Bookstores Are Booming. Bookselling As a Second Career Is Too.

19 August 2017

From Publishers Weekly:

Life changes and people change—they redefine what success means to them,” observed bookstore consultant Donna Paz Kaufman of Paz & Associates. Since 1999, Paz Kaufman and her husband and business partner, Mark Kaufman, have organized training sessions for more than 550 new and prospective booksellers, a number of whom either transitioned out of highly lucrative careers or intend to do so. While their professional backgrounds vary, these booksellers have one thing in common: the skill sets they acquired in their previous careers have given them a running start as booksellers.

Jennifer Morrow first attended the Paz bookselling school in 2012 and then again in 2016, before opening Bards Alley in Vienna, Va., on July 15. The 1,300 sq. ft. store features a café and wine bar, as well as an outside patio. Morrow, who was previously a risk management consultant for the federal government, said that she decided to move into bookselling because her previous career was “a high-stress, 24/7 job.” She quit, first, to start a family, and then to become a bookseller. Although acknowledging that bookselling is not as profitable as government consulting, Morrow noted that there is a “trade-off between salary and benefits and investing in myself and my community.”

The skills she acquired as a risk management consultant have benefited her as a bookseller. “People skills come into play as much as business skills,” she said. “I have a lot of experience in finding the right people to build a team, and empowering [them]—delegating to achieve a common goal.”

The people skills that Bob Dobrow picked up during his tenure as a mathematics professor at Carleton College also helped him in his new career as a bookseller. Dobrow and his wife, Angel, opened Zenith Books on July 1 in Duluth, Minn. The shop is in a historic building with 1,500 sq. ft. of retail space and 20,000 titles, a mix of new and used books. “A professor has to take charge and manage a class, organize TAs, and juggle a lot of things at the same time,” Bob said. “When I’m in the store, [such] skills help a lot.” Angel, who was previously an accountant, “is in charge of accounting, the books, payroll,” Bob noted. “Everything that gives me a headache.” She set up the back office procedures for Zenith Books, which has two employees and will soon hire a third.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

While reading the OP, PG thought of the old saying, “A yacht is a hole in the water surrounded by wood into which you pour money.”


A check girl

19 August 2017

A check girl in peach-bloom Chinese pajamas came over to take my hat and disapprove of my clothes. She had eyes like strange sins.

Raymond Chandler


Even on a romantic holiday my thoughts turn to murrrder

19 August 2017

From The Guardian:

“My readers are probably going to kill me,” Val McDermid announces cheerfully when we discuss the ending of her latest novel. Her new Tony Hill and Carol Jordan book, Insidious Intent, is published on Thursday, and the reaction of fans to how she has chosen to end it will be interesting. “There’s a certain fear of being stoned in the street,” she chuckles.

We meet at the Theakston Old Peculier crime writing festival in Harrogate, where McDermid is practically royalty, and she has murder on her mind. This is not unusual, she says; quite frequently a pleasant weekend away will turn her thoughts to homicide. There was the time when she spotted a wedding party during a crime and mystery conference at her old college, St Hilda’s, Oxford, “and by the end of the afternoon it seemed to me that the logical thing that was going to have to happen was that the bridegroom would be dead by bedtime. And by the end of the weekend I had the basic shape of the story in my head.”

. . . .

If the hypothesis is correct that sales of crime writing soar during troubled political times, then the genre must be thriving. But McDermid thinks it’s not so simple. “I can’t actually think of a time in my adult life when we haven’t been living in troubled times,” she says. “I think what we have now is a greater perception of the troubled times around us, and that’s partly because of … the 24/7 news cycle.” The consolation of crime fiction for the reader, she suggests, is that “although terrible things happen, at the end there is some sort of resolution”. The value of crime fiction for the writer is slightly different: “People can read these books and be afraid but in a safe way … and that I suppose gives you the freedom to explore other things in the book … You can write about politics, you can write about relationships, you can write about landscape, you can write about whatever you want to write about and frame it in this shape.”

