Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Kind Words from a Friend

Recently the editor of the opinion pages for the Asheville Citizen-Times forwarded to Byron an article which had been sent to him for possible use as a guest column. Although he couldn't use it, he thought we would be interested since its subject is Accent on Books. Indeed, not only were we interested, we were amazed and touched and deeply honored. The author is a good customer and great friend of the store and here is part of what she wrote (quoted with her permission):

"In the twelve years we have lived in the area, Accent on Books has become a part of our lives, a place where we are greeted by name, run into friends and always feel welcome. A place where each member of the friendly staff, no matter how busy, has time to discuss books, authors, or even the news or the weather. A place where local authors can read and sign their books....A place where browsing is encouraged and comfortable chairs provide a place to sit while skimming a few pages of a potential purchase....A place where, if the book you want is not in stock, a helpful staff member will be happy to order it for you. A place that for us, and for many, has come to epitomize the warmth and friendliness of Asheville."

Thanks, Nancy, for your kind words. In the stress and rush of the holiday season, especially with the background of economic uncertainty we all face, it's nice to know we can make a difference in the lives of our customers and our community.

And thanks to all of you for your business, your loyalty and your friendship over the past year. Best wishes to you for health and happiness in 2009.

Page 854 will be taking a New Years break of about a week. See you next year!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Judging a Book by Its Cover

Earlier this month I mentioned the pervasiveness of "best of" and "worst of" lists this time of year, with specific reference to the New York Times Book Review. Their list had to do with the content of books; another recent list has to do with their covers.

Joseph Sullivan, at his "Book Design Review" blog, posted a list (with illustrations) of his favorite book covers of 2008. It's a delightful and impressive list to scroll through, and shows that cleverness and wit are alive and well in the book designer's art. Sullivan also gives you a chance to vote for your favorite of the covers he's chosen, and the one I chose was in second place when I voted. The book is entitled, Why You Should Read Kafka Before You Waste Your Life, and the cover shows an insect (Gregor Samsa, one assumes) reading a book bearing the actual book's title.

Sullivan's favorite book covers can be found here.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

"Joseph -- go see if any baby books are on sale."

A week ago today we had a store full of people, eagerly -- in some cases, desperately -- putting the final touches on their holiday shopping. Today, oddly enough, it's somewhat quieter.

Which means -- time for ** A SALE ** !!!

The post-Christmas sale is a time-honored retail tradition, and who are we to resist it? (I wonder if the wise men stopped at a mall on their way to Bethlehem....) At any rate, here's what we're offering:

-- 50% off all Christmas cards.
-- 40% off a wide variety of hardcovers -- fiction and nonfiction.
-- 40% off all cookbooks.
-- 40% off all children's hardcover picture books and all children's Christmas books.
-- 40% off a large selection of children's nonfiction.

Consider it the Accent on Books Economic Stimulus Plan. So come on in with your gift certificates and your list of books Santa should have brought you but didn't, and load up on great savings.

Perhaps the President-elect should send Accent on Books a thank-you note.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Tuesday, 12/23 at Accent on Books: Glenis Redmond

Accent on Books has one more scheduled author event for 2008, and it should be an exciting one. We are proud to be welcoming to our store for the first time the outstanding performance poet Glenis Redmond.

For years Glenis has been one of the most admired and beloved literary and performance personalities in Western North Carolina. She has taught, spoken, and performed at venues across the country and around the world, including the Kennedy Center, the FarragoPoetry Festival in London, and the famed Nuyorican Poet's Cafe in New York City. She has won numerous awards and fellowships and given keynote addresses at educational and women's leadership conferences.

Glenis' latest book is titled, Under the Sun, and she will be performing from and signing copies of this book at our store Tuesday evening, December 23, beginning at 6:00 PM.

This is obviously a busy time for us all, but we hope you will be able join us for what promises to be an outstanding event.

More about Glenis Redmond can be found at her website.

"Really, you shouldn't have...."

As many of you know, Accent on Books offers free gift-wrapping for your purchases with us, a service an increasing number of customers will no doubt take advantage of over the next several days. Lewis actually got his start in retail as a gift-wrapper, so he has it down to a science as well as an art. Byron and Rebecca obviously have a strong aptitude for it as well. As for me, well, I'm glad most of our products are rectangular objects with flat surfaces, so they don't pose too much of a challenge.

While we offer several gift-wrapping options, we can't match the choices offered by Firebox.com, an online British retailer. For a fee, they will wrap your purchases in one of the following choices: Christmas, Gold, Silver, Stars, Stripes, or CrapWrap.

Say what?

That last choice is not a typo. If you so desire, Firebox will be happy to intentionally wrap your gift in a horribly incompetent manner. As they describe it: "Too much offensive brown tape, untidily hacked at wrapping paper, rips in the packaging exposing the surprise underneath."

Which of course leads to the question: Why would anyone, outside of sheer contrariness, pay good money to knowingly have a gift wrapped in an appalling manner? One suggestion that has been made: it's a boon for lazy guys. Under this theory, if a guy gives his wife/girlfriend/whomever a beautifully wrapped gift, the recipient will automatically assume the guy had someone else wrap it, and thus they may also assume he didn't put much thought into the entire gift-buying process. Whereas, if the wrapping job is lousy, the recipient may think, "Aw, he even wrapped it himself. How sweet."

I wonder if the Firebox gift-wrapping department has any job openings....

More on this retailing innovation can be found here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

This weekend at Accent on Books: The excitement continues

Four events, three days, one great location. Here's what's happening this weekend at Excitement Central on Merrimon Avenue.

Friday, 12/19, 6:00 PM: Wayne Caldwell. Wayne is a longtime, valued friend of Accent on Books and it's always great to have him back. If you do not yet have a copy of his wonderful novel Cataloochee -- or if there's someone on your gift list who would enjoy great regional fiction -- here's your chance to get an autographed copy. Or just come by and hang out with one of the greatest storytellers around. Find out more about Wayne here.

Saturday, 12/20, 1:00 PM: "A Breath of Bethlehem". Here's a perfect opportunity to slow down and take a break from the madness of the holiday season. Accent on Books will welcome the Rev. Mary Caldwell and the Rev. Austin Rios to our store to give a reading of the Christmas story from Luke in English and Spanish, respectively. Refreshments will be served. A moment of respite for the entire family.

Saturday, 12/20, 3:00-5:00 PM: Lou Harshaw. One of Western North Carolina's foremost historians will be here to sign copies of her book, Asheville: Mountain Majesty. We were very proud to have the launch party for this book last year, and it remains one of our most popular titles: a vivid history of the area with lots of wonderful photographs. More information can be found at the website of Bright Mountain Books.

Sunday, 12/21, 3:00 PM: Marijo Moore and Byron Ballard. What better way to celebrate the Winter Solstice than with two of the coolest earth religionists to be found anywhere. Marijo is the author and editor of numerous works; her most recent novel is When the Dead Dream. Byron, of course, is well-known to all Accent on Books customers, as well as being a leading member of the local -- heck, national -- Pagan community. Marijo and Byron are longtime friends and partners in crime, and they will be leading a Talking Circle at the store. Marijo's website is here.

Surely that's it for events at Accent on Books in December, right? No! We haven't even mentioned Glenis Redmond! More on that later.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

A History of 2008 in Ten Words

Merriam-Webster Online recently announced its "Word of the Year" for 2008, along with nine runners-up. As the website describes it, the word of the year is the one which received "the highest intensity of lookups...over the shortest period of time." And indeed, the entire list of ten words comprises a remarkably concise portrait of what we have been through over the past twelve months or so. The winning word: "bailout." The entire list follows:

1. bailout
2. vet
3. socialism
4. maverick
5. bipartisan
6. trepidation
7. precipice
8. rogue
9. misogyny
10. turmoil

Hopefully the present turmoil and trepidation will not result in maverick rogues driving us over the precipice, so that next year's list will have a few more positive terms.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Thursday, 12/11 - Sunday, 12/14: An Accent on Books Quadruple-header!

Four author events in four days! Just another weekend at Your Favorite Bookstore. Here's the scoop:

Thursday, 12/11, 6:00 PM: Howard Hanger. As if he weren't busy enough being a jazz musician, newspaper columnist, and renegade Methodist minister, Howard is the founder and headmaster of Hanger Hall -- A Middle School for Girls. His new book, A Precious Window of Time, co-authored with Dr. Vicki Garlock, is a parenting and educational manual based on that experience. We will also have copies of Howard's earlier book of religious meditations, Drink Deeply with Delight.

Friday, 12/12, 6:00 PM: Sarah Addison Allen. A customer favorite, Sarah is author of the national bestsellers, Garden Spells and The Sugar Queen. On Friday, in ** an Accent on Books exclusive, ** she will be reading from her forthcoming novel, The Girl Who Chased the Moon. And, of course, she'll be happy to sign copies of her earlier books.

Saturday, 12/13, 3:00 PM: Cecil Bothwell. Chances are, if you live in Buncombe County or the immediate environs, you've heard of Bobby Medford, the ex-sheriff and now convicted felon who used his office to set up an extortion and racketeering operation involving illegal gambling. Cecil Bothwell has all the lowdown on this scandal, and has gathered it into a book entitled, appropriately enough, Pure Bunkum. Cecil will be here Saturday to give us his own, unique take on this bit of mountain madness.

