Along Publisher’s Row

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

Emily St. John Mandel’s new novel is Station Eleven. She is 35 years old, has published three earlier novels, and lives in Brooklyn.

Mandel told The New York Times, “When I started writing, there were a few post-apocalyptic novels, but not quite the incredible glut there is now. I was afraid the market might be saturated.”

It wasn’t. Knopf bought Station Eleven with a six-figure advance. That was more than Mandel earned for all three earlier novels.

Times interviewer Alexandra Alter said, “Some trace the current literary fascination with the end of civilization to The Road, Cormac McCarthy’s 2006 novel, which became a bestseller and won the Pulitzer.”

Mandel said, “It’s almost as if The Road gave more literary writers permission to approach the subject.”

In the September 14 Times Book Review, the reviewer of Station Eleven, Sigrid Nunez, wrote that the book “offers comfort and hope to those who believe or want to believe that doomsday can be survived, that in spite of everything, that people will remain good at heart, and that when they start building a new world they will want what was best about the old.”

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Posted in Along Publisher's Row

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

There’s no better way to start things off than by quoting from E. M. Forster’s Aspects of the Novel (1927).

He wrote that a character (referred to here as “it”) in a book “is real when the novelist knows everything about it. He may not choose to tell us all he knows—many of the facts, even of the kind we call obvious, may be hidden. But he will give us the feeling that though the character has not been explained, it is explicable, and we get from this a reality of a kind we can never get in daily life.”

Forster ends his chapter on “People” by writing: “And that is why novels, even when they are about wicked people, can solace us; they suggest a more comprehensible and thus a more manageable human race, they give us the illusion of perspicacity and of power.”

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Posted in Along Publisher's Row

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

Mary Beard is a classics professor at the University of Cambridge and the subject of a profile in the September 1 New Yorker. Her latest book is Laughter in Ancient Rome: On Joking, Tickling, and Cracking Up.

The magazine article is mainly about the constant attacks to which Beard is subjected because she is a smart woman who makes herself heard. She often appears on England’s BBC television. She said, “It doesn’t much matter what line of argument you take as a woman. If you venture into traditional male territory, the abuse comes anyway. It’s not what you say that prompts it—it’s the fact that you are saying it.”

She is subjected to threats of “a predictable menu of rape, bombing, murder, and so forth.” One tweet directed to her: “I’m going to cut off your head and rape it.”

TIME OFF: Bill Hayes is the author of The Anatomist: A True Story of Gray’s Anatomy. In an essay called “On Not Writing” in The New York Times, he wrote, “To be a writer is to make a commitment to the long haul, as one does to keeping healthy for as long a run as possible. For me, this means staying active physically and creatively, remaining curious and interested in learning new skills, and of course giving myself ample periods of rest, days or even weeks off. I know that the writer in me, like the lifelong fitness devotee, will be better off.”

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Posted in Along Publisher's Row

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

With schools starting to open this time of year, the Times Book Review offered many pages of comment about that timely subject.

Asked to recommend a favorite book about schools, Times staffer Ariel Kaminer, said, “A great many books have recently come out that ask hard and necessary questions about higher education. Its value. Its impact on America’s class structure. Urgent issues, of course. But for favorites? I have to go with Don DeLillo’s novel White Noise. A savagely funny send-up of academia (and the hyper-specific anxieties it can engender) that does not ever stoop to outright ridicule.

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Posted in Along Publisher's Row

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

Actress Lauren Bacall, 89, died August 12 in Manhattan. She was the author of two autobiographies, and is believed to have written them herself. One of her many strokes of luck was that her editor was Robert Gottlieb, probably the best in the business. Lauren Bacall, By Myself won a National Book Award in 1980. Now (1984) was the title of the second autobiography.

Her Page 1 obit in The New York Times ended with a quote: “I spent my childhood in New York, riding on subways and buses. And you know what you learn if you’re a New Yorker? The world doesn’t owe you a damn thing.”

