Shelf Awareness for Friday, August 27, 2021


Yearling Books: When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller

Pantheon Books: Chain Gang All Stars by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

Scholastic Press: The Guardian Test (Legends of Lotus Island #1) by Christina Soontornvat, illustrated by Kevin Hong

Tor Books: The First Bright Thing by J.R. Dawson

News

After Price Jump on New Amanda Gorman Title, PRH Says It Will Honor Preorder Price

Amanda Gorman and the cover of her new book, Call Us What We CarryA price increase of $5 announced Wednesday on a major holiday title angered indie booksellers, many of whom have sold substantial numbers of copies on a preorder basis and feared having to cover the extra amount. But after receiving many complaints, both directly and via social media, Penguin Random House said that it will "honor the original price for all customers who preordered the book prior to the price change.... PRH is currently reaching out to booksellers to discuss the process and logistics for honoring these pre-paid pre-orders. We value our bookselling partners and look forward to launching this rich and timeless collection with them, which explores themes of identity, grief and memory."

The book is a collection of poems by Amanda Gorman entitled Call Us What We Carry that Viking originally planned to publish September 21 under the title The Hill We Climb and Other Poems. Until Wednesday, it was listed at $19.99 and had been promoted by indies as a major preorder following Gorman's inspiring recitation of "The Hill We Climb" at President Biden's inauguration January 20.

By the time the book was finished, it contained more poems, expanding the page count from about 80 pages to 240, and the title was changed and the pub date moved to December 7, as announced last month. Then, separately, came Wednesday's announcement of a price increase to $24.99 from $19.99.

As one bookseller wrote on Wednesday, "Many of us have a large number of preorders for this book at the original price and will either have to absorb the additional 25% cost or go back to our customers and ask them to re-order the book at the higher price....

"With so much excitement about Amanda Gorman's work, it's unfortunate that PRH seems to have directed a big blow to the pre-order momentum for this title. It also makes us cautious about promoting any book too far in advance. Hopefully PRH will honor their price."

PRH responded quickly. As Jaci Updike, president, sales, Penguin Random House U.S., said, "Over the last few days, we have made hundreds of phone calls to accounts, assuring them that this increase will not hit their bottom line, and that we will expedite a solution for them. We had a lot of very productive conversations, and it was exciting to hear all the terrific ways indie booksellers are growing their preorder business this fall."

She added: "Our goal is to make this as easy and efficient as possible for booksellers, and we're already having discussions about how to streamline the process."

Call Us What We Carry is one of three books by Gorman this year. The first was The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country with a foreword by Oprah Winfrey, published March 16. The second is Change Sings: A Children's Anthem, illustrated by Loren Long, to be published September 21. All three titles have first printings of a million copies.


G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Only Game in Town by Lacie Waldon


McNally Jackson Launches McNally Editions Imprint

McNally Jackson Books in New York City has announced the launch of McNally Editions, a paperback reprint series devoted to hidden gems. The imprint will publish 12 titles per year, with the first  set to arrive in January 2022. 

"As any bookseller knows, recommending books is the most rewarding part of our job--especially when you get to take the reader off the beaten path, and bring a favorite book out of obscurity," said McNally Jackson owner Sarah McNally. "To me these discoveries, and rediscoveries, are what book culture is all about."

The imprint's first crop of titles will include Winter Love by Han Suyin, Daddy's Gone A-Hunting by Penelope Mortimer and Something to Do with Paying Attention by David Foster Wallace, and while they won't be published until January, orders placed now will arrive in time for Christmas. Other planned releases include titles by Kay Dick, Manuel Puig, Margaret Kennedy, Roy Heath, Wyatt Harlan (T. Gertler), Lion Feuchtwanger and Gary Indiana.

Every McNally Editions title will be printed on acid-free paper, with stitched bindings and three-quarter-length jackets, all designed by art director Peter Mendelsund. More information about the imprint can be found here.


GLOW: Putnam: The Three of Us by Ore Agbaje-Williams


How Bookstores Are Coping: Staying As Flexible As Possible; Carrying On

In Santa Fe, N.Mex., Collected Works Bookstore & Coffeehouse was closed to in-store shopping for a total of 15 months, from March 23, 2020, to June 1, 2021. During the closure, owner Dorothy Massey reported, the store survived from "curbside and shipping only," while events curator Cecile Lipworth lined up virtual events that saw more than 250 authors and poets participate.

