Shelf Awareness for Friday, June 11, 2010
Image of the Day: Helping the Homeless
Blanket of Stars: Homeless Women in Santa Monica by Frances Noble with photographs by Ian Noble (Angel City Press) is a mother-and-son collaboration about the women who live in the streets in the Nobles' neighborhood--and the homeless everywhere. Last week DIESEL hosted a pub party and on Wednesday an exhibition of photos from the book was celebrated at Bergamot Station's William Turner Gallery (see photo). Next week the authors and publisher will make a presentation at the Ocean Park Community Center Daybreak, a shelter for women, many of whom are depicted in the book. A portion of the proceeds from Blanket of Stars go to local organizations that assist homeless women.
Notes: 'One of the Best Handsellers of All Time'
The children's bookseller so wonderfully remembered by Deirdre Foley-Mendelssohn in the New Yorker (Shelf Awareness, June 9, 2010), "a short black-haired woman who had read everything and could, if I told her some books I liked, recommend a new one to me--inevitably a more obscure but equally good one--with seemingly magical accuracy, the way that other adults enjoy pulling quarters out of kids' ears," is Ga Lombard, head children's buyer at Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, Calif.
Lombard has been with the store for 32 years. Owner Casey Coonerty Protti proudly said that she is "one of the best handsellers of all time and has now helped multiple generations of young readers."
Cuts continue at Borders Group, which has apparently let go all merchandisers and regional managers for its Paperchase stores and sections in Borders superstores. (There are 337 locations in the U.S. and 93 abroad.) According to an AP story, Borders said it is "handing the merchandising duties over to its stores, which it says have a better understanding of what their customers want."
The cuts at Borders' stationery company, which has generally had solid results, come less than a month after Vector Group's Bennett S. LeBow invested $25 million in the company and became chairman (Shelf Awareness, June 3, 2010).
The new Bucknell University Bookstore in downtown Lewisburg, Pa., operated by Barnes & Noble, opens on Saturday, June 26, "after the Fourth of July Parade," according to the university. (Go figure on the Independence Day timing.) A grand opening will take place August 27, during the first week of fall classes.
The 29,500-sq.-ft. store in a historic, restored building features books, magazines, sportswear, a children's section, a gathering area for performances and community meetings and a Starbucks cafe. The building also has a 68-ft.-long skylight over a three-story atrium and boasts the first escalators ever installed in Union County.
The new store replaces a 12,500-sq.-ft. bookstore that had been in the Elaine Langone Center on campus.
A shuttle service for students between the campus and store will begin in August. Students will have the option of ordering textbooks online and having them delivered to the Bucknell post office for pickup on campus.
Most of the funding for the $10-million bookstore came from state and federal grants and incentives for small-town economic development projects.
Amazon.com spent $540,000 in the first quarter lobbying the federal government, up 46% over the same period last year, the AP reported. It also spent $570,000 on federal lobbying in the last quarter of 2009.
The main subjects Amazon lobbied about were online sales taxes, net neutrality, digital product competition and organized retail crime.
Cool idea of the day: to help celebrate its 20th anniversary, R.J. Julia, Madison, Conn., will distribute more than 15,000 books donated by Penguin, Hachette and Random House to all K-8 schools in New Haven. The store is asking for customers' help sorting the books, loading them on trucks, distribution--and the use of two or three trucks! The distribution of the books will take place June 21. Sorting and loading takes place before then.
To help, e-mail email@example.com or call Stephanie at 203-245-3959.
The summer issue of Adventures NW magazine, the quarterly that is now in its fifth year, features several book world-connected contributions:
A piece by Chuck Robinson, co-owner of Village Books, Bellingham, Wash., who in "(Biking) Life Begins at 60," wrote about his rekindled love for cycling.
A story called "A Wheelman's Passing" by David V. Herlihy, author of The Lost Cyclist: The Epic Tale of an American Adventurer and His Mysterious Disappearance, published this month by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. "A Wheelman's Passing" is about cyclist Frank G. Lenz's passage through the Pacific Northwest in 1892.
Among other stories that have appeared in past issues, in the summer of 2006 Algonquin's Craig Popelars wrote "Caught in Lance's Cycle," about his admiration for Lance Armstrong.
