Notes: Oprah's Pick; Scrooge's Holidays; Books for Barack
Oprah's next book club pick is The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski, published by Ecco. In a statement, Oprah said, "I think this book is right up there with the greatest American novels ever written."
O: The Oprah Magazine wrote in part: "Wroblewski's plot is dynamic--page by page compelling--and classical, evoking Hamlet, Antigone, Electra, and Orestes, as Edgar tries to avenge his father's death and his paternal uncle's new place in the affections of his mother. The scope of this book, its psychological insight and lyrical mastery, make it one of the best novels of the year, and a perfect, comforting joy of a book for summer."
"As economists predict the worst holiday sales season since the recession of 1991, retailers are fighting back with an arsenal of new selling strategies, staff cutbacks and more emphasis than ever on low prices," the Wall Street Journal reported. General retailers are also beginning to sell Christmas merchandise now--this year's holiday season is shorter than usual--and "gift cards will be fancier."
The financial meltdown is expected to take a toll on luxury retailers, and already warehouse club Costco is expecting to offer more branded, high-end products that distributors can't sell to their traditional outlets.
"The psychological impact goes beyond just people who are laid off," Raphael Moreau, a retail analyst with Euromonitor International, told the paper.
During this sluggish year, many retailers have tightened inventories and are using job-scheduling software, which should help them deal better with a difficult fourth quarter, the Journal added.
After Barnes & Noble shares gained more than 40% in the past two months, Standard & Poor's has changed its recommendation on the stock to "sell" from "hold," the Associated Press reported. B&N has risen above S&P's target price of $26 a share.
S&P analyst Michael Souers wrote that although the company is "managing costs effectively in a challenging environment, we remain concerned about further gross margin erosion, driven by competitive pressures from online peers." He also said he had what the AP called "concern about a continued decline in adult readership levels."
The winner of the BuzzBooks competition at the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association trade show last week in Portland, Ore., was We Bought a Zoo by Benjamin Mee (Weinstein Books). Booksellers and librarians at the show voted on seven competing titles; the voters then were themselves eligible for three $250 randomly drawn prizes. Those winners were: Marcia Vanderford, Vanderford's Book & Office, Sandpoint, Idaho, Debbie Buck, Vintage Books, Vancouver, Wash., and Johnna Hickox, Winter River Books, Bandon, Ore.
As the song goes, "If I can make it there . . ."
The New York Times asked, "Can an independent bookstore with the right formula still make it in New York City?" The answer, apparently, is a qualified "maybe," with hope resting on a blend of hard work, pragmatism and faith.
"People say, 'Are you out of your mind?'" said Cynthia Conigliaro, whose Lexington Avenue store, Archivia, opened nine months ago. "They want to come in and look at you like you're some curiosity. . . . It's been a cash flow roller coaster. I'm cautiously hopeful that people recognize that there's still some value to a bricks and mortar bookstore run by passionate bookstore owners who know their names, who know their books."
The Times reported that Idelwild Book's owner David Del Vecchio "is hoping that by specializing, and by creating a community space in a residential part of town, he'll be able to survive when so many others have not."
"It's a curated store that reflects a certain sensibility," he said. "I don't think it can be a chain store but smaller and cuter--it has to have a strong concept.”
The qualified conclusion by the Times to its own question? "So maybe independent bookstores could have a bright future in New York: Those updated design choices may give them a fresh identity, a boost that could dovetail nicely with the increasingly popular movement to support local, community-based retailers."
The Boulder Examiner offered a preview of "book lovers paradise" Boulder Book Store's 35th anniversary festivities next month.
More than 750 authors have contributed signed copies of their books to novelist Ayelet Waldman, who created Books for Barack, an online promotion whereby people who donate $250 to Senator Barack Obama's campaign through her site receive a mystery bag of 10 books. The books include a canvas tote bag with the Books for Barack logo. The first bags will be sent out this coming Friday, September 26.
Waldman wrote that another 40 books arrived this past Saturday, "a slow day. . . . My living room is a nightmare as you can imagine, so at some point Michael [Chabon, her husband] may put the kibosh on it."
The promotion started with the idea of auctioning a handful of signed books at an Obama fundraiser but grew when Waldman e-mailed other authors, who responded in droves. Among them are Stephen King, Ursula LeGuin, Judy Blume, Lemony Snicket, Richard Price and Amy Tan.
Wordia.com, a "'democratically compiled' multimedia dictionary, which asks all and sundry to post video definitions of their favourite words," has debuted with the immodest goal of becoming "the largest and most authoritative free dictionary available online," the London Times reported.
"There is only so much a 15th century building can take," Susan Mirabaud, owner of the Fifteenth Century Bookshop, told the Sussex Express after her historic Lewes bookstore was hit by a bus for the second time in five years.
Was the Whole Earth Catalog a 1970s version of blogging? Boing Boing linked to a post by Kevin Kelly, who was once editor-in-chief at the Whole Earth Review and is now editor and publisher of Cool Tools. While looking at an old copy of the Whole Earth Catalog, Kelly felt "it all seemed comfortably familiar. Then I realized why. These missives in the Catalog were blog postings. Except rather than being published individually on home pages, they were handwritten and mailed into the merry band of Whole Earth editors who would typeset them with almost no editing (just the binary editing of print or not-print) and quickly 'post' them on cheap newsprint to the millions of readers who tuned in to the Catalog's publishing stream. No topic was too esoteric, no degree of enthusiasm too ardent, no amateur expertise too uncertified to be included."