Shelf Awareness for Friday, March 23, 2018

DC Comics: Dark Nights: Metal: Deluxe Edition by Scott Snyder, illustrated by Greg Capullo

Minotaur Books: The Middleman by Olen Steinhauer

Houghton Mifflin: The Mandela Plot by Kenneth Bonert

Park Row: The Crossing by Jason Mott

St. Martin's Press: Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage

Katherine Tegen Books: Denis Ever After by Tony Abbott

Atlantic Monthly Press: The Temptation of Forgiveness: A Commissario Guido Brunetti Mystery by Donna Leon


Grand Opening for Louisville's Nanny Goat Books

Nanny Goat Books, located at 218 S. Clay St. in Louisville, Ken., will host its grand opening celebration this weekend, Insider Louisville reported. The 750-square-foot store--which carries new, used and vintage books--is located at 218 S. Clay St. and gets its name from the alley next door, called Nanny Goat Strut.

Nanny Goat Books is owned by Sarah Gardiner and Josiah Davis, both of whom are part of the publishing industry locally. Davis also owns JD Book Services, a professional editing company for self-published or indie authors.

"There are a ton of amazing local authors we are getting in touch with," Gardiner said. "We really wanted to be able to highlight the amazing art and creativity going on.... We really love having them here, and we are hoping to do events as well where they are doing signings or readings and really show what's going on in the Louisville writing community."

Acknowledging that Nanny Goat Books is "a pretty small operation," Gardiner said, "The best part about being small is there is a constantly revolving inventory."

Grand Central Publishing: The Anomaly by Michael Rutger

From My Shelf Books to Stay Open on a 'Smaller Scale'

Kevin and Kasey Coolidge, who launched an essay contest last summer offering one person the chance to win their bookstore--From My Shelf Books & Gifts in Wellsboro, Pa.--for $75, have decided to keep the shop open on a smaller scale after receiving an insufficient number of entries, PennLive reported.

"It was a little disappointing," Kevin Coolidge said. "It just didn't take off like I thought it would."

The couple is now moving to "Plan B," which is to downsize the store and specialize in children's books, allowing Kevin to devote more time to his writing while reducing the time Kasey needs to be in the store. Liquidation of stock other than children's books is underway.

On Facebook recently, From My Shelf posted: "You asked, and we listened. You asked us to stay and we are! From My Shelf Books & Gifts is going to continue to be run by Kasey and Kevin, but we're going to make some changes.... We are going to concentrate on being advocates for children's literacy, and mostly focus on children's books, but we are still going to be able to custom order and give you the same great service we always have. Wellsboro deserves a bookstore, and Wellsboro is going to get what it deserves!"

AdventureKEEN: Shop Local, Live Local All Year Long

BookSmart in Morgan Hill, Calif., to Close

BookSmart, the Morgan Hill, Calif., indie bookstore that had relocated in 2016 and launched an Indiegogo campaign last summer to remain open, will close after 22 years in business. In an e-mail this morning, co-owners Brad Jones and Cinda Meister announced the decision "with heavy hearts," while also noting that "if a miracle were to occur--an 11th-hour rescue--we would gratefully accept the opportunity to continue our commitment for another 22 years or more."

They cited the "very costly" 2016 move to the Dunne Avenue location, which was "financed with high interest and short term loans," as a primary reason, adding that their effort "to refinance this debt has been unsuccessful and, therefore we are unable to pay our bills. Starting today we are liquidating our merchandise to pay our vendors and taxes."

Jones and Meister said that 25 years ago, they moved to Morgan Hill "intending to be active participants in our newly adopted community and we like to believe that in these 22 years we have contributed in various ways both large and small to Morgan Hill and the surrounding communities. Through our support of Morgan Hill, its various programs and activities, book clubs, and the classes and workshops run by and through BookSmart, we have helped enrich the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, of patrons and residents....

"We are deeply saddened to go as our passion, commitment and willingness to serve as a steward of literacy support for our community is our ongoing aspiration. Morgan Hill deserves a bookstore that can provide a 'third place' for the community--an event space and haven for the arts and creative pursuits. This decision has not been easy, and we are left not knowing how to thank all of the people who have supported us through the years. It is very hard to give up our life's work, especially work that has been so rewarding. Adding to our pain is the knowledge of the many people in the community who have supported us through thick and thin with their purchases, praise, investments, time and donations. We will be forever grateful for this support and loyalty."

