Shelf Awareness for Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books: Ethan and the Strays by John Sullivan, illustrated by Hatem Aly

Wednesday Books: Hope Ablaze by Sarah Mughal Rana

Little, Brown Ink: K Is in Trouble (a Graphic Novel) (K Is in Trouble #1) by Gary Clement

Fly Paper Products: Literary Gifts

William Morrow & Company: The Stone Home by Crystal Hana Kim

Berkley Books: The Chaos Agent (Gray Man) by Mark Greaney

Labyrinth Road: Plan A by Deb Caletti


Notes: Giovanni's 35th; Celebrating Jim Mitchell

As Giovanni's Room bookstore, Philadelphia, Pa., celebrates its 35th anniversary, the Inquirer noted that "most Philadelphians are unaware that Giovanni's is the second-oldest gay-and-lesbian bookstore in the country, behind only New York's Oscar Wilde Bookshop, launched in 1967. Through six owners, three locations and countless volunteers, Giovanni's has come to represent far more to the city's gay community than a bibliophilic rainbow flag."

"If ever a business was created by a community, this is it," co-owner Ed Hermance said. "People made this place with their blood and guts. The first three years, we were 100 percent volunteers."

MainStreet BookEnds, Warner, N.H., will host a special groundbreaking ceremony this weekend that will honor Jim Mitchell, the former owner of the bookstore who died last June.

According to the Concord Monitor, "One big task that Mitchell had undertaken before his death is on its way to being realized. Mitchell had been dreaming up ways to turn the woodsy area between the store and the town library into a public park and amphitheater. The store will host a groundbreaking for the project Saturday at 11 a.m. It will take place during the Warner Fall Foliage Festival, an event that Mitchell helped organize."

Katharine Nevins, Mitchell's sister and partner in the business, said the groundbreaking is "a celebration of the beginning. . . . He was always putting a positive spin on everything, and that's what we need to do."


Aspiring entrepreneurs will receive advice tonight at R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison, Conn., during the panel "Birthing the Elephant: Start-up Strategies for Women." Hosting is Karin Abarbanel, co-author of Birthing the Elephant: The Woman's Go-for-It! Guide to Overcoming the Big Challenges of Launching a Business (Ten Speed Press), who will be joined by R.J. Julia owner Roxanne Coady and Fat Murray's Doggy Treats founder Ronnie Fliss--both of whom are featured in the book.

"Today's tough economy is going to impel or inspire more and more women--and men--to look at launching a small business as a way to take control of their futures," said Abarbanel. "This panel is a great way to help people decide if a start-up is a good move for them." Participants will offer tips on topics ranging from avoiding common pitfalls to substituting "brains for bucks."

Abarbanel is considering staging similar events at bookstores in major markets like New York, Houston, and Chicago that would include women business owners profiled in Birthing the Elephant.


"My next-door neighbors in their backyard, reading," wrote Barbara Brotman in a Chicago Tribune profile of Charles and Sue Wells, whom she described as "marathon readers. Hours pass, the sun's position shifts, I do the grocery shopping and two loads of laundry--and there they still are, sitting in the same chairs next to each other on their patio, in complete silence and utter absorption. They have not moved except to turn pages."

Brotman's curiosity compelled her to ask them about their reading lives: "They love to read, and have made it a priority in their lives. Reading isn't something sandwiched between the day's events; it is an event itself--many days, the main one. No guilt; no thoughts about what else they could be doing. This is what they want to be doing, so they do it. Imagine reading not as what you do when you have a few extra minutes, but as a day's destination."


Effective immediately, MBI Distribution Services is distributing the following new client publishers to the North American market:

  • Peter Morgan Media, Marlborough, England, a publisher of specialist automotive buyer's guides and related histories with an emphasis on sports cars.
  • The Good Life Press, Lancashire, England, a family-run specialist publisher that offers a range of books on country living.


