Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Sunday, 1/3: Joan Medlicott (2nd try)

One of the casualties of the December 18 winter storm was our author event with Joan Medlicott. Well, we're going to try again this coming Sunday, January 3, beginning at 2:00 PM. More information about Joan and her books can be found if you scroll down a bit to my December 16 blog entry about the original event.

I will add one further note here: despite its title, A Blue and Gray Christmas is not strictly a Christmas book. As Joan herself notes, the title come from characters in the book at one point receiving a Christmas invitation, but that's a minor point of the novel. So you can still get an autographed copy of the book this coming Sunday without feeling that you are getting something "out of season."

We hope that Mother Nature will be cooperative this time, and we hope to see many of you here.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Storms, holidays and a year of great books

So where the heck has Page 854 been? Two major things happened: the Big Winter Storm of 2009 and the holiday season. Now, Asheville is located in the mountains, so you would think a big snow wouldn't bring everything to a standstill, right? Wrong. The world screeched to a halt for several days, and I don't think our parking lot has fully recovered yet. And five days after the storm we had customers in the store reporting they still hadn't had their power turned back on.

Which of course brings us to the holidays. By last Tuesday people were beginning to emerge, and, fortunately for us, they still had some shopping to do and -- correctly! -- decided that books were just what they needed, for themselves or for others. We had a busy time last week, and we thank all of you who were a part of that busyness. And if someone gave you a gift certificate or two copies of the same book -- or if you just feel a need to reward yourself for surviving the past few weeks -- we invite you to come check out our grand after-Christmas sale, with loads of great books discounted 40% or more.

And since we're only a few days from the start of 2010, I thought I'd mention another year-end list: one that Rob Neufeld put together for the Asheville Citizen-Times of the bestselling books of 2009 with Western North Carolina connections: books about the area by folks who don't live here, books about other places by folks who do live here and books about the area by local authors. It's a fascinating list which shows the wide literary reach of these mountains. (A fuller version can be found at The Read on WNC, a great website featured in the "Links" section of this blog.)

Hope you're having a great holiday season, and that you have a happy and prosperous 2010.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Friday, 12/18: Joan Medlicott at Accent on Books

Over the past ten years, Joan Medlicott of nearby Barnardsville has established a strong, national following for her Covington novels, featuring a group of ladies facing the challenges and joys of small town life. Joan has been a great friend of Accent on Books, and we have enjoyed selling her books and hosting her for events. (She is also part of a writers group that meets twice a month at the store.)

Joan's new "Covington" book is A Blue and Gray Christmas, and we are delighted that she will be here this coming Friday, beginning at 4:00 to meet her readers and sign copies of the book. As the title implies, this book has an historical aspect to it as Grace, Amelia and Hannah discover a trove of letters from the Civil War, and decide to find the letter writers' current day descendants and invite them to Covington for the holidays.

Again, note the special time of 4:00 PM for this event (earlier than our usual starting time of 6:00 for author appearances). This is a great opportunity to pick up some wonderful gifts for the many fans of Joan's books, as well as for yourself.

More information about Joan and her work can be found at her website.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Easily Digested

This is a busy time of year most everywhere, including, I am happy to say, here at Accent on Books. It's hard to find time for a number of activities we might usually engage in, including reading. Wouldn't it be nice if there were someone who would read all the Important Books and then give us the essence of them so we wouldn't have to bother with all those pesky words ourselves?

Well, fear not -- it's John Crace to the rescue. Crace is the author of Digested Read, a blog at The Guardian newspaper, where he gives us the gist of all the current books in his own inimitable -- and slightly impudent -- style. Sarah Palin is his latest, um, victim, but you can also find everything you perhaps want to know about recent offerings from Philip Roth, Dan Brown, Richard Dawkins, Karen Armstrong and many others. So between the shopping and the cooking and the tree-trimming you can pop over to his blog and become even more erudite than you already are.

Whoops -- gotta go. But first, have you read the latest Anita Brookner? Well, let me tell you all about it....

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Friday, 12/11: Patti Digh at Accent on Books

"What would you be doing today if you only had 37 days to live?" That question forms the basis of Life Is A Verb, the challenging, inspirational and practical book by Asheville resident Patti Digh. It's a book which has a devoted and growing following, and we are delighted that Patti will be at Accent on Books this coming Friday evening, beginning at 6:00, to talk about it.

The book's impetus came from the death of the author's stepfather only 37 days after he had been diagnosed with cancer. This caused Patti to take a serious look at how she was living her own life, and led her to come up with six "core practices" designed to help you live each day to the fullest. The resulting book is not only chock full of great advice, but is great fun to read with all sorts of dazzling and imaginative graphics.

We're looking forward to a fun evening with Patti Digh on Friday, and we hope you'll be able to join us. More about Patti and her book can be found at her website.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

"As if Mount Rushmore was carved with a Swiss Army knife"

Remember typewriters? There is actually a working one about ten feet from where I am now sitting in the back room of Accent on Books. And yes, we still use it, which occasionally leads someone to stick their head into the back room and ask, "What's that strange noise?"

Cormac McCarthy uses one, too -- the same one for almost fifty years. And now that Olivetti Lettera 32 is being auctioned off by Christie's to benefit the Santa Fe Institute, a nonprofit organization with which McCarthy is associated. But fear not: this master of the spare, grim, hardscrabble novel isn't suddenly switching to some effete, newfangled laptop. Nope, he's managed to find an almost brand new portable Olivetti, similar to his old one.

In a note accompanying the typewriter being auctioned off -- typed on the machine itself -- McCarthy states it's "never been serviced or cleaned other than blowing out the dust with a service station hose." Yet, as the person handling the auction for McCarthy said, "When I grasped that some of the most complex, almost otherworldly fiction of the postwar era was composed on such a simple, functional, frail-looking machine, it conferred a sort of talismanic quality to Cormac's typewriter. It's as if Mount Rushmore was carved with a Swiss Army knife."

More here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Black Friday? No -- Super Sunday!

At Accent on Books we feel it's barbaric to make you get up at the crack of dawn the day after Thanksgiving in order to get a good deal. That's why, for 26 years now, we've been having our big event on the first Sunday afternoon in December. And not only do we give you a discount, we feed and entertain you as well.

So here are the details for our Annual Open House, this coming Sunday, December 6, 1:00-5:00 PM:

** 15
% Discount on All In-Stock Items (not including special orders) **
** Music by Laurie McDowell and Jean Barry **
** Yummy refreshments **
** Gift-wrapping provided by the youth groups of St. Luke's and Grace Episcopal Churches to raise money for their upcoming pilgrimage to England **
** A chance to support your local economy by supporting a local business **

What's not to like? All your friends will be there -- since you have such intelligent, high-quality friends -- and we hope you will be too. So get your gift list together: we have just the thing for all the Cratchit children plus that grumpy guy their father Bob works for. It will be a splendid event, and it just wouldn't be the same without you.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Of Pink Trees and Tuna Moon

There's no more denying the holly jollity of it: the books on Pilgrims and turkeys have been put back on the bottom shelf of the Children's Seasonal section and the display tables now have a more wintry feel. Yesterday -- the day now known almost universally as Black Friday -- Byron and Rebecca decorated the front windows of the store. On the right, facing the store from the outside, is a fairly traditional window with a green tree and our large countdown hanging, and books with reindeer and Santa Claus (though Splat the Cat and the Grumpy Badger also make an appearance).

On the left hand side, things are a bit more funky, a bit more, well, Asheville. There we have a pink tree, and pink books, and the more crazy aspects of our stock: sweet potato queens, Babymouse, David Sedaris and the new Augusten Burroughs book with the flashing Santa Claus on the front cover. Strega Nona is there, too, looking very pleased with herself, as well she should.

Holiday music has invaded the sound system as well, with the CD, Spirit of the Holidays, by store favorites Tuna Moon. Well, actually the group is called Luna Moon, but on the front cover of the earlier cassette version the "L" in their name looked a lot like a "T," so they've been "Tuna Moon" ever since.

So come on in and enjoy the Accent on Books of your choice -- traditional or trendy. We have the perfect gifts for everyone, including yourself, and you can actually take the books off the shelf and look through them, instead of simply gazing at the cover on a computer screen. And you can dream of a pink and green Christmas, under the light of a Tuna Moon.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Being Thankful for Great Books

It's been a busy Thanksgiving Eve here at the store, with lots of people commenting on how beautiful the weather is. Is it a harbinger of a relatively mild winter, or are we being "softened up for the kill?"

Actually that last phrase may be one that turkeys don't really appreciate, especially on this day. But whether you're planning to indulge in tryptophan or tofu, best wishes for a happy and safe Thanksgiving.

One of the things to be thankful for is a lot of great books to read, and the Times of London recently published a list of a number of them: namely their choices for the top 100 books of whatever we call this decade that's about to end. The list may understandably be a bit anglocentric, but it's still fascinatingly eclectic, ranging from Harry Potter to the 9/11 Report. It can be found here.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Please Don't Admonish the Emaciated Rogue

We're approaching the end of the year, a time when fanatical lexiphiles can discuss, argue and otherwise ruminate over the connection between words and the larger culture as dictionaries and other word mavens declare their word or words of the year.

Two such announcements were made last week from dictionaries using decidedly different criteria. First, the New Oxford American Dictionary declared its winner, which it chooses from new words not already included in its pages. The choice: "unfriend," which as anyone who uses Facebook well knows, means "to remove someone as a 'friend'" on that or other social networking sites. Other words noted by Oxford reflected political controversies of the past year: "birther," "death panel," "teabagger." They also noted the large number of coinages with the prefix "Obama" (such as "Obamanomics" or "Obamamama") and words associated with Twitter ("tweets," "tweetup," "twittermob").

