Shelf Awareness for Thursday, March 29, 2018

Simon & Schuster: The Lightning Bottles by Marissa Stapley

Minotaur Books: The Dark Wives: A Vera Stanhope Novel (Vera Stanhope #11) by Ann Cleeves

Soho Crime: Exposure (A Rita Todacheene Novel) by Ramona Emerson

Wednesday Books: When Haru Was Here by Dustin Thao

Tommy Nelson: Up Toward the Light by Granger Smith, Illustrated by Laura Watkins

Tor Nightfire: Devils Kill Devils by Johnny Compton


Da Shop Opens in Honolulu, Hawaii

da Shop, a bookstore founded by indie publisher Bess Press, opened this week in Kaimuki in Honolulu, Hawaii, Honolulu magazine reported. The store held its grand opening on March 27, with an event featuring Patagonia Surfing Ambassador Liz Clark, who discussed her memoir, Swell: A Sailing Surfer's Voyage of Awakening, which Patagonia will publish next week.

In addition to carrying national bestsellers and a wide selection of literature for young people, da Shop specializes in books from Hawaiian small presses, including the University of Hawai'i Press, Bishop Museum Press and Kamehameha Publishing, as well as Hawai'i and Oceania classics. There are plans to host everything from storytime sessions to film screenings, and da Shop also offers a digital shopping database, through which customers can purchase titles and have them shipped directly to their homes.

BINC: Do Good All Year - Click to Donate!

Boise's Rediscovered Books Purchases Rainbow Books

Laura and Bruce DeLaney, owners of Rediscovered Books in Boise, Idaho, have purchased used bookstore Rainbow Books and its 26,000-book inventory and plan to take over operations on April 1, the Boise Weekly reported. The DeLaneys also purchased the two-story building in which Rainbow Books resides. They intend to keep Rainbow Books open, with longtime employee Julia Rose overseeing things while they integrate the two businesses.

Laura Delaney told the Boise Weekly that she and her husband "actually had started talking about purchasing a second location" last year and had already looked at a variety of spaces. "Then, by happenstance," she continued, "we heard that Rainbow was available. It was the right decision for a lot of reasons."

Rainbow Books opened in its original location in 1977. In 1989 the store was purchased by Laurie Deines, who moved it to its current site in 1991.

"We couldn't be happier about keeping their tradition alive," said Delaney. She later added: "Boise has been very good to Rediscovered. We like to think that keeping Rainbow open is being good to Boise."

Graphic Universe (Tm): Hotelitor: Luxury-Class Defense and Hospitality Unit by Josh Hicks

ABA Adopts Code of Conduct for Meetings and Events

Effective with the ABC Children's Institute June 19-21, the American Booksellers Association has adopted a code of conduct for all association meetings and events. The ABA is encouraging member stores to adapt the code for their events and to offer feedback, which may lead to additions or changes. Booksellers with comments or questions can e-mail ABA CEO Oren Teicher.


The ABA Code of Conduct:

The American Booksellers Association values the dignity, diversity, and inclusion of everyone with whom we interact. Our safety and anti-harassment policies are critical to ensuring that this core value guides what we do and say. All participants at ABA events are required to adhere to ABA's code of conduct, as described below. This includes booksellers, ABA staff, exhibitors, speakers/presenters, guests, sponsors, volunteers, and all affiliated attendees.

ABA is committed to a harassment-free experience for everyone, regardless of race, sex, national origin, religion, gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, age, disability, ethnicity, and religion. We do not tolerate harassment, discrimination, or other unwelcome or unlawful behavior on the basis of any of these characteristics.

Behaviors that violate this policy include, but are not limited to:

Offensive verbal comments related to any protected category above
Inappropriate physical contact
Sexual propositions
Unwelcome sexual attention
Off-color or obscene jokes, remarks, or gestures
Any other words or conduct of a sexual nature that makes the recipient or observer uncomfortable
Intimidation, stalking, or following
Sustained disruption of talks or other events
Unwelcome photography or recording

ABA expects all event participants to follow established rules throughout both official event offerings and related social gatherings, including this policy.

ABA takes any violation of this policy very seriously. Accordingly, participants who violate this policy may, in the judgment and discretion of ABA, be asked to stop; may be expelled from an ABA event, without refund if applicable; may be prevented from attending future ABA events; and may have ABA membership and future participation privileges revoked.

