Shelf Awareness for Friday, May 6, 2016


Penguin Books: The Dying Game by Asa Avdic

Sourcebooks Fire: Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp

Tarcherperigee: Men & Dogs by Alice Chaygneaud-Dupuy and Marie-Eva Chopin / Rescued by Peter Zheutlin

Random House: An American Family: A Memoir of Hope and Sacrifice by Khizr Khan

Chicago Review Press: The Sunken Gold: A Story of World War I Espionage and the Greatest Treasure Salvage in History by Joseph A. Williams

Park Row Books: Hanna Who Fell from the Sky by Christopher Meades

Quotation of the Day

Indies Understand What 'Labor of Love' Means

photo: Alan A. Church

"The independent booksellers mean the most to me--their unadulterated love for the written word, their respect for writers. These are the people who truly understand what 'labor of love' means, and this book has been a 58-plus-year labor of love. I'm thrilled to see ALL of the independent bookstores and adamantly refuse to choose one or two or three or four above the others. I wish I could go to them all--to meet and thank the people who keep alive the sensory experience of the printed word. I am in their debt--as both a reader and a writer."

--Elizabeth J. Church, author of May's #1 Indie Next List Pick The Atomic Weight of Love, in a q&a with Bookselling This Week

 


G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Salt Line by Holly Goddard Jones


News

Saturday Is New Orleans Independent Bookstore Day

For the second year, indie booksellers in New Orleans are celebrating Independent Bookstore day a week later than their colleagues nationwide to avoid conflicting with the city's legendary Jazz Festival, at which they worked together to operate the book tent.

IBD celebrations will take place tomorrow at Octavia Books, Garden District Book Shop, Tubby & Coo's Mid-City Book Shop, and Maple Street Book Shop. Each store is planning special activities, and together they will offer the chance to win $100 in gift certificates to book lovers who visit all four bookstores as part of a scavenger hunt. They are also selling the literary-themed books, art, and gift items created for IBD.

In addition, the city's booksellers have joined together to give away a limited number of Blackbird Letter Press New Orleans City Notebooks (printed in Louisiana) to customers who purchase a limited edition IBD book or item or who spend $25 or more.


KidsBuzz for the Week of 06.26.17


Free Comic Book Day Tomorrow

Tomorrow is Free Comic Book Day, when more than 2,300 comic book shops across North America and around the world will host events and distribute over six million free comic books. Organizers call the annual event "one of the most anticipated comic book celebrations of the year as retailers prepare to welcome curious, first-time comic readers and devout comic book fans into their stores." You can follow the #FCBD2016 action on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Check out this video to see Dan DiDio, Kieron Gillen, Jim Lee, Ted Naifeh, Brian Azzarello, Sam Humphries, Mike Richardson and Neal Adams talk about FCBD and why you should be excited about celebrating your love for comics.

"Free Comic Book Day is the perfect occasion for newcomers to comics as well as those who have been reading them for years to celebrate comics and discover new titles that debut on the first Saturday in May," said FCBD spokesperson Dan Manser, adding that the day is an opportunity for fans "to explore their local comic book shop, seeing all it has to offer. Hopefully, they'll walk away with free comics they can't wait to read, and then keep coming back to their local shop for more!"


Geek & Sundry: The Punch Escrow by Tal M. Klein


BEA, BookCon Partner with PBS for Show Coverage

BookExpo America and BookCon are partnering with PBS Book View Now to introduce content programming and livestream support at this year's event in Chicago. Under the partnership, PBS Book View will produce three PBS Presents panels--featuring authors representing children's, YA and women's fiction--and livestream interviews with bestselling authors. Livestream coverage will be available online via BEA, PBS.org and BookViewNow.org., as well as many public media station websites and other distribution partners.

"Our partnership with PBS and the dynamic content it'll create represents the next step in our ambitious coverage plans for BookExpo America & BookCon," said BEA event director Brien McDonald. "Book View Now is a powerful platform that supports our missions of maximizing views for the fantastic authors that appear at our events and driving the national dialog on books."

