Shelf Awareness for Monday, September 25, 2006

Atlantic Monthly Press: Those Opulent Days: A Mystery by Jacquie Pham

Feiwel & Friends: The Flicker by HE Edgmon

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: The Pumpkin Princess and the Forever Night by Steven Banbury

St. Martin's Griffin: Murdle: The School of Mystery: 50 Seriously Sinister Logic Puzzles by GT Karber

Carolrhoda Lab (R): Here Goes Nothing by Emma K Ohland

Allida: Safiyyah's War by Hiba Noor Khan

Ace Books: Servant of Earth (The Shards of Magic) by Sarah Hawley


Notes: Nifty Benefit; New B&N; Zimbalist on Bookstores

Tomorrow Page & Palette, Fairhope, Ala., will hold a fundraiser at the Storybook Guest House featuring Fannie Flagg, who will talk about and sign her new Can't Wait to Get to Heaven, the Mobile Press-Register reported. Proceeds go to the Page & Palette Foundation, which since 2002 has distributed more than $100,000 to enrichment programs in schools, among other charitable causes. Attendees are encouraged to wear a heavenly white or off-white; Spoken Word will tape the event.


In June 2008, Barnes & Noble plans to open a store in Glendale, Ariz., near Phoenix, in the Westgate City Center. The 6.5 million-sq.-ft. lifestyle development, which is under construction, is next to Cardinals Stadium and the Glendale Arena.


When the Pioneer Press invited actress Stephanie Zimbalist to go shopping in the Twin Cities, she said she most wanted to shop for "books, books, Bibles and books."

The paper continued: "No matter what city she's in, Zimbalist has a bookstore routine. She heads straight for the out-of-print literature to look for titles by her aunt, the novelist and historian Marcia Davenport. Zimbalist comes from a long line of successful artists: Her dad is the actor Efrem Zimbalist Jr., grandpa Efrem Zimbalist was a concert violinist and grandma Alma Gluck was a leading soprano."

For more on a Hollywood booklover, click here.

PM Press: P Is for Palestine: A Palestine Alphabet Book by Golbarg Bashi, Illustrated by Golrokh Nafisi

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Left, Right, Left, Right

This morning on Good Morning America: Bill O'Reilly, author of Culture Warrior (Broadway, $26, 0767920929).

Also on Good Morning America, a more cheerful visage: Loretta Ciraldo, M.D., author of Six Weeks to Sensational Skin: Dr. Loretta's Beauty Camp Handbook for Your Freshest Face (Rodale, $20, 1594864756).


This morning on the Early Show: Madeline Levine, author of The Price of Privilege: How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage Are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids (HarperCollins, $24.95, 0060595841).


Today on WAMU's Diane Rehm Show: Frank Rich, the New York Times columnist whose new book is The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth from 9/11 to Katrina (Penguin, $25.95, 159420098X).


Today on KPBS's These Days: Diane Asitimbay, author of What's Up America? A Foreigner's Guide to Understanding Americans (Culturelink Press, $14.95, 0975927604).


Tonight on Larry King Live: Today Show financial columnist Jean Chatzky, whose new book is Make Money, Not Excuses: Wake Up, Take Charge, and Overcome Your Financial Fears Forever (Crown, $24.95, 0307341526).


Tonight on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart: Pat Buchanan whose new book is State of Emergency: How Illegal Immigration Is Destroying America (Thomas Dunne, $24.95, 0312360037).


Tonight on the Charlie Rose Show: Pervez Musharraf, whose new memoir, as noted below, is In the Line of Fire (Free Press, $28, 0743283449).


Tonight on the Colbert Report: Arianna Huffington, author of On Becoming Fearless. . . . In Love, Work, and Life (Little, Brown, $21.99, 0316166812).

Farrar, Straus and Giroux: Intermezzo by Sally Rooney

Books & Authors

Presidential Publicity: Part Two

First Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez plugs a Noam Chomsky title, which shoots to the top of various online bestseller lists. Then, in the latest bit of head-of-state book hyping, at the White House on Friday Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf and President Bush promoted Musharraf's memoir, In the Line of Fire (Free Press, $28, 0743283449), whose official pub date is tomorrow.

In his appearance on 60 Minutes last night, Musharraf said that in 2001, Richard Armitage, who was then working in the State Department and who coincidentally was recently revealed to have been the Bush Administration official who first leaked Valerie Plame's identity to columnist Robert Novack, had threatened to bomb Pakistan "into the stone age" if it did not help in the campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan. After the comment was issued by 60 Minutes, Musharraf and Bush were asked about it at the Friday press conference. Musharraf avoided the question and said his publishers wouldn't want him revealing so much from the book. Bush commented: "In other words, buy the book."

Book Sense: May We Recommend

From last week's Book Sense bestseller lists, available at, here are the recommended titles, which are also Book Sense Picks:


Golden Country by Jennifer Gilmore (Scribner, $25, 0743288637). "Jennifer Gilmore's first novel is an account of three generations of Jewish Americans in the early half of the 20th century as they rise from poverty in Brooklyn to making it in America. This splendid work is wise, witty, and unsentimental as it shows the costs, as well as the rewards, of achievement in the golden land."--Carla Cohen, Politics and Prose Bookstore & Coffeehouse, Washington, D.C.


