Shelf Awareness for Friday, December 9, 2022

Gallery Books: The Lion Women of Tehran by Marjan Kamali

Other Press (NY): Deliver Me by Malin Persson Giolito, translated by Rachel Willson-Broyles

Two Trees: Among Friends: An Illustrated Oral History of American Book Publishing and Bookselling in the 20th Century edited by Buz Teacher and Janet Bukovinsky Teacher

Atlantic Monthly Press: I Cheerfully Refuse by Leif Enger


Houston's CLASS Bookstore Hosts Grand Opening

CLASS Bookstore hosted its grand opening recently at 3805 Sampson St. in Houston, Tex. The Chronicle reported that the launch of the bricks-and-mortar location "strengthens a growing roster of choices for Black book lovers in Houston."

"You hear about food deserts, and everybody has to eat to survive. Well in the 21st century, you need literacy to survive... so we wanted to be a part of uplifting that," said David Landry, co-owner of the bookstore with his wife, Dara. 

The Landrys started CLASS Bookstore as an online and pop-up venture in 2020, "but the role of books in their relationship dates back to the day they first met in 2008," the Chronicle wrote. "Dara and her friend had read that bookstores were a great place to meet men, so they took a trip to the now-defunct Borders Bookstore at the Galleria, where she struck up a conversation with a handsome young employee about how creepy the 'Elf on the Shelf' book was. They were married six years later, and are now the proud owners of a little brown Elf on the Shelf."

During their subsequent travels, they had three destinations in mind for every city they visited: "Find where the Black people are at, find the Black-owned bookstores and find a good Jamaican food spot," David Landry said. 

In Los Angeles, they met the longtime owners of Eso Won, who "really lit a fire" under the couple and advised them about how to go about setting up a business of their own, Dara Landry recalled. Upon their return, they took classes with the Emancipation Economic Development Council and registered with the American Booksellers Association. In addition to their website, they appeared at pop-ups across the Houston area.

Besides books, CLASS Bookstore incorporates elements of streetwear culture into their offerings, including CLASS shirts that read "Revolutionary but Gangsta." Paintings of Tupac Shakur and Air Jordans decorate the interior of their bricks-and-mortar location, which they have coined "The Residency," with a chalkboard on one wall where shoppers can scribble messages, the Chronicle noted.

"The Residency" is open Saturdays and Sundays while the Landrys continue to work other jobs. They hope to expand their hours and perhaps devote themselves to CLASS full-time as the business grows. "We're only just beginning. We're excited about being a part of the fabric of this city," Dara Landry said. "We're homegrown and home raised... and we've got more coming."

Neal Porter Books: Angela's Glacier by Jordan Scott, illustrated by Diana Sudyka

Soft Opening for East End Books Boston Seaport Set for This Weekend

East End Books Boston Seaport will have its soft opening tomorrow, December 10, at 300 Pier 4 Blvd., Unit 4 in Boston, Mass. East End Books Ptown in Provincetown had revealed plans for its second location last summer when it hosted a pop-up book event in the Seaport neighborhood space. Owner Jeff Peters said at the time that he hoped to have the new store open for the holiday season.

"It's been a journey, but we're finally almost there!" East End Books noted in an e-mail promoting this weekend's plans. "We're thrilled to announce a soft opening of our new Boston Bookstore Saturday 12/10 at 11am! Huge thanks to our friend Kristin Canty, owner of Woods Hill Pier 4 Restaurant for making the bookstore opening possible!... We'll be open for the holidays and then close briefly to complete the build-out."

Today East End Books Boston Seaport is hosting a special book event and reception, featuring Jenny Slate (Little Weirds) in conversation with Julia Glass (Vigil Harbor) and Ben Shattuck (Six Walks: In the Footsteps of Henry David Thoreau).
The bookstore plans to reopen next year in time for an event on March 11, featuring Coinneach MacLeod and his new book The Hebridean Baker: My Scottish Island Kitchen.

