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Archives: October 2006

NYTBR Victim of Awkward Juxtaposition

So I’m looking at my advance copy of this weekend’s New York Times Book Review, and I don’t get more than a few pages in before wondering—how did an ad for Jonathan Franzen’s The Discomfort Zone wind up next to the letters (from Tom Bissell and Adam Langer, no less) defending Franzen against Daniel Mendelsohn’s full frontal assault (see below)? I’d always thought that, even with the wall between editorial and ad sales, somebody in layout might keep an eye out for this sort of thing, but it appears I’ve been wrong. “We don’t see any ads until we close,” NYTBR editor Sam Tanenhaus confirmed in a quick email, adding the perspective that “letters are neutral space, unlike reviews.”

So it really is just one of those things that unfortunately happen sometimes…but with any luck, it won’t derail too many readers’ experience of what otherwise appears to be a very interesting issue, with pieces by many of their top-shelf contributors (Schillinger! Harrison! Alford! And the Sterns!), which I’m looking forward to delving into in more detail over the weekend.


Indie Publisher As Coffee Entrepreneur? has a story up about Vox Pop, “a stridently anti-corporate Ditmas Park coffeehouse” with plans to build itself up into a rival to Starbucks. Oddly enough, although the interview with CEO Sander Hicks mentions that he was in a band once, it doesn’t mention his history as the former leader of Soft Skull Press and current publisher at, well, Vox Pop, where he’s put out books about how Paul Wellstone’s death might have been murder and the Bush administration is covering up the facts about 9/11. It’s a curious omission, considering that the books are all readily found on Vox Pop’s online store, and presumably in the actual coffeehouse as well…

Fishbowlers Make the Party Scene in NY, DC

mblogo.jpgGalleyCat isn’t the only blog bringing you news from the book world. Our Fishbowl correspondents have also been coming up with some good stories—over at FishbowlDC, for example, Patrick W. Gavin has pics from the pundit-packed party for John Dickerson’s On Her Trail. And our editorial director, Dorian Benkoil, filed a report for FishbowlNY on the FT/Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year award dinner, where he happened to be lucky enough to be sitting at the table with James Kynge, who won the prize for China Shakes the World. Dorian tells us he was able to get his book signed, although tablemate Webster Younce, the Houghton Mifflin editor who acquired Kynge’s book, declined to add his signature to the page, declaring that “editors should be heard but not seen.”

The NBA “Comic Book” Backlash Begins

In response to the nomination of Gene Yang’s American Born Chinese for the National Book Award for young people’s literature, the Wired News copy chief would like to remind us that “the comic book does not deserve equal status with real novels.” And just in case you didn’t get the point, Tony Long is happy to drive it home for you:

“If you’ve ever tried writing a real novel, you’ll know where I’m coming from. To do it, and especially to do it well enough to be nominated for this award, the American equivalent of France’s Prix Goncourt or Britain’s Booker Prize, is exceedingly difficult.”

Sounds like somebody’s got a “real novel” gathering dust in a drawer someplace (or, these days, taking up space on a hard drive), and I bet he’s a crummy draughtsman to boot. Comics newsblogs are being restrained in their attention to Long’s whiny complaint, but bestselling author Neil Gaiman, who flits between comic books and real novels with the greatest of ease, gets in a blistering oh-shut-up retort: “I suppose if he builds a time machine he could do something about Maus‘s 1992 Pulitzer, or Sandman‘s 1991 World Fantasy Award for Best Short Story, or Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan winning the 2001 Guardian First Book Award, or even Watchmen‘s appearance on Time‘s Hundred Best Novels of the 20th Century list. Lacking a Time Machine, it seems a rather silly and antiquated argument, like hearing someone complain that women have the vote or that be-bop music and crooners are turning up in the pop charts.”

Could this rookie author be Starbucks’ next choice?

When PW Daily’s Edward Nawotka reported on the staggering success of Mitch Albom‘s FOR ONE MORE DAY as a result of being sold in practically every Starbucks outlet in America (with, according to the chain, almost 50,000 copies sold in Starbucks stores alone), he let slip the tidbit that the company was scouting around for a second round of fiction – and it’s expected to be a novel by a first-time novelist. William Morris Agency, which scouts books for Starbucks and negotiates terms on its behalf, is said to be in discussion with a variety of publishers, though Farrar, Straus & Giroux has been mentioned several times as the likely publisher.

So if that’s the case, which book is the most likely candidate for the Starbucks seal? A quick search through FSG’s spring catalog provided the most likely candidate: RULES FOR SAYING GOODBYE by Katherine Taylor (left), written up at Publishers Marketplace as “invoking the spirit of Melissa Bank and Curtis Sittenfeld” – both bestselling authors who appeal to the upmarket, NPR-listening crowd that Starbucks covets as its customers.

Editor Courtney Hodell (then at HarperCollins, now at FSG) bought Taylor ‘s debut in April 2005 from Elizabeth Sheinkman (then with Elaine Markson, now in London at Curtis Brown) and Taylor went with when Hodell switched employers. The book’s pitch? “a young woman coming of age and becoming entangled in unsuitable jobs and men before she finds her way, exploring themes of tragedy and disappointment, homesickness and displacement, as well as the dynamics of contemporary middle class American family life.” So will Taylor ‘s novel, once it’s published in May, appear in coffee shops everywhere? “I’d love for that to be the case – Katherine’s novel is terrifically deserving! – but I haven’t heard a thing about it,” said Hodell when reached by email. “From your mouth to God’s ear.”

