Shelf Awareness for Thursday, November 7, 2013


Harper: Only Killers and Thieves by Paul Howarth

Mira Books: Rosie Colored Glasses by Brianna Wolfson

Little Brown and Company: The Which Way Tree by Elizabeth Crook

Bloomsbury: Reign the Earth by A.C. Gaughen

Soho Crime: The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

Shadow Mountain: Christmas Jars Collector's Edition by Jason F. Wright

News

Amazon Offers to Sell Through Indies; Indies Astounded

To the astonishment of many independent booksellers, yesterday Amazon announced a program whereby indies and other retailers can sell Kindle e-readers and accessories and, in some cases, receive a percentage of sales of e-books bought on devices purchased at stores.

Called Amazon Source, the program is similar and "builds on the technology and sales integration" of the arrangement whereby Waterstones has sold Kindles in its stores in the U.K. for the past year. There are two options for retailers: in one, the bookstore buys the Kindles at a 6% discount, and earns a 10% commission on  every Kindle e-book purchased on Kindle devices sold by the bookstore for the first two years after a customer buys a device. For a higher discount, the retailer can sell Kindle devices and accessories but not receive a percentage of subsequent e-book sales.

A pilot program in the U.S. included at least two bookstores near Amazon headquarters in Seattle.

According to Barbara Racine, manager at the University of Puget Sound Campus Bookstore, Tacoma, Wash.: "This is a natural fit. Amazon and University of Puget Sound both offer educational resources to students, and it's always better to work together. Being a small store sometimes hinders our options to sell technology devices, but Amazon Source made it very easy to sign up and place our first order. We think our students will be really happy to be able to touch and try Kindle tablets and e-readers in their campus store."

Jason Bailey, co-owner of JJ Books, Bothell, Wash., said, "We are selling Kindle e-readers, tablets, and accessories in our store to expand our customer base and build toward the future bookstore model. We feel that Amazon is the leader for e-readers. Teaming up with Amazon to bridge the move to electronic books will help us find a means of long-term viability for our independent bookstore. Kindle will help us bridge the evolution of the bookstore into the Internet age."

Russ Grandinetti, v-p of Amazon Kindle, commented: "For many years, bookstores have successfully sold print books on Amazon--now Amazon Source extends this opportunity to digital. With Amazon Source, customers don't have to choose between e-books and their favorite neighborhood bookstore--they can have both."

Programs in the U.S. involving Kindle sales in Target and Wal-Mart wound up with the retailers booting Amazon last year after it had become aggressively competitive in other arenas.

Independent booksellers contacted by Shelf Awareness reacted with a mix of bafflement, skepticism and indignation.

Noting that ABA member bookstores "always make their own decisions regarding their businesses," ABA CEO Oren Teicher said, "It appears that Amazon.com has again fashioned a program that benefits the retailer it cares about most--that is, Amazon. Based on available information, independent bookstores in more than half the country--26 states--are ineligible to receive commissions for e-book sales. Given Amazon's aggressive corporate tactics and their longstanding strategy to avoid the collection of sales tax, we don't see this new program as being at all credible."

He pointed out, too, that ABA's Kobo partnership allows hundreds of independent booksellers to offer "their customers the ability to purchase either e-readers or e-books from them whenever they want to read digitally."

David Bolduc, owner of the Boulder Book Store, Boulder, Colo., called participation in the program "sleeping with the enemy. If anyone thinks Amazon is going to do you a favor, you better have someone walking behind you so you don't feel the stab. Their whole entire business model is predatory.... I don't see any possible way to live in the same ecosystem as Amazon. They don't want anybody else. They want to be the go-to source for everything in the world."

Margot Sage-EL, owner of Watchung Booksellers, Montclair, N.J., called the Amazon program "shortsighted. Maybe some store somewhere that's trying to hang on would do it as a last resort. The most successful indie bookstores would see right through this."

"For me, it's a Main Street issue," said Anne Holman, co-owner of the King's English Bookshop, Salt Lake City, Utah. "If I sell their Kindles after everything they've already done to indie bookstores, where would I be? It's about more than just bookstores: it's about the bike shop across the street, it's about the restaurants.... And it's not just the booksellers they've put out of business, it's the electronics store down the street, it's the other small businesses. I like our small businesses ecosystem and want it to flourish."