If you are being harassed, observe someone else being harassed, or have concerns about potential violations of this policy, please notify ABA event organizers immediately. If an appropriate ABA representative is not readily available, a special text number for such communications will be publicized to all attendees at the beginning of all ABA meetings. ABA will take all appropriate action in response to protect anyone affected by violations of this policy.

Shelf Awareness Job Board: Click Here to Post Your Job

B&N Launches 'Browsery' Mobile App

Barnes & Noble has launched Browsery, a mobile app designed "to talk about books the way readers do," according to the company, which called it "a new kind of digital browsing that's a gateway for users to find new books and talk about the ones they love with fellow readers."

Available for Android and iOS users, Browsery allows customers to like, comment or contribute answers to questions posed by the community or ask questions of their own. B&N will share content on its social channels, posting a Browsery "Question of the Day" on its national Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts; as well as sharing some of the best answers and recommendations from customers, booksellers and well-known authors on Browsery across its social channels. Stores nationwide will promote Browsery on their local social media pages, too.

"Books have always brought people together over shared interests to make recommendations to one another, and Browsery is rooted in that core experience of the reading life," said B&N's chief digital officer Fred Argir. "We're taking the way people talk about books with their friends and in our stores across the country and giving it a fun mobile presence. Through this innovative new app, customers will be able to recommend great books to each other. We're also encouraging our booksellers to get involved and share their knowledge and passion with a wider audience."

Obituary Note: John Ehle

John Ehle, the prolific author, champion of Appalachian literature and founder of the North Carolina School of the Arts, died last Saturday at age 92, the Asheville Citizen-Times reported.

Ehle wrote 11 novels and six works of nonfiction. His 1964 novel, The Land Breakers, was the first of seven of his books that highlighted western North Carolina's history from pioneer days through the 1930s, a series that concluded with The Widow's Trial. Five of his books won the Sir Walter Raleigh Award for North Carolina fiction. He also won the North Carolina Award for Literature, the Thomas Wolfe Prize and the Lillian Smith Award for Southern Fiction. Two of his novels--The Winter People and The Journey of August King--were made into films.

Historian Rob Neufeld said Ehle "developed a style of combining folk history and realism that stands as a model for historical fiction."

Ehle's The Free Men, published in 1965, was a first-person account of the civil rights movement in Chapel Hill.

In the early 1960s, Ehle was special assistant to North Carolina Governor Terry Sanford, helping to establish the North Carolina Governors School and the North Carolina School of Arts. As the Winston-Salem Journal wrote: "He worked behind the scenes where his efforts could be overlooked--he stepped out of the view of the cameras during opening ceremonies--but those who saw what he did knew of the significant contributions he made. Sanford said in his book But What About the People? that, 'If I were to write a guidebook for new governors, one of my main suggestions would be to find a novelist and put him on his staff.'

"In a 1967 interview in the Winston-Salem Journal, Ehle discussed how his background as a novelist helped him in his state position. He said a novelist moves by intuition, and from his writing learns how to identify with the people involved in an event. In state government, he said, experts approach a problem armed with facts but often without intuition. Writers move first with intuition, hopefully with the facts, he said."

"The School of the Arts was born in the 1960s out of John Ehle's clear vision and tenacious advocacy," said Chancellor Lindsay Bierman. "He may be best known as a prolific author, but around here, in our hearts, John will always be best loved as one of our founding fathers. With his courage, intellect, doggedness, creativity, and incomparable voice he fought to enrich the culture of this state and our nation. We will miss him dearly."


Image of the Day: Anatomy of a Miracle

Last night, Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, Va., hosted Jonathan Miles, author of the novel Anatomy of a Miracle (Hogarth), published March 13, a book that Fountain staff loves. Owner Kelly Justice reported: "Perfect crowd. A real connection in real time over a great American novel that speaks to my heart and brings people together."

Bookshop Santa Cruz Voted County's Best Bookstore

Yesterday afternoon, Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, Calif., tweeted: "Thank you so much to everyone who voted for Bookshop Santa Cruz as Best Bookstore (New) and Runner Up for Best Bookstore (Used) in the @GoodTimesSC 2018 Best of Santa Cruz County! We love being a part of this community and are honored to serve you."

