Shelf Awareness for Friday, June 16, 2023


Crown Publishing Group (NY): Here One Moment Liane Moriarty

Minotaur Books: Betrayal at Blackthorn Park: A Mystery (Evelyne Redfern #2) by Julia Kelly

Tor Books: Blood of the Old Kings by Sung-Il Kim, Translated by Anton Hur

Del Rey Books: The Book of Elsewhere by Keeanu Reeves and China Miéville

St. Martin's Press: You'll Never Believe Me: A Life of Lies, Second Tries, and Other Stuff I Should Only Tell My Therapist by St. Martin's Press

Watkins Publishing: A Feminist's Guide to ADHD: How Women Can Thrive and Find Focus in a World Built for Men by Janina Maschke

Quotation of the Day

'The Great Thing About Books When They Go into Curriculum Is They Get Discussed'

"Parents who want to protect their children, by not making them feel guilty because great grandpa was a Klansman aren't protecting their kids from anything. In fact, the great thing about books when they go into curriculum is they get discussed. I don't care what they teach, if they want us to teach The Turner Diaries, Mein Kampf, it's okay, much better that it be taught in a school context, where you can actually understand what it's telling you, what's manipulating you into believing, is much better than finding it on dad's shelf and going, 'Oh I see, there's a race war we have to fight.'

"It's better to have these things in context. This is not to say schools shouldn't have any supervision from their parents. If anything, we should have more participation from their parents in what they were studying in school. But we have to allow the schools to determine that primarily....  We have people trained to try to make exactly that happen, and one should allow them to do that." 

--Art Spiegelman, in a q&a with PEN America as a third Missouri school district debates banning Maus

G.P. Putnam's Sons: Shame on You: How to Be a Woman in the Age of Mortification by Melissa Petro


News

Bookstore Sales Slip 0.9% in April

In April, bookstore sales slipped 0.9%, to $580 million, compared to April 2022, according to preliminary Census Bureau estimates, the first down month for bookstore sales this year after double-digit increases in January, February, and March. By comparison to pre-pandemic times, bookstore sales in April were off 9.2% from April 2019. For the first third of the year, bookstore sales are still up 8.9%, to $2.65 billion, compared to the first four months of 2022.

Total retail sales in April slipped 0.3%, to $677.5 billion, compared to April 2022. For the year to date, total retail sales have climbed 3.7%, to 2,520 billion, compared to the first four months of 2022.

Note: under Census Bureau definitions, the bookstore category consists of "establishments primarily engaged in retailing new books." The Bureau also added this unusual caution concerning the effect of Covid-19: "The Census Bureau continues to monitor response and data quality and has determined that estimates in this release meet publication standards."


Harpervia: The Alaska Sanders Affair by Joël Dicker, Translated by Robert Bononno


Chris Murphy Leaving Hachette

Chris Murphy

Chris Murphy, senior v-p, director of retail sales, at Hachette Book Group, is taking advantage of the company's voluntary resignation benefits program. His last day will be June 30.

He has worked at Hachette and its predecessor companies for 24 years in two stints. He began at Warner Books in 1989 as a juvenile marketing manager. He became a sales liaison under Time Warner for Disney Publishing in 1991 and left to be director of sales at Hyperion until 2001. He then joined Scholastic during Harry Potter mania, but left in 2004 to become v-p of sales at Hachette.

In his current role, Murphy is responsible for a range of accounts, including Barnes & Noble, the warehouse clubs, mass merch accounts, and Ingram and Baker & Taylor. He oversees the library and academic marketing team, the Christian bookselling team, the field sales and account marketing teams, and author brands.

In a memo to staff, Alison Lazarus, executive v-p, group sales director, at Hachette, wrote in part, "Even with such a large area of focus, Chris always has time for questions from anyone who seeks him out, within sales or outside of it. He is respected and beloved as a manager and is always thinking about what is best for the company, our authors, and his staff. He somehow manages to maintain a sense of humor, even on the most challenging days and with the most challenging accounts. Chris will pitch in or take on a project no matter what else is on his plate. And as a colleague, I can always count on him for his (unvarnished) honesty and 100% commitment. In his 35-plus year career, Chris travelled the world meeting with accounts, many of whom consider him a friend.

"Chris has been a great partner to me during my four-plus years and I will miss his input, dedication and assistance on just about everything and I know I won't be alone in that."

After June 30, Murphy may be reached at cmurf16@gmail.com.


