Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Still, ka-ching! I wonder who got his wings for this one?
Monday, August 28, 2006
Actually, I imagine there is a copy of the manuscript in Times children's book editor Julie Just's office just as there is in mine. Unlike the Harry Potter books from Scholastic, S&S sent out review copies of Peter Pan in Scarlet with the proviso that no coverage appear before the pub date in October. (They wanted a signed agreement to that effect, but didn't get one from us.) That's fine by me: however "authorized," a sequel to Peter Pan is not exactly breaking news--unless your news is breaking the embargo. Emma Dryden, you evil genius.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Monday, August 21, 2006
Then I found a lengthy rumination on the closing of the fabled Cody's bookstore on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley:
Those were the years when just having a copy of a certain book could mark you as hip. Howl, say, or Das Kapital or Steppenwolf or The Rubyfruit Jungle or The Monkey Wrench Gang--carried face-out, of course, or read at a cafe table, it could get you kissed. Buying such a book in Berkeley infused it, and its buyer, with cachet.
But books don't mean what they once did. For those who write and read and publish and sell them, that's sad. But it's reality. When street mayhem broke out on Telegraph in the first years of the new millennium, the thieves stole shoes, scooters, CDs. No one looted the bookshops.
Did Telegraph kill Cody's? Hut Landon of the Independent Booksellers' Association certainly thinks so: "I wouldn't walk that street at night." He lived on Channing and Telegraph as a student in the 1970s. "Yes, there were wackos then but they weren't aggressive," he says sadly. "They weren't all hustling me for stuff. Cody's didn't do anything wrong. Cody's was a victim of its surroundings."
Less willing to blame the neighborhood, Andy Ross speaks darkly of something subtler but more devastating: a cultural shift. They're both right, of course. It's all part of that death by a thousand cuts.
First, America's book-buying demographic changed. Yes, people still buy books, but who are they? In fact, today's customers are the same as yesteryear's--the exact same customers. They're the Rubyfruiters and Monkey Wrenchers of yore; they simply grew up. They're now parents, homeowners, above-average earners. The typical American bookbuyer is a woman thirty to sixty years old. To her, and her male counterpart, books still mean what they always did. The right book can still be a status symbol, a social signifier. But things are different now for the young, including today's Telegraph habitues. The shattering of a monoculture into myriad microcultures has made it impossible for any single book to broadcast: Behold: This is me.
What books once did, tattoos now do.
The thing that's always kept me from tattoos is their permanence. Who wants to be stuck, at fifty, with what you thought was cool in your twenties? Do people look at that yinyang thing on their shoulder and cringe? But with books, you can reinvent yourself more often than Madonna. And I think that the book-as-personal-flirtation-device still has possibilities. (It probably doesn't even matter what you're reading, just the fact that you are ensures a certain degree of self-selection among the passersby.) Provided said book is closed, it's certainly an invitation to talk. But even this old-fashioned strategy proves vulnerable to corporate manipulation: I'm told that Pearson/Penguin commuters have been instructed to carry a copy of the Loren Long edition of The Little Engine That Could this Thursday in support of their company's sponsorship of Read for the Record Day. So if your idea of a good time is someone who whispers "I think I can, I think I can, I think can," then get yourself a copy.
Thursday, August 17, 2006
It was perfectly legitimate tv drama, but I was surprised to see it where it was. (Just as I was always nonplussed that my beloved Friends was shown during "family hour" at 8:00PM.) I'm similarly surprised about a great new book, Thomas M. Yeahpau's X Indian Chronicles: The Book of Mausape, coming out this fall from Candlewick. It's a stunning, mordant collection of linked short stories about young Indian men in "NDN City," a myth-shot modern city of gangs, booze, drugs, and sex, where the atmosphere of alienation and disaffectedness is anything but cosmetic.
