Yeats on the Book Trade
"There have been men who loved the future like a mistress, and the future mixed her breath into their breath and shook her hair about them, and hid them from the understanding of their times."
"There have been men who loved the future like a mistress, and the future mixed her breath into their breath and shook her hair about them, and hid them from the understanding of their times."
General retail sales in July were "a mixed bag but mostly disappointing," as Ken Perkins, president of Retail Metrics, put it to the Wall Street Journal.
Sales at stores open at least a year rose 2.9% compared to a 5.1% drop a year ago, as measured by Thomson Reuters. Among the few standout categories: discount stores, whose sales were up 3.9%, and department stores, which rose 3.6%.
The International Council of Shopping Centers said same-store sales in every category, even with some gains, were below the average of those categories for the year to date. In most cases, sales were below analysts' expectations.
Observers blamed sluggish results on continued high unemployment and consumers' fears of a slowdown in the second half of the year--the latter of which has the potential to be self-fulfilling. Some retailers reported that shoppers continue to look for deals. The New York Times noted that rather than spending at old levels, "consumers have been paying down debt or saving more. In June, Americans saved 6.4% of their after-tax income, about triple the rate before the recession."
Sherif Mityas of A.T. Kearney predicted heavy discounting in the fall. He told the Journal: "The recovery retailers thought was coming earlier in the year hasn't materialized, and I think you are going to see a bit of panic start setting in among retailers the second half of the year."
This weekend be sure to catch Shelf Awareness publisher and co-founder Jenn Risko, who talks on C-Span 2's Book TV about several noteworthy titles being released in the fall, ranging from memoirs by George W. Bush, Tony Blair and Condoleezza Rice to the personal papers of Nelson Mandela and presidential diaries of Jimmy Carter. Her segment first airs on Saturday at 7 p.m. The show re-airs Sunday at 6 a.m. and 4:15 p.m., and Monday at 2:30 a.m.
Trading Pages, Lyman, S.C., opens today and owner Betty Tourville said, "I really feel excited about this. This is a new adventure. I'm very optimistic that this will be successful." The Spartanburg Herald-Journal reported that Trading Pages currently has an inventory of more than 5,000 books, of which 80% are used. Plans call for adding "a tea room with cafe seating outside and wifi Internet service."
Google, which has the self-imposed task of digitizing every book in the world, has counted them: 129,864,880. Read about the company's reasoning and definitions on Inside Google Books.
What do people buy books?
Here are just a few of the reasons given by friends to publicist and writer Arielle Ford, as detailed on the Huffington Post:
• I am a back cover kind of gal! If it reads well, I buy it.
• At my local bookstore, I read the shelf talkers (written by the staff) on which books they enjoyed and why.
• I'm influenced by cross-promotion campaigns, like Amazon's, where they keep track of book reviews I write and leave on their site, and so I get e-mails promoting new books coming out in that genre.
Bookselling This Week profiled the Little Read Book, Wauwatosa, Wis., which just celebrated its 25th anniversary. The store is very active in the community and has always carried sidelines, which have included llama manure from a llama farm run by owner Linda Burg's sister.
Some customers use e-readers, but, Burg thinks, BTW wrote, "the store is well-positioned to meet the needs of its core customers: 'The people that come here... want referrals, want to talk books, want to buy books.' "
BTW served up a story about the "old (and profitable) mix" of books and booze. The stores include the Spotty Dog Books & Ale, Hudson, N.Y., I Know You Like a Book in Peoria Heights, Ill., and Taylor Books, Charleston, W.Va.
The distilled wisdom: "Installing a bar can be a moneymaker, even if just a modest selection of wines and beers are sold."
BTW surveyed several publishers and distributors--including Candlewick, Perseus Books Group and Workman--that are offering some programs and terms designed "to help booksellers weather the stalled economy and shrinking credit access."
In a literary celebration of U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker striking down of California's Proposition 8, the Los Angeles Times Jacket Copy
blog showcased 20 classic works of gay literature "that have provided a
richer understanding of the joys and challenges particular to gay
In a q&a in Heyday's blog, Luan Stauss of Laurel Book Store in Oakland, Calif., was asked, "What is the hardest part about working at a bookstore?"
