At BookExpo America, LJ‘s Reviews editors found titles to intrigue, inspire, and set imaginations free
AND THE REAL EDITORS ARE? LJ’s Review editors logged many hours at BookExpo America searching for forthcoming titles that show the most promise for libraries and their patrons. Our avatars, on the cover of the July 2013 issue, got all the credit, however. Here are the editors in “person.” How many did you correctly identify? (Clockwise, from bottom left-hand corner): Bette-Lee Fox, Molly McArdle, Barbara Hoffert, Wilda Williams, Margaret Heilbrun, Annalisa Pesek (in pink), Stephanie Klose, Henrietta Thornton-Verma, and Mahnaz Dar.
Four hot small-press novels
Past doors glazed with emerald advertisements for Amy Tan’s The Valley of Amazement, under enormous banners proclaiming publication of the latest from million-copy best-selling authors, BookExpo America offered hundreds of smaller titles with big ambitions. Some were standouts, and some nicely capture the literary zeitgeist.
Take Pamela Erens’s The Virgins (Tin House, Aug.). Like two recent titles, Amber Dermont’s The Starboard Sea and Ron Irwin’s Flat Water Tuesday (and harking back to Curtis Sittenfeld’s Prep and, inevitably, J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye), Erens’s second novel uses a heightened prep school environment to examine the consequences of our sometimes painful discovery of self and sexuality. Erens’s outsiders among the posh at 1979 Auburn Academy are Jewish American Aviva Rossner and Korean American Seung Jung, and the trajectory of their passionate relationship—reported by classmate Bruce Bennett-Jones, shocked in the end by the shadow-puppet difference between perception and reality—is delivered in especially polished, urgent language.
A close associate of the late, great Chinua Achebe, Okey Ndibe adds his voice to a new generation of writers (think Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Dinaw Mengestu, and the recently debuting NoViolet Bulawayo) who portray the African American immigrant experience. Foreign Gods, Inc. (Soho, Jan. 2014; see also Molly McArdle’s picks, p. 23) features New York–based Nigerian Ike, a cab driver despite his American college degree, who hopes to acquire some much-needed cash by stealing the statue of a war deity from his village and selling it to a New York art gallery. His picaresque journey, gently but incisively told, shows us the vagaries of both American and African culture.
Fiction can reimagine flesh-and-blood folks to stunning effect, as evidenced by works like Nancy Horan’s Under the Wide and Starry Sky (Ballantine, Jan. 2014), about Robert Louis Stevenson and his wife, and Vivien Shotwell’s Vienna Nocturne (Ballantine, Feb. 2014), about a real-life English soprano’s affair with Mozart. (Both titles were featured at LJ’s Day of Dialog, see p. 24ff.) What a pleasure, then, to discover Melissa Pritchard’s Palmerino (Bellevue Literary Pr., Jan. 2014), which envisions the life of Vernon Lee, the pen name and male persona of Englishwoman Violet Paget. Opening with the contemporary story of Sylvia, who discovers Lee while working at Villa il Palmerino in the Italian countryside and becomes her biographer, this work is related in sun-on-raindrops prose that draws in readers.
Classic tales are often retold, much to the delight of readers who just cannot get enough, but it was still a surprise to see Minae Mizumura’s A True Novel (Other, Nov.), which imaginatively sets Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights in postwar Japan. (Interestingly, award-winning Japanese author Mizumura did both undergraduate and graduate work at Yale, studying not English but French literature.) We actually meet Taro Azuma in 1960s New York but are then flashbacked to his upbringing as a poor orphan obsessed with a rich girl at a time when Japan was rapidly westernizing. In translation, the narrative is colloquial, loose-limbed, and finely detailed; it’s anything but a slavish imitation of the original.—Barbara Hoffert
Murder, mortality, marriage
Every year at BEA there’s that book everyone’s talking about and not just people from the publishing house in question. This year for me it was John Searles’s murder mystery/ghost story Help for the Haunted (Morrow, Sept.). Searles, editor-at-large at Cosmopolitan, emceed the Association of American Publishers (AAP) Librarians’ Dinner, introducing such luminaries as Erica Jong and Martha Grimes. They were almost overshadowed by Searles, who not only came armed with each author’s mock Cosmo cover but regaled the crowd with hilarious stories of his path to being a writer. I can’t wait to see how that funny a personality creates a horror novel.
