Shelf Awareness for Friday, April 29, 2022

Harper: The Farewell Tour by Stephanie Clifford

Dial Press: Sam by Allegra Goodman

Flatiron Books: The God of Endings by Jacqueline Holland

Blackstone Publishing: Blood Circus by Camila Victoire

Wednesday Books: Missing Clarissa by Ripley Jones

Berkley Books: Sisters of the Lost Nation by Nick Medina

Ronin House: So Close (Blacklist #1) by Sylvia Day

Bloom Books: Queen of Myth and Monsters (Adrian X Isolde #2) by Scarlett St. Clair

Quotation of the Day

Indie Bookstores: 'Standing at the Intersection of a Million Other Universes'

"Well, in my career, they've played an enormous role. Indie booksellers are hugely responsible for the fact that I have this vast readership. But ever since I was a kid, bookstores have felt vaguely magical, like a miniature version of Disneyland, where there are all these immersive worlds just lined up and you can move between them without even trying. That's such an amazing feeling.... Going into an indie bookstore feels a little bit like you’re standing at the intersection of a million other universes, and you can move freely between them. That's the feeling I wanted to capture in the settings in Book Lovers: the coziness, sure, but also the excitement."

--Emily Henry, whose novel Book Lovers (Berkley) is the #1 pick for the May Indie Next list, in a q&a with Bookselling This Week

G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Hunter by Jennifer Herrera


Back Cove Books Opening in Portland, Maine, This Fall


Future home of Back Cove Books.

Back Cove Books, a general-interest bookstore with a focus on community, is coming to Portland, Maine, this fall, Mainebiz reported. Owner Becca Morton, who worked as a bookseller at Portland indie Print for about two years, has found a 2,200-square-foot space in a historic building that dates back to 1897.

Morton told Mainebiz that she plans to tailor her inventory to the community's needs: "We're hoping to have a diverse selection in topics, characters, authors and storylines that are reflective of the community, or provide the opportunity to read something that is the exact opposite of you.”

The bookstore will be located in Portland's Woodfords Corner neighborhood, in the Odd Fellows Building. At various times the building was a Masonic temple, the city hall for Deering, Maine, and host to many commercial tenants, including a pawn shop and a bank. A vault still remains in the building, and Morton remarked that she's not sure yet which section will be housed in it.

Elaborating on the space, Morton said there are plenty of "nooks and crannies" where customers will be able to sit and "stay with us for a while." While the store won't sell coffee or food, she hopes customers will bring their own and the shop becomes "the 'third place' behind home and work where you can feel comfortable."

Morton noted that an increasing number of independent businesses have opened in the neighborhood, and a community organization called Friends of Woodfords Corner is working to help make the neighborhood more walkable. She'll be hosting the store's first pop-up appearance at local coffee shop Coveside Coffee from May 4 to May 15.

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Women's Health Care Physicians: Your Pregnancy and Childbirth: Month to Month (7TH ed.)

N.J's Asbury Book Cooperative Reopening at Its New Location on IBD

The new Asbury Book Co-op in progress.

The Asbury Book Cooperative, Asbury Park, N.J., will open in its new, much larger space at 644A Cookman Ave. tomorrow, in time for Independent Bookstore Day. The bookshop, which has been closed this week for the move across the street from its previous location, posted on Facebook: "Moving week continues. I'm not crying, you're crying.... Why are our volunteers so lovely, hardworking, and amazing? How did we get so lucky to have this beautiful new space? We cannot wait to share it with you all soon!"

Saturday's festivities will include a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new store, music by the Ocean Avenue Stompers, donuts from Purple Glaze, storytime, a special announcement about a community mural project, giveaways, raffle pulls and more.

Store manager Liza Minno told the Asbury Park Press last month that the move to a 1,995-square-foot space, four times the size of its previous location, "is just going to give us the room that we need to continue to grow. The growth has been happening really organically to the point where we are bursting at the seams at our current space.... We love being on our block. We love our downtown neighbors. This is ideal for us."

