Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Lost Art Of Mixing and Queen Anne Books Reopens

I've been a fan of Erica Bauermeister since reading the wonderful "School of Essential Ingredients" and then meeting Erica at the Seattle Book Festival soon after. She's a warm, kind and lovely person, in addition to being a brilliant writer, and she's launching her sequel to "School" tomorrow, "The Lost Art of Mixing" at Elliott Bay Books on Capitol Hill in Seattle. I would love to go to the launch, but may not be able to make it due to time and monetary constraints (as in not having enough of either at the moment). Still, I've interviewed Erica twice for various publications, and I was thrilled to see her thoughts on books and writing in today's Shelf Awareness e-newsletter.

Book Brahmin: Erica Bauermeister

Erica Bauermeister discovered what
she wanted to write in college, when she read Tillie Olsen's I Stand
Here Ironing: novels that took the "unimportant" things in life and
turned them into art. She also realized she wasn't mature enough to
write them yet. Her first novel, The School of Essential Ingredients,
was published two months before her 50th birthday, which she thinks was
plenty long to wait. Since then, she has written two more novels, Joy
for Beginners and The Lost Art of Mixing, a sequel to her first novel
(Putnam, January 24, 2013).

On your nightstand now:

My husband and I built an alcove for the head of our bed with
bookshelves running up the sides, so I sleep surrounded by words. Right
now on the closest shelf I have Diane Ackerman's A Natural History of
the Senses, Michael Perry's Population: 485 and Alice Hoffman's
Blackbird House.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes by Dubose Heyward.
Deliciously subversive material to give to a young girl. The only thing
better was that my mother, herself a parent of many children, read it to

Your top five authors:

I'd go for five most influential--E.M. Forster, Toni Morrison, Diane
Ackerman, Joanne Harris, Donald Hall. Okay, and Jane Austen, but I think
that's a given.

Book you've faked reading:

Well, I've faked liking a few--Henry James was an altar I could never
worship at, but I pretended a polite interest. He got his revenge,
though; when we received our first copy of 500 Great Books by Women, my
co-authors and I opened the cover and found the printer had put it on
The Golden Bowl by mistake.

Book you're an evangelist for:

The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker. A fairy tale-like
story, translated exquisitely into English. I was browsing in a little
bookstore in Winthrop, Wash., and I swear it leapt into my hands.

Book you've bought for the cover:

This might sound completely self-serving, but my favorite cover is the
Italian version of The School of Essential Ingredients. A dark, almost
black background with a gorgeous pair of hands poised over a bowl. I
learned later they were my editor's hands--which says something about
the beauty of Italian women.

Book that changed your life:

I remember when Toni Morrison's Beloved was published. It was a stunning
lesson in how style can embody message--and in how even established
authors can grow and change. 

Favorite line from a book:

"We came on the wind of the carnival." --from Chocolat by Joanne Harris.
Anything can happen when you start a book like that.

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

I recently read Aimee Bender's The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake on a
long airplane ride. The combination of quirkiness and compassion was so
perfectly balanced. I remember wishing someone could wipe my memory and
simply allow me to start the story over again.

What's with all the food in your writing?

My goal is to make readers slow down and pay attention to the subliminal
things that are shaping their lives. There were so many I could
choose--music, color, architecture, smells--but when you can write about
the scent of truffles or the slow braising of endive, why resist?

The saga of Queen Anne Bookstore closing and reopening has been an emotional roller coaster for those of us who love books and hate to see a bookstore closing. Here's some of it from Shelf Awareness.
Queen Anne Books Reopening in February

Good news in Seattle! Queen Anne Books, which abruptly closed at the end
of October, is reopening in late February in its old space with new
owners, some of the old staff, new inventory and a slightly new name:
Queen Anne Book Company.

The new owners are Judy and Krijn de Jonge and Janis Segress. Krijn de
Jonge is a longtime Boeing executive and will be a silent partner. Judy
de Jonge will work in the store. The de Jonges have lived in Seattle's
Queen Anne neighborhood for many years and are, they said, "personally
vested in maintaining a vital literary culture for their community."

Janis Segress will be the store's manager and until December 31 was head
buyer at Eagle Harbor Book Company on Bainbridge Island for the past
seven years. Among returning Queen Anne Books staff are Anne Wyckoff,
Mara Fitch, Tegan Tigani and Wendee Wieking.

Queen Anne Book Company intends "to continue the book business both in
its traditional and changing forms: the selling of paper and ink books
plus e-readers and e-books." The store will offer monthly book groups,
new book release parties, a frequent buyer award program, personalized
book buying assistance and local and national author events. As the
owners put it: "All the wonderful facets of the old Queen Anne Books
will carry over. The new Queen Anne Book Company will combine these
facets with new ideas to result in a successful and long-term bookstore
for its Queen Anne community."

Founded in 1988, Queen Anne Books was sold last spring by longtime owner
Patti McCall (Cindy Mitchell was her co-owner for a while) to Katharine
Hershey, an attorney and former King County Superior Court commissioner.
At the time, Hershey said the purchase fulfilled "a lifelong dream" of
owning a bookstore. Apparently the dream became a nightmare: in the
fall, she put the store up for sale, then closed it on October 31,
saying she still hoped to find a buyer. The closing was widely lamented
in the Queen Anne community.

