P.D. James: Detection Started Early
"When I first heard that Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall, I immediately wondered: Did he fall--or was he pushed?"
"When I first heard that Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall, I immediately wondered: Did he fall--or was he pushed?"
|Display at Quail Ridge Books|
On Saturday, many hundreds of bookstores around the country celebrated the second annual Indies First program--which features authors appearing and working in stores--as well as participated in American Express's Small Business Saturday promotion. Reports from stores were glowing and were a contrast to general retail figures that showed store and online sales down 11% over the long Thanksgiving weekend compared to last year.
This year, Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer led the call for fellow authors to participate in Indies First. The pair appeared at three stores in New York, including Oblong Books & Music, Rhinebeck and Millerton, N.Y. (See photos below.)
Oblong co-owner Suzanna Hermans reported having "an incredible day with Neil and Amanda at our Rhinebeck store. More than 150 fans turned out to meet them and everyone loved it." The pair also did a storytime reading of Sparky by Jenny Offill (see the video here.)
|Robert Sindelar and Sherman Alexie at Third Place Books|
Sherman Alexie, who came up with the idea for Indies First last year, appeared on Saturday morning at Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park, Wash., where the store did a "spend $50 and get a $10 gift card" promotion, which drew many people, according to managing partner Robert Sindelar. He noted, too, that many people were using American Express cards. (As part of Small Business Saturday, customers using AMEX cards at participating stores receive credits totally as much as $30.)
Despite snow on Friday night, a large crowd showed up for Alexie, who promoted Kyle Minor's Praying Drunk and Lauren Beukes's Broken Monsters, as well as signed copies of his own books. One young woman who didn't know him asked, "Are you a famous author? Did you write all those books?" She wound up buying several copies of his books and had a picture taken with him.
As Alexie was leaving for his stints at University Book Store and Elliott Bay Book Company, a windstorm caused the power at Third Place Books to go out. But there was a silver lining: "We were selling books by flashlight for two hours while we waited for the power to come back," Sindelar said. "The great thing about not having your computer system up and running is that every time a customer asks you for a book and you know what they are talking about and where it is without having to look it up, you are a super hero."
|Matthew Thomas at Watchung Booksellers|
Appearing as a bookseller-author at Watchung Booksellers, Montclair, N.J., for the second consecutive year, Matthew Thomas called the experience "great," particularly because this year he had a published book to show off--We Are Not Ourselves (Simon & Schuster). He was also promoting other authors' books and after several hours at the store, he went on to [words] Bookstore in Maplewood.
Besides promoting Indies First and Small Business Saturday, Watchung also held its third annual Festivus Friday event, at which people on the store's mailing list could get a 20% discount on anything in the store if they gave the secret password at checkout. (The password was "pachyderm.") Bookseller Carolyn Anbar reported that many customers mentioned the password, and sales were three times those on normal Fridays.
|Booksellers and authors at Malaprop's wore shirts specially designed for the day.|
At Malaprop's Bookstore/Café, Asheville, N.C., volunteer authors and booksellers wore Indies First T-shirts designed by local artist Constance Lombardo, who has a three-book series coming out from HarperCollins in fall 2015. The shirts feature her books' hero, Mr. Puffball, stunt cat to the stars.
Sales at Malaprop's were up 11% on Friday and even compared to the Saturday after last year, capping a great month for the store, where sales going into the weekend were up 46% for November. Saying the store was "very pleased" with Saturday events, general manager and senior buyer Linda-Marie Barrett reported, "We had handselling contests between authors (who could sell the most of their favorite books, which we ordered in advance, and of their own books) and also had authors wrapping books at our wrapping station. Because we had several YA authors helping out, we could lead customers to that section and let the authors take over with recommending books. The strong author presence allowed the booksellers to focus on ringing up purchases, answering the phones, and customer service."
