Also published on this date: Wednesday, August 1, 2012: Maximum Shelf: One Last Thing Before I Go

Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, August 1, 2012


Little Brown and Company: The Balcony by Jane Delury

Houghton Mifflin: Playing Atari with Saddam Hussein: Based on a True Story by Jennifer Roy with Ali Fadhil

Tarcherperigee: F You Very Much: Understanding the Culture of Rudeness--And What We Can Do about It by Danny Wallace

Katherine Tegen Books: Another Quest for Celeste (Nest for Celeste #2) by Henry Cole

Quotation of the Day

Falling in Love at Borders

"It sounds ridiculous to say we fell in love at Borders, but we did. I left notes in Melanie's locker that listed a title and page number and she'd find the book (I used Anne Sexton's Love Poems often) and open to the poem I had previously found for her. We bought each other books with our store discount. We drank cups of free coffee and stocked books side by side."

--Shane Jones in a post on Salon.com about meeting his wife when the two worked at Borders and about the chain's decline.

Page Street Kids: Beneath the Haunting Sea by Joanna Meyer


News

Friends: B&N, ABA Seek Amicus Status in Justice Suit

In a striking partnership unthinkable a decade or two ago, the American Booksellers Association and Barnes & Noble yesterday jointly filed a motion to become a "friend of the court" in the settlement proceedings between the Justice Department and three of the five publishers (along with Apple) that it sued over the agency model for e-book pricing. If the court agrees, the ABA and B&N will file an amicus curiae brief by August 15.

As part of the proposed settlement with Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster, those publishers must suspend the agency model with current customers, including ABA stores and B&N, for at least two years. In the filing, the ABA and B&N argue that the suspension of the agency model will harm many who are not party to the suit, hurt competition and ultimately hurt consumers. They wrote, "The end loser of this unnecessary and burdensome regulatory approach will be the American public, who will experience higher overall average e-book and hardback prices and less choice."

Eugene DeFelice, general counsel of Barnes & Noble, commented: "Giving customers the widest choices at the fairest prices is at the heart of the agency model, and we believe this model should remain intact."

Oren Teicher, CEO of the ABA, said, "Today's joint action makes clear that bricks-and-mortar bookstores are united in their belief that the Department of Justice is proposing misguided and harmful interference into the completely legal activities of Barnes & Noble and ABA member bookstores."

The ABA and B&N called the final judgment "an unprecedented effort by DOJ to reject its traditional role of ending alleged collusion and to become a super-regulator of thousands of publishing industry participants, the vast majority of whom are not before the Court, in a nascent technology industry DOJ little understands." Although the Department makes it clear it doesn't find agency pricing illegal, the filing stated, "oddly, the Proposed Final Judgment does not directly punish any individuals or companies who allegedly colluded, as one would expect, but instead chooses to dismantle a distribution system that has supported numerous diverse retailers, hundreds of whom submitted comments in opposition to DOJ’s proposal." One measure of the importance of the matter to B&N and ABA member stores: they "sell millions of e-books a year under the agency model."

B&N and the ABA also criticized the Department's July 23 filing (Shelf Awareness, July 24, 2012) that rejected all 800 negative public comments about the case. (The B&N and ABA filing noted that out of 868 total comments, when form letters are subtracted, there were just 19 "unique" positive letters.) The July 23 filing showed the Department's "lack of understanding about the publishing industry" and "deserves a response from the third parties most directly affected by the Proposed Final Judgment: booksellers." No one else involved, B&N and the ABA continued, would rebut the Department's "numerous arguments in [the July 23] filing that are specifically directed against Barnes & Noble and ABA, complete with their factual inaccuracies."

