Shelf Awareness for Thursday, May 19, 2022


Henry Holt & Company: Warrior Girl Unearthed by Angeline Boulley

Henry Holt & Company: Warrior Girl Unearthed by Angeline Boulley

Little, Brown Ink: The Princess and the Grilled Cheese Sandwich (a Graphic Novel) by Deya Muniz

Flatiron Books: Once Upon a Prime: The Wondrous Connections Between Mathematics and Literature by Sarah Hart

Dundurn Press: Chasing the Black Eagle by Bruce Geddes

Amulet Books: Batcat: Volume 1 by Meggie Ramm

Berkley Books: The Comeback Summer by Ali Brady

News

ABA to Hold Virtual Children's Institute July 13

The American Booksellers Association has announced a Virtual Children's Institute that will be held on Wednesday, July 13. It will include keynotes, story times, idea exchanges and a virtual galley room, as well as selected events from the in-person Children's Institute that will take place June 20-22 in Phoenix, Ariz.

Keynotes at the virtual Ci will be delivered by activist and author Karen Walrond (The Lightmaker's Manifesto) and Charlie Jane Anders, author of several award-winning books and a TED Talk; Anders is also co-host of the podcast Our Opinions Are Correct.

Idea exchanges will cover such topics as e-commerce trends during the pandemic; adding value to services such as book clubs, story times and events; authorless events; how bookstore owners and managers can support employees; and conducting inventories.

Registration, which costs $25, is open now.


G.P. Putnam's Sons: The Three of Us by Ore Agbaje-Williams


New Voices, New Rooms: Adult Authors Breakfast

Julia Davis, owner of the Book Worm Bookstore, Powder Springs, Ga., opened Day 2 of New Voices, New Rooms (the combined virtual programming from NAIBA and SIBA) by greeting the authors, most of whom were in New York City, on the breakfast panel. She found ways to work her love of the Big Apple (where she grew up) into the conversation. Though it was virtual, the conversation felt like everyone was in a big living room.

Adrian McKinty spoke of his terrifying inspiration for The Island (Little, Brown). While sightseeing with his wife and children during her job posting in Melbourne, Australia, the family took a ferry to a "remote island." The ferryman warned them: "Make sure you make the 3:30 back; that's the last one and if you miss it, you'll stay the night." The first thing McKinty saw were "guys with shotguns over their arms," despite Australia's strict gun laws. When his family met up with a few of them, they already knew who the McKintys were. "It was one family living on the island, all from Ireland," McKinty said. "I was getting a Deliverance vibe." The McKintys set out on time for that last ferry, when, suddenly, a bicyclist rode out of nowhere, and McKinty's car nearly collided with her. In slight jest, he said to his wife, "If we'd hit her, we would never have left the island." His wife answered more gravely, "I don't think we would have." McKinty thought, "That's the book! We hit her! A scary island, scary people, unfortunate event." Not to mention the heat, mosquitoes, no phone service and waters infested with sharks. A locked room mystery set on an island.

When Davis introduced Iman Hariri-Kia, she told the author that her novel A Hundred Other Girls (Sourcebooks Landmark, July 26) had "a Devil Wears Prada feel." Hariri-Kia said she was going for exactly that: an update on The Devil Wears Prada, but with a young Middle Eastern woman, Noora, getting her dream job assisting the editor-in-chief at her favorite magazine, Vinyl. Noora arrives at a moment when print is on the decline and digital is on the rise, and she must choose--the print Vinyl she loved growing up or the digital side that represents the future. Hariri-Kia said the story is a personal one: she grew up in two different worlds. She was not Western enough to be considered American and not Middle Eastern enough to be Iranian. She got a job as assistant to the editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue just before it folded overnight, the staff laid off in a day. Her idea for the book was born right then.

