On today's menu:
1. Siobhan Fallon utterly charmed the pants off me with an account of her book tour for You Know When the Men are Gone as she juggled lack of sleep, motherhood, and a cat who disappeared inside a hotel-room wall.
In an ideal world, with a book about to come out, you think you'd do all sorts of healthy things in preparation: get lots of sleeps, go to the gym to lose those five pounds, maybe get a manicure for those ragged nails you've been chewing as you wait for the reviews to roll in.
Or you could make sure your immune system is completely shot, your sleep schedule non-existence. You could pack up your home in Monterey, CA, and send most of your worldly belongings to Amman, Jordan, live out of suitcase for a month and a half, stay with your in-laws with your toddler who despises her air mattress and wakes you up all night, your two cats singing meow-duets at 4 a.m, preferably when standing on your pillow. (Read more....)
2. The day after BordersFail, those of us in the Borders Rewards program received an e-mail from CEO Mike Edwards, patting our hands and reassuring us that the universe of books and lattes remains untilted. The company "will continue to maintain its strong national presence" and will only be closing "underperforming stores." Here's the email from Borders (click the image to enlarge it):
My "local" Borders (85 miles away in Bozeman, Montana) is one of those soon-to-be-shuttered bookstores. Maybe yours is, too. Maybe you are devastated by this news. Or maybe you greeted the headlines of Borders' bankruptcy with cheers and fist-pumps, or an arched eyebrow and a "had to happen sooner or later" out of the side of your mouth. But the fact remains that one more outlet (or, more accurately, 200 more "underperforming" outlets) for books is gone. That may be justifiably good news for some local independent booksellers (and I'm happy for them, I really am), but there are still a lot of suddenly-unemployed Borders employees and the saddest sight of all: aisles of empty bookshelves. For an author's perspective on BordersFail, Melanie Benjamin (author of Alice I Have Been) wrote an enlightening account for The Huffington Post:
It's very hard to take an optimistic look at the situation, right now. I try, we all try, but it's just difficult. All I can think about are the nice people whose hands I shook the other day. I looked at the list of stores that were slated to be closed; several of the ones I had visited were on it. I also can't stop thinking about the books I signed, and the book I have coming out, and wonder who's going to buy them, and where.And then there's this Huffington Post opinion piece from Laura Munson: "Books Without Borders." Like Laura, I'm a little confused by how this will aftershock writers, but I love how she wraps it up:
Regardless of what happens to the publishing industry and bookstores and books, people will always read because writers will always write, and people need stories. And to those indie bookstores out there who have held on against the massive tables of discounted books at Costco and box stores across the nation, and to those box stores who are meeting their maker or about to, and to the publishers who are doing their best to ride the changing tides of technology, I bid you all hope and high ground. Personally, I'm an indie kind of gal. Always have been. But I have learned that us/us thinking is far more productive than us/them.
3. This has been the week for news of literary discoveries. New work has surfaced from Daphne DuMaurier and Enid Blyton, and annotated volumes from Thomas Jefferson's library were discovered in St. Louis. Now, would somebody please grab a flashlight and poke around J. D. Salinger's attic?
4. This just in from the Department of Small But Coveted Statuettes: shortlists for the Nebula Awards, the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes, and The Diagram Prize have been announced. If you're not familiar with the latter, it's the annual competition sponsored by The Bookseller website for "Oddest Title of the Year." This year, nominees include What Color is Your Dog? and Managing a Dental Practice the Genghis Khan Way.
5. Memoirist Nikki Stern reacts to Janet Maslin's New York Times review of Joyce Carol Oates' new memoir about her sudden widowhood. Maslin, Stern asserts, questioned Oates' "sincerity of purpose." This knocked the wind out of Stern, herself a widow. She then took her critical anger to the page and wrote a probing essay called "The Phony Widow":
The writer in me asks: How did there come to be a subset of memoir about spousal loss? How do we rate and rank these books? How do we rate or rank the loss? Are those with greater command of the language or the market share the ones who are most “qualified” to write about this subject? Does it depend on circumstance, or on context? (Read more...)
6. See, this is why I rarely re-read books: The Suck Fairy.
7. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: The Great Gatsby: Nintendo version. I played until my lives ran out. Some ruffian kept throwing bottles at me and it took me a while to realize bumping into butlers drained my energy level (what-ho, Jeeves!). But I beat on, a Mario Brother against the current.
8. I've never read Ayn Rand; nor (unlike some of you out there) have I ever pretended to have read Ayn Rand. Frankly, I think I'm frightened of her. Perhaps this new movie can help me conquer that fear and crack open Atlas Shrugged:
It's interesting to see how the filmmakers have brought the story to modern times. It very likely could be an awful movie--replete with hokey dialogue which is on prominent display in the trailer, along with several sweeping shots of car-commercial landscapes. But I am a fan of actress Taylor Schilling from that TV hospital drama Mercy. So it's not a complete shrug for me.