|At Kona Stories, co-owners Joy Vogelgesang and Brenda McConnell flanking the Grinch.|
Kona Stories Book Store, Kona, Hawaii, celebrated Small Business Saturday with a range of events that drew more than 100 people, co-owner Brenda Lea McConnell, said. Tom Peek, author of Daughters of Fire, spent the day in the Hawaiian department, answering questions about local culture and history as well as promoting his own book, and cookbook author Adrienne Hew brought in samples of food from her books and was in the cookbook department answering questions about local cookbooks and cooking style. At 1 p.m., the Grinch, who visits Kona Stories every Saturday during the holidays so people can take photos with him, arrived for a visit. And all through the day, McConnell made "her famous sangria." Sales exceeded the same day last year.
|New Orleans authors Morgan Molthrop, Katy Simpson Smith, Sally Asher, Claudia Gray and Tom Piazza putting indies first at Octavia Books.|
For the second year in a row, President Obama and family visited Politics & Prose, Washington, D.C., on Indies First/Small Business Saturday. Accompanied by his daughters, Malia and Sasha, the president talked with staff, customers and author David Baldacci, who was an Indies First volunteer bookseller. The Obamas bought 17 books.
|David Baldacci with President Obama|
Co-owner Bradley Graham said, "We hadn't expected him to stop by and shop with us again this year, but we're obviously delighted he did. On his way out the store, I thanked him for all he's done to show support for independent book stores."
Reuters said that "Obama was met by a mostly cheery crowd of shoppers and got a round of applause when a baby earned a presidential selfie." USA Today noted that "Obama joked about getting a discount when he reached the cash register and was told by a clerk he could have a 'neighbor's discount.' " The AP had a video (via the Washington Post) of the Obamas at the checkout counter.
In 2011 and 2012, respectively, Obama made similar stops at Kramerbooks, also in Washington, and One More Page Books, Arlington, Va.
The books that the Obamas bought, which have usually been a mix of gifts and titles for personal consumption, included some recent National Book Award winners and nominees. The books were, according to the Hill:
Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China by Evan Osnos
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Nora Webster by Colm Toibin
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan
The Laughing Monsters by Denis Johnson
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Nuts to You by Lynn Rae Perkins
Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms by Katherine Rundell
Redwall (Redwall Series #1) by Brian Jacques
Mossflower (Redwall Series #2) by Brian Jacques
Mattimeo (Redwall Series #3) by Brian Jacques
Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus (Junie B. Jones Series #1) by Barbara Park
Junie B. Jones and a Little Monkey Business (Junie B. Jones Series #2) by Barbara Park
A Barnyard Collection: Click, Clack, Moo and More by Doreen Cronin
I Spy Sticker Book and Picture Riddles by Jean Marzollo
Lissa Warren, v-p and senior director of publicity at Da Capo Press, is the author of The Good Luck Cat: How a Cat Saved a Family and a Family Saved a Cat, published this fall by Lyons Press. In her role as author, on Small Business Saturday she was "Bookseller for a Day" at Gibson's Bookstore in Concord, N.H., as part of the Indies First campaign. Here is her account of her bookselling adventure:
In advance, I was asked to select five titles that the store would stock so I could handsell them. I chose two of my favorite books published by the company where I work, Da Capo Press: Rebel Souls by Justin Martin, which is about Walt Whitman and his circle of Bohemians at New York City's Pfaff's Saloon (Gibson's owner Michael Herrmann, who lived in Manhattan for years, had already named the book a staff pick), and Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero, which seemed perfect as we head into holiday baking season (Peanut Butter Chocolate Pillows, anyone?). Since I teach a graduate-level book publishing course at Emerson College, I also chose a book one of my students has been raving about, Some Girls, Some Hats and Hitler, thinking it would appeal to any young woman who likes history or fashion.
