Shelf Awareness for Friday, June 9, 2017

Algonquin Young Readers: the Beautiful Game by Yamile Saied Méndez

Berkley Books: Books that will sweep you off your feet! Enter Giveaway!

Feiwel & Friends: The Flicker by HE Edgmon

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers: The Pumpkin Princess and the Forever Night by Steven Banbury

St. Martin's Griffin: Murdle: The School of Mystery: 50 Seriously Sinister Logic Puzzles by GT Karber


NYC's Books of Wonder Opening Second Store

Books of Wonder in New York City will open a second location, on Manhattan's Upper West Side, at 217 West 84th Street. In an e-mail announcing the development yesterday, owner Peter Glassman wrote: "We have just signed a lease for a second store.... At 2,600 square feet, it will be comparable in size to our West 18th Street store and house the same carefully curated collection of new, classic, and collectible books, as well as a selection of original artwork, prints, and signed posters." Plans call for an opening in late July or early August.

"We are very excited about this new location," Glassman continued, "and being neighbors to such great UWS institutions as the Children's Museum of Manhattan, the American Museum of Natural History, the Hayden Planetarium and the New-York Historical Society. Of course, we will be hosting weekly storytimes and an active schedule of author and artist events at this new store as well as at 18th Street."

Noting that the original store's lease expires at the end of 2019, Glassman told the New York Times: "Given the rise in retail rents along 18th Street, I am not optimistic about our ability to renew the lease. I wanted to make sure we had another location open and well established before the current store's lease expires, so if we have difficulty finding a new location and have to close for a few months we would have another location to serve our customers, not be out of business for any period of time, and not have to lay off my wonderful staff."

He added: "Now that the city is thriving again the time seemed right to finally expand to the Upper West Side."

Blackstone Publishing: Rogue Community College: A Liberty House Novel by David R Slayton

BookCon Draws 20,000; Trade Attendance Up at BookExpo

BookExpo drew 7,425 non-exhibiting attendees--primarily booksellers, librarians, retailers and media members--while BookCon brought in 20,000 readers, up 2,000 from two years ago, when the consumer event was last held in New York, ReedPOP announced this week. According to Brien McDonald, event director for BookExpo and BookCon, trade attendance was significantly up this year compared to last year's show in Chicago, Ill., and in particular, attendance at the show's author talks and educations sessions was "exceptionally high." McDonald also noted that for 2017, ReedPOP implemented a review process for all non-buying categories of trade attendees, including self-published authors, bloggers and consultants, in an effort to curate more "high-quality attendance."

McDonald acknowledged the frustrations caused by making BookExpo a two-day event, particularly for those attending only for business-to-business interaction. Though he did not supply specifics, McDonald wrote that "[v]ery soon you will see a strategy that is more productive for these communities and in line with our commitment to a robust trade environment and are eager to strengthen distribution, rights and international business at the show." He also pledged to continue to support BookExpo, saying that "serving the trade is more important and crucial than ever."

Riffraff Bookstore/Bar to Open in Providence

Tom Roberge and Emma Ramadan

Emma Ramadan and Tom Roberge plan to open Riffraff, a bookstore and bar at 215 Dean Street in Providence, R.I., later this year. Bookselling This Week reported that they "are taking their inspiration from other bookstore/bars, including the Wild Detectives in Dallas; Trident Booksellers & Café in Boston; the Spotty Dog Books & Ale in Hudson, N.Y.; and BookBar in Denver. A video offers a tour of preliminary construction at Riffraff.

Ramadan and Roberge have raised approximately 75% of their startup costs through personal investments and outside support. They have also started a community lending program similar to that of Brooklyn's Greenlight Bookstore.

"It just seemed like a good way to get people in the local community involved and get them literally and figuratively invested in what we're doing," said Ramadan. "The response has been really good. I think we've had 12 couples or individuals in the community give us an investment. People within the community just seem really excited about the idea of contributing to a project in a way that is more concrete and personal than a Kickstarter campaign."

Ramadan noted that they "picked Providence because there wasn't a bookstore here already that was doing what we wanted to do. We fit right in, and I think we're filling a need that no one else is filling yet."

Riffraff's 1,500-square-foot space will be split evenly between bookstore and bar, "the kind of place where if you just want to come in and browse for books without being bothered by people who are drinking, you don't have to worry about that." said Ramadan. "If you just want to come because you like our bar and you want to be surrounded by people who are browsing for books, that's also possible. We are trying to make it both spaces, but integrated in ways that make sense."

