Shelf Awareness for Friday, September 11, 2020

Mariner Books: Everyone This Christmas Has a Secret: A Festive Mystery by Benjamin Stevenson

Grove Press: Brightly Shining by Ingvild Rishøi, Translated Caroline Waight

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

Broadleaf Books: Trespass: Portraits of Unhoused Life, Love, and Understanding by Kim Watson

Nancy Paulsen Books: Sync by Ellen Hopkins

Running Press Adult: Cat People by Hannah Hillam

Beaming Books: Must-Have Autumn Reads for Your Shelf!

Dial Press: Like Mother, Like Mother by Susan Rieger

Quotation of the Day

'Nobody Needs to Be Signposted to Amazon for Online Purchasing'

"Booksellers will have to continue to operate on compromised, emerging high streets and online. We are lobbying the government and the trade to be vocal in their support for bookshops: we want consumers back on high streets, spending and engaging with their bookshop community. We would really welcome the trade swinging behind our #ChooseBookshops campaign, from... Super Thursday right through to Christmas. As we have said before, nobody needs to be signposted to Amazon for online purchasing."

--Meryl Halls, CEO of the Booksellers Association of the U.K. & Ireland, quoted in the Bookseller

Peachtree Teen: Compound Fracture by Andrew Joseph White


AAP Sales: Down 9.4% in July; Trade Up 17.9%

Reflecting another full month when business was affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, total net book sales in July in the U.S. fell 9.4%, to $1.75 billion, compared to July 2019, representing sales of 1,361 publishers and distributed clients as reported to the Association of American Publishers. For the year to date, total net book sales were down 5.8%, to $7.5 billion.

But following a strong June (up 24.4%), in July trade sales rose again, by 17.9%, to $689.1 million, and are up 5%, to $4.3 billion, during the first seven months of the year. In trade, the best-performing categories were e-books (children's/YA, university press and adult) and hardcovers (adult and children's/YA). Downloaded audio also continued to grow in sales.

By contrast, non-trade areas were down by similar percentages in July. Education revenue fell 18.7%, to $2.84 billion, and professional books, including business, medical, law, technical and scientific, fell 20.3%, to $80.2 million.

Sales by category in July 2020 compared to July 2019:

Inner Traditions: Expand your collection with these must-have resource books!

Binc Seeks to Help Stores Affected by Wildfires

The Book Industry Charitable Foundation reported that the rapid spread of wildfires in the west and northwest states has made it impossible for Binc to contact each individual store that may be affected, "so we are reaching out to you for help. We need to mobilize the greater book and comic community to get word to store owners, booksellers, and comic retailers that may need help."

The foundation may be able to help owners or employees with personal household expenses related to the wildfires. In addition, Binc can assist with expenses directly related to the store in certain cases. Here are a few ways that the Binc Foundation may be able to help:

  • If a displaced owner or employee needs financial assistance to move into a new or temporary residence and are unable to cover the associated expenses, the employee can apply for assistance.
  • If any employee lost more than 50% of their weekly work hours or pay due to the wildfire and this is causing financial hardship, they qualify to apply for assistance.
  • If a store is damaged and/or must close due to the wildfires, Binc may be able to help with certain expenses to help the store reopen more quickly after the threat passes.

More information is available on Binc's assistance page or contact Binc directly at or 866-733-9064

Uncle Hugo's Update: Demolition Permit Issued

Don Blyly, owner of Uncle Hugo's Science Fiction Bookstore and Uncle Edgar's Mystery Bookstore, in Minneapolis, Minn., which burned to the ground amid the protests earlier this summer following the murder of George Floyd by city police, provided another update on his efforts to rebuild the bookstores.

Blyly reported that after weeks of delays involving inexplicable water bills that had to be paid before a demolition permit for the site could be issued, a contractor will begin removing debris within a few days. Blyly has hired an architect and general contractor as well, and while he is still planning to rebuild in the same location, he has looked at a few other commercial properties for sale in Minneapolis and surrounding locations. So far nothing has been particularly appealing, though more properties may become available as the pandemic continues.

The store's GoFundMe campaign remains open, and has so far raised just over $173,000 out of a $500,000 goal. In his update, Blyly noted that he is eager to once again be a resource for new science fiction and fantasy titles as well as used science fiction, fantasy and mystery books.

