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