GalleyCats to Speak at Writers Conferences

If you’re an aspiring writer in the New York area with no plans for the end of next week, the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses is collaborating with the creative writing program at the New School, the literary agencies of Donadio & Olson and Sobel Weber Associates, the National Book Foundation, and Poets & Writers magazine to present the Literary Writers Conference, a two-day series of panel discussions aimed at “post-MFA writers of literature” who will have an opportunity to meet various movers and shakers in the professioanl and cultural realms of publishing. Although the big draw will surely be in getting tips on forming effective relationships within the industry from boldface names like author Jonathan Lethem or agent Ira Silverberg (among the dozens of participating speakers), GalleyCats Ron Hogan and Sarah Weinman will also be on hand Saturday, November 4, to discuss “the power of blogging” with Maud Newton.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the sort of panel discussion you can just drop in on; registration for the two-day conference carries a fee of $350 (although, for those of you who really want to make a go at writing, that should be a legitimate deduction on your next filing). It’s actually a busy week for me; on Thursday, November 2, I’ll be doing a similar blogging panel at the Words and Music literary festival in New Orleans, where I’ll be joined by Manuel Romas of La Bloga.

Madonna’s Malawi Adoption mere Book Promo?

So speculates Nikki Finke at Deadline Hollywood Daily, noting the incredible coincidence of Madonna‘s controversion adoption of a young boy from the African country of Malawi with the release of her latest ENGLISH ROSES children’s book. “With a publishing date of October 24th — two days ago — it just happened that the Queen of Self-Promotion fighting back tears on Oprah wasn’t exactly an impromptu appearance,” said Finke. “In fact, she was set to appear there, and other U.S. talk shows over the next days and weeks…”

So is Finke “way too cynical” or does “this latest adoption episode really does seem to bring book publicity to a new barf level”? I know that until she linked the book’s release to the adoption, it had completely slipped my mind that Madonna was continuing her children’s book series. The first one, THE ENGLISH ROSES, made a serious splash pre-publication but additional installments never quite lived up. Perhaps Madonna sensed nothing much was going on and wanted to drum up some kind – any kind – of attention?

Dem’s Shining Star Wows Rare Book World

barack-obama.jpgSen. Barack Obama (right) isn’t just one of the names most bandied about by prognosticators of the next Democratic Party presidential primary cycle, he’s also an accomplished author…and one whose books can command quite a hefty price under the right conditions. For example, signed first editions of Dreams of My Father, his 1995 autobiography, are being offered on the used book marketplace at for as much as $1,698, while signed copies of this year’s The Audacity of Hope fetch up to $220 in perfect condition.

(Our photo of Sen. Obama comes from FishbowlNY’s coverage of the American Magazine Conference.)

Penguin Canada commissions Green Gables Prequel

Penguin Canada issued a press release late last night that they will undertake a major Canadian and international publishing program in celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Lucy Maud Montgomery‘s debut novel ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, including publication of an official prequel, to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the book’s original publication in 1908. As an unabashed fan of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s work, much of the news is welcome – though I’ll still have to get used to the idea of a prequel.

Budge Wilson, a Governor General’s Literary Award finalist with twenty-nine novels to her name, has been commissioned to write the prequel, titled BEFORE GREEN GABLES. “When Penguin asked me to write this prequel, I was faced with an enormous challenge. But it was this challenge that made me want to write the book. “Given the appalling deprivation and emotional starvation of Anne’s years in the Thomas and Hammond households and during her four agonized months in the orphanage, one is mystified as to how she became the person she was when she made her first journey to Green Gables with Matthew Cuthbert. How could she have become so vibrant a person, so talkative, so articulate, so optimistic, so full of extravagant dreams? This was the enticing puzzle that drew me into the project.”

For those leery of a prequel, Penguin has lots of other plans in store for the anniversary, including a special collectible 100th anniversary edition of ANNE OF GREEN GABLES featuring the original cover art of M.A. Claus and W.A.J. Claus. A third project, IMAGINING ANNE: THE SCRAPBOOKS OF L.M. MONTGOMERY will bring to life Montgomery’s own thoughts and interests using selected pages from her own scrapbooks from the years 1893 to 1908.

On the boldface name bookselling front

Mina Hemingway, Ernest’s granddaughter, has found a new occupation: bookstore owner. On September 14, according to Bookselling This Week, Bookstore at the Pavilion in Naples, Florida, officially became Mina Hemingway’s Florida Bookstore. The store, which features 1,200 square feet of retail space, remained open during the transfer of ownership, Mina Hemingway recently told BTW. “We carry everything available written by Hemingway, and we’re working on growing the section on Hemingway by other writers,” Mina Hemingway explained. “We also carry magazines and used books. The bulk of our customers are retirees,” Hemingway observed, “but we do have a children’s section, and it does very well.”

About to open in just a few days is Garrison Keillor‘s much-ballyhooed entry into bookselling, Corner Books in St. Paul. You can visit it below Nina’s Coffee Cafe at the corner of Western and Selby Avenues. (second-to-last item.)