When the store reopened in June, Massey continued, masks were mandatory for everyone entering the store. At the time, which was before the start of the current Delta variant surge, asking customers to wear masks inside "could produce some aggressive, unpleasant reactions." Now, however, as the surge continues, "most people are delighted to fish around in their purse or pocket for a mask or accept one of ours." She added that on a typical day the store hands out between 50 and 100 masks.

Asked how the Delta surge has affected the store's event plans, Lipworth noted that Collected Works held back from doing any in-person events in June and July and started doing some hybrid events just this month. For in-person events, everyone has to wear a mask, except for the author while on stage, and seats are blocked off to allow for social distancing. Because authors "don't want people breathing over them," there is limited live book signing; most titles are pre-signed.

Covid precautions have led to changes for an upcoming event with author James McGrath Morris, who is scheduled to launch his new book, Tony Hillerman: A Life, at Collected Works. With 150-200 people expected, Lipworth and the bookstore team have decided to split the launch into two sessions, one at 5 p.m. and the other at 7 p.m., to accommodate the crowd without having to turn anyone away.

Looking ahead to the end of summer and early fall, Lipworth said the store is trying to remain as flexible as possible, and she's expressed to every scheduled author that "things could change on a dime and we could go straight back to Zoom."

Massey said her outlook for the next few months is optimistic, but she pointed out that there's no knowing what will happen with the Delta surge and that the team is "not going to put our customers or our colleagues in danger."

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Tom Lowenburg, co-owner with Judith Lafitte of Octavia Books in New Orleans, La., said it feels normal at the store, in the sense that things are busy, people are buying books and the store is hosting events. At the same time, the Delta surge has led to a city-wide mask mandate and the necessity to check for proof of vaccination for in-person events, and so "in that sense it's not really normal."

Lowenburg noted that at around 64% vaccinated, New Orleans has fared a bit better than the rest of the state, and case numbers in the city have started to decline while in some other parts of Louisiana, numbers remain "appallingly high."

He added that he hasn't encountered any resistance from customers since the mask mandate was issued, and checking vaccination proof at events has not been difficult. The store held an event not long after the order was issued and attendees knew about the requirements beforehand and were accommodating.

On the subject of future events, Lowenburg said that a publisher had recently requested that an upcoming in-store event be made virtual-only. He was unsure if that will become increasingly common, but he does expect the "ratio of local author events" to be a little bit higher going into the late summer and early fall.

"We're carrying on," Lowenburg said. "We're not blind to what's going on around us and we're doing what we need to do to conduct business safely." --Alex Mutter


G.P. Putnam's Sons: Love & Other Scams by Philip Ellis


International Update: U.K. Bookshops to Open Early for Rooney Novel, Montreal's Paragraphe Bookstore's 40th Birthday


Fifty bookshops across the U.K. are opening early September 7 to mark the publication of Sally Rooney's new novel Beautiful World, Where Are You. The Bookseller reported that as part of Faber's campaign, 30 branches of Waterstones shops and 20 independent booksellers "will open their doors to give customers the first chance to buy a copy and to receive an exclusive goodie bag and merchandise."

Among the participating indies are Portobello Books, Linghams, Kibworth Books, Griffin Books, Max Minerva's, Topping & Co, Nomad Books, Village Books, Chorleywood Bookshop, Lutyens & Rubinstein, BookBar, Sevenoaks Bookshop, Bookseller Crow, Hastings Bookshop, City Books, Maldon Books, Dial Lane Books, Red Lion Books, Phlox Books and the Bookery.

Rooney's novel has two cover designs, created especially for indie bookshops, Waterstones and Easons. The exclusive edition for indie bookshops features a yellow color scheme, while the Waterstones edition is in blue and a trade paperback exclusive to Easons will feature yellow-sprayed edges, the Bookseller noted.
 
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Congratulations to Canadian bookseller Paragraphe Bookstore in Montreal, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. "No small feat for any bookshop, let alone an anglo one in Quebec," the Gazette reported. "And don't let the 'e' on the end of its name confuse you about the linguistic contents therein. Paragraphe has weathered its share of storms over the years, most recently the pandemic and subsequent physical loss of its customer base from downtown universities and office buildings. But even with the store closed for a few months, customers remained loyal and made purchases online for curbside pickup."

