Also published on this date: Friday, June 19, 2015: Kids' Maximum Shelf: Max the Brave

Shelf Awareness for Friday, June 19, 2015


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

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

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: Malala's Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai, illustrated by Kerascoet

Katherine Tegen Books: The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor

Canterbury Classics: Compact Novel Journals

Katherine Tegen Books: Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

News

B&N Appoints Two New Board Directors

Barnes & Noble has appointed two new independent directors to its board in anticipation of the company's previously announced separation of its retail and college divisions. The new board members are Ann-Marie Campbell, who is president, southern division, of the Home Depot; and Paul B. Guenther, former president of PaineWebber Group. B&N said it anticipates that one or more current board members will resign and join the board of directors of Barnes & Noble Education.  
 
In more than 30 years with the Home Depot, Campbell rose from associate to district manager, prior to assuming v-p and president roles for multiple store operations, merchandising, sales and marketing. She currently serves on the board of Potbelly Corporation and on the board of advisers of Catalyst, Inc.
 
Guenther is a director of Guardian Life Insurance and chairman of Community & Southern Holdings. In addition to his role as director and as president of PaineWebber Group, he served for 13 years as chairman of the New York Philharmonic and of Fordham University, where he is still a board member. Guenther is a former director of the Securities Industry Association and a former president and director of Columbia's Graduate School of Business alumni association.


Freeform: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton


Half Price Books: New Store, More Planned

Half Price Books has opened a new store in Irving, Tex., occupying space that used to house a Barnes & Noble on N. MacArthur Blvd. The Dallas Morning News reported that the 8,800-square-foot location brings the Texas-based company's "total back up to 122 stores in 16 states and it has plans for more."

Two years ago the company operated 113 stores after some closures, but executive v-p and chief strategy officer Kathy Doyle Thomas said Half Price Books anticipates having a total of 124 locations by the end of the summer. New stores are also in the works for Atlanta later this year, and the firm is looking for the first time at potential locations in Tennessee and Michigan, specifically Detroit.

"If there are less people buying books, then we have to be in more places," she said. "The retail climate has changed. If shoppers have to go too far to buy what they want, they just go online. Shoppers don't want to go out of their way."

Thomas added that this year Half Price Books is taking over its own online store. It also "has expanded its merchandise to include more gifts and recently began selling new albums," and has opened four outlet stores, the Morning News wrote, adding that sales last year totaled $247 million, up from $220 million two years ago.


Other Press: Bookselling Without Borders Scholarship


Read It & Eat Bookstore Now on Menu in Chicago

Read It & Eat, a culinary bookstore owned by Esther Dairiam, opened last month in Chicago's Lincoln Park. The Chicago Tribune reported that Dairiam was inspired by a 2012 trip to Paris, "where she visited a culinary bookstore called Librairie Gourmande. Two years of research followed into what potential customers might want, financial viability and so forth."

Noting that "it's hard not to feel a lift walking into the bookstore," the Tribune wrote that the "walls are painted a fresh sage green; the stamped ceiling is a bright white. But it's the books that draw the eye again and again.... Row upon row of brand-new books preen proudly on brand-new shelving, arranged by so many subjects and categories that one quickly sees the sheer diversity in culinary-themed publishing these days. Books are organized by country or regional lines, by cooking methods, by single food. There are books for kids and teens, books to make your own pet food, diet books, vegan books, books for those who eat only paleo or gluten-free.

"We're finding a lot of people are interested in a different lifestyle these days," said Dairiam, who hopes to regularly offer food items cooked from the books she's selling. "So, come into the store. You might get lucky and get a little tidbit."


Ingram Publisher Services: Celebrating the 45th Anniversary of Dundurn Press


Bonnier Buying Finland's Academic Bookstore

Academic Bookstore in Helsinki

Bonnier Books, the Swedish publishing giant that is part of Bonnier Group, is buying the Academic Bookstore, which has seven stores in Finland, from Stockmann Group, which operates department stores. Academic Bookstore has a main store in Helsinki and branches in six Stockmann stores. Founded in 1893, Academic Bookstore was bought by Stockmann in 1930. The transaction should be completed by October 1.

