Also published on this date: Wednesday, August 21, 2019: Maximum Shelf: American Dirt

Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Margaret K. McElderry Books: Tender Beasts by Liselle Sambury

Scholastic Press: Heroes: A Novel of Pearl Harbor by Alan Gratz

Flatiron Books: Anita de Monte Laughs Last by Xochitl Gonzalez

Peachtree Publishers: King & Kayla and the Case of the Downstairs Ghost (King & Kayla) by Dori Hillestad Butler, illustrated by Nancy Meyers

Doubleday Books: The Husbands by Holly Gramazio

Quotation of the Day

'The Bookstore Is Like a Cabinet of Curiosities'

"[There's a] general unexpectedness of things. You can come to the bookstore this week, and then again, the following week, and you will end up feeling that the bookstore has changed in some way or another but yet, you can't pinpoint what changed. The bookstore is like a cabinet of curiosities to some extent."

--Kenny Leck, owner of BooksActually in Singapore, in a Rappler piece headlined "Living the book lover's dream"

Holiday House: The Five Impossible Tasks of Eden Smith by Tom Llewellyn; The Selkie's Daughter by Linda Crotta Brennan


Another Antitrust Investigation Launching into Amazon, Other Tech Giants

Yet another investigation is being launched into major tech companies--primarily Amazon, Google, Facebook and Apple--that aims to cover a range of issues that include matters critical to the book world.

A group of state attorneys general, representing as many as 20 states and both sides of the political divide, are setting up an investigation of the tech giants, the Wall Street Journal reported. The joint investigation will be announced as soon as next month and "is likely to focus on whether a handful of dominant technology platforms use their marketplace powers to stifle competition" in a range of areas, including advertising, search functions, social media, app sales and retail.

Representatives of at least a dozen state attorneys general have met with representatives of the Justice Department, according to the Journal. Besides stifling competition, the attorneys general want to investigate the tech companies' control of personal data, whether they are monopolies, their effect on free speech, and more.

In July, the Justice Department announced that it is investigating the four big tech companies, "examining the practices of online platforms that dominate internet search, social media and retail services," the Journal wrote.

In a statement about the investigation, Justice Department antitrust chief Makan Delrahim said: "Without the discipline of meaningful market-based competition, digital platforms may act in ways that are not responsive to consumer demands. The department's antitrust review will explore these important issues."

The Justice Department investigation is being coordinated with a Federal Trade Commission investigation of the four tech giants on similar grounds.

At his Senate confirmation hearing early this year, Attorney General William Barr said, "I don't think big is necessarily bad, but I think a lot of people wonder how such huge behemoths that now exist in Silicon Valley have taken shape under the nose of the antitrust enforcers. You can win that place in the marketplace without violating the antitrust laws, but I want to find out more about that dynamic."

As the Journal noted, "While the top tech firms were once the darlings of the public, attitudes have shifted as some consumers, and politicians on both the left and the right have grown uncomfortable with how much power and influence they wield in the economy and society."

Amistad Press: The Survivors of the Clotilda: The Lost Stories of the Last Captives of the American Slave Trade by Hannah Durkin

Planned Nashville Amazon Across the Street from Parnassus Books

The Amazon Books book and electronics store that is planned for Nashville, Tenn., will be in a mall across the road from Parnassus Books, the store opened by author Ann Patchett and Karen Hayes in 2011.

In a story, WSMV-News 4 said, "Some local business owners worried they will have to fight to stay afloat" and recalled the effect of chain superstore growth on independent bookstores 25 years ago.

"It isn't just bookstores," Parnassus co-owner Hayes told WSMV. "I mean, this is across platforms that Amazon is just slowly biting away at choice." She added: "I hope that it is a wake-up call to people that independents, and even just brick and mortar businesses within the city, need to be supported. If you want choice, you need to support your local brick and mortar businesses."

Community Support for Vandalized Tulsa Indie

On Monday, a swastika was spray-painted outside Phantasmagoria Books and Records in Tulsa, Okla., a week after the bookstore had been targeted by white supremacists. Co-owner Shannon Iwanski told Tulsa World that he was straightening a bookshelf after getting to work early when he noticed a man walk up on the sidewalk outside and begin spray-painting graffiti.

Iwanski wasn't sure if the markings might be for construction work or a race until "he started drawing a swastika." The bookseller then unlocked the door and took photos of the incident. The World noted that "surveillance video from a business across the street shows the man walking back to his car on the side of the store, 'unbothered,' Iwanski said. He even took the time to put his spray paint in the trunk of his car." The police have since apprehended a suspect in the case.