The Asbury Book Cooperative is an outgrowth of words! Bookstore, which launched in 2008. After the owners retired, the store converted in 2020 into a member-run cooperative, which now it has more than 500 members.

Berkley Books: Jane & Edward: A Modern Reimagining of Jane Eyre by Melodie Edwards

Amazon First Quarter: Sales Rise 7%, First Net Loss Since 2015

In the first quarter ended March 31, Amazon net sales rose 7% to $116.4 billion and there was a net loss of $3.8 billion compared to net income of $8.1 billion in the same period in 2021.

These were striking results: it was the first quarterly net loss for Amazon since 2015 and the slowest rate of sales growth in decades. The news, as well as low sales growth projections for the next quarter, caused Amazon stock to drop 10% in after-hours trading, to $2,615 a share from $2,892 a share.

There were a variety of reasons for the unusually negative news:

In the first quarter of 2021, net sales had risen 44% as consumers flocked to Amazon and other online sellers because of the pandemic. Those consumers are slowly but steadily returning to pre-pandemic buying patterns and buying more in bricks-and-mortar stores now.

The company has been buffeted by rising costs, as it continued to expand its distribution network at a time when the pandemic adversely affected staffing and created a range of supply-chain problems. The company had to increase pay and benefits to retain and attract workers. At the same time, efforts by workers to unionize were successful in one of Amazon's Staten Island, N.Y., warehouses, providing inspiration to similar efforts in other Amazon warehouses.

The company's investment in Rivian Automotive, an electric truck maker, took a hit of $7.6 billion after Rivian's stock fell 65% this year.

The company's best-performing division remains Amazon Web Services, its cloud services business, whose sales rose 37%, to $18.4 billion, in the quarter. Amazon's ad sales also rose 23%, to $7.9 billion.

The company forecast that net sales in the second quarter would grow between 3% and 7%.

Amazon CEO Andy Jassy commented: "The pandemic and subsequent war in Ukraine have brought unusual growth and challenges... Our consumer business has grown 23% annually over the past two years, with extraordinary growth in 2020 of 39% year-over-year that necessitated doubling the size of our fulfillment network that we'd built over Amazon's first 25 years--and doing so in just 24 months. Today, as we're no longer chasing physical or staffing capacity, our teams are squarely focused on improving productivity and cost efficiencies throughout our fulfillment network. We know how to do this and have done it before. This may take some time, particularly as we work through ongoing inflationary and supply chain pressures, but we see encouraging progress on a number of customer experience dimensions, including delivery speed performance as we're now approaching levels not seen since the months immediately preceding the pandemic in early 2020."

ECW Press: We Meant Well by Erum Shazia Hasan

International Update: Canadian Independent Bookstore Day; German Government's Stimulus Package for Bookstores

Tomorrow is Canadian Independent Bookstore Day, which relaunched last year after the Canadian Independent Booksellers Association took over the event from the Retail Council of Canada. Noting that the 2021 festivities "were subdued in many places due to ongoing pandemic restrictions," Quill & Quire reported that this year, "with public-health protocols loosened across much of the country, booksellers are eager to welcome the book-buying public back to in-person celebrations of local indies."

"To imagine people coming in to celebrate [CIBD] and not have to count heads, that's really amazing," said Brandi Morpurgo, owner of Daisy Chain Book Co., Edmonton, Alb. Morpurgo has planned a day's worth of activities that include signings and q&as with three local authors, as well as a game of bookstore bingo and giving out cookies from a local bakery. "It's going to be a party. We get to thank people who support independent bookstores and remind them why they should choose us."

Danny McAuley, co-owner of Brome Lake Books, Knowlton, Que., noted: "It really is a whole fun project. We feel like we're part of the bigger [bookselling] community, and that's really good."