G.P. Putnam's Sons: Come and Get It by Kiley Reid

Pennie Picks The Brass Verdict

Pennie Clark Ianniciello, Costco's book buyer, has picked The Brass Verdict by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown, $26.99, 9780316166294/0316166294) as her pick of the month for October. In Costco Connection, which goes to many of the warehouse club's members, she wrote:

"I've long held that autumn is my favorite season. I love the crisp air, colorful leaves and the fact that I can break out my cozy sweaters and blankets. I also think it's the best time of year to read thrillers--buried under a pile of blankets, preferably with my dogs, Pepper and Serenia, nearby. That leads me to this month's pick, Michael Connelly's The Brass Verdict. Connelly consistently writes true page turners that keep readers guessing and, more important, reading.

"I'm also glad to see the return of the character Mickey Haller. After two years away from the courtroom, Haller is back and facing his biggest case yet. But that's all I'm going to say. Well, that and climb under a blanket and enjoy!"


Britannica Books: Britannica's Encyclopedia Infographica: 1,000s of Facts & Figures--About Earth, Space, Animals, the Body, Technology & More--Revealed in Pictures by Valentina D'Efilippo, Andrew Pettie, and Conrad Quilty-Harper

NCIBA: All About Politics, the Economy and Not Being Stupid

At the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association trade show this weekend the mood was up, attendance was even with last year and enthusiasm for the education sessions ran high. Booksellers said business ranged from "breathtakingly bad" to "not bad, under the circumstances." Naturally for Northern California, political discussions leaned heavily toward the Barack Obama camp.

At Saturday's breakfast Barbara Lee--who represents Oakland, where NCIBA took place, in Congress--talked about her memoir, Renegade for Peace and Justice (Rowman & Littlefield), sporting a bit of tasteful Obama bling. Calling herself "probably more of a private person than most politicians," the congresswoman pointed to her sister and said that even she learned a few things in Renegade. Lee addressed her vote first against and then for the economic bailout package passed last Friday. After consulting with economists Lee decided to "err on the side of caution." She stated that without access to credit people who live paycheck to paycheck would get left behind, that seniors were losing pensions and that we were already in a recession.

Always provocative, Lee called for the impeachment of George Bush and Dick Cheney and for the arrest of SEC chairman Chris Cox. Ever since she was the lone person in Congress to vote right after September 11 against authorizing war, she said the right has tried to paint her as unpatriotic--someone she did not recognize. At the insistence of colleagues, constituents and even Helen Thomas, Lee said she decided to write her memoir to inspire those who face challenges--especially women of color--to aspire and find their mission. "Who I am connects with why I do the things I do in Congress," she said.

Speaking of connecting, a group of area indie publishers and indie booksellers have been meeting since BEA to discuss ways the two groups can work better together. This year NCIBA created an Indie Row, where 12 area publishers displayed together for the first time at the show (at half price). Calvin Crosby from Books Inc. called it the best part of the show.

Manic D publisher Jen Joseph--another person known for speaking her mind--went from calling NCIBA "a snoozer" to saying Indie Row made this the best show ever for the San Francisco publisher. "The idea of creating community through NCIBA expands the vision of what NCIBA can become," she added.

"Anything we can do to support indie anything is really good," said Lilla Weinberger, co-owner of Reader's Books in Sonoma, and this year's recipient of the NCIBA Debi Echlin Memorial Award for Outstanding Community Bookstore. "As booksellers, we are all community organizers and we should all be proud of ourselves on that level."

NCIBA also mixed up its rep pick sessions by introducing a speed-date session with reps from indie presses on Friday and a new kind of rep pick at the close of the trading floor on Saturday. Ten reps were asked to select one book each from their list in the following categories: favorite first fiction title, title well suited for book groups, commercial title that's also well-written, quirkiest book on the list, a great book coming in 2009 and one book I wish everyone would read. The catch: they had only a minute a pop to pitch and were strictly timed. Remarkably they didn't totally ignore the time rule. A reception for booksellers followed that featured 10 authors and some darn tasty lamb chops.

