Shelf Awareness for Friday, March 11, 2016

Simon & Schuster: Fall Cooking With Simon Element

Ace Books: Dungeon Crawler Carl by Matt Dinniman

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: The Millicent Quibb School of Etiquette for Young Ladies of Mad Science by Kate McKinnon

Annick Press: Bog Myrtle by Sid Sharp

Minotaur Books: Betrayal at Blackthorn Park: A Mystery (Evelyne Redfern #2) by Julia Kelly

Tor Books: Blood of the Old Kings by Sung-Il Kim, Translated by Anton Hur

Del Rey Books: The Book of Elsewhere by Keeanu Reeves and China Miéville


St. Paul's Micawber's Books Relocates

photo: Leila Navidi/Star Tribune

Micawber's Books, St. Paul, Minn., has moved a short distance from the space it had occupied since 1972 "into a smaller, less expensive lower-level shop," the Star Tribune reported. Late last month, owner Tom Bielenberg and about 20 friends of the shop "started carting boxes of books" from the former spot to a space "that opens onto the courtyard of the Milton Square shops. A customer with carpentry skills even built a new front counter for the smaller but cozier relocated shop."

"I decided that it was too expensive and couldn't control the costs. Also, I didn't need all the space I had," said Bielenberg, adding: "I feel really well-supported."

Jon Schumacher, executive director of the St. Anthony Park Community Foundation, credited Milton Square owner Heather O'Malley for helping Micawber's find a better space. He also noted: "It's an industry, it's a business, that's trying to find its way. But if that kind of business plan can work in St. Paul, this is the one. This is a very literate neighborhood--we used to have the most visitors, per capita, to the library--and books are very important to this community."

G.P. Putnam's Sons: William by Mason Coile

Indie Bookstore Proposed for Billings, Mont.

Billings, Mont., could have a new indie bookstore "as soon as this summer," the Gazette reported. On Wednesday, attorney and author Carrie LaSeur, who is heading the Billings Bookstore Co-operative, requested an $8,000 tax increment finance district grant from the Downtown Billings Alliance to pay for a feasibility study on turning the former Wendy's fast food restaurant at 2906 Second Ave. North into a bookstore.

"This will be a true member-owned co-op," LaSeur told the DBA committee. "This came about because so many people missed Thomas Bookstore [which closed in 2012] in downtown Billings. Rather than trying to run a bookstore on one over-burdened entrepreneur's back, which is what happened with Thomas, we will operate this as a co-op." The DBA committee approved the grant, which now moves forward to the DBA board of directors for final approval later this month.

Shares in the bookstore will be offered at $100 per general share, which permits the buyer to be a voting member, and $500 for preferred shares, which would allow the buyer to receive an annual dividend once the store becomes profitable. "As a practical matter, we need to see if the support is there," LaSeur said. "If people don't want to put their money where their mouth is, we could be short."

The group is working to secure a three-year lease on the property. The Gazette noted that the "first floor would be used for books and a small cafe, and the mezzanine level would be perfect to host studio space for artists." A strong candidate for manager of the store has been found, and members are looking at creative ways to hold a naming contest for the new store.

"We want this to be a new cultural center to downtown," LaSeur said. "We want to bring in authors for readings and make this a real community hub for literacy. I realize that there are other book stores in downtown Billings, including Barjon's and A Few Books More, but the rising tide floats all books."

Harpervia: The Alaska Sanders Affair by Joël Dicker, Translated by Robert Bononno

DBW 2016: European Regulators vs. Amazon, Audible

At Digital Book World this week, Jessica Sänger, legal counsel and deputy head of the legal department at the Börsenverein, the German publishers, wholesalers and booksellers association, updated attendees on the status of two complaints the association has made on behalf of some publisher members against Amazon and its Audible subsidiary. Among her conclusions, which are applicable on this side of the Atlantic: regulatory authorities have been more comfortable focusing on "restrictive practices" and "exclusivity agreements" instead of going into antitrust matters because antitrust would require "a lot of market definition," which can be "very onerous to authorities." Also, happily for German publishers, in both cases, the complaints and investigations have led Amazon to discontinue, at least for now, their abusive demands on publishers.

