Shelf Awareness for Friday, April 19, 2013

Mulholland Books: Big Time by Ben H. Winters

Peachtree Publishers: King & Kayla and the Case of the Downstairs Ghost (King & Kayla) by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Nancy Meyers

Doubleday Books: The Husbands by Holly Gramazio

Other Press (NY): Deliver Me by Malin Persson Giolito, translated by Rachel Willson-Broyles


Senate Vote on Tax Fairness Bill 'as Soon as Next Week'

The U.S. Senate may vote as early as next week on the Marketplace Fairness Act. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) plans to bring the bill directly to the floor for a vote without first referring it to the Senate Finance Committee, according to Bookselling This Week, which cited a report by the Hill that Senator Reid "filed a motion on April 16 to initiate the process of putting the bill on the Senate calendar."

"Booksellers and other Main Street retailers applaud Sen. Reid for moving to bring this important bill to the floor for a vote," said ABA CEO Oren Teicher. "This is very positive news for all those who have been campaigning for sales tax fairness. It is clear from the Senate vote in late March that there is significant bipartisan support for the Marketplace Fairness Act, and the time has come to put sales tax fairness up for a vote."

Last month, a budget resolution amendment supporting the right of states to require "remote" retailers to collect and remit sales tax on purchases made in the state was passed in the Senate by an impressive 75-24 margin.

NYU: NYU Advanced Publishing Institute

Countdown to World Book Night: Four Days to Tuesday, April 23

Bella at Village Square Booksellers in Bellows Falls, Vt., dreams about World Book Night.

The World Book Night U.S. bookstore and library giver receptions are in full swing. WBN staff turned out for the seven-author Greenlight giver reception in Brooklyn, N.Y., Wednesday night, and the first WBN kick-off celebration takes place tonight, with Nora Roberts at Turn the Page, Boonsboro, Md. Sunday, there's an event with Rick Riordan/Sandra Cisneros in San Antonio, Texas, at a brewery, hosted by Twig Book Shop. See all the events on a map.

Patti Smith's guitarist Lenny Kaye has written an original song just for WBN, to be played Monday evening at the Union Square Barnes & Noble in New York City.

Media coverage has already started, with numerous print features, including a thoughtful Contra Costa Times piece about East Bay booksellers.

At the King's English Bookshop's World Book Night reception for WBN givers, owner Betsy Burton helped Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank. The SLC Police Department is distributing WBN books under the umbrella of their HOST Program, Homeless Outreach Service Team.

Amistad Press: The Survivors of the Clotilda: The Lost Stories of the Last Captives of the American Slave Trade by Hannah Durkin

ABA Indies Choice, E.B. White Winners Announced

Winners of the 2013 Indies Choice Book Awards, honoring books members of the American Booksellers Association most enjoyed selling, have been announced.

"Once again this year, the owners and staff at ABA member stores across the country enthusiastically cast their ballots to choose the winners from an outstanding list of indie handselling favorites," said ABA CEO Oren Teicher.
This year's Indies Choice Book Awards winners include:

Adult fiction: The Round House by Louise Erdrich (Harper)
Adult nonfiction: Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed (Knopf)
Adult Debut: The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey (Little, Brown)
Young Adult: The Fault in Our Stars by by John Green (Dutton Juvenile)

The winners of the E.B. White Read-Aloud Awards are:
Middle reader: Wonder by R.J. Palacio (Knopf Books for Young Readers)
Picture book: Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett, illustrated by Jon Klassen (Balzer + Bray)

John Green will receive the Indie Champion Award (formerly Most Engaging Author prize), which was renamed by booksellers "to more clearly describe the award presented to the author or illustrator that has both the best sense of the importance of independent bookstores to their communities at large and the strongest personal commitment to foster and support the mission and passion of independent booksellers."