Her response: "The public's perception that there are no independent, neighborhood book stores around. We're here, we're just often overlooked. And the perception that online sellers can do more than we can. Indies can do so much more than put a book in your mailbox, or we can do just that if that's what you want. Many don't realize how much we support our local economies and how little the others do."
Heyday Books is now officially Heyday, a reflection of changes at the Berkeley, Calif., publishing house that has marked several milestones recently. Last year the press had its first $1 million year. In 2008 it moved to a larger building. It's also expanded the list and hired new staff.
Heyday now sees itself as "an independent, nonprofit publisher and unique cultural institution" whose mission is to "promote widespread awareness and celebration of California's many cultures, landscapes, and boundary-breaking ideas. Through our well-crafted books, public events, and innovative outreach programs we are building a vibrant community of readers, writers, and thinkers." Those events and programs include nature walks, city-wide celebrations and meetings in Heyday offices to discuss the future of California. (Heyday's tagline is "into California.") It also is working with more organizations, including the Oakland Zoo, Yosemite and Santa Clara University, on books, has a digital component to its catalogue and will publish its first e-book next year.
reported that a "life-sized bronze statue of poet Philip Larkin for the
Paragon Interchange in Hull has been given the go-ahead by the city
council." Larkin lived in Hull for 30 years, combining "a celebrated
writing career with his role as librarian at Hull University."
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, Grady Smith of Entertainment Weekly's Shelf Life blog offered another serving of beach reads with a literary twist: "Common logic seems to suggest that the best kind of book to read during your summer vacation is one with as much complexity as a bucket of sand--you know, chick-lit, celebrity memoirs, James Patterson novels. Why think when you can tan? These sorts of books have never really worked for me, though. Don't get me wrong, I understand the turn-off-your-brain appeal of such titles, but I think I'm just a different breed of vacationer. When I'm sitting on the beach, looking out at the ocean, I don't feel dumb and lazy--I feel profound!"
Debating the chick-lit label. In the Guardian, Michele Gorman responded to D.J. Connell's previous assertion that the chick-lit label is offensive by writing that she is "proud to be a chick-lit author. I write the kind of novel that gets spattered with margarita and suncream rather than soaked in Booker-type praise. You know the books I mean. You need only look for their pastel covers, or follow the trail that leads to one of their many detractors-- for they make some women spit with gender-bashing venom."
Gorman took issue "with those who dismiss all chick-lit as poorly-written fodder for the dim-witted reader. There are some appallingly bad books (as I discovered), but that's true of every single genre. And there are some dim-witted readers, and that's also true across the genres. But saying that chick-lit can't be well-written is a little like saying that pretty girls can't be smart. It's ludicrous. And it's wrong. There are some very good writers of very funny chick-lit and, as a writer, to purposely distance yourself from these talents isn't only short-sighted, it's insulting."
For your listening pleasure. Beautiful Books will publish an audiobook version of the Kama Sutra, the Washington Post reported. Simon Petherick, the British publisher's managing director, said, "Now there's no need to feel embarrassed by reading a copy of this wonderful and important book in public--simply download it on to your mp3 player and liven up your commute to work."
Two writers differ on whether independent bookstores will benefit from the travails of Barnes & Noble, now up for sale, and Borders. On Portfolio, news editor Kent Bernhard, Jr., cited the example of record stores: "They're still around, but many of the ones that are thriving are the small mom and pop shops that have carved out a special niche, namely selling used CDs or that old stand-by vinyl."
He continued: "As small businesses, [indies] are generally better at responding quickly to economic trends than their larger brothers. They've also been used to competing with players who might have more pricing power than they do, thanks, ironically, to the longstanding presence of the chains like Borders and Barnes & Noble."
Hut Landon, executive director of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association, told Portfolio that among indies' advantages is the shop local movement, "something we've got that Barnes & Noble and Amazon don't have."