The bookshop was launched September 3, 1981, by Richard King and Jonathan Penney, who "took over the Mansfield Book Mart and re-dubbed it Paragraphe Bookstore. It's now part of the predominately French Renaud-Bray bookstore chain," the Gazette wrote.

"The key to our longevity is we adapted," says Peter Mandelos, the shop's director for the last 33 years. "At the beginning, we were a general bookstore, and then we went into the library market in 1987, supplying books to English libraries in Quebec. We're probably the No. 1 English book supplier to those libraries. And in 1988, we started supplying books to courses at McGill as well as John Abbott.... We just learned how to find our way through our book selections and customer service. "

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Viti Books, in the Daxing district of southern Beijing, China, "aims to become a starting point for the rebirth of a new sort of social interaction. 3andwich Design is behind the interior design of the bookshop, having designated specific areas for adults and children, for leisure and concentration, where everyone can feel at home," Floornature reported. --Robert Gray


Obituary Note: Curt Bench

Curt Bench

Curt Bench, the founder and owner of Benchmark Books who specialized in collecting and selling rare Latter-day Saint books, died August 17, Deseret News reported. He was 68. "He was the bridge-builder," the Bench family said. "He saw and believed in the true good of people. He believed the greatest thing we can do is to help one another."

Bench started his career with Deseret Book in 1984 before launching Benchmark Books in 1987. For the last three and a half decades he kept his business going by taking care of customers, playing detective with rare books, befriending prominent authors and historians and hosting events.

"I think more than anything, he loved everyone and everyone loved him. He accepted people. He was nonjudgmental. He expressed concern for them when they had struggles," said author and historian Richard E. Turley Jr. "He was an expert in his field, but he was more than that. He was a friend to many, many people. I think that his death comes hard, not just for the loss of his expertise, which is difficult to replace, but especially for his loss of love and friendship, which is irreplaceable."

In an obituary published on the bookstore's website, Bench's family wrote: "Curt's wealth of knowledge and accomplishments are too numerous to count but he was passionate about words, books, limericks, humor and laughter, turquoise and especially people. He loved unconditionally and built bridges and offered his hand to any that struggled, with a listening ear and no judgment. We will miss him every time we look at a sunset, and miss his texts telling us to go look at the sky."

The King's English Bookshop posted on Facebook: "Our bookselling hearts are broken this week as we mourn the unexpected passing of Curt Bench, longtime owner of Benchmark Books here in Salt Lake City. A true bibliophile, he was quick with a smile and an interesting story and our faces lit up whenever he came to our store. We will miss him very much and hope that he has plenty to read in Heaven."


Notes

Voting Deadline: Seattle's Page Ahead Children's Literacy Program a Grant Finalist

Today is the deadline to vote for Page Ahead Children's Literacy Project, which is one of 200 finalists across the United States that are vying for 40 $25,000 grants from the nationwide State Farm Neighborhood Assist grant program, and the only Seattle organization to make the finals. 

The top 40 winning charities will be determined by votes cast here through 9 p.m. PST today. Voters will need to create a free account. Winners will be announced September 29.


Personnel Changes at Harlequin

At Harlequin Trade Publishing:

Leah Morse, formerly with Other Press, has joined the company as senior publicist.

Sophie James, formerly with Skyhorse Publishing, has joined the company as publicity assistant.


Media and Movies

TV: Under the Banner of Heaven

FX has set the ensemble to join Andrew Garfield and Daisy Edgar-Jones in the limited series Under the Banner of Heaven, inspired by Jon Krakauer's bestselling book. Deadline reported that the new cast members include Sam Worthington, Denise Gough, Wyatt Russell, Billy Howle, Gil Birmingham, Adelaide Clemens, Rory Culkin, Seth Numrich, Chloe Pirrie, Sandra Seacat and Christopher Heyerdahl.

Dustin Lance Black created the series and will serve as an executive producer along with Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Samie Kim Falvey and Anna Culp for Imagine Television; Jason Bateman and Michael Costigan of Aggregate Films; David Mackenzie, who will serve as director; and Gillian Berrie. Produced by FX Productions, Under the Banner of Heaven will be available exclusively on FX on Hulu. Production recently began in Calgary.


