Shelf Awareness for Friday, August 16, 2019


Walker Books: Malamander (Legends of Eerie-On-Sea) by Thomas Taylor, illustrated by Tom Booth

Little Brown and Company: Kingdomtide by Rye Curtis

Sharjah Book Authority Publishers Conference October 27th-29th --Register Now!

Candlewick Press: Judy Moody, Book Quiz Whiz (Judy Moody #15) by Megan McDonald, illustrated by Peter H Reynolds

Bloomsbury Publishing: 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World by Elif Shafak

Workman Publishing: Guitar: The World's Most Seductive Instrument by David Schiller

Quotation of the Day

'This Is a Place for You to Feel at Home'

 

"I've been hearing for the past ten years that print is dead, that books are dying, and that independent bookstores are simply a thing of the past. Funny, things look pretty great from our perspective! In all seriousness, I'd like to chat a little about the value I see in local bookstores, not just my own, but those all over the country and the world. It's true, it may be easier to order a book online, but that doesn't make this space any less loved, used, or needed. I do not hate the way books are sold now or the fact that some people just order them with a click of a button on their phone. What I care about, what I truly deeply care about, is that books are being loved, read, and discovered. People are reading more now than ever before, here you are reading this! I believe we are having a reading revival and if it's from a tablet, a phone, a book you bought online, or a book you discovered in an independent bookstore, I celebrate the reading that is happening--no matter the form. So I welcome you to come on in, find a gift for your friend, a new set of stationery for your cousin, a new book for your dad, and a new journal for yourself. I invite you to join our book club, meet a visiting author, purchase an autographed copy, or simply browse the racks. This is a place for you to feel at home, and that's something we hope to have in common with books!"

--Bridgeside Books, Waterbury, Vt., in a Facebook post


Magination Press: My Singing Nana by Pat Mora, illustrated by Alyssa Bermudez


News

Bookstore Sales Down 5% in June

 

In June, bookstore sales fell 5%, to $672 million, according to preliminary estimates from the Census Bureau. For the first half of the year, bookstore sales fell 5.1%, to $4.6 billion.

By comparison, independent bookstores have done better than the Census Bureau average, which includes a range of retailers that sell books. Through June 12, slightly less than the six-month period as measured by the Census Bureau, sales at ABA member stores, as reported to the weekly bestseller lists, are down just 0.3% compared to the same period in 2018. Compound annual growth among ABA member stores is 7.5% during the past five years.

Total retail sales in June rose 1.6%, to $518.2 billion. In the first four months of the year, total retail sales rose 2.1%, to $2.9 trillion.

Note: under Census Bureau definitions, the bookstore category consists of "establishments primarily engaged in retailing new books."


University of Pittsburgh Press: The Firebird: The Elusive Fate of Russian Democracy (First Edition, Pitt Russian and Eastern European Studies Series)


Remodeled Books Inc. Laurel Village Store Reopens Today

Remodeling in progress at Books Inc.

After a full remodeling that began on August 5, Books Inc.'s Laurel Village store in San Francisco is reopening today. The remodeling included a complete gutting, new carpet, painting inside and out, and all-new fixtures. "I think this is fastest we've ever remodeled or built out a store," CEO and president Michael Tucker said. "We have a pretty amazing staff."

 

One of the oldest Books Inc. stores, the Laurel Village location opened in 1976 and was renovated in 1995. At 2,800 square feet, it's the smallest of Books Inc.'s 10 stores in the Bay Area. In the wealthy Presidio Heights neighborhood, it is the only location with a parking area and has traditionally sold more hardcovers than other Books Inc. stores. Its old fixtures didn't easily allow for sideline sales, so gifts sales were less than 2%--mainly the Itty Bitty Book Light and journals--while at other Books Inc. stores they account for 20%-25% of sales.

With the renovation, more gifts can be sold and events can be held (tables are now moveable). "It's open in the middle now," Tucker added. "The place looks great."


H1: Ignited: Triggered by Mark Waid and Kwanza Osajyefo, illustrated by Phil Briones


Sidekick Coffee & Books Coming to Iowa City

Sidekick Coffee & Books, a new bookstore and coffee bar, is opening this fall in Iowa City, Iowa, the Gazette reported.

The bookstore side of the business will focus on titles for children and young adults, with a selection of adult bestsellers available, while the coffee bar will offer a variety of drinks, along with pastries, ice cream and more.

