Happy Labor Day!
Because of the Labor Day holiday, this is our last issue until Tuesday, September 3. Enjoy the long weekend!
Because of the Labor Day holiday, this is our last issue until Tuesday, September 3. Enjoy the long weekend!
"I love what I'm doing with film and television, [but] I will always be attached and involved with Books & Books.... When an opportunity is presented, I always ask myself, 'Why not? Why not try?' I don't like to take too many risks, but saying 'why not?' is the way you discover things and grow as a person and professionally."
The former Phoenix Books Misty Valley in Chester, Vt., closed Wednesday, but is reopening today as Blair Books & More under the ownership of Vicki Thornton. The 33-year-old bookstore is housed in a historic 1848 Victorian building on the village green. Store manager Katie DeSanto had announced earlier this month that Thornton would officially purchase the store August 29.
Phoenix Books, with three other locations in Vermont, purchased the store in 2016 with the intention of finding a local co-owner to run the business. When those efforts were not fruitful, DeSanto, daughter of Phoenix Books' owner Mike DeSanto, relocated from her home in East Hardwick, Vt., to Chester. A controversial series of events prompted the bookshop's temporary closure last November.
"I ran the store on my own through the holidays and realized I needed help," DeSanto noted. "I survived on good espresso from Scott Blair, the owner of Southern Pie Cafe, who has been a gracious neighbor and friend to me from the beginning. One bleary-eyed morning after Christmas, Scott told me his mother, Vicki, was an avid reader and would love to work in a bookstore. I hired Vicki in January."
DeSanto, who is returning to the Burlington & Essex stores to work on marketing Phoenix, said Thornton "is a natural and I'm thrilled the store will find the energy and vigor it needs under her full ownership. Vicki's family is ready for their new adventure and she looks forward to serving the community with a bookstore for years to come."
Thornton told the Vermont Journal: "I love this place and have worked closely with Katie and Mike to find a sustainable path for the store to grow and thrive. My family is very excited about our new adventure and we look forward to serving the community with a bookstore for years to come."
In addition to a curated selection of books for all ages, Blair Books & More will offer locally crafted gifts, toiletries, and jewelry and will continue to carry premium greeting cards, stationery, puzzles, and literary-themed gifts, the Journal noted.
"I love books," Thornton said, "but I would have never thought of it as a career. It's hard to get into the business when there are so few independent stores and Amazon is putting those out of business." The Chester Telegraph noted that she had studied accounting in college and has been a bookkeeper, "so one vital aspect of the business was filled. And the other parts, she seemed to be picking up on the job."
Thornton said she and the DeSantos have been working on the purchase "for a couple of months. We had hoped that it would be by the end of July. But it took a bit longer." She describe the name change as representing "a fresh start to revitalize (the store) with its new name and a legacy for my children and grandchildren.... I feel that this space and where it is located is vital to the community. Can you imagine this as an empty space on the Green?"
The cafe, called the Bistro at Lark & Owl, serves salads, toasts and sandwiches, along with a variety of healthy options such as granola, fruit and yogurt. Currently, it is open only for breakfast and lunch, with dinner service planned. Chef James Reedy is in charge of Lark & Owl's kitchen, while Rich Reimbolt, head chef of a bar/restaurant called Better Half, advised Lark & Owl on creating its menu.
Lark & Owl was founded in 2018 by a team of 10 women entrepreneurs, led by Jane Estes. Prior to this week, the cafe had been offering a very limited menu. To celebrate being fully up and running, Lark & Owl hosted a ribbing-cutting ceremony on Thursday night and weekend events including raffles and a family night with the Georgetown Fire Department.
Wellesley Books and its staff will be honored at the New England Independent Booksellers Association's Fall Conference Awards Banquet Thursday, October 3, in Providence, R.I.
