Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Friday, 5/28, at Accent on Books: Carrie Wagner

In 1991, Bob and Carrie Wagner began a life-changing journey: a three-year mission in Uganda on behalf of Habitat for Humanity International. Settling in the village of Ibanda, they began working with the local residents to build safe, high quality housing. As often happens in such situations those three years were transformative on both sides -- the "outsiders" as much as the community they came to serve. When the Wagners reluctantly left after their three years were up, their view of the world was completely different.

Fifteen years later, they returned to Ibanda, and that trip, as well as the original experience, is the basis of Carrie's beautiful new book, Village Wisdom. Carrie Wagner will be at Accent on Books this coming Friday beginning at 6:00 PM.

Carrie is a photographer as well as a writer, and her book is as magnificent to look at as it is moving to read. There is a wonderful immediacy to the letters and journal entries she wrote while she was there, and they provide a fascinating perspective when combined with her account of her return journey in 2009.

We hope you'll be able to join us this coming Friday to hear Carrie's unique and important story. More about Village Wisdom can be found at this website.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

What's That Strange Clacking Sound?

Last week a customer leaned her head into the back room and said facetiously, "What's that strange noise? I could hear it all the way at the front of the store." She was referring to the sound of me pecking away on our loyal store typewriter. Yes, we still have -- and still use -- one of those antique instruments which have almost vanished from the scene thanks to the ubiquity of computers.

Skye Ferrante would probably appreciate that. The New York-based writer still uses a 1929 Royal typewriter to produce his children's books. Problem is, that productive clacking noise is no longer welcome amongst the silent laptops in the Writers Room in Greenwich Village. According to the New York Daily News Ferrante returned to the room recently after an eight months absence and was presented with an ultimatum: give up the typewriter or abandon his cubicle (for which he pays $1400 a year). For Ferrante it wasn't a difficult decision: the Writers Room will see him no more. "I just wish there were some typists out there that would back me up," said Ferrante, "but I don't know of any."

Well, Skye, we may be a bit far away to be of any help, but just so you know: we've got your back.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

"Poetry is a weapon, bloodsoaked and glinting."

Over in England the competition for the post of Oxford Professor of Poetry is well under way. This prestigious position, a five-year appointment with an annual stipend of 7000 pounds, has attracted a wide range of candidates from the well-known poet Geoffrey Hill to the journalist Stephen Moss, who, though he describes his own poetry as "execrable," has promised to buy a drink for everyone who votes for him (certainly enough to get my vote).

And then there is the Sanskrit scholar Vaughan Pilikian. While he may not have the qualifications of someone like Hill, his statement in support of his candidacy may be the most florid, passionate and melodramatic of them all, enough to send the tweedy dons scurrying to the nearest exit. He declares, in part:

"Without wishing to take anything from the professorship's venerable past, the time has surely come to douse the fluttering flames of our traditions and step out into the dark. My aim in this august office will be to pull poetry from the drawing rooms and the garrets and the palaces, and send it forth. For poetry is a weapon, bloodsoaked and glinting. It is a gnostic heresy, a counterattack on all that holds us captive, a challenge to the cruel symmetries and stifled laughter of the Demiurge. It is only through poetry that we might revenge ourselves on time."

Who says poetry doesn't matter?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Saturday, 5/15, at Accent on Books: Ed Neilsen

"The Vietnam War was one of the most divisive events in American history. It tore apart country, family and friends....The goal of this volume is not to resurrect those debates, but rather to offer a forum to those in uniform who participated. However you feel about the debate, the efforts and sacrifices of our servicemen must be acknowledged."

The above passage is from the Introduction to Warriors, by Hendersonville author Ed Nielsen, who will be at Accent on Books this coming Saturday at 3:00 to talk about his book.