Plans for events include a fall book festival, Harry Potter trivia nights and a Nutcracker-themed tea party, along with daily storytime sessions.


Berkley Books: Tom Brown's Guide to Healing the Earth by Tom Brown and Randy Walker


Books on the Pond Opens in Charlestown, R.I.

"I love it when strangers start talking to each other about books," said Alexandra Lehmann, owner of Books on the Pond in Charlestown, R.I. "In the world of social media, it seems so important that that happens." 

Lehmann officially opened her 700-square-foot, general-interest store on July 8. The inventory is made up of roughly 80% new books and 20% used titles, with books for all ages represented. Lehmann stocks her used and new books together on the same shelves, rather than putting them in different parts of the store. "That works really well," she commented. "People just like to browse bookshelves--it doesn't matter if it's new or used."

For adults, Books on the Pond carries literary fiction and nonfiction along with a variety of bestsellers. For children, play and learning are major focuses of Lehmann's efforts, and she described her store as "especially welcoming to children." Along with all manner of children's books, she carries plenty of children's toys and games, including puppets, wooden toys from Vermont and a variety of educational, science-based toys. Aside from children's sidelines, Books on the Pond's nonbook offerings include work from local artists and artisans like ceramics and felt objects.

When it comes to building the store's inventory, Lehmann said she's going slowly and making sure she knows her audience. Given the store's size, curation is key, and in the months ahead she plans on getting into categories like maritime and nautical fiction and nonfiction. And, more recently, she did a lot with the anniversary of the moon landing.

One of Lehmann's major projects is working with the Narragansett Indian Tribe, which hosts an annual powwow in Charlestown that dates back more than 340 years. She has plans to partner with the Tomaquag Museum in nearby Exeter, R.I., which is focused on the history and culture of indigenous tribes in southern New England, to republish two older titles about the Narragansett.

This Friday, Lehmann will host a Woodstock Revival event that will also serve as the store's grand opening celebration. From 6-9 p.m., there will be a screening of the documentary Woodstock and local musicians will play songs that were performed at Yasgur farm. Customers can dress like rock stars or peaceniks and win a variety of prizes.

In the fall, Lehmann plans to expand the scope of her store's events. She'll host writing workshops, as well as Italian and German language classes, and she'll debut a book-to-screen club. In that book club, participants will read a book, watch its movie adaptation together and then discuss what the film got right and what it got wrong.

She also intends to reach out to Rhode Island's large author community and host more local author events in her store. Even though Lehmann is an author herself, she's been too busy getting the bookstore up and running to reach out to that community. 

It was Lehmann's experience as an author, in fact, that led her to opening an indie bookstore. She attended the New England Independent Booksellers Association annual fall conference in Providence, R.I., and had such an amazing time interacting with so many people who loved books that she decided it was time to embrace that part of her. "I was really looking for a new course of action," Lehmann explained. "And personally it was the right time." 

When asked about how her community has responded to the store, Lehmann said she's been blown away. "It's just been these wonderful surprises after another," she remarked. "You can get cynical about people. This experience has made me less so." --Alex Mutter


ABA Launches Entrepreneurial Excellence Award

The American Booksellers Association has launched a new, annual award for independent booksellers called the ABA Entrepreneurial Excellence Award, Bookselling This Week announced.

Winners will receive a full scholarship to Winter Institute 2020 in Baltimore, Md., including up to five nights in the host hotel, reasonable travel costs and a stipend of $1,000.

The award will be given to two booksellers "whose ideas, creativity, and execution have improved operations, fostered community relationships, inspired new efficiencies, created a more inclusive environment, saved money or increased sales." Any bookseller from an ABA-member store that is in good standing is eligible to apply.

To apply, booksellers must submit an essay, video or audio recording explaining the problem or concern they recognized, the solution they created, the steps they took to implement said solution and the results of that solution. Applicants should include data showing the success of their initiative.

Applications are due no later than Monday, October 21, and can be e-mailed to excellence@bookweb.org. An award selection committee, comprised of booksellers, will evaluate the applications. Winners will be announced on Monday, November 18.


Drag Queen Story Hour Moves Due to Protests

Paperback Book Exchange's sticker of support

A monthly Drag Queen Story Hour series has had to move from a bookstore in Port Richey, Fla., to a new venue due to protests, WFLA reported.