Disney-Hyperion: Little Do We Know by Tamara Ireland Stone

Chicago Indies Create Frontlist Reading Group for Booksellers

Timothy Moore and Katharine Solheim, with the group's first selection.

Katharine Solheim and Timothy Moore, booksellers at Unabridged Bookstore in Chicago, Ill., have created the Chicago Booksellers' Book Club, a frontlist reading group for Chicago-area independent booksellers. The group will have its first formal meeting on April 22, at the Grafton Pub in Lincoln Square, to discuss Tommy Orange's first novel, There There, coming from Knopf on June 5.

Solheim and Moore have envisioned the book group as a resource for Chicago booksellers, a way for them to come together in support of a forthcoming title they love. Every two months or so the group will meet to discuss an upcoming frontlist book, and in addition to the things that book groups usually talk about--what they enjoyed, how they felt reading the book--they'll talk about ways to help bring the book to a wider audience and other bookselling practicalities.

"When we struck on the idea of the frontlist book club, we thought, why haven't we been doing this already?" said Solheim. She noted that though booksellers are often talking to each other about books they're excited for, the book club gives Chicago indies a space set aside on a regular basis for "getting down to brass tacks" about "books we love and want to promote."

Solheim added that ideally, during each meeting the group will talk about a title that is at least a month or two out from publication. That way, should any bookseller want to increase their order numbers or adjust their plans for promoting the book, they'll have ample time to do so. At the same time, Solheim said, "You don't want to do it so far in advance you forget you talked about it."

For the April meeting about There, There, Solheim said she and Moore have not come up with anything "super formal" in terms of discussion questions. But she thought that some big topics will likely be the "new guard" of Native American literature, authors like Tommy Orange and Terese Marie Mailhot (Heart Berries), and what booksellers can do to help lift up these new voices. Leading up to the April 22 discussion, Solheim and Moore are using the Twitter and Instagram accounts they created for the book club to link to as many resources as they can find relating to Tommy Orange and There There. Remarked Solheim: "That is what that Twitter account is for--secondary sources."

The idea to start a frontlist-focused book group came to Solheim and Moore earlier this year, after they had an informal book discussion with other booksellers about Emily Fridlund's History of Wolves. That group, Solheim recalled, arose simply from a bunch of booksellers wanting to read a book together and then talk about it. During that February meeting, the booksellers present discussed things like their perspectives on the book and what audiences might respond to it best.

Not long afterward, Moore and Solheim talked about formalizing the group, and from there decided to focus on frontlist titles. The initial, informal meeting drew 10 booksellers. For the first formal meeting, they are hoping 15-20 people will attend. Any more than that, Solheim said, would make finding a suitable space trickier, and probably necessitate having the book club split into small groups.

Solheim said she's excited to see how the group grows and develops over time. Like all book groups, she continued, it will "take on a character of its own as it goes along." And when asked how other booksellers have responded to the idea, Solheim reported that "people seem to be pretty stoked."

At the end of each meeting, the group will decide which title they want to read next. For that, Solheim said she expects there to be a "heated debate."

"I'm hoping no one draws blood," she added, laughing. --Alex Mutter

Soho Crime: Fall of Angels (Inspector Redfyre Mystery #1) by Barbara Cleverly

Promotions at Viking Children's Books and Philomel Books

Ken Wright, formerly v-p and publisher of Viking Children's Books has been promoted to president and publisher of Viking Children's Books and Philomel Books, while Jill Santopolo, formerly editorial director at Philomel Books, has become the imprint's associate publisher, Penguin Young Readers announced yesterday.

"Viking and Philomel are home to some of our most beloved classics and dynamic new voices," said Jen Loja, president of Penguin Young Readers. "Viking has flourished under Ken's direction. Jill's editorial vision and commitment to finding and developing new talent, coupled with Ken's seasoned leadership, will ensure Philomel continues to evolve and thrive as one of today's leading children's books imprints."

Wright will now oversee both Viking Children's and Philomel Books, with the imprints remaining autonomous. Santopolo will be in charge of acquiring new titles and overseeing Philomel's editorial team, while still editing titles of her own.

"It is a real honor for me to continue to lead the outstanding Viking Children's Books publishing team, and to now also be joining forces with Jill and the fantastic and talented colleagues at Philomel," said Wright, who joined Viking Children's Books in 2012. "I've long admired their list, and I am very excited to have the chance to work with them as they continue the great work they've done over the years to build the imprint."