Sweet Pea Flaherty from King's Books, Tacoma, Wash., called the move "too little too late. It's like 'now you want to be some sort of ally?' They've been so hostile in the past, I think it's kind of weird." He added, "I assume Amazon feels like they're throwing us a bone, but I don't know who's going to bite on it. It's all kind of weird to me. I wish it had been a conversation."

Roger Page, owner of Island Books, Mercer Island, Wash., wondered if the difficulties Amazon has had with publishing books by major authors--whose absence in bricks-and-mortar stores resulted in a shrinking of the program--might have had something to do with the introduction of Amazon Source. "Now they are trying to expand by selling the devices and services through our precious and, perhaps, increasingly powerful bookstores. I can't see sharing that ground regardless of the terms and increased access they offer. Just not worth it to us, and to the future of bookstores as hubs and hearts of communities."

Linda Marie Barrett, co-owner of Malaprop's Bookstore and Café, Asheville, N.C., summed up the opinion of many of her compatriots when she said: "It's hard for me to imagine any indie booksellers supporting this." --John Mutter and Alex Mutter


Sourcebooks Jabberwocky: The Very Very Very Long Dog by Julia Patton


STLBooks & Gifts Opening in Kirkwood. Mo.

STLBooks & Gifts is planning a soft opening for next Monday in downtown Kirkwood, Mo., with an official ribbon-cutting celebration scheduled for November 21, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

"It is daring. It's almost like I have to do it. I've wanted to open a bookstore my whole life," said owner Robin Theiss of her 800-square-foot shop, which will sell new and used titles. Theiss has been operating an online bookstore, StLbooks.com. "The store is a niche store. We're specializing in literature, creative expression, St. Louis authors, graphic novels, children's lit," she said. Her daughter, Erin, will help manage the business.

"I'm not naive about opening a bookstore," Theiss observed, noting that "this isn't going to be Borders. This is kind of a playground for me. I hope the passion is infectious."

STLBooks & Gifts is located at 100 W. Jefferson Ave., Kirkwood, Mo. 63122; 314-821-3823; customerservice@stlbooks.com.


Siglio Press: The Stampographer by Vincent Sardon


Deadline Shifts for Sale of Najafi's Chapitre Chain

French bookseller Chapitre, which put its 57 bookshops up for sale in October, has moved up the deadline for submitting takeover offers up to December 2, despite an earlier announcement that it would begin closing down outlets that had not sold by next summer, the Bookseller reported. Chapitre is a subsidiary of Actissia, which also owns France-Loisirs and chapitre.com, and belongs to the American investment firm Najafi Companies, which had been one of the potential buyers of Borders Group in 2011.

Publishers are refusing to supply the stores with books, and on average, the stores' stocks are between 25% and 33% short of where they should be, according to Chapitre president Michel Rességuier. "When I took over last May, deliveries had already slowed down, but I hoped they would pick up again once I had presented a business plan for each outlet and a financial plan for the group," he said. "Publishers are all traumatized by the losses they incurred when Virgin went bankrupt earlier this year, but their logic is Darwinian--survival of the fittest. The lack of supplies means the shops will have to turn customers away and risk being less attractive to potential buyers."

Reguèssier also told the Bookseller that some publishers (including Gallimard), small investors and a number of managers have expressed an interest in taking over 51 of the 52 Chapitre stores. Four others have been sold and a fifth deal should be finalized next week.


PuddleDancer Press: Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, 3rd Edition: Life-Changing Tools for Healthy Relationships by Marshall B. Rosenberg


Fantagraphics Kickstarter Launched to Fund 2014 Season

Fantagraphics Books has launched a $150,000 Kickstarter campaign to fund its entire spring/summer season of books for 2014. Comic Book Resources reported the move "comes in the wake of the loss of Fantagraphics co-publisher Kim Thompson, whose death earlier this year complicated the company's financial plans after several of Thompson-edited books (largely reprints of European comics) had to be postponed or removed from the schedule."

"Our goal is $150,000, and we're not so well off that we couldn't put to good use any amount we raise above and beyond that," publisher Gary Groth told CBR News.

"Look, Fantagraphics has always been a fragile financial ecosystem," he added. "Publishing alternative comics almost always has to be subsidized in one way or another. We were always pragmatic enough to figure out ways to subsidize publishing the comics we truly loved, often by publishing commercial books, the profits of which we'd plow back into our art books.... I don't see this as markedly different from many strategies we've employed in the past to get us through rough financial times."