"As the go-big-or-go-home girl, I have a three-page spreadsheet that I'm balancing right now.... It's a very up-tempo day. There's something going on all the time," said Shelley Macbeth, owner of Blue Heron Books, Uxbridge, Ont., and CIBA board director. Activities include a story walk down Brock Street, a book-spine poetry icebreaker activity and 10 authors acting as booksellers, a host of children's activities in the store's studio space. Online activities will be available for those who would prefer to celebrate virtually.

"For us it's always been a way of thanking customers for shopping with us," said Jessica Walker, manager at Munro's Books, Victoria, B.C. "We try and toot the horn for some of the other booksellers in the neighborhood, particularly some of the small secondhand stores, to emphasize that it is really a community."


As part of its "Neustart Kultur" (New Start Culture) stimulus package, the German government is giving another round of awards to bookstores, Börsenblatt reported. This round's total amount has been raised by €4 million (about $4.2 million) to €14 million ($14.7 million) and goes to 1,033 bookstores in Germany. Some 200 stores will receive €25,000 ($26,200); 250 receive €15,000 ($15,700); and 583 receive €8,000 ($8,400). The awards need to be reinvested in the stores and will be given by the end of May.

Culture minister Claudia Roth said, "The many impressive applications for our awards are once again proof that booksellers in Germany show their love for the book with creativity and passion. With their great dedication to literary diversity, booksellers deserve our appreciation and notice. As a result, we've raised the prize amount again so that booksellers can continue to build and further expand their important cultural work."

In the past two years, the New Start Culture program has given many millions of euros to all parts of the book business, including authors, publishers, book fairs and bookstores.


Cool Idea of the Day from Outwith Books, Glasgow, Scotland: "Introducing... BYOB, or Bring Your Own Bookshop. On Sunday 12 June, we are offering you the chance to sell your second-hand books from a stall outside our shop. Maybe your book buying habit is taking over your flat, or you've been bequeathed a huge library. Either way, this is a way to meet book loving Southsiders and clear some room on your bookshelves.... We only have two stall spaces and this is a pilot event to see what works and what doesn't. If it goes well we'll repeat it." --Robert Gray

Inaugural Santa Fe Literary Festival Set for May 20-23

The inaugural Santa Fe Literary Festival will take place Friday, May 20, to Monday, May 23, at the Santa Fe Community Convention Center in Santa Fe, N.Mex. Among authors who are scheduled appear are Margaret Atwood, Sandra Cisneros, John Grisham, Joy Harjo, Anne Hillerman, Craig Johnson, Phil Klay, Jon Krakauer, Emily St. John Mandel, George R.R. Martin, N. Scott Momaday, James McGrath Morris, Douglas Preston, Rebecca Roanhorse, Bob Shacochis, Colson Whitehead and Don Winslow.

Collected Works Bookstore in Santa Fe is the festival's official bookstore and will operate a pop-up shop in the Convention Center over the course of the weekend.

Besides author readings and book signings, the festival will feature meals during which chefs and food writers will talk about the food they've prepared, their work and their books; Walk & Talks, during which attendees and authors will together explore parts of Santa Fe; and Tea & Tequila, featuring tea and tequila tastings. On Monday, the last day of the festival, attendees will be able to go on literary day trips in Santa Fe and nearby areas in northern New Mexico.


Image of the Day: National Poetry Month/Mother's Day Celebration

In honor of National Poetry Month and Mother's Day, Writers Bloc and the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles hosted an event on Sunday, April 24, to celebrate the publication of Kim Dower's fifth poetry collection, I Wore This Dress Today for You, Mom (Red Hen Press). Dower (center) was joined by authors (and famous mothers) Lisa See (l.) and Hope Edelman for an intimate conversation on motherhood.

IBD Spirit Week: 'Dress Up As Your Favorite Book Character' Thursday

Independent Bookstore Day Spirit Week celebrated "Dress Up As Your Favorite Book Character" on Thursday. Among the Indies participating:

Roundabout Books, Bend, Ore.: "Independent Bookstore Day SPIRIT WEEK continues with Dress Up as Your Favorite Book Character today! Come see these delightful booksellers and their creative outfits! See you tomorrow for Pajama Day!"