At the same dinner, I was starstruck to see Jong, who is celebrating the 40th anniversary of Fear of Flying (Henry Holt) with a new paperback edition of the groundbreaking title. While she noted with some remorse that “a book like that drowns out everything else you do,” that hasn’t stopped her. Next year, she revealed, will see the publication of a new novel, whose working title is Fear of Dying.
Any new Ann Patchett is a drop-everything-and-read affair, but her nonfiction is a special treat. Her last book-length work of nonfiction was Truth & Beauty: A Friendship; released in 2004, the memoir described her friendship with Lucy Grealy, author of Autobiography of a Face. Patchett’s essays in her new book, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage (HarperCollins, Nov.), take on everything from her two marriages to the birth of her Parnassus bookstore in Nashville. During LJ’s Day of Dialog, Jonathan Burnham, senior vice president and publisher, HarperCollins, said of the book that its “writing is extremely intimate and can almost be read as a memoir.”
I haven’t stopped showering my husband with sincere smiles since learning that those whose smiles register in their eyes as well as their mouth in high school yearbook pictures are less likely to get divorced later. Maybe it doesn’t work that way, but it’s the kind of information that ensures that Martin Hertenstein’s The Tell: The Little Clues That Reveal Big Truths About Who We Are (Basic Bks: Perseus, Nov.) will be fascinating and a hit with readers who enjoy works by Malcolm Gladwell.—Henrietta Thornton-Verma
Hot summer audiobooks
Since taking over LJ’s media section, I have a new perspective on every new title I see: Who’s going to narrate that?, I wonder. This is doubly true if there’s something unusual about the book, such as Colum McAdam’s A Beautiful Truth. The novel’s point of view shifts between a Vermont family that has adopted a chimpanzee and a group of chimps living in a research facility in Florida. How does one voice a nonhuman primate? Joe Barrett narrates September’s AudioGo release; we’ll have to wait to find out.
It seemed as though tall, elegant Louise Penny was everywhere I turned at BEA—signing in her publisher’s booth; at the Audio Publishers Association’s Audies gala winning the Best Mystery award with her longtime narrator, Ralph Cosham, for A Beautiful Mystery; at Friday’s audiobook and author tea; smiling down from a huge banner in the lobby…. Every sighting was a reminder of how much I’m looking forward to August’s release of How the Light Gets In, her latest Chief Inspector Gamache novel (see book review, p. 61), from Macmillan Audio.
I’ve heard a lot of buzz about Hollis Seamon’s Somebody Up There Hates You (HighBridge Audio, Sept.) from the YA-loving corners of the Internet. The story of two terminally ill teenagers who fall in love while in hospice, it has obvious parallels with John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, but the author’s experience with children’s hospitals comes from extended visits to one when her son was ill.
Richard Snow’s I Invented the Modern Age: The Rise of Henry Ford and the Most Important Car Ever Made (Tantor, Jun.) looks like the best kind of popular history, addressing both the man himself and the astonishing effects he had on business, industry, and people’s lives.
Lastly, any new Neil Gaiman release is automatically going to get my attention. The author narrates The Ocean at the End of the Lane (HarperCollins, Jun.), a story about a middle-aged man’s memories of a traumatic event when he was seven and the remarkable girl he met at the same time. —Stephanie Klose
Vive la France!
With few celebrities (with the exception of Grumpy Cat) at BEA 2013 to distract me, I could concentrate on the serious business of scoping out my picks of the show. I didn’t realize until I took my biblio-booty home that there was a French flavor to my selections.
First catching my attention was Antoine Laurain’s The President’s Hat (Gallic, dist. by Consortium, Sept.). Winner of the Prix Landerneau Découvertes and Prix Relay des Voyageurs, this delightful “1980s fairy tale for adults” is the story of how a black felt hat belonging to French president François Mitterand transforms the lives of those who possess it. Its gentle satirical humor reminded me of Jacques Tati’s classic films, and, no, you don’t have to know French politics to enjoy this novel. At the LJ’s fifth annual Librarian Shout ’n Share, Kansas PL’s Kaite Mediatore Stover enthusiastically advised fans of The Elegance of the Hedgehog not to miss Laurain’s book. The American Booksellers Association has also included the title in its fall “Celebrate Debut Authors with Indies” promotional program.