By contrast, Merriam-Webster's Word of the Year dates back to at least the 14th century: "admonish". Merriam bases its choice on website traffic at its online dictionary so the word can be new or old. Representative Joe Wilson and his "You lie!" moment in the sun are evidently the source of interest in this word that means "to express warning or disapproval in a gentle, earnest or solicitous manner." Runners-up included "inaugurate," "pandemic" "emaciated" (Michael Jackson) and "rogue" (you-know-who).

One item on Merriam's list last year appeared on Oxford's this year: "zombie bank." Obviously, interest in the economy and the brain-eating undead -- and possible connections between the two -- continues unabated.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Men ** ahem ** Who Won The National Book Awards

Last night, the winners of the 2009 National Book Awards were announced during a gala dinner in New York City. Here they are:

Fiction: Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann
Nonfiction: The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt, by T. J. Stiles
Poetry: Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy, by Keith Waldrop
Young People's Literature: Claudette Colvin: Twice Towards Justice, by Phillip Hoose

By the way, I kind of geeked out last night and followed the proceedings on Twitter. Several people attending the dinner were "tweeting," and they and the rest of us following them labeled our tweets with the hashtag, #nba09, thus creating the discussion. One participant noticed that all four of the winners were men, which reminded him of the uproar of a few weeks ago when the trade journal Publishers Weekly named its ten best books of the year, which were all by male authors. This led to what was for me the best tweet of the evening: "All of this year's #nba09 winners are men. OK, time to take your flamethrower of PW and turn it onto the NBA."

Monday, November 16, 2009

75 Boxes of Bounty

So where has Page 854 been in recent days? Packing up a book fair, which has consumed practically all my time.

It's a great annual project we participate in with the fine folks at Carolina Day School, and more specifically with the Friends of the Library committee. The three-day book fair gives kids at the school -- and their parents -- a chance to look through and, we hope, purchase great books for themselves or as gifts, with a benefit of the proceeds going directly to their library. (At least I think it's a great selection of books; but that may be because I'm the one that picked them out, with input from folks at Carolina Day.) A total of about 75 boxes of our inventory went over there, and when I checked in about midday today, a beautiful display of them had been set up.

So best wishes to Stephanie -- the Library Dragon herself -- as well as to Kay Allison, Jennifer and all the other cool library supporters at Carolina Day for a successful book fair. And thanks again for allowing Accent on Books to be a part of this great project.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Friday, 11/6, at Accent on Books: Dale Neal

Dale Neal is a longtime friend of Accent on Books, and someone familiar to all those with an interest in the literary life of Western North Carolina. He has worked for the Asheville Citizen-Times as a religion editor and book reviewer, and is currently a science and technology writer for the paper.

Another title which can now be used to describe Dale is "award-winning novelist." His first book, Cow Across America, which has just been published, was this year's winner of the Novello Literary Award, an honor which previously has been conferred on such writers as Ron Rash and Anthony Abbott. It is a novel about grandfathers and grandsons, the power of stories, and, yes, traveling across America with a cow.

We are delighted and honored that Dale Neal will be at Accent on Books this coming Friday evening, beginning at 6:00, to read from and sign copies of his new book. Please join us to celebrate this achievement by a writer whose name can be newly added to the list of great Southern novelists.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Of Bird Legs and Nacho Hair

"She walked into my office on legs as long as one of those long-legged birds that you seen in Florida -- the pink ones, not the white ones -- except that she was standing on both of them, not just one of them, like those birds, the pink ones, and she wasn't wearing pink, but I knew right away that she was trouble, which those birds usually aren't."

The woman referred to above is not to be confused with the blonde with hair "like cheese sauce on a bed of nachos," though both are the subjects of winning entries in this year's Bulwer-Lytton Fiction contest, honoring the worst opening sentences to imaginary novels, as submitted by contestants from around the world. (Hey, that's a pretty amazing sentence I just wrote.) Judging from this year's winners, Raymond Chandler may inspire more awful openings than any other prominent writer, but Hawthorne, Donne, Sophocles, Tolkien and even Yoda take their lumps as well.

And the Grand Prize winner? Well, matey, readin' it will cause you to hear the howlin' of the wind and feel the sting of the saltwater against yer face. It, and the complete list of winners, runners-up, and "dishonorable mentions" can found here.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Lordy, Lordy, the Internet's Forty

On October 29, 1969, at 10:30 PM, a connection was established on the Arpanet network between computers at UCLA and Stanford. And thus, basically, the internet was born. It wasn't given that name till several years later, and obviously much has changed, but it can basically traced back to a transmittal forty years ago today.

And what was the message transmitted at that epochal moment? "Lo." It was supposed to be "login," but the system crashed after only the first two letters were sent. Some things never change.

So should we be celebrating or mourning this fortieth anniversary? Mostly celebrating, I would think. After all, I'm using the internet right now, and its ability to gather information and connect people has obviously been hugely transformational.

And it has not -- yet -- killed off the book, not even the quaint variety with a physical cover and pages. The death of that archaic relic has been proclaimed many times before, and it has always survived. I can't help but think that its survival will continue.

And please feel free to spread my thoughts throughout the internet.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Scrooge Comes to Hogwarts

A lady in West London who calls herself "Ms Marmite Lover" has started a not-for-profit practice of having themed dinners in her home. Her latest idea was to have a Harry Potter dinner, complete with foods from the books, a recreation of Diagon Alley and even a Fat Lady portrait who would demand a password from guests.

All good fun -- until some lawyers from Warner Brothers heard about it. Then they sent her a letter which read in part, "Dear Ms Marmite Lover. While we are delighted you are such a fan of the Harry Potter series, unfortunately your proposed use of the of the Harry Potter properties...without our consent would amount to an infringement of Warner's rights." So, in order to placate the legal Death Eaters, Ms Marmite Lover had to change the name of the event to "Generic Wizard Night."

Yeesh. Where's the Order of the Phoenix when you need them?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The $150 Million Bargain?

About a month ago we received a new book from James Patterson called The Murder of King Tut. This nonfiction volume was preceded in August by a Patterson novel entitled Alex Cross's Trial, and, a month earlier, the latest in Patterson's "Daniel X" series for young adults. November will see the publication of his novel, I, Alex Cross, and a children's book from him is expected before the end of the year. In all, during a twelve-month period beginning this past March, ten different books bearing the name James Patterson on the dust jacket either have been or will be published. Granted, about half of the titles will also have the name of a co-author, but it's the Patterson name that will almost guarantee all of these books will be bestsellers.

Thus, as a recent Forbes article pointed out, it may indeed have represented a bargain for Hachette, Patterson's publisher, when they recently signed him to a new contract for a reported $150 million. Although Hachette wouldn't confirm the dollar amount, we do know the contract calls for Patterson to produce seventeen more books before the end of 2012. And, in addition to obviously having a knack for prolifically writing bestsellers, Patterson knows his marketing -- he's the former chairman of the J. Walter Thompson ad agency. It's a formula that over the past two years has earned Hachette an estimated $500 million. Suddenly, $150 million doesn't sound like quite so much money.

By the way, Patterson spends a few of those rare moments he's not writing helping to promote the love of reading for the next generation. His website dedicated to that can be found here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Price Wars: The Empires Strike Back (At Each Other)

Normally I don't write much here about the travails of independent bookstores as we try to compete with the chains and the internet. In the first place, I figure that if you're reading this blog you already have some sympathy with, and knowledge of, the issues involved. Secondly, if it wearies me to write and talk about it, I assume it would weary readers to continually read about it.

However, I can't let the ridiculous book price war that broke out last week between Walmart.com and Amazon.com pass without comment. As you've probably heard, Wal-Mart lowered the pre-publication prices on its website of several major hardcovers to the absurdly low level of $10.00. Amazon promptly matched the price. The one-upmanship continued, and, to make a long, silly, self-destructive story short, by Monday morning the prices on both sites had gone down to $8.99. The whole business reminded me of two egotistical actors continually trying to upstage each other until both end up splayed against the back wall of the theatre.

The first thing to note: unless Amazon and Wal-Mart have made unconscionable sweetheart deals with the publishers they are actually losing a significant amount of money with every book they sell at these prices -- $8.99 is way, way below cost for most standard hardcovers. Of course, it's the classic strategy of the "loss leader": lure customers to your store (or website) with one ridiculously low price and hope they'll buy other items on which the store makes a significant profit. However, it's a strategy usually associated more with a gallon of milk than a Stephen King novel.

The impact this has on independent bookstores is pretty self-evident. It isn't so much the lost sales on the particular titles being discounted -- independent bookstores don't sell that many commercial bestsellers to begin with. Rather it threatens to reinforce the idea in some people's minds that by charging the retail price we are ripping off customers in order to pay for champagne-fueled orgies on the Accent on Books yacht. (I wish.) The reality is that we are an actual bookstore -- not a warehouse with a website -- with all the expenses that entails. In addition, we don't have the buying power of the chains, and we stock titles from smaller, independent publishers who -- like independent bookstores -- can't afford to give exorbitantly generous offers to their customers (i.e. bookstores).

