By Bette-Lee Fox, Margaret Heilbrun, Barbara Hoffert, Anna Katterjohn, Heather McCormack, Mike Rogers, & Wilda Williams
|Photo by Mike Rogers|
Coming full circle If you read the fine print in this editor’s Spring Pick (LJ 2/15/11, p. 32), you would know that among my favorite books is anything written by romance author Jo Goodman. How exciting, then, to discover not only a new Goodman title (Kissing Comfort, Sept.) but a new Goodman publisher, Berkley: Penguin Group (USA), after 35 releases with Zebra dating back to Passion’s Bride (1984). Romance authors tend to be associated with one publisher, so this is big news. I am thrilled that Jo Goodman is now a Berkley author, said Wendy McCurdy, Goodman’s current editor. I was her very first editor back in the early Zebra days, and she was one of the very first authors I ever acquired…. Now things have come full circle, and it’s a privilege to be [her] editor again here at Berkley. What’s the old saying? Love is lovelier the second time around?
Speaking of love, Kissing Comfort is set in the American West in the late 1800s. Having been rescued as a child after a wagon train massacre, Comfort Kennedy works for her uncles, Newt and Tucker, now well- established bankers in San Francisco. No one is more taken aback than Comfort when her friend Bram DeLong announces their engagement. It might be a ruse on Bram’s part, but his brother, Bode, is not the least bit happy: he’s been in love with Comfort for years. Look for a full review in a future issue of LJ.
My major duty at BEA is to serve as sentry to LJ’s Librarians’ Lounge, where we offer respite and refreshments. Positioned at the entryway, a prime locale to see people canvassing the show floor, I encountered the exceedingly talented and effervescent Lauren Willig, whose next Pink Carnation book (The Garden Intrigue, Dutton, Jan. 2012) continues the historical spy series launched with The Secret History of the Pink Carnation (LJ 11/15/04). The Carnation titles (which Lauren refers to as Pinks) are set in the early 19th century, while its 21st-century framing romance takes place barely beyond the initial pub date. I asked Willig if keeping the modern-day tale time-sensitive isn’t itself now a major challenge. There is no Facebook, no Twitter, no Glee. Willig agreed that that was getting to be more difficult. Still, considering her past successes, Willig will continue to get it right. Think Pinks.‚ Bette-Lee Fox
Transformation I’ve picked two books that eloquently trace the relationships between women fated to be paired by the forces of oppression. Both of the authors show that history, so often described on the community level, in fact occurs one human at a time.
In Brad Asher’s Cecelia and Fanny: The Remarkable Friendship Between an Escaped Slave and Her Former Mistress (Univ. Pr. of Kentucky, Oct.), I met Cecelia‚ she had only the one name‚ given in 1840 to Fanny Thruston, the teenaged daughter in a Louisville, KY, mercantile family. Six years later, accompanying Fanny on a visit to Niagara Falls‚ with Canada an eight-minute ferry-crossing away‚ Cecelia escaped to freedom.
From the Ballard Family Papers (Fanny’s married name), Asher discovered five letters from Fanny to Cecelia, years after Cecelia had crossed over to freedom, written in answer to letters Fanny had received from her former slave (Cecelia’s letters are lost). Asher shows that nine years after Cecelia’s escape, Fanny, from a household that owned six slaves, wrote to Cecelia as the companion of my childhood and told her that she recognized that it is a very natural desire of the slave to be free.
Can two who function in opposition ever become compatible? In Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock (Yale Univ., Sept.), David Margolick reminds readers of the September 1957 day when Little Rock Central High School, AR, which had only allowed blacks inside for janitorial services, was set by court order to accept nine black teenagers into its classrooms. One of them, Elizabeth Eckford, age 15, did not meet up with the others to enter the building together and found herself alone, harassed, and stalked by an angry crowd.
As Eckford retreated to the bus stop, several news photographers famously snapped her stoic image while a young white woman behind her screamed at her hatefully. The photograph’s caption did not name the taunting woman; she was Hazel Bryan, also only 15 at the time. Five years later, married and the mother of two sons, Hazel was again tracking Elizabeth Eckford, this time by phone, to apologize for what she had done.
