The King Holiday
In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we will not publish on Monday. We'll see you all again on Tuesday morning, January 17.
In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we will not publish on Monday. We'll see you all again on Tuesday morning, January 17.
November bookstore sales fell 8.6%, to $941 million, compared to November 2010, according to preliminary estimates from the Census Bureau. For the year to date, bookstore sales have risen 1.2%, to $13.85 billion.
Total retail sales in November rose 7%, to $398.7 billion, compared to the same period a year ago. For the year to date, total retail sales have risen 7.9%, to $4,230 billion.
So far this year, bookstore sales have been erratic, falling in January, but then rising from February through May, and falling in June and July before rebounding in August and September and falling again in October and November. One major factor in the fall sales slump may be Borders: the store finally shut the last of its stores in September.
Note: under Census Bureau definitions, bookstore sales are of new books and do not include "electronic home shopping, mail-order, or direct sale" or used book sales.
Japanese Internet services company Rakuten received final approval to purchase Kobo for $315 million from Indigo, Quillblog reported, noting that the announcement "comes a day after another foreign takeover of a Canadian book business [McClelland & Stewart], raising questions about whether there remains any willingness in Ottawa to enforce cultural policies meant to limit such transactions."
Kobo, which will operate with its current management team in place, said the deal was "completed following customary closing conditions, including approval under the Investment Canada Act."
"While the transformation to digital reading is well underway, it is still in its infancy," Kobo CEO Michael Serbinis said. "As a part of Rakuten, we will accelerate our growth internationally, bringing new products, a leading eReading experience and a world class catalogue to passionate readers everywhere."
Everyone loves a love story, and the love independent booksellers have for independent presses is epic. Among the many indie presses appearing at the ABA's Winter Institute in New Orleans next week, Other Press has two books getting major buzz: a novel, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker (January), and a memoir, Crossing the Borders of Time: A True Story of War, Exile, and a Love Reclaimed by Leslie Maitland (April). Both authors will be at WI7.
Geoffrey Jennings of Rainy Day Books in Fairway, Kan., said he felt "a little jetlagged" after staying up until 2:30 a.m. reading Crossing the Borders of Time, in which a former New York Times investigative reporter uses her skills to explore her parents' escape from Nazi Germany and find the Catholic Frenchman who was her mother's lover and reunite them. "I couldn't believe it was a true story," said Jennings. "This is a home run, no question. And photos are in it."
In her galley letter, Other Press publisher Judith Gurewich described The Art of Hearing Heartbeats this way: "Imagine a love story, set in Burma, between a crippled girl and a blind boy who don't see each other for fifty years, yet never stop believing in each other." Also imagine an omniscient astrologer telling this story to the boy's grown-up, skeptical, New York-savvy daughter, who goes to Burma searching for her missing father.
"Kudos Other Press," cheered Lanora Haradon from Next Chapter Books in Mequon, Wis., calling The Art of Hearing Heartbeats "book club gold." Haradon was hooked into the novel by reading the blurbs from booksellers in Germany, where the novel was published in 2002. The book has sold more than 300,000 copies in Europe.
A new indie press on the scene is MP Publishing. Last year the U.K. company launched a line of American writers, distributed by Publishers Group West, and hired some editorial talent with distinguished careers at MacAdam/Cage--Guy Intoci as editor-in-chief and Pat Walsh as acquiring editor. The editorial duo's latest literary discovery is Stephen Graham Jones. With eight novels and two collections to his credit, Jones is not new to publishing, but this Native American author, who is part of the trio of edgy authors behind welcometothevelvet.com (along with Will Christopher Bear and Craig Clevenger) is the kind of writer that Walsh and Intoci are adept at helping to break out to a wider audience.
In the novel Growing Up Dead in Texas, Jones returns to his hometown for the first time since high school to revisit in a fictional way a suspicious fire in the cotton fields that devastated and split the community and for which no one ever claimed credit or was punished. Jones, who teaches at the University of Colorado at Boulder, will be at the WI7 authors' reception signing galleys of the book, which will be published in June. "That is the number one book I want to get my hands on," said Jennings.
Michele Filgate, events coordinator at McNally Jackson in New York City, has her eye on The Last Warner Woman by Kei Miller (Coffee House Press, April). "I just love Coffee House Press," she said. The novel opens in a Jamaican leper colony, where a woman with the "gift of warning" winds up in a mental institution and struggles to control the telling of her own story. Miller, a fellow at the University of Iowa, splits his time between Jamaica and Scotland.
