Happy Fourth of July!
Because of Independence Day tomorrow, this is our last issue until Friday, July 5, when we'll sneak back for a quick hello. Enjoy the holiday!
Because of Independence Day tomorrow, this is our last issue until Friday, July 5, when we'll sneak back for a quick hello. Enjoy the holiday!
Cengage Learning, the textbook and education company that was originally Thomson Learning and is now owned by private equity funds, filed for Chapter 11 yesterday as a move to reduce its $5.8 billion in debt, the New York Times reported. The company said it has concluded a restructuring agreement with lends who hold $2 billion of its first-lien debt; the restructuring will do away with $4 billion of its debt.
"The decisive actions we are taking today will reduce our debt and improve our capital structure to support our long-term business strategy of transitioning from traditional print models to digital educational and research materials," Cengage Learning CEO Michael Hansen said.
Cengage was sold by Thomson in 2007 when Thomson was about to merge with Reuters. In 2008, Cengage bought the college publishing division of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and in 2011, it bought National Geographic's digital and print school publishing unit.
The plot continued to thicken in the case against Mark Brixey, former director of Missouri State University's bookstore, who pleaded guilty in March to embezzling $1.16 million over a 10-year period. On Monday, a federal judge approved a "preliminary order of forfeiture that requires Brixey to hand over 12 certificates of deposit he has at a credit union," the Springfield News-Leader reported.
Penni Groves, general counsel for MSU, said she believes the CDs represent $144,000 the university previously said it expected to recover. MSU has also filed an insurance claim and expects to recover $1 million. At the request of prosecutors, U.S. District Judge Gary A. Fenner also ordered Brixey make restitution for the $1.16 million he stole.
"It does not necessarily mean he has that money on hand," said Don Ledford, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office. "I can't tell you what his financial worth is. But part of the reason for instituting a money judgment is that it stays with him for the rest of his life."
Amazon has launched a new branch of its Kindle Singles publishing imprint in Germany. The Digital Reader reported the online retailer has opened a new section of the German Kindle Store, which "currently stocks 417 titles, 368 of which are in English. The e-books are priced from €.99 [about US$1.28] to €2.99."
At launch, the German language works in the Kindle Single Store are translations, the Digital Reader noted, adding that "Amazon will be accepting new works from German authors in September 2013--shortly after Laurenz Bolliger joins Amazon to take over the program. Bolliger is currently the head of international literature at the German publisher DuMont Verlag."
|Newsstand staffers Eddie Goldblatt, Lele Saveri and Jamie Falkowski.
photo: Robert Wright/NYT
The Newsstand, a pop-up shop located at the Metropolitan Avenue subway station in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn until July 20, "has transformed an ordinary subway space into a store for independently published magazines, books, comics and zines. In a digitalized world, it is a small haven for printed media," the New York Times reported.
Offering "a kind of 'staff picks' for the tight space," the Newsstand carries selections from McNally-Jackson Books in SoHo, Dashwood Books on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the Desert Island bookstore in Williamsburg and Ohwow in Greenwich Village, the Times wrote. The shop, which opened June 15, splits profits with the bookstores.
"I was trying to find a way of supporting that scene without stepping on their toes," said manager Lele Saveri of the stores he asked to participate.
Although the Metropolitan Transportation Authority usually leases spaces by the year, it was open to a short-term tenant for the Newsstand. "They had an interesting and innovative proposal for how to have an amenity in there for our customers and generate a little revenue for us," said Adam Lisberg, an authority spokesman.
On Monday, Ingram launched IngramSpark, a publish-on-demand service that "provides independent publishers with simple, cost-effective access to Ingram's global distribution network for print titles and e-book content."
On Sunday, Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, Wash., celebrated its 40th anniversary with a large party in its beautiful space. Speakers and guests included owner Peter Aaron, senior book buyer Rick Simonson, ABA CEO Oren Teicher (far r. on the stairs) and founder Walter Carr (l., with microphone).
"Area independent bookstores appear to be surviving--even in the midst of the e-reader craze and the proliferation of online booksellers," the Houston Chronicle reported after checking in with several of the city's indie booksellers.
"A bookstore has to say, 'This is what I do best. This is what I can communicate,' " said Jeremy Ellis, general manager of Brazos Bookstore. "Digging into that--that's the trick. And that's the hardest thing."
Murder by the Book owner McKenna Jordan agreed: "We have to make sure that we're on top of our game."
