Shelf Awareness for Friday, November 6, 2020

Atlantic Monthly Press: Those Opulent Days: A Mystery by Jacquie Pham

Feiwel & Friends: The Flicker by HE Edgmon

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

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

Carolrhoda Lab (R): Here Goes Nothing by Emma K Ohland

Allida: Safiyyah's War by Hiba Noor Khan

Ace Books: Servant of Earth (The Shards of Magic) by Sarah Hawley

Quotation of the Day

'Amid All the Gloom, I Think the Signs Are Strong'

"From my vantage point, I've been perfectly positioned to witness an obvious and fairly dramatic shift to more local shopping, as well as a huge surge of goodwill for independent businesses. This grassroots support is coming from fellow small-business owners and members of the public alike....

"It might be misguided optimism, and it's hard to predict how anything will play out in the long term, but it seems clear that people want change and are prepared to go out of their way to achieve it. A world with far fewer cafes, bars and independent shops in it would be a considerably duller place. Let’s hope the will that has emerged over the last few months to keep our high streets alive lasts far beyond the pandemic. Amid all the gloom, I think the signs are strong."

--British bookseller Suzy Prince, co-owner of Bopcap Books,in Levenshulme, Manchester, in a Guardian op-ed

PM Press: P Is for Palestine: A Palestine Alphabet Book by Golbarg Bashi, Illustrated by Golrokh Nafisi


Indigo 2nd Quarter: Sales Up 1%, Online Sales More than Double

At Indigo Books & Music, revenue in the second quarter ended September 26 rose 1%, to C$205.3 million (about US$157.3 million) and the net loss decreased slightly, to C$18.7 million) (US$14.3 million), compared to a net loss of C$19.8 million (US$15.2 million) in the same period a year earlier. At the same time, Indigo's online sales rose 113.6%.

CEO Heather Reisman commented: "Our team has put out extraordinary effort over the last eight months and meaningfully pushed our business forward notwithstanding the challenges of operating in a COVID environment. This quarter, we successfully launched our proprietary home brand Oui and have seen continued success in our core categories of wellness, reading and kids entertainment. We also launched an industry leading click-and-collect service and on-boarded Instacart. These advances allow us to provide our customers with 'have it your way' access channels. We are energized by these results, and by customers' continued affinity for our brand."

The company added that during the quarter, it "remained focused on productivity efforts... Savings were realized against pressures from pandemic-related costs related to staffing for social distancing, ongoing requirements for personal protective equipment, and enhanced safety and security measures."

Indigo added: "With no outstanding debt and a cash balance of C$137.5 million [$US105.4 million], the company is well positioned to manage through these very uncertain times."

Farrar, Straus and Giroux: Intermezzo by Sally Rooney

Jason Reynolds to Host National Book Awards

Jason Reynolds at Winter Institute earlier this year.

Jason Reynolds, acclaimed author, two-time National Book Award finalist and current National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, will be master of ceremonies for the first exclusively digital National Book Awards on November 18. Winners in five categories will be announced, and lifetime achievement awards will be presented to Walter Mosley and the late Carolyn Reidy. Reynolds will also host the Teen Press Conference, in partnership with the Miami Book Fair, on November 16.

"The National Book Awards events are a continued commitment to literature and its power to transform readers' lives," said Lisa Lucas, executive director of the National Book Foundation. "Jason Reynolds embodies this commitment, and we are thrilled that he will host this year's celebration."

Reynolds commented: "To be at the forefront of ushering in the celebration of my peers would've been a gift at any point in my career. But to do so during this complicated time is nothing short of an honor."

A bestselling author, Reynolds's many books include Miles Morales: Spider Man; the Track series (Ghost, Patina, Sunny, Lu); Long Way Down, which received a Newbery Honor, a Printz Honor and a Coretta Scott King Honor; and Look Both Ways, which was a National Book Award Finalist. His latest book, Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, is a collaboration with Ibram X. Kendi. Reynolds is on the faculty at Lesley University, for the Writing for Young People MFA program.