During his time with PYR, he has worked with authors such as Laurie Halse Anderson, Gayle Forman and Sarah Dessen, as well as worked with the estates of authors who wrote such classic children's books as Corduroy, Make Way for Ducklings and more.

Santopolo, who joined Philomel Books in 2009 and edited many of the imprint's biggest titles since then, including She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton and Alexandra Boiger and Lisa Graff's A Tangle of Knots, said she was "thrilled to get to work with Ken and the entire Philomel team to build upon the imprint's tradition of publishing meaningful books for kids and teens that celebrate the potential in every reader."

Crooked Lane Books: Sister of Mine by Laurie Petrou

Obituary Note: Thomas Macaluso

Thomas Macaluso, the owner of Macaluso's Rare and Fine Books, Maps, and Prints in Kennett Square, Pa., and "a lifelong lover of learning and literature," died March 15, the Chester County Press reported. He was 85. A college professor for 37 years, Macaluso and his wife Brenda owned and operated the bookshop for more than 40 years.

"He was the owner of a bookstore when giants like Borders have long since closed up operations and others are struggling to survive," said Gene Pisasale, a local historian and author. "Yet, walking into his store, one immediately gets the sense that he pursued this not for profit so much as for the love of learning and literature.... You could feel his enthusiasm as he spoke about great books and know that he was satisfied being a part of maintaining an important part of our culture--keeping hardcover books alive. He did that well. Tom was a good friend, a kindred spirit and he is dearly missed."

In addition to being a longtime business owner in town, Macaluso was also a board member for nonprofits like Historic Kennett Square and the Kennett Library.


Image of the Day: Murder & Mayhem in Chicago

This year's recipient of the Sara Paretsky Award, honoring mysteries set in the Midwest, was Gillian Flynn. The award was presented at the second annual Murder and Mayhem in Chicago conference, held last weekend at Roosevelt University. Pictured: (l.-r.) authors Jeffery Deaver, Lori Rader-Day, Gillian Flynn, Sara Paretsky, Dana Kaye. Rader-Day and Kaye are the event's co-founders.

'The 39 Best Independent Bookshops in the U.K. & Ireland'

"What makes a good bookshop?" asked the i Paper in showcasing its picks for "the 39 best independent bookshops in the U.K. and Ireland."

"The best bookshops combine an understanding of their customers with the knowledge to supply the right read at the right time," the i Paper wrote. "The best bookshops put the theatre in retail, and the ker-ching in browsing. The bookshops shortlisted for the British Book Awards have one thing in common: they are all growing their businesses in a market that is flat, and difficult....  

"The 39 independent bookshops that feature here thrive by making their shops centres of discussion, venues for book launches, oases for authors, and the home for themed events (Harry Potter evening anyone?). They are active participants in their communities, forging links with schools, libraries and other local institutions and providing space for book readers to gather. Many run coffee shops, some sell ice-cream, and others even have a drinks license....  And, of course, part of these shops' charm is their individuality--catering for local interests with local decision making, supporting local writers and handselling books that appeal to repeat customers."

Sterling Publishing to Distribute Amber Books Ltd.

Effective April 1, Sterling Publishing Co. will be the exclusive distributor of Amber Books Ltd. in the U.S. and Canada. Amber Books is a U.K. publisher of highly-illustrated nonfiction books for adults and children. Subjects include history, photography, military history, technology, gift, natural history, survival, medical and general reference. Its children's line includes entertaining and informative titles on animals, natural history, history and science for younger readers.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Jimmy Carter, Sean Penn on CBS Sunday Morning

NPR's Marketplace: Joy Press, author of Stealing the Show: How Women Are Revolutionizing Television (Atria, $26, 9781501137716).

CBS Sunday Morning: Jimmy Carter, author of Faith: A Journey for All (Simon & Schuster, $25.99, 9781501184413).

Also on CBS Sunday Morning: Sean Penn, author of Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff: A Novel (Atria, $24, 9781501189043).

TV: To All the Boys I've Loved Before

Netflix has acquired global rights to Awesomeness Films and Overbrook Entertainment's To All the Boys I've Loved Before, based on the novel by Jenny Han, Variety reported. Directed by Susan Johnson, the movie's cast includes Lana Condor (Alita: Battle Angel), Noah Centineo (The Fosters), Janel Parrish (Pretty Little Liars), Israel Broussard (Happy Death Day), Andrew Bachelor (The Babysitter), Anna Cathcart (The Descendants), and John Corbett. Netflix will release the film this summer.