Jessica Sänger

The first case would sound familiar to Americans, she said, because it involved Amazon punishing a publisher that was not agreeing to its demands for a better discount. (As it did with Hachette in the U.S., Amazon slowed delivery of titles published by German subsidiaries of Swedish media company Bonnier Group, whose imprints in Germany include Ullstein, Piper, Berlin and Carlsen. Reportedly Amazon wanted to increase discounts on e-books from the usual 30% to somewhere between 40% and 50%.)

In June 2014, the Börsenverein wrote to both the German Federal Cartel Office and the European Commission, believing Amazon's actions constituted "an abuse of its dominant position."

In the end, Sänger said, the European Commission decided to investigate--not the issue of coercion and delivery delays, but instead the most favored nation clause in its contracts (the clause that requires Amazon get the best set of terms offered to any of its competitors).

The second case involved Audible's demands that small publishers accept new contracts that instead of licensing one-off downloads, would have a flat rate model and would include streaming rights, which aren't available for all titles. Publishers who didn't sign the contracts immediately would be delisted from Audible, which controls some 90% of audio downloads in Germany.

The Börsenverein filed complaints with the EC and Germany's Federal Cartel Office, and in this case it was the Federal Cartel Office that investigated. It, too, was attracted by an aspect of the situation that wasn't at the heart of the issue for the publishers: the long-term exclusive deal by which Audible titles are sold on the Apple iTunes store. --John Mutter Outage: 'Alexa, Fix @amazon'

Yesterday, "was briefly down in multiple locations" across the U.S., beginning at 2:30 p.m. on both Web and mobile, USA Today reported, adding that the "outage was much less severe than the 30 minute blackout Amazon experienced in 2013, which Forbes then estimated could have cost the company as much as $1,987,200 in lost sales." As usual, Amazon "did not immediately respond to a request for comment."

GeekWire wrote that during the outage, users encountered "various error messages when visiting the main site, with some seeing just simple messages and others getting pictures and more detailed instructions to resolve the problem (which didn't really work)."

Consumerist noted that "reports of the site being unavailable have spiked on DownDetector, which--in a matter of minutes--received more than 10,000 complaints about the e-commerce giant being down, and where a map of Amazon outages looks like much of the continental U.S. has gone up in red and yellow flames."

On Twitter, one wag offered an Echo-inspired solution: "Alexa, fix @amazon."

LBF Lifetime Achievement Award to PRH's Gail Rebuck

Gail Rebuck

Gail Rebuck, chair of Penguin Random House U.K., will receive the London Book Fair's 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award in International Publishing, which recognizes an individual who has made "a truly significant mark in the sphere of global publishing," the Bookseller reported. She will be honored April 12 during the International Excellence Awards ceremony in London.

David Roche, non-executive chair of the LBF advisory group, said Rebuck "is a once in a generation publishing giant--a force of nature who has driven herself, her publishing companies and her authors to enormous global success. With her involvement in World Book Day, Quick Reads and the National Literacy Trust, Gail has always been a passionate leader and advocate for literacy for all. I am delighted that London Book Fair can recognize the breadth and distinction of her contribution with this Lifetime Achievement Award."

Rebuck commented: "I am so thrilled to receive this award which is such an honor as it comes from the industry I have loved for nearly 40 years.... Being a publisher has never simply been a job for me but a passionate vocation.  It has been a privilege to work with many of the most talented publishing teams in the industry and there can be no job in the world to match the excitement of being one of the first to read a great author's new work, discover a new voice or be stimulated by a new idea. Curiosity and a love of books drive everyone in this industry."

Quercus Launches New riverrun Imprint

Quercus has launched riverrun, a new imprint led by publisher Jon Riley that will showcase the company's literary fiction, upmarket crime and serious nonfiction. The editorial team includes Niamh Mulvey, Richard Arcus and Rose Tomaszewska.

"Choosing the name of the new imprint--riverrun--was more complicated than we could have imagined, but all along the solution was across the road. A river," said Riley, adding that riverrun, which is also the first word of James Joyce's Finnegans Wake, "has energy, poetry, momentum and is memorable. In time it will stand as a strong symbol for what we want to achieve."

Among the Quercus authors joining the list are Peter May, Louise O'Neill and Joanna Kavenna. The imprint's first title will be Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama. The official launch date of riverrun is May 2, when The Birdwatcher by British crime writer William Shaw, will be published.


Image of the Day: One More Dino at Quail Ridge Books

Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, N.C., hosted the launch for Kelly Starling Lyons's picture book One More Dino on the Floor (Albert Whitman) on March 5. Several other authors and illustrators attended the event, including author Johnny Ray Moore, who was gracious enough to wear the T-Rex costume. 

