Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Quotation of the Day
Harper Lee: 'Problem Is One of Illiteracy, Not Marxism'
"Surely it is plain to the simplest intelligence that To Kill a Mockingbird spells out in words of seldom more than two syllables a code of honor and conduct, Christian in its ethic, that is the heritage of all Southerners. To hear that the novel is 'immoral' has made me count the years between now and 1984, for I have yet to come across a better example of doublethink.
"I feel, however, that the problem is one of illiteracy, not Marxism. Therefore I enclose a small contribution to the Beadle Bumble Fund that I hope will be used to enroll the Hanover County School Board in any first grade of its choice."
Anderson Family Proposes BAM Buyout
The Anderson family, which currently has a 53% stake in Books-A-Million, has made a non-binding proposal to take the company private, Reuters reported, adding that the offer of $3.05 per share in cash for the book retail chain represents "a premium of 20% to Friday's closing.... The offer values Books-A-Million at about $48.8 million."
In March, Terrance Finley replaced Clyde Anderson as CEO, though Anderson retained his position as chairman. According to Reuters, Anderson "anticipates the acquisition would be in the form of a merger of Books-A-Million with a newly formed acquisition vehicle that the Anderson family would control." The transaction would be financed through loans available under the BAM's existing credit line, "and is conditioned on availability of sufficient funds under the credit line," Reuters wrote. Anderson expects the board to establish a special committee of independent directors to review the proposal.
Judge Overturns Three Cups of Tea Lawsuit
Yesterday, U.S. District Judge Sam Haddon dismissed a civil lawsuit against Greg Mortenson, calling the plaintiffs' claims that the author and his publisher, Penguin Group, had lied in his two bestselling books (Three Cups of Tea and Stones Into Schools) to boost sales "flimsy and speculative," the Associated Press reported.
In his ruling, Haddon wrote that the racketeering allegations "are fraught with shortcomings" and the plaintiffs' "overly broad" claims were not supported in the lawsuit, the AP said.
Odyssey Bookshop's Neil Novik Retires
Effective yesterday, Neil Novik retired as co-owner of the Odyssey Bookshop, South Hadley, Mass. He had held the position since coming to the bookstore in 1998. In an e-mail letter, Novik called the intervening years "among the most interesting and, at times, exciting, in my life. I will never forget the people I have met and friends I have made. Thank you."
Joan Grenier, who will continue as the sole owner and president, "has many ideas for the store's future," Novik wrote. "With your support, the store will continue to thrive as one of the leading independent bookstores in Massachusetts."
He also observed that while he is using the word retire, "I will still be in the store about one day a week (usually Mondays) through the spring and summer to help the new textbook manager prepare for the fall semester. I will also continue to host the Odyssey Crime Club reading group (second Monday of every month) at least until the end of 2012. So I hope to see many of you at some point. Again, thank you for your kindness and support."
Roberta Rubin Looking for a Successor
Roberta Rubin, owner of the Book Stall at Chestnut Court, Winnetka, Minn., is looking for someone to take over the business she has owned for 30 years "and run it with as much enthusiasm as she has," Winnetka Talk reported.
"By this summer, I'll be actively looking for someone," Rubin said, adding: "It's not up for sale. I'm talking to people who might be interested in buying it, but I'm still making that decision. I'm plotting an exit strategy."
Anticipating that it will take about a year to sell her business, Rubin has discussed the possibility with several people who had previously expressed interest in owning an indie bookstore, "but so far nobody has committed to it," she said. "I would want someone who really wants to dig in and run the store."
Milestone: Former Borders HQ for Sale
The vacant former headquarters of Borders Group, Ann Arbor, Mich., is on the market for $6.9 million, according to Ann Arbor.com.
The property has 330,000 square feet of space and 1,283 parking spaces (including about three visitors' spots... grrr). The two buildings were built in 1970 and renovated in 1998.
Ironically, the owner, Agree Realty Co., defaulted on a loan for the property last year. Agree tried to sell the buildings two years ago for more than $18 million and again last year for $10 million.
