Shelf Awareness for Friday, May 12, 2017

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


Two Rivers Bookstore Open in Memphis

Two Rivers Bookstore opened earlier this year at 2172 Young Avenue in the Cooper-Young neighborhood of Memphis, Tenn., the Commercial Appeal reported. Owned by Heather Cummings, the bookshop focuses on "Science Fiction--Fantasy--Weird Fiction" (to quote the sign outside its door). The store was named for a key location in Robert B. Jordan's Wheel of Time series. 

"I think if you give Memphians something really cool, they will support it," Cummings said. "Basically, it's kind of like my brain in store form. It's all the things I love." She added that Two Rivers is modeled in part on San Francisco's Borderlands Books.

Sharing a building with the Java Cabana coffeehouse, the bookstore "is situated along what may be Memphis' hippest mini-stretch of shops," including 901 Comics, Goner Records and Burke's Book Store, the Commercial Appeal noted.  

"It was on purpose, to be as close to the comic-book store as possible," said Cummings, whose shop is intended to complement rather than to compete with her neighbor. "I know being this close to Burke's, 901 and Goner is going to be advantageous. We have a similar customers base, and people like to come to Cooper-Young and eat and make a day of it."

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

Book Passage Sues Over California Autographed Memorabilia Law

Represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation, Book Passage--with stores in Corte Madera, Sausalito and San Francisco, Calif.--and co-owner Bill Petrocelli have filed suit against a state law that, the plaintiffs say, "will make it extremely risky, if not impossible, for stores to sell autographed books or host author events."

Passed by the California legislature last year and effective this past January 1, Assembly Bill 1570 expanded the state's autograph law, which originally applied only to sports memorabilia, to cover any signed commodity worth more than $5, including books. At the same time, the plaintiffs noted, "AB 1570 makes irrational exemptions for certain online retailers, as well as pawn brokers."

The suit argues that the law is unconstitutional and violates the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause.

Bill Petrocelli

The plaintiffs said that "if the owners of a bookstore dare to offer autographed books, they are confronted with a thicket of new legal obligations, liabilities, and vulnerabilities. They must personally guarantee the authenticity of each autograph, on pain of major financial penalties if they turn out to be wrong. They must provide a certificate of authenticity with the name and address of the person from whom they obtained the signed item. When an author signs a book in the presence of the store owner, the certificate must specify the date and place of the signing, and identify a witness to it. Sellers must state whether they are bonded, and note whether the item is part of a limited edition, the size of the edition, and whether future editions are in the works. And they must keep records on every sale for seven years." Fines can be as much as 10 times damages.

Book Passage hosts more than 700 author events a year and operates the monthly Signed First Editions Club, in which subscribers are sent a first edition book signed by an emerging author.

Petrocelli said that the law's "expensive mandates--with voluminous reporting requirements and draconian penalties--create a nightmare for independent booksellers that thrive on author events and book signings. Consumers will also suffer. The tradition of author events at bookstores, with opportunities for direct interaction between writers and readers, will be shattered. The cost of record-keeping and major liability threaten to make book signings impossible, and stores such as mine do not want to engage in the massive intrusion on customer privacy that is mandated by the law's reporting rules."

Pacific Legal Foundation attorney Anastasia Boden added: "With the passage of AB 1570, California lawmakers have threatened the vitality of bookstores and the hosting of author events, and in so doing, dealt a major blow to free speech."

Farrar, Straus and Giroux: Intermezzo by Sally Rooney

Rachel Kempster Barry Returns to Bookselling at Short Stories Bookshop

"The circumstances just lined up," said Rachel Kempster Barry, the new managing director at Short Stories Bookshop and Community Hub in Madison, N.J., a general-interest bookstore that sells new books for kids, teens and adults, and also serves as an open, reconfigurable community space used for everything from author events and live music to tabletop games. "It was one of those divine moments. I just went for it."