Portkey Books, Safety Harbor, Fla.: "Independent Bookstore Day Spirit Week Continues! Today is Dress Up As Your Favorite Book Character. I'm channeling Hermione Granger with my Gryffindor sweater (who's kidding, I won't be wearing the sweater long here in Florida) and my shirt with a Hermione reference which reads 'When in doubt, go to the library.' Let me see your character selfie!"

Little Shop of Stories, Decatur, Ga.: "Today we dressed up like book characters! Can you guess who is who?? See the comments for answers! It's Indie Bookstore Day Spirit Week! If you show up dressed for the day's theme, you get a free book! (while supplies last) Tomorrow is pajama day!"

The Bookstore Plus, Lake Placid, N.Y.: "Bookstore Spirit Week continues today with Dress up as your FAVORITE book character! @elisa.gertrude definitely wins the most spirited bookstore employee award! We hope to see you this Saturday for  Independent Bookstore Day, cupcakes at 12:30, @maxwelleatoniii book signing 1-3 and EXCLUSIVE merchandise for sale while supplies last!"

Subterranean Books, St. Louis, Mo.: "Indie Bookstore Spirit Week continues! Today is book character costume day and Harriet and Bellatrix are in the shop snooping and wreaking havoc! Harriet has already spied some good books and found...a random Waldo that wandered in...! Bellatrix is destroying all the order in the shop! We need your help! Who is your favorite book character?"

Bards Alley Bookshop, Vienna, Va.: "Can you guess who Amy is dressed as for #BookstoreSpiritWeek? Here's a hint: She would fit right in on our Halloween float from last year!"

Midtown Reader, Tallahassee, Fla.: "Today for #bookstorespiritweek Kristin is wearing a Camp Halfblood sweatshirt. Any other Percy Jackson fans out there?"

Neil Gaiman on Bookstores, Hello, Bookstore and IBD

In a short video for Film Forum, New York, N.Y., Neil Gaiman talks about his lifelong love of bookstores, the film Hello, Bookstore (which is opening today at the Film Forum) and Independent Bookstore Day, which will take place tomorrow. "Independent bookstores are so vital to our community," Gaiman says.

Personnel Changes at St. Martin's

In the St. Martin's Publishing Group's marketing department:

Stephen Erickson has been promoted to associate marketing manager.

Mac Nicholas has been promoted to assistant marketing manager.

Media and Movies

Movies: The Giant's House

Actor Andy Serkis (Star Wars, Planet of the Apes, Lord of the Rings) will direct a film adaptation of Elizabeth McCracken's 1996 novel The Giant's House for Wildgaze Films, Deadline reported. Serkis, who directed Venom: Let There Be Carnage, made his directorial debut was 2017 drama Breathe. He most recently starred as Alfred in The Batman.

Adapted by Nick Hornby (Brooklyn), The Giant's House "has been in the works for some time but has new impetus with the attachment of Serkis as director," Deadline noted, adding that casting is underway. Wildgaze's Finola Dwyer and Amanda Posey will produce alongside Jonathan Cavendish of his and Serkis' production company Imaginarium Productions, with Hornby as an executive producer.

Books & Authors

Irma Black Awards and Cook Prize Winners

The Center for Children's Literature at Bank Street College of Education announced the winners of the Irma Simonton Black and James H. Black Award (Irma Black Award) and the Cook Prize for Excellence in Children's Literature. Thousands of children in the United States, Canada, Europe, Asia and the United Arab Emirates participated in the 2022 voting process.

The Irma Black Award, chosen by first and second graders, honors "an outstanding book for young children--a book in which text and illustrations are inseparable, each enhancing and enlarging on the other to produce a singular whole." 

