Honoring Dr. King
Because of the Monday holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., this is our last issue until Tuesday, January 20. See you then!
Because of the Monday holiday in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., this is our last issue until Tuesday, January 20. See you then!
Avin Domnitz, CEO of the American Booksellers Association since 1997, is leaving his position when his contract ends in July, ABA president Gayle Shanks of Changing Hands, Tempe, Ariz., said in an e-mail to members yesterday that also appeared in Bookselling This Week. Domnitz, she wrote, "has ably led an amazing staff over these past 12 years--an era of many accomplishments, of dramatic litigation, and of creative initiatives. Most importantly, I think, Avin has created an organization that is open and responsive to its members, breaking down barriers to communication while encouraging interaction on all levels among booksellers, publishers, wholesalers, the ABA Board, association staff, and the book-loving world."
The ABA has created a committee to find a new CEO that Shanks will chair that includes Michael Tucker, Books Inc., San Francisco, Calif., Steve Bercu, BookPeople, Austin, Tex., Linda Ramsdell, Galaxy Bookshop, Hardwick, Vt., Lilla Weinberger, Readers' Books, Sonoma, Calif., and Betsy Burton, the King's English, Salt Lake City, Utah. Legal counsel Deanne Ottaviano of Arent Fox will assist the committee, which meets for the first time at the Winter Institute in Salt Lake City in two weeks.
Applicants for the CEO job may submit letters of interest, including resumes, to email@example.com. A full job description is available on BookWeb.org.
Domnitz was president of the ABA before becoming executive director, his original title, replacing Bernie Rath in that position. Before that, he had been a co-owner of the Harry W. Schwartz Bookshops in Milwaukee, Wis., and a principal of Dickens Books, which became part of Schwartz. He is also a lawyer and is one of the most financially knowledgeable booksellers alive--as demonstrated by his in-depth financial seminars.
Among the association's many initiatives and accomplishments over the past dozen years were the founding of BookSense.com; the start of Book Sense, which was reinvented last year as Indiebound; related shop local campaigns; the sale of the ABA's estate in Tarrytown, N.Y.; several lawsuits intended to create a level playing field for all book retailers; a renewed emphasis on education for members; the creation of the Winter Institute and the Booksellers' Relief Fund; and more.
Northwest Missouri State University, Maryville, Mo., hopes to offer digital-only textbooks within the next few years, according to NACS's Campus Marketplace. Students at the school currently rent traditional textbooks from the school. The Barnes & Noble campus bookstore, which supplies a few books, is working with the school on the project.
Last fall, the school, which has been a textbook rental institution since opening in 1905, had a pilot program in which 200 students used the Sony Reader. The program will be expanded this spring to include e-texts that can be downloaded to a computer and to the latest version of the Sony Reader, which allows highlighting, something that students missed using the older Reader.
For some Wilmington, Del., stores, the holiday season was "tolerable," i.e., better than expected, the News Journal reported.
"We had so many customers who said they were shopping locally," said Dan Stewart, husband of Books 'N' More owner Marla Stewart. He added that December "was much better than anticipated, down maybe 5% percent from last year. We were very fearful, especially with the economic downturn of our area."
Stewart said that the bad economic news seemed to inspire customers to make an effort to shop locally: "If we're going to keep what we have, we have to support it. Amazon does not support the community. My bookstore is here when I need it. It has to be here when I don't need it, or it won't be here. That's true of any of our local retailers."
Books Revisited, St. Cloud, Minn., "has been changing since the day it opened," according to the University Chronicle, which profiled the independent bookstore that Jon Lee bought in 1995. "I intended to run it for a year or two," Lee said. "I haven't looked back. . . . We have a little bit of everything. It is a recipe for success."
Willow Glen Books, San Jose, Calif., will close by the end of June unless a buyer comes to the rescue, the Mercury News reported. Owner Cathy Adkins had planned to retire in 2010, but the flagging economy and online competition have influenced her recent decision.
"The business performance this year is really low, and I realized that it is likely to be worse this year than last year," Adkins said, adding that if customers wish to save the store, they can "tell everyone they know there is a bookstore for sale on Lincoln Avenue."