We move into much darker territory with Pierre Lemaitre’s twisty thriller Alex (MacLehose: Quercus, Sept.). Praised in Europe for his Hitchcockian plots, the award-winning Lemaitre makes his English-language debut with this devilish tale about a young woman snatched off a Parisian street. But as Police Commandant Camille Verhoeven investigates the kidnapping, he learns that this girl is no ordinary victim. This intense crime novel asks “who is the predator and who is the prey” and will remind many readers of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; interestingly, Lemaitre’s English editor also edited Larsson.
Next year marks the centennial of the start of World War I. Jean Echenoz, one of France’s most distinguished writers, takes the “war to end all wars” as his subject of his novel 1914 (New Pr., Jan. 2014). Opening on a summer day in August 1914, this brilliantly compressed (at 128 pages) yet powerful book follows five Frenchmen, two of whom leave behind a young woman who waits for their return, as they leave for the trenches of northern France and the unthinkable carnage that awaits them.
I love travel memoirs, the more exotic and extreme the better. And what could be more extreme than spending six months alone in a cabin in Siberia with your closest neighbors a day’s hike away? Winner of the Prix Médicis for nonfiction, The Consolations of the Forest: Alone in a Cabin on the Siberian Taiga (Rizzoli Ex Libris, Sept.) recalls Sylvain Tesson’s experiment in isolation and solitude on Russia’s Lake Baikal with only his notebooks, his books, and many bottles of vodka to keep him company: “I’d promised myself that before I turned forty, I would live as a hermit deep in the woods.” Besides chopping wood for his stove, fishing, and skating on the lake, Tesson spent a lot of time reading from his carefully selected library of 70 titles. “When you have misgivings about the poverty of your inner life, it’s important to fill that void in a pinch,” he writes. A philosophy with which I agree wholeheartedly!
Crossing the English Channel, I was taken by two Jane Austen reinterpretations. Longbourn (Knopf, Oct.,) is Jo Baker’s long-awaited alternate take on Pride and Prejudice from the servants’ perspective. At the Random House BEA breakfast, Baker told librarians that Pride and Prejudice had always been her comfort read. But because her family several generations ago had been in service, the author knew she would have never been one of those characters who attend the balls. “I knew my place in P&P, and I began to read it differently. I wondered, who is going to wash the mud off Elizabeth Bennet’s petticoat? When I started thinking about that anonymous servant, my story began to emerge.” Also coming in October is Sense & Sensibility (Harper: HarperCollins), Joanna Trollope’s contemporary reimagining of Austen’s classic novel of the same name. For Austen fans, there is plenty of good reading ahead! —Wilda Williams
Successful sagas and such
Though not as extensive as, say, Stephanie Laurens’s Cynster series (which includes 20 titles), Grace Burrowes’s “Windham Family Saga” will reach its conclusion at eight volumes with Lady Jenny’s Christmas Portrait (Sourcebooks Casablanca, Oct.). Protagonist Genevieve Windham “is a master at keeping her cards out of sight,” especially where her parents, the Duke and Duchess of Moreland, and her siblings are concerned. She is the aunt who travels among her family’s residences to dote on her nieces and nephews and keep herself busy; the daughter who, according to the duke, “dabbles” at painting. Elijah Harrison is a successful portraitist and candidate for the Royal Academy of Artists and recognizes in Jenny a gifted artist too easily dismissed owing to her gender and quiet disposition. He remembers when she stole into Monsieur Antoine’s class dressed in male attire to work with a live model in order to perfect her skills. Jenny remembers those clandestine moments as well, for the naked man she studied was one Elijah Harrison. Now the two seem to be running into each other at the homes of her many relatives. Coincidence? Or holiday meddling? Though fans will miss this beautifully drawn series, Burrowes has many more stories and characters to come. Catch the Maryland-based author whenever you can.
Also a Maryland resident, author Mary Jo Putney first caught my attention with The Bartered Bride (Ballantine, 2002). Now I am captivated by her books about “The Lost Lords,” which revolve around a group of young nobles who met at a school for the troublesome sons of the aristocracy and are now bound in adulthood by those friendships. In Sometimes a Rogue (Zebra: Kensington, Sept.), the series’ fifth title, Rob Carmichael chases after the kidnapped Miss Sarah Clarke-Townsend, sister-in-law to Adam Lawford, the Duke of Ashton (Loving a Lost Lord). Being a Bow Street Runner comes in handy for Rob, as it allows him to ignore his heritage while using skills he has honed over time. Putney’s writing is always exquisite and potent. Having published her first title in 1987, Putney is being honored by the Romance Writers of America with the organization’s 2013 Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award.