Stockmann CEO Per Thelin commented: "It was important for Stockmann to find a new owner that is committed to developing the business with a long-term view and willingness to continue running the bookstores in Stockmann's department stores. I am confident that the Academic Bookstore has the best opportunities to strengthen its operations with Bonnier Books. The transaction will ensure that the business is developed by a true professional of literature and that the Academic Bookstore will continue to inspire book lovers in the future."

Bonnier Books CEO Jacob Dalborg called Finland "an important market for us in the long run. We are driving the Tammi and WSOY publishing houses and have successfully launched the Adlibris online store in Finland. We want to participate and develop the Finnish book market. We believe in literature, and the Academic Bookstore with its impressive heritage is a great addition to our operations."

Highly regarded and with an architecturally striking flagship store, the Academic Bookstore sells books in Finnish and Swedish and offers a strong selection of titles in English and other languages. In 2014, the Academic Bookstore had revenue of €40.6 million (about $46.2 million).


Disney-Hyperion: Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner


Go Set a Watchman: Events Rundown

With the July 14 release of Go Set a Watchman less than a month away and Harper planning a two million-copy printing, bookstores from the U.K. to Harper Lee's hometown of Monroeville, Ala., are preparing midnight launch parties, film screenings, special editions and much more to celebrate this literary event.

Magers & Quinn Booksellers, Minneapolis, Minn., will host a marathon reading of To Kill a Mockingbird in its entirety on July 11, beginning at 10 a.m. and expected to last into the evening. Attendees can pre-order Watchman to get $10 off any future $30 purchase until August 31 (100 pre-order copies available).

Northshire Bookstore, the Saratoga Film Forum and Hattie's Restaurant of Saratoga Springs, N.Y., are teaming up for a launch night double feature screening of the 1962 Mockingbird movie and the documentary Harper Lee: Hey, Boo, followed by a buffet dinner and copies of Watchman distributed at 12:01 a.m. on July 14. Tickets are $55 for one person and one copy of the book or $80 for two people and one book. The first 40 buyers get a commemorative Watchman pin.

Books-A-Million celebrates Alabama native Harper Lee at the Alabama Theatre in Birmingham, Ala., this Sunday, June 21, with a showing of Mockingbird from 2-4 p.m., followed by a street party outside the theater with food from Yogurt Mountain, Cantina and Mr. Henry's Chicken De-Lux, and music by local band the Steel City Jug Slammers. Books-A-Million will be selling copies of Mockingbird and taking orders for Watchman.

Last night, Barnes & Noble stores nationwide hosted discussions/celebrations of the Mockingbird novel and film. On July 13, B&N will usher in Watchman with a Mockingbird Read-a-Thon from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (those interested in being readers should contact their local stores).

In the U.K., Waterstones locations in Glasgow, Manchester Deansgate, Leeds, Liverpool and Nottingham will host midnight openings, according to the Bookseller. The flagship store in Picadilly is planning panel discussions, screenings of the To Kill a Mockingbird film, and a fan art exhibition. Readers are invited to all Waterstones locations on July 1 to celebrate Mockingbird, and to return on July 29 after reading Watchman.

The Galaxy Bookshop, Hardwick, Vt., will read the first chapter of Watchman on July 14 at 9 a.m., with "Southern treats" available for attendees.

Square Books, Oxford, Miss., presents a public viewing of the Mockingbird film in the Oxford-Lafayette Public Library on July 13 at 5:30 p.m.

Lemuria Books, Jackson, Miss., promises "cheap beer and a few goodies to give away" at its reading of Watchman's first chapter on July 14 at 5:30 p.m.

Alabama Booksmith, Homewood, Ala., is selling a Tribute Edition of Watchman, featuring a leather slipcase containing a Watchman jacket designed by the artist Nall and a giclée print of Nall's jacket, plus a signed and leather-bound tribute to Harper Lee by writer Rick Bragg. Each purchase of this $250 edition includes four entries in a raffle for a 50th anniversary edition of Mockingbird with a bookplate signed by Harper Lee, of which just 714 copies exist.