On Stage: Wuthering Heights

Casting has been completed for Wise Children's world-premiere production of Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights, adapted and directed by Emma Rice, Playbill reported. The cast includes Lucy McCormick as Cathy, Sam Archer (Lockwood/Edgar Linton), Nandi Bhebhe (The Moor), T.J. Holmes (Robert), Ash Hunter (Heathcliff), Craig Johnson (Mr. Earnshaw/Dr. Kenneth), Jordan Laviniere (John), Kandaka Moore (Zillah), Katy Owen (Isabella Linton/Linton Heathcliff), Tama Phethean (Hindley Earnshaw/Hareton Earnshaw) and Witney White (Frances Earnshaw/Young Cathy).

A co-production with the National Theatre, Bristol Old Vic, and York Theatre Royal, the stage adaptation will begin previews at the Bristol Old Vic October 11, with an official opening set for October 20 and performances running through November 6. Performances November 3–6 will be live-streamed. The play will subsequently transfer to the York Theatre Royal November 9–20 and then the National in February and March 2022.



Books & Authors

Awards: James Tait Black, Ned Kelly Winners

Winners of the £10,000 (about $13,625) James Tait Black book prizes were announced at the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

The biography winner was  Doireann Ní Ghríofa's A Ghost in the Throat, which judge Simon Cooke called "a work of great and searching depth and generosity, as involving as it is luminous, that weaves poetry, memoir, biography and translation into a powerful celebration of female texts and a profound exploration of the way the voice and life of one poet echoes in the life and voice of another."

The fiction winner was Lote by Shola von Reinhold, which judge Benjamin Bateman described as "an imaginative tour de force that combines a gripping detective plot with a thoughtful meditation on the historical neglect of Black queer and women artists."

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The winners of the 2021 Ned Kelly Awards, sponsored by the Australian Crime Writers Association, are:

Crime fiction: Consolation by Garry Disher 
True crime: Stalking Claremont by Bret Christian
Debut crime fiction: The Second Son by Loraine Peck
International crime fiction (published in Australia): We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker

Judges praised Disher's "masterly writing of place and landscape. In particular, his unsentimental portrayal of the precarious aspect of rural life and its impact on ordinary people." 

ACWA chair Robert Goodman said: "In these difficult pandemic times, people need an escape more than ever. The sheer number of entries this year shows that crime authors are prepared to stand and deliver. The Ned Kelly Awards have always been recognized for showcasing both emerging and established Australian crime writing talent. It is wonderful to see not only that our well known authors are still delivering astounding crime writing but also the amazing depth of new talent across all award categories."


Reading with... Megan Collins

photo: Tania Palermo

Megan Collins is a thriller author who lives in Connecticut. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Boston University, and she taught creative writing for many years at both the high school and college levels. She is also the managing editor of 3Elements Review. Her third novel is The Family Plot (Atria, August 17, 2021), about a family obsessed with true crime--until they're at the center of one.

On your nightstand now:

I'm racing to the end of Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid. As with all her other books, she has created richly memorable characters with textured lives, as well as an addictive and compelling story. And since I've never been to California, I love how vividly she transports the reader to the book's setting; I swear I can hear the ocean waves and smell the salt in the air.

Favorite book when you were a child:

When I was really little, my favorite was The Monster at the End of This Book (I challenge you to name a book with a bigger twist!). As I grew older, I got into a number of beloved series: the Boxcar Children, the Baby-Sitters Club, Nancy Drew, Sweet Valley Twins, etc. And as a teenager, my favorite book was Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. I'm not a big repeat reader, but between the ages of 13 and 16, I read Speak more times than I could count. Until then, I had never been so captivated by a narrator's voice; I hadn't known that you could both laugh and cry at a book.

Your top five authors:

Toni Morrison, Marisha Pessl, Carmen Maria Machado, Gillian Flynn, Taylor Jenkins Reid. At least, that's my answer for today. Ask me again tomorrow and I'll probably rattle off three other names. No matter what, though, Toni Morrison is always number one on the list. No one writes a sentence or story like her.

Book you've faked reading:

I don't think I've ever faked reading a book, but I've definitely pretended to love a book I was only lukewarm about (All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren) when a crush of mine was fanatical about it.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. I have literally forced this book into my friends' hands on their way out the door. I taught the book one year and prefaced the class's first reading of it by promising that there was something in it for everyone, "from Shakespeare to Star Trek." And when one of my students dared to say they didn't actually love the book that much, I failed them immediately. Just kidding, I only threw them out of the room.

