Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Quotation of the Day
Alice Through the iPad Screen
"Parents, I don’t have an answer to the worry that kids might prefer to watch a screen instead of reading. But kids who would have never read Alice as a traditional book might pick it up on the iPad instead of staring at Grand Theft Auto."
Image of the Day: Judge Page
More than 200 people gathered at the Book Stall at Chestnut Court, Winnetka, Ill., earlier this month for an event held in honor of the subject of All Rise: The Remarkable Journey of Alan Page by Bill McGrane (Triumph Books). After a career with the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings, Page became a Minnesota Supreme Court Justice and heads the Page Foundation, which has helped send more than 4,000 children of color to college. In photo: Page (c.) with author McGrane (r.) and Peter Dickinson.
Notes: B&N's Poison-Pill Vote; Kindle Singles for Quick Reads
Barnes & Noble is holding a special shareholders meeting November 17 at which it will seek a vote ratifying the company's poisoned pill plan--the same shareholders rights plan that was a major point of contention between Ron Burkle and the B&N board--according to preliminary proxy materials filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The poison-pill provision was enacted late last year in response to Burkle's purchases of B&N stock and limits the ability of individuals or groups to acquire more than 20% of B&N's outstanding stock without board approval. At B&N's annual meeting on September 28, shareholders defeated a proposal that sought to raise the threshold from 20% to 30% (Shelf Awareness, September 29, 2010).
Amazon is launching Kindle Singles, which the company describes as "books that are twice the length of a New Yorker feature or as much as a few chapters of a typical book." Kindle Singles will have their own section in the Kindle Store and "be priced much less than a typical book."
"Ideas and the words to deliver them should be crafted to their natural length, not to an artificial marketing length that justifies a particular price or a certain format," said Russ Grandinetti, v-p, Kindle Content.
PC World noted that while it approved of the idea, "Amazon's description of the content available--in the company's words, 'a political point of view, a scientific argument, or a beautifully crafted essay on a current event'--seems too vague to envision." Alternative suggestions for content included investigative journalism, single short stories, episodic books, magazine highlights and nonfiction e-books "lite."
CNET observed: "Obviously, Amazon sees a potentially lucrative revenue stream in unearthing these shorter pieces, which haven't had a real marketplace to call home. Also, some feel that e-readers are conducive to reading shorter books and that in years to come we'll see content transformed to better suit new digital readers, which now include devices such as smartphones that have smaller screens."
After sitting in on the Google Editions session at this year's NEIBA trade show, Random House sales rep Ann Kingman suggested "6 things I would do today if I were a bookstore owner waiting for Google Editions" on her Booksellers Blog:
- Build my e-mail list.
- Optimize my website.
- Market my website.
- Educate my staff and interested customers about e-books.
- Determine ways to tie in e-books to my existing marketing strategy.
- Start thinking about mobile.
Old Bennington Books, which opened recently in Bennington, Vt., is owned by Tom and Martha Veitch, who "have been involved in the out-of-print and rare book business for more than 30 years--selling books online for the past decade as Lightgate Books," the Banner reported.
"We love books. We love to be surrounded by books and we wanted to have a place where people who love books can come in and enjoy our collection," said Martha.
The Veitchs worked as book scouts during the 1970s. "It really takes several years to learn which books are desirable and which books you should just ignore," Tom said. "When you're a book seller you handle hundreds of thousands of books over years and what you develop is a knowledge and an instinct of what books are interesting and what books you want to buy. So it's a matter of just randomly accumulating and finding things."
Old Bennington Books is located at 138 Union St., Bennington, Vt. 05201; 802-442-1515; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Salman Rushdie is writing a memoir recounting his years in hiding after the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini proclaimed a fatwa against him in 1989 because of his novel The Satanic Verses. Reuters reported that Rushdie "finally felt it was time to confront a difficult period in his life."
"I'm beginning to write this memoir," he said. "I've written about... 100 pages of book and I reckon very roughly that feels like a quarter of the story. I'm aiming, in my mind, for the end of next year (to finish it). So far I feel that I'm right--I'm not getting churned up and upset, I'm just writing it and I'm feeling quite pleased to be writing it."