Nielsen, a career employee of the Defense Department, interviewed a number of vets from all different branches of the service about their experiences in Vietnam, and the recollections of nine of them make up the substance of his book. Army, Navy and Marine, they recall the harrowing, frustrating and at times even humorous experiences which comprised day-to-day life "in country." It's a witness that all of us, no matter how we might feel about the politics of that conflict, need to listen to and remember.

Saturday is Armed Forces Day, and we hope you will be able to join Ed Nielsen at the store to remember, to reflect and to pay tribute to those who have served.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Read, Read! Tweet, Tweet!

A growing literary phenomenon of the last decade or so is the program where people from a given geographical area all read the same book and then get together to discuss it. (Rob Neufeld, for example, has developed the "Together We Read" project here in Western North Carolina.)

Now someone has taken this a step further, using the power of online social networking. Jeff Howe, author of Crowdsourcing and a contributing editor at "Wired" magazine, has come up with "One Book, One Twitter," a plan to get everyone on the worldwide social network discussing the same book. After announcing the project, Howe arranged a vote for which book to read, and the winner was Neil Gaiman's bestselling and acclaimed fantasy, American Gods. While Gaiman himself fully supports the project, he is actually somewhat ambivalent about the choice, since he considers American Gods to be one of his more "divisive" books. Nonetheless, he has promised to help out by "sending helpful or apologetic tweets to people who are stuck, offended, or very, very confused."

Since, at last count, Twitter had about 100 million registered users, this has the potential to be a very large "book club" indeed, even if only a tiny fraction of Twitter folk participate. The discussion began yesterday, and if you would like to follow along, simply go to Twitter's home page and enter "1b1t" (without quotation marks) in the Search box. You don't have to be registered with Twitter to view the discussion, though you do have to be registered to participate yourself.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Reading Month of May

Is the warm weather here to stay? Is it safe to look back at the wackiest winter in many a year as a thing now past? Will we soon start whining about how hot it is? (For myself, I can answer that last question with a definite "yes.")

Life may in general be slowing down to summer speed but the new titles continue to roll into Accent on Books. May is a busy month in that regard with a number of new books going on sale today. Here are some of them:

Innocent, by Scott Turow. More that twenty years after his classic, Presumed Innocent, Turow returns to the world of Rusty Sabich, who faces new threats and challenges after his wife is found dead. (By the way, we have signed copies of this book in stock.)

The Last Stand, by Nathaniel Philbrick. Through chronicles such as Mayflower and In the Heart of the Sea Philbrick has shown himself to be an historian who combines strong scholarship with vivid storytelling. Here, his subject is the Battle of the Little Bighorn, and its effects not only on its direct participants, but on the country as a whole.

This Body of Death, by Elizabeth George. A newly widowed Inspector Lynley returns to Scotland Yard to investigate a London murder that may be connected to a strange area of southern England known as New Forest. Vintage Elizabeth George.

I'll Mature When I'm Dead, by Dave Barry. One of America's foremost humorists is still remarkably childish and, really, would we have him any other way? Topics here include being a dad, being a (relatively minor) celebrity, and a certain medical procedure beginning with a "c" and sharing part of its name with the next punctuation mark in this sentence: yeah, that one.

And a few of the titles due to be published later on this month:

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, by Stieg Larsson. The final volume in Larsson's remarkable trilogy finds Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomqvist trying to clear Lisbeth from triple murder charges.

Nomad, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. The author of the bestselling Infidel here continues her story as she begins a new life in the United States after her time underground, and reconnects with her family back home.

War, by Sebastian Junger. With the spellbinding style that made The Perfect Storm so compelling, Junger here recounts his experiences with a combat platoon in Afghanistan during their 15-month tour of duty.

Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer, by John Grisham. The king of the legal thrillers writes his first novel for young people, about a 13-year-old who finds himself dangerously involved in a high stakes murder trial.

And June promises new offerings from, among others, Sharyn McCrumb, Christopher Hitchens and Janet Evanovich. Never a dull moment here at Your Favorite Bookstore.