GLOW: Avid Reader Press: The Ministry of Time by Kaliane Bradley

International Update: Bedford Square Publishers Launches in U.K.; Torsten Casimir Joins Frankfurt Book Fair Team

Jamie Hodder-Williams

Former Hodder & Stoughton CEO Jamie Hodder-Williams has launched Bedford Square Publishers with ex-John Murray sales strategy director Laura Fletcher. The Bookseller reported that they "will focus on reading group fiction, crime fiction, smart-thinking books and wellness and will aim to publish 30 titles in their first full year." Senior editorial roles will be announced shortly.

Bedford Square Publishers has also acquired specialist crime publisher No Exit Press, which was built up over 30 years by Ion Mills, who will continue to work alongside Bedford Square Publishers, and on his own business, Oldcastle Books. 

Hodder-Williams, who left Hodder & Stoughton in spring 2022, said, "It's great to have the chance to work in an agile new company and I'm thrilled to be taking on the award-winning No Exit Press. Helping authors reach their readers will lie at the heart of everything we do. There's plenty of scope for finding original voices and experimenting, as well as taking some lessons from the very best. We plan to offer authors an adaptable publishing model--and hopefully a different publishing experience." 

Fletcher added: "The ways in which publishers can reach readers and create authentic reading communities is evolving rapidly and I'm excited to be in a position where we can explore that fully. I also believe that people want to connect with authors and the rich worlds they create beyond the words. Our new venture will be focused on delivering the best experience we can for our readers."


Torsten Casimir

Effective January 15, Torsten Casimir will be spokesperson for the Frankfurt Book Fair, heading the communications department and acting as a deputy to fair director Juergen Boos. He replaces Kathrin Grün, who has left the book fair after 13 years to become spokesperson for the new Museum Reinhard Ernst in Wiesbaden.

Since 2006, Casimir has been editor-in-chief of Börsenblatt, the German book trade magazine that is published by the Börsenverein, the German book industry association, and MVB. The book fair and MVB are subsidiaries of the Börsenverein.

MVB managing director Ronald Schild said of Casimir, "Under his aegis, Börsenblatt has expanded its role as a leading industry magazine and also transferred it to digital. I would like to sincerely thank Torsten for his great commitment and successful work. I very much regret that he is leaving us, but can understand his decision to take on a new challenge."

Boos commented: "I am really glad to have persuaded Torsten Casimir to join the team in this new role and to know that he will be at my side as a discussion partner in the coming years. With his network and his openness to new paths, together we will strengthen Frankfurter Buchmesse and make it fit for the future. We are sharpening our profile as the forum where the key, relevant debates of our time converge and where the brightest, most creative minds in publishing meet."

Boos also thanked Grün for her "great work and trusting cooperation over the past years. With her expertise, her extraordinary commitment and her large international network, she has made a decisive contribution to the success of Frankfurter Buchmesse."


The Swedish Booksellers Association is offering members a grant to attend the first RISE Bookselling Conference, which will take place March 19-20, 2023, in Prague, Czech Republic. The European & International Booksellers Federation's Newsflash reported that "five selected members of the Swedish Booksellers Association will receive an amount of SEK 3,000 [about $290], which is set to help cover their travel and accommodation costs." 

 "At this conference, there are opportunities to be inspired and learn from what others are doing and to network. I believe that those who participate will take home many concrete ideas that they can use in their own business," said Svenska Bokhandlareföreningen chair Maria Hamrefors.


From the dept. of bookselling choreography: British bookseller Bert's Books in Swindon called this video, posted on Instagram, "another day of books," but it's much more than that. --Robert Gray

Soho Crime: Ash Dark as Night (A Harry Ingram Mystery) by Gary Phillips

Birch Tree Bookstore Finds New Home in Leesburg, Va.

Birch Tree Bookstore held a ribbon cutting and grand opening celebration November 26 in its new standalone space at 11 West Market Street in Leesburg, Va. Owner Leah Fallon and her team moved into the new storefront on November 18 and celebrated with the community on Indies First/Small Business Saturday.