Ol' Curiosities & Book Shoppe, in Monroeville, Ala., home of Harper Lee, is taking orders for souvenir "certified and embossed" copies of Watchman, including certificates of authenticity. According to the Trussville Tribune, Ol' Curiosities has already sold 5,000 copies in a town of 6,000 residents.

The Penguin Bookshop, Sewickley, Pa., is donating a portion of proceeds from all sales of Mockingbird to the Sewickley Public Library until July 12. The store will open from 11:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m., July 13-14, for the midnight release of Watchman, followed by an all-day celebration of Harper Lee on the 14th, with a showing of the Mockingbird film at 6 p.m. in the  Sewickley Public Library. On August 20, the library will host a potluck dinner and book discussion from 6-7:30 p.m.

PBS is airing an updated version of Mary McDonagh Murphy's 2012 documentary Harper Lee: Hey, Boo, as Harper Lee: American Masters. Murphy, author of Scout, Atticus & Boo: A Celebration of To Kill a Mockingbird, read an advance copy of Watchman and will live tweet during the broadcast, July 10 at 9 p.m. THIRTEEN, PBS's flagship New York station, will celebrate the release of Watchman with THIRTEEN Days of Harper Lee, a 13-day multimedia program running July 5 to July 17, including an online book club with the New York Public Library July 6-13, classroom tools for teaching To Kill a Mockingbird, a q&a with Murphy and a screening of Harper Lee: American Masters at Tisch WNET Studios at Lincoln Center, and a MetroFocus interview with Murphy on THIRTEEN July 9 at 10:30 p.m.


Shelf Awareness Sign-up Giveaway: Lilac Lane by Sheryl Woods


Obituary Note: Cynthia Hurd

Librarian Cynthia Hurd, one of the nine victims of Wednesday's massacre at a church in Charleston, S.C., "worked her way up Charleston County's library system to become manager of one of its busiest branches, but those who knew her best say she was much more," the Post and Courier reported. Hurd worked with the county's libraries for 31 years, serving as branch manager of the John L. Dart Branch from 1990 to 2011 before becoming manager of the St. Andrews Regional Library, which county officials said will be named in her honor.

"She really opened up to me what library service meant," said Kim Odom, who succeeded Hurd as manager of the John Dart branch after her promotion. "[It's] not just a building where you come for storytime but a place where you really can get help... whether it is helping someone with a resume or helping them use a computer a little bit better."

All 16 locations in Charleston County's library system were closed yesterday to honor Hurd and the other victims. The St. Andrews and John L. Dart branches will remain closed today.


Notes

Image of the Day: Love Is Blind

At Penguin's sales meeting yesterday, attendees taped pink hearts to their eyes to imitate the jacket art of Aziz Ansari's Modern Romance, which has just gone on sale. Readers are invited to do the same and post to social media using #modernromance for a chance to win a copy of the book. You can download the pink hearts here.


Indie Booksellers Offer Moving Tips

Noting that a "rite of passage for many bookstore owners and managers is a move of their bricks-and-mortar business into a new location," Bookselling This Week featured some tips for booksellers considering relocating from three bookshop owners, "all of whom have packed up, moved out and set up in new spaces."

Offering practical advice were Michael Herrmann, who, in 2013, moved Gibson's Bookstore, Concord, N.H., to a new location "just 200 yards away from the Main Street spot it had inhabited for 15 years"; Terry Gilman, co-owner of San Diego's Mysterious Galaxy, which reopened last December in a new shopping plaza two miles away after 15 years in its previous location; and Beth Black, co-owner of the Bookworm, Omaha, Neb., who "found a storefront in a nearby shopping center" after their new landlord's rent proposal arrived with a 30% increase."

Black summed upwith  a basic tenet of bookstore relocation: "This is home now."


Arcadia Books Owner: 'Nice Combination of My Two Worlds'

Arcadia Books, Spring Green, Wis., "offers the average tome browser more than meets the eye. You really have to dig in to fully enjoy this little shop and café situated squarely on Spring Green's main drag," Madison magazine reported.

