Gone Fishin': Happy Fourth of July!
In honor of Independence Day, this is our last issue of the week. We'll see you again on Monday, July 7.
In honor of Independence Day, this is our last issue of the week. We'll see you again on Monday, July 7.
The state of Indiana will not appeal the ruling two days ago striking down a new law that would have required retailers that sell "sexually explicit" materials to register with the state and pay a $250 fee, Attorney General Steve Carter announced. If legislators at the next general assembly want to try to draft a constitutional statute addressing the issue of "adult stores," he said he would be available to advise them.
Bookselling This Week reprinted an article by Neal Coonerty, former ABA president and owner of Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, Calif., that appeared in BTW in September 2001 and outlined steps booksellers should take in tough times.
BTW profiled Angela Carr and her mother, Brooks Preik, the new owners of Two Sisters Bookery, Wilmington, N.C., who bought the store from Cathy Stanley on June 20. Carr said that she and her mother will won't change much, although they "definitely plan on expanding the children's section."
Stanley is now concentrating on another store she has owned, DeeGee's Gifts & Books in Morehead City, about two hours away from Two Sisters.
Carey McCallum has opened the Sacred Circle in downtown Staunton, Va., which offers new and used books on "everything from poetry and various traditional spiritual texts as well as books on feminist theory and animals rights," according to the Staunton News Leader.
"I want it to be a life-affirming place," McCallum told the paper. "That includes not only people, but the animal world and nature."
He added, "I think religion at its best can inspire people to do wonderful things--to be compassionate to one another, to help the poor, to honor the creation. I also think it can inspire people to do horrible things. I guess I wanted to do my part to try to encourage people's respect and understanding of different cultures and religions."
The veterans' bill sponsored by Senator Jim Webb and signed by President Bush this week includes a new lump sum allowance of $1,000 per year for books, supplies and equipment. In a statement, Richard Hershman, director of government relations at the National Association of College Stores, said, "With annual spending on required course materials running about $700 annually, Congress, acting in a bipartisan manner, has made a bold move that will go a long way toward helping our brave military men, women, and their families afford the educational tools they need to succeed in school and improve their lives."
Andrew Stilwell, director of bookselling at the London Review Bookshop, which celebrates its fifth anniversary this week, explored "how an independent bookshop can survive" at the Guardian's book blog.
First, be connected to a great international literary publication.
According to Stilwell, "while Amazon and the supermarkets have contributed to the demise of many independents, the Internet has paradoxically helped others carve out their own identity and increase their customer base. The London Review Bookshop started with a certain advantage: the subscribers to Europe's foremost intellectual magazine, the LRB. We have tried to 'talk' to these people around the world while also providing a serious bookshop for intelligent book-buyers everywhere, especially, of course, in London."
Congratulations! Penguin Classics's Earth Day promotion supporting the Nature Conservancy's Plant a Billion Trees campaign, which aims to replant much of Brazil's Atlantic Forest, so far has raised enough money for more than 334,000 trees. The campaign, which has included print and online ads, a radio satellite tour, a publicity campaign and the distribution of display easels and bookmarks encouraging readers to donate, continue through August. For more information and to donate, go to plantabillion.org.
Sarah Burningham is joining HarperStudio, which Bob Miller is heading, as associate director of marketing. She has worked at HarperCollins as associate director of publicity, first at Regan Books, then at Morrow. Before that, she worked at Workman Publishing and Miramax Books.
Among other accomplishments, she has helped create partnerships to increase book sales and consumer awareness with companies such as J. Crew, Sephora, Perrier-Jouet and the Sak handbag company.
Burningham is also an author. Her book, How to Raise Your Parents: A Teen Girl's Survival Guide (Chronicle), was published this spring, and she has just returned from her first book tour. Her new boss, Debbie Stier, noted that while on tour Burningham "learned the value of the author escort and discovered that it's a lot harder to blog on the road than she's been telling her authors."