"We found our home," said Fallon. "I really wanted to make a space for the community and a unique space with ways to bring all kinds of people here and make them feel at home when they walk in."

The general-interest bookstore sells new titles for all ages along with wooden toys, puzzles and games, and shares its new space with the plant store EcoAmi Plants.

Birch Tree Bookstore made its debut as a pop-up shop in 2021, and immediately prior to moving to the new location shared a space with the cafe Cowbell Kitchen.

In an Instagram post announcing the move, Fallon said she and her team were grateful "for the support of our incredible community and the growth we've experienced" in that space.


'The 12 Days of Bookselling (During the Holiday Season)'

Savoy Bookshop & Café, Westerly, R.I., shared its own version of a holiday classic, "The 12 Days of Bookselling (during the holiday season)":

12 (thousand) boxes 
11 chocolate chip cookies 
10 miles of packing material 
9 puzzle boxes 
8 bags of beans 
7 Colleen Hoovers 
6 bookstore ballcaps 
5 gold rings 
4 festive crayons 
3 fairy doors 
2 rolling ladders 
1 cup of coffee 

Cool Idea of the Day: Holiday Mystery Book Exchange

Under the Umbrella bookstore, Salt Lake City, Utah, is featuring a Holiday Mystery Book Exchange. "It's like the book lover's version of Secret Santa," the bookseller explained. "Buy a book of your choice, wrap it (or let us wrap it), write a brief cryptic review, and leave it under the tree. In exchange you can take a book from under the tree or pass it on by leaving a 'book ticket' on the tree!"

Bookseller Moment: M. Judson Booksellers

M. Judson Booksellers, Greenville, S.C., shared a photo offering an outside perspective, noting: "We like to think this place is special any time of day, but it's particularly magical at night. Add the twinkling lights of the tree, a chill in the air, and where else would you possibly want to be? ⁠

"We only have a handful of shopping parties left this season, why not gather your friends for an after-hours evening of shopping and merrymaking? Camilla Kitchen will be there for snacks and sips, our staff will be on hand to help you finish your list, and we can wrap everything beautifully. ⁠It's a party, a shopping trip, and a special memory all in one."

Media and Movies

Book to Stage to Screen: Wicked

Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Crazy Rich Asians) has joined the cast of the upcoming two-part film version of the hit Broadway musical Wicked, which was adapted from Gregory Maguire's 1995 novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, Playbill reported. She will play Madame Morrible, the headmistress of Crage Hall at Shiz University.

Jeff Goldblum has also been confirmed to star as the Wizard of Oz in the film, which is headlined by Ariana Grande as Glinda and Cynthia Erivo as Elphaba, with Jonathan Bailey as Fiyero and Ethan Slater as Boq.

Wicked will include new songs by Stephen Schwartz, with book writer Winnie Holzman penning the screenplay and Paul Tazewell designing the costumes. The Universal Pictures films are set for release on Christmas in 2024 and 2025.

TV: Under the Bridge

Emmy winner Archie Panjabi (The Good Wife) will be a lead, along with Vritika Gupta (American Halloween), Javon "Wanna" Walton (Euphoria) and Aiyana Goodfellow (Small Axe) in Under the Bridge, Hulu's limited series based on Rebecca Godfrey's 1997 book, Deadline reported. They join previously announced series star Riley Keough as well as fellow series regulars Izzy G, Chloe Guidry and Ezra Faroque Khan in the series from ABC Signature.

The project is executive produced by Samir Mehta and Liz Tigelaar, who will also serve as showrunners. Keough will executive produce with Gina Gammell via their production company, Felix Culpa. Quinn Shephard is adapting the book and executive producing. Godfrey, who died last month at 54, was an executive producer on the series and will be getting the credit posthumously. 

Books & Authors

Awards: An Post Irish Book Winners

Sally Hayden won the 2022 An Post Irish Book of the Year for My Fourth Time, We Drowned. Her book, which had previously been named Odger's Berndtson Non-Fiction Book of the Year at the recent An Post Irish Book Awards, was among six category winners competing for the overall prize. The book was published in the U.S. by Melville House.