How Bookstores Are Coping: Fall Buying; Reopening for Appointments

In Washington Depot, Conn., Hickory Stick Bookshop started offering curbside pick-up in April and reopened to the public in a very limited capacity by the middle of May. Owner Fran Keilty and her team are still offering curbside pick-up, as well as private appointments to customers, and they've been gradually expanding the store's hours. Currently the staff is in store 48 hours per week and Hickory Stick is open to the public 40 hours per week.

Prior to opening to the public, the team installed a plexiglass barrier at the counter, removed nearly all of the store's seating and set up hand sanitizer stations around the store. There are signs on the door and a board on the sidewalk outlining the rules and letting customers know that they must use hand sanitizer and wear a mask at all times. The store's bathrooms have also been closed to the public.

Keilty reported that the store has gotten a little pushback for not allowing young children in the store except by appointment, but otherwise everyone has followed the store's safety protocols without issues.

On the subject of how the pandemic has affected her buying, Keilty said she's still playing catch up with all the orders she canceled in the spring, trying to determine which books are needed from those lists. She also postponed her fall buying and is playing catch-up in that regard as well. Like many other booksellers, she continued, she is concerned about availability and restocking problems going into the holiday season and is trying to anticipate what the big books will be.

Customers have been more purposeful in their browsing, so Keilty is not ordering the breadth of titles she normally would. The store's web sales have slowed since the early months of the pandemic, but she expects online orders to increase leading up to the holiday season. She also plans to encourage early shopping. In a normal year, she added, gifts, holiday cards and gift wrap are staples of the holidays, but she doesn't know how they will perform this year. Most sidelines are down, with children's toys and especially puzzles being the exceptions, and as such she's ordered more modestly in those areas.

After protests began around the country in late May and early June, Hickory Stick Bookshop saw a huge demand in anti-racism titles and books by diverse authors. While those titles are still selling, they have slowed a bit, and Keilty has been working meanwhile to make the store's inventory more diverse.

On a daily basis, Keilty said, she and her staff have heard from customers how happy they are to be back in the store. There have been a lot of challenges associated with switching to a shipping facility and back to retail, but "we're doing it and will continue to do so barring circumstances we can't control."


Jill Stefanovich, owner of bbgb books in Richmond, Va., reported that since closing to the public in March, her store has been offering free local delivery, curbside pick-up and media mail delivery. The store will reopen for appointment shopping on September 30, with a $20 gift card purchase required to reserve a spot. Given the store's size, bbgb is allowing no more than four related customers in store per appointment. All of the store's seating has been removed, display cases have been moved against the walls and there is now a plexiglass shield at the counter.

The store's main source of income, Stefanovich noted, is usually its book fairs. When schools closed in the spring, the store was hit hard, and she and her team knew they had to "pivot quickly." The team built a new website, loaded most of the store's inventory onto it and began offering virtual book fairs. All told, bbgb held onto half of the store's spring book fairs, and sales at those virtual fairs amounted to about 25% of physical book fair sales. Over the summer the team has continued to improve the website and is working on expanding the store's reach.

The pandemic has dramatically altered bbgb's buying. Where Stefanovich and her team used to order books in "chunks," with many book fair titles ordered by the case, they now have to keep a much tighter rein on buying. They order smaller amounts and "really evaluate" whether a given topic or subject matter is already adequately represented in the store's collection. Now it is no longer enough to order something "just because we loved it."

When protests began earlier in the summer, the bbgb team was "thrilled" to help meet the requests of customers who wanted to diversify their own collections or learn more about anti-racism and social justice. Due to some Richmond businesses being damaged during protests, however, Stefanovich made the decision to board up the shop for two days.

"It was one of the hardest decisions I've had to make in the 10 years of owning this shop," she explained. "We stood with the marchers and their mission, but felt it necessary to ensure our shop wasn't damaged." --Alex Mutter

Obituary Note: Shere Hite

Shere Hite

Shere Hite, best known for The Hite Report: A Nationwide Study of Female Sexuality, which has sold more than 50 million copies since its publication in 1976, died September 9. She was 77. The Guardian reported that The Hite Report "challenged male assumptions about sex by revealing that many women were not stimulated by sexual penetration. It also encouraged women to take control of their sex lives. It was dismissed as 'anti-male' and dubbed the Hate Report by Playboy."

