Along Publisher’s Row

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

Now there are simplified versions of Moby-Dick, Les Miserables, Romeo and Juliet and other classics in thick-cardboard bound books for infants.  About 300,000 copies of a BabyLit series have been sold.

Linda Bubon, of Chicago’s Women and Children First bookstore, told The New York Times, “If we’re going to play classical music to our babies in the womb and teach them foreign languages at an early age, then we’re going to want to expose babies to fine art and literature.”

Parents have been advised by experts to read to infants early and often.  What, do you suppose, does a six-month-old make of Sense and Sensibility?

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Posted in Along Publisher's Row

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

Bernard Malamud published The Stories of Bernard Malamud in 1983. A long-time college teacher as well as author, he wrote in the introduction:

“Much occurs in writing that isn’t expected, including some types you meet and become attached to. Before you know it you’ve collected two or three strangers swearing eternal love and friendship before they begin to make demands that divide and multiply. . . .Working alone to create stories, despite serious inconveniences, is not a bad way to live our human loneliness.

“And let me say this: Literature, since it values man by describing him, tends toward morality in the same way that Robert Frost’s poem is ‘a momentary stay against confusion.’ Art celebrates life and gives us our measure.”

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Posted in Along Publisher's Row

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

The Provincetown, Mass., Public Library has become a publisher of e-books.  The library did a test run last April with Laura Shabott, a local author. The title of her e-book is Confessions of an E-Book Virgin.

Library director Cheryl Napsha told PW, “Laura’s book is a self-published book about how to self-publish a book. What better way to begin our endeavor than with a work close to our hearts?”

The software, iBooks Author and Adobe Creative Suite, cost about $3,000. The library has bought 100 ISBNs and 21 barcodes for $1,415. Other costs are in staff time. The graphic design department at Cape Cod Tech helps with the cover designs.

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Posted in Along Publisher's Row

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

Moments after Alice Munro, 82, learned that she had won the 2013 Nobel in literature, she told Canadian Broadcasting, “I would really hope this would make people see the short story as an important art–not just something you played around with until you got a novel.”

Most commentators on the award noted that Munro, alone, had done that years ago.

DOGGED: “Dogs are perfect companions,” poet Mary Oliver said. “They don’t speak.”

Oliver’s new book of poetry, Dog Songs, was an immediate bestseller. She told The New York Times, “People want poetry. They need poetry. They get it. They don’t want fancy work.”

After 50 years in Provincetown, Mass., Oliver, 78, now lives with a Havanese named Rickey in Florida.  Her dogs have been Bear, Ben, Ricky, Lucy, Luke and Percy. She said, “I think [dogs] are companions in ways that people aren’t. They’ll lie next to you when you’re sad. And they remind us that we’re animals, too.”

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Posted in Along Publisher's Row

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

A cartoon cover by Grant Snider showed a young couple climbing inside a book and making out. Below that, the Oct. 6th New York Times Book Review said, “Let’s Read About Sex.” And the section was packed with it.

Among the many novelists heard from on the subject was Geoff Dyer. He believed that “the best writing about sex often seems pornographic rather than artful.”

Jackie Collins wrote, “I want to turn my readers on—not off. I try to take them so far, then allow their own sexual fantasies to take over. Believe me, it works.”

Erica Jong, who found scandalous fame 40 years ago with Fear of Flying, writes about the power of storytelling.

GUESSING: “Which classic writers do you think would have taken advantage of today’s literary openness?” That question was asked by Moira Redmond in The Guardian.

Redmond said Agatha Christie knew plenty about sex “but worked to sublimate everything to plot.”

Edith Wharton left explicit writing about sex in her papers, suggesting she might have been more open if she were writing today.

Evelyn Waugh “would pretend to turn up his nose—but sneak quite a lot of sex in there.”

Daphne duMaurier “would have rivaled Fifty Shades of Gray if given the chance . .  . And it would have been much better written, too.”