It was the final event at Quail Ridge's Ridgewood location; a temporary store, Quail Ridge on the Fly, will soon open in the North Hills shopping center, until the store's new permanent location--also in the North Hills Center--is ready in late spring.

Bookstore Chalkboard of the Day: Book Soup & Elton John

The Patron Saint of Book Soup.

A sidewalk chalkboard at Book Soup, Los Angeles, Calif., features a quote from one of its regular customers, Elton John. The Hollywood Reporter noted that during an interview the day before the Oscars, John told Sharon Osbourne: "I love record stores... and bookstores. If Book Soup, over the road, went as well, then I'd probably throw myself off a cliff."

The bookstore chose to commemorate John's endorsement on its sidewalk chalkboard. "He comes in every other month and stocks up," said Book Soup's Rob Bieselin, who lettered the chalkboard and "constructed a 'shrine' to the singer in one of the store's windows in gratitude for his business and support of West Hollywood charities," THR wrote.

Obama Cites Border Library in Welcoming Trudeau

The Haskell Free Library and Opera House, which straddles the border in Stanstead, Quebec, and Derby Line, Vt., was cited yesterday by President Obama, who welcomed Canadian Prime Minster Justin Trudeau to the White House, as a symbolic place "where the borderline literally runs right across the floor." The location has been a tourist attraction "since its completion in 1904," Mental Floss noted.

According to the library's website, "nowhere else can one find such an unusual library. The front door is in the U.S., the circulation desk and all of the books are in Canada, and the reading room is international." Martha Stewart Haskell and her son, Colonel Horace Stewart Haskell, both Canadians, built the building as a tribute to her late husband, Carlos, with the hope that citizens from both countries would use it as a "center for learning and cultural enrichment."

Personnel Changes at Perseus

At Perseus:

Abbey Phalen has been promoted to marketing and business development manager at Publishers Group West, a new position. She has been with PGW for 10 years.

Katie Gallagher has been named gift sales manager at Perseus's specialty retail group. She has extensive experience in the gift market.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Fresh Air Remembers Pat Conroy

Fresh Air: a retrospective of interviews with the late Pat Conroy.

CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS: Barry Strauss, author of The Death of Caesar: The Story of History's Most Famous Assassination (Simon & Schuster, $27, 9781451668797).

OWN's Where Are They Now: Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of Two If by Sea (Simon & Schuster, $25.99, 9781501115578).

Movies: American Assassin; The Adderall Diaries

CBS Films and Lionsgate have announced that Michael Keaton (Birdman, Spotlight) will play the role of Stan Hurley in the movie adaptation of Vince Flynn's bestselling novel American Assassin, one of 14 novels set in the world of counterterrorism operative Mitch Rapp. Michael Cuesta (Kill the Messenger, Homeland, L.I.E.) is directing from a screenplay by Stephen Schiff (The Americans, Ultimate Rush). Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Nick Wechsler are producing.

"Stan Hurley is one of the pillars of the Vince Flynn universe and a favorite character for millions of readers, so casting him was a daunting challenge," said Cuesta. "To have an actor as intelligent and gifted as Michael Keaton bring this beloved character to life is a thrill for everyone involved in American Assassin and a cause for celebration amongst 'Hurley' fans the world over."


A trailer has been released for The Adderall Diaries, based on the book by Stephen Elliot. Indiewire reported that the film "will be available exclusively to DirecTV customers this week, with a theatrical release to follow next month." Written and directed by Pamela Romanowsky, The Adderall Diaries stars James Franco (as Elliot), Amber Heard, Ed Harris, Cynthia Nixon and Christian Slater.

Books & Authors

Awards: NYPL Helen Bernstein Book; Stella

Finalists have been named for the New York Public Library's $15,000 Helen Bernstein Book Award For Excellence in Journalism, which honors "working journalists whose books have brought clarity and public attention to important issues, events or policies." The winner will be announced May 18. This year's finalists are:

Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America by Jill Leovy (Spiegel & Grau)
Killing a King: The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin & the Remaking of Israel by Dan Ephron (Norton)
One of Us: The Story of Anders Breivik & the Massacre in Norway by Asne Seierstad (FSG)
The Prize: Who's in Charge of America's Schools by Dale Russakoff (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Strangers Drowning by Larissa MacFarquhar (Penguin)