In addition to the PBS Presents stages, PBS will again provide live stream coverage from the PBS Book View Now livestream set on the BEA show floor. PBS coverage of BEA will be hosted by PBS Book View Now's Rich Fahle and Jeffrey Brown, the chief correspondent for arts, culture and society for PBS NewsHour. Fahle will also host live BookCon coverage.


Counterpoint: Gangster Nation by Tod Goldberg


Obituary Note: Daniel Aaron

Literary critic and historian Daniel Aaron, "who helped preserve the nation's cultural heritage as a co-founder of the nonprofit Library of America and who pioneered the multifaceted academic field of American studies," died April 30, the New York Times reported. He was 103. Aaron wrote several books, including The Americanist; Writers on the Left: Episodes in American Literary Communism; The Unwritten War: American Writers and the Civil War; and Men of Good Hope: A Story of American Progressives. In 2010, he was awarded a National Humanities Medal as a scholar and as the founding president of the Library of America.

#BEA2016 Buzz Books: Nonfiction

With BookExpo America beginning next week, Shelf Awareness's roundup of Buzz Books continues today with a look at nonfiction for the summer and fall. Compiled with the help of booksellers from around the United States, today's list features memoirs, works of history, essay collections and even a graphic novel. Wednesday's and Thursday's installments featured fiction; young adult and children's will run next.

Mary Roach, the bestselling author of Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers and Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife, kicks off today's list with Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War. Due from Norton on June 7, Grunt examines what goes into keeping the average soldier alive on a day-to-day basis. She takes part in a study on hearing loss and survivability with the U.S. Marine Corps Paintball Team, visits the U.S. Army Natick Labs' fashion design studio and shadows the crew of a nuclear submarine. Heather Sieks from the Book Cellar in Chicago, Ill., and Jason Kennedy, buyer at Boswell Book Company in Milwaukee, Wis., both chose Grunt as a new nonfiction book not to be missed.

But What if We're Wrong?: Thinking About the Present As if It Were the Past is the next book from writer and essayist Chuck Klosterman. While his last book dealt with the nature of villainy, But What if We're Wrong attempts to view the present day as if it were hundreds of years in the past, examining everything from current social mores to what we believe to be the fundamental underpinnings of math and science. Among specific topics he explores are what we know about gravity and time, what current works of art will endure 500 years from now, and whether all sports inevitably die out. To help grapple with these questions, Klosterman has interviewed a plethora of artistic and scientific people, including George Saunders, Neil deGrasse Tyson and Richard Linklater. Recommended by Nathan Cantu from the Book Cellar, But What if We're Wrong will be available from Blue Rider Press on June 7.

Also arriving in stores June 7 is Sex Object (Dey Street Books), a new memoir from author and Guardian columnist Jessica Valenti. In a series of deeply personal essays, Valenti explores her adolescence and young adulthood in New York City and the insidious effects that sexism has had on her throughout her life and career. "This series of essays is a much needed depiction of what it means to be a woman in a man's world," said Katie Eelman, the media and events coordinator at Papercuts J.P. in Boston, Mass. "Valenti's fierce style, incredible wit and unwavering honesty make this book a must-read for all."

Over the course of just four months in 2012, comedian Tig Notaro lost her mother unexpectedly, went through a breakup, was nearly killed by an intestinal disease known as C. diff, and then was diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer. Shortly thereafter, Notaro performed a stand-up set that became an instant sensation. Now, in I'm Just a Person (Ecco, June 14), Tig Notaro looks back at the horrible year and how her life has changed since. I'm Just a Person was a selection of both Boswell Book Company's Jason Kennedy and Janet Geddis, the owner of Avid Bookshop in Athens, Ga. Geddis called the book a "very well written, thoughtful, and often tear-jerking memoir about illness, love lost and found, the complicated ways families work, and the risks we take."