I saw in these books how transformations are never smooth, never simple, and cannot fully rid us of our flaws. Yet transformation happens, one human at a time.‚ Margaret Heilbrun
The shape of a whale If any work can be proclaimed the Great American Novel, it’s Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. And if any American novel is calling me, just begging to be reread (I mean, how smart was I when I first encountered it as a teenager?), it’s Melville’s brooding classic. How fortuitous, then, that at my very first stop on the BEA show floor I got socked in the face with Matt Kish’s wondrous compendium, Moby-Dick in Pictures: One Drawing for Every Page (Tin House, Oct.).
Not a graphic novel, though it will likely attract readers of that format, Kish’s book works its way through the 552-page Signet Classics paperback edition by creating an image to accompany text taken from each and every page of the book. Kish began in August 2009, using such fittingly old-fashioned media as ink, marker, crayon, paint, ballpoint pen, and water color, blended with pages from discarded books. (Don’t worry, as a librarian‚ he’s audiovisual and young adult materials selection specialist for the Dayton Metro Library System‚ Kish did not engage in wholesale book destruction.) Eventually, he launched a blog, One Drawing for Every Page of Moby-Dick(everypageofmobydick.blogspot.com), through which the publisher discovered his work.
Sometimes vibrant, sometimes somber, Kish’s images are relentlessly fresh and eye-catching. A white shape rises behind a thicket of harpoons; a glaring Mr. Stubbs is partly obscured by blue drops (seawater? rain? tears?). To proclaim the stunning moment when Moby-Dick rises from the ocean, Kish offers a great armored being against a black sky, puffing like a steam engine and shaking off ropey swirls of water. Even the least visual readers will feel energized by Kish’s artistry and his obvious passion for Melville’s work.
After completing his project, Kish realized that his aim had been to fully understand this magnificent novel. Another road to understanding is Why Read Moby-Dick? (Viking, Oct.) by Nathaniel Philbrick, whose National Book Award‚ winning In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex recalls the incident that inspired Melville’s work. Elegant and ingratiating, Philbrick’s reading companion stresses the import of Moby-Dick, its astonishing ability to capture both the hustle of a new country (contained in the pages of Moby-Dick is nothing less than the genetic code of America) and the breadth of human experience. As Philbrick says, Moby-Dick is as out-there as anything we can dream up in our own time. My fall plans? I’m now inspired to curl up with Moby-Dick and banish that damp, drizzly November in my soul.‚ Barbara Hoffert
DIY delights Within the expanding set (in scope and numbers) of do-it-yourself/back-to-basics homemaking titles, Debbie Stoller (Stitch ‘n Bitch) and fellow BUST magazine cofounder Laurie Henzel present The BUST DIY Guide to Life: Making Your Way Through Every Day (STC Craft: Stewart, Tabori & Chang, Oct.). Their guide stands out for its stylish, striking layout and seems to achieve the balance Stoller showcases in her Stitch ‘n Bitch knitting series of funny and clever without cloying. Two hundred and fifty projects from the magazine’s archives include how to turn a T-shirt into a camisole and undies set, creating DIY bath and body products, making butter and yogurt, starting a Fuck-You Fund in case of a quick need to get out of a bad job or relationship, and getting health care without insurance. This may be the next Girl’s Guide to Absolutely Everything, with the enticing BUST stamp of approval.
Like Stoller, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee is the name behind a brand in the knitting world. In her third collection of humorous essays, All Wound Up: The Yarn Harlot Writes for a Spin (Andrews McMeel, Oct.), she lists Things To Learn, e.g., It is okay to use stash yarn. The integrity of the stash does not need to be maintained, and riffs on the joys of October and the frustrations of Mother’s Day. Pearl-McPhee is always reliable to dip into for friendly knitting group chitchat. Now we just need these as audio so we can knit along with her.