Sunday, 12/14, 3:00 PM: Joan Medlicott. Not only is this Barnardsville writer the author of the nationally acclaimed "Covington" series of novels (no connection to the present writer), she is also a great friend of independent bookstores. And when Joan and her writing group meet at Accent on Books twice a month, her four-legged cohort Daisy is a charming and enthusiastic greeter of everyone who walks through the door. Joan's latest book, Promises of Change, is not due out till January, but here is a perfect opportunity to meet her and complete your own collection of her works; and, of course, get autographed copies as gifts for all the present and future Medlicott fans on your list.

Whew! 854 Merrimon Avenue is obviously the happenin' place to be. For more, check out our website.

Monday, December 8, 2008

NYTBR's Top Ten

As the calendar year nears its end all sorts of individuals and publications will fulfill their love of listmaking and ranking by declaring their ten best -- or ten worst -- of this and that. In the world of booklovers, the one that carries the most weight is the Ten Best Books of the Year from the "review of record," the New York Times Book Review. This year's list will appear in the December 14 issue and is as follows:

Dangerous Laughter, by Steven Millhauser. Although Millhauser may be best known for two novels (Edwin Mullhouse, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Martin Dressler), he works mainly as a short-story writer. This latest collection shows the magical realist/fable-like style that has won him comparisons to Borges, Poe and Nabokov.

A Mercy, by Toni Morrison. Like the Nobel laureate's acclaimed novel, Beloved, this new tale deals with the effects of slavery; this time, however, the story is set in the 1600's rather than the 1800's.

Netherland, by Joseph O'Neill. A story of post-9/11 New York City, dealing with themes of alienation and assimilation. The main character is a Dutch banker, who takes up with a group of South Asian amateur cricket players.

2666, by Roberto Bolano. A posthumous work from the acclaimed Chilean writer (1953-2003). It's a huge novel with multiple narrative threads, all coming together in a crime-plagued town on the U.S.-Mexican border.

Unaccustomed Earth, by Jhumpa Lahiri. Lahiri's first collection of stories -- Interpreter of Maladies -- won the Pulitzer Prize. This new volume again shows compassion, empathy and close observation in tales of Bengali-Americans and others trying to find their way in the United States.

The Dark Side, by Jane Mayer. A New Yorker writer gives us the background to all the controversial policies -- Guantanamo, "extraordinary rendition," warrantless surveillance, and the rest -- that have played such a central part in the Bush administration's "war on terror."

The Forever War, by Dexter Filkins. Another journalistic work dealing with current issues. Filkins is a longtime New York Times reporter in the Middle East and presents an account of the recent strife-torn history of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Nothing to Be Frightened Of, by Julian Barnes. An esteemed British novelist here pens a memoir, with a special emphasis on his spiritual journey from atheism to agnosticism.

This Republic of Suffering, by Drew Gilpin Faust. The president of Harvard University -- whose training is as an historian -- examines how the horrific casualties of the Civil War served in the end as a factor to help the war's antagonists reunite as a single country.

The World Is What It Is, by Patrick French. An authorized biography of the Trinidadian writer -- and Nobel Prize winner -- V. S. Naipaul. However, unlike most authorized accounts, this one is unsparing in portraying the disturbing aspects of its subject's personal life, as well as his literary genius.

More about the Ten Best list -- and links to reviews -- can be found here.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Just a gentle reminder....

This coming Sunday, December 7, 1:00-5:00 PM, at Accent on Books:

** 15% off every book in stock -- no limits and no coupon required. **
** Live music .**
** Yummy refreshments.**
** A delightful and fascinating display of photographs from 25 years at Accent on Books. **
** All your friends and neighbors will be there and will be looking for you -- you wouldn't want to disappoint them, now, would you? **

Of course you wouldn't. Be there! Aloha!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Friday, 12/5, at Accent on Books: Kendall Hale

There's an old joke to the effect that if you remember the Sixties, you probably weren't there. This obviously doesn't apply to Kendall Hale. Not only does she remember her activism of the Sixties and subsequent decades, she has now written a memoir of her experiences entitled, Radical Passions. It is a recounting of a remarkable range of experiences of someone who clearly wasn't satisfied with observing from the sidelines. Antiwar protests from Vietnam to Iraq. Pro-union work. Environmentalism. Traveling and organizing in Cuba, China, Nicaragua, India and Peru. A vivid life's journey that has brought her finally to the mountains of Western North Carolina.

Kendall Hale will be at Accent on Books this coming Friday at 6:00 PM to talk about her new book and the experiences which comprise its subject. Join us to hear more about her amazing life and her fascinating book.

You can find out more at Kendall's website.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Thursday, 12/4 at Accent on Books: From Dumbledore to Hermione to the World

It's one of the most famous -- and mysterious -- books in the wizarding world. When Albus Dumbledore bequeathed to Hermione Granger his copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard, at first neither Hermione nor her friends Harry Potter and Ron Weasley recognized its true significance. They soon came to realize, however, that this book of fairy tales contained the knowledge of the Deathly Hallows, the key to Harry's battle against his nemesis, Lord Voldemort.

Up until now only a small portion of this volume has been available to the outside world: "The Tale of the Three Brothers," as it was recounted in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. However, on Thursday, December 4, the entire Tales of Beedle the Bard will be openly available for the first time, translated from the runes by Hermione Granger, with extensive commentary by Albus Dumbledore, and an introduction, notes and illustrations by J. K. Rowling.

Accent on Books will be celebrating this publishing event in a very special way: a "wizarding tea" featuring Asheville's own very wizardly storyteller, Gwenda Ledbetter. And please note the special time for this high tea: 4:00 in the afternoon on Thursday, December 4. It will be a delightful event for all ages, so we hope you can join us.

More about The Tales of Beedle the Bard, and the charity to which J. K. Rowling will be contributing her proceeds, can be found here.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

"Of course I'm registered with Accent on Books -- isn't everyone?"

Tired of dropping hints just to watch them land on the floor with a thud? Thinking of visiting Santa Claus, only he's kind of scary and, besides, you'd have to go to the mall? Afraid someone will give you a tedious textbook when what you really want is a racy novel? As usual, we have the perfect solution:

** The Accent on Books Gift Registry! **

That's right -- you can now call us (252-6255, or 800-482-7964), e-mail us (info@accentonbooks.com), or simply drop by the store and tell us which books you'd like to receive as holiday gifts and we will list them under your name in our attractive registry. Then let all your family, friends and co-workers know that you are registered with Accent on Books both for your fine reading and your everyday reading, and all they have to do is check with us to find you the perfect gift.

It's a win-win-win solution, and certainly we're all looking for as many of those as we can find at this point in time.

Friday, November 28, 2008

"Black Friday"? How about "Spectacular Sunday"?

Target and K-Mart opened today at 6:00 AM. Walmart and Sears went them one hour better and opened at 5:00. And the earliest birds looking for the fattest worms had the opportunity to start shopping at Kohl's and JC Penny at 4:00 this morning (or was that last night?).

Accent on Books? We opened at our normal time of 9:30. Almost made us feel like a bunch of sluggards.

We'll admit that our store is not the place to find "doorbusters" on the day after Thanksgiving (which now seems to be known as "Black Friday"). But, as our longtime customers know, if you're willing to wait about ten days, you'll find a sale here -- indeed, An Event -- which puts all of today's offers to shame; and it takes place at a civilized hour . It's our annual Open House/Birthday Party on the first Sunday in December, when we offer the following:

-- 15% OFF EVERY BOOK IN STOCK -- and that's good for as many items as you wish to purchase; no "limits per customer," and no coupon needed.
-- Live music.
-- Refreshments.

As one of our customers said this morning, it's more than just a sale -- it's an annual Asheville Christmas tradition. (Maybe we should try to get it listed in the "Light Up Your Holidays" brochure next year.) So, if you haven't already, mark your calendar:

**Sunday, December 7, 1:00-5:00 PM: Accent on Books' Annual Open House & Sale**

It'll be spectacular.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A New School in Afghanistan

Today is the on-sale date for the paperback version of A Thousand Splendid Suns, the second novel by Khaled Hosseini, following The Kite Runner. It thus seems an appropriate time to mention the new primary school built in Afghanistan, funded by Hosseini's publisher, Penguin Group USA, to honor the bestselling author who is a native of that country and whose books have done so much to promote knowledge of and interest in his homeland. The new school is located in the town of Arababshirali, about 150 miles from Kabul, and recently opened its doors to 270 students, grades 1 through 6. About a third of the students are girls, who were enrolled despite anonymous threats demanding that they not be allowed to attend. Construction of the school began earlier this year, and provided much-needed employment for men in the village. The project took place under the auspices of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), and the United States Association for UNHCR.

More information -- and a photograph of the new school -- can be found at Penguin's website.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

We couldn't have said it better ourselves

Of course we at Accent on Books are in favor of buying local -- we're a locally owned business. So it's always gratifying when someone else without such a direct interest in the issue endorses the concept. A recent example is WYFF, a local television station, which ran an editorial urging consumers to consider supporting local businesses during the holiday shopping season. Among their points:

-- Owners of local stores are invested in their own communities, contribute to the local economy, and support local charities.
-- Local businesses help give a community the distinctiveness that we all say we value.
-- There is a unique variety of locally-flavored items available at these stores which can't be found in chain stores or on the internet.

Of course, we hope that you will support and shop at Accent on Books and other local businesses mainly because of our selection and service, and the shopping experience we provide. But it doesn't hurt to point out on occasion the many other advantages to be gained by patronizing the businesses owned and run by your friends and neighbors.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

"What a cute baby! And you say its name is Accent?"

If you or someone you know is expecting a bundle of joy and coming up with a name for it is presently an issue, we have several books at the store on baby names which might be of help. Or you can simply decide to follow the example of Audrey and Kevin DeKam.

They named their son after their favorite bookstore.

