Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, March 17, 2015


Grove Atlantic: The Yellow House: A Memoir by Sarah M. Broom

Feiwel & Friends: A Delayed Life: The True Story of the Librarian of Auschwitz by Dita Kraus

New Directions: Baron Wenckheim's Homecoming by László Krasznahorkai, translated by Ottilie Mulzet

Workman Publishing: Real Happiness, 10th Anniversary Edition: A 28-Day Program to Realize the Power of Meditation (Second Edition, Revised) by Sharon Salzberg

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci, illustrated by Jim Rugg

Clarion Books: The Thief Knot: A Greenglass House Story by Kate Milford

News

Erdrich Wins Library of Congress American Fiction Prize

Author/bookseller Louise Erdrich has won the Library of Congress Prize for American Fiction, which will be awarded at the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C., on September 5, the New York Times reported. The award recognizes writers with "unique, enduring voices" whose work deals with the American experience. Erdrich is the author of Love Medicine, The Round House and Books and Islands in Ojibwe Country, among other books, and owner of Birchbark Books and Native Arts in Minneapolis, Minn.

Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said that Erdrich "has portrayed her fellow Native Americans as no contemporary American novelist ever has. Her prose manages to be at once lyrical and gritty, magical yet unsentimental, connecting a dream world of Ojibwe legend to stark realities of the modern-day."


Ingram: Congratulations 2019 National Book Award Winners - Learn More>


Merger Creates Chinese 'Amazon of E-Books'

In a move that creates what the South China Morning Post calls "the Amazon of e-books," two of China's major online publishing companies--Tencent Literature and Shanda Cloudary--are combining to become Yuewen Group, which will be China's largest online publishing and e-book company, with 1,200 employees and more than three million books. Tencent Literature is owned by Internet giant Tencent; Shanda Cloudary is an e-publishing subsidiary of games developer Shanda and had earlier merged with Qidian.

Tencent CEO Wu Wenhui

In a letter to staff, Yuewen CEO Wu Wenhui called for creating a nationwide reading system in the next decade, saying, "In the future, I hope everyone from an eight year old to an 80 year old will be able to use digital devices--laptop, tablet, smartphone, iWatch or Google Glass--to read whatever they want."

He added that the company will need to buy more books, develop better reading apps, promote the creation of online literature and work to strengthen copyright protection for both electronic and print books. The company's e-book readers will be designed "to satisfy Chinese usage habits, unlike the Amazon Kindle, which was originally designed for English readers."

Wu was a co-founder of e-literature site Qidian.com in 2002, where he promoted online novelists who were not published in traditional ways. He also let readers vote and pay for their favorite books and writers.


Soho Press: The Seep by Chana Porter


Book Nook Opens in Green Springs, Ohio

Addison and Jodee Sherrell
(Photo: Sheri Trusty/News-Messenger)

The Book Nook, a new and used bookstore, opened in Green Springs, Ohio, on March 2, the News-Messenger reported. The store is owned by 20-year-old Addison Sherrell and her mother, Jodee Sherrell. Addison Sherrell told the paper, "I've just always loved the idea of owning my own bookstore. I love books."

The paper said that Addison, who is a writer, too, has prepared for business ownership by "doing extensive reading" and helping run a shaved ice stand with her brother and sister.

The store has a Book Exchange Club for book trade-ins. The Book Nook will also soon offer bookbinding and repair services and will host community events after back room remodeling is finished.

The Book Nook is located at 126 S. Broadway, Green Springs, Ohio 44836; 419-650-8449.


G.P. Putnam's Sons: Providence by Max Barry


NYC's Penn Books Posts Plea for Help

photo: capitalnewyork.com

Craig Newman, the third-generation owner of the 1,300-square-foot Penn Books in New York City's Penn Station, has posted a plea on Facebook for help in saving the store, writing, "I am trying to survive, but it gets harder every day. My rent is now a staggering $45,000 a month, not including property taxes, and another $20,000 a year in commercial rent tax. If anybody can do anything or cares about saving my bookstore, please HELP."