Summer Kids' Next List E-Newsletter Delivered

Yesterday the first e-newsletter edition of the American Booksellers Association's Kids' Next List was delivered to more than a third of a million of the country's best book readers. The summer newsletter was sent to customers of 102 independent bookstores, with a combined total of 350,000 subscribers.

The e-newsletter, powered by Shelf Awareness, features all of the summer Kids' Next List titles, with bookseller quotes and "buy now" buttons that lead directly to the purchase page for the title on the sending store's website. The newsletter, which is branded with each store's logo, also includes an interview (from Bookselling This Week) with the author whose book was chosen by booksellers as the number-one Kids' Next List pick, in this case The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee (Katherine Tegen Books).

For a sample of the newsletter, see this one from Spellbound Children's Bookshop, Asheville, N.C.

Binc Names Higher Education Scholarship Recipients

The Book Industry Charitable Foundation has named the 27 recipients who will receive $109,000 in education scholarship funding as part of Binc's Higher Education Scholarship Program. They were selected from 125 applicants, including bookstore owners, booksellers, former Borders Books employees or their dependents. A complete list of recipients, who represent 23 stores in 14 states, can be found here.

Included among them were two $10,000 scholarships, 24 $3,500 scholarships and one $5,000 Karl Pohrt Memorial Scholarship, which is granted to an indie bookstore employee candidate who has overcome learning adversity or is a non-traditional student. Since 2001, the foundation has supported the educational goals of more than 600 booksellers, granting over $1.9 million in awards.

"Binc has helped ease the cost of a college education. Learning about the award winners, their achievements and aspirations is inspiring," said Binc executive director Pam French. "Congratulations to all of the college scholarship winners!"

"I am truly grateful for your assistance and cannot thank you enough," said Morgan Bryan, a bookseller at Booktender's Secret Garden in Doylestown, Pa. "The support Binc has given me over the years empowers me to keep pursuing my dreams and working hard. Thank you for all that you do!"

Mykala Matheny of Viewpoint Books in Columbus, Ind., said, "I would not be able to pursue what I love to the extent to which I am without the support I've received through Binc. You have enabled me to begin living the life I dreamed of in high school, and I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart."

Obituary Note: Ed Victor

Ed Victor, founder of the Ed Victor Literary Agency "who celebrated 40 years as an agent at a star-filled party held at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Hyde Park in November," died June 7. He was 77. Victor "had a high-profile client list that included former prime minister David Cameron, Andrew Marr, Nigella Lawson and Sophie Dahl, among many others," the Bookseller reported. He was awarded a CBE in the 2016 New Years honors list for services to literature.

Cameron called Victor "an absolute Titan of the publishing world and his love of books flowed through everything he did. He was at the top of his profession for decades and I was lucky to see at first hand that he was as enthusiastic about what he was doing just a few weeks ago as he was 20 years ago. He will be deeply missed."

In a statement, the agency said: "Ed was a one-off: the toughest yet most professional of agents, who would always get the very best deal for his clients. An inveterate party-goer, he often attended three events in an evening. He will be a huge loss to the publishing industry and the wider world, and we miss him dearly. "

Penguin Random House chair Gail Rebuck commented: "Ed Victor was a super-agent, spanning the world with his deals for an illustrious group of writers. But, for so many of us, he was primarily a great friend, guiding our lives with his insight and intelligence."

Hachette U.K. CEO Tim Hely Hutchinson called Victor "the very definition of a literary agent: his list of clients is peerless, his connections inside the industry and in the wider world unmatched."

G.L.O.W. - Galley Love of the Week
Be the first to have an advance copy!
A Forty Year Kiss
by Nickolas Butler
GLOW: A Forty Year Kiss by Nickolas Butler

A Forty Year Kiss by Nickolas Butler is a passionate, emotionally complex love story that probes tender places within the heart and soul. When 60-somethings Charlie and Vivian--married then divorced in their 20s--reunite after four decades, they are swept up by the very best of what their romantic relationship once offered. "Anyone who has ever thought about what might have been will find this book fascinating," says Shana Drehs, senior editorial director at Sourcebooks Landmark. "The story is a brilliant exploration of a second chance at love, always realistic but never saccharine." As Charlie and Vivian build a bridge from past to present, their enduring love paving over potholes, Butler (Shotgun Lovesongs) raises questions about how life changes people--or does it?--and delivers another heartening, unforgettable novel. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

(Sourcebooks Landmark, $27.99 Hardcover, 9781464221248, 
February 4, 2025)


Shelf vetted, publisher supported


Image of the Day: Murder at the Bookstore?