International Update: Intermarché Helps French Indies, 'Bookshop Heroes' in U.K. & Ireland

The Intermarché group, a leading French supermarket chain, announced it would "share its online retailing network with shuttered bookstores and other local businesses, tapping into resentment over Amazon's predominance in the new Covid lockdown," AFP (via France24) reported.

In full-page "Sorry Amazon" newspaper ads, the company said local businesses--bookstores first of all--would be allowed to sell their products on its online 'click and collect' marketplace. Intermarche's "cheeky ad campaign even calls out Amazon's chief Jeff Bezos: 'And sorry Jeff, but we're already working on rolling this out to other struggling businesses,' " AFP noted.

"We heard the anger, the distress of small businesses and bookstores in particular, Intermarché's president Thierry Cotillard said. "Businesses are being pushed to go digital, to offer click and collect, but not all are necessarily ready for it."


The Bookseller's inaugural Bookshop Heroes list includes "some of the best individual booksellers in the U.K. and Ireland." The initiative was launched this year with the Booksellers Association and sponsorship by HarperCollins "in order to expand the remit of the Individual Bookseller of the Year Nibbie, last awarded in 2019, to recognize the true scope of shop-floor talent."

Emily Adsett-Raggett

Bookshop Hero Emily Adsett-Raggett of the Haslemere Bookshop, Haslemere, Surrey, nicely summed up the feelings of her bookselling colleagues during an unprecedented year, observing: "It was so tough, but it has been lovely to realize how valued we are by the community." Still, she misses direct sales floor engagement: "What I love most about bookselling is that it's so personal... no algorithms, just human interaction."

BA managing director Meryl Halls said: "We are really delighted to be part of this extremely timely and celebratory occasion, shining a light on some of the best of our bookselling colleagues. Of course, with any list like this, those on the list are representative of, and stand for, a multitude of their peers, all of whom are working hard, putting their bookshops on the map, handselling great books, connecting with their communities, getting kids reading, encouraging authors, innovating with lockdown bookselling and being incredible advocates for their trade and their profession. The booksellers who are the 2020 Bookshop Heroes are the best of the very best--they deserve all the accolades, and they are true heroes in our current landscape, constantly reinventing their shops, coping with adversity, continually providing the gift of reading to book-lovers. We are incredibly proud of our members, at this point more than ever before."


In a letter to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, a group of Greek publishers "called on the government to keep bookstores open during the universal lockdown that starts on Saturday, as is the case in Italy and Belgium," Kathimerini reported.

Describing books as "the mainstay of Greeks during the first lockdown earlier in the year, from March to May," the publishers said "the vast majority of bookstores are small shops, where safety rules can easily be followed, while orders can be placed by phone and interested parties can receive their book or books at the door of the bookstore, as is the case with pharmacies," Kathimerini noted.


"It hardly needs saying, but bookshops in Malaysia (and elsewhere) are facing an existential crisis," Gerakbudaya Bookshop, Penang, posted on Facebook. "Many bookshops have already closed, and the threat to others is imminent. We are also facing difficulties--and there is a possibility that we may have to shut the original small bookshop on Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling. It's just tough to survive the huge decline in foot traffic, a near complete loss of out-of-town visitors and almost zero in-store events. So if you have the means and the inclination then why not buy and read books? Since we reopened in mid-May, we have been running a promotion offering free delivery to any address in Malaysia... and that offer still stands. Books delivered to your door in 48 hours. We can't say better than that." --Robert Gray

How Bookstores Are Coping: Author Advocacy; Holiday Expectations; Community Support

Becky Anderson, owner of Anderson's Bookshops in Naperville and Downer's Grove, Ill., reported that her stores reopened to the public on May 29, the first day that non-essential retailers were allowed to do so in the state of Illinois. Masks are required, there are plexiglass shields for all check-out counters and service desks, "tons" of hand sanitizer is available and the stores' layouts have been rearranged to allow for better distancing.

Per state mandates, the stores can allow only a certain number of customers inside at a time, based on square footage, so a staffer is sometimes posted at the door to count customers. Anderson's Bookshops have also created a protocol in case an employee comes into contact with someone who tested positive. So far there have been no cases at either of the bookstores or the warehouse, and there have been only "minor problems" with customers not wearing masks or wearing them incorrectly, but nothing "too confrontational or problematic."