One of my selections for “Editors’ Spring Picks” (LJ 2/15/13) was Lauren Willig’s The Ashford Affair, which took the author into new territory. In August, she returns to familiar ground with the next of her “Pink Carnation” books, The Passion of the Purple Plumeria (NAL: Penguin Group [USA]; see review, p. 77). This chapter in the long-running Napoleonic-era spy series focuses on Gwendolyn Meadows, “chaperone” to spymaster Jane Williston. There’s a bit of an edge here that readers will relish, with a deep and poignant romance between a slightly older couple. And the Pink Carnation herself sheds a feather or two in expectation of her next adventure. This series is totally addictive.
So you don’t think that I am fixated on historical romance, I’m intrigued by the premise (and the cover art) of Sarah Castille’s Against the Ropes, an erotic romance due out in September from Sourcebooks. A mixed martial arts (MMA) club owner and a medic fight temptation and eventually get KO’d by love. Mira: Harlequin revs up for fall with more of Bella Andre’s “Sullivans” series, which was originally released as an ebook; I Only Have Eyes for You will pub in October. Sheryl Woods continues her “Chesapeake Shores” titles for Mira just in time for the holidays with A Seaside Christmas, also in October. It’s a lush season for romance fans.—Bette-Lee Fox
This year was my second ever BEA, and I already felt like a veteran. (I’d show you my war wounds, but they are all paper cuts.) Firmly declining the galleys that could otherwise be mailed to me, storing my day’s haul underneath a certain snack table at LJ’s Librarians’ Lounge, bringing my lunch with me, and, of course (most important), wearing comfortable shoes: I felt far less frazzled than last year. Unfortunately, I have not figured out anything to make the walk from the 34th Street C train to the Javits Center any more pleasant, but there’s always next year.
I found a lot to get excited about on the show floor. Two of my favorite writers, Jesmyn Ward (whose Salvage the Bones won a National Book Award in 2011) and Hilton Als (theater critic, The New Yorker) have books coming out this fall, respectively, Men We Reaped (Bloomsbury, Sept.) and White Girls (McSweeney’s, Nov.). In the former, Ward examines the visceral costs of institutional racism and remembers five men she lost in four years. In the latter, Als collects 13 essays (12 previously published) that touch on Flannery O’Conner, André Leon Talley, Richard Pryor, and Malcolm X with a signature lyricism and personal bent that I’ve come to love.
Another book of essays I found, by O. Henry Award winner Thomas Glave, is Among the Bloodpeople (Akashic, Jul.). This collection is wide-ranging, moving from the Caribbean (Jamaica in particular) to Cambridge, England, and from poetry to sex to discrimination. I love this passage from “The Bloodpeople in the Language”:
Once upon a realm, in a far-off kingdom by the sea, there lived a small boy who believed that his elder sister knew everything. He believed that she knew the names and historical categories of snails (which she did), and the infinite personalities of trees (patient, impatient, skulking, among them), and how mustard leaves crept and crawled—crawled, and even walked—until taller plants could no longer ignore them, had to engage with them; and exactly what the ancient order of rainbows—rainbows well-known and those more elusive, that sometimes nourished secretive, determined sea creatures—have to do with words like homunculus, with words like crepuscular and even adamantine; with notions like space, consume, and unrendered.
The rest of the books that grabbed my attention are all fiction, a category I don’t often deal with at LJ (where I assign only nonfiction) but devour in my personal time. I found five novels and one short story collection to add to my pile, three of which seem to have an ocean theme. The lovely watercolor cover of Abby Geni’s The Last Animal (Counterpoint, Oct.)—part octopus, part jellyfish, part fish fin—immediately drew me in, and I’m staying to read “Captivity,” a story about an aquarium worker haunted by her brother’s disappearance.
Kathryn Davis’s Duplex, a surreal novel of 1950s suburbia, has another great sea passage about a group of girls—who call themselves the Aquanauts—who decide to live undersea, to “explore the parts of the ocean where human beings had never been before.” They imagined the whole world submerged, so “they could swim through the top floors of skyscrapers and into places like maximum security prisons and movie stars’ mansions and the lion cage at the zoo, places that had always been off-limits to ordinary people.”
My third ocean book is Janice Clark’s The Rathbones (Random, Aug.; see review p. 70), which was described to me as The Odyssey meets Moby-Dick meets The Addams Family, to which I say: give me that book. It also features a lovely family tree, illustrated by Clark herself. (I am a sucker for family trees.) I have a feeling that this one is going to be a lot of fun.