Audrey recently gave birth to Powell Finley DeKam, named for Powell's, the famous independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon. Powell's mom is a creative writing teacher who describes her perfect day as sleeping in and then getting "lost for hours" in Powell's (the store), something she may not be able indulge in for awhile now that Powell the infant is on the scene. This choice of a name, however, was not entirely impulsive: they did check a baby name book first and discovered that Powell means "alert."

Of course, there are limits as to how far you would want to take this. I would hope parents would never show such poor taste as to name their twin sons Barnes and Noble.

Tip of the hat to Shelf Awareness for reporting the above item.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Friday, 11/21 at Accent on Books: Randy Russell

Asheville author Randy Russell refers to himself as a "ghostologist," a vocation that his led to three previous books, including the popular Ghost Dogs of the South. In his latest book, Russell turns from the canine to the feline aspect of the uncanny with Ghost Cats of the South, a book he will be discussing and autographing this coming Friday evening, starting at 6:00, at Accent on Books. This new volume is comprised of twenty-two stories concerning mysterious cats (actually, is there any other kind?) who have appeared in various locations including Black Mountain, Hot Springs and Sylva. Maybe he'll know about the gray tabby that occasionally appears on my front steps in the morning and sits there motionless, staring at me, as if it knows more about me than I would want any being to know.

I don't suppose anyone could explain all the enigmas of cats, and maybe we wouldn't want that anyway. But Randy Russell knows more than his share about these creatures, so we hope you'll join us Friday evening to either get some answers, or celebrate the fact that there really aren't that many.

Randy's website is here

National Book Awards

The 2009 National Book Award Winners were announced during a ceremony Wednesday night. They are as follows:

Fiction: Shadow Country, by Peter Matthiessen. There was actually some controversy over whether this book should even be eligible, since it is a one-volume reworking of an earlier trilogy Matthiessen published a while back. However, the judges determined there was enough new material to justify considering it as a separate work. Matthiessen previously won a nonfiction NBA for The Snow Leopard.

Nonfiction: The Hemingses of Monticello, by Annette Gordon-Reed. About ten years ago, Gordon-Reed wrote, Thomas Jefferson & Sally Hemings, a book credited with helping to definitively establish the connection between Jefferson and his slave mistress. Here, Gordon-Reed delves into the fascinating and amazing history of the entire Hemings family and their complicated relationships with not only the Jeffersons, but with other families as well.

Poetry: Fire to Fire: New and Collected Poems, by Mark Doty. Doty, 55, has written seven previous books of poetry plus several books of prose. This new volume includes some of the best poems from his previous books as well as new ones. (Career collections such as this frequently win awards, but this doesn't seem to raise the same kind of questions that arose in the case of the Matthiessen book.)

Young People's Literature: What I Saw and How I Lied, by Judy Blundell. A Young Adult novel from a new name in the genre, this is a mystery tale set during the World War II era about a girl who discovers dark secrets about her family after her father returns from the war.

More about the National Book Awards and this year's winners can be found here.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Wednesday, 11/19 at Accent on Books: "Christmas Presence"

This week, we're having a special Wednesday event for a special book. It's called Christmas Presence, and it's a collection of writings about the holiday season from 45 women who live here in Western North Carolina. Among the contributors: Accent on Books' very own bookseller/events coordinator extraordinaire, Byron Ballard. Other contributors include Glenis Redmond, Susan Reinhardt, Marijo Moore, Gwenda Ledbetter, and the book's co-editors, Celia Miles and Nancy Dillingham. So please come by Accent on Books this coming Wednesday starting at 6:00 PM to honor and congratulate Byron and others involved in this project, and get an early start on your holiday shopping with signed copies of Christmas Presence.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Friday, 11/14 at Accent on Books: Terrell Garren

After years of working in various jobs in the public sector, Henderson County resident Terrell T. Garren began a second career as a Civil War historian. His research led to his first novel, The Secret of War, about life in the Western North Carolina mountains during the 1860s. He followed that up with Mountain Myth, a scholarly work that separated the myths from the reality concerning "Unionism," or sympathies with the Union cause, in the mountains during the war.

Garren has now applied his prodigious research to fiction once again, and he will talk about his latest work at Accent on Books this coming Friday, November 14, beginning at 6:00 PM. This new book, entitled The Fifth Skull, is based on the true experiences of two mountain teenagers who were conscripted into the Confederate army, were captured and imprisoned in the Union prison of Camp Douglas in Illinois, and finally ended up involved in the Modoc Indian War in California and Oregon. It's a little known but remarkable story which Terrell Garren, using his skills as a researcher and writer, is bringing to light, and we hope you can join us at Accent on Books as he presents this new book and signs copies.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"The Hour" Has Finally Arrived

On sale starting today at Accent on Books: Wally Lamb's new novel, The Hour I First Believed. If you think it's been awhile since Lamb's previous novel you're right -- ten years, to be exact. In a lively and ingratiating interview with Publishers Weekly, Lamb talks about some of the circumstances surrounding the delay of this book, which was first due to be published in 2004. Not only did he have creative problems with the manuscript, but life situations such as the declining health of his parents and his job teaching creative writing in a women's prison also competed for his attentions.

Lamb also reflects on the extraordinary experience of having both of his first two novels chosen by Oprah Winfrey for her book club. (Long before she started the club, Winfrey called him simply as a delighted reader of She's Come Undone.) His success may come from the extraordinarily high standard he set for his writing from the beginning: he wanted to write "a book that teenagers would read voluntarily." While his books may not have gone that particular direction, they have certainly found a large and enthusiastic audience.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Back In Print (And Online)

I suppose we can't complain about the local media ignoring us this year. For the second time since July, Accent on Books has been featured in the Asheville Citizen-Times -- this time it's a Small-Business Profile of the store itself (last time we were interviewed -- and pictured -- as part of an article on the larger issue of independent bookselling in Asheville). The online version doesn't give the name of the reporter so let's give credit where it's due -- freelance author Anne Fitten Glenn is the author of the piece, and we appreciate her taking the time to visit the store and interview us and talk to our customers as well. And thanks to Tony Sayer for his kind remarks about the store.

I almost forgot -- the occasion for the article is our ** 25th Anniversary ** which we will be celebrating with a variety of events at the store. Make sure to check this blog and our website to be kept up to date with all the latest happenings.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Heigh-Ho, Time for the Fair

Excuse our mess. If you're visiting the children's section of Accent on Books this coming week you're likely to see piles of boxes bearing the mysterious initials "CDBF" on the outside. We are preparing for the annual book fair at Carolina Day School in south Asheville. Every year this event, sponsored by the school's Friends of the Library, raises money for Carolina Day and gives kids and their parents a chance to purchase books for themselves, or perhaps do some early holiday shopping. For about a decade now Accent on Books has been pleased to provide the books for this project, and this is the week all the picking and packing will take place. (The book fair itself runs from Monday, November 10 through Wednesday November 12 in the Lower School Library on the Carolina Day campus.)

So thanks in advance for maneuvering around the boxes, and thanks to the fine folks at Carolina Day for allowing us to help out with this worthy project.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

I wonder how Joe the Plumber would have answered this...

Still undecided as to whom to for next Tuesday for President? Page 854 comes to the rescue with word about the candidates' opinions on yet another important issue. According to an article in the Christian Science Monitor, Sarah Palin's nemesis Katie Couric asked John McCain and Barack Obama what their favorite books were. Their answers:

John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls
Barack Obama: Song of Solomon

I seem to recall our current President once expressed his fondness for The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

At least someone in this business is making money

Things are tough all over -- unless you are one of the handful of best paid authors in the world. And where else to find out about this but Forbes, a publication that has grown rich by telling the rest of us who all the richest people are. In a recent article, Forbes presented a list of the "world's best paid authors," and for anyone who follows the book industry there are no real surprises.

Leading the list is -- duh! -- J. K. Rowling, who, in the twelve months ending June 1, 2008, raked in $300 million. Rumors are she is in negotiations with Barack Obama and John McCain to buy the United States of America. Number two on the list is James Patterson, who has become almost a one-man book-of-the-month club, and every one of those books sell to his huge and ardent following. Stephen King, who so much wants to be respected as a literary artist, garnered enough commercial respect to gain a frightful haul of $45 million. Going down the list, one finds such relentlessly familiar names as Danielle Steel, Nicholas Sparks, Janet Evanovich and Dean Koontz. And, coming in at number ten is Ken Follett who has Oprah to thank for much of his recent success.

Books by all of these authors are available at Accent on Books. Not that they need our help.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

More Awards for Local Writers

Two announcements this past week indicated yet again the extraordinary amount of quality literature that emerges from Western North Carolina. First, the WNC Historical Association announced that Ron Rash has won this year's Thomas Wolfe Literary Award for his collection, Chemistry and Other Stories. Rash, who teaches at Western Carolina University, has recently been winning national attention and acclaim for his novel Serena, which has just been published.

Also, it was announced that Asheville Citizen-Times writer Dale Neal has won the 2008 Novello Literary Award from the Novello Festival Press in Charlotte. This honor goes to an unpublished manuscript, which is then scheduled for publication by the press, with a $1000 advance being awarded to the author. Dale is a longtime friend and customer of Accent on Books (he wrote a Citizen-Times article about the store earlier this year), so we are delighted that he has received this honor. His manuscript -- which is his first novel -- is titled, Cow Across America.

Congratulations to these two fine authors. Ron Rash's books are all available at Accent on Books, and you can be sure Dale's will be as well, as soon as it's published.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Just Reading

Frequently over the years we have had customers wistfully say that they wish they had months (or years) when they could do nothing but read. Then maybe they could start whittling down that long list of books they'd like to get to.

