Shelf Awareness for Thursday, October 7, 2010

Legacy Lit: Madness: Race and Insanity in a Jim Crow Asylum by Antonia Hylton

Berkley Books: Daughters of Shandong by Eve J. Chung

Berkley Books: Bergman Brothers series by Chloe Liese

Wednesday Books: Hope Ablaze by Sarah Mughal Rana

Little, Brown Ink: K Is in Trouble (a Graphic Novel) (K Is in Trouble #1) by Gary Clement

Fly Paper Products: Literary Gifts

William Morrow & Company: The Stone Home by Crystal Hana Kim


Image of the Day: Flyleaf's 'Star-Studded Audience'

Last Thursday at Flyleaf Books, Chapel Hill, N.C., Susan Gregg Gilmore read from her novel The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove for an audience that Flyleaf's co-owner Jamie Fiocco called "star-studded."

Pictured from left to right: Randall Kenan (most recently the editor of The Cross of Redemption: Uncollected Writings of James Baldwin, from which he read at Flyleaf earlier in the week), Jill McCorkle (who read from her paperback release of Going Away Shoes earlier in the month), Lee Smith (who read from Mrs. Darcy and the Blue-Eyed Stranger earlier in the month), Lynn York (author of The Sweet Life and The Piano Teacher), Susan Gregg Gilmore, and Virginia Boyd, author of One Fell Swoop.


Atria Books: The Other Valley by Scott Alexander Howard

Notes: Google Editions Launch; Lit Tatts

Google Editions will launch in the U.S. this year, followed by international launches in 2011, the Bookseller reported, adding that delegates at Tools of Change Frankfurt learned "Google Editions will be available on multiple devices, including the iPad, online via a Google 'web reader,' but will not be available on Amazon's Kindle device at launch."

Google will work with U.S. publishers on agency model terms, though Abraham Murray, product manager on Google's Books team, said, "We will meet the needs of the market, and we are accepting the agency model in the U.S., but we haven't gone after it, and as that plays out we will follow.'"

He also observed that Google was "delivering a platform for e-books that will be synched across all retailers" so that books "follow the user, won't get lost or stuck at the store, and will be ever-present in a digital library." Google will also offer a web-based reader, though at launch this won't be available for offline reading.

"We are enabling booksellers to sell the content instead of going out of business, and enabling readers to buy and read on any device, and be assured that the content will still be around," Murray said. "Nobody else is giving the bookseller a chance as we move to e-books."


Deconstructing lit tattoos. The Boston Phoenix examined the growing popularity of literary tattoos among writers, booksellers, librarians and other practitioners of the book trade in anticipation of next week's release of The Word Made Flesh: Literary Tattoos from Bookworms Worldwide by Eva Talmadge and Justin Taylor.  

"There's a lot of people in the book that are affiliated with publishing or books in some way," said Taylor. "A handful of librarians, a lot of people who work for publishing houses, magazine journalists."

Indie booksellers are prominently featured, and Taylor said she tried to photograph them in their natural habitat: "I wanted to make it a thing about bookstores and about the places where literature is consumed."

During an author event at Books & Books, Coral Gables, Florida, bookseller Becky Quiroga asked Eric Carle "to sketch a Very Hungry Caterpillar on her arm, then dashed off to the tattoo parlor to make it permanent. She says her ink has been recognized by children and baristas from Florida to Spain," the Phoenix wrote.

Kurt Vonnegut is the most popular literary tattoo author, followed by Sylvia Plath, David Foster Wallace, and Shel Silverstein. "There are as many reasons for getting tattoos as there are people willing to be marked," Talmadge said.


In his CNET article "Why you shouldn't buy an e-reader," David Carnoy wrote that as "someone who covers the e-reader market, I get a lot of questions about which e-reader is the best and whether it's better to read on the iPad and its large LCD or an e-ink display like those found on the Kindle, Nook, or Sony Readers. That's all well and good, but in my e-reader travels I've discovered a disturbing trend: a lot of people barely use their e-readers and sometimes even relegate them to what I fondly refer to as the-drawer-where-gadgets-go-to-die."


"Where were Linda and Sandy?" On their Written in the Stars blog at the Galaxy Bookshop, Hardwick, Vt., owner Linda Ramsdell and manager Sandy Scott are sharing highlights of their recent trip to the New England Independent Booksellers Association trade show with their customers.


