Shelf Awareness for Monday, May 19, 2014


HarperCollins: On a Magical Do-Nothing Day by Beatrice Alemagna

Johns Hopkins University Ptess: Playboys and Mayfair Men by Angus McLaren / A Year of Writing Dangerously by Keith Gandal

Atlantic Monthly Press: The Prague Sonata by Bradford Morrow

Balzer & Bray/Harperteen: I Love You Like a Pig by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Greg Pizzoli

Quotation of the Day

ILSR: 'Rabble-Rousing' Booksellers Fuel Local First Movement

"More than anything, the challenge is to get people to see the world in a new way, to recognize that there is nothing inevitable about the current order of things and that there are viable alternatives for how we organize our economy. Books and the conversations that inevitably happen in the presence of books are among the primary pathways for envisioning alternative possibilities. So, independent booksellers have been critical in spreading the ideas and nourishing the intellectual development of this movement.

"Booksellers have also helped found so many Local First groups. It's astonishing! Just about every one of these organizations seems to have a rabble-rousing bookseller at the center."


AuthorBuzz: Indie Bookstore Readers


News

Indies First Storytime Day Kicks Off Around the Country

More than 120 independent bookstores across the country participated in the inaugural Indies First Storytime Day on Saturday, May 17. Storytime Day, author Kate DiCamillo's kids-oriented riff on Sherman Alexie's Indies First initiative, featured children's book authors and illustrators hosting storytime sessions at their local indies.

Kate DiCamillo at Chapter2Books
(photo: Jamie Schultz)

DiCamillo herself drew a crowd of some 125 people to Chapter2Books in Hudson, Wis., where she read Mo Willems's Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! and The Pigeon Needs a Bath before answering audience questions and signing books. Gary Porter, the author of Duffy: The Tale of a Terrier and a Hudson native, also attended and read from Stuart Little. When asked if he would take part in Indies First Storytime Day again, Brian Roegge, co-owner of Chapter2Books, answered without hesitation: "Certainly. I'd do another one as soon as next week."

Audrey Vernick and Liz Scanlon at BookTowne

At BookTowne in Manasquan, N.J., on Saturday, authors Audrey Vernick (Brothers at Bat) and Liz Scanlon (All the World) read each other's books to the children and families in attendance, along with a book each from an author who was not present. "It was lovely," said Rita Maggio, BookTowne's owner. "Audrey and Liz did such a beautiful job. And the kids were just delightful."

Although the turnout was somewhat smaller than Booktowne's normal storytime sessions, Maggio said she definitely would like to participate again in the future. "I think as long as there are authors who want to do it, it would be absolutely wonderful to have them."

At Avid Bookshop in Athens, Ga., families gathered for readings by Dodd and Cameron Ferrelle, the local author and illustrator husband-and-wife team behind the children's book If I Were a Jelly Bean, and Susan Nees, the author of the Missy's Super Duper Royal Deluxe Series.

Dodd and Cameron Ferrelle at Avid Bookshop

"The timing with this event was perfect," said Rachel Watkins, the events and public relations coordinator at Avid Bookshop. Storytime Day happened to coincide with a community street fair and a used book sale; the combination of events brought in many attendees who were not regular Avid Bookshop customers. "We would absolutely do this again."

Eight authors visited University Book Store's flagship store in Seattle's University District  on Saturday, and each author read for a half hour. The group included Kristin Halbrook (Nobody but Us), Arthur Dorros (Abuelo), Kevin Emerson (Exile), Jaime Temairik (Troll...Two... Three... Four), Carly Anne West (The Murmurings), Kim Baker (Pickle), Nina Laden (Once Upon a Memory) and Paul Schmid (Oliver and His Alligator). University Book Store's children's department staff were thrilled, they said, with both the readings the authors gave and the response from the kids in the audience.

At Diesel, A Bookstore in Larkspur, Calif., authors LeUyen Pham (A Piece of Cake), Gennifer Choldenko (Al Capone Does My Homework) and Christie Matheson (Tap the Magic Tree) read. Pham read Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina and drew the children in attendance as monkeys, while Choldenko read Lily's Purple Plastic Purse and Christie Matheson read both The Pigeon Needs a Bath by Mo Willems and A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker. According to Clare Doornbos, children's bookseller at Diesel, there were also cupcakes, lemonade and a very successful Nate the Great scavenger hunt around the mall.