The stores have started doing several things during the pandemic that Anderson and her team plan to keep doing long-term. Chief among those is curbside pick-up. The staff has also created a lot of "fun and varied curated lists" that are posted both in-store and online, and they plan to keep doing that. Prior to the pandemic the stores had occasionally done book and gift bundles, but now they plan to provide them regularly.

The stores' preorder campaigns are working very well, and Anderson said the staff has "upped our game" since the start of the pandemic. Online sales in general have been substantial, and the team is planning new marketing initiatives meant for online book buyers. One bright spot has been seeing authors, many of them with large followings, supporting the store on their websites and encouraging their readers to shop at indie bookstores in general. Dan Rather did the former with his book What Unites Us, and Anderson's saw a "huge bump" in sales for a backlist title.

The biggest piece that is still missing for the stores, Anderson continued, is in-person events, whether in the bookstores, at off-site locations or in schools. Virtual events, with a few exceptions, "just aren't getting close to the sales of live, in-person events."

On the subject of the holidays, Anderson said buying was "smaller than usual," but they do expect online sales to tick back up to early pandemic levels closer to the holidays. The stores are placing orders every day to the Big Five for restock, and are ordering more often from smaller publishing partners. The bookshop's annual Cyber Monday event is being moved to November 16, and the stores are encouraging customers to shop earlier both online and in-store.


In Houston, Tex., Blue Willow Bookshop is offering appointment browsing and operating under abbreviated hours, owner Valerie Koehler reported. She and her team are scheduling half-hour appointments, with up to three appointments per time slot. Most people have been very appreciative and understanding, she added, and they've only had to ask a few people to wait outside or go to the coffee shop down the street.

Masks are required, per a statewide mandate, and the store is taking names for a contact-tracing sheet, to which there's been some resistance. Koehler said she thinks the hardest part is that people are simply exhausted, both staff members and customers, and people are "quick to be unhappy with anything." When it comes to difficult situations, the team keeps telling each other to be "as kind as possible," as they never know someone's whole story.

Generally speaking, "really nothing is close to normal" at the store. Having no in-store events is a huge change, and while Koehler and her staff enjoy virtual events, it is just not the same without authors getting the chance to visit and see fans face to face. "We miss that so much."

On the subject of virtual events, Koehler said the store's schedule has been very busy. The event team had to teach themselves how to host and run these events, and then had to train schools to host author visits. The staff is constantly trying to find ways to streamline all sorts of bookstore activities. "We have learned so much about technology it makes my head hurt," Koehler remarked.

The Blue Willow team has been encouraging customers to shop early. The store has stocked up on titles that will appear on its Best Books list, and Koehler is closely monitoring stock levels. Where she might have checked twice per week, she is now checking daily. "I think many people will be giving books this year. This is not going to be a throwaway holiday."

By far the biggest bright spot amid all this, she added, is the support the store has received from customers and publishers.



Orders ready to go at Dragonfly Books

Dragonfly Books in Decorah, Iowa, has been open to the public since June, owner Kate Rattenborg reported. The store is still restricting the number of customers who can come in at any one time, and the 1,000-square-foot store does tend to reach capacity on weekends. Masks are required and hand sanitizer is readily available, and Rattenborg noted that there have not been any problems with mask resistance.

A bright spot, she continued, has been the "unwavering support of our community." The store has always offered free in-town delivery, but until the pandemic started, few people used the option. Rattenborg and her team will continue to offer the service beyond the pandemic, as many customers have expressed interest it.

When asked about her approach to holiday buying this year, Rattenborg answered that there haven't been any major changes, other than she's "just been behind on everything this year!" --Alex Mutter

College Bookstores: Follett at the Citadel, B&N at Stony Brook U.

Follett began managing the Citadel Bookstore at the military college in Charleston, S.C., two days ago. The bookstore is closed until Sunday, November 8, for the transition, and reopening under Follett's management the following day. The full range of Follett's products and services will be available in-store and online, with Citadel products to be added soon.