The American Booksellers Association has sent a 22-page letter to the Department of Justice's antitrust division supporting its early-stages inquiry into "market-leading" online platforms and focusing on Amazon. The division had issued a call for information "on how online market providers have acquired their market power and whether these platforms are engaging in 'practices that have reduced competition, stifled innovation, or otherwise harmed consumers,' " Bookselling This Week reported.
In the letter, ABA CEO Oren Teicher wrote in part: "As a trade association of independent booksellers, we do indeed have insight into competition in online platforms due to our members' experience competing with Amazon--a corporate giant that is now far more than a retailer, and that is unquestioningly a leading platform in the U.S. Industry trends and data clearly indicate that Amazon is well on its way to becoming a tech industry monopoly, and it is already a monopoly in the book industry. When examining the company's history and present business model, it is clear that Amazon is able to use its dominance to manipulate market structures, suppress competition, and harm consumers and other stakeholders. In turn, Amazon is able to further expand its market share."
He noted: "Today, Amazon controls 75% of online sales of physical books, 65% of e-book sales, more than 40% of new book sales, and about 85% of sales by self-published e-book authors. Amazon's dominance and continued growth in the book industry, in and of itself, is a huge issue, especially in terms of consumer access to new authors and marginalized voices. But it is also indicative of Amazon's larger business model, which is to enter a given market with the goal of simply dominating it at every turn."
Among many other points, he noted that although Amazon is finally collecting sales tax in the 45 states that have sales taxes, it still doesn't collect and remit sales tax on its third-party marketplace sales in most states. "These sales now account for well over half of Amazon retail sales," he wrote. "As of February 2019, only eight states collect state and local taxes on those sales through so-called 'marketplace facilitator' policies. Uncollected sales tax is also highly variable among the states depending on state and local tax rates and agreements in place in any given year. As a result, Amazon continues to avoid a substantial and widely underestimated share of state and local sales taxes, resulting in direct fiscal harm to communities and states.:
Amazon also makes "ongoing and well-publicized demands [on] states and local governments for tax subsidies and incentives to open offices, warehouses, and, more recently, its second headquarters."
The letter continues, in part: "Amazon has also abused its market share by displacing an open market with a privately controlled market. By using Amazon Prime to corral an ever-larger share of online shoppers, Amazon has left rival retailers and manufacturers with little choice but to become third-party sellers on its platform; in addition, half of all online searches begin with Amazon. In effect, Amazon is supplanting an open market with a privately controlled one, giving it the power to dictate the terms by which its competitors can operate, and to effectively levy a kind of tax on their revenue.
"Amazon leverages the interplay between the direct retail and platform sides of its business to maximize its dominance over suppliers. As Amazon extracts more fees from suppliers, it reduces their ability to invent and develop new products. Meanwhile, Amazon is rapidly expanding its own product lines, using the trove of data it gathers from its platform to understand its suppliers’ industries and compete directly against them. Many of these Amazon products appear at the top of its search listings.
"Once a consumer is hooked on using Amazon's platform as their go-to source, Amazon then sets about increasing its prices. Already there's evidence that Amazon is using its huge trove of data about customers' buying habits to raise prices. It's also started blocking access to certain products, charging higher prices, and delaying shipping times for customers who decline to join its Prime program. ProPublica tested the purchasing options at Amazon and found that, in their tests, Amazon's sophisticated shopping algorithm favored Amazon and the sellers it charges for its services, even if the price is much higher."
To see the full letter, click here.
Amazon's Audible division has agreed not to introduce its "Audible Captions" feature until the judge in the lawsuit brought by the Association of American Publishers rules on a preliminary injunction sought by the publishers.
Audible's proposed captions feature would transcribe and display the text of narrations in the audios. The plaintiffs--AAP member companies Chronicle Books, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, Scholastic and Simon & Schuster--have charged Audible with copyright infringement and said that Audible's program involves "cross-format features that incorporate both audio and electronic text, outside of the careful decision-making, financial participation, copyright protection, and quality control of copyright owners."