Jeremiah's Vanishing New York noted that Newman's grandfather, Arthur Newman, started the bookshop in the original Penn Station in 1962. "Remarkably, the shop survived the wrecking ball and reopened in the new Penn Station. Craig started working there in 1978, taking the A-train to work through the gritty city as a 12-year-old kid. He opened the current shop's incarnation in 1992 after his grandfather passed away.

"Penn Books survived the destruction of Penn Station. They survived citywide fiscal crises. They even outlasted Borders. Business is still bustling. But the rent? That's another story."

On Facebook, Newman said he could afford $35,000 a month in rent and wants the city to do more to help small businesses like his.


B&N Closing Gilbert, Ariz., Store

The Barnes & Noble in the Crossroads Towne Center in Gilbert, Ariz., is closing March 28, the Arizona Republic reported. B&N has another location in Gilbert, about four miles away, and after the closing will have four stores in the Southeast Valley part of the Phoenix metropolitan area, which includes Tempe and Mesa.

At the end of last year, B&N closed its Kierland Commons store in Scottsdale, and in August, it closed its store in the Ahwatukee Foothills Town Center in Phoenix.


Foyles's Husain: 'Worst Is Behind Us'

The BBC chatted with Sam Husain, who is retiring next month as CEO of iconic Foyles bookshop in London, a store much changed since he arrived in 2007, the first non-family chief executive in Foyles's long history. At the time, the store was suffering annual losses and was only slowly modernizing.

Sam Husain (photo: BBC)

Among his first acts, Husain remembered, was the "brutal" weeding from the shelves of approximately £1 million ($1.5 million) of stock that hadn't sold for years. "The older stock was just cleared out, and more or less dumped," he said. "But we had to face that to transform the business."

An accountant who became a company turnaround specialist but had no experience in the book world or retailing, Husain kept "a close eye on the finances" and gave much more autonomy to section managers, whom he encourage to view their sections as their own shops. Within a year, the loss become a profit.

Besides opening several branch stores, Husain's biggest accomplishment must be the move last year of the flagship and its remaking into "a bookshop of the future."

Husain told the BBC he believes bricks-and-mortar bookshops can be successful against online and big-box competition if they offer customers excellent service and a pleasurable overall experience. "Books are without question offered cheaper online," he said. "But visiting a bookshop offers the chance to browse, to discover books... to have human contact." He added that while bookstores will continue to face many challenges, "the worst is behind us."

At age 67, Husain will soon "have the first substantial spare time on his hands since he moved to the U.K. from Pakistan in 1964 to train as an accountant," the BBC said. He's looking forward to catching up on his reading!


Notes

Pulling for Red Hen Publisher Mark E. Cull

Our thoughts are with Red Hen Press publisher Mark E. Cull, who will have open heart surgery this week. A walk, dizzy spell, fall and concussion led to the discovery of a genetic heart valve disorder. It's even more unreal because Cull's forthcoming novel, King of the Sea Monkeys (Guernica Editions, April 2015), is about a man who experiences memory loss.

Fortunately for Cull, his memory loss was temporary, and with his expected recovery, he'll launch his book in early April at Skylight Books in Los Angeles, along with Red Hen author Chris Tarry (How to Carry Bigfoot Home).

Red Hen Press just celebrated 20 years of publishing fine poetry, fiction and essays.


Personnel Changes at Europa Editions

Rachael Small has joined Europa Editions as publicist. Most recently she worked as a translation quality manager and earlier was a publicity assistant at the Book Department of the Cultural Services of the French Embassy.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Daniel Torday on Fresh Air

This morning on the Today Show: Gretchen Rubin, author of Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives (Crown, $26, 9780385348614). She will also appear today on the Dr. Oz Show.

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This morning on Morning Joe: Barney Frank, author of Frank: A Life in Politics from the Great Society to Same-Sex Marriage (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $28, 9780374280307). He will also be on the O'Reilly Factor today.

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Today on Fresh Air: Daniel Torday, author of The Last Flight of Poxl West: A Novel (St. Martin's Press, $25.99, 9781250051684).

