Shelf Awareness for Friday, July 21, 2017


Penguin Press: Winter by Karl Ove Knausgaard

Ecco Press: Varina by Charles Frazier

House of Anansi Press: The Break by Katherena Vermette

Algonquin Books: Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories by Kelly Barnhill

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books: Small Walt by Elizabeth Verdick and Marc Rosenthal

News

Rebel Heart Books Opens in Jacksonville, Ore.

Physicians Eileen Bobek and Natalya Miller opened Rebel Heart Books, Jacksonville, Ore., on July 10. Bookselling This Week reported that in February, they teamed up to purchase the Martin-Zigler building, "an historic blacksmith's building from the 1800s, which is located on the town's main drag, California Street. The store is a 625-square-foot space within the building, which also contains 300 square feet for storage and an office."

Bobek, who previously practiced as an emergency room doctor, said she decided to open an independent bookstore with Miller, who still practices as a pediatrician, because of their mutual love of books and reading: "We became friends, and we'd been talking for a long time about opening a bookstore someday. We'd actually looked at a couple of buildings here and there over the years, but we finally found one just last year."

Acknowledging that the space is small, she said they "made room for as much as we could because we want anybody to be able to walk into the bookstore and find something for themselves, no matter who they are." In addition, several local business owners were invited to create personalized recommendation shelves, "just to emphasize what a small, really close-knit community this is."

Miller played a major role in getting the building renovated and ready, and will continue to work on the logistical aspects of property restoration and maintenance. She said the building "had been used for many other things in the past, but it had never been a bookstore, and so it required quite a bit of restoration.... Now it is just a lovely space that feels really welcoming and inviting, so that is one of the things I think is really neat about the store."

The store's name was inspired by the idea that everyone has a little bit of a rebel in them," BTW noted. Bobek said: "It comes from this desire to do or be something other than what people perceive you to be or think that you are. Everybody's got this little secret dream."

Bobeck told the Jacksonville Review: "In our travels, we have found booksellers to be remarkable and generous people who want nothing more than to see another bookstore open and be successful. Jane Almquist from Treehouse Books and Sheila Burns from Bloomsbury Books in Ashland have been invaluable mentors and advocates in our process."


Quirk Books: My Lady's Choosing: An Interactive Romance Novel by Kitty Curran and Larissa Zageris


Huseby to Succeed Roberts as B&N Education CEO

Michael Huseby

Max J. Roberts will retire from his position as CEO of Barnes & Noble Education, Inc., effective September 19, and he will not stand for re-election to the board of directors. The board has appointed Michael Huseby to succeed Roberts as CEO and also to serve as chairman of the board, after having served as executive chairman since 2015.

Over his 21-year career with Barnes & Noble College, as president for 18 years and CEO for the past three years, Roberts's accomplishments "centered on collaborating with campus partners to transform bookstores into strategic assets for educational institutions," the company said, adding: "Under his leadership during this period, Barnes & Noble College enjoyed steady growth in its core business. In the coming months, Mr. Roberts will work with Mr. Huseby to transition his CEO responsibilities."

Huseby has more than 20 years of financial and executive experience. He held senior executive positions at Barnes & Noble, Inc., including a stint as CEO from January 2014 until August 2015, when BNED completed its legal and structural separation from Barnes & Noble, Inc. Huseby also worked for Cablevision Systems Corporation, Charter Communications and AT&T Broadband.

"It has been an absolute privilege to work with the most dedicated and astute group of professionals to support our partner universities in guiding students across the country to success in the classroom and beyond," Roberts said. "My time with Barnes & Noble College and Barnes & Noble Education has been the most rewarding experience of my professional life, and I could not be more confident about the future of Barnes & Noble Education."

Huseby commented: "On behalf of the entire board, I want to thank Max for his many contributions, including having led the Company management team the past two years following BNED's spin-off from Barnes & Noble, Inc. Max has been a focused and dedicated leader who is completely devoted to our mission and people. We wish him the very best in his well-deserved retirement."

Vice Admiral John R. Ryan, lead independent director, said the company and board "have benefited under Mike's stewardship as executive chairman, and we are pleased to appoint him as CEO. His leadership skills and strategic vision will be crucial assets as we continue to navigate the dynamic educational services market. It is an exciting time in the company's history and we look forward to working with Mike and the strong management team in place at BNED to execute upon the company's strategy."


