond, Malcolm Gladwell, Garrison Keillor, Walter Dean Myers, Esmeralda Santiago, T.R. Simon and Tobias Wolff. The event begins at 6:30, and will be livestreamed.

"It is unticketed and open to the public, but our initial surveys of NYC area givers are running high and there's a fire law cap of 325 in the Edna Barnes Salomon Room," Lennertz said. "Still, we know many folks won't show last minute, and the WBN Board and the authors would love a big publishing turn-out."

Obituary Note: Gabriel García Márquez

Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez, whose landmark novel One Hundred Years of Solitude "established him as a giant of 20th-century literature," died yesterday, the New York Times reported. He was 87. García Márquez, who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982, "was considered the supreme exponent, if not the creator, of the literary genre known as magic realism," the Times noted, though the author "made no claim to have invented magic realism; he pointed out that elements of it had appeared before in Latin American literature." His many books include The Autumn of the Patriarch, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Love in the Time of Cholera and The General in his Labyrinth. One Hundred Years of Solitude contains one of the best opening lines in literature: "Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice."

García Márquez's death "represents the passing of one of the world's greatest living authors, and the loss of a powerful public intellectual whose opinions on Cuba, military dictatorship and Latin American cultural autonomy made front-page news," the Los Angeles Times wrote, adding that the news of his death "was met with an outpouring of grief and reverence for the writer known to his admirers simply as 'Gabo,' and who was often compared to Hispanic literature's other titan, Don Quixote author Miguel de Cervantes. More than any other author, García Márquez fueled the post-World War II popularizing of Latin America literature known as the 'Boom.' "

"Being a contemporary of Gabo was like living in the time of Homer," said Colombian writer Hector Abad Faciolince, "In a mythic and poetic way, he explained our origins. His verbal imagination and creative force were astonishing."

In the Telegraph, Gaby Wood wrote: "The Colombian novelist Alvaro Mutis used to tell a story about his close friend and compatriot Gabriel García Márquez.... In the mid-Sixties, when the latter was writing One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967), they met every evening for a drink. García Márquez would tell Mutis about the scenes he'd written that day, and Mutis would listen, waiting avidly for the next installment. He started telling their friends that 'Gabo'--as García Márquez was affectionately known--was writing a book in which a man called X did Y, and so on. When the novel was published, however, it bore no relation to the story García Márquez had told over tequila--not the characters or the plot or any aspect at all. Mutis was left with the feeling of having been brilliantly duped, and he mourned the unwritten novel of the bar, that ephemeral fiction no one else would ever hear.

"It would have been a good anecdote no matter who the writers were, but it's particularly apt in the case of García Márquez, who could hold innumerable tales in his head, and spin them simultaneously. The oral novel offered to Mutis was a kind of enactment of the principle on which García Márquez's books were based: that what is passed down and told to you, however unbelievable, is part of your history; and that what we naively call lies can be far more true than facts."

Notes

Image of the Day: Books and a Birthday by the Bay

Wednesday night, Grove/Atlantic's Morgan Entrekin and Judy Hottensen hosted a pre-publication dinner with Lily King (Euphoria) and Malcolm Brooks (Painted Horses) in California. There were about 20 Bay Area booksellers in attendance, and at the end of the evening everyone sang "Happy Birthday" to City Lights's Paul Yamazaki (center), who turned 65 yesterday.

Myanmar Publisher/Bookseller/Distributor Wins Laber Award

Dr. Thant Thaw Kaung, founder and head of the Myanmar Book Centre, Myanmar's leading book importer, distributor and publisher, has won the Jeri Laber International Freedom to Publish Award, which is given annually by the Association of American Publishers International Freedom to Publish Committee.

For the first time, the award will be presented at BookExpo America, at the Book and Author Breakfast on Saturday, May 31.