In its announcement, Good Times noted a few of the bookstore's historical highlights, including:

  • Bookshop Santa Cruz is located in the same spot on Pacific Avenue as its spiritual forebear, the Hip Pocket bookstore, which was open for less than two years in the early 1960s. Among those who could regularly be found hanging out at the Hip Pocket--sometimes pulling a shift behind the cash register--was Jack Kerouac literary hero Neal Cassady.
  • Bookshop's first employee in 1966 was Jon Scoville, accomplished composer and husband of celebrated dancer/choreographer Tandy Beal.
  • The wooden rocking horse in Bookshop's beautiful children's books section has been the bookstore's symbol going back four decades.
  • That rocking horse was one of the first things rescued from the store's damaged interior by then-owner Neal Coonerty after the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake.

'Getting Lost' at the Book Loft in Columbus, Ohio

"Are you longing to lose yourself in a good read?" asked the Associated Press to introduce a slide show tempting readers to "consider getting lost in a 32-room bookstore," the Book Loft of German Village in Columbus, Ohio.

The independent bookstore, which opened more than 40 years ago, is "a maze of literature, selling everything from bestsellers to bargain books.... The store is located in a small strip of handsome red brick, pre-Civil War buildings. Visitors will see a 'Willkommen' sign and a garden path lined with park benches, reminiscent of a European outdoor cafe. Open seven days a week, the store carries 150,000 individual titles with over 500,000 books in stock," the AP wrote.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Jimmy Carter on Colbert's Late Show

CBS's Entertainment Tonight: Erika Jayne, author of Pretty Mess (Gallery, $27, 9781501181894).

The View: Geraldo Rivera, author of The Geraldo Show: A Memoir (BenBella, $26.95, 9781944648909).

Live with Kelly and Ryan: Dr. Tanya Altmann, author of Baby and Toddler Basics: Expert Answers to Parents' Top 150 Questions (American Academy of Pediatrics, $16.95, 9781610021265).

Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Jimmy Carter, author of Faith: A Journey For All (Simon & Schuster, $25.99, 9781501184413).

This Weekend on Book TV: The Virginia Festival of the Book

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this weekend from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.

Saturday, March 31
12 p.m. to 5:15 p.m. Coverage from the 2018 Virginia Festival of the Book, which took place last weekend in Charlottesville, Va. (Re-airs Sunday at 12:30 a.m.) Highlights include:

  • 12 p.m. A discussion on torture with Mark Fallon, author of Unjustifiable Means: The Inside Story of How the CIA, Pentagon, and U.S. Government Conspired to Torture (Regan Arts, $25.95, 9781942872795), Andrea Pitzer, author of One Long Night: A Global History of Concentration Camps (Little, Brown, $30, 9780316303590), and Mohamedou Ould Slahi, author of Guantánamo Diary (Back Bay, $17.99, 9780316517881).
  • 1:27 p.m. A discussion on the environment with Charles C. Mann, author of The Wizard and the Prophet: Two Remarkable Scientists and Their Dueling Visions to Shape Tomorrow's World (Knopf, $28.95, 9780307961693), and Andrew Revkin, author of Weather: An Illustrated History: From Cloud Atlases to Climate Change (Sterling, $24.95, 9781454921400).
  • 2:38 p.m. A discussion on presidents and DARPA with John A. Farrell, author of Richard Nixon: The Life (Vintage, $19, 9780345804969), Will Hitchcock, author of The Age of Eisenhower: America and the World in the 1950s (Simon & Schuster, $35, 9781439175668), and Sharon Weinberger, author of The Imagineers of War: The Untold Story of DARPA, the Pentagon Agency That Changed the World (Vintage, $17, 9780804169721).
  • 3:47 p.m. A discussion on government with David Goldfield, author of The Gifted Generation: When Government Was Good (Bloomsbury, $35, 9781620400883), and Nancy MacLean, author of Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right's Stealth Plan for America (Viking, $28, 9781101980965).

6:30 p.m. Nicholas Tampio, author of Common Core: National Education Standards and the Threat to Democracy (Johns Hopkins University Press, $24.95, 9781421424637).

7:45 p.m. Charlotte Pence and Karen Pence, author and illustrator of Marlon Bundo's Day in the Life of the Vice President (Regnery Kids, $18.99, 9781621577768). (Re-airs Sunday at 10 p.m.)