For the past nine months, the event series has been held at a used bookstore called Paperback Exchange, but the store's landlord recently asked the owners to host the events somewhere else, saying that they attracted too much negative attention.

Joan Hepsworth, owner of Paperback Exchange, told WFLA: "We look at this as a win because we are protecting our kids. And we're looking for a safer place to do this and we want to make it bigger and better."

The event organizers are looking to move to a venue called Peace Hall, located in Sims Park in the nearby city of New Port Richey. But before they can start hosting events, New Port Richey is making them get a special events permit under the justification that the city may need to provide police protection.

"We're here. We want to be treated equally," said Nina Borders, one of the organizers and president of Pasco Pride. "We want to be treated fair. All we want to be able to do is reserve this peace hall venue like any other organization does."


Notes

Happy Birthday, Shakespeare and Company!

Although we generally celebrate bookstore anniversaries on five-year marks (5th, 10th, 15th, etc.), we couldn't pass up a birthday photo posted on Facebook this week by the legendary Shakespeare and Company bookshop in Paris.

"Happy birthday to us! And salutations and gratitude to George Whitman above!" the bookstore noted. "On 14 August 1951, George opened this bookshop at 37 rue de la Bûcherie, Kilometre Zero, Paris. He said: 'I created this bookstore like a man would write a novel, building each room like a chapter, and I like people to open the door the way they open a book, a book that leads into a magic world in their imaginations.'

"Today the shop is run by George's daughter, Sylvia, and her partner, David, in the same spirit that it has been for the past 68 years and with the same guiding motto: 'Be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be angels in disguise.' "


Sales Floor Display with Buzz: Snowbound Books

"Arm yourself with knowledge," advised Snowbound Books, Marquette, Mich., while sharing a photo on Facebook of its mosquito-themed display for Timothy C. Winegard's new book, The Mosquito: A Human History of Our Deadliest Predator (Dutton). The chalkboard's sage summer advice: "Know thine enemy. The little bastards!"


Hachette to Distribute Lonely Planet

Effective in March 2020, Hachette Book Group will handle warehousing, distribution, sales and customer service for Lonely Planet, including imprints Lonely Planet Kids and Lonely Planet Food, in the U.S. and Latin America. Hachette said that with the change, it will distribute nearly half of all U.S. travel guides.

Lonely Planet's Oakland, Calif., warehouse operations will be moved to Hachette's facility in Lebanon, Ind., which is 350 miles north of Lonely Planet's headquarters in Nashville, Tenn.



Media and Movies

TV: Tiny Pretty Things; One of Us Is Lying

Netflix has given a 10-episode order to Tiny Pretty Things, a series based on the book by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton, Deadline reported. The project is written by Michael MacLennan (Bomb Girls, The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco), who also serves as showrunner and executive producer. Shooting is currently underway in Toronto for a 2020 premiere.

The cast includes Lauren Holly, Kylie Jefferson, Casimere Jollette, Daniela Norman, Brennan Clost, Michael Hsu Rosen, Damon J. Gillespie, Bayardo De Murguia, Barton Cowperthwaite, Tory Trowbridge and Jess Salgueiro.

Insurrection "had optioned the book through its strategic relationship with the publisher HarperCollins and spent a year developing the project before taking it to Netflix," Deadline noted, adding that Insurrection put together the creative team, including showrunner MacLennan and Fleder. Mojo Films and Peacock Alley are also on board.

---

NBCUniversal's upcoming streaming service has given its first official pilot order to One of Us Is Lying, based on Karen M. McManus's bestselling YA novel, Deadline reported, adding that the project is from NBCU's UCP and John Sacchi's 5 More Minutes Productions banner.

Written by Erica Saleh (Instinct), One of Us Is Lying "is described as The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little Liars. It is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide," Deadline wrote.


Books & Authors

Awards: NAIBA Legacy

Jennifer Egan will receive the New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association's 2019 Legacy Award, which recognizes "individuals whose body of work contributed significantly to the realm of American arts and letters." She will be honored at the NAIBA Awards Banquet on Wednesday, October 16, during the association's fall conference in Cherry Hill, N.J.

"I owe my career to early and consistent support from independent booksellers and will forever be grateful and indebted to them," Egan said. "I've watched with delight their recent surge in health, strength and numbers. Being honored by NAIBA is a welcome chance to honor and celebrate independent bookstores--the lifeblood of a healthy publishing industry, healthy communities, and a healthy democracy."