Books & Authors

Awards: Waterstones Kids; Amer. Academy Lit; NAIBA Legacy

Angie Thomas won the overall £5,000 (about $7,050) Waterstones Children's Book Prize for The Hate U Give, as well as the older fiction category. James Daunt, Waterstones managing director, said the winning title "should have a readership far beyond a core audience of young adults. Ours is a children's prize, but there is no upper age limit to being stunned by beautiful writing of this visceral power."

Describing it as an "outstanding piece of writing and an incredibly gripping read," Waterstones children's book buyer Florentyna Martin said: "This book has provided an important step-change in children's publishing and our booksellers have championed this from the get-go. Angie Thomas has an incredible writing skill, impeccably adapting her tone of voice for each individual character and situation. She is a unique and powerful new voice for teenagers and adults and this book will undoubtedly be discussed for years to come."

Other category winners were The Secret of Black Rock by Joe Todd-Stanton (illustrated book) and Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend's (younger fiction).


The 15 writers who won the American Academy of Arts and Letters 2018 awards in literature can be seen here. The prizes, totaling $185,000, honor both established and emerging writers of fiction, nonfiction, drama and poetry. They will be presented at the Academy's annual Ceremonial in New York City next month.


Laurie Halse Anderson will receive the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association's 2018 Legacy Award, which honors an author for his or her body of work that members have enjoyed reading and selling. She will receive the award at the NAIBA Awards Banquet on Sunday, October 7, in Baltimore, Md., during the association's fall conference.

Anderson is known for tackling tough subjects with humor and sensitivity. Her work has earned numerous ALA and state awards. Two of her books, Chains and Speak, were National Book Award finalists. Chains also received the 2009 Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction, and Anderson was chosen for the 2009 Margaret A. Edwards Award.

Reading with... Steve Kistulentz

photo: Kira Derryberry

Steve Kistulentz's debut novel is Panorama (Little, Brown, March 6, 2018). A former political consultant, he now directs the graduate creative writing program at Saint Leo University in Florida and is also the author of two volumes of poetry. He is a graduate of the College of William and Mary, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop and holds a doctorate from Florida State University. He lives in the Tampa area with his family.

On your nightstand now:

I'm one of those people who has anywhere from three to five books going at a time; I'll switch between them based on my mood, my level of exhaustion or what I'm working on writing-wise. For research on the book I'm writing now, it's a lot of Cold War-era nonfiction. I've re-read and annotated George Kennan's famous diplomatic cable commonly referred to as "the long telegram." For the same reasons, I'm deep into William Taubman's excellent biography Gorbachev. It's fascinating to me how Mikhail Gorbachev has all but disappeared from the institutional consciousness of the Western world, and how reviled he is in the former Soviet Union. Taubman makes clear the complexities that Gorbachev had to balance daily.

I've also got a ton of music books sitting around. Hanif Abdurraqib's They Can't Kill Us Until They Kill Us and Lizzy Goodman's Meet Me in the Bathroom are wildly different yet remind me of the very reasons I spend so much time immersed in the music I love and the reasons why I'm an evangelist for certain songwriters and certain bands.

I'm a tennis player, so my wife gifted me with String Theory, David Foster Wallace's collected essays on tennis. It's got his famous piece about Roger Federer, which I was thrilled to see immortalized in such a beautiful book.

On the fiction front, I've been reading the whole catalogue of Dana Spiotta. I read some review that referred to her as a female Don DeLillo, and since DeLillo is and has always been one of my favorites, that was enough to send me on a deep dive into her work. She's a wholly original and imaginative writer.

Favorite book when you were a child:

As a small child, I was all about books about the special relationships between animals and people. Sometimes, they could be very small animals, like The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary. Later, it was Robert C. O'Brien's Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. First off, what a bizarre title. But for a child who grew up in the D.C. suburbs, where the National Institutes of Mental Health are actually located, it was thrilling to think that there was a secret world of smart rodents living among us. I'm still fascinated by animals, incidentally, and I've put a version of my dog in every book I've ever written.

Your top five authors:

Don DeLillo, Rick Moody, Joan Didion, Richard Powers, Andre Dubus.

Book you've faked reading:

Finnegans Wake. When I was working on my doctorate, there was a graduate seminar that studied a page of this book per week. One page. I still don't get the wild allegiance people have for this book, and honestly for Joyce in general outside A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.  