The 2022 Irma Black Award Gold Medalist: It Fell from the Sky by Terry Fan and Eric Fan (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)

Irma Black Award Silver Medalists:
When My Cousins Come to Town by Angela Shanté, illus. by Keisha Morris (West Margin Press)
From the Tops of the Trees by Kao Kalia Yang; illus. by Rachel Wada (Carolrhoda/Lerner Books)
1619 Project: Born on the Water by Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renée Watson, illus. by Nikkolas Smith (Kokila/Penguin Young Readers Group)

The Cook Prize, chosen by third and fourth graders, honors "the best science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) picture book for children aged eight to 10."

The 2022 Cook Prize Gold Medalist: Cougar Crossing: How Hollywood’s Celebrity Cougar Helped Build a Bridge for City Wildlife by Meeg Pincus, illus. by Alexander Vidal (Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster)

2022 Cook Prize Silver Medalists:
Butterfly for a King: Saving Hawai'i's Kamehameha Butterflies by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore, illus. by Susan L. Roth (Lee & Low)
The Great Stink: How Joseph Bazalgette Solved London’s Poop Pollution Problem by Colleen Paeff, illus. by Nancy Carpenter (Margaret K. McElderry/Simon & Schuster)
Nano: The Spectacular Science of the Very (Very) Small by Jess Wade, illus. by Melissa Castrillón (Candlewick)

Due to the pandemic, there will be no in-person awards ceremony in 2022. Instead, the acceptance videos and young people's reviews will be posted in May on Bank Street College's Irma Black Award webpage and Cook Prize webpage.

The Bank Street Children's Book Committee has also released their 2022 Best Books of the Year list, available here.

Reading with... Don Lee

photo: Jane Delury

Don Lee's second collection, The Partition (Akashic Books, May 10, 2022), offers nine stories that span decades and cities across the world, shining a light onto contemporary life and the Asian American experience. He is also the author of the story collection Yellow and the novels Country of Origin, Wrack and Ruin, The Collective and Lonesome Lies Before Us. He has received an American Book Award, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature and the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction. He lives near Baltimore with his wife, the writer Jane Delury, and teaches in the MFA program in creative writing at Temple University in Philadelphia.

Handsell readers your book in 25 words or less:

The Partition is an updated look at the so-called Asian American experience, exploring the lives of very American, assimilated Korean American artists, actors, journalists and academics.

On your nightstand now:

Running Away by Jean-Philippe Toussaint. This is one of my favorite books, a short novel by the Belgian writer. It's the second volume of a tetralogy, about a nameless narrator's perpetual breakup with a woman named Marie. I'm teaching a class in the short novel this semester, and I love the way Running Away uses the tropes of a thriller or noir book, posing mysteries, but then leaves them entirely unresolved, which makes it a distinctly European book, I feel.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger, which was the first real book I read, when I was 14. I was stuck in a military transit hotel in Tokyo for the summer, and there was a tiny bookstore in the lobby (I write about the hotel in the story "The Sanno" in The Partition). I picked the novel out at random, attracted to its burgundy spine. It changed my world. I hadn't known that books could be subversive. It made me become a reader.

Your top five authors:

Alice Munro is one--I love every single thing she's ever written. As for the other four, I will name specific books rather than authors: John Williams's Stoner, which is the most beautifully heartbreaking book I've ever read; Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go, which took me four tries to get into, but once I did, I was entranced (and then concluded it's essentially the same book as The Remains of the Day); Haruki Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which begins with a prototypical Murakami protagonist making spaghetti, listening to music and receiving a mysterious phone call, but then takes off through literal and metaphysical wormholes that have more depth and punch than anything in his other books; and William Maxwell's So Long, See You Tomorrow, which starts out as a slim, conventional coming-of-age story, but then gets surprisingly experimental, incorporating the point of view of a dog.

Book you've faked reading:

Ulysses, James Joyce. The Dubliners was very accessible, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man was challenging but understandable, but then I got flummoxed.

