Shelf Awareness for Friday, January 19, 2024

Flatiron Books: The Courting of Bristol Keats: [Limited Stenciled Edge Edition] by Mary E Pearson

Forge: My Three Dogs by Bruce W Cameron

Running Press Adult: Scam Goddess: Lessons from a Life of Cons, Grifts, and Schemes by Laci Mosley

Chronicle Books: Taste in Music: Eating on Tour with Indie Musicians by Luke Pyenson and Alex Beeker

Doubleday Books: Death at the Sign of the Rook: A Jackson Brodie Book by Kate Atkinson

Groundwood Books: Who We Are in Real Life by Victoria Koops

Agate Bolden: 54 Miles by Leonard Pitts Jr.


Vroman's Bookstore for Sale

One of the oldest and most highly regarded bookstores in the country, Vroman's Bookstore, Pasadena, Calif., is for sale.

Joel Sheldon, whose family has owned the store for most of its 130-year history, said in an announcement, in part, "For almost 50 years, I have had the privilege of serving as Vroman's owner and steward, preceded by generations of leadership by my father, grandfather, and uncles. As I approach my 80th birthday, it's time to begin the process of retiring and finding new ownership outside the Sheldon family. Vroman's deserves new ownership with the vision, energy, and commitment necessary to take it successfully into the future.... This was not an easy decision for me, but it is in best interest of Vroman's, our employees, our customers, my family, and our community."

Sheldon said his family, which "has poured our hearts and lives into Vroman's," will seek "the right new ownership--someone who shares our core values and who is committed to preserving Vroman's as a community treasure."

He asked the community for its "continued support" through the transition and thanked employees "current and past. We've been very fortunate to have such a talented and dedicated group over the many years."

Vroman's includes the main store on Colorado Boulevard, the Hastings Ranch store on Foothill Boulevard, and Book Soup, West Hollywood. Vroman's was founded by Adam Clark Vroman in 1894. Upon Vroman's death in 1916, a group of employees that included Joel Sheldon's great-grandfather took over ownership. Vroman's bought Book Soup in 2009 after the death of owner Glenn Goldman.

For more information about the sale, contact Vroman's via e-mail.

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New Owners for Minneapolis's Wild Rumpus

Wild Rumpus Books, Minneapolis, Minn., has new owners, longtime founding owner and general manager Collette Morgan announced, writing, "After 31 years of running the bookstore, I am retiring in complete confidence that I'm leaving Wild Rumpus in the best of hands!" The new owners are booksellers Timothy Otte, Jessica Fuentes, Beth Wilson, and Anna Hersh.

Wild Rumpus owners (from l.) Timothy Otte, Jessica Fuentes, Beth Wilson, and Anna Hersh.


Wild Rumpus is beloved and well-known particularly because of all the animals who live in it, including at various times cats, rats, doves, chinchillas, ferrets, chickens, tarantulas, cockatiels, fish, pigs, macaws, and more. And there are many visits by horses, sheep, bees, and other creatures. As Morgan told Shelf Awareness in a 2017 profile, "We're a pet store that only sells books."

The animals live in the store 24 hours a day, and are either adopted or rescued. Chickens and cats roam the aisles, and staff are trained in bookselling and animal care. Not surprisingly, the store's books have a children's and YA focus. In 2016, Wild Rumpus won the Pannell children's specialty store award.

Morgan co-founded the store in 1992 after working at Odegard Books for many years. After seeing Odegard close when chain superstores expanded across the country, she wanted Wild Rumpus to have an unusual focus. She found one of the rarest and most wonderful. We wish Collette a happy retirement.

Ribbon Cutting Held for Second Sams Lotson Bookstore in Pa.

Sams Lotson Bookstore, offering new and used titles, hosted a grand-opening celebration and ribbon cutting last Friday for its second store, located in the Johnstown Galleria at 500 Galleria Dr., Suite 300, in Johnstown, Pa. The Tribune-Democrat reported that the new bookshop occupies the same location that was vacated by Books-A-Million last August. It is owner Griff Lotson's second location, joining the bookstore that launched in November at the Indiana Mall in Indiana, Pa.

