Shelf Awareness for Friday, October 2, 2009

Tordotcom: The Saint of Bright Doors by Vajra Chandrasekera

Minotaur Books: Deadlock: A Thriller (Dez Limerick Novel #2) by James Byrne

Ballantine Books: The Second Ending by Michelle Hoffman

Tor Books: One for My Enemy by Olivie Blake

Henry Holt & Company: Warrior Girl Unearthed by Angeline Boulley

Little, Brown Ink: The Princess and the Grilled Cheese Sandwich (a Graphic Novel) by Deya Muniz

Flatiron Books: Once Upon a Prime: The Wondrous Connections Between Mathematics and Literature by Sarah Hart

Quotation of the Day

Moments at a Trade Show

Speaking at yesterday's Awards Luncheon at the New England Independent Booksellers Association trade show in Hartford, Conn.:

"Thank you for doing every day what you do: bringing books to readers and readers to books, especially mine."--Geraldine Brooks

"No one in this room has gotten rich from a Ward Just title. That would include Ward Just."--Ward Just


Sourcebooks Young Readers: Global: One Fragile World. an Epic Fight for Survival. by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin, illustrated by Giovanni Rigano


Notes: New Digital Officer at HarperCollins; E-Books

Charlie Redmayne has been appointed to the newly created position of executive v-p, chief digital officer, at HarperCollins, and will be responsible for "leading and coordinating overall strategy, development and management of all digital initiatives aimed directly at the consumer across all of HarperCollins divisions," the company said.

In a statement, Redmayne said, "HarperCollins has already taken great strides on the digital front, but there is a tremendous amount of opportunity to increase online and mobile reach, find new ways of marketing and distributing our content and increase our earnings potential."

Redmayne joined HarperCollins UK in March 2008 as group digital director. Earlier he was head of commercial partnerships for Sky Online at News Corp.'s BSkyB and had launched Mykindaplace, a teen Internet company that he sold to BSkyB in 2006. He also founded and managed RCL Communications and Blink TV.


E-books have represented 5% of the sales of The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown, according to the Los Angeles Times--or about 100,000 of the two million copies sold as of Wednesday.

Noting that high initial sales of the e-book version of The Lost Symbol made some observers believe that e-books had finally found "a magic bullet--a killer app, a brilliant new device, a groundbreaking title," the Times decided that The Lost Symbol was not that groundbreaking title. Still, we think 100,000 downloads is highly respectable.


Politics and Prose, Washington, D.C., has a thoughtful take on electronic books, which the store has begun selling--and promoting--on its website. In a note to customers, owners Carla Cohen and Barbara Meade affirmed their love for the book--"the most perfect artifact ever invented"--but said that nonetheless "we find on ourselves on this e-book voyage (whether by train or rocket ship) and we are observing with you both how the platforms develop and how the publishers respond. We would love to receive your advice and thoughts."


Stephen King fans can get an early peek at the jacket for Under the Dome, which will be released November 10. USA Today reported that the jacket "is being rolled out in segments . . . It will be revealed in its entirety on Monday."


Follow construction at Books Inc.'s new location in Berkeley, Calif., on the store's website.


Tor Books: One for My Enemy by Olivie Blake

Image of the Day: A SIBA Okra Pick

Hester Bass, author of The Secret World of Walter Anderson (Candlewick, $17.99, 9780763635831/0763635839), one of the SIBA Okra Picks, during the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance trade show in Greenville, S.C., last weekend. For the full list of picks, click here.


GLOW: Blackstone Publishing: The Wisdom of Morrie: Living and Aging Creatively and Joyfully by Morrie Schwartz, edited by Rob Schwartz

Media and Movies

Television: Moby Dick

Charlie Cox (Ishmael), Donald Sutherland (Father Mapple) and Gillian Anderson (Ahab's wife, Elizabeth) have joined a cast led by William Hurt as Ahab and Ethan Hawke as Starbuck for "TeleMunchen Group's $25.5 million telepic of Moby Dick," according to Variety, which reported that the adaptation of Herman Melville's classic novel is "TeleMunchen's most expensive production ever. . . . Pic began shooting in Lunenburg, near Halifax, Canada, in mid-September and will continue in Malta."


G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Three of Us by Ore Agbaje-Williams

Movies: The Road Trailer

The trailer for The Road, adapted from Cormac McCarthy's bestselling, post-apocalyptic novel, can be viewed on the film's website. The movie, which stars Viggo Mortensen, Charlize Theron, Robert Duvall, Guy Pearce and Kodi Smit-McPhee, has its premiere November 25.


Blink: Come Home Safe by Brian G. Buckmire

Books & Authors

Awards: PEN USA Lifetime Achievement

Elmore Leonard, who has written 43 novels in his 60-year careeer, will be honored with the PEN USA lifetime achievement award on December 2. The Guardian reported that "PEN praised the 'distinct literary style' Leonard has created, which it said 'has delighted readers and influenced a new generation of writers.'"