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Posted in Along Publisher's Row

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

“Look, I don’t care what you say, just make sure you tell it all and get my inner life.” Those were the instructions from the late Norman Mailer to J. Michael Lennon, his authorized biographer. Lennon is professor emeritus at Wilkes University. The biography, A Double Life, will be out October 15.

Lennon said that Mailer complained, “They just quote what I say on stage when I’m drunk or have gotten into a feud, so [people don't] get the fact that I’m wrestling with ideas and problems.”

In a PW interview Lennon said, “The thing about Mailer was that he wanted to be the first to try this or do that. He had breakthroughs writing about sex, about violence, using four-letter words. He wanted to go into forbidden territory, to write about orgies and incest and orgasms.”

Oh, those “ideas and problems.”

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Posted in Along Publisher's Row

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

The title certainly smacks of a grand ambition.  The book is On Paper: The Everything of Its Two-Thousand-Year History.  The author is Nicholas A. Basbanes who writes and lectures about books. On Paper is his ninth book.

Basbanes is noted for A Gentle Madness, a book about those who become obsessed by collecting books.

While doing research that “explores the nature of paper,” the author learned how to make the stuff. Research and writing took eight years.

Along the way, he collected curious things. He told PW that one of these was “a strip of red tape . . . that had just been removed from some old public records at the National Archives, and was about to be thrown in the trash—a nice detail to mention in a chapter about bureaucratic ‘Red Tape’”

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Posted in Along Publisher's Row

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

Back in the 1780s, James Boswell wrote the best literary blog, with quill and ink. He and his friend Samuel Johnson lived by their pens and would have felt right at home last Saturday night at the sixth annual Lit Crawl Manhattan on the Lower East Side.

The Crawl was “a gritty, low-budget affair,” The New York Times said. Volunteers did all the planning. There were no tickets, no admission fees and it gave “lesser known New York writers a turn in the spotlight.” Hours were six to nine p.m. and the crowd moved from bar to art gallery to pizzeria to laundromat, to hear authors read on subjects loosely organized by themes such as “Fake It”  “More Damn Lies,” “Radical Latinas” and “Return of the Savage Detectives.”

This annual outing was first enjoyed in San Francisco in 2004. It has spread to literary strongholds across the U.S.

London held its first crawl this year. The ghosts of Johnson and Boswell lifted their mugs of ale.

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Posted in Along Publisher's Row

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

A good ghost story is just about the only thing in literature that can cause goose- bumps on a reader. Scary tales were told long before Charles Dickens or Edgar Allan Poe.

            The first ghost story was found in Pliny’s Letters. He lived A.D. 62-113.  That tale is recounted in Roger Clarke’s A Natural History of Ghosts and retold in the London Review of Books. The following is a capsule version:

There once was a house in Athens haunted by “an old man, emaciated and filthy, with long beard and unkempt hair.” His chains rattled as he walked about at night. Anyone who tried to live in the house was driven to madness and death.

One night, Athendorus the Stoic (the first ghost buster?) sat up reading, waiting. At midnight, he heard chains rattling. A shadowy figure beckoned to him as it shuffled to a corner of the courtyard and disappeared.

In the morning a hole was dug at the spot where the ghost had vanished. A skeleton in chains was unearthed. The bones were given a proper burial and the house was no longer haunted.

Now, rub your arms briskly and your chill bumps, too, will vanish.

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Posted in Along Publisher's Row

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

After a night in a Travelodge hotel, a surprising number of people leave a book behind.  In the last 12 months, 22,648 books were found after the guests had gone.

Reasons cited were “finished reading it and left it for others,” “genuinely lost or forgot it” or “got bored.”

The top five forgotten or discarded books were: Fifty Shades Freed by E.L. James, Bared to You by Sylvia Day, The Marriage Bargain by Jennifer Probst, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling.

The above are in good company. Liz Bury in The Guardian, ended her article with: “Surprise entry F. Scott Fitzgerald scrapes in at number 20 with his 1925 novel The Great Gatsby.”

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Posted in Along Publisher's Row