Shelf Awareness for Friday, June 5, 2009


Penguin Press: Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith

Graphix: Dog Man and Cat Kid (Dog Man #4) by Dav Pilkey

Ecco Press: Varina by Charles Frazier

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books: Small Walt by Elizabeth Verdick and Marc Rosenthal

Quotation of the Day

Morrison: 'This Book Is so Powerful'

"And I thought, 'What a powerful book. This book is so powerful.'"--Nobel laureate Toni Morrison speaking at the launch of the Free Speech Leadership Council, an advocacy arm of the National Coalition Against Censorship. The Associated Press noted that Morrison was recalling "a letter being sent to her publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, from a Texas inmate, who informed the author that Song of Solomon was not permitted at the prison because it might start a riot."

 


Shelf Awareness Sign-up Giveaway: The Land Beyond by Leon McCarron


News

Notes: Letter from ABA's New CEO; Big Day for Ulysses

In a letter to the bookselling community published in Bookselling this Week, Oren Teicher, ABA's incoming CEO, wrote: "None of us at ABA--neither board nor staff--have all the answers to how we can best serve our members. From Day One, I want to reach out and ask that you never hesitate to contact me (at oren@bookweb.org) if you have any suggestions, ideas, thoughts, or concerns about ABA and our efforts on behalf of indie bookstores. My door--and e-mail inbox--are always open, and I hope you will feel free to be in touch. I know we can be far more effective when we work together and utilize the extraordinary collective brainpower of booksellers."

In conclusion, Teicher acknowledged that the "pace of change in our world has never been faster, and we are surrounded by challenges we could scarcely have envisioned only a few years ago. But in my 20-plus years of service to ABA, if I have learned one thing, it is that independent booksellers are the smartest, nicest, and most resilient people in the universe. As I become your new CEO, I am energized by my belief that by working together we can ensure that our very best days are still to come."

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BTW also featured a collection of photo highlights from BookExpo America weekend.

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A rare first edition copy of Ulysses by James Joyce was sold at auction in London for £275,000 (US$443,946), "the highest price recorded for a 20th-century first edition," according to the Guardian, which described the pricey tome as an "astonishingly well-preserved and previously lost edition of the book, bought surreptitiously in a Manhattan bookshop despite it being banned in the U.S."

The Guardian also observed that the "more salacious bits are in the last episode, where Molly Bloom's long stream-of-consciousness soliloquy ends in her orgasmic 'yes I said yes I will Yes.' This first edition is unopened--apart from that last episode. The copy is number 45 of the first 100 and is printed on fine Dutch handmade paper."

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Alive in Necropolis by Doug Dorst, "about a rookie cop who speaks to ghosts in Colma (where the dead outnumber the living)," was selected for San Francisco's "citywide book club," the Chronicle reported, adding that the project "is a joint venture of the San Francisco Public Library and the mayor's office. A committee of bookshop owners, library officials and City Hall representatives select a book for the entire city to read. In the fall, the library hosts book discussion groups and visits from the author."

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"Read with a drink" was the headline for a Sinchew Daily profile of Why Why Bookshop, Ipoh, Malaysia, which "offers a simple yet elegant reading environment with its simple interior design and British style decoration."

Among the bookshop's many highlights, "there is a section called 'Dream Box' in which those who have a dream may display their creations in the boxes of the shelf. It offers young people an opportunity to start their business at a very low cost."

Sinchew Daily also noted that owner Huang Guo-Fu feels "there are too many traditional bookstores in the market. Thus, he wanted something special that offers his customers a different reading atmosphere."

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You can read original works by Afghan women at a new blog for the Afghan Women's Writing Project, founded by author Masha Hamilton. According to Hamilton, the effort "was begun as a way to allow the voices of Afghan women--too often silenced--to enter the world. During my two visits to Afghanistan, I've been inspired by the grace, courage and determination of many women I've met: child brides, women imprisoned for fleeing abusive husbands, war widows surviving against numerous odds. As the Taliban regains power, particularly in the south of the country, these women's freedoms are again threatened. I hope you will take a moment to read these compelling blog entries."