"Follett was chosen as the vendor that would offer the best programs and opportunities for cadets and students to save on the overall costs of course materials," said Kevin Reid, assistant v-p for auxiliary enterprises at the Citadel. "Additionally, through Follett's retail innovation strategies, the Citadel community can look forward to a campus store environment fostering collaboration, fun events and community initiatives."

Clay Wahl, Follett's COO, commented: "The Citadel's cadets and students will be able to quickly search, browse and shop for all their campus essentials whether they're on a computer, tablet or phone and conveniently choose in-store pickup if needed." Follett operates more than 1,200 local campus stores and 1,600 virtual stores.


Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, N.Y., has made Barnes & Noble as its official bookstore and campus store provider, effective October 22. After a national competitive bid process, B&N "stood out as a partner that would offer a better program and expand opportunities for students to save on their overall costs of course materials including textbook rentals," according to the university. B&N is operating the two campus stores, as well as the online store

"Our goal is to focus on providing the best service to our students, making their day better in any way we can, and improving the affordability of textbooks and course materials," said Van Sullivan, executive director of the Faculty Student Association. The campus stores closed for at the end of October for 10 days but have since reopened after "a store refresh."

Amanda Alicea, FSA business development manager, said the association "is working closely with Barnes & Noble to provide a smooth, successful and speedy transition."

Obituary Note: Walter B. Barbe

Dr. Walter B. Barbe, an educator, publisher and editor who published 11 books and more than 200 professional journal articles, died on October 15 at his home in Honesdale, Pa., at the age of 93.

From 1971 to 1989, Barbe was the editor-in-chief of Highlights for Children magazine. Barbe also served as editor of the Zaneer-Bloser Publishing Company, which Highlights acquired in 1972, and was president and publisher of Modern Learning Press. Among the books he published under his own name were textbooks and books on education, including Psychology and Education of the Gifted in 1965. Barbe was also a founding member of the International Reading Association.

Barbe had a long career in higher education. He was professor and department chair of special education at Kent State University, adjunct professor in Human Services at the Ohio State University and the Sergeis Gambal Distinguished Professor at Keystone College in Pennsylvania.

After his retirement in 1992, Barbe collaborated on two local history books about Pennsylvania's Wayne County: The History of Wayne County, Pennsylvania and The Glass Industry in Wayne County, Pennsylvania, both written with Kurt Reed. He also played a major role in establishing the Dorflinger Glass Museum and the Dorflinger Factory Museum.

He received a variety of awards and honors, including the International Reading Association's Distinguished Service Award and the School Study Council of Ohio's Award in Recognition of Dedication to Education. And in 2003, the School Study Council of Ohio named its grant program for classroom teachers in his honor.


Video: Astoria Bookshop on Shop Local & Early Campaign

Lexi Beach, co-owner of Astoria Bookshop, Queens, N.Y., was interviewed by PIX 11 for a segment on shop local, shop early campaigns by small businesses in New York City for the holiday season.

"A lot of our customers have been shopping on-line with us since March," Beach said. "We have just started browsing by appointment. Customers can book one household one at a time for 30 minutes." She added that e-commerce and web purchases will be more important than ever.

Odyssey Bookstore's Listening Station

"Behind the Scenes Monday" at Odyssey Bookstore, Ithaca, N.Y., introduced "our new @librofm listening station!! Given the times--we don't expect you to linger long--but we'd love to give you a chance to learn more about the amazing Bring your own earbuds/headphones, plop down at our repurposed telephone table, and flip through our selections, and give it a listen! If you love it--you can set up your own account and buy audiobooks through Odyssey's store front! If you love audio books--and love #shopindie #indiebookstores--then is the way for you to listen. Audio books also make great gifts! Not sure after listening? Ask one of Odyssey's booksellers. We all subscribe and would love to help you find your next book. Thanks for listening!!"

Reading Group Choices' Most Popular October Books

The two most popular books in October at Reading Group Choices were Nothing to See Here by Kevin Wilson (Ecco) and Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving Extremism by Megan Phelps-Roper (Picador).

