Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Quick Now: Comment, Chronicle, Review #17

I've got a date tonight: dinner and then Art Spiegelman hosting Selected Shorts at Symphony Space. I love living in New York. I've got to get ready, so this'll be a quickie.

Comment: Daughters Are Doin' It For Themselves

Michael Powell, CEO of the superfamous Portland independent bookstore that bears his name, just announced that he'll be handing over the reins of the business to his daughter Emily within the next few years.

And Neal Coonerty of well-respected (if smaller) Bookshop Santa Cruz is passing along his operation to his daughter, Casey Coonerty Protti. (Both via Shelf Awareness).

I just think this is darn cool -- two educated, driven young women stepping into their dads' shoes, and stepping up for the next era in the business of bookselling. It reminds me of the famous Russ & Daughters deli in New York (a favorite of foodie author Calvin Trillin). Hooray for the daughters!

Chronicle: Emerging Leaders NAIBAhood gathering

The New Atlantic Independent Booksellers Association (NAIBA) puts on a series of localized bookseller confabs called NAIBAhood Gatherings (I love the cleverness -- Eileen, the NAIBA secretary, is a genius). On Sunday, April 9, the gatheringwill be at the Bridge Street Bookshop in Phoenixville, PA. This gathering is unique, as it's the first NAIBA-sponsored meeting of Emerging Leaders.

Emerging Leaders is a group of young booksellers who have dedicated themselves to bookselling as a long term career. The group aims to work on helping bookstores to make it possible for more passionate young folks to get into the business. They'll share ideas and mistakes, and learn how our peers are working and innovating. And they're a great network for our generation as we build our careers in this honorable profession, and "shape the future of bookselling."

I just RSVP'd for the April 9 meeting, and I'm excited to see what gets talked about. If any of you bookselling types are free that Sunday, it would be awesome to see you there! Let me know if you're interested and I can give you Eileen's contact info.

Review #17

Adverbs
by Daniel Handler
(Ecco, May 2006)

Long before he got famous as the alter ego of Lemony Snicket, author of the fabulouly, hilariously dark children's books of A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS, I fell in love with Daniel Handler's fabulously, hilariously dark adult novels. His first, THE BASIC EIGHT, was told in the pitch-perfect voice of a high school girl and mercilessly sent up talk show culture as well as the misplaced passions of adolescence. The second, WATCH YOUR MOUTH, was a Jewish incest comedy opera combined with a self-help novel, and unbearably clever, funny and heartbreaking. I tried often to handsell them, but they were strangely hard to pitch to readers not sure what to do with this goofy black humor. The books never really took off; at least one has never even been issued in paperback.

Now, however, Handler's increased visibility means that his new grown-up book has a shot at a real audience. And jeez, does it ever deserve it. While it hasn't got the single highly developed narrative voice each of his earlier novels benefited from, ADVERBS shows off Handler's off-kilter humor, bleak but starry-eyed worldview, and inimitable faux-formal style to great effect. It's a novel-in-stories, you could say -- or really more like a story collection in which characters recur -- or maybe other characters have the same names -- and at least one is a first -person essay. The sly refusal to resolve is pure Handler, as are the titles of which are, of course, adverbs: Immediately, Obviously, Arguably, Not Particularly, etc. As are the recurring motifs: magpies, the word "Look" (which really means listen), the Snow Queen, a volcano or some other vague catastrophe.

But what the stories are about is love, in all its hopelessly, messily, pathetically, gloriously adverbial splendor. Gay, straight, plural, platonic, consummated, imaginary -- all kinds are here. Many of the stories are sad. Some are hopeful. Some are surreal. All are funny and strange. Daniel Handler is one of those authors with a voice so distinctive and addictive, you find yourself thinking in his language after you put the book away. It might be a tiny bit too pomo cute for some (they're wrong, of course). But if it gets to you, it will shoot straight to the top of your most-quoted, most-remembered books list.

Dude, just read this book (when it comes out). And while you're at it, read WATCH YOUR MOUTH and THE BASIC EIGHT (which is being published in paperback simultaneously). And give an extremely hardworking, incredibly talented, totally bizarre author the grown-up respect he deserves.

I'll be consulting my thesaurus for more adverbs.