Shelf Awareness for Thursday, February 6, 2020

University of Texas Press: Grief Is a Sneaky Bitch: An Uncensored Guide to Navigating Loss by Lisa Keefauver

Berkley Books: Hair-raising horror to sink your teeth into!

Berkley Books: The Hitchcock Hotel by Stephanie Wrobel

Queen Mab Media: Get Our Brand Toolkit

Ballantine Books: Gather Me: A Memoir in Praise of the Books That Saved Me by Glory Edim

Ace Books: Rewitched by Lucy Jane Wood

Graywolf Press: We're Alone: Essays by Edwidge Danticat

St. Martin's Press: Runaway Train: Or, the Story of My Life So Far by Erin Roberts with Sam Kashner


NYC's Strand Opening in Former Book Culture Site

Manhattan's Strand Book Store is opening a new location on the Upper West Side at 450 Columbus Avenue, between 81st and 82nd Street, that will be called the Strand at Columbus Avenue. The 4,000-square-foot store is expected to open in March and will be the Strand's first satellite store since it closed the Annex in 2008.

Strand owner Nancy Bass Wyden said, "We are so excited to expand the Strand and engage the community of the Upper West Side. We aim to continue the legacy of my father, and his father before him, by bringing the joy of books to everyone."

The Strand said that the new store will be "stacked with all the literary goods that the 93-year old bookstore is known for: a vast selection of used, new, and rare books, as well as other bookish items. The Strand will bring its popular event series along with it; they host over 400 events a year including discussions with authors and a weekend storytime curated for children."

The new Strand store site had been occupied by Book Culture for the past six years, until it was abruptly closed a month ago by the landlord after several years of late payment or non-payment of the rent. The amount of back rent owed by Book Culture, whose majority owner was Chris Doeblin, grew to about $150,000 late last year.

Recently the landlord, Tim Quinlan, had said he wanted a bookstore to reopen in the space--but a bookstore that was not associated with Doeblin. (Quinlan's mother had run Endicott Booksellers at the location until the mid-'90s.) Speculation had been that Shakespeare & Co. or McNally Jackson might be the New York City stores that would open a branch in the spot.

Doeblin had launched a community-lending campaign last year to raise money for Book Culture, but was feuding with minority co-owner John MacArthur, who said some of the money being raised was going to the three other Book Culture stores, which are solely owned by Doeblin.

BINC: Click to Apply to the Macmillan Booksellers Professional Development Scholarships

New Collective Bookstore in West Philadelphia

Making Worlds in progress.

Making Worlds, a collective independent bookstore founded by a group of four community organizers, will open in West Philadelphia next week, WHYY reported. The bookstore will sell books for all ages and feature a pay-as-you-wish cafe, with community events constituting a major part of the store's vision.

The bookstore began as something of an accident, explained Malav Kanuga, one of the four founding organizers. He had been looking for warehouse space for his publishing house Common Notions last year when Sy Biswas, another organizer, suggested selling books there and using it as a space for community events put on by friend and fellow organizer Lucy Duncan. The trio began talking about the possibilities, and once they found their space they quickly formed the collective, eventually adding Nicki Kattoura as the fourth member.

While the store isn't officially open yet, the collective has already hosted several events, ranging from political discussion groups to dance parties, and last August it launched a GoFundMe campaign that has raised more than $9,600.

The collective's name is drawn from the Zapatista movement, which was committed to building "a world where many worlds fit." The space is located in a swiftly gentrifying part of Philadelphia, and to make sure they are as inclusive as possible, they've added six members to the collective who are all Philly natives and long-term members of the community.

"We're really clear that we want a space that centers people of color, centers people whose voices aren't often centered, and so we're thinking about that very, very intentionally as we open the space," Duncan told WHYY.

The collective plans officially to open Making Worlds on February 14 with an "anti-Valentine's Day community revolutionary love party."

