Showing posts from February, 2006

Chronicle: A Day In The Life of Corner Bookstore

So the ALP and I didn't make it to the New York Comic-Con -- turns out tickets were sold out long before we ever made it to the Javits Center. Billions of Blue Blistering Barnacles, as my comic book hero Captain Haddock was wont to say when frustrated. We'll have to be content with our nearly weekly visits to Forbidden Planet and Jim Hanley's Universe, local comic book meccas where we get our fix of the newest and greatest. But it turned out to be just as well, as I got a call from my bookselling friend Chris, who presides at the venerable Corner Bookstore on 93rd and Madison, in the heart of NYC's tony Upper East Side. He was short a staffer and asked if I'd like to come in and work on Saturday. Being Comic-Con-less, short of cash (as always) and curious about the workings of Corner, I elatedly agreed. It was just Chris, me, and fellow bookseller Peter when we opened at 11 on Saturday -- though we had to wait for a fashion shoot from Teen Vogue, which was taki

Comment: What's A Bookseller To Do With Graphic Lit?

Apparently it's official: graphic novels are literature. Or at least literary. Or at least culturally important enough that official people will review them as books. Or at least book publishers are publishing them (and a lot more of them than before). The New York Times (the paper of record, and thus the last place to know what's going on -- since they have to wait until it's an official trend before writing about the trend) reviews graphic novels in its book pages, and in this article (archived, sorry) note that comics are the fastest-growing segment of the publishing industry. The NYT Magazine now has a "funnies" section (I'm told). Time Magazine has a surprisingly insightful article on the development and current state of the format. And these are just the big guys and the most recent pieces. If you're a book person, you've probably read hundreds of pages of commentary, discussion, and argument about comics/graphic novels/sequential art. And the

Comment: Conference Geek-Out

Dude, is it just me or have the book reviews been taking over the blog lately? Time to talk about something else. It's still months away, but it's totally not to early to get excited about Book Expo America ! For the uninitiated, BEA is the biggest book industry event of the year. Sponsored by Reed Business Group (the company behind Publishers Weekly), it brings together publishers, authors, agents, booksellers, media types, and a few of the curious. Galleys and ARCs flow like water (big, chunky water that's so heavy you have to ship it home); authors from the obscure to the exciting are on hand to sign their new books; there are educational workshops, big mixers, and of course, parties! This year BEA will be held in Washington, D.C., from May 18 to 21. For complicated reasons, I haven't made my reservations yet (minor biting of nails...). But come hell or high water ("Lord willing and the creek don't rise," as my mother used to say, only slightly ironical

Reviews: #9 (Keenan) and #10 (Oliver)

Before presenting today's capsule reviews, I should perhaps recommend that you all take them with a grain of salt. It seems A.M. Homes' THIS BOOK WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE, which I panned here (and waffled about in Publishers Weekly [this version heavily edited from what I wrote, mind you]), is not only getting lots of praise elsewhere, but has just been optioned for a movie . So shows what I know. MY LUCKY STAR by Joe Keenan (Little, Brown, January 2006) A prescient publicity chap sent me this one, name-dropping P.G. Wodehouse as a comparison; how did he know that I am a passionate adherent of the Wodehouse school of novel-as-musical-comedy? I've actually been watching the BBC Jeeves & Wooster miniseries lately, and have been reminded how much I love all that goofy wordplay and lighthearted peril, averted at the last minute. But mostly the wit. Joe Keenan is an author I've heard compared to Master Wodehouse before, if Wodehouse was a gay TV writer. Keenan writes for Fr

Reviews: Martin, Coover; Comment: Bookstore Junkieism

Blizzard. Freelance work (to make ends meet, a bookseller's salary being sadly not commensurate with the job satisfaction). Social obligations. Valentine's Day. Honestly, when's a girl to blog? Sorry for the big blank – I've actually come across several stories I wanted to comment on in the past week (a Bookslut linked article from Feb. 10 about authors accosting booksellers [with snarky subtext, surprise], more Orhan Pamuk and Frey/LeRoy commentary, poet Dan Chiasson's insufficiently enthusiastic review of Justin Tussing's THE BEST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD [which I reviewed for Publishers Weekly and found odd and brilliant], etc.), but I just haven't found the time. So I'll just start with where I'm at: two new mini-reviews, and a happy link. Review #8 The Unfinished Novel and Other Stories by Valerie Martin (Vintage Books, to be published May 2006) In one of those happy confluences of fate, I had picked up a galley of this book from the piles at

Review: The Big Moo (#7); Book Nerd Reveals What She's Really After

The Big Moo: Stop Trying to Be Perfect and Start Being Remarkable by The Group of 33, Edited by Seth Godin (Portfolio, 2005) I was doing some shelving in the Business and Economics section and this little book caught my eye – it's a weird title, it's a pocket-size package, and Malcolm Gladwell is one of the authors mentioned on the cover as part of "The Group of 33." I read a few pages and decided to borrow it (thank goodness for our store's generous bookseller borrowing policy, without which I would probably spend more than my paycheck on books – and which allows me to learn about the "products" I'm supposed to be selling). It's a little bonbon of a business book, written in page-long, story-oriented segments by different writers (without individual attributions, a policy which Godin explains in his intro). As such, it's a little like reading something like the Bible – even with a common goal (in this case, teaching business people how to

Comment: It's The Local Economy, Smarty

Thank goodness for Shelf Awareness! Their daily email on book industry news and events is an invaluable source of information on books getting buzz, business statistics and trends in publishing and bookselling, and bookstore openings, closings, and programs, among other things. And unlike an unfortunately large percentage of media outlets, the editors of SA don't start out with the assumptions that 1) real literacy is disappearing, if not already a thing of the past; 2) independent bookstores are cute but doomed to failure; 3) the Internet and the bookstore can't be friends. No, their reports on what's actually happening out there are uplifting more often than not, because they're not interested in perpetuating old stereotypes about bookselling. They do report when a good bookstore falls by the wayside, but there are just more stories about stores enacting great programs, opening up in new markets, analyzing trends and developing new ideas. This past week Shelf Awarenes

Comment: Freedom is complicated

Because I've been so busy lately, I failed to report in that Turkey has dropped the charges against Orhan Pamuk . It's a victory and a relief for the literary world, to be sure -- we've been spared one of our most interesting and insightful contemporary denizens. But many Turkish artists and writers with less international status remain under indictment under Turkey's law. And Pamuk's swift release means that attention won't necessarily continue be leveled at the institutionalized censorship of that country. Slate has a great article about the complex relationship of Turkey, the EU, Pamuk, and the ideas of Justice and Honor in complex and changing cultures. Included is the disturbing fact that while Turks vilify Pamuk for not being "Turkish" enough, some Europeans have denounced him for not being quite dissident enough. I love the conclusion: "There is surely some irony in that fact that you can now be prosecuted in Europe for denying a geno