The Bookstore Plus, Lake Placid, N.Y., seems to have eliminated a co-worker using some of the swag--T-shirts, totes, Magpie Malbec wine--provided by HarperCollins for Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz. #noonewashurtinthemakingofthisphoto



Cool Idea of the Day: Resistance Bookclub for Teens

Through August 7, Watermark Books & Cafe in Wichita, Kan., is hosting a Resistance Bookclub for Teens every other Monday. The inaugural meeting this past Monday featured a discussion of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, and over the coming weeks the bookclub will read March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell; The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas; The Book Thief by Markus Zusak; and Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. Each of the five selections were chosen to highlight a particular theme related to resistance: autonomy, for The Handmaid's Tale; civil rights, for March: Book One; racism, for The Hate U Give; compassion, for The Book Thief; and finally survival, for Between Shades of Gray.

Store-owner Sarah Bagby reported that customers have responded enthusiastically, with bookclub participants and nonparticipants alike buying the selected books. For the opening meeting "both adults and teens came and had a wonderful discussion" on The Handmaid's Tale led by Watermark marketing manager Shelly Walston, who is also a high school teacher. Said Bagby: "We're excited with the groundswell of support, including adults attending with their kids, or nieces, or nephews."

This summer marks the fifth year that Watermark Books has hosted a teen-focused bookclub tied to a particular theme. Past bookclubs have focused on everything from the work of John Green to books that were all firsts in a series. According to Bagby, her staff started by looking at the 2017 "Reading Without Walls" challenge and then branching out from there. They chose the theme of "resistance in all things, not just political," as a way to "address the zeitgeist of feeling silenced," and Bagby noted that the protagonists in all five chosen books "speak up or out."

PRHPS to Distribute Search Press

Effective January 1, Penguin Random House Publisher Services will handle all North American sales for Search Press.

Found in 1970, Search Press, whose headquarters are in Tunbridge Wells, England, specializes in fine art, needle arts, textiles, general crafts and jewelry & beadwork. Its backlist bestsellers include Half Yard Christmas, Ready to Paint Watercolour Flowers, Jean Haines' Paint Yourself Calm, How to Draw Animals, Tangle Wood, the A-Z Needlearts and Royal School of Needlework Essential Guides series and Sew Useful.

Martin de la Bédoyère, managing director and owner of Search Press, commented: "Placing our books with the PRHPS family will give us the opportunity to move our sales in North America to the next level, and make sure our books are placed everywhere they deserve to be."

PRHPS president Jeff Abraham said that Search Press is "a market leader in the art and crafts category with significant growth potential."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Jill Lepore on Fresh Air

Fresh Air repeat: Jill Lepore, author of The Secret History of Wonder Woman (Vintage, $16.95, 9780804173407).

Movies: Windfall; Dragon Rider

Actress and bestselling author Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life) has optioned the novel Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith and will adapt the book into a feature-length screenplay for her production company, Good Game Productions. Deadline reported that Graham previously "adapted the novel The Royal We for CBS Films, for which she is also producing, and she adapted her first novel Someday, Someday Maybe for the CW in 2014. She also is developing Wedding for One, which she wrote with Jennie Snyder Urman, for Lakeshore Entertainment." Last year, Graham released her second book, Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls (and Everything in Between).


Production has begun on Constantin Film's animated feature Dragon Rider, based on the bestselling children's fantasy novel by Cornelia Funke. Animation director Tomer Eshed is bringing the world of Firedrake the silver dragon to life with teams from Cyborn and Rise FX South Studios. The screenplay was written by Johnny Smith, with input from Tomer Eshed. Dragon Rider is produced by Martin Moszkowicz and Oliver Berben. It is a German-Belgian coproduction. Constantin Film distributes in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, with world sales are handled by Ralph Kamp's Timeless Film.

