Shelf Awareness for Friday, October 4, 2013


One World: We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy Ta-Nehisi Coates

Beach Lane Books: The Antlered Ship by Dashka Slater, illustrated by The Fan Brothers

Houghton Mifflin: Lights, Camera, Cook! (Next Best Junior Chef #1) by Charise Mericle Harper

Soho Press: Solar Bones by Mike McCormack

Greenwillow Books: Calling My Name by Liara Tamani

Quotation of the Day

AAUP: Indie Booksellers 'Key' to University Press Week

"Independent booksellers are key. They are, themselves, the audience that is most interested in and caring of the creative culture that is found in the editorial lists of university presses, and they are a place of representation for those books and that culture in a local community."

--Brenna McLaughlin, director of marketing and communications for the Association of American University Presses, which will be celebrating the second annual University Press Week November 10-16

National Science Teachers Association: When the Sun Goes Dark by Andrew Fraknoi and Dennis Schatz


News

French Bill Aims to Ban Amazon Free Delivery of Books

Yesterday, French lawmakers "took aim at Amazon to protect local bookshops" when France's lower chamber, with the support of the Socialist government, passed a law barring online booksellers from offering free delivery to customers, the New York Times reported. The legislation will now go to the Senate, which is expected to pass it by the end of the year. Like most countries in continental Europe, France has a fixed price law for books; in its case, it allows discounts only of up to 5%.

"The [book pricing] law is part of our cultural heritage," said conservative lawmaker Christian Kert, who sponsored the bill.

Amazon countered by stating: "All measures that aim to raise the price of books sold online will curb the ability of French people to buy cultural works and discriminates against those who buy online."

Terry Craven, a bookseller at Shakespeare and Company in Paris, told BBC News that the new law was "very much" in line with the country's other policies. "It doesn't seem to be discriminatory. Amazon has certain ways of looking at the free market which is simply not one that the French state takes.... It is good news in so far as it is supporting the independent bookshops, which we greatly appreciate."


DK: 100 First Words - Download Your Free Activity Kit


WBN Picks to be Unveiled on October 23

Booksellers, librarians, givers and special guests in New York City and from around the country will announce the 30 book picks for World Book Night 2014 on Wednesday, October 23, from 6:30-8 p.m. Shelf Awareness publisher Jenn Risko will be one of the book pick announcers.

WBN U.S. executive director Carl Lennertz said: "Mark your calendar! We'll be having Trader Joe's wine at the AAP offices with 15 of the announcers present, including a NYC schoolteacher and local givers, and 15 will chime in coast to coast via Shindig's cool video chat platform. Come join us! Shindig will also run our March & April 2014 author, bookseller and librarian WBN countdown. Our volunteer givers are going to love both the inside look at WBN and the publishing world, and the first look at the books and authors they will choose as their own WBN pick."

Steve Gottlieb, CEO of Shindig, added: "We're so happy to do this in support of WBN's great mission, and we'll facilitate the whole thing in October and next spring. We love the book pick live announcement idea, and we'll be there for the entire month countdown leading up to April 23, 2014."


Poisoned Pen Press: The Countess of Prague by Stephen Weeks


Study: Read Chekhov for Better Social Skills

Can reading Chekhov or Alice Munro improve your social skills? According to a study published yesterday in the journal Science, researchers "found that after reading literary fiction, as opposed to popular fiction or serious nonfiction, people performed better on tests measuring empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence--skills that come in especially handy when you are trying to read someone's body language or gauge what they might be thinking," the New York Times reported.

The researchers, social psychologists at the New School for Social Research in New York City, suggested the reason for this is that literary fiction "often leaves more to the imagination, encouraging readers to make inferences about characters and be sensitive to emotional nuance and complexity," the Times wrote.

"This is why I love science," said author Louise Erdrich, whose novel The Round House was used in one of the experiments, adding that the researchers "found a way to prove true the intangible benefits of literary fiction. Thank God the research didn't find that novels increased tooth decay or blocked up your arteries.... Writers are often lonely obsessives, especially the literary ones. It's nice to be told what we write is of social value. However, I would still write even if novels were useless.”