Considering the contradictory joys of knitting‚ indulging in a leisurely hobby that is primarily about the process, all the while hand- producing a commodity‚ a beautiful art book that is working to open a door for further study and research of…captivating historical artifacts feels of a similar mind. Straddling science, education, and art, The Art of Instruction: Vintage Educational Charts from the 19th and 20th Centuries (Chronicle, Oct.) collects botanical and zoological illustrated educational charts from 19th- and early 20th-century Europe, some of which have not been reprinted since their original use. Vibrant full-page reproductions display flora and fauna, from dissections of cherries and blossoms, sunflowers, and tulips to the skeleton and teeth of a horse, the circulatory systems of starfish and other echinoderms, and the reproductive organs of a tapeworm. An appendix provides teachers’ keys that explain the images, but this plebeian editor just needs the pictures.‚ Anna Katterjohn
A top-five list that rocks This year’s BEA was uncharacteristically eerie at presenting me with books that combined my personal taste with niche appeal. Within my first half hour on the show floor, I encountered Anka Muhlstein’s Balzac’s Omelette: A Delicious Tour of French Food and Culture with Honoré de Balzac (Other Pr., Nov.) and The Louvre: All the Paintings (Louvre Editions/Black Dog & Leventhal, Nov.), which took me back to my April visit to Paris, a city that induced instant punch-drunk love with its food and art. These works are no replacement for the real thing, but their excellent production values‚ Louvre’s rich golds, browns, and reds took me back to the far-flung salon featuring Vermeer’s The Astronomer‚ and absolute obsessions with their subjects conjure a contact high. I love Muhlstein’s affection for the great memory keeper’s legendary appetite‚ a bit like mine in the Marais for crepes‚ not to mention the understated way she reaffirms that in olden times, writers wrote first and foremost not to flatter a muse but to feed the beast and dodge creditors.
Post-Paris, I fell for metal-thrash-groove weirdos the Queens of the Stone Age via a librarian friend’s mix CDs. Fancy that I discovered the first considered biography of part-time member (and Foo Fighter) Dave Grohl. For This Is a Call: The Life and Times of Dave Grohl (Da Capo, Sept.), former Kerrang! editor Paul Brannigan conducted ten years’ worth of interviews, including with Grohl himself, who is billed to hold forth on his years as the drummer of Nirvana, 20 years after the release of Nevermind. Throw it up in your Grunge Silver Anniversary Display along with Kurt Cobain’s Journals.
Confession: Kevin Avery’s Everything Is an Afterthought: The Life and Writings of Paul Nelson (Fantagraphics, Nov.) came to me preconference from a friend. Reviewers will compare it to Lester Bangs’s Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung, but Avery’s palpable esteem for his subject elevates the book above anthology to research-rooted valentine; indeed, the book is partly a biography of a Minnesota-grown rock journalist whose lean style recalls the film noir he adored. Through said pal and Twitter I also came across Courtney E. Smith’s Record Collecting for Girls: Unleashing Your Inner Music Nerd, One Album at a Time (Mariner: Houghton Harcourt, Sept.), which won me over by encouraging in women what is typically thought of as a male specialty: hierarchical, obsessive thinking about pop music. The making of, yes, top-five lists and pondering the emotions we invest in heavenly melodies.‚ Heather McCormack
Hard-boiled and noir Early on July 2, 1961, Ernest Hemingway, physically and mentally destroyed, climbed out of bed in his Ketchum, ID, home, while wife Mary lay in the deep sleep of the previous night’s gin binge. Moving downstairs, he retrieved his favorite 12-gauge shotgun and thumbed high-brass shells into the twin chambers. Less than three weeks shy of his 62nd birthday, the literary lion and living legend met death on his own terms, ending the most remarkable of lives. To remember the 50th anniversary of his death, granddaughter Mariel Hemingway and scholar Boris Vejdovsky have collected more than 350 family photos for Hemingway: A Life in Pictures (Firefly, Aug.). The book encompasses eight chapters following the Nobel laureate from his Oak Park, IL, youth to his service in World War I and his writing apprenticeship in the literary fairy-tale land of 1920s Paris, to his world adventures as a sportsman and writer, his Cuba years, and his American homecoming. Although there have been previous Hemingway picture books, true aficionados can never get enough of their old drinking buddy. Half a century later, Ernesto remains larger than life, widely read, and the 20th century’s most important American author.