Michael Savitz's Slate piece, "Confessions of a Used-Book Salesman," explored his electronic bar-code scanner-aided book buying tactics: "I browse the racks of thrift stores and library book sales.... I push the button, a red laser hops about, and an LCD screen lights up with the resale values. It feels like being God in his own tiny recreational casino; my judgments are sure and simple, and I always win because I have foreknowledge of all bad bets. The software I use tells me the going price, on Amazon Marketplace, of the title I just scanned, along with the all-important sales rank, so I know the book's prospects immediately. I turn a profit every time."

Savitz observed that the "book merchant of the high-cultural imagination is a literate compleat and serves the literate. He doesn't need a scanner, because he knows more than the scanner knows. I fill a different niche--I deal in collectible or meaningful books only by accident. I'm not deep, but I am broad. My customer is anyone who needs a book that I happen to find and can make money from."


Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins "played a new song during an intimate acoustic gig in France last week. Corgan performed "Jesus Needs A Hit" for a small audience in a bookshop in Paris, Gigwise reported. He was at the bookstore to help promote his latest book Chants Magnétiques, co-written with Claire Fercak. Corgan is also the author of the collection Blinking with Fists: Poems.


Amazon's CreateSpace (formerly BookSurge) POD company has reached an agreement with the Library of Congress to make at least 50,000 public domain titles available through The Library of Congress has also reached an agreement with Amazon Europe to make "tens of thousands" of public domain books available through, and


Book trailer of the day: Love, Charleston by Beth Webb Hart (Thomas Nelson), which was produced by a friend of the author whose features include Metropolitan. The music was done by the author's husband. South Carolina poet laureate Marjory Wentworth, who is also publicist for the book, has a cameo.


GLOW: Graphic Universe: Hotelitor: Luxury-Class Defense and Hospitality Unit by Josh Hicks

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Larry Kane on the Today Show

Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Larry Kane, author of Lennon Revealed (Running Press, $14.95, paper 9780762429660/0762429666; $29.95, hardcover 9780762423644/0762423641). This Saturday would have been John Lennon's 70th birthday.


Tomorrow night on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher: Richard Dawkins, author of The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution (Free Press, $16.99, 9781416594796/1416594795).


G.P. Putnam's Sons: Come and Get It by Kiley Reid

This Weekend on Book TV: Generosity Unbound

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.

Saturday, October 9

8 a.m. Steven Malanga, author of Shakedown: The Continuing Conspiracy Against the American Taxpayer (Ivan R. Dee, $22.50, 9781566636445/1566636442), argues that public sector unions and government financed community activists are bankrupting the country. (Re-airs Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 1 p.m.)

1:30 p.m. Thomas Kidd, author of God of Liberty: A Religious History of the American Revolution (Basic Books, $26.95, 9780465002351/0465002358), recounts the role religion played in the American Revolution. (Re-airs Sunday at 8 a.m. and Monday at 1 a.m.)

5 p.m. Hardy Green, author of The Company Town: The Industrial Edens and Satanic Mills That Shaped the American Economy (Basic Books, $26.95, 9780465018260/0465018262), explores the history of the American "company town." (Re-airs Saturday at 11 p.m. and Sunday at 11 a.m.)

8:30 p.m. Claire Gaudiani, author of Generosity Unbound: How American Philanthropy Can Strengthen the Economy and Expand the Middle Class (Holt, $17, 9780805076929/0805076921), argues that Americans would benefit from less government regulation of private foundations. (Re-airs Sunday at 9:30 a.m. and Monday at 4 a.m.)

10 p.m. After Words. Hamid Dabashi interviews Hooman Majd, author of The Ayatollah's Democracy: An Iranian Challenge (Norton, $26.95, 9780393072594/0393072592). Majd contends that there are many influential, liberal leaders who still believe in the Islamic Republic and a particular brand of Islamic democracy. (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)
Sunday, October 10

3 p.m. Bob Deans and Peter Lehner, co-authors of In Deep Water: The Anatomy of a Disaster, the Fate of the Gulf, and How to End Our Oil Addiction (OR Books, $17, 9781615190355/161519035X), discuss the BP oil spill and its consequences. (Re-airs Monday at 5:30 a.m.)

6:45 p.m. Fatima Bhutto, niece of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, talks about her book Songs of Blood and Sword: A Daughter's Memoir (Nation Books, $26.95, 9781568586328/1568586329).  

10 p.m. Tariq Ali, author of The Obama Syndrome: Surrender at Home, War Abroad (Verso, $16.95, 9781844674497/1844674495), contends that President Obama has continued George W. Bush's war on terror and has repeatedly capitulated to Republicans on domestic policy issues. (Re-airs Monday at 6 a.m.)


