Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Harper Voyager: Dragon Rider (Soulbound Saga #1) by Taran Matharu

Page Street YA: The Final Curse of Ophelia Cray by Christine Calella

HarperOne: I Finally Bought Some Jordans: Essays by Michael Arceneaux

Tor Nightfire: Ghost Station by S.A. Barnes

Severn River Publishing: Covert Action (Command and Control #5) by J.R. Olson and David Bruns

Scholastic Press: Heroes: A Novel of Pearl Harbor by Alan Gratz


To the Editor: A Level Playing Field

Peter Glassman, owner of Books of Wonder, New York City, which he notes is both a "main street" and online bookseller, writes:

In response to the comments yesterday of Derek Stafford, owner of online bookseller, I wish to say that I find his argument spurious. It is no more an uneven playing field for online booksellers to have to pay shipping to their customers than it is for main street booksellers to have to pay a premium for retail space as opposed to the relatively inexpensive cost online booksellers pay for warehouse space. What the "level playing field" refers to is treating all booksellers equally under the law. Obviously, being in Manhattan, I pay a far higher per square foot rent for my store than do my colleagues in suburban New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. But it's my choice to operate a business here, just as it is Derek Stafford's choice to run an online business. But it is not my choice--or any other bookseller's--to collect sales tax. That is mandated by law. And it is not just a cost to our customers, but a cost to us in tracking, calculating, and paying sales tax, as well as maintaining seven years worth of records concerning them. It is only fair that the law be applied to all businesses equally. That is what the "level playing field" is all about.

HarperOne: Be a Revolution: How Everyday People Are Fighting Oppression and Changing the World--And How You Can, Too by Ijeoma Oluo


Notes: Edna Lewis Dies; Relentless Aaron; Onion Peels

Cool idea of the day: Books & Books is offering Valentine's Day dinners at cafés at its Coral Gable and Miami Beach stores. The full meals include complimentary glasses of champagne. During the evening, Books & Books will also host live music and a reading (on an evening no diners will have to do the dishes) by Diana Abu-Jaber, the novelist who contributed to the new anthology Why I'm Still Married: Women Write Their Hearts Out on Love, Loss, Sex and Who Does the Dishes.


Edna Lewis, author of The Taste of Country Cooking, a classic of regional cooking, and co-author with Scott Peacock of The Gift of Southern Cooking: Recipes and Revelations from Two Great American Cooks, died yesterday at 89. Praised by such foodie icons as Craig Claiborne and Alice Waters, Lewis had worked for years as a cook in several restaurants and founded the Society for the Revival and Preservation of Southern Food.


The New York Sun profiles the delightful Argosy Book Store in New York City, home to treasures that include all kinds of books, maps, prints and autographs.

One of several amusing stories from the paper: Years ago the store's founder, Louis Cohen, father of the three sisters who run it now, spent many weekends sorting through a doctor's collection of tens of thousands of books. When the doctor asked Cohen to hurry because he was selling the house, Cohen asked how much the house cost. When the doctor responded, "$25,000," Cohen said, "I'll take it."


Today's New York Times profiles Relentless Aaron (the pen name of Dewitt Gilmore), a self-published street lit author who was recently signed by St. Martin's Press. Called a "guerrilla marketer" by his agent, Ian Kleinert, Aaron said he has sold 200,000 copies of his books--30 of which he wrote while in prison for seven years--on the Internet, on the street, in small bookstores and on buses that carry visitors to prisons in upstate New York. Among the titles: Push, Topless and Platinum Dolls.


Judging just from the press release, this book can't appear too soon.

Concerning Little, Brown's purchase of the first original Onion title since 1998's Our Dumb Century, which will appear next year, the house's release reads: "Details regarding the contents of the book are highly confidential, but janitors looking through Little, Brown's trash have discovered that the new Onion project promises to be the single most comprehensive source of information about everything in the world. They have also discovered that many Little, Brown employees still refuse to put recyclable paper in the green trash cans, not the brown ones, despite several detailed memos explaining the proper procedures."

And Little, Brown editor in chief Geoff Shandler is quoted as saying, "We are 110% committed to making this the biggest Onion project yet. And when we learn more about what the book is, that percentage will rise to 120%."

Harpervia: Behind You Is the Sea by Susan Muaddi Darraj

Porter Square Books's Surprise Valentine

As the store's Web site dryly described it, Porter Square Books in Cambridge, Mass., received "not the Valentine we expected": last Saturday at noon, an SUV crashed into the store's Café Zing, destroying the front of the store on that side and injuring several customers. None of the hurt has life-threatening injuries, and no Porter Square staff were injured.

Porter Square Books closed after the accident but reopened yesterday, with changed hours. See the store's Web site for a picture and updates.

The store wrote: "We thank the many of you who called to offer your help and support and who brought us all manner of comfort. You are the best! We are all right if a little shaken. Our thoughts are with our injured customers. We wish them a quick recovery."

University of California Press: The Accidental Ecosystem: People and Wildlife in American Cities by Peter S. Alagona

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Tertzakian on Oil; Margaret Atwood

Today on NPR's On Point, L. Paul Bremer III talks about his memoir, My Year in Iraq: The Struggle to Build a Future of Hope (S&S, $27, 0743273893).


Today on WAMU's Diane Rehm Show, Liz Perle discusses how women view money, as explored in her new book, Money, A Memoir: Women, Emotions, and Cash (Holt, $23, 080507712X).


