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

Monday, January 07, 2013

A Mish-Mash, Hodge-Podge of Books and News

 I've been saving items of interest from Shelf Awareness, and though I've not been able to post a review for awhile (holidays, Crohns and inertia, are the top three reasons why), I figured I'd better start putting these on the blog before they all go stale.
Here's some excellent excerpts from a book for kids that sounds like one of those books full of wisdom that adults would enjoy as well:
The result is Big Questions from Little People & Simple Answers from Great Minds (public library), one of the best children's books of 2012 – a compendium of fascinating explanations of deceptively simple everyday phenomena, featuring such modern-day icons as Mary Roach, Noam Chomsky, Philip Pullman, Richard Dawkins, and many more, with a good chunk of the proceeds being donated to Save the Children, and also one of the best science books of 2012.

Most of the time, you feel in charge of your own mind. You want to play with some Lego? Your brain is there to make it happen. You fancy reading a book? You can put the letters together and watch characters emerge in your imagination.
But at night, strange stuff happens. While you’re in bed, your mind puts on the weirdest, most amazing and sometimes scariest shows. … In the olden days, people believed that our dreams were full of clues about the future. Nowadays, we tend to think that dreams are a way for the mind to rearrange and tidy itself up after the activities of the day. … Dreams show us that we’re not quite the bosses of our own selves.

My favorite answers are to the all-engulfing question, How do we fall in love? Author Jeanette Winterson offers this breathlessly poetic response:

You don't fall in love like you fall in a hole. You fall like falling through space. It’s like you jump off your own private planet to visit someone else’s planet. And when you get there it all looks different: the flowers, the animals, the colours people wear. It is a big surprise falling in love because you thought you had everything just right on your own planet, and that was true, in a way, but then somebody signalled to you across space and the only way you could visit was to take a giant jump. Away you go, falling into someone else’s orbit and after a while you might decide to pull your two planets together and call it home. And you can bring your dog. Or your cat. Your goldfish, hamster, collection of stones, all your odd socks. (The ones you lost, including the holes, are on the new planet you found.)
And you can bring your friends to visit. And read your favourite stories to each other. And the falling was really the big jump that you had to make to be with someone you don’t want to be without. That’s it.
PS You have to be brave.
I really want to read this book, which sounds incredible.
Vanity Fare: A Novel of Lattes, Literature, and Love
by Megan Caldwell
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Molly Hagan, the protagonist of Megan Caldwell's Vanity Fare, is a 40-year-old single mother who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. She suffers the sting of a husband who left her for a younger woman; a traumatized six-year-old son who asks too many questions and is begging for an exotic pet; a mother whose finances have collapsed and who now has nowhere to live; and well-meaning friends and a shrink who pressure Molly to make changes in her life. Molly's troubles grow even deeper when she learns that she's penniless and can't even pay the rent.
When an old friend offers Molly a copywriting job at a new bakery, Molly jumps at the chance for employment. The venue is located near the New York Public Library, and the owner wants to make the bakery "a destination point." Inspired by the challenge, Molly comes up with a "literary-food-is-delicious" schematic for what she envisions will become "Vanity Fare." In the midst of pulling together her presentation, Molly suddenly finds herself being wooed by both the sexy British pastry chef with an "upper-crust, devil-may-care Hugh Grant accent" and his aloof business partner (who becomes more emotionally attractive as he forms a bond with Molly's son).
Each chapter commences with blurbs that cleverly pair literary references and puns with bakery offerings, such as "Much Ado about Muffins," "A Room of One's Scone" and "Catcher in the Rye Bread." Caldwell has whipped up a delicious, well-plotted romance where a smart, self-deprecating heroine conquers real-world issues with good humor. --Kathleen Gerard, blogger at Reading Between the Lines
Discover: A copywriting job for a new bakery sweetens the life of a struggling single mother in this delicious romance.

After watching the season 3 premier of Downton Abbey last night (and loving every minute of it) I was glad of this tidbit about one of my favorite comedy authors, PG Wodehouse:

Wodehouse TV: Blandings & An Innocent Abroad

BBC1 may be looking "to steal Downton [Abbey] ratings with two helpings
of P.G. Wodehouse," according to the Guardian, which reported that
"offering a humorous glimpse of aristocratic life, may clean up." The
six-part series, which stars Jack Farthing, Jennifer Saunders, Timothy
Spall, David Walliams and Mark Williams, is "based on Wodehouse's
much-loved accounts of the fictional life and times of Blanding Castle's
9th earl" and "will follow the fortunes of the amiable, befuddled
Emsworth, played by Timothy Spall, and his beloved pig, Empress."