Television: The Member-Guest

HBO is developing a comedy series based on Clint McCown's novel The Member-Guest, which was published in 1995. reported that Steve Pink (High Fidelity) is writing the script and Kevin Bacon "is executive producing with an eye towards starring in the project, about a burned-out golf pro of a 9-hole course who just wants one more shot at the tour, but his comeback is constantly sidelined as he deals with the needs of the members of the Middle-American country club who are grappling with dashed dreams of their own."


Movies: Sweet Thunder

Producer Rachael Horovitz (Grey Gardens, About Schmidt) and screenwriter Danny Strong have optioned the sports biography Sweet Thunder: The Life and Times of Sugar Ray Robinson by Wil Haygood, reported. Haygood will write the screenplay.


Books & Authors

Awards: Nobel Prize in Literature; Forward Poetry Prize

The 2010 Nobel Prize in literature has been awarded to Peruvian novelist, journalist, and essayist Mario Vargas Llosa, who was praised "for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual's resistance, revolt, and defeat."

BBC News reported that Vargas Llosa, 74, "has written more than 30 novels, plays and essays. He is the first South American winner of the prize since 1982 when it went to Colombian Gabriel Garcia Marquez. His international breakthrough came with the 1960s novel The Time of The Hero. Born in the town of Arequipa, the writer took Spanish nationality in 1993--three years after an unsuccessful bid for the Peruvian presidency. In 1995, he was awarded the Cervantes Prize, the Spanish-speaking world's most distinguished literary honor."

Vargas Llosa received the news by phone this morning in the U.S., where he is "spending this semester introducing students to his philosophy of writing," according to USA Today.

"I am basically a writer, not a teacher, but I enjoy teaching because of the students, and the chance to talk to them about good literature," he said of his work at Princeton. "Good literature is not only entertainment--it is a fantastic entertainment--but it's also something that gives you a better understanding of the world in which you live."

Vargas Llosa was something of a longshot to win this year's prize, since the late odds at British handicapper Ladbrokes had favored Cormac McCarthy, Ngugi wa Thiong'o and Haruki Murakami. Vargas Llosa was listed at 25-1.


Seamus Heaney won the £10,000 (US$15,883) Forward Poetry Prize for Human Chain, a collection inspired by his experiences after a stroke in 2006, the Guardian reported.

Ruth Padel, chair of the judges, called the the book "a collection of painful, honest, and delicately weighted poems" and "a wonderful and humane achievement."

Although Heaney couldn’t attend the awards ceremony, he said, "The quality of the other books on the shortlist, my respect for the judges, and the distinction of previous winners have made this prize a prominent and highly regarded contribution to the life of poetry in this country; it is one of the most enhancing rewards which the art and the individual artist can be granted."

Hilary Menos was honored with the £5,000 Felix Dennis prize for best first collection for Berg, and Julia Copus won the prize for best single poem.


B&N Recommends Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

Barnes & Noble's newest main selection in its Recommends program is Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin (Morrow), which was released earlier this week.

B&N bookseller Jami Davis of Florence, Ky., described the novel as "a literary mystery about the tragedy of the secrets we keep. I couldn't help but be reminded of To Kill a Mockingbird." And Melissa Moore of Duluth, Minn., said, "It kept me awake until 3:00 a.m. It was so well written, on par with Greg Iles and Dennis Lehane."

B&N called Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter "a suspenseful tale of fate and friendship, Franklin's novel begins when Larry Ott returns home to find an intruder waiting for him. When a gun is jammed into Larry's chest, death seems a certainty for the reclusive outcast. Folks in his Mississippi hometown had wished him dead for more than 20 years. As Cindy Walker's date on the night she disappeared, Larry has continued to remain under suspicion by his neighbors, though the law considered the case closed long ago. But this book-loving boy, raised in a culture of hard-drinking men, never fit in, long before Cindy's disappearance. When Silas Jones and his mother moved into an abandoned cabin nearby, Larry and Silas became fast friends. Silas was fascinated by Larry's gun collection and his interest in Stephen King; Larry was intrigued by the black boy's baseball prowess and popularity. But still-simmering racial tensions would force them to hide their friendship, and when Larry was suspected of killing the missing girl, their bond was broken. Years later, they're reunited by fate when another girl disappears. While Larry lies in a hospital bed suspected of murder and attempted suicide, Silas, now the town constable, must plunge into the past to excavate a long buried secret. A beautifully composed blend of crime drama and literary fiction, Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter is a gripping revelation of human truths."



GBO October Pick: Atlas of Remote Islands

For its October book of the month, the German Book Office has chosen Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I Have Not Visited and Never Will by Judith Schalansky, translated by Christine Lo (Penguin, $28, 9780143118206/014311820X), which will be published October 5.