When it was published last year in the U.K., Thomas Harding's new book, The House by the Lake: One House, Five Families, and a Hundred Years of German History was met with immediate acclaim. Coming to the U.S. on July 6, The House by the Lake provides a microcosm of Germany's history in the 20th century by telling the story of one small lake house on the outskirts of Berlin. Until the 1930s and Hitler's rise to power, the house was a holiday home for Harding's grandmother and her family. After World War II and the partitioning of Germany, the house was occupied by a succession of families, including a composer, a widow and her children, and a Stasi informant. The House by the Lake will be available from Picador.

Next on today's list is Tong Wars: The Untold Story of Vice, Money and Murder in New York's Chinatown by Scott D. Seligman. From approximately the 1890s until the 1930s, rival secret societies known as tongs fought viciously for control of illegal businesses--mainly gambling, opium and prostitution--in New York City's Chinatown. At a time when the city government was notoriously corrupt, the tongs would act as middlemen between the vice dens and the police by exorbitantly taxing the former and paying off the latter. Competition between rival tongs became so fierce that there were hatchet fights in Chinatown's streets. Keaton Patterson, buyer at Brazos Bookstore in Houston, Tex., recommended Tong Wars, saying "I've always been interested in the underground crime syndicates that rule the sordid sides of our nation's culture, and this 40-plus year history of gangland warfare is right up my alley." It will be out July 12 from Viking Press.

Coming on August 2 from Scribner is The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race. Edited by Jesmyn Ward, author of Men We Reaped and Salvage the Bones, The Fire This Time is a collection of poems and essays about race in America. Modeled after James Baldwin's landmark book The Fire Next Time, the collection features 18 pieces from writers like Edwidge Danticat (Claire of the Sea Light), Claudia Rankine (Citizen: An American Lyric), Daniel José Older (Shadowshaper) and many more. Said Anna Macklin, trade book buyer at University Book Store in Seattle, Wash.: "Jesmyn Ward is one of my favorite contemporary authors, and now we have an opportunity to see her as an editor."

Candice Millard, the author of Destiny of the Republic and The River of Doubt, returns this year with Hero of the Empire: The Boer War, a Daring Escape, and the Making of Winston Churchill (Doubleday, September 20). Despite losing his first election campaign for Parliament, Winston Churchill believed from a young age that he would one day become prime minister. Convinced that a spectacular wartime achievement was needed to kickstart his political career, Churchill fought in colonial wars in India and Sudan and covered uprisings against Spanish rule in Cuba. Then in 1899, two weeks after arriving in South Africa to take part in the Boer War, Churchill was taken prisoner. He managed an incredible escape, traveling hundreds of miles in enemy territory with next to no provisions. In Hero of the Empire, Millard recounts that escape and examines the effect it had on Churchill's future. Becky Anderson, the owner of Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville, Downers Grove and La Grange, Ill., called it "another incredible history that reads like the best of historical fiction."

Award-winning poet Patrick Phillips grew up in a town in Forsyth County, Ga., that until the 1990s had residents campaigning to keep it "whites-only." In Blood at the Root: A Racial Cleansing in America, Phillips examines not only the violent history of Forsyth but also the country's broader history of racial violence. From the expulsion of the Cherokee in the 19th century, the brutal racial cleansing of Forsyth County in early 1900s, and on to nearly the present day, Phillips takes a sweeping look at violence in America. Geoff Nichols, buyer at University Book Store, called Blood at the Root a "thoughtful, shocking" book and an "important contribution to America's ongoing conversation on race." It will be available from Norton on September 20.

The Tunnels: Escapes Under the Berlin Wall and the Historic Films the JFK White House Tried to Kill by Greg Mitchell is a story of Cold War intrigue. A year after the completion of the Berlin Wall, a group of West Germans decided to risk their lives to dig tunnels under the wall and liberate people from East Berlin. Along the way, NBC and CBS both heard about the tunnel plans and each decided to sponsor their own tunnel in exchange for the right to film the escapes. The Kennedy White House, meanwhile, set out to suppress any resulting films for fear of a confrontation with the Soviet Union. A pick from Geoff Nichols of University Book Store, The Tunnels will be available on October 18 from Crown Publishing.