. . . .

Crime fiction has flourished since McDermid started writing it in the 1980s. “When I started out it was quite narrow in many respects,” she says. “Mostly in the UK what was being written was either village mysteries or police procedurals.” Having grown up in the 50s and 60s in Kirkcaldy, a former mining town on Scotland’s east coast, she didn’t see how she could translate her own experience into a crime novel a la Agatha Christie: “It’s not very much like St Mary Mead,” she observes. After university, she trained as a journalist, and worked for 14 years on national newspapers, eventually becoming the northern bureau chief of a Sunday tabloid. Her first novel, Report for Murder, was published in 1987 by the Women’s Press.

Link to the rest at The Guardian Here’s a link to Val McDermid’s books.



A New Type of Library in a Once-Abandoned Colorado Ranch

19 August 2017

From The National Trust for Historic Preservation:

Along the banks of the South Platte River in Colorado, against the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, an idea is beginning to take shape. It’s a live-in library, a place where books and nature and history come together, and where writers, researchers, and anyone else can bring a suitcase and stay awhile.

It’s called the Rocky Mountain Land Library, and it’s the vision of Jeff Lee and Ann Martin, two longtime employees at the Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver.

It’s an idea that’s been decades in the making, after Lee and Martin traveled to the London Book Fair in the mid-1990s and took a weekend jaunt to Wales, where they stayed at what is now called Gladstone’s Library. It was a cross between a library and a dormitory, and provided them with a perfect jumping-off point for learning about the country they were visiting.

“We fell in love with the place,” Lee says. “And it really clicked. We thought wouldn’t it be great to have a nature library like that—to have a place where you’ve got this direct connection between the books and the subject. And Colorado is blessed with so many wonderful areas that could host a land library. So when we got back, we started a site search that took us across the state.”

Their search eventually took them to South Park, where they found Buffalo Peaks Ranch, an abandoned ranch 10 miles south of Fairplay, Colorado, and about 100 miles southwest of Denver.

“It’s a working landscape,” Lee says. “It’s exactly what we’re all about—recognizing that the relationship to the land isn’t just enjoying natural beauty, but also how people make a living on the land. How they use it. [This ranch] felt right to us.”

. . . .

For the past two summers, Lee and Martin have paired with HistoriCorps to complete some basic stabilization tasks, like repairing leaky roofs, rehabilitating windows, and repainting the ranch’s original bunkhouse, which will one day provide guest lodging.

Link to the rest at The National Trust for Historic Preservation and here’s a link to the Rocky Mountain Land Library. There are great photos of the plains of the American West and buildings typical of mid-century plains ranches at both websites.


The Science of Soft Serve

19 August 2017

PG doesn’t think he’s gone this far afield before. He won’t make it a habit.

However, many generations of PG’s have been giant fans of ice cream. Any kind of ice cream. Regular hard ice cream, soft serve, ice cream bars on a stick.

In a cone, in a cup, in a carton. In quantity.

It’s genetic. Like brilliance only colder.

From Smithsonian:

In England, they often call it Mr. Whippy. In parts of Europe, it’s known as American ice cream. Parts of Vermont refer to it as Creemee. But anywhere it’s eaten, people can tell you it tastes good.

Soft serve is a classic sweet treat that has been enjoyed since the 1940s. As anyone who has ever stopped by a Mister Softee can attest to, although it is definitely ice cream, it’s a bit different from what you might buy in a grocery store. There are several competing claims about who first invented soft serve–Tom Carvel, the Dairy Queen family and even Margaret Thatcher are all names that come up. But wherever it came from, here’s how it works:

In its purest form soft serve is basically just regular ice cream at a different point in its process, according to the University of Guelph. After the ice cream ingredients are mixed together, the university writes, a machine “both freezes a portion of the water and whips air into the frozen mixture.” Ice cream is between 30 and 60 per cent air–without it, you’d crack your teeth on an ice cube made of dairy. At this point in the process, if the mixture is drawn into a cone, it’s soft serve. If it’s put into a tub and frozen until it’s even colder, it becomes ice cream.