Watkins Publishing: Fall Into Folklore! ARCS Available On Request

Skyhorse Launches Romance Imprint

Skyhorse Publishing has launched Palomino Press, an imprint focused on romance. Kathleen Schmidt will be the new imprint's editorial director while also continuing to serve as Skyhorse's publicity director, and Palomino's first titles are scheduled to hit stores this fall.

"Publishing romance books has been a dream of mine," said Schmidt, who has worked in publishing for more than 20 years. "I am grateful I am getting the chance to do so with the terrific team at Skyhorse. Romance is a genre and a community I love and respect."

Tony Lyons, president and publisher of Skyhorse, said: "As Skyhorse Publishing has grown over the years, we have noticed increasing sales with our Amish Romances, particularly books by Linda Byler. It seems right to expand the category with Palomino Press."

Founded in 2006, Skyhorse has had 49 New York Times bestsellers and has more than 9,000 titles in print.

Wi15: Jason Reynolds & Ibram X. Kendi Talk Stamped

At a keynote session at Winter Institute 15 last month in Baltimore, Md., author Jason Reynolds and historian Ibram X. Kendi discussed their upcoming book Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You. Due out from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in March, Stamped is a remix for YA readers of Kendi's 2016 book Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America.

Kendi began the discussion by talking a little bit about Stamped from the Beginning (which he and Reynolds then called Stamped Sr. for the rest of the session) and how the YA remix came to be. Stamped from the Beginning, he said, examines the history of racist ideas from the mid-15th century to the present, tracing two broad categories of racist ideas that he terms segregationist and assimilationist. At the same time, he shows the evolution of opposing ideas, which he calls antiracist, and argues throughout the book that racist ideas didn't lead to racist policies, but racist policies actually led to racist ideas as people sought to rationalize the systems and institutions that unfairly benefited them.

Ibram X. Kendi (l.) and Jason Reynolds
(photo: Bookweb)

Kendi recalled that after Stamped Sr. was published, he had plenty of conversations with readers who couldn't believe they were only now learning about these things at the age of 40 or 50, or who said they wanted "all American kids to know this story." Kendi saw the value of a YA version, but felt he couldn't do it himself. Once he met Reynolds and got to know his work, he "quickly realized he would be perfect to literally remix this text for young people." But the first time he asked Reynolds to take on the project, and the next several times, Reynolds said no.

"I was saying no with humility," explained Reynolds, because he didn't see himself as a scholar or researcher or academic. He called Stamped Kendi's "life's work," and said if Kendi was looking for a "new tuning fork" to bring the conversation to a new audience, he didn't "want to be the person to knock the key off." But eventually he said yes, partly because Kendi was "awfully persistent," and partly because a person's fear and intimidation is ultimately "small and short-sighted" when "thinking about the impact a thing might have." And while he isn't an academic, he does know how to connect to kids, and decided that if Stamped Jr. was going to happen, he'd be the one to "swing the bat."

On the subject of how Reynolds went about making a very academic history of ideas accessible for a younger audience, he joked that "we're gonna see how accessible it is in a few weeks," but went on to compare the process with an exercise he does in classrooms in which students translate something like one of Shakespeare's sonnets first into American Standard English and then into "the English or other language of their neighborhoods." He used the same sort of exercise to take this academic text and "translate it so that it feels super familiar," like something "you already know but didn't know you know."

Kendi anticipates that some historians will take issue with the way Stamped is being framed as not a history book, but said he doesn't care because the best history books are rooted in the present and allow readers to apply the past discussed in the book to the present. Reynolds agreed, saying that to read history and study history without being able to use it was a "waste of resources," and hopes that the language of antiracism found in the book will give young people a "sword and shield," not so they can "cut anybody down" but to be informed and to protect themselves.