Ryan Sias at Astoria Books
Jane O'Connor at RJ Julia

R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison, Conn., welcomed two authors: up first was Bob Crelin, author of There Once Was a Sky Full of Stars, who read Rudyard Kipling's Elephant's Child. Next was Jane O'Connor, who read Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann as well as her most recent book, Fancy Nancy and the Wedding of the Century. She wore a fuzzy pink tiara while she read, and many in the crowd of more than 60 who came to see her were similarly decked out in fancy attire. She told fans that the inspiration for Fancy Nancy was herself, and kids in the audience had the chance to practice walking with bananas balanced on their heads.

Authors David Ezra Stein and Ryan Sias gathered at Astoria Bookshop in Queens, N.Y. Sias, the author of Zoe the Robot Let's Pretend, read from a few picture books, including his own, to a group of kids, and later in the day Stein did the same for another group. He gave the children in attendance a sneak preview of his next book, Candlewick, I'm My Own Dog, which comes out in August. Lexi Beach, co-owner of Astoria Bookshop, reported that crowds were small, but everyone who showed up had an excellent time.

Allan Wolf, Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Alan Gratz, Wendi Gratz and Constance Lombardo at Malaprop's

Malaprop's Bookstore and Cafe in Asheville, N.C., hosted six authors and illustrators: Allan Wolf (The Blood-Hungry Spleen and Other Poems about Our Parts), Alan and Wendi Gratz (Samurai Shortstop; Creature Camp), Kit Grady (A Necklace for Jiggsy), Jasmine Beach-Ferrara (Damn Love) and Constance Lombardo. Lombardo, a writer and illustrator working on a forthcoming graphic novel series, designed T-shirts for Storytime Day that the Malaprop's staff wore. The event lasted from 10 a.m. until noon, with the visiting authors reading a mix of classic children's stories and lesser-known titles.

"Everyone had a great time," said Laura Donohoe, children's book buyer and receiving manager at Malaprop's. "The authors were amazing; they all hung around and supported each other. They did some fabulous interpretations of the stories they read. They were so excited to interact with each other and the audience."

The turnout was just 15-20 people, but Donohoe was not discouraged. "The people who were here were incredibly enthusiastic," she said. "We're really hoping it will continue; it's something we think we can really build on." --Alex Mutter


Zondervan: To Wager Her Heart (Belle Meade Plantation) by Tamera Alexander


Iconoclast Books Launches Campaign to Save Store

Iconoclast Books, which has been in Ketchum, Idaho, for nearly two decades, "is facing eviction and closure," the Mountain Express & Guide reported, noting that on Friday owner Sarah Hedrick hosted a public meeting "to answer questions about the store's imminent eviction from its location and whether the business can be kept alive."

photo: NWBooklovers.org

On May 9, six years to the date after Hedrick's husband and the bookstore's founder, Gary Hunt, died in a car accident on his way home after a bookstore event, she "received notice that she would have to close the doors of the bookstore's current home on June 6 if she doesn't raise $85,000 to pay off back rent and late fees, as well as money owed to local vendors," the Mountain Express wrote. She launched an Indiegogo campaign May 14 that has already raised more than $30,000.

Hedrick said she chose not to file for bankruptcy because "I just feel it's not the time or that it's right. I just don't think that the store is at that point. Plus, I have to walk down the street and see people I owe money to. I couldn't look them in the eye if I filed. These are people I know and love."

On Facebook Saturday, Iconoclast posted a photo of a stack of $1 and $5 bills, noting: "To the kids who left money on my porch last night--you're amazing and the funds are in the campaign! Yes, folks, I came home to an envelope with $97 in it and a note that said, 'From some kids who love your store.' Wow. I love this town and wish I could thank you personally. XO Sarah and Gang."

Shortly before receiving the eviction warning notice, Hedrick had written on the Los Angeles Review of Books blog about Iconoclast's role in Ketchum and of indies in general, noting: "This is the story of community. This is why we have always urged people to shop locally whenever possible. With your help, there will always be an Iconoclast Books, along with other local businesses, to serve you. In our book, this is how we all will remain strong, no matter what man or nature throws at us, in the cruelest month or the kindest. And that is worth far more than a bargain."


Kinokuniya Launching Expanded Tokyo Foreign Books Section

On Thursday, May 29, Books Kinokuniya is opening its expanded and refurbished foreign books section in its Shinjuku South store in Tokyo, one of the company's two flagship stores in Tokyo. The section will cater both to Japanese customers seeking foreign books and magazines as well as the more than 400,000 people from around the world who live in the Tokyo area.