On the other hand, writer, critique and former bookseller Sven Birkerts wrote in the Wall Street Journal that he doubts a revival of independent bookstores will happen. "Not only because books are rapidly changing their status as products, ceding primacy to electronic files, but because the idea of the independent bookstore has been tagged in the public mind as quaint, as retro. Book emporia have been banished to the margins. Of cities and towns: condemned to low-rent thrift store-like venues. Of people's awareness: they have a sepia-tinge of then about them already.
"This grieves me. This is a loss far bigger than a loss of a particular kind of access to books. It marks the effective removal of what is finally a symbolic representation. Less and less will it seem right and natural, expected and desirable, that people should gather in appealing public spaces for the sole purpose of catering to, and perhaps flaunting, their mental (their inner) lives. Less and less is it already happening that this thread unexpectedly leads to that with the counter clerk, or even another customer, suddenly blurting, 'Oh, if you haven't read--' That species of retail adventure is already being replaced by preference algorithms: the Pandorification of America."
Today on Fresh Air: Rafael Yglesias, author of A Happy Marriage (Scribner, $16, 9781439102312/1439102317).
Relativity "won the bidding war to the movie rights for Nicholas Sparks' upcoming novel Safe Haven, with Temple Hill's Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey the lucky producers attached," according to the Hollywood Reporter, which noted that Relativity "will become an active marketing force in Safe Haven's book launch. As part of the deal, Relativity will partner with Grand Central Publishing to support the book and will use its Rogue Network, its social site that the company says receives more than 50 million views a month, as part of the campaign."
Tim Blake Nelson has been added to a cast that already includes John Krasinski, Drew Barrymore and Kristen Bell for the film version of Tom Rose's book Freeing the Whales: How the Media Created the World's Greatest Non-Event. Set "in Cold War-era 1988, Whales tells the true story of a small-town news reporter (Krasinski) and a Greenpeace volunteer (Barrymore) who enlist the help of rival superpowers to save three majestic gray whales trapped under the ice of the Arctic Circle," the Hollywood Reporter wrote. Ken Kwapis is directing.
Fox has acquired the screen rights to 29: A Novel by Adena Halpern. According to the Hollywood Reporter, "no director or writer is attached, though the studio is hoping to turn the book into 'an event movie for women.' "
Who says no one cares about literature anymore? The Man Booker Prize for fiction seems to generate considerable interest among literary punters in the U.K. The current favorites are David Mitchell's The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet and Tom McCarthy's C, with Peter Carey's Parrot and Olivier in America and The Slap by Christos Tsiolkas running close behind.You can check out the latest betting odds from bookmaker William Hill here. The Man Booker prize shortlist will be announced September 7 and a winner named October 12.
The German Book Office has picked three books for its August book of the month. The three--one classic and two contemporary novels--are part of Melville House's Art of the Novella line:
Michael Kohlhaas by Heinrich von Kleist ($10, 9780976140726/0976140721), a classic of German literature that was first published in 1810, "tells the story of a 16th-century man who suffers injustice and takes the law into his own hands. After horse trader Kohlhaas protests an unfair tax, things escalate until he becomes the heroic leader of a rebellion against the king."
Close to Jedenew by Kevin Vennemann, translated by Ross Benjamin ($13, 9781933633398/1933633395) "begins like a classic German fable: Children from the rural village of Jedenew, Poland, get together late at night to play together in the dark woods. But their game is to pretend they live in the imaginary world of the Jedenew that came before them--when it wasn't occupied by the Nazis, and their Jewish friends weren't mysteriously disappearing one by one."
The Tower, the Zoo, and the Tortoise by Julia Stuart (Doubelday $24.95, 9780385533287/0385533284, August 10, 2010)
Opening lines of a book we want to read:
Standing on the battlements in his pajamas, Balthazar Jones looked out across the Thames where Henry III's polar bear had once fished for salmon while tied to a rope. The Beefeater failed to notice the cold that pierced his dressing gown with deadly precision, or the wretched damp that crept around his ankles. Placing his frozen hands on the ancient parapet, he tilted back his head and inhaled the night. There it was again.