Lotson said he has an inventory of nearly one million books; about a quarter of them can be found in the Johnstown Galleria space. A retired Navy lieutenant, he has "focused on his passion for entrepreneurship and creating a business carrying the legacy of his family name. His business is named after his grandmother, Josephine (Sams) Lotson," the Tribune-Democrat noted.

"What's most rewarding about this is being able to provide affordable options for people to buy books for themselves and families," he said.

In the new bookstore, "customers will find tables and chairs, massage chairs and free coffee, but they may not see Lotson often. The store is self-service. Customers can purchase books through scanning items and paying with a card, or by putting money into a cash box," the Tribune-Democrat wrote.

Lotson said he is happy to be part of the Johnstown Galleria: "If you haven't been to the mall, it's time you check it out. A lot of great things are going on in the Galleria. New life is being brought to Johnstown and the community."

Binc Names Selection Panel for BincTank BIPOC Business Incubator Program

The Book Industry Charitable Foundation has named a panel of reviewers to select the first cohort of BincTank, the pilot program that supports new BIPOC-owned retail bookselling businesses that are physically located in their community. The first cohort will support 10-12 entrepreneurs selected anonymously by the panel. The entrepreneurs and proposed businesses must be located in the U.S. or a U.S. territory.
In addition, applications for the first cohort of BincTank has been extended one day and will now close Sunday, January 21, at 11:59 p.m. Eastern. More details are available here.
"We are seeing a lot of applications come in as well as a number still in process," said Ken White, BincTank program manager. "By extending the deadline to apply for this brand-new program by one day we hope to see even more entrepreneurs complete the application process."
The panel of reviewers includes Nuola Akinde, the founding executive director of Legacy Unbound (formerly Edelweiss Legacy); James Fugate, a retired bookseller with more than 40 years of bookselling experience and longtime co-owner of EsoWon Books in Los Angeles, Calif.; Javier Ramirez, co-owner of Exile in Bookville in Chicago, Ill.; and Tianna Woodford, a program manager at MORTAR Cincinnati, where she oversees its 15-week Entrepreneurship Academy

"We are grateful to all of the reviewers for sharing their time and expertise for this new program and for sharing in our belief that every community deserves their bookstore," said Pam French, Binc's executive director. "They will be reviewing a lot of information, but the process couldn't be in better hands."

Barnes & Noble Returns to Kenwood, Ohio; Closing, Opening in Contra Costa County, Calif.

After a 10-year absence, Barnes & Noble has returned to Kenwood, Ohio, near Cincinnati, reported. The new B&N is in the Kenwood Collection; the earlier B&N was in Sycamore Plaza at Kenwood and closed at the end of 2013.

B&N senior director Janine Flanigan told the station that the store had been successful and was one of many locations "we should look to go back to."

B&N is closing a store in Antioch, Calif., this year but opening a new store in Brentwood, about two miles away, according to KRON.

B&N has had the Antioch store in Slatten Ranch Shopping Center for more than 20 years but will close it likely in the fall. The new store in Brentwood at The Streets of Brentwood shopping center will have 21,000 square feet and feature the company's new design and format.

No firm closing and opening dates have been set, but a B&N spokesperson told KRON: "If all goes according to plan, the closing of Antioch will coincide with the opening of Brentwood."

Obituary Note: David J. Skal

David J. Skal

David J. Skal, author, historian, critic, and an authority on Bram Stoker, Dracula, and monsters in popular culture, died on January 1 of a heart attack after a car accident caused by a drunk driver. He was 71. (The accident also severely injured Skal's life partner, Bob Postawko, who is recovering from multiple rib fractures and a broken leg.)