The filing addressed the party considered the major beneficiary of the Justice Department's approach: Amazon.com, implying that the Justice Department's "remedy" for the case will return the e-book market back to a distinctly cut-throat, monopolistic era. B&N and the ABA noted that the Justice Department acknowledged that under the traditional wholesale model, "Amazon engaged in questionable pricing, offering, at a minimum, newly released and New York Times best-selling e-books at the anticompetitive below-cost price of $9.99, in a bid to attract consumers," which helped it take a 90% market share. This "anticompetitive, below-cost pricing model" threatened all publishers and both online and bricks-and-mortar retailers, many of which "could not afford to sell e-books below publisher cost."

This Amazon approach "served as a barrier to entry into the e-book market by other booksellers, including independents and large retail chains, and contributed to the demise (and hence reduced competition) of numerous independent booksellers and at least one large retail chain, Borders." As a result, "publishers had, and continue to have, entirely legitimate business justifications to adopt agency pricing to preserve their distribution channels, especially in the wake of the Borders bankruptcy."

The joint filing also rebutted the Department assertion that the agency model resulted in high prices, saying that as "commenters noted and as independent industry researcher Book Industry Study Group recently reported, the Agency Model has resulted in demonstrably lower e-book prices, lower hardback prices, substantially lower wholesale e-book prices, increased competition among publishers, and increased the quality and availability of e-books."

The filing stated, too, that the final judgment "improperly reaches beyond the trade e-book market to impact sales related to non-trade e-books" even though the complaint against the publishers and Apple focused on trade e-books and excluded children's picture books, textbooks and reference books. The filing noted that "nearly half of Barnes & Noble's brick-and-mortar bookstores are college bookstores. Similarly, many of ABA's members are college bookstores." --John Mutter


Soho Crime: My Name Is Nathan Lucius by Mark Winkler


Obituary Note: Gore Vidal

Gore Vidal, prolific writer and one of our favorite establishment contrarians, died yesterday at age 86.

In a long obituary, the New York Times called Vidal "the elegant, acerbic all-around man of letters who presided with a certain relish over what he declared to be the end of American civilization… He published some 25 novels, two memoirs and several volumes of stylish, magisterial essays. He also wrote plays, television dramas and screenplays. For a while he was even a contract writer at MGM. And he could always be counted on for a spur-of-the-moment aphorism, putdown or sharply worded critique of American foreign policy." He also ran for public office twice, appeared on talk shows regularly and famously feuded with William F. Buckley, Jr., Norman Mailer, Truman Capote and others.

Among his major work: The City and the Pillar, a coming out novel that "caused a scandal and was denounced as corrupt and pornographic"; Julian, about the Roman emperor; Myra Breckenridge, a comic novel about a gay movie star who has surgery to become a woman; the American Chronicles, the historical novels that included Washington, D.C., Burr, 1876, Lincoln, Hollywood and The Golden Age; The Best Man, a play; and essay collections The Second American Revolution and United States: Essays 1952-1992.

Two wonderful Vidal lines quoted by the Times:

"There is not one human problem that could not be solved if people would simply do as I advise."

"I'm exactly as I appear. There is no warm, lovable person inside. Beneath my cold exterior, once you break the ice, you find cold water."


Ecco Press: Tangerine by Christine Mangan


A Bookstore Grows in Brooklyn

Molasses Books has opened in the Bushwick neighborhood in Brooklyn, N.Y., selling mostly used books but is "building up its new offerings as well," according to the Brooklyn Paper.

Owner Matthew Winn believes, the paper wrote, that "bookstores offer something shoppers will never encounter when they order books online." He said: "There is something communal about a bookstore, something tactile about it. People go to a bookstore to go somewhere. And they want a reason to stick around after they've bought the book." As a result, the store, which has a coffee bar, has applied for a beer and wine license. If it receives the license, it plans to extend closing time from 8 p.m. until midnight.

Molasses Books is located at 770 Hart St., Brooklyn, N.Y. 11237; 631-882-5188.

Photo: bushwickdaily.com


F+W Buying Interweave's Owner

F+W Media has bought Aspire Media, owner of Interweave, from several private equity firms and members of Interweave management. Founded in 1975, Interweave focuses on arts and crafts and has a list of 350 books, 15 magazines, 33 websites, 10 online communities, 3 public TV programs and more.