From the DIESEL: A Bookstore newsletter, signed by "John [Evans] & all Dieselfolk":
"With Independence Day celebrations beginning it seems as good a time as any to celebrate our independents. With the closing of several prominent, internationally-recognized bookstores in the last couple of months--Dutton's in Brentwood, Cody's Books and the Graduate Theological Bookstore in Berkeley--it seems important to take stock of where independent bookselling stands, what it stands for, and what stands against it. Simply put, many stores like ours are doing well, supported by dedicated, intelligent communities of readers who understand the pleasures, virtues, and vital services neighborhood bookstores offer. The closures of these stores should not be misread as some fateful indication of the inevitable decline of independent businesses. However, they do reveal the risks threatening independent businesses these days: escalating overhead costs including rent; reader choices gravitating toward media-encouraged internet purchasing; publisher accommodation to the pressures from increasingly consolidated clients (Amazon, Costco, Walmart, chains) leveraging their power to secure preferential terms. All of these forces work against the greater health of the culture and combine to threaten neighborhood bookstores. Most of them can be alleviated through very simple acts: do not heed the media's predictions and recommendations for 'consumer' behavior; do not increase, through your purchases, the centralised power of large internet and chain companies which distort the markets of cultural goods; and support your local stores. (For more on independent bookstores, check out IndieBound.) Please excuse the rant, but it just has to be said. We hope you enjoy our recommendations and have a summer full of wonderful books."
One by Kathryn Otoshi (KO Kids, distributed by PGW, $16.95, 9780972394642/0972394648, 32 pp., ages 3-up, September 2008)
Otoshi's (Marcello the Movie Mouse) picture book about a bully stands out for its deceptive simplicity and its message of inclusion. It begins with Blue, "a quiet color," rendered as the imperfect circle painted in watercolor, shown on the book's predominantly white cover. Blue enjoys "looking up at the sky,/ floating on the waves,/ and on days he felt daring . . . / splashing in rain puddles." For each of these activities, his shape shifts, seeming to stretch skyward or to pull gravitationally toward a puddle. As Blue wishes "every once in a while" that he could be "more sunny like Yellow. Or bright like Green," these hues, along with "regal" Purple and "outgoing" Orange, take on personality by their watercolor brush strokes. Otoshi sets the bully, Red, apart with thick swirling strokes of what appear to be acrylic or oil paint: "Red was a hot head./ He liked to pick on Blue." The blue dot bends, as if cowering, before flattening into a puddle ("Then Blue would feel bad about being Blue"). All the other colors, fond of Blue privately, "never told Red to stop" picking on him. Each mean feat causes Red to grow until no other color is safe; the Red circle overtakes the spread as the other colors, like Blue, flatten ("Then everyone felt . . . a little blue"). But One, a gray-shaped numeral "with bold strokes and squared corners," stands tall. He entertains the others. "Stop laughing!" says Red. All of them do, except One. When the gray fellow says, "I, for One, stand up and say, No," he inspires the others. ("Then Yellow felt brave and said, "Me Two!") As they grow in number and band together, Red shrinks in size. Red starts to roll away, but Blue is the one to call him back ("Can Red be hot . . . / And Blue be cool?"). In Otoshi's world, there's room for everyone.--Jennifer M. Brown
Ethan Canin is the author of For Kings and Planets, The Palace Thief, Blue River and Emperor of Air. His latest novel, America America, comes out from Random House this month. He is a graduate of Harvard Medical School and on the faculty of the University of Iowa's Workshop. He lives in Iowa City.
On your nightstand now:
On it, next to it, and partway under the bed: All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren, Away by Amy Bloom, Memory Lessons by Jerald Winakur, Under the Banner of Heaven by John Krakauer, Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri, The Sand Café by Neil MacFarquhar, Jimmy Twice by Joe Blair, The Boat by Nam Le, The Commoner by John Burnham Schwartz and a half dozen copies of Fine Homebuilding, to name the ones I can see without moving anything.
Favorite book when you were a child:
The Baseball Life of Sandy Koufax by George Vecsey.