Phantasmagoria has previously been targeted twice by a white nationalist group and had protesters during its recent Drag Queen Story Hour. "These people are feeling empowered to do this because that's the mindset in the country right now," Iwanski said. "That's the leadership in the country right now."

But supporters of the store far outnumber its public detractors, he added, noting that "three random people who heard via Facebook about the vandalism showed up ready to work Monday afternoon, donning safety vests and scrubbing the sidewalk just feet from fast-moving traffic."

In an update announcing the arrest, Phantasmagoria posted on Facebook that the suspect "has been referred for a mental health evaluation because he reportedly thought we were an army surplus store that was in this location 25 years ago. He also reportedly sprayed the same graffiti in front of a house where he used to live.

"We are relieved to know this was reportedly not politically or maliciously motivated. Still, we want to thank everyone for their continued support. Regardless of the motivation, we are here for the long haul and will continue to be a positive, inclusive influence for our community."

Obituary Note: Jonathan Cutbill

Jonathan Cutbill, who co-founded Gay's the Word bookshop in the Bloomsbury district of London and died in May at the age of 82, was featured in the Guardian's "Other Lives" series, which celebrates "people less in the public eye, or lives lived beyond formal recognition."

Jonathan Cutbill

In a tribute to his friend, Andrew Lumsden wrote that Cutbill, "the foremost collector in Britain of books of LGBT relevance.... co-founded the shop in 1979 with Ernest Hole and Peter Dorey, and became a director, installing its early stock-control system, while also working as an information systems expert at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.

"In April 1984 Jonathan was faced with imprisonment after HM Customs and Excise raided the bookshop. Customs officers seized 144 titles, worth thousands of pounds; he was one of nine directors and employees accused of conspiring to import and sell indecent or obscene literature.... When at one low point it was suggested that the shop should cease trying to fight, Jonathan famously denounced any such idea: 'We go on!' The nine defendants were committed for trial at the Old Bailey, but in June 1986 all criminal charges were dropped."

In the 1980s, Cutbill deduced from quasi-codings in Wilfred Owen's "mature work that the poet was gay, something early biographers had denied or evaded at the request of Owen's family and misplaced 'protection' of British military honor, and in 1987 he published an essay in the New Statesman entitled 'The Truth Untold.' It is now widely accepted that Jonathan was right," Lumsden wrote.

On Facebook Wednesday, Gay's the Word posted: "Lovely obituary for Jonathan Cutbill--one of the founders of Gay's The Word. An avid bibliophile, for over 20 years he bought a copy of every single lgbt book that we stocked in addition to running our secondhand department."


Image of the Day: Pilkey Draws a Crowd

The Novel Neighbor in St. Louis, Mo., hosted Dav Pilkey at the Chafeitz Arena for the second stop on his #DoGood tour for Dog Man: For Whom the Ball Rolls. The event drew 5,000 fans--his largest event ever. Pilkey committed to meeting each and every fan, so the bookstore coordinated to have the Captain Underpants movie playing, photo ops, concessions, activities in the arena; in addition, his backlist from Scholastic and plush from Merry Makers were available. The bookstore's new nonprofit, the Noble Neighbor, donated 400 tickets to three local organizations/schools and Pilkey donated 400 books and paid for everyone's parking. "Once again, Dav continues to be the most inspiring and generous author we host," said Novel Neighbor's Holland Saltsman.

Carmichael's Bookstore 'Standing Strong Against Competition'

"In a day and age when you can find big, corporate companies on nearly every block, some local businesses are standing strong against competition," Spectrum 1 News in Louisville, Ken., noted in a report headlined "Shop Local Movement Helps Area Businesses See Longstanding Success."

Among the businesses highlighted was Carmichael's Bookstore and co-owner Kelly Estep, who "said this charming store has been helping people get lost in a good book for over 40 years. It all started when her aunt and uncle had a vision. They used to work together at a large bookstore in Chicago before deciding to open a store of their own in Louisville," Spectrum 1 News reported.

"There weren't any big box stores at the time or anything like that. Everything was a neighborhood shop still," Estep said, adding: "Staying here and staying local and rooted in the neighborhood was the reason we were able to survive.... In the last 15 years or so the key has been that the buy local movement has become so big. People are understanding that, if they want their neighborhood to look like their neighborhood and not like every other neighborhood in the United States, they have to shop and support those stores."

Personnel Changes at Catapult/Counterpoint/Soft Skull; Knopf

Katie Boland has been promoted to events and programming manager, books, at Catapult/Counterpoint/Soft Skull. She was formerly events coordinator.


Abby Endler has been promoted to publicist at Knopf. She was formerly associate publicist. She earlier worked at Putnam.