Book you've bought for the cover:

The Tenth Girl by Sara Faring has a cover so beautiful and haunting and eerie and clever that I didn't even need to know what it was about before I was sold. Other books I would have bought for the cover alone, if I hadn't already been interested in the premise: They Never Learn by Layne Fargo and The Hunting Wives by May Cobb. I also borrowed from the library--and subsequently bought so I could display it on my shelves--Sarah Schmidt's See What I Have Done from the cover alone. The book is about Lizzie Borden, in the days after the infamous Borden murders, and it was only once I was finished reading and looked at the cover again that I noticed the brilliant touch of the highlighted "HA HA" in the bird's body.

Book you hid from your parents:

I was a terribly un-rebellious child, which is to say I was never cool enough to read something worth hiding.

Book that changed your life:

There have been so many, but the one I remember last deeming a life-changer was Three Women by Lisa Taddeo. With every page I turned, I could feel myself becoming a different person, someone with a more empathetic view of my past self, someone with the wisdom and insight to understand my own emotional impulses.

Favorite line from a book:

Can I choose a paragraph? If so, is there a better opening in the history of literature than Shirley Jackson's first paragraph of The Haunting of Hill House? It hypnotizes me every time with its mood, rhythm, and exquisitely placed caesuras:

"No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met nearly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone."

Five books you'll never part with:

Beloved by Toni Morrison (just try to get me to part with it--I have five different editions; you'll never find them all)

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (one of the most achingly beautiful books in existence, with one of the most original narrative voices I've ever read)

Night Film by Marisha Pessl (my copy is signed and you can't have it!)

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (I may force my paperback copy onto friends as they're leaving my house, but I'll never give up my hardcover)

The Collected Poems of Lucille Clifton (One of my students wanted to borrow my copy one time, and I gave them such an intense speech about the care they needed to take with it and how I'd probably die if they lost it or bent a page or sneezed anywhere near it. They ultimately decided not to borrow it. I wonder why!)

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

Night Film by Marisha Pessl. I don't know if I'll ever be as desperate to finish a book as I was with that one. I might have even accidentally skipped lunch while I was reading it, which never happens with me because I am always anticipating my next meal. It's got Pessl's signature gorgeous prose, and it's paired with a dark, eerie, can't-look-away mystery that felt like it swallowed me whole.


Book Review

Review: She Kills Me: The True Stories of History's Deadliest Women

She Kills Me: The True Stories of History's Deadliest Women by Jennifer Wright (Abrams Image, $19.99 hardcover, 176p., 9781419748462, November 2, 2021)

Bloodthirsty women are a minority. However, that fact only encouraged Jennifer Wright (We Came First; Get Well Soon) to magnify their existence in She Kills Me, a thoroughly researched--at times shocking--examination of the most notorious female killers to ever walk the face of the earth. Spanning centuries and the particular histories of 40 women predators--from the working class to the elite--Wright serves up detailed, often gruesome and harrowing accounts of women murderers, offering possible reasons how and why they led lives espousing death.

People kill for various reasons--love, money, power, anger, revenge or for fun. Wright covers them all, cataloging the featured murderesses as Psychos, Poisoners, Bad Family Members, Black Widows, Scorned Women, Mercenaries, Killer Queens, Badass Warriors and Avenging Angels.

Notorious inbred sociopath Countess Elizabeth Báthory (16th century) grew up in a castle and was close with a sadomasochistic aunt and Satanist uncle. A demoralizing childhood led her later to abuse and torture her servants--pouring water on them in frigid winter and releasing them outside to freeze to death; forcing others to cook and eat their own flesh. She was also known to bathe in the blood of virgins because it worked wonders on her skin. Báthory is said to have murdered more than 650 people in her lifetime.

"Some people just like murdering, the way other people enjoy reading or playing tennis." Take orphaned, cheerful "Jolly Jane" Toppan, a 19th-century nurse whose pathological lying endeared her to sick patients and their families. If someone annoyed her, however, she secretly killed them off with overdoses of morphine until, after a suspected 100 deaths, she was caught and declared "morally insane."

Other murderesses rack up grisly accomplishments like Freddie Oversteegen, a Dutch freedom fighter. Beautiful, innocent-looking and pig-tailed, this teenager's family recruited her for the World War II resistance. With a pistol stashed in her bicycle basket, she rescued Jewish children and blew up train tracks, while she--along with her sister--killed Nazis in acts of "necessary evil." Griselda Blanco, a 21st-century Colombian immigrant became one of Miami's most influential and devious drug lords, and pioneered assassinations by motorcycle, where hitmen she hired struck targets that assured quick getaways. 