The Southern California Independent Booksellers Association's third annual Children's Book & Literacy Dinner takes place Saturday, February 7, beginning at 6 p.m. at the Westin Pasadena Hotel in Pasadena, Calif. Featured speakers are Eve Bunting, Susan Patron and Lisa Yee. Special guest MC is Pam Munoz Ryan. Altogether 21 authors will be in attendance. For more information and registration, go to SoCalBookscene.com.
Book Soup, West Hollywood, Calif., is hosting a celebration of the life of Glenn Goldman tonight at 7 p.m. Goldman, who founded Book Soup in 1975, died on January 3 of pancreatic cancer (Shelf Awareness, January 5, 2009). He was 58.
Author Hortense Calisher died Tuesday at the age of 97. The New York Times described her as a "writer whose unpredictable turns of phrase, intellectually challenging fictional situations and complex plots captivated and puzzled readers for a half-century."
In a review of Calisher's 1983 novel, Mysteries of Motion, Joyce Carol Oates wrote, "Among contemporary writers of distinction Hortense Calisher has always been a strangely elusive presence. So radically do her novels differ from one another (the spareness of Standard Dreaming, for instance, set beside the baroque complexities of The New Yorkers), it has been impossible to assign her to the sort of ready-made category that literary journalism seems too often to insist upon.”
John Mortimer, the British barrister who created Rumpole of the Bailey, has died, the BBC reported. Mortimer, who was 85, also wrote a range of screenplays and radio and TV adaptations. Rumpole of the Bailey--the main character's wife was "she who must be obeyed"--was made into a very popular TV series.
On Monday on Morning Edition: Jabari Asim, author of What Obama Means: . . . for Our Culture, Our Politics, Our Future (Morrow, $21.99, 9780061711336/0061711330).
One of the most accomplished and well-known adults with autism in the world, Temple Grandin offers insights into animal behavior from her position at the intersection of autism and science. She has a Ph.D. in animal science and is a professor at Colorado State University. She is the author of four previous books, including the memoir Thinking in Pictures. Throughout her career, Grandin has spearheaded reform of the quality of life and humaneness of death for farm animals. She lectures worldwide on both animal science and autism. Her most recent book is Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals, published this month by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
On your nightstand now:
The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs. I'm away from home right now, but I remember that the author had to try to be "slow to anger." I want always to be sure to remember that one in my own life!
Favorite book when you were a child:
Anna Sewall's Black Beauty. What I remember about that book is feeling so bad for the horses that were abused in the story! Another book I loved was about famous inventors. It included people like Thomas Edison, Samuel Morse, the inventor of the steamship and the inventor of the sewing machine. And many others! I can't remember the name of that book, but it inspired me and was absolutely one of my favorite books when I was a little child.
Your top five authors:
Patricia McConnell. I love all of her dog books. The Other End of the Leash is one of my favorites. I really liked her new one, For the Love of a Dog. It's all about dog emotions and includes pictures showing dog postures, like when are they happy, when are they scared or when they are relaxed. One of the pictures is when a dog is really relaxed he has his mouth open.
When I was in my 20s, I was really inspired by Loren C. Eiseley's book The Immense Journey.
Of course, my next one is Oliver Sacks.
I travel all the time and love to read Michael Crichton on the airplane.
I also like Frans de Waal, who writes about primates in books like Chimpanzee Politics and Our Inner Ape.
Book you've faked reading:
If I haven't read a book, I'll admit that I read the review only!
Book you're an evangelist for:
The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. I work with people all the time who want to bring about positive change, and The Tipping Point is one of the most important books they can read.
Book you've bought for the cover:
Covers make me pick books up, but the buying decision is based on copy flap, skimming the book and reading the quotes about the book. The one time I picked up a book for the cover was at an airport bookstore. The book was called Holy Cow. I'll pick up any book about animals. But I took one look, realized it was a business book and put it back down.
Book that changed your life:
When I was a teenager and having a lot of problems, Norman Vincent Peale's The Power of Positive Thinking changed my life. It was given to me by my aunt out on the ranch.
Favorite line from a book:
This is from Isaac Asimov's short story "The Dead Past": "A degree is the first step down a ruinous highway. You don't want to waste it so you go on to graduate work and doctoral research. You end up a thoroughgoing ignoramous on everything in the world except for one subdivisional sliver of nothing."