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Posted in Along Publisher's Row

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

“Google and Barnes & Noble Unite to Take on Amazon,” said a headline in The New York Times. The two were zeroing in on a fast, cheap delivery of books in Manhattan, West Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area. Customers can get books through the Google Shopping Express.

The Times explained: “Amazon poses a persistent and growing threat to Google and Barnes & Noble. Its rise has contributed to lagging sales and diminished foot traffic in Barnes & Noble’s physical stores, and it dominates the online market for print books.”

Google uses couriers who pick up products from local stores and deliver them in about three to four hours. Service is free to subscribers of Google Shopping Express, and costs $4.99 per delivery for others. Amazon charges $5.99 for members of its Prime program and $9.99 for others.

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Posted in Along Publisher's Row

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

Oprah Winfrey can sell books and so can Stephen Colbert.

Colbert, whose America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t, is published by Hachette, has been waging a fierce public counter offensive against Amazon’s freeze play on Hachette book orders.

His latest weapon in the good fight was a first novel by a young writer named Edan Lepucki, whose California isalso published by Hachette.

“We will not lick their monopoly boot,” said Colbert as he suggested that viewers pre-order California from independent bookstores. The upheaval caused by Amazon, Colbert told his audience, “is toughest on young authors who are being published for the first time.” He also recommended the novel to his 6.6 million Twitter followers.

The book, published last Tuesday, has become “one of the most pre-ordered debut titles in Hachette history,” said The New York Times, quoting a company spokeswoman.

Lepucki’s book tour was expanded, and she signed 10,000 copies at Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon. The original print order of 12,000 copies has been expanded, too—to 60,000 copies.

Last Sunday’s Times Book Review described California as a novel “in which characters traverse a cross-section of mid-collapse landscape, framed by the gradual decline of civilization.”

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Posted in Along Publisher's Row

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

David Leavitt’s eighth novel is The Two Hotel Francforts. For an interview in Sunday’s New York Times Book Review he was asked to name his favorite novelist of all time and a novelist writing today.

Leavitt said, “Penelope Fitzgerald. The Beginning of Spring, The Gate of Angels and The Blue Flower are novels I return to again and again, with joy and awe.

“Among writers working today, I have the greatest admiration for Norman Rush. I also admire John Weir, who deserves to be far better known than he is. And I was floored by Edward St. Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose novels.”

The Blue Flower has been noted by so many writers that I got a copy from my library and read it. They were right.

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Posted in Along Publisher's Row

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

Do we need two books to tell us that our manners these days could stand some improvement?

Amy Alkon, author of a syndicated column, wrote in her new book: “Today rudeness of all kinds is at its peak . . . and this dismal condition is due in large part to technology.” She blames e-mail, text messages, tweets and Facebook. Well, technology can hardly be blamed for the title of her book: Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck.

Edwin L. Battistella called his book Sorry About That. He wrote that apologies from corporations, celebrities, and politicians are not intended to “express genuine remorse or accept blame but to make the offence go away as quickly as possible.” Wall Street Journal reviewer Barton Swaim wrote: “In today’s culture an apology need not be an admission of guilt or a plea for forgiveness. If you do it well, it’s an opportunity to insist that you are actually a wonderful person.”

Today, we just say, “I take full responsibility for that” awful, crude, embarrassing remark I made. And hope the rotten words are soon forgotten.

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Posted in Along Publisher's Row

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

“These things I learned by reading books aloud, into the pricked and critical ear of my son,” James Parker wrote.

Last Sunday was Fathers Day and Parker, an author of a biography, Turned On, and a contributing editor at The Atlantic, wrote about the impact of fatherhood for The New York Times.

He said reading to his son led to the following rules: “Keep it crisp; tell a good story; don’t muck about; don’t be afraid to say the same things twice, if it’s important; respect the reader; have some loyalty to your characters; and when you feel the urge to get descriptive, sit on it. (Much of this comes under Elmore Leonard’s tenth rule of writing: ‘Try to leave out the part that the readers tend to skip.’)”

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