Also published on this date: Monday, January 30, 2017: Maximum Shelf: Salt Houses

Shelf Awareness for Monday, January 30, 2017

Chronicle Books: Stella & Marigold by Annie Barrows, Illustrated by Sophie Blackall

Poisoned Pen Press: The Boyfriend by Frieda McFadden

St. Martin's Press: Disney High: The Untold Story of the Rise and Fall of Disney Channel's Tween Empire

Running Press Adult: Scam Goddess: Lessons from a Life of Cons, Grifts, and Schemes by Laci Mosley

Graphix: 39 Clues: One False Note (39 Clues Graphic Novel #2) by Gordon Korman, Illustrated by Hannah Templer


Wi12: Another Wonderful Winter Institute

Winter Institute 2017, which began on Friday and ends tonight, in Minneapolis, Minn., continues the excellent tradition of the previous 11 Winter Institutes. Once again, it's a place where booksellers--650 this year, a new high--talk shop, learn from one another, learn from the many solid educational panels, meet authors, hear about upcoming titles and revel in all the things that make independent bookselling so special and satisfying--despite its many challenges.

The American Booksellers Association has once again organized matters masterfully, tweaking the event a bit but maintaining the elements that have made the Winter Institute into the most important event in the country for independent bookselling. So far highlights have included a rousing breakfast keynote by Roxane Gay (see article below); a fascinating conversation between Lesley Stahl and Ann Patchett, wide-ranging bookseller discussion groups, a striking presentation about his stores' transformation by Foyles CEO Paul Currie, the organizing of Indies Forward, a new group for young professionals in bookselling and publishing, and a vibrant, challenging town hall meeting that drew hundreds of booksellers.

Nearly half of the 650 bookseller attendees were first-timers, as many stores that have attended for years made a point of sending newbies. There were also a impressive number of younger booksellers, which many old-timers commented on approvingly. ("Our future is here," one said.) They've been energetic, passionate and questioning.

Because of the presidential election, politics has been a constant subject--in many conversations as well as some panels. Besides general concerns, many booksellers discussed the role of bookstores in the new political climate--how and whether they can be a refuge and safe place or a passionate advocate for change or a place where a range of ideas and opinions are presented--or a combination of those things.

There have also been spirited, often pointed discussions about the lack of people of color and marginalized people in the book business in general, as well as in bookselling and on the ABA board. A conversation has begun, and it seemed that for the ABA and many booksellers, this would mark the beginning of some constructive work.

Knock on wood, this was perhaps the first Winter Institute that was unaffected by snowstorms, either in the host city or in other parts of the country. In fact, locals described the weather, with average temperatures in the 20-degree range, as unusually nice--at least for Minnesota in January.

And once again, we wish to thank Mitchell Kaplan, owner of Books & Books in Florida and the Cayman Islands, who, as ABA president, came up with the idea of the Winter Institute more than a dozen years ago.

Peachtree: The Littlest Yak: Home Is Where the Herd Is by Lu Fraser, Illustrated by Kate Hindley

WI12: Booksellers Celebrate

The Open Book was packed with enthusiatic booksellers during the Winter Institute Welcome Reception, co-sponsored by Shelf Awareness.

Kate Moore, author of Radium Girls (Sourcebooks), at a WI12 dinner, surrounded by booksellers: (l.-r.) Sourcebooks' Valerie Pierce, Rita Maggio (BookTowne, Manasquan, N.J.), Moore, Ann Woodbeck (Excelsior Bay Books, Excelsior, Minn.) and Kate Rattenborg (Dragonfly Books, Decorah, Iowa).
At Sunday's Author Reception: Andrew McCarthy, author of Just Fly Away; Jonah Zimiles, [words] Bookstore, Maplewood, N.J.; and Algonquin editor Elise Howard (her book The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill won the Newbery last week).
Lori Feathers, co-owner of the soon-to-open Interabang Books in Dallas, Tex., with Ann Patchett, author of Commonwealth and owner of Parnassus Books, Nashville, Tenn.