My last three novels fall into the nonoceanic category, but that doesn’t make them any less worthy. Karen Shepard’s The Celestials (Tin House, Jun.), about a group of Chinese workers in 1870s North Adams, MA, piqued my interest owing to a recent visit to MASS MoCA, a mill–turned–contemporary art museum, located there. Shepard, who lives in nearby Williamstown, drew from real historical events. After a strike by white workers, a North Adams factory owner invited Chinese workers to replace them, spurring nationwide protest and eventually the United States’ first major anti-immigration law, the Chinese Exclusion Act.
Okey Ndibe’s Foreign Gods, Inc. (Soho, Jan. 2014; see also Barbara Hoffert’s picks, p. 20), follows Nigerian-born, Amherst-educated, and money-pressed Ike as he plots the theft of a religious statue from his home village so he can sell it to a high-end art gallery in New York City. Ndibe’s portrait of the art world, and indeed of Western fascination with “exotic” objects, sears: “African gods are no longer in vogue,” one collector says blithely. “Three, four years ago, they were all the rage.… Then things—tastes—changed.… It just happens that African gods don’t excite collectors as they once did.”
Haunted by the conflict of the 1990s, Gost, a tiny mountain village in Croatia, has a terrible, and unspoken, history. When a middle-class British family (a mother and her two children) move into a long-empty house, the community rankles at their naiveté and unthinking efforts at reconstruction and restoration. British novelist Aminatta Forna tells the story of the stoic local handyman who helps them with their repairs and struggles with his own memories in The Hired Man (Grove/Atlantic, Oct.), a book that looks (in the best ways) spooky, menacing, and deceptive.—Molly McArdle
Old friends and new
One of the best things about attending BEA is meeting old friends. But I wasn’t just reconnecting with colleagues; the upcoming release of Bridget Jones: Mad about the Boy (Knopf, Oct.) meant the chance to get reacquainted with the woman whose dating and career woes more than prepared me for my own life as a “singleton.” Standing in line for author Helen Fielding’s autograph, my fellow BEA-ers and I speculated about the identity of the “boy.” The steadfast but snarky Mark Darcy? Charming bad boy Daniel Cleaver? From what I do know, it seems that our heroine is fretting over the pitfalls that texting have brought to the courtship world, which suggests that Bridget and her seemingly perfect match, Mark, are not basking in connubial bliss.
Speaking of old acquaintances, I can’t wait to see what lies in store for the protagonist of Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep (Scribner, Sept.). Danny Torrance, the five-year-old blessed (or cursed) with uncanny psychic abilities in King’s classic work of horror The Shining, is grown up but still haunted by his memories of the ghostly Overlook Hotel and the legacy of his disturbed, alcoholic father. The adult Dan has taken a job at a nursing home in a small New Hampshire town, where he uses his preternatural talents to provide comfort to the dying.
It’s impossible to avoid cats in the book world, from library cats to Grumpy Cat getting ready for his close-up at BEA. John Bradshaw’s Cat Sense: How the New Feline Science Can Make You a Better Friend to Your Pet (Basic Bks: Perseus, Sept.) is ideal for anyone who’s ever wanted to know more about our feline overlords, like how they became our constant companions and why so many of them are in the habit of bringing their owners small dead animals.
Best known for creating the memorable cover art for Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park, graphic designer Chuck Kidd has written Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design (Workman, Oct). While this title on the concepts behind design is targeted at children, it’s a fun and creative volume that will appeal to adults, too.
Though I’m a bibliophile at heart, several new titles rekindled my passion for my second love: rock and roll. At over 700 pages, Philippe Margotin and Jean-Michel Guesdon’s All the Songs: The Story Behind Every Beatles Release (Black Dog & Leventhal, Oct.) is an ambitious compendium that amasses information on each of the Fab Four’s recordings, from the technical to the trivial (for example, Paul McCartney wrote “I Saw Her Standing There” in 1962 about his then girlfriend Iris Caldwell, whose sister was part of another rock group, Rory Storm & the Hurricane, which included Ringo Starr). I’m particularly looking forward to the stories behind Let It Be, the last Beatles album to be released, whose production caused a lot of strife and angst among the four.
But wait—there’s more! In When They Were Boys: The True Story of the Beatles’ Rise to the Top (Running Pr., Jul.), music reporter Larry Kane (one of the few journalists to travel with the Beatles) examines the band from a new and unexpected angle: exploring how the four first met as teenagers.