What might not be so clear is the impact these discounts have on authors and publishers. At first glance it might appear to be entirely positive -- after all, authors and publishers get paid the same no matter what price retailers set for their products. But what does it say about books in general when retailing empires use them as disposable giveaways to entice folks to buy other items? ("Here's a free book to go with that overpriced pair of socks.") As David Gernert, the agent for John Grisham, was quoted as saying: "If you can buy Stephen King's new novel, or John Grisham's Ford County for $10, why would you buy a brilliant first novel for $25? I think we underestimate the effect to which extremely discounted best sellers take the consumer's attention away from emerging writers....If readers come to believe that the value of a new book is $10, publishing as we know it is over." Publishers generally have no legal control over what a retailer charges for their products. But if they -- and authors -- were to loudly complain, it would undoubtedly have an effect. Will they? We'll see.

Our good friends at Shelf Awareness have a series of articles and links related to this issue. They can be found here.

P.S. It now appears that Target has become a third combatant in the price wars. Must be nice to have all that money to throw away.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A Halloween Book Burning

About a week ago it was announced that a group in Canton, NC, about twenty miles west of Asheville, would be holding an event on Halloween in which they will be publicly burning copies of the Bible. Must be some weird, Satanic cult, right?

Actually, no -- it's a Baptist church.

Marc Grizzard, pastor of the tiny Amazing Grace Baptist Church -- about fourteen members -- says they consider the King James Version to be the only English translation which is the true word of God, and all other English translations to be heretical. So onto the bonfire they'll go: the NIV, the NRSV, even the New King James Version. (An article and video can be found here.) And it won't just be Bibles that will be burning, it will be other books as well. Dan Brown and J. K. Rowling? Well sure, but also Rick Warren, James Dobson, Mother Teresa -- even Billy Graham, who lives about forty miles from Canton. A few days ago, a detailed list could be found at the church's website; as of this writing, however, the website appears to have been suspended by the web host (no reason given).

And if the sight of burning books is not enough to attract a crowd, the church will also be serving barbecue. No word as to whether they plan to use the same bonfire for both books and barbecue grill.

One more thing: the church hopes to make this an annual event. Mark your calendars.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

National Book Awards Nominations

The finalists for the National Book Awards were announced earlier this week, and, as usual, there were not many "household names" on the list. One of the great virtues of these annual citations from the National Book Foundation is their promotion of talented writers who deserve to be better known.

Jayne Anne Phillips may be the best known of the fiction nominees, with her latest novel, Lark and Termite. Also nominated were Bonnie Jo Campbell, Colum McCann, Daniyal Mueenuddin, and Marcel Theroux (yes, he's Paul's son).

Twentieth-century business tycoons are at the center of two of the Nonfiction choices: T. J. Stiles' biography of Cornelius Vanderbilt and Greg Grandin's book about Henry Ford's doomed utopian experiment in the Brazilian jungle. A biography of the ancient king Mithradates and two book dealing with nature round out the list.

Four of the Poetry nominees have had long and distinguished careers: Rae Armantrout, Ann Lauterbach, Carl Phillips and Keith Waldrop. The fifth, Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, was nominated for just her second book, her first one appearing eight years ago.

The Young People's Literature category is a fascinating mix, reflecting the richness of this particular field of literature. Two nominated titles are biographies, one of Charles and Emma Darwin , and the other portraying Civil Rights pioneer Claudette Colvin. There are two works of prose fiction: a collection of supernatural tales and a novel dealing with the very real world of an urban high school. The fifth nominee is Stitches, a graphic novel by Caldecott Medalist David Small, who departs from his usual lighthearted projects with this account of his harrowing childhood.

A complete list of nominees -- with more about each title -- can be found here. The winners will be announced November 18.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sat., 10/17: Accent on Books Honors a Famous Bear

It's been more than eighty years since Christopher Robin left the Hundred Acre Wood at the end of The House at Pooh Corner. Yet the devotion to Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Owl and -- my personal hero -- Eeyore has remained strong. Walt Disney, of course has put the Pooh characters on the screen, and various storybooks have been published related to the Disney version.

However, this month for the first time since A. A. Milne's death, a sequel to the Pooh books has appeared with the authorization of the Milne estate. It is called, Return to the Hundred Acre Wood, and Accent on Books will mark the occasion with a tea party this coming Saturday morning, starting at 11:00.

The new book is by David Benedictus, with "decorations" by Mark Burgess, and it is a joy for those who love the writing and illustrating styles of Milne and E. H. Shepard. All the favorite characters are here and are joined by a new one. And who or what is the new one? I'll just say she's introduced in Chapter 4, "in which it stops raining forever, and something slinky comes out of the river."

So join us this coming Saturday morning for tea, honey (of course!) and other goodies and feel free to bring your favorite bear or tiger or piglet or other Animal of Great Renown. We'll eat, drink and have fun with some of the greatest characters in children's literature.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Page 854: An American Life

As you may have heard, Sarah Palin's autobiography is due to be released by HarperCollins on November 17. (Earlier reports that there will be a separate "Christian edition," however, have turned out not to be true; Christians will just have to read the same edition as everybody else.)

The title of Palin's book is Going Rogue, an obvious reference to the "maverick" image the ex-Governor has tried to maintain since she appeared on the national scene a year ago. However, as Thom Geier points out in the blog, Shelf-Life, the book's subtitle -- An American Life -- conveys a different image. Indeed, far from being "mavericky," it's one of the most common subtitles out there, gracing the front covers of a wide range of biographies and autobiographies. Palin might be pleased to know that others who have led "An American Life" include Ronald Reagan, Condoleeza Rice and Oral Roberts. But would she be happy to discover that her book also shares a subtitle with ones concerning Burt Lancaster, Ben Hogan, Dr. Benjamin Spock and Jerry Garcia? And then, of course, there's the program on evil, socialist public radio called, "This American Life," which I'm guessing is not at the top of Ms Palin's "must listen to" list.

So if you come into Accent on Books looking for Sarah Palin's book, please don't ask for it by subtitle. You'll throw us into a state of total confusion.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Herta Muller Wins Nobel Prize

The Swedish Academy announced this morning that Romanian-born German writer Herta Muller has won the 2009 Nobel Prize for Literature. She is the twelfth woman to win the award.

Herta Muller (also spelled "Mueller") was born in 1953. Her father was in the Waffen SS during World War II and her mother spent five years in a Soviet labor camp after the war. The German-speaking minority was subjected to persecution in Romania in the postwar years, and especially after Nicolae Ceausescu came to power in 1965. From the beginning of her career in the early 1980s, Muller made the repressive reality of life under Ceausescu a prominent subject of her writing, and most of her books were banned in Romania, though celebrated in Germany and elsewhere. She emigrated to Germany in 1987.

Of the nineteen books Muller has written to date four have been translated into English: The Passport, The Land of Green Plums, Traveling on One Leg and The Appointment. All but the first have been published in this country but have quickly gone out of stock as a result of today's announcement. Feel free to check with Accent on Books for future availability.

More information can be found at the Nobel website.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Man Booker Winner Announced

Hilary Mantel has won the 2009 Man Booker Prize for her novel, Wolf Hall, it was announced Tuesday. The Man Booker is given every year to an outstanding work of fiction by a citizen of a British Commonwealth country, and this year's winner was an unusually popular choice. Indeed -- this being an award given in England where one can wager on almost anything -- it has been noted that this is the first time the prize has been given to the nominee that had been made the odds-on favorite by the British bookmakers. Mantel's book is an historical novel about the rise to power of Thomas Cromwell in the court of Henry VIII. The reaction to the choice in today's London Times: "Rarely has the Booker Prize got it so gloriously, marvellously right as this year."

The American edition of Wolf Hall is due to be released next week, and we hope to have it in stock then at Accent on Books.

More information is available at the Man Booker website.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Gimme A Break!

On second thought, I'll just take one without waiting for anyone to give it to me.

I'm actually on vacation right now, though I did want to go ahead and get my thoughts and impressions regarding SIBA posted. Now that I've done that, for the most part, I'll put Page 854 aside for a few days.

Talk to you again around, oh, October 7 or so. Until then, be well.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

SIBA Notes II: The Books

Last Saturday morning at the SIBA Convention a sales rep passed on to me a comment from a bookseller that probably reflected the mood of a lot of us: "I'm tired of talking about business. Let's talk about books!"

It's easy to understand why this would be the case: as I've noted here several times before, the fall lineup of new titles is one of the strongest I've seen in years, and therefore much more fun to talk about than the gloom-and-doom financial scene. This was certainly in evidence at SIBA, where a multitude of authors generously shared their time and enthusiasm to talk about their new works. With apologies to those authors left out (I enjoyed and appreciated all their presentations), here are a few of what were the highlights for me:

-- Kevin Salwen added a note of hope and inspiration to the SIBA annual meeting talking about The Power of Half, his story of how his family decided to downsize their lives, and use the money they saved to get involved in community development work overseas.
-- The great children's book author Richard Peck shared with us both the latest adventures of his classic character Grandma Dowdel, and his own delightfully grumpy attitude towards all things that he sees threatening the world of books. (Do not ask this man to endorse video games, Kindles or social networking.)
-- A panel called "Before We Were Authors" featured three writers --Erica Eisdorfer, Joseph Kanon and George Stewart -- who became writers after pursuing various book-related careers, and a fourth -- Winton Porter -- whose new book is based on his experiences following his dream of opening a supply store on the Appalachian Trail. Porter good-naturedly accepted the moniker supplied him by an audience member of "the hiking guy," and all four offered evidence that it's never too late to start a writing career.
-- Friday night, esteemed novelist Elizabeth Kostova (The Historian) talked about her forthcoming book, The Swan Thieves, and announced that she had moved back to Asheville, in her words, "the center of the universe." (Welcome back, Elizabeth!)
-- Speaking of Western North Carolina, Ron Rash was one of the writers who opened our eyes with readings Saturday morning. He read from Serena, Padgett Powell read from The Interrogative Mood, and Jess Walter read from The Financial Lives of Poets. Powell's book, by the way, is written entirely in the form of questions.