Indie booksellers annually select three classic picture books for induction into the Picture Book Hall of Fame, though four will enter this year due to a tie in the voting:
Bread and Jam for Frances by Russell Hoban, illustrated by Lillian Hoban (Illus.) (HarperCollins)
Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobokina (HarperCollins)
Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson (HarperCollins)
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Lane Smith (Viking Juvenile)

For a full list of winners, including honor recipients, click here. All authors will be honored at the Celebration of Bookselling Author Awards Luncheon May 30 at BookExpo America.


GLOW: Avid Reader Press: The Ministry of Time by Kaliane Bradley

'Time 100' Book Group: George Saunders, Hilary Mantel

Time magazine released its annual list of the "100 Most Influential People in the World," and while the book world was considerably less than dominant, a pair of fiction authors did make the final Time 100 cut:

George Saunders: "For more than a decade, George Saunders has been the best short-story writer in English--not 'one of,' not 'arguably,' but the Best.... George's work is a stiff tonic for the vapid agony of contemporary living--great art from the greatest guy," Mary Karr wrote.

Hilary Mantel: "[She] is a novelist of great power, wit and intelligence, one of the finest now writing in England.... Her two hefty volumes on Thomas Cromwell... have captured the British reading public and carried off all the prizes with the vigor of the narrative and minutely evoked detail of Cromwell's day-to-day life," wrote Claire Tomalin.

Soho Crime: Ash Dark as Night (A Harry Ingram Mystery) by Gary Phillips

Jersey Shore, Pa., Bookshop Closing

Jersey Shore Bookshop, Jersey Shore, Pa., will close April 30 after more than 20 years in business. The Express reported that co-owners Laura Winkleman and Sheryl Bernard "have been minding the store for the past 10 years, along with a lovable greyhound mascot."

"It is hard to say good-bye," Bernard said. "But all things have to come to an end."

"I will miss our wonderful customers most of all," Winkelman added. "We are closing because I want to retire and maybe start something new.... We just want to thank all of our loyal customers--we will really miss seeing everyone."


Image of the Day: Colby Winner Thomas P. McKenna

photo: Jordan Silverman

At the 18th annual William E. Colby Military Writer's Symposium at Norwich University, Northfield, Vt., Thomas P. McKenna, winner of this year's Colby Award for Kontum: The Battle to Save South Vietnam (University of Kentucky Press), signed a copy of his book for a cadet. In the background is Myke Cole, author of Shadow Ops: Fortress Frontier (Ace).

New Title Reveal Book Trailer: The Next Big Thing?

Book trailers are so early 21st century. Veronica Roth, author of the bestsellers Divergent and Insurgent, released a new trailer to announce the title of the final book in her trilogy, USA Today reported. Allegiant will be published October 22. The Divergent movie, starring Shailene Woodley (The Descendants) and Kate Winslet, started filming in Chicago this month.

Biblio-Snapshot: Celebrating the American Bookmobile

In celebration of National Bookmobile Day earlier this week, American Libraries magazine featured a "snapshot of our nation's bookmobiles," noting that the day is set aside during National Library Week "to recognize and honor mobile services and the dedicated employees who ensure that patrons who are unable to reach brick-and-mortar libraries can still receive library services."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Michael Ritland on 60 Minutes

Today on Piers Morgan and Inside Edition: Tom Sizemore, author of By Some Miracle I Made It Out of There: A Memoir (Atria, $26, 9781451681673).


Tomorrow on Fox's Huckabee: Sam Parnia, co-author of Erasing Death: The Science That Is Rewriting the Boundaries Between Life and Death (HarperOne, $25.99, 9780062080608).


Tomorrow on Weekend Edition: Thomas Dyja, author of The Third Coast: When Chicago Built the American Dream (Penguin Press, $29.95, 9781594204326).


Sunday on Face the Nation: David Rohde, author of Beyond War: Reimagining American Influence in a New Middle East (Viking, $27.95, 9780670026449). He will also appear on NPR's Morning Edition and Weekend Edition.