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Tomorrow morning on the Today Show: Travis Thrasher, author of Do You Believe?: A Novel (Howard Books, $14.99, 9781501111983).

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Tomorrow on Live with Kelly and Michael: Derek Hough, author of Taking the Lead: Lessons from a Life in Motion (Morrow, $24.99, 9780062323194).

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Tomorrow on Diane Rehm: Erik Larson, author of Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania (Crown, $28, 9780307408860).

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Tomorrow on the Meredith Vieira Show: Melissa Joan Hart, author of Melissa Explains It All: Tales from My Abnormally Normal Life (St. Martin's Griffin, $15.99, 9781250054982).


Movies: Bone in the Throat; Deep Blue Goodbye

A trailer has been released for Bone in the Throat, based on Anthony Bourdain's debut novel, Indiewire reported. Directed by Graham Henman, the film stars Ed Westwick, Tom Wilkinson, Rupert Graves, Vanessa Kirby, John Hannah, Steve Mackintosh and Andy Nyman.

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Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) and Nicola Peltz (Transformers: Age of Extinction) are in negotiations to join Christian Bale and Rosamund Pike in Deep Blue Goodbye, Fox's adaptation of the John D. MacDonald novel featuring Travis McGee, the Hollywood Reporter wrote. James Mangold is directing the project, which "is looking at a May start, shooting in Puerto Rico and Florida."



Books & Authors

Awards: American Academy; Carnegie, Greenaway; Horatio Nelson

The 18 writers who had won the American Academy of Arts and Letters 2015 awards in literature can be seen here. The literature prizes, totaling $250,000, honor both established and emerging writers of fiction, nonfiction and poetry. The awards will be presented in May.

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The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals has released shortlists for the 2015 Carnegie Medal (author of a book for children and young people) and the Kate Greenaway Medal (illustrator of a book for children and young people), which are judged by a panel of expert librarians. Winners will each receive £500 (about $750) worth of books to donate to their local library and a specially commissioned golden medal. Since 2000, the winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal has also been awarded the £5,000 ($7,500) Colin Mears Award cash prize. You can find the complete CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway shortlists here. Winners will be announced June 22.

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Tegan Nia Swanson has won the 2014 Horatio Nelson Fiction Prize for her novel-in-artifacts Things We Found When the Water Went Down. She will receive $5,000 and a book deal with sponsor Black Balloon, an imprint of Catapult.


Book Review

Review: Inspector of the Dead

Inspector of the Dead by David Morrell (Mulholland Books, $26 hardcover, 9780316323932, March 24, 2015)

Prolific author David Morrell tried something new when he wrote a period mystery in which the famous, opium-eating Victorian author Thomas De Quincey starred as the detective. Murder as a Fine Art, the first installment in the series, was an entertaining thriller with lots of period panache but seemed rough around the edges. The second time is a charm, however, because Inspector of the Dead is a winner.

True to his Victorian setting, Morrell calls his book a sensation novel, drawing upon trademark gothic and romantic elements of the genre. He also writes in the period's favorite narrative form: third-person omniscient, which Dickens used in A Tale of Two Cities and Bleak House. This provides Morrell more opportunity to draw upon the vast amount of research he's done. His novel is loosely based on actual events, and his De Quincey, impeccably realized, does the original justice. Emily, De Quincey's daughter, is here again to assist him as his Watson, with additional help from Scotland Yard officers Ryan and Becker.  

It's 1855, one year after De Quincey's detective debut. The Crimean War is in its second year and has caused major shakeups in the British government. Out of an early London evening's fog emerges a man who sneaks into Lord Cosgrove's home--"clutching his cane, he proceeded with his great work. Memories needed to be prodded. Punishment needed to be inflicted." He murders the staff and then Cosgrove himself--strangling the lord in his library, leaving tapered silver pens protruding from each eye.