Egan is the author of A Visit from the Goon Squad, which won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award; Manhattan Beach; The Keep; Emerald City; Look at Me, a National Book Award finalist; and The Invisible Circus.


President Obama's Summer Reading

President Barack Obama shopped at Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C., in 2014 (photo by Pete Souza)

In what has become a summer tradition, former President Barack Obama posted on Facebook a summary of his recent favorite reads, including the complete works of Toni Morrison, who died August 5. Obama wrote that her books are "transcendent, all of them. You'll be glad you read them."

His other suggestions:

"Sometimes difficult to swallow, The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead is a necessary read, detailing the way Jim Crow and mass incarceration tore apart lives and wrought consequences that ripple into today.

Exhalation by Ted Chiang is a collection of short stories that will make you think, grapple with big questions, and feel more human. The best kind of science fiction.

Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel's epic fictionalized look at Thomas Cromwell's rise to power, came out in 2009, but I was a little busy back then, so I missed it. Still great today.

Haruki Murakami's Men Without Women examines what happens to characters without important women in their lives; it'll move you and confuse you and sometimes leave you with more questions than answers.

American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson is a whole lot more than just a spy thriller, wrapping together the ties of family, of love, and of country.

The Shallows by Nicholas Carr came out a few years ago, but its arguments on the internet's impact on our brains, our lives, and our communities are still worthy of reflection, which is something we all could use a little more of in this age.

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren is a beautifully written memoir about the life of a woman in science, a brilliant friendship, and the profundity of trees. Terrific.

Inland by Téa Obreht just came out yesterday, so I won't spoil anything. But those of you who've been waiting for Obreht's next novel won't be disappointed.

You'll get a better sense of the complexity and redemption within the American immigrant story with Dinaw Mengestu's novel, How to Read the Air."


Reading with... Candace Bushnell

photo: Patrick McMullan

Candace Bushnell is the author of Sex and the City, Four Blondes, Lipstick Jungle, The Carrie Diaries, One Fifth Avenue, Trading Up, Summer and the City and Killing Monica. Sex and the City, published in 1996, was the basis for the HBO hit series and two subsequent movies. Lipstick Jungle became a popular television series on NBC, as did The Carrie Diaries on the CW. Is There Still Sex in the City? (Grove, August 6, 2019) is her ninth book.

On your nightstand now: 

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert, Fleishman Is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner, Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh, The Paper Wasp by Lauren Acampora, The Early Stories of Truman Capote, How to Be Famous by Caitlin Moran, Memories of the Future by Siri Hustvedt, Kathleen Hale Is a Crazy Stalker by Kathleen Hale, The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer, Autopsy of a Boring Wife by Marie-Renée Lavoie and, for some reason, my own book, One Fifth Avenue. 

Favorite book when you were a child:

A lot of Roald Dahl's and the Narnias, but one that sticks out now is Harriet the Spy. It really gave structure to the idea of being a writer in New York. Harriet was the first female character I'd ever read who questioned every idea about being a woman and being female. She didn't want to grow up and get married; she wanted to grow up and be a writer. And mostly she believed that being a writer was the best thing a person could be. The most honest, decent and interesting. This is how I really felt for a very long time and still do feel occasionally. 

Your top five authors:

Leo Tolstoy, Gustave Flaubert, Edith Wharton, Thomas Mann and Evelyn Waugh. 

Book you've faked reading:

None. Fake reading a book is all about needing to feel accepted and safe within the group you want to be a member of. That's group-think mentality, and while we all have to do it sometimes, it makes me nervous. However, I'm guilty of fake liking lots of things on social media. 

Book you're an evangelist for:

Custom of the Country. Undine Sprague, perhaps Wharton's greatest female creation, is the ultimate unlikeable female heroine. She has not one redeemable quality and is not redeemed in the end. She continues on, using everyone and everything. She is a female psychopath; an emotional serial killer. She uses everyone and everything and her body and beauty to get what she wants, but it's never enough and it never will be enough. It really takes a lot of guts to write the irredeemable female lead. Naturally, Custom of the Country got terrible reviews; everyone hated the character so much they blamed it on the book. Nevertheless, I loved it and found it such a refreshing antidote to the specious ideas that are always being presented to women as fact (i.e., if you do what society tells you, you will be okay) that I did my best to copy it with my own book, Trading Up. In a way, Trading Up is fan fiction of Custom of the Country

And like Custom of the Country, Trading Up got some terrible reviews. The best one was by New York Times book reviewer Michiko Kakutani. Trading Up and its lead character, Janey Wilcox must have literally short-circuited the synapses in Ms. Kakutani's brain, because she wrote her entire review in the voice of Elle Woods, a movie character from Legally Blonde. "Elle Woods" advice to Janey Wilcox? Take Prozac.