Skal was best known for his horror movie and biography titles. They include Something in the Blood: The Untold Story of Bram Stoker, the Man Who Wrote Dracula (2016), which was recently optioned for film adaptation, Hollywood Gothic: The Tangled Web of Dracula from Novel to Stage to Screen (1990), The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror (1993), and Dark Carnival: The Secret World of Tod Browning, co-written with Elias Savada (1995), which is being reissued by the University of Minnesota Press this fall. Other titles include V Is for Vampire: The A to Z Guide to Everything Undead (1996), Screams of Reason: Mad Science and Modern Culture (1998), Death Makes a Holiday: A Cultural History of Halloween (2002), and Claude Rains: An Actor's Voice (2008). Skal also co-edited the 1997 Norton Critical Edition of Bram Stoker's Dracula and compiled the 2001 anthology Vampires: Encounters with the Undead.

Skal also wrote three science fiction novels: Scavengers (1980), When We Were Good (1981), and Antibodies (1988). He regularly contributed film reviews to the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction and appeared in several TV specials and documentaries.

His longtime literary agent, Malaga Baldi, called Skal "a movie aficionado, horror fan and a monster man extraordinaire. His impressions of Dracula kept adults and children in horrified giggles for hours." Baldi added, "Skal will always be my main monster man: I was never one for scary things--but anything and everything frightening brought to the table by David was presented with panache, delightful writing, an exquisite eye for images and a great sense of humor."


Happy 15th Birthday, [words] Bookstore!

Congratulations to [words] Bookstore, Maplewood, N.J., which is celebrating its 15th anniversary tomorrow, January 20, by offering a 15% discount off all items purchased in the store, serving goodies, and celebrating all visitors.

Jonah and Ellen Zimiles opened the store in 2009, during the financial crisis, and as they recalled, they did so "with twin missions: to provide a literary and community hub in the town and to create a vocational program for adults with autism. [words] has survived Hurricane Sandy, Covid, a second financial crisis, several floods, and so much more. Nonetheless, [words] has been recognized as one of the top five independent bookstores in the country by Publishers Weekly for Bookstore of the Year, hosted approximately 1,000 author events, and provided jobs and vocational training to over 150 individuals with autism.

"This community has always lovingly supported [words] and its twin missions....

"Jonah, Ellen, Liz, and Daniel Zimiles and our entire marvelous bookstore team thank this community for its continued support and love of reading!"

Cool Idea of the Day: Special Bookstore Snow Day for Families

Alice, Ever After Books, Buffalo, N.Y., opened for three hours yesterday afternoon to host a special snow day, giving families a break from being stuck at home for most of the week due to recent snowstorms in the region. WGRZ reported that bookshop owner Meg Howe "hosted people who could safely drive to Parkside or walk from the neighborhood for a special snow day. They had story time, played with a parachute and toys and just got a break from being stuck at home."

"We are here for the community who has been stuck inside, especially those with their kiddos, and school is canceled for the third day in a row, and people in the neighborhood have been sledding, but sometimes you just need somebody else to entertain your child for a minute other than the endless movies and sledding," she said.

Howe's partner is working from home, so she is also juggling child care duties with her store responsibilities. "Parents hang out, kids hang out, we'll do a story time if we have a few kids here, you know, people walk around and explore," Howe added. "There's really no pressure to buy anything. We're not here, I mean obviously we, just like every small business in Buffalo, this has been a hard week, but we also want a place for people to come and hang out. Community is at the heart of what we do here."

Since there is no school again today for a lot of districts, Howe said she might have another bookstore snow day

Chalkboard: The Squirrel & Acorn Bookshop

"Snow is not meant to delay, but for us to slow down, consider and appreciate the thousand little stories being created with the fall of each flake." That was the wintry sidewalk chalkboard message outside the Squirrel & Acorn Bookshop, State College, Pa., which noted in an Instagram post: "We are open on this chilly day! With classes canceled, and little ones home, the Bookshop might just be a great stop for a cozy browse in between sledding and snowball fights!"

Personnel Changes at the Random House Publishing Group

At the Random House Publishing Group:

Melissa Folds has been promoted to senior publicist of Ballantine Bantam Dell.

Erin Richards has been promoted to senior publicist at Random House and Dial Press.

Madison Dettlinger is promoted to marketing manager at Random House and Dial Press.