Books & Authors

Awards: PEN Hessell-Tiltman; Pushkin House Russian Book

The shortlist has been announced for this year's £2,000 (about $2,550) English PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History, which "celebrates the best nonfiction on any historical subject." The winning book will be announced at the inaugural Wimpole History Festival, held July 7-9. The shortlisted titles are:

At the Existentialist Café by Sarah Bakewell
This Orient Isle by Jerry Brotton
The Good Occupation by Susan L. Carruthers
Spitalfields by Dan Cruickshank
The Cultural Revolution by Frank Dikötter
Black and British by David Olusoga
Battling the Gods by Tim Whitmarsh


Art historian and curator Rosalind Blakesley won the £5,000 (about $6,375) Pushkin House Russian Book Prize, which recognizes the "best nonfiction writing published in English," for The Russian Canvas: Painting in Imperial Russia, 1757-1881 (Yale University Press). Chair of the judges Simon Franklin called the winning book "a magnificent achievement. It weaves a wonderfully subtle and compelling story of the emergence of a national school of Russian painting."

A special subsidiary prize for the best Russian book in translation was awarded to Teffi’s Memories: From Moscow to the Black Sea, translated into English for the first time by Robert & Elizabeth Chandler, Irina Steinberg and Anne-Marie Jackson (Pushkin Press).

Reading with... Val Emmich

photo: Holtz

Dubbed a "Renaissance man" by the New York Post, Val Emmich is a writer, singer-songwriter and actor. He has had recurring roles on Vinyl and Ugly Betty as well as a memorable guest role as Liz Lemon's coffee-boy fling, Jamie, on 30 Rock. Emmich lives in Jersey City, N.J., with his wife and their two children. The Reminders (Little, Brown, May 30, 2017) is his first novel.

On your nightstand now:

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes: for a book club I'm in with some friends. McSweeney's Issue 46: a Christmas gift from a friend. The Hunter by Julia Leigh: research for something I'm writing. Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen: his music doesn't always do it for me, but I'm intrigued by the book. The Book of Dahlia by Elisa Albert: a recommendation. The Nix by Nathan Hill: one of the perks of having Picador as a publisher. Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfar: one of the perks of having Little, Brown as a publisher.

Favorite book when you were a child:

My book, The Reminders, is about a little girl with an exceptional memory, and yet my own memory, especially of my childhood, is awful. I think the following books had an impact: The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, Charlotte's Web by E.B. White and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume. I believe my teachers read them to me, although I might be making that up. Later, when I was reading on my own, it was Hardy Boys all the time.

Your top five authors:

This question makes me sweat. I don't think any modern writer leaves me more awestruck than George Saunders. Any time Dave Eggers, Steve Toltz, Junot Díaz, Jonathan Safran Foer, Jonathan Franzen or Joshua Ferris (so many J's) release a new book, I buy it right away. Uh oh, those are all men, and mostly white. What does that say about me? This is why I hate these questions! As a fellow so-called renaissance person, Miranda July really inspires me. Zadie Smith, Lorrie Moore, Evie Wyld. But those are all modern writers. I also love Nabokov, Vonnegut, Plath, Baldwin, Carver, Dickinson and a hundred other brilliant dead people who only require last names.

Book you've faked reading:

Ulysses by James Joyce. I've stopped and started so many times I almost believe the lie I tell that I've actually read the whole thing.

Book you're an evangelist for:

I tell anyone who will listen (and many who won't) about Steve Toltz's debut novel, A Fraction of the Whole. It's one of my all-time favorites. Funny, ambitious, audacious, plot-driven, epic, exhausting, exhaustive and surprising.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Evie Wyld's All the Birds, Singing. I picked it up off the shelf and read the back, but the description didn't grab me, so I put it down. A week or two later I was back in the same store, and I was drawn to the cover once again. This time I bought it and I'm thankful I did. The book is so haunting and emotional, and also a bit of a thriller. It's a novel I think back on often when I'm trying to figure out how to make my own work better.

Book you hid from your parents:

I bought a book about suicide. I can't recall the name, but whatever it was, my parents would have been alarmed had they found it. If "suicide" is in the title, it just looks bad, even if it's: Suicide Is a Dumb Thing That I Would Never Do and One Hundred Other Totally Sincere Statements. Put vaguely, suicide is something I've had to deal with in my family. I was hoping the book might help me understand it better. It didn't.