8:30 p.m. Mitch Landrieu, author of In the Shadow of Statues: A White Southerner Confronts History (Viking, $25, 9780525559443).

10 p.m. James Swanson, author of Chasing King's Killer: The Hunt for Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Assassin (Scholastic Press, $19.99, 9780545723336). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 3 a.m.)

11 p.m. Jeffrey Rosen, author of William Howard Taft (Times Books, $26, 9780805069549). (Re-airs Monday at 5:30 a.m.)

Sunday, April 1
12 p.m. Live In-Depth q&a with Walter Mosley, author, most recently, of Down the River unto the Sea (Mulholland, $27, 9780316509640). (Re-airs Sunday at 12 a.m.)

3 p.m. A discussion on Appalachia with Elizabeth Catte, author of What You Are Getting Wrong About Appalachia (Belt Publishing, $16.95, 9780998904146), Steven Stoll, author of Ramp Hollow: The Ordeal of Appalachia (Hill and Wang, $30, 9780809095056), and Wendy Welch, author of Fall or Fly: The Strangely Hopeful Story of Foster Care and Adoption in Appalachia (Ohio University Press, $22.95, 9780821423028), at the Virginia Festival of the Book.

4:11 p.m. A discussion on American politics with Caitriona Perry, author of In America: Tales from Trump Country (Gill Books, $36, 9780717179534), Jason Altmire, author of Dead Center (Sunbury Press, $19.95, 9781620067772), and Nicole Hemmer, author of Messengers of the Right (University of Pennsylvania Press, $34.95, 9780812248395), at the Virginia Festival of the Book.

5:29 p.m. A discussion on science with Richard Harris, author of Rigor Mortis: How Sloppy Science Creates Worthless Cures, Crushes Hope, and Wastes Billions (Basic Books, $28, 9780465097906), and Dave Levitan, author of Not a Scientist: How Politicians Mistake, Misrepresent, and Utterly Mangle Science (Norton, $15.95, 9780393353327), at the Virginia Festival of the Book.

6:58 p.m. An evening with winners of the National Book Award.

11:15 p.m. Maya Dusenbery, author of Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, $27.99, 9780062470805).

Books & Authors

Awards: Indies Choice/E.B. White; Bookstore, Rep of the Year; Ted Hughes Poetry

Members of the American Booksellers Association have begun voting to determine winners in eight categories of the 2018 Indies Choice Book Awards and the E.B. White Read-Aloud Awards. (Finalists can be seen here.) Voting concludes May 2. Winners in nine categories will be announced May 9 in Bookselling This Week, and fêted along with the honor book recipients at ABA's Celebration of Bookselling and Author Awards Lunch on May 30 during BookExpo in New York City.


Congratulations to two very deserving winners: Boulder Book Store, Boulder, Colo., and John Mesjak of Abraham Associates, named PW's Bookstore of the Year and Sales Representative of the Year, respectively.

The awards will be given at BookExpo in May.


Jay Bernard won the £5,000 (about $7,035) Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry, which is funded by Carol Ann Duffy from her honorarium as poet laureate, for Surge: Side A.

Judge Sally Beamish commented: "An intensely personal relating of the New Cross massacre; powerful, lyrical and communicated with extraordinary intimacy. I was particularly struck by their drawing of a parallel between the struggle for validation in the black British community, and the poet's own clarification of identity by transforming their body through surgery. The performances are riveting and the poems are propelled by a strong internal momentum."

Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, April 3:

The Female Persuasion: A Novel by Meg Wolitzer (Riverhead, $28, 9781594488405) follows a college freshman mentored by an acclaimed women's rights activist.

Women in Sunlight: A Novel by Frances Mayes (Crown, $27, 9780451497666) is about four American women who bond during a year in Italy.

Varina: A Novel by Charles Frazier (Ecco, $27.99, 9780062405982) is historical fiction about Varina Howell, wife of Jefferson Davis.

My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie (Morrow, $16.99, 9780062466167) is historical fiction about Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, wife of Alexander Hamilton.

The Trump White House: Changing the Rules of the Game by Ronald Kessler (Crown Forum, $27, 9780525575719) offers an approved look at the Trump presidency.