Maybe they could take inspiration from Charles and Sue Wells, who happen to live next door to Barbara Brotman, a writer for the Chicago Tribune. During the summer, Brotman noticed that her neighbors would spend sometimes the entire day sitting outside next to each other, each one lost in a book. No conversation, no attending to other duties, just sitting in their back yard reading. Fascinated and inspired by this sight, Brotman decided to ask them about it. The secret, she found out, was simply a matter of priorities. Reading is what they love to do, so they decided to make it a center -- on many days, the center -- of their lives. As Charles Wells said to her, "You have to make a commitment to it. You have to make a decision: Are you going to have clean countertops, or read? We've made that choice. I want to read and understand the world better."

Brotman comments: "Imagine reading not as what you do when you have a few extra minutes, but as a day's destination. Not as dessert, but as the main course. Not as something to sneak in, but a planned activity. Immersing yourself in an engrossing story, turning your mind to see something differently -- why should anyone feel guilty about spending time like that?"

Brotman's article can be found here.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

What Would William Say?

My nominee for Impudent Literary Personality of the Week: Christopher Buckley, novelist, humorist, and son of the late William F. Buckley. First, Buckley posted an article on Tina Brown's blogsite The Daily Beast , in which he endorsed Barack Obama, a position that didn't go over too well at The National Review, the journal that William founded and for which Christopher is a columnist. Make that was a columnist -- after Buckley's article appeared he either resigned or was fired, depending on whose version you believe.

Then, in the October 19 New York Times Book Review, Buckley has a double review of two memoirs by prominent writers returning to the fold of the Catholic Church: Called Out of Darkness, by Anne Rice (best known for her vampire novels and, more recently, books about the early life of Jesus); and Crossbearer, by Joe Eszterhas (best known as the screenwriter for such funky Hollywood offerings as Basic Instinct and Showgirls). Suffice it to say the famously Catholic William F.'s son is unconvinced by either narrative and has a lot of fun saying so. He even counts himself among the unbelievers, "in whose camp I squat, nervously clutching Christopher Hitchens' pant leg."

Somewhere, in a conservative, Catholic heaven, William F. Buckley is shaking his head, and turning up his recording of the Brandenburg Concertos a little louder. What can you do?

By the way Anne Rice's book -- and the latest by Christopher Buckley -- are available at Accent on Books. And we'd be happy to special order the Joe Eszterhas title.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Winner Over There, Nominees Over Here

Tuesday evening to Wednesday morning was a busy period in the world of English language literary awards. On Tuesday evening in London, the 2008 Man Booker Prize for best fiction published by a British Commonwealth author went to the Indian writer Aravind Adiga for his novel, The White Tiger. (Back in July I wrote a post about the Man Booker finalists.) Adiga, 33, is the fourth debut novelist to win the award. His novel -- which the Booker jury said "shocked and entertained in equal measure" -- is an unsentimental portrait of life in India. It was published in paperback in this country last month, and is available at Accent on Books. More about the book and the award can be found at the Man Booker's website.

Then, back in this country on Wednesday morning, the National Book Foundation trotted out Scott Turow to make a video announcement of the finalists for this year's National Book Awards. There are five finalists in each of four categories -- Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry and Young People's Literature -- and the complete list can be found here. Marilynne Robinson is among the Fiction nominees for Home, the follow-up to her previous novel Gilead, which won the Pulitzer Prize. Peter Matthiesen is another Fiction nominee for his book Shadow Country; earlier in his career he won a nonfiction NBA for The Snow Leopard. Jane Mayer's The Dark Side -- about the Bush administration's "War on Terror" -- may be the best known of the Nonfiction nominees. The nominated poets seem a particularly distinguished group led by Pulitzer Prize winner Richard Howard. And Laurie Halse Anderson, one of the most acclaimed writers of young adult fiction to appear in recent years, is the biggest name in the Young People's Literature category.

There is a Western North Carolina connection to this year's National Book Awards: Gail Godwin, who grew up in Asheville, presides over the judges charged with picking this year's winner in Fiction.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

When all else fails...

One of our best customers was in the store this morning, and we were chatting about the effect of the current economic turmoil on the book business (the effect is not particularly positive). He commented, "Well, if everything falls apart, at least I'll have something to read."

That reminded me of a passage from Dylan Thomas' A Child's Christmas in Wales. It's Christmas Eve afternoon, and the narrator and his friend Jim Prothero hear a commotion coming from Jim's house where a fire has evidently broken out. By the time they get there the only thing evident is smoke, but the boys are nonetheless sent out to call the fire brigade (hopefully I'm not violating a copyright here):

"...we...called the fire brigade, and soon the fire engine came and three tall men in helmets brought a hose into the house and Mr. Prothero got out just in time before they turned it on. Nobody could have had a noisier Christmas Eve. And when the firemen turned off the hose and were standing in the wet, smoky room, Jim's aunt, Miss Prothero, came downstairs and peered in at them. Jim and I waited, very quietly, to hear what she would say to them.

"She said the right thing, always. She looked at the three tall firemen in their shining helmets, standing among the smoke and cinders and dissolving snowballs, and she said:

"'Would you like anything to read?'"

Monday, October 13, 2008

I guess they didn't have buses in the 15th century

They say that lightning never strikes the same place twice, but evidently that isn't true of buses. Just ask Susan Mirabaud. She is the owner of the 15th Century Bookshop, located in the town of Lewes, in Sussex County, England. Her store's name comes from the fact that it is indeed located in a building dating from the 15th century, a building in which Mirabaud also lives. Five years ago a double-decker bus swerved into her building damaging the roof and the overhang. Then last month, it happened again. As you might imagine, Mirabaud was not happy, and demanded that action be taken; after all, she pointed out, this was not just any 15th century building -- it was the only unaltered 15th century building in town (as a Yank I of course find it hard to imagine living in a town with one 19th century building, not to mention numerous 15th century buildings). After all, Mirabaud reasoned, "there is only so much a 15th century building can take."

Alas, town officials were not sympathetic, claiming there was no practical way to change traffic patterns or put up barriers to assure that Mirabeau and her bookshop would not be damaged by further attacks from rogue buses. As a spokesman for the East Sussex County Council explained, "It would not be possible to put bollards by the shop as the pavement is too narrow. It would force pedestrians to walk into the road which could be dangerous especially for people with buggies and wheelchairs."

More about Mrs. Mirabaud and her vehicular travails can be found here.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Nobel Prize Awarded to French Writer

Last week, Horace Engdahl, permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, caused a ruckus. Because of his position, Engdahl plays a major role in the Academy's annual choice of a winner for the Nobel Prize for Literature. The ruckus resorted from an interview he gave the AP, in which he declared Europe to be the literary center of the world, and declared that American writers were too "insular" and under the sway of popular culture to win the coveted prize. There was considerable outrage over these remarks from members of the American literary establishment who not only offered a list of US writers they considered worthy of consideration (Roth, Oates and DeLillo, among others), but also pointedly mentioned the veritable hall of fame of 20th century writers whom the Nobel committee never considered worthy of their honor: Tolstoy, Proust, Joyce, Borges, Nabokov, and Auden, for example.

Perhaps Engdahl was just laying the groundwork for today's announcement of the 2008 Nobel Prize for Literature winner: Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio of France. And yes, as an Insular American, I must admit I've never heard of him.

Regardless of my ignorance, Le Clezio is evidently both well-known and highly regarded in his home country, a prolific author of fiction and essays for adults and children for more than forty years. He has traveled widely and lived in many different places, and much of his work centers around the ideas of home and exile. He also evidently wrote works with a high degree of environmental awareness, long before that became a normal thing to do. Little of his work seems to be currently available in this country in English editions, but I'm sure that will begin to change. By the way, Le Clezio currently maintains three residences, one of which is in Albuquerque, right here in the insular, pop-cultured-polluted USA.

For more about Le Clezio, you can check out the Nobel Committee's citation.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Kids Are All Right

It's a common refrain, and one that I'll acknowledge singing myself: kids today are reading less and less. Ipods, DVD's, the internet -- all are competing with books for the time of children and teenagers, and books are losing.

In an article in Esquire, Dave Eggers says this is all a bunch of [expletive] nonsense. Eggers, probably best known for his award-winning book, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, is involved with an organization called 826 Valencia, which started in San Francisco and has spread to other cities. This organization works to encourage young readers and writers, and Eggers claims that interest in books among the young is flourishing. He points to strong increases in sales of children's books over the past several years and cites examples of kids he works with who are thrilled at the possibility of writing, and having their work published, something that 826 Valencia helps facilitate.

Of course, it could be pointed out that Eggers' outlook might be influenced by the fact that he works for an organization which appeals to literate youngsters to begin with. Still, he may be right when he claims we "look for gloomy statistics," including a widely cited report from the National Endowment from the Arts which may now turn out to have been flawed. And he's certainly right in pointing out that with each passing generation education and literacy improves, so that a higher percentage of the population has the choice as to whether to become readers than was the case in the past. Still, it would be interesting to compare Eggers' views with that of a public school teacher who has to deal with a general cross-section of the population, and who has to work on a daily basis to begin or cultivate an interest in reading. Hopefully their experiences would be similarly encouraging.

Eggers' article can be found here.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Liked your book. Now, about that title...

As senators, representatives, presidential candidates, lame-duck White House residents, and at least some corporate CEO's are looking for a place to hide or a ledge off of which to jump, David Lereah may be walking around with a paper bag over his head. After all, a couple of years ago, Lereah wrote a book called, Why the Real Estate Boom Will Not Bust -- And How You Can Profit From It.