Media and Movies

Breakfast at Tiffany's Goes to Court

The rights to Truman Capote's novella Breakfast at Tiffany's are the subject of a Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit. Deadline reported that the "suit contends a charity trust set up by Capote before his death owns the rights to develop a prequel, sequel or television series inspired by the 1961 film." Alan Schwartz, the trustee of the charity, alleges that rights to the work reverted to Capote's executor after his death in 1984. The rights were then transferred to the charity.

According to the complaint, in 1991 "Plaintiff and the Capote Estate entered into an agreement with Paramount, whereby Paramount optioned certain sequel and prequel rights, among others, with respect to the film. The agreement provided that, if a motion picture was not produced within a certain amount of time, the rights would revert back to Plaintiff."

Although no film was made, Paramount claims it had no obligation to make one, but purchased the right to do so for $300,000. Deadline noted that "the lawsuit claims it has been approached by numerous producers who have interest in developing a television series based on the novella. Paramount claims it intends to do a film and sell it to a streamer."

Books & Authors

Awards: WH Smith Book of the Year; Kirkus Winners

Richard Osman's debut crime novel The Thursday Murder Club was named WH Smith's Book of the Year. The Bookseller reported that in September, "the book became the fastest selling adult crime debut since BookScan records began, and is still at number three in this week's U.K. Official Top 50 chart.... Viking bought the TV host's book, alongside one other novel, last year for a seven-figure sum following a 10-publisher auction. Auctions and pre-empts followed around the globe. In September, Osman signed a deal for two more books in the series."

Lucy Swinburn, head of books at WH Smith, said The Thursday Murder Club is "a charming and uplifting novel with witty humor and a clever storyline. This is the perfect read for fiction fans. It's a firm favorite with our books team and our customers."


The winners of the 2020 Kirkus Prizes, sponsored by Kirkus Reviews, were announced last night during a virtual ceremony hosted by the Austin Central Library in Texas. The winners, each of whom received a cash prize of $50,000, are:

Fiction: Luster by Raven Leilani (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Nonfiction: Stakes Is High: Life After the American Dream by Mychal Denzel Smith (Bold Type Books)
Young Readers' Literature: I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James (Nancy Paulsen Books)

Reading with... Paola Ramos

photo: Samantha Bloom

Paola Ramos is a host and correspondent for VICE and VICE News, as well as a contributor to Telemundo News and MSNBC. Ramos was the deputy director of Hispanic media for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign, a political appointee during the Obama administration and served in Obama's 2012 re-election campaign. Finding Latin-X: In Search of the Voices Redefining Latino Identity is her first book (Vintage, October 20, 2020).

On your nightstand now:

I've been on the road nonstop these days covering different stories ahead of the election. I miss my nightstand! These days, I'm traveling with Malcolm Gladwell's Talking to Strangers. Amidst the craziest of news cycles and the division our nation is facing, the book is giving me a really useful frame of reference for which to disarm my own biases.

Favorite book when you were a child:

As a kid, I spent a lot of my childhood in Spain and grew up reading The Adventures of Tintin. In high school, I also remember being struck by Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones--it opened a whole new dimension of storytelling--and by Laura Esquivel's magic realism through Como agua para chocolate.

Your top five authors:

The past couple of years, Elena Ferrante. At the moment, Isabel Wilkerson. Always, Junot Díaz and Richard Blanco--I've always felt seen by their words. For inspiration, Barack Obama.

Book you've faked reading:

I know I've had to read Don Quixote by Cervantes 100 times in school. I also know there are definitely passages that I skipped in school.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Junot Díaz's This Is How You Lose Her. I read it during a breakup, and it's stayed in my heart like one.

Favorite line from a book:

"And that's when I know it's over. As soon as you start thinking about the beginning, it's the end." --This Is How You Lose Her

Book that changed your life:

Of Love & War by photojournalist Lynsey Addario. I'm a very visual storyteller, and Addario's book made me realize you don't need to separate the visual from the literal, the images from the written. You can do both. She has an incredibly ability to find hidden beauty in every dark space she walks in--and that's impacted the way I approach storytelling today.