Obituary Notes: Virginia Spencer Carr; Ernest Callenbach
Literary biographer Virginia Spencer Carr, "whose book The Lonely Hunter remains the standard biography of Carson McCullers," died April 10, the New York Times reported. She was 82.
Ernest Callenbach, whose 1975 novel Ecotopia "developed a cult following as a harbinger of the environmental movement," died April 16, the New York Times reported. He was 83.
Image of the Day: Books & Books & Handcuffs
On Sunday, E.L. James, of 50 Shades of Grey fame, began her U.S. tour at Books & Books, Coral Gables, Fla. The two events--a morning autographing at the store and an evening event at the Biltmore Hotel--drew 500 and 700 people, respectively. Besides books, the "mommy porn" author signed everything from ties and a baseball to handcuffs. At the end, she and owner Mitchell Kaplan celebrated with a mutually respectful hug.
The Associated Press had a long story about James's appearances at Books & Books, noting, "The crowd burst into a standing applause and took out cell phones to take photos when James entered the room. They asked when there would be a follow-up and how long it had taken her to write. But mostly their questions boiled down to two topics: Who is Christian based off and how much of the stuff described in the book has she actually tried?
"James said Christian was based on several people. As for whether she's had experiences like those in the book, she said: 'Some yes, some no, some I just used my imagination.' "
Kaplan called the series "a literary phenomenon. E.L. struck a nerve, and her storytelling speaks to so many people."
Young Bookseller Focus: Stephen Sparks
This is the second in an occasional series of interviews of young, smart booksellers who are both the present and the future of bookselling--and whose enthusiasm and presence are encouraging many older folks in the industry who feared they might be a dying breed. Our intrepid reporter is George Carroll, an independent publishers rep and principal of Redsides Publishing Services.
Stephen Sparks, 34, began his bookselling career at Green Apple Books in San Francisco, in 2007, with a brief interlude at Dalkey Archive Press.
You're the self-appointed "seeker of overlooked titles" for Green Apple Books. Are you grabbing what falls through the cracks or are you stealing the catalogues from the other buyers?
It's a little of both. I'm fortunate enough to work for a buyer (Kevin Ryan, one of the store's co-owners) who values the different aptitudes and interests of his staff. We're all encouraged to take initiative to make the store better in whatever we can. In my case, it happens to be doing what I'm interested in: scouring catalogues, keeping in touch with small presses, digging through backlists, etc.
Do you find books on other blogs and websites?
I find books on blogs, websites, in other bookstores, in various newsletters, by word of mouth and a lot of times in other books.
What discovery are you the most proud of bringing into the store?
Of the "overlooked" books I've had a lot of fun selling, I'd have to include Roland Topor's The Tenant (in Centipede's eye-catching edition, now out-of-print) and Juan Rodolfo Wilcock's Temple of Iconoclasts (Mercury House), also tragically OP.
Say that I'm publishing the first English translation of a minor classic by a German author. What's the best way to get your attention?
Send a copy to the store, addressed to me! Something I don't think publishers do enough--I'm aware of the logistics that may prevent them from doing so, but they're by no means insurmountable--is to find those booksellers who are their kind of reader. If you can find a bookseller at a store who is most likely to read what you're publishing, you've already overcome the biggest obstacle, I think, which is getting the book into hands of the right reader.
The store has an aisle of staff recommendations that is, to me, the Vortex of Temptation. It's impossible for none but the strongest to resist its appeal. How do you curate the section?
There are different species of staff recommendations: some books sell themselves by simply being visible in a high-traffic area, others come with such effusive praise that you find yourself convinced into giving them a try, and others are books you may never have heard of or seen in another bookstore, but that strike you as a great discovery. I strive to have a nice array of each of these kinds of books on display.
Many booksellers and publishers know the store from your videos and will recognize you as one of the broadcasters of the Book vs. Kindle Smackdown. Do you have any behind-the-scenes celebrity gossip?
Most of the salacious gossip will be revealed in my as yet unwritten tell-all, but in the interests of drumming up a bidding war, I can reveal that I was not acting. At all.
What's your involvement with the blog Writers No One Reads?
Will Schofield, the man behind the inimitable 50 Watts, started Writers No One Reads as a side project that rapidly attained some renown. In order to keep posting regularly, he asked me if I'd be interested in contributing, which I was happy to do.