Freeform: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton


Obituary Note: Tato Laviera

Tato Laviera, who published books, plays and poems and was "one of the best-known representatives of the Nuyorican school of poetry," died last Friday, the New York Times reported. He was 63. "To him, poetry was the highest calling," said Nicolás Kanellos, his publisher. "Even though he lived in relative poverty, he was proud of being part of a tradition that went all the way back to the ancient, epic poets."


Notes

Personnel Changes at Brookline Booksmith

Mark Pearson, who has worked at Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, Mass., for a dozen years--as bookseller, events director, coop administrator, and, in recent years, book buyer--is becoming East Coast sales representative for Phaidon Press.

Natasha Gilmore is taking his spot as buyer. A veteran bookseller and former used book buyer, she can be reached at natasha@brooklinebooksmith.com.


Eightbar: New 'Cozy Bar & Lounge' at Atomic Books

"I like the idea of being able to buy a book or a magazine or a comic, sitting some place and having a decent local or craft beer and reading something. Essentially, it was building a space I'd want to be in," said Benn Ray, owner of Atomic Books, in a Baltimore Sun piece about Eightbar, which held its grand opening earlier this fall.

The Sun described Eightbar as "a cozy bar and lounge that works as a fantastic companion to one of the city's best bookstores. With tables, seats at the bar and comfortable couches, Eightbar makes a fine setting for reading and discussing the art found within the store's walls." The lounge also "takes its alcohol selection seriously," the Sun noted, highlighting "a nice balance" of craft and local beers.

The space, which is named after cartoonist Daniel Clowes's Eightball comic book series, "looks restrained, particularly for a bar in a comic book store. Most eye-catching is the top of the L-shaped bar, which is a collage of Clowes's different works, from New Yorker covers to scenes from Ghost World," the Sun wrote. "His art was diverse enough, and playful and flexible enough, that it didn't necessarily seem like you were just looking at one artist's art all over the place," said Ray. "It's diverse but it feels consistent."


SIBA & Frindies Present: 'It's a Book, Jackass!'

To support print books and indie bookstores, approximately three dozen authors attending the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance trade show in New Orleans this fall teamed up to make an entertaining video in which they read aloud from Lane Smith's It's a Book. SIBA devised the project, supported by Smith and his publisher, Macmillan.

The authors "stepped into a makeshift studio to read their lines with little notion of what the final outcome would look like, but nevertheless believing in the good cause the project was designed to highlight: the benefit of print books and indie bookstores," SIBA noted. They performed while holding a copy of their own book, with Amy Tan (and her dog) delivering the closer: "It's a book, jackass!"

In order to raise awareness and enthusiasm about the video, print books and indie bookstores, SIBA has reached out to its network of author "Frindies" (Friends of Indies) to help spread the word via social networking and embedding the video on their websites. SIBA is also encouraging authors, bloggers, booksellers and book lovers to join their "radical underground movement for good" by sharing and linking to the It's a Book! video.


Greenwich Village Bookshop 'Before You Were Born'

"An unidentified man and woman working at a table covered with books for sale at the Washington Square Book Shop." That was Gothamist's caption for one of several photos capturing "Greenwich Village's bohemian society around 1917... get a look at what the area was like before you were born--there were book stores, boutiques, and sidewalk cafes... so you know, really different from now."


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Roy Choi on Fresh Air

Today on Fresh Air: Roy Choi, co-author of L.A. Son: My Life, My City, My Food (Anthony Bourdain/Ecco, $29.99, 9780062202635).

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Today on NPR's Diane Rehm Show: Frederick Forsyth, author of The Kill List (Putnam, $27.95, 9780399165276).

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Tomorrow night on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher: Mark Halperin, co-author of Double Down: Game Change 2012 (Penguin Press, $29.95, 9781594204401).


TV: ABC's Liza Marklund Project

ABC has put in development a project from Universal TV based on Liza Marklund's bestselling crime novels, which were also adapted for the hit Swedish drama series Annika Bengtzon: Crime Reporter. Deadline.com reported that the project from writer Charles Randolph (Love and Other Drugs), Peter Traugott's TBD Entertainment and Sweden-based Yellow Bird Entertainment. Marklund's books have sold more than 13 million copies worldwide.


This Weekend on Book TV: Malcolm Gladwell

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this weekend from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.