Part of the bookish slant is understandable: Adventures NW founder and co-owner Paul Haskins is a 17-year veteran of Village Books, and co-owner and managing editor Alaine Borgias was a bookseller and events, marketing and publications coordinator at Village Books for many years, too, as well as a former marketing associate at Unbridled Books.
Borgias noted, by the way, that not every article is about cycling!
Yale University Press is launching Jewish Lives, a series of biographies, in conjunction with the Leon D. Black Foundation. The titles aim to "pair subjects and authors to elicit lively, deeply informed books that explore the breadth and complexity of Jewish experience from antiquity through the present."
The first title is Sarah: The Life of Sarah Bernhardt by Robert Gottlieb, to be published in October. In November, the press will publish Shmuel Feiner's Moses Mendelssohn: Sage of Modernity, and in February 2011 Steven Weitzman's Solomon. After those, new titles will include Rashi by Jack Miles, Kafka by Saul Friedlander, Leonard Bernstein by Allen Shawn, Sigmund Freud by Adam Phillips, Bob Dylan by Ron Rosenbaum, Maimonides by Moshe Halbertal, Emma Goldman by Vivian Gornick and Hank Greenberg by Mark Kurlansky. The press aims to publish at least 50 titles in the series in the next decade.
The 92nd Street Y in New York City will produce bi-annual Jewish Lives events in conjunction with the series. The first takes place on December 1 and features Robert Gottlieb in conversation with Judith Thurman on the life of Sarah Bernhardt. The second will be held on April 5, 2011, and features Mark Kurlansky in conversation with David Margolick on the life of Hank Greenberg, the first Jewish baseball player elected to the Hall of Fame.
Series editors are historians Anita Shapira of Tel Aviv University and Steven J. Zipperstein of Stanford University. Yale University Press's Ileene Smith serves as editorial director.
Diane Garrett was told she was crazy when she decided to open Diane's Books in 1990 because central Greenwich, Conn., had seven indie bookstores at the time. "Her store is the last one standing," Greenwich Time reported.
Diane's Books will celebrate its 20th anniversary in November. Garrett chose to open a family bookstore rather than a children's bookstore because she wanted "to serve her customers from childhood to adulthood. However, Garrett likes to focus on her younger customers. Walking through the stacks of books lined on shelves, tables and along the floor, she said children are the reason that she's in business," Greenwich Time wrote.
"I want to light their imagination on fire," she said.
Stephanie Anderson, manager of WORD bookstore, Brooklyn, N.Y., shared a summer reading memory with the Los Angeles Times Jacket Copy blog: "I clearly remember reading The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway the summer before I started high school. It was the assigned summer reading for my English class. It was the first time I ever really hated a book! I remember being really annoyed by it and complaining about it a lot.... It was freeing to realize that I could dislike important books and that it was even fun to do so. The Old Man and the Sea was the book that changed me from being a passive, though voracious, consumer of books into an active reader who got involved with the whole shebang, for better or for worse."
Anderson later reread Hemingway's novel and, on her second try, "I loved it. I read it all in one sitting. I've since read it a third time and still love it. I just pulled it off the shelf again to write this and got caught in it again."
Editors at the Wilson Quarterly shared "a few bookstores where we would happily while away our summer days," including Phoenix Books, Lambertville, N.J.; the Dickson Street Bookshop, Fayetteville, Ark.; the Montclair Book Center, Montclair, N.J.; and the Seminary Co-op, Chicago, Ill.
Are there lessons book publishers can learn from the film and music industry? At Forbes.com, Chip O'Brien suggested that "e-publishing doesn't have to bring an end to traditional paper books, or spin its wheels trying to translate the paper book model into a far different space. Instead of trying to understand e-books within the space of the old paper-and-binding universe, we should examine the media that survived the first wave of the distribution revolution: movies and music."
O'Brien offered five options publishers might consider and observed that this "is the exact wrong time in history to fret about the imminent death of reading--e-readers have the power to transform books into far richer, far more interactive experiences than ever before. Instead of deriding the eBook as a profit-killer, why not unite our old ideas of reading alone in quiet rooms with the vast potential created by new technology? Let's re-imagine what books can become."
Book trailer of the day: The Beaufort Diaries by T Cooper, illustrated by Alex Petrowsky (Melville House), which will be released July 6.