They discussed the possibility that there may be parents or teachers concerned about giving the book to kids and teens because they view discussions of race and racism as things they should protect their children from. Kendi proposed it was quite the opposite. Learning about these things at a young age, he said, can free children of any ethnicity from being manipulated by racist ideas. A child who is a member of a group that has more, he continued, won't grow up thinking that they are more, and a child from a group who has less won't think that they are less.

"What an amazing thing it would be," Reynolds remarked, if more children started to see that "there is a lot wrong with America," but there's "nothing wrong with Black people." --Alex Mutter

Amazon Roundup: New Calif. Office; What Drove the HQ2 'Bakeoff'

Amazon is opening a 48,000-square-foot office in Santa Barbara, Calif., adding 150 jobs and doubling its workforce in the city, the company announced this week. The office is for "Alexa tech teams," it added.

Santa Barbara Mayor Cathy Murillo commented: "We welcome a new Amazon office in downtown Santa Barbara, adding to the mix of innovative, technology companies in our region. We encourage their employees to participate in community events and enjoy the amenities of local restaurants, shopping, and arts and culture."

The company stressed that it has "created more than 45,000 full-time jobs in California since 2010 and invested over $34.5 billion in the state, including infrastructure and compensation to our employees." In 2012, California forced Amazon to begin collecting state sales tax, and in the past decade the company has greatly expanded its network of warehouses in California.


Amazon founder Jeff Bezos was irritated that Elon Musk had won $1.3 billion from Nevada in 2014 to open a large battery plant. That's why, according to Bloomberg News, Amazon pushed so hard to get major concessions from local and state governments around the country and in Canada when, in 2017, it announced a competition for a second headquarters.

Bloomberg wrote: "In meetings, the Inc. chief expressed envy for how Musk had pitted five Western states against one another in a bidding war for thousands of manufacturing jobs; he wondered why Amazon was okay with accepting comparatively trifling incentives. It was a theme Bezos returned to often, according to four people privy to his thinking. Then in 2017, an Amazon executive sent around a congratulatory email lauding his team for landing $40 million in government incentives to build a $1.5 billion air hub near Cincinnati. The paltry sum irked Bezos, the people say, and made him even more determined to try something new."

Bloomberg said that Bezos's pressure to win more money "prompted executives to scrap lessons learned through the years in favor of an unapologetic appeal for tax breaks and other incentives.

"Employees with experience negotiating deals around the country anticipated problems, but their red flags were ignored by those eager to please Bezos with a new playbook for a big win. Secretive and walled off from the rest of the company, according to people familiar with the situation, the HQ2 team members marinated in the headlines and hoopla and persuaded themselves Amazon would be welcomed anywhere."

While the effort achieved some of its goals, it was also in part a PR disaster for the company, when in one of the two winning cities--New York City--a groundswell of protest developed against the city and state's bid of $3 billion, which included a $500 million grant to build the new headquarters in Queens. As Bloomberg put it: "Amazon's negotiating strategy, internally summarized as 'F*** you. We're Amazon,' had met its match."

In addition, many local governments around the country, burned by the time and expense of bidding on a project that was going to be limited to 20-25 areas at the most, felt manipulated by Amazon and are exploring ways of cooperating to forestall the kind of bidding war that Amazon wanted.

And in a postscript to the story of Amazon's failed attempt to build HQ2 in Queens, late last year the New York Times reported that Amazon had signed a lease for 350,000 square feet of office space in the Hudson Yards area near the Javits Center that will house more than 1,500 employees--and received no tax credits or other government handouts.

While some noted that Amazon's presence will be much smaller than the HQ2 project, others happily pointed out the inconsistencies. The Times wrote: " 'Won't you look at that,' Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who represents an area in Queens near where the campus was to be built, wrote on Twitter. 'Amazon is coming to NYC anyway--*without* requiring the public to finance shady deals, helipad handouts for Jeff Bezos, & corporate giveaways.' "

And state Senator Michael Gianaris, who initially supported HQ2 but changed his mind after learning more about the incentives, said in a statement: "Amazon is coming to New York, just as they always planned. Fortunately, we dodged a $3 billion bullet by not agreeing to their subsidy shakedown earlier this year."