Sunday on NPR's Weekend Edition: Michael Pollan, author of Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation (Penguin Press, $27.95, 9781594204210).


Sunday on 60 Minutes: Michael Ritland, co-author of Trident K9 Warriors: My Tale From the Training Ground to the Battlefield with Elite Navy SEAL Canines (St. Martin's Press, $25.99, 9781250024978).

Fun Home: The Musical

Fun Home, a new musical based on Alison Bechdel's acclaimed graphic novel, will have its world premiere at New York City's Public Theater in October. Directed by Sam Gold, with music by Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics by Lisa Kron, Fun Home is described by the Public as "a groundbreaking, world-premiere musical about seeing your parents through grown-up eyes."

TV: New Under the Dome Teasers

Two new teasers have been released for Under the Dome, a summer series from Stephen King and Steven Spielberg for CBS based on King's novel. noted that both of them are "showcasing just how hard life will be for not only those trapped under this mysterious force field, but also for those on the other side."

Books & Authors

Awards: RSL Ondaatje Prize

The Royal Society of Literature has announced the shortlist for the £10,000 (about US$15,297) RSL Ondaatje Prize, which honors "a book of the highest literary merit--fiction, nonfiction or poetry--evoking the spirit of a place." The winner will be named May 13. This year's Ondaatje Prize shortlisted titles are:

Call Mother a Lonely Field by Liam Carson
Absolution by Patrick Flanery
Empire Antarctica by Gavin Francis
Scenes from Early Life by Philip Hensher
Names for the Sea by Sarah Moss
NW by Zadie Smith

Book Brahmin: Christina Baker Kline

Photo: Karin Diana

Christina Baker Kline, the author of five novels, grew up in Maine, England and the American South. She is married to a Midwesterner whose family history inspired her new novel, Orphan Train (Morrow, April 2, 2013). Set in present-day Maine and Depression-era Minnesota, Orphan Train highlights the real-life story of the trains that between 1854 and 1929 carried more than 200,000 abandoned children from the East Coast to the Midwest. In the book, Kline imagines the journey of one such child, Vivian Daly, an Irish immigrant whose fate is determined by luck and chance, and the story of an unlikely friendship between 91-year-old Vivian Daly, whose experiences are far behind her, and Molly Ayer, a 17-year-old Penobscot Indian girl whose own troubled adolescence leads her to seek answers to questions no one has ever asked.

On your nightstand now:

Oddly, the two books I'm reading at the moment both have "house" in the title: The Round House by Louise Erdrich and The House Girl by first-time novelist Tara Conklin, who shares my wonderful editor at Morrow, Kate Nintzel. I'm finding these novels equally engrossing; I started one at home and one when I was away, and now I'm having a hard time choosing between them. (A first-world problem if ever there was one!)

Favorite book when you were a child:

Beatrix Potter's small white-jacketed books, perfect for little hands, are often unfairly viewed as charming and a little twee. In fact, they are dark, twisted, and strange, and I was obsessed with them growing up. Take, for example, the story of Jemima Puddleduck, a "simpleton" seduced by a "bushy long-tailed gentleman" fox who sweet-talks her into collecting the herbs he's planning to use to season his meal of her. She is saved by a collie, Kep, whose puppies then eat her eggs, leaving her in tears. At the end of the book we learn that she "laid some more in June... but only four of them hatched." In another story, two industrious rats, Anna Maria and Samuel Whiskers, plot to kidnap Tom Kitten (another simpleton) and turn him into a dumpling roly-poly pudding. They bicker over everything from whether he'll taste better with breadcrumbs or butter and dough to whether the knots they've used to bind him will prove indigestible. John Joiner, another dog-hero, saves the day, and the cat family invites him to dinner as a reward, serving him the dumpling minus Tom Kitten, "with currents in it to hide the smuts." These are not exactly heartwarming stories with inspiring life lessons; it's hard to imagine getting them published today. But they were rocket fuel for my imagination.