Barry joined Short Stories earlier this month after working for 17 years in the publishing industry, most recently as the v-p of marketing and publicity for DK Publishing. Before she got started in publishing, Barry worked for two years at Book Revue, the indie on Long Island in New York. Barry's decision to become a bookseller again came about rather quickly. She lives only about a mile from Short Stories and volunteered to help wrap gifts over the holidays. Working there made her remember how much she loved her time as a bookseller and how much she missed meeting readers and putting books in their hands, she said.

"The higher you go in publishing, the more distance there is from actual readers," she explained. Volunteering at the store got her "excited about books again." She added: "Even though I loved working at DK, I always said that working at Book Revue was my favorite job."

Barry learned shortly thereafter that Short Stories owner Barb Short was looking for a new manager, and at the same time, she was looking to make a change. Between a commute that amounted to three hours of travel each day, a desire to be closer to her home and neighborhood, and a greater interest in political and community activism, Barry decided to make the leap.

Rachel Kempster Barry celebrated Independent Bookstore Day at Short Stories Bookshop.

"Life's short," continued Barry, who had imagined working in a bookstore again as something she might do only after she retired. "It's really trite, but I thought: When am I going to do this, if not now?"

Short Stories opened in 2014 after a successful Kickstarter campaign raised more than $18,000. Last year the store moved from its original 1,400-square-foot space into a 2,000-square-foot-location in an historic building in downtown Madison. Barry said the store does very well with children's books, as well as contemporary fiction and nonfiction for adults, and has a strong poetry section thanks in part to being near three colleges (Fairleigh Dickinson, Drew and the College of St. Elizabeth).

Although Barry's first official day was May 2, she had her "coming out party" at the store on Independent Bookstore Day in April, and already she reportedly has a list "about seven miles long" of things she wants to accomplish. High on that list are expanding the store's children's section and its sideline offerings. She also hopes to grow the store's YA section, do more adult-focused events, and bring more creativity and writing books in the store, among other things. Since taking charge, she's been steadily reaching out to customers and community members about what they want to see in the store.

"At the end of the day, inventory is expensive, and we can't quadruple our inventory in a month. I want to really focus my curation," said Barry. "I want to better find out what the community needs."

Barry said that so far, the "most fun thing in the whole entire world" has been going through her lists of the books she's loved and making them available in the store. She's made sure that the late Amy Krouse Rosenthal's entire body of work has been "stocked up," and ordered Sydney Taylor books that she read as a child. Among more recent books she's been handselling are the graphic novel series Lumberjanes, and Barry Lyga's most recent YA novel, Bang.

"That's the part that's sustaining, getting to share all of these books I just adore," said Barry. "Kids still love these timeless, wonderful things." --Alex Mutter

Dori Weintraub Named Indie Bookseller Liaison at St. Martin's Press

Dori Weintraub

Dori Weintraub, v-p of publicity at St. Martin's Press, is adding a new feather to her cap: she is being made independent bookseller liaison, which will include leading the press's initiatives with Indie Next selections, attending regional trade shows and Winter Institute on a biannual basis. She'll also coordinate with sales and marketing staff on indie projects.

In a memo about the change, St. Martin's executive v-p and publisher Jennifer Enderlin wrote that "it has become clear that one of Dori's many strengths is her ability to connect with booksellers and to act as an ambassador on the indie front for our authors.... Dori will remain v-p, publicity, and will continue to work as a publicist on some of our most high-profile campaigns. This marks an added responsibility to which Dori, through her skills, is uniquely suited."

IPG Publisher Summit

IPG's fourth annual Publisher Summit last week at the Hyatt Regency at McCormick Place in Chicago included helpful info sessions from Kobo, IPG and the Midwest Booksellers Association, as well as many educational panels that covered topics such as tactics for building awareness with independent booksellers and the importance of indie publishers to the library community. Betsy Bird, author, reviewer and collection development manager at the Evanston Public Library, gave the keynote address. There was also plenty of time for networking, advice from the IPG sales team and, of course, a fun party at the Bottom Lounge.