Book you're an evangelist for:

Don DeLillo's Mao II. In teaching, I often ask this question (somewhat rhetorically): Does a great novel reflect a culture that already exists, or anticipate the culture that is about to emerge? Mao II is a novel that manages to touch on terrorism, media culture, urban decay and the definition of what is art, all within a compact novel that is tremendously well-paced. It's a much more resonant book to me than some of his other novels that have become syllabus mainstays.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Larry Brown, Facing the Music. I was in college and walking through the old Scribner's Bookstore on Duke of Gloucester Street in Colonial Williamsburg. The book was on a display alongside other Southern writers that I didn't know then, people like Peter Taylor and George Garrett and Barry Hannah. But that Larry Brown book had a bright yellow cover, and a blurb from the late Harry Crews that ended, "Talent has struck." I'd just finished Harry's A Childhood: The Biography of a Place, and if Harry thought that book was okay, that was good enough for me. And damn if he wasn't right.

Book you hid from your parents:

Erich Segal, Love Story. Hid it up until I did a book report on it, whereupon my teacher called my parents to say that my reading was a little advanced for my age. I was in the fourth grade.

Book that changed your life:

John Irving, The Water-Method Man. I read it in high school and laughed until my ribs hurt. One of Irving's earlier novels, this one had everything--bears, motorcycles, prosthetic breasts, sex, academic fraud, rivalry, deception--that would appeal to the inner Beavis and Butthead voice of a high school boy. It was the first adult novel that forced me to realize how reading could be entertainment and not drudgery.

Favorite line from a book:

I started writing as a fiction writer, then detoured into poetry for nearly a decade. So perhaps it's appropriate I acknowledge that with a line from one of my favorite poets, Albert Goldbarth. In his poem, "A Story," he writes, "I walked through the rubble/ and glitz of the latter twentieth century, and I saw X,/ which was flabbergastingly horrid, then Y, then Z,/ these left me beaming out a living light/ like an angel pricked with breathing holes." This always struck me as a line that gently criticizes the worst repetitive tendencies of contemporary poetry and somehow does so in metapoetic fashion.

Five books you'll never part with:

Don DeLillo, Underworld. Rick Moody, The Ring of Brightest Angels Around Heaven. The Stories of John Cheever. The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis. An Amateur's Guide to the Night by Mary Robison.

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

Will You Please Be Quiet, Please by Raymond Carver. I'd like to be able to see this book through the eyes of the more mature writer that I am now.

One book that you wish more writers would stop praising:

The Catcher in the Rye. I've never understood the love for this book, and perhaps it's simply an artifact of its time, when that sort of adolescent voice was underrepresented and seemed shockingly new. But I've never liked Holden Caulfield, and I'd heard enough from him after about two paragraphs. The cult that surrounds this novel baffles me.

Book Review

Review: Country Dark

Country Dark by Chris Offutt (Grove Press, $24 hardcover, 240p., 9780802127792, April 10, 2018)

If ever a novel were perfectly titled, it's Chris Offutt's Country Dark, a grimly realistic portrait of a man's desperate fight to save himself and his struggling family from extinction, deep in the beautiful and dangerous Kentucky hills.

Freshly returned from the Korean War in 1954, just shy of his 18th birthday, a veteran known only as Tucker traverses the lush countryside on foot, heading homeward, toward an uncertain future. Along the way, he rescues an adolescent named Rhonda from the advances of her lecherous uncle, and the young pair impulsively decide to marry. In a matter of barely 10 years, their union produces five children, four of whom, tragically, are profoundly disabled. To support his family, Tucker works running moonshine to Ohio and Michigan for a 350-pound bootlegger nicknamed Beanpole, a job succinctly described as a "hard way to make an easy living."

When violence erupts as state welfare officials threaten to remove Tucker's children from the home, he's placed in a compromised position--one Beanpole is only too happy to exploit. Just as he did when surviving fierce hand-to-hand combat on the way to winning 11 medals in Korea, Tucker, a man "most dangerous when he appeared benign," must rely on his wits and his fighting skills in a hostile new environment to keep himself alive. He is unsurprisingly betrayed by Beanpole, masquerading as his benefactor, and his vengeance is both swift and terrifying.