The foreign books section, renamed Books Kinokuniya Tokyo, is one of the largest foreign books sections in Japan, has slightly more than 10,000 square feet of space and occupies the entire sixth floor of the 43,766-square-foot store. (The store is in a new shopping center that includes a Takashimaya department store and is along one of the main entrances to the busy Shinjuku train station. It's also near Kinokuniya's original store, which was founded in 1927.)

Besides expanding the selection of foreign books and magazines, the section's interior design and signage are being redesigned to incorporate brand elements from Kinokuniya's 26 stores abroad, which are in the U.S., Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan, Australia and Dubai. Like those stores, Books Kinokuniya Tokyo aims to promote "the growth of cultures and mutual understanding through books. In short, building a world connected by books."

The stock, which is primarily in English, will double to 120,000 copies with special emphasis on fiction, children's, magazines, non-English books such as French and Italian, and foreign comics, in addition to a finely-selected range of specialist titles. The department also sells stationery and gifts.

The event space will offer an increased amount of activities, such as storytelling in English and talks by international authors.

In connection with the launch of Books Kinokuniya Tokyo, the company is moving its foreign book merchandisers from the headquarters to the new foreign book section so that they will be directly in contact with the shoppers, helping to make sure that inventory reflects customers' interests.



Notes

#BEA14 Buzz Books: Debut Fiction

Great debut fiction is one of the things sought most by booksellers at BookExpo America, and there are plenty of options this year.

Named a National Book Foundation "5 under 35" author, Merritt Tierce comes onto the scene with her first novel, Love Me Back (Doubleday, Sept.), about a young woman who gives up custody of her baby to her mother and becomes consumed by the sex/drug-addled lifestyle at a high-end Dallas restaurant where she works. Geoffrey Jennings from Rainy Day Books in Kansas City cheered, "Her last name might as well be Fierce." Michele Filgate at Community Bookstore in Brooklyn is also a fan: "There's exquisite prose, but what I love about it is the unlikable characters," Filgate said. Politics and Prose's Mark LaFramboise observed of the main character, "You love her so much," and of the writing, "Every chapter feels complete unto itself."

Another hot--and heavy, weighing in at 640 pages--debut is We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas (Simon & Schuster, Aug.). The story so captivated Jennings that he kept on reading the galley even when the plane he was on plunged several hundred feet, causing panic onboard. "The more I read, the more the narrative's emotional pitch and roll matched the environment," he noted. We Are Not Ourselves is about an Irish American family with an over-reaching wife, a scientist husband who does not share his wife's socioeconomic ambitions and is experiencing early-onset Alzheimer's, and their son, who's trying to navigate their move from Queens to the suburbs; it's a story a number booksellers said reads like a classic. Annie Philbrick from Bank Square Books in Mystic, Conn., said she looks forward to handselling We Are Not Ourselves to both men and women and expects it to spark great conversations about middle-class American life.

Another buzzy debut from S&S is We Are Called to Rise by Laura McBride, a schoolteacher in Las Vegas, who taps her real-world vantage point to depict "Boomtown USA" and the range of people living there. Among the characters in her intersecting stories are a suicidal returned soldier and his Mexican grandmother; the son of Albanian political refugees whose biggest worry has been how to stay under the radar at school until tragedy strikes their ice cream truck; and a middle-aged woman facing her husband's infidelity and abandonment and their complicated obligation to their grown son, whose PTSD triggers that tragedy. "I loved this book," said Kathleen Caldwell from A Great Good Place for Books in Oakland, Calif., stressing the novel's hopeful ending. Several booksellers, however, commented that the cover did not reflect the depth of the book.

Debut novelist Michael Pitre served two tours in Iraq before writing Fives and Twenty-fives (Bloomsbury, Aug.), named for the practice of Marines who scan by five- and 25-meter intervals in their work assessing and dismantling roadside bombs. "I couldn't stop reading it," said Philbrick. "You can just feel the sand in their hair and on their faces. It feels like he sat down and wrote this from his heart and his mind in one piece."

Booksellers who have long admired John Vaillant for his nonfiction (The Tiger; The Golden Spruce) greatly anticipate his first novel, The Jaguar's Children (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Jan.). Vaillant, who has multi-generational ties to Central and South America, writes about a young man named Hector who is trapped inside a tanker truck during an illegal border crossing. "He's got a real interesting sensibility and sense of place," said Jenn Northington from Word Bookstores in Brooklyn and Jersey City. "I'll keep an eye out for that one."