"I was saying that penetration didn't do anything for women and that got some people terribly upset," she told the Guardian in 2011, adding: "I was the only sex researcher at that time who was feminist. I tried to extend the idea of sexual activity to female orgasm and masturbation."

Sustained criticism of her in the U.S., "much of it highly personalized, led Hite to renounce her U.S. citizenship in 1995," the Guardian noted. She subsequently lived all over Europe before settling in north London with her second husband, Paul Sullivan.

Writer Julie Bindel, who interviewed Hite in 2011 and stayed in touch afterward, told the Guardian that Hite's work "was groundbreaking--in many ways she began the real sexual revolution for women in the 1970s after the abject failure of the so-called sexual revolution of the 1960s. In the '60s, women didn't ever feel that they had the right to sexual pleasure. Shere Hite put women's sexual pleasure first and foremost for the first time ever. She centered women's experiences as opposed to seeing men as the default position and women as secondary. That really spoke to a lot of women about their own bodies, their own sexual liberation and sexual pleasure."


'The Day That Was Night'

"Due to apocalyptic conditions, we are closed today."

Cheryl Popp shared this photo of Sausalito Books by the Bay, Sausalito, Calif., taken Wednesday morning, explaining: "As if COVID were not crisis enough, we now have raging wildfires in California. An unusual climatic condition caused by intense smoke on top of a heavy marine layer caused day-long darkness and demonic reddish skies in the San Francisco Bay Area. Downtown Sausalito was eerily deserted, so we closed for the day to prepare for Armageddon!

"What we're doing in light of current circumstances and to remain a truly community-oriented independent bookstore:

  • We are donating books to our first responders in Marin--offering a brief reading respite for those on the frontlines
  • We are hosting timely (and free) virtual community forums such as our "Fire-Smart Landscaping" program next week (this is in addition to the virtual author events we now do)

Interabang Books: 'We are OPEN as we renovate!'

Posted on Facebook yesterday by Interabang Books, Dallas, Tex.: "You might have heard that we have new shelving on the way, along with new carpeting to sit beneath it and fresh paint on the walls to set everything off. True! The shift is underway today, and we are working to clear the old shelves and store our books and gifts nearby within the shopping center as we help customers on the phone and in the store. We are OPEN as we renovate!... come by and see a bookseller, who can offer recommendations, look up what's in stock, dash over to where our inventory is located and pull your books off the shelves for purchase. It's not the feast for the eyes that our displays have offered, but it is only temporary, it's easy, and it's our pleasure."

Back to School Sidewalk Message: Little Joe's Books

Posted on Facebook Wednesday by Little Joe's Books, Katonah, N.Y.: "Thanks to #keschalkthewalk for asking us to chalk our walk for back to school! Bring the littles for a back to school treat and to check out the sidewalk. And remember that we are now open until 6:30pm so it's easy for you to come on in. We have rearranged the inside of the store to allow for in person shopping now as well. You go back to school, we go back to school."

Media and Movies

Media Heat: Peter Strzok on Meet the Press

MSNBC's Deadline: White House with Nicolle Wallace: Peter Strzok, author of Compromised: Counterintelligence and the Threat of Donald J. Trump (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30, 9780358237068). He will also be on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher tonight and Meet the Press on Sunday.

Movies: Dune

A trailer has been released for Dune, based on Frank Herbert's classic sci-fi novel. Directed by Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Blade Runner 2049) from a screenplay he co-wrote with Jon Spaihts and Eric Roth, the film is set to be released in theaters on December 18.

The cast includes Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Stellan Skarsgård, Dave Bautista, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Zendaya, Chang Chen, David Dastmalchian, Sharon Duncan-Brewster, Charlotte Rampling, Jason Momoa and Javier Bardem.

The trailer "throws a lot of images and faces at the viewer, teasing the many depths of a story that will be told across two movies," Entertainment Weekly reported, and spoke with Villeneuve about some of the key moments.

TV: Monsterland

The trailer is out for Monsterland, Hulu's adaptation of Nathan Ballingrud's Shirley Jackson Award-winning debut collection, North American Lake Monsters. The anthology series, which stars Kaitlyn Dever, Kelly Marie Tran, Taylor Schillng, Mike Colter and Nicole Behaire, will be available on Hulu October 2.