Today on WNYC's Leonard Lopate Show:
  • Margaret Atwood, cheerfully talks about her new collection of 30-odd acerbic fictions, The Tent (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, $18, 0385516681).
  • Ross King paints a picture about the birth of Impressionism, as outlined in his new book, The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism (Walker, $28, 0802714668).


This evening PBS's Lehrer NewsHour will interview Loretta Napoleoni, author of Insurgent Iraq: Al-Zarqawi and the New Generation (Seven Stories Press, distributed by Consortium, $15.95, 1583227059).


Tonight on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart: Peter Tertzakian, author of A Thousand Barrels a Second: The Coming Oil Break Point and the Challenges Facing an Energy Dependent World (McGraw-Hill, $27.95, 0071468749).


Yesterday Talk of the Nation talked with Michael Eric Dyson, whose Pride: The Seven Deadly Sins (Oxford University Press, $17.95, 0195160924) is part of the New York Public Library Lectures in Humanities.


Yesterday NPR's Fresh Air was debriefed by Kristin Henderson about her new book, While They're at War: The True Story of American Families on the Homefront (Houghton Mifflin, $23, 0618558756).

Movie Tie-in: Freedomland

Freedomland, directed by Joe Roth, starring Julianne Moore, Samuel L. Jackson and Edie Falco and based on the Richard Price novel (Delta, $15, 038533513X), opens on Friday. Moore may be lying when she claims a black carjacker has made off with her four-year-old son. Jackson plays the detective.

Books & Authors

Attainment: New Books Out Next Week

On sale next Tuesday, February 21:

The Adventures of Vin Fiz by Clive Cussler (Philomel, $15.99, 0399244743). This is the thriller author's first children's book, strarring 10-year-old twins who fly across the country in a model of the Wright Brothers' plane.


The Old Wine Shades: A Richard Jury Mystery by Martha Grimes (Viking, $25.95, 0670034797). The 20th mystery featuring the Scotland Yard detective.


The Two Minute Rule by Robert Crais (S&S, $24.95, 0743281616). Former bank robber Max Holman teams up with ex-FBI agent Katherine Pollard--the person who arrested him--to find out the truth about Holman's son, a cop who was murdered under unusual circumstances.


The Templar Legacy: A Novel by Steve Berry (Ballantine, $24.95, 0345476158). Former Justice Department agent turned antiquarian book dealer Cotton Malone gets caught up in the hunt for the treasures and potentially shattering secrets of the medieval order of the Knights Templar, which was crushed in the 14 century.

Book Review

Mandahla: A Century of November Reviewed

A Century of November by W Wetherell (University of Michigan Press, $14.00 Paperback, 9780472031221, November 2005)

"He judged men and he grew apples and it was a perilous autumn for both." With this marvelous opening line, W. D. Wetherell begins the story of Charles Marden's bleak journey to Belgium, to see the exact spot where his son Billy died in the last days of World War I. Marden lives on Vancouver Island, where he is a farmer and magistrate, and mourning the death of his wife in the Spanish flu epidemic. When he gets word of his son's death, he leaves the island and impulsively takes a train to Halifax, then buys passage on a ship to Southampton. He notes in his journal that his cabin is 9C, starboard side, "down low near the bow. The most vulnerable spot for torpedoes, they say. Which is fine with me." After landing in England, he travels to Salisbury where Billy was stationed, hoping to get more information about his death, and life. He obtains his son's records and hears that a young woman, Elaine Reed, had been there the previous day, asking the same questions. He discovers that she has left for London and then Belgium, and while "He was going to Flanders to bury hope," he wonders what she is seeking.
He crosses the channel to Europe, along with others who are making the journey, looking for loved ones, carrying tins of cocoa and extra clothing, because not one of them believes their son is dead. "We've come, we've all come, to warm them, feed them, fetch them home." In Ypres, "The destruction was so total it made it seem like we were children walking a long plank over an abyss." And so they are, navigating collapsed trench systems, lines of discarded tins, the British labels only sixty yards from the German. Thick belts of barbed wire, smashed culverts, shattered and seared trees, penny nails marking graves. Marden is still trying to catch up with Elaine Reed, who also is determined to find where Billy died. One night he spends in a crater, wrapped in a blanket, listening to shells detonating spontaneously around him: "Out over No Man's Land, triggered by who knew what, an unexploded flare became agitated enough to leave its casing and arc skyward, smearing its green against the underside of a cloud, cooling into a perfect yellow petal, drooping earthwards as below it, rising up on all sides, came the appreciative yipping of dogs."
Wetherell excels in description, using words with precision and solemn beauty. On Vancouver Island in July, fires from the mainland burned all summer, with no young men to fight them, "until each apple tree in the orchard was doubled by a spiky silhouette of gray," echoing the devastation of France. On the ship to Southampton, the passengers, pilgrims to the battlefields, filled their days with "solemn clockwise promenading, like skaters in a very grave waltz." At night, Marden hears a whining sound in the very steel of the ship, but not quite whining--something deeper, more distressful--and wonders what mechanism accounts for it. He realizes later that it is the sound of hundreds of women wailing, sobbing, desperate with grief. Walking along the Somme, he thinks, "Never have I seen a body of water that so perfectly lives up to its name. Somber. Somnolent. A mercurous gray color, November turned liquid."
Poignant, tragic depictions of the people left to grieve and the ravaged land, the continuing death and dying--unexploded shells, phosgene gas, miles of twisted barbed wire, and always the mud--are wrenching. Yet in the midst of pain and loss, this is a story of hope and redemption in a desolate world. "Luminous" is an overused word in reviews, but A Century of November more than deserves the word. This elegant novel will stay with you.--Marilyn Dahl

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