In the order signed August 28, U.S. District Court Judge Valerie Caproni said that Audible "will not enable its 'Captions' feature for all audiobooks for which publishers own, or are the exclusive licensee of, the text or audiobook rights (including without limitation publishers' works [as defined in the original complaint] until the court rules on publishers' motion for a preliminary injunction, filed on August 23, 2019, or the motion is otherwise disposed of."
The hearing on the motion has been postponed to September 25 from September 5 and will be heard by Judge Caproni.
Barnes & Noble is marking its One-Millionth Storytime reading for kids and parents with a celebratory weekend of special storytimes nationwide on September 7 and 8.
"It is truly rewarding to reach the milestone of one million Storytimes, and to consider how many kids our booksellers have read some of the most popular kid’s books to over the past three decades," said Stephanie Fryling, v-p of merchandising, children’s books. "Storytimes have been, and will continue to be, an integral part of what makes our stores a community gathering place. I love knowing that many of the kids who attended our Storytimes over the last 30 years are now returning with children of their own."
Hank Phillippi Ryan celebrated the launch The Murder List (Forge) at An Unlikely Story in Plainville, Mass., last week. It was standing room only as nearly 100 fans listened to her talk about her 11th novel. Ryan is pictured here signing books with Kym Havens, the bookstore's marketing & events manager.
Bookstore Explorer visited Octavia Books in New Orleans, La., describing the shop as "beautifully decorated, impressively stocked with a wealth of genres, and operated by a friendly and well-read staff that is quick to offer a recommended read or a cool place to grab lunch."
Established by Tom Lowenburg and Judith Lafitte in 2000, Octavia's "mission was simple: to prove that a good local bookstore can be an essential part of community."
"Like all good tales, the story behind Wild Geese Bookshop is as wonderful as the ones you'll find inside on the shelves," CBS4 News noted in a profile of the Franklin, Ind., bookstore headlined "A story of community: How one woman's dream transformed into Franklin's favorite bookshop."
Owner Tiffany Phillips moved with her family to the area in 2015 when her husband accepted a position in the English Department at Franklin College. After renting a quaint property located downtown that was intended it to be an office for her law work, she realized there was also an opportunity to follow her other passion by opening a much-needed independent bookstore within the space she was going to use for her day job.
"Honestly, when I started it was just going to be for my law work. I just thought, 'I need to get out of the house and meet some people,' " said Phillips. "And when I looked at the space, it was zoned in such a way that I knew we could do commercial space in the front."
Phillips opened Wild Geese Bookshop in 2016. "It was just something that I always kind of had in my heart,” she said. "Franklin had a need [for an independent bookstore] and I needed Franklin too in a lot of ways." Now the bookshop is her full-time job, with the former law office space having been transformed into a children's room.
"I don't know that Wild Geese Bookshop--in its current form--would have been successful in a lot of other communities," she said. "But this is the kind of place that values handshakes, eye contact, slowing down, taking time with one another.... We're in a time when people are separated a lot on their screens and there are a lot of teams people get divided out into. But in the bookstore, people are interacting. They're meeting each other. They're coming to book club and they're connecting which is what I think we really need most in community now."
"France is a bibliophile's paradise: there are bookstores every few blocks," Frenchly noted in showcasing "11 beautiful bookstores in Paris every book lover should visit.... When you need a little more to the book shopping experience than simply wandering in and picking up the latest bestseller or an old favorite, seek out these 11 bookstores--they're the most beautiful in the city."
Chuck Deane has joined Sourcebooks as a sales director and will be responsible for managing several channels, including independent bookstore sales. He was most recently v-p of sales (Americas) for John Wiley & Sons.
Kaitlyn Spotts has been hired as associate marketing manager, school and library, at Chronicle Books. Previously she was library and trade sales marketing coordinator at Hachette Book Group.