The Laber Award recognizes "a book publisher outside of the U.S. who has demonstrated courage and fortitude in the face of restrictions on freedom of expression." Dr. Thant founded the Myanmar Book Center, which provides books and educational materials to almost all the libraries, schools and universities in Myanmar, in 1995. For much of its existence until the recent political thaw, the award organizers said, "the company's operations were carried on under the close watch of government censors and on more than one occasion, had to pull its books off store shelves under threat from the military regime."

Dr. Thant is "a tireless advocate for the country's libraries" and is executive director of the Myanmar Book Aid and Preservation Foundation, arranging book donations from overseas donors to more than 800 libraries in Myanmar. As a director of Seattle's Nargis Library Recovery Foundation, he has coordinated the digitization of traditional and rare Myanmar manuscripts for online preservation and is helping rebuild libraries in Myanmar destroyed by Cyclone Nargis. Through the Myanmar Library Foundation, he promotes reading and training programs for librarians.

James Patterson, Dwyane Wade Go One on One for Reading

James Patterson is teaming up with NBA players Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Terrence Ross and Dirk Nowitzki in the second webcast by Patterson and Wade that highlights "the importance of reading for success in life." Providing a behind-the-scenes look at the NBA's All-Star Jam Session from New Orleans in February, the webcast will include interviews with the players and Patterson about how reading has changed their lives and helped their careers. Also, viewers will see interviews about reading with middle school students from John Dibert Community School of New Orleans.

The webcast will air on Thursday, April 24, at 1 p.m. Eastern. It's available for free to schools, libraries and individuals. Go to jamespattersonevents.com to sign up. Patterson and his publisher, Hachette Book Group, will make a major donation of books in conjunction with the webcast.

"Wade's World Foundation is committed to advocating the importance of literacy as a foundation for children to achieve success and reach their goals," said Wade.

Patterson commented: "Dwyane and I agree on this: getting kids reading will save their lives, especially those at-risk. That's why we'll be visiting (by webcast) as many schools as will have us. Dwyane and I are shooting for 100% literacy in our schools."

Sarabande Books Opening New York Office

Effective May 1, independent publisher Sarabande Books is opening a second office in Manhattan's Flatiron district. Sarabande's editorial, production and development teams will remain in Louisville. The new office, which will be managed by director of marketing and publicity Kristen Radtke, is located at 112 West 27th St., Ste. 607, New York, N.Y. 10001; 917-923-3109; Kristen@sarabandebooks.org.

Book Trailer of the Day: Bad Birthdays

Bad Birthdays: The Truth Behind Your Crappy Sun Sign by Sarah Christensen Fu (Hampton Roads Publishing).

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Lisa Robinson on NPR's Weekend Edition

Today on Bethenny: Bethenny Frankel discusses her first picture book, Cookie Meets Peanut, illustrated by Daniel Roode (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, $17, 9780316368438), which will be published on September 23.

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Tomorrow on NPR's Weekend Edition: Lisa Robinson, author of There Goes Gravity: A Life in Rock and Roll (Riverhead, $27.95, 9781594487149).

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Sunday on MSNBC's Melissa Harris Perry Show: Pearl Cleage, author of Things I Should Have Told My Daughter: Lies, Lessons & Love Affairs (Atria, $23.99, 9781451664690).

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Sunday on CNN's Inside Man: Jaron Lanier, author of Who Owns the Future? (Simon & Schuster, $17, 9781451654974).

Movies: If I Stay; Heaven Is for Real

A new trailer is out for If I Stay, directed by R.J. Cutler from a script by Shauna Cross that was based on Gayle Forman's novel, Deadline.com reported. The movie, which stars Chloe Grace Moretz, Jamie Blackley and Mireille Enos, opens August 22.  

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Heaven Is for Real, the film adaptation of the book by Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent, opens this week, and Word & Film was inspired to compile a list of eight movies that offer "cinematic ideas as to what goes on in the great beyond," including some book-to-film adaptations.

Books & Authors

Awards: Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction

E.L. Doctorow won this year's Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction, which honors "an American literary writer whose body of work is distinguished not only for its mastery of the art but for its originality of thought and imagination." He will receive the award August 30 during the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C.