WI12: Roxane Gay Urges Bookstores to Become Places of Sanctuary

"What I do know is that today, tomorrow and for the foreseeable future, everything we do is political as readers, as writers, as booksellers, as people," said author Roxane Gay during the opening keynote at Winter Institute 2017 on Saturday morning. In a passionate, 20-minute talk that concluded in a standing ovation, Gay discussed the lack of diversity in publishing and bookselling, the problem of endlessly discussing the lack of diversity without doing anything about it, the role of books and bookstores as places of sanctuary, and what book people can do under the presidency of Donald Trump.

"[In contemporary publishing] people of color are not asked about our areas of expertise, as if the only thing we're allowed to be experts on is our marginalization," said Gay, who last year stated that she wanted no part of any more panel discussions on diversity. "We are asked to offer good white people absolution from the ills of racism."

Gay said that the term diversity itself has been so overused that it has become all but meaningless and so large that it overshadows and obfuscates the real, practical problems of "inclusion, recruitment, retention and representation." These endless panels on diversity paint a picture of a problem "seemingly without end," and are a substitute for taking real action and addressing the issue.

"And of course it's not as if there are no people of color who are eminently capable of participating in publishing. We are many, but somehow publishing can't seem to find us, unless we do the work of three or four writers and of course catch a few lucky breaks," Gay continued.  "The few of us who do manage to break through are touted as examples of progress while we are still the exception and not the rule."

When she added that she has lost count of how many times black women have written her to say that their essay collections were rejected because "publishing already has a Roxane Gay," there were audible gasps of surprise throughout the room.

"They don't want to do what it takes, which is invest actual money for a sustained period of time, to change the makeup of this industry," she said. "Instead most people seem to want to feel better about themselves by making a few symbolic gestures...Herein lies the inertia, the self-serving intentions."

Gay recalled that she has been a writer since the age of four, when she began writing stories on paper napkins, and for about as long she's been a reader. "It was reading that allowed the borders of my imagination to expand," she said. "It was reading that stoked my ambition to write bigger and better stores."

Throughout her life, Gay said that books have been her best friends, and in bookstores and with books she has been able to "forget the cruelties of the world," and been able to find "sanctuary, a consecrated place, a place of refuge and protection."

Since November 8 and the election of Donald Trump, Gay said she has been thinking quite a bit about the idea of sanctuary, and that through her writing and her activism she is trying to "offer sanctuary." The day after the election, she found herself in an independent bookstore, and through that community of book lovers managed to find, if only for a few hours, refuge and comfort. In the coming years, books and bookstores will be "more important and more necessary than ever," with a need to become more open and inclusive.

She then touched on the lack of diversity in bookselling. "The majority of booksellers at the stores I go to are white people and rarely does anyone bring this up. Publishing has a diversity problem and so do the bookstores that work within this ecosystem. Book people are good people but we are not immune from the ways of the world."

In the years ahead, Gay said, booksellers will have to "get uncomfortable" as they work harder than ever to make their stores and their communities more inclusive and cannot fall back on the comforting, complacent distance of merely being an ally. "Everything is now political and we have a responsibility to make the political personal. We have to fight for and with each other," she explained. "As booksellers, the work ahead of you now is to ensure that your stores are places of refuge for everyone who needs sanctuary."

"You don't need me to tell you these things," urged Gay, "or do the work you are eminently capable of doing. You are smart, passionate book people... You can figure out how to be more inclusive in all ways, you can get political, you can get uncomfortable, you can remember that you are not just selling books, you are providing sanctuary, you are the stewards of sacred spaces. Rise to the occasion." --Alex Mutter

Wi12: The Life Cycle of the Book

A story titled "The Life Cycle of the Book," even if it is set at a Wi12 panel, should have a great opening line, and Elizabeth Strout provided a fine one when she remarked at the start of Saturday's session: "I'm the one who writes the book."

Moderated by Betsy Burton of the King's English Bookshop in Salt Lake City, Utah, the panel explored the life cycle of Strout's bestseller My Name Is Lucy Barton from the perspectives of the author, her agent Molly Friedrich, her Random House editor Susan Kamil, Ruth Liebmann (v-p & director, account marketing, PRH) and bookseller Pete Mulvihill of Green Apple Books in San Francisco, Calif.

"I think that a lot of what an agent does is try to help the author manage expectations, focus on the work, the work; stay honest to the work," Friedrich said, adding that with Strout's manuscripts, "she's been over that work so many times and with such lapidary attention that there's very, very little to say except to be in a kind of swoon of admiration.... And with Lucy Barton in particular, it was kind of perfect."