Valerie Koehler, owner of Blue Willow Bookshop, said she has "seen the industry change so much, it's unbelievable. It's changed a lot, but that's not a bad thing.... It's just a matter of finding what you do well and honing in on it.... People come to us because they trust us. We're doing fine. We're busy."
GeekWire columnist Mónica Guzmán was filming her baby's "small, assisted zig-zag steps" between the shelves at the Ravenna Third Place Books, Seattle, Wash., when she "looked at him and said something surprising: 'I hope bookstores still exist when you're old enough to read.' Immediately I checked myself. Did I mean that? Yeah. Apparently I did."
Admitting that for years she has "subscribed to the practical notion that e-books are probably the future," she decided she had "been missing something. Something books and bookstores have that digital itself can't replace. Something I've sensed and respected more in the last few months than I have in years. In a word, weight."
Subsequent trips to the Harvard Coop, Cambridge, Mass. ("I don't know why I've hesitated to acknowledge the reverence I feel when I open the door to a bookstore and step in. All those words. A few steps in and you're surrounded.") and Seattle's Elliott Bay Book Company ("The more I think about it, the more true it seems: Bookstores are not just exhibitors of merchandise. They are temples to human thought.") confirmed her insight.
While not ready to abandon the digital book world completely, Guzmán wrote: "I never would have predicted this, back when I started reading so much on my Kindle, but I like going to bookstores now not just to discover books I haven't read, but to make contact with the books I have read and to share a space with great stories. The bookstore in my pocket is easy enough to use. But it's not this easy to feel.... I do hope bookstores stick around. But not out of a preference for bookstores or for printed books. I just think we need a place where, in our rush to condense and contain, our biggest ideas can be bigger than us."
The Wednesday Daughters: A Novel by Meg Waite Clayton (Ballantine).
This morning on CBS This Morning: Myra Mixon, co-author of Everyday Barbecue: At Home with America's Favorite Pitmaster (Ballantine, $24, 9780345543646).
This morning on Good Morning America: Chris Powell, author of Chris Powell's Choose More, Lose More for Life (Hyperion, $24.99, 9781401324841).
Tomorrow morning on Marketplace Morning Report: Brett Martin, author of Difficult Men: Behind the Scenes of a Creative Revolution: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad (Penguin Press, $27.95, 9781594204197).
Tomorrow on Live with Kelly and Michael: Guy Fieri, co-author of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives: The Funky Finds in Flavortown: America's Classic Joints and Killer Comfort Food (Morrow, $21.99, 9780062244659).
Tomorrow on KCRW's Bookworm: Isabelle Allende, author of Maya's Notebook (Harper, $27.99, 9780062105622). As the show put it: "Isabel Allende wrote her latest novel as an 'exorcism.' The heroine of Maya's Notebook is a troubled teenager, who seeks refuge from the demon of addiction on a remote Chilean island, but she is also a symbol: for a host of social ills in post-socialist Chile and present-day America. Allende discusses the literature (and folklore) of the exile, the family, and the addict."
Tomorrow on NPR's Here and Now: Daniel James Brown, author of The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics (Viking, $28.95, 9780670025817).
Tomorrow on Dr. Oz: Marilu Henner, author of Total Memory Makeover: Uncover Your Past, Take Charge of Your Future (Gallery, $16, 9781451651232).
Tomorrow on Tavis Smiley: Phil Jackson, co-author of Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success (Penguin Press, $27.95, 9781594205118).
Tomorrow night on a repeat of the Tonight Show with Jay Leno: Jessica Buchanan, co-author of Impossible Odds: The Kidnapping of Jessica Buchanan and Her Dramatic Rescue by SEAL Team Six (Atria, $26, 9781476725161).
Friday on Rachael Ray: Mimi Spencer, co-author of The FastDiet Cookbook: 150 Delicious, Calorie-Controlled Meals to Make Your Fasting Days Easy (Atria, $25.99, 9781476749198).
Friday on Tavis Smiley: Temple Grandin, co-author of The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28, 9780547636450).
A new teaser trailer has been released for The Boxtrolls, a stop-motion animated movie from Laika (Coraline, ParaNorman) based on Alan Snow's graphic novel Here Be Monsters!. Buzzfeed noted that the movie, which features the voices of Elle Fanning, Simon Pegg, Ben Kingsley, Toni Collette, Nick Frost and Jared Harris, "doesn't arrive until Sept. 26, 2014. So far away!"