Grand Opening Set for Liberation Station, Raleigh, N.C.

Victoria Scott-Miller

Liberation Station, a Black-owned children's bookstore that made its debut as a pop-up and online store four years ago, will have a grand opening for its bricks-and-mortar location in downtown Raleigh, N.C., this weekend, CBS17 reported.

The grand opening festivities at 208 Fayetteville St. will begin at 11 a.m., tomorrow, Saturday, the same day as the city's official Juneteenth celebration. Store owner Victoria Scott-Miller told CBS it was important for her to open the weekend of Juneteenth, as it will "give us an opportunity to remember. Not only to remember but to also think about how to pass the torch forward."

Scott-Miller was inspired to open a children's bookstore specializing in diverse authors and stories after having difficulty finding children's books for her sons that featured characters of color.

"We need more bookstores," she said. "We need more writers. We need more illustrators. We need more creators."


Obituary Note: Julie Garwood

Julie Garwood
(photo: Charles Bush)

Julia Elizabeth Garwood, known in the publishing industry as bestselling author Julie Garwood, died June 8. She was 78. Garwood wrote more than 30 novels; more than 40 million copies of her books are in print in 32 languages. She began her career writing historical romances before adding contemporary romantic suspense novels to her repertoire. She was working on her 36th novel for adults at the time of her death.

During her career, Garwood received numerous honors, including three RITA Awards from the Romance Writers of America, three Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Awards, and two Romantic Times Career Achievement Awards.

Garwood studied history and nursing in college. Her interest in writing and enthusiasm for history led her to write a YA book, A Girl Named Summer, and her first historical novel, Gentle Warrior (1985). Her novel For the Roses (1995) was adapted into a Hallmark Hall of Fame production, Rose Hill, which starred Jennifer Garner, Vera Farmiga, and Justin Chambers. In 2000, Garwood turned to writing contemporary romantic suspense novels, beginning with Heartbreaker.

Her other titles include The Prize, Honor's Splendour, Saving Grace, and Prince Charming, as well as the Crown's Spies, Lairds' Brides, Highlands' Lairds, Claybornes of Rose Hill, and Buchanan-Renard-MacKenna series.

"I want my readers to laugh and cry and fall in love," Garwood once said. "Basically, I want them to escape into another world for a little while and afterwards to feel as though they've been on a great adventure."


Simon & Schuster Sale Update: HarperCollins, KKR Bidders

HarperCollins and private equity fund KKR & Co. are "among the bidders" for Simon & Schuster, according to the Wall Street Journal, which cited "people familiar with the situation." Hachette, which had expressed interest in S&S in the past and whose parent company Lagardère is being bought by Vivendi, has not submitted a bid.

"Second round bids for Simon & Schuster are due in mid-July," the Journal continued, and the sale should be concluded by the end of the summer.

S&S owner Paramount Global had initially agreed in 2020 to sell S&S to Penguin Random House for $2.2 billion, but the Justice Department objected to that deal and sued, a case that PRH lost last October. The deal was ended the next month. The judge in the case had indicated that the factors leading to the ruling against a PRH-S&S deal might not apply to other publishers and that it was possible for another house to purchase S&S.

The Journal noted that KKR, which owns companies in a range of industries "has been an active investor in media properties and its portfolio includes investments in companies such as production company Skydance Media, Epic Games, publishing giant Axel Springer and talent-and-entertainment conglomerate Endeavor."


Notes

Image of the Day: David Grann at Book Passage

Book Passage, Corte Madera, Calif., hosted an event with author David Grann (standing, center) to celebrate his new book, The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder (Doubleday).


Bookshop Marriage Proposal: Powell's Books

"Congratulations to Stephanie and Aliya on your engagement!" Powell's Books, Portland, Ore., posted on Instagram. " 'I just couldn't imagine proposing anywhere else,' said Stephanie. 'The city of Portland has seen our relationship grow from a quick message on a dating app to a life long commitment. Meeting during an global pandemic feels like a love story, so it only felt right to be surrounded by queer stories when I asked her to marry me.' We're delighted and honored that your story is now forever part of the LGBTQ+ section at Powell's. Thank you for sharing this chapter with us!"


Reese's June Book Club Pick: Cassandra in Reverse

The June pick of Reese's Book Club is Cassandra in Reverse (Mira) by Holly Smale, the author's adult debut. Reese Witherspoon wrote, "This super charming and witty novel is about main character Cassie who is stuck in a time loop and trying to fix the 3rd worst day of her life. You may THINK you know what's going on... but keep reading!! If you could go back in time, what would you change?!"