Chair of the judging panel Maria Dickenson said: "My Fourth Time, We Drowned is a moving, compelling and vitally important book. Sally Hayden is an outstanding Irish journalist who has taken her place on the global stage with her incisive journalism, and she has written a book that is as ground-breaking as it is humane. In it, she gives a powerful voice to vulnerable refugees, and holds the highest offices accountable for their plight. The judging panel was unanimous in its praise for My Fourth Time, We Drowned, and is very proud to recognize it as the An Post Irish Book of the Year."

Reading with... Denise Crittendon

photo: William Townley

Journalist Denise Crittendon has been a newspaper reporter, magazine editor, motivational speaker, ghostwriter and adjunct community college professor. As author of two self-help books for teens, the Detroit native relishes the peace and inspiration of long walks through tree-lined parks and woods, where she says her imagination is unleashed. Where It Rains in Color (Angry Robot, December 6, 2022), an Afrofuturistic sci-fi/fantasy, is her debut novel. 

Handsell readers your book in 25 words or less:

She's the shimmering Black beauty of Swazembi. Until scars and phantom voices surface, leaving her with powers that shift her destiny and shock the galaxy.

On your nightstand now:

The Deep by sci-fi author Rivers Solomon. Considering the controversy about a Black actress starring in Disney's The Little Mermaid, this novel is pretty timely. Solomon tends to write passionate speculative fiction that incorporates the transatlantic slave trade. In The Deep, she offers an inventive twist on what happened to Africans who either jumped from ships during the Middle Passage or were thrown overboard due to illness.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Shy Stegosaurus of Cricket Creek. I have no idea why this story intrigued me so much, but I just loved it. I can still picture myself curled up in my favorite hiding place in the corner of the family dining room, completely lost in this library book.

Your top five authors:

Octavia Butler--I'm amazed by her extraordinary vision and fascinating usage of the natural world for organic technology. In her Lilith's Brood series (Dawn, Adulthood Rites and Imago), the space vessel is an actual living being. Also, the aliens in this world can place sleeping humans inside biologically altered carnivorous plants, thereby prolonging their lives for centuries. 

Toni Morrison--No one reflects on the hard road of African Americans quite like Morrison. She weaves it into pure magic.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie--Her insights and metaphors captivate me. Plus, I love delving into African culture, politics, history and lifestyles.

Isabel Allende--I have a great appreciation for magical realism and really enjoy her epic stories that often span several generations in one novel.

Ursula Le Guin--Whenever I read Le Guin, I feel like I'm looking through the eyes of a caring anthropologist. Her tales are engaging and thought-provoking. Earthsea will always be one of my favorite series.

Book you've faked reading:

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway. In fact, anything by Hemingway. Sorry, I'm not a fan.

Book you're an evangelist for:

Dawn by Octavia Butler. When I finished reading it, I sat on my sofa and quietly stared for at least 15 minutes. That's just how real it felt. I'm always encouraging people to read Dawn, because it's shocking yet believable and shows just how visionary sci-fi can be.

Book you've bought for the cover:

I have never bought a book because of a cover. I'm more drawn in by creative titles. A few that come to mind are: An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon; Afro Puffs Are the Antennae of the Universe by Zig Zag Claybourne; The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams; The Diver's Clothes Lie Empty by Vendela Vida. With titles like this, I automatically assume the book is going to be profound or outrageously clever.

Book you hid from your parents:

I have never read anything so risqué that I had to hide it from my parents. My reading list has always been fairly lofty. In fact, my mother once asked me why I read such ponderous books. I think she might have appreciated it if I had lightened up a bit.

Book that changed your life:

I read across genres and have always been attracted to books on metaphysics and New Age spirituality. It's tough pinpointing which ones impacted me most, but I think I'd have to go with Spiritual Growth by Sanaya Roman. I read it so many times that most of the principles are now a natural part of how I think, cope with challenges and approach life in general.