A shortlist has been released for the $50,000 (about US$37,360) Stella Prize, which celebrates Australian women's contribution to literature. The winner will be named April 19 in Sydney, with the other five shortlisted authors receiving $2,000 ($1,495) each. This year's finalists are:

Six Bedrooms by Tegan Bennett Daylight
Hope Farm by Peggy Frew
A Few Days in the Country: And Other Stories by Elizabeth Harrower
The World Without Us by Mireille Juchau
The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood
Small Acts of Disappearance: Essays on Hunger by Fiona Wright

Book Brahmin: Kaitlyn Greenidge

photo: Syreeta McFadden

Kaitlyn Greenidge was born in Boston and received her MFA from Hunter College. Her work has appeared in the Believer, American Short Fiction, Guernica, Kweli Journal, the Feminist Wire, Afro Pop Magazine, Green Mountains Review and other places. She is the recipient of a 2016 NEA Fellowship in Literature, as well as fellowships from Lower Manhattan Community Council's Work-Space Program and the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. We Love You, Charlie Freeman (Algonquin, March 8, 2016) is her first novel.

On your nightstand now:

Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebooks. I often think about how some authors become synonymous with a certain movement or a certain type of reader, and then they become lost. It's terrible, but I think it's just human nature. I knew Lessing as a favorite of second-wave feminists and so I was wary of reading this one. It's a revelation--it is everything that I think some people are struggling with now. How do white people of any sort of consciousness take into account their complicity in systems of racism, empire and white supremacy? How do progressives resist the urge to cannibalize our movements and our comrades? How can men and women ever be in romantic relationships together when we fundamentally misunderstand and miscommunicate? And the structure! She just goes for it. Like, "this novel is going to be structured in a weird and complicated way, with a conceit that seems a bit out of nowhere. But, whatever, you as a reader are in it now, so just take my word for it." I am trying to learn from that confidence.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I was a great re-reader as a child. I read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn nearly every summer from ages 11-18. Same with Jane Eyre. As a much younger child, probably Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass. I had two beautiful illustrated versions that I read again and again. At one point, I had the entirety of "The Walrus and the Carpenter" memorized.

Your top five authors:

Toni Morrison makes these grand pronouncements, almost like hypotheses. And yet, her work is deeply embedded in the techniques of fiction. I like how she can make a sweeping statement that works both as a way to define the fictional world on her page and as a critique of our culture. That sounds like a really basic skill, but it's so difficult to pull off. Mostly in novels, when writers try to do this, they limit it to talking about romantic love. Morrison is gimlet-eyed so can do this with any and every subject.

Gabriel García Márquez's novels can be read again and again and again, and a reader can find a different perspective each time. And he includes all of life--the sacred and the profane and the rude, too. I reread Love in the Time of Cholera a few months ago--the climactic scene of the two lovers, a meeting that is the culmination of decades' worth of unrequited love, is punctuated by an extended fart joke. I love that. And I aspire to write something similar one day.

Colette writes in the present, and has a catalogue of smells and tastes that are unparalleled in anything else I've read. She is one of the first writers I discovered who wrote about eating ink and paper--a habit of mine from childhood. For that, I will always feel an affinity with her.

Salman Rushdie's early novels relentlessly mine childhood and the drama of family while insisting that both are relevant to how we understand self, our communities and nationhood.

Evelyn Waugh has these moments in his novels where the whole tone of the book can change in a single sentence. It happens in Vile Bodies (my favorite) and A Handful of Dust--a book so bleak it actually pains me to reread it. I love that shift in tone--from the bubbly effervescence of a Nancy Mitford social satire to deadly earnest, deadly serious drama where all the excesses of the previous pages suddenly have very real consequences.

Book you've faked reading:

I have actually read Don DeLillo but I am not a DeLillo fanatic. Many of my writer friends are DeLillo lovers and I wish I could understand the appeal. I read his books and the words just wash over me and don't leave any impression. In my more insecure days, I faked the funk and pretended to fangirl alongside them. I understand he's enormously important for many but he leaves me--not cold, exactly. Probably just indifferent.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Legs McNeil's The Other Hollywood and Please Kill Me. Absolutely beautiful pieces of journalism and proof of what oral histories can do when they are edited with a sense of humor and irony.

