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.