Cinda Meister, owner of BookSmart in Morgan Hill, said the new rep sessions and the author reception were great for her staff (she brought four booksellers with her) as motivators for holiday selling. Her pick from the show: Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazel, which happened to be Hachette rep Tom McIntyre's quirky pick. "That one's made the rounds with my staff," said Meister.

Heather Lyon from Lyon Books in Chico added this praise for Beat the Reaper: "It's a mafia-medical mystery-comedy-sex romp" that "is going to cheer everyone up because it's ridiculously funny and has nothing to do with this economy."

It's always fun checking in with City Lights' Paul Yamazaki about book picks. Asked for two, he gave four: Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh (FSG); Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (Knopf); Time of Their Lives by Al Silverman (Macmillan); and In Other Rooms, In Other Wonders by Daniyal Mueenuddin (Norton).

"It's like reading Gorky or Isaac Babel," Yamazaki said about In Other Rooms, In Other Wonders, a short story debut by a Pakistani farm owner educated in the U.S., his mother's homeland. (At dinner Saturday night, Mueenuddin so clearly and charmingly showed his American side by engaging in election discussions that booksellers nearly named him an honorary Northern Californian.)

Books Inc.'s Crosby thought Little Bee by Chris Cleave (S&S) stood out. But by far the longest line at Saturday night's reception was for Van Jones, who gave a rousing talk at Friday's lunch about his The Green Collar Economy: How One Solution Can Fix America's Two Biggest Problems (HarperOne). "Can we be smart enough as a country to connect the people who most need work with work that most needs to be done?" he asked. Jones called it "a common ground book" and added, "I hope that shows up in November."

At Random House--which returned to the show floor this year after taking a hospitality suite last year--Ruth Liebmann described bookseller response to both Katherine Neville and her much awaited followup to The Eight, titled The Fire, "a love fest." She continued: "One of the things that NCIBA is always fabulous about delivering to publishers is booksellers truly engaged with authors to help build excitement for terrific books in a terrific market." And she wasn't referring to the economy.--Bridget Kinsella


Media and Movies

Cinemax Series: Zane's Sex Chronicles

On Friday a new series will premiere on Cinemax based on Zane's Sex Chronicles by Zane (Atria, $15, 9781416584117/1416584110). Cinemax is calling this "the first urban adult series on television."





Media Heat: Poet Billy Collins

Today on Fresh Air: Antonio Juhasz, author of Tyranny of Oil: The World's Most Powerful Industry--and What We Must Do to Stop It (Morrow, $26.95, 9780061434501/0061434507).


Tomorrow morning on the Today Show:
  • Jack Jacobs, author of If Not Now, When?: Duty and Sacrifice in America's Time of Need (Berkley, $25.95, 9780425223598/0425223590).
  • Isaac Mizrahi, author of How to Have Style (Gotham, $30, 9781592403929/1592403921).
  • Mark Bittman, author of the How to Cook Everything series.


Tomorrow morning on Good Morning America: Robin Roberts, author of From the Heart: Eight Rules to Live By (Hyperion, $14.95, 9781401309589/1401309585). Roberts also appears on the View today.


Tomorrow on CNN's Glenn Beck Show: Richard Paul Evans, author of Grace (S&S, $19.95, 9781416550037/1416550038).


Tomorrow on the Diane Rehm Show: Billy Collins, author of Ballistics: Poems (Random House, $24, 9781400064915/1400064910).


Books & Authors

Awards: Thurber Prize for American Humor

Larry Doyle has won the 2008 Thurber Prize for American Humor for his first novel, I Love You, Beth Cooper. One judge, Firoozeh Dumas, called the book "a hilarious yet painfully accurate account of high school in all its pimply glory." The winner receives a $5,000 prize and a crystal plaque.