Betsy Bird

At a session on author events, Alex Houston and Colin McDonald from Seminary Co-op Bookstores advised publishers about ways to make sure author events are successful. Later in the programming, Suzy Takacs of the Book Cellar, Chicago, and Javier Ramirez of the Book Table, Oak Park, Ill., shared advice with publishers about how best to build awareness for their titles with independent booksellers. Some of their tips included being passionate about a select number of books; keeping communications succinct; relying on the experience and knowledge of sales reps; and using tools such as Shelf Awareness, NetGalley and the ABA White Box.

A light note was added by Curt Matthews, who launched IPG in 1981, when he described taking phone calls from "some guy" named Jeff Bezos who wanted to order books using his personal credit card.

In her closing keynote, Betsy Bird encouraged the indie publishers in the room, praising them for their brave, and diverse approach to publishing. She also discussed why children's books are indispensable to our culture. --Matt Baldacci

Obituary Note: William Hjortsberg

William Hjortsberg, "a brilliantly inventive writer whose books fell into a category sometimes called 'slipstream,' a creative mix of genres often characterised by darkness lightened with playful humour," as the Guardian put it, has died. He was 76.

Hjortsberg's best-known novel was Falling Angel, published in 1978, "a mix of hard-boiled detective fiction and horror," that was made into Alan Parker's Angel Heart in 1987. He also wrote the screenplay for Ridley Scott's cult movie Legend, which appeared in 1985.

Hjortsberg was a close friend of writer Thomas McGuane, who helped Hjortsberg publish his first novel, Alp, which appeared in 1969. Other novels included Gray Matters, Nomad, Toro! Toro! Toro!, Nevermore and Mañana. He also wrote Jubilee Hitchhiker, a biography of Richard Brautigan, who, like Hjortsberg and McGuane, was a member of the "Montana Gang."


Image of the Day: Chesapeake & Hudson Turns 25

Congratulations to Chesapeake & Hudson, the rep group in the Mid-Atlantic and New England region that celebrated its 25th anniversary on April 22. Here co-owners Ted Wedel (l.) and Bill Hoar (r.) received a certificate of appreciation from Jeff Snoots, mayor of Brunswick, Md., where the headquarters is located.

Plaque Honors Penguin Founder

Penguin Books founder Sir Allen Lane was honored Wednesday for his contribution to British publishing with an orange plaque at Exeter St. David's railway station, "where he conceived the sixpenny paperback in 1934," the Bookseller reported. The plaque was commissioned by his daughter, Clare Morpurgo, and designed by Penguin Random House "as a twist on English Heritage's blue plaques." Lane died in 1970.

The unveiling was marked by a ceremony at the station to celebrate Lane's life. In attendance were member of his family, including daughters Morpurgo and Christine Teale, managing director of Penguin Press, Stefan McGrath, representatives from Great Western Railway, and local charities and community groups.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Siddhartha Mukherjee on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: Siddhartha Mukherjee, author of The Gene: An Intimate History (Scribner, $20, 9781476733524).

E! News Daily: Yogi Cameron, author of The Yogi Code: Seven Universal Laws of Infinite Success (Atria/Enliven Books, $23.99, 9781501154522).

NPR's Morning Edition: Senator Ben Sasse, author of The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis--and How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance (St. Martin's Press, $27.99, 9781250114402).

Movies: Blade Runner 2049; A Good Man Is Hard to Find

A full-length trailer for Blade Runner 2049, inspired by the 1982 film adaptation of Philip K. Dick's 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, "is here and, as expected, it's just undeniably beautiful," io9 reported. Directed by Denis Villeneuve, Blade Runner 2049 stars Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford. It opens October 6.


Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy, The Walking Dead) 'is reuniting with his Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer director John McNaughton" on a film adaptation of Flannery O'Connor's classic short story "A Good Man Is Hard to Find," Deadline reported. Benedict Fitzgerald (The Passion of the Christ) wrote the screenplay. Ed Richardson is producing under his R&R Productions Worldwide banner, along with David Zander and Mike Sears.

Books & Authors

Awards: Desmond Elliott; Bread & Roses

A shortlist has been announced for the £10,000 (about $12,940) Desmond Elliott Prize, which honors a first novel written in English and published in the U.K. This year's Desmond Elliott shortlisted titles are My Name Is Leon by Kit de Waal, Harmless Like You by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan and Golden Hill by Francis Spufford. The winner will be revealed June 21.