Why do I like this? I'm a believer in getting lots of information from many sources and not getting too specialized. I have a Ph.D., but I still try to get knowledge from many sources. One of the big problems we have today, when people are debating an issue, any issue, is they tend to look at just one source of information.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Any of Michael Crichton's books--Timeline, Jurassic Park, Congo. Those are all really fun reads on the airplane . . . exciting and "can't put 'em down" reads. They're wonderful books, but they're not the kind of books I'd read again. I can't read them again--because I already know what happens in them!
Addition by Toni Jordan (William Morrow & Company, $24.99 Hardcover, 9780061582578, February 2009)
From the age of eight, Grace Vandenburg has counted and graphed her world, desperate for a pattern: "In time, counting became the scaffolding of my life." Now an adult in her 30s, she lives alone, with a photo of Nikola Tesla, whom she reveres, at her bedside; she's in awe of his genius and believes that he would understand her. When she speculates how counting began, she decides its origins go back to a Cro-Magnon woman. "Sometimes at night, after all the day's counting is done, I imagine I am the woman who finds the numbers first. The woman who cut the marks into the wolf's bone. I am to be sacrificed for my heresy. It is always Nikola who saves me."
Every day Grace goes to the same cafe to have a hot chocolate with two marshmallows and a slice of orange cake. The cake's frosting is dusted with poppy seeds, and she counts the number of seeds each time, which tells her how many bites she has to take to eat the cake. She charts the temperature. She buys bananas in multiples of 10, until one Saturday when she is standing in line at the grocers (10 onions, 10 grams of salad mix, a carton of eggs with two removed) and realizes she has only nine bananas. She panics, then notices that the nice-looking man behind her has one unfettered banana dangling over the edge of his cart. "The key to an operation like this is nonchalance. I smile, piranha-like, at the [clerk]." She completes Operation Restore Banana by snatching the fruit when the customer is distracted. She leaves the store, but in the parking lot runs into the now-banana-less guy, Seamus Joseph O'Reilly.
Her meeting with Seamus upsets her ordered life, but she agrees to have dinner with him. Grace misses their first date when she gets sidetracked counting the bristles on her toothbrush (1,768): "My jaw is safe. My teeth are safe." Nonetheless, they begin an affair, and they fall in love. Seamus understands her obsession as well as he can and tries to help her define her world, but Grace gets sick of counting, of all the games and rules and orders and lists. She wants to be like everyone else. She wants to be filled with possibilities. She starts therapy and medication. She becomes someone else. What she feared about life without counting--that she'd be lost, she'd lack definition--has come to pass.
How Grace decides to redefine her life and answer the question--"If I change myself, how will I be diminished?"--add up to a sweet love story written with insight and humor and an exploration of personality, conformity and honesty. Living one's life is about thousands of tiny events; note them, savor them, make them count.--Marilyn Dahl
Information supplied to us yesterday misstated the name of a Poisoned Pen Press co-founder: he is Robert Rosenwald, not Mark Rosenwald. Our apologies!
In person, Laurie Albanese and Laura Morowitz finish each other's sentences, take only a split second to decide who's the best of the two to answer a question, laugh in the same delighted way. It's easy to see why they are such good friends and why their novel, The Miracles of Prato, reads so seamlessly and entertainingly.
Set near Florence in Prato, Italy, in 1456 and 1457 and based on fact, The Miracles of Prato is the story of the love between Fra Filippo Lippi, a priest and renowned painter, and Lucrezia Buti, a beautiful young woman whose family misfortunes have led her to join the Santa Margherita convent where Lippi serves as chaplain. Lucrezia becomes Lippi's model and inspiration, his lover and the mother of his children, one of whom, Filippino, became a well-known artist in his own right. The book will be published by Morrow and goes on sale January 27.
Together Albanese, who has written several novels, and Morowitz, an art professor and historian, have "40 years of experience," as Albanese put it. "We were already friends and thought we would combine our talents." (Appropriately they met in a book group, and happily their husbands are friends, too.) And there was a practical aspect to working together: if either of the pair wrote such a book on her own, she would have to spend a while learning something new: in Albanese's case, art of the early Renaissance, or for Morowitz, simply how to write a novel.