Of course, as this Wall Street Journal article points out, David Lereah was not the first author to write a book with a title that inaccurately predicted either the end of the world or the coming of Paradise. And sometimes you can make it pay off -- if you don't get too greedy. Steve Gill wrote a book called The Fred Factor about Fred Thompson's highly anticipated presidential campaign and quickly sold through a first printing. Then he ordered up a second printing -- and Thompson's campaign promptly tanked. The well known political analyst Shelby Steele came out with a book last December called, A Bound Man: Why We Are Excited About Obama and Why He Can't Win. One can't help but wonder if Steele is now a strong McCain supporter for reasons that have nothing to do with politics.

However, being the author of a disastrously titled book doesn't automatically mean you will sink into oblivion. Back in 1999, Kevin Hassett wrote a book carrying the now ludicrous title of Dow 36,000. And where is Kevin Hassett today?

He's an economic adviser to John McCain.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Dangerous "Jewel"

This year, September 28 - October 4 marks the annual observance of Banned Books Week, an event sponsored by the American Library Association, to promote awareness of issues surrounding censorship and intellectual freedom. It thus seems sadly appropriate that the controversy surrounding an American novel called The Jewel of Medina reached a new level when the office of its British publisher was firebombed early Saturday morning. The Jewel of Medina was recently published in this country by Beaufort Books after its original publisher, Random House, dropped the book for fear of inciting violence.

It all began last year when Random House signed author Sherry Jones to a two-book, $100,000 contract, the first book being The Jewel of Medina, a novel about Aisha, one of the wives of the prophet Muhammad. The scheduled publication date for this first book was this past August 18. As is common practice , Random House sent out pre-publication galleys to a number of individuals, looking for endorsements. At the recommendation of Jones, one of those galleys went to Denise Spellberg, a professor of Middle Eastern studies at the University of Texas.

From this point on, what happened is a matter of dispute and controversy. According to a Wall Street Journal article by Asra Nomani (herself a Muslim writer), Spellberg was appalled by what she read and called the editor of a Muslim website warning him of this "incredibly offensive" book that was about to be published by Random House. Soon, word of the book began to spread across the Internet, and it was being called "an attempt to slander the Prophet of Islam" by bloggers who, of course, hadn't actually read it. Spellberg also called Jane Garrett, a contact of hers at Random House, and warned her that publishing the novel could have serious repercussions.

In a letter to the Journal, Spellberg denied that she was solely responsible for Random House's subsequent actions, and claimed that she was just one of a number of experts who expressed their concerns to the publisher. She added: " I do not espouse censorship of any kind, but I do value my right to critique those who abuse the past without regard to its richness or resonance in the present."

Whatever the situation, Random House made the decision not to follow through on its contract to publish the book. In a public statement, the company said it had received "cautionary advice not only that the publication of this book might be offensive to some in the Muslim community, but also that it could incite acts of violence....we decided, after much deliberation, to postpone publication for the safety of the author, employees of Random House, booksellers and anyone else who would be involved in distribution and sale of the novel." Random House returned the rights for the novel back to Sherry Jones, and it was published in the US earlier this month by Beaufort Books (the same company that ended up publishing the controversial O J Simpson book, If I Did It).

As might be expected, there was wide outrage at Random House's decision, though not everyone was equally convinced it was a dangerous precedent. Law professor Stanley Fish, who blogs for the New York Times, said it was more a matter of "judgment" than "censorship," pointing out that other publishers were free to publish the book if they chose to. However, Bill Poser, writing for the "Language Log" website, disagreed: "A free society cannot permit anyone, government, corporation, church, or individual, to decide what may or may not be published. That a publisher should cancel publication of a novel out of fear of violence by religious fanatics has everything to do with the Western tradition of free speech."

What happened to Gibson Square Publishing in England this past weekend seems to have raised the stakes. Three men were arrested for the firebombing on charges related to terrorism, and a hardline Islamic cleric said that, in his opinion further attacks could be expected since publishing the book could call for the death penalty under Sharia law. As of now, Beaufort Books in this country hasn't reported any threats, but has taken action to increase security.

Nobody is arguing that The Jewel of Medina is a book of tremendous literary value. In an early review, Publishers Weekly labeled it "not bad for a first novel...a page turner, but not outstanding." Still, the fact that one company decided not to publish the book, at least in part due to fear of attacks from extremists; and the fact that another publishing company has evidently experienced such attacks; should be of great concern to those interested in the freedom to read and the freedom to exchange ideas.

More about this controversy, with links to various documents, can be found here.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

On vacation -- the sequel

Yes, Page 854 is taking time off again (man, sounds like I work for the government or something). Happy Mabon/fall equinox, and remember, Charles Price will be here next Friday.

Page 854 will return around the beginning of October, and, in the meantime, you can keep up with things via our website.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Friday, 9/26, at Accent on Books: Charles Price

Charles F. Price is a writer who has always occupied a special place in the world of Accent on Books. We have held launch parties for two of his novels, and have always enjoyed his visits to the store, both formal and informal. Alas, he and his wife Ruth have not been traveling to Asheville from their home in Burnsville much recently, but we are delighted that Charles will be coming back "home" to Accent on Books next Friday at 6:00 to talk about and autograph copies of his new novel, Nor the Battle to the Strong.

Charles' previous four novels, which comprised the "Hiwassee" series, were set in Western North Carolina during and immediately after the Civil War, and were based on his own family history. In his new book, he moves a bit further back in time to the American Revolution and General Nathanael Greene's military campaigns in the South. Again, Charles calls upon family history, as a main character, Private James Johnson, is one of his ancestors.

Charles Price is a stunningly gifted writer whose books have won a number of awards. The reviews of his new novel have been uniformly positive, which hopefully will lead to the kind of success he so richly deserves. We hope you can join us on September 26 at 6:00 to celebrate his latest accomplishment.

In the meantime you can check out Charles' website. And ours.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Spy Who Almost Went to the Cold

A former British intelligence agent with MI6 named David Cornwell -- better known as the spy novelist John Le Carre -- made a rather startling admission last week: he once considered defecting to the Soviet Union.

In an interview with the London Times, Le Carre emphasized that he wasn't tempted for ideological reasons or a desire to betray his country. Rather, he was quoted as saying, "...when you spy intensively and you get closer and closer to the border...it seems such a small step to jump...and you know, find out the rest." (Come to think of it, that sounds like it could be a quote from a Le Carre novel.) Le Carre worked with British intelligence from 1959-1964. Ironically his own career was ended by a defector: he was one of the agents betrayed to the Soviets by Kim Philby.

By the way, John Le Carre has a new novel coming out in early October. It's called, A Most Wanted Man, and deals with issues raised by the "war on terrorism."

An AP article on the Times interview can be found here.

Monday, September 15, 2008

David Foster Wallace, 1962-2008

American literature lost one of its most prodigious talents when David Foster Wallace was found dead in his home last week, an apparent suicide. Wallace had suffered from depression for years, and, according to his father, his condition had gotten significantly worse over the last several months and no form of medication or therapy seemed to have a mitigating effect. David Foster Wallace was 46 years old.

Wallace's abilities were evident from the start. His first novel, The Broom of the System (1987), brought him national attention and critical praise. A collection of short stories and a book of non-fiction followed. Then came Infinite Jest (1996), a sprawling, audacious, postmodern riot of a novel which ran to more than 1000 pages, including more than 100 pages of footnotes. It centered on a film which had an hypnotic, addictive effect on anyone who watched it and the battle for control of the film by a wide range of (mostly unsavory) characters. Time Magazine later named it one of the 100 best English-language novels, and a year after its publication Wallace was awarded a MacArthur "genius" grant.

In the years that followed Wallace wrote nonfiction essays and articles on an almost impossibly wide range of subjects: cruise ships, tennis, lobsters, pornography, David Lynch and the 9/11 attacks, among many other things. His last book-length work was about John McCain, whom Wallace covered for a time during McCain's 2000 presidential campaign.

In November, 2007, Wallace was among a number of writers invited by The Atlantic to write an essay on "the future of the American idea." Wallace audaciously suggested a "thought experiment" in which it was assumed that "a certain baseline vulnerability to terrorism" is part of the American idea. He went on to suggest that "a democratic republic cannot 100% protect itself [from terrorism] without subverting the very principles that made it worth protecting." "Have we become so selfish and scared," he asked, "that we don't even want to consider whether some things trump safety?"

An appreciation of Wallace's work by Michiko Kakutani, the chief book critic of the New York Times, can be found here.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Pandemonium in Wasilla

It's tempting to ascribe psychic abilities -- or perhaps political savvy -- to Shannon and Leonard Cullip. That would be one explanation as to why, this past June, they named their new bookstore in Wasilla, Alaska, "Pandemonium Booksellers." Wasilla is, of course, now known for having the most famous "former small-town mayor" in the country, and "pandemonium" might be one way to describe what has taken hold of the town since Sarah Palin joined the Republican presidential ticket. Not surprisingly, Pandemonium (the bookstore) has been quite busy, and sales of political books from all parts of the ideological spectrum have been strong. Shannon Cullip observes, however, that if there are townspeople who aren't fond of their ex-mayor they "aren't saying much."

The Cullips have no additional information to clarify the question as to whether Palin really wanted to ban books from the local library back when she was mayor. However, this does give me an opportunity to mention that Banned Books Week is observed nationwide every year during late September. You will no doubt be hearing more about this from us in the near future.

More about the Cullips and their bookstore -- and about Banned Books Week -- can be found here.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

What -- a Gideon Bible wasn't good enough for them?