Later, Lady Cosgrove is brazenly murdered in her personal pew at St. James's Church, her throat slit from ear to ear. The only thing that links the brazen murders is a single piece of paper clutched by each corpse. On the page is written the name Edward Oxford. De Quincey suspects that the "motive was revenge for an injustice." Emily is unfamiliar with the name, so her father explains that, in 1840, there was an assassination attempt on the life of Queen Victoria. A man shot at her when she and Prince Albert were riding by in her carriage. His name was Edward Oxford, and he was involved in an underground organization called Young England. Their goal was to overthrow the government and abolish the monarchy.

De Quincy and his team are soon dealing with more vicious murders by this mysterious serial killer, the Revenger, and Morrell provides us with enough information about him, his unfortunate background and his motives to add just the right depth to the story. It's a lusciously rich thriller, told with exquisite detail, amidst a moody, pervading tone of gloom. Morrell has also written a short story, "The Opium-Eater," to be electronically published at the same time as the novel, for those seeking to learn more about fascinating author‑turned-detective Thomas De Quincey. --Tom Lavoie, former publisher

Shelf Talker: There's enough foggy gaslit Victorian atmosphere in this period mystery to sate any reader's appetite until the next sighting of Morrell's elegantly drawn opium-eating detective De Quincey.


Ooops

Deeper Understanding

St. Patrick's Day Treat: Anne Enright on The Green Road

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, we present an interview with Anne Enright, the inaugural Laureate for Irish Fiction and winner of the 2007 Man Booker Prize for The Gathering. Enright's next novel, The Green Road, is being published here by Norton on May 11.

You've spent time on the Green Road. What is it like?

In the spring of 2012, we took a long rent on a little house on the west coast of Ireland, with a view down to the limestone flats of the Flaggy Shore and across to the Aran Islands. Yeats, Synge and Lady Gregory all wrote about this place, as, more lately, did Heaney and Michael Longley. It is the iconic landscape of the Irish national revival and very beautiful.

Perhaps it was the change of location, but it was one of those times in my life when I wasn't entirely sure who I was anymore. Every day I would walk out and let the wind blow these questions out of my mind and also take in the wildness of the place. The green road is just that, an unpaved road that crosses the uplands of the Burren from Ballynahown to the Caher Valley, with a changing view from the Cliffs of Moher in the south to the Twelve Bens and Maumturk mountains in the far north, across Galway Bay.

Over the years, I had avoided what I call "the landscape solution" in Irish prose, where the writer puts the word "Atlantic" or "bog" in the story and some essential yearning in his character is fixed. But there I was myself, getting fixed on the green road, and it seemed to me that this was something I should allow myself to write about, now.

My father grew up on a small farm 30 miles down the coast from the green road, and I spent a lot of time there as a child. I have always written "out," always worked against the Irish tradition, and this book, which is about exile and return, also marks, for me, a kind of return. And what better place to come back to? There is nowhere that does leaving home and coming home better than the west coast of Ireland.

Many of the names in the book are references to Irish patriots. Why?

That may just be my little joke--although it was not a joke to the parents who named them. Both Dan Madigan and Rosaleen Considine come from strong, slightly different Irish patriotic traditions. I could untangle their deep history--which side each family took during the Civil War that followed the Irish War of Independence in 1922--but that deep history is often hidden in the west of Ireland; indeed, it is slightly taboo. This sense of taboo lingers in the first chapter of the book, but I was moving forward not back, so all that remains of that are the patriotic names of the children. It goes without saying that both sides in the Civil War were patriots, that was why it was such a painful time in Irish history. But yes, call them out! The honor roll! Daniel O'Connell, Constance Markewizc, Robert Emmet, Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington--heroes all.

The gay marriage referendum is coming up in Ireland later this year. How do you feel your book speaks to this ongoing issue?

I have a character in the book who is gay, and I tried to stay true to the path he would take through life: it wasn't something I had complete control over, to be honest. Dan decides to get married--despite his difficulties loving his partner (or loving anyone, indeed)--and his sister is almost disappointed. "I thought you got away from all that," she says, meaning the great heterosexual institution of marriage. "I did get away from it," he says. "And now, I can do what I like."