Shortlisted for the Man Booker and recent winner of the Giller Prize, Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan (Picador, Feb.) is high on City Lights' Paul Yamazaki's WI7 buzz book list. It's about African American jazz musicians beginning in the 1920s, and set in the U.S., Germany and France. Yamazaki stressed that the book is not just for jazz aficionados. "As I was reading it, I put together my own playlist," he added.
Also on Yamazaki's radar are two memoirs--whose authors will be in New Orleans--coming from Grove/Atlantic. In Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? (March), novelist Jeanette Winterson searches for her birth mother--and her sanity--as she delves into the horrors of her childhood with her adopted Pentecostal parents near London. "How did this child survive this sh*t?" asked Yamazaki. "It's almost like having a very gripping conversation with her."
Robert Sindelar from Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park, Wash., said about Winterston's book: "Whenever a fine writer turns inward and talks about their development, it is always interesting." For his part, Jennings predicted that a signed galley of Winterson's memoir would be "Joan Didion collectible."
The other Grove memoir Jennings, Sindelar and Yamazaki all look forward to is Michael Thomas's The Broken King (May). In it, the author of the critically acclaimed paperback original novel Man Gone Down explores his relationship with his father.
In Father's Day: A Journey into the Mind and Heart of My Extraordinary Son (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, May), Buzz Bissinger, the author of Friday Night Lights, writes about how he and his mentally disabled son travel and discover much about the country and each other. Expect long lines for Bissinger at the author reception.
While the author will not be at WI7, Alison Bechdel's latest graphic memoir, Are You My Mother: A Comic Drama (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, May), is garnering lots of buzz, which is to be expected for a followup to the book about her father, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, that made so many best-of-year lists in 2006. An excerpt will be in the galley room. "Even a lot of people who do not like graphic novels, like her," said Filgate.
One of the memoirs on the radar for Valerie Koehler, owner of Blue Willow Books in Houston, is Let's Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson (Penguin, April). Lawson's theBloggess blog has a big following, and Koehler said: "She has a David and Amy Sedaris snarky way about her."
Stewart O'Nan, a perennial handseller favorite among indies, will be at WI7 signing two new novels: Emily, Alone, the sequel to Wish You Were Here, which is just out in paperback, and The Odds: A Love Story. The latter is about a middle-aged couple who go to Niagara Falls to try to gamble their way out of financial disaster but have to face the reality of their relationship. "It's a small psychological book that packs a wallop of human honesty," said Cathy Langer, buyer at the Tattered Cover in Denver. And it's funny, she added.
Langer spoke for a lot of WI7 attendees when she said she can't wait to get there next week and hear what books are on other booksellers' radar. See you next week in New Orleans. Beignets, anyone?--Bridget Kinsella
Correction: In the first part of our WI7 coverage yesterday, we called The Orphan Master's Son Adam Johnson's debut novel, but Penguin published his first novel, Parasites Like Us, in 2004.
What would a word store look like? Eye blog explored the "word-obsessed concept store," created as an installation for Selfridges on London's Oxford Street, where " 'Words, words, words' is the theme of a new store-wide initiative that centers on four dramatic window displays art-directed by It's Nice That"; highlights include a Word-A-Coaster.
The wordy shop will run until March 1 and "a busy timetable of events has been planned--from handwriting analysis sessions and Latin masterclasses to literary discussions and storytelling workshops."
The Guardian noted that Selfridges is also "putting the shh... into shopping" with its own 15,000-book pop-up library in the store's basement Ultralounge area, where even though "visitors will be unable to take the books away, they can use the 3,500 sq. ft. space as a reading room and as a bookstore. They can also listen to audio books at listening posts, and read works on iPads." Publishers Penguin, Taschen, Faber and Thames & Hudson "have worked with the Oxford Street shop to curate the section."
A Lethal Inheritance: A Mother Uncovers the Science Behind Three Generations of Mental Illness by Victoria Costello (Prometheus).
Sunday on NPR's Weekend Edition: Laurent Dubois, author of Haiti: The Aftershocks of History (Metropolitan Books, $32, 9780805093353).
Monday on Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto: Mark R. Levin, author of Ameritopia: The Unmaking of America (Threshold Editions, $26.99, 9781439173244). He will also appear on Sean Hannity's radio show.
Monday on Rock Center with Brian Williams, an interview with Walter Dean Myers, the newly named National Ambassador for Young People's Literature.