The project began when Morowitz gave Albanese a book about Lippi as a birthday present. Lippi's personal story intrigued them both, and Albanese wrote the first line of The Miracles of Prato on Thanksgiving while in Florida. "There's always blood" remains the beginning of the finished book.
The rest of the novel took two years to write. Albanese envisioned doing most of the original writing while Morowitz would do the research. But "Laura would have none of that!" she said. Together they "hashed out plot lines." Albanese wrote opening scenes and "did character development and internalities," while Morowitz wrote some of the more general scenes, such as "pageantry and the festival day."
The pair edited each other's writing heavily. In matters of "wordsmithing unless the content was wrong, Laura deferred to me, and I deferred to her about art history," Albanese said. Morowitz added, "It was hard to see our own flaws but great to have another pair of eyes. I trusted her fundamentally."
Sometimes things became intense, and the two would "wait a day" to settle some matters, as Albanese put it. Often Albanese said, she would give her partner "an assignment," hoping to distract and occupy her. "I'd say, 'Could you research undergarment craftsmanship?' Before I got home, there would be an e-mail with a scene attached."
In the end, Albanese went over the manuscript repeatedly, likening it to "combing hair over and over," a process that gave the narrative its unified, flowing voice.
For Morowitz, writing a novel was unexpectedly different from the two books of nonfiction she had written, which she had mapped out carefully. "I would never have thought to write in a nonlinear fashion." She also praised her co-author for being "so excellent at her craft. She kept saying something had to be at stake."
The process of collaboration led to some amusing moments. Morowitz remembered being in a crowded dentist's office on her phone saying to Albanese lines like, "Listen, the general is not going to rape her three days after Advent!"
The story is based on facts that in part seem unbelievably scandalous--a priest and nun living together and having a child--but Albanese and Morowitz toned down what actually happened. The full story is "more outrageous," Albanese said. "There were only five or six nuns and the prioress [in the Santa Margherita convent], and they were all living with Lippi. We had to decide were we going to write an Italian orgy story or a love story?"
Some aspects of the true story were murky. Although Lippi and Lucrezia received a dispensation to marry, they did not wed, and after giving birth to Filippino, Lucrezia went back to the convent and renewed her vows, then had another child with Lippi seven years later. Eventually the pair moved apart. "Some people felt disappointed by that," Albanese said.
Without giving the novel's plot away, suffice it to say that the authors kept the essence of the true story and made a romance and a thriller out of it. Besides the rape, "a linchpin" of the book is the sacred belt of the Virgin Mary, a relic that is the focus of an annual feast day in Prato. Neither author knew about the belt in the beginning. (They also didn't realize initially that one of Lippi's major works--the fresco cycle in the Duomo in Prato--was being cleaned and restored.)
The miracle of the title has to do with the belt, which disappears and reappears--done in a way so that, as Morowitz said, readers can come up with their own explanations, whether based on faith or love or another force.
Albanese and Morowitz traveled to Prato twice after beginning the book. Some of what they learned helped in matters of "simple geography," Albanese said. "We had originally placed Lippi's workshop and the convent way out from the center of town. But both were close in." They also had tours of several places that are important in the book, including the cathedral crypt and the locked chapel containing the belt, and they met with the town archivist who showed them maps of old Prato.
The authors will celebrate the book's publication next month at a party in Glen Ridge, N.J., near their homes that will feature wine, beer and prosecco, classical Italian music, all in a Queen Anne style historic building. Albanese described the mood as "renaissance/early 20th Century."
The book is being promoted in a variety of other ways, too, including in a short video featuring the authors posted on Morrow's website. The company has been contacting many reading group coordinators and is reaching out to online communities interested in art, art history, Italy, Italian history, the real history of the Catholic Church as well as to bloggers of all kinds. As Tavia Kowalchuk, marketing director at Morrow, put it, "tons of people are blogging about art and their trips to Italy. We're letting them know the book is coming out." The company will reach out as well through its Avon imprint, which has "a fairly strong platform to reach romance readers," Kowalchuk said. This includes the Avon blog, the newsletter From the Heart, and more. Another likely market is people who like similar books--such as Girl With a Pearl Earring or Portrait of an Unknown Woman.
And so this book about miracles that took place in the Early Renaissance in Italy will be helped by the modern miracle of online marketing.--John Mutter