Media and Movies

Media Heat: Lane Moore on Good Morning America

Tomorrow:
Good Morning America: Lane Moore, author of You Will Find Your People: How to Make Meaningful Friendships as an Adult (Abrams, $24.99, 9781419762567).


Movies: Shortcomings

Sony Pictures Classics has released a trailer for Shortcomings, based on the 2007 graphic novel by Adrian Tomine, who also wrote the screenplay. IndieWire reported that the film will be directed by Randall Park (star of Fresh Off the Boat, Always Be My Maybe). The cast includes Justin H. Min, Sherry Cola, Ally Maki, Debby Ryan, Tavi Gevinson, Sonoya Mizuno, Jacob Batalon, and Timothy Simons. It premieres August 4 in theaters. 

The movie debuted at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, where Park told IndieWire: "I first fell in love with [the book] when it came out back in 2007. And I always wanted to see it as a movie. I was around the same age as Ben. And I was like, 'Gosh, I'd love to play Ben. That would be so cool.' But that was never going to be made into a movie at that time especially. Just over the years, I just kept thinking about that book and then found out that Adrian had written a script and they were looking for directors. I made a pitch because I was so passionate about the material and I had been thinking about it as a movie for so long that I came up with this elaborate pitch and joined the project and brought my production company along. It just felt like it all came together magically, a lot of serendipity."


Books & Authors

Awards: PEN/Malamud; Four Quartets; Schaffner Winners

Edwidge Danticat won the 2023 PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story, which recognizes writers "who have demonstrated exceptional achievement in the short story form." She will be honored December 1 at the annual PEN/Malamud Award Ceremony, held in partnership with American University.

"Edwidge Danticat is a once-in-a-generation kind of writer, one who changes the landscape of fiction by crafting stories that exalt human experience into the realm of the mythic," said Dolen Perkins-Valdez, PEN/Malamud Award committee chair. "It's impossible to read Danticat's exquisitely crafted stories and not walk away transformed. Lili. Lamort. Princesse. Elsie. Anika. They will not be forgotten! Danticat's stories are a gift to us all."

Danticat is the author of several books, including Breath, Eyes, Memory; The Farming of Bones; and The Dew Breaker, a 2005 PEN/Faulkner finalist. She is also the editor of The Butterfly's Way: Voices from the Haitian Dyaspora in the United States; The Beacon Best of 2000; and Haiti Noir, Haiti Noir 2. She has written seven books for young adults and children, as well as a travel narrative, After the Dance, and a collection of essays, Create Dangerously. Her most recent book, Everything Inside: Stories, was a 2020 winner of the Story Prize and the National Books Critics Circle Fiction Prize. She is also the author of an earlier collection of stories, Krik? Krak!.

Danticat said: "I am deeply honored to receive the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in the Short Story, named for such a virtuoso of the craft. In its conciseness and immediacy, the short story offers a unique way of addressing the complex emotions and realities that consume and haunt me and bring me joy. Many of my short stories pay homage to the oral tradition I was steeped in as a child in Haiti and as an immigrant in the United States. The short story has also been a unique space for me to experiment, explore, and grow as a storyteller, which makes this award even more gratifying."

---

Concentrate by Courtney Faye Taylor (Graywolf Press) has won the 2023 Four Quartets Prize, sponsored by the T.S. Eliot Foundation and the Poetry Society of America and awarded to "a unified and complete sequence of poems" published in the U.S.

Finalists were "The Sickness & the World Soul" by Brenda Hillman, from her collection In a Few Minutes Before Later (Wesleyan University Press), and Madness by Gabriel Ojeda-Sagué (Nightboat).

Taylor receives $21,000, and the two finalists receive $1,000.