Eunice: The Kennedy Who Changed the World by Eileen McNamara (Simon & Schuster, $28, 9781451642261) is the biography of an often overlooked Kennedy sister.

Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead--My Life Story by Cecile Richards (Touchstone, $27, 9781501187599) is a memoir by the president of Planned Parenthood.

The Knowledge by Martha Grimes (Atlantic Monthly Press, $26, 9780802128010) is the 24th mystery with Scotland Yard detective Richard Jury.

American by Day by Derek B. Miller (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26, 9781328876652) is the second mystery with Norwegian police Chief Inspector Sigrid Ødegård.

The Overstory: A Novel by Richard Powers (Norton, $27.95, 9780393635522) connects several branching tales rooted by trees.

The Neuroscientist Who Lost Her Mind: My Tale of Madness and Recovery by Barbara K. Lipska and Elaine McArdle (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25, 9781328787309) is an account of a neuroscientist's brush with melanoma that spread to her brain.

How to Be Well: The 6 Keys to a Happy and Healthy Life by Dr. Frank Lipman (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30, 9781328904782) gives nutrition and lifestyle advice.

People Don't Bite People by Lisa Wheeler and illustrated by Molly Idle (Atheneum, $17.99, 9781481490825) uses playful rhyme to remind readers that humans aren't for eating.

Peasprout Chen, Future Legend of Skate and Sword by Henry Lien (Holt, $16.99, 9781250165695) follows Peasprout Chen, who is determined to become a legend of the deadly art of martial arts figure skating.

The Angry Chef's Guide to Spotting Bullsh*t in the World of Food: Bad Science and the Truth About Healthy Eating by Anthony Warner (The Experiment, $15.95, 9781615194605).

Lean on Pete, based on the novel by Willy Vlautin, opens April 6. Charlie Plummer stars as a teenager who meets an aging racehorse during a summer job. A movie tie-in (Harper Perennial, $15.99, 9780062692764) is available.

The Spinning Man, based on the book by George Harrar, opens April 6. Pierce Brosnan stars as an adulterous professor who comes under suspicion when a student goes missing.

IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:

Don't Skip Out on Me: A Novel by Willy Vlautin (Harper Perennial, $22.99, 9780062684455). "Horace Hopper, the Irish-Paiute Indian protagonist in Don't Skip Out on Me, dreams of erasing the shame of childhood abandonment by reinventing himself as a professional boxer. His boss and surrogate father, an elderly sheep rancher, wrestles with the choices of his own history, and does his best to maintain a way of life that is rapidly disappearing. Vlautin intertwines the lives and fates of these two men in a work of astonishing beauty and heartbreak, and guides the reader to an ending that is as true and real as it gets. Willy Vlautin has been literature's best-kept secret for far too long. He may well be our own Steinbeck, but with a haunting steel-guitar sensibility all his own." --Patrick Millikin, The Poisoned Pen Bookstore, Scottsdale, Ariz.

Sometimes I Lie: A Novel by Alice Feeney (Flatiron Books, $26.99, 9781250144843). "I feel messed up after finishing this, which is what I look for in a thriller. The twists and turns are dizzying, leading to an ending you won't see coming. Amber is recovering from a car crash, and since she's not quite out of her coma, we get to see flashbacks of her life and the events that brought her to where she is today. Everything--her radio job, her writer husband, and her perfect sister, Claire--is not what it seems. But then, neither is Amber. A perfect thriller to discuss and deconstruct with your book club!" --Kate Towery, The Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, Va.

Registers of Illuminated Villages: Poems by Tarfia Faizullah (Graywolf Press, $16, 9781555978006). " 'Why do you always ask what can't be answered?' Registers of Illuminated Villages is a collection of immense physical, emotional, and spiritual hunger. Faizullah explores the boundaries of open, unending questions as she looks for a timeline for grief, a god to fulfill the duties of a god, and a home that doesn't resemble home anymore. Contemplative and beautiful, this book should be held close to feel the power of its vulnerability." --Nicole McCarthy, King's Books, Tacoma, Wash.

For Ages 4 to 8
Can I Be Your Dog? by Troy Cummings (Random House, $16.99, 9780399554520). "This is just the sweetest dog story--without making your teeth hurt. It has a wonderful dog, funny people, and a great ending. I couldn't ask for more." --Anne Whalen, Barrington Books, Barrington, R.I.