Are you a Surrealist at heart or am I misreading your posts on Writers No One Reads?
It's difficult not to. The Surrealists really lend themselves to not being read.
The final questions come from Jeff Waxman, the previous person profiled in this series: What comes next for bookselling? Are you dedicated to preserving the past in the future or are the ideals of the past transferable?
As much as I'm tempted to prognosticate, the best I can do in the space I'm given is to offer my hope that we'll continue to adapt as necessary to the challenges ahead. For all the hand-wringing, I think we're in the midst of exciting times. Rather than seeing ourselves as helpless against the tide of technology that threatens to engulf us, we should remain sanguine about the future. After all, this is a profession that's always been on the brink of extinction. I like to think it keeps us on our toes.
Photo Archive: Vintage Librarians
Mental Floss featured 15 vintage photographs of librarians, culled from the Library of Congress archives, and noted: "Here are some old photos of librarians showing both the diversity of their duties and the diversity of the workers themselves."
Book Trailer of the Day: Objects of My Affection
Objects of My Affection by Jill Smolinski (Touchstone), a very funny clip of a launch party gone bad, shot at Mysterious Galaxy's Redondo Beach, Calif., store. But have no fear: the store is hosting the actual launch party this Thursday, which we hope will attract more readers.
Media and Movies
Media Heat: Ruth Richardson on NPR's Diane Rehm Show
Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Lisa Rinna and Ian Kerner, co-authors of The Big, Fun, Sexy Sex Book (Gallery, $26, 9781451661231). They will also appear on Live with Kelly.
Tomorrow on CNN's Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien: Jose Rodriguez, co-author of Hard Measures: How Aggressive CIA Actions After 9/11 Saved American Lives (Threshold Editions, $27, 9781451663471).
Tomorrow on the View: Bethenny Frankel, author of Skinnydipping (Touchstone, $25, 9781451667370).
Tomorrow on Dr. Phil: Lisa Bloom, author of Swagger: 10 Urgent Rules for Raising Boys in an Era of Failing Schools, Mass Joblessness, and Thug Culture (A Think Book/Vantage Point, $26.99, 9781936467693). She will also be on Dr. Drew tomorrow night.
Tomorrow on NPR's Diane Rehm Show: Ruth Richardson, author of Dickens and the Workhouse: Oliver Twist and the London Poor (Oxford University Press, $29.95, 9780199645886).
Tomorrow on NPR's Fresh Air: Steve Coll, author of Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power (Penguin, $36, 9781594203350). He will also appear on MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show.
Tomorrow night on the Daily Show: Senator Tom Coburn, author of The Debt Bomb: A Bold Plan to Stop Washington from Bankrupting America (Thomas Nelson, $24.99, 9781595554673).
Tomorrow night on the Colbert Report: Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion (Pantheon, $28.95, 9780307377906).
Movie: The Avengers
The Avengers, based on the Marvel comic book series by Stan Lee, opens this Friday, May 4. Joss Whedon directs an all-star cast, including Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, and Samuel L. Jackson, among many others. Iron Man, the Hulk, Captain America, Thor and other Marvel staples join forces to save the world.
Books & Authors
Awards: SCBWI Crystal Kites
The Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators announced winners of the 2012 Crystal Kite Member Choice Awards for 15 regional divisions. The prizes are a regional complement to SCBWI's annual Golden Kite Awards, which are given in four children’s literature categories.