Corina Diez is being promoted to marketing manager for the Dial Press and the Ballantine Group.

Caitlin Meuser has been promoted to analyst, consumer insights, Random House Publishing Group.

Media and Movies

On Stage: The Great Gatsby Musical

The Great Gatsby, the new musical based on F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel that made its world premiere at New Jersey's Paper Mill Playhouse in October, will open on Broadway this spring. Playbill reported that the cast will again be led by Jeremy Jordan (Newsies, Smash) and Tony nominee Eva Noblezada (Hadestown, Miss Saigon) in the title roles. Additional casting will be announced. Previews begin March 29, with opening night scheduled for April 25. 

Chunsoo Shin, the lead producer and a prominent figure in Korean theater, said, "I am passionate about producing this show because it provides a modern audience with the true essence of idealism that is expressed eloquently in the novel and now on stage. The Great Gatsby is a masterpiece that grows and changes as it's experienced by each new generation, in every culture, and people--and yet, still maintains its uniqueness, with its fascinating characters that burst with vitality."

The production features music and lyrics by Tony nominees Nathan Tysen (Paradise Square) and Jason Howland (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical) and a book by Jonathan Larson Grant winner Kait Kerrigan (The Mad Ones). Marc Bruni (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical) again directs with choreography by Dominique Kelley (Mariah's Magical Christmas Special).

"[The women] are kind of given short shrift in the novel, and painted as very two-dimensional," Kerrigan said. "I was excited about trying to explore the actions that they take, and trying to make sense of them. So that, not that you sympathize with them, but that you understand them."

Books & Authors

Awards: Edgar Nominees; Hans Christian Andersen Shortlist

The Mystery Writers of America has announced the nominees for the 2024 Edgar Allan Poe Awards, honoring the best in mystery fiction, nonfiction and television published or produced in 2023. The awards ceremony, celebrating the 215th anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe, will be held on May 1 in New York City. To see the full list of nominees, click here.


The shortlist has been announced for the 2024 Hans Christian Andersen Award, sponsored by the International Board of Books for Young People and honoring authors' and illustrators' "lifetime achievement to date and the continuing relevance of their works to children and young people." Winners will be announced April 8 during the Bologna International Children's Book Fair.

The authors:
Marina Colasanti from Brazil
Heinz Janisch from Austria
Lee Geum-yi from South Korea
Bart Moeyaert from Belgium
Timo Parvela from Finland
Edward van de Vendel from the Netherlands

The illustrators:
Cai Gao from China
Iwona Chmielewska from Poland
Nelson Cruz from Brazil
Elena Odriozola from Spain
Sydney Smith from Canada
Paloma Valdivia from Chile

Reading with... Amina Gautier

photo: Laura Bianchi

Amina Gautier is the author of three award-winning short story collections: At-Risk, Now We Will Be Happy, and The Loss of All Lost Things. Gautier has published more than 150 short stories and has received the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story. She holds a Ph.D. in English Literature and is a native of New York City. The Best that You Can Do (Soft Skull Press) is a collection of very short fiction.

Handsell readers your book in 25 words or less:

A collection of very short stories that elaborate on the realities of a diasporic existence, split identities, and the beautiful potency of meaningful connections.

On your nightstand now:

The nightstand is pretty stacked. On it I've got A. Van Jordan's poetry collection When I Waked, I Cried to Dream Again; [Theodore] Ted Wheeler's historical novel The War Begins in Paris; Susan Muaddi Darraj's short story collection Behind You Is the Sea; Dionne Irving's short story collection, The Islands, and her novel, Quint; Katherine Vaz's novel Above the Salt; Jhumpa Lahiri's  Roman Stories; and Gioia Diliberto's historical novel Coco at the Ritz. For rereading, I have Marc Fitten's novel Valeria's Last Stand; Michael Cunningham's The Hours; Colson Whitehead's Underground Railroad; Nella Larsen's novels, Quicksand and Passing; and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. I first read it during the summer between my fifth- and sixth-grade years and then I read it again in ninth grade. I was a total tomboy, a real rough-and-tumble kid, and I was fortunate enough to be raised alongside a male cousin, who became a surrogate older brother for me. I followed him around, lived in his shadow, and always wanted to do everything he did--wrestle, karate-chop, light fireworks--and I have all the scars to prove it. When I read To Kill a Mockingbird, I loved the sibling dynamic between Scout and her older brother, Jem, and I saw similarities between the scrappy, intelligent, inquisitive Scout and myself.