A Wodehouse-lovers "golden year" may be underway, since in March the
"darker side" of the author's legacy is being be explored on BBC1's An
Innocent Abroad, "which will re-examine the controversial period that
the author spent in Nazi Germany," the Guardian wrote. Tim Pigott-Smith
portrays Wodehouse in this project.

This also looks like a book I would love to read:

White Truffles in Winter: A Novel by N.M. Kelby (Norton, $15.95,
9780393343588). "This richly layered novel is based on the life of
legendary chef Auguste Escoffier, who popularized French cooking methods
at his restaurants at the Savoy and the Ritz at the beginning of the
20th century. Escoffier's love for two women--the beautiful, iconic
actress Sarah Bernhardt and his lovely, poetess wife, Delphine
Daffis--is at the heart of this complex tale. The characters are vivid
and the food--oh, the food--is delicious!" --Erica Caldwell, Present
Tense, Batavia, N.Y.

Interesting how much these books sold for, especially considering some of them are foreign language books:
AbeBooks' Most Expensive Sales in 2012
An inscribed first edition of Ian Fleming's Casino Royale, which sold
for more than $46,000, was narrowly beaten by a 1603 celestial atlas
($47,729) on AbeBooks annual list of most expensive sales
Also showcased on the website are the most expensive sales in science,
mathematics, children's and YA, art, photography, poetry, maps and
atlases, ephemera, travel and exploration, medical, science fiction and
fantasy, and books written by world leaders.

The Most Expensive Sales in 2012:

1) Uranometria, Omnium Asterismorum Continens Schemata, Nova Methodo
Delineata, Sereis Laminis Expressa by Johann Bayer ($47,729)
2) Casino Royale by Ian Fleming ($46,453)
3) Die Verwandlung (The Metamorphosis) by Franz Kafka ($30,000)
4) A Latin Bible from 1491 ($26,200)
5) Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak ($25,000)
6) Little Women by Louisa May Alcott ($25,000)
7) A Polyglot Bible from 1599-1602, edited by Elisa Hutter ($25,000)
8) Livre d'Heures (Book of Hours) ($24,680)
9) Cosmographia by Petrus Apianus ($23,681)
10) Les Ruines de les Splus Beaux Monuments de la Grece by Julien David
Le Roy ($23,530)

Another book that sounds fascinating!
Review: The Painted Girls

Images of belle epoque Paris are burned in our minds from the works of
its renowned painters. Cathy Marie Buchanan's The Painted Girls explores
the internal world beyond the canvas, from the point of view of the
teenage student dancer who modeled for Edgar Degas's sculpture The
Little Dancer, Age Fourteen. Loosely inspired by the true story of the
impoverished van Goethem sisters of Montmartre, Buchanan's story follows
Marie, a struggling ballet dancer, and her warm-hearted older sister,
Antoinette, as they battle what seems an inevitable fate of destitution
and despair.

When their father dies, leaving only their depressed and alcoholic
mother to care for them, threatened with impending eviction and
starvation, the van Goethem sisters face the challenge of simple
survival. It is with the hope of earning enough money for food and
shelter that Marie enrolls in dancing school, becoming one of the "petit
rats"--desperate girls working to learn the discipline of ballet in the
hope of a stage career and a better life for their families. Every girl
cherishes the dream of outshining the others, and attracting the
patronage of the abonnés--wealthy men with a particular interest
in dancers. First, though, Marie attracts the attention of Degas, who
asks her to model for him in a partnership that will eventually lead to
a sculpture that, in its bronze reproductions, has been exhibited all
over the world.

From the daily routines at the barre to the obstacles of a dancer's
life, Buchanan describes the world of 19th-century Parisian ballet in
meticulous detail. The immediate threat of poverty is also vivid, giving
readers a constant awareness that Marie and her family are on the verge
of being cast out in the streets. Rather than romanticizing ballet, The
Painted Girls underscores the grim need that fuels the dancers, raw
emotion that found its way into the works of Degas in violent slashes of

What may be most remarkable in the novel, however, are the relationships
between women. In most novels about competition between women, the
characters end up bitterly at odds; yet here the most devoted
friendships are between the female characters--Marie and her schoolmate
Blanche; Antoinette and the beautiful prostitute Colette. And the heart
of the novel is the love between the two sisters, which forms the
bedrock of their lives--and will become, in a convergence of tragic
events, what is ultimately most at stake. --Ilana Teitelbaum