Finally, with Legends, Icons & Rebels: Music that Changed the World (Tundra, Oct.), authors Robbie Robertson (singer-songwriter and member of The Band), his son Sebastian Robertson, Jim Guerinot, and Jared Levine have penned profiles of famous figures in modern music history, including Billie Holiday, Sam Cooke, Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, and more—aimed at both young readers and their parents. The Robertsons, on hand to discuss their work, expressed the importance of giving young people a strong music foundation and described the agonizing process of culling the number of artists in the collection down to a mere 27.—Mahnaz Dar
The facts of life
Oh, dear. BEA is over. I am sifting through the fall/winter books I learned about there, pondering what to highlight for further attention—and I’m trying to steer away from my usual ruts. I must not select books on evolution again. I must not yammer on about silent film stars. I must not gleefully report on a new biography of an Enlightenment philosopher. I must get a grip—speaking of which, I will not discuss the evolution of the hominid precision grip from the power grip of other apes.
I will not mention that new book coming in October from the University of Chicago, The Accidental Species: Misunderstandings of Human Evolution, by Henry Gee. And I’ll decline to expound on Russell H. Tuttle’s Apes and Human Evolution (Harvard Univ., Feb. 2014).
You can avoid those subjects, Margaret (talking to oneself is an evolutionary feature unique to humans), can’t you? Dance around those subjects, if you must, but select more widely. Come to think of it, the very subject of selection intrigues me—and I don’t mean just natural selection!
For some years, I worked as a librarian/archivist at a combined research library and history museum and curated some exhibits there. The library and museum behaved according to their species: the library to grant unmediated access to its collections, the museum to select particular items and interpret them for visitors through the labels and the juxtaposition of objects.
I’m intrigued by a couple of forthcoming titles related to the politics of museum display and interpretation. Who Owns America’s Past: The Smithsonian and the Problem of History (Johns Hopkins), by Robert C. Post, curator emeritus at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History, comes out in October. He writes of the shift at the Smithsonian, over the years of his work there, from producing collection-driven shows with modest labeling to “concept-driven” presentations, even including props, as if a history exhibit were a department store window display.
We’ve all been known to play Three-Card Monte with our facts now and then, switching the hold we have on them from power grip to precision grip at will, while professing an obligation to honor the truth. Many of us like “reality shows” on TV, even as we suspect the producers of those shows of having a grip on “reality” different from our own. When we walk through a museum exhibit, what kind of reality do we assume we’ll encounter?
In Assassination and Commemoration: JFK, Dallas, and the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza (Oklahoma Univ., Jul.), Stephen Fagin, associate curator and oral historian at Dallas’s Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, writes about how that museum has reckoned with its mission to memorialize and interpret a national tragedy while coping with a city’s years of shame over its place in the narrative.
Another forthcoming title reminds me that the contouring of “reality” is not a new phenomenon. Before the days of television, the Internet, and social media, Hollywood was determining its approach to Hitler’s rise in 1930s Germany. Ben Urwand’s The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler (Belknap: Harvard Univ., Oct.) surprises in its revelations of the accommodations that the major studios made with Hitler (an avid film fan) and his henchmen. Should it surprise us that Urwand found scant archival records of this relationship in the studios’ archives but found the paper trail in Nazi archives overseas? Owing to Urwand’s research trail, his book doesn’t much overlap with Thomas Doherty’s Hollywood and Hitler, 1933–1939 (Columbia Univ.), which came out in April.
Funny how this whole question of interpretation leads me helplessly back to the subject of evolution, specifically the question of evolutionary science versus creationism. I’m glad to see that Donald R. Prothero’s Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future (Indiana Univ., Sept.) and Edward Caudill’s Intelligently Designed: How Creationists Built the Campaign Against Evolution (Univ. of Illinois, Nov.) will address the repercussions to be felt by all of us when a few work to subvert scientific facts.
Well, Margaret, you’ve done it! You’ve stitched together your thoughts on some fall titles—which reminds me: Ohio University Press has a book coming out early next year that looks to be both fascinating and beautiful. It’s Aimee E. Newell’s A Stitch in Time: The Needlework of Aging Women in Antebellum America (Jan. 2014). While girls created samplers in order to learn their stitches, using simple facts (those again) for practice, by embroidering their names, birth dates, and so on, older women, Newell explains, expressed much more with their embroidery, crafting samplers as a means of coping with experiences and sharing something deeper of themselves.