Emily St. John Mandel's upcoming novel The Glass Hotel (Knopf, March 2020) will be adapted into a television series. Deadline reported that NBCUniversal International Studios acquired the rights and has set its Canadian production unit Lark Productions to develop and produce. Mandel will write the pilot, her first TV screenplay. Lark's president Erin Haskett and Samantha Morris Mastai will serve as executive producers.
"I feel that the project is in excellent hands at Lark Productions, and I'm delighted to be working with them on this," said Mandel.
Jeff Wachtel, president, NBCUniversal International Studios, commented: "Emily is an absolutely world-class author and a storyteller. Her unique voice and perspective make her a writer whose stories inform our experience of life's beauty and tragedy. It will be a privilege to help take her novel from print to the screen."
Lark's Haskett added: "I have long admired Emily's work. We're thrilled with this opportunity to work with her. The Glass Hotel is a beautifully crafted story following the age-old battle of morals versus greed told through the richness of the character's relationships and stunning locations."
The Poetry Foundation and Poetry magazine announced the five recipients of the 2019 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowships, which are given to "encourage the further writing and study of poetry" and are open to U.S. poets between the ages of 21 and 31.
Franny Choi, Jane Huffman, José Olivarez, Justin Phillip Reed, and Michael Wasson each receive $25,800. The fellows will make their first joint appearance at Poetry Day on October 3 in Chicago in honor of the 30th anniversary of the program, and a forthcoming issue of Poetry will feature samples of their work.
"The fellowship program recognizes poets who are already creating wonderful work, and exists in order to encourage them to further their craft," said Poetry magazine editor Don Share. "It is a pleasure to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the program with this outstanding group of poets. Educators, organizers, editors, and much more besides--all of them are as committed to making room for other poets as they are to their own writing."
The shortlist has been released for the Bookbug Picture Book Prize, run by Scottish Book Trust with support from Browns Books for Students. The winner will be announced January 29. Shortlisted authors and illustrators pick up £500 (about $610) and the winner gets £3,000 (about $3,655). This year's shortlisted titles are:
The Prince and the Witch and the Thief and the Bears by Alastair Chisholm, illustrated by Jez Tuya
Unicorn Expert by Morag Hood, illustrated by Ella Okstad
The Station Mouse by Meg McLaren
|photo: David Baker|
Lisa Sandlin was born in Beaumont, Tex., where she grew up in oil-refinery air, 60 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. After raising a son in Santa Fe, N.Mex., she taught writing for more than 20 years at Wayne State College and at the University of Nebraska Omaha. She has since returned to Santa Fe. The Bird Boys (Cinco Puntos Press, July)--a sequel to The Do-Right, which won the Shamus Award and the Hammett Prize--is her sixth book.
On your nightstand now:
Los enamoramientos by Javier Marías, and a great and helpful accompaniment, Larousse's Diccionario Escolar Plus, Spanish-Spanish. Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott, a brilliant crusher of a novel. Becoming by Michelle Obama, whom I saw inspire 14K people in Denver with her talk on this book and her life. Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke, bought after I truly enjoyed Black Water Rising, and This Bright Darkness, a book of luminous poems by Sarah McKinstry-Brown. Oh, and Normal People by Sally Rooney has just arrived!
Favorite book when you were a child:
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe. I loved the parts about house building and inventiveness. My small condo has a clerestory so I can always see the sky, and a crow's nest of a bedroom reached by a spiral staircase.
Your top five authors:
Margaret Atwood, James Baldwin, Ernest Gaines, Haruki Murakami, George Saunders.
Book you've faked reading:
More like, books that flew over my head: at 14, I bought Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment from the grocery store stand. In my 20s, I read Gabriel García Márquez's La hojarasca, understanding, probably, every fourth word. Nevertheless, I persisted.
Books you're an evangelist for:
Ironweed by William Kennedy and Specimen Days by Michael Cunningham.
Book you've bought for the cover:
Tent of Miracles by Jorge Amado. Fell in love with the cover's lovely scholarly man, and his sexy shirt.