For Ages 9 to 12: An Indies Introduce Title
Like Vanessa by Tami Charles (Charlesbridge, $16.99, 9781580897778). "All I can say is thank goodness the '80s are back in fashion, because this gem of a book is best read sitting in front of a TV tray in a recliner. Inspired by Vanessa Williams' 1983 Miss America win, a headstrong and pushy teacher, and a supportive and scheming grandfather, Vanessa Martin braves the small-town pageant circuit, the potential disappointment of her father, and the challenge of being dark skinned. Vanessa touches the dreamer spirit in all of us, and I cheered her on right through to the end." --Kim Bissell, Broadway Books, Portland, Ore.

For Teen Readers
Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough (Dutton, $17.99, 9780735232112). "Artemisia Gentileschi was one of the greatest painters of her generation, but she also lived in 17th-century Italy, where women had no power and little recourse when wronged. When one of her father's friends assaults her, Artemisia must decide whether to keep the secret or force him to face justice, no matter the cost she'll have to pay. Written in gorgeous verse, this book is heartbreaking, brilliant, and tragically relevant today. Read this book even if you don't care about art history. Read this book even if you don't usually like verse novels or historical fiction. Just read this book. It will haunt you." --Lillian Tschudi-Campbell, The Red Balloon Bookshop, St. Paul, Minn.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]

Book Review

Review: The Art of the Wasted Day

The Art of the Wasted Day by Patricia Hampl (Viking, $26 hardcover, 288p., 9780525429647, April 17, 2018)

As a child preparing for her first confession, essayist Patricia Hampl (The Florist's Daughter) learns from the Examination of Conscience that daydreaming is a sin. "I don't hesitate. I throw my lot with the occasion of sin. I already know (or believe--which comes to the same thing in my Catholic worldview) that daydreaming doesn't make things up. It sees things.... I couldn't care less what it's called. It's pure pleasure. Infinite delight. For this a person goes to hell. Okay then."

Decades later, she had her first panic attack. In the aftermath, she rested, and remembered the pleasure of her childhood daydreams. "Fifty years--more--and 'the life of the mind,' ...has long since morphed into a scrum of tasks jittering down the day." She returns to what she's read of Michel de Montaigne, the 16th-century French inventor of the essay, whose work tried on idle thoughts, wandering from one to the next, to see where they would go. She compares this with the American pursuit of happiness--accent on pursuit--Ben Franklin, Jay Gatsby and herself living by their to-do lists. Life, she says, is elsewhere. "The ultimate task, the real to-do, is: waste your life in order to find it."

This is not a linear memoir, but rather, as she says of another book, "a meandering bunch of narrative snippets and essays." She travels to visit friends in the Czech Republic and to the homes of writers she's loved--the Ladies of Llangollen, Gregor Mendel and Montaigne--and she remembers her favorite journey, a boat trip on the Mississippi with her husband. One thought inspires another: books she loves, her fascination with nuns, her writing life, family stories and her new widowhood after a long, happy marriage.

"Life is not a story, a settled version. It's an unsorted heap of images we keep going through... that float to the surface of the mind, rise, drift--they are the makings of a life, not of a narrative." This is an enjoyable, idiosyncratic journey of a book, the kind that recommends many other books and places, and that may inspire readers to some similar thoughtful wanderings of their own. --Sara Catterall

Shelf Talker: Daydreams, reading, travel and memories inspire each other in this contemplative essayist's memoir.

Deeper Understanding

Ulfers Prize: Honoring a 'Force in German-American Publishing'

Friedrich Elfers and Barbara Perlmutter (photo: John Harris)

Last week at the Festival Neue Literatur in New York, the Friedrich Ulfers Prize, honoring "a publisher, writer, critic, translator, or scholar who has championed the advancement of German-language literature in the United States," was given to publisher Barbara Perlmutter.

In his Laudatum for Perlmutter, Bob Weil, editor-in-chief and publishing director for Liveright, said, in part:

"A chance set of circumstances resulted in the Berlin-born Barbara Perlmutter coming to America in 1965. Having already studied English in London and deciding that Paris was too saturated with her college friends, she opted for Spain, where she met in a class for foreign students, a young American, who had just arrived in Madrid via Santo Domingo. 'The attraction was pretty immediate,' Barbara recalls about Dan Perlmutter, who seemed very different from the German men she had known, and whose progressive ideas were quite appealing, so much so that she soon found herself a young bride, first in Minnesota, where she worked at a photo lab, and then on the Upper East Side in Yorkville, where German could be overheard on 86th Street, and where Kaffee und Kuchen could be had at the Heidelberg or Bremen-Haus.