Perhaps this reflects my own view as much as it does Dan's. People have great difficulties, they come through huge and wonderful personal battles, in order to become proper human beings who can love other human beings. I think that's all there is, really. In my own (heterosexual) case, marriage was not about giving in to conservative values but about radicalizing them and making them new.

Your book deals very delicately, and honestly, with the AIDS epidemic. Was this section particularly challenging to write?

Like many people in the arts, I knew people who were HIV positive and I lost people--or we lost people--to the disease. There was a feeling, in the early 1990s, that we were living through astonishing times, but this great sadness, which was both historical and deeply personal, has not made it into many novels. I wanted this chapter to be about love, because I remember a time of great love and of great courage. I did not want all that to be forgotten. I don't know if it was challenging to write; it was certainly deeply felt.

Can you describe your novel The Green Road?

Four children grow up and move away from their childhood home in the west of Ireland. They go everywhere, have full, interesting and complex lives, and then, in 2005, their elderly mother declares she is going to sell the house. So they all troop back for their Irish family Christmas and try to sleep one last time in their old beds. They bring their inner child home with them, only to meet their outer mother, Rosaleen: a woman who is sometimes wonderful and always difficult. The book is about compassion, how the heart gets smaller as we age, and how we try to fix that, if we can.

Your books often revolve around family. Why?

Actually, The Gathering was, for me, about memory and history. The large family in that book also begged large questions: If your birth was an accident, then what did your death matter? For me, the family is just a natural space in which to think about the big issues.

I suppose The Green Road is more "about" family than my other books, though I thought I was just using the family space to think about compassion and selfishness, about feelings of abandonment and of connection, exile and return. One of the things I like to do is to take that very male tradition of "lonely," dissociated or bleak writing and I add in a mother. I do this because mothers are so absent in heterosexual male fiction--so impossible, somehow--and I am interested in working with this sense of "impossibility." Psychology talks about nothing but the mother, the novel talks of everything but her. It is not just that I myself have a mother (funny, that), but that I am a mother. I am an Irish Mammy. Hurrah!

At the center of your novel is the fascinating character of Rosaleen. Where did she come from?

Well, you know, I made her up. I took a selection of tiny vanities and seeded them in this character, to see how they would grow old. The Internet is full of people giving out about their selfish, appalling mothers--many of them sound a bit appalling themselves--so I took a few cues from there. But Rosaleen is very much herself. She is someone I can see very clearly, in my mind's eye, and she is not appalling in any real sense. She is hard to please, prone to disappointment, she drives her children mad, but I think, if you met her at, say, a wedding, you would find her very good company, completely charming, the kind of woman who makes everything about her glow.

Rosaleen's restless children live all over the globe but return to Ireland when their family home is about to be sold. How important is home and can you ever escape it?

You can free yourself of many kinds of difficulty, over time, but home is where those difficulties began and where we think they can be solved, so the pull toward it is very strong. It is, besides, nice. It is good to feel "at home."

You once said "the periphery has always been a more interesting place for me." Can you explain?

When I started out at the age of 20 or so, I thought that female fiction was going to be the most exciting thing ever. Things were opening up; there was so much to say that had not been said before. In fact, there was no huge welcome for the female voice in Ireland; the male tradition continued to dominate for the next 30 years of my writing life--and 30  years is a long time. I came to revel in my role as an outsider and also to dislike it. These are the tensions that, if they don't kill your work, make it more interesting. I decided it was more interesting to be on the edge of things. And it is. But this was a decision I was obliged, somehow, to make.

Things have shifted with the generation of Irish writers that has emerged since the economic crash, in the last five years or so. I think there is real change in the air now. And I was recently made the first Laureate for Irish Fiction, so I can hardly claim to be excluded--outside, with my nose pressed up against the glass. The Green Road is less "edgy" in some ways than my other work: there is more of a sense of scope, of shifting from one to another character's point of view. Perhaps it was time to move in from the periphery and pitch my tent on the middle ground for once. Just for a while.


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