Soho Press: The Hippopotamus by Stephen Fry - Now a major motion picture


Penguin Random House Closes Deal for Penguin Books India

Penguin Random House has completed its purchase of Ananda Publishers Private Limited's minority stake in Penguin Books India and has now acquired the remaining 45% of the company.  
 
"The partnership between Ananda Publishers Private Limited and Penguin in India stretches back more than 25 years and has created a local publishing company that leads the market in both size and reputation," said John Makinson, chairman of Penguin Random House. "The two wholly-owned companies are now combined under the leadership of their CEO, Gaurav Shrinagesh, who will be able to build on the legacy of these two fine India publishing houses."


A New York Story: Phantom Tollbooth: Beyond Expectations

Filmmaker Hannah Jayanti with author Norton Juster.

When Janice Kaplan asked Hannah Jayanti to make a short film of Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the children's classic The Phantom Tollbooth, Jayanti had no idea that it would lead to a full-length documentary, Phantom Tollbooth: Beyond Expectations, and a premiere at the New Yorker Festival this weekend.

"I met Norton Juster and was so moved by his spirit as a person, that I thought there was a longer documentary there," Jayanti told us by phone. "He was up for it, and really excited. The more we worked on it, the more people came out of the woodwork." Actor David Hyde Pierce was one of them. He called Norton Juster when he began work on the narration of the audiobook, and Norton was as generous to Pierce as he'd been to Jayanti. Pierce and Juster have become good friends, according to Jayanti. "I realized what a cultural icon this book was, and how much it meant to people," she said. "So many people say that this book changed their life."

"It's a New York story," Jayanti pointed out, for a number of reasons: Juster and Feiffer lived in the same brownstone in Brooklyn Heights. As Feiffer states in the film, Juster "couldn't keep his story to himself," so Juster would read parts aloud to his neighbor, and Feiffer started doodling a boy who became Milo. The Phantom Tollbooth found its way to publication literally on the streets of New York. In the film, Jason Epstein tells the story of how he ran into Feiffer's first wife, Judy, on the street and she mentioned that Jules Feiffer was working on a book, and Epstein said he'd like to see it. "Jason says if an agent had been in charge of it, he would never have gotten the book," Jayanti said. "He was not a children's book editor."

Jayanti worked with Kaplan on the film from January to November of 2011. She had a full-time job and filmed and edited on weekends; they funded the project largely with their own money. A Kickstarter campaign helped them add additional interviews--with people like Eric Carle and David Hyde Pierce. The full process took two years. Then, in August and September of this year, they launched a second Kickstarter campaign to complete post-production and pay their legal costs.

And on October 5, the film will have its premiere at the New Yorker Festival, not known for film premieres, but an ideal fit with its literary audience. Adam Gopnik, whose piece "Broken Kingdom," about the 50th anniversary of The Phantom Tollbooth, ran in the New Yorker in 2011, helped suggest it for the festival. He will interview Juster and Feiffer after the screening. Tickets sold out in eight minutes.

The crew, on the steps of Juster and Feiffer's Brooklyn Heights brownstone (l.-r.): top: Norton Juster, Jarrett DePasquale, Sarah White-Ayon, Jeremy Haik; bottom row: Janice L. Kaplan, Hannah Jayanti, Jules Feiffer.

After the success of their Kickstarter (Jayanti and Kaplan's goal was $14,000; they raised $32,035), the producers decided to create a new distribution model. Today they will open presales on their Web site. The release will be after the premiere, and the plan is to show the feature at selected theaters around the country. "Kickstarter is a beautiful model. You go straight to your audience and then you get it directly to them," Jayanti said. "The book is incredibly personal to people. We love the idea of being able to get the film directly to them." --Jennifer M. Brown



Notes

Image of the Day: May the Force Be with You

The DK Publishing publicity department prepares for the second annual Star Wars Reads Day. Some 2,000 events worldwide celebrating reading and Star Wars will take place tomorrow. Participating publishers include Abrams, Chronicle, Dark Horse, Del Rey, DK, Klutz, Quirk Books, Random House Audio, Scholastic and Workman, along with more than 1,000 costumed volunteers from the 501st Legion, Rebel Legion, R2 Builders and other groups.