This Sunday evening, the Hollywood awards season kicks off with the Golden Globes. Ricky Gervais will host the ceremony, which will be televised on NBC at 8 p.m. ET. Here's a list of books related to the nominees.
The Descendants (5 nominations, including Best Motion Picture/Drama)
The Descendants, by Kaui Hart Hemmings (Random House 9780812982954, $15 paperback)
The Help (5 nominations, including Best Motion Picture/Drama)
The Help by Kathryn Stockett (Berkley, 9780425245132, $16 paperback)
Moneyball (4 nominations, including Best Motion Picture/Drama)
Moneyball by Michael Lewis (Norton, 9780393338393, $15.95 paperback)
Hugo (3 nominations, including Best Motion Picture/Drama)
The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (Scholastic, 9780439813785, $24.99 hardcover)
The Hugo Movie Companion by Brian Selznick (Scholastic, 9780545331555, $19.99 hardcover)
Hugo: The Shooting Script, screenplay and introduction by John Logan, foreword by Brian Selznick (Newmarket Press for It Books, 9780062202772, $19.99 paperback)
War Horse (2 nominations, including Best Motion Picture/Drama)
War Horse by Michael Morpurgo (Scholastic, 9780545403351, $8.99 paperback)
War Horse: The Making of the Motion Picture (Newmarket Press for It Books, 9780062192615, $34.99 hardcover)
My Week with Marilyn (3 nominations, including Best Motion Picture/Comedy or Musical)
My Week with Marilyn by Colin Clark (Weinstein Books, 9781602861497, $16 paperback)
Albert Nobbs (3 nominations)
Albert Nobbs: A Novella by George Moore (Penguin, 9780143122524, $10 paperback)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2 nominations)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (Vintage, 9780307949486, $9.99 mass market)
J. Edgar (1 nomination)
J. Edgar: The Shooting Script, screenplay and notes by Dustin Lance Black, foreword by Brian Grazer (Newmarket Press for It Books, 9781557049964, $19.95 paperback)
The Adventures of Tintin (nominated for Best Animated Feature Film)
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn by Herge (Little, Brown, 9780316358323, $10.99 paperback)
The Art of the Adventures of Tintin by WETA Workshop (HarperDesign, 9780062087492, $39.99 hardcover)
Arthur Christmas (nominated for Best Animated Feature Film)
The Art & Making of Arthur Christmas by Aardman & Sony Pictures Animation (Newmarket Press for It Books, 9781557049971, $40 hardcover)
We Need to Talk About Kevin (1 nomination)
We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver (Harper Perennial, 9780062119049, $14.99 paperback)
Drive (1 nomination)
Drive by James Sallis (Mariner, 9780547791098, $12.95 paperback)
A Dangerous Method (1 nomination)
A Dangerous Method by John Kerr (Vintage, 9780307950277, $16.95 paperback)
Tony and Ridley Scott are teaming up with the National Geographic Channel to produce a two-hour documentary based on Killing Lincoln: The Shocking Assassination That Changed America Forever by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. Deadline.com reported that the project, which is scheduled to begin production this spring for an early 2013 premiere, "will keep the fast pace of the book" and employ "feature-film quality re-enactments completed with CGI in the signature style of the Scott brothers."
Fox has greenlighted a comedy pilot for Living Loaded, based on Dan Dunn's book Living Loaded: Tales of Sex, Salvation, and the Pursuit of the Never-Ending Happy Hour. Deadline.com reported that the project is from It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia creator/star Rob McElhenney and the show's executive producer Rob Rosell. It will be co-written by Rosell, McElhenney and Dunn.
Arnold Rampersad has won the 2012 BIO Award, given by members of Biographers International Organization to a colleague who has made "a major contribution to the advancement of the art and craft of real life depiction."
Nigel Hamilton, president of BIO, commented: "Arnold Rampersad's lives of such iconic black American figures as W.E.B. DuBois, Langston Hughes, Jackie Robinson and Ralph Ellison have made Rampersad a towering figure in American biography, famed for his sensitivity, skill and insights into identity and American life."
Rampersad, whose first volume of his Life of Langston Hughes was a Pulitzer Prize finalist, is a professor emeritus at Stanford University. He has won numerous fellowships and was a 2010 recipient of the National Humanities Medal.
Rampersad will receive the BIO Award during the 2012 Compleat Biographer Conference on May 19 at the University of Southern California, where he will deliver the keynote address.