And maybe "Elle" was right. In any case, you cannot make these things up, and when they happen, all you can do is laugh.

Book you've bought for the cover:

A paperback copy of The Great Gatsby with the original artwork on the cover: those weird eyes staring out from that inky dark billboard. Someone should make it into a gif. 

Book you hid from your parents:

It was a cartoon about a talking fetus. This old paperback from the 1940s was hidden in the attic of my grandparents' beach house. The fetus was in its mother's stomach in a cartoon bubble. It made fun of all the adults and said pithy things. It was my first introduction to satire, I suppose. 

Favorite line from a book:

The last line from The Sun Also Rises. "Don't you wish it were so?" or "isn't it nice to think so?" or something along those lines. [Ed. note: "Isn't it pretty to think so?"] It gets me every time. It's bittersweet. Life sucks and we know it and it's sad, but we will soldier on and take the little bits of beauty we can find along the way. 

Five books you'll never part with:

First editions of my own books. I have nine, so it would be hard to choose which five to save. 

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

Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney. Reading that book for the first time was a transporting experience, which doesn't happen often with books. It was the kind of book that made you really, really wish that you had written it. 


Book Review

Review: Make It Scream, Make It Burn: Essays

Make It Scream, Make It Burn: Essays by Leslie Jamison (Little, Brown, $28 hardcover, 272p., 9780316259637, September 24, 2019)

With the essay collection Make It Scream, Make It Burn, Leslie Jamison confirms the praise heaped on 2014's The Empathy Exams for her uncanny ability to blend perceptive reportage with intensely personal essays in consistently fresh, dynamic prose.

Jamison, who directs the graduate nonfiction program at Columbia University, embarks on reporting trips that take her from Sri Lanka to Croatia, and span the United States, from Whidbey Island, Wash., to Charlottesville, Va. The book's subjects are similarly varied, among them a mysterious whale nicknamed "52 Blue" that's somehow become the source of comfort to scores of lonely people; a psychiatrist who studies children who claim to have lived past lives; and the surprisingly enduring computer simulation Second Life, which recognizes that "the impulse to escape our lives is universal."

Two companion pieces shed light both on their ostensible subjects and on Jamison's own approach to her journalistic endeavor. In the title piece, she investigates James Agee and his classic work with photographer Walker Evans, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, based on the 1936 summer Agee spent with a family of Alabama sharecroppers. Agee's "sui genesis work of sprawling lyric reportage" was, in part, the inspiration for the extraordinary project of California photojournalist Annie Appel, who for more than 30 years repeatedly has embedded herself with an impoverished Mexican family in what Jamison calls a "process of intimate entanglement." Jamison uses these pieces to reflect on how for her the "ethical divide between showing up and coming back loomed large," especially when she compares it to the way Appel's obsessive devotion to a single subject "made me ashamed of the ways I'd written about the lives of others after knowing them for a year, or even a month."

Though pieces of Jamison's personal life are threaded throughout her reporting, the collection concludes with some of the confessional writing that made her memoir The Recovering so revealing. In "Museum of Broken Hearts," she introduces an eccentric institution in Croatia devoted to objects that bring to mind their donors' former loves. Jamison uses the opportunity to explore her perception that "our relationship to the past--even its ruptures and betrayals--is often more vexed, that it holds gravity and repulsion at once" through the prism of her own fraught romantic life. The book's concluding piece, "The Quickening," movingly traces the arc of Jamison's pregnancy and the birth of her first child, juxtaposed against her own past struggle with an eating disorder. In these and all the other essays in this book, Jamison consistently demonstrates her "willingness to look at other lives with grace, even when your own feels like shit." All of her readers are the beneficiaries of that rare gift. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer

Shelf Talker: Leslie Jamison interrogates a variety of fascinating subjects, including her own life, in her praiseworthy second essay collection.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Ian Fleming, Lorrie Moore & the Great Escape

It was at the end of these two weeks that I found myself at Lake George, the dreadful hub of tourism in the Adirondacks that has somehow managed to turn the history and the forests and the wildlife into honky-tonk. --Ian Fleming, The Spy Who Loved Me

When I was young, by mid-August the horizon thickened with ominous back-to-school clouds, but now this time of year is more likely to prompt a touch of nostalgia.