The Alliance of Radical Booksellers has announced its shortlist for the £500 (about $647) Bread and Roses Award for Radical Publishing, which "seeks to celebrate excellence in the field of radical political nonfiction." The winner will be announced June 24 at the London Radical Bookfair. Also unveiled at the ceremony will be the ARB's children's prize, the Little Rebel's Children's Book Award. This year's Bread and Roses shortlisted titles are:

Lean Out by Dawn Foster
The Hammer Blow: How 10 Women Disarmed a War Plane by Andrea Needham
The Candidate: Jeremy Corbyn's Improbable Path to Power by Alex Nunns
This Is the Place to Be by Lara Pawson
See Red Women's Workshop--Feminist Posters 1974-1990 by See Red Members and Sheila Rowbotham
The Egyptians: A Radical Story by Jack Shenker
Another Day in the Death of America by Gary Younge 

Reading Group Choices' Most Popular April Books

The two most popular books in April at Reading Group Choices were Spill, Simmer, Falter, Wither by Sara Baume (Mariner Books) and The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers).

Reading with... Lauren Wolk

Lauren Wolk is an award-winning poet and artist, and author of the adult novel Those Who Favor Fire and the Newbery Honor-winning middle grade novel Wolf Hollow. Her new middle grade novel, Beyond the Bright Sea (Dutton, May 5, 2017), is about an orphan named Crow who, as an infant, was put out to sea in an old boat and at age 12 begins seeking answers to her identity. Wolk was born in Baltimore, Md., and has lived in California, Rhode Island, Minnesota, Canada and Ohio. She now lives with her family on Cape Cod, Mass.

On your nightstand now:

Just started: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (my heart already hurts)
Just finished: The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave
Bossypants by Tina Fey (Done. Loved.)
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (waiting)
The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer (waiting) 
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (waiting)
The Deptford Trilogy by Robertson Davies (I'm done the first third and am taking a breather.)
(And on my Kindle: Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout, recently finished. Haunting.)

Favorite book when you were a child:

One book? Are you mad? And the answer depends on what you mean by "child." Regardless, I loved Charlotte's Web, Goodnight Moon, My Father's Dragon, Millions of Cats, the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, the Thornton Burgess Books, all the Robert McCloskey books, James and the Giant Peach and on and on and on. And on.

Your top five authors:

Ack. Really? Can't be done. But here are five of my top thousand authors: William Faulkner, Jane Austen, Toni Morrison, Douglas Adams, Cormac McCarthy, Roald Dahl, E.B. White... hmm, that's more than five. William Styron, C.S. Lewis. All right, all right. Emily Brontë, Ernest Hemingway, Beatrix Potter... and then there are all the poets. You might want to have a seat. This could take a while.

Book you've faked reading:

I don't think I've ever faked reading a book, but I have been reluctant to admit I haven't read certain iconic novels. Like Moby Dick. I read the first half three times. Sorry, but I kept getting stuck at the endless descriptions of whale blubber. I'll try again one of these days. I suppose I should just pick it up again in the middle, but that feels like trying to eat the bottom half of a bowl of soup before the top half.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier. Dirt Music by Tim Winton. Life of Pi by Yann Martel. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. And A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. Poetry collections by Billy Collins and Mary Oliver. Among others. Oh, did you say "book?" Singular? Ha! That's funny.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I can't think of any. Unless you mean the back cover. Sometimes I'm swayed by a recommendation by a beloved author. But mostly I buy books if friends and family have extolled their virtues.

Book you hid from your parents:

Can't say I ever did that. Which tells you something about my parents.

Book that changed your life:

Charlotte's Web. It was the first book that broke my heart. Though many others have re-broken (and mended) it since. But, among them, Tony Morrison's Beloved stands out. It was the book that truly, honestly obliterated every shred of distance between me and another race or ethnicity. I had agonized over many other books, like Sophie's Choice, but Beloved closed the gap so completely that there was no room for anything between me and Sethe, the protagonist of that masterpiece. Not race. Not time or place. Not even experience, which I could not literally share with her. Except I did. In every important way, I did. And I will always be grateful to Toni Morrison for that gift.