Trinity University Press: Arte Kids - Bilingual Board Books


Executive Changes at Library of America

Library of America president Cheryl Hurley and publisher Max Rudin (photo: Star Black)

Library of America president Cheryl Hurley is retiring at the end of this year and will be succeeded by publisher Max Rudin. Hurley was among the nonprofit's founders 35 years ago and its first employee. She will serve as an adviser after her retirement.

Elizabeth W. Smith, chair of LOA's board of trustees, said Hurley "has established an extraordinary legacy of leadership and passionate commitment. Her imagination and style have been instrumental in making Library of America one of the nation's most vital and well-respected cultural institutions. There is no one better positioned to build on this legacy than Max Rudin, whose creative vision and long record of accomplishment have been at the heart of Library of America's reputation for quality and innovation."

In other staff changes, Daniel Baker, currently v-p and CFO, will become COO. Editor-in-chief Geoffrey O'Brien is also retiring at the end of 2017, but will continue as consulting editor. LOA is launching a search for a new editorial director.

LOA noted that the company "has had unusual continuity in its personnel: Mr. O'Brien joined the organization in 1992, Mr. Baker in 1990, and Mr. Rudin in 1980." Other key staff with expanded responsibilities include Brian McCarthy, associate publisher; Caroline Horn, director of institutional advancement; and contributing editor James Gibbons.


Thomas Nelson: Perennials by Julie Cantrell


Oakland's Laurel Book Store Facing Financial Difficulties

Luan Stauss at Laurel Book Store

Laurel Book Store in downtown Oakland, Calif., is facing financial difficulties and may have to close unless it can raise $30,000, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Lured by the "much-touted revitalization of downtown" Oakland, owner Luan Stauss moved her 16-year-old store from the city's Laurel district into the historic Lionel J. Wilson Building in downtown three years ago. While Stauss expected business to boom following the move, she has found that despite bustling bars and restaurants and the presence of major employers like online-radio company Pandora, the area is not a neighborhood "where people stroll and browse."

When Stauss moved in three years ago, her new landlord, the city of Oakland, gave her six months rent free and also agreed to "match up to $50,000 in capital improvement." Despite the financial breaks and incentives given to small businesses, the Chronicle reported, retailers are struggling, especially in downtown. Stauss's lease is up at the end of the month, and she fears that unless she can raise a significant amount of money, it won't be renewed. But beyond that, without a large increase in foot traffic it will be hard for the store to survive long-term.

According to the store's website, last October Stauss began looking for a business partner "who can bring energy, resources, and the potential for growth," but "as of today, the right fit hasn't come along." She's still looking for a business partner, and is hoping for specific customer support, both in purchases--if at least 750 customers spend $100 or more each in two weeks, the store would raise enough money to continue--and in promoting the store on social media.

"There's a lot more downtown than people think there is," Stauss told the Chronicle. "There's an education process that not happening. There's still the perception that it's dangerous here."


NPR Books, Aspen Institute Collaborate for Aspen Words Literary Prize

NPR Books will be the official media partner for the inaugural Aspen Words Literary Prize, a new, annual award for a "work of fiction with social impact" to be given by the Aspen Words literary foundation. The award comes with a prize of $35,000 and is open to novels and short story collections. Publishers have until August 1 to nominate titles; NPR Books and the Aspen Institute will announce the longlist at the end of the year.

A five-member jury consisting of Aspen Institute trustee and novelist Stephen Carter, librarian and Aspen Words participant Jessica Fullerton, Marine Corps veteran and novelist Phil Klay, author and Columbia University dean of social science Alondra Nelson, and author Akhil Sharma will decide the finalists and winner.

The Aspen Words Literary Prize has been "endowed in perpetuity by an anonymous donor." More information about the prize can be found here.


Obituary Note: Sam Glanzman

Comic-book artist and writer Sam Glanzman, "who for nearly 80 years brought a gritty, richly detailed style to illustrating war stories, including his own," died July 12, the New York Times reported. He was 92. In about 70 stories for DC and two graphic novels for Marvel, Glanzman re-created his experiences during World War II serving in the Pacific on the destroyer Stevens. While he built his reputation on wartime comics, he also worked on Tarzan and Hercules comic books as well a dinosaur series called Kona, Monarch of Monster Isle.