I’m off now to find a needle and thread.—Margaret Heilbrun
One book at a time
The book review editor’s work is a balancing act: keep up with the imagination and stay up on the facts. So in a way, BEA is a chance for editors to rest—at least the imagination has less to consider—and the aisles aren’t so different from those in the LJ bookroom. We meet humans instead of emails and see publishers show off in their branded booths. Mostly, BEA is about introductions to books and people.
It’s impossible to say when I was first introduced to W.H. Auden (1907–73), but the influence of his poetry reached me again when I took home the galley of the new Princeton critical edition of Auden’s paramount poem, For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratorio (Jun.), edited by Alan Jacobs. These verses (later set to music by friend and composer Benjamin Britten) document Auden’s return to the Christian faith of his childhood, revealing his understanding of and relationship to the divine.
I was enticed by a related forthcoming title from Princeton: What Auden Can Do for You (Oct.) by best-selling author Alexander McCall Smith (“No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” series). In this poignant and very personal book, McCall Smith accounts for his deep admiration of Auden and the life-changing impacts of his poetry, offering the reminder, “Where we are when we read something can make all the difference.” Meanwhile, in his The Augustinian Theology of W.H. Auden (Univ. of South Carolina, Aug.), Stephen Schuler delves into Auden’s theological insights and the influence Augustine had on Auden’s spiritual revelations and the development of his literary methods. Schuler’s examination of the poetry of these years is in stride with that of Auden’s literary executor, Edward Mendelson, the series editor of the Princeton “W.H. Auden: Critical Editions.” You’ll find out more about that in my conversation with Mendelson about Auden, scheduled for LJ’s August issue.
When the first day of BEA was over I returned to the office to find three galleys of the anticipated Volume 2 of The Letters of Ernest Hemingway 1923—1925 (Cambridge Univ., Oct.) highlighting a portion of the author’s Paris years, revealing his off-and-on or otherwise kept-at-a-distance friendship with fellow expat F. Scott Fitzgerald and other companionships like those with John Dos Passos, Morley Callaghan, Sylvia Beach, and Gertrude Stein. Hemingway was a prolific letter writer, and his correspondence fills almost 700 pages. There’s also mention of an unpublished short story. I suspect a Volume 3 to follow. For fiction readers and those bedazzled by the era and lives of Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald there is further reward. The latest novel from Lee Smith, Guests on Earth (Shannon Ravenel: Algonquin, Oct.), tells the story of an orphaned child, her admittance to Highland Hospital in Asheville, NC, in 1936, meeting Zelda Fitzgerald there, and what else? I know there’s more, now back to the book.—Annalisa Pesek
Bette-Lee Fox is Managing Editor, Barbara Hoffert is Prepub Alert Editor, & Stephanie Klose is Media Editor, LJ. Mahnaz Dar is Associate Editor, Margaret Heilburn is Senior Editor, Molly McArdle and Annalisa Pesek are Assistant Editors, Henrietta Thornton-Verma is Editor, and Wilda Williams is Fiction Editor, LJ Reviews
Day of Dialog 2013
Library Journal’s sold-out 16th annual Day of Dialog (DoD), a precursor event to BookExpo America, was held May 29 at the McGraw-Hill Auditorium.
Five top publishing house editors shared their summer, fall, and winter favorites with a packed audience of librarians. This year’s lineup included a number of acclaimed first-time novelists returning with outstanding sophomore efforts. Having depicted Frank Lloyd Wright’s tragic affair with the married Mamah Cheney in Loving Frank, Nancy Horan now turns to the love story of Robert Lewis Stevenson and his American wife, Fanny. Beth Hoffman (Saving CeeCee Honeycutt) delivers another touching Southern tale, and Anne Fortier (Juliet) mines the myths of the Amazons for her new novel.
New fiction releases from Mitch Albom, Wally Lamb, Luanne Rice, Lee Smith, and Sarah Dunant are sure to delight readers. Fans of Tony Hillerman’s Navajo cops Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee will rejoice in a new adventure from the late author’s daughter, and acclaimed literary novelist William Boyd dons the mantle of Ian Fleming with a new James Bond thriller. Librarians will also love Koethi Zan’s chilling debut thriller that is being compared to Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, newcomer Emily Croy Barker’s fantasy (described as The Magicians for girls), and Vivien Shotwell’s historical novel about Mozart’s affair with a young soprano.