Knitting by Anne Bartlett (Mariner, $12.95, 0618710477). "With the skill of a fine knitter, Bartlett meshes the lives of Martha, a master of that art, who, plagued by self-doubt, carries her mistakes around with her in enormous suitcases, and Sandra, an academic who tries to cope with her husband's death by immersing herself in her work, the history of homely crafts. Their lives become as tightly wound as a ball of wool, but even that strong fiber is apt to unravel if pulled too tightly, as does their friendship in this perceptive look at women and the reasons that friendship matters so much to them."--Kathy Ashton, The King's English, Salt Lake City, Utah

For Young Children

Did You Say Pears? by Arlene Alda (Tundra, $16.95, 0887767397). "Homonyms and homophones have never been so much fun, or so beautifully photographed. Juxtapose the ocean's edge with arms in motion and you have 'If waves could have hands, like you and me . . . ' What a perfect way to introduce the concept and encourage children to make some pairs (or pears) of their own."--Beth Puffer, Bank Street Bookstore, New York, N.Y.

The Giraffe Who Was Afraid of Heights by David A. Ufer, illustrated by Kirsten Carlson (Sylvan Dell, $15.95, 0976882302). "With soft illustrations and muted colors, this excellent picture books tells the story of animals that are afraid of the very things they should excel at."--Jan Warner-Poole, Storyteller Books, Vancouver, Wash.

[Many thanks to Book Sense and the ABA!]

Deeper Understanding

An Alphabetical Life

Editors' note: The following is the first of several excerpts Shelf Awareness is pleased to run in the next few weeks from An Alphabetical Life: Living It Up in the Business of Books by Wendy Werris (Carroll & Graf, $15.95, 078671817X), which will be published November 5. A former bookseller and longtime sales rep, Werris also works as a freelance author escort and photographer in the Los Angeles area. For more information about her and the book, go to her Web site.

In 1970, at the age of 19, Werris began working at the renowned Pickwick Bookshop in Los Angeles.

I've always thought it was my weird genetic goulash that pushed me into the book business, but it happened with such a gale force that I've been unable to leave--even after several complicated decades now. Who the hell knows which chromosome it was? It burst open like a sweet, ripe melon that day I strolled into Pickwick. I entered through the doors to buy a copy of Fire Station by Charles Bukowski, and two hours later walked out with a job. I swear to God, this wasn't intentional! It was a hot day; the Santa Ana winds had kicked up the night before and the temperature hovered at around ninety degrees. Seeking relief in the air-conditioned store, I stalled for time by talking to the clerk who rang up my sale in the lovely chilled air.

Then I noticed the "Help Wanted" sign by the cash register, and on a whim inquired about the position. It had never occurred to me that I wanted to work in a bookstore, that I might actually be hired on the spot, or that if I'd waited just a short while longer I could have gotten the employee discount on the book I'd just paid my last three dollars for. Being the unrefined girl that I was, the concept of serendipity was still unfamiliar to me.

It only took a couple of minutes to fill out the job application, leaning against the front counter as I did. When you're nineteen years old, your history is achingly brief. Mine included two part-time jobs--the first selling popcorn at a movie theatre; the next answering phones at a hardware store--and a minor degree in English from a community college. On paper my life showed little of merit.

I was directed up two flights of stairs to the administrative offices and before I knew it was sitting across from Pickwick's personnel manager.

"I see you have no bookstore experience. Why do you want to work here, Miss Werris?" Shirley Arnold crossed her long legs and thrust the spike heel on her left foot in my general direction. I swallowed. She examined her fingernails, each an inch long and painted bright red. I stared at Shirley as she pushed her black hair back behind one ear, took a deep breath and finally rested her hands in her lap.

"You see," I stammered, "I really love literature and I read quite a lot so I'm prettyknowledgeableaboutbooks." My words ran together in a fit of nerves. "And I spend so much time shopping in here anyway thatitalmostfeelslikehometome.

"And I know how to make change!" Now my brains were falling out of my mouth. Oh, God!

But Shirley understood; good old Shirley, with her blue eye shadow, high heels, and uncanny intuition about people that would later make me go running to her whenever I was in trouble at the store. Sparing me further humiliation, she smiled and said, "The most I can pay you is minimum wage--a dollar sixty an hour. We need someone to work on the sales floor, and eventually manage the children's department upstairs. I like you. You can start on Monday if you're interested." There was a subtle shifting of her hips in the swivel chair she occupied so gracefully. 

"Oh boy, thank you so much. I really appreciate it! Yes, I do. Thanks!" I got up from my chair to shake Shirley's hand, dropping the bag with Fire Station on the floor at the same time. "Oh. I guess I'll see you on Monday. And you'll see me on Monday. Wow! Thanks!"