Favorite line from a book:

I've fallen in love with countless book passages, quotes and metaphors. My absolute favorite is a wise and eloquent statement by Paul Atrieides, the young prodigy in Frank Herbert's Dune. However, the quote is far too long to include. So, I'll go with an excerpt from another classic passage from Dune: "Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear."

Five books you'll never part with:

None! LOL. I recently moved across the country and could take only what would fit in my car and my cousin's van. I was fine with getting rid of stuff--until it came to my books. That was so hard. One thing's for sure: I'll never give up my Toni Morrison collection; Wild Seed by Octavia Butler; The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery; A Course in Miracles by Helen Schucman; or The Secret Life of Plants by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird, who explore the emotions and telepathic ability of plants.

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

Sula by Toni Morrison. Here's why: one afternoon, I needed to go to the mall to buy a purse. Before leaving, I grabbed a bite to eat and began reading for what I thought would be 20 minutes. One minute led into another and another and, when I looked up, the sun was going down. I had forgotten all about my errand. The book was so riveting that I actually finished it that night. That's definitely an experience I'd like to repeat. Ditto for One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. It's a pretty thick book, but I remember looking forward to getting off work each day just so I could get back to it. When it ended, I was rather disappointed, because I wanted to read more.

Book Review

Review: Lives of the Wives: Five Literary Marriages

Lives of the Wives: Five Literary Marriages by Carmela Ciuraru (Harper, $32 hardcover, 336p., 9780062356918, February 7, 2023)

Even a generally rosy marriage has its thorns; "Toss in male privilege, ruthless ambition, narcissism, misogyny, infidelity, alcoholism, and a mood disorder or two," writes Carmela Ciuraru in Lives of the Wives: Five Literary Marriages, "and it's easy to understand why the marriages of so many famous writers have been stormy, short-lived, and mutually destructive." Lives of the Wives offers scintillating, no-prisoners-taking portraits of five such marriages. Collectively, these profiles may inspire readers to turn to their honeys to say, "Thanks for being you."

Ciuraru (Nom de Plume: A (Secret) History of Pseudonyms) includes among her subjects--all of whom reached adulthood in the early to mid-20th century--the same-sex partners Radclyffe Hall, a writer, and Una Troubridge, a sculptor and translator. Hall and Troubridge are unusual among the featured couples in that they were still (basically) together at the time of one partner's death. Being gay didn't stop them from following a sexist script: the masculine half (Hall went by the name John and dressed in men's suits) left domestic matters to the other partner--to the detriment of Troubridge's career.

The Italian novelists Elsa Morante and Alberto Moravia may have never legally divorced, but their respective successes corresponded with the erosion of their marriage. Writer Elaine Dundy and critic Kenneth Tynan were another pair of incompatible writers, but, to readers' certain relief, they do ultimately divorce following years of physical, drunken and clothing-optional fights and a stratospheric level of sacrifice from Dundy in effort to support her husband's aspirations.

Novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard also doted on a writer spouse--hers was Kingsley Amis--and eventually came to the realization that "by serving as a model wife, she had not only put herself at a crippling disadvantage as a writer, but lost the interest of her husband." Rounding out the trio of overdependent men is children's literature's Roald Dahl. His view of his movie star wife Patricia Neal's artistic hunger is appalling--"I wish I could feed her some magic pills that would rid her of this fierce driving ambition that all actresses seem to have," Dahl groused in a letter--but his attitude was hardly out of alignment with his time.

Part cautionary tale and occasional horror show, Lives of the Wives is fundamentally a shimmering love story--that is, a story of love for the creative life, if not always for the person doing the creating. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

Shelf Talker: Carmela Ciuraru offers scintillating, no-prisoners-taking portraits of five marriages in which at least one partner was a well-known writer.

Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: RIP Tom  Phillips--'Every Book, However Unpromising, Will Turn Out to Have Its Day'

Imagine an artist's book that is also a reader's book. A Humument lures its readers into an intoxicating world of color and form, wit and intellect, love and lust. The art delights. The words intrigue. The combination astonishes.