In nonfiction, Ann Patchett and Alice Hoffman, respectively, offer an essay collection and a compendium of hard-earned wisdom on how to live, while historical fiction author Alison Weir returns to her nonfiction roots with a biography of a Tudor. Another biography, by brothers David and Joe Henry, is sure to cause a stir with its portrait of comedian Richard Pryor. For a rundown of the 26 highlighted titles, with comments, click here.
Collection Development 2020
What will collection development look like in 2020? Christopher Platt, director, collections and circulation operations, New York Public Library, put that question to a panel of librarians and a publisher.
Self-published materials were the hot-button item of the panel. Librarians need a “giant clearing house of books that are somewhat vetted,” said Anna Mickelson, reference librarian, Springfield City Lib., MA. Until that happens, she collects works by local authors. While Terri Clark (acquisitions department manager, Mid-Continent PL, MO) explained how she currently assesses self-published material on Amazon—she looks for books whose reviews show that the reader really pondered the book and whose fans are geographically dispersed—Robin Bradford (collection development librarian, Indianapolis PL) cautioned that if we had had such filters five or ten years ago, “How would urban fiction have grown?” For more of the topics discussed, click here.
Getting Reacquainted with Fiction
LJ’s Barbara Hoffert led a panel of familiar faces in a discussion of their newest offerings. Amy Tan spoke about the impetus for her upcoming book, The Valley of Amazement (Ecco: HarperCollins, Nov.): finding a picture of her grandmother in the traditional costume of a courtesan. Richard North Patterson admitted that, unlike the narrator of Loss of Innocence (Quercus, dist. by Random, Oct.), he “is not a 22-year-old woman,” but said that, ultimately, getting gender right pales in comparison to “getting people to care about your characters.” Allan Gurganus’s new novel, Local Souls (Liveright: Norton, Sept.), returns to the setting of The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All—the fictional Falls, NC. Al Lamanda discussed Sunrise (Gale Cengage, Aug.), the follow-up to his Edgar-nominated Sunset. Caleb Crain’s debut novel, Necessary Errors (Penguin Bks: Penguin Group [USA], Aug.), follows a young American man as he navigates Prague of the early 1990s. For more on the authors’ views on writing fiction, click here.
LJ’s first poetry panel at DoD tackled making poetry accessible. Former U.S. poet laureate Robert Pinsky, Poets House’s Reggie Harris (Poetry in the Branches), Academy of American Poets’ Jennifer Benka, Norton’s Jill Bialosky (poet, novelist, and editor), and NYPL’s Miriam Tuliao (assistant director, selection, BookOps) discussed ways to “invite readers into poetry,” as Bialosky put it. The panelists suggested inviting local authors to read the works of others and welcoming community members to talk about, or read, poetry. One audience member questioned the difficulty of getting permission from publishers to videotape people reading poems aloud, to which Pinsky retorted, “We need to lobby” for that. “Appeal to living poets,” he said. For more on the panelists’ author and subject suggestions, click here.
Writing the Wonders of Science
Erin Shea, head of adult programming at Darien Library, CT, moderated a panel on writing about technical and scientific matters for a broad audience of lay readers. Panelists included Richard Dawkins (The Selfish Gene), who publishes the first volume of his memoir, An Appetite for Wonder, this fall (Ecco: HarperCollins, Oct.), Dave Goldberg (physics, Drexel Univ., A User’s Guide to the Universe), who has The Universe in the Rearview Mirror: How Hidden Symmetries Shape Reality (Dutton) coming out in July, and Simon Winchester (The Professor and the Madman), whose next book is The Men Who United the States: America’s Explorers, Inventors, Eccentrics and Mavericks, and the Creation of One Nation, Indivisible (Harper: HarperCollins, Oct.).
To write for a broad audience, Dawkins noted, does not mean that you should limit your language. “Use language at the full stretch,” he advised, going on to say that it’s fine for readers to need to go to the dictionary now and then. “Do justice to the science.” Goldberg noted that accessible science books will have a readership of those “thirsting to understand,” and yet he feels an obligation not to steer his readers far away from their inherent sense of wonder at the universe and at all that remains unknown.
Winchester said that there are academics who see him as “vulgarizing” science. Dawkins has been satisfied with the response of his colleagues to his work, while Goldberg noted that in many universities it still holds that academics must not write popular science until after they have achieved tenure. For more on the panelists’ background and favorite science reading, click here.