Cool Idea of the Day: BookHampton at Home!

Noting that the crisp autumn days "seem to be book-perfect," BookHampton, East Hampton, N.Y., is launching a new way to celebrate the season by inviting customers "to enjoy a Book Party in your own home! Books are a wonderful way to connect with friends, and a private book party is truly special. BookHampton will be happy to send an experienced bookseller to your home in the City or 'out East.' She'll bring along five or six of the latest/greatest books; books that everyone is talking about, as well as some titles that are not yet available to the public!"

BookHampton added that it has discovered "this 'grown-up' party is an absolutely wonderful way to build and enrich your children's own bookshelves. BookHampton has a tradition of bringing great books to great kids--Our Book Parties can be a chance to get to acquainted with a terrific mix of new books and classic for young readers! (And why not books as party favors?)"


Pennie Picks Mrs. Poe

Pennie Clark Ianniciello, Costco's book buyer, has chosen Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen (Gallery, $26, 9781476702919) as her pick of the month for October. In Costco Connection, which goes to many of the warehouse club's members, she wrote:

"I remember reading Edgar Allan Poe in school. It was the first time I found words simultaneously lovely and scary. I also read about Poe's young bride, Virginia, and his mysterious death, but it took until this year to learn about Frances Osgood, a poet and friend of Poe. Their relationship is at the heart of this month's book buyer's pick, Lynn Cullen's Mrs. Poe.

"In an enchanting work of literary fiction, Cullen shares her interpretation of Poe's and Osgood's friendship. Historians tend to agree that Virginia approved of the relationship, but Cullen's vision reveals a plot nearly as twisted and dark as one of Poe's stories.

"And, I hope you'll take a moment to notice the book's end papers. They include a quote from the poem 'The Raven' and show a beautiful drawing of a young New York City."


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Thomas Maier on Fresh Air

Today on Fresh Air: Thomas Maier, author of Masters of Sex: The Life and Times of William Masters and Virginia Johnson, the Couple Who Taught America How to Love (Basic Books, $16.99, 9780465079995).

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Tomorrow morning on Fox & Friends Weekend: Elisa Medhus, author of My Son and the Afterlife: Conversations from the Other Side (Atria, $16, 9781582704616).

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On Sunday on Meet the Press: Al Sharpton, author of The Rejected Stone: Al Sharpton and the Path to American Leadership (Cash Money Content, $22, 9781936399475).


Movies: Sal; The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

A trailer has been released James Franco's Sal, based on Michael Gregg Michaud's book Sal Mineo: A Biography and scripted by Stacey Miller, with story assistance from Miller, Franco, Vince Jolivette and Val Lauren, Deadline.com reported. The movie, which stars Lauren, Franco, Jolivette, Miller, Jim Parrack, Trevor Neuhoff and Raymond T. Williams, will be available on VOD and iTunes October 22, followed by a limited theatrical run November 1.

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"What does the new trailer for the second Hobbit movie tell us? Mostly that Peter Jackson knows more about Middle Earth than J.R.R. Tolkien did," the Guardian noted in featuring the latest peek at The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. "The Kiwi filmmaker's source novel may be a breezy 350-page children's fantasy fable, but the new trailer for the middle part of his latest fantasy trilogy makes it clear just why this whole thing will stretch to well over nine hours by the time it's done: bloomin' J.R.R. Tolkien just left too much stuff out!"


Books & Authors

Awards: Goldsmiths; Governor General's Literary

A shortlist has been released for the £10,000 (about US$16,233) Goldsmiths Prize, which celebrates "the qualities of creative daring" associated with Goldsmiths, University of London, and recognizes fiction "that opens up new possibilities for the novel form." The winner will be announced November 13. This year's shortlisted titles are:

Harvest by Jim Crace
Exodus by Lars Iyer 
A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride
Red or Dead by David Peace
Artful by Ali Smith
tapestry by Philip Terry  

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The Canada Council for the Arts announced the finalists for the $25,000 Governor General's Literary Awards, which are presented in both official languages and seven categories. The winners will be named November 13 in Toronto. You can find the complete shortlists here.