|Michael Hermann, owner of Gibson's, with Lissa Warren.|
Since my own book, a memoir called The Good Luck Cat, which was on hand, is about cats, I tried to balance my selections with two dog books: Love That Dog by Sharon Creech, which our CEO, David Steinberger, had recommended to me and which is about falling in love with poetry as much as it's about falling in love with a dog, and the novel The Dog Year by Ann Garvin, who is a member of Tall Poppy Writers, a women's writing group to which I belong, and a faculty member in the MFA Creative Writing program at nearby Southern New Hampshire University. Long story short, I gave my choices a lot of thought, trying to balance personal favorites with local connections, and always trying to envision the potential reader with whom each title could find a home. In short, I tried to think like a bookseller at an independent bookstore--like a curator for the community.
Upon arrival, I grabbed a cup of pear and pomegranate tea from their True Brew Café and was shown to a comfy chair behind a table on which my selections and my own book were displayed. My two-hour slot flew by. Michael Herrmann came over to chat. So did a couple of his "real" booksellers, one of whom even bought my book. Customers sauntered over--some boldly, some sheepishly. Positioned back near the children's section, I got to overhear many thoughtful conversations between parents and their kids. The most memorable one, between a father and his daughter, who looked to be nine or 10, went something like this:
"Daddy, do you think this book is too old for me?"
"I don't know, honey. It looks kind of thick."
"I'm a pretty good reader, you know."
"I know. I have a hard time picking out books for you."
"That's okay, I've got this."
And got this she did. After flipping through the book for a few minutes and reading some lines aloud to her father, she felt reasonably assured that the reading level wasn't too advanced for a girl her age, and handed the book to him so he could buy it for her. I couldn't help but think of the Book Sense slogan "independent bookstores for independent minds."
I like to think that's what indie bookstores do--provide a place for these kinds of interactions. And I hope the spirit of the Bookseller for a Day campaign will carry through the holiday season and beyond--that, at least when it comes to bookstores, Small Business Saturday will become Small Business Every Day.
|Window display at Diesel, A Bookstore|
Last Monday, before the announcement that Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson would not be charged for Michael Brown's death, the Ferguson Municipal Public Library posted on Facebook: "Because of the Grand Jury decision, many organizations will be closed, but the Ferguson Municipal Public Library will stay open as long as it is safe for patrons and staff. If the Ferguson-Florissant schools close, we will be hosting activities for the children. We will do everything in our power to serve our community. Stay strong and love each other."
National response since then has been overwhelming. As of Wednesday, more than $175,000 had already been donated by over 7,000 people, many giving in $5 and $10 amounts, NPR reported, adding that the library "has become a quiet refuge for adults and children alike in this St. Louis suburb. And the nation has taken notice." Widespread social media reaction included authors Neil Gaiman, John Green and Joelle Charbonneau.
On Saturday, library director Scott Bonner participated in a Reddit Ask Me Anything, where he expressed gratitude for the unexpected outpouring of support, citing "10,000 people giving money through Paypal" and noting that as far as book donations are concerned, the library could use "more currently-popular books, especially genre books. Need more of the sort of books Angie Manfredi has put together in this wish list for us" at Powells.com.
He also observed: "I know this--everyone I've talked to from all sides of the issues would agree with me that every individual in Ferguson should feel important and included. It's a common cause we would all rally around. Question is, how far are we from that, and by what path do we get there?"
Left Bank Books has been hosting a #FergusonReads book group this fall and, before that, recommending a selection of books as well as a list of poems, articles and blog posts that "explore race, not only in St. Louis, but America as a whole."
After the Grand Jury's decision last week, the bookstore posted: "Folks, Left Bank Books does not close because our city is in distress. In fact, that's the best reason for an institution of public discourse to stay open. We remain faithful to our city and all of its citizens. See you after 10 a.m."