Obituary Note: George Steiner

George Steiner, "a literary polymath and man of letters whose voluminous criticism often dealt with the paradox of literature's moral power and its impotence in the face of an event like the Holocaust," died February 3, the New York Times reported. He was 90. An essayist, fiction writer, teacher, scholar and literary critic, Steiner succeeded Edmund Wilson as senior book reviewer for the New Yorker from 1966 until 1997.

In his book Grammars of Creation, based on the Gifford Lectures he delivered at the University of Glasgow in 1990, he observed that essential to his views "is my astonishment, naïve as it seems to people, that you can use human speech both to love, to build, to forgive, and also to torture, to hate, to destroy and to annihilate."

His more than two dozen books included essay collections, a novella and three collections of short stories. Among them were Errata: An Examined Life (1998), Tolstoy or Dostoevsky (1959), The Portage to San Cristóbal of A.H. (1981), My Unwritten Books (2009), Language and Silence: Essays on Language, Literature and the Inhuman (1967), In Bluebeard's Castle: Some Notes Towards the Redefinition of Culture (1971) and After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation (1975).

"I'd love to be remembered as a good teacher of reading," he told the Paris Review in 1994, adding that reading should "commit us to a vision, should engage our humanity, should make us less capable of passing by."

Steiner's honors included the Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur by the French Government, membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Truman Capote Award for lifetime achievement in literary criticism, the Associated Press reported, adding that his Capote citation read: "His European and Jewish heritage inform his powerful, sometimes bleak but never pessimistic perspective. Perhaps his most distinguished achievement is that in the process of writing such criticism, he has re-cast the traditional role and identity of the critic itself. In his generous, fearless, challenging prose he has looked at the limits of language, as well as its powers and at the deceptions of the intellect as well as its discoveries."

G.L.O.W. - Galley Love of the Week
Be the first to have an advance copy!
Remember You Will Die
by Eden Robins
GLOW: Sourcebooks Landmark: Remember You Will Die by Eden Robins

Despite the title, Eden Robins's Remember You Will Die is a joyously enlivening masterpiece. Only dead people inhabit the pages of this novel, their stories revealed predominantly through obituaries ranging from deeply soulful to hilariously delightful. As Christa Désir, editorial director for Bloom Books at Sourcebooks, promises, it's "a book about life and art and loss and being human and messy." By 2102, the singularity has long happened, and an AI called Peregrine learns that her 17-year-old daughter, Poppy, is dead. Unraveling this requires a three-century excavation of relationships, cultures, science, history, and brilliantly sourced etymology. Désir predicts "a cult classic" that readers will want to "immediately pick back up... to find more Easter eggs and clues." Eden Robins could have the singular bestseller of the year. --Terry Hong

(Sourcebooks Landmark, $16.99 paperback, 9781728256030, 
October 22, 2024)


Shelf vetted, publisher supported


Image of the Day: Publishing Cocktails in Milwaukee

The popular Publishing Cocktails group, founded in Chicago by Javier Ramirez and Keir Graff, has a Milwaukee outpost. The almost year-old group gathered at Trader Nick's to enjoy a round of Floraditas courtesy of Feral House/Process Media, and other rum-drink delights throughout the night. (Except for thriller writer Nick Petrie, who stuck to Bulleit on the rocks.)

Pictured: (l.-r.) Erin Lewenauer, Alliance Française; author Jennifer Lyng Rueff; Cris Siqueira, owner, Lion's Tooth Books; Christina Ward, Feral House/Process publisher; author Todd Wellman; Andy Rash (The Happy Book, Viking Books for Young Readers); Nick Petrie (The Wild One, Putnam); Eria Ruth Neubauer (Murder at the Mena House, Kensington); Daniel Goldin, owner, Boswell Book Company; Tim Hennessey (Milwaukee Noir, Akashic); (seated) Chris Lee, Boswell Book Company.