F+W said that its plans for Interweave include "an increased number of digital magazine/content launches through the popular Interweave digital newsstand; an expansion of the e-commerce, e-book, and digital pattern business; and an expansion of the live and online education and event business."

In February, F+W bought a related company, the Martha Pullen Company, which specializes in sewing.

In connection with the purchase, Clay Hall, CEO of Aspire Media and Interweave, and Troy Wells, CFO, are leaving the company.


HarperCollins Combines Zondervan, Thomas Nelson

HarperCollins has merged Zondervan and the recently acquired Thomas Nelson into the new Christian Publishing Division. Thomas Nelson president and CEO Mark Schoenwald has been named president and CEO of the division. Zondervan president and CEO Scott Macdonald is leaving those positions and will serve in an advisory role.

Schoenwald joined Thomas Nelson in 2004 as chief sales officer. He was named president in 2009 and CEO last year. He will remain based in Nashville, Tenn., where Nelson headquarters are, and spend part of his time in Grand Rapids, Mich., where Zondervan operations are located.

HarperCollins president and CEO Brian Murray said Schoenwald "is an experienced leader in the Christian publishing market, and we are thrilled to have him at the helm of our newly expanded Christian division. The new division adds further scale and balance to HarperCollins overall portfolio, and Mark will work closely with the leadership teams of HarperCollins, Thomas Nelson and Zondervan to build on the individual strengths of each company.

He thanked Macdonald "for his leadership and professionalism during his tenure with Zondervan. He has achieved everything I asked him to achieve at Zondervan during a most challenging time in the company's history."


Rowling, Scholastic Launch Harry Potter Book Club

Yesterday, J.K. Rowling and Scholastic--her U.S. publisher for the Potter novels--launched the Harry Potter Book Club, which features a countdown clock to the author's appearance "in a live global webcast in October from Edinburgh, Scotland, to speak with her fans about the magical world of Harry Potter," Reuters reported.

In a statement, Ellie Berger, president of Scholastic Trade, said the publisher "has been in conversation with educators, librarians and other book lovers about ideas for bringing the Harry Potter books to new readers in exciting and different ways. The Harry Potter Reading Club is a direct response to that feedback and provides an entry point through which the thrill of these books can be shared with new generations of Harry Potter fans both within and beyond the classroom." The live webcast will be presented by the club October 11 at 12 p.m. Eastern.
 


Notes

Image of the Day: Authors Beneath the Bridge

Monday night more than 200 people listened to short story authors (from l.) Tania James, Rajesh Parameswaran, Charles Yu, Jim Shepard and Robin Black at WORD's installment of the Books Beneath the Bridge reading series at the Brooklyn Bridge Park. The authors read from their newest collections, the most recent of which was Charles Yu's Sorry Please Thank You, and then chatted with attendees and signed books.

 


Weekend Escape Plan: Hello Hello Books

New York magazine's latest "Five-Point Weekend Escape Plan" featured Rockland, Maine, where travelers can find "an affordable alternative to Portland in this small mid-coast town that offers culture, seaside heritage and a world-famous lobster festival."

Among the recommended destinations: "Stop by Hello Hello Books for its smart collection of new and used books, including locally minded titles like Annie Mahle's new cookbook, Sugar & Salt: A Year at Home and Ben Ames Williams's Fraternity Village, a collection of short stories set in rural Maine. In addition, you'll find hip magazines like Lucky Peach, and an eclectic range of non-literary items like handmade jewelry, tote bags, cards and vintage artwork."


When in Rome: Top Five English Bookshops

Noting that "when in Rome, you might just need a good book," Travel Belles magazine offered its choices for the top five English bookshops there: "Have you found yourself in the Eternal City without any reading material to pass the time between meals and sightseeing? Or maybe you're like me and don't live in an English-speaking (or reading) country and must get your lit hits in foreign cities."
 