Judges called Concentrate "not only an elegy to Latasha Harlins, it is a lyrical study of Black womanhood. From the opening line: 'So far, my sentence as a Black woman has been hard to hone, homed in sore white pith,' we are presented with a statement of poetics as well as a vision of existential struggle. Latasha Harlins is more than a ghost here, she is a sister, muse, and doppelganger to the poet. The traditional first-person voice of a debut collection recedes as Taylor allows striking textual and visual experimentation to express and implicate. In many ways, this imaginative debut presents a lyrical documentary-style poetics, where the poet is detective and witness, poems as an accumulating series of lyric takes. Concentrate becomes both archivist's field guide and an artist's scrapbook; it becomes a bricolage of poetic invention remixing Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts's Harlem Is Nowhere and Theresa Hak Kyung Cha's Dictee. Courtney Faye Taylor's formal innovations would make this a groundbreaking debut whatever the subject. At the same time, the poet and Harlins feel mutually present in superb narrative poems and in striking mixed-media portraits of Black women. Taylor's ingenuity is anchored in empathy. Saidiya Hartman said, 'Care is the antidote to violence.' Concentrate is a work of brilliant rigorous care. It is one of the most daringly crafted and emotionally urgent books to emerge in recent years."

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Dianne Dugaw has won the 2023 Nicholas Schaffner Award for Music in Literature, which Schaffner Press will publish in 2024. The award, which goes to "a work of fiction, nonfiction or poetry that deals in some way with the subject of music (of any genre and period) and its influence," honors Nicholas Schaffner, a poet, musician, biographer, and music critic, and brother of Schaffner Press publisher Timothy Schaffner.

Publisher Tim Schaffner said, "In this beautifully written memoir, Dugaw draws the reader into the unseen yet vibrant world of a convent and her early years as a novice nun, set against the backdrop of mid-'60s San Francisco. With a finely tuned ear for both language and music from her own classical training, she arrives with a banjo to sing hymns at a prison work camp, and plays pop tunes like 'Hang on Sloopy' on the church organ."

Dugaw is professor of English and folklore at the University of Oregon in Eugene. The author of many scholarly works, this is her first non-academic book. In addition, she has recorded two CDs and is an expert on the art of the ballad.

This year's runners-up are A Deeper and Steeper Slope & Slant, a story collection by John Tait, and What Light Cannot Repair, a poetry collection by David Floyd.


Reading with... Meg Shaffer

photo: Chanel Nicole Co.

Meg Shaffer is a part-time creative writing instructor and a full-time MFA candidate in TV and screenwriting at Stephens College in Columbia, Mo. Her debut novel, The Wishing Game (Ballantine), is an adventure for anyone who has ever dreamed of escaping into the world of a book.

Handsell readers your book in 25 words or less:

A down-on-her-luck teacher, trying to adopt a student, gets the chance to compete in a Willy Wonka-style contest run by a legendary, reclusive children's author.

On your nightstand now:

The Stories of Ray Bradbury and Phantom Lady: Hollywood Producer Joan Harrison, the Forgotten Woman Behind Hitchcock by Christina Lane. The Joan Harrison biography is because I'm writing my term paper on her for my MFA program. Plus, she's fascinating! In the '50s, she helped writers who'd been blacklisted in Hollywood find work again by hiring them for the TV shows she produced, Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Suspicion. One of many legendary women who put their stamp on Golden Age Hollywood.

And I'm always reading Ray Bradbury's short stories. Every story is like a walk through a pumpkin patch on a perfect autumn day.

Favorite book when you were a child:

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle (still a favorite!). My niece and nephew call me Aunt Beast, because I love this book so much.

Your top five authors:

Toni Morrison. You can learn everything you need to know about writing from Paradise. Plus, it has the greatest opening lines of all time.

Elizabeth Knox. She's dangerous to read, because she's so good she'll make you want to quit writing, because who can compete?

Ray Bradbury. He'll make you want to start writing again, because he's so joyful and inspiring.

Nathaniel Hawthorne. Not kidding. The man wrote the most interesting female characters I've ever read.

Beverley Nichols. I never thought I'd be the kind of person to read multiple gardening and house-renovation memoirs by a fussy, adorably snobbish Englishman, but here we are and here I am.

Book you've faked reading:

In high school, The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. When I read it as an adult, I was furious at younger me for skipping such an incredible novel.

Book you're an evangelist for:

The Keep by Jennifer Egan. I've given away multiple copies of this book, forcing them on friends and enemies who need it to reform themselves. It should be a classic.

Book you've bought for the cover:

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour (but then I read it and fell madly in love with it).

Book you hid from your parents:

I hid no books from my parents. They had a strict hands-off policy as long as we were reading. They might regret this, but so far, they haven't commented.

Book that changed your life:

The Idea: The Seven Elements of a Viable Story for Screen, Stage or Fiction by Erik Bork. Reading this screenwriting book completely changed the way I conceive of stories and storytelling. His thesis that stories live and die in the early idea stage (as opposed to in the execution stage) was mind-blowing.