Small Beer Press, which published North American Lake Monsters in 2013, plans to release a TV tie-in edition with the official Hulu licensed art. Ballingrud is now a part-time bookseller at Downtown News & Books in Asheville, N.C., and is working on a novel.

Books & Authors

Awards: Richell Longlist; Wainwright Winners

The longlist for the 2020 Richell Prize for Emerging Writers has been announced and can be seen here. Founded in honor of the late Hachette Australia CEO Matt Richell, the award is sponsored by Hachette Australia and the Richell family, in partnership with the Guardian Australia and the Emerging Writers' Festival. The winner receives A$10,000 (about US$7,270), to be donated by Hachette Australia, and a year's mentoring with one of Hachette Australia's publishers. Hachette Australia will work with the winning writer to develop their manuscript with first option to consider the finished work, and the shortlisted entries, for publication. As well as promoting the Prize, the Guardian Australia will publish an extract of the first chapter of the winning work on its website.


Diary of a Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty won the Wainwright Prize for U.K. Nature Writing, which recognizes a book that "most successfully inspires readers to explore the outdoors and to nurture a respect for the natural world." The inaugural Writing on Global Conservation Prize, created to "reflect the growing cry for action to meet climate change targets and halt the destruction of wildlife and natural habitats," went to Rebirding by Benedict Macdonald. The £5,000 (about $6,715) cash prize will be shared by the winning authors, who also receive framed trophies.

Julia Bradbury, chair of the Nature Writing judges, commented: "The Diary of a Young Naturalist is a significant nature book--made all the more so because it is Dara McAnulty's first, completed before his 16th birthday. Our Wainwright Prize winner this year is nuanced, passionate and caring. It's a wonderful diary that fits around Dara's personal endeavors and family experiences, but ultimately, shaped by the nature that surrounds us all. The judges were almost breathless from reading it and would like to call for it to be immediately listed on the national curriculum. Such is the book's power to move and the urgency of the situation we face."

Charlotte Smith, chair of judges for the Global Conservation Prize, said: "Rebirding is an immensely readable book on complex and contentious issues. As you'd expect, it considers the needs of birds, but also the future of rural communities in an interesting and engaging way. While not everyone will agree with Benedict Macdonald's conclusions, they'll enjoy arguing with him as they read!"

Reading with... Bill Flanagan

photo: John Filo

Bill Flanagan is author of the novel Fifty in Reverse (Tiller Press/Simon & Schuster, September 1, 2020). His previous novels are A&R, New Bedlam and Evening's Empire. Flanagan is known for his essays on CBS Sunday Morning and for hosting the programs Northern Songs and Flanagan's Wake on Sirius XM Radio. He served as chairman of the PEN Lyric Prize jury, and has written for Esquire, Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, GQ, the New Yorker, Men's Journal and the New York Times. Flanagan produced and created the TV series VH1 Storytellers and CMT Crossroads.

On your nightstand now:

Apeirogon by Colum McCann is so beautifully written that I stop every 10 pages, go back and re-read them. It's a book you want to stretch out. I have also just come back to Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan, one of my favorite contemporary novelists. When it came out, I put it aside and went back and read her other books. Now I am caught up. Night Boat to Tangier by Kevin Barry is still by my bed even though I have finished it. I enjoy opening it to random pages.

Favorite book when you were a child:

A collection of Edgar Allan Poe. "The Black Cat" terrified me when I was eight. I could barely stand to look at the title of "The Premature Burial." I got in a big argument with other kids at school about "The Tell-Tale Heart." I kept telling them, "No, he's hearing his OWN heart!"

Your top five authors:

Flannery O'Connor represents a Catholic intellectual tradition that's very funny and not well understood anymore. No one could move you through a character's consciousness like Robert Stone. Brian Moore from Northern Ireland had an amazing range and discipline. E.L. Doctorow slipped complicated ideas into what felt like an effortless technique. Philip Roth had that beautiful, hilarious ruthlessness. An editor said to me once he thought it was because Roth had no children--there was no one in front of whom he was embarrassed.

Book you've faked reading:

Anything required for school. Years later I read Moby-Dick and realized what all the fuss was about.