Personnel Changes at Catapult/Counterpoint/Soft Skull

Megan Fishmann has been promoted to v-p/associate publisher, publicity for Catapult/Counterpoint Press/Soft Skull. She was formerly associate publisher/senior director of publicity.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Martha Stewart on Ellen

Ellen: Martha Stewart, author of Martha Stewart's Organizing: The Manual for Bringing Order to Your Life, Home & Routines (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30, 9781328508256).

TV: Pieces of Her

Toni Collette (Unbelievable, Knives Out) will star in the Netflix series Pieces of Her, based on the 2018 book by crime author Karin Slaughter, Deadline reported. Minkie Spiro (The Plot Against America) is set to direct the eight-episode series.

Written by Stoudt, who also serves as showrunner, the project's executive producers are Stoudt, Bruna Papandrea, Steve Hutensky and Casey Haver from Made Up Stories, along with Slaughter, Janice Williams, Lesli Linka Glatter and Spiro.

This Weekend on Book TV: The Rancho Mirage Writers Festival

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this weekend from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.

Sunday, February 8
12 p.m. Tara Westover, author of Educated: A Memoir (Random House, $28, 9780399590504), at the 2020 Rancho Mirage Writers Festival in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

12:45 p.m. James Carville, Karl Rove and Bret Stephens discuss the 2020 presidential campaign at the Rancho Mirage Writers Festival.

4 p.m. Book TV presents archival footage about books that have been adapted into movies. (Re-airs Sunday at 10:30 a.m.)

6:30 p.m. Yuval Levin, author of A Time to Build: From Family and Community to Congress and the Campus, How Recommitting to Our Institutions Can Revive the American Dream (Basic Books, $28, 9781541699274). (Re-airs Sunday at 10 p.m.)

7:30 p.m. Eric Blanc, author of Red State Revolt: The Teachers' Strike Wave and Working-Class Politics (Verso, $19.95, 9781788735742).

10 p.m. Howard Bryant, author of Full Dissidence: Notes from an Uneven Playing Field (Beacon Press, $24.95, 9780807019559). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)

11 p.m. A discussion of The Boys on the Bus by Timothy Crouse (Random House, $18, 9780812968200) featuring Connie Chung, Carl Leubsdorf and Tom Oliphant. (Re-airs Sunday at 4:15 p.m.)

Sunday, February 9
12:30 a.m. Ezra Klein, author of Why We're Polarized (Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster, $28, 9781476700328).

1 p.m. Max Boot, James Fallow, Robin Wright and George Packer discuss U.S. foreign policy at the Rancho Mirage Writers Festival.

1:45 p.m. Dan Abrams, Norman Pealstine and Van Gordon Sauter discuss the president and the media at the Rancho Mirage Writers Festival.

2:30 p.m. Lynne Cheney and Karl Rove discuss the Bush administration at the Rancho Mirage Writers Festival.

5:45 p.m. Kate Aronoff, co-editor of We Own the Future: Democratic Socialism--American Style (The New Press, $17.99, 9781620975213), at McNally Jackson Books in New York City.

7:30 p.m. Erika Lee, author of America for Americans: A History of Xenophobia in the United States (Basic Books, $32, 9781541672604).

Books & Authors

Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, February 11:

1774: The Long Year of Revolution by Mary Beth Norton (Knopf, $32.50, 9780385353366) explores the year leading up to the American Revolution.

Author in Chief: The Untold Story of Our Presidents and the Books They Wrote by Craig Fehrman (Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster, $30, 9781476786391) catalogs the books written by U.S. Presidents.

The Last Negroes at Harvard: The Class of 1963 and the 18 Young Men Who Changed Harvard Forever by Kent Garrett and Jeanne Ellsworth (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $27, 9781328879974) chronicles a trailblazing group of black Harvard students.