As great as all these authors were, to me the most compelling speaker was one that came as a bit of a surprise. It was Robert Edsel, talking about his book, The Monuments Men. In this book, Edsel tells the remarkable -- and, until now, almost unknown -- story of a group of men and women who set out to recover the various art works and other cultural treasures stolen by the Nazis during World War II. For Robert Edsel, telling this story has become more than just a literary project: it has become a life mission, as he continues to get the word out about these amazing individuals and the continuing efforts to complete the work they began. Edsel spoke with a quiet but spellbinding conviction that was gripping and moving.

It was, all in all, a great lineup of authors, both the well-known to reconnect with, and the less well-known to discover for the first time. I look forward to sharing their works with those who love good books.

Monday, September 28, 2009

SIBA Notes I: The Business

As members of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance gathered in Greenville, SC last Friday morning for the organization's annual membership meeting, it was in an atmosphere where realism demanded that huge challenges be faced. The economic turmoil has been tough on independent businesses in general and bookstores in particular. And the economic difficulties faced by the member bookstores were mirrored, in a way, by the health challenges faced by SIBA's invaluable Executive Director, Wanda Jewell. Yet, just as Wanda was there, presiding over a complex and rewarding convention, so were scores of booksellers, determined to continue their mission of connecting books with readers, despite the economic environment.

The workshops I attended during Friday's "Day of Education" proposed new ways of accomplishing traditional tasks. Whether the topic was social media or author events, the key word was "relationship." While they are certainly no substitute for in person, "real world" interaction, social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter (and blogs!) provide new ways for booksellers to make contact with new customers and continue to interact with those whose business and friendship we already value. And in-store author events are the result of -- and the impetus for -- relationships going in two directions: with authors and publishers on the one hand, and members of the local community attending the events on the other.

The publisher exhibits -- the heart of any SIBA convention -- opened on Saturday and here, too, it was a process of reaffirming present relationships and connections, and establishing new ones. Whether it was greeting old friends or meeting those who offered products and services I was not previously familiar with, relationships form a starting point for helping Accent on Books provide an even better experience for our customers than we already do.

Of course, for all of us, in the end, it's all about the books. More on that in my next post.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Off to SIBA!

I seem to have unintentionally gotten this segue thing going with the last few posts (except for the oh-ye-gods-I-made-a-mistake post). From Oprah to Okra, and now from Okra to SIBA. "SIBA" is the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, which devised the "Okra picks" program and they are having their annual convention this coming weekend. I'll be headed down to South Carolina tomorrow after work to hobnob with my fellow Southern booksellers for a few days. It's always a great occasion with a wide variety of activities: workshops and seminars; a trade show with various publishers and other vendors showing their wares; loads of authors talking about and signing copies of their latest books; banquets and parties; and who knows what else.

And funny hats? Do book industry conventioneers wear funny hats? Well, I don't know of any official funny hats, but booksellers, sales reps and publishers are all a bunch of Wild And Crazy People, so you never know.

I'll let you know how it all goes down after I get back.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Oprah? No, Okra!

We all know the tremendous clout Ms Winfrey wields in the publishing and bookselling world, but the clever folks at our trade organization, the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance, have come up with a way to put a decidedly regional twist on the idea of recommending books. Presenting: the first Okra Picks. These are books with a Southern bent due to be published this fall that have garnered praise and enthusiasm from Southern booksellers. Thirteen books made the final list, which can be found here, but we'd like to offer special congratulations to Grateful Steps Publishing, a relatively new company right here in Asheville, who made the list with their beautiful new volume, The Soul Tree: Poems and Photos of the Southern Appalachians.

All the books either are now or soon will be available at Accent on Books. So come on in, and chow down on some choice, specially picked Okra.

It's Been Corrected!

The previous post contained a terrible mistake which has been corrected. It wasn't intentional and wasn't even a "Freudian slip" (I hope). Just a goof from someone who wasn't paying full attention to what he was doing.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Book Club You Probably Don't Want to Join

Yesterday, Oprah Winfrey announced the 63rd choice in her on-air book club: Say You're One of Them, the acclaimed and harrowing book of stories by Uwem Akpan published last year. We currently have a few copies on hand at Accent on Books, and can order more if we sell out.

Meanwhile, a much less admired public figure has evidently issued his own recommended reading list. An audio recording purportedly by Osama Bin Laden appeared on the Web last week and, according to the New York Times, suggested three books for Americans to read that he said would help them better understand their own country. Although the information about the books was somewhat garbled the recommended titles seemed to be:

The Israel Lobby and U S Foreign Policy, by Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer. A highly controversial book whose thesis was that pro-Israel lobbies in the United States had a disproportionate -- and damaging -- influence on U S foreign policy.

Palestine Peace Not Apartheid, by Jimmy Carter. Obama simply called it the book by "your former President, Carter." Carter's analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict caused much controversy simply by his use of the word, "apartheid," in describing the situation.

Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, by John Perkins. This is the suggestion that Obama was most vague about, but he seems to have meant this memoir, by a man who has described all sorts of nefarious undertakings on behalf of the U S government. (The State Department insists the book is nonsense.)

In what the Times referred to as the "blurb from Hell," the reputed Bin Laden said, "After you read the suggested books, you will know the truth, and you will be greatly shocked by the scale of concealment that has been exercised on you." While we don't have any copies of these books on hand we could order them for you. So far at least, we have not had any requests from the mountainous region on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Friday, 9/18, at Accent on Books: Bobbie Pell

Accent on Books will be getting a slight touch of early Halloween this coming Friday evening, and it should be loads of fun. One of our favorite people, local writer/storyteller/musician/artist Bobbie Pell will be here to talk about her contribution to the new volume, The August House Book of Scary Stories. August House is beyond question the nation's leading publisher when it comes to promoting and providing resources for storytelling, and we are delighted that they are including Bobbie in this volume, which also has contributions from the likes of Robert San Souci, Michael Caduto and Richard and Judy Dockery Young.

Since Bobbie is a professional storyteller, I'm sure she'll be doing a lot more than simply reading from this book. We hope you can be with us Friday evening beginning at 6:00 as we celebrate this latest achievement from one of Western North Carolina's most talented creative artists.

More on Bobbie Pell can be found at her website.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Library Is Getting Rid of Its Books -- All of Them

As we all know, the internet and electronic publishing are having a huge effect on the bookselling/publishing industry. Still, there was a news item earlier this week in the Boston Globe which I found shocking and a bit frightening:

A 144-year-old prep school is getting rid of every book in its library -- more than 20,000 in all -- and going completely electronic.

This was not the idea of some rogue librarian or teacher at Cushing Academy, the school in question. The decision was made by the headmaster, James Tracy, who was quoted as saying, "When I look at books, I see an outdated technology, like scrolls before books."Check Spelling

So what will be in the new $500,000 "learning center" that will replace the library?
-- Three large flat-screen TVs that will project data from the internet
-- "Laptop friendly" study carrels
-- A $50,000 coffee shop with a $12,000 cappuccino machine

Also, eighteen electronic readers will be given to students "looking to spend more time with literature." The newspaper article doesn't say who these students are or how they will be chosen. And the rest of the students? They're on their own to find what they're looking for any way they can.

Is this the start of a trend? The executive director of the American Library Association is quoted in the article as saying he doesn't know of any other library that has taken this action. Teachers at Cushing Academy seem overall to be quite dubious. Of course the library -- excuse me, "learning center" -- in the end is for the students, and they may be perfectly happy with the arrangement.

Meanwhile, we will continue to sell items as we always have here at Accent on Scrolls.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Booker Shortlist

The shortlist (finalists) has been announced for the Man Booker Prize, generally considered the top fiction prize in the British Commonwealth. The six titles are:

The Children's Book, by A. S. Byatt
Summertime, by J. M. Coetzee
The Quickening Maze, by Adam Foulds
Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel
The Glass Room, by Simon Mawer
The Little Stranger, by Sarah Waters

Of the six, the only one presently available in this country is The Little Stranger. The titles by Byatt, Coetzee and Mantel are due out in the United States later this fall. No word on American editions of The Quickening Maze or The Glass Room.

The winner of the 2009 Man Booker Prize will be announced October 6. More information here.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Big Lineup

Here at Page 854 we have talked about all the new books coming out this fall, and we undoubtedly will talk about them again. However, in the meantime, here is a helpful page from USA Today that allows you to look up -- and keep up with -- the major fall arrivals in a variety of ways. You can look up books by title, author, or publication date; or by using the two arrows at the top of the left-hand column you can click through each title chronologically by on-sale date.

Have a great Labor Day weekend. And you can look forward to new books coming out next week from Sue Monk Kidd, Anita Diamant and Nicholas Sparks, as well as the companion volume to Ken Burns' upcoming PBS series on the national parks. (Nicholas Sparks and national parks!)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Friday, 9/4, at Accent on Books: Mindi Meltz

Nature is sentimentalized only by those who don't know it well. That is one possible lesson to be drawn from Beauty, the new novel by Hendersonville's Mindi Meltz. A poetic, at times dark tale, it concerns a naturalist who finds connections between the wildness of the world she works in, and the wildness of her heart during the course of a romance.