Your top five authors:

I love the language and imagery of Stuart Dybek; the subtlety and restraint of Kazuo Ishiguro; the linguistic mastery and unapologetic bluntness of Jamaica Kincaid; the imagery, style, and structural maneuvers of Jhumpa Lahiri; and the satire, intelligence, and wit of Percival Everett.

Book you've faked reading:

Oh, I never ever fake it.

Book you're an evangelist for:

John Gardner's The Art of Fiction.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I never judge books by their covers.

Book you hid from your parents:

Why would I ever hide a book?

Book that changed your life:

This one is a two-fer. Reading Charles Chesnutt's The House Behind the Cedars while an undergraduate at Stanford University inspired me to pursue graduate studies, obtain a Ph.D., and become a literature professor whose research is grounded in 19th-century American literature. Reading Alice Walker's The Color Purple helped change my personal, rather than professional, life. At the time of my reading the novel, I was still figuring out my spiritual beliefs, and I found myself encountering a lot of religious hypocrites whose behavior left much to be desired. Reading Walker's novel--especially the part where Celie and Shug, two women who have had religion weaponized against them, have a debate about religion that transforms into a conversation about love, joy, and giving the best of oneself as a form of worship--cut through the noise of the hypocrisy and helped shape my thinking about such matters in new and innovative ways.

Favorite line from a book:

Another two-fer. My favorite line from any book comes from John Gardner's The Art of Fiction: "To write with taste, in the highest sense, is to write with the assumption that one out of a hundred people who read one's work may be dying, or have some loved one dying; to write so that no one commits suicide, no one despairs; to write, as Shakespeare wrote, so that people understand, sympathize, see the universality of pain, and feel strengthened, if not directly encouraged to live on." A close second comes from one of Celie and Shug Avery's conversations in The Color Purple when Shug says, "I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it."

Five books you'll never part with:

Kazuo Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day, Charles Johnson's Middle Passage, A. Van Jordan's M-A-C-N-O-L-I-A, Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies, and Toni Morrison's Beloved.

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

Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. I was a great fan of Jo March, another tomboy who was tough, loving, and smart and who didn't conform to societal expectations, even when times were rough or financially challenging (and who wanted to be a writer!). I enjoyed her friendship with Laurie--and then I got to the part where Jo's sister Amy marries Laurie. I got so angry I threw the book across the room and never finished it. I didn't necessarily want Jo and Laurie to be together if they were just friends, but it seemed icky for Laurie to get with her sister afterwards. I was definitely too young when I read it, because I still liked those nice convenient endings where characters did what they ought to and everything worked out well with a silver bow. I hadn't learned yet to read as a writer. I've since reread or finished reading numerous books that upset me or which I didn't care for or understand upon first read, but Little Women is one I've never been able to return to. I'd like to revisit it with mature eyes.

Favorite short stories when you were a child:

I loved Toni Cade Bambara's "Gorilla, My Love"; Katherine Mansfield's "Bliss"; Stanley Elkin's "A Poetics for Bullies"; and Philip Roth's "The Conversion of the Jews," all of which I read between sixth and eighth grades. From fourth through sixth grade, the short stories I'd been assigned to read were of this ilk: O. Henry's "The Gift of the Magi"; Edgar Allan Poe's "The Masque of the Red Death"; Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown" and "The Birth-Mark."

They are stories with ethereal qualities where much depends upon coincidence. They weren't doing it for me. I found what I was looking for when I got assigned the Bambara and the Elkin stories, with their sassy and young narrator-protagonists who hide behind their bravado to conceal their own sensitivity and their difficulties navigating the perplexities of an adult world in which they find themselves prematurely thrust and whose rules are constantly changing.