Doyle is a former writer and producer of the Simpsons, a contributor to the New Yorker and an Esquire columnist.

The two runners-up for the prize were Patricia Marx for Him Her Him Again the End of Him and Simon Rich for Ant Farm.


Attainment: New Books Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next week:

The Brass Verdict: A Novel
by Michael Connelly (Little, Brown, $26.99, 9780316166294/0316166294) follows defense attorney Mickey Haller and sleuth Harry Bosch as they investigate a double murder.

Don't Mind If I Do by George Hamilton and William Stadiem (Touchstone, $26, 9781416545026/1416545026) chronicles the life and career of actor George Hamilton.

Daily Readings from Become a Better You: 90 Devotions for Improving Your Life Every Day
by Joel Osteen (Free Press, $22, 9781416573074/1416573070) includes 90 days of biblical passages and life advice.

Love Your Life: Living Happy Healthy, and Whole by Victoria Osteen (Free Press, $25, 9780743296939/0743296931) provides an outline for balancing life's many obligations with personal time.

A Lion Among Men: Volume Three in the Wicked Years by Gregory Maguire (Morrow, $26.95, 9780060548926/0060548924) continues the story of a darkly reimagined Oz.

A Wallflower Christmas by Lisa Kleypas (St. Martin's, $16.95, 9780312533786/0312533780) takes place in Victorian London where a rough American courts a Lord's elegant daughter.

Making Jack Falcone: An Undercover FBI Agent Takes Down a Mafia Family
by Joaquin "Jack" Garcia and Michael Levin (Touchstone, $24.95, 9781416551638/1416551638) tells the story of an undercover agent who crippled the Gambino crime family from the inside.

Here's the Story: Surviving Marcia Brady and Finding My True Voice by Maureen McCormick (Morrow, $25.95, 9780061490149/0061490148) reveals the darker side of the eldest daughter on the Brady Bunch.

Champlain's Dream by David Hackett Fischer (S&S, $40, 9781416593324/1416593322) is a biography of the explorer Samuel de Champlain.

Thom Filicia Style: Inspired Ideas for Creating Rooms You'll Love by Thom Filicia (Atria, $35, 9781416572183/141657218X) gives decorating advice and details about remarkable redecoration achievements.

Now in paperback:

The Children of Húrin by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin, $14.95, 9780547086057/0547086059).


Deeper Understanding

Art: A Cartoonist's Tale, Part I--He Lives in Philip K. Dick-land

"I can't control the entire outside world and make the political reality better," Art Spiegelman says, "But it seems that all of the stuff I dreamed about comics back in the 70s is now a done deal. It's sort of like living in some kind of Philip K. Dick-land."
With the publication today of a 30th-anniversary edition of Breakdowns: Portrait of the Artist as a Young %@&*! (Knopf/Pantheon), readers can see exactly what Spiegelman "dreamed about" in terms of comics in the 1970s: the deconstruction of the comics form, an early incarnation of what would become his Pulitzer-prize-winning Holocaust memoir told in a comics format, Maus, and an exploration of what he understood "this [comics] stuff" should be. "It should be well-produced, it should be unpredictable, it doesn't have to talk down, it doesn't have to necessarily outrage--although if it does, that's swell, too, 'cause that's my DNA in Underground Comix," says Spiegelman during an interview at his home in SoHo in New York City. "At the time, [Breakdowns] was totally anomalous but it did give us a model for what it meant to work on RAW and ultimately everything since." Like RAW, the comics anthology he would publish from 1980-1991 with his wife, Françoise Mouly, now art editor of the New Yorker, Breakdowns commands attention not only because of its irreverent themes but also because of its 14.3" x 10.3" oversize format (the same trim size as RAW). "I wanted people to take the measure of comics at the time," Spiegelman says. "And maybe proportionally when you're a grown-up, it's probably as big to read as the regular-size comics were for a kid." He laughs, taking a drag from his cigarette.