Our fall series of author events at Accent on Books kicks off this Friday, beginning at 6:00 PM with Mindi Meltz talking about, and reading from her acclaimed novel. We hope you'll be able to join us and this author whose debut novel has created such excitement.

More about Mindi Meltz and Beauty can be found here.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

It's Always New Years Somewhere

At Accent on Books we "celebrated" the beginning of our fiscal year this morning by finishing the process of taking inventory -- and we survived to tell the tale. Now that we've gotten that out of the way, we can look forward to another month with an amazing roster of new books. Among the titles which should be arriving in our store before the month is over:

Traveling With Pomegranates, by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor. The author of Secret Life of Bees collaborates with her daughter for this dual biography of two very different women searching for meaning and serenity.

Hands in Harmony, by Tim Barnwell. The nationally acclaimed Asheville photographer here portrays those who create music and handicrafts in Appalachia. A CD of traditional music will be packaged with the book.

The Year of the Flood, by Margaret Atwood. This versatile and tremendously gifted author returns to the territory of The Handmaid's Tale and Oryx and Crake with another cautionary dystopia tale.

Homer and Langley, by E. L. Doctorow. Another historical novel by the author of Ragtime, this one dealing with two eccentric New York brothers.

The Anthologist, by Nicholson Baker. A novel about a poet, and a meditation on poetry by one of the country's most innovative and controversial writers.

Echo in the Bone, by Diana Gabaldon. The seventh novel in the wildly popular "Outlander" series.

And, oh yes, The Lost Symbol, by one Dan Brown. You may remember his last book; went by the name of The DaVinci Code.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Taking a Break, and Movie Goofiness

Page 854 is going on hiatus for about a week and a half. But we'll leave you with a silly item from The Onion about an unusual movie adaptation of a Famous Russian Novel.

See you in September. (Hm, that sounds like it could be the title of a Fifties rock song.)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Back to School -- or University, Actually

UNC-Asheville is holding its annual "Block Party" this coming Friday, August 21, 6:00-8:00 PM, and Accent on Books will be there. This is a Big Bash on the UNC-A campus shortly after fall classes start with music, food, games and local businesses and organizations setting up displays to introduce themselves to the students and the UNC-A community. We'll have giveaways at our table -- books! candy! weird stickers! -- as well as information about the services we provide to the local community.

So come on by if you're in the neighborhood Friday evening. Accent on Books is proud to be a neighbor of such a fine institution as UNC-Asheville and we are looking forward to being a part of this great event.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A Book About Pictures -- Without the Pictures

This fall, Yale University Press will publish, The Cartoons That Shook the World, a book about the Danish cartoons of the prophet Muhammad which caused such a huge -- and deadly -- uproar a few years back. However, the cartoons themselves will not actually appear in the book. In fact, the book will contain no images of Muhammad whatsoever.

This seemingly odd decision was made after the publisher said it consulted with two dozen different authorities on Islam who reached the unanimous conclusion that publishing the cartoons could be inflammatory. The authorities further advised that none of the images of the prophet planned for inclusion, including a print by Dore, an Ottoman image, and an illustration from a children's book, be used.

Not surprisingly, Yale Press's decision has caused a lot of concern, in particular from the book's author, Jytte Klausen, who wondered how her discussion of the cartoons be fully effective if the cartoons themselves weren't shown. In addition, the American Association of University Professors has condemned the press for "acceding to the anticipated demands" of terrorists.

John Donatich, the director of Yale University Press, insists that his company does not shy away from publishing controversial material, but after he received such a strong negative reaction from the experts he consulted he decided he did not want to be left with "blood on my hands." And it should also be mentioned that at the time the controversy erupted, a number of news organizations and commentators discussed the cartoons without showing them. Still, this is a serious scholarly work, not a news article. And the cartoons have been shown a number of times over the years, in publications and on websites, without further problem. At any rate, it seems a bit strange that this controversy should emerge so close to the book's publication date; why wasn't this issue resolved at the inception of the project? All in all, it is not a decision that is likely to add to the prestige of one of this country's most famous university presses.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

"Hey there! elizwoodville is using Twitter"

Or at least that's what it says at the top of a certain page on Twitter. However, as students of English history -- or Shakespeare's history plays -- will tell you, Elizabeth Woodville was actually a fifteenth-century English queen. So has she time-travelled to the 21st century and adopted modern technology? No, it's actually just a publicity tool for a new novel by Phillipa Gregory, who's probably best known as the author of The Other Boleyn Girl. Her new book, The White Queen, is about Elizabeth Woodville, and so this past week Gregory has been posting "tweets" in Elizabeth's voice talking about her many trials and tribulations during the Wars of the Roses. All these posts are available on "elizwoodville's" Twitter page now (you don't have to be a Twitter member to see them) and later on next week will be available at Gregory's website. The book itself -- which, lest we forget, all this stuff is promoting -- will be available at Accent on Books beginning next Tuesday.

By the way, a number of years ago, Byron and I were both in a production of Shakespeare's Richard III with Montford Park Players. I played the title role and Byron played -- Elizabeth Woodville.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Laureate's Job

Earlier in her career, the British poet Carol Ann Duffy expressed disdain for the position of Poet Laureate, saying no self-respecting poet should have to compose poems for such occasions as royal weddings. Then, back in the spring, Duffy herself became Britain's first ever female Poet Laureate.

Now, Carol Ann Duffy seems to have found at least one project suitable for her position. With Britain involved in two Middle Eastern wars -- and beginning to experience a significant number of casualties in Afghanistan -- Duffy commissioned war poetry from a number of her contemporary colleagues. As Duffy says, it is the poets who often give us the most accurate accounting of the genuine experience of war, and, since most famous British poets have not been involved in the conflicts in Iraq or Afghanistan, she broadened the topic to include not just direct experience of war, but meditations on all the implications of armed conflict.

The result is a powerful group of poems, and they recently appeared in The Guardian.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Writer Beware

Book readers are often book writers -- or often at least contemplate writing a book. For such people the rise of self-publishing and print-on-demand technology over the last decade or two would seem to be a boon. Yet the growth of this technology has also led, unfortunately, to the growth of "publishers" and "agencies" who are sometimes misleading, unscrupulous, or downright fraudulent in the promises they make to authors anxious to have their book published. We at Accent on Books have occasionally run into this, and I've heard reports along this line from other booksellers as well.

That's why I feel that it's important to mention a website that I've just heard about, though it's evidently been around for years. It's called Writer Beware, and though it's run by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America its information is important to anyone who's looking to publish a book, no matter what kind of fiction -- or nonfiction, or poetry -- they write. In fact I found out about it through an article announcing that the Mystery Writers of America has decided to join forces with the SFWA and help out with the site.

So if you or someone you know is interested in having a book published I urge you to check out Writer Beware. You may still decide to go the self-publishing/print-on-demand route. But at least you'll have a bit more of an idea of what you're getting into.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Kindle Ate His Homework

Several weeks back, Amazon put that old phrase, "There's no such thing as bad publicity" to a real test. After discovering that it had mistakenly sold electronic versions of two books to owners of its Kindle e-reader without permission of the copyright holders, it remotely wiped those books off the Kindles onto which they had been downloaded. What made the incident even more embarrassing: the books in question were 1984 and Animal Farm, by George Orwell. The irony of two books about totalitarianism suddenly disappearing from Kindles was of course not lost on any of the journalists or pundits covering the incident. Amazon did credit the accounts of those customers who no longer had access to the books, but CEO Jeff Bezos later issued an apology, calling the action "stupid, thoughtless and painfully out of line with our principles."

However, that wasn't enough for at least one Kindle owner. Justin Gawronski, 17, had purchased a copy of 1984 for summer reading, and had made electronic notes on the Kindle as he was reading. As he watched the text of Orwell's classic slowly disappear from his screen he realized those notes were now useless. So he's sued Amazon, and his lawyers are seeking to turn it into a class action suit covering any others who lost work related to the removal of the books. "Amazon.com had no more right to hack into people's Kindles than its customers have the right to hack into Amazon's bank account to recover a mistaken overpayment," said one of the lawyers handling the case. "Technology companies increasingly feel that because they have the ability to access people's personal property, they have the right to do so. That is 100% contrary to the laws of this country."

More information can be found here.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Malcolm Gladwell's Southern Problem

Malcolm Gladwell is a writer who has gained fame by suggesting innovative new ways at looking at the world around us. In his books The Tipping Point, Blink, and, most recently, Outliers, Gladwell has used the tools of the social sciences to promote new perspectives and suggest new possibilities.

All of this makes a new article by him all the more puzzling. In the latest issue of The New Yorker, Gladwell writes about Atticus Finch, the lead character of To Kill a Mockingbird, and complains that he is, well, Atticus Finch. Near the beginning of the article -- which is titled, "The Courthouse Ring: Atticus Finch and the limits of Southern Liberalism" -- Gladwell points out that Harper Lee's famous novel was published in 1960 and is set even earlier in the century. He then seems to immediately forget this point and complain that Atticus represents a mode of Southern thought that is more at home in the era of Jim Crow than it is the era of the Civil Rights movement.

Well, of course; Mockingbird is set in Jim Crow Alabama. It is not a novel of the Civil Rights era, nor, to my knowledge have such claims ever been made for it. Gladwell says that the character of Atticus Finch "has become a role model for the legal profession," though he doesn't say how or why. Not being a lawyer myself I can't speak to this, but Gladwell's problems with Atticus go beyond his role as attorney. Atticus represents "old-style Southern liberalism -- gradual and paternalistic," and thus not as confrontational and transformational as the liberalism of Civil Rights.