Then you have the Mansfield and the Roth, which don't rely as much on voice and use close third-person points of view but allow their reader deep dives into the minds of their protagonists at moments where their beliefs and expectations are upended. The Mansfield story has that poignant moment with Bertha Young and the pear tree, and the Roth story has that hilarious moment where all the boys encourage Ozzie to jump because they've misheard the word martyr as Martin--that never fails to crack me up. Those four stories have remained close to my heart for some 35 years now.

Book Review

Review: How to End a Love Story

How to End a Love Story by Yulin Kuang (Avon, $18.99 paperback, 384p., 9780063310681, April 9, 2024)

Screenwriter Yulin Kuang (I Ship It; Dollface) makes her novel debut with How to End a Love Story, a poignant but funny romance about the power of forgiveness. Bestselling author Helen Zhang heads to Los Angeles to work on the television adaptation of her soapy young adult series, and hopefully conquer her writer's block.

When she arrives, she's shocked to find her high-school classmate Grant Shepard is second chair in the writing room--the same Grant who fatally struck her younger sister with his car at the end of their senior year. Grant was the unwilling tool Michelle used to die by suicide, but that hasn't stopped Helen's parents from hating him for 13 years, and it hasn't stopped Grant from hating himself. And Helen has held onto anger at her sister and herself.

After overcoming the initial shock, Helen is determined to ignore Grant and to do well in her new role on the writing and production team. They can keep everything strictly professional, right? Thousands of miles from their former homes in New Jersey, Helen and Grant gradually open up and, with the help of a hilarious, motley crew of writers turned friends, are able to create something new and beautiful. The push-pull angst of their romance is skillfully complemented by humor, steam, and glimpses behind-the-scenes of show business.

Kuang doesn't rely on their shared tragic past to build Helen and Grant's relationship, but like the trauma of Michelle's death, both of them have carried their high-school personas into adulthood. Both struggle to make and keep genuine adult friendships. Helen lives with the expectations and smothering love of her parents, stuck between what she feels she must do and what she wants for herself. This tension becomes one of the central conflicts of the novel: Helen wants to keep her relationship with Grant a secret, and struggles to admit how deeply she feels for him, even to herself.

It will come as no surprise that as the adapting writer of People We Meet on Vacation and writer/director of Beach Read, Kuang offers a heart-wrenching, funny, sexy novel will appeal to fans of Emily Henry and Abby Jimenez. How to End a Love Story is entirely Kuang's own, however, and establishes her as an author--and screenwriter--to watch. --Suzanne Krohn, librarian and freelance reviewer

Shelf Talker: Screenwriter Yulin Kuang's character-driven debut romance is perfect for fans of Emily Henry and Abby Jimenez: sizzling, funny, heart-wrenching and emotionally intelligent.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Alfred Hitchcock, Bookseller

In Alfred Hitchcock's classic film Vertigo, Scottie Ferguson (Jimmy Stewart) and his friend Midge (Barbara Bel Geddes) visit the Argosy Book Shop in San Francisco because she thinks the proprietor, Pop Leibel (Konstantin Shayne), might shed some light on a mystery they're trying to solve that's linked to the city's past.

I have my doubts about whether Hitchcock would have made a great bookseller, but one of his favorite haunts was Argonaut Book Shop, an antiquarian bookstore specializing in the history of California and the American West. Located on Kearny St. at the time of the film's production, it eventually moved to Sutter St. Argonaut was opened in 1941 by Robert Haines, who became a friend of Hitchcock's. After Haines died in 1980, his son, Robert Haines Jr., took over the store.

Vertigo's Argosy Book Shop was constructed at Paramount Pictures studios, but the interiors were modeled after the real Argonaut Book Shop. According to the book Footsteps in the Fog: Alfred Hitchcock's San Francisco by Jeff Kraft & Aaron Leventhal, "the junior Mr. Haines is convinced that Hitchcock borrowed mannerisms from his father for the character of Pop Leibel, particularly the way in which Leibel lit and smoked his cigarettes."