Book you're an evangelist for:

The aforementioned Stoner by John Williams, but with a caveat: it's a really sad book, not for everyone.

Book you hid from your parents:

I never hid a book from my parents, but they did hide one from me. In high school, I was poking through my dad's closet and found a book with photographs of sex positions hidden in a manila envelope.

Favorite line from a book:

"Human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars." --Flaubert, Madame Bovary.

Writer who influenced you the most:

Richard Yates. Before going to graduate school in Boston, I was house sitting my parents' condo in Burbank, Calif., and went to a used bookstore in town. I'd never heard of Yates before, but I came across Eleven Kinds of Loneliness and bought it. How could I resist that title? I then read everything of his I could find. I saw in his bio that he lived in Boston, and mused how great it'd be if I could meet him someday. My second night in Boston, I saw him in a bar/restaurant called Crossroads, and I introduced myself to him. He became a mentor of sorts. He was actually dismissive of my writing, but nonetheless he served as a model for me, destroying all the illusions I had that a life as a writer was glamorous, instead schooling me about the dedication and perseverance needed to be a midlist writer who had been forgotten and forsaken by readers, reviewers and the publishing industry (his books largely had gone out of print when he died), and yet who continued to write, day after torturous day. I wrote a piece about this in Electric Literature a while back.

Book Review

Review: Elsewhere

Elsewhere by Alexis Schaitkin (Celadon Books, $26.99 hardcover, 240p., 9781250219633, June 28, 2022)

Alexis Schaitkin (Saint X) creates a chilling, mesmeric world in Elsewhere, a novel that questions motherhood, community ties and individual agency. The village at its heart and the options of a larger world will stick with readers long after the final page.

"We lived high above the rest of the world. Our town sat in the narrow aperture between mountains, the mountains forested, the forests impenetrable." Vera has grown up in this setting, in a town with unknown origins ("Our streets and park and river carried names in a language we did not speak") but strict rules. No one goes out after dark, when the ubiquitous clouds descend. Girls form friendships in threesomes, not pairs. And every girl lives in anticipation of becoming a mother, which carries the greatest risk and reward the village knows, because some mothers will stay and some mothers disappear. "One minute she was here, as solid and real as any of us, the next her body faded, faded, until she vanished into the clouds. Gone."

Vera's mother went when she was a small child, and she spends her youth wondering what kind of mother she might possibly be without a mother of her own to guide her, if it's possible that she can be a mother at all. Her obsession echoes that of all the townspeople, who thrill at guessing which mother will be next, and what makes the difference between one who stays and one who goes. "Impossible to predict, what motherhood would bring out of a woman, what it would show her about herself, the end to which it would carry her." Vera has always known this as blessing as much as curse. "Our affliction opened us to pain, yes, but also to heights of beauty, and of love, that people elsewhere would never know, because they did not know what it was to love in the shadow of our affliction, our love deepened and made wild by the threat that hovered over it. Our affliction was terrible, but it was not as terrible as living without it." But when motherhood indeed comes for Vera, and she finds herself fully in the unimaginable thrall of her child, the town's affliction haunts her in a new way.

The village is profoundly insular: "What could the stories and histories of lives elsewhere offer us?" But it turns out that "elsewhere" is a place as well. Elsewhere is unsettling, thought-provoking and lushly detailed, a memorable inquiry about attachments to place and to family, and what happens when a person has to choose between her family and herself. --Julia Kastner, librarian and blogger at pagesofjulia

Shelf Talker: Set in a village where mothers vanish, this atmospheric novel encourages contemplation of differences and commonalities, and thinking bigger than the boundaries into which one is born.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: Launching the Deadline Edge-of-Space Readers & Writers Café

How are great ideas hatched? They say genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration, but what about... simulation? Indie Bookstore Day Eve seems like an appropriate moment to unveil my latest dream project: The Deadline Edge-of-Space Readers & Writers Café, opening sometime in the future (whatever that word means). This project is in very early stages of development--I thought of it Tuesday--but I believe it can work, given substantial start-up funding. 