Favorite line from a book:

"If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." --from I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou.

Five books you'll never part with:

Another tough question, and not just because so many books are dear to me. But the ones I love most are the ones I want other people to read. So I lend them out and sometimes never see them again. Then I buy new copies. I guess I'll never part with the old, fragile books I could never replace. An early edition of Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. Book of Hours: poems by Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by my friend Joan Erikson and handmade into a little book. The Collected Poems of Robert Frost. A first edition of A Child's Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas. All poets. Huh.

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

The Once and Future King by T.H. White. I so loved reading that book when I was maybe 13 or so. It suited the young romantic I once was. But when I tried to reread it years later, I could not recapture what it had meant to me. Why I had loved it. The book hadn't changed, but I had. To read it again for the first time would be to return to that innocence for a while.

Book Review

Review: Since I Laid My Burden Down

Since I Laid My Burden Down by Brontez Purnell (Amethyst Editions/Feminist Press, $17.95 trade paper, 208p., 9781558614314, June 13, 2017)

Reconciliation doesn't come easy, and for DeShawn it's damn near impossible. So many of the men who touched him throughout his life have passed on. In Brontez Purnell's brazen debut novel, a tired Alabama man, freewheeling in the punk underground of San Francisco, returns home when his uncle dies. There his ghosts come back to haunt him with the heady energy they had when still alive.

Since I Laid My Burden Down entwines past and present as DeShawn is repeatedly called upon to clean up the messes left by the deceased. Arnold was a gritty musician and lover who committed suicide. Jatius was an older childhood friend who did, too. DeShawn's stepfather was a violent man, a quality DeShawn finally understands in his 30s. Now, in the wake of another death, he does what he can to help his mother, preacher at the local Missionary Baptist church, and his grandmother, whose relationship with her daughter has been tense their whole lives. Theirs isn't an entirely unhappy family, but one strained by the burdens of prejudice and circumstance.

Time and again DeShawn has tangled with white men and black men, men with troubled upbringings and those who paid him attention at just the right moment. The disparities of these rendezvous, though, have come into high relief with age--wisdom he's earned fair and square. When he ducks an old flame turned born-again Christian, DeShawn remembers how the white boy got meds and a therapist for screaming at his parents. "That's why he hated Skylar. When Skylar was a depressed teenager the world came running, but when DeShawn was depressed no one gave a shit."

Race, sexuality, class, art, religion: little in this brief novel escapes Purnell's rapier wit. Immensely quotable and supremely enjoyable, his incendiary sense of humor flips the script on what might otherwise be a somber subject. DeShawn tells his mother that when he dies, he wants to be cremated. "Where do you want your ashes thrown?" she asks. "IN THE EYES OF MY ENEMIES!" he responds. As he grieves, he ruminates on the come and the comedown of loves lost, the hope and disappointment of lives ended too soon. But he skirts sentimentality. In fact, he rubs any nostalgic patina clean off his memories, until he's left with nothing but the cold, naked truth.

Since I Laid My Burden Down is a remarkable work of fiction, an invaluable addition to queer literature. Though wounded--and reckless at times--DeShawn remains tenacious, proving that strength lies in how one chooses to live, as well as why one chooses to stay alive. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness

Shelf Talker: Returning home to Alabama forces DeShawn to come to grips with the dead men who have shaped him in Brontez Purnell's outstanding and wicked first novel.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: 'You, Mr. Bemis, Are a Reader!'

Witness Mr. Henry Bemis, a charter member in the fraternity of dreamers, a bookish little man whose passion is the printed page, but who is conspired against by a bank president, and a wife, and a world full of tongue cluckers, and the unrelenting hands of the clock.

In "Time Enough at Last," every bookworm's favorite Twilight Zone episode, Rod Serling introduces the character played by Burgess Meredith with those words. On Monday, I was inspired to watch the episode again for the zillionth time shortly after seeing a headline in Business Insider: "Wall Street is expecting the worst of the retail apocalypse this week."