The undeniable aroma had fluttered past his capacious nostrils several hours earlier as he lay sleeping in the Tower of London, his home for the last eight years. Assuming such wonderment was an oasis in his usual gruesome dreams, he scratched at the hairs that covered his chest like freshly fallen ash and descended back into ragged slumber. It wasn’t until he rolled onto his side, away from his wife and her souk of competing odours, that he smelt it once again. Recognising instantly the exquisite scent of the world’s rarest rainfall, the Beefeater sat bolt upright in the darkness, his eyes open wide like those of a baby bird.--Selected by Marilyn Dahl
Former journalist, college professor and city planner Charles Euchner is the author or editor of nine books; the latest is Nobody Turn Me Around: A People's History of the 1963 March on Washington (Beacon, June 2010). He is the creator of the Writing Code, a seminar program for businesses, schools and universities, and journalists and authors.
On your nightstand now:
The Eyes of Willie McGee by Alex Heard, about the execution of a black Mississippi man for an alleged rape, and the tangled story of race and sex and some of the first mid-century rumblings of civil rights activism. Open by Andre Agassi is a model of strong writing; his ghostwriter, J.R. Moehringer, the author of The Tender Bar, seems to do every single thing right. I'm also reading John Milton Cooper's Woodrow Wilson, the last century's version of Barack Obama. I'm constantly reading about the brain--books like How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer, and Why We Make Mistakes by Joseph Hallinan, and The Meme Machine by Susan Blackmore--because I'm constantly trying to understand, as a writer, how readers experience the world and how best to connect with them intellectually and emotionally.
Favorite book when you were a child:
Probably Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. The book carries so many memories burned into my psyche--those lazy summer days on the Mississippi, the cleverness of Tom's incipient entrepreneurship, the deep childhood friendship of Tom and Huck and Jim, the annoying presence of adults who cannot fathom the dreams of youth, the iconic bootlicker Sidney, the budding romance of Tom and Becky, and the encounter with danger in the cave. It's hard to imagine a book that speaks more honestly and humanely about what childhood is all about, whatever the century. And, yes, while it's an indelible portrait of America, I bet it's also the story of childhood anywhere kids are rambunctious and adventurous.
Your top five authors:
Milan Kundera is the most powerful voice for the modern era (at least, that I know) with his depiction of totalitarianism and the heroism people need in their everyday lives to maintain their humanity; The Unbearable Lightness of Being brings together all of life's tragedies and joys with memorable characters and moments. Truman Capote's style amazes me. He manages to be both lush and direct at the same time in Breakfast at Tiffany's. Even more impressive is In Cold Blood, which offers a clinic on every challenge that writers face; I even give a seminar called "The Truman Show" on what his technique can teach writers. Yes, I know he skirted the truth in the book, but his fibs were completely unnecessary and do not undo his mastery of nonfiction narrative. To laugh, I'll read David Lodge (I especially love Changing Places) and Thomas Berger (especially The Houseguest, Being Invisible and Meeting Evil). Joyce Carol Oates has a range that's hard to fathom. Can I add a few more? Thanks. Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried, Robert Caro's The Power Broker (flawed, but the best book I've ever read about American politics) and Tom Wolfe (though he cannot seem to write endings worthy of his novels).
Book you've faked reading:
Henry Fielding's Tom Jones, in college. It was just too damn long. My faking was not unnoticed. I got a terrible grade for a paper comparing the book and movie treatments of the story. I still feel guilty and will one day read it.
Book you’re an evangelist for:
Christopher Alexander's A Pattern Language. One of the last century's most important architects, Alexander's design strategy offers a code for how to live authentic, rich lives. A Pattern Language describes 253 specific strategies to build spaces ranging in size from the corner or a room to a whole region. Alexander insists on organic process. Rather than dictating every move in a rigid plan, Alexander argues for designs evolve. All great spaces, Alexander says, are really complex concatenations of small pieces. Each one of those small pieces enhances everything around it; as Alexander teaches in another work, The Timeless Way of Building, every act of construction should also be an act of repair. A Pattern Language is such a life-transforming work that I offer friends a money-back guarantee. Get it and read it, and if you are in any way dissatisfied, send it to me for a complete refund.