Davis appreciated how Hariri-Kia had included her heritage as part of the story. One line particularly resonated with her: "Is there anybody in my life who likes me for who I am, whoever I am, not because of what I can do for them?" Hariri-Kia said that the book explores through the characters and through the rise and fall of the magazine "the difference between representation and tokenism." Diverse employees were "brought in for their perspectives and turned into mouthpieces for their heritage," she said. "Everyone has an agenda, including Noora."

Sopan Deb, who now lives in Washington, D.C., drew upon his experience growing up in a Bengali American community in New Jersey and his high school theater experience (as Oscar the piano player in 42nd Street) for his novel Keya Das's Second Act (Simon & Schuster, July 5). In the book, a family loses their teenage daughter in a car accident. "I've been thinking a lot about grief," Deb said, "the loss that I discussed in my memoir [Missed Translations, Dey Street, 2020], the pandemic." The author explores mental health, which he said is stigmatized in Southeast Asian communities, and the mother is divorced--also stigmatized. The dead teen had written a play, and her family decides to stage it.

Davis asked Deb what he meant by the line in his novel, "There's a way to be dead while still breathing." Deb said that he and his father went 11 years without seeing each other; his memoir describes the man leaving the family when Deb was 18, to go to India. When he first got to India, Deb's father was "dead inside." He didn't have family or friends, he'd been laid off from work. Deb later learned that his father had started tennis and singing lessons, and taking classes. "When I saw him in 2018, he looked vibrant; he had a tan and a spring in his step," Deb said. "Being dead or alive is not about breathing, it's about how you live your life."

While rooting around in her parents' basement for a gift for one of her eight godchildren, Ada Calhoun, author of Also a Poet: Frank O'Hara, My Father, and Me (Grove Press, June 14), found "a trove" of cassette tapes of her father's interviews over the years. Among them were 40 hours of taped interviews between her father, art critic Peter Schjeldahl, and Frank O'Hara--a biography he'd never published. "My dad was in his 80s, but I said, let's work on this." Calhoun thought she'd "win," she'd show her father she could complete what he could not do alone. "I did not win," she confessed. "I crashed and burned with the O'Hara estate, just as he did." Then her father got lung cancer, her parents' building burned down and Covid hit. (Good news: her father is still alive and got to see the book published!) She used a great deal of the tapes' content in the telling of Also a Poet, which she calls a memoir and a mix of her books St. Marks Is Dead (Norton), Wedding Toasts I'll Never Give (Norton) and Why We Can't Sleep (Grove).

In the session's closing moments, Julia Davis confessed that while she loves Atlanta for many reasons, she misses the trains of New York City. She asked the panelists whether they preferred Penn Station or Grand Central. Iman Hariri-Kia summed it up: "People not from New York come into Penn Station; people from New York leave it from Grand Central." And Davis said as soon as she returns, she's getting pizza, Chinese food and bagels. --Jennifer M. Brown


Blink: Come Home Safe by Brian G. Buckmire


Skylark Bookshop Forms Challenged/Banned Book Subscription Service

Skylark Bookshop in Columbia, Mo., has launched a Challenged/Banned Books subscription service that will send paperback copies of banned and challenged books to readers each month. 

Per the Columbia Tribune, the bookstore is offering six- and 12-month subscriptions, with six-month subscriptions costing $150 and 12-month subscriptions going for $275. The price includes tax, shipping and packaging, and Skylark Bookshop will donate 10% of all proceeds from these subscriptions to EyeSeeMe, a Black-owned bookstore in St. Louis, Mo., that provides free banned books to students and families.

The subscription service will kick off with Maia Kobabe's memoir, Gender Queer.


Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books: Welcome to the World by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury


Random House Worlds Imprint Launching

Random House is launching Random House Worlds, an imprint dedicated to licensed book publishing. It will be the home for major pop culture brands to be published within the Random House division, including Star Wars, Minecraft, Stranger Things, Garfield, Magic: The Gathering, Lore Olympus, Critical Role and others. Keith Clayton, v-p, deputy publisher of Del Rey, will also lead the Random House Worlds imprint as publishing director.
 