"Like the Golden Kite Awards, the Crystal Kites are selected by peers--authors and artists working in the children’s book field," said SCBWI executive director Lin Oliver commented. "That makes them unique and especially satisfying to receive." This year's Crystal Kite winners are:
Africa: Finding Aunt Joan by Jenny Hatton, illustrated by Joan Rankin (Jacana Media)
Australia/New Zealand: The Last Viking by Norman Jorgensen (Fremantle Press)
California/Hawaii: Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku by Lee Wardlaw, illustrated by Eugene Yelchin (Henry Holt)
Southeast: Cleopatra's Moon by Vicky Alvear Shecter (Arthur A. Levine Books)
Mid-South: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys (Philomel Books)
Mid-East/India/Asia: Orchards by Holly Thompson (Delacorte Dell)
Midwest: Bluefish by Pat Schmatz (Candlewick)
Southwest: Black & White: The Confrontation Between Reverend Fred L. Shuttlesworth and Eugene "Bull" Connor by Larry Brimner (Boyds Mills Press)
New England: Pearl by Jo Knowles (Henry Holt Books for Young Readers)
New York: Thelonius Mouse by Orel Protopopescu (FSG)
Atlantic: The Absolute Value of Mike by Kathryn Erskine (Philomel Books)
Texas/Oklahoma: Mine! by Patrice Barton (Random House Children’s Books)
Americas: Witchlanders by Lena Coakley (Atheneum Books for Young Readers)
U.K./Europe: Dark Parties by Sara Grant (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)
West: The Friendship Doll by Kirby Larson (Delacorte Dell)
Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week
Selected new titles appearing next Monday and Tuesday, May 7 and 8:
I Am A Pole (And So Can You!) by Stephen Colbert (Grand Central, $15.99, 9781455523429) is Colbert's long-awaited children's book, heralded by Maurice Sendak's dubious accolade: "The sad thing is, I like it."
Most Talkative: Stories from the Front Lines of Pop Culture by Andy Cohen (Holt, $25, 9780805095838) is the autobiography of the creator of the Real Housewives reality TV series.
Along the Way: The Journey of a Father and Son by Martin Sheen, Emilio Estevez and Hope Edelman (Free Press, $27, 9781451643688) is a dual memoir of the film star and his eldest son.
Service: A Navy SEAL at War by Marcus Luttrell and James D. Hornfischer (Little, Brown, $27.99, 9780316185363) chronicles a soldier's experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Bring Up the Bodies: A Novel by Hilary Mantel (Holt, $28, 9780805090031) is book two of the Wolf Hall trilogy, historical fiction based on the life of Thomas Cromwell.
11th Hour by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro (Little, Brown, $27.99, 9780316097499) continues the Women's Murder Club series.
Middle School: Get Me out of Here! by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts, illustrated by Laura Park (Little, Brown, $15.99, 9780316206716) follows student Rafe Khatchadorian into the seventh grade.
What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World by Jon Young (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $22, 9780547451251) explores how to gain practical information from bird calls.
The Year of the Gadfly by Jennifer Miller (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24, 9780547548593) follows an aspiring journalist investigating a prep school's troubling secret society.
City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare (Margaret K. McElderry Books, $19.99, 9781442416864) is book five of the Mortal Instruments series.
Now in paperback:
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (Harper Perennial, $15.99, 9780062049810).
Linspired: The Remarkable Rise of Jeremy Lin by Mike Yorkey (Zondervan, $12.99, 9780310320685).
Four Sisters, All Queens by Sherry Jones (Gallery, $15.99, 9781451633245).
IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites
From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at IndieBound.org, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:
The Red Book: A Novel by Deborah Copaken Kogan (Voice, $24.99, 9781401340827). "The Red Book is the story of four Harvard college roommates heading back to Boston for their 20th reunion. The plot details friendship, love, sexuality, parenting, careers, education, and more, but ultimately this is a book about... life. Centered on sex and love, the two essential elements of any human relationship, Kogan's tale confirms that successful relationships cannot have one without the other regardless of how hard one tries to make it work when an element is missing. The reader is forced to see the results of the desire and longing that leads to affairs and heartbreak in order to witness the richness that we all search for in our relationships. And here's hoping that we all find it!" --Kerri Childs, Kerri's Korner Bookstore, Fairmont, W.Va.
The Good Father: A Novel by Noah Hawley (Doubleday, $25.95, 9780385535533). "How much does divorce really affect a child? How responsible is a parent for the acts performed by his adult child? Is the unconditional love of a parent for a child truly unconditional? Paul Allen is a respected doctor living the American dream in Connecticut with his second wife and their twin sons. Daniel is the 19-year-old product of his first failed marriage. When Daniel is accused of shooting the Democratic candidate for president at a rally, things begin spiraling out of control. When Paul tries to rush to his son's side, he learns that not only does no one care that he is a doctor, but he is also viewed with suspicion because he is Daniel's father. Hawley has written a psychological thriller about the modern American family in a situation that is only too possible in today's society." --Sharon Nagel, Boswell Book Company, Milwaukee, Wis.