Glanzman's books include A Sailor's Story and U.S.S. Stevens: The Collected Stories. Drew Ford, a publisher who is editing reissues of Glanzman's works, said when he began to gather the rights to the Stevens stories from DC and Marvel in 2014, he had asked the writer why he had created them. "He got emotional," Ford recalled. "He banged his fist on the table and said, 'Because they really happened.' "

"His fantasy worlds were very coherent," said Mark Evanier, a comic book writer and historian. "Everything was of a piece, and nothing was phony. He took a bold legend like Hercules and gave it an interesting spin. Kona was a neat comic, very silly but very convincing. He was one of those artists you'd follow anywhere. 'We're fighting dinosaurs now? O.K., I believe it.' "


Notes

Image of the Day: 1984 on Broadway

photo: Nathan Johnson

At a recent performance of the play 1984, the entire sold-out audience holds up copies of the Signet Classics edition of 1984, provided by the publisher. The play adapted from Orwell's novel, starring Olivia Wilde and Tom Sturridge, is running at Broadway's Hudson Theatre.


Cool Idea of the Day: 'Library in the Sky'

Budget airline easyJet has launched a "Library in the Sky" for its entire U.K. fleet with 7,000 classic books selected by children's author Jacqueline Wilson. The Bookseller reported that the books, published by Penguin Classics, will be distributed across 147 aircraft in the passenger seat-pockets. Children will leave the books on board for the next passengers. Once they have landed, they can also download free samples of other classics as well as a sample of Wilson's latest book, Wave Me Goodbye, from the easyJet Children's Book Club. The first titles will be on board this Saturday.

Launching the initiative at London's Gatwick Airport, Wilson described flying as "the perfect place to escape into a literary adventure. The long summer break is the ideal opportunity for children to get stuck into a great story.... Reading soothes, entertains, grows vocabulary and exercises the mind and a flight is the perfect place to escape into a literary adventure. I've chosen books that children might not have read, but are familiar with, maybe from film and television."

Carolyn McCall, easyJet CEO, said the "launch of our summer kids book club is another initiative designed to make flying with us more fun and help to get kids hooked on a book at the start of the holiday season at the same time."

The initiative follows research by easyJet, which polled 2,000 British parents with children ages eight to 12; 83% of the parents said they believe children are reading less than they did when they were younger.


Media and Movies

Movie: Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus

Legendary Entertainment has acquired the rights to John Gray's longtime bestseller Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: A Practical Guide for Improving Communication and Getting What You Want in Your Relationships. "Studios have been trying to figure out how to turn the book into a movie since its publication, with Lionsgate being the latest to try to crack the code before the rights reverted back to Gray this past year," Variety reported.

The plan is to develop a movie "that appeals to Western sensibilities and to also develop a companion project for the Chinese market," Variety wrote. The book has become so popular in China that Gray has made trips over the years to teach classes based on its themes. The author is on board the project as a producer and the studio is searching for a writer to create a story around the book's themes.



Books & Authors

Awards: Janet Frame Fiction

Catherine Chidgey won the NZ$5,000 (about US$3,705) Janet Frame Literary Trust Award. Legendary New Zealand author Frame founded the trust in 1999 and bequeathed her royalty income to an endowment fund. Since her death in 2004, the trust has awarded $115,000 in grants and donations to benefit New Zealand authors.

Chidgey, author of four acclaimed novels, including her latest, The Wish Child, said: "Janet Frame was my first literary hero and still is my number one. Her books have always been very close to my heart, and so important to my development as a writer."

Frame's niece and executor Pamela Gordon called The Wish Child "an extraordinary book and Catherine deserves the accolades she has received in her career. We also wish her well for the writing she is currently undertaking."


Reading with... Brian Platzer

photo: Lauren Silberman

Brian Platzer, author of the novel Bed-Stuy Is Burning (Atria, July 11, 2017), has an MFA from the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars and a BA from Columbia University. His writing has appeared often in the New Yorker's Shouts and Murmurs and McSweeney's Internet Tendency, as well as in the New York Times, the New Republic, Salon and elsewhere. He lives with his wife and two young sons in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, and teaches middle school English in Manhattan.

On your nightstand now:

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James, The Vegetarian by Han Kang and Transit by Rachel Cusk.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Starting when I was probably six or seven years old, my father--over the course of a few years--read me all 14 books in original Oz series by Frank Baum. I remember almost nothing of the plots or characters, but the novels were important to me and somehow grander than the television or movies I was watching. The stories felt significant to the characters, to the universe, and to my father, and I don't think I ever fully lost that sense of a novel's potential grandness.

Your top five authors:

Somerset Maugham, Philip Roth, James Baldwin, Ann Packer, Kazuo Ishiguro.