The premier licensed brands that have been published by Del Rey and other imprints under the Random House division will now migrate their frontlist and backlist titles to the Random House Worlds imprint starting in 2023. The company said that "under this streamlined structure, Random House Worlds will offer a single home for partners to bring their prime pop culture brands--any genre and any format, from novels to cookbooks to coloring books and beyond. Books published under the Random House Worlds imprint will enrich and expand partners' worlds beyond their original source material, helping to grow a popular brand into a multimedia universe and offering fans a deeply immersive experience into their favorite worlds." The new imprint's team will also work with Clarkson Potter's gift and design team to develop licensed gift and paper products to be published under the Potter imprint.
 
Clayton said: "With a unified publication strategy encompassing multiple formats and genres, the Random House Worlds approach will enable us to have one conversation with readers, retailers, and partners, delivering best-in-class service to licensors and the highest-quality content to passionate fandoms,"
 
Joining Clayton on the publishing team of Random House Worlds will be Kristin Conte, business director, licensing & brands; Sarah Malarkey, editorial director, nonfiction & illustrated; Elizabeth Schaefer, editorial director, fiction; and Alex Larned, senior publishing manager, Del Rey & Random House Worlds.


International Update: LBF Director Ventris Steps Down; ABA Bookseller of the Year Shortlists

Andy Ventris

London Book Fair director Andy Ventris is stepping down this summer after less than two years in the role. Ventris, who was appointed to the position in November 2020, succeeding Jacks Thomas, is leaving fair organizer RX to "take on a new challenge." A successor will be named later.

"It has been a pleasure to be LBF director over the past two years, working with such a great team and bringing the industry back together in April," Ventris said. "We've been delighted with the positive feedback from exhibitors and visitors alike, and early indications are that 2023 looks set to be even more of a success. LBF has been running for more than 50 years, and I feel honored to have been a part of its story in recent times. I've no doubt that the new director will continue to grow the event as it remains a key moment in the publishing industry calendar."

LBF advisory board chair David Roch said the board "was unanimous in its positive reaction to the return of LBF this spring. It was a real achievement given the multiple obstacles over the last two years. Particularly pleasing was the feeling that LBF was a point of reconnection for so many publishing professionals. It has been great working with Andy over recent years, and I wish him all the best in his next role. The London Book Fair's position as a critical annual event in the business of publishing was reinforced in April and we look forward to welcoming a new director into the role who can build on this year and into the future."

Kerry Prince, chief growth officer of RX UK, commented: "Andy had an immediately positive impact when he took on the role of LBF director nearly two years ago. We are sad to see Andy leave and wish him every success in the next chapter of his career. Everyone at RX was delighted to see the return of one of our blue-ribbon global events to Olympia in April, with 15,000 members of the international publishing community in attendance. The wonderful response to this year's show is not only testament to Andy and his team but also to the heritage and strength of the LBF brand. Our focus is now to continue to build on this year's success for 2023 and beyond."

---

The Australian Booksellers Association unveiled shortlists for the 2022 Children's Bookseller, Young Bookseller and ABA Bookseller of the Year Awards. The honors recognize individual booksellers for their outstanding achievement during the past year. The winner in each category receives A$1,000 (about US$700). Check out the complete list of finalists here

ABA CEO Robbie Egan noted: "Stepping out of one's daily work bubble to assess the achievements of others is both illuminating and inspiring, and this year we see the best of what booksellers are doing across the country. We have added the Children's Bookseller of the Year to acknowledge the work of specialists in this demanding and vital aspect of our work. The shortlist is a reflection of the excellence that I know we all encounter daily, and regardless who is the winner, I know we are in good hands as we begin to exit the frustrations of the past two years. Congratulations to the nominees, and best of luck!"