 


Trinity University Press: Arte Kids - Bilingual Board Books


General Retail Sales: May Numbers Decline

In May, general retail sales fell 4.8%, as measured by Thomson Reuters. These results were the first in 30 years that did not include figures from Wal-Mart, which announced last month it would stop providing monthly sales data.

"Discounters stood out as having the best results amid a bleak May," the Wall Street Journal reported. "Some of the better performers were chains offering department-store cast-offs while luxury-goods companies and midpriced department store chains continued to suffer."

"The high end continues to struggle, those in the discretionary spend segment are really continuing to get clocked," Ken Perkins, president of Retail Metrics, told Reuters (via the New York Times).

Last month's retail figures do not bode well for June. According to Reuters, "Looking ahead, the International Council of Shopping Centers forecast a 3 to 4% drop in June same-store sales, less than the 4.6% decline it saw in May. June's sales face a tougher comparison to last year as consumers then were spending the bulk of government stimulus checks, analysts said."

Although Wal-Mart declined to issue monthly sales figures, "investors will watch for any general comments it makes about sales as it talks to members of the media on Thursday and addresses shareholders and analysts at meetings on Friday. Earlier on Thursday it said it would add more than 22,000 jobs this year at its stores in the United States," Reuters noted.



Thomas Nelson: Perennials by Julie Cantrell


Image of the Day: BEA's Treasured Moments

Cynthia Christensen, owner of the Book Stop, Hood River, Ore., shared her experiences at BookExpo America: "As the owner of a small independent bookseller, attending BEA was a big deal for myself and my three daughters. While their Dad held down the fort, we attended all four days and came away more in love with books and authors than when we went in. As I commented on Lance Fensterman's mediumatlarge.net blog, authors are our rock stars and BEA gets us up close to the creators of the products we sell. The attached photo sums up why, for us, BEA was worth every crowded, expensive, poorly catered moment. From Julie Andrews telling my daughter Laura 'You, my dear, are GORGEOUS!' to Neil Gaiman ignoring all the adults around him to focus on my 14-year-old Kelsey for 10 minutes, every moment will be treasured forever." Photo: Miriam Berkley.

 


Quirk Books: My Lady's Choosing: An Interactive Romance Novel by Kitty Curran and Larissa Zageris


Media and Movies

Movies: Invictus

Director Clint Eastwood's Invictus, starring Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon, will be released by Warner Bros. December 11. Variety reported that the working title for the film, which is adapted from John Carlin's book Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation, had been The Human Factor.

Eastwood's title is taken from a William Ernest Henley poem of the same name, "often recited by Mandela" and "speaks to the will to survive in the face of adversity," Variety noted.

 



Books & Authors

Awards: Live Webcast of Pritzker Award Winner

A live webcast announcement of the winner of the $100,000 Pritzker Military Library Literature Award for Lifetime Achievement in Military Writing will be featured June 22. The formal presentation to the recipient of the Pritzker, as well as winners of the Colby Awards (Shelf Awareness, March 25, 2009), will occur October 24, during the Pritzker Military Library's Liberty Gala at the Palmer House Hilton Hotel in Chicago, Ill.

 


Shelf Sample: Bite the Hand That Feeds You

Bite the Hand That Feeds You (Yale University Press, 9780300123838/0300123833, $30, June 23, 2009), a collection of "Essays and Provocations," is a grand introduction to Henry Fairlie. British-born, he was best known in the U.S. for his writings in publications such as the New Yorker and the New Republic. He was a brilliant political journalist, a true conservative who "demanded large things of government, genuine betterment; who believed that the enemy of tradition is not modernity, but cruelty and stupidity." His journalism was informed by literature, Dickens was as much a passion as politics, and Leonard Wieseltier says, "He was one of the most distinguished practitioners of ridicule as an instrument of criticism."

Reading him today, one is struck by the timelessness of his thoughts, and surprised to see the names he cites--Goldwater, Reagan, Carter--because of Fairlie's relevance to the present. Responding to the Challenger disaster in 1986, he zeroes in on the media response (and at the end invokes Auden's "Musée des Beaux Arts"):

"All day the network anchormen assumed the duty of telling us what to feel. The event, the disaster, the tragedy, the grief: one by one they were transformed, beyond their measure, beyond their place, and above all, beyond the place where we could recognize ourselves.