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington called Doctorow "our very own Charles Dickens, summoning a distinctly American place and time, channeling our myriad voices. Each book is a vivid canvas, filled with color and drama. In each, he chronicles an entirely different world."

Doctorow commented: "I was a child who read everything I could get my hands on. Eventually, I asked of a story not only what was to happen next, but how is this done? How am I made to live from words on a page? And so I became a writer myself. But is there a novelist who doesn't live with self-doubt? The high honor of the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction confers a blessed moment of peace and resolution."

IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at IndieBound.org, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:

Hardcovers
The Bohemians: Mark Twain and the San Francisco Writers Who Reinvented American Literature by Ben Tarnoff (Penguin Press, $27.95, 9781594204739). "Four writers who changed the face of American literature--Mark Twain, Bret Harte, Charles Warren Stoddard, and Ina Coolbrith--arrived in San Francisco in the 1860s and immediately found the city's 'intoxicating energy' to be just the elixir they needed to create a new American literature free from the 'heavy European influence that dominated the East.' Tarnoff makes the Bohemians come alive both as a group and as individuals in the blossoming West Coast, the site of burgeoning immigration from five continents. This book is an essential reference that needs to be in every home across America." --Trayce and Jerry Finney, Hiram Books, Hiram, Ga.

Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke (Harper, $24.99, 9780062284396). "On a snowy Christmas morning in a Detroit suburb, Holly Judge asks her daughter Tatiana to help her prepare dinner for their guests while her husband drives to the airport to get his parents. Holly reflects on the circumstances of Tatiana's adoption but her recollections become more and more confusing as the day progresses and she feels that 'something has followed them from Russia.' Kasischke has accomplished a remarkable feat in writing a highly suspenseful novel with very little action and whose heart-wrenching conclusion will haunt you long after you finish reading." --Pierre Camy, Schuler Books & Music, Grand Rapids, Mich.

Paperback
The Book of Duels: Flash Fiction by Michael Garriga, illustrated by Tynan Kerr (Milkweed Editions, $18, 9781571310934). "There are many great storytellers published today, but it takes an exceptional writer to tell a story in so few words--and Michael Garriga does it brilliantly. Told candidly from the perspective of each duelist and a witness, The Book of Duels delves into the final thoughts--of honor, love, hatred, anger, God--of those facing death. Gritty and often darkly humorous, this debut collection will make readers take note of flash fiction." --Lindsay Pingel, Inkwood Books, Tampa, Fla.

For Ages 4 to 8
Peggy: A Brave Chicken on a Big Adventure by Anna Walker (Clarion Books, $16.99, 9780544259003). "Walker's use of soft colors and a palpable sense of movement make Peggy, a small black chicken, stand out on every page--even when she is surrounded by the bustle of the city. Then there is the wonderful story! Peggy gets blown out of her home and dumped in unfamiliar and rather inhospitable surroundings, but she doesn't let that ruffle her feathers as she makes new friends and sees new sights. This is a great picture book for kids who are moving, starting school, or facing other changes in their daily lives." --Elizabeth Anker, Alamosa Books, Albuquerque, N.M.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Brahmin: Alan Cheuse

Alan Cheuse, National Public Radio's longtime "voice of books," is the author of five novels, four collections of short fiction, the memoir Fall Out of Heaven and a collection of travel essays, A Trance After Breakfast. As a book commentator, Cheuse is a regular contributor to NPR's All Things Considered. His short fiction has appeared in the New Yorker, Ploughshares, the Antioch Review, Prairie Schooner, New Letters, the Idaho Review and the Southern Review, among other places. He teaches in the Creative Writing Program at George Mason University and at the Squaw Valley Community of Writers. His new book is a story collection, An Authentic Captain Marvel Ring (Santa Fe Writers Project, April 1, 2014).