Book you've faked reading:

So many! I went through an embarrassing, ugly, dislikable period during my senior year in college when I acted as though I'd read everything. It led to miserable conversations I had no reason to be in. I've never read a single novel by Dickens or Turgenev or a Brontë, and I've reached a place in my life where I can freely admit it.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin. Lately I've gotten fewer skeptical looks when I call it a masterpiece and his best work, which has been nice, as I too often insist that people--from high school kids through grandparents--read it. Its structure of returning to an optimistic past from the perspective of a disheartened present, is perfect, and I've never seen the highs and lows of passion so powerfully rendered.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Blindness by José Saramago. The simple white on black on white combined with the title promised something smart and terrifying. The novel over-delivered.

Book you hid from your parents:

I hid 1984 by George Orwell, because I'd stolen it from a high school friend. David Crawford. He wasn't even really a friend. He was just a kid who seemed smart and had girls interested in him. He left the book on the floor at school, and I took it home. It was the first thing I'd ever stolen. Since, I've stolen many things: candy, tennis rackets, sweaters, a frozen turkey, small cars, my best friend's wife. No, just kidding. I've still only stolen that book. My parents wouldn't have known by looking at it, but seeing it filled me with shame. David: if you're reading, thanks and sorry.

Book that changed your life:

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce. When I've returned to it lately, I've found it a bit too precious or stuffy, or maybe unnecessarily obscure. But when I first read it for English class junior year of high school, I was amazed. It was the first book I wanted to work hard to understand, and that combination of work and pleasure is still key to how I go about my own writing. Also, everyone else in the class hated it. In trying to defend the novel to my friends, I thought for the first time that I might have a special relationship with literature--that I might want it to play an important role in my life.

Favorite lines from a book:

"When I think about that moment now, standing with Tommy in the little side-street about to begin our search, I feel a warmth welling up through me. Everything suddenly felt perfect: an hour set aside, stretching ahead of us, and there wasn't a better way to spend it. I had to really hold myself back from giggling stupidly, or jumping up and down on the pavement like a little kid. Not long ago, when I was caring for Tommy, and I brought up our Norfolk trip, he told me he'd felt exactly the same. That moment when we decided to go searching for my lost tape, it was like suddenly every cloud had blown away, and we had nothing but fun and laughter before us." --from Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

It's the best nostalgic description of young love, without stating the love directly, that I've read.

Five books you'll never part with:

City of Glass, the first book of the New York trilogy by Paul Auster; The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Dubois; Moby-Dick by Herman Melville; Jesus' Son by Denis Johnson; and David Crawford's copy of 1984, because though I never loved the book, its presence reminds me that I am, at heart, a criminal.

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

The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles. I had no idea what I was in for when I picked up that novel. At the beginning, it feels so normal. And then it unravels far beyond anything I could have imagined.


Book Review

Review: The Mountain

The Mountain: Stories by Paul Yoon (Simon & Schuster, $25 hardcover, 256p., 9781501154089, August 15, 2017)

The six stories in Paul Yoon's (Snow Hunters) second collection, The Mountain, are almost shocking in their simplicity. Possessing a fable-like sensibility, each one is a quietly elegant examination of how survivors of various sorts carry on in the face of profound loss. Yoon's strikingly uninflected prose heightens both the tension and the resonance of these tales.

Though The Mountain's stories range across more than a century and inhabit settings that include upstate New York, Galicia and Russia's Pacific coast, they're united by the distant echo of war. Yoon illuminates how the tragic consequences of conflict linger long after the guns fall silent. World War I soldiers are sent to recover from their injuries in a Hudson Valley sanatorium in "A Willow and the Moon." In "Milner Field," a stunning incident involves a weapon given as an expression of gratitude for a lifesaving act by a Japanese commanding officer to one of his troops.

The collection's title story is its most haunting. Born in Shanghai, where her father worked in a chemical plant, its protagonist, Faye, "named after an actress in a gangster movie whose title she couldn't remember," returned to South Korea as a teenager. When she's recruited for a mind-numbing job on the assembly line of a Chinese camera factory, she gradually unearths fragments of a past that yield both physical and psychological trauma.

It's impossible to separate the content of these stories from the daringly unembellished quality of Yoon's writing, where omission often feels as meaningful as the words on the page. Favoring allusive references over elaborate description, his evocation of something as simple as the "wind passing through the high leaves" or "smoke rising from the valley ridge" conjures up a web of associations.

Representative of this captivating prose style is this passage from "Still a Fire," where a young woman named Karine surveys the decay of an abandoned cottage, the final resting place of a downed World War II pilot:

"She stays on the wing for a while and then heads back up, entering the cottage, to the dusty furniture, the long kitchen table, teacups. Pillows. An oil painting hangs tilted on the wall. There are also leaves piled up everywhere. An eggshell from a hatched bird. The smell of past seasons. Each corner like some abandoned story."