In a sense, soft serve is really just melted ice cream. In fact, one of soft serve’s originators, Tom Carvel, hit on the idea when he had to sell melting ice cream out of his broken-down shipping truck.

. . . .

All ice cream is technically foam–at least that’s what chemists would tell you.  “In ice cream–liquid particles of fat–called fat globules–are spread throughout a mixture of water, sugar and ice, along with air bubbles,” writes Brian Rohrig for ChemMatters. The air bubbles are essential to giving ice cream its texture. In soft serve, writes Vanessa Farquharson for the National Post, “all that air leaves less room for dairy fat.”

Carvel’s original soft serve was just a warmer, softer version of the ice cream he normally sold, but modern soft serve contains significantly more air than frozen ice creams. Think of it as foamier

Link to the rest at Smithsonian

Photo by ian dooley on Unsplash


New WordPress Theme for The Passive Voice

18 August 2017

PG has decided it’s time for a new WordPress theme for TPV.

He still likes the look of the current theme, but it hasn’t been upgraded by the theme’s author for a long, long time and PG is concerned about plugin compatibility (it definitely won’t work with a couple of newer plugins PG wants to use) and security issues that may originate from an aged theme.

PG also thinks a well-designed new theme might improve some performance parameters for the blog to everyone’s benefit.

Long-time visitors to TPV will remember that PG tried a new theme a few years ago and the consensus of the TPV regulars at the time was that it was a step down from the previous (and current) theme, so PG switched back.

PG is hereby soliciting suggestions for a new TPV theme.

Here are things PG will be looking at:

  1. Two columns in the approximate configuration of the current theme.
  2. A background/color combo that’s easy for eyes of all ages to read on a variety of screen sizes. PG is assuming that any theme he chooses will be phone/tablet friendly automatically out of the box.
  3. Either a color combination that’s close to the current one or a combo that says “reading and books.” (PG can’t be more specific, but he’ll know it when he sees it.)  A configurable theme that permits a wide variety of PG-configurable color combinations is a definite plus.
  4. Fast loading for as many devices and connection speeds as possible is important.

If you would like to nominate a WordPress theme for soon-to-be-enhanced TPV, please include relevant info in a comment or send PG an email through the Contact page.

If you think PG might be failing to consider a theme-choice factor you believe is important, feel free to explain in the comments.

If there are any theme designers in the audience who feel one of their designs would work well, don’t hesitate to suggest your own.

After his experience with moving Mrs. PG’s author website to a new WP theme a few months ago, PG has decided that it’s a false economy to avoid paying a reasonable license fee for a theme and using a less-capable free theme instead.


What the Departure of the Times’ Michiko Kakutani Means for Books Coverage

18 August 2017

From New York Magazine:

Except for the few people who were privy to Michiko Kakutani’s growing estrangement from the job of country’s most powerful book critic, most readers were surprised by her decision last month to take a buyout after 38 years at the New York Times. But one book publicist did have a premonition a week before the announcement. She had emailed Kakutani about a controversial political book for the early fall, which was technically under embargo, and hadn’t heard back with a request for an early copy. Books that break news are zealously guarded from most reporters and critics, but when Kakutani asked, you just mailed it off and bit your nails waiting for the verdict.