Living in upstate New York during the height of tourist season, I am immersed in a latter-day version of what Fleming witnessed during the 1950s. I'm also just a short drive from the wellspring of some of my own childhood "honky-tonk" memories--Storytown, an amusement park near Lake George.

Every year something seems to trigger memories of that place, especially in its earliest incarnation. Since I have four younger brothers, return trips across the border from our home in Vermont were an ongoing family tradition. Earlier this week, I came upon an old photo (me on a slide exiting the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe's house, while my father mysteriously peers into a downstairs window) that prompted a wave of Storytown recollections.

In 1954, Charles Wood invested $75,000 to purchase five acres on the east side of U.S. 9 between Lake George and Glens Falls, N.Y. He launched Storytown USA, an amusement park based on storybook characters--Jack & Jill; Humpty Dumpty; Hickory Dickory Dock; the House that Jack Built; Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater, etc. In the mid-1990s, he sold the hugely expanded park, called the Great Escape, to Premier Parks (Six Flags) for $37 million. A fairytale in itself, perhaps, but not the one I want to tell here.

Lake George was also the setting for Fleming's The Spy Who Loved Me, and this is where my late summer plot thickens. James Bond's creator was no fan of Charles Wood's creation. The book's narrator calls Storytown USA "a terrifying babyland nightmare which I need not describe."

That "babyland" has found its way back into my consciousness many times over the decades. In 1994, I'd only been a bookseller at the Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vt., for a couple of years when I read Lorrie Moore's Who Will Run the Frog Hospital.

Moore grew up in the Glens Falls/Lake George region. Her narrator, Berie Carr, recounts the summer of 1972, when she was 15 and worked as a cashier at an upstate New York amusement park called--wait for it--Storyland. Sils, her beautiful best friend, played Cinderella and "had to wear a strapless sateen evening gown and ride around in a big papier-mâché pumpkin coach."

Having long since left her hometown behind, Berie recalls mischievous adventures, as well as serious and consequential misadventures: "There were rides and slides," Moore writes. "There was the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe, which was a large purple boot you could climb to the top of, then coast down its aluminum tongue into a box of sand.... We were conspicuous and out of place--half mimes, half vandals. But most of the tourists smiled and ignored us. We sang along with the tinny, piped-in music, whatever it was--usually 'After the Ball' or 'Beautiful Dreamer'--but sometimes it was just the Storyland theme song:

Storyland, Storyland—
not a sad and gory land.
But a place where a lot
of your dreams come true.
Books come to life and nursery rhymes do, too.
Storyland, Storyland:
Bring the whole famil-lee!
(And Grandma-ma!)"

It's such a great novel, whether or not you have a personal connection to the region. I loved handselling it. If customers happened to have Storytown nostalgia lodged in their own memory banks, it wasn't even a challenge to get them hooked.

And that hook sinks deep because everyone's family is complicated and nobody's life is a fairytale. With her brother, Berie would search through their parents' belongings for clues: "And so Claude and I stepped in and went through stuff.... In this way we gathered information about our parents; we were true and successful spies, for our parents never gathered much about us, we believed, nor cared to, in the way that was so often the case in large families of that time."

Moore had a homecoming of sorts last year when she appeared at the Northshire Bookstore in Saratoga Springs for an event promoting her essay collection, See What Can Be Done. "I feel I'm really an upstate New York girl," she told the audience, which included me.

Last year also happened to be the 50th anniversary of my high school graduation. In the yearbook, there was a "Senior Class Prophecy" page, predicting what each member of the graduating class would be doing in 2018. Mine read: "Bob Gray... famed critic of Ian Fleming."

I was born in 1950 and Moore in 1957. Fleming often traveled through this area in the 1950s and early 1960s. I'd like to imagine there was a moment in the space-time continuum when our paths crossed. Wouldn't that have been a fairytale summer? We were all in the spy game, and Storytown became the Great Escape.

--Robert Gray, contributing editor (Column archives at Fresh Eyes Now)


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