Two debuts that are historical fiction--and will also be featured on the editor's buzz panel--are Neverhome by Laird Hunt (Little, Brown, Sept.) and The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton (Ecco, Aug.). The Tattered Cover's Cathy Langer said she loved Neverhome and has The Miniaturist high on her to-read list. In 17th-century Amsterdam, a merchant gives his wife a cabinet-size replica of their home; to decorate her present, she hires a miniaturist "who might be the key to their salvation or destruction." Neverhome is about a farmer's wife who dons the uniform of a Union soldier in the Civil War. Langer described "Ash," as she is known among her fellow troops--who may or may not realize her secret--as "an extremely unreliable narrator." The voice is of the time period, and Langer said that even though Ashe talks to her dead mother throughout, the reader "believes everything she says until you find out what is really happening--and then it's holy sh*t."  

Also on Langer's radar is Everything I Never Told You, a first novel by Pushcart Prize winner Celeste Ng (Penguin Press, June). It's about a Chinese American family in 1970s Ohio whose favorite daughter dies. "It's one of those books that you just pick up and it blows you away," said Langer. "It's a brilliant, artful view of a marriage and a family."

Two debuts examine what happens in families when someone receives a devastating health diagnosis. Great Good Place's Caldwell found herself sucked into Five Days Left by Julie Lawson Timmer (Amy Einhorn/Putnam, Sept.), which tells the parallel stories of a wife and mother planning her suicide, and a man whose wife is pregnant at the same time he has to let go of his beloved foster child. In Before I Go by Colleen Oakley (Gallery/S&S, Jan.), a terminal breast cancer diagnosis leads a wife to embark on the mission to find her husband a second wife before she dies--until she starts questioning the sanity of her plan. Oakley, who was an editor at Marie Claire for years and handled the magazine's book coverage, knows about good storytelling.

As a former editor at Houghton, Tom Bouman knows about storytelling, too. His debut, Dry Bones in the Valley (W.W. Norton, July), features a lawman who is dealing with the changes (gas drilling and meth labs, to name just two) in his rural Pennsylvania community when the discovery of a dead body threatens to resurrect secrets that span generations.

Michele Filgate described Sarah Bowlin at Henry Holt as "an editor to watch," and therefore was excited about a debut she edited: The Ploughmen by Kim Zupan (Sept.). The novel is getting buzz both for its story--the complicated relationship between a young Montana sheriff and an outlaw--and the author's backstory: Zupan is one-time carpenter, rodeo rider, smelterman and teacher who has been writing for 20 years.

And there are two debuts that meld fine prose with cool jazz: The Last Night of the Blue Angel by Rebecca Rotert (Morrow, July), set in 1960s Chicago, and 2 A.M. at the Cat's Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino (Crown, Aug.), which juggles the stories of a nine-year-old aspiring jazz singer, her teacher who's planning a romantic reunion and the owner of the famed Philadelphia jazz club The Cat's Pajamas. Bertino won both the Iowa and Pushcart Prizes for short fiction, and as Words' Northington noted, as a Philadelphia native living in Brooklyn, she's one of the store's local authors.

Discovering a great new voice of fiction in your backyard: priceless. --Bridget Kinsella

Correction: Laird Hunt's Neverhome is in fact not his debut--it's his sixth novel.


#BEA14: The Rough Guide to Hidden Gems Near the Javits

Taking a break from the Javits used to necessitate hailing a cab east or making that desolate trek toward Times Square. But these days, plenty of worthy spots have popped up on the West Side. Taking inspiration from the roundup lists and sidebars included in Rough Guide travel guidebooks, Rough Guides travel author AnneLise Sorensen tracked down five hidden gems on Manhattan's "Wild West," where you can wine and dine with BEA friends old and new.

Gotham West Market (600 11th Ave., near 45th St.; gothamwestmarket.com)
Taste your way around the world at this lively market in Hell's Kitchen, which serves everything from aromatic noodles at Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop to towering Italian sandwiches at Court Street Grocer's Sandwich Shop to juicy lamb meatballs and tortilla de patatas at Colmado, the tapas joint helmed by top chef Seamus Mullen. Bon voyage!