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Julian Lennon on the View

The View repeat: Julian Lennon, co-author of Love the Earth (Sky Pony, $17.99, 9781510728547).

On Stage: The Lightning Thief

The entire company of the recently wrapped 2019 tour of The Lightning Thief: The Percy Jackson Musical, adapted from Rick Riordan's bestselling novel, will reprise their roles on Broadway at the Longacre Theatre this fall, Playbill reported. The production is scheduled to play a limited 16-week engagement beginning September 20.

Chris McCarrell (Les Misérables) stars as Percy Jackson. Stephen Brackett (A Strange Loop, Be More Chill) directs and Patrick McCollum (The Band's Visit) is choreographer for the musical, which features a book by Joe Tracz (A Series of Unfortunate Events, Be More Chill) and original music and lyrics by Rob Rokicki.

The cast also includes Izzy Figueroa, Jorrel Javier, Ryan Knowles, Sam Leicht, Sarah Beth Pfeifer, James Hayden Rodriguez, Jalynn Steele, T. Shyvonne Stewart, and Kristin Stokes.

The Lightning Thief "made its New York debut in 2017 at the Lucille Lortel Theatre, where it played an extended run and was nominated for three Drama Desk Awards," Playbill noted. The national tour launched in Arkansas last January.

Books & Authors

Awards: James Tait Black; Kelpies

Winners of the £10,000 (about $12,090) James Tait Black book prizes were announced at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

The biography winner was Lindsey Hilsum for In Extremis: The Life of War Correspondent Marie Colvin, which judge Simon Cooke described as "a uniquely informed, passionate and balanced testament to the legendary war reporter Marie Colvin in all her human complexity, and a searching inquiry into her extraordinary dedication to bearing witness to the stories of those living in extremis."

The fiction winner was Olivia Laing for Crudo, which judge Alex Lawrie called "fiction at its finest: a bold and reactive political novel that captures a raw slice of contemporary history with pace, charm, and wit."

Laing announced at the ceremony that she will be dividing the prize money among her fellow shortlisted writers, including Will Eaves, Jessie Greengrass and Nafissa Thompson-Spires.

"I said in Crudo that competition has no place in art and I meant it," Laing said. "Crudo was written against a kind of selfishness that's everywhere in the world right now, against an era of walls and borders, winners and losers. Art doesn't thrive like that and I don't think people do either. We thrive on community, solidarity and mutual support and as such, and assuming this is agreeable to my fellow authors, I'd like the prize money to be split between us, to nourish as much new work as possible."


Winners have been announced for the new-format Kelpies Prize and Kelpies Illustration Prize, which recognize "emerging writers and illustrators who are committed to developing their skills and creating quality books for children."

Christopher Mackie took the Kelpies Prize 2019 and will receive a year of mentoring with the editorial team at Floris Books, along with a publication deal, £1,000 (about $1,215) and a week-long writing retreat at Moniack Mhor, Scotland’s creative writing center.

Aimee Ferrier won the Kelpies Illustration Prize 2019 and will receive a year of mentoring with the Floris Books design team, as well as a publication deal, £1,000 and a ticket to this year’s Picture Hooks conference.

Reading with... Anna Sherman

photo: Zed Nelson

Anna Sherman was born in Little Rock, Ark., and studied classics at Wellesley and Lincoln College, Oxford. She moved to Japan in 2001. The Bells of Old Tokyo (Picador, August 13, 2019) is her first book.

On your nightstand now:

The Penguin Book of the Prose Poem. Ernst Jünger's A German Officer in Occupied Paris: The War Journals, 1941-1945. Ma Jian's Red Dust. Fleur Jaeggy's I Am the Brother of XX. The new translation of Pere Gimferrer's Catalan Poems. William Glassley's A Wilder Time: Notes from a Geologist at the Edge of the Greenland Ice.

Favorite book when you were a child:

When I was very small, I loved C.S. Lewis's The Magician's Nephew: the Wood Between the Worlds, like a 1950s version of the multiverse; magic apple trees; and Day-Glo transportation rings.

As a teenager I was obsessed with Gillian Bradshaw's novels, especially Kingdom of Summer, from her Arthurian trilogy. Bradshaw threads her books with lines from ancient Irish epics and bootlegged Greek and Latin fragments too. It's a technique I still like--little poetic shards set in a text.

Your top five authors:

Let's cross out the "five" and add "still living":

Rae Armantrout, Rita Dove, Jenny Erpenbeck, Aleksandar Hemon, Claudio Magris, Michael Ondaatje, Cormac McCarthy, John McPhee, Orhan Pamuk, Thomas Pynchon, Marilynne Robinson, Gary Snyder.