But it's really, really (brilliantly) raunchy, and I'm having trouble seeing it as YA, although I'd love to be argued otherwise. It's not that it won't appeal to teens, quite the contrary, and Candlewick grades it for 14 and up, rather than the standard 12-up, so they're acknowledging the sophistication of the material. But why not publish it as an adult book? (This is not a question for Candlewick, which doesn't publish books for adults.) One, I'm afraid a lot of adults (and teens who feel themselves beyond YA) are going to miss it; and, two, I'm afraid that the children's buyers and librarians aren't going to know what to do with it. It's one of those books--again--that has me pining for the old lost cause: adult books for young adults. One of those books that deserves being discovered by a young reader rather than presented to.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Monday, August 14, 2006
I did find--it's only six months old--and gambled on Sarah Waters's The Night Watch, a novel described on the jacket as being about women in wartime London. While the book did not turn out to be like Maeve Binchy, but with lesbians, I still enjoyed it tremendously. Early on, one of the characters mentions her fondness for going into a movie when it's halfway through, because speculating on peoples' pasts is more interesting than imagining their futures, and likewise the book proceeds backwards, beginning shortly after the war and then going back to two points in the midst of it. The way the time periods and the characters intersect has the effect of a puzzle, almost, but the realism of the relationships and, especially, the evocation of the blackouts of the bomb-battered city keep things from getting too cerebral. I'm thinking I'll try Waters's previous novels now--I hear they're like Leon Garfield, but with lesbians.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
(But nobody beats Hazel Rochman for classy headphone listening. Her favorite in-flight entertainment is an old tape of Eliot's Four Quartets.)
One might think that Coleridge's wintry imagery might have put me in the mood for the morning's task: Martha and I are assigning holiday books for review. But just imagine how different English literature might look if the person from Porlock arrived with seven different (albeit alike in their utter lack of necessity) versions of The Night before Christmas in hand. Not pretty at all, no.
Monday, August 07, 2006
The Cow Who Clucked
written and illustrated by Denise Fleming
One Potato, Two Potato
written by Cynthia DeFelice, illustrated by Andrea U'Ren
Boo and Baa Have Company
written by Lena Landström, illustrated by Olof Landström, translated by Joan Sandin
An Abundance of Katherines
by John Green
Tales of Slicksters, Tricksters, and Other Wily Characters
(Schwartz & Wade/Random)
written by Patricia McKissack, illustrated by André Carrilho
by Terry Pratchett
Aggie and Ben:
written by Lori Ries, illustrated by Frank W. Dormer
Notes from the Midnight Driver
by Jordan Sonnenblick
by Susan Vaught
Butterfly Eyes and Other Secrets of the Meadow
written by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Beth Krommes
The Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott
by Russell Freedman
It's NOT the Stork!
written by Robie H. Harris, illustrated by Michael Emberley
Friday, August 04, 2006
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Even for a gifted young reader, getting through long chapters with dense language can easily become overwhelming and can obscure the richness of the story and its characters. Reading an abridged, newly crafted version of a classic novel can be the gentle introduction a child needs to explore the characters and story line without the frustrations of difficult vocabulary and complex themes.
Reading an abridged version of a classic novel gives the young reader a sense of independence and the satisfaction of finishing a "grown-up" book. And when a child is engaged with and inspired by a classic story, the tone is set for further exploration of the story's themes, characters, history, and details. As a child's reading skills advance, the desire to tackle the original, unabridged version of the story will naturally emerge.
Oh, sure. Here's what it really wants to say:
Attention Walmart Shopper: For only $4.95, you can buy this hardcover version of a book you have definitely heard of but have probably never read. And not just any old famous book but a classic, the kind of book your third- or fourth- grader should be reading rather than wasting his or her time with an easy and probably demonic "children's book." This book used to be a grownup book, which means your child will be smarter and more advanced after reading it. And think of the sense of pride and satisfaction you will have that your child read a classic. Go ahead and brag. You've earned it.