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The Newspaper is in the News
May28

The Newspaper is in the News

The big news in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer is about its own ownership. Like so many others, the paper (the one I still get delivered daily to my front door) has been experiencing much uncertainty of late, with changes in ownership and losses of employee jobs and benefits, not to mention the ongoing struggles of newspapers everywhere to maintain readership and monetize digital. According to the paper itself, this is its sixth ownership change in eight years. In a private auction held yesterday, the winners are local businessmen and philanthropists Lewis Katz and H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest.  (If you live in Philadelphia, you have already become accustomed to seeing the Lenfest name on many notable local institutions). Katz and Lenfest were previously owners of 42.55% of the paper, and they notably feuded with co-owners the Norcross Group. Bill Marimow, who was ousted by Norcross but later reinstated by the court, is to be editor. As quoted in the paper, Lenfest says: “We want to return the Inquirer to the great newspaper it has been for many years.” We the readers, and certainly the paper’s 1800+ employees, hope this will be the case. The paper has had several recent notable achievements, including a Pulitzer Prize won this year by architecture critic Inga Saffron for distinguished criticism, and breaking important local stories such as a recent to-do in a case involving the Pennsylvania Attorney General. Philadelphia is the country’s fifth largest city; we deserve to have a newspaper of which we can be...

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Snow White Leaves Her Dwarfs Behind
May02

Snow White Leaves Her Dwarfs Behind

Richard Powers’ new novel, Orfeo, is a story of a composer in his 70s who, throughout the course of the book, recalls key moments in his life. The book is filled with detailed descriptions of the music he listens to along the way. It’s a book that begs for a soundtrack and, in fact, it turns out that several industrious readers have created Orfeo playlists that can be downloaded and appreciated along with this brainy well-written book. As far as ancillary materials for the newest novel from the youthfully prolific Helen Oyeyemi, I would like to request that someone create an accompanying anthology of the wide range of folklore, mythology, and other literary sources drawn on by the author to build her fantastical tale Boy, Snow, Bird. The main frame of the book is a modern retelling of Snow White. She’s dispensed with the dwarfs and the poison apple, but step-mothers and other recognizable tropes abound in the story of a girl named Boy who grows up to become step-mother to a girl named Snow, and then who gives birth to another girl named Bird. Along the way, the reader will find a witch with a snake for a heart, a mysterious shadow girl with bloody hands, references and allusions to the Pied Piper of Hamelin, poetry by Christina Rossetti, the Greek Fury Alecto, and much more. The book, as it examines questions of identity and appearance versus reality, also weaves in a powerful look at racism in our society and at the status of civil rights in the 1950s and 60s. It also throws in some gender politics at the end, but oh, how I wish she hadn’t gone there. But, no spoiler am I. Grab yourself a copy of Boy, Snow, Bird and take the magically real journey...

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The Indie Bookstore Tour, Part 1
May02

The Indie Bookstore Tour, Part 1

Authors are often sent “on tour” by their publishers to prearranged readings at bookstores across the country, with the goal of attracting readers and selling copies of their books. Many authors have talked and written about this experience, notably Ann Patchett, who, in an essay in The Atlantic called “My Life in Sales,” claims the most important thing an author needs to remember to do on tour is bring water. It’s desirable to be sent on tour: if you are an author chosen to tour, it means that the publisher has high expectations for your book and is allocating some of their limited marketing money to promoting your title. On the other hand, it’s grueling: you’re not a glamorous author/celebrity; you’re sleepily slogging from town to town, potentially staying at less than luxurious accommodations and more than likely playing to less than SRO crowds. At the heart of the question of whether sending an author on tour works is, to me, the question of whether the bookstore reading is worthwhile activity. We know that bestselling authors with new books can draw a crowd, but even the stores with the most loyal and active followings have a challenge dragging people away from their routines and out of their comfortable homes to come to the store and listen to a new or unknown author. I experienced this challenge myself when I was a community relations manager at Barnes & Noble’s Park Slope Brooklyn store. Getting attendees to readings is but one of the challenges that bookstores face these days. The bigger challenge is attracting customers in general, and selling enough books to stay in business. Those of us in the book business and even outside have certainly heard plenty about the struggling independent bookstore (and now even the struggling chain stores), working hard to stay afloat by serving as a nexus for their local community, and by providing extras, be it events, a café, games and other sidelines, and other add-ons. Yet the American Booksellers Association, which supports independent stores, claims that the indies are surviving and thriving, as illustrated by the fact that 45 new independent stores opened in twenty states in 2013. When my family left our Pennsylvania home for a spring break road trip to upstate New York recently, I decided that we would go on tour to independent bookstores along our route. I don’t have a new book to promote at the moment, so this would not be a typical book promotion tour, but it would be an unscientific look at the health of the independent bookstore. In four days of travel, we went to four stores....

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Lit Lunch: Where Readers Mix with Authors!

Sunday, June 22nd 11:30 am to 2pm Fork Restaurant, 306 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106 Enjoy a delicious meal at Fork in the company of the authors of some wonderful new books! Here’s how it works: brunch will be served in the private dining room at Fork. Four authors will be in attendance. Each author will do a short reading from her latest book and then join you, the guests, at your table: four authors, four tables. Four rotating authors, who will switch tables throughout the meal so that, by the end, you and your dining companions will have had a chance for conversation with each writer. Authors in attendance include: Elise Juska, author of The Blessings (May, 2014) and many more Nomi Eve, author of The Family Orchard and Henna House (coming in August) Robin Black, author of If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This and Life Drawings (coming in July) Pam Jenoff, author of The Kommandant’s Girl and The Winter Guest (coming in August) Cost: $55 Books will be available for sale separately at the event. To sign up, email lynn at lynnrosen.com or click here. With questions, email or call...

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Literary Larks
Apr10

Literary Larks

It’s spring and time to hit the road. Open Book is taking some fun field trips to literary venues in the Philadelphia area. Join us! Saturday June 14th Pearl S. Buck House Perkasie (Doylestown), PA Time: 11am to 2pm Buck’s classic novel The Good Earth, published in 1931, still resonates with its story of man’s striving to better himself, and the societal challenges of tradition versus modernization in China. In exciting news, a heretofore unknown novel, The Eternal Wonder, written by Buck in 1973 just before her death, has just been published for the first time. The Eternal Wonder tells the coming-of-age story of Randolph Colfax (Rann for short), an extraordinarily gifted young man whose search for meaning and purpose leads him to New York, England, Paris, on a mission patrolling the DMZ in Korea that will change his life forever—and, ultimately, to love. In this Literary Lark, we will convene for a private tour of Buck’s home in Perkasie. This will be followed by lunch at Vintage Grill and a discussion of both novels, The Good Earth and The Eternal Wonder. Cost: $65 This includes house admission and a copy of The Eternal Wonder, which you will receive when you sign up for the program, and lunch. Lunch will offer a varied menu of choices. Logistics: We will meet at the Pearl S. Buck house; you must provide your own transportation to the house. The restaurant, The Vintage Grill, is an easy straight drive three miles down the road from the house. Sign up HERE: With any questions or for more information please email lynn@lynnrosen.com or call...

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