Again, all this is true enough, but how is this a criticism of Atticus the literary character? Gladwell discusses George Orwell's criticism of Charles Dickens for being too much a product of his Victorian times despite his desire for reform, and implicitly casts himself as Orwell and Harper Lee as Charles Dickens. "Orwell didn't think that Dickens should have written different novels," says Gladwell, "he loved Dickens." Yet Gladwell does seem to think Harper Lee should have written a different novel; otherwise, what's the point of his article?

Part of my problem with this article may be that I see the same trait in Gladwell that he criticizes in Atticus Finch -- paternalism. His disparaging view of "Southern liberalism" -- which, of course, is seen as inferior to just plain "liberalism" -- and an oversimplified view of Southern modes of thought suggests someone who thinks that all of us below the Mason-Dixon line are still sitting on our verandas sipping juleps and complaining about the War of the Northern Aggression. All of this is particularly ironic in view of what recently happened to Henry Louis Gates -- last time I checked, Cambridge, Massachusetts is not normally considered part of the Deep South.

But judge for yourself -- Gladwell's article is here.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Where Am I, Anyway?

The Big Sale. Dental surgery. Inventory. Early morning meetings with sales consultants. Not so early morning meetings with sales reps. It's been a busy time, and Page 854 has been paying a bit of a price. But, in the words of the Governator, "Ah'll be bock."

In the meantime, new novels arrived today from Thomas Pynchon and Richard Russo. And Pat Conroy's new one goes on sale a week from today. Things are still hopping at Accent on Books. So, come on by!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Thomas Pynchon and the Midnight Party.

The Harry Potter books. The Twilight series. The Eragon books.

The Thomas Pynchon books?

Pynchon's new novel, Inherent Vice, goes on sale this coming Tuesday, August 4. Not necessarily the kind of occasion, one would think, that would bring eager readers flocking to bookstores at 12:01 AM on the on-sale date. Don't tell that to Frank Reiss, the owner of A Cappella Books in Atlanta -- he indeed is having a midnight party for the release of Inherent Vice. Not that he's expecting mobs of Pynchon fans to descend on his store: "I'm hoping a couple dozen people show up," he says. Who knows, maybe the famously reclusive Pynchon himself will show up -- disguised as J. K. Rowling.

More about Reiss' party can be found here. And if you want to purchase a copy of Inherent Vice at a decent hour, Accent on Books will have it on sale August 4 beginning at 9:30 AM.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

To the Moon

One of the benefits for us of our Great July Sale is that it clears out some stock in time for both our annual inventory in August and for the arrival of new titles in the fall. I listed some of the new titles which will be part of the fall season in an earlier post.

Of course, we can't carry everything, and one title which I'll admit we probably won't bring in is called Moonfire. It's a coffee table book about the Apollo 11 moon mission, and the text is that of Norman Mailer's out-of-print book on the subject, Of a Fire on the Moon. The price? A mere $1000.00. But wait, there's more, as the TV pitchmen say. As reported in this article from the London Times, twelve copies of Moonfire will come with a slice from an actual moon meteorite. The price for these select copies has not yet been determined but, as a spokesman for the publisher, Taschen America, said, "It will be thousands, hundreds of thousands, of dollars. Kind of like a diamond."

Nothing like having a coffee table book that is not only worth more than your coffee table, but may be worth more than your entire house.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


July seems like such a long month at the beginning -- after all it's one of those months with 31 days. Then it all goes by so quickly.

Why am I mentioning this? Because there are only 3 days left in our big July sale. You know, the one where you can get 30% off virtually everything on our shelves. And we'd much rather our books find good homes with our wonderful customers than have to count them during our annual August inventory.

Late summer reading; back to school items; early holiday gift buying; come on by before Saturday and get great deals on books for these or any other purpose. Great reading for you, nice homes for our books, less for us to count -- everybody wins!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Every Book In Its Place

Here at Accent on Books we try to keep the shelves arranged as orderly as possible so that we -- and our customers -- can find what we're looking for. It's more difficult than you might imagine -- alphabetical by author is the "default" arrangement, but sometimes that's just not practical.

But what about at home? In a recent article in The Guardian, Sarah Crown and John Crace tackled this question, with Crown declaring, "Alphebetisation is the most banal approach to bookshelving going; who wants their living room to look like a lending library?" She also makes the legitimate point that every time you add a new book you may have to do massive rearrangements in order to preserve the alphabetical order. (If you've just bought a book by Dickens, what if there's no room on the "D" shelf?)

So, what are the other options? Most of the ones that Crown and Crace suggest seem to be based on impressing visitors, which seems to me as banal as the alphabet. I do like the method used by one of Crace's colleagues who "orders her books according to which authors would be friends in real life." Last fall here at the store, the tyranny of the alphabet for a while produced the opposite result in our Current Events section: we had books by Keith Olbermann and Bill O'Reilly shelved next to each other, with Barack Obama looking nervously on a few more books down the shelf.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Update on Wanda

Wanda Jewell, the Executive Director of SIBA, whom I talked about in an earlier post, had her surgery and is now back home recovering. The best news: she now appears to be cancer free! The recovery process will take awhile, and, I'm sure will have its moments of frustration, but all of us in the Southern independent bookselling world are exhaling a little bit.

Thanks to all of you for your thoughts, energies and prayers.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Planning a "staycation" with your "sock puppet" "frenemy"?

Well, at least a staycation might reduce your carbon footprint. Maybe the two of you could spend some quality time looking through the 2009 update of the Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, which includes a number of new words, including the ones in quotes or italics above. Or, if you get tired of that, maybe you could catch up on that fan fiction you've been meaning to read or go online and watch webisodes of your favorite series.

If you want to find more information on Merriam-Webster's new words you can do so here. Meanwhile I'm off to join the flash mob and listen to some reggaeton.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Saturday With Walter

Although this isn't exactly book-related, the passing of Walter Cronkite brought back an indelible memory from my childhood.

When I was growing up in Charlotte, my dad was an executive with the company that owned WBT and WBTV, the CBS radio and television affiliates in town. CBS therefore helped put food on our table, and that great postwar generation of CBS reporters -- Murrow, Shirer, Collingwood, Sevareid, Cronkite -- were household gods.

One project that Dad created and administered for the company was the Jefferson Convocations, which brought in nationally known figures to speak to a select group of high school students. Walter Cronkite was the scheduled speaker on one occasion, and, on the day he was supposed to speak, the phone rang while we were eating breakfast. My brother got up and answered it. He put the receiver down, came back to the table to tell Dad the phone was for him, and then stage whispered to Mom and me, "I think it's Walter Cronkite!" All three of us immediately shot glances over to the phone, and heard my father -- for whom the term "laid back" could have been invented -- saying, "Yes, Walter...I understand, Walter...well, we'll see what we can do." Dad then ambled back to the breakfast table and said that it was indeed Walter Cronkite, calling to say that he was stranded in New York due to inclement weather (it was wintertime). The convocation went on as planned later that day, with CBS setting up a remote feed so that Cronkite could speak to the students from New York. I later thought that we should have disconnected that phone, put it under glass, and made it the centerpiece of an altar to the CBS gods.

And that's the way it was.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

National Book Awards -- Best of the Best

The National Book Awards are celebrating their 60th year and, perhaps taking a cue from the folks who run the Booker Awards in Britain, they are offering the public an opportunity to vote on the best National Book Award fiction winner of the past sixty years. They started a new blog a week ago that will continue till September 21, featuring a different fiction winner each day. (I've posted a link to the blog in the "links" area on this page.) Then, beginning on September 21, you can vote for your favorite, and be entered in a drawing for a trip to this year's National Book Awards ceremony later on in the fall. Whether or not you choose to participate in the voting you might want to check out the blog. I think it's pretty cool. More information -- and thumbnails of the dust jackets of all the different books -- can be found here.

Oh, and they all suggest you might want to buy some of the books at your favorite bookstore. Sounds like a good idea to me.

Saturday, July 11, 2009


To borrow from the Car Talk guys, I've found a new way to waste a perfectly good hour -- or more: I've joined Twitter; and, for whatever reason, I've found it maddeningly addictive. For those not familiar with it, Twitter is kind of a combination social network/blogging site that is very streamlined and user-friendly, with an ethos that encourages its millions of members to communicate with each other in a variety of different ways. Of course, it's been much in the news lately since it's been used as an outlet for protestors in Iran to convey their experiences to the outside world. (As a matter of fact one commentator has gone so far as to suggest that Twitter be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize; I'd say that's reaching a bit.)

One drawback with Twitter is the nomenclature: it's hard to talk about it without sounding a bit like a dork. Regardless, if any of you are already on Twitter and wish to "follow" me, I promise I won't be paranoid. And if any non-members wish to see my -- ahem -- "tweets," you can do so at my homepage, which you can access whether you are a Twitter member or not. Since it's a personal page and not a store page (though that may come later) I post about not only books and bookselling but other interests as well: politics, religion, human rights, sports, the arts, or whatever else is on my sometimes overcrowded mind. So check it out, if you wish -- and if you end up tweeting away yourself, don't say I didn't warn you.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

SIBA Loves Asheville

Meanwhile, on a somewhat lighter note from the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (Wanda is recovering from her surgery, by the way), the winners of the annual SIBA Book Awards were announced last week. For the second year in a row, the winner in the Fiction category is someone with strong Asheville connections. Last year, Asheville native and resident Sarah Addison Allen won for Garden Spells. This year the winner is Ron Rash, for his extraordinary novel Serena, which is set in Western North Carolina during the 1930's. Ron has family in Asheville and currently teaches at Western Carolina. By the way, Ron's brother Tom is working on a documentary about Look Homeward Angel, and its effect on a number of contemporary Southern writers.