"Again and again the comparison was made to Dallas in 1963 and Memphis in 1968. But the explosion in the sky bore little resemblance to those tragedies. . . . There was, perhaps, a common sense of loss uniting all three: in each case, a nation's hope for its future was dimmed.

"But what the assassinations and the explosion truly had in common was the presence of the camera and the swarm of anchormen. They must spend a day inviting us to the titillation of watching a toy explode in the sky. That is what it became: television had launched a toy and made it explode--before our very eyes. The comparison to Dallas was made, in some cases explicitly, to exalt television as the legitimate creator of a common national emotion. Everything led to Koppel, and once he told us what to feel, we could go to bed secure in our emotions. . . .

"The more obsessively the media watched the shuttle explode and the faces crumble, the less they saw. The world may be transfixed by disaster, but as Auden explained, it is not transformed."--Marilyn Dahl

 


Book Brahmin: Carolyn Turgeon

Carolyn Turgeon is the author of two novels, Rain Village, published by Unbridled Books in 2006, and Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story, published by Three Rivers Press in March. She's currently working on her third, a retelling of the original little mermaid story. Her website is carolynturgeon.com.

On your nightstand now:

Right now there's Love Is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield, Real World by Natsuo Kirino, The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory and Would-Be Witch by Kimberly Frost. And of course copies of Godmother for me to admire and wink at. (I can't help it, the British cover has glitter.)

Favorite book when you were a child:

I probably loved the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace most, though the Little House and Nancy Drew books would be close seconds. But Betsy! She was so romantic, always hanging out in trees and scribbling in notebooks. In 13 books, you follow her from childhood until she gets married. I loved her. I wanted to best friends with her.

Your top five authors:

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Italo Calvino, Isabel Allende, Alice Hoffman, Patricia Highsmith, Raymond Chandler. I can't count.

Book you've faked reading:

In high school and college, I faked reading a ton of books for class. Like The Tin Drum, which I put down after the eel scene. Midnight's Children, which I put down after the nose picking. I faked reading William Gibson's Neuromancer for three different college classes. . . .  If a book ever comes out about cyberpunk nose-picking eels, I might actually die.

Books you're an evangelist for:

I'm not sure I'm very evangelical by nature, but I've told many, many people to read Tomato Red by Daniel Woodrell (just read the first page and tell me I'm wrong) and Mysterious Skin by Scott Heim (so gorgeous and devastating, the book and movie). I'm sure I've changed (saved?) a number of lives as a result. I've also tried to get many people to read Dante and Boccaccio by telling them how un-boring and crazy and fun those old books are.

Book you've bought for the cover:

No Orchids for Miss Blandish. There's a beautiful woman's head in a glass bowl, her eyes closed and flowers falling around her. Underneath it's described as "James Hadley Chase's notorious novel of violence and brutality that has left more than 2 1/2 million people gasping!" I've since seen other covers for this book that are just as awesome. One promises a tale of "vile, ruthless gangsterism" and shows a blonde femme fatale on a zebra print blanket. I mean really.

Book that changed your life:

One summer at my grandparent's house in Florida, when I was maybe 12, I checked out Peter Benchley's The Girl of the Sea of Cortez from the tiny local library. I'm quite sure it changed my life: the girl riding the manta ray through the sea, the hammerhead sharks circling below. . . . It's a gorgeous, magical book about a girl and the sea. I read The Clan of the Cave Bear around the same time and that was just as world-changing.

Favorite line from a book:

In Baudelaire's Paris Spleen, in "The Bad Glazier," the narrator is infuriated when a glazier has no colored panes of glass, no beautiful glass, and he throws a flowerpot down on the glazier from a balcony above. The glazier falls, and all his glass is shattered. Then here's the line: "And drunk with my madness, I shouted down at him furiously: 'Make life beautiful! Make life beautiful!' "

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

Oh, One Hundred Years of Solitude, definitely. I want to re-discover me some ice.