Owner James Bohnen, who is also a longtime director at the American Players Theatre and named the store after Tom Stoppard's play, paid tribute to his adopted hometown: "When I started coming here every summer, I thought, 'What a beautiful little town.' I would ask people, 'Why doesn't this town have a bookstore?' And for 40 years I assumed at some point I'd have a bookstore. This area feels like an arcadian, peaceful land. So [the name] felt like a nice combination of my two worlds."

Books are intrinsic in Bohnen's life, Madison noted, and Arcadia represents a way for him to give back: "Small independent stores create a kind of community where ideas are exchanged and people can talk about books.... and see each other. That sharing of ideas is something many, many people yearn for and miss it when it isn't there."


U.K. Indie Bookseller 'at the Heart of a Romance Story'

Falmouth Bookseller in Cornwall "was at the heart of a romance story recently, when book-lover Jason Sandeman-Allen staged a surprise proposal to his girlfriend Stephanie Ashton in the indie bookshop," the Bookseller reported.

Six years ago, the "star-crossed literature lovers" met for their first date in Waterstones Piccadilly, "and ever since bookshops have been seen by the pair as synonymous with their early liaisons." When he decided to propose, Sandeman-Allen thought a bookshop "would be the perfect place to pop the question to his bride-to-be--a former bookseller at Waterstones' Wimbledon store--when the pair travelled to Falmouth on their first family holiday," the Bookseller wrote.

"It was really lovely--I have never had anything like it in the bookshop before," said Alex Pearce, the bookshop's manager.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Jacqueline Woodson on Fresh Air

Today on Fresh Air: new Young People's Poet Laureate Jacqueline Woodson, author of Brown Girl Dreaming (Nancy Paulsen Books, $16.99, 9780399252518).

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This morning on the Today Show: Jessica Knoll, author of Luckiest Girl Alive: A Novel (Simon & Schuster, $25, 9781476789637).

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Tomorrow on CBS This Morning: Noah Charney, author of The Art of Forgery: The Minds, Motives and Methods of the Master Forgers (Phaidon Press, $35, 9780714867458).


Movies: Dark Places; Ghost Army; Murder on the Orient Express

A trailer and two clips have been released for Dark Places, based on the novel by Gillian Flynn and featuring "a starry cast including Charlize Theron, Christina Hendricks, Nicholas Hoult and Chloe Moretz," Indiewire reported. Directed by Gilles Paquet-Brenner (Sarah's Key), the movie also stars Drea de Matteo, Corey Stoll and Tye Sheridan. It opens August 7.  

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Bradley Cooper and Todd Phillips's 22 & Green production company is teaming with Andrew Lazar to produce Ghost Army. The project is based on the book The Ghost Army of World War II: How One Top-Secret Unit Deceived the Enemy with Inflatable Tanks, Sound Effects and Other Audacious Fakery by Rick Beyer and Elizabeth Sayles, as well as a 2013 documentary film directed by Beyer. Warner Bros. recently acquired the rights to the story. Henry Gayden (Earth to Echo) is writing the script. Lazar and Cooper worked together on American Sniper.

Beyer said he is "thrilled that we are working with such a great team to bring the amazing story of these extraordinary soldiers to the big screen. They were not textbook heroes, yet they served with creativity, courage and honor. What they did likely saved thousand of lives--and they are incredibly deserving of the all the attention they are getting now."

Sayles added: "When I asked my father what he did in World War II, he told me he picked up tanks and moved them around; and that his unit used inflatable tanks, sound effects and other tricks to fight the Nazis. I am thrilled that his story, and that of the rest of this eccentric, courageous and utterly fantastical unit will finally be told on the big screen. I am equally thrilled that it will be in the hands of such an amazingly talented group of producers.... I am excited to see how they will portray the story of these showmen and artists who put on a traveling roadshow of deception across the battlefields of Europe."  

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Kenneth Branagh "is in discussions" to direct an adaptation of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express for 20th Century Fox, the Wrap reported, noting that Ridley Scott of Scott Free and Simon Kinberg of Genre Films are producing with Mark Gordon. The novel was previously adapted as a 1974 movie starring Albert Finney as Poirot, and there was also a 2001 TV version that aired on CBS.