Your top five authors:

This list is boringly predictable, but I can't lie--these are the writers I return to: George Eliot, Virginia Woolf, Gustave Flaubert, Leo Tolstoy and Jane Austen.

Book you've faked reading:

Moby Dick. Every now and then I try again, but I just can't get through those whaling bits.

Book you're an evangelist for:

I want to mention three (okay, four). The Age of Grief by Jane Smiley is a novella about a dentist who discovers his wife is having an affair and tries to shield her from heartbreak. I've read it a dozen times and still can't figure out how Smiley manages to make such a pathetic character sympathetic and complex and believable. (Another book I love from this period in Smiley's career: Ordinary Love and Good Will.) I can open The Hours by Michael Cunningham at random and find inspiration on any page. And The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent is a historical novel about Salem in the 1600s that feels authentic and true, and as such gave me the courage to write at length in Orphan Train about another historical period.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Room by Emma Donoghue. The story inside ain't too shabby, either.

Book that changed your life:

Where I'm Calling From: New and Selected Stories by Raymond Carver. I learned more by reading these stories than I did from years of writing classes about showing vs. telling, the well-chosen detail, and how to ruthlessly edit and shape my own writing.

Favorite line from a book:

From Light in August by William Faulkner: "Memory believes before knowing remembers. Believes longer than recollects, believes longer than knowing even wonders. Knows, remembers, believes." When I was in my twenties, working on my first novel, I turned these words over in my mouth like lozenges, sucking at their meaning. They were words from a fever dream, leading me deeper into my story.

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

Madame Bovary. "Human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we strum out tunes to make a bear dance, when we would move the stars to pity," Flaubert writes. In this novel, he moves the stars to pity.

Book Review

Review: The Whispering Muse

The Whispering Muse by Sjón, trans. by Victoria Cribb (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $22 hardcover, 9780374289072, May 1, 2013)

Sigurjón Birgir Sigurðsson uses the pen name Sjón--the Icelandic word for "light"--for his novels and poetry; he also performed in the Sugarcubes as Johnny Triumph and still writes lyrics for Bjork occasionally. The original Icelandic title of The Whispering Muse, his oddly thrilling mash-up of Ovid, Apollodorus and Joseph Conrad, is The Splinter from the Argo--and that should have been the English title of this delightful sea voyage stew, an amalgamation of different time periods and tales-within-tales.

The stuffy but good-natured narrator, Valdimar Haraldsson, has been obsessed for more than four decades with the inextricable "link between fish consumption and the superiority of the Nordic race," and has spent 20 years writing a 17-volume masterwork, Fish and Culture. In 1949, he receives a letter from the father of his late friend, inviting him on the maiden voyage of a family merchant ship, departing in April from Denmark to Norway, and from there to Turkey and Soviet Georgia.

Sjón's voyage is rife with suspicions, clues, curious omissions and suggestive slips leading the reader down all kinds of blind alleys. Soon, like everyone else on board, Haraldsson falls under the spell of second mate Caeneus, a muscular titan whose popular sea tales always begin with him listening to the whispers of a rotten chip of driftwood which he claims comes from the talking prow of Jason's immortal ship, the Argo. Caeneus turns out to have once been a lovely princess raped on the beach by Poseidon who, given a wish in exchange for taking her maidenhead, chose to be turned into a man so she could never be raped again.