Truckin': Mike Perry Hits the Road
This country is going through a marvelous regional revival, as we all take more pride in local traditions, accents, flavors, produce--and authors. A great example of the latter: Mike Perry, author of Truck, Population: 482, Off Main Street and Coop; winner of both GLBA and MBA book awards for his wonderful memoirs about Wisconsin small-town life and his willingness to get on the road to 25, 35, even 50 stores each time! He has made the "Motel 6 tour" famous.
It occurred to us several years ago that because Mike is such a great guy, has an NPR voice and enraptures trade show audiences each fall with his humor and self-deprecation, we ought to send him farther afield. So, in successive falls, he spoke at the MPIBA show and then at PNBA, and sure enough, he was great AND his sales--of books about Wisconsin--caught on in those regions.
So now what do for Coop, a real-life, back-to-the-land book, now in paperback? Mike's knee-deep in all of it. Sh*t Mike Shovels, if you will. And there is joy in the smells, in the birth of a daughter, of choosing seeds, of family and friends.
Revelation # 2: There are a LOT of readers and "grow local" and "back to basics" people in the Northeast, as well as a line of bookstores perfectly aligned along the New York Thruway and Massachusetts Turnpike. Sooooo, Mike's doing the Buffalo-to-Boston run June 12–24, with events almost every day!! A reading here, a dinner with local biz folk and farmers there. I'll be with him part of the time; Shelf Awareness's Bob Gray will catch him along the way; ditto a lunch at the NAIBA Trunk Show and Boston meet-ups with NEIBA's Steve Fischer.
And all the time, he'll be talking with local radio, especially NPR. New Hampshire NPR is already talking him up and playing his music. By the way, Mike has a way with a guitar and a song lyric, and his new CD with the Long Beds, Tiny Pilot, is out, and I love it. Mike is going to blog about his adventures, too.
The Thruway/Turnpike Motel 6 tour includes stops on June 12 at Talking Leaves, Buffalo, N.Y.; the 13th at Lift Bridge Books, Brockport, N.Y.; the 14th at River's End, Oswego, N.Y.; the 15th, a NAIBA lunch in East Syracuse, N.Y., and Colgate University that evening; the 16th at Oblong in Rhinebeck, N.Y.; the 17th at the Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza in Albany, N.Y.; and June 18 at Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center, Vt. Then a coupla days off, but Mike will visit more stores just to say hi. Then on the 21st he'll be at Toadstool in Keene, N.H.; the 22nd at Gibson's in Concord, N.H., and then on the 24th, the finale, at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, Mass.
Look in Shelf Awareness starting next Monday, the 14th, for reports from the road by Mike Perry--author, farmer, singer, songwriter and all-around good guy.--Carl Lennertz
Media and Movies
Movies: The Wind in the Willows
A $30 million live-action and animatronics version of Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows is in development. Variety reported that plans call for "a fall shoot in New Zealand, with Peter Jackson's visual effects company Weta Workshop onboard." Ray Griggs (Super Capers, I Want Your Money) will direct and produce.
Griggs, owner and president of RG Entertainment, told Variety "he's raised the funds through private investors and is expecting to announce cast members soon. He plans to record the dialogue first and shoot the film with the actors in animal costumes with state-of-the-art animatronics being used to duplicate facial expressions."
Books & Authors
Awards: Canada's National Business Book Prize
Jeff Rubin's Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller: Oil and the End of Globalization was named the winner of Canada's National Business Book Award, besting a shortlist that included Coal Black Heart: The Story of Coal and the Lives it Ruled by John DeMont, Gravity Shift: How Asia's New Economic Powerhouses Will Shape the Twenty-First Century by Wendy Dobson, Laying It on the Line: Driving a Hard Bargain in Challenging Times by Buzz Hargrove and Manulife: How Dominic D'Alessandro Built a Global Giant and Fought to Save It by Rod McQueen, Quill & Quire reported.
Midwest Connections: June PicksFrom the Midwest Booksellers Association: four recent Midwest Connections picks. Under this marketing program, the association and member stores promote booksellers' handselling favorites that have a strong Midwest regional appeal:
The Stormchasers by Jenna Blum (Dutton, $25.95, 9780525951551/0525951555) follows a Minnesota storm chaser who learns her estranged twin brother has been admitted to a mental hospital.