Books & Authors

Awards: Jerwood Fiction Uncovered

Eight winners have been named for the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize, which "is the only prize to solely award British writers, unique in its aim to celebrate great British fiction," according to the organizers. This year's winners, each of whom receives £5,000 (about $7,945), are: A Man Lies Dreaming by Lavie Tidhar, Animals by Emma Jane Unsworth, Mobile Library by David Whitehouse, Mother Island by Bethan Roberts, Significance by Jo Mazelis, The Incarnations by Susan Barker, The Offering by Grace McCleen and The Redemption of Galen Pike by Carys Davies.


Book Brahmin: Katherine Taylor

photo: Lorenzo Hodges

Katherine Taylor is the author of the novels Valley Fever (just published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux) and Rules for Saying Goodbye (FSG, 2007). Her stories and essays have appeared in the New York Times, Elle, Town & Country, ZYZZYVA, the Southwest Review and Ploughshares, among other publications. She has won a Pushcart Prize and the McGinnis Ritchie Award for Fiction. She lives in Los Angeles and has a dog called Littles.

On your nightstand now:

Thank you for asking this question because I love lists. Lydia Davis's Proust, Blanchot and a Woman in Red (I am slightly obsessed with Lydia Davis, like everyone), Merritt Tierce's Love Me Back (Merritt Tierce is our next great writer--please someone give her all the awards--she deserves all the awards!); Peter Nadas's Parallel Stories; Nate Jackson's Slow Getting Up (Did he have someone write this for him? How does a football player with head injuries write such a lovely narrative?); Frederick Seidel's Poems 1959-2009 (this one I keep there always just in case I need it); Chris Kraus's I Love Dick; Homesickness: An American History by Susan J. Matt (wherever I am, I'm homesick, so this book is like a textbook to all my ills); Mary Elise Sarotte's The Collapse: The Accidental Opening of the Berlin Wall (completely obsessed with East Germany); and The Art of Doubles: Winning Tennis Strategies & Drills by Pat Blaskower, which my tennis instructor is having me read.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Maurice Sendak's Pierre. About the little boy who doesn't care, and then gets eaten by a lion.

Your top five authors:

Is there such thing as a top five except in sports? Jean Rhys, William Saroyan, Frederick Seidel, David Markson, Lydia Davis. Joy Williams, too. Leonard Michaels. Grace Paley.

I can't say Joan Didion or Hemingway because EVERYONE says that.

Book you've faked reading:

This is a silly question because who has faked reading a book since they were 14?

Faked since the age of 14: none.

Avoided talking about from the age of 17 because I'm embarrassed not to have read them: War and Peace, Anna Karenina, Ulysses, the Bible. As I Lay Dying. All of William Gaddis. I'm sure there are more but I prefer not to think about it.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Lately, Eve Babitz's novel Slow Days, Fast Company. It's funny and tragic, messy and glamorous and intimate, and has a voice that just kind of slaps you. I'm crazy about Eve Babitz. She writes, ostensibly, about a young girl living an authentic Hollywood life. But the life she writes about could--and does--happen anywhere, everywhere, at the same time. It has all the sexiness and longing you want in a novel--any novel--but also has this very specific, historically interesting element--the mid-'60s Hollywood element. I don't think it's hyperbole to say that Eve, in her fiction, has written one of the best histories of any mid-century event so far.

I search constantly for copies of Slow Days, Fast Company to see if I can find them for less than $100, which is about the going rate. When I find less expensive copies, I snap them up and send them to all the people I know who haven't yet read Eve.

Recently I web-stalked Eve Babitz and discovered that she lives just a couple blocks away from where I play tennis. I've decided it's best to leave my stalking there for the time being.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Many years ago, I bought Dana Spiotta's Lightning Field because I liked the cover. (I am a sucker for cigarettes, and the girl on that cover with the cigarette looks like she's about to do something mean.) I think it's the only book I've ever bought simply because the book jacket looked exciting, but there must have been something else I intuited by looking at it, because Lightning Field is still one of my all-time favorite novels.