Book you've faked reading:

I haven't (yet) finished Remembrance of Things Past. I've read the first volumes and the last ones, but not The Prisoner or The Fugitive. I find Proust's descriptions of Paris during World War I, and his accounts of the very first airplanes, much more compelling than his writings on love and art.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Jenny Offill's Dept. of Speculation. She has one passage about Christmas cards--what would happen if we told the truth rather than lying--that's brilliant. And I love how she deploys factoids in misleading ways. A perfect text for the post-truthiness era.

Also Jesmyn Ward's Men We Reaped. A masterpiece. Prose so sweet you don't realize you're swallowing broken glass.

Book you've bought for the cover:

A.D. Miller's Snowdrops. So gorgeous. So sinister. Rather like the book itself.

Book you hid from your parents:

I can't come clean on my louche teenage tastes! Enough to say that my mother is probably still finding cheap novels in drawers or underneath sofa cushions, all these years later.

Book that changed your life:

Peter Matthiessen's The Snow Leopard. If I could memorize every sentence in this book, I would. The writer's personal circumstances amaze me too--the fact that, so soon after his wife's death, Matthiessen left their young son while he set out across the Tibetan plateau. A beautiful book but one that would have been very costly to write.

Favorite line from a book:

My answer to this question oscillates from day to day. Right now, the needle is steady at Ilya Kaminsky's Deaf Republic:

What is a man?/ A quiet between two bombardments.

Five books you'll never part with:

Fyodor Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamazov (translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky). Pico Iyer's The Man Within My Head. Royall Tyler's Japanese Nō Dramas. James Salter's Solo Faces. William Dalrymple's City of Djinns.

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

War and Peace. I came to it late, in my 30s, even though I had read and loved Tolstoy's shorter works, especially Hadji Murat, years before. But War and Peace is so pitch-perfect: for its philosophy, its narrative, its characters--just how real Tolstoy makes an imaginary world.

I wish I could pick up that book & not know that Prince Andrei would get killed. And Petya Rostov.

Book Review

Children's Review: Born to Fly

Born to Fly: The First Women's Air Race Across America by Steve Sheinkin, illus. by Bijou Karman (Roaring Brook Press, $19.99 hardcover, 288p., ages 10-14, 9781626721302, September 24, 2019)

Who better to tell young adults the story of 1929's Women's Air Derby than the singular Steve Sheinkin? The author of historical deep dives that include the National Book Award finalists The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights and Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War, Sheinkin is a history writer of unusual gumption and no shortage of nerve. In Born to Fly: The First Women's Air Race Across America, his inaugural woman-centered work of nonfiction, Sheinkin calls "Ladybirds," "Derbyettes" and other press-coined euphemisms for female pilots "patronizing and stupid." He writes of one dubiously constructed airplane, "The whole thing was made of lightweight wood... Seriously, wood."

Born to Fly is a real barn burner. (Seriously, a barn burner.) Sheinkin begins by introducing his all-female cast of characters, evoking Little Rascals episodes with scenes of their youthful attempts at flight (as from the roof of a barn). As adults, these female pilots, relative rarities in a male-dominated field, are thrilled when they learn that on August 18, 1929, there will be a Women's Air Derby--the first-ever women's cross-country air race. It will last nine days, cover 2,759 miles and require flying from Santa Monica, Calif., to Cleveland, Ohio. This was the 1920s, when air racing was a wildly popular American spectator sport, so of course the derby would generate headlines. What the pilots could not have anticipated was how rage-makingly sexist the reporting would be.

Born to Fly is full of emergency landings, nail-biting finishes and (probable) acts of sabotage; when there isn't an archival photo to capture a moment, Bijou Karman's unpretentious line art fills in the gaps. But Sheinkin isn't just good at staging drama: he shoehorns in some basic aviation science while also setting the historical scene. Can it be a coincidence that the spike in women's interest in flying happened so soon after women won the right to vote? Sheinkin thinks not.

So, which of the 20 participating fliers will readers root for? There's Amelia Earhart, who, as the world's most famous female pilot, was favored to win. But what about Evelyn "Bobbi" Trout, whose participation in the derby was a righteous rebuke to the aunt who once told her that "young ladies of good families do not fly airplanes"? Then there's the wealthy, cigar-chomping Pancho Barnes, who wasn't in it for the prize money. Born to Fly, which leans heavily on its subjects' own words, reproduces Barnes's sterling response to a reporter who asked her why she flew planes: "To keep from exploding--that's why I fly!" --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author

Shelf Talker: In his first work of nonfiction to focus on women, Steve Sheinkin tells middle graders the captivating tale of the Women's Air Derby of 1929 and the female firebrands who flew in it.

Powered by: Xtenit