Shelf Starters: Called Back

Called Back: My Reply to Cancer, My Return to Life by Mary Cappello (Alyson Books, $15.95 trade paper, 9781593501501/1593501501, October 2009)

Opening lines of books we want to read:

At first there were only looks and very few words. I didn't even have a name, so I asked her name, assuming that if I called her by her name, I might begin to have one.

"She" was the ultrasound technician who was examining the inner contours of my breast on a screen. Prior to my meeting her, there had been a mammography technician who called me back into her room in the hope of gaining a better purchase on the mystery, on getting the machine to hone in, to bore down into, to see. Behind the scenes, I also knew there was a doctor. Invisible as Oz's wizard, she was planted somewhere . . .

Mammograms, there's no question, are painfully unpleasant, but at least you +stand+ for them. In the ultrasound room, you are supine--which, in medical situations, as far as I'm concerned, is never good. Rather than look at the screen, I watched the ultrasound technician watching. I tried to read her face. It was peering, and at a certain point it became more alert, the way a scuba diver's might when he's found the endangered anemone he was in search of. But this nearly jubilant alertness turned almost immediately into its opposite. The nameless woman's face turned, there is only one word for it, grave. She gave me her face, her sad face, and she said, "You stay right here while I show this to the doctor."--Selected by Marilyn Dahl

Book Brahmin: Harvey Cox

In lieu of the usual biographical information, we present the following retirement party information for eminent theologian and author Harvey Cox, Hollis Professor of Divinity at Harvard emeritus, who definitely should be in a Got Milk? ad (see also the Boston Globe):
The Jersey cow from the Farm School was ensconced in the Tercentenary Theater outside Memorial Church in Harvard Yard by 4 p.m., Thursday, September 10. At 4:30, the Rev. Dr. Peter Gomes, Pusey Minister, in the Memorial Church, presided over a half-hour ceremony. Someone presented clinching evidence that the first Hollis professors did indeed graze their cows on the spot where the ceremony took place. There was a Latin (humorous) oration by Travis Stevens, a doctoral candidate at Harvard. Harvey said a few words. And someone from the Farm School said a few words about the Farm. Peter Gomes spoke about the Hollis professorship. There was a band and music.

Then the assemblage, led by the band and the cow, proceeded to the Divinity School where there was a second ceremony at 5:30. William Martin from Rice University, Harvey's first graduate student advisee, spoke, as did Diana Eck, the latter reflecting on the significance of cows in world religions. The Dean, William Graham, welcomed everyone.

From 6 to 7:30, there was a reception at the Divinity School that included a signing for Harvey's new book, The Future of Faith, published by HarperOne last month, and jazz and swing classics played by the 17-piece big band, Soft Touch, in which Harvey plays tenor sax. The cow was milked, and eventually everyone went home.

On your nightstand now:

Out by Natsuo Kirino, Garibaldi by Christopher Hibbert and Granta 106 (the New Fiction Special).

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Call of the Wild by Jack London, and later, Richard Henry Dana's Two Years Before the Mast.

Your top five authors:

Tolstoy, Thomas Mann, George Eliot, Dostoyevsky, John Updike.

Book you've faked reading:

Augustine's The City of God.
Book you're an evangelist for:

Anna Karenina.

Books that changed your life:

The Courage to Be by Paul Tillich and Letters and Papers from Prison by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Favorite line from a book:

"If we want to keep things the way they are, then we must change."--Giuseppe di Lampedusa in The Leopard.

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

The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann.

Favorite old films:

High Sierra with Humphrey Bogart and Ida Lupino, but more recently: La Strada (all-time favorite), Burnt by the Sun and 8 1/2.

Book you really liked but rarely admit it:

Gone with the Wind.

Genre of books you prefer:

Political and cultural history of the 20th century and well-written historical biographies like Jonathan Alter's The Defining Moment.


Book Review

Book Review: Neverland

Neverland: J.M. Barrie, the Du Mauriers, and the Dark Side of Peter Pan by Piers Dudgeon (Pegasus Books, $26.95 Hardcover, 9781605980638, October 2009)


Piers Dudgeon first met Daphne du Maurier, the author of Rebecca, in 1987, two years before her death. Having read and analyzed her work, he was fascinated by her other-worldly aura of personal mystery. Twenty years later her son happened to tell Dudgeon that du Maurier had requested her teenage diaries be sealed until 2039. What in the world could be in those diaries, Dudgeon asked himself. Drawn further into Daphne's mystery, he dug through letters and family documents in search of an answer.

Focusing on J.M. Barrie's role in the eventful lives of George du Maurier, his daughter Sylvia, her five sons and George's granddaughter Daphne (daughter of Gerald du Maurier), Dudgeon found connections that made his curiosity grow. Daphne was particularly close to her cousin Peter Llewelyn Davies. He and his four brothers as children had been very, very close to J.M. Barrie: they were, in fact, the inspiration for the Lost Boys in Peter Pan. Daphne's father, Gerald, was one of Barrie's favorite actors; as a frequent visitor to Gerald's house, Barrie became exceedingly close to Daphne too. In addition to finding Barrie all-too-present in the du Maurier and Llewelyn Davies households from 1897 onward, Dudgeon was struck by the high incidence of severe depression, nervous breakdowns and suicide attempts in the families. Were they particularly predisposed to mental instability or was something else going on?