--- 

Speaking at the Scotland Book Trade Conference this week, Waterstones managing director James Daunt said the company is "in the process of investing substantially" in distribution with a new long-term project, and the chain will be reinvigorating Blackwell's following its buyout earlier this year, the Bookseller reported. 

"Blackwell's has not disappeared, we will keep the shops very distinctively Blackwell's as we did with Foyles," he said. "The Edinburgh one is a little tired so we'll be investing substantially in improving that from a physical perspective but also increasing stock.... You will also hopefully see real improvements in our structures, online and in the app. We are improving the online experience all the time." 

He also noted that a "substantial" long-term distribution center project "will be rolled out over two to three years, with a new warehouse management system aimed at improving efficiency," the Bookseller wrote, adding that Daunt hopes that being able to hold more stock and an improved capacity to "get that back out into shops in a really orderly and timely manner" will help publishers, especially smaller presses. --Robert Gray


Obituary Note: Lu French

Lu French

Carmen "Lu" French, co-owner of Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vt., and Saratoga Springs, N.Y., died Monday after a long battle with cancer, the Bennington Banner reported. She was 59.

Described as an "energetic and generous Renaissance woman," Lu French purchased Northshire Bookstore with her husband, Clark French, from previous owner Chris Morrow last year. In addition to a bookstore owner, French was a yoga teacher, author, entrepreneur and philanthropist, and she and her husband invested in or owned several businesses, including a yoga studio, a movie theater, a restaurant and two hotels. They also owned and operated a successful real estate business in Vero Beach, Fla.

"Literally, during the pandemic and while she was battling cancer, she started, wrote and published a book," Clark French told the Banner. "She took over and restored and renovated Mark Skinner Library in Manchester Village and helped the Silver Fork open. We purchased and took over the Northshire Bookstore. All in 18 months.

"Any one of those things would have been a lot for most people. Yet she was able to successfully juggle all those things. That's the type of person she was--always gracious, always kind, incredibly patient."

In a tribute to French posted on Twitter, the Northshire Bookstore team wrote: "Lu was a fierce and tireless advocate for the Manchester, Vermont and Indian River County, Florida communities she embraced and treasured. She left each community she touched immeasurably better through her presence."

Both Northshire locations will be closed on Sunday, May 22, so that staff can attend a celebration of her life scheduled for 2 p.m. at the Southern Vermont Art Center.


Notes

Personnel Changes at Abrams

Christian Westermann has joined Abrams as senior marketing manager, focusing primarily on the text publishing program with the Overlook Press and Abrams Press imprints. Westermann was previously at Workman and Algonquin.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Dan Abrams on the View

Tomorrow:
Drew Barrymore repeat: Seth Meyers, author of I'm Not Scared, You're Scared (Flamingo Books, $18.99, 9780593352373).

The View: Dan Abrams, co-author of Alabama v. King: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Criminal Trial That Launched the Civil Rights Movement (Hanover Square Press, $28.99, 9781335475190).


This Weekend on Book TV: The Bancroft Prize

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this weekend from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.

Saturday, May 21
2 p.m. Irwin F. Gellman, author of Campaign of the Century: Kennedy, Nixon, and the Election of 1960 (Yale University Press, $35, 9780300218268). (Re-airs Sunday at 2 a.m.)

4:15 p.m. Hugh Howard, author of Architects of an American Landscape: Henry Hobson Richardson, Frederick Law Olmsted, and the Reimagining of America's Public and Private Spaces (Atlantic Monthly Press, $30, 9780802159236). (Re-airs Sunday at 4:15 a.m.)

7 p.m. Mia Bay, author of Traveling Black: A Story of Race and Resistance (‎Belknap Press, $35, 9780674979963), and Mae Ngai, author of The Chinese Question: The Gold Rushes, Chinese Migration, and Global Politics (Norton, $30, ‎9780393634167), receive the 2022 Bancroft Prize at Columbia University. (Re-airs Sunday at 7 a.m.)