Rushdie told Reuters his plans to finish the new book in 2011 hinge on "whether the movie of Midnight's Children, to be directed by Indian-born filmmaker Deepa Mehta, was made next year."
Rowling outranks the Queen. J.K. Rowling was voted the U.K.'s most influential woman by the National Magazine Company, edging out Victoria Beckham in second place and Queen Elizabeth in third, BBC News reported.
The Awl featured Tao Lin, author most recently of Richard Yates, helping Emily Gould make salad for an episode of Cooking the Books. His culinary secret: "I just do it as fast as possible."
"When it comes to writers' fashion choices, most people know better than to judge a book by its cover," Flavorwire noted in its feature, "Literature's 10 Best-Dressed Authors."
Lit Tatts redux: The Huffington Post featured a slide show of "15 Amazing Literary Tattoos From Diehard Bookworms."
The Orange Award for New Writers has been dropped "following a 'mutual agreement' with the Arts Council. Orange will instead launch an Orange Book Club and a new books website, which will highlight 'future' Orange Prize for Fiction contenders, including one new writer a month," the Bookseller reported.
Stuart Jackson, director of corporate communications at Orange, said, "2011 represents an exciting year in the evolution of the Orange Prize for Fiction, as we move Britain's most famous and unique arts sponsorship into the digital world, offering literary fans further opportunities to engage with the books and authors they love. Whether that's through the new Facebook site or the Orange Book Club, followers of the Orange Prize will now be able to access inspirational stories from exceptional writers wherever they are, whenever they want."
In Daily Finance, Sarah Weinman considered the possibility of literary wagering in the U.S. in light of recent media coverage garnered by British bookmakers for their handicapping of the Nobel Prize for Literature and the Man Booker Prize.
"So will betting on literature ever catch on in the United States? Will five-figure or even six-figure sums ever be laid down for the National Book Awards or the Pulitzer Prize's book categories?" asked Weinman, noting that Complete Review's M.A. Orthofer, who "comprehensively tracked the betting trends for the Nobel Literature Prize, doesn't think so. 'Literary coverage--in all forms of media--is simply missing: even the big prizes, with set short lists, don't get the kind of coverage Man Booker, Orange and others can count on in the U.K. And the names aren't as recognizable: recall the many National Book Award shortlists that are dominated by authors few have heard of.' "
Books as picture frames; books as clocks. Flavorwire showcased "10 DIY Projects for Your Old Books" and observed: "While we're all for donating old, unwanted books, there are some volumes that we find it impossible to get rid of--whether for sentimental reasons or because they're just too cumbersome to carry. If your bookshelf is getting tight and you're feeling crafty, why not re-purpose a favorite read into something that you'll be able to use around the house?"
Book trailer of the day: 61 Hours by Lee Child (Dell).
Bob Wayne has been named senior v-p, sales, of DC Comics. He continues to oversee sales in the direct market and bookstores and now will oversee digital sales and international distribution, too. Wayne joined the company in 1987 as retail promotions manager and became v-p, direct sales, in 1998. He is the co-author of the DC comic book series Time Masters.
B&N Recommends Still Alice & Lit: A Memoir
Barnes & Noble's latest trade paperback selections for its Recommends program are Still Alice by Lisa Genova (Gallery Books/S&S) and Lit: A Memoir by Mary Karr (HarperPerennial).
Patricia Bostelman, B&N's v-p of marketing, said, "Lisa Genova draws us into the lives of her recognizable and appealing characters with insight and wit. When their lives are altered profoundly by unanticipated illness, we share every step of the heart-wrenching and illuminating journey. With candor and a precise and eloquent mastery of language, Mary Karr continues the narrative that gripped us in The Liar's Club. Lit is an unflinching and courageous memoir."