It’s usually overreaching to call any critic’s departure the end of an era, and Kakutani’s writing career isn’t over at all: This week she signed a multiple-book deal with Crown’s Tim Duggan Books. The first book, published next year, will be a controversial political book of her own, a cultural history of “alternative facts” titled The Death of Truth. But an era really has ended. As chief book critic, Kakutani was inimitable and irreplaceable. (In fact, there are no plans to name a new “chief critic.”) She was the “voice of God,” as one writer put it to me. Her column was a gauntlet no major author could escape, a maker of new stars (Zadie Smith, Alice Sebold, Jonathan Franzen) and punisher of old (Mailer, Updike, Franzen). And as she grew into the job, she became more legend than human, less knowable the more we got to know her. Famously private and therefore ripe for rumors (she’s dating Paul Simon! No, Woody Allen! No, she doesn’t exist!), given to quirks that made her a figure of snark (overusing the word limn, writing in the voice of Holden Caulfield), she attained a status in New York somewhere between Edmund Wilson and Dr. Zizmor. White male writers derided her for bashing their books, though Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw was terrified of her, too. Kakutanied became a verb. But whatever was said about her, which was a lot, the one thing you couldn’t say was that her judgment didn’t matter.

. . . .

Meanwhile, the Times became a tougher place for critical gods. Lone wolves hurling thunderbolts from their garrets gave way to affable co-critics doing online chats, TimesTalks, and video clips, writing personal essays and exploring their own biases. Change has been especially swift in books. Last year, Pamela Paul, editor of the Sunday Book Review, was directed to consolidate the paper’s three separate book fiefdoms — the Review, the print daily reviews, and publishing news — under one print-and-online department. Each of the three daily critics was generally reduced to one review per week (though asked to supplement with essays). Important books that used to be reviewed in both the daily and the Review now usually get only one at-bat, and, as at the Book Review under Paul, there is a move toward appreciations, Q&As, genre roundups, and hot-take debates.

Lead critics are going out of style across the paper; there are now “co-chief critics” in art, theater, and film, and after Kakutani’s departure, no book critic will have the right of first refusal. (Dwight Garner will review on Tuesdays, when the biggest books are published, followed by more recent arrival Jennifer Senior and new third critic Parul Sehgal.) Critics now meet with editors to brainstorm new elements and submit their pitches to the will of the collective. It’s a sea change for the daily, where critics had barely interacted with either editors or each other, and where, per two sources, Kakutani had sometimes been allowed to choose her editors and even copy editors. “For a very long time, Michi got her way,” says someone close to the situation, “until very recently people started pushing back in a big way, and I think that was part of her leaving.”

Link to the rest at New York Magazine

The OP reminded PG that New York City is really a lot of gossipy small towns. In the particular small town in which the OP is set, everybody knows the book critic pecking order and is obsessed by the reviewer who is at the top of that pecking order and every word she writes.

Similarly, the residents of this particular New York small town keep up with the latest gossip about the Times – who’s up and who’s down, what so-and-so said about whoever.

PG has traveled to New York City dozens of times, most on business and a few times for pleasure. Generally speaking, he has enjoyed those visits (particularly when someone else is paying his expenses), so he’s not a New York hater.

But PG doesn’t think New York is the most important place in the world and he absolutely knows that, while some smart people live in New York, the large majority live elsewhere. Since he is an attorney, PG also knows some very good (and some very bad) attorneys practice in New York, but most very good attorneys practice somewhere else.

Without question, New York is a special city. But so is Chicago. And Los Angeles and Dallas and Atlanta and Miami and Denver and Seattle and San Francisco. Plus London, Paris, Brussels, Venice, Florence, Rome, etc. (PG admits a bias in favor of Italian cities.) Like the children in Lake Wobegon, Minnesota, almost every city is above average.

A final comment from P.J. O’Rourke:

I live in New Hampshire. We’re in favor of global warming. Eleven hundred more feet of sea-level rises? I’ve got beachfront property. You tell us up there, ‘By the end of the century, New York City could be underwater,’ and we say, ‘Your point is?’


I hung up

18 August 2017

I hung up. It was a step in the right direction, but it didn’t go far enough. I ought to have locked the door and hid under the desk.