Deeply Rooted: Unconventional Farmers in the Age of Agribusiness by Lisa M. Hamilton (Counterpoint, $15.95, 9781582435862/1582435863) investigates the growing trend of sustainable agriculture by profiling three Midwest farmers.
Horse-Drawn Days: A Century of Farming with Horses by Jerry Apps (Wisconsin Historical Society Press, $24.95, 9780870204456/0870204459) explores the historical and culture significance of the work horse.
Wounded Knee: Party Politics and the Road to an American Massacre by Heather Cox Richardson (Basic Books, $28.95, 9780465009213/0465009212) analyzes the infamous battle in the context of disastrously partisan politics.
Book Brahmin: Denise Hildreth
Denise Hildreth is the author of six Southern novels, beginning with Savannah from Savannah, the first in her Savannah Trilogy. Her novels have been featured in Southern Living, hailed as "smart and witty" by Library Journal, and chosen for the Pulpwood Queens and Women of Faith book clubs. Her latest is Hurricanes in Paradise, published by Tyndale House on June 1. Hildreth lives in Nashville, Tenn.
On your nightstand now:
A McDonald's Coke, chapstick, half a Tylenol PM (not sure why I didn't actually take that), a hair clip and the Sunday paper. Oh, were you talking about books? Okay, Nicholas Sparks's The Last Song, which I was supposed to have finished for my book club three weeks ago. The Help by Kathryn Stockett, my next book for book club, which I'm supposed to have finished in two weeks. (Haven't even started that yet.) Listening to Love by Jan Meyer and Walking with God by John Eldredge.
Favorite book when you were a child:
The Lord of the Flies. I'm a girl, it's a book about a bunch of boys stranded on a desert island. I loved it!
Your top five authors:
At the top of my list is the master of Southern fiction and a really good cook, Pat Conroy. The cute boy of Southern fiction, John Grisham. The not-yet-fully appreciated amazing writers of Southern fiction, Charles Martin and River Jordan. And because I'm a huge nonfiction reader, the writer who never ceases to challenge me in my deepest places, Phillip Yancey.
Book you've faked reading:
Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five. My favorite class in all of college was a fiction course I took one summer, because I was trying desperately to cram four years of college into three and a half. We had to read 13 books in the span of six weeks. I love to read, but you've got to be kidding me! So, my dad read that one for me. I took one look at the cover and just handed it to him. Come to think of it, I probably still owe him for that.
Book you're an evangelist for:
I can't quit talking about Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore. I haven't cried like that reading a book in a very long time.
Book you've bought for the cover:
We're Just Like You Only Prettier: Confessions of a Tarnished Southern Belle by Celia Rivenbark. I can't help it, she was wearing a tiara!
Book that changed your life:
It is a book called Fresh Faith by Jim Cymbala. It spoke to me in the deepest places of what I was willing to believe in.
Favorite line from a book:
"I maintain my pride in the face of men, but I abandon it before God, who drew me out of nothingness to make me what I am."--The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Charlotte's Web. And this time I want Charlotte to live!
Book Review: Old Dogs
Old Dogs by Donna Moore (Busted Flush Press, $15.00 Paperback, 9781935415244, September 2010)
Anyone who's written a book called Go to Helena Handbasket (and won the 2007 Lefty Award for most humorous crime novel) deserves a second look. Here, Moore follows that first success with a caper book. As with all such books or movies, the first order of business is the gathering of the miscreants. In this caper, however, many are working at cross-purposes, not as a team. Letty and Dora, old ex-hookers–cum-con artists, have become La Contessa Letizia di Ponzo and Signora Teodora Grisiola. They've long been been working a grift that has paid good dividends, and are now ensconced in a castle in Glasgow. They are joined by a young woman who acts as seducer, secretary or whatever else is needed. And they've decided to steal a pair of gold, jewel-encrusted Shih-Tzu dog statuettes from a West End museum--worth an estimated £15 million, a tidy nest egg for the old girls' future.