Book that changed your life:

I think every book I love changes my life a little bit. (Isn't this true for everyone? Isn't this why we read books? I'm very impressionable.) Do you mean which book changed my life first, or what has changed my life lately? Obviously, Pierre changed my life earliest, because Pierre was the first protagonist I can remember connecting with as a human being. I connected with Eloise, of course, but Eloise seemed to me a fairy tale, not real but enormously entertaining. (Until I went away to school in Massachusetts and learned that Eloise was a representation of many actual human beings, and not a fantasy at all.) Pierre seemed a lot like me, and I could understand when he didn't care whether or not the lion ate him.

William Saroyan, who lived in and wrote extensively about Fresno, is probably the author who's changed and shaped my life the most--as a child in Fresno, a town constantly maligned in the news and national media and even in a parody soap opera from the '80s called Fresno. It's important for a young person to have evidence that you can come out of that and be a writer, the kind of writer I'd want to read and read and reread. William Saroyan is tragic and hilarious and vital.

Favorite line from a book:

"Going mad was a specialty of the family." --from Saroyan's Madness in the Family. That line makes me laugh every time I think of it.

Also Frank O'Hara's wonderful line "oh Lana Turner we love you get up," which can be used almost every day and in so many different situations. I use this line all the time. My family wishes it had never been written, because they are now all Lana Turner.

Which character you most relate to:

Dostoyevsky's underground man. Or Mr. Geiser from Max Frisch's Man in the Holocene. Sometimes I relate to Pierre, too, before he gets eaten by the lion.

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

A Moveable Feast and Slouching Towards Bethlehem. The first time you read them, they're just absolute magic. Transcendent. And every time after that, you're just trying to discover how they created all that magic and transcendence.


Book Review

Review: Death and Mr. Pickwick

Death and Mr. Pickwick by Stephen Jarvis (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $30 hardcover, 9780374139667, June 23, 2015)

Like other massive historical novels set in Victorian England--e.g., Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell or Drood--Stephen Jarvis's impressive debut, Death and Mr. Pickwick, is an immersive experience that richly rewards its readers, filled with an array of characters. It's about an ages-old debate concerning who was the creator of the 19th-century serial novel The Pickwick Papers. Robert Seymour, the most prolific illustrator/cartoonist of his era and the first Pickwick illustrator, said that the character of Mr. Samuel Pickwick and his Sporting Club were his ideas. When the monthly installments of the story were published in book form, young Charles Dickens, who provided the text to complement the illustrations using his pen name, Boz, claimed in a note that he was the sole creator. By then Seymour had committed suicide. As his novel runs its course, Jarvis exhibits his belief in Seymour's claim of ownership.

Elderly Mr Inbelicate, a large man (fat men abound in this novel) with circular spectacles, hires the young narrator, whom he takes to calling Scripty, and instructs him to use a vast accumulation of materials to produce The Pickwick Papers. Inbelicate regularly interrupts himself with asides and digressions, duly recorded by Scripty. The narrator begins his gargantuan story in 1797, and quickly populates it with familiar characters: novelist and poet Oliver Goldsmith; the "hefty" Dr. Samuel Johnson; Washington Irving; the portrait painter and friend to Keats, Joseph Severn; the caricaturist Thomas Rowlandson; book publishers Edward Chapman and William Hall; and the "large leonine head, and strong brow, and two thick groves of whiskers overhanging a laugh" of the great Dickens illustrator George Cruikshank. Nearly 500 pages in, Scripty reaches Seymour's interview with Boz, hired then to write the text to accompany the artist's new Pickwick illustrations.

Despite a winding and interwoven narrative, the tragedy of Seymour is always at the novel's core. As Scripty relates, Seymour's father was a fine furniture maker who moved to London to find success only to die soon after, leaving the family debt-ridden. Seymour's career is up and down--some success, then failure. When he finally creates a new caricature he believes holds great promise--Mr. Pickwick--his hopes are again thwarted by his publisher. He would be dead before his 40th birthday. Jarvis's detailed novel tells this sad tale with great depth and feeling.