Out on October 25 is Solutions and Other Problems (Touchstone), Allie Brosh's follow up to her bestselling graphic novel collection/memoir Hyperbole and a Half. Solutions and Other Problems features a new selection of autobiographical and illustrated essays with the same combination of wit, honesty and charmingly simple artwork. A choice of Boswell Book Company's Jason Kennedy, Solutions and Other Problems will appeal to any fan of Hyperbole and a Half.

Rounding out today's list is Frantumaglia: An Author's Journey Told Through Letters, Interviews and Occasional Writings by Elena Ferrante. In this collection translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein, Ferrante discusses everything from her choice to write under a pseudonym and avoid the public eye to her influences as an author, a writer's role in society, and Italian history and politics. A selection of Stephanie Valdez, co-owner of Community Bookstore in Brooklyn, N.Y., Frantumaglia will be available from Europa Editions on November 1. --Alex Mutter



Notes

Image of the Day: Should Have Played Poker in Alabama

Author Debra H. Goldstein celebrated the release of Should Have Played Poker (A Carrie Martin and the Mah Jongg Players Mystery) with a launch party on May 3 at the Little Professor Book Center, Homewood, Ala. Pictured l. to r.: Nancy Miller-Borg, Goldstein and Dorothy Mueller. All three are members of the Zonta Club of Birmingham, an international women's service club that locally supports the efforts of the YWCA of Central Alabama.


Baileys Pop-Up 'Book Bar' at Waterstones

The Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction is opening its first-ever pop-up "book bar" at Waterstones' new Tottenham Court Road store on May 16. The Bookseller reported that the "collaboration and celebration of 'the best writing by women' and 2016's shortlist will see the basement bar transformed into 'an inspiring oasis' that 'combines the love of reading with the pleasure of a Baileys.' " The pop-up will be open for five days, "during which time book lovers are invited to drop in to relax and to celebrate the six shortlisted novels, while enjoying a Baileys. Book clubs will also be invited to host sessions."

Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction co-founder Kate Mosse said: "In the year the prize comes of age, I can't think of a better way to celebrate outstanding international fiction. The prize has always been about honoring the best and having fun while we do it, and also about championing the power of books to bring people together. It's going to be a fantastic--not to mention highly-indulgent--week!"


Ingram Publisher Services to Distribute NYU Press

Effective July 2, Ingram Publisher Services will provide full-service distribution for NYU Press. NYU Press has been part of the Columbia Sales Consortium.

Ingram and NYU Press have had a long-standing connection: NYU Press began using Lightning Source POD almost 20 years ago and became a digital asset management and distribution customer using Ingram's CoreSource platform in 2014.

NYU Press director Ellen Chodosh said, "The publishing business changes every day but what remains constant is our commitment to publishing quality scholarship and to make it available to our customers however and whenever they want it. With this in mind, we selected Ingram Publisher Services as our new distribution partner. Ingram's reputation for distribution services is second to none. They combine a very efficient warehouse system with helpful, knowledgeable employees who find creative solutions to the issues we have, and anticipate the issues that will arise in the future."


Personnel Changes at Chronicle Books

At Chronicle Books:

Julia Carvalho has been promoted to senior sales manager, specialty markets.
 
Samantha Steele has been promoted to associate sales manager, specialty markets.
 
Noëlle Simkins has been promoted to sales coordinator, specialty markets.
 
Miriam Keil has been hired as associate sales manager, specialty markets. She worked most recently at First Book.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Chris Cleave on NPR's Weekend Edition

Today:
Fresh Air: Steve Osborne, author of The Job: True Tales from the Life of a New York City Cop (Anchor, $15, 9781101872147).

CNN's the Lead with Jake Tapper: Jeremy Scahill, author, with the staff of the Intercept, of The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government's Secret Drone Warfare Program (Simon & Schuster, $30, 9781501144134).

Access Hollywood Live: Marilu Henner and Michael Brown, author of Changing Normal: How I Helped My Husband Beat Cancer (Gallery Books, $26, 9781476793948).

Tomorrow:
NPR's Weekend Edition: Chris Cleave, author of Everyone Brave Is Forgiven (Simon & Schuster, $26.99, 9781501124372).