Book you've bought for the cover:
I can't think of any--which just means that the power of subliminal seduction is too powerful for me to notice, not that I'm immune to slick packaging. I do buy books when I see blurbs from people whose writing style I like and whose judgment I trust.
Book that changed your life:
I once asked Ann Cook, who taught a two-semester Shakespeare class at Vanderbilt, what her favorite play was. "Whatever I'm reading at the moment," she said. Every book changes my life, at least a little. For example: I just read a book about "subliteral language" and I learned a lot about how people say things when they don't want to be honest with themselves or others. The writing was awkward and the ideas half-baked, but I packed away some interesting nuggets. When I was in grad school, I read Marx and Wittgenstein, whose ideas influence me everyday, though not in ways you might suspect. When I broke down Capote's In Cold Blood, I learned more about writing than ever before, so that changed my life too. Thomas Moore's Care of the Soul helped me open up to some long-dormant spiritual concerns; Henri Nouwen's The Parable of the Prodigal Son took me deeper. Chris Alexander's A Pattern Language showed me the connection between ideas and practice, in ways I think about every day. I'm ready to be changed all the time. Got a suggestion?
Favorite line from a book:
I always laugh out loud when I read a passage in which the narrator describes grad school life in Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men. The passage starts like this: "Long ago Jack Burden was a graduate student, working for his Ph.D. in American History in the State University of his native state. This Jack Burden (of whom the present Jack Burden, Me, is a legal, biological, and perhaps even meta-physical continuator) lived in a slatternly apartment with two other graduate students, one industrious, stupid, unlucky, and alcoholic and the other idle, intelligent, lucky, and alcoholic." Mama, don't let your babies grow up to be academics!
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Anything by Hemingway. I have dipped into some of his journalism, For Whom the Bell Tolls and A Farewell to Arms lately. I would love to have a Hemingway marathon on a road trip. His genius gets lost in all the clichés about his simple, terse style. He wasn't a genius because he wrote simply. He was a genius because he wrote just enough to make you feel the sensations of the moment and then let you bring something to the story too. And he was a genius because he captured people in their moments of recognition.
For a new bookstore, the word "open" has two connotations. First, you open your business, and then you hope all of your careful preparations will entice readers to open your front door and come inside. The first opening is celebratory; the second will be an ongoing challenge as long as you own the shop.
Yes, I concede there are other crucial openings--customers open books that intrigue them and then, ideally, open their wallets--but we'll stick to the first two examples this week.
Last November, in the small upstate New York town of Cambridge, Connie Brooks and her husband, Chris, opened Battenkill Books. Since then, many locals and tourists have opened the shop's front door and entered, as I did this week, to meet Connie and explore her beautiful bookstore.
The first question any bookseller is likely to have when meeting someone who has chosen to enter the trade is basic: Why?
Connie said the path "that led us to the bookstore is as much about the path that led us to Cambridge." They had attended college in the region--Connie at Skidmore and Chris at RPI. They lived in Japan for a time, "and then London--a bibliophile's dream, of course. I've worked in marketing and fundraising. We moved to Cambridge four years ago--we were very consciously leaving suburban Connecticut behind and embracing a life outside of that rat race. Chris runs his own small engineering firm, and he primarily works with farmers in Vermont on sustainable energy (growing oil seeds to turn into fuel, for example)."
The following were the 10 bestselling titles at AbeBooks.com during July:
1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
2. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
3. The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
4. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson
5. Galapagos: Discovery on Darwin's Island by David W. Steadman
6. Night by Elie Wiesel
7. Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle
8. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell
9. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
10. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
The following were the 10 bestselling signed titles at AbeBooks.com during July:
1. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet by David Mitchell
2. The Passage by Justin Cronin
3. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
4. Black Swan Green by David Mitchell
5. Mr. Peanut by Adam Ross
6. Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes
7. Faithful Place by Tana French
8. Think of a Number by John Verdon
9. Hitch 22 by Christopher Hitchens
10. The Adventure of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle by Patrick Rothfuss
[Many thanks to AbeBooks.com!]