Shelf Awareness for Monday, August 8, 2005
Quotation of the Day
First of the Regionals: PNBA
This year's show features the Feast of Authors, Friday evening 5-10 p.m., at which more than 20 authors will circulate among tables, offering tidbits about their books for booksellers to nibble on. Last year's Feast, PNBA's first, "got such a great response from booksellers," executive director Thom Chambliss told Shelf Awareness. Moreover, it allowed the association to highlight 20 more authors at the show.
On Thursday, 3-5 p.m., the association holds a Celebration of Authors, which focuses on 10 authors, "most of whom have yet to appear on any bestseller lists" but who will visit stores and are promising handselling possibilities for the fall. Later that evening, those authors and six others will be the focus of the Dessert and Autographing Party, 8-10 p.m.
The 18 educational sessions include rep presentations of "picks of the lists" and panels on e-mail newsletters; the basics of Book Sense; basics of bookstore finance; and how to increase sales, among other subjects. Thursday's lunch break features a keynote address by Shelf Awareness's John Mutter, who will speak on the subject of "the industry."
The focus on education extends to authors: PNBA has five rooms for sessions aimed at small press authors and publishers.
Next year's show will be held in October, Chambliss said, in large part because at that time of the selling season, more holiday catalogue titles will be out and there may be more opportunities for ordering based on what's been selling already.
Bookselling Notes: Friendly Lifeguard; Bell's 70th
Particularly helpful for those who couldn't travel to New York for BEA in June, the ABA will hold its first annual Winter Education Institute on January 26 and 27 in Long Beach, Calif. Free to all ABA members and staff, the Institute will feature education programming ABA put on at BEA and some new sessions; it is for both new and veteran booksellers. The program includes a "What Are You Reading?" breakfast (its lunch equivalent at BEA is highly popular), a welcome lunch, an evening reception and an independent retailing luncheon.
An article in the Contra Costa Times in California debates the issues stirred up by racy YA books such as Rainbow Party. Pam Spencer Holley of the ALA has the wise last word: "Unless you read stuff that's perhaps not the most literary, you'll never understand what good works are. But when you get them hooked on reading, then you can lead them so many other places, as far as books go."
If only all college students were like this. . .
In an essay in the Winston-Salem Journal, Brandon Alexander Robinson, a history major at Western Carolina University, part of the UNC, system, discussed how he and other students benefit from the school's textbook rental program. In his case--his family has "limited financial resources," he said--he has put most of the "income made disposable by the book-rental program" to buy hundreds of books he wasn't assigned and classical music CDs. On his first visit to the bookstore, when he and his mother discovered his book charges would be much lower than expected, he celebrated by buying a bilingual edition of Dante's Inferno, the first of his "extracurricular purchases." He said the program "has eased the burdens of financing my education and allowed me to make more reasonable and fulfilling sacrifices for my enlightenment."
Bell's Books, the Palo Alto, Calif., bookstore that stocks some 150,000 used and antiquarian titles, celebrated its 70th birthday on Saturday. Founded by the late Herb Bell, the store is run his widow, Valeria, and daughter, Faith. The party featured live jazz and local food.
A former Stanford professor told the San Jose Mercury News that he had been to bookstores around the world, "and none of them, except maybe for Powell's in Portland [Ore.], can hold a candle to Bell's."
Today's Chicago Tribune touches on some aspects of the new dynamics of the used book market, including used books's steadily growing popularity, the effect of the Internet on the availability of used books, the definition of "used" and the effect on authors and publishers.
Media and Movies
Media Heat: Maher and Maher Maher
Matt Damon will be promoting the upcoming Brothers Grimm tonight on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Directed by Terry Gilliam, starring Matt Damon and Heath Ledger, the movie is set for an August 26 release.
Books & Authors
Attainment: New Titles This Week
Sweetwater Creek by Anne River Siddons (HarperCollins, $24.95, 0066213355). A coming-of-age story about a girl whose family has experienced great loss and whose only comfort is the dogs they raise on their farm. A family friend comes to stay and brings change to each of their lives.
From Pieces to Weight: Once Upon a Time in Southside Queens by 50 Cent (MTV Books, $23, 0743486447). The world famous rapper chronicles his early days in Queens in this violent yet reflective memoir. He explores what he calls "the truths behind his music" and the plight of a generation of young people.
Da Vinci Code: Original but Ripe for Conversion
Late last week a federal district court judge in New York ruled that Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code, had not plagiarized elements of the book from two novels by Lewis Perdue, who sought $150 million in damages. No courtroom chicken, Perdue will appeal, he said.
In a summary judgment, the judge wrote that "any slightly similar elements are on the level of generalized or otherwise unprotectable ideas." Perdue's Daughter of God is action-packed while by contrast, he wrote, The Da Vinci Code is "an intellectual, complex treasure hunt."
At the same time, it appears that the Sony movie of The Da Vinci Code, directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks, currently filming in Europe, is under some pressure from Christian groups, including the Catholic Church and Opus Dei, to tone down what has made the book a phenomenon. The studio, which has blanketed the movie with unusual secrecy, has apparently talked to different groups about how the plot of the movie might be altered "to avoid offending the devout." Some suggestions include making "ambiguous" the idea that Jesus had any children; removing all references to Opus Dei, which is portrayed negatively in the book; and correcting some errors relating to descriptions of religious elements in art.
Apparently seeking to expand the movie's audience, the studio has already "hinted that the film is a thriller that will play down religious themes." Of course, the book's many devotees may be turned off by a bowdlerized version, and it's hard to imagine that fans of Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ will cross the aisle to spend their "Passion dollars" on a Da Vinci Sort of Code. Oddly Ron Howard may be the studio's best choice as director for this project. He took some strange liberties when filming the nonfiction books Apollo 13 and A Beautiful Mind; here he might do a similar thing in reverse by adding nonfictional rigor to a work of fiction.
Peter Jennings Dies at 67
Besides his many years of sterling work on camera, Jennings was the author of several books. He collaborated with Todd Brewster on two companions to ABC series, most notably The Century (Doubleday, 0385483279), published in 1998, and In Search of America (Hyperion, 0786867086), published in 2002.
One of the most charming book parties we have ever attended was hosted by Jennings and his wife, Kayce Freed, last March in their New York City apartment, just a few weeks before he announced he had cancer and would need to take some time off from his job. The book was An Alliance Against Babylon: The U.S., Israel, and Iraq by John K. Cooley (Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Michigan Press, $26.95, 0745322824), whose author has been an occasional ABC News contributor and a friend from the days when he, Jennings and others covered the civil war in Lebanon. In his sometimes boyish way, Jennings worked the crowd, catching up with longtime friends as well as engaging people he was meeting for the first time--and cheerfully talking about books and any other subject that arose.
We'll miss him.