By now Spiegelman's own childhood fascination with comics, and with MAD magazine in particular, is well known. Ironically, he was never taken in by the superheroes that most people primarily associated with comics at that time. "The strange humor stuff was much more interesting to me than the stereotype pre-adolescent fantasy life of 'I can beat those people up,'" Spiegelman says. "I never believed it. I couldn't beat those people up! I had to learn to run like the Flash." In fact, the whole idea of heroes is antithetical to him, and he extended that to Maus, in which he refused to make heroes of his mother and father for surviving the camps. "I believe in occasional heroic acts or gestures, but not in the notion of the superhero. There's a desire to indicate that suffering ennobles and to think of the people who went through the camps as martyrs," he says. "That's such a Christian idea. I think that all we can say about suffering is, 'It hurts.'"

Spiegelman created Maus as a direct result of Breakdowns, but in an alternate direction. "In Maus, I was spinning all those lessons I'd learned in the Breakdowns scripts in reverse to make you fluidly enter, so if you didn't want to, you didn't notice you were reading a comic after about the first few pages," Spiegelman says. In the Shadow of No Towers (Viking, 2004), however, marked a return to his more deconstructionist approach: "When I did In the Shadow of No Towers, I was far less concerned about meeting somebody halfway or more. I was doing comics thinking we were going to have some other mad thing happen to New York City any minute. And so I didn't think it was necessary to talk politely," explains Spiegelman. "I was going back to the kind of more fragmentary and perplexed comics language I'd been using in the work prior to Maus." But as he tried to explain his work in No Towers to audiences on his book tour, he found himself referring to Breakdowns as an example of the cornerstone upon which he had built No Towers. That's how Breakdowns came to the attention of his editor.
If Spiegelman needed to use Breakdowns to explain his work on No Towers, he also realized that he needed to create an introduction to Breakdowns to explain the experimental 1970s strips contained in the anthology. And so he returned to what he termed  "the strip that got away," a failed attempt called "Some Boxes for the Salvation Army." The idea was to create identically sized "boxes" or panels, so that Spiegelman could interchange them. He said that the premise was inspired by his filmmaker friends who could shoot footage and then edit later. This would free him up from having to plan an entire page (an ideal example of which appears in the introduction's rough sketches for "Prisoner on the Hell Planet," coupled with the finished piece). Spiegelman explains, "Usually, the page is such a tight structure that everything is built around 'what's the main image on that page, what's the thought on that page?' There're two philosophies: one is that you end with a period, the other one is that you end with a dash. In other words, you can either make a page that is a self-contained entity, or, the way it's done in Tintin is, they want you to turn to the next page, so they always end right before the thing comes in for a landing. All of those are ways of thinking about [the page itself] as a very basic unit of storytelling. I had to give that up for the introduction. It was really kind of scary, but it did give me this possibility of making [these snippets of memory] that I edited later."

This idea of the page as a tight structure goes to the core of Spiegelman's work, and he neatly plants the seed of that concept within a snippet of memory he includes in the introduction to Breakdowns called "Packing." Young Art observes his father filling a suitcase for their vacation, and the man gives his son this advice: "You have to use what little space you have to pack inside everything what you can!" Spiegelman elaborates, "It seems to me that the essence of comics is that it's a medium of packing or compression. Maus even in its own way was a very compressed work. It's just that I was compressing thousands of pages down to a few hundred." The discussion turns for a moment to manga. "This is not the idiom or visual language I speak," Spiegelman admits. "Somebody goes down a flight of stairs; it could be eight pages. You read it very quickly, but they're going down all the stairs. The way I was trained to think is that there's one [panel] where he starts on the staircase and one where he's leaving--unless there's something about the staircase or him being on it [that matters to the narrative]. I hesitate to say it . . . but I'm not sure graphic novels are such a good idea--except for marketing.  Even though I'm considered one of the daddies, I want a blood test," he smiles wryly.--Jennifer M. Brown


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