“Manual of Detection” reading in Portsmouth.

Via FoC Michele at Reading is Breathing comes this welcome news:

The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry

Tuesday, March 10, 2009 – 7:00pm

RiverRun Bookstore and The Red Door present Jedediah Berry reading from The Manual of Detection

Join RiverRun at The Red Door (107 State Street in Portsmouth) for our new literary series featuring some of today’s best contemporary writers. Enjoy a drink at the martini bar while listening to an imaginative novelist read from his debut novel.

“Berry’s ambitious debut reverberates with echoes of Kafka and Paul Auster….This cerebral novel, with its sly winks at traditional whodunits and inspired portrait of the bureaucratic and paranoid Agency, will appeal to mystery readers and non-genre fans alike.”

─ Publishers Weekly

“In his first novel, Berry has created a wonderful and fantastic world, a vintage mystery seen through a hall of fun-house mirrors….”

─Kirkus Reviews

A night out, with other grown-ups, a frosty beverage and a reading: now that’s a wonderful and fantastic Kafkaesque idea.


Matthew Cheney killed a bookstore in Reno, just to watch it die.

Matthew Cheney stands on a dusty street at high noon and sends that bookstore straight to Hell.  not_matt_cheney

I can relate, to some degree, Matt’s predicament – no independent bookstores within a manageable drive, computer at hand, click-click, there it is in the mailbox.  I’m fortunate enough to have a few good stores less than an hour’s drive away, and yet still use the internet to buy a lot of my books.  However, it’s Powell’s Books, every time.  

I should be ordering through the local stores’ websites.  Why don’t I?  Various inadequate reasons – I get free shipping through Powell’s, I don’t have to make a trip into the city to pick up the book, I think somehow that throwing in with a “bigger” independent bookstore (but not too big) is going to keep them going when the smaller fish get swallowed.  The shame, it radiates all through my abdomen.  

The thing is, though, that Matt and I aren’t the common book buyer – we’ve come to this point through years of exposure to smaller presses, lesser-known authors, and the internet calling attention to books that might otherwise slip beneath the waves without a sound.  And independent bookstores:

When I was in the NY metro area, I tended to shop at independent bookstores when I bought new books —St. Mark’sShakespeare & Co, and McNally Robinson (now McNally Jackson) were my favorites. I shopped there because I would find things at those stores that I wouldn’t have known about if I hadn’t gone in. I use the internet to buy books I already know about; I use bookstores to make discoveries.

Exactly – these smaller bookstores have people like this, who breathe books.  They love what the love and they push those books on people who come in looking for a book to love.  At Borders, you get books pushed on you by Stu Crappenbock (not his/her actual name), who is more concerned about the bottom line than about finding great new books.  Stu’s going to keep feeding you cotton candy, because he knows that you’ll keep eating it.  After all, everyone else is.  I could go to Borders and come out with Report on Myself – but that’s because I know about it through the internet and my book-loving friends, because books are my crack pipe.  Most people don’t stare at the computer screen, waiting for it to reveal a new book to love.  Most people rely on the bookstore.  And Borders is going to be shoving vampire books down your throat long after you’re stuffed – until the next “big thing” comes along.  

This is kind of rambling, but I suppose the point here is that I, and you, and your friends, we should keep in mind that we’re uniquely positioned to find out about books and do something to bring them to the attention of others.  And we can do that by supporting the smaller bookstores – while they’re still around – that are positioned to introduce these books to the general population.  

So – market forces, the better bookstores win, etc., but do it for the readers!  Do it for the authors.  Homogeneity sucks.


  • An essay about Saramago and Death with Interruptions
  • Revealing the many fine New England-based lit journals
  • If you’re buying books for a penny through online superstores, you’re shooting yourself in the foot
  • of Maine reviews Synecdoche, New York
  • Get in early on The Northville Review
  • All the best bits from The New Yorker 2008 that you’ve already read, collected in one place
  • David Lynch’s fave films, filmmakers
  • For Christmas, got a nice Italian lit journal from the missus with stories and interviews with Haruki Murakami, Russell Banks, and others.  Very great.  After Christmas, I received review copies of Keith Lee Morris’ The Dart League King (which Maud rightly praised here) and an audiobook edition of The Elements of Style, which I think I publicly drooled over on these pages at some point.  I’ve only had time to listen to the introductions.  It makes me want to give Frank McCourt a hug.

“Obama’s Challenge” to indie booksellers.

You should go here to read the whole article, but I wanted to get some of the author’s key points on here for folks to consider.

This week, a hefty faction on the left–primarily independent booksellers (following Barnes and Noble’s lead)–is actively boycotting a brave attempt to bring the book-publishing industry into the 21st century, and effectively trying to keep a progressive, pro-Obama (and fact-based) title called Obama’s Challenge out of the marketplace of ideas…

The Obama’s Challenge 75,000 print-run is on a crash schedule, due out September 15, from the independent, activist publishing house Chelsea Green (full disclosure, I worked as an editor/marketer for the house from 2004-2006) in an effort to help fight the smears against Obama in time for the election. The book will go from final edits to bound books in less than four weeks. With so little lead time until the book’s publication date, Chelsea Green publisher Margo Baldwin decided to try an innovative approach for building early buzz by making 2000 early copies of the book available at next week’s Democratic National Convention, as part of a deal with Amazon’s print-on-demand arm, BookSurge…

When news of the deal broke on August 15th, independent booksellers and other online retailers were enraged about the deal with BookSurge, which has Amazon providing the 2000 early copies for the Convention, and 15,000 coupons for the book to go into Convention goody bags, redeemable at Amazon. The deal also makes the book available exclusively through BookSurge’s print-on-demand (POD) service from August 25-September 15, when the formal print-run would be available in all bookstores and via other online retailers, through traditional book distribution channels.

On Monday, former indie nemesis Barnes and Noble cancelled an order for 10,000 copies of Obama’s Challenge and released a statement saying, “The initial order was based on the book being available to all booksellers simultaneously — an even playing field — which is common practice in book publishing.” Many smaller stores are following suit…

I hate to tell you, indie booksellers, but this isn’t just about business. It’s about activism and defeating the right, and getting our messages and ideas out in the most effective ways possible. It’s about not shooting ourselves in the proverbial foot, again. A few thousand POD copies of Obama’s Challenge will lead to more people walking through your doors and asking for the book before the election. Boycotting this book is a mistake, and you know it. Instead of looking backward, find ways to advance your own innovative models and POD services with publishers and the public.

And Barnes and Noble? You’re not fooling anyone with your fake holier-than-thou act…

Again, read the whole thing here.  (Thanks to Maud Newton for pointing this out.)

Amazon wants to ruin everything for everyone.

Via Bud.  Read it all here.  Money quote:
According to The Bookseller.com Amazon is fighting with Hachette Livre to extract more discounts from the publisher and has REMOVED THE BUY BUTTON from their titles on the site (this is, I understand, on the UK Website). Can you imagine walking into your favorite bookstore, picking up a title and heading to the cash register and being told “No. We won’t sell you that book. The publisher hasn’t given us a big enough discount.” I would walk out and never come back.
Never go back, my friends.
Hates books, people
Hates books, people