Here's a possible creative writing exercise:

Imagine you check into a hotel room, and the previous inhabitants of the room have left a certain book behind. Write a story about those people based upon the book you've found.

What book would it be? Well, for suggestions you might want to check with the British budget hotel chain Travelodge, which every year produces a list of the books most often abandoned in their hotel rooms. Some of the titles might prompt quite salacious tales (The Best 50 Lovemaking Positions for the Over 50s) and others tales of economic woe (You and Your Money was high on the list). If you wish to locate your story in a specific location, Travelodge can help there too. For example, travelers in Cornwall were most likely to leave behind spiritual titles. And while ten visitors to Peterborough abandoned copies of the Kama Sutra, one traveler to Southampton discarded The Kama Sutra for Dummies. We'll let Peterborough and Southampton battle that one out.

Overall the categories left behind the most were autobiographies, chick lit, and thrillers, and most of the top ten titles were books of specifically British interest (the top-ranked abandoned book was a memoir by Labour politician John Prescott). However, On Chesil Beach came in at number nine (I hope not too many honeymooners were reading that one), and tenth on the list was The Secret.

For more inspiration -- or just to satisfy your curiosity -- The Guardian's article on the Travelodge list can be found here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sunday, 9/14 at Accent on Books: "Together We Read" discussion

"Together We Read" is an initiative that seeks to promote an interest in books and reading throughout Western North Carolina by offering a series of events related to one specific book each year. Books chosen in the past have included The French Broad, Our Southern Highlanders, and Brighten the Corner Where You Are. This year's selection is Boone, by Robert Morgan, and Accent on Books will be hosting a discussion of this book Sunday, at 3:00 PM. We are grateful to Molly Pace, a cousin of the author, for agreeing to lead the discussion.

Robert Morgan, a native of Western North Carolina, is primarily known as a poet and novelist. With Boone, he turns to nonfiction, but nonfiction very much written with a novelist's sense of place and character. Though the book's subtitle labels it as a biography, it is almost more of a "life and times" of the famous pioneer, with much historical background about the world into which Daniel Boone was born and on which he had such a profound effect.

"Together We Read" is an important and effective program to promote interest in the written word, and Accent on Books is delighted to be a part of the effort. More about "Together We Read" can be found at their website. Out store website can be found here.

Monday, September 8, 2008

An Award for Herman Wouk

"This is not at all bad, except as prose."

That was Gore Vidal's caustic evaluation of Herman Wouk's famous novel, The Winds of War. Vidal's disdain is far from universal, however, as will be made clear this week when Herman Wouk is presented the first Library of Congress Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Writing of Fiction. In his citation, Librarian of Congress James H. Billington says, "Herman Wouk's work epitomizes the historical novel and its ability to transcend its time and place to achieve universality in character and themes."

Wouk, now 93 years old, is probably best known for The Caine Mutiny, his 1951 Pulitzer Prize winner which he later adapted for the stage; and his two epic World War II novels from the 1970s: The Winds of War, and War and Remembrance. Yet his long career includes many other quite different types of writings: novels about life in New York (Marjorie Morningstar and Youngblood Hawke), historical novels about the state of Israel (The Hope, and The Glory), nonfiction about Judaism (This Is My God), and even a book about a man's midlife crisis that Jimmy Buffett turned into a musical (Don't Stop the Carnival). His most recent novel, A Hole in Texas, deals with particle physics.

Herman Wouk has always straddled that blurry line between being a "literary" and a "commercial" writer. Yet his has undeniably been one of the most important literary careers of the last half-century. This recognition from the Library of Congress deservedly honors that career.

And it gives Gore Vidal something else to be grumpy about.

More about Herman Wouk and the Library of Congress can be found here.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

A Not So "Happy" Ending

Sad news from Columbia, SC: The Happy Bookseller, one of the most renowned independent bookstores in the Southeast, is closing in October. Co-owners Carrie and Andy Graves sent a letter to their customers earlier this week saying that competition not only from the internet but from two chain superstores that opened less than a mile away meant that the store could no longer earn enough money to support themselves and their two sons.

The Happy Bookseller was opened in 1974 by Rhett Jackson, who became a prominent member of the southern bookselling community. His enthusiasm and exuberant personality made him an unmistakable presence at regional gatherings, and he worked hard to promote independent bookselling in this area of the country. In 1996 he sold the store to Andy and Carrie Graves, who actually first met each other when they both worked there.

As might be expected, the reaction from the store's regular customers has been one of sadness and disbelief. One customer, a literature professor at the University of South Carolina, did not mince words: "The closing of The Happy Bookseller is a disaster for the cultural scene in Columbia."

More on The Happy Bookseller and its closing can be found here.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The candidates are going for a touchdown (or something like that)

As I write this, people are looking forward to one of two events that will take place tonight: John McCain's acceptance speech or the beginning of the NFL regular season. Or they are looking forward to both. Or neither.

At any rate, as we continue to celebrate ** our 25th year in business ** here at Accent on Books we thought we'd open September with a 20% sale on all our political and current events books. With this in mind, here is but a small sample of what we have on hand:

For Barack Obama fans: Obama's own two books, of course, which have been out for awhile. Plus, Barack Obama in His Own Words, and Barack Obama for Beginners.

For John McCain fans: Three books by McCain himself -- Faith of My Fathers, Hard Call, and Why Courage Matters.

For Joe Biden fans: Promises to Keep, Biden's memoir, now out in paperback.

For Sarah Palin fans: Um, nothing yet, but there was a biography of her released earlier this year which we have on order. It's called, appropriately enough, Sarah.

For fans of other politicians: America: Our Next Chapter, by Chuck Hagel, and A Time to Fight, by Jim Webb.

For fans of bipartisanship: What You Should Know About Politics -- But Don't, which is endorsed by both Bob Dole and Barack Obama.

For fans of cable news networks: Independent's Day, by Lou Dobbs; Life's a Campaign, by Chris Matthews; Culture Warriors, by Bill O'Reilly; and Truth and Consequences, by O'Reilly's good buddy Keith Olbermann.

For politics junkies: Safire's Political Dictionary, by William Safire. An amazing book.

And finally, books for the largest special interest group of all -- those who can't wait till the whole blasted thing is over with: Anything for a Vote: Dirty Tricks, Cheap Shots & October Surprises in U. S. Presidential Campaigns; and The Almanac of Political Corruption, Scandals & Dirty Politics.

I'm Patrick Covington, and I approved this message.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Sunday, 9/7 at Accent on Books: Nan Chase

Last fall we enjoyed having an author event with Nan Chase who had written a new history of Asheville (still available at Accent on Books). This coming Sunday we will be welcoming this versatile author back to help launch her new book, which is entirely different. Nan and her co-author Chris McCurry have written, Bark House Style: Sustainable Designs from Nature, a volume that is both beautiful and eminently practical. And, as a special added treat, Nan and Chris will give a demonstration of bark shingle installation.

So join us this Sunday at 3:00 PM for a fun and informative afternoon as Nan (who herself lives in a bark house) and Chris talk about their new book and demonstrate this fascinating building process.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Harry vs Hari

Happy New Year! More specifically, Happy Accent on Books Fiscal New Year, since, as I mentioned last week, our year runs from September 1 through August 31.

And what better way to start the new year than with an item from our Department of Silly Lawsuits.

Warner Brothers has announced that it has filed a lawsuit against Bollywood outfit Mirchi Movies because Mirchi is coming out with a film entitled, "Hari Puttar: A Comedy of Terrors." As Warner sees it, that title comes too close to its valued franchise surrounding you-know-who (and I don't mean Voldemort). However, an official with Mirchi explains that "Hari" is a common Indian name, and "puttar" is Punjabi for "son." In addition, far from imitating Harry Potter, the plot for "Hari Puttar" actually sounds like a ripoff of an entirely different Hollywood property -- "Home Alone."

The plaintiffs are not convinced by this. "Warner Bros. values and protects intellectual property rights," a spokeswoman solemnly declares.

Sorry, Hari.

More on this epic litigation can be found here.

Thursday, August 28, 2008


Accent on Books' fiscal year ends on August 31, which means every year about this time we enter the dreaded world of taking inventory. However, rather than shutting the store for a couple of days and doing it all at once, we do it in stages throughout August. Also, instead of doing the whole store each year we do adult books and children's books in alternate years. This is the year for children's books, and up until this morning we had inventoried all the sections but one:

The dreaded KRF.

Each section in the store has a three-letter code in our computer, and "KRF" stands for "Children's Reference" -- an all-encompassing term for non-fiction books covering virtually the entire realm of human knowledge. It's a section full of neat and fascinating books, but it's also large and a bit hard to organize, so taking inventory of it is a challenge, to say the least.

This morning, Lewis, Byron and I stumbled in about 8:00 to get the deed done. The printout for the section contained 856 titles; Lewis called them out and Byron and I marked them off, one by one. After a couple of hours we were through, and, amazingly enough, virtually everything was there that was supposed to be there.

So come on in and check out KRF while all the books are present and accounted for, and the section is especially well-organized. Hopefully, by the time you arrive Lewis, Byron and I will have recovered from the experience and will be lucid and responsive.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

"Dear Diary: Big Brother is watching me."

If George Orwell were alive today, would he be a blogger? Or would he see computers and the internet as leading to one of his dreaded dystopias?

Either way, Orwell is, in effect, a blogger now, some 58 years after his death. The folks who run the Orwell Prize have started posting entries from his diary in a blog format, with each entry appearing exactly 70 years after its original date. Thus the first entry, dated August 9, 1938, was posted this past August 9th. Orwell kept his diary until October of 1942, so presumably his "blog" will continue until the same month in 2012. Perhaps other historical diaries are being posted the same way, but this is the first one I've heard of.