Queen Anne Books won the WNBA's Pannell Award in the general bookstore
category in 2011.
More about the Queen Anne Book Company, Seattle, Wash., which opens next
the the location Queen Anne Books had before it abruptly closed last

According to Queen Anne News
in the weeks after Queen Anne Books's closing, landlord Louis Ravenet
was approached separately by Judy and Krijn de Jonge and Janis Segress
about re-opening the store. Ravenet introduced the de Jonges to
Segress--the trio hit it off and worked with Ravenet to create Queen
Anne Book Company from scratch.

New owners of Queen Anne Book Co.: (l.-r.) Janis Segress, Judy and Krijn
de Jonge.
Photo by Mike Dillon
Ravenet himself considered buying Queen Anne Books but backed away early
on. For their part, the de Jonges and Segress didn't buy Queen Anne
Books because owner Katharine Hershey "asked too much for her shuttered

Segress, who resigned as head book buyer at Eagle Harbor Book Company at
the end of December, told Queen Anne News, "It's always been a dream to
own a bookstore." For her part, Judy de Jonge, who has been out of the
workforce since her first baby was born in 1986, said, "An extraordinary
thing going for Queen Anne Book Company is its standing and tradition.
Indies are coming back. We have experienced staff. We've got a literate
community. We will stay current with technology."

The new owners plan a "spectacular" opening day.

 This really is a GREAT idea!

Cool Idea of the Day: The Free Book Incident

From January 10 to mid-February, Wessel & Lieberman Booksellers
Olson Kundig Architects
partnering for The Free Book Incident
"a month-long experiment and celebration of books and community
in Seattle, as the bookstore's co-owner Michael Lieberman described the
project in his blog at the Post-Intelligencer. W&L is donating the books
and Olson Kundig providing the space, "which will include a three-way
kinetic bookshelf with pivoting sections that will activate a multitude
of spaces--nooks, stages, long tables, etc."

"Our goal was to create an engaging environment that promotes access to
books and allows visitors to interact with them in surprising ways,"
said intern architect and installation co-curator Adam Monkaba.

Lieberman noted that for W&L, "the books became 'unwanted' due to the
tectonic shift in the book trade since the advent of online bookselling.
Books that used to retail for $15-40 are no longer fit for the
marketplace.... We reached our tipping point. There is more value in
releasing the books into our community then there is in offering them
for sale."

"It didn't pay anymore for us to pursue to sell them; it didn't pay for
us to keep them," he told Real Change
the most creative way we could find to distribute them."

I have always loved Bertie and Jeeves and PG Wodehouse's stories of his early years in the Theater. He's the quintessential British wit, and I find this brand of humor to be my favorite.
Review: P.G. Wodehouse: A Life in Letters
If you haven't read Robert McCrum's masterful 2004 biography of the
British comic novelist P.G. Wodehouse, Sophie Ratcliffe's selection from
Wodehouse's correspondence will serve quite well until you can get your
hands on a copy. While quoting generously from Wodehouse's letters,
Ratcliffe also provides interstitial chapters that flesh out his life
story--not just contextualizing the letters but helping readers to
understand her subject's tragic emotional arc.

Though he's best remembered for his comedy--even people who've never
read a word of Wodehouse recognize "Jeeves" as shorthand for a clever
butler--in his own lifetime, the author faced severe disapproval for his
actions during World War II. Trapped in France when the Nazis invaded,
Wodehouse recorded a series of radio monologues in 1941 making light of
his imprisonment behind enemy lines. He'd meant to reassure American
fans that he was all right, but he soon realized his misstep. "I can
now, of course, see that this was an insane thing to do," he assured the
British Foreign Office a year later, "and I regret it sincerely." After
the war, he struggled with how (or whether) he should address the
subject in his writing: "It seems to me that anything would be better
than groveling," he writes of one ultimately shelved attempt. "I would
much rather be thought a Benedict Arnold than a Uriah Heep."

Thankfully, Ratcliffe has no shortage of much happier correspondence on
which to draw. Wodehouse always had a keen mind for the business of
writing; as early as 1914, he was raising the issue of whether a motion
picture based on one of his stories would invoke the theatrical
adaptation clause in his contract. He also knew exactly what he was up
to artistically: "Of course my stuff has been out of date since 1914,"
he jokes to a friend about a frequent criticism of his work. "If only
these blighters would realized that I started writing about Bertie
Wooster and comic Earls because I was in America... and the only English
characters the American public would read about were exaggerated dudes.
It's as simple as that."

P.G. Wodehouse: A Life in Letters is a sure treat for anyone who's
laughed their way through Uncle Fred in the Springtime or Joy in the
Morning and wanted to know more about the man behind them. The rest of
you lot are strongly encouraged to join us. --Ron Hogan 

Finally, a great quote that rings true, from all the bookstore people I have known over the past 47 years.

"I think customers would be shocked to really get to know the
booksellers who work in independent bookstores. They are some of the
most creative, interesting people on the planet. In addition to
bookselling, they are writing a book or studying cello or going to
cooking school or getting a masters in health or doing their art or
starting a side business or going to college or trying to write a novel
in 30 days or working on their bucket list or saving for a trip around
the world or opening a restaurant or working as a film makeup artist and
so on and so forth. They may look like retail clerks to some, but the
booksellers I know are superheroes."

--Allison Hill, COO of Vroman's Bookstore

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