Thomas Caplan is author of the new thriller The Spy Who Jumped off the Screen (Viking, January 10, 2012), which features an introduction by Bill Clinton. Born and raised in Baltimore, Caplan is the author of three previous novels and has worked both as an executive in his family's jewelry firm and as a political speechwriter. He lives on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, but travels frequently to Europe, especially England.
On your nightstand now:
I am savoring Chad Harbach's The Art of Fielding, a beautifully composed, subtly insightful novel. Directly beneath it is The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal. I am late getting to this, which has been recommended by many friends whose taste I respect. Then there are Douglas Waller's biography of Wild Bill Donovan, the father of the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of the C.I.A., and Lauren Hillenbrand's Unbroken, the story of a resourceful and resilient American bombardier's survival after his plane crashed in the Pacific theater of World War II. Finally, I have an old paperback of Eric Ambler's A Coffin for Dimitrios. I remember this as one of the greatest of all thrillers and it seems high time to read it again. Like my father, I have long been an avid fan of the genre and, over the years, have devoured many brilliant, pulse-racing ones from which, incidentally, I've learned a great deal--both about human nature and how the world works.
Favorite book when you were a child:
Peter Pan, closely followed by David Copperfield.
Your top five authors:
This is an impossible question and, of course, must be prefaced by the phrase "other than William Shakespeare." Five writers I admire and whose works continually play in my mind are: F. Scott Fitzgerald, for the deceptively simple poetry of his prose, his faith in romance and understanding of aspiration, especially in an American context; Evelyn Waugh, not only for the brilliance of his satire but the grandeur of his themes; Rudyard Kipling, for sheer adventure and the utter satisfaction of wanderlust; Tennessee Williams, for his unparalleled ability to entwine the carnal and spiritual nature of human life, often in a single sentence; and T.S. Eliot, for the literally haunting precision of his imagery.
Book you've faked reading:
The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy. It was when I was at school. I don't know why I didn't read it, really. I would have been 16, so perhaps I had a girl on my mind. I did read it much later and greatly admired it. Deservedly, I remember, I received a 10 (out of a possible 100) on the quiz.
Book you're an evangelist for:
The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell.
Book you've bought for the cover:
Jaws by Peter Benchley.
Book that changed your life:
Waugh's Brideshead Revisited, which reawakened, in young adulthood, a love of England with which I seem to have been born.
Favorite line from a book:
"Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us...." --The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Hamlet, which is a play, of course, but one I first came to as a reader in school. It compresses more wisdom into exquisite poetry and captivating drama than any other work I know. With the King James Version of the Bible and The Book of Common Prayer, Shakespeare's canon forms the foundation of the English language.
Contents May Have Shifted by Pam Houston (W.W. Norton, $25.95 hardcover, 9780393082654, February 6, 2012)
Pam Houston's first story collection, Cowboys Are My Weakness, set the tone for her later work and its recurring themes of high adventure in faraway places, looking for love in all the wrong places, mystical visions and great, enduring friendships (with men, women and dogs). Billed as a novel, Contents May Have Shifted is a strongly autobiographical story of an adventurous woman who has a ranch in Colorado and teaches at the University of California at Davis and at writing workshops, but this time around, it's (just barely) possible that her bad juju with men is fixed.
The story is organized, if you can call it that, in snippets of travel essays that skip around the world, from Tibet, Lhasa and Bhutan to Colorado, Mississippi and Wisconsin (and many other locales). Pam is a girl on the move. What she is moving away from this time is Ethan, a world-class, blue-ribbon jerk, with whom she has been on and off for four years. He simply cannot give up other women, and when Pam tells him that she is no longer interested in being one among many, he says, in a brief but devastating sketch of character: "Pam, men in third-world countries treat women so badly, those women actually think I'm treating them well."
The storybook Pam is overdue for a winner, so, undefeated, she shakes off her end-days blues and jumps on a plane. (The real Pam Houston says she has been to 55 countries, all on some magazine or other's dime.) Houston's easy-breezy style is a pleasure to read, whether she's on a nailbiter of a flight, with foam laid down for the landing, or floating on a halcyon river, with foam burbling over the rocks. Whether it's truth or fiction, her candor is a real treat; she can throw in down and dirty sex talk as easily as saying "pass the salt."