Media and Movies
Media Heat: Bill Bryson on the Colbert Report
Tomorrow on KCRW's Bookworm: Charles Yu, author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe (Pantheon, $24, 9780307379207/0307379205). As the show put it: "Charles Yu's sweeter-spirited vision of how vintage science fiction can be used to imagine our world. Caught in a computer game, the hero seeks to escape his chronic melancholy. It just so happens that our hero's name is the same as the author's. In our conversation, the writing Yu works his creativity to a frenzy, bringing fiction, physics, math and philosophy to a happy meeting point: safe life in a universe controlled by the imagination."
Tomorrow on the View: Bill O'Reilly, author of Pinheads and Patriots: Where You Stand in the Age of Obama (Morrow, $27.99, 9780061950711/0061950718).
Tomorrow night on the Daily Show: David Rakoff, author of Half Empty (Doubleday, $24.95, 9780385525244/0385525249).
Tomorrow night on the Colbert Report: Bill Bryson, author of At Home: A Short History of Private Life (Doubleday, $28.95, 9780767919388/0767919386).
Television: Too Big to Fail's All-Star Cast
HBO has lined up an "all-star cast" for director Curtis Hanson's adaptation of Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System--and Themselves by Andrew Ross Sorkin, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
In addition to William Hurt (Henry Paulson), Paul Giamatti (Ben Bernanke) and James Woods (Lehman Brothers CEO Dick Fuld), the project will feature Topher Grace (Jim Wilkinson), Ed Asner (Warren Buffett), Tony Shalhoub (John Mack), Dan Hedaya (Barney Frank), Cynthia Nixon (Michele Davis), Michael O’Keefe (Chris Flowers), Ayad Akhtar (Neel Kashkari), Kathy Baker (Wendy Paulson), Billy Crudup (Timothy Geithner) and Joey Slotnick (Dan Jester).
Movies: The Scarlet Pimpernel
What do you get when you combine a classic novel with the great grandson and grandson of Hollywood legends Douglas Fairbanks and Douglas Fairbanks Jr.? According to the Hollywood Reporter, you get a £75 million (US$120 million) movie based on Baroness Orczy's The Scarlet Pimpernel, which "is front and center of seriously ambitious production plans for Fairbanks Productions, the U.K.'s newest and big-talking filmmaking banner on the block."
Dominick Fairbanks and his team--including British writer/director Michael Armstrong and executive producer James Black--plan "to launch a slate of productions in early 2011 but Black told the Hollywood Reporter a remake of The Scarlet Pimpernel, starring upcoming Brit actor Neil Jackson, whose big screen credits include a turn in Quantum Of Solace, is front and center."
"We want to try and do to the story of The Scarlet Pimpernel what Guy Ritchie did to Sherlock Holmes [for Warner Bros]," said Black.
Books & Authors
Awards: Man Booker Prize
Howard Jacobson won the £50,000 (US$78,989) Man Booker Prize for Fiction for The Finkler Question (Bloomsbury). Announcing the winner, chair of the judges Andrew Motion said that Jacobson's novel "is a marvellous book: very funny, of course, but also very clever, very sad and very subtle. It is all that it seems to be and much more than it seems to be. A completely worthy winner of this great prize."
The Guardian called Jacobson's "laugh-out-loud exploration of Jewishness... the first unashamedly comic novel to win the Man Booker prize in its 42-year history. There will be cries of 'about time too' for a funny and warm writer, now 68, who has long been highly regarded but unrewarded with major literary prizes."
"I have been wanting to win the Booker prize from the start," said Jacobson. "I don't think I'm alone in that, it's such a fantastic prize. It was beginning to look like I was the novelist that never ever won the Booker prize. I have been increasingly talked about as underrated and I'm so sick of being described as the underrated Howard Jacobson. So the thought that's gone forever, is wonderful."
Motion observed that The Finkler Question won "because it was the best book. You expect a book by Howard Jacobson to be very clever and very funny and it is both those things. But it is also, in a very interesting way, a very sad, melancholic book. It is comic, it is laughter, but it is laughter in the dark."