Book you hid from your parents:

Oh, probably the historical romances and fantasy novels I read as a teenager. I knew those books were déclassé. I liked fantasy novels that no one else did, so I didn't even have the solace of a community of fandom. My tastes ranged towards things like The Spellkey Trilogy by Ann Downer. I think I was the only person on earth who read those. The Oracle Glass by Judith Merkle Riley. And this book whose title I have blocked out because it was so embarrassing. It was a fantasy novel about half-cat, half-human creatures who could also fly and had enormous amounts of sex on top of pink cloud palaces. That was humiliating to read and enjoy as a 14-year-old who knew she should do better. Recently, I told a friend about that one. He is also a nerd, but even he said, "I would have beat you up if I saw you reading that back in the day."

Book that changed your life:

Rollerderby by Lisa Carver. I read it when I was 12 and my family had just moved into public housing, and I'd just started going to a very snobbish private school. I was acutely aware of class and acutely anxious about the class lines I straddled. Rollerderby was an unabashed celebration of lower-class and working-class life. Every woman that upper-middle class Bostonians claimed to be scandalized by in 1993--Danielle Steel and Dolly Parton and Tonya Harding and Peggy Bundy---was celebrated in that book as a trash goddess. It was breathtaking. So counter to everything I knew that when I first read that book, it straight-up terrified me. It probably has informed my worldview as much as any other piece of theory or history. It taught me the power in being underestimated, the power in being too feminine or too gauche or too loud or just too much. Too bad Lisa Carver later hooked up with a white supremacist. I was rooting for her.

Favorite line from a book:

"I warn her. I say this is not a man who will help you when he sees you break up. Only the best can do that. The best--and sometimes the worst." --Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

And, also from Wide Sargasso Sea:

" 'I am not used to happiness,' she said. 'It makes me afraid.' "

Five books you'll never part with:

I have moved and been evicted more times than I can count at this point in my life. Every time we moved, my mother would complain about all the books, so many books, we had to pack. But we never got rid of any of them. These are the ones that I still have, after countless moves since I was a kid, and that come with me to every apartment: One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez; Imperial Leather by Anne McKinnon; Role Models by John Waters; Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë; and What's Happening to Me? by Peter Mayle. I keep this last one because it's one of the few picture books from my childhood that I still have. As a kid, I would pour over this book for hours, trying to figure out the mysteries of puberty. It was supposed to be an illuminating book, but it is full of confusing visual euphemisms. I spent a significant part of my eighth year trying to figure out what a wet dream was because this book represented it as a rain cloud hovering over a young boy's bed.

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

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez.

Book Review

Review: Everything I Found on the Beach

Everything I Found on the Beach by Cynan Jones (Coffee House Press, $15.95 trade paper, 9781566894364, April 5, 2016)

Cynan Jones's (The Dig) Everything I Found on the Beach is a remarkable novel, quiet but powerful. Three unacquainted men on the west coast of Wales aspire to better their respective circumstances, and to that end make a series of decisions that have dire consequences. It is a story filled with tension, desperation and stoicism. Patient pacing nonetheless accompanies a relentless momentum, moving toward an ending that inspires dread.

Hold is a Welsh fisherman, consumed by his sense of responsibility. He is dedicated to the natural world and his place in it, carefully balanced and respectful in the hunting and fishing he does for a living. He is devoted to the wife and son of his recently deceased best friend; Hold made a promise to this friend that worries him constantly. His sense of duty begins as rational and admirable, but may end by overwhelming him. Grzegorz is a Polish immigrant who brought his family to Wales for a better life but found disappointment. He works shifts at a slaughterhouse whose practices offend him, and sees little hope of escaping the indignities of shared migrant workers' housing. If only he could get a little ahead, he thinks, this might have been worth it. Finally there is Stringer, Irish and a middleman in a criminal hierarchy that he feels has taken advantage of him for too long. These men find potential solutions to their problems in a scene on the beach: a boat, a dead man and a package. Hold's livelihood offers the metaphor of the net: "Once they choose a course, if the net is there, they hit it." 

Jones's writing is deceptively simple, often employing short, declarative sentences that belie his poetic mastery of language. His words have a marching rhythm to them that recalls Hemingway: "The first time he ever shot rabbits he was alone and it was with a shotgun and he had been looking for a long time...." His tone is deliberate, resolutely unexcitable despite the extraordinarily high stakes of his story, peopled almost entirely by the three men, whose interior monologues do much of the work to characterize them.