Tom Phillips

These were the opening lines of a 2004 piece I wrote for Tin House magazine's "Lost & Found" series, condensed from my graduate lecture at Bennington College in 2003. The art of Tom Phillips, especially A Humument: A Treated Victorian Novel, had had an immediate and profound impact on me that has only grown deeper with time. 

Phillips died November 28. He was 85. A Guardian obit in the art section, some social media posts, and a couple of art magazine notices appeared. His passing has otherwise seemed oddly unremarked upon, though his publisher, Thames & Hudson, tweeted: "We are saddened to learn of the passing of Tom Phillips. Our team had the pleasure of being involved with the 50th anniversary edition of his A Humument, a 'defining masterpiece of postmodernism.' He will be dearly missed by all those who knew him." 

If ever there was a bookish artist, it was Tom Phillips. I'd originally "discovered" his work through a turn-of-the-century obsession with the painter R.B. Kitaj, another artist whose love of language infused his creations. 

There's a story there, of course. In his notes on the final edition of A Humument (2016), Phillips recalls the humble genesis of one of his signature projects: "A Humument began life around noon on 5 November 1966 at a propitious place. Austin's Furniture Repository stood on Peckham Rye, where William Blake saw his first angels and which Van Gogh must have passed once or twice on his way to Lewisham.

"As usual on a Saturday morning, R.B. Kitaj and I prowled the huge warehouse in search of bargains. Arriving at the racks of dusty books left over from house clearances, I boasted that the first one I found that cost threepence I would make serve a serious long-term project. I soon chanced on a yellow book with the tempting title A Human Document. Looking inside we saw the fateful price. 'If it's a dime,' said Ron, 'that's your book: and I'm your witness.' "

Over the next five decades, Phillips continued to acquire copies of W.H. Mallock's 19th-century novel and "treat" its pages with his art, leaving selected words from the original text exposed to craft an illustrated, "dispersed narrative" (as he described it) in verse, "with more than one possible order." The new tale was of a man named Bill Toge, who wallows hopelessly in love and lust for Irma, the ever-elusive woman of his dreams. Irma reprises her role from the original novel, though the story spins away in many directions over subsequent editions. 

During this process, Phillips became Mallock's consummate and all-consuming reader, merging the contemporary with the Victorian. Even his title, A Humument, is a treatment of A Human Document. Every page has been treated numerous times and six editions published. As page 7 of the final edition tells us: "scribe the once or twice story/ scribe the story reveal a sister story/ a veil thrown over a veil as changes made the book continue/ see now the arts connect."

"I have so far extracted from this book well over a thousand segments of poetry and prose and have yet to find a situation, a sentiment or thought which his words cannot be adapted to cover," Phillips wrote. "That Mallock and I were destined to collaborate across a century became quite clear when I tested other fictions and discovered nothing to equal him in the provocation of fresh conflations and conjunctions of word and phrase." 

To focus only on A Humument, however, is to do Phillips an injustice as an artist. You can happily find his works online, and it is a rabbit hole worth falling down. On the other hand, he was a man of letters, reading English Literature and Anglo Saxon at St Catherine's College, Oxford. As recently as 2017, he was named to the panel of judges for the Man Booker Prize, with the Guardian describing him as "a polymath" who had painted Iris Murdoch and collaborated with filmmaker Peter Greenway on a TV series based on Dante's Inferno. A love for words and literature infuses his art ("After Henry James," "Curriculum Vitae," "Samuel Beckett"). 

Phillips once observed that he loved "the smell of a library and the feel of books. Most of all I love the serendipity and the aleatory quirks of browsing.... Every book, however unpromising, will turn out to have its day." I like to imagine someone, a century from now, sifting through a tumbled pile of dusty books in a back alley shop and coming upon a battered copy of A Humument.

He finally tracked down Mallock's grave in 1990, and that treated image concludes the final edition, along with these words: "dedication--/ TO THE SOLE AND ONLY BEGETTER OF THIS VOLUME/ by whose bones my bones my best, perpetuate/ your grave in mine fused/ page for page/ THE END."

--Robert Gray, contributing editor

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