The musings of Orwell the "blogger" can be found here.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

All I Want for Christmas...

Well, at least I can still type. Or "keyboard," as they say nowadays.

I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to a fallen warrior -- my right front tooth. After many gallant years of biting and chewing it was removed today at the dentist's office. I wish I could claim an interesting cause such as playing ice hockey or losing a bar fight; but no, it was just congenitally weak gums. In its place is what they call an "appliance" -- basically a retainer thingy with a false tooth. It feels a bit like I have a tennis ball in my mouth, but I imagine I'll get used to it.

All this may qualify as Too Much Information, but that's what blogs are for, right?

At any rate, come by the store and, in the words of the famous Spike Jones song, maybe I'll wish you a very early "Mewwy Kwithmuth!"

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Gee, thanks, Mike!

This being an election year, it's not surprising that writer/filmmaker/provocateur Michael Moore has a new book out. It's called, Mike's Election Guide 2008, and it's a $13.99 paperback available from Accent on Books.

Oh, and one more thing: Michael Moore doesn't want you to read it.

Wouldn't you know it -- here we are, hardworking booksellers trying to get interesting books into the hands of appreciative customers and an author says, "Don't buy my book!" What's going on here???

Actually, that's not quite what Moore said. In an article by the AP's Hillel Italie, Moore is quoted as saying, "I would rather you go out and work for a local candidate than read my book." Now, being a civic-minded American, I can hardly argue with the idea of working for the candidate of your choice. But perhaps people can be political volunteers and read Moore's book, or whatever other book they're interested in. And something tells me that, Moore being Moore, that's actually what he would prefer, too.

By the way, Moore's quote is just a small part of a very useful and informative article about new books scheduled to be published this fall. The article can be found here.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

One Reader's Opinion: The Translator

The Translator: A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur, by Daoud Hari.

It seems to me unlikely that a more powerful, moving and important book will be published this year. As a young man, Daoud Hari left his village in North Darfur to see the wider world. He returned in 2003, just before his village was attacked by the Sudanese army and the Janjaweed militia during the early days of the genocide. He managed to escape to Chad, but then decided to use the English language skills he had acquired to act as a guide, taking researchers, journalists and aid workers back to the very land from which he fled. He did this knowing that if he were captured by the Sudanese army he would almost certainly be killed. And indeed it is remarkable that he survived to tell his story.

The horrors that Daoud Hari both witnessed and endured might have made this book almost unreadable were it not for the extraordinary beauty, sensitivity, and even occasional humor with which the author tells his story. The result is a book that, while sad and infuriating, is also inspiring and, amazingly enough, a joy to read. The Translator is a book that shows both the best and the worst of human nature, and compels its readers to wonder and to act. It is also highly appropriate reading during the run of the Beijing Olympics.

Half-Blood Update

Back on August 5th, I mentioned that the movie version of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince had been scheduled for the Royal Film Performance in Britain this coming November. Well, now it looks like the Queen, her bud Camilla, and the rest of the royals will have to wait a bit longer. The release date for Half-Blood Prince has been postponed from November to July 17, 2009.

Just thought I'd let you know in case you were planning to travel to London for the big event.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Snoopy would be proud

The literary world is, of course, awash in prizes: the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the Nobel Prize for Literature. Yet, dig deep into the muck and you'll find one more, a hotly contested prize that produces amazing winners every year:

The Bulwer-Lytton Prize.

The award memorializes Edward Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873), a British novelist phenomenally popular in his own day, but now remembered mostly for two things: The Last Days of Pompeii, and the fact that he actually started a novel (Paul Clifton) with the words, "It was a dark and stormy night." Therefore, in his, um, honor, the Bulwer-Lytton Prize is awarded each year to the worst opening sentence of an imaginary novel. The results for this year's contest were recently announced, and the Grand Prize Winner was Garrison Spik, who lives, appropriately enough, in Washington, DC. And, without further ado, here is Mr. Spik's winning entry:

"Theirs was a New York love, a checkered taxi ride burning rubber, and like the city their passion was open 24/7, steam rising from their bodies like slick streets exhaling warm, moist, white breath through manhole covers stamped 'Forged by Delaney Brothers, Piscataway, N.J.'"

In addition to the Grand Prize Winner, there were several runners-up, as well as winners chosen in categories such as science fiction, mysteries, and westerns. The complete, astonishing, list of winning entries can be found here.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

On vacation

Page 854 will be taking a short vacation and will be back about August 19. In the meantime you can check our website for all the latest store news.

Happy reading, and keep cool.


Thursday, August 7, 2008

Summer reading??

Summer is of course the season for travel, and, as we hope you're aware, Accent on Books has an extensive travel section with a guidebook -- in some cases, several guidebooks -- for practically every location on earth. Yet as good as it is, I'll have to admit our selection doesn't include any of the books mentioned by "Slate" in their article several days ago in which they chose the "10 Oddest Travel Guides Ever Published." Want to know the comparative economic benefits of leopard farming and mink farming? Curious about the Cumberland Pencil Museum, or the countries of Kugelmugel or Whangamomona? Interested in how to get around Europe on fifty cents a day? I'm afraid there's nothing in our travel section to assist you on those particular topics, but the books "Slate" mentions may be of help. And if they're still in print (which, sadly, I doubt they are), we could always order them for you.

Slate's article is here. And remember, "A Masai warrior admires a pair of Hudson Bay two-point shoes."

By the way, the book on getting around Europe on fifty cents a day was written in the 1880's. And even back then, the key basically was to be a half-starving derelict.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Friday, 8/8 at Accent on Books: Wayne Caldwell

Who would you guess was the bestselling author at Accent on Books in 2007? J. K. Rowling? Elizabeth Gilbert? Jan Karon?

None of the above. It was Wayne Caldwell, whose wonderful first novel, Cataloochee, was the hit of the year at our store. It's always gratifying when a good friend is so successful, especially one as deserving as Wayne.

If you have not yet gotten yourself a copy of Cataloochee -- or even if you have -- get thee to Accent on Books this coming Friday at 6:00 PM when we will be celebrating the publication of the paperback edition of this fine novel. Wayne is a great raconteur, and maybe he'll give us a preview of his next book, and address such burning issues as whether it, too, will contain the scene required of all great Southern novels -- one with a dead mule.

Check out Wayne's site. Check out our site. And come by Friday evening for refreshments and fun.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Not really gone, and definitely not forgotten

So did you really think the Era of Harry Potter ended with the publication of the last book in the main series a year ago? Not a chance. Following are two Harry Potter items:

First, an announcement was made last week of the upcoming publication of The Tales of Beedle the Bard, translated from the original runes by Hermione Granger, with notes by Albus Dumbledore, and illustrations and an introduction by J. K. Rowling. As Potter aficionados are aware, this book was bequeathed to Hermione by Dumbledore, and one of the stories in the book -- "The Tale of the Three Brothers" -- was significant to the plot of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Last year, Rowling produced a "complete edition" of Beedle privately as a gift for some friends, and now it will be made available to the general public. It will be a $12.99 hardcover, and the publication date is this coming December 4. Accent on Books will of course carry it, and, who knows, we might have an event in connection with it as well. And in case you're wondering if Rowling is doing this in an attempt to become twice as rich as the Queen, it should be pointed out that all proceeds from the book will go to charity. The official press release can be found here.

Speaking of the Queen, the film version of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the sixth book in the series (are you keeping up with me here?), has been selected as this year's Royal Film Performance -- the first film in the series to be so honored. The Royal Performance, which will take place on November 17, will serve as the film's European premiere. The "Guardian" newspaper tells us about it here .

We hope Her Majesty will be amused.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, 1918-2008

More than any other writer of the twentieth century, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn demonstrated the power of literature to affect politics, and vice-versa. Solzhenitsyn died Sunday in Moscow at the age of 89.

It all started in 1945 with a remark in a letter to a friend about "the man with the mustache." Authorities interpreted this as a disrespectful reference to Stalin, and, as a result, Solzhenitsyn was sentenced to eight years in labor camps. One of those camps, in Kazakhstan, provided the basis for what later became his first book, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.

One Day was published openly in the Soviet Union in 1962, at a time when Khrushchev was trying to "de-Stalinize" the country. However, Solzhenitsyn's reputation with the authorities changed dramatically in 1964 with Khrushchev's ouster, and when he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1970, he dared not go to Stockholm to accept it for fear he would not be able to return. The culmination came in February, 1974, after The Gulag Archipelago was published in Paris. Solzhenitsyn was arrested, stripped of his citizenship, and deported, eventually settling in Vermont. He outlived the USSR, and returned to Russia in 1994.

Due to his passion, vision, and eloquence, Solzhenitsyn was often called a prophet, and, like many prophets, he could be hard to get along with. His personal life was sometimes turbulent. Two years after taking sanctuary in the United States, he made a speech at Harvard in which he harshly criticized his host country for what he saw as its vulgarity and materialism. He alienated his fellow dissidents with what seemed to be his desire for a theocratic, authoritarian Russia. He was accused by some of anti-Semitism, though strongly defended against that charge by others. During the breakup of Yugoslavia, he once compared NATO to Hitler.

Still, there seems little doubt that he will be considered one of the most important figures of the twentieth century, both in literature and in the advancement of freedom.