Offutt (My Father the Pornographer), who grew up in a small town in eastern Kentucky, has a native's instinct for the region and its inhabitants. His descriptions of the natural environment are vivid and yet understated. One moment Tucker is relaxing in woods that "reverberated with the droning hum of locusts, rising and falling as if they were a chorus led by a master insect." Later that same day he encounters a "heavy-bodied timber rattlesnake basking in the sun, docile as if it had recently come out of hibernation." Offutt's ease with the local vernacular lends realism and color to the story--as when he dismisses a character whose "brain was a dam missing a river," or sums up the Tuckers as a "good bunch with bad luck" to whom trouble came "like sideways wind in winter."

Country Dark is a taut, well-constructed novel easily consumed in one sitting. There are villains aplenty, a deeply flawed protagonist but, in the end, only survivors. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer

Shelf Talker: There's a timeless feel to Chris Offutt's novel about a man's fight for survival in the unforgiving world of the Kentucky hills.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: World Poetry Day--'Thank You for the Words'

Tomorrow will be
Lawrence Ferlinghetti's 99th birthday.
Wednesday was World Poetry Day.
Just two sentences
could be this week's column
or a poem.

"Why San Francisco?" the Chronicle asked Ferlinghetti in a recent interview.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti in front of City Lights Books, 1955

"It seemed like it was still the last frontier, which it isn't anymore," he replied. "I mean, in 1951, it was a wide-open city, and it seemed like you could do anything you wanted to here. It was like there was so much missing that if it was going to be a real city, there was so much that it had to get, that it didn't have. And, for instance, as far as bookstores go, all the bookstores closed at 5 p.m. and they weren't open on the weekends. And there was no place to sit down. And there was usually a clerk on top of you asking you what you wanted.

"And so the first thing I realized, there was no bookstore to become the locus for the literary community.... So, from the very beginning, when we started City Lights in June 1953, the idea was to make it a locus for the new literary community that had developed out of the Berkeley Renaissance, so called, and it proved to be true. People just flocked to it because there had been no locus for the literary life."

Why World Poetry Day? To open her annual message celebrating the occasion, UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay quoted the Langston Hughes poem "Dreams," and said: "This poem is about the extraordinary power of words that open up infinite horizons, enhance our lives, change reality, embellish it, show it in a new light which has never been seen before. Poetry is not a trivial game of sounds, words and images: it has a creative, transformative power."

During #WorldPoetryDay, I kept watch on social media's explorations of the realm (Among my favorites: @doctor_oxford, @kwamealexander, @brainpicker, @BBCAfrica, @britishlibrary, @SpursOfficial).

I was looking for signs of "transformative power," and found one in "Dear Vikram Seth," Ishita Sengupta's "open letter to my favorite poet," published by the Indian Express.

"You might not remember this, but the year was 2014 and the place was Victoria Memorial. A crowd, buzzing with anticipation had gathered to hear Naseeruddin Shah read Manto," Sengupta begins, then tells the story of being with a "giggly crowd of college students" when she spotted Seth, "sitting, alone in the last row."

Having just bought his poetry collection All You Who Sleep Tonight, she, along with her friends, "finally mustered some courage to put up a collective front. Perhaps recognizing the awe writ large on our faces, you stood up the moment we came near to your seat. Almost overwhelmed, I asked you to sign your name for me. 'But where, Miss?' you asked. It struck me, and perhaps, all of us then, that we had walked up to you without a shred of paper in hand." She quickly found some and returned.

"It has been four years since then," Sengupta wrote. "I do not live in the same city anymore.... Your note, however--now tattered and a bit incomprehensible--has remained with me. And so have your words. The puny book, which I have gifted to more people than I can count, was brought by me while I was shuffling cities. And while I have gushed over your words with friends within the safe confines of university, they spoke to me later. They spoke to me when I read them in isolation, crippled with nostalgia and yearning, and on nights, I could not and had resolutely decided that I would not sleep."

All you who sleep tonight
Far from the ones you love
Know that you aren't alone
The whole world shares your tears
Some for two nights or one
And some for all their years.

"Your words acknowledged my grief but also assured me, comforted even by telling me that I was not the only one," Sengupta observed. "Perhaps never will be. Grief might be private but it was not unique.... Thank you for the words, Mr. Seth."

It's a big world in a bigger universe. Gratitude seems to be the best response.

For World Poetry Day, the Independent featured a video of Stephen Hawking, who died last week, reading Sarah Howe's poem "Relativity."

"I'm there in spirit all the time," Ferlinghetti said of City Lights.
"How about in reality? How often is he at the shop?" the Chronicle asked.
"As a poet, I don't deal in reality," he replied with a laugh.

--Robert Gray, contributing editor (Column archives at Fresh Eyes Now)

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