Saturday, November 9
1:45 p.m. Maura McEnaney, author of Willard Garvey: An Epic Life (Independent Institute, $26.95, 9780988655614). (Re-airs Sunday at 7:45 a.m.)

4:15 p.m. Piers Morgan, author of Shooting Straight: Guns, Gays, God and George Clooney (Gallery Books, $26, 9781476745053).

5:15 p.m. Nick Adams, author of The American Boomerang (CreateSpace, $20, 9781492398479). (Re-airs Monday at 1 a.m.)

7 p.m. Ray Suarez, author of Latino Americans: The 500-Year Legacy That Shaped a Nation (Celebra, $18, 9780451238146).

8 p.m. Ann Coulter, author of Never Trust a Liberal Over 3--Especially a Republican (Regnery, $27.95, 9781621571919), followed by a Book TV's coverage of a book party for Coulter. (Re-airs Sunday at 10 a.m.)

10 p.m. Lisa Curtis, current senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation's Asian Studies Center, interviews Husain Haqqani, author of Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States, and an Epic History of Misunderstanding (PublicAffairs, $28.99, 9781610393171). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 12 a.m. & 3 a.m.)

11 p.m. Malcolm Gladwell, author of David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants (Little, Brown, $29, 9780316204361).

Sunday, November 10
12:15 a.m. Monique Demery, author of Finding the Dragon Lady: The Mystery of Vietnam's Madame Nhu (PublicAffairs, $26.99, 9781610392815). (Re-airs Sunday at 3 p.m.)

3:45 p.m. David Bacon, author of The Right to Stay Home: How U.S. Policy Drives Mexican Migration (Beacon Press, $27.95, 9780807001615).

7:30 p.m. Jen Marlowe, author of I Am Troy Davis (Haymarket Books, $18, 9781608462940).

10 p.m. Gerard Magliocca, author of American Founding Son: John Bingham and the Invention of the Fourteenth Amendment (NYU Press, $39, 9780814761458).

11 p.m. Linda Robinson, author of One Hundred Victories: Special Ops and the Future of American Warfare (PublicAffairs, $28.99, 9781610391498). (Re-airs Monday at 4:45 a.m.)



Books & Authors

Awards: CWA's Best Ever; Green Carnation

At its 60th anniversary celebration this week, the Crime Writers Association announced the results of its poll to determine the "best ever" crime writer, crime series and crime novel of all time. The results:

Best Ever Novel: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie
Best Ever Author: Agatha Christie
Best Ever Crime Series: Sherlock Holmes

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Finalists have been named for the Green Carnation Prize, which is given for any form of the written word by an LGBT writer. The winner will be announced November 19. This year's shortlisted titles are:

Gob's Grief by Chris Adrian
Black Bread White Beer by Niven Govinden
May We Be Forgiven by A. M. Homes
The Kills by Richard House
Fanny & Stella by Neil McKenna
Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon


Bedbugs, Breakdowns, & Other Bumps on the Bookstore Road

Jenny Milchman, author of Cover of Snow (Ballantine), embarked earlier this year on a cross country author tour. This is the fifth installment of her notes from her trip:

By month four of my book tour, we made it to the Deep South. When something goes on for this long, it becomes less of a trip and more simply life. This is the life we are living: picking up every day and moving on to the next town, the next bookstore. We are seeing the country through its booksellers and readers. The landscape changes with the seasons; the shelves change with the publishers' lists.

We pulled into Alabama in springtime, and the first thing I smelled was flowers. But the next thing was cookies at Church Street Coffee & Books, which hosted a scintillating conversation in its event space on the second floor. There are a lot of stupendous bookstores out there, but the cookies at Church Street were worth a trip to Birmingham.

In the South we experienced our first blip on the road. It had nothing to do with the tour, except in the sense that I'd just completed one of those events that went late and was totally worth it. People standing around talking, stacks of books waiting to be signed because I'd gotten caught up in conversation, booksellers shining a light on the culture at large. So it was almost 11 when we arrived at our hotel, changed tired kids into jammies, brushed teeth, and pulled back the blankets to expose... a bedbug. Only one, but I'd just read Bedbugs by Ben H. Winters. I knew what those things could do. The whole family un-changed, re-packed and scurried out a like a fleet of you-know-whats to another hotel.