On your nightstand now:

The Cairo Affair, Olen Steinhauer: a thriller writer I've been following. His newest.
Bark, Lorrie Moore: one of the masters of the contemporary short story.
Falling Out of Time, David Grossman: an experimental novel from one of Israel's finest writers.
In Paradise, Peter Matthiessen: the last novel from the author of some of the finest novels I've read--the Shadow Country trilogy and the beautiful-beyond-words Far Tortuga.

Favorite book when you were a child:

C.S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower series, which showed me as a kid that words could create exotic adventures that kept me caught up for days.

Your top five authors:

Melville, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Hemingway. I know that's six. And it could be 10 or 20, all these masters and geniuses from whom I learned about life, the world and the art of fiction.

Book you've faked reading:

The Koran.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Anything by Robert Stone or Joan Didion, two of the most brilliant and talented writers of our time. Stone's Dog Soldiers and Outerbridge Reach are novels that have lived long in mind. Didion's Play It As It Lays is one of the finest Hollywood novels ever written, and a masterwork of trouble in mind in our time.

Book you've bought for the cover:

The Koran.

Book that changed your life:

A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man by James Joyce: the novel of vocation for all young writers--how to make a coming-of-age story live by means of vital, living art-language.

Favorite line from a book:

"A way a lone a last a loved a long the/ riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs." --the closing and opening passages from Joyce's Finnegans Wake

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

Woolf's To the Lighthouse, for the images, for the "Time Passes" sequence--perhaps the greatest of its kind in all modern fiction.

Book you wish you'd written:

In Our Time: early Hemingway where he invents the modern short story.

Book Review

Review: In the Light of What We Know

In the Light of What We Know by Zia Haider Rahman (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27 hardcover, 9780374175627, April 22, 2014)

"In the early hours of one September morning in 2008, there appeared on the doorstep of our home in South Kensington a brown-skinned man, haggard and gaunt faced, the ridges of his cheekbones set above an unkempt beard." So begins Zia Haider Rahman's debut novel, filled with snappy philosophizing that will attract fans of David Foster Wallace. The narrator, an investment banker, is reconnected with his long-lost university friend Zafar, a Bengali-born mathematical prodigy raised mainly in Britain by impoverished parents. After a mysterious disappearance, Zafar reenters the narrator's life just as the Great Recession descends, and the resumption of their friendship shatters the narrator's calm, vaguely unsatisfying life in ways deeper and more permanent than the destruction of his career.

Zafar has come to share a confession that will leave the narrator shaken and wondering what, if any, blame he might carry for Zafar's pain and for the pain Zafar inflicted upon others. Rahman packs the narrator's private musings and conversations with Zafar with explorations of the human condition. Which drives two people farther apart, a difference of ethnicity or a difference of social class? How well can we understand even a close friend's motives when we often don't fully understand our own? How much of ourselves should we give in love, and how much are we allowed to demand in return? Rahman is far from the first author to delve into these questions, but he integrates them into the plot so organically and dissects them so meticulously that the reader feels as though they are new ground.

Zafar tells his story with a kind of purposeful misdirection that allows him to play a bit of verbal cat-and-mouse with the narrator and also allows Rahman seamlessly to introduce mathematical theories, cognitive science and the joint histories of Bangladesh, Pakistan and India without taking the reader out of the scope of the story, keeping it simultaneously global and intimate. Rahman also examines the impact of the most explosive events of our budding century: the 9/11 attacks, the subsequent military conflicts and the financial collapse of 2008.

Hopes can be set high for Rahman's career based on this striking and ambitious debut. While not to be undertaken lightly, the devastating web of truths and misconceptions is ideal for readers longing to immerse themselves in a deep and complex experience. --Jaclyn Fulwood

Shelf Talker: In a stunning debut, Zia Haider Rahman proves himself a novelist to watch with this exploration of class, race, imperialism and our young century.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: DIESEL's 'Close Readers of Beautiful Writing'

Pick a poem, any poem. Well, not just any poem; pick one you have lived with a while. Now, read the poem aloud. How does it sound? Record your voice reading that poem. Add complementary video. Imagine dozens of people doing the same thing.