Book you're an evangelist for:

I am a great fan of The Garden of Eden by Hemingway, a book often dismissed by his devotees. Hemingway worked on it for years, rewriting it over and over and never publishing. It's the story of a young, sexually insecure novelist who writes a book about a macho hunter and is amazed to find that the public assumes he is the character in the book. As the novel moves along, he retreats from the gender confusion and insecurities of his real life to hide behind the character in his fiction. It's the best book I know about the distance between public image and the person behind it.

Book you've bought for the cover:

My wife was on a lot of romance book covers when she was a model. I would bring them home and she would deny it was her.

Book you hid from your parents:

My parents were conservative about some things but they did not censor books.

Book that changed your life:

Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions came out when I was in high school and showed how joyful writing could be. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe were also teenage favorites. Those books made being a writer look like a fun job.

Favorite line from a book:

From Graham Greene's Monsignor Quixote: "Why is it that the hate of a man--even of a man like Franco--dies with his death, and yet love, the love that he had begun to feel for Father Quixote, seemed now to live and grow in spite of the final separation and the final silence--for how long, he wondered with a kind of fear, was it possible for that love of his to continue?"

Five books you'll never part with:

The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain, the invention of the New Journalism; The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald, the most American story--I will re-create my entire life and get rich and then the girl will go out with me; The Most of S.J Perelman--if I am wobbling under a deadline, I pull Perelman down from the shelf and it makes me want to keep writing; Beneath the Underdog by Charles Mingus is the best book written by a musician; Monkeys by Susan Minot is a beautiful book about big families.

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

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. A brilliant novel about golden age comic book authors! No one can make high art out of low origins like Chabon.

Great book that was also a great movie:

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. The best films usually come out of flawed novels and the best novels often become disappointing films. The Remains of the Day is an exception.

Book Review

Review: Snow

Snow by John Banville (Hanover Square Press, $27.99 hardcover, 304p., 9781335230003, October 6, 2020)

Early on in Man Booker Prize-winner John Banville's Snow, a murder suspect asks Detective Inspector St. John Strafford, "Will you be calling us all together at dinnertime to explain the plot and reveal the killer's name?" It's part of Snow's good running joke about its unmissable resemblance to an old-school mystery, although readers will be hard-pressed to name one of those with a castration at its center.

On a pitilessly snowy December morning in 1957, a body is found in the library at Ballyglass House, owned by the aristocratic Osborne family and located in southeast Ireland's County Wexford. The corpse, which has been worked over with a knife, is that of Father Tom Lawless, a parish priest and frequent visitor to Ballyglass House, where the elements forced him to spend the night before his body was discovered. As Strafford and his junior officer conduct the business of interviewing the Ballyglass House residents and staff, they find that no one has an alibi for the night of the murder, nor is there evidence of forced entry.

Detective Strafford's boss in Dublin handpicked him for the job: "You speak their lingo, they'll talk to you." Strafford may have grown up in a house like Ballyglass, but he has a handicap even beyond his Protestantism, which doesn't endear him to the locals: he's having an existential crisis about his chosen profession ("Other people's pain embarrassed him"). It can't be said that Strafford is a familiar sort of literary detective. Charismatic, hale, a born sleuth--Strafford is exactly none of these; his introspection and self-doubt take up almost as much of his mental energy as the case. (Snow's second, unremarked-upon mystery: the rather colorless detective's allure to more than one of the novel's women.) But if some scenes get a bit boggy with Strafford's self-absorption, they are soon relieved by tart, witty exchanges that would be at home in Lynne Truss's Constable Twitten books or Christopher Fowler's Peculiar Crimes Unit series.

Snow represents the first time that Banville (The Sea; Ancient Light) has wrested credit for a mystery novel from his crime-writing alter ego, Benjamin Black, and with good reason: Snow is a beautifully executed, nostalgia-churning throwback that directs the occasional wink at the reader. Of the fact that Father Tom was not only stabbed in the neck but also "gelded," Strafford thinks at one point, "No newspaper in the country would dare print such shocking facts." Those were the days. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

Shelf Talker: Sidelining Benjamin Black, his crime-writing alias, John Banville takes credit for this satisfying 1957-set old-school-style mystery in which a priest is murdered at a County Wexford estate.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Epistolary Magic for a Digital Time

Marks & Co.
(photo: National Library of Australia )

In a letter dated October 5, 1949, a New York City woman responded to an advertisement placed by London's Marks & Co. bookshop in the Saturday Review of Literature.