In "Howard Jacobson on taking comic novels seriously," an essay published in the Guardian last weekend, the author wrote: "To my ear the term 'comic novelist' is as redundant and off-putting as the term 'literary novelist.' When Jane Austen rattled off the novel's virtues in Northanger Abbey--arguing that it demonstrated the 'most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humor... conveyed to the world in the best chosen language'--she wasn't making a distinction between the literary novel and some other sort, or between the comic novel and the not so comic. The liveliest effusions of wit and humor are simply what the reader of a novel has a right to expect."
This year's Man Booker Prize shortlist also included Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey, Room by Emma Donoghue, In a Strange Room by Damon Galgut, The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson, The Long Song by Andrea Levy and C by Tom McCarthy.
Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week
Selected new titles out next Tuesday, October 19:
Worth Dying For by Lee Child (Delacorte, $28, 9780385344319/0385344317) is the 15th novel starring ex-military cop Jack Reacher.
Chasing the Night by Iris Johansen (St. Martin's, $27.99, 9780312651190/0312651198) follows a forensic sculptor's attempts to help a CIA agent find her missing daughter.
The Templar Salvation by Raymond Khoury (Dutton, $26.95, 9780525951841/0525951849) chronicles the quest for a controversial document from early Christianity during the Crusades and the present day.
Skinny Bitch: Ultimate Everyday Cookbook: Crazy Delicious Recipes that Are Good to the Earth and Great for Your Bod by Kim Barnouin (Running Press, $29.95, 9780762439379/0762439378) is a vegan cookbook.
And one more new title released this week:
Final Verdict: What Really Happened in the Rosenberg Case by Walter Schneir (Melville House, $23.95, 9781935554165/1935554166) contends that Ethel Rosenberg was not a Soviet spy and challenges enduring myths surrounding the case.
Book Brahmin: Timothy Beal
Timothy Beal is Florence Harkness Professor of Religion at Case Western Reserve University and author of 11 books, including Biblical Literacy: The Essential Bible Stories Everyone Needs to Know, now in paperback (HarperOne, October 12, 2010). His essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post and other publications. He lives with his wife, Clover, and children, Sophie and Seth, in Shaker Heights, Ohio.
On your nightstand now:
Anne Lamott's Imperfect Birds, Cormac McCarthy's Cities on the Plain.
Favorite book when you were a child:
I was not much of a reader as a child. My mom was always trying to get me into novels, like Scott O'Dell's The Black Pearl, and Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time. But I have to confess, like most of the boys I knew, I much preferred those red hardcover picture books by C.B. Colby about the history of weapons, from slings and catapults to revolvers and machine guns. Our grade school library was full of them, and we devoured them all. We'd try to draw the modern specimens and replicate the more primitive ones. And then use them on each other in the woods. I was very good with the sling. I doubt these books have remained on the shelves in our post-Columbine world. Perhaps mom should've had me try Lord of the Flies.
Your top five authors:
Cormac McCarthy, Flannery O'Connor, Anne Lamott, Jacques Derrida, William Blake.
Book you've faked reading:
The Bible! Growing up conservative evangelical, I knew what was supposed to be in there: God's magnum opus, The Book of answers to all of life's questions. But whenever I tried to read it, that wasn't what I found. It raised more questions than it answered. Its main characters, including God, were often quite perplexing and disturbing. And the range of human behavior and experience sometimes seemed downright unholy. It wasn't until college that, with the help of William Blake, I fell in love with it for the very same reasons I'd been avoiding it. I learned to let it be as strange as it is, and haven't stopped reading it since.
Book you're an evangelist for:
The Bible! I don't care if you're religious, irreligious or antireligious. You need to get to know it. For one thing, it's a prerequisite to cultural literacy. But beyond that, it's fascinating, wonderfully strange, inspiring stuff.
Book you've bought for the cover:
Doubt: A History by Jennifer Hecht. So simple: the word, set in black type, surrounded by white, circled with what looks like a red colored pencil.
Book that changed your life:
Elie Wiesel's Night. I read it while in seminary, and it radically altered the course of my own research as a biblical scholar. Later, as a young professor at Eckerd College, I had the amazing privilege to get to know Elie Wiesel personally, and am now pleased and grateful to call him a colleague and friend.