Pete Mulvihill, Susan Kamil, ABA president Betsy Burton, Elizabeth Strout, Mollly Friedrich and Ruth Liebmann

Kamil observed that "editors are like literary shape shifters. We become exactly what our authors need us to become," and recalled that after reading the Lucy Barton manuscript for the first time, "I can't quite describe the feeling to you, though as book lovers I'm sure you know what I mean when I say I was stunned and I was speechless.... I also knew it was a masterwork. It's all about the book. And in this particular case, what a book! I had to get it into the hands of our publishing team."

Because of universally positive response in-house, the goal quickly became making a debut as a #1 bestseller. Liebmann explained the "onions and steak" theory of marketing: "Onions don't like to be put in a very hot pan; you slowly heat them up." She cited Hanya Yanagihara's A Little Life as an example. "We knew we had something amazing and we really loved it, but we didn't push it out big with everyone. We thought the way, in the long run, to build excitement and sell a lot of books was to kind of put the onions in the pan and let you guys be the ambassador for the book and let it build, which it has done fantastically. Thank you."

For a steak, however, a hot cast iron skillet is required "and that is what we are doing with a book like My Name Is Lucy Barton," she continued. "When the book is in your stores, we want you to know about it and we want the consumer to know about it."

Liebmann also stressed the importance of sales reps in the life cycle of a book: "The reps represent us to you, but the other thing they do that is just as important, and sometimes more important, is they represent you and your stores back to us.... We are talking about you all the time, especially for literary fiction.... We're probably spending more time talking about the independents than you might guess because you're very important to us at this part of the process."

In addition to his buyers at Green Apple Books, Mulvihill said, "There are 35 employees, and all of them contribute to the buying process.... Our reps are always putting piles of books in our hands. Other booksellers are saying 'You've got to read this.' Sometimes you get a really nice handwritten note from an editor you've never met, and there's your first name. How can you not give it at least 20 pages, right?... After we decide what to buy, we have to decide where to place it, how many copies to get. It's easy with an author like Liz because she has a track record."

Strout noted the strange feeling she has "when I have given up the book.... There's a sense of anxiety because I realize it's now gone from me. You just hope that it will be okay. So there's an anxiety that builds up before a pub date, and then I'm on tour, so that helps because I meet my readers and that's always really nice, and helps me connect once again to the piece of work, which I have given up."

And what happens at the end of the cycle, on pub day? Kamil said, "The scariest thing that happens is we start thinking about the paperback. And we have to do it all over again." --Robert Gray

Powell's Miriam Sontz to Deliver PubWest Keynote

Powell's CEO Miriam Sontz

Miriam Sontz, CEO of Powell's Books, Portland, Ore., will be the closing keynote at PubWest 2017, which will be held February 9-11 in Portland.

Sontz's theme will be "a passion for books and the business of books," focusing on how to bring together the passion for books that draws so many people to the industry with the challenge of dealing with day-to-day business operations--something she has done so well in her long career at one of the country's preeminent bookstores.

Will Patton had originally been scheduled to give the closing keynote, but won't be able to attend.

For more information on PubWest, click here.

Arcadia Launches Reprint Imprint, Marula

Arcadia Publishing, which focuses on publishing local and regional books in the United States, is dusting off old history for modern audiences with its new Marula imprint. Marula will reprint public domain titles of historical interest that might otherwise have fallen into obscurity. These paperback facsimiles will cover topics from colonial homemaking, Victorian-era cooking, firsthand accounts of the Civil War, early guides to American cities and travelogues on emerging railroad lines.

Richard Joseph, CEO and owner of Arcadia Publishing & the History Press, named the imprint after a tree in his native South Africa. "The tree is perennial, returning year after year to provide fruit for the animals and people of South Africa. Just as the Marula tree returns each spring, we want to honor these perennial American classics by making sure they aren't lost to history."