On Saturday, Left Bank posted a photo of protesters near the store: "The scene on our corner earlier tonight: about 40 #ferguson protesters chanted 'Black Lives Matter' and staged a die-in in the street. Conversations about democracy and freedom are messy, confusing, hard, painful and, yes, sometimes inconvenient. Let's be proud that St. Louis is brave enough to tackle the most painful of those conversations. Let's keep having them. Let's not be afraid of each other. Let's keep our lights on, our doors open and hands outstretched, not in surrender but friendship."
California bookseller Diesel, A Bookstore shared a relevant pre-holiday, Ferguson-inspired message in its front window and on tumblr: "We may be closed tomorrow for Thanksgiving, but some messages don't take a holiday."
Timed to try to grab headlines on Cyber Monday, Amazon unveiled what it calls its "eighth generation fulfillment centers," whose main new feature is the use of robots developed by Kiva Systems, the robotics company it bought in 2012.
Some 15,000 Kiva robots are now operating in 10 warehouses in the U.S. Amazon is also using large robotic arms, a new vision system for unloading trailers and improved computer systems in the updated warehouses, which Reuters said are in California, Texas, Florida, New Jersey and Washington.
Reuters added that the robots "may help Amazon avoid the mishaps of last year's holiday season, when a surge of packages overwhelmed shipping and logistics company UPS and delayed the arrival of Christmas presents around the globe. Amazon offered shipping refunds and $20 gift cards to compensate customers."
Amazon senior v-p of worldwide operations and customer services Dave Clark told Reuters that the robots have allowed Amazon to hold about 50% more items and shorten the time it takes to offer same-day delivery in several areas.
James Daunt, managing director of Waterstones, told the financial website This Is Money that after three years at the head of the troubled U.K. bookseller, "We are now close to breaking even." Only last year, Waterstones lost £23 million (about $36.1 million) and the year before lost £37 million ($58 million).
Among the reasons for the turnaround at the 277-store chain, according to Daunt: replacing some 200 managers; closing some shops; refurbishing others (which included "new carpets and décor, widely-spaced shelving, sofa and armchair reading areas and introducing Café W coffee shops"); updating computer systems and online operations; and ending "deals with publishers who decided the authors and how their books were displayed... at an annual cost to us of £27 million [$42.4 million]." The company also dropped the apostrophe from its name, but this was not cited as a factor in the turnaround.
Daunt added that Waterstones' widely criticized decision to sell Amazon Kindles has led some Kindle buyers to purchase print books, too, but said overall that the Kindle business is "negligible."
Former U.S. poet laureate Mark Strand, "whose spare, deceptively simple investigations of rootlessness, alienation and the ineffable strangeness of life made him one of America's most hauntingly meditative poets," died Saturday, the New York Times reported. He was 80. Strand was named poet laureate in 1990 and won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1999 for Blizzard of One.
Noting that "absence, negation and death were abiding themes for Mr. Strand," the Times observed that "in a sense, he wrote his epitaph many times over, most poignantly perhaps in 'The Remains,' from his 1970 collection Darker":
Novelist Kent Haruf, who wrote "several quiet, moving novels that take place in the fictional town of Holt, Colo.," died Sunday, the Washington Post reported. He was 71. Haruf's novel Plainsong (1999) was a finalist for the National Book Award, and his most recent book, Benediction (2013), was on the shortlist for this year's Folio Prize.
Gary Fisketjon, his editor at Knopf, said Haruf's last novel, Our Souls at Night, will be published next year. "Kent had finished all his revisions and even gone through the copy editing. We had it scheduled for May, though I haven't yet processed how this tragic news might alter those plans."
Knopf issued a statement saying the publisher was "deeply saddened to report the death of Kent Haruf.... It has been our great privilege to publish his extraordinary fiction."