Such a bleak story and austere style may sound gloomy, and it is true that this is a serious book that rewards careful reading. But Everything I Found on the Beach is also thought-provoking and somehow uplifting, in its beautiful, artistic consideration of life itself. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: A profound story in simple packaging tells of three men longing to catch a break, against a desolate backdrop.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Retail Mourning--'I Sell Dead People'

"Death doesn't lend to easy commercialization. Which isn't to say that it can't, or isn't, harnessed in the commercial realm to great effect, but those who treat the dead without respect can do great harm to the living. How do we booksellers deal with the death of a prominent figure? There have been many conversations behind the counter (and everywhere else) with the deaths of David Bowie and Alan Rickman, which raised the specter of retail and death in my mind." --New Zealand bookseller Marcus Greville in a January post at the Booksellers NZ blog titled "I Sell Dead People"

At Sundog Books, Seaside, Fla.

I've been thinking about Greville's column a lot since I first read it. Every week there seems to be another reason or two or three to stoke this contemplative fire: Michel Tournier, Margaret Forster, Nigel McDowell, Harper Lee, Umberto Eco, Rosario Ferré, Louise Rennison, Pat Conroy and more.

Perhaps it also has something to do with some of the books I've been reading in recent months, including Paul Kalanthi's When Breath Becomes Air, Diane Rehm's On My Own, Atul Gawande's Being Mortal, Clive James's Sentenced to Life, Katie Roiphe's The Violet Hour and several essays by Jenny Diski, whose new book, In Gratitude, will be released in May.

Most authors outlive their books and watch them vanish from print (even if digital ghosts remain to haunt) long before the writers themselves have been shipped back to that great remainder house in the sky. Sometimes, however, books outlive their authors. When that happens, a phenomenon known as retail mourning occurs. NPR, newspapers and other media (including Shelf Awareness) run high-profile obituaries and follow-up pieces.

I remember scowling many years ago the first time I noticed one of those headline links on the news section of a distributor's books-in-print site: "[Writer's name] has died. Here is a list of some of this author's books."

Cold, man.

Memorial displays at Quail Ridge Books.

And yet, a sales floor wake is traditionally held. Bookstore buyers react to the news by immediately casting their lines into the murky waters of the biblio-Styx, ordering multiple copies of the author's backlist, including early titles from small and university presses that the shop might not have carried for years. Bookshop merchandisers build display memorials with whatever stock they have and appropriate signage. Everybody sells out, literally and figuratively, but in a nice way, I think.

"I have felt dirty displaying the books of a recently departed author; tainted by the commercial act," Greville wrote. "I was quite cynical when Terry Pratchett died, hoarding remaindered copies of his books in advance and waiting for his death. Yet in other instances I have reverently displayed the books of the dead, alongside photos and quotes. When Jose Saramago died in 2010, or Maurice Sendak in 2012, I went to great lengths to promote their books, because I loved them and wanted others to read them and love them too. I also loved Pratchett's work but felt guilty that I prepared for his death. Is it premise or practice that makes the act one of respect or disrespect?"

Upon learning that an author has passed, many readers head to bookstores because they feel compelled to seek out "books by that writer who just died. I never heard of him, but he sounds interesting." Or because they can't find the copies they bought years ago (which they know are hiding somewhere on their bookshelves or in boxes in that dry crawlspace in the cellar or were loaned to friends/relatives and never returned).  

This blend of mortality and marketing may seem like a summer stock production of Death and a Salesman, but it does have a proper ceremonial air. Booksellers honor living writers by finding readers for their work. Wouldn't they honor recently deceased writers the same way?

Reading helps us deal with adversity, so it makes sense that when authors die, particularly those who once deeply touched our mind and soul, a need to seek out their books again is a natural reaction. And isn't reading a traditional and essential part of memorial services? I once saw a list of tips for friends and relatives who would be reading at a funeral service. It included these two recommendations: 1) Readings are proclaimed from a suitable book. 2) Remember to read more slowly and deliberately than you would in normal conversation. Sound advice.

"Drawing attention to the works of an author, or a biography of a recently deceased person, rarely has a profitable aspect to it," Greville wrote. "It could well be argued that by making space for such displays one is taking prime space away from other more commercial titles. So what is being accomplished? A store is simply telling the world what it cares about, what it respects and loves. It's not about premise and/or practice, as a bookseller your premise is your practice; just keep it in alignment."

Read in Peace.

--Robert Gray, contributing editor (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)

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