One of the recurring characters in Contents May Have Shifted is the irresistible Janine, an acupuncturist, masseuse, seer and sage. Everyone needs a Janine; she finds trouble spots on Pam's person and gently removes them. Sometimes they are concave places, sometimes ghosts; Janine is equal to either task. Janine and Pam's hikes, travels and parties with friends make the reader want to be there enjoying the fun and the landscape with her.
The game changer is meeting Rick, who certainly would not be every woman's cup of tea, but Pam "gets" him; she's even accepting of and affectionate toward his daughter, which is a seismic behavior shift for her. Children have never been part of Pam's life plan, so stay tuned--the contents of her life may shift again. --Valerie Ryan
Shelf Talker: The redoubtable Pam Houston takes us on an enjoyable ride--around the world--the one we all live in as well as her own unusual interior states.
Making these word things to
step on across the world, I
could call them snowshoes.
It has been a snowless winter here in upstate New York, but this morning six inches cover the ground and big flakes are falling as I consider the opening lines of "Report from a Far Place" by the late William Stafford, whose birthday is next Tuesday.
Stafford has, suddenly and quite unexpectedly, become my winter poet. There's a good reason why a weathered copy of The Way It Is: New & Selected Poems (Graywolf, 1998) is now open on my desk. I can thank Tom Lavoie--formerly with the University of Arkansas Press (now retired)--for the inspiration to take this fine collection down from the shelf and reread it. Last week, he told me about the William Stafford Birthday Commemorative Readings series, held each January and sponsored by the Friends of William Stafford, which is based in Oregon, where the poet lived for many years.
"He was well loved. And now the whole state celebrates with Stafford readings," Lavoie noted. "As a recent resident of Portland and a fan of poetry, I was mighty impressed with how the whole state celebrates the birthday of 'its' poet, a long-time teacher at Lewis and Clark College. Commemorative readings and events take place at more than 60 venues, making January one big Stafford poetry fest."
Stafford was born January 17, 1914, and died in 1993. His annual "birthday parties" are now held throughout Oregon and Washington; in California, Nevada, Ohio, New Jersey, Vermont, New York City; and overseas in Glasgow, Scotland, and Sapporo, Japan. The events take place in libraries, bookstores, art galleries, college campuses, a national park, a hospital and even a prison. Local poets and organizers create specific programs, and often audience members are encouraged to share their favorite Stafford poems or anecdotes. More than 225 poets, musicians and speakers will participate.
Paulann Petersen, FWS board member and Oregon's current poet laureate, has been "organizing these events on a large scale for 12 years. 15 years ago, I held one at a public library in the town where I taught high school. The next year, I did the same. The year after that I hosted two events, and both were so crowded (one was SRO to the point that people were literally standing outside in January's cold, trying to hear!), I realized there should be more of these. Year by year, the events have grown in number. Year by year more states have hosted events. For the past few years, we've had international events on the roster. Essentially they've grown in number because I've asked people I know or meet if they're interested in hosting one. Bill has fans everywhere. Sometimes people contact me with an interest to host one."
Village Books, Bellingham, Wash., will have a Stafford event next week, as it has for the past few years. "Because of Bellingham's strong poetry community, and our store's relationship with many local poets, we are able to host great events like these, and bring in good-sized audiences to our store," said events coordinator Christina Claassen. "William Stafford's work is important, not only because of his strong, beautiful language and messages, but because of its connection to the region. He may be best known as Oregon's poet laureate, but his influence in Washington's literary community is just as strong. We are honored to continue celebrating his work at our store."
What is it about Stafford's poetry that draws such enthusiastic and widespread response? "Each of Bill's poems is an invitation, an invitation so hospitable and inclusive it seems to turn the schoolish world of reading and writing poetry upside down," Petersen observed. "Here is a voice that invites us to do our own adventuring in literature. Here is a voice that invites us into '...rooms in a life, apart from others, rich / with whatever happens....' This is a voice of accessibility, telling us that poems can be as near as the very center of our lives. Poetry isn't the domain of the select, the elect. Poetry is, as William Stafford assures us, the domain of anyone willing to listen, anyone willing to watch for all that the wide world sends swirling our way."
And so I appeal to a voice, to something shadowy,
a remote important region in all who talk:
though we could fool each other, we should consider--
lest the parade of our mutual life get lost in the dark.
Petersen called Stafford "a mentor. From him I learn compassion, wisdom, the exhilaration of attentiveness. From him I learn to be more of the person I'd like to be."--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)