Sunday, May 22
9 a.m. Matthew Continetti, author of The Right: The Hundred-Year War for American Conservatism (Basic Books, $32, ‎ 9781541600508). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m.)

10 a.m. Mark T. Esper, author of A Sacred Oath: Memoirs of a Secretary of Defense During Extraordinary Times (Morrow, $35, 9780063144316). (Re-airs Sunday at 10 p.m.)

4:45 p.m. William Neuman, author of Things Are Never So Bad That They Can't Get Worse: Inside the Collapse of Venezuela (‎St. Martin's Press, $29.99, 9781250266163).

6:15 p.m. Juliette Kayyem, author of The Devil Never Sleeps: Learning to Live in an Age of Disasters (PublicAffairs, $29, 9781541700093).



Books & Authors

Hopkins's Davida Breier and Story of Her Debut Novel, Sinkhole

Davida Breier

The author of the debut novel Sinkhole, Davida Breier is not, of course, the first book world person to write and publish a book. But she may have one of the most unusual vantage points an author can have: as co-director, sales and marketing for the books division at Johns Hopkins University Press and director of Hopkins Fulfillment Services, which distributes her novel's publisher, the University of New Orleans Press, she works with her publisher to sell and market its books, including her book. And she has the kind of access to sales of her book that many authors don't see for months--or longer.

"I can see orders and requests for review copies," Breier says, calling it a "terrifying" ability that requires her to be "really well behaved." That means when, for example, the publisher or publicists want to send something to reps about her book, "I wonder if I'm treating myself any differently than I would treat any other book from this publisher that I'm responsible for selling." Luckily the answer usually is no.

Above and beyond this unusual position, Breier calls the experience of publishing her first book "great" and the University of New Orleans Press "truly the perfect publisher to have worked with on this."

In 2017, Breier wrote much of the first draft of Sinkhole, which is set in central Florida in the town of Lorida, mostly in the 1980s, and is a fast-paced, engaging, dark, sometimes humorous coming of age novel that features three high school friends from very different backgrounds. (One of them is very wealthy and has a narcissistic, dangerous personality, while the narrator, Michelle, lives in a trailer, but a nicer trailer than the third friend.) There are lies, a death, many cultural touchstones, fractured relationships, explorations of class differences, and reconciliations that come only many years later.

After sending a rather rough manuscript to several literary agents, all of whom passed on the book, Breier did a lot more work and early in 2021 was ready to send it out again. At that point, the University of New Orleans Press coincidentally sent her information about its fall 2021 list, which included a psychological thriller, something that stood out on a university press list. It was also the way Breier had thought of Sinkhole from the beginning.

"I've known the press's managing editor for forever," she says, so she asked about the title and mentioned that she had written something in the same vein. Then she sent him what she calls "the worst pitch in the history of pitches," saying several times that the idea was a conflict of interest and a bad idea, and wondering if he could recommend another publisher. But he asked to see the manuscript. At that point, Breier didn't know that he had "a fascination with central Florida" and that the editor-in-chief had written a coming of age novel. Three weeks after submitting the manuscript, the press said it wanted to publish Sinkhole.

At that point, Breier worked with the developmental editor "who did an amazing job, a really thorough review." Among other things, the editor helped flesh out the secondary characters and often wondered what characters were thinking and encouraged Breier to have characters state more. "She asked me a lot of questions just to get me thinking," Breier says.

Another positive part of the process involved publicists pointing out that Sinkhole was not just a thriller. It could be considered a Florida book, a book about '80s culture, a coming-of-age story. (Breier delightedly notes that one review has also called it a "crossunder" book rather than a crossover title.)

Although Breier grew up in Florida and lived in several places in the state, she chose an area she wasn't familiar with as the setting for Sinkhole. "I wanted it to be set in a wild part of Florida that I remember from my youth, not the now paved-over area where I grew up." (She emphasizes that Florida and its wildlife get "a bad rap," with people thinking that "the animals are the ones doing bad things and when actually they're not doing anything--they just kind of get kind of caught up in people's drama." She remembers, for example, from time spent as a kid in the Everglades, that alligators "don't want to be bothered unless you're actually doing something to really irritate them.")