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:

Hardcovers
Alex by Pierre LeMaitre, translated by Frank Wynne (MacLehose Press/Quercus, $24.95, 9781623650001). "A beautiful woman is kidnapped after leaving a Paris shop and is brutally beaten and suspended from the ceiling in a wooden crate in an abandoned warehouse by a man who tells her he wants to watch her die. Police Commander Camille Verhoeven is assigned to the case after eyewitnesses report the abduction. Verhoeven is a detective whose tragic past has crippled him, but he is able to use his extraordinary investigative abilities to understand the victim. Alex is chilling and frequently horrifying as the plot twists catch the reader by surprise at every turn."--Fran Keilty, the Hickory Stick Bookshop, Washington Depot, Conn.

Rivers: A Novel by Michael Farris Smith (Simon & Schuster, $25, 9781451699425). "In a post-Katrina world still ravaged by storms, one man tries to maintain an illusion of normal life and finally is forced to seek his escape and a new beginning. The physical and spiritual odyssey of Cohen is conducted in a world gone mad, but his quest is an assertion of the decency still capable of humanity. The language is rich and lyrical, the story taut and tense, the characters unforgettable. The world of literary fiction has a new talent in its ranks!" --Bill Cusumano, Nicola's Books, Ann Arbor, Mich.

Paperback
Let the People In: The Life and Times of Ann Richards by Jan Reid (University of Texas Press, $16.95, 9780292754492). "Let the People In is a rich, engaging look at one of the most exciting political figures of the last 40 years. Reid's biography captures the way Ann Richards thrilled, frustrated, and surprised people across the country again and again. In addition to divulging some of the inner workings of politics in Texas and Washington, Reid provides an in-depth look at Austin in its most formative decades. A great history, a great story, and a great read." --Sam Ramos, the Book Cellar, Chicago, Ill.

For Ages 9 to 12
Waiting for the Queen: A Novel of Early America by Joanna Higgins (Milkweed Editions, $16.95, 9781571317001). "As their families struggle to build a life in the wilds of 18th century Pennsylvania, Eugenie and Hannah forge a friendship that will test loyalties. Can a pampered French aristocrat and an unassuming Shaker girl strike a blow against slavery without losing all they hold dear? This story, richly imagined and well told, is a great read for all who love historical fiction." --Barb Bassett, the Red Balloon Bookshop, St. Paul, Minn.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]


Book Brahmin: Dani Shapiro

photo: Kate Uhry

Dani Shapiro is the author of the memoirs Devotion and Slow Motion, as well as five novels, including Black & White and Family History. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, Granta, Tin House, One Story, Elle, Vogue, the New York Times Book Review and the Los Angeles Times, and has been widely anthologized. She has taught in the writing programs at Columbia, NYU, the New School and Wesleyan University, and she is a co-founder of the Sirenland Writers Conference in Positano, Italy. She is a contributing editor at Travel + Leisure. Shapiro's latest book is Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life (Atlantic Monthly Press, October 1, 2013).

On your nightstand now:

It's a teetering pile: The Confessions of Max Tivoli by Andrew Sean Greer; Always Apprentices, an anthology of writers on writing, from the Believer; a book of poems by the children of Newtown, Conn., called In the Yellowy Green Phase of Spring; A Path with Heart by the great Buddhist writer Jack Kornfield (this one is always on my nightstand); and The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Like so many women my age, I was entranced, when I was a girl, by Are You There God, It's Me Margaret by Judy Blume. It was the book that let me know I wasn't alone in what I thought and felt.

Your top five authors:

I'm going to pick five of my contemporaries who I think are doing amazing work; who, by their example, remind me to be bold and take creative risks: Jennifer Egan, Nick Flynn, David Mitchell, Jess Walter--and what about the incredible example of Elizabeth Gilbert, who turned away from all that public adulation and went back into the solitary cave and came back out with a beautiful new novel?