Hold On, But Don't Hold Still: Hope and Humor from My Seriously Flawed Life by Kristina Kuzmic (Viking, $26, 9780525561842) is a humorous look at parenting.

The Falcon Thief: A True Tale of Adventure, Treachery, and the Hunt for the Perfect Bird by Joshua Hammer (Simon & Schuster, $26, 9781501191886) reveals the international smuggling of endangered raptors and the efforts to stop it.

The King at the Edge of the World: A Novel by Arthur Phillips (Random House, $27, 9780812995480) takes place in 1601 England, where Queen Elizabeth's advisors devise a way to test the faith of potential heir King James VI of Scotland.

The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave (Little, Brown, $27, 9780316529259) takes place in a 17th century Norwegian village where all the men are killed in a freak storm.

Salt River by Randy Wayne White (Putnam, $27, 9780735212725) is book 26 in the Doc Ford thriller series.

Bug Boys: Adventures and Daydreams by Laura Knetzger (Random House Graphic, $13.99, 9781984896766) is a middle-grade graphic novel duology-opener about two best beetle friends.

One Mean Ant by Arthur Yorinks, illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier (Candlewick, $16.99, 9780763683948) is a picture book about an unkind ant.

Ghosts of the Missing by Kathleen Donohoe (Mariner, $17.99, 9780544557178) is a mystery about a little girl who disappears during a town parade.

Love, Unscripted
by Owen Nicholls (Ballantine, $17, 9781984826879) features a film-obsessed man who "rewrites the script" of a real-life relationship that surprisingly hasn't worked out like one of his beloved movie romances.

IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:

Kingdomtide: A Novel by Rye Curtis (Little, Brown, $28, 9780316420105). "Original, fresh, and vulnerable. As soon as I finished Kingdomtide, I wanted to read it all over again. The shared plotline of the main characters felt like a heartbeat, speeding up and slowing down as they dealt with what life handed them. This story felt so real, not just in the sense that it could truly happen, but the feelings and emotions and conflicts the characters struggled through, with themselves, others, and society as a whole. A must-read for 2020, it really blew me away. I can't wait for Curtis' next novel." --Jen Morrow, Bards Alley, Vienna, Va.

Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire (Tor, $19.99, 9780765399311). "Seanan McGuire strikes again with another breathtakingly beautiful fantasy! The Wayward Children series is an amazing collection of novellas for those who love the unique and bizarre, who long to see themselves in fiction, who want to lose themselves in words. This particular installment returns to some of her very best characters and can be enjoyed by new readers and devoted fans alike. Highly recommended!" --Allison Chesbro, Schuler Books, Okemos, Mich.

You Were There Too: A Novel by Colleen Oakley (Berkley, $16, 9781984806468). "This book had me from the prologue, when its main character, Mia, wakes up in the midst of some sort of catastrophe, pinned down by a man she won't name but seems to know. The whole novel is, to use Mia's words, 'an incomplete jigsaw puzzle.' I wanted to race through it to fit the pieces together, yet I wanted to read the story slowly as I got to know and care about every character. I absolutely loved this novel and can't wait to share it with readers ready to cozy up to a great story this winter!" --Lady Smith, The Snail on the Wall, Huntsville, Ala.

For Ages 4 to 8
Odd Dog Out by Rob Biddulph (HarperCollins, $17.99, 9780062367266). "Happy, vibrant colors usher in a story of accepting yourself for who you are, especially when who you are is someone special, different, and uniquely you!" --Miranda Atkins, A Little Bookish, Ooltewah, Tenn.