The Coffins of Little Hope: A Novel by Timothy Schaffert (Unbridled Books, $14.95, 9781609530686). "At the heart of this story is narrator Essie Myles, an 83-year-old great-grandmother who has been writing obituaries for her father's small-town newspaper since she was a teenager. Far from morbid, Essie is a born storyteller, and she takes the reader on a wonderful journey into the nuances of a small town and its reaction when a little girl goes missing. Essie recounts the disappearance of the girl and in the process interweaves the stories of her own family and those of the town. Filled with rich characters and written with both charm and wonder, this should be the next book on your nightstand!" --Julia MacDonald, Yankee Bookshop, Woodstock, Vt.
For Ages 4 to 8
Chloe and the Lion by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Adam Rex (Hyperion Books for Children, $16.99, 9781423113348). "Despite the title, this book is not about Chloe and the lion so much as it is about the author Barnett and illustrator Rex, who have problems agreeing on certain aspects of the book and have to work out their disagreements before the book can go on. In the style of Lane Smith and Jon Scieszka, Chloe and the Lion is a perfect read-aloud, guaranteed to solicit laughter from both children and adults!" --Melissa Oates, Fiction Addiction, Greenville, S.C.
[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]
Home by Toni Morrison (Knopf, $24 hardcover, 9780307594167, May 8, 2012)
Toni Morrison's Home continues her trend toward creating shorter works that do not reduce intensity for the sake of brevity. Though Home has been published as a novel, it is in fact a masterfully written novella that uses alternating points of view, swift characterization-by-action and metaphorical symmetry with a compression which is simultaneously a tour de force and a tantalization. The real-time action of Home--Frank Money’s quest to overcome his post-Korean War trauma and confront the Georgia of his childhood in order to rescue his sister from mortal peril--is easily dramatized within the short form. What threatens to overwhelm the novella’s shape is the extreme emotional density of Home’s first and concluding chapters. The central storyline bends downward at both ends under their retrospective weight, and their impact is encapsulated rather than amplified--yet all of the information in these passages is integral to the narrative of Frank’s psychological journey.
The prose in Home is stunning, and the novella's only flat notes occur in the dialogue of some one-dimensional minor characters who appear in the early stages of Frank's travels. The novella opens with a near prose-poem set in italics in which Frank recounts a memory of protecting "Cee" (short for Ycidra) when they were kids in Lotus, Georgia, a town he hoped never to see again after he enlisted. This first-person beginning sets up Home's ingenious voice relay. In the italicized chapters, the protagonist confides in the author and sometimes argues with her about how she presents his story. These italicized "I" chapters alternate with third-person chapters that dramatize Frank's quest from a storytelling perspective; Morrison also interjects three singular authorial chapters dedicated to the significant women in Frank's life. In the penultimate chapter, the novella's point-of-view elevates all the way to a resounding omniscience; it concludes with a poem written in Frank's "I" voice. Regardless of narrator, the vividness of the chapters and their concise accumulation of experiences give Home a broader scope than would seem possible in so few pages.
Morrison unleashes her most lyrical language upon the foreshadowing and depiction of Home's most brutal events. Her technique is indelible, but without the broader context of a longer work, the effect is more head-snapping than reverberating. Maybe Morrison intended for the reader to be whiplashed rather than coddled into understanding, but it seems a waste compared to the deeply penetrating effect of her longer works. Home is not a text of defeat, at any length, yet even a stalwart reader may not be able to absorb its quantities of pain in the space of a reading experience that endures but a single evening. Any fan of Morrison's will find much to appreciate and learn from in Home, but they may also finish it yearning for the amplitude of her earlier novels. --Holloway McCandless, blogger at Litagogo: A Guide to Free Literary Podcasts
Shelf Talker: A masterful and intense novella from an American Nobel laureate about a Korean War veteran's quest to rescue his sister and reconcile his tormented sense of home.