Pio Pio (604 Tenth Ave., near 43rd St.; piopio.com)
Let's face it: the cellophane-wrapped food in the Javits isn't going to win any awards. Instead, cap off the BEA day with a pisco sour at the Peruvian Pio Pio, followed by tangy ceviche, a Peruvian-style juicy whole chicken, and perhaps another pisco sour or three. This is the perfect place for BEA groups: in keeping with Peruvian tradition, dining out here is as much a social occasion as a culinary one.

Lightship Frying Pan (Pier 66, Hudson River Park at 26th St.; fryingpan.com)
Here on the western shores of Manhattan, celebrate the maritime theme and eat like an angler on the outdoor deck at the Lightship Frying Pan, which serves crab cakes, fresh shrimp and grilled corn on the cob. Also popular are the white wine sangria with fresh fruit and berries and potent cocktails like La Lackawanna (tequila, grapefruit, Cointreau), which is almost as fun to drink as it is to say.

Press Lounge (at Ink48 Hotel,653 11th Ave., at W. 48th St.; thepresslounge.com)
The name may conjure up images of reporters with press badges typing furiously under deadline. But the reality is far more soothing. The breezy, shaded rooftop that crowns the boutique Ink48 hotel serves creative drinks such as the Daily Record, made with whiskey, OJ and Carpano Antica vermouth. Prices are fitting for the upscale locale: Ink48 is one of the few luxury hotels near the Javits, with all sorts of fun perks for hotel-goers, like complimentary bikes.

Terroir on the Porch (the High Line runs from W. 30th St. to the Meatpacking District; Terroir is at W. 15th St.; wineisterroir.com)
The only thing better than relaxing on the High Line is doing so with a glass of wine in hand. Ease into the evening at Terroir on the Porch, one of the few venues on the High Line that has nabbed a liquor license. The gleefully nonconformist wine bar--their slogan is "the elitist wine bar for everyone!"--features New York State vintages and brews and a menu that leans toward artisanal, including a veal and ricotta meatball sub that will rock your world.

Looking for more New York City travel ideas? Get a free Pocket Rough Guide to New York City to help you make the most of your trip.


Image of the Day: Book Passage Sells Hachette Titles

Book Passage in Corte Madera, Calif., set up this display in support of titles published by the Hachette Group, emphasizing that unlike Amazon--which is slowing down fulfillment of Hachette books in an effort to get better terms from the publisher--it sells all Hachette titles without limitation. The display also includes a note from James Patterson, whose publisher is Hachette.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: James Webb on NPR's Diane Rehm Show

This morning on Morning Joe: Jonathan Bush, co-author of Where Does It Hurt?: An Entrepreneur's Guide to Fixing Health Care (Portfolio, $27.95, 9781591846772).

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This morning on Good Morning America: Lea Michele, author of Brunette Ambition (Crown Archetype, $21, 9780804139076). She will also appear tomorrow on Dr. Oz.

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Today on NPR's Diane Rehm Show: James Webb, author of I Heard My Country Calling: A Memoir (Simon & Schuster, $27, 9781476741123).

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Today on Ellen: Terry Crews, author of Manhood: How to Be a Better Man--or Just Live with One (Zinc Ink, $25, 9780804178051). He will also appear on the Tonight Show and tomorrow on Bravo's Watch What Happens Live.

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Today on the Talk: Candy Spelling, author of Candy at Last (Turner, $25.95, 9781118409503).

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Today on Hannity: Ben Carson, co-author of One Nation: What We Can All Do to Save America's Future (Sentinel, $25.95, 9781595231123). He will also appear tomorrow on the View.

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Tonight on the Colbert Report: Elizabeth Warren, author of A Fighting Chance (Metropolitan Books, $28, 9781627790529).

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Tomorrow morning on NPR's Morning Edition: Michael Waldman, author of The Second Amendment: A Biography (Simon & Schuster, $25, 9781476747446).

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Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Matt Berman, author of JFK Jr., George, & Me: A Memoir (Gallery, $26, 9781451697018). He will also appear on Extra.

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Tomorrow on the View: Toni Braxton, author of Unbreak My Heart: A Memoir (It Books, $27.99, 9780062293282). She will also appear on Good Morning America.

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Tomorrow on the Diane Rehm Show: John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, authors of The Fourth Revolution: The Global Race to Reinvent the State (Penguin Press, $27.95, 9781594205392).

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Tomorrow night on the Daily Show: Aneesh Chopra, author of Innovative State: How New Technologies Can Transform Government (Atlantic Monthly Press, $26, 9780802121332).