What’s not to like about a hot blonde in a low-cut red dress cradling a small arsenal of weapons in one arm while blasting away with a .45? That classic pulp image graces the cover of the first installment in HighBridge Audio’s ten-volume Black Mask Stories (Sept.), gleaned from 2010′s The Black Lizard Big Book of Black Mask Stories (Vintage: Random). Edited by Otto Penzler‚ the master of all things hard-boiled and noir‚ the book and now audio present stories selected from Black Mask magazine, which introduced detective story gods like Dashiell Hammett, Erle Stanley Gardner, and Raymond Chandler. The initial three collections will make their debut this September, the fourth comes next February, and the remaining six installments follow later in 2012. The book was one of my faves from 2010, and the sampler disc giveaway at BEA hit like a slug between the eyes. Absolute gangbusters! I’m dying for this.
Lastly, on behalf of my son and a gazillion other little guys, this fall’s publishing event can be summed up in three words: Wimpy Kid Six‚ woohoo! (OK, that’s four words.)‚ Mike Rogers
The high life My game plan this year was to focus on the small, independent, and sometimes quirky publishers that often fly under the radar of the major review media. Erika Dilman’s The Party of Your Life: How To Plan a Funeral That Reflects Your Interests, Achievements, and Taste (Santa Monica Pr., Aug.) caught my eye. Not that I aim to leave this mortal coil soon, but being part Irish, I can’t resist a guide that wants to put the F-U-N back in funeral, with tips on planning the soundtrack for your big send-off, writing your obituary and epitaph, and even arranging for funeral gift bags. If Liz Taylor can be 15 minutes late to her own funeral, so can I!
For those Mad Men aficionados who want to re-create the 1960s in their kitchens, I found The Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook (Smart Pop, Dec.). Coauthors Judy Gelman and Peter Zheutlin have whipped up 60 retro food and cocktail recipes (Jackie Kennedy’s Avocado and Crabmeat Mimosa, Royal Hawaiian) that will have you dining and drinking like a swinging ad exec. Also from Smart Pop, a new imprint of BenBella Books, is The Psychology of the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Understanding Lisbeth Salander and Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy (Dec.). Edited by clinical psychologist Robin Rosenberg and Shannon O’Neill, this anthology of essays by mental health clinicians puts Larsson’s enigmatic, damaged heroine on the analyst’s couch.
On the fiction front, one of my favorite small literary presses, Europa Editions, is launching a new imprint focusing on dark, cutting-edge fiction selected and edited by guest editors. Under the editorial guidance of novelist Alice Sebold (The Lovely Bones), Tonga Books will debut this fall with You Deserve Nothing (Sept.) by Alexander Maksik, a student at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and Of Beasts and Beings (Nov.) by Ian Holding, a schoolteacher in Zimbabwe. Great opening sentences‚ I put up a good fight and There’s something about the desert that pisses everything off’‚ and strong narrative voices had me grabbing John Rector’s Already Gone (Oct.), a thriller about a college professor’s dark past that marks the launch of Amazon’s Thomas & Mercer mystery imprint, and Johnny Shaw’s Dove Season (Amazon Encores, Sept.), a 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award finalist that takes readers to the gritty and dangerous underworld of the U.S.-Mexican border. While Amazon’s nascent publishing program is still small, the naming of former Time Warner Book Group CEO Larry Kirshbaum to head its New York City publishing office will definitely have the Seattle company playing with the big boys.‚ Wilda Williams
Librarian Buzz Clips
LAUREN GILBERT Head of Community Services, Sachem PL, NY, on Alice Hoffman’s The Dovekeepers (Scribner, Oct.)
Ever since a visit to the desert fortress of Masada in my teens, I have been fascinated by the story of the band of Jewish Zealots, the last holdouts against the invading Romans, who committed mass suicide in 70 C.E. rather than suffer defeat and enslavement. Hoffman was inspired to write this fictional account after her own visit, especially once she learned of the survival of two women and three children out of the 900 victims. The author did her homework, incorporating into her work several known historical artifacts as well as fascinating detail about the religious practices of the ancient Jews.
ALENE MORONI Manager, Selection and Order Collection Management Services, King Cty. Lib. Syst., Issaquah, WA, on Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus (Doubleday, Sept.)
A circus appears in the night, lingers a bit, and disappears without warning at various intervals in a young man’s life. Magicians train their protégés for an epic showdown battle to the death. Lovers never meant to meet come together in spite of fate. The threads are engaging on their own (I never skipped around!), and all come together as they should.
MAURA DEEDY Head of Reference and Adult Services, Weymouth PLs, MA, on Matt Fitzgerald and Bob Babbitt’s Iron War: Dave Scott, Mark Allen & the Greatest Race Ever Run (Velo Pr., Oct.)
