Providing expertise for
publishers, authors and readers
Lynn has indeed been reading books!
Jun09

Lynn has indeed been reading books!

Lynn’s been reading lots of books these days. In fact, she’s been gobbling them down so fast she almost can’t remember them! But here’s a quick summary of recent reads. As a member of the implementation committee of the “One Book, One Jewish Community,” in Philadelphia, I’ve been reading many books with Jewish themes. I enjoyed a thriller by Charles Belfoure called The Paris Architect. Set in Paris during Nazi occupation, it follows a Christian architect who, against his will, becomes involved in creating hiding places for Jews. It’s very suspenseful in a way that at times reminded me of the anxiety I felt watching the brilliant film “Inglourious Basterds.” Also for the “OBOJC” committee, I’m reading a new novel by Nomi Eve. Henna House, set in Yemen in the 1920s, tells the story of a character named Adela and the passions and trials of her Jewish community. I’m also reading All I Love and Know by Judith Frank about a gay couple in Northampton, MA, whose life is thrown into upheaval when one of the men’s brother and his Israeli wife are killed in a suicide bombing, leaving them to raise their children. For my “Hot Off the Press” class, in which we read brand new literary fiction, I just read Mona Simpson’s new Casebook. It tells the story of a family’s divorce from the point of view of the fourteen-year-old son. He begins spying on his mom to find out if she’s talking to her best friend about them letting their young sons watch “Survivor,” and winds up learning much more than he bargained for. I loved how the authorlooks at love, family and divorce from this point of view. You may know Simpson for her best-known novel, Anywhere But Here, about a mother/daughter road trip. There’s ever so much more on my summer reading list, including a few classics, some Young Adult books (have not yet read The Book Thief!), a new novel called Perfect by Rachel Joyce, who first novel, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, I really enjoyed, and some non-fiction about authors: The Trip to Echo Spring: On Writers and Drinking by Olivia...

Read More

Mourning Author Maya Angelou

I’ll share this statement from the National Book Foundation: Maya Angelou (1928-2014), Recipient of the National Book Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013 We join the world in mourning the death of Dr. Maya Angelou, recipient of the National Book Foundation’s Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community in 2013. Writer, performer, and political activist, Dr. Angelou died Tuesday after a long illness at her home in Winston Salem, N.C. She was 86. Harold Augenbraum, executive director of the National Book Foundation says, “We share the gratitude of so many for Dr. Angelou’s contributions to literature, human rights, and social justice. Her legacy is one that all writers and readers across the world can admire and aspire to.” In her acceptance speech at the 2013 National Book Awards Ceremony, Dr. Angelou said, “For over 40 years, imagine it, I have tried to tell the truth as I understand it.” Watch Maya Angelou’s acceptance speech: http://vimeo.com/80091024 More on Maya Angelou and her 2013 Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community: http://www.nationalbook.org/literarian.html#ma...

Read More
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...

Read More
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...

Read More
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....

Read More