George du Maurier had been drawn to hypnosis in his youth. His novels Peter Ibbetson (1891) and Trilby (1894), which turn on psychic phenomena and post-hypnotic suggestion, caused a sensation in their day and appeared to have made an impression on J.M. Barrie. As Dudgeon notes, Barrie used Ibbetson's first name for Peter Pan, acquired a St. Bernard as another homage to the same novel and, like some besotted hero-worshipping imitator, dabbled in hypnotism, psychic phenomena and, very likely, mind control.

When Dudgeon discovers that Barrie supported the Llewelyn Davies family for many years, hosted them for summers at his country place and altered the language of Sylvia's original will after her death to make him guardian of her children, he concludes that Barrie was more than a pesky George du Maurier wannabe: he was a psychotic predator bent on controlling the family. No less than D.H. Lawrence wrote to Barrie's ex-wife after Michael Llewelyn Davies drowned (mysteriously) at 20: "J.M. Barrie has a fatal touch for those he loves. They die." Daphne du Maurier was strong enough to survive Barrie's influence, Dudgeon tells us, but many others were not so lucky.--John McFarland

Shelf Talker: Piers Dudgeon presents a literary puzzle that will provoke and enthrall fans of Daphne du Maurier and J.M. Barrie. What they learn about their idols may, however, give them nightmares.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Storytelling, SIBA Style

"When I bought Mountain Crossings, I was journaling these stories that pass through each day," said Winton Porter, author of Just Passin' Thru: A Vintage Store, the Appalachian Trail, and a Cast of Unforgettable Characters. Speaking at the "Before We were Authors" panel during the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance trade show last week, he noted that the Appalachian Trail literally runs through his supply store: "If you miss it, you are lost." His book came from listening attentively to stories told to him by the more than 2,000 hikers a year who find their way to Mountain Crossings.

Porter was just one of many fine storytellers at SIBA. Not all of them were authors. It's what we do--booksellers, writers, publishers, readers. I heard many great stories from podiums and at dining tables, on the trade show floor and in the Carolina First Center's hallways and meeting rooms.

We are, as Garrison Keillor might say, a storytelling people.

Now I'm in Cleveland for the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association trade show, where I know more stories are headed my way this weekend. In upcoming columns, I'll share tales from both shows, but I decided to start with one about social networking, since that seems to be on everyone's mind lately.
As I mentioned last week, I was on a "Social Media and the Independent Bookseller" panel at SIBA with Rich Rennicks (Unbridled Books/Malaprop's Bookstore) and the ABA's Meg Smith. I've been on similar panels over the past five years, watching the discussion evolve from bookstore blogging and websites to include options like Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter (and, briefly, MySpace).

In olden times (2005?), 75% of the audience was skeptical, engaging in these online options reluctantly or not at all. Now that percentage seems to have reversed, and many--certainly not all--of the skeptics have edged toward the "Why should I?" camp rather than a flat out "No!"

But love it or hate it, social networking is a key tool in our business. At one point during the session, while Meg displayed the blog I'm an Avid Reader as an example of how even prospective booksellers are using social media effectively, we discovered that Janet Geddis--the blog's creator, who hopes to open Avid Bookshop, Athens, Ga., in the not-so-distant future--was sitting in the front row.

Once in the discussion, she made some excellent contributions. Afterward, I asked her to tell her own social media story: "I dream of the day I can run events, handsell to curious customers, and organize Avid Bookshop's shelves--but for now I have to bide my time and wait for the stars (and dollars) to align. Though I'm usually rather impatient, this process of planning a bookstore has taught me to take my time and lay the proper groundwork before jumping in. Because I am not flush with cash and know no rich benefactor who wishes to bestow her wealth unto me, I chose instead to get in touch with my customers before the opening date is set. Through my blog and personal Facebook page, I'm attempting to engage people in dialogues about literature and reading; so far, it's working and gaining momentum every day. More people keep spreading the word on my behalf, which is humbling and exciting. I've gotten to the point where strangers recognize me and have heard about the bookstore."

Geddis praised her Twitter account for allowing her to "join a really strong network of independent booksellers, writers, readers and publishers. To start a business from scratch is a huge undertaking, but being able to harness social media outlets means that lots of the pesky questions that bog new people down aren't bugging me so much."

She cited the recent example of working on her business plan and wondering about staff discounts. "I Tweeted my question and had several answers within minutes."

"My feeling is that social media tools are indispensable to prospective booksellers," Geddis concluded. "What better way to get your feet wet and start conversations with people you might not come across in your day-to-day life? Athens has no indie that sells new books, which means I have to go on long drives to meet booksellers face to face. Through my Twitter account I've been able to befriend people all over the country who own and/or work in independent bookstores."

The story of Avid Bookshop is still being written and we'll get to watch the creation of an indie bookshop through the window of social networking. Our book community is always telling new stories.--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)


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