Fans of macabre crime stories will be held rapt by Wright's conversationally styled catalog of chilling, diabolic horrors, enhanced with apropos illustrations by Eva Bee that depict each female slayer in the glory of her murderous fame. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines

Shelf Talker: This hair-raising collection catalogs 40 of the world's most notorious, devious and gruesome female killers.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Roberto Calasso & the Art of Discovery

I've written about retail mourning before, as far back as my bookselling days at the turn of the century. I may have even conjured the term. Most authors outlive their books and watch them vanish from print (even if digital ghosts remain to haunt), but for the lucky ones, their books outlive them. 

When that happens, retail mourning occurs in bookshops. Buyers order multiple copies of the author's backlist, including early titles from small and university presses that the shop might not have carried for years. Booksellers create display memorials with whatever stock is on hand, adding appropriate signage. Everybody sells out, literally and figuratively, but in a nice way. 

Upon learning that an author has passed, some readers head to bookstores because they feel compelled to seek out "books by that writer who just died. I never heard of him, but he sounds interesting." Or because they can't find the copies they bought years ago (which they know are hiding somewhere in the house or were loaned to friends/relatives and never returned).  

Roberto Calasso

Something along these lines happened to me last month when I learned of Italian publisher, translator and writer Roberto Calasso's death. The New York Times described him as "a rare figure in the literary world--an erudite writer and polymath and a savvy publisher who was able to reach a substantial readership for books he released through Adelphi Edizioni, the prestigious Italian publishing house where he worked for some 60 years."

Jonathan Galassi, president of Farrar Straus & Giroux, which published eight of Calasso's titles, said: "He was always finding writers who hadn't had their due and he was always good at publicizing them when he published a book. He was kind of a literary magician."

As sometimes (well, too often) happens, I found myself questioning why I hadn't read more of Calasso's work, and vowed to correct the lapse. The book that called out to me wasn't among his more acclaimed titles, but one I somehow hadn't been aware of at all--The Art of the Publisher, translated by Richard Dixon (FSG, 2015). So I read it, and immediately became evangelical about it. Windows into the book trade are seldom left open. We should peek inside whenever we have the chance. 

I don't need to review The Art of the Publisher. I'm not a reviewer. And I don't have to handsell it. I'm not a bookseller anymore. What I'd like to do, though, is share a few of Calasso's own words. As I read him, I found myself composing a sort of commonplace book of his sharp observations. Here's the gift of a sampling:

*We can therefore conclude that, apart from being one branch of business, publishing has always involved prestige, if only because it is a kind of business that is also an art. An art in every sense, and certainly a dangerous art since, in order to practice it, money is an essential element. From this point of view it can be argued that very little has changed since Gutenberg's time.

*Try to imagine a publishing house as a single text formed not just by the totality of books that have been published there, but also by all its other constituent elements, such as the front covers, cover flaps, publicity, the quantity of copies printed and sold, or the different editions in which the same text has been presented.

*So the publisher who chooses a book cover--whether he realizes it or not--is the last, the most humble and obscure descendant in the line of those who practice the art of ekphrasis, but this time applied in reverse, attempting to find the equivalent or the analogon of a text in a single image.

*The point is that universal digitization implies a certain hostility toward a way of knowledge--and only as a consequence toward the object that embodies it: the book. It is not therefore a matter of being concerned about the survival of the book itself. The book has already encountered difficult times and has always endured. No one, after all, wishes it much harm

*It wasn't a matter, he said, of deploring a general indifference of readers, but of finding out first of all what they are indifferent to.

*We watch a reader in a bookshop: he picks up a book, leafs through it--and for a short instant he is entirely cut off from the world. He is listening to someone speaking, whom others cannot hear. He gathers random fragments of phrases. He shuts the book, looks at the cover. Then he often takes a brief glance at the cover flap, hoping for some assistance. At that moment, without realizing it, he is opening an envelope: those few lines, external to the text of the book, are like a letter written to a stranger.

In his book The Celestial Hunter, Calasso observes: "A book is written when there is something specific that has to be discovered. The writer doesn't know what it is, nor where it is, but knows it has to be found. The hunt then begins. The writing begins." A book can be read for the same reason. The Art of the Publisher is my (belated) discovery.

--Robert Gray, editor

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