Also in on the act, for one reason or another, are two morons who work in a local crematorium; a very dodgy chauffeur hired by Letty and Dora who's on to them almost immediately; and a naive young man from the island of Creagsaigh who wants to convince the museum to return the dogs to their rightful owners in Tibet. Lurking in the background is Victor Stanislav, newly arrived from Australia, where the old girls took him for a fortune. He is bent on revenge and has the cold assassin's heart necessary to enact it. Just for good measure, the museum director recently dumped his girlfriend and fired her, so she decides to steal the dogs, replace them with fakes and embarrass the boss.
This is a mighty cast of characters and the story jumps from one set to another fast enough to give the reader whiplash. There is a full complement of Glaswegian slang and argot--amusing if obscure. The crematorium idiots use most of the street slang, making them the equivalent of Shakespearean ruffians.
Once all are assembled, the game's afoot. When they are all in the museum hiding and disarming alarms, it is very funny. (Is someone writing the screenplay? The storyboard would need about 10,000 Post-It notes.) There is murder, mayhem and a snapper at the end. It's all hilarious and exhausting; you can't help but love The Old Dogs.--Valerie Ryan
Shelf Talker: A caper novel involving the theft of jeweled Shih-Tzu dogs from a Glasgow museum by too many people to count. Funny and filled with Glasgow patter by an author with a good ear for dialogue--in any dialect.
Shelf Awareness welcomes new regular reviewer Valerie Ryan. Ryan says, "A lifelong addiction to reading, for which there is no 12-step program, led me to bookstore ownership. For the past 15 years, my bookstore has been Cannon Beach Book Company on the Oregon Coast. I have enjoyed PNBA, ABA and the other booksellers in the Northwest. We are a hardy, hearty, fun-loving crew. Happy to be joining Shelf Awareness!"
Robert Gray: A David Markson Reader
"Als ick kan. Which Novelist finds himself several times repeating, even while not even sure in what language--is it six-hundred-year-old Flemish? And uncertain as to why he is caught up by van Eyck's use of it. That's it, I can do no more? All I have left? I can go no further? Als ick kan?"--from The Last Novel
I'm sorry I became a devoted Markson reader so late in the game. He is the best author I've "discovered" in the past couple of decades at least. I should have read him earlier and recommended his work throughout my bookselling career rather than during the brief time I had remaining at the bookshop once my addiction was fully formed. He deserves a larger audience, but I found him some readers while I could.
I was introduced to Markson's brilliant and irresistible work about four years ago by a friend. I read Wittgenstein's Mistress first, then quickly devoured Reader's Block, Vanishing Point, This Is Not a Novel and, when it became available, an ARC of The Last Novel. I have others on my shelves now, but I tend to reread rather than move on. There will be time. Once you're hooked, Markson's novels draw you back again.
It was not difficult to handsell Markson, especially Wittgenstein's Mistress. I told potential readers that the protagonist, a woman who believes she is the last person on earth, is so convincing that once you succumb to her voice--an easy task--the possibility that she is not mad at all seems quite likely. I even handsold the novel to a psychotherapist who agreed.
I first met Markson about three years ago at a launch party for a friend's novel. The event was held at an Upper West Side apartment in Manhattan, and in the crowded space, a few of us who knew one another gathered in a corner to talk, creating one of those social islands that are a survival tool at such functions. This wasn't the sort of venue Markson liked, but he was there and we were introduced.
I was already his reader by then, and one moment from the night stands out. We were all discussing the etymology of a word that can't be repeated here, and after it was clear no one really had an answer, I noticed Markson pull an index card from his shirt pocket and scribble something on it. I was certain he would soon know where that word came from, and the card would join what I imagined must be hundreds of other fragments that had accumulated over the years, destined to be carefully placed somewhere in the precise mosaic of his novels.
I will always read Markson because he observed--or imagined--and recorded, it sometimes seems, everything.
"Jackson Pollock and Barnett Newman went to Dodger games at Ebbets Field together."--Reader's Block
I spoke with Markson months later in a small Greenwich Village restaurant, and then one last time during the spring of 2008 on a college campus in Vermont. I recall two things from that final meeting. A New York City guy at heart, he was struck by how green everything was; and at some point in a conversation with several people, he quoted William Gaddis from memory.
Markson is now gone, but his words remain. Do yourself a favor. Read him.
And words again at the end of The Last Novel, only this time as a declarative sentence, a wave goodbye, rather than a question: Als ick kan.--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)