TV: The Handmaid's Tale

Hulu has given a straight-to-series order to a show based on Margaret Atwood's novel The Handmaid's Tale, Indiewire reported. The project is being adapted by Bruce Miller (CW's The 100) and stars Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men, Top of the Lake). There was a 1990 film adaptation starring Natasha Richardson, with a script by Tom Stoppard.

The novel "is actually well-built for this, because while it does have an ending, it's relatively open-ended," Indiewire noted. "And while the series is (as the title might suggest) one woman's story, it takes place within a much larger universe--one aimed directly at attacking the oppression of women on a micro and macro level.... and if the execution of Handmaid's Tale proves compelling, it's hard to imagine that awards won't be on the table. Handmaid's Tale won't premiere until 2017, but this is the exact sort of ballsy move necessary to stand out in the television world. Consider this one at the top of our most anticipated list."


Books & Authors

Awards: Best Translated Book Award Winners

This year's Best Translated Book Award winners are Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera, translated from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman (And Other Stories) for fiction; and Rilke Shake by Angélica Freitas, translated from the Portuguese by Hilary Kaplan (Phoneme Media) for poetry. Each winner receives $10,000, with half going to the author, half to the translator. There will also be a celebration May 11, during BookExpo America, at 57th St. Books in Chicago.

BTBA judge Jason Grunebaum said Dillman has "crafted a dazzling voice in English for Yuri Herrera's Signs Preceding the End of the World, a transformative tale of a young woman's trip on foot from Mexico to the U.S. to deliver a package and find a brother. This novel of real pathos and unexpected displacement in self, place, and language achieves a near perfect artistic convergence of translator and author, while giving readers an urgent account from today's wall-building world."

Praising Hilary Kaplan's work on Rilke Shake, BTBA judge Tess Lewis said she has "done the grant and Freitas's poems justice, capturing the many shifts in tone in and between the lines, from playful to wry to sardonic to pathetic, even sentimental, to deadpan and back to playful, sometimes within a single poem. For all of Freitas's lyric clowning, it's clear she takes poetry too seriously not to dismantle it and use it to her own purposes."


Book Brahmin: Ghareeb Iskander

photo: Michael Brydon

Poet Ghareeb Iskander was born in Baghdad. He studied Arabic literature at the University of Baghdad and is working toward a Ph.D. in poetry translation at the University of London (SOAS). His books include A Chariot of Illusion and Translating Sayyab into English. His new book is Gilgamesh's Snake and Other Poems, a bilingual collection published by Syracuse University Press; it won Arkansas University's Arabic Translation Award for 2015.

On your nightstand now:

As a Ph.D. candidate, I am reading Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, its Arabic translations and other related works (in Arabic and English) about this great book that shaped world poetry, including modern Arabic poetics.

Favorite book when you were a child:

Fairy Tales from the Arabian Nights (in Arabic). I don't remember if I read the whole book, but I read many fragments in different versions. What I definitely remember is the story of Sinbad. I also loved the cartoon movie very much.

Your top five authors:

I have many, but to answer this question I choose the anonymous writer (or writers) of The Epic of Gilgamesh (c. 2100 BC), an ancient poetic epic from Iraq. This epic is considered the earliest surviving literary written text. Al-Jāḥiẓ (c. 776-868 AD), the greatest Arab literary and scientific theorist, is my second-favorite author. He is considered to be the founder of the Arabic classical culture, and the father of the theory of evolution, which preceded Darwin by 1,000 years! My other top authors are T.S. Eliot, in his poetic and critical works; Adūnīs, the greatest living Arab writer; and Derek Walcott, whom I recently translated into Arabic.

Book you've faked reading:

I don't remember that I faked reading a book. But I guess I always pretend that I've finished Don Quixote by Cervantes. I bought Arabic and English versions of this book, but I haven't read them entirely. Maybe it is because I read so much about it from other writers. I often open the book and read certain pages here and there.

Book you're an evangelist for:

A Centenary Pessoa, edited by Eugenio Lisboa and L.C. Taylor, with a foreword by Octavio Paz. It is an excellent book about a great poet. But I'm also enthusiastic about it because of Paz's foreword "Unknown to Himself."