Lorida is in the center of the state, roughly midway between Miami and Orlando, with a mix of wealthy and poor areas, not built up, with many natural elements that fit Sinkhole. About a year into the project, Breier took a research trip to Lorida that helped in the ways she expected (she found a setting for a tree that's a critical part of the book, for instance) but also had several surprises. For one, she had thought Lorida was pronounced like Florida but without the "F." At the Sebring Historical Society, when she asked about Lorida, the woman responded, "Do you mean La-rita?" This alone, of course, made the whole trip worthwhile.

Also during the trip, she had a moment when, as she puts it, "Michael Connelly saved my life." Driving in a rental car, she was listening to the audio of The Late Show, Connelly's first Reneé Ballard book. The road noise was making it hard to hear the narration so she rolled up the car windows. Less than a minute later she noticed a group of vultures by the road, eating something. Suddenly one flew up, right into the driver's side window. "It was startling beyond belief," she says. "If I hadn't been listening to the audio and rolled up the window, it would have flown straight into my face."

Although she'd love to do a book tour, Covid has made that difficult. For now, Breier is focusing on online publicity (with the help of Kaye Publicity), with a vibrant website, videos and more that use her talents in graphics and design. Earlier she sent a letter to some 400 independent bookstores ("I got some really nice e-mails back saying things like, 'thanks, that was funny,' and appreciating that I'm not promoting Sinkhole on Amazon"). A longtime zine publisher, she's put out an entertaining zine called Backfill about the making of Sinkhole. She'll have a launch party on Thursday, May 26, at Atomic Books, Baltimore, Md., where she'll be in conversation with author and cartoonist Tim Kreider ("he's very funny and very kind and has a good dark sense of humor"). And on Thursday, June 2, she'll have an event at Park Books & LitCoLab, Severna Park, Md.

Breier admits to having been "terrified" about writing a book. "It seemed like the worst thing I could do would be to bring a bad book into the world," but eventually, she says, "You just reach an age where the fear of doing something is less than the fear of never having done that thing. I finally gave myself the space to be bad at it. I told myself, I could write a bad book and it would be okay. The world wouldn't end."

She aimed to give readers "a couple hours of escapism," although the book turned out to be "a little heavy for that." But most important, as a book person who loves to read, loves bookstores, and loves publishers, "I just want to give back what I've been given as a reader all these years." And happily she's done that. --John Mutter


IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at IndieBound.org, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:

Hardcover
The Caretakers: A Novel by Amanda Bestor-Siegal (Morrow, $27.99, 9780063138186). "This book took me completely by surprise as it wormed its way into my heart. An absolutely stunning portrayal of motherhood, wealth, and pretense told through the interconnected stories of the women in a small French neighborhood." --Courtney Ulrich Smith, Underbrush Books, Rogers, Ark.

A Thousand Ways to Pay Attention: A Memoir of Coming Home to My Neurodivergent Mind by Rebecca Schiller (The Experiment, $25.95, 9781615198801). "Rebecca Schiller's poignant insider view of life with ADHD will be a revelation to many, especially women. The definition of neurodivergence continues to expand, and A Thousand Ways to Pay Attention is a groundbreaking addition." --Pamela Klinger-Horn, Valley Bookseller, Stillwater, Minn.

Paperback
On Lighthouses by Jazmina Barrera, trans. by Christina MacSweeney (Two Lines Press, $12.95, 9781949641349). "On Lighthouses is a thoughtful meditation on isolation and connection, seeking out lonely lighthouses to dig deep into a solitary 'collecting' process. The book is not urgent, but possibly the thing needed to keep us from the rocks." --Helen Zuckerman, Community Bookstore, Brooklyn, N.Y.