Book you hid from your parents:
Jacqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls. The scene: teenage me behind locked door with wide eyes, mother banging on door, father yelling from another room, "Let her read it!"
Books that changed your life:
Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison and Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. They made me want to write.
Favorite line from a book:
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez: "Then he looked at Florentino Ariza, his invincible power, his intrepid love, and he was overwhelmed by the belated suspicion that it is life, more than death, that has no limits."
Five books you'll never part with:
Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves, 1930 edition; Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston; Black Elk Speaks by Black Elk and John G. Neihardt; The Complete Poems of Cavafy by Constantine Cavafy; Thirteen Stories by Eudora Welty.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Yep, I'd join the long line of readers who chose Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë.
Angry Queer Somali Boy: A Complicated Memoir by Mohamed Abdulkarim Ali (University of Regina Press, $16.95 hardcover, 208p., 9780889776593, October 5, 2019)
Mohamed Abdulkarim Ali was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, in the mid-1980s; he was stolen away from his home at age four by his father, a stranger to the young boy. With his stepmother and several new siblings, the young Ali lived for a time in the United Arab Emirates and in various cities in the Netherlands. When he was in high school, the disjointed family relocated again to Toronto, where Ali still lives, writing Angry Queer Somali Boy: A Complicated Memoir from a homeless shelter.
The traumas start early, with the national distresses of Somalia represented by Ali's socialist grandparents and his mostly absent businessman father. "I saw him as a philistine, but he was in tune with the flow of history, unlike his parents." Ali's stepmother and stepsisters are violently abusive toward him and toward each other: the genital mutilation the girls endure happens off-screen but nevertheless forms a visceral, horrific scene in a chapter titled "Torn Desert Flowers."
Ali suffers in the increasingly white countries he is moved to, as an immigrant, foreigner, African--"since the words for African and slave are interchangeable in Arabic, my schoolmates thought hurting me was their holy right." Bullied at school, he must also deal with discovering his sexuality in an immigrant Muslim family disinclined to accept a gay son. Eventually, his coping mechanisms for these and other difficulties will include addictions to Valium and alcohol. Later, en route to an arranged marriage in Somalia that he will manage to avoid, Ali spends time in London, a place he finds "more alive" than Toronto and where museums are free.
His book is filled with suffering, but Ali avoids self-pity with his matter-of-fact reportorial style and the odd, acerbic interjection. His focus is global as well as personal, as he considers Somali history, colorism within nonwhite communities, the way one marginalized group can abuse another and observed trends in racism, homophobia and xenophobia. Among the pain are poetic, searing images, like the white teacher who hands out sugar cane to accompany a story about Barbados, "to taste the sweetness that had claimed so many black lives.... Armed with the taste of sugar cane, I made my way to the library."
This is a memoir of raw agony and uncomfortable histories, told in a style alternately lyric and stark. Ali's life experience has ranged widely, geographically and otherwise, and the stories he shares here are both particular and universal truths. Angry Queer Somali Boy is painful but recommended reading for anyone hoping to look directly at this world. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia
Shelf Talker: An angry queer Somali boy navigates race, family and sexual discovery in a series of countries before writing this startling, incisive memoir of pain and resilience.
I've been thinking about New Zealand poetry, which has been in the news, at least on my particular wavelength, and seems to have gathered itself into a collage:
Yesterday I read Dominic Hoey's poem "Our Talents Are Super Powers" many times. I like these lines:
The first time people see her fly they laugh like children
"Oh my god, how'd you do you that!?"
but then they grow sceptical
"I mean whats its practical application?" they ask
"she's flying!" I yell
they shrug and go back to their phones
Last Friday was Phantom Billstickers National Poetry Day, which presented New Zealanders with "the opportunity to come together and unleash the power of poetry in their own communities."