Book you've faked reading:

I faked reading Proust's In Search of Lost Time for many years, but then I decided to teach it as my penance--and now I know it intimately.

Books you're an evangelist for:

Janet Hobhouse's posthumously published novel, The Furies. Renata Adler's Speedboat and Pitch Dark. Elizabeth Hardwick's Sleepless Nights. Oh, and Jerome Badanes's magnificent Holocaust novel, The Final Opus of Leon Solomon.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I don't think I've ever bought a book only for its cover, but Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish by David Rakoff is my favorite recent book jacket--just brilliant.

Book that changed your life:

Thomas Merton's Thoughts in Silence. Merton was a Trappist monk, a great spiritual thinker and an antiwar activist, and his writings are pure, poetic, distilled wisdom. I keep his book on my desk, within reach.

Favorite line from a book:

"For she was a child, throwing bread to the ducks, between her parents, and at the same time a grown woman coming to her parents who stood by the lake, holding her life in her arms which, as she neared them, grew larger and larger in her arms, until it became a whole life, a complete life, which she put down by them and said, 'This is what I've made of it! This!' And what had she made of it? What indeed?" --From Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf.

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

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates.


Book Review

Review: Holding On Upside Down: The Life and Work of Marianne Moore

Holding on Upside Down: The Life and Work of Marianne Moore by Linda Leavell (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $30 hardcover, 9780374107291, October 22, 2013)

Marianne Moore's poetry preceded by three decades the female icons of 20th-century American "modernism," Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton. Compared to the edgy profligacy of Plath and Sexton, Moore lived a rather prosaic life. In her exhaustive biography Holding On Upside Down, Linda Leavell suggests Moore lost the academic spotlight because "the wizened, androgynous, admittedly prudish little lady in the tricorne would come to seem irrelevant, even embarrassing, within the youth culture of the late 1960s and '70s." Little did they know, she adds, the "fatherless Moore had been reared by lesbians and educated by feminists."

Leavell covers Moore's early years in depth, perhaps fittingly--in many ways, the poet never outgrew her sheltered youth. Her absent father's religious fanaticism led to his institutionalization for "delusional monomania." When she was 10, her mother fell in love with her pastor's daughter; they shared a surprisingly open relationship for decades. After graduating from Bryn Mawr, Moore never married, moved back in with her mother and had an almost obsessive lifelong attachment to her older brother. Much of their correspondence is still available, and Leavell quotes liberally to fill in the private background that often shadowed Marianne's public life. Eliot, Pound, and William Carlos Williams may have known her as an astute critic and innovative poet, but Moore was still "Fawn" or "Ratty" to her mother and brother.

Without drowning her biography in examples and explication, Leavell traces the evolution of Moore's style with brief illustrations from both published and unpublished work. She comfortably folds critical commentary into her narrative with quotations from the letters of Moore's contemporaries who encouraged and praised her. In the May 1924 issue of Dial, for example, Williams wrote of her work: "Everything is worthless but the best and this is the best."

Reed thin and plagued with frequent illness, Moore was a lifelong scholar and poet whose experiments with stanza, rhyme and image heralded the end of 19th-century poetry and the dawn of a freer, more vernacular verse. With what Williams described as "that red hair coiled around her rather small cranium," topped off with her black cape and hat, she became in her later years a popular image of the poet as performer, attending George Plimpton's parties and even tossing the first pitch at Yankee Stadium in 1968. It's no wonder academia turned its back on her. But Holding On Upside Down goes a long way toward restoring Moore's place as a cornerstone of modern American poetry. --Bruce Jacobs

Shelf Talker: Linda Leavell's exhaustive new biography reveals the personal eccentricities of Marianne Moore's life and her place in the vanguard of modern American poetry.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: SIBA & the Complexity of Community

We use the word "community" a lot these days. It's a good word, a word that may ultimately save us all. It is not, however, a simple word. On the final afternoon of this year's Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance show in New Orleans, I took a five-mile cab ride from the hotel to Octavia Books. I'd had a few conversations with co-owners Tom Lowenburg and Judith Lafitte at the conference (and other trade shows over the years, for that matter), which made them part of my own extended bookseller community. Leaving town without seeing their bookstore wasn't an option.