I can imagine Hitchcock would have been an unsettling presence as a frontline bookseller, emerging from the shadows to stealthily approach an unsuspecting customer. "May I be of assistance, madam?" he might ask... with just a hint of amused menace. It would be a disorienting experience. And never, ever ask him where the bookshop's guidebooks on birds are located. 

My thoughts on Hitchcock the bookseller were prompted this week by a Fast Company piece headlined: "What Alfred Hitchcock can teach us about designing a great retail experience." It was excerpted from the upcoming book Irreplaceable: How to Create Extraordinary Places that Bring People Together by Kevin Kelley, owner of strategy & design firm Shook Kelley.

Noting that one of Hitchcock's "most significant contributions to filmmaking was his ability to elicit specific emotions from viewers by carefully crafting and choreographing each scene," Kelley wrote: "The secret to emotions, he believed, was 'in the shot,' by controlling what the viewer sees with their eyes and feels with their emotions.

"Whenever I'm stuck on a design assignment, whether it's a supermarket, restaurant, or orchestra facility, I ask myself, 'How would Alfred Hitchcock design this place?' It's unlikely Hitchcock would tolerate our industry's preoccupation with floor plans, sections, elevations, material sample boards, or planograms. Instead, he'd break down the space into critical scenes while loading them up with psychological meaning and cultural values that pulled audiences in and made them feel a specific emotion. These feelings would not be vague, incidental, or left to chance but deliberately and intimately related to a value he wanted you to feel, first in your gut, beating heart, and sweaty palms, then in your reflective mind and emotional memory."

Would it even be safe to enter a Hitchcockian retail environment? How far into the store dare you venture before a sense of dread begins to envelop you? Why are the overhead lights flickering? What's that eerie music playing over the loudspeakers? Why is the cashier staring at you that way? And what does the PA announcement Cleanup in aisle 13; bring a mop portend? 

Kelley uses a book-to-film analogy to enhance his theory: "The form of a book is different from, say, a movie. Whereas a book consists of 50,000–75,000 words on average and may take a couple of days or weeks to read, a movie based on a book must be greatly condensed into 90 to 120 minutes, allowing audiences to view them in one sitting. So how do screenwriters go about the challenging task of turning a book into a movie? They have to identify the key scenes in the book that impart the most important values about the protagonist's (the brand's) quest. Then they must determine if the reader (customer) will care enough about those values and that quest to stay engrossed in the story until the closing credits. The retail store experience is not all that different."

He adds that "the physical stores that define the future will infuse their product offerings with other equally important features, such as meaning, entertainment, socializing, adventuring, discovery, leisure, and belonging. The value proposition will have to go beyond the literal product itself and satisfy other consumer needs, wants, desires, and quests, for which there are many."

Did somebody say "third place?"

I keep thinking about Jimmy Stewart and Barbara Bel Geddes visiting that Hitchcock-designed bookshop to discover bits of key information through the medium of a well-informed bookseller. I wish the scene had included Hitchcock browsing the shelves in one of his trademark background cameos. 

These Hitchcockian reveries brought back memories of my own tenuous connection to the director's legacy. From 1984 to 2006, I published 20 short stories--some appeared during my tenure as a bookseller--in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, which launched in 1956 and where Hitch's daughter, Pat Hitchcock, worked for awhile. 

When I decide to watch Vertigo's Argosy Book Shop scene again, I find myself wishing Alfred had done even more with the bookseller theme; maybe a whole movie about threatening vendor bills, creepy patrons, dramatic rent increases, unnerving phone calls at the service desk. 

As much as I loved being a longtime frontline bookseller, I never wanted to own a bookshop. It was too terrifying to consider. My imagination is well-honed, but I couldn't imagine that. I have deep admiration, however, for those brave souls who face the challenge head-on. And part of my job description is to worry about them as if they were caught in the web of a Hitchcock film plot. What terrors and suspense lurk in their mysterious futures? Will they solve the retail enigma? What would Alfred Hitchcock the bookseller do?

--Robert Gray, contributing editor

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