Yoon's unadorned prose is of a piece with the fragility of these delicate stories. Individually and collectively they comprise an exquisite and memorable work of art. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

Shelf Talker: Paul Yoon's evocative second collection of short stories explores the lives of trauma survivors.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Slow Art & Seeing Bookshelves

"But slowness is also essential to grasping the experience of modernity--if only because the hallmark of modernity is speed." --Arden Reed, Slow Art: The Experience of looking, Sacred Images to James Turrell

I'm reading Slow Art, which has somehow inspired me to think about bookshops, or more specifically the walls and aisles of shelves lined with titles and how we interact with them. Slowly, with focus. 

Bookshop as a museum? Bookshelves as art? Why not?

The genesis of Slow Art was Reed's personal response, over the course of eight years, to Édouard Manet's painting "Young Lady in 1866": "Gradually I came to understand that the image displayed--or, better, performed--a certain mystery. Not the hidden, but the visible.... I found myself drawn to the picture, resisted by it, and then drawn back. How long, I mused, could I sustain this conversation? I hardly thought about where I was being led, and certainly never imagined how often I would return to the spot, whether in my imagination or in fact."

Again, I think of bookshops. As a bookseller, I seldom had the luxury of engaging with the stacks in such a conversation. My encounters were often brief, practical chats about shelving, dusting, straightening, ordering or culling.

But in the decade since I reclaimed my role as bookstore customer, I've also regained the ability to slow time in the presence of a wall of books; see the whole; move in for a closer look at the spines, scanning titles with that signature head-tilt; pull a book from the installation and examine it; sit in a nearby chair and read a passage before returning it to the shelf; step back and see the broader canvas again.

"When life is tumbling out of control, I go to my happy place, where I can dream, remember and find order in chaos: I gaze upon my bookshelves," Patrick Barkham wrote this week in the Guardian.

This slow engagement can also be focused on a single book. In a recent Quartz essay, Thu-Huong Ha made the case for "the ultra slow site-specific read," observing that "the active ritual of reading one book extremely slowly, patiently, in the same place, over an unreasonably long time, has changed the way I see. It's a measured meting out of a book, like nibbling one piece of chocolate each night in the same chair over a year. It's a refusal to hurry up or to turn reading into a life hack; it's the anti-summer reading, the anti-binge read. It's site-specific, intensely slow reading, for no other reason than to bask in what's good."

By contrast, the Wall Street Journal reported last week that "speed listening" to podcasts is now a thing, with impatient listeners bumping programs up 1.5x, 2x and even 3x normal speaking pace: "The average podcast listener gets through five a week, says Edison Research, which studies media. People who listen most, the 21% squeezing in six or more, tend to listen fastest."

Slow down, you're moving too fast. Summer may be the best time to make a case for taking your foot off the reading pedal. Isn't languor a synonym for "summer read"?

Another question: "What happens when we run out of time?" asked Mads Holmen in Monday's edition of the Bookseller. "This might sound like a philosophical question, but with the explosion in content and entertainment offerings such as social media and freemium games, we are rapidly approaching a state of peak attention. I define peak attention as the moment where the competition for our attention reaches a saturated point--when there is no more time to spare and something else must miss out."

WWDD? (What would DeLillo do?) Near the end of Point Omega, a woman and a man study Douglas Gordon's video installation "24 Hour Psycho," which projects the Hitchcock classic film on a translucent screen and slows it down to the duration of a full day. "She told him she was standing a million miles outside the fact of whatever's happening on the screen," DeLillo writes. "She liked that. She told him she liked the idea of slowness in general. So many things go fast, she said. We need time to lose interest in things."

I saw Gordon's work at MoMA in 2006, the same year I happened upon Carsten Höller's "Amusement Park" at MASSMoCA. That installation featured refurbished carnival rides moving at barely discernible speeds. Museum director Joseph Thompson said: "Although this work is experienced through sight and sound, our staff has been surprised how visceral and physical the effect can be. Your body enters a space of shifting times and places, and your mind follows."

In Slow Art, Reed asks: "Is there a particular kind of art, whether still or moving, that compels rapt attention, or at least cultivates patience, that can lead us to look carefully, indulgently--even, [Peter] Sellars would say, with love?"

Yes.

I'm no art critic; I barely know what I like. But I do know there's a deep connection between the art and the books in my life. Whenever I'm in a bookshop, I turn my attention to book installations and the slow conversation begins again. --Robert Gray, contributing editor (Column archive available at Fresh Eyes Now)


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