Since I'm a bookseller by avocation as well as (former) vocation, I know a great bookshop when I meet one. With Octavia, it was love at first sight. The neighborhood seems inviting and the deceptively small storefront of the 100-year-old corner commercial building leads to a spacious interior, highlighted by intriguing angles and sun-drenched windows.

And a curated book selection, of course. I bought Dan Baum's Nine Lives: Mystery, Death and Life in New Orleans (Tom's recommendation) and Melinda Palacio's poetry collection How Fire Is a Story, Waiting, which was suggested by one of the booksellers on duty. During the ride back to the hotel, the cabbie served as tour guide for his community, offering a block-by-block history of the route, including the street where he'd been born.

Earlier this week, with the idea of community on both of our minds, Tom forwarded an e-mail he'd just received from one of his customers: "Judith and Tom: This is so great, I wanted to share it with you.... Lucy's iPod goes off with a notification. She had put into her calendar the release date for Exile, the next book in the Keepers of the Lost Cities series. She leaped with excitement, quickly got dressed, ran to Octavia Bookstore, bought the book, and is now home on the couch reading it. She did this all in less than 10 mins. This is one of the great joys of living near Octavia Bookstore and the reading culture that you create. Thank you!"

In my pre-SIBA column, I mentioned that the first session I planned to attend was called "How to Build a Genuine Community Presence both On- and Off-line." And so I did. Janet Geddis, owner of Avid Bookshop, Athens, Ga., highlighted a few variations on the theme of community: It can mean a bookstore's specific geographical area, customers near and far, book industry colleagues, the smaller yet critically important community formed by a store's staff, the bond of a social network formed with other booksellers nationwide, the community of other local small businesses, schools and nonprofits in the city or town and much more.

As I said, it's complicated.

Loyal customers often claim a kind of "ownership" of a bookstore. "This bookshop is their bookshop," Geddis said, noting as well the importance of fostering a community atmosphere among the staff: "The stronger that core community is, the better."

Many of the authors appearing at the SIBA show had gotten the community message, too. At the Kick-Off Lunch, Jude Watson, author of The 39 Clues: Unstoppable: Book 1, expressed excitement that her community, Katonah, N.Y., now has Little Joe's Books--owned by Jennifer Cook--and said its presence has "added immeasurably to the town." Then Anna Dewdney (Llama, Llama, and the Billy Goat) raised the bookselling community stakes a bit: "I truly believe that what you are doing is the most generous act... creating our culture. What books do is teach every individual to be human."

On Saturday during the Southern Life Lunch, Gigi Amateau (Macadoo of the Maury River) talked about the exciting developments in her home city of Richmond, Va., where businesses like Kelly Justice's Fountain Bookstore are banding together to make their community a better place to live and do business. "What's happening in Richmond is happening everywhere. It really is all about local community," she said.

Kelly Corrigan (Glitter and Glue) told the Saturday Supper audience they are "the engine of the reading community"; and Pat Conroy (Death of Santini) staked his own claim to the SIBA community: "Here's how old I am. I knew all of the founders of SIBA.... What they brought to it; what you still bring to it is passion for books."

"We do serve the community broadly--and beyond," Tom Lowenburg observed yesterday. "But, we are also deeply connected to our neighborhood. So we have become a destination not just locally. We're in a tourist city but not in a tourist location. People drive here from everywhere, but they also come by bike and on foot. Focusing on our local customers really determines the flavor of our bookstore more than anything. And when the wider world seeks us out, it is the flavor of the place that brings them. Of course our great staff, selection of books and outstanding architecture are all integrated into what people find when they walk into Octavia Books."

Tomorrow, I'll be heading to Providence, R.I. for the New England Independent Booksellers Association fall conference. What will we be talking about? Well, there is a session titled "Building Bookstore Communities." --Robert Gray, contributing editor


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