The piece blended apocalyptic stats ("roughly 3,500 brick-and-mortar retail stores are expected to close over the first half of 2017.... Retail trade lost nearly 30,000 jobs from January through March") with pessimism ("analysts are not expecting to be impressed") and Warren Buffet's confession that he'd been "too dumb" to invest in Amazon early.

For perspective, I turned to a mid-April blog post--"Can Indie Bookstores Escape the Fate of Other Retail Outlets?"--by Lynn Rosen, co-owner of Open Book in Elkins Park, Pa. I'd bookmarked it as an excellent commentary on the April 15 New York Times article headlined "Is American Retail at a Historic Tipping Point?

Rosen observed: "It is my hope that the independent bookstore may be immune from this fate.... With the help of the American Booksellers Association, the independent bookseller community got a head start on fighting back against the shrinkage of bricks-and-mortar retail sales. Over the last several years, the number of independent bookstores in the United States has been growing, and numbers indicate that the health of the industry is good.

"I hope I am not being overly optimistic in saying that I believe we can continue this upward trend, despite overall statistics about retail in the U.S. We booksellers will continue to create spaces that serve the communities in which they reside by providing personalized selling and events that reflect the make-up of the community. We have knowledgeable and passionate owners and employees, and, of course, we sell a product, the book (yes I know many object to calling it a product) that we hope our society finds to be indispensable."

Well said. Adaptation has been the key for indie survival. This isn't the question: "What do we do?" This is: "What do we do next?" And that made me think of Mr. Bemis.

In the Twilight Zone episode, based on a short story by Lynn Venable, Mr. Bemis is a dispirited bank teller who's called into his boss's office to be disciplined for reading David Copperfield when he should have been waiting on customers.

"Now, Mr. Bemis," the bank manager says imperiously. "I shall come to the point of this interview. I shall arrive via the following route, which is what constitutes an efficient member of this organization, vis-a-vis a bank teller who knows his job and performance, i.e. an organization man who functions within an organization. You, Mr. Bemis, do not function within the organization. you are neither an efficient bank teller nor a proficient employee.... You, Mr. Bemis, are a reader!"

"A reader?"

"A reader! A reader of books, magazines, periodicals, newspapers. I see you constantly going downstairs into the vault during your lunch hour. Ultimatum, Mr. Bemis! You will henceforth devote your time to your job and forget reading or you will find yourself outdoors on a park bench reading from morning till night for want of having a job. Do make myself perfectly clear?"

Poor Mr. Bemis has other issues, as those of you who've seen the episode know. His poor eyesight is trumped by his even poorer foresight, though he does have a brief moment of luck when he takes his lunch break in the vault just as (classic TV spoiler alert) a massive explosion turns the city above him into post-apocalyptic wreckage.

He may be the only survivor. Eventually Mr. Bemis makes his way to the ruins of the public library. Despite the surrounding carnage, this pleases him. (We may sympathize more than we should.) "All the books I want," he marvels. "The very best thing of all is there's time now. There's all the time I need and all the time I want."

But just as he is celebrating his good fortune, he accidentally shatters his glasses. The world becomes a blur. The last reader cannot read.

"That's not fair at all," he cries. "There was time now."

This is the moment when I lose sympathy for Mr. Bemis. It's his city. He lives there alone now. Even half-blind, he should be able to find his way to the ruins of a nearby Duane Reade or Walgreens (Isn't there one on every block?) and sift through the rubble for some high intensity reading glasses. Then head off in search of LensCrafters debris for even better options.

Adjust to circumstances, Bemis!

That is precisely what indie booksellers have had to do in preparation for this so-called retail apocalypse. Fairness had nothing to do with it. Bookselling, as Mr. Serling might put it, is "a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between science and superstition. It lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination...." Even under the circumstances Mr. Bemis faces, a bookseller would have stopped whining and opted for a little post-apocalyptic resilience.

--Robert Gray, contributing editor (Column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now.)

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