 


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: A Few Words About BEA--Part 2

"When 'words' become 'content,' where do storytelling and storytellers fit into the public forum?" asked Laurie Lico Albanese, author and Shelf Awareness contributor, in response to yesterday's column. "I think the answer--the one you provided--is that storytelling is one of the most human of all impulses, and telling stories about ourselves and others will always be with us. The question? Will writers who provide 'content' be able to make a buck? And how will bookstores remain part of the storytelling equation?"

Good questions. I'm still thinking about my BEA takeaway words--storytelling, authentic, content, listening--but now I want to look at them in relation to bookselling and some of the education sessions I attended.

I mentioned earlier that in a social networking presentation by Erik Qualman and Chris Brogan, Qualman said, "It's all about who's the best listener." What I didn't say was that he prefaced that remark by morphing a classic line from Bill Clinton's presidential campaign: "It's all about a people-driven economy, stupid."

For anyone who feels overwhelmed by all the technology-driven options, Qualman advised, "Just admit that you can't keep up with every tool out there. Choose two or three. It's more about listening first."

"Learn how to be yourself in a different space," added Brogan.

For some booksellers, that storytelling space may be visual. At a session called "Using Multimedia to Market Your Store," Alex Beckstead, the documentary filmmaker behind Paperback Dreams, offered tips for indie booksellers on effective multimedia strategies.

"You should make Web video because it's a way to connect, not to make money," he said. "People's ignore filter is probably going to go up slower if they don't think you're trying to sell them something. . . . Web video is inexpensive and doesn't have to be reprinted. The reality of Web video: You're going to want to put it everywhere."

Because production values mean less than imagination and creativity, Beckstead added that Flip cams--in the right booksellers' hands--can effectively generate buzz-producing multimedia for store websites, e-newsletters and more, including tie-ins with other local businesses.

Hell, you might even go viral and national. Now that would be a story.

Beckstead offered samples of bookstore multimedia efforts, giving high praise to San Francisco booksellers Green Apple Books & Music for its Little Bee commercial and the Booksmith's local authors month promotion.

Ultimately, however, it still comes down to telling stories, and Beckstead highlighted key suggestions: Participate, don't broadcast; have a beginning, middle and end; be short, be funny, be personal; invite feedback/response and get help from staff, friends, customers, partners or pros.

If there is a contemporary patron saint of how to use multimedia effectively, it has to be Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine Library TV. Beckstead was not the only person at BEA who invoked his name to show how much can be accomplished with the simplest tools. He outlined what Vaynerchuk brings to the table (or before the camera) to sustain his successful online presence:

  1. He has deep knowledge about a complex topic that inspires passion.
  2. He offers consistently fresh daily updates.
  3. He's in a growth business (which helps).
  4. He's Gary Vaynerchuk, which means personality, authenticity and accessibility.

"If you send an e-mail to Gary Vaynerchuk, you'll get an e-mail back from Gary Vaynerchuk," said Beckstead.

What does this have to do with indie booksellers? Well, Vaynerchuk tried to answer that question himself at BEA on Saturday and I saw something special happen.

In a Booksellers Blog post this week, Ann Kingman called the video of the session "Mandatory Viewing for Independent Booksellers," observing that "you will not agree with every idea Gary has, and I look forward to a debate of those ideas: but I know that you will find inspiration."

Ann's right. Personally, I'd buy a copy of Vaynerchukisms for Booksellers, if that turns out to be his next book after Crush It! Here's a sampler:

  • Technology is going forward. It takes no prisoners.
  • I'm really hungry for [indies] to see what I see, which is more opportunity, not less.
  • It blows my mind that a very passionate and knowlegable indie bookstore owner would not start a television show for their store.
  • I think there's a massive missed opportunity for building a brand around you.
  • Content is king, but marketing is queen and she runs the household.
  • I cared and I listened.
  • When the hell is interacting with clients not your real job?
  • I spend only about 25 minutes a day on content. The rest of the time is community.
  • The scariest thing about [hiring someone to handle online marketing] is it becomes not authentic. It's not you.
  • It's not what you say; it's how you listen . . . Can you send somebody to represent you at a cocktail party? Probably not.
  • It's all storytelling. I'm obsessed with storytelling.
  • I believe in the details. I believe in the trenches.

When you listen to him, you find yourself wanting to get right to work; and to end every sentence with at least two exclamation points. Maybe I will!!--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

 


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