Shelf Awareness for Friday, July 30, 2010
Image of the Day: A Big Hug for Sara Gruen
Sara Gruen with Tai, the elephant portraying Rosie, on the set of Water for Elephants. Gruen is the author of Water for Elephants (Algonquin) and Ape House, which will be published by Spiegel & Grau September 7. The movie--starring Robert Pattinson; Academy Award winners Reese Witherspoon and Christoph Waltz; and Academy Award nominee Hal Holbrook--is scheduled to be released by Fox 2000 this spring.
Notes: Online Store to Open Downtown; Wylie and Wyly Times
Here's another example of a new route to opening an old-fashioned bookstore.
Reading Frenzy Bookshop, Zimmerman, Minn., which started last year as an online bookstore, is opening a bricks-and-mortar "branch" in September, according to the Elk River Star News.
Owned by Sheri and Mike Olson, the online store sells new and used books as well as music and movies. The real-world store will also sell art by local artists and a variety of gifts.
Sheri Olson told the paper that the store aims to "have a lot of different things to pull the community together" such as readings, book clubs, story hours and other monthly events for children. The store will open to the Dunn Bros. coffee shop next door.
River Lights Books, Dubuque, Iowa, is "de-emphasizing" the phrase "2nd edition" in its name and logo, according to the Dubuque Telegraph Herald.
Owner Sue Davis told the paper that the phrase makes some people think the store is a used bookstore. She added: "We also want to simplify our identity as we expand our business to include online sales and publishing services."
Bookselling This Week talked with Allison Best-Teague and Jo Gilley, new owners of Blue Ridge Books, Waynesville, N.C., whose first purchase--besides the store--was a suggestion box. "We plan to listen to what the customers want and do our best to run a business that meets the needs of the community," Gilley said.
The pair became owners when Robert Baggett, who founded Blue Ridge in 2007, retired. He had bought Osondu Booksellers last year and merged it into Blue Ridge. Best-Teague was children's buyer, events coordinator and a bookseller at Osondu; Gilley was manager of Blue Ridge.
Beginning in September, Barnes & Noble will build 1,000-sq.-ft. sections in each of its 720 stores that will be next to the stores' cafes and focus on the Nook, including "sample Nooks, demonstration tables, video screens and employees who will give customers advice and operating instructions," the New York Times reported. B&N will create space by shrinking music sections. The stores already sell Nooks, but in much smaller areas.
The company sees its bricks-and-mortar stores offering an advantage over Amazon. "American consumers want to try and hold gadgets before they purchase them," B&N CEO William Lynch told the paper.
Amazon has begun selling Kindles in Target and HMSHost stores.
According to the Times, Codex Group has estimated that Amazon has sold nearly two million Kindles and B&N has sold more than 600,000 Nooks.
Charles and Sam Wyly, billionaire brothers who were owners for many years of Michaels Stores, crafts stores that sell books, have been charged with securities fraud by the SEC. The allegations include Michaels as well as other companies, trusts and subsidiaries controlled by the Wylys. The Wylys' lawyer told the Wall Street Journal that the claims are "without merit."
Sam Wyly is also an author and bookstore owner. Two years ago Newmarket Press published his 1,000 Dollars and an Idea: Entrepreneur to Billionaire (Shelf Awareness, July 30, 2008), and in early 2007, he and his wife bought Explore Booksellers & Bistro, Aspen, Colo., from the family of the late longtime owner Katharine Thalberg (Shelf Awareness, January 30, 2007).
Book trailer of the day: ghostgirl: Lovesick by Tonya Hurley (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers).
Using the example of Andrew Morton's new book, Angelina: An Unauthorized Biography (St. Martin's), the AP explores dropping sales of celebrity biographies.
"Sales of tell-all celebrity biographies have been negatively impacted by the information that is available on the Internet or in print," Patricia Bostelman, v-p of marketing for Barnes & Noble, told the AP. "The Morton book is also competing with all the press Jolie has been getting around the launch of Salt, in which she is deliberately staying on message about her life with Brad and the kids. The audience for the book has often read all the key revelations prior to publication."
For her part, Hope Dellon, Morton's editor at St. Martin's, commented: "There is much more competition from the tabloids and the Internet, so you have to go beyond the day-to-day gossip. It's got to go deeper than that. It's got to have some fresh insight and revelations, and we think Andrew's book does."
Even Kitty Kelley, the doyenne of celebrity bios, has been adversely affected. Her unauthorized biography of Oprah has sold about 115,000 copies, according to Nielsen BookScan, way below the million-copy sales of her bios of Frank Sinatra and Nancy Reagan.
On the other hand, celebrity memoirs--always authorized--continue to do well. B&N's Patricia Bostelman said they are "gaining sales depending on the strength of the author's platform and fan base."
On the Daily Beast, Ingram Content Group president and CEO Skip Prichard predicted a bright future for the book--in a variety of forms. Because of its "portability, durability, and flexibility," the printed book will endure, he wrote. "Though massive print runs will decline, today's print technology allows a book to be manufactured and delivered within 24 hours of placing an order. I foresee a future when all of the electronic devices will have a button to press when you decide you really want that hardcover or paperback copy mailed to your home. Because no matter how exciting the world of enhanced media books becomes, I suspect there will be some like me who want it both ways. I may love my new iPad, but I still look forward to reading that relic of the past, the good old-fashioned, printed book."