The inspiration comes from my ongoing impatience with the future. If we can't have flying cars, why not an edge-of-space café & writers retreat? Also, I just read Emily St. John Mandel's amazing novel Sea of Tranquility (Knopf) and one question keeps nagging at me: Are we living in a simulation? If so, why not make the best--or at least the best simulation--of all possible worlds:

"Do you ever catch yourself thinking about the simulation hypothesis?" It seemed worth asking. It was all I could think about.
She raised her eyebrows. "That's the idea that we're possibly living in a simulation, isn't it?"
"Actually, I have thought about it. I don't believe we're living in a simulation." Talia was gazing past me, past the lobby, to the street. "I don't know, maybe this is naïve of me, but I feel like a simulation should be better, you know? I mean, if you were going to the trouble to simulate a street, for example, couldn't all of the streetlights work?"

As I read Sea of Tranquility and was pondering the limitations and advantages of reality vs. simulation as a business model, suddenly the damn "metaverse" concept intruded. Is that a simulation of a simulation... of a simulation? And don't even get me started on holographic meetings: "Another lecture, this one virtual. No, the same lecture, just performed now in the holospace. (In non-space. Nowhere.)," St. John Mandel writes. Many of us have been Zooming endlessly through a kind of poor man's holospace for more than two years. 

Sea of Tranquility also reminded me that as a reader, I'm already a time traveler. It even clarified some of my concerns about our pandemic-laced world ("This is the strange lesson of living in a pandemic: life can be tranquil in the face of death."). To put it mildly, the book had a profound impact, so I was already in a receptive mode when I encountered three strangely inspirational media items this week:

Tourism company Space Perspective unveiled the design of what it's calling the first ever "space lounge" inside Spaceship Neptune, an edge-of-space (100,000 feet) balloon flight featuring a cabin "outfitted with panoramic windows, a bar, reclining seats, food service, wi-fi, customizable mood lighting, a telescope, interactive screens, floor lamps and plants and herbs for use in cocktails," CNET noted. Also champagne toasts and "a bathroom with a view." 

Space Perspective "has designed your journey to be exhilarating and celebratory, with ample time for quiet contemplation." Just add bookshelves and we're off to a great start creating that writing and reading café of my imagination. Although the first flight in 2024 is already booked and only lasts six hours, the possibilities seem endless.

Then I read about Tokyo's Manuscript Writing Café, which only allows writers on a deadline and won't let them leave until they are finished with their project. Located in the Koenji district, the café "is designed to operate as a safe haven and base for writers who need to get in their work up against a deadline. But it's not just a theme of the cafe--those are the actual rules!" Upon entering, a patron writes down at the reception desk how many words and by what time they are going to finish their manuscript. The manager asks every hour how it's coming along. No pressure there.

My third inspiration came from Meta, Facebook and Instagram's parent company and the primary driver behind the advent of the "metaverse." Meta plans to open, unironically, its first physical retail store on May 9 in Burlingame, Calif., where shoppers get to try out a range of interactive demonstrations. "At the Meta Store, we want you to interact with everything. We want you to pick stuff up. We want you to feel it," the company said, also unironically. The 1,500-square-foot store was strategically placed near the firm's Reality Labs HQ, its basecamp for work on the metaverse. 

"The Meta Store is going to help people make that connection to how our products can be the gateway to the metaverse in the future. We're not selling the metaverse in our store, but hopefully people will come in and walk out knowing a little bit more about how our products will help connect them to it," said Martin Gilliard, head of Meta Store.

We're not selling the metaverse in our store. Is that not a great sentence? 

So, I think the time is perfect for envisioning the launch of the Deadline Edge-of-Space Readers & Writers Café. As I mentioned, we're in early development stage, still deciding between reality or simulation options, but I can already imagine it will fly. After all, the future is now. 

--Robert Gray, contributing editor

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