Book you've bought for the cover:

Axis Mundo: Queer Networks in Chicano L.A. In one cover and image, they were able to break all sorts of stereotypes and taboos about Latinos. That's all I needed to buy the book.

Book you hid from your parents:

Honestly, I don't remember ever hiding books from my parents! They're both journalists and, even if I tried, they'd probably find it!

Five books you'll never part with:

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series--devoured all of them, would do it all over again (if I had more time these days). The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson and Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates keep me grounded in America's reality. Barack Obama's Change We Can Believe In will forever remind me of that initial hope that drove me into politics in the first place--it's important to never let go of that spark, especially now. And Ed Morales's Latinx gives me an instrumental historic lens from which to talk about and understand the ever changing Latinx community.

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

Call Me by Your Name by André Aciman. It's one of my favorite books and movies of all time. Reading and watching Elio innocently falling in love with Oliver and navigating his sexuality in such a brave way--I could read it over and over again.

Book Review

Review: The Sea Gate

The Sea Gate by Jane Johnson (Simon & Schuster, $17.99 paperback, 416p., 9781982169336, January 5, 2021)

Reeling after her mother's death and her own cancer treatments, London artist Rebecca is at loose ends. Sorting through her mother's unopened mail, Becky finds a letter from an elderly cousin she barely remembers, a woman in Cornwall who seems to be in danger of losing her home. Impulsively, Becky hops a train to Penzance, to find Cousin Olivia Kitto--a tough old bird--in hospital and hiding more than a few secrets. Jane Johnson (Court of Lions) deftly weaves together Olivia's experiences as a young woman during World War II with Becky's present-day journey of discovery in her sixth historical novel, The Sea Gate.

As Becky begins exploring and renovating Chynalls, Olivia's enormous, dilapidated family home, she finds more questions than answers. Who is the artist behind the exquisite paintings hidden in the attic? What are the real motives of the surly (and overpaid) housekeeper, Rosie, and her grown sons, who Becky catches lurking around the house at odd hours? And what is the origin of the finger bone Becky finds in a tunnel leading from the house to the sea?

Having piqued her readers' curiosity, Johnson begins another narrative, set in the 1940s: that of Olivia's experience as a teenager, left nearly alone at Chynalls while her father fights overseas and her French mother does mysterious war work in London. The appearance of several prisoners of war in the close-knit, all-white village, including a blond Austrian airman and a young Arab man from North Africa, will have devastating consequences for Olivia and her neighbors.

Meanwhile, in the present day, Becky tries to piece together the story of Olivia's life while wrangling local tradesmen, overdrawn bank accounts, her whiny ex-boyfriend and the resident (highly profane) parrot, Gabriel. Along the way, both women learn to step into their bravery, standing up to cruelty and threats at great cost to themselves.

With its atmospheric setting, fast-paced dual narrative and vividly eccentric characters, The Sea Gate is a juicy novel perfect for fans of Kate Morton and Daphne du Maurier. But it's also an unflinching look at racism and sexism in England during the Second World War, a bittersweet love story and a tribute to unexpected courage under fire--both from its protagonists and its other characters. Olivia guards her secrets closely, but the novel's conclusion contains several satisfying reveals. Readers may want to catch a train to Cornwall (though without the parrots and finger bones) after spending a few hours in Johnson's lushly rendered world. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Shelf Talker: Jane Johnson's atmospheric sixth novel explores a house of secrets on the Cornish coast.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Politics, Plague & November as the New December

breathing in.
breathing out.
breathing, in
Kalamazoo, Michigan.

--Posted on Facebook by this is a bookstore & Bookbug, Kalamazoo, Mich.

What are you doing in a week like this? What is the week doing to you? Spend five minutes on social media at any point since Election Day, and you'll be fried to a psychological crisp. Breathe.

What have I been doing? Working, refreshing my laptop incessantly for updates that never come, and revisiting the early 21st century HBO series Deadwood, beginning with an episode titled "Plague," in which smallpox comes to the mud- and blood-drenched camp. Plague meets politics. Seemed timely somehow.