In fact, the future is now, Prichard said. He called this "the most exciting time to be involved in the book business. Not only are books receiving more media attention, the new technologies offer an unprecedented opportunity to engage readers. Audio and video enhancements offer authors the ability to reach a reader like never before. Social networks allow readers the chance to discover books they would never have found. Touch screens let children interact with books or play games related to the story. Educators find that reading assignments come alive as all learning modalities can be engaged. Three-dimensional graphics and spoken text transform plain words into dynamic new worlds. The book itself is being reinvented. The future is here."
"Despite the rapid growth in the United States, in Germany,
one of the continent's biggest book markets, uptake of e-books has been
much slower," Deutsche Welle reported.
The German Booksellers Association's online e-book shop Libreka lists about 25,000 titles. Roland Schild, Libreka's CEO, cited "two main reasons why the German e-book market share is still well under one percent. The first is that the range of e-book bestsellers is 'still not wide enough.' The second is that 'for a long time we didn't have an adequate reading device,' although 'now we have the iPad, and we know that this year there will be several more coming out of the major suppliers' development labs,' " Deutsche Welle wrote.
Warning: this news can lead to addictive behavior. Online retailer the Book Depository has launched a live buying map for book voyeurs. As David Barnett cautions in the Guardian, "I'm going to show you something now. Are you ready? I'll wait patiently here for a bit, because I guarantee that if you're anything like me you'll be gone for a while. OK. Click HERE."
Ali Shaw, author of The Girl with Glass Feet, chose his top 10 "stories of transformation" for the Guardian.
Besting 123 other Papa wannabes, Charles Bicht won this year's Ernest Hemingway lookalike contest.
The Los Angeles Times Jacket Copy blog featured an update on the saga of David Markson's personal library, noting that the late author's "worldly possessions, more than 50 cartons--holding 50 books each--ended up at the Strand Bookstore in New York."
Alex Abramovich, who discovered Markson's books at the Strand and wrote about it on the London Review of Books blog, has set up a Facebook group "as a way of putting Markson's library together again."
Strand owner Fred Bass said, "David wanted the books recirculated at the Strand. And really, if you face it, a university library, what are they going to do with them? They end up storing them. I think he realized that. This way, his books are in circulation."
Sherri Gallentine has been promoted to head book buyer for Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena, Calif. She has been book buyer since 2005 and earlier worked as bookseller, supervisor, book department manager and inventory manager at Vroman's. She joined Vroman's in 1993. Gallentine is also a former president of the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association.
Media and Movies
J.J. Abrams (Lost) and his Bad Robot production company "are tackling the tale of a robot set in the Victorian Age," according to the Hollywood Reporter, which reported that Paramount has acquired the rights to Boilerplate: History's Mechanical Marvel--a "graphic novel-picture book hybrid by Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett"--and Abrams will produce the film adaptation.
Television: K Blows Top
Paul Giamatti (John Adams) is set to portray another historical figure. Variety reported that Giamatti "is attached to play Khrushchev in the telepic that is in the early stages of development" from HBO and Playtone. The film will be adapted by Paul Bernbaum from Peter Carlson's book K Blows Top: A Cold War Comic Interlude, Starring Nikita Khrushchev, America's Most Unlikely Tourist, which examined the Soviet leader's two-week tour of the U.S. during the Eisenhower administration.
Books & Authors
Book Brahmin: Alexander McCall Smith
Alexander McCall Smith was born in what is now Zimbabwe and was educated there and in Scotland. He became a law professor in Scotland, and it was in this role that he first returned to Africa, where he helped to set up a law school at the University of Botswana. He is now Professor Emeritus at the University of Edinburgh.
McCall Smith has written more than 60 books, including academic
titles, story collections and children's books. He is best known for
his No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series. The latest
book in that series, The Double Comfort Safari Club, was published in April
2010. Corduroy Mansions, the first book in his new series set in London was
published by Pantheon on July 13, 2010.
On your nightstand now:
Beauty by Roger Scruton and Tuscany--A History by Alistair Moffat.
Favorite book when you were a child:
The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling.
Your top five authors:
R.K. Narayan, Graham Greene, Barbara Pym, W.H. Auden and J.M. Coetzee.
Book you've faked reading:
No incriminating questions, please!
Book you're an evangelist for:
Auden's Collected Shorter Poems 1927-1957.
Book you've bought for the cover:
Behind the Picture: Art and Evidence in the Italian Renaissance by Martin Kemp.
Book that changed your life:
Auden's Collected Shorter Poems.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert.
Book Review: I Curse the River of Time
I Curse the River of Time by Per Petterson (Graywolf Press, $23.00 Hardcover, 9781555975562, August 2010)
If you're looking for a dose of chilly, melancholy realism, your search is over. The first book written by Per Petterson since his award-winning Out Stealing Horses is a son's aching recollections of a mother recently diagnosed with cancer who never quite understood him.