Media and Movies

Media Heat: Christopher Hayes on Colbert

This morning on Imus in the Morning: D. L. Hughley, co-author of I Want You to Shut the F#ck Up: How the Audacity of Dopes Is Ruining America (Crown Archetype, $25, 9780307986238).

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Tomorrow on Fox's Lou Dobbs Tonight: Stanley Kurtz, author of Spreading the Wealth: How Obama is Robbing the Suburbs to Pay for the Cities (Sentinel, $25.95, 9781595230928). He will also appear on Fox Radio's Huckabee.

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Tomorrow on ABC Radio's John Batchelor Show: Dick Couch, author of Sua Sponte: The Forging of a Modern American Ranger (Berkley, $26.95, 9780425247587).

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Tomorrow on KCRW's Bookworm: Jess Walter, author of Beautiful Ruins (Harper, $25.99, 9780061928123). As the show put it: "Hollywood, the Coast of Italy, the Donner Pass, the Pacific Northwest, are just some of the settings that combine to make Beautiful Ruins a completely pleasurable summer read. Jess Walter reveals that pleasure has its underside and the book's design contrasts the real with the ideal, the beautiful with the ruined."

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Tomorrow on NPR's Diane Rehm Show: Lois Banner, author of Marilyn: The Passion and the Paradox (Bloomsbury, $30, 9781608195312).

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Tomorrow night on the Colbert Report: Christopher Hayes, author of Twilight of the Elites: America after Meritocracy (Crown, $26, 9780307720450).


TV: Behind the Candelabra Set Photo

ABC News featured a set photo from HBO's Behind the Candelabra, which stars Michael Douglas as Liberace and Matt Damon as his longtime partner, Scott Thorson. The project, directed by Steven Soderbergh, is based on Thorson's memoir Behind the Candelabra: My Life with Liberace.


Movies: Half of a Yellow Sun First Peek

A photo has been released from Half of a Yellow Sun, a film adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's novel. "You don't hear of many British-Nigerian co-productions, but judging by the talent involved in the one that's currently making its way to screens then we'd argue the two filmmaking nations should join forces more often," Indiewire noted. "The British Film Institute and a Nigerian private equity firm have combined to bring the bestselling (and Orange Prize for Fiction-winning) novel Half of a Yellow Sun to the screen and assembled a pretty impressive cast in doing so."

That cast includes Dominic Cooper, Thandie Newton, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Joseph Mawle, John Boyega and Anika Noni Rose. The film, which has been shooting since March in the U.K. and Nigeria, is expected to be released next year.
 


Books & Authors

Book Brahmin: John Boyne

John Boyne was born in Ireland in 1971. He attended Trinity College, Dublin, and studied creative writing at the University of East Anglia. To support himself at the beginning of his writing career, he worked at a Waterstone's bookstore. He is now the author of six adult novels and two novels for young readers, including The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, which won two Irish Book Awards and was made into a feature film, and The House of Special Purpose. His new novel, The Absolutist, was published in the U.S. on July 10, 2012, by Other Press.

On your nightstand now:

Edward St. Aubyn's Patrick Melrose novels. There are five of them, following the protagonist's life from a traumatic childhood to an equally difficult adulthood, and I've been working my way through them over the last couple of weeks; Kevin Barry's Dark Lies the Island, the new collection of short stories from one of Ireland's best writers; Dave Shelton's A Boy and a Bear in a Boat, which is funny, moving and completely original.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Ian Serraillier's The Silver Sword. This book had a huge effect on me as a child, introducing me to the Second World War in fiction. It's a powerful novel for young readers but can be read by adults, too.

Your top five authors:

On any given day I would give a different answer to this question but here's today's five: Although American fiction is in a slump right now, with so few young writers producing interesting novels, two of the older generation, John Irving and Philip Roth, remain compulsive reads for me. Ireland's greatest novelist, Colm Tóibín, cannot write a bad sentence or a book that does not move the reader to his or her core. And I have long been a fan of the English novelist Jonathan Coe, whose complex plots make for some of the best novels of the last 20 years. Finally, from Australia, where so many of my favorite contemporary writers come from, Tim Winton, a lyrical novelist whose depictions of life in Western Australia are both poetic and powerful.