Neil Gaiman and his wife, Amanda Palmer (The Art of Asking), had a busy Indies First Day--they helped out at three bookstores. Their first stop was The Golden Notebook in Woodstock, N.Y. (top left photo), followed by Oblong Books & Music in Rhinebeck (top right). They ended up the day at Spotty Dog Books & Ale in Hudson (bottom photos), where Palmer performed (on dueling accordions) atop the bar, Gaiman took a few minutes to browse the shelves, and the couple enjoyed a well-deserved drink.
photos: top photos courtesy of Golden Notebook and Oblong Books; bottom photos by Adam Coulson
Karin Wilson, owner of Page & Palette Bookstore, Fairhope, Ala., was featured as one of "11 coastal Alabama leaders you should know" by AL.com, which noted that her store "is thriving, and Wilson is at the forefront of a campaign developed to help other area small businesses grow."
Asked about her latest accomplishment, Wilson replied: "I brought the idea of promoting the value of shopping local to our community by forming Fairhope Local, an independent business alliance that does just that. As a third generation Fairhoper, I'm determined to make certain that the independent businesses that make up Fairhope's unique character will endure and thrive. We are at a tipping point in our communities as more and more business is transacted online and in big box stores. Although this shift is inevitable due to convenience and availability, understanding how this affects the quality of life in a community is important. My ultimate dream would be for my kids to want to come home after college and create their own business or possibly take over the Page & Palette."
Small Business Trends served up a profile of Kitchen Arts & Letters, the New York City bookstore founded in 1982 by Nach Waxman. "New and vintage, the store is stacked with its fair share of cookbooks, but it doesn't stop there," the publication wrote. "There are volumes on the food industry, food science, the restaurant business, the history of food, and more. Basically, if it's about food and in print, it's likely to be in this small bookstore."
Clientele for the 12,000 titles in stock includes "the line cooks who work for some of Manhattan's biggest chefs--as well as many others interested in food books of all kinds."
Carbide Tipped Pens: Seventeen Tales of Hard Science Fiction, edited by Ben Bova and Eric Choi (Tor Books), includes stories by Ben Bova, Gregory Benford, Robert Reed, Aliette de Bodard, Jack McDevitt, Howard Hendrix and Daniel H. Wilson.
Today on Bravo's Watch What Happens Live: John Schlimm, author of The Ultimate Beer Lover's Happy Hour: Over 325 Recipes for Your Favorite Bar Snacks and Beer Cocktails (Cumberland House, $14.99, 9781402296321).
Today on the Meredith Vieira Show: Bob Saget, author of Dirty Daddy: The Chronicles of a Family Man Turned Filthy Comedian (Dey Street, $15.99, 9780062274793).
Today on the View: Andy Cohen, author of The Andy Cohen Diaries: A Deep Look at a Shallow Year (Holt, $26, 9781627792288).
Today on Tavis Smiley: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author of Americanah (Anchor, $15.95, 9780307455925).
Tonight on the Tonight Show: Martin Short, author of I Must Say: My Life As a Humble Comedy Legend (Harper, $26.99, 9780062309525).
Tonight on the Daily Show: Andrew Napolitano, author of Suicide Pact: The Radical Expansion of Presidential Powers and the Lethal Threat to American Liberty (Thomas Nelson, $26.99, 9780718021931).
Tonight on the Colbert Report: John McCain, co-author of Thirteen Soldiers: A Personal History of Americans at War (Simon & Schuster, $28, 9781476759654).
Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Eric Metaxas, author of Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life (Dutton, $27.95, 9780525954422).
Tomorrow on WFAN's Mike Francesa Show: John Stockton, author of Assisted: An Autobiography (Shadow Mountain, $25.99, 9781609075705).
Tomorrow on the Diane Rehm Show: George Monbiot, author of Feral: Rewilding the Land, the Sea, and Human Life (University of Chicago Press, $25, 9780226205557).
Tomorrow night on the Tonight Show: David Sedaris, author of Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls (Back Bay, $17, 9780316154703).
Tomorrow night on a repeat of the Late Show with David Letterman: Boris Johnson, author of The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History (Riverhead, $27.95, 9781594633027).