Movies: The Yellow Birds; You Shall Know Our Velocity

Benedict Cumberbatch, Tye Sheridan and Will Poulter have joined the cast of The Yellow Birds, based on Kevin Powers's National Book Award finalist, Deadline.com reported. The film is being written and directed by David Lowery (Ain't Them Bodies Saints).

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Daniel Radcliffe "is in talks to star" in You Shall Know Our Velocity, adapted from the novel by Dave Eggers, with Peter Sollett (Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist) directing, Indiewire reported.


Books & Authors

Awards: Miles Franklin Shortlist; Aussie ABA Awards

The shortlist has been released for the $60,000 Miles Franklin Literary Award shortlist, Australia's prestigious prize honoring a novel "of the highest literary merit and which must present Australian life in any of its phases."

The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the list was announced "amid controversy that was, unusually, not about the prize itself. With uncertainty about the future of the Prime Minister's Literary Awards and budget cuts to the arts, some in the book world are discussing whether to walk out, turn their backs or throw a shoe when Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaks next Friday at the Australian Book Industry Awards dinner in Sydney."

The winner will be named June 26. This year's Miles Franklin finalists are:
Eyrie by Tim Winton
The Swan Book by Alexis Wright
The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan
The Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane
All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld
My Beautiful Enemy by Cory Taylor

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In other news from Down Under, at last night's banquet at the Australian Booksellers Association conference in Melbourne, the following awards were made:

ABA Nielsen BookData Booksellers' Choice: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
ABA Text Publishing Bookseller of the Year: Jenny Barry, Books Plus, Bathurst, New South Wales
ABA Penguin Random House Young Bookseller of the Year: Helene Byfield, Books Kinokuniya, Sydney
ABA Guild Insurance Elizabeth Riley Fellowship for Children's Bookselling: Julie Melville, State Library of Queensland Library Shop, Brisbane
Lifetime members:
Fiona Stager, co-owner of Avid Reader, Brisbane
Barbara Horgan, co-owner of Shearer's Bookshop, Leichhardt, New South Wales


Book Review

Review: O, Africa!

O, Africa! by Andrew Lewis Conn (Hogarth, $25 hardcover, 9780804138284, June 10, 2014)

Andrew Lewis Conn (P) sculpts a seriocomic view of American racism and anti-Semitism against the background of the nascent late-1920s film industry. It's a tale that, to steal his own expression, "has trumpets and cymbals in it, a voice that carries its own conductor's baton."

Brooklyn-born twin brothers Micah and Izzy Grand (originally Grombotz) shared not only a womb but also a life passion: filmmaking. While they walk the same career path, though, they couldn't be more different. Big-mouthed Micah goes through life zestfully, indulging in all the gambling, drinking and women his heart desires while introverted Izzy, a gay man who refuses to indulge his urges, is more comfortable in the editing room than with other people.

When their studio starts hurting for cash, its president decides to try a new moneymaking scheme: making stock footage of foreign locations. Micah and Izzy's first assignment is Africa, and while neither initially wants to go, Micah's enormous gambling debts to a black gangster happen to come due at the same time. Packing up their crew, including their volatile assistant director, a down-on-his-luck script man and the teenage brother of Micah's black mistress, the brothers head off intending to return with stock footage, a new silent film for the studio--and a secret. In place of repayment, the gangsters have ordered Micah to make a picture about the history of the slave trade. What the crew ultimately discovers and endures will forever change the way they see film, humanity and themselves.

Bold, bawdy and charged with the tensions of an era of prejudice and oppression, the Grand brothers' journey takes readers from an impromptu hot dog-eating contest against Babe Ruth at Coney Island to the brutal reality of an African drought. While Conn makes time for a nostalgic visit to the first Academy Awards, readers should be advised that in 1928, political correctness did not exist, and he pulls no punches when accurately depicting the casual acceptance of prejudice, including racial slurs and hate crimes.

Alternating between insight and slapstick, high jinks and twists of fate that leave the reader feeling gut-punched, Conn delivers a serious historical commentary disguised as a cinematic romp. As Izzy Grand says, "Point a camera at something, you change it." Readers who watch through the lens of Conn's brazen yet thoughtful sophomore novel won't look at film the same way again. --Jaclyn Fulwood

Shelf Talker: Conn's second novel is packed to the brim with comedy, tragedy and sly meditations on the history of American prejudice and the power of film to change perception.


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