Book you've bought for the cover:

As I am in love with the Arabic calligraphy, I am going to buy The Cosmic Script: Sacred Geometry and the Science of Arabic Penmanship by Ahmed Moustafa and Stefan Sperl. It is not only a great study, but it has a very attractive cover with beautiful Arabic calligraphy.

Book you hid from your parents:

In the 1980s, I hid cultural books from my parents and others! Those books were considered political ones during Saddam's regime! Any book that didn't serve his purpose was forbidden.

Book that changed your life:

The book that changed my "poetic life" is Unshūdat al-Maṭar ("Hymn of the Rain") by the Iraqi poet Badr Shākir al-Sayyāb (1926-1964). I read this book when I was 15 years old.

Favorite line from a book:

"The more that vision expands, the narrower becomes the expression" --from Mawāqif wa Mukhāṭabāt (roughly translated as "Opinions and Correspondences") by al-Niffarī.

Five books you'll never part with:

Al-Ishārāt al-Ilāhiyya ("Divine Signals") by Abū Ḥayyān al-Tawḥīdī (Baghdad, c. 930-1023), the philosopher of litterateurs and the litterateur of philosophers, as he was described in the Islamic world in medieval times; Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman; The Waste Land and Other Poems by T.S. Eliot; The Rosy Crucifixion (Nexus) by Henry Miller; and The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera.

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

The Time of the Assassins: A Study of Rimbaud by Henry Miller.


Book Review

Review: June

June by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore (Crown, $26 hardcover, 9780553447682, May 31, 2016)

When Cassandra Danvers loses her beloved grandmother June, she inherits Two Oaks, June's grand, crumbling mansion in the sleepy town of St. Jude, Ohio. Reeling from grief and a recent breakup, Cassie wants only to be left alone in the old house. But Two Oaks has a few secrets it wants to tell--and when Cassie receives unexpected news of another inheritance, she is forced to start asking uncomfortable questions about her family. Before long, Cassie is interviewing local historians and digging through her grandmother's papers, learning all she can about a long-ago summer when matinee idol Jack Montgomery filmed a movie in St. Jude and may have fallen in love with Cassie's grandmother. Miranda Beverly-Whittemore (Bittersweet) weaves an enthralling story of Hollywood glamour, first love and shifting loyalties in her fourth novel, June.

"Houses don't always dream. In fact, most don't," Beverly-Whittemore begins. But as readers quickly learn, Two Oaks is no ordinary house. It has held onto the memories of the summer of 1955 for more than half a century, and it wants to share them with Cassie. That summer, St. Jude was abuzz with the arrival of the film crew for Erie Canal, and both June and her best friend, Lindie, were caught up in the whirl. Tomboyish Lindie, who loved June more fiercely than she could publicly admit, found a job on set as a production assistant, and beautiful June--forced by her scheming mother into an engagement to a man she barely knew--fell head over heels for handsome Jack Montgomery. Neither girl could have foreseen how the events of that summer would shape the rest of their lives.

Beverly-Whittemore draws readers in with her once-upon-a-time narration: the promise of stories and secrets, the delicious hint of juicy scandal and betrayal. Her characters in both narratives--especially June and Lindie in 1955 and Cassie in 2015--are layered and complex. Although each story contains an element of romance, the men, even Jack, are less vivid and compelling than the women they love. The real enjoyment of June lies in watching June's and Lindie's stories unfold in 1955, and seeing Cassie (and Jack Montgomery's actress daughters) put the pieces together in 2015. While readers may anticipate a few plot twists, there are still plenty of surprises, and Beverly-Whittemore weaves the dangling threads into a satisfying ending. June invites readers to sink into its narrative the way Cassie sinks into the embrace of Two Oaks: with a thirst for a good story and a tall glass of lemonade. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Shelf Talker: Miranda Beverly-Whittemore's fourth novel weaves a story of Hollywood glamour, first love and family secrets in a small Ohio town.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Daniel Berrigan & 'Time as Verb'

Since Father Daniel Berrigan, S.J., died last weekend, there have been hundreds of beautiful reflections and obituaries published, many by people who knew him well. I add my small voice to this chorus only because I'm a reader, and his books have been nearby, wherever I might be, for more than half a century. And I met him once.