More about Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn can be found here.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Dawn has broken

Last night at midnight, Accent on Books was closed. Normally there would be no point to mentioning that, but hundreds of bookstores around the country were in fact open at that hour last night so that eager fans could buy a copy of Breaking Dawn, the fourth book in the wildly popular "Twilight Saga," by Stephenie Meyer.

If you've been asleep in a coffin for the last couple of years you may not be familiar with this series which, though aimed at tweens and teens, has been popular with adults as well. The lead character is a teenage girl named Bella, who has found the seemingly perfect guy. Edward is passionate and caring, but he does have significant dietary issues: he's a vampire. As if that weren't complicated enough, Bella is also close friends with Jacob, who's a werewolf; and werewolves and vampires are not known for their ability to get along. Edward or Jacob -- that is the choice Bella is faced with in Breaking Dawn, and by now a legion of fans probably knows the choice that Bella has made.

An interview with Stephenie Meyer can be found here.

Although Accent on Books didn't schedule a special event for Breaking Dawn, that doesn't mean we've sworn off midnight parties. In fact we already have one scheduled for September. The big book we'll be celebrating is Brisingr, the third book in Christopher Paolini's "Inheritance" series, following Eragon and Eldest. Stay tuned for more details.

And, speaking of popular series and their authors, J. K. Rowling has been busy, along with her friends Hermione Granger and Albus Dumbledore. More on that in my next post.

Update, 8/04: Due to other events my next post will not be about J. K. Rowling

Thursday, July 31, 2008

A small bench by the road

In a 1989 interview the Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, speaking of the lack of any commemoration of the lives of slaves, said, "There is no suitable memorial, or plaque, or wreath, or wall, or park, or skyscraper lobby. There's no 300-foot tower, there's no small bench by the road."

There is now.

This past weekend, on Sullivan's Island off the coast of South Carolina, Ms Morrison, along with a number of other people, celebrated the dedication of a simple bench looking out on the intracoastal waterway, placed there with a plaque commemorating those enslaved Africans -- about 40% of the total -- who entered this country through Sullivan's Island, as well as those who died during the Middle Passage. The bench was placed there through a joint effort of the Toni Morrison Society and the National Park Service. It's the first in a projected total of ten benches the society hopes to locate in various parts of the country that are significant either because of their place in African-American history or because of their importance in Toni Morrison's books.

As Toni Morrison commented last Saturday, "...the bench is welcoming, open, you can be illiterate and sit on the bench. You can be wandering, or on a search."

More on this story can be found here.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Man Booker Longlist

This year, the "Booker Dozen" is actually a baker's dozen. The "longlist" -- or semifinalists -- for the 2008 Man Booker prize was announced yesterday and it is comprised of thirteen books. The Man Booker is awarded every year in England to a book judged to be the best original full-length novel written in English by a citizen of either the British Commonwealth or the Republic of Ireland. In recent years, this prize has become increasingly important in the US, with the winner and finalists drawing increasing prominence -- and sales -- because of that status.

This year's longlist is as follows:

The White Tiger, by Aravind Adiga
Girl in a Blue Dress, by Gaynor Arnold
The Secret Scripture, by Sebastian Barry
From A to X, by John Berger
The Lost Dog, by Michelle de Kretser
Sea of Poppies, by Amitav Ghosh
The Clothes on Their Backs, by Linda Grant
A Case of Exploding Mangoes, by Mohammed Hanif
The Northern Clemency, by Philip Hensher
Netherland, by Joseph O'Neill
The Enchantress of Florence, by Salman Rushdie
Child 44, by Tim Rob Smith
A Fraction of the Whole, by Steve Toltz

Of these books, eight are currently available in this country. Four more -- Girl in a Blue Dress, From A to X, Sea of Poppies, and The Northern Clemency -- are due to be published over the next several months. The Clothes on Their Backs does not appear to be available in the US at this time.

The Man Booker shortlist -- about five finalists -- will be announced in September, and the winner in October. More information can be found at the award's website.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Man Who "Saved" Baseball

I first became familiar with Jerome Holtzman as a kid reading "The Sporting News" (actually, I'm still a kid reading "The Sporting News" -- just a slightly older one). Back then, it was a golden age for baseball writers with Koppett in New York, Murray in Los Angeles, Bisher in Atlanta (he's still active), and Holtzman in Chicago. In addition to their hometown papers, they all wrote for "The Sporting News" -- Holtzman's column appeared in more than 1000 consecutive issues.

Holtzman, however, had a couple of claims to fame the others couldn't match. First, he wrote the entry on baseball for the Encyclopedia Britannica. Second, he invented a statistic which was eventually accepted as official by Major League Baseball. He called it the "save," and it's used to measure the effectiveness of relief pitchers who manage to hold onto their team's lead when they enter late in the game. (Don't ask me to explain it -- if you really want the details you can find them here.) He also wrote, No Cheering in the Press Box, considered one of the best ever books about being a baseball writer (unfortunately, it's presently out of print).

Holtzman died last week at the age of 82. The "New York Times" obituary is here, and it includes a wonderful photograph of a cigar-chomping Holtzman sitting in the Chicago Cubs dugout with Don Zimmer, one of baseball's ultimate "lifers."

Monday, July 28, 2008

To the Prime Minister, with best wishes, Yann

Last week, a customer in the store bought a copy of The Life of Pi, the hugely popular novel by the Canadian writer Yann Martel, and, in the process told me a delightful story which led to a neat website that I have permanently added to the "Links" section of this blog.

In March of last year, Yann Martel was one of fifty outstanding figures in the arts who attended a session of the Canadian Parliament which was to include a ceremony marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Canadian Council of the Arts. Since this ceremony was to take place immediately following "Question Time," the Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, was present.

As it turned out, the "ceremony" was perfunctory to the point of being almost non-existent: a few remarks by a cabinet official, a smattering of applause, and that was it. But what Martel particularly noticed was that the Prime Minister paid no attention whatsoever to the proceedings, and spent the entire time with his head down, shuffling papers.

This led Martel to the conclusion that the Prime Minister needed more quiet time, more stillness in his life. And to help out in this regard, Martel resolved to mail the Prime Minister a book once every two weeks for as long as he was in office, along with a letter explaining the choice of the book.

And that's what he's done. If you go to the website, What Is Stephen Harper Reading, you will find a copy of each letter that Martel has sent the Prime Minister -- 37 so far -- a picture of the book that was sent and a note as to whether Martel has received any response. Actually, he has to date received just one -- a note from one of Harper's assistants acknowledging the very first book.

Martel's letters are amazing, and I will end with a quote from one of them:

"Cats are said to have nine lives. What is that compared to the girl, boy, man, woman who reads books. A book read is a life added to one's own. So it only takes nine books to make cats look at you with envy."

Saturday, July 26, 2008

"We can't change the cards we're dealt, just how we play the hand."

The above quote is from The Last Lecture, a bestselling book by computer scientist Randy Pausch, who died Friday after a battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 47 years old.

Pausch's book was based on a lecture he gave last September at Carnegie Mellon University -- where he was a professor -- shortly after he learned of his incurable illness. The video of his inspirational and defiantly humorous speech became an internet sensation, and he was featured in a "Wall Street Journal" article, and in "Time" magazine, which named him one of its 100 most influential people. In The Last Lecture, Pausch wrote about the events leading up to the speech and the influences behind it. Almost overnight, the book became a number-one national bestseller.

An obituary of Randy Pausch, along with links to audio and video of his speech, can be found here.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

What they're reading in Iran

Straight from the "Tehran Times" comes an interesting (if occasionally ungrammatical) article about what books are selling in Iran. And no, they don't mention Uranium Enrichment for Dummies. Some things are evidently constants everywhere -- Harry Potter, for example. ("The youth are more interested in imaginative books," according to one bookseller.) Not surprisingly, Khaled Hosseini (The Kite Runner, A Thousand Splendid Suns) is popular. Of course the majority of books are of specific Iranian interest, especially history and literature. But a few classic titles familiar to Western readers are mentioned, such as Gulliver's Travels, and A Hundred Years of Solitude. And the Islamic Republic isn't immune to self-help mania: popular writers in that area include Rhonda Byrne (The Secret), and, oddly enough, Anthony Robbins (does Iranian TV show American infomercials?).

As for those of us in the business, perhaps we can take comfort that some complaints are universal: according to the article, one bookstore owner "concluded that bookselling is a cultural activity that has its own problems and also that it doesn't provide sufficient income."

More can be found here.

Anthony Robbins???

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Friday, 7/25 at Accent on Books: William J Everett

William Johnson Everett has lived and taught on four different continents over the past thirty years. He thus has developed an appreciation for the connections between cultures, and how those connections play out in history. His new novel, Red Clay, Blood River, deals with two simultaneous but seemingly disparate nineteenth-century events: the Cherokee "Trail of Tears," and the South African "Great Trek"; events that yet raise similar issues regarding exploitation and exile.

William Everett will be at Accent on Books this coming Friday starting at 6:00 PM. Join us as he talks about his life, his writing, and his sense of history.

More on the author and his work can be found here. Our store's event page is here.

Monday, July 21, 2008

So why did he put it behind the fireplace?

A demolition worker in the town of Poole in England seems to have struck literary gold. While taking apart the house that JRR Tolkien lived in until 1972 (when he moved to Oxford) Stephen Malton found a postcard behind the fireplace addressed to Tolkien and dating from 1968. The postcard has an Irish scene and is signed "Lin." Malton speculates that the sender might have been the writer Lin Carter, who at that point was working on a book about The Lord of the Rings (Carter's book was published in 1969). Malton says a collector in Belgium has offered him $500,000 for the fireplace and the postcard. Not a bad day's work in the demolition business, I imagine.

More on this story can be found here.