Marula launches today with a first run of titles including:

What We Cook on Cape Cod by the Village Improvement Society of Barnstable, Massachusetts (originally published in 1911)
Forty Years at El Paso: 1858-1898 by W.W. Mills (originally published in 1901)
Within Fort Sumter: A View of Major Anderson's Garrison Family for One Hundred and Ten Days by Miss A. Fletcher (originally published in 1861)
The Story of Minneapolis by E. Dudley Parsons, Instructor in English in the West High School (originally published in 1913)
Seattle and the Orient, edited and compiled by Alfred D. Brown (originally published in 1900)

A full list of current and upcoming titles is available here.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Dr. Haider Warraich on Fresh Air

Fresh Air: Dr. Haider Warraich, author of Modern Death: How Medicine Changed the End of Life (St. Martin's Pres, $26.99, 9781250104588).

MSNBC's Squawk Box: Hugh Hewitt, author of The Fourth Way: The Conservative Playbook for a Lasting GOP Majority (Simon & Schuster, $24.99, 9781501172441).

The View: Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, authors of Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin (Spiegel & Grau, $26, 9780812997231).

Late Late Show with James Corden: Keke Palmer, author of I Don't Belong to You: Quiet the Noise and Find Your Voice (North Star Way, $24.99, 9781501145391). She will also appear tomorrow on the Today Show and the View.

NPR's the Takeaway: Timothy B. Tyson, author of The Blood of Emmett Till (Simon & Schuster, $27, 9781476714844).

TV: The Looming Tower

Tahar Rahim has been cast as one of the two leads in Hulu's "high-profile" project The Looming Tower, a straight-to-series drama based on Lawrence Wright's Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Deadline reported, adding that the series is from Dan Futterman (Foxcatcher), Alex Gibney (Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief) and Legendary Television. Futterman, Gibney and Wright will executive produce the series, which is aiming for a 2017 premiere.

Books & Authors

Awards: Minnesota Book Finalists

Finalists in all nine categories have been chosen for the 2017 Minnesota Book Awards and can be seen here. Winners will be announced on April 8 in St. Paul.

Book Review

Review: Turkish Delight

Turkish Delight by Jan Wolkers, trans. by Sam Garrett (Tin House Books, $15.95 trade paper, 240p., 9781941040478, March 7, 2017)

Jan Wolkers's 1969 novel Turks Fruit was translated from the Dutch into many languages and adapted into a highly regarded 1973 film. Sam Garrett's English translation is not the first of this work, but reflects its continuing appeal.

Turkish Delight opens with the unnamed narrator, a sculptor, lamenting and railing against his lost love. He describes in great detail a surfeit of sexual affairs undertaken after she departed, then flashes back to describe their first encounter: Olga picked him up as a hitchhiker, then pulled over the car for the first of their sexual enthusiasms. Olga is the heart and life of this novel and of the narrator's existence: he obsessively recites and reviews her body, her sex, her red hair, her love for animals, her jokes and delights. The lengthy flashback sees their relationship and, later, marriage run its course (his evil mother-in-law plays a heavy role), and returns again to the sculptor's tortured single life. His love for Olga does not flag, even as she degrades herself (in his eyes) with subsequent marriages and physical decline. The novel ends at Olga's deathbed, where the former lover feeds her the soft candy Turkish delight, as her teeth fail her.

Not for the faint of heart, Turkish Delight was immediately notorious upon its original publication for its graphic sexual content, and decades later remains a frank, granular portrayal of sex, bodily fluids and coarse language. It has much to offer beyond shock effect, however. The narrator's tone is unapologetic, and if he is fixated on Olga's body and its pleasures (and equally detailed in describing his later lovers), his message is as much romantic as it is sexual. On the one hand, he worships Olga as a romantic ideal, and on the other, speaks in a recognizable, colloquial, even familiar voice. It is easy to see how shocking, even revolutionary Wolkers's writing appeared in 1969, and it holds the power to provoke today. But it is also an honest view of a sticky love affair, one made of sweets, devotion and passion, as well as cruelty and obsession. Fittingly, Olga and the sculptor welcomed a menagerie of animals into their home together, and in a way their relationship ends as violently as a pet destroyed with an accidental crunch, "as though the little bird was built around a wooden frame."

Garrett's translation of Wolkers's prose is often lyrical and always heartfelt; the juxtaposition of poetry with crude language echoes the narrator's passionate love and enormous lust. Turkish Delight is a serious and artistic literary work, but only appropriate for readers fully tolerant of graphic sex. --Julia Jenkins, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: A Dutch novel of 1969 still titillates with its sexual content, but deserves serious consideration for style and themes, too.

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