As it happens, you don't have to imagine this because for the past five years, California's DIESEL, A Bookstore has been releasing a new videopoem daily during Poetry Month. While booksellers are usually the featured readers, DIESEL occasionally invites a guest. Last year, even I got in on the videopoem action with my signature monotone rendition of Gary Snyder's "Hay for the Horses."

DIESEL's co-owner John Evans told me the bookstore has "always had an extra special emphasis on poetry and art. We believe they are essential parts of great local independent neighborhood bookstores like ours. I am a poet and have an M.A. in Poetics (of all things) and so want poetry to be widely, easily available and visible at our stores. We have cultivated poetry reading, and writing, at our stores from the beginning."

That said, technology is no stranger to DIESEL's mission either. "We've embraced technologies, but insisted that they further good aesthetics," Evans observed. "We created a website in 1991 and, I must say, it was beautiful. It's a challenge, as platforms change--sales gets integrated into what was originally a communications tool--to keep the aesthetics going. It's a welcome challenge. My partner, Alison Reid, has said that a good slogan for DIESEL is 'if you bought an ugly book, you didn't buy it at DIESEL.' "

Evans

When they decided to produce more book-related videos about five years ago, "we just started naturally also reading from them and then thought, What about a whole month of reading poems for National Poetry Month?" Evans recalled. "Most of us were absolutely excited by it, and some were a little more tentative. After all, hard as it may be to believe, not all booksellers regularly read poetry. But all booksellers have read, and loved, some poetry. Since we try to open things wide, we encouraged people to just read whatever poems they wanted. We were startled by the results the very first year. Several of us--me, Jon Stich and Grant Outerbridge (both very artistic booksellers)--decided to shoot some video to match with the read poems for those who didn't want to be filmed reading and out of a curiosity as to what we could come up with."

During the first year, DIESEL mixed videos of booksellers reading with some videopoems before deciding the video versions were generally more interesting. "Since then, Jon has shot most of the video and added the audio clips," Evans noted. "Pretty much all of our booksellers have contributed readings each year."

Positive feedback has come from customers, friends, publishers, other booksellers and authors, "all praising us for our commitment, for specific poem choices and for particularly effective readings," he said. "Some people look forward to the one-per-day reveal, while others listen to them in groups and a few wait until the month is over and then binge on them. It's a great annual ritual: for each of us; for all of us at the store; and for all of the other readers, of poetry or not, who enjoy getting words in their purest forms."

Evans cited two of his all-time favorite videopoems, which "come to mind every year, largely because of their combination of great reading and eerily perfect video." One is William Butler Yeats's "Lake of Innisfree," read by Nell Arnold, and the other Kay Ryan's "The Material," read by Colin Waters. He also praised Brad Johnson, "who does our blog and is a poet himself and a great reader of poetry. He floored me with his reading voice--like a young Orson Welles! I love to hear him read, but particularly love the first videopoem of his that I saw/heard: 'Sentences' by Lyn Hejinian. My favorite so far this year? Herb Bivins, who works in the Larkspur store, "beautifully reads one of my favorite poems--'The Waking,' by Theodore Roethke--and Jon intuitively marries it to an amazingly appropriate scene. The wind and Herb's breathing, and wonderfully timbred voice, bring forth so much of the incantatory magic of this poem, it just leaves me smiling." The Roethke videopoem is my favorite thus far this year as well.

"One further thing which I've really only full appreciated this fifth year: I really enjoy the sounds of my co-workers voices transposed into this intimate register of reading poems which they care about and so, care for," Evans observed. "This is not the voice of the bookseller with our enthusiasm for books and expert helpfulness, but the voice of close readers of beautiful writing and the imaginations conjoined there. It's such a pleasure to know and hear my fellow booksellers in this way." --Robert Gray, contributing editor

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