For Ages 9 to 12
Sunnyside Plaza by Scott Simon (Little, Brown, $16.99, 9780316531207). "When the residents of Sunnyside Plaza--a group home for adults with developmental disabilities--start unexpectedly dying, a young woman must work with the other Sunnysiders to figure out what's happening. Scott Simon's characters are instantly emotionally engaging and their resiliency and determination to help and protect each other will have readers of all ages deeply invested in their story." --Colin Sneed, Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, N.C.

For Teen Readers
Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore (Feiwel & Friends, $17.99, 9781250162748). "Every Anna-Marie McLemore book is a gift, and Dark and Deepest Red is truly something wondrous. Eerily suspenseful, achingly romantic, and fiercely defiant, it is a love story for the overlooked, a fairytale for the outcast, and a triumphant song for those whose stories go untold. It is a book to savor, to embrace, to wrap around your heart to keep out the cold. This book will dance your heart to pieces and then tenderly stitch it back together." --Rebecca Speas, One More Page Books, Arlington, Va.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Reading Group Choices' Most Popular January Books

The two most popular books in January at Reading Group Choices were American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins (Flatiron Books) and Midnight at the Blackbird Café by Heather Webber (Forge Books).

Book Review

Review: Apeirogon

Apeirogon: A Novel by Colum McCann (Random House, $28 hardcover, 480p., 9781400069606, February 25, 2020)

In a 2010 e-mail conversation in The Believer with Bosnian writer Aleksandar Hemon, Colum McCann observed, "I happen to think that an ounce of empathy is worth a boatload of judgment." That's the principle animating his magnificent novel Apeirogon, an unforgettable encounter with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from both sides of the chasm separating the antagonists, that's audacious in both substance and form.

McCann, winner of the National Book Award for his novel Let the Great World Spin, anchors Apeirogon in the true stories of Palestinian Bassam Aramin and Israeli Rami Elhanan. In 1997, Rami's 13-year-old daughter, Smadar, was one of eight victims of a terrorist bombing on Jerusalem's Ben Yehuda Street. Ten years later, Bassam's 10-year-old daughter, Abir, was killed by a rubber bullet fired by an 18-year-old Israeli border guard. Already acquainted with each other through the organization Combatants for Peace, and now linked by these twin tragedies, Bassam and Rami eventually unite as passionate advocates for a peaceful end to the conflict that, as of 2020, seems at least as far from resolution as it has ever been.

Frankly tying Apeirogon (the word describes a geometric shape with a countably infinite number of sides) to the classic One Thousand and One Nights, McCann tells their stories in an equal aggregation of numbered sections, some of them as short as a few words, others several pages in length. At the precise center of the novel, Rami and Bassam are allowed to speak in their own eloquent voices about the devastating event that set each one's life on a radically different, desperately unwanted, course.

McCann's (Thirteen Ways of Looking) daring storytelling technique must be experienced to be fully understood. He eschews any attempt at linear narrative, drawing his material from politics, history, religion, literature, art, music and myth, along with an assortment of other disciplines. Touching on a dazzling array of specific topics that include the migratory patterns of birds through the Middle East, the origin of the explosive Semtex, Philip Glass and Jorge Luis Borges, predator drones and medieval battering rams, to name but a handful, McCann trusts the reader to make connections between these superficially unrelated topics. The effect is encyclopedic, occasionally disorienting, but somehow McCann painstakingly re-creates the complexity of the conflict that has separated Rami's and Bassam's peoples for so long and spawned the violence culminating in their daughters' equally random deaths. In a sense, the novel almost demands to be reread, in the fashion of a religious text, as one seeks deeper meaning in its kaleidoscopic patterns.

"I have nothing to say that will change anybody's mind. Nothing," McCann concluded in The Believer conversation. "Being didactic is uninteresting. But allowing space for people to remake their minds about things, to change--or to get angry--is a viable literary purpose." On a subject where beliefs are often etched in stone, Apeirogon's skillful blend of fact and fiction presents readers with a distinct challenge--to think for themselves. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer

Shelf Talker: A daring view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the lens of two fathers' tragic losses.

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