Shirley bent to pick up my bag, and handed it to me. She was trying to keep a straight face, but it was difficult. "Be here at 8:30," she announced, "and you'll begin your training. You get off at six, and have an hour for lunch." She finally burst out laughing. "Listen, you've gotta relax! I can tell you're a natural for this job." From your mouth to God's ears, I thought.

It was love at first sight when Werris began working at Pickwick:

Pickwick Bookshop was known in all the literary, educated circles as the best bookstore west of the Mississippi. It had opened in 1938 and was an enormous three-story structure on Hollywood Boulevard that prided itself on the depth of its stock and almost supernaturally astute staff. Affectionately referred to as "The Big Bookshop," it was the place to browse, schmooze and find books that no one else in town carried. Many of its customers were writers, artists, academics and celebrities from all walks of life who knew that when they came to Pickwick they would be treated with the utmost discretion and civility. Despite the crappy wage, I considered myself a lucky girl to be working at such an extraordinary place.

I loved it from the very first morning, when the staff gradually welcomed me from every corner of the store, emerging from behind bookcases and the rolling ladders attached to the walls for access to stock on the uppermost shelves. Some slid around from behind the long sales counter to greet me before counting the money in the cash drawers they'd just slipped into the registers. To a soul, everyone was friendly and, to varying degrees, seemed to hold the potential for madness.

That day I met the kind of people I'd been subconsciously waiting for all my life. Mad poets. Gay men. Hilarious alcoholics. Old queens and struggling actors; street hustlers and college drop-outs. I shook hands with frustrated novelists and capricious astrologers. They all worked at Pickwick and would soon become my extended family. Until this time my circle of friends had been made up of the high school chums I'd known practically all my life. We all lived in the same neighborhood, a protective enclave of single family dwellings in Los Angeles with no ethnic diversity and only a handful of people who could claim Semitic immunity. This was a world of white, heterosexual Jews and their ingenuous kids. My relationships with them were enjoyable, but lacked the intrigue and challenge I was ready to experience.

. . .

For the first six months there I was a sales clerk behind the front counter, and also floated between book sections managing the stock. Each day I took inventory of "my" books in the crafts, sports and biography aisles, and submitted yellow re-order slips to the buyers. We were never out of a title for very long. These slips of paper went into a tray on the desk of the backlist buyer, where they were then sorted and filed by publisher. Pickwick was a high-volume bookstore, so within a day or two there were usually enough books needed from one publisher to generate an order with an acceptable wholesale discount.

Computers weren't around back then, and we were blissfully unaware of the speed and efficiency they would later bring to inventory control and ordering. However, thanks to the system then in use at Pickwick I became familiar with the hundreds of publishers whose books we stocked. It didn't take long before I made the important leap to connect particular titles and authors with their respective publishers, an essential skill for booksellers.

I learned, for instance, that it was Dodd, Mead who published the Agatha Christie mysteries. Van Nostrand Reinhold specialized in art books, as did Dover and Abrams. Llewellyn published books on the occult, and we ordered The Joy of Cooking from Bobbs Merrill (its original publisher). I had an excellent memory for such details, and learned quickly. From the start, I made a good impression on the management at Pickwick.

Within a month or two I picked up on the rhythm of life at the bookstore. When we opened in the morning on a blank easel of a day, I was ready for anything. The breeze from Hollywood Boulevard carried a thousand scenes into Pickwick and dumped situations at our front door that I couldn't make up if I tried. The street was always washed out in the early morning light, not quite nine o'clock, too early for the Hare Krishna folks, bag ladies strolling their turf that would steal rolls of toilet paper from our bathrooms, the Jews For Jesus, and the drunks trolling for spare change. They'd all come calling later on. However, it was just the right time for a team of crazy booksellers to start their day.

Out there in the wilds of the aisles of biographies, Merck Manuals, cookbooks and Nancy Drew mysteries we yawned and stretched. We often looked like we'd slept at Pickwick the night before, shuffling lazily while dusting the books and slurping coffee from Styrofoam cups. That blessed silence! It was the only time of day when the phones were quiet, cash registers still and aisles empty of shoppers. On those mornings, it was easy to imagine Pickwick standing firmly on Hollywood Boulevard like the eighth wonder of the world; it seemed eternal to me. As the big security door was rolled up to let in the first customers of the day, we would all check to make sure our name tags were pinned on and the books on the front tables in perfect alignment. 

We were all misfits in those days, not fitting in anywhere else but within the dusty confines of Pickwick. It was the start of the seventies, and Los Angeles was on a swing shift from anti-war hippiedom to the tentative rhythm of disco, from hallucinogens to cocaine, and from the "closet" attitude forced on homosexuals to more openly gay lifestyle from the hide-and-seek nature of the dreaded 'closet' to a more openly gay lifestyle. I was part of an eccentric group of sales clerks, shipping and receiving clowns and brilliant book buyers. Between the employees and the clientele we demonstrated the whole gamut of psychological diagnoses--from manic-depression to narcissistic tendencies.

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