Director Peter Jackson's new video blog about filming The Hobbit: Desolation Of Smaug "starts off by letting fans headed to San Diego [Comic-Con] that not only will Jackson not be there, but the movie won't be making a presence at all, citing a packed schedule and the fact he's still filming 'Smaug.' That means no sizzle reel, no panel, no actors--nada. Sorry folks, especially those who were already planning some Middle Earth cosplay. But hopefully this little featurette will be enough to tide you over, taking viewers behind the scenes of pick-ups for Smaug and more," Indiewire noted. The movie opens December 13.
For the first time since the inception of the Alan Paton Award (1989) and Fiction Prize (2001), women authors won both categories of the Sunday Times Literary Awards, Media Update reported. Redi Tlhab took the Alan Paton Award for Endings and Beginnings, and Karen Jayes's For the Mercy of Water claimed the Fiction Prize. Both books are debut novels. In addition, Nadine Gordimer received the first Sunday Times Lifetime Achievement Award for Literature.
Finalists have been announced for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award, run in partnership with WH Smith to celebrate the best in crime writing from British and Irish authors. The winner receives £3000 (about US$4,565) and a handmade, engraved beer barrel provided by Theakstons Old Peculier. This year's shortlisted titles are:
Rush of Blood by Mark Billingham
Safe House by Chris Ewan
The Lewis Man by Peter May
Gods and Beasts by Denise Mina
Stolen Souls by Stuart Neville
A Dark Redemption by Stav Sherez
Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, July 9:
I Hate to Leave This Beautiful Place by Howard Norman (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26, 9780547385426) is the memoir of the novelist.
A Treacherous Paradise by Henning Mankell, translated by Laurie Thompson (Knopf, $26.95, 9780307961228) follows the twice-widowed Swedish owner of a bordello in colonial East Africa.
The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian (Doubleday, $25.95, 9780385534819) is a serial murder mystery set around Florence during and after World War II.
Growing Up Gronk: A Family's Story of Raising Champions by Gordon Gronkowski (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25, 9780544126688) explores a family that includes several professional football players.
Letters from Skye: A Novel by Jessica Brockmole (Ballantine, $25, 9780345542601) follows a half-century romantic correspondence.
The Soul of All Living Creatures: What Animals Can Teach Us About Being Human by Vint Virga (Crown, $25, 9780307718860) gives a veterinarian's view on human-animal relations.
Crucible (Star Wars) by Troy Denning (LucasBooks, $27, 9780345511423) continues the adventures of Han, Leia and Luke.
James Lear is the author of several gay erotic novels, including The Palace of Varieties. His newest, The Hardest Thing (Cleis Press)--the first in a series featuring ex-Marine Jack Stagg--is Lear's take on the macho Lee Child/Jack Reacher genre.
On your nightstand now:
I'm currently reading The Nether World by George Gissing. It's a fantastic and little-known novel about working-class London in the 1880s by one of my favorite Victorian writers. Coincidentally, the title sounds like a James Lear novel, because I always try to work in a none-too-subtle reference to the male sexual parts.
Favorite book when you were a child:
The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis. I love the whole Narnia sequence, but that one in particular stood out for me, largely because it features a hidden underworld populated by strange creatures--a bit like the London gay scene I grew up in. And there's a great bit in which the handsome hero is tied to a chair. Even when I was very young that struck a chord.
Your top five authors:
Charles Dickens, Honoré de Balzac, E.F. Benson, Evelyn Waugh, Guy de Maupassant. Ask me this tomorrow and it might have changed.
Book you've faked reading:
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. I really want to read the big Russian blockbusters, but I've never got round to it. I'm quite embarrassed about that, and sometimes I have to lie to save face.
Book you're an evangelist for:
Where do I begin? I'm a terrible evangelizer. "What? You haven't read so-and-so? Do so immediately!" Probably the book I've done this most for is Gentlemen Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos. People know the Marilyn movie, which is fun, but not the novel, which is a work of genius, possibly the funniest book ever written. It's also full of great wisdom, and at various points I've tried to live my life according to the philosophy of the heroine, Lorelei Lee.
Book you've bought for the cover:
When I was a young lad in the 1970s, I was desperate for anything with gay content. There was a paperback edition of the novels of Jean Genet with very sexy, partially clad men on the front, so I'm pretty sure I bought Our Lady of the Flowers and Querelle de Brest on that basis. And while they had plenty of "good bits," they were very heavy going for a 15-year-old. I grew to appreciate them more in later life, although now I'm kind of over Genet.