Atlas of Remote Islands focuses on 50 islands, from Tristan da Cunha to Clipperton Atoll, from Christmas Island to Easter Island, offering stories about each place, using historic events and scientific reports, and includes illustrations and maps. Rare animals and strange people abound: from marooned slaves to lonely scientists, lost explorers to confused lighthouse keepers, mutinous sailors to forgotten castaways, upstanding convicts to officials exiled in punishment.

Schalansky is a writer and designer. Her earlier book, Fraktur mon Amour, about the old German script, was published here by Princeton Architectural Press, and she has won several design prizes. Lo is an editor at Hachette Children's Books in London.


Shelf Starter: Running the Books

Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian by Avi Steinberg (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, $26, 9780385529099/0385529090, October 19, 2010)


Opening lines from a book we want to read:

Pimps make the best librarians. Psycho killers, the worst. Ditto con men. Gangsters, gunrunners, bank robbers--adept at crowd control, at collaborating with a small staff, at planning with deliberation and executing with contained fury--all possess the librarian's basic skill set. Scalpers and loan sharks certainly have a role to play. But even they lack that something, the je ne sais quoi, the elusive it. What would a pimp call it? Yes: the love.

Take an inmate librarian like Dice, who stayed sane during two years in the hole by memorizing a smuggled anthology of Shakespeare's plays. He's a fan of Frankenstein, saying it's the story of pimps, a specialized class of men who live by the dictates of Nature.

He means it. Like many a pimp preoccupied by ancient questions, Dice takes the old books seriously. He approves of Emersonian self-reliance, and was scandalized that many American universities had ousted Shakespeare and the Classics from their curricula. He'd read about it in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

 "You kidding me, man?" he'd said, folding the newspaper like a hassled commuter, brow arching over his shades. "Now I've heard it all. This country's going to hell."--Selected by Marilyn Dahl



Book Review

Book Review: Outside Looking In

Outside Looking in: Adventures of an Observer by Garry Wills (Viking Books, $25.95 Hardcover, 9780670022144, October 2010)

Summing up a career that's spanned more than half a century, Garry Wills describes himself as "a classicist... observing modern politics, or a political observer looking back at history." This latest book from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author, one of more than three dozen he's written, is less a conventional memoir than an entertaining, often revealing series of brief sketches of some of the intriguing people he's encountered in a life at the center of American politics and intellectual life.

Wills got his start in journalism in 1957, writing theatrical reviews for the National Review. His affectionate sketch of its founder, William Buckley, a lively and generous character who "elevated the discourse of American politics, making civil debate possible between responsible liberals and conservatives," is noteworthy for its balanced portrait of the conservative thinker (anything but a classic intellectual in Wills's opinion). Though the two men shared a compatible ideology and strong Catholic faith (Wills studied in a Jesuit seminary before abandoning and eventually obtaining a Ph.D. in classics from Yale), they became estranged over Wills's opposition to the Vietnam War and support for civil rights and had little or no contact for some 30 years, until shortly before Buckley's death.

There is an equally nuanced portrait of Richard Nixon, the subject of Wills's 1970 biography, Nixon Agonistes, and a man who impressed the author with the breadth of his reading (in striking contrast to the first President Bush), if not for the early warning signs of the character flaws that destroyed his presidency. Through assignments from magazines like Esquire and Time, Wills secured an insider's view of the presidential campaigns of Jimmy Carter, Michael Dukakis and Bill Clinton, and he offers sharp insights into each. That same freelance work brought him to the trial of Jack Ruby in Dallas and to the Memphis funeral home that briefly housed the body of Martin Luther King.

Wills's attention isn't focused entirely on politicians and epochal historical events, and the book is equally enjoyable for its portraits of some of his talented and colorful friends. He reminisces with tenderness on the public success and private travails of opera star Beverly Sills and fondly recalls the legendary oral historian Studs Terkel. Wills's first major academic position was at Johns Hopkins University, and in a single chapter he ranges over encounters with various Baltimoreans: antiwar activists Daniel and Philip Berrigan, director John Waters and Colts receiver Raymond Berry.

Wills concludes this brief volume on a self-deprecating note: "As someone so colorless, I am not interesting in myself." Most readers likely will disagree with Wills's self-assessment, and based on this lively book we can only hope a full-scale memoir is in the offing soon. --Harvey Freedenberg

Shelf Talker: Scholar and journalist Garry Wills offers a thoughtful and entertaining look at some of the well-known figures he's encountered in more than half a century as a writer.

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