Favorite line from a book:

"Real magic can never be made by offering someone else's liver. You must tear out your own, and not expect to get it back." --Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn

Honorable Mention: "I have never listened to anyone who criticized my taste in space travel, sideshows or gorillas. When this occurs, I pack up my dinosaurs and leave the room." --Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

Five books you'll never part with:

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle. Molly Grue. All I need to say.

The Vintner's Luck by Elizabeth Knox. People who read this book lose their ability to focus on the real world for a few days or weeks, so be prepared to wander the clouds. 

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis--the complete set. I've had the same crumbling boxed set since the fourth grade.

The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I'll confess to having a weird historical crush on Hawthorne, but I'm in good company. Herman Melville had a crush on him too.

The Writing Life by Annie Dillard. It's heartbreaking that she later disavowed the book (no one really knows why), but many writers go back to it again and again, dipping our toes into the pages like a magic spring and coming away renewed.

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

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. I want to be that surprised and laugh that hard again. "For a moment, nothing happened. Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen." My teachers would have never let me get away with writing a sentence like that, and yet it's brilliant on every level. I bow both of my heads in memory.

Last book that made you cry:

No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood. This book was a quick, short sucker punch to the soul, and everyone should read it. Bring tissues!


Book Review

Review: The Marriage Question: George Eliot's Double Life

The Marriage Question: George Eliot's Double Life by Clare Carlisle (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $30 hardcover, 400p., 9780374600457, August 15, 2023)

The tumultuous love lives of some of English literature's most memorable heroines are examined through a dazzling intellectual prism by Clare Carlisle in The Marriage Question: George Eliot's Double Life. Presenting revelatory glimpses into her subject's social and domestic life, Carlisle employs biography as a philosophical enquiry into the Victorian author's romantic life, her craft, and her characteristic use of marriage plots as a literary device.

At the heart of The Marriage Question lies the controversial quarter-century union between Marian Evans, known to the literary world as George Eliot, and the love of her life, the already married George Lewes. Despite losing her social standing due to the scandalous nature of their relationship, Eliot's scholarly and creative powers soared after she eloped with Lewes. He understood her aspirations, encouraged her literary pursuits, and became her most loyal reader. Carlisle describes how the couple matched each other in intellectual appetite, work ethic, and ambition, their dependence on each other growing even as Eliot attained fame and fortune. As satisfied as Eliot was in her personal life during this time, her literary characters were not so fortunate.

Carlisle (Spinoza's Religion: A New Reading of the Ethics) is a British philosopher and a professor at King's College, London, as well as a gifted storyteller. Carlisle's inquiry into Eliot's intimate relationships with friends and lovers mirrors Eliot's own psychologically astute interrogation of her characters' "inner lives," exploring themes of desire, sacrifice, freedom, ambition, selfhood, happiness, and motherhood with a cerebral curiosity. Eliot exposed moral truths through the domestic drama in her novels with the tenacity of a philosopher and the "delicacy of a great artist," explains Carlisle, as she offers readers a soulful lens through which to enjoy literary masterpieces such as The Mill on the Floss and consider the fate of Maggie Tulliver, the impassioned protagonist yearning for cultural and romantic fulfillment.

Describing Eliot's philosophical style as "compassionate, subversive, seasoned with humor, and enriched by an attentiveness in which fleeting moments--a glance, a touch, a flush of feeling--become significant," Carlisle contrasts Eliot and Lewes's "marital collaboration" with the disastrous marriage of Dorothea Brooke, the idealistic heroine of Middlemarch, and her thwarted search for a purposeful life.

Carlisle illustrates how Eliot expanded philosophical thinking into the intimate realm of marriage and affairs of the heart, her novels a feast of intellectual and emotional drama. The Marriage Question is an eloquent, elegant tribute to the brilliant Victorian novelist who gave voice to hidden female fears and desires. --Shahina Piyarali, reviewer

Shelf Talker: Clare Carlisle mounts a soulful, philosophical exploration into the romantic life of Victorian England's most famous female novelist, and the entertaining marriage plots of her masterpiece novels.


Deeper Understanding

Robert Gray: A Good Day for the Arts

I made a pilgrimage to the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Mass., last Sunday to see the Metropolitan Opera's broadcast production of Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute), in which director Simon McBurney "lets loose a volley of theatrical flourishes, incorporating projections, sound effects, and acrobatics to match the spectacle and drama of Mozart's fable."