"F**kin' plague" is what Al Swearengen (Ian McShane), Deadwood's leading citizen--generally for the worse, if occasionally, despite his nature, the better ("Treat the hoopleheads free; that's cheap good will.")--calls the disease.

When Doc corrects him ("Smallpox. Plague is spread by rats."), Al counters: "Well, I was raised callin' it plague but Doc wants that in reserve, in case our luck holds, and the rats decide to descend on us, too hmm?.... I've outlasted several f**kin' outbreaks. Is it pretty? No, but it passes, so, we need a place for them to get it. To care for 'em, and to keep 'em outta sight. So people don't get frightened and disgusted."

Like any wily political animal, Al tries to spin the editorial coverage of The Pioneer: "Yeah, give some sort of positive angle to it. Vaccine's on its way, or looks like it's the mild f**kin' type." At the last minute, he even suggests a headline change: "I think maybe it should have a question mark. 'The Plague in Deadwood?' "

Can't say I felt better after my trip to Deadwood, so I moved on to other distractions, including the recollection of something I'd written during a not dissimilar day-after-election state of prolonged acedia years ago. On November 4, 2004, while I was still a full-time indie bookseller, I posted the following on my blog Fresh Eyes: A Booksellers Journal under the headline "The Case of the Silenced Rant Lit":


He'd been a bookseller for a dozen years, so he was on familiar terrain when he entered the shop yesterday morning. He expected no surprises. Books were his game. He knew them inside and out, though mostly inside. Well, the outside was important, too. Let's just say he knew books.

Something wasn't quite right on this particular morning, however. It was the day after THE ELECTION, and the place just felt different--eerie, unnatural, almost abandoned. It looked the same, but it clearly wasn't. Too quiet, he decided, just too damned quiet. It was the kind of quiet you get in a war movie, when one guy in the foxhole says, "What's that?" and the other guy says, "I don't hear nothin'," and the first guy says, "That's what I mean," and then the barrage starts.

It was the kind of quiet you get when birds aren't making the sounds they should, as if everything in the world was waiting for a twig to snap. He walked the floor, searching for clues. He asked questions, talked to a few other booksellers, but "nobody knew nothin'," or so they said. He wasn't sure whether to believe them, but for the moment he chose to continue his investigation until something turned up.

In his office, he checked e-mail and found a note from a former colleague: "I will either be moving to Canada or opening my wrists. It's been great knowing all of you." Sounded suspicious, but it didn't seem directly tied to the silence, so he tried not to let it distract him.

It wasn't until he reached the front of the store, where most of the new books were displayed, that the case really began to come together. This, he realized, was where the quiet was coming from.

For the past seven or eight months, so many of the books up here had been screaming at one another, shouting each other down, making public nuisances of themselves, ranting across a wide chasm that had opened between two opposing sides.

Books weren't being published; they were being hurled ferociously across this divide in a high stakes game of book dodgeball, in which nobody ever seemed to hit anything, despite casualties everywhere you looked. And so the noisy books continued to arrive. They eyed one another from opposing displays, screaming their titles at passing customers:

"Let me tell you about these unscrupulous idiots," they said, with varying degrees of ferocity.
"Oh, yeah?" one book would scream.
"Yeah!" another shot back.

And so it went, on and on. Customers complained about the noise. Sometimes they complained more about the noise coming from one side of the chasm than the other. Sometimes they joined the screaming, singling out the booksellers for not allowing an equal number of screams from both sides.

And then, quite suddenly, on the "day after," the books were all quiet in the store. Some of them seemed to be pinching their lips together, holding their breath, waiting for the next chance to scream about something. Others, many others, seemed quiet because they had nothing more to say. They were exhausted. They had won or they had lost. They were hoarse from all the screaming. Their lips were sealed. Case closed.


Well, case not quite so f**kin' closed, as Al might say. Perspective, it turns out, isn't everything. So what's next? The waiting, of course, but maybe also just a pinch of anticipation to keep us focused. Because, as Tattered Cover Book Store, Denver, Colo., reminded me yesterday while I was writing this, November is also the New December.

--Robert Gray, editor

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