A new trailer has been released for Far from the Madding Crowd, the Thomas Hardy adaptation in which Carey Mulligan (The Great Gatsby) "stars as the beautiful Bathsheba Everdene (after whom a certain Katniss Everdeen is named), a woman who must choose between three suitors. Curiously, Mulligan's character doesn't utter a single word during the minute-long trailer," Flavorwire reported. The movie, which also stars Michael Sheen, Matthias Shoenaerts and Tom Sturridge, is tentatively set for release May 1, 2015.
A shortlist has been announced for the $50,000 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, which was created to "celebrate the rich and varied world of literature in this region and promote the achievements of South Asian writers as well as writers of any ethnicity writing about South Asia and its many diaspora." The winner will be honored January 22 during the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival. This year's shortlisted titles are:
The Scatter Here Is Too Great by Bilal Tanweer
The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
A God in Every Stone by Kamila Shamsie
Noontide Toll by Romesh Gunesekera
The Mirror of Beauty by Shamsur Rahman Faruqi
Anneliese Mackintosh won the Green Carnation Prize, which is presented "to LGBT writers for any form of the written word, and has a reputation of championing LGBT writers from the U.K.," for Any Other Mouth. Chair of the judges Kaite Welsh praised Any Other Mouth as a "a raw, uncompromising debut... that defies categorization. It isn't quite a short story collection or a novel and, as she tells us at the very beginning, it's only almost a memoir. In the end, the only category Any Other Mouth fits neatly into is the one of very, very good books."
Tristana by Benito Pérez Galdós, trans. by Margaret Jull Costa (New York Review Books, $14.95 trade paper, 9781590177655, December 2014)
Considered the Spanish Charles Dickens, Benito Pérez Galdós wrote more than 70 novels, including a 46-book series based on Spanish history. His most famous work, Fortunata and Jacinta, is as long as War and Peace. Inexplicably, Galdós's writings are almost entirely unavailable in English translation. New York Review Books is working to remedy that situation with Margaret Jull Costa's fine new translation of Galdós's dark little 1892 shocker, Tristana (which Luis Buñuel adapted into a 1970 film starring Catherine Deneuve). This 166-page gem is frequently modern in its frank, earthy style as it cynically submits love and desire to merciless analysis, picking apart romantic delusions with scientific glee.
Don Lope Garrido, once a rich member of the highest social circles, now lives in cheap rented rooms. He is too much of a gentleman to have a profession. He has fought many duels over issues of personal dignity. After depleting his fortune in a failed attempt to save his best friend, he becomes the guardian of his friend's beautiful orphaned daughter, Tristana. His moral sense does not extend to women; within two months he's taken her virginity.
But Tristana is a free soul, a gorgeous, delightfully cheerful feminist a century ahead of her time who abhors marriage, refuses to surrender her independence and possesses a natural artistic sensibility. Scarcely 21, she appears to live with Don Lope like a niece or daughter. When she falls in love with a poor, angelically handsome young painter, her vigilant, despotic master threatens to teach her a lesson.
Much of the middle section of the novel is epistolary--the intoxicated correspondence between the two lovers--and here Galdós is at his most conventional. Soon, he completely turns the formula on its head in his daring and original conclusion that defies all romantic illusions, confirming that "we only learn by living and that true knowledge grows only in the untilled fields of old age."
Folksy comic touches abound, like "There's a pair of trousers for every occasion." Sometimes the humor is scorchingly smart. "Goodness and perfection do not exist. Let us thank God that he has at least given us the less bad and the relatively good." Uncomfortable moral complexity is Galdós's specialty, and the novel is a carefully constructed trap that springs shut on the reader in the last 30 pages. The ending of Galdós's tale is utterly believable, completely original and unforgettable. --Nick DiMartino, Nick's Picks, University Book Store, Seattle, Wash.
Shelf Talker: A witty 19th-century Spanish classic about a compromised young woman and the two men who love her gets a new translation.