Another instance--
time as verb.

These are the concluding lines of a poem in Father Berrigan's Beyond Alchemy, a chapbook published in 2006 by Arrowsmith Press, a limited print run, labor-of-literary-love venture. The title was released simultaneously with an anthology, Conscience, Consequence: Reflections on Father Daniel Berrigan, edited by Arrowsmith founder Askold Melnyczuk (author most recently of Smedley's Secret Guide to World Literature).

I had contributed an essay to the anthology, and on December 2 of that year found myself at Friends Meeting House in Cambridge, Mass., for a launch celebration. During Arrowsmith's post-reading reception, I was asked to sit next to Father Berrigan and keep him company while he graciously and patiently signed books for a long line of... the best phrase that comes to mind is comrades in linked arms. So many stories were shared of past meetings, so many expressions of admiration and gratitude.

I've sat in "the chair beside the author" many times as a bookseller. I know the drill. I know how to be helpfully invisible while still keeping an author from feeling abandoned. I did my job, but I also observed Father Berrigan, who at 85 displayed remarkable grace, resilience and focus, engaging his devoted audience one by one while scribbling his name on proffered items (including, oddly enough, a baseball).

Occasionally he would turn to me and smile or make a small joke. He seemed to be--and there are few people, especially authors, in the world I can say this about--the person I'd always imagined he might be.

That singular day--when our paths crossed ever so briefly in a place where words, written as well as spoken, reflected action--also marked the beginning of an amazing moment in my life. Time, verb that it is, sent me to New York City for the rest of the week.

Ancients are writing with pencil stubs
scriptures in a cave.

So begins Father Berrigan's poem "The Prisoners, The Cave." Upon learning of his death last Sunday, I was able, miraculously, to extract some notes I'd scribbled in 2006 from the mysterious depths of my archives. Reading them, I found shadows of that brief stretch of days during which I'd engaged deeply with words and their meanings, sounds and their variations, icons and their spiritual resonance.

At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I had wandered among apostles and kings at an exhibition called "Set in Stone: The Face in Medieval Sculpture." Some of the relics were survivors of a frenzied post-French Revolution iconoclasm that essentially drove men to "cleanse" Notre-Dame cathedral of its royal and religious icons by beheading statues. Time had done its damage as well, yet the weathered icons retained their eloquence.

While at the Met, I also saw "Brush and Ink: The Chinese Art of Writing," and was struck by the pleasure of writing as art, of the visual and textual blending seamlessly in graceful brush strokes from a thousand years ago.

Marking time.

My pilgrimage then took me to the Frick Collection, where an exhibition of 18th century artist Domenico Tiepolo's New Testament drawings made ancient words appear as visions.

One night, I moved back in time to the 16th century for a concert at St. Thomas Episcopal Church on 53rd Street and Fifth Avenue. The Tallis Scholars stood at the foot of an awe-inspiring altar and performed choral works by Renaissance masters.

Time as verb. Time travels. We ride along and, if we're very lucky, occasionally stop time for brief moments of grace, like the ones I experienced for a week in 2006 and was reminded of again by Father Berrigan's passing... and his poetry. Here are the opening lines of "Time as Verb":

This is the way
I describe it; what time does
To hands and face.
                   That old timer
shoots a glance that makes
like God in genesis, you--
a very image and withered
likeness.

I have a treasured bit of memorabilia from 2006. Father Berrigan sent a postcard to Arrowsmith the summer before the anthology was published. On it he wrote something nice about my essay, and his brief message ended with humility: "Someday soon I'll start living up to his praise." But we all know that Father Berrigan earned every word of praise that came his way, and lived up to them for a lifetime. --Robert Gray, contributing editor (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)


Disney-Hyperion: Serafina and the Splintered Heart (Serafina # 3) by Robert Beatty
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