Book that changed your life:

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert messed me up pretty good. Understanding the problem of climate change didn't empower me; it made me feel helpless. Still, even with the dark subject matter, it was one of the most riveting, informative, and even enjoyable reads I've come across. It's a scientific adventure story, and yet the ending (at least for me) was basically: "our children are screwed." And guess what? I'd read it again! How Kolbert managed that is quite a feat.
Favorite line from a book:

I've never been someone who can quote lines from books (or movies, for that matter). I'm better with songs. But I do underline sentences when I read. I just pulled a book off the shelf: I Called Him Necktie by Milena Michiko Flasar. I'm flipping through it now. Here's a line I marked: "When I was small, I took refuge in life in the moment. Neither the past nor the present could affect me in any way, and how lovely if that were so now." The young protagonist in my novel wouldn't agree with that, but I certainly do.

Five books you'll never part with:

I have a copy of The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner that was my mother's when she was in college majoring in English, and it has her school notes in the margins. My brother bought me and my wife Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer in hardback and he ended his inscription with "Suck my balls!!" I really appreciate the double exclamation points. The Diagnosis by Alan Lightman was a Christmas gift from my father, who used to give my siblings and me each a book with a personalized note that we'd open on Christmas Eve. After receiving the book in 2000, I ended up contacting Alan Lightman and I made him the subject of my senior thesis in college. It was the first time I sat down with a real author and it made an impression on me. I also have a paperback of Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer which was a birthday gift from the engineer who assisted in the recording of my first major label album. The engineer's name was Jason and on the inside cover he wrote: "I know it will be a great year for you." It was not a great year. My album tanked, my record deal soured and I went back home to live with my parents. But I did get a friendship out of it--and a book.

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

Deep Thoughts: Inspiration for the Uninspired by Jack Handey. Here's a line: "Laurie got offended that I used the word 'puke.' But to me, that's what her dinner tasted like." I still laugh when I read it, but not like the first time.

Book Review

Review: The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story

The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story by Edwidge Danticat (Graywolf Press, $14 paperback, 160p., 9781555977771, July 11, 2017)

Edwidge Danticat established her credentials as a memoirist with her 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award-winning Brother, I'm Dying. In The Art of Death, another entry in Graywolf Press's "The Art of" series on literary craft and criticism, Danticat again displays abundant prowess. She seamlessly blends an account of her mother's death from ovarian cancer in 2014 with an enlightening and compact survey of death in prose and poetry, "in order to learn (or relearn) how one writes about death, so I can write, or continue to write, about the deaths that have most touched my life."

Moving from fellow memoirists like Christopher Hitchens and Susan Sontag, through the searing suicides of Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath, to the works of Tolstoy and Chekhov, the breadth of Danticat's literary reach is impressive--especially so in a book that spans fewer than 200 pages. She confesses that her selection is "not an objective grouping but a deeply personal one," encompassing the body of literature she has turned to "when living with and writing about death." In every case, Danticat's writing reflects a deep engagement with the text.

Danticat's affection for the work of Toni Morrison, for example, is evident in close readings of death scenes in novels like Sula and Beloved. In her view, Gabriel García Márquez "seems to invent death" in his novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, and she singles out Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient for praise as her favorite work of "near death" fiction (a topic she addresses while recounting her own close encounters with death). In a tragic echo of Haruki Murakami's short story collection, After the Quake, the January 2010 earthquake that devastated her native Haiti allows Danticat to consider the subject of mass death. She frankly acknowledges, "One person's well-described life and death can sometimes move us more than the mere mention of thousands of deaths can."

For all its merit as a work of literary criticism, Danticat also offers a concise, but moving, description of her mother's final illness, during which--likely late at night and out of her daughter's presence--the older woman dictated a cassette with detailed funeral instructions and advice on child rearing. Sitting by her mother's bedside, Danticat, ever the writer, imagines "a type of story I could tell her to keep her awake, and thus alive--a story that would never end." She offers a beautiful prayer in her mother's words, and admits, "Writing about my mother is the most active way I have grieved."

"We cannot write about death without writing about life," Danticat says. And so, despite its ostensible subject, The Art of Death overflows with life, quietly but insistently inspiring anyone reading it to make good use of what remains of that precious gift. --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

Shelf Talker: Novelist Edwidge Danticat combines a memoir of her mother's death with a meditation on the subject of death in literature.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to #BEx17

John Hodgman (Vacationland, Viking) took the microphone in front of a packed house just before the start of BookExpo's Downstage event "Do I amuse you? The Work Behind the Laughs." Also featured on the program were Isla Fisher (Marge in Charge, HarperCollins) and Denis Leary (Why We Don't Suck, Crown Archetype).