Thirty-seven-year-old Arvid has never been the most beloved member of the family--he's black-haired like a refugee child, unlike his four blond brothers. A committed Communist revolutionary, he has given up his college education to work in a factory as a proletarian and is now suffering acute depression from an impending divorce and separation from his two little girls, ages seven and 10. The narrative drifts dreamlike through time, back and forth, in and out of November 1989, when his mother is diagnosed with stomach cancer, abandons her job on the assembly line of a chocolate factory and departs the very next day for her home town in Denmark. Arvid decides to pursue her and try to make things right, and together mother and son re-enter the past, filled with childhood memories, both of them haunted by Arvid's younger brother, who died six years before.
It's all recounted in spare, unadorned prose, but don't let the subtle, understated language fool you. The book packs some nice punches when you least expect them, like the identity of the sinister stalker on the ferry to Denmark who terrorizes Arvid. Brilliant little vignettes abound, unsentimental and yet strangely touching--his mother's neighborhood 50th birthday party, in which Arvid taps his knife against his glass and stands, but finds he has nothing to say, or the scene in which Arvid decides to do what his weak, elderly father cannot: chop down the last pine tree beside the family home.
The title comes from one of the personal, nonpolitical poems of Mao.
"Fragile images of departure, the village back then.
I curse the river of time; thirty-two years have passed."
Never upbeat, never suspenseful, without a plot or even a real understanding of Arvid and his mother, this atmospheric, brooding novel weaves its spell with dignity and honesty, revealing how we really live, daring to be unrelentingly realistic about the many regrets and disappointments of life. Bleak, maybe, but Petterson's unflinching realism in itself is heroic and inspirational. He confronts the non-plots of our lives with uncompromising words and eyes wide open. --Nick DiMartino
Shelf Talker: An atmospheric, brooding novel about how lives are really lived--bleak, yet heroic and inspirational.
Robert Gray: On Not Handselling May Sarton's Books
"It came to me one night that it had to be something useful, needed, and close to home, something I could invest in and make grow, something I could control for a change. That night I began to dream of a women's bookstore, a bookstore which would be not only a place for buying books, but a meeting place, a welcoming refuge where people could browse and talk. Maybe there could be a fireplace and a table with comfortable chairs around it. As soon as I began to imagine this I realized it was exactly what I must do and I did not sleep a wink, my head was so absorbed in thinking and planning."--May Sarton, The Education of Harriet Hatfield
Then, somehow, I forgot about her.
My negligence--unforgiveable it seems to me now--has come up because I am re-reading Sarton for the first time in three decades, and Harriet Hatfield's bookstore is just one of many things I realize I've been missing.
When I was in my late 20s, I discovered Journal of A Solitude, which set me off on a Sarton reading pilgrimage. Although her journals--The House by the Sea, Recovering, At Seventy--were favorites, I also loved many of her novels--Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing, The Small Room, A Reckoning.
I thought less of Sarton's poems then, but probably didn't try hard enough. She called poetry her "most important" work, and given that Virginia Woolf was among her early fans, I think I was just dead wrong about them. Lately I've revisited the poems, with more positive results. Maybe I'm ready now.
There are many people who don't read May Sarton; I hesitate to add "anymore" because her readership was always small, if devoted. She understood what it meant to be an uncategorizable author. She often bristled at labels that might have garnered her more attention--woman writer, lesbian writer. Her readership has been young and old, male and female. In an interview, she once said, "it is a mistake to believe that I'm not read by men. More and more I hear from men.... People think of me as a woman's writer but that is not really true."
She could be mischievous in acknowledging her place in the literary world, as in this passage from The House by the Sea: "It is very hard to see oneself in the hard light of reality through someone else's eyes. Auberon Waugh in the Evening Standard in London opens a long sneer of a review of Crucial Conversations, 'May Sarton is an American lady of 63 who has been writing novels for 36 years without anyone paying very much attention.' That is the truth; yet it made me laugh, it is such a caricature of how I see myself."
I've decided to pay attention to Sarton's work again. During my initial encounters with her books when I was young, I felt she was speaking directly to me. That is a special experience for any reader. Now that I'm nearly the age Sarton was when she wrote The House by the Sea, I've been stunned by how much it still speaks to me, if in a different tone.
Sarton would understand, having said, "people don't read the journals to discover me; they read the journals to discover themselves." What she might have hoped is that the journals and novels would lead me to rediscover her poetry. I'm trying. There is so much to read--an astounding 50 books in her bibliography. And I'm just getting started... again.
If I could handsell her work now, I would. Maybe that's what I'm doing here as I contemplate Harriet Hatfield's bookshop moment: "I had to laugh at myself for thinking I could embark on such a venture with no business experience whatever, but it felt like an instinct as powerful as a cow's instinct to eat grass. That is what made me laugh, the certainty that I was at the same time a little crazy, no doubt, and absolutely right that this was the adventure for me, godsent, in fact. Hatfield House: A Bookstore for Women was the name that came to me after dawn."--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)