For Ages 4 to 8
I Was Born a Baby by Meg Fleming, illus. by Brandon James Scott (HarperCollins, $17.99, 9780063157217). "What a delightful and fun book! I had a great time learning about all of the names we have for baby animals. This book is the perfect gift for a baby shower or an emerging reader." --Cassidy Ochs, Lark and Owl Booksellers, Georgetown, Tex.

For Ages 8 to 12
Solimar: The Sword of the Monarchs by Pam Muñoz Ryan (Disney-Hyperion, $17.99, 9781484728352). "Solimar is a compelling adventure story with a sweet cast of characters, including a quetzal and talking rag doll. Readers will love the monarch butterflies' unique magic, the worldbuilding, and the story's environmentalist themes." --Ellie Ray, Content Bookstore, Northfield, Minn.

For Teen Readers
And They Lived... by Steven Salvatore (Bloomsbury YA, $17.99, 9781547608195). "Salvatore captures those intense feelings from the first semester at college, especially for queer young adults. There's a sense that you can create the life you've dreamed of and find belonging. I loved relating to Chase's journey!" --Sara Wigglesworth, Green Apple Books & Music, San Francisco, Calif.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]


Book Review

Review: Inventing the It Girl: How Elinor Glyn Created the Modern Romance and Conquered Early Hollywood

Inventing the It Girl: How Elinor Glyn Created the Modern Romance and Conquered Early Hollywood by Hilary A. Hallett (Liveright, $32.50 hardcover, 464p., 9781631490699, July 26, 2022)

The writer Elinor Glyn (1864-1943) was extravagantly vain, unapologetically snobbish, flagrantly money-minded and of unremarkable literary talent. But Hilary A. Hallett's Inventing the It Girl: How Elinor Glyn Created the Modern Romance and Conquered Early Hollywood demonstrates that Glyn, having "done her part to let loose the genie of women's sexual liberation," is an undersung feminist trailblazer ripe for a biography.

Born on the island of Jersey, England, Glyn developed her passion for books in her stepfather's library and her taste for the finer things following a trip to Belle Époque Paris as a teenager. A middle-class child of the Victorian era, Glyn married up--she landed a proper English gentleman--and soon learned that, as she would write, "brains did not count" when one was the mistress of an estate. But her husband had a gambling problem and the family needed money, so Glyn sought what was then considered an unsuitable job for an upper-class woman: professional writer.

Glyn had success with her books, especially Three Weeks, her scandalously steamy and occasionally banned 1907 romance novel; in Hallett's assessment, the plot's implicit "glorification of a woman's right to pursue her heart's desire outside the bounds of matrimony proved too much of a blow to the era's genteel literary code to go unpunished." Given Glyn's crowd-pleasing notoriety, it's no wonder that Jesse Lasky, vice-president of production at Famous Players-Lasky Studio, invited her to Hollywood to write for the movies. In the film world as in the literary one, Glyn's calling card was her ability to give even the raciest stories an aristocratic gloss, which assured a prudish public that what they were viewing couldn't possibly be smut. As Hallett puts it, "High-class settings and costumes, refined manners, and a smoldering intensity could transmute steamy erotic play into acceptable behavior that permitted the expression of women's sexual pleasure."

Exhaustively researched and decked out with 50-odd photos and reproductions, Inventing the It Girl is rich with history--inevitable, given all that Glyn observed and lived through, including the erosion of Victorian social mores, World War I and Hollywood in its infancy. Hallett (Go West, Young Women!: The Rise of Early Hollywood) is utterly persuasive regarding the beneficent influence of Glyn, who popularized the term "it," meaning,as she explained, the "strange magnetism that attracts both sexes." Glyn herself may not have had it, but she had something well worth reading about. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

Shelf Talker: This tip-top biography of the British novelist turned early-Hollywood screenwriter salutes her for writing of women's sexual desire at a time when they weren't supposed to admit to feeling any.


Powered by: Xtenit