Favorite line from a book:
From William Blake's Marriage of Heaven and Hell: "How do you know but ev'ry Bird that cuts the airy way, Is an immense world of delight, clos'd by your senses five?"
Children's Review: There's Going to Be a Baby
There's Going to Be a Baby by John Burningham (Candlewick Press (MA), $16.99 Hardcover, 9780763649074, September 2010)
This is a family story, on several levels. John Burningham met Helen Oxenbury in art school, and they have been married for 46 years. With There's Going to Be a Baby, they give birth to their first joint creative endeavour, and it is well worth the long gestation period. (For the record, they also have three children.) To hear the husband-and-wife team tell it, they first dabbled with the idea of collaborating 10 years ago, but it wasn't quite working. Leave it to David Lloyd, who's been Oxenbury's editor since he first arrived at Walker Books (the U.K. parent to Candlewick Press, more familial ties), to ask the couple to bring out that idling manuscript and have another go at it.
In the first spread, a full-color, full-bleed image focuses on an intimate exchange between a boy of preschool age and his mother. The woman's back is to us, but her profile shows a parent fully intent on her son: "There's going to be a baby." The boy's expression seems neutral, but the cat looks alarmed. On the next spread, snow falls and the boy balances on a foot-high wall. "When is the baby going to come?" he asks, his words printed in navy blue. His mother's response, in light blue type, lets him know what to expect: "The baby will arrive when it's ready, in the fall, when the leaves are turning brown...." As the boy thinks about names for the baby, he imagines it will be a boy whom he can call "Peter or Spider-Man," and a thought balloon pictures an infant in yellow superhero attire, dangling from a spiderweb.
Burningham, whose Would You Rather... (published more than three decades ago) proved he knows how to set up a humorous contrast, creates a series of comical scenarios based on shared activities between mother and child. Rendered in Oxenbury's saturated, luxurious colors, the real-life events spur the mother's suggestions of what the baby might be when he or she grows up. (For the record, Oxenbury says Burningham did not have input into the illustrations: "I couldn't very well have him looking over my shoulder, now, could I?") Each time, the boy sees the situation literally, with the baby engaged in grown-up occupations as a comics-style sequence. So, while a meal in a neighborhood restaurant inspires the mother to imagine the baby as a chef one day, the boy pictures disaster: "I don't think I'd eat anything that was made by the baby." Pixilated panels chronicle the infant sporting apron and chef's hat while spilling eggs and flipping pancakes willy-nilly.
Meanwhile, time marches on; the mother's profile grows, and flowers bloom. The boy senses that the baby's arrival is drawing nearer. When a trip to see the monkeys triggers the mother's thoughts of the baby working at the zoo, the boy says, a bit too happily, "Then the baby might get eaten by a tiger" (no worries--the boy's fantasy shows only the infant's exhaustion from cleaning zebras and feeding the seals in a series of windowpane vignettes). Mother's idea of the baby as a banker brings the boy back around ("Well, that would be very good," he thinks as he piles the coins high). Just when things seemed to be going so well, the boy pronounces, standing in his bath, "Mrs. Anderson's baby threw up all over their new carpet." Surely Mommy won't bring a baby home now!
The boy looks older; he stands taller next to his mother as the leaves begin to fall. Burningham and Oxenbury circle back to an intimate portrait of mother and child. Under the covers next to her, the boy displays a calm resolve: "When is the baby coming, Mommy? I want to see the baby." And then, in a brilliant shift, the next scene depicts the boy on the bus with his Grandad, going to see the baby. He reviews all of the possibilities he had explored with his mommy ("Maybe it will be Susan or Peter. Maybe it will be good at cooking...."). Author and artist keep the focus completely on the boy hero: "Grandad, the baby will be our baby. We're going to love the baby, aren't we?" Now, alongside Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes for all new mothers, we have There's Going to Be a Baby, covering the gamut of emotions for a soon-to-be older sibling. This is an essential story for the entire family.--Jennifer M. Brown