But Hodgman took the mic first. I'd seen him do this years ago, just before an MPIBA show author breakfast in Colorado Springs. That time, in the shadow of Pike's Peak, he told the story of how "America the Beautiful" was written and led a room full of booksellers in an impromptu, a cappella rendition.

Hodgman, Leary and Fisher entertain the crowd.

This time he announced: "Ladies and gentlemen, Denis Leary and Isla Fisher are here. I'm just going to do about 10 minutes of warmup. How you all doing? Where are you from, sir? Dallas, Texas. I've got no joke for that. It's a joke in itself, he says. He knows where he lives."

Relative order was quickly restored by moderator James West of Mother Jones magazine and an entertaining conversation ensued.  

Noting that his first book was Why We Suck, Leary said "the new book is Why We Don't Suck.... Hey, I'm really original on the titles, aren't I? Nine years later, I came up with Why We Don't Suck. It's optimistic progress."

When Hodgman displayed a sampler for Vacationland, Leary advised: "John, show the cover. F**king guy!.... It's not the finished product, we hope."
Hodgman: "No, this is the whole book.... I wanted to actually sell some copies. I'm like, give them a little less."
Leary: "And it's a quick read. You could read it right now. In fact, I'm going to read it to you."

The discussion turned to being funny in what may seem to be an increasingly unamusing world, specifically referencing the recent examples of Kathy Griffin posing for a photo shoot with a model of Donald Trump's severed head and the "covfefe" incident.

Leary, whom West had described as a "bad boy of comedy," said, "Listen, I saw that picture before it first hit, before she had to apologize. And I'm not a f**king Trump fan. I mean I'm no Hillary fan either, but I was like, I don't know, man. This bit better be really f**king funny if you're gonna decapitate the president's head."
Hodgman: "I will say personally it wasn't funny."
Leary: "I think the line is hard to draw, right? But if it's funny you can get away with anything. I just didn't understand what was funny about it.
Fisher: "I don't find violence that funny. That's all I'm going to say about that."

Hodgman cracked that he has "never had to apologize for a joke because I'm a very good boy and I always say very safe things that people applaud rather than laugh at. That's my style of humor."

In a discussion of the Internet's influence on children, Hodgman asked: "Dennis, when your kids were young did they have a problem with getting bad stuff on the telegraph?"
"It was a big issue, yeah," Leary countered, then recalled: "When I was a kid, we saw Lee Harvey Oswald get shot live on TV on a Sunday morning. It was f**king awesome.... We were just eating our cereal watching a black and white TV show where the guy who shot the president came out and some other guy shot him.... I feel like that paid off in my life. I made a career. It turned me into a comedian. So I think kids should be scarred early by violence they see on television because it will turn them into better artists."

Fisher talked about writing to entertain kids. The protagonist in Marge in Charge is loosely based on her daughter. "I sort of am now seeing the world through her eyes as I write, which brings me closer to her and my other daughter," she said. "But, yeah, they're fierce critics and when they're bored they just walk out of the bedroom. And, of course, when my editor gives me notes, I run those notes past my children and if they don't approve, then they overrule the editor. That's how much they matter."

Asked what makes kids laugh, she observed: "Well, I think kids laugh at different things at different stages. When they're babies, they laugh at a tickle or a raspberry or a funny face. They're not that smart. But then as they get older and develop language, they find knock-knock jokes and poop jokes. I think ultimately children laugh at the same things adults do. I think the foundation is just stupidity. Even my two-year-old finds it hilarious when I try to wear her shoes, or when I misunderstand a rule that she assumes I, as an authority figure, should be following through with. And it's the same with us in all cultures. We find stupidity hilarious.... We're allowed to feel superior. And we're allowed to laugh when someone's an idiot."

When q&a began, Hodgman took the mic, naturally enough, and performed his "Phil Donahue move" as he ran up and down the aisles to reach questioners.

One audience member described the event as "the most fabulous and enjoyable panel I've ever been to here," and Leary, who had earlier noted that all of their books are coming out in October, decided a road tour might be in order: "Thank you for your comments. I think we do make a great panel. The superheroes of publishing. That could be our f**king name!"

Hodgman capped off the event by sharing an experience he'd had upon arriving at the Javits Center earlier: "I come walking in at 8:30 in the morning, and Stephen King [who'd spoken at the Author Breakfast] is walking out. I'm so excited."
Leary: "Maybe he was here overnight."
Hodgman: "Spooky convention with Stephen King."

Now that's funny.

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

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