And so he did. Although I concede that I've never been much of an opera fan (stage direction: bows head slightly in shame), The Magic Flute is an exception. And I loved McBurney's interpretation, but that's not all I was thinking about at the Clark.

I'm in the book trade. I think about books, booksellers, authors, publishers, and the business in general every single day. It's my vocation and my avocation. I also, however, love those moments when other art forms subtly thread their way into my little world. My day at the Clark turned into just such a moment. 

We arrived a couple hours early, had lunch by the gorgeous, three-tiered reflecting pool, then strolled through the museum. It's a collection we've visited so many times over the years that encountering favorite works is like reconnecting with old friends. Standing before John Singer Sargent's Fumée d'ambre gris always feels ceremonial. Henry James described the painting as "exquisite, a radiant effect of white upon white, of similar but discriminated tones." 

Yes, there's often a book reference lurking somewhere in my encounters with other art forms. Call it a character defect, but I think it's also what has always drawn me to McBurney's innovative productions with Complicité, the London theater company he co-founded in 1983.  

Some of this struck me while we were relaxing just before The Magic Flute screening in the Clark's Manton Research Center reading room, a beautiful space in the building's former indoor sculpture court. I thought about my decades-long connection to McBurney's work as creator, director, and actor. 

It began in 2000 in New York City, where I saw The Noise of Time, a collaboration between Complicité and the Emerson String Quartet. Conceived and directed by McBurney, the production explored the life of composer Dmitri Shostakovich alongside a performance of his final Quartet no. 15 in E flat minor. A year later, I saw Mnemonic, "an exploration of memory that questions our reliance on this most subjective of storytellers"; and in 2010 A Disappearing Number, the true story of a collaboration between a Cambridge professor and "a self-taught mathematician from Chennai who, with almost no formal training, made some of the most important mathematical discoveries of the 20th century."

Heady stuff, but on Sunday in the Manton Research Center, as I contemplated the monumental 24-foot high library bookcases looming above me in the reading room, I was also thinking specifically about McBurney's deep connection to books and their impact upon his theatrical vision.

Simon McBurney in The Encounter at the Edinburgh International Festival, 2015 (photo: Christian Michelides)

In 2017, I saw his play The Encounter on Broadway. It is an ambitious re-imagining of Petru Popescu's nonfiction book Amazon Beaming, recounting the adventures of Loren McIntyre, an American photographer who became lost in a remote area of Brazilian rain forest in 1969 and experienced a life-altering encounter with the Mayoruna tribe. (To note that the audience wore headphones during the performance is just a hint at the immersive nature of McBurney's staging of the tale.)

And as Covid-19 fully enveloped the globe in May 2020, McBurney livestreamed The Encounter free for a week. Experiencing it a second time--still with headphones, but this time alone in front of my computer instead of inside the packed Golden Theatre in Manhattan--I became fully immersed once more, with the added impact of pandemic isolation upping the emotional ante.

At the time, McBurney had said, "We are, as a consequence of this pandemic, bodily cut off from one another. Disconnected. Isolated. But perhaps this sense of our separation one from another, is simply a heightening of what we felt before this all began. We are thinking now, not only about how long this will last, but also what happens on the other side. To reconnect we need, perhaps, to learn to listen more closely. To each other. To our communities. To other cultures. To nature itself."

From December 20-31 last year, I listened to The Dark Is Rising, a 12-part radio dramatization of Susan Cooper's classic 1970s novel that was released daily on BBC World Service. The production was directed by McBurney, who co-adapted the book with bestselling author Robert Macfarlane.

This spring, I watched a mesmerizing performance of Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, McBurney's incredible staging of Olga Tokarczuk's novel, filmed live at the Lowry, Salford.
 
"It's easy to see what drew McBurney to the book and how Tokarczuk's rich, spirited prose and anarchic sensibility would make a good fit with his questing imagination," the Bookseller wrote. "Thematically, the concerns of this 2009 novel--with environmental unbalance and humanity's place in the natural world--feel more resonant now than ever and the disruptive energy of the text feels very welcome at a time when there has been a worrying increase in the number of people arrested and imprisoned for environmental activism."

The world is a mess; they're still banning books. But at the Clark last weekend, books, art, music, and theater enveloped me completely for a few hours. It was a good day for the arts.

--Robert Gray, contributing editor

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