Your top five authors:
I could list only top five influential books, not in any order of influence but in the order that they are coming to me right now: Henderson the Rain King by Saul Bellow, American Pastoral by Philip Roth, Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow, The Stories of John Cheever, Mr. Bridge by Evan Connell, Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson, Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground, Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth, Rabbit, Run by John Updike, Alice Munro's Open Secrets, In the Garden of the North American Martyrs by Tobias Wolff, The World According to Garp by John Irving, At Play in the Fields of the Lord by Peter Matthiessen, Airships by Barry Hannah and The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes. Is that more than five?
Book you've faked reading:
Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine.
Book you are an evangelist for:
DSM IV. Try it--it will explain a lot of things.
Book you've bought for the cover:
Lust by Susan Minot.
Book that changed your life:
The Stories of John Cheever. I read it in college, and it turned me from a mechanical engineering major into an English major.
Favorite line from a book:
It has to come down to this: "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past."--The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
For the pure pleasure of it, this has got to be John Irving's The World According to Garp.
If you own a bookshop, or work in a bookshop, or sell your books in bookshops or even--may Gutenberg's ghost bless you--buy your books in bookshops, you may have heard a certain word once or twice before.
We really like the word; it's how we define ourselves. We hold that truth to be self-evident and don't care who knows it.
Whatever else may be happening in our mad, mad, mad, mad book world (see IMBD and Mrs. Marcus (Ethel Merman): "Now what kind of an attitude is that, these things happen? They only happen because this whole country is just full of people, who when these things happen, they just say these things happen, and that's why they happen! We gotta have control of what happens to us."), our independent spirit does give us a sense of control over our immediate, if not long-term, destiny.
Without it, who are we? Why bother? An independent bookstore is not just a concept or a blind hope. It is a statement.
Okay, a declaration.
And yet, we are also charter members of many diverse and ever-changing communities, as exemplified by our oddly complementary recent impulses toward social networking online and shopping local on-ground.
IndieBound's new website invites us to become "part of the story," noting that "each page of a book carries something totally incredible and unique, but when they are all brought together, they build something infinitely greater." A Declaration of IndieBound suggests we "are linked by the passions that differentiate us."
For a long time I thought we should give equal weight to the word "dependent" when talking about bookshops because we rely so heavily on the kindness, cooperation and generosity of, if not strangers, then certainly of all those equally independent consumers who choose to enter independent bookstores. That's such an amazing impulse, a declaration on their part that we matter to them; that we depend upon one another.
Long ago and far away, I worked for a national supermarket chain. Most of our customers came in because they had to buy food, and they weren't always happy about it. Great customer service could drag a grudging smile from them sometimes, but it's safe to say that the average customer in a grocery store was more disgruntled than the most challenging customer I have ever encountered as a bookseller.
People wanting to--choosing to--buy books directly from us, face-to-face, is no small miracle these days. Of course, we'd love to have even more of them make that choice regularly, and we continue to search for irresistible strategies that might encourage such behavior. At the same time, as independents we fiercely resist the siren song urging us to surrender to our presumed fate, as implied in phrases like "these things happen."
So we should celebrate our independence this holiday weekend, but since IndieBound describes us as individual pages that become a story only when we are bound together, the word that seems equally appropriate to our celebrations is "interdependence."
Books & Books, Miami, Fla., used the term eloquently this week in its e-mail newsletter: "With an independent attitude and an independent spirit, Books & Books has focused on our community--from neighbors to readers, from business to business--for the past 25 years. Now, people all over the country are recognizing the value of being local, buying local. In our bookshops, in our neighborhoods, there is a sense of place, a place we call home. Not just independence but interdependence."
Tomorrow, communities nationwide will gather to celebrate Independence Day with all the traditional fixings--parades, flags, picnics, fireworks. I'll celebrate by working on the sales floor of an independent bookstore, waiting for the front door to open and members of our independent reading community to come inside for a moment, to have a conversation about books, to shop local.
That we all need one another seems so obvious, yet it still sometimes defies my limited imagination to realize how elusive the concept of interdependence can become.
But not tomorrow. Have a great Interdependence Day. Watching fireworks alone just isn't much fun.--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)