Here is a complete list of SIBA Book Award Winners:

Fiction: Serena, by Ron Rash
Non-Fiction: The Prince of Frogtown, by Rick Bragg
Poetry: Dear Darkness, by Kevin Young
Cooking: Screen Doors and Sweet Tea, by Martha Hall Foose
Children: Two Bobbies, by Kirby Larson & Mary Nethery
Young Adult: Graceling, by Kristin Cashore

Monday, July 6, 2009

We're With You, Wanda

Wanda Jewell, the longtime Executive Director of the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA), has been diagnosed with cancer and is due to have surgery this week. Wanda is known not only throughout the South but throughout the nation as a creative, tough and passionate advocate for independent bookselling -- you may remember her Free Book Stimulus Plan that we told you about awhile back -- and those of us who are SIBA members are very fortunate to have her leading our team. If there is anyone who can make it through this kind of challenge it's Wanda, but of course we would appreciate all of you keeping her in your thoughts and prayers.

Author Karen Spears Zacharias wrote an eloquent and accurate tribute to Wanda in her blog last week, and you can find it here.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A subtle reminder: SALE!!!!

Wednesday marks the beginning of our big annual blowout July sale. During the entire month virtually every book in the store will be 30% off. And this year, there's an extra added wrinkle:

** From Monday, July 6 to Saturday, July 18, buy 4 or more books in a single purchase and get 40% off! **

No fine print? Well, OK, there's a little bit:

-- Doesn't apply to magazines, cards, calendars, special orders, or books already on hold.
-- There are a few prayerbooks, hymnals, and consignment items which are not eligible.
-- You can't combine discounts; so if you have a full frequent buyer card, you might as well hold onto it until August before cashing it in.

Other than that, there is nothing stopping you from coming in and stocking up for summer reading, for the holidays, for the rest of your life. We hope to see you soon -- and often!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Digital Payola?

Evidently trade book publishers aren't the only ones anxious to get positive word of mouth about their books out onto the internet. Textbook publisher Reed Elsevier found itself apologizing for what it said was an employee's "overzealous" attempt to generate buzz for its titles. Seems this individual sent out an e-mail announcing that anyone writing a "five-star" review of any of Reed Elsevier's new textbooks on either Amazon's or Barnes and Noble's e-commerce sites would get a free copy of the book and a $25.00 Amazon gift certificate from the publisher.

Check Spelling
Makes you wonder about the "impartiality" of some of those reviews.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

It's not Paradise, just a Parking Lot...

...nevertheless, they're paving it. Specifically, the parking lot in front of Accent on Books is being repaved, as part of the general face-lift we're getting here in Grace Plaza. So, for the next several days you may have to be a bit careful where you park and walk. We are still open, however, so we hope you'll make the expedition here and pick up some of the great summer reading we have on hand.

No word yet as to whether we'll be getting "a pink hotel, a boutique and a swinging hot spot."

Sunday, June 21, 2009

"Dude! Holden's so lame!"

One of the first times I became aware of Catcher in the Rye was back in junior high school when the Coolest Kid In The School -- imagine a combination of Draco Malfoy and James Dean -- was reading it. When a few of us asked him to tell us about it, he simply gave us a disdainful look which seemed to say, "There is no way I can explain to you losers the profundities contained in this novel."

Times seemed to have changed. Catcher is back in the news because last week a judge issued a temporarily injunction preventing the publication in this country of an unauthorized sequel by a Swedish writer who goes by the name of J. D. California. This event led to an article in the New York Times by Jennifer Schuessler suggesting that modern teenagers, who often have to deal with J. D. Salinger's book as assigned reading, find the misadventures of Holden Caulfield, the novel's teenage protagonist, to be, well, "phony" (to use one of Holden's favorite words). It's evidently difficult for today's adolescents to identify with a disenchanted prep school kid who runs away to New York City trying to find some way of living that doesn't require compromises with either the shallowness of his school or the conformity of the adult world. Says Schuessler: "Today's pop culture heroes, it seems, are the nerds who conquer the world -- like Harry [Potter], -- not the beautiful losers who reject it." Or, as one 15-year-old told her, "Oh, we all hated Holden in my class. We just wanted to tell him, 'Shut up and take your Prozac.'"

By the way, I don't know what ever happened to that Coolest Kid In The School who was such a Holden Caulfield fan. He probably ended up as an investment banker with Goldman Sachs and is now living off a $100 million buyout bonus. What a loser.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Marjane Satrapi on the Situation in Iran

Marjane Satrapi is the author/illustrator of the very popular graphic novels, Persepolis and Persepolis 2, which deal with her childhood in Iran and teenage years in Europe. These have sold well at Accent on Books not only to individuals but to book groups.

This past Wednesday, Marjane Satrapi and the Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf appeared before the European Parliament in Brussels to talk about the current unrest in Iran. Satrapi called the disputed election a "coup," and presented a document to the Parliament claiming that Moussavi won the popular vote.

Here is a video clip of part of their presentation. In it, Satrapi speaks in English and Makhmalbaf speaks in Farsi. Satrapi then speaks in French, giving what she says are the actual popular vote totals in the Iranian election: Moussavi, 19 million votes; Karroubi, 13 million votes; Ahmadinejad, only 5 million votes.

Apologies for the somewhat incongruous Google ads at the bottom of the video.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Forward to Fall

Working in retail involves living in a perpetual time warp. Lewis and I ordered most of the 2010 calendars months ago. Byron has been busy ordering winter holiday cards. Advent calendars need to be ordered soon. And we've been spending much of the past couple of weeks visiting with sales reps from various publishers who are presenting lineups of books due to be published this coming fall. Back in April I forwarded the announcement that Dan Brown's follow-up to The DaVinci Code is due to be published in September. And earlier this month I mentioned some of the authors who have books coming in the fall from Knopf.

Here is a -- by no means complete -- list of some other books due out in the fall which look like they could be of major interest (along with their publication dates):

South of Broad, by Pat Conroy (August).
The Year of the Flood, by Margaret Atwood (September).
An Echo in the Bone, by Diana Gabaldon (September). The seventh book in her "Outlander" series.
Traveling with Pomegranates, by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor (September).
The Swan Thieves, by Elizabeth Kostova (October). The first novel by Kostova, an author with Asheville connections, was the wonderful Dracula tale, The Historian.
Last Night in Twisted River, by John Irving (November).
The Humbling, by Philip Roth (November).
Stones Into Scrolls, by Greg Mortenson and Mike Bryan (December). The follow-up to Three Cups of Tea.
U Is for Undertow, by Sue Grafton (December).
Unfinished Desires, by Gail Godwin (December). The long awaited novel based on the author's experiences growing up in Asheville and attending St. Genevieve's School.

And there undoubtedly will be more major titles which are yet to be revealed.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Off the Pages and Onto the Beach

As a kind of sequel to my item of a week ago -- about what writers want to read this summer -- the Washington Post asked a number of writers what characters from literature they would like to spend time at the beach with. In most cases the writers mentioned characters they would simply want to get to know better, for intellectual or carnal reasons or both. In a couple of cases, added safety seemed to be a factor: Arthur Phillips suggested Captain Ahab and Colson Whitehead mentioned Quint, the shark hunter from Jaws. Garrison Keillor seemed to have the physical well-being of his chosen companion in mind -- he cheated a bit and chose Emily Dickinson, feeling that it might be good to get her out of that house for awhile and into the sun. Who knows how that might change the course of American poetry.

In total, a dozen writers answered the question and their comments can be found here.

Friday, June 12, 2009

There Must Be A Word For It

This past Wednesday, while most of us were probably chatting away with the same old words we always use, the one millionth word or phrase entered the English language. At least that's according to the Austin, Texas-based Global Language Monitor, which has been studying such things for a while now. Their count is based on their contention that, at the current time, words/phrases are entering English at the rate of one every 98 minutes, or 14.7 per day. And what was that one millionth word/phrase? "Web 2.0," which "won" the honor by being a bit later entering the language than other phrases such as "carbon neutral," "slow food," and "zombie bank" (the last meaning a bank only kept alive by federal intervention).

Of course it's totally unofficial and speculative, but, if nothing else, it led to a delightful article by Simon Winchester in The Telegraph in which he talks about his own experiences coining a rather graphic (and, for males, uncomfortable) word which ended up in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Suddenly feeling intimidated about your own vocabulary? There are items in the Accent on Books reference section that can probably help. And, of course, there is probably no better way to increase your vocabulary in general than by doing a lot of reading.

Monday, June 8, 2009

What Writers Want to Read

One more item from BEA. The online magazine Salon sent interviewers with cameras onto the convention floor to ask famous writers about their latest books and also what they hoped to be reading this summer. Among those interviewed were Michael Connelly, Jonathan Lethem, Neil Gaiman and Diana Gabaldon. My favorite response -- other than Dave Barry comparing his friend and co-author Ridley Pearson to a cockroach -- was that of Mary Karr. She said she hoped to spend the summer reading fan mail from her readers. There's an honest answer for you.

The interviews can be found at the Salon website.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


It was a stunt, but a fun and interesting one. Earlier this year PublicAffairs, a publisher which is part of the Perseus Book Group, announced that it would go through practically the entire process of publishing a book in a 48-hour period during the BEA Convention in New York City. The book was to be called, Book: The Sequel, and, for the content, PublicAffairs threw out this challenge to literary types around the world: choose an existing book, imagine its sequel, and write the first sentence and title of that imaginary sequel.