It was, at least, a teachable moment, a dodged bullet we talked about later, and the source of some parenting points for me: "Lucky Mommy saw that bug!" And what is Eden, after all, without a serpent or two?

Rings of Joy at Lemuria

On to Lemuria Books in Jackson, Miss., which is cavernous. And rambling. And stuffed ceiling-to-floor with books. I wandered around for an hour en route to the rings of chairs that had been set out for my event. It was hard to decide which part was more fun--getting lost or being found.

Not surprisingly, Texas bookstores could comprise a whole entry in themselves. Murder by the Book in Houston: legendary for a reason. The store is filled with books by legends, and often, the legends themselves! Book People in Austin is big enough to have a bookstore within a bookstore. Mystery People is Scott Montgomery's brainchild and has become a destination unto itself. The Twig in San Antonio had just changed locations when I drove into town, and Claudia Maceo rushed around, managing to set up a warm and welcoming Meet & Greet even with crates of books arriving. Finally, in Dallas we held a benefit for a fellow writer at Lucky Dog Books, which has original Nancy Drews on the shelf, and more than a dollop of Texan heart.

It's all about the books at Murder by the Book.

People have asked how many attendees a debut author can expect to see on tour. My answer is anywhere from one to 300--the latter if you venture to Square Books in historic Oxford, Miss., or Litchfield Books on idyllic Pawley's Island, S.C. But the few can be as special as the many. At Bookworks in Albuquerque, N.Mex., one person showed up, a college friend who recognized my name in the paper and thought, "So she finally became an author." Who could miss a moment like that? At Page One Bookstore I also met one reader (no, it wasn't the same one!)--a fan who'd waited four months to come, and with whom I keep in touch to this day.

Albuquerque was where blip #2 occurred. Our brand new 4WD, for which we'd traded in two cars so that we'd have something that could handle Denver in February, started to lose power at alarming times, like when we were steaming across the New Mexico desert in night so dark and cold that a certain kind of writer-person just might start imagining her next suspense novel.

Southwestern bookstore charm in Dallas.

We made it to the hotel without a midnight hike through the sagebrush, but there were still thrills in store. We had to leave the car at Garcia Kia in Albuquerque, and that meant I was without transportation for my event. I wouldn't normally give a shout out to one business out of the thousands we visited, but this dealership found a mechanic to drive me to the bookstore. Imagine a New York City cabbie on 18 cups of coffee and too many YouTube Gymkhana videos and that's what my chauffeur was like. He got me through afternoon traffic in record time, and then, because there was a second event that day and the car still wasn't ready, picked me up again. Who cares if I was clenching the door handle to keep from swinging into the other seat? 125 events on the road and I wasn't late to one, even with a broken-down car.

There was a third bookstore in New Mexico, Garcia Street Books in Santa Fe. Here I got a chance to say hello to readers, Facebook friends and author Jo-Ann Mapson, whose novels I'd read for years, and who did me the kindness of reading mine.

Who doesn't know Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Flagstaff, Ariz., and the luminous Barbara Peters who runs it? Poisoned Pen is a study in relevancy. From the off-site event I took part in with eight other authors--a day of talks and signings and food--to the publishing arm that allows Poisoned Pen to cultivate authors whose titles will grace the bookstore's shelves, this is a team that knows books from soup to nuts.

Clues Unlimited in Tucson may be small in size, but its scope is huge. I found books here that hadn't appeared anywhere else in the country. One challenge when you visit 300 bookstores is how not to bankrupt yourself. We settled on a method by which one person in the family could buy a book at any given stop. But it's a rule we broke more than once, including here.

Needs no introduction: birthday revelry in San Diego.

"Have you ever seen California?" sings Jake Owen. I saw it by bookstores. Mysterious Galaxy turned 20 this year and threw the birthday party to end all parties. There were balloons. There was food. There were authors. There were, of course, books. Book 'Em Mysteries has a loyal book club, most of whose members turned out for my visit. At tiny Mystery Ink, the book club has members who never miss an author, from the greenest of the green to the biggest of the big. Follow an appearance by someone like James Lee Burke and prepare to be intimidated... except for the warmth of bookseller Debbie Mitsch, who makes you feel just a little bit big yourself. 

Advertising brings in the walk-ins.

The booksellers at Pages in Manhattan Beach and Towne Center Books in Pleasanton epitomize handselling. Not only had they read and recommended my book, but as people out for a Friday night stroll came into the bookstore, the booksellers would explain why they might be interested in my story. These book lovers know customers like a vintner knows each bottle of wine.