What could possibly be better than competing in endurance events? Reading about them, of course! The famous 1989 Hawaii Ironman showdown between two great rivals makes for an epic tale of sportsmanship‚ the competition lasted more than eight hours, with a slim margin of victory. If the race between Scott and Allen wasn’t page-turning enough, Fitzgerald weaves into the narrative the latest neuroscience research on the mental side of the sport.
KATIE DUNNEBACK Substitute Librarian, Bettendorf PL, IA, on Sarah Wendell’s Everything I Know About Love I Learned from Romance Novels (Sourcebooks, Oct.)
Fun, frank, and no-nonsense, this irreverently serious tome tackles many relationship issues and explains what romance readers already know about how to deal with them. Perfect for those wanting to learn more about the appeal of romance novels and those looking for an accessible relationship self-help book.
KRISTINA PARLEE Adult Services Librarian, Spring Garden Road Memorial PL, Halifax, NS, on Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding (Little, Brown, Sept.)
I have no passion for sports, so it’s a surprise to find myself so excited about a book that is largely billed as a baseball story. It’s the coming-of-age tale of Henry Skrimshander, hotshot shortstop who’s destined for the big leagues‚ or is he? Yup, there’s a lot of baseball, but the well-drawn characters make even the nonfan feel a part of the team. Sometimes wistful, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, this is a smart, witty take on winning and losing in life and love as well as in baseball.
CATHERINE CALLEGARI Director, Gay-Kimball Lib., Troy, NH, on Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s The Language of Flowers (Ballantine, Aug.)
Diffenbaugh’s debut drew me in immediately. Who was Victoria, the protagonist? Why was she so angry? When did her social worker label her a lost cause? Why does she use the Victorian language of flowers? I had to know! Chapters alternating between past and present kept me reading late into the night. This adult version of The Great Gilly Hopkins will grab you, too, and hold you long after you finish reading it.
STEPHANIE CHASE Head of Programming and Outreach, Central Lib., Multnomah Cty. Lib., Portland, OR, on Craig Thompson’s Habibi (Pantheon, Sept.)
Fellow Portlander Thompson, author of the modern classic graphic novel Blankets, has been at work on his latest project, Habibi, for many years. I was lucky enough to see an excerpt at BEA, and the complicated, lush feel‚ evident immediately in the details‚ leaves no doubt to the power the finished work (more than 650 pages) will have. Inspired by Arabic calligraphy, the desire to ‚Äòhumanize Islam,’ and [the author's] respect for Joe Sacco’s brand of graphic journalism, Habibi is certain to join the ranks of graphic novels that expand our understanding of not only the genre but also the world it describes.
KATHELEEN SULLIVAN Collection Development Coordinator, Phoenix PL, on Julie Mayfield’s Paleo Comfort Foods: Homestyle Cooking in a Gluten Free Kitchen (Victory Belt Pub., Sept.)
No grains, legumes, dairy, or gluten: I want to see how this is done!
ROBIN BEERBOWER Fiction Selector, Salem PL, OR, on Rebecca Coleman’s The Kingdom of Childhood (Mira: Harlequin, Oct.)
I read this before BEA but noticed (how could I help but?) it was being highly touted by the publisher. I really liked it, but the topic is disturbing and unsettling (kindergarten teacher has affair with son’s 16-year-old friend), and‚ although I could be wrong‚ I can see an appeal to older teens, especially those who like the highly dysfunctional stuff.
KAITE M. STOVER Readers’ Services Manager, Kansas City PL, MO, on Hillary Jordan’s When She Woke (Algonquin, Oct.)
The former Bellwether Prize winner’s (for Mudbound) sophomore effort combines the dystopian world of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale with the ‚Äòbranding’ of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. With its quick pace and likably flawed characters, this will generate much discussion in book groups.
|Bette-Lee Fox is Managing Editor, Barbara Hoffert is Prepub Alert Editor, and Mike Rogers is Media Editor, LJ. Margaret Heilbrun is Social Sciences Editor, Anna Katterjohn is Managing Editor, Heather McCormack is Editor, and Wilda Williams is Fiction Editor, LJ Book Review|