Whether you accept his argument or not, Jarvis, via Scripty's book, provides a fascinating, detailed history of the business of publishing and book illustration in the early 19th century: how prints were made, sold, marketed and who the artists were who fulfilled the public's great thirst for them. There might be too much information for some readers, but for those who read on, it will be an education and a grand entertainment, a rich drama that unfolds at a leisurely pace, made all the more profound thanks to Jarvis's fertile imagination. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Shelf Talker: Welcome to an all-encompassing, multi-layered world of a famous Victorian illustrator and the "truth" behind the origins of The Pickwick Papers.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Au Revoir, La Hune

A bookshop closed this week.

On a chilly March night in 2013, my wife and I left our Paris apartment (rented just for the week, alas) on Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, crossed the Seine on the Pont des Arts and strolled down Rue Bonaparte, heading for dinner at La Bastide d'Opio, a bistro that had been highly recommended by a friend. If this sounds like the beginning of a novel (or a deleted scene from Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris), it definitely felt that way, too.

We weren't necessarily seeking an oasis of warmth during our long walk, but when we noticed incandescent windows in the distance and discovered they belonged to a bookshop, we surrendered happily to temptation. Dinner could wait.

We entered Librairie la Hune, where a considerable amount of our time and money was soon well spent. The shelves and display space were open, bright and well-stocked. I retain the distinct image of a woman climbing stairs to the second floor, where an author event was about to begin. In her left hand she carried two bottles of wine, their necks held casually between her fingers, the glass clinking like wind chimes with each step. Outside, twilight enveloped an unfamiliar street in a country that was not ours. Inside, we were at home.

A bookshop closed this week.

This is how France 24 reported the end: "La Hune, the iconic Parisian bookshop which was the focal point for intellectuals such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Albert Camus for more than 60 years, closed for the last time on Sunday after a long struggle to make ends meet." Calling La Hune "one of the French capital's most loved bookshops, famed for its vast collections of French and international literature, history, art and design," France 24 also noted that it was "founded by a group of resistance fighters in 1949" and had been "originally located between the famed Café de Flore and the equally frequented Les Deux Magots in Paris's sixth arrondissement, [where it] became a landmark meeting place for France's intelligentsia."

The challenges La Hune faced in recent years were variations on a familiar theme: Olivier Place, director of La Hune's previous owner Librairies Flammarion, which sold the bookseller to Gallimard three years ago, said sales had fallen precipitously. The bookstore also fell prey to ever-increasing rents in the fashionable Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood. In 2012, La Hune "was forced to move from its emblematic address on 170 Boulevard Saint-Germain to the nearby 18 Rue de l'Abbaye to make way for a Louis Vuitton store," France 24 wrote.

A bookshop closed this week.

"I walked through La Hune one last time, sniffing the books and looking at the posters, and found myself far more distraught than I expected to be," Adam Gopnik recently wrote in the New Yorker. "I felt a deep sense of loss, more than mere regret, and ever since I have been trying to decide why I felt this way and whether the feeling was mine alone or might have resonance elsewhere."

Acknowledging that bookstores worldwide "open and they close, following the path of bright young people as migratory birds follow the sun," Gopnick observed that in Paris, "good bookstores have opened in, or migrated to, the popular quartiers of the 15th and 19th arrondissements, just as a few independent bookstores in this city have migrated to the sunnier climes of Brooklyn."

In conversations with his Parisian friends about La Hune, he "found they shared my sense of something that it would be indecent to call grief but inadequate to call sadness. At a minor level, once a bookstore is gone we lose the particular opportunities for adjacency it offers, determined by something other than an algorithm. It is rarely the book you came to seek, but the book next to that book, which changes your mind and heart."

A bookshop closed this week.

"If we try to protect small merchants, or mourn their disappearance, the last thing we are being is nostalgic," Gopnick concludes. "Books are not just other luxury items to be shopped for. They are the levers of our consciousness. Every time a bookstore closes, an argument ends. That's not good."

I'm not sure the announcement of a bookshop's closure can shock me anymore, in part because I also have the counterbalancing solace of witnessing, almost daily, so many bookstores opening, relocating, expanding or changing ownership. Perspective can be a healing gift. And yet, a bookshop closed this week. It was not my bookshop, but I had been a customer there one night, and I mourned anyway. --Robert Gray, contributing editor (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)


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