Green Apple Books in San Francisco is the kind of meandering warren of spaces where you can never predict what you'll find. People kept stumbling into the hideaway where I spoke--and despite our seclusion, managed to fill the room. Plus, when I mentioned that I usually brought donut holes to these things--"snowballs" for Cover of Snow--one of the booksellers ran out and got them. Whenever people ask me why I toured for so long, this is what I say: I get to meet fascinating people, talk books and eat donuts.

The real question should be: Why did I stop?

At BookSmart, there's an old-fashioned lunch counter to one side of the store, and the bookseller told me to order anything I liked. I chose grilled cheese, which turned out to have fresh peppers grilled into the bread. Remember the part about donuts? It also applies to gourmet grilled cheese. Oh... a lot of people were there, too. And they all wanted to talk books as well as sandwiches. 

Books, Inc. is the West's oldest independent bookstore, and here I met someone who brought tears to my eyes. There was more than one joyfully teary moment on tour; this one occurred because Andrew McRae had written an early review of my book. That he'd taken the trouble to attend an event only doubled the tears. 

I may also have been a little emotional because it was at this point, after four months of touring, that I got sick for the first time. Sick like I had to huff essential oils from a little device plugged into the cigarette lighter while driving to the next bookstore, the next state. Sick where you can't imagine ever feeling better, that there is a state called not-sick.

But that's okay. There's a video of this stretch of the tour, and I can hardly make out which shot in it catches me fever-bright and croaky. Stay on the road long enough, and you're bound to catch something.

Just another bump on the road to bookstore bliss.


Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, November 12:

Stella Bain by Anita Shreve (Little, Brown, $28, 9780316098861) follows a shell shocked American nurse during World War I.

The First Phone Call from Heaven: A Novel by Mitch Albom (Harper, $24.99, 9780062294371) takes place in small town supposedly receiving calls from the afterlife.

Death of the Black-Haired Girl by Robert Stone (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25, 9780618386239) follows a professor seeking to end an affair with his student.

White Fire by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (Grand Central, $27, 9781455525836) is the 13th Special Agent Pendergast thriller.


Book Review

Review: Report from the Interior

Report from the Interior by Paul Auster (Holt, $27 hardcover, 9780805098570, November 19, 2013)

Paul Auster is something of an enigma. Arguably one of our most productive and intellectual stylists, he has a large collection of novels, poems, translations, screenplays, illustrated books, essays and memoirs to his credit, yet he is still best known for his first publication, back in the 1980s, the epistemological noir New York Trilogy.

As we learn from the autobiographical impressions of his first 12 years in Report from the Interior, Auster grew up in South Orange, N.J., as a pretty normal kid, "obedient and well-behaved... [but] by no means a saintly child." This is not, however, your typical memoir. First, Auster chooses to tell his story in the second person, perhaps reflecting his later struggle to write a journal ("the problem with the journal was that you didn't know... whether you were talking to yourself or to someone else"). Second, he makes little effort to elaborate the historical facts of those years and instead writes from his "interior." As such, he chooses to focus on special moments that made a significant impact on his intellectual life: his parents' divorce; recognizing that he was Jewish and what that meant; the extraordinary impressions left by three rather diverse movies: The War of the Worlds, The Incredible Shrinking Man and I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang. Nearly a third of the memoir is devoted to detailed discussion of how these B-movie stories fueled Auster's life-long sense that an individual's identity can be upended by forces beyond his control.

Somewhat abruptly, Auster digresses from his adolescent years to when his first wife, the novelist and translator Lydia Davis, sends hundreds of pages of their correspondence for him to vet before she donates all of her papers to a research library. He annotates these letters--his real first preserved writing--with the older, second-person narrator's memories of the same times. To put a final trademark Auster question mark to it all, he brings Report from the Interior to a close with an album of archival photos and cinema stills. He leaves us with a picture of the young Auster as a soon maturing young man, self-described as "fitfully trying to hold yourself together as you slowly come apart." This new, somewhat odd Auster memoir adds another piece to the jigsaw puzzle of one of our greatest writers. --Bruce Jacobs

Shelf Talker: One may wonder if we need yet another Auster memoir, but there are wonderful Austerian twists and ruminations here, making for a satisfying addition to his eclectic canon.


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