"While the circumstances of her arrival in America might have been fortuitous, little else about this extraordinary woman’s career are, I emphasize, as we celebrate her winning the prestigious award that recognizes a recipient's lifetime achievements in the dissemination of German literature in the United States. In Barbara's case, I cannot think of a worthier person, whose overall contributions far exceed her official title as a scout and agent for S. Fischer Verlag. Never, in fact, let her modest demeanor ever fool you because the influence she has wielded since 1965, when she answered a two-line ad in the New York Times and began working as Joan Daves's assistant, has cumulatively had a profound effect on the very existence of German literature in America, as significant as that of her illustrious predecessors, among them, Helen Wolff, America's first Kafka editor, whom Barbara knew as a young woman, the formidable Joan Daves, with whom she worked for 13 years before breaking out to work with S. Fischer on her own--as well as legendary editors like Drenka Willen, Carol Janeway, and her beloved friend, Sara Bershtel, whom she knew even before Sara began her own distinguished publishing career. Barbara's longevity as a force in German-American publishing is simply unrivaled, this being her 55th year, and though she claims to be retired, don't be so sure.

"To follow her career then is to follow the very undulations of German publishing in America for half a century, and while the 1960s may have seemed the apogee with the popularity of authors, such as Franz Werfel, Elias Canetti, Carl Zuckmayer, and Hermann Hesse, this current decade has witnessed the publication of the final volumes of Reiner Stach's three-volume Kafka biography, the forthcoming translated publication of the unexpurgated Kafka Diaries, and the forthcoming English publication of Alfred Döblin's Berlin Alexanderplatz, three discrete projects in which Barbara has been critically involved. To think of her then as a mere agent would be a serious misnomer, for given her nuanced knowledge of German and English literature, Barbara is both scholar and secret academic, bringing an understanding to both languages that is remarkable. I've known this personally for quite a long time in that the first book I ever acquired in my career was a Holocaust memoir, which Barbara sold to a skinny 23-year-old editorial assistant in that pre-computer, pre-Internet year of 1978, and last week she could still pull out correspondence on onion-skin paper that affirmed that she had helped salvage a problematic translation that resulted in a notable and important publication."

Perlmutter remembered, in part:

"When, in the mid-'60s, I began my work for Joan Daves, a prominent literary agent at the time, communication with German publishers was quite different from today. A shipment of galleys was prepared with a label 'by sea mail' and the New York Times provided the date and time the next ship would leave the harbor--and delivery to that ship would be requested.

"That was a high time for German authors in New York: Uwe Johnson, Hans-Magnus Enzensberger, Heinrich Böll, Peter Weiss and the Swiss author Max Frisch, whose story Montauk is still 'the' insider story of that time. (I'd like to add, we had to prod the Times into adding an umlaut to their typefaces, so Heinrich Böll was no longer Herr Boell.)

"I began work for S. Fischer Verlag in fall of 1978. What I found was a trove of the most important German-language literature and, beside my work as scout, I helped keep in print S. Fischer's classics--and find publishers for their young authors.

"Via telegram, dictated to a non-German-speaking operator, I reported my first sale in November '78: 'Joachim-Ernst Berendt's Das Jazz Buch.' It's still in print...

"So many translators need to be thanked. Michael Hofmann, Shelley Frisch (who translated three monumental volumes of Reiner Stach's Kafka biography), Margot Dembo (who labored over Judith Hermann's prose) and David Dollenmayer, who translated for NYU Press Andreas Bernard's book about elevators. Without their efforts, none of our German authors would have made it here.

"My very last book project was--still is--a major one: When I read in Ian Buruma's film critique of Berlin Alexanderplatz that the novel by Alfred Döblin was untranslatable and the existing one awful, I turned to Edwin Frank. It was a daunting job, indeed, but New York Review of Books is publishing Michael Hofmann's translation, now in March. Altogether, it took some 10 years from sample translation to finished book."

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