Noting that the phrase "antiquarian bookseller" had prompted fear the shop's wares might be too expensive, she wrote: "I am a poor writer with an antiquarian taste in books and all the things I want are impossible to get over here except in very expensive rare editions, or in Barnes & Noble's grimy, marked-up schoolboy copies."

Thus began a legendary correspondence, over the course of two decades, between Helene Hanff and bookseller Frank Doel of Marks & Co., as well as his colleagues and family. These letters would eventually be collected and published in 84, Charing Cross Road (1970). If books are an essential part of your life, you probably know about 84. Reading it is a booklover's rite of passage, as is seeing the 1987 film adaptation starring Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins. It's such common currency that perhaps only You've Got Mail is cited more often as an easy analogy by the media in bookshop-themed articles.

After writing about Naz Riahi's wonderful short film Sincerely, Erik last week, I reread 84, Charing Cross Road, inspired no doubt by the letters Left Bank Books owner Erik DuRon writes to his customers, reader to reader. I also thought about the travails of the U.S. Postal Service, and considered all of the other booksellers worldwide--hundreds, thousands--whose business model has become so reliant on correspondence now. While e-mails may not seem to have the grace and tactile pleasure of physical letter-writing, digital words still carry weight.

Letters, however, are special. The Ivy Bookshop, Baltimore, Md., has recently launched a Young Pen Pals Club. Special projects manager Hannah Fenster told Forbes magazine: "It occurred to us that just like holding a real book, there's something timeless about the excitement of writing and receiving real, handwritten letters. I'm an avid letter-writer myself so I can't deny that this is a bit of a passion project. This summer, I've been reading the letters of Margaret Mead, who built and maintained an entire familial, social, and professional network via pen and paper. Legacies of people like her are on my mind, too, as I think about possibilities for cultivating closeness across distance. My own grandmother's stunning letters set the stage for a vibrant quarantine pen pal system linking my mom, brothers, cousins, and me. I'm just obsessed with the way letter writing fosters both presence and legacy."

Which brings me back to Hanff's world. It's tempting, I think, to remember 84, Charing Cross Road as a "charming" read, which it is. But the magic in these letters is that they are also cranky, loving, demanding, angry, sad, funny, sarcastic, broken-hearted, joyful, empathetic and much more.

Helene Hanff

I love Hanff's ability to voice consumer outrage and human generosity almost simultaneously: "Frank Doel what are you DOING over there, you are not doing ANYthing, you are just sitting AROUND.... you leave me sitting here writing long margin notes in library books that don't belong to me, someday they'll find out I did it and take my library card away.

"I have made arrangements with the Easter bunny to bring you an Egg, he will get over there and find you have died of Inertia... I require a book of love poems with spring coming on.... Well, don't just sit there! Go find it. I swear I don't know how that shop keeps going."

To which Doel replies: "I have to thank you for the very welcome Easter parcel which arrived safely yesterday. We were all delighted to see the tins and the box of shell eggs, and the rest of the staff joins me in thanking you for your very kind and generous thought of us."

Writing to one of the bookseller's colleagues, Hanff confides: "Poor Frank, I give him such a hard time, I'm always bawling him out for something. I'm only teasing, but I know he'll take me seriously. I keep trying to puncture that proper British reserve."

Although she would finally visit her beloved London after Doel had passed away and Marks & Co. had closed, Hanff wasn't envisioning that trip when she wrote in 1969: "I remember years ago a guy I knew told me that people going to England find exactly what they go looking for. I said I'd go looking for the England of English Literature, and he nodded and said: 'It's there.' Maybe it is, and maybe it isn't. Looking around the rug one thing's for sure: it's here."

The Ivy Bookshop's Fenster said she wants the experience of writing snail mail letters in the Young Pen Pals Club to be fun for participants: "I hope it's enjoyable to express yourself and know that expression will be seen by someone else. I hope that the reality of holding a piece of mail helps remind young people that they're not alone--that others like them are out there making it through quarantine, and that new friends are still possible, still magic."

Helene Hanff would get that.

--Robert Gray, editor

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