Book you've faked reading:

James Joyce's Ulysses. One day, maybe....

Book you're an evangelist for:

Christos Tsiolkas's The Slap. This extraordinary Australian novel considers the effects on a group of family and friends when a man slaps a child who is not his own. It depicts the Greek immigrant culture in Melbourne and is not afraid to mix a love for people with dark insights into human nature. I've read it several times, and I believe it to be the best novel published so far in the 21st century.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Random Riggs's Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.

Book that changed your life:

Roddy Doyle's novels from the early 1990s. They achieved such spectacular success, winning prizes, being adapted into movies, reaching huge audiences, that it showed me that a young Dublin writer could perhaps achieve the dream of being an international novelist. They're also wonderfully funny and moving books.

Favorite line from a book:

"But in the world according to Garp, we are all terminal cases." --from The World According to Garp by John Irving.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

L.P. Hartley's The Go-Between, an elegiac novel of the traumas of first love. It is my favorite novel.

 


Book Review

Children's Review: This Is Not My Hat

This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen, illus. by Jon Klassen (Candlewick, $15.99 hardcover, 40p., ages 3-up, 9780763655990, October 9, 2012)

Jon Klassen once again uses short, declarative sentences, a minimalist palette and a hat to deliver a wallop of an ethics lesson. Having explored the victim's point of view in his debut picture book, I Want My Hat Back, Klassen now shines a light into the mind of a thief.

A tiny fish sporting a light blue derby hat states, "This is not mine. I just stole it." It's a doozy of an opener and an echo of the starting lines of the bear hero in the first book: "My hat is gone. I want it back." Whereas I Want My Hat Back framed the action in vertical pages tall enough to accommodate the bear, This Is Not My Hat unfolds horizontally, to follow the fish's underwater path. Klassen rendered the bear's world in the tomato-red of his hat, earthy browns and forest green, while the fish thief's story plays out against the black of the ocean's depths, with sea weeds and plants in shades of aqua and gray.

In both books, the eyes tell the story. No one speaks except the tiny fish thief. But the narrator's words often appear at odds with the action in the full-spread illustrations. After confessing having stolen the hat while the victim slept, the tiny fish states, "And he probably won't wake up for a long time," just as the fried-egg-size eyes of the giant fish pop open, turn upward to check on the now-absent hat, then shift to cigarette-shaped eyes, pupils forward, emitting bubbles that look like smoke. "He probably won't know it was me who took it," the text reads. Children will know otherwise and laugh at the irony. On the next spread, only the giant fish's tail fin is visible, in hot pursuit of the culprit.

The small fish makes another tactical error in trusting a crab ("he said he wouldn't tell anyone which way I went"). The only evidence of the tiny thief is a stream of bubbles, as the crab is all eyes, looking as deadpan as Klassen's other creatures. Meanwhile, the crab--terror visible on its face, eyes enlarged like ping pong balls--wordlessly points a claw in the direction of the tiny fish. Strands of sea grass hold fish-shaped leaves, so when they thicken together, they serve as an ideal camouflage. But will it be enough? We see the giant fish in pursuit of the burglar fish. We see the giant fish swim out. With the hat.

Klassen once again gets the tone pitch perfect. "I know it's wrong to steal a hat. I know it does not belong to me. But I am going to keep it. It was just too small for him anyway," says the tiny fish. His bare-bones text and enigmatic images leave the proceedings open to interpretation. And the ethics questions could keep kids debating for days, laughing all the way to consensus. --Jennifer M. Brown

Shelf Talker: Jon Klassen creates an ethics dilemma in a picture book companion to I Want My Hat Back, this time from the thief's perspective.

 


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