Book that changed your life:
One book that changed my life, but not necessarily in a good way, was City of Night by John Rechy. It's a novel I admire tremendously, but it does paint a very bleak picture of gay life. I remember being very excited by the sexy boys and fabulous drag queens, but I also bought into the idea of gay men as outsiders, constantly drifting, unable to find love etc., etc. Rechy is very convincing on that subject, and I'm sure he was being honest about his experience at the time. I thought that's how it was going to be for me: lots of fun, but ultimately empty and tragic. Fortunately it wasn't.
Favorite line from a book:
It's hard to beat the opening sentence of Anthony Burgess's masterpiece, Earthly Powers: "It was the afternoon of my eighty-first birthday, and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me." I'm also very keen on the line in Flaubert's Madame Bovary when he recounts Emma's death: "Elle n'existait plus." Cruel and concise.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens. I will never get over the experience of reading the first chapter: it's like falling into space, realizing you're in the hands of a complete genius. You just have to surrender and let the novel take control. I read it on a London underground train in rush hour, and the people around me thought I was a lunatic.
What makes for good erotic writing?
Humor, economy and contrast. I think that very serious erotic writing is a bloody disaster, it just seems ridiculous to me; you need to leaven it with a bit of humor. You have to rein in your descriptions as well, and avoid metaphors and similes. Also, it's no good having two very hot young people getting together: it's great on film, but dull in books. There needs to be some contrast between them, ideally an imbalance of power, to make it exciting. That said, the most successful erotic novel of all time breaks all of those rules, so what do I know?
Locomotive by Brian Floca (Richard Jackson/S&S, $17.99 hardcover, 64p., ages 5-10, 9781416994152, September 3, 2013)
Having tackled sea (Lightship) and space travel (Moonshot), Brian Floca now pays soaring tribute to the iron horse that rides the rails.
The author-artist opens with a verbal and visual lyricism that evokes the awe of those who first spied the train's tracks: "Here is a road/ made for crossing the country,/ a new road of rails/ made for people to ride." The circular opening vignette resembles the view through a camera's lens. Floca then moves to the building of the transcontinental railroad with the rhythm of the hammers ("CLANK CLANK CLANK!") "Three strokes to the spike,/ ten spikes to the rail!" He connects past to present with the universal experience of a boy and girl who wait on the platform with their mother. As the train moves closer, the images and typeface grow in size and clarity ("CLANG-CLANG-CLANG"; "Whoo-oooo"). A black engine with a red cowcatcher, blue bonnet smokestack and cab, plus gold accents, "huff huff huffs" into the station. Floca introduces the crew, and we are on our way.
Floca zeroes in on the interior of the cab, then calls out its main aspects in vignettes (Johnson bar, whistle, throttle lever). The two-page close-up of the train rolling out of the station creates an impact akin to the liftoff scene in Moonshot ("Metal rolls on metal and the locomotive moves!" says the text). With the next two spreads, Floca conveys the paradox introduced by train travel. The first is a serene view of the Great Plains with nary a sign of civilization except for the tracks on which the train travels and the telegraph poles alongside it. "The hours and miles roll by. The country opens, opens wide, empty as an ocean," he writes. He appeals to all senses ("smell the switchgrass and the bluestem, hot beneath the sun") and describes the sacrifices the railroad has wrought ("Here the Cheyenne lived and the Pawnee and Arapaho.... The railroad and the men who built it--they have changed it all"). Floca quickens the rhythms as he takes readers inside "the rattling, rocking cars,/ click-clack click-clack click-clack/ there are neighbors to meet, games to play, songs to sing."
As the family travels along the tracks, Floca treats readers to tantalizing details and lingo. Toilets drain onto the tracks; a boy selling newspapers, food and soap is a "butch." He labels the terrain, and demonstrates how people sleep. The author-artist reveals what the conductor would see upon entering Summit Tunnel, and a view from within its bowels. Floca uses a gray-black hue with hints of red and white to give the interior of the granite cave a sheen and an iridescent quality. On the other side, the children emerge in California, to find their father waiting with open arms. Exhaustive endnotes document Floca's extensive research, and endpapers include maps and milestones in the front, and a cutaway diagram of the engine at the back. Readers will want to board this locomotive again and again. --Jennifer M. Brown
Shelf Talker: Brian Floca creates a tribute to the rails to rival his award-winning paeans to sea (Lightship) and sky (Moonshot).