Last week, PublicAffairs arrived at BEA with more than 800 submissions from which to produce the finished book. The process began on Friday morning with the decision on what submissions to use and how to format the book. Then came the choice of front cover design, with input from convention-goers and people following the process on Twitter. Initial page galleys had arrived by late afternoon on Friday.

On Saturday, a website for the book was created (found here), along with reading group guides and other marketing tools, and decisions were made about the first print run. Then, precisely on time at 4 PM Saturday afternoon, finished copies of the book itself (a paperback) arrived at the PublicAffairs convention booth. (It's also available in large print and Braille editions, as well as in various e-book formats.) PublicAffairs also set up a YouTube channel with four videos, running a total of about twelve minutes, documenting the entire process. We hope to have the book available at Accent on Books by the end of this week.

All in all, another example of the powerful -- and, for us oldsters, somewhat intimidating -- effects of technological advances on the staid old world of publishing.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Knopf's new list

Summer may be just beginning to take hold here in Western North Carolina, but at Accent on Books we're already deep into ordering books for the fall. Of course, with all the books out there (see previous post), we can't carry everything, and knowing which ones to choose and which to pass on is one of the most difficult -- and often frustrating -- parts of this business.

One company that is making it particularly difficult this time around is the Alfred A Knopf imprint of Random House. For decades, of course, Knopf has been one of the most distinguished names in American publishing, first as an independent house and, since the 1960's, as a part of Random House when Alfred Knopf sold his company to his good friend Bennett Cerf. However, Knopf's upcoming fall list is one of the most remarkable I have seen from any publisher or imprint in quite awhile. Here is a partial list of the authors with books in the fall 2009 Knopf catalog (in more or less chronological order):

Kazuo Ishiguro
Karen Armstrong
Lorrie Moore
Anne Tyler
Kay Redfield Jamison
A S Byatt
Peter Mayle
Chinua Achebe
Anne Rice
Harold S Kushner
Orhan Pamuk
Richard Russo
Vladimir Nabokov
Alice Munro

And, again, that's just one imprint of one publisher. Word is, fall 2009 could be one of the true banner seasons in recent memory for new books.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

How Fast Can You Read?

Publishers, booksellers and readers may all be a bit short on funds at the moment, but writers evidently aren't short on inspiration. Earlier this month Bowker, the company that issues ISBN's in this country and publishes Books in Print, reported that, by its count, 560,626 new titles were published in the United States during 2008. That averages out to more than 1500 new books published every day.

More than the overall total, the most striking item in their report was that, for the first time ever, the number of books published using on-demand and short run technologies exceeded the number of titles published by the more "traditional" methods used before digital printing and the internet came along. In fact, the number of traditionally printed titles actually decreased, while number of titles produced with the newer technology increased by 132%. These new technologies are primarily used by self-published writers, though major publishers occasionally use them too for books with only marginal sales figures.

Meanwhile, at Accent on Books, we have the physical capacity to keep maybe 20,000 different titles on hand. Thus, by necessity, we do quite a bit of special ordering. So, if we don't have the specific title you're looking for, don't feel alone. There are millions of other books out there we don't carry, either. But we'll do everything we can to get it for you.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

BEA on Book TV

Do booksellers go junketeering? Of course we do -- when our schedules and funds allow for it. And for many US booksellers the Big Junket of the Year starts today in New York City: BookExpo America. Formerly known as the ABA (American Booksellers Association) Convention, this annual gathering is a time for booksellers from throughout the nation to network, exchange ideas, attend seminars, meet with publishers, attend parties and file into huge ballrooms to attend the Book & Author Breakfasts where eloquent and witty Famous Authors try to keep convention goers awake until the servers manage to get coffee to their tables.

Actually BEA is quite an event that everyone in this business should probably attend at least once. Personally speaking, although there's lots of glitz and excitement, I found it hard to get any actual work done; but maybe that's what defines it as a junket.

For those of us who are either glad or disappointed not to be there -- and for booklovers in general -- C-Span's Book TV channel is coming to the rescue this weekend. Book TV will be present for many of the events including the above mentioned breakfasts, where the speakers will include Pat Conroy, Tracy Kidder, Richard Russo and Pete Dexter. The schedule can be found at Book TV's website, although, as always with C-Span, it's subject to change.

So I can attend the Book and Author Breakfasts, and have my own coffee available before it even begins. Neat!

UPDATE: It now appears that Pat Conroy will not be attending BEA. His doctor has recommended that Conroy not travel, following "unexpected surgery."

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A New Book Group!

Accent on Books has always had a large number of customers who were members of various book groups, and we've always offered a 15% discount on book group purchases. Now, we're starting a group of our own. If you are interested in being a part of it, here's the information on our first meeting:

Accent on Books Book Group (maybe we can come up with a better name)
Organizational Meeting
Wednesday, June 3, 3:00 PM
At Accent on Books

If you can't make it to that meeting but would like to participate, or if you want further information, let us know at 828-252-6255, or info@accentonbooks.com.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Technical Problems

Late last week, the operating system on my laptop went to that Great Recycling Bin In The Sky From Whence There Is No Return. The reason for its sudden departure is unknown, but a nice if expensive technical support person at Dell helped me reinstall Windows Vista on this contraption, so hopefully it will stay around for awhile.

At any rate, that curtailed my abilities to add further offerings of edification, illumination and wit to Page 854, but soon we should be up and running again.

In the meantime, Happy Memorial Day, and my thanks and best wishes to all members of the Armed Forces, past and present.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Congratulations, Vicki!

We've just received word -- from the author herself! -- that In a Dark Season, the latest novel by Vicki Lane, has been nominated for an Anthony Award for Best Paperback Original mystery. As many of you know, Vicki is an author here in Western North Carolina (and a great friend of Accent on Books) whose mystery series featuring Elizabeth Goodweather includes local settings and lots of mountain history and lore. In a Dark Season is the fourth and most recent novel in the series.

Along with the Edgar Awards, the Anthony Awards are probably the most prestigious in the American mystery book community. They are named after Anthony Boucheron, one of the founders of the Mystery Writers of America, and the winners are announced each year at the gathering of mystery writers and fans known as Bouchercon. This year's Bouchercon will be held in October in Indianapolis, and we'll keep our fingers crossed that Vicki will be the deserving winner in her category.

More about Bouchercon and the Anthony Awards can be found here. And you may want to click on over to Vicki's website to congratulate her.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Friday, 5/22, at Accent on Books: Jerry Stubblefield

Asheville writer Jerry Stubblefield is perhaps best known as a playwright. For almost two decades he lived and worked in New York and had plays produced off-Broadway, off-off-Broadway and in regional theatres.

Now Jerry has a new novel out from Black Heron Press, and, judging from early reviews, he's proving to be every bit as talented a novelist as a playwright. The novel is called Homunculus, and it's a science fiction/psychological novel about a writer who literally produces his own double -- the title character, who represents and acts on the writer's deepest desires, but good and not-so-good. On one level an sf/horror tale, on another it's a meditation on those parts of our psyche we'd rather not acknowledge, and what happens when they finally insist we take ownership of them.

Accent on Books will hold a reception honoring Jerry Stubblefield this coming Friday, beginning at 6:00 PM. Join us as Jerry reads from and signs copies of his book. You and your own homunculus should thoroughly enjoy it.

Jerry Stubblefield's website is here.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

New Arrivals: Catholic Thinkers, Protest Singers and a 12-Year-Old Genius

A few of the new titles recently received at Accent on Books:

Practicing Catholic, by James Carroll. Both a spiritual memoir and an examination of his church by one of Catholicism's most prominent and outspoken observers. Novelist, historian and former priest, Carroll has a unique and important perspective on the religious tradition that he still admires and of which he is still very much a part, despite its many difficulties.

The Winner Stands Alone, by Paulo Coelho. Something a bit different from the author of The Alchemist, whose new novel takes place over a period of twenty-four hours during the Cannes Film Festival. Coelho's usual themes of true wealth and the search for what really matters are set against the human desire for power and glamour.

The Selected Works of T. S. Spivet, by Reif Larsen. This unusual and audacious novel received a lot of pre-publication buzz, and it's easy to see why. The title character is a precocious twelve-year-old cartographer who travels from his home in Montana to the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, to accept an award. The resulting book is his first-person chronicle of his journey, along with his illustrations, charts, maps, doodles, you name it. There's a rich imagination at work here.

The Protest Singer, by Alec Wilkinson. Pete Seeger turned ninety earlier this month, and "New Yorker" writer Wilkinson has produced a brief, impressionistic and moving celebration of this American icon. There are lots of great photographs, including one on the back cover of Seeger with his banjo, around the edge of which are the following words: "This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender."

Sunnyside, by Glen David Gold. Eight years ago, Glen David Gold had a big hit with his debut novel, Carter Beats the Devil, and his new work should only enhance his reputation. Sunnyside is a rich, multi-faceted, absorbing novel about life in early twentieth-century America. Charlie Chaplin is the central figure, but a large cast of characters, both real and imaginary, intersect in a complex tableau that gives an all-encompassing view of this fascinating time in American history.

A Book, by Mordecai Gerstein. Once there was a family who lived in a book, and they all had a story except for the daughter, who sets out with a goose to find hers. And what develops from that point is one of the most delightful and imaginative picture books of the year so far. It's hard to explain -- you've just got to see it. Suitable for preschoolers on up.