Booksellers NZ: "Happy #NZPoetryDay everybody! Get yourself to a bookshop, a cafe, a library or a street near you & celebrate with some fine NZ poets as they emerge, blinking, from their writing hubs to share their craft." About 150 events and activities were held across New Zealand in connection with National Poetry Day.
Time Out Bookstore, Auckland: "This Friday our annual All Tomorrow’s Poets event for @0800phantom National Poetry Day is happening. Featuring these five amazing poets--portraits drawn by our own @selcouthbird.'
"I love the attention National Poetry Day brings to poetry, its power and significance. A day like this reminds me why poetry matters; not just for 24 hours, but for life," poet Siobhan Harvey wrote. "Poetry matters also because it is democratic. It knows no barriers or prejudices. Age; gender; class; ethnicity: poems can be written by all.... Broadcaster John Campbell once said that poetry could stand next to rugby as our national sport. So today, and every day participate in poetry. Read it. Write it. Let it matter to you."
Here's Courtney Sina Meredith "acing her Phantom Billstickers #NZPoetryDay Breakfast interview. And then, there was her powerful and moving performance poetry piece. Simply beautiful."
|Tayi Tibble with her poetry poster|
Phantom Billstickers again celebrated National Poetry Day with well-placed posters.
" 'Something really interesting and fun, dazzling, sometimes powerful' are words Steve Braunias uses to describe the resurgence of New Zealand poetry in the introduction to his anthology The Friday Poem: 100 New Zealand Poems," Stuff NZ reported. Braunias introduced the "Friday Poem" slot on the The Spinoff in 2015. "Over the past five years, it has provided a platform for emerging writers to showcase their voice."
@MakerFaireWgtn: "Happy National Poetry Day! #nzpoetryday One of our makers for this year's Maker Faire 'RusticWriters' will type up hand written poems for individuals on a typewriter!"
"You're onto something," @NZPoetryDay responded after @AnneKennedee tweeted: "Poetry Day should be a national holiday instead of that weird day in June for a queen's birthday. Long live Queen Selina and King David."
"It's poetry day, I don't have time to sleep," Peter Aldrich, who planned to be "doing all things poetry for 24 hours," told Stuff NZ. "I like to take words literally and a day is 24 hours, it's not poetry half an hour, it's poetry day."
On National Poetry Day, David Eggleton was named poet laureate for 2019–2021, succeeding Selina Tusitala Marsh ("Never piss off a poet"). Chris Szekely, chief librarian of the Alexander Turnbull Library, described Eggleton's appointment as further recognition for "a poet of consequence whose work continues to develop and mature. David is a significant and widely-respected voice in New Zealand poetry whose work is representative of life in Aotearoa in all its breadth and diversity."
"I see the role of poet laureate as promoting the appreciation of poetry in the community, and everywhere--schools, theatres, nightclubs, festivals, as well as overseas and in the media," Eggleton said. "I will be advocating for a more public presence of poetry and for events that celebrate the craft of poetry."
Veronica Alfano told Radio NZ that committing a text to memory is an act of cultural sharing: "I think that's one advantage to having a culture of pedagogical memorization, if there's something that many in a culture share in common.... I've also found that one that's committed to memory will pop into my mind and almost clarify my own emotions to me. If you don't fully understand the emotional implications of a poem when you're a fairly young school child, if you take that poem with you, it can serve as a kind of lens on your own emotions on your own experiences later in life in a really powerful way."
From Eggleton's "Game":
They catch the future, turn it over in their hands;
then down they scrum, with mud-flecked faces.
Again they fall, as if thrown to the very bottom,
held down in the muddy slither of trenches.
Climbing up again through troughs of rain,
they are the whole earth, kicking for touch.
From Nikki-Lee Birdsey's "Mutuwhenua":
Come on, we'll take a ride out to the bay,
you say, it'll all go by so fast,
we'll look at the small, cold islands out there,
some just for rich people, some just for birds.
I'd like to memorize some of these poems; it might feel like flying.
--Robert Gray, contributing editor