The story this transgender sailor tells at the captain's table after dinner is a version of the legend of Jason and the Argonauts, and that tale-within-a-tale soon opens up into a Nordic version of the myth of Jason and Medea. Haraldsson interrupts this narrative tangle halfway through with an edifying lecture summoning all the forces of medicine and history to prove "that seafood is the healthiest diet available to man" and "the mainspring of the Nordic nations." But it's the storyteller inside the story who comically personalizes this time-warped retelling of Jason stories--a long-winded seaman whose eyes have a feminine twinkle. --Nick DiMartino

Shelf Talker: This translation of Sjón's 2005 novel comes with two other short novels, The Blue Fox and From the Mouth of the Whale, in matching covers.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Poetic Bracketology

My name is Bob and I'm a... bracketer. Now bracketology, as fans of NCAA college basketball's March Madness know, is an aggressive but relatively harmless obsession. It even manages to infiltrate the world of literature, especially in the annual Tournament of Books. And don't think for a moment that poetry gets off the hook. Poetic March Madness can range from the ridiculous, as in CBS Sports' attempt at a haiku preview of this year's first round:

Louisville wins big
Thursday's first after dinner
A few blowouts: fine.

to the sublime, like B.H. Fairchild's poem "Old Men Playing Basketball" (The Art of the Lathe, Alice James Books), which begins:

The heavy bodies lunge, the broken language   
of fake and drive, glamorous jump shot   
slowed to a stutter. Their gestures, in love   
again with the pure geometry of curves

Then there's the Poetry Madness bracketology happening right now at Powell's Books, Portland, Ore. To celebrate National Poetry Month, is hosting a six-round competition to determine 'The Best Poet of All Time.' Voting started April 5 and continues through April 29, with the winning bard to be announced April 30. The bracket began with 64 poets, divided into four categories: Living, Deceased, In Translation and Pacific Northwest. Each poet competes against one opponent per round, and voters control who moves on by selecting their favorite poets in the matchups.

The poetic bracketology that affects me most, however, occurs between the pages of all those volumes jammed into my poetry bookcase. We're talking real brackets here: [   ], and one reader's entire adult life spent extracting nuggets from poems that already functioned well without my scribbling interference. If a mea culpa regarding all this literary panning for gold is in order, then consider it done.

I just went downstairs, pulled a few collections from my shelves, almost but not entirely at random, and brought them back to my office. It's not the first time. This is something I do: an occasional poetic bracketology session. No point in bracketing if you don't return to the scene of the crime once in a while.

Idly flipping through pages, I realize that even if I didn't already know these books were mine, I'd recognize them because at least one out of every five pages has lines of poetry set off in hand-carved brackets. Purists and serious book collectors would be appalled at the way I deface my books, not to mention the poetry itself. But I'm a collector in my own way. I collect the insides of books as well as the insides of poems.

Bracketing in a collection I love creates a kind of commonplace book, a way to remember what I want to remember, what I need to remember. Like these lines from Tracy K. Smith's "My God, It's Full of Stars" (Life on Mars, Graywolf):

Sometimes, what I see is a library in a rural community.
All the tall shelves in the big open room. And the pencils
In a cup at Circulation, gnawed on by the entire population.

Or this from David Budbill's "After a Walk on a Gray, Drizzling, Cold Spring Morning: The Thirtieth of April" (Moment to Moment, Copper Canyon):

Each in our own place, each in our own time,
each calling distinctly, all calling together.
Sublime and earthy. This chorus of voices.

Or this from W.G. Sebald's "Giulietta's Birthday" (Across the Land and Water: Selected Poems, 1964-2001, Penguin):

One leaves behind one's portrait
Without intent.

Even in a week as brutal and inexplicable as the one we've just experienced, I'm not looking to bracketology for simple solace. The job of poetry isn't to make me feel better. If it offers a little hard-won perspective, however, I don't complain. Consider Adam Zagajewski's "Try to Praise the Mutilated World" (Without End: New & Selected Poems, FSG):

Remember June's long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of rosé wine.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.

We've traveled a considerable distance in this column, from NCAA basketball to mutilated worlds, but that's what I love about poetry, how it finds its own way. Each poem is a loner, an outcast. Poems are even born alone, though the lucky ones may find temporary shelter in literary journals or, eventually, in books where they huddle with their "collected" or "new and selected" cousins. As a reader, poetry also lives for me between the brackets. --Robert Gray, contributing editor (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now).

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