Raymond Chandler


15 Figures of Speech to Color Your Characters

18 August 2017

From Daily Writing Tips:

Figures of speech can create vivid images in readers’ minds when they read about characters in your works of fiction. By “figures of speech,” however, I don’t mean simply the contemporary techniques of metaphor or hyperbole. I refer, instead, to the classical figures of etymology, orthography, syntax, and rhetoric, which often have applications in both everyday and elegant language.

I shared a list of rhetorical terms some time ago, but here I present specific devices (including some of those I listed before) for suggesting character traits or implying dialect by altering the spelling or form of words or the construction of sentences.

These techniques help convey a character’s voice and/or personality — whether they’re highbrow or lowbrow, pretentious or unaffected, eloquent or inarticulate:

1. Apheresis: elision at the head of a word, such as in ’gainst, (against), often to alter poetic meter.

2. Apocope, or apocopation: elision at the tail of a word, such as ad (advertisement), for colloquial convenience, or th’ (the), to indicate dialect.

. . . .

8. Hyperbaton: transposition of words, as in “Happy is he who is simple.”

9. Mimesis: malapropisms and mispronunciations for humorous effect, as “very close veins” instead of “varicose veins.”

10. Paragoge: attachment of a superfluous suffix to a root word to indicate dialect, as in withouten(without), or to emphasize a stereotypical foreign accent, as in an Italian person’s supposed inclination to end all English words with a vowel sound in a sentence like “He’s a very-a rich-a man.”

Link to the rest at Daily Writing Tips and thanks to Mike for the tip.


Rediscovering Kids’ Books

18 August 2017

From The Wall Street Journal:

Midway through life’s journey, many of us find ourselves returning to a realm that we had left ages ago and may not have thought about much since. That country is the land of children’s literature, a place as vivid, varied and tumultuous as any that ever existed on a real map. When we’re young, if we’re lucky, we spend lots of time with its scenes and characters: Hansel and Gretel nibbling the witch’s candy house; Max sailing “in and out of weeks” to where the Wild Things are; Charlotte weaving the word “radiant” into her web to save Wilbur, the pig; Lucy stepping into a wardrobe and emerging in snowy Narnia. The world of children’s literature is rich and enchanting and formative, but by the time most of us reach late adolescence we’re out of it. We put away childish things, as it were, and get busy with the fascinations and requirements of adulthood.

So it can be surprising and thrilling, and disconcerting too, to get a return ticket when our own children come into the world. Having given only an occasional nostalgic thought to Oz or Neverland or the Hundred Acre Wood, we’re plunged back into the joyful scrum. As to the sensations of re-entry and the unexpected complexities that grown-ups may find in the books they loved when they were small—well, that is the stuff of “Wild Things,” a charming, discursive encounter with classic children’s literature from the perspective of a parent.

Our Virgil, on this journey, is both guide and wanderer. Bruce Handy is a widely published essayist and critic and a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. With his wife, Helen, he has two children, and it was while reading bedtime stories to Zoë and Isaac that the author felt he was “revisiting a favorite old neighborhood after many years and finding not only that it hadn’t been chain-stored into submission or paved over altogether, but that it was far more interesting and complex than I knew.”

For parents who are embarking on this phase of rediscovery, for those in the thick of it, and for those for whom it is a warm and recent memory, “Wild Things” will be a delightful excursion. Mr. Handy writes with zip, sincerity and good humor. He has a gift for witty phrasing: Fairy tales have a “rude verve,” and in their number is one so ghastly that it lurks “like a moldy berry” in the collected stories of the Brothers Grimm.

The book is organized in a way that approximates the developmental stages of a growing child. We start with the ur-baby book, “Goodnight Moon,” whose author, Margaret Wise Brown, Mr. Handy discovers, was not “a kindly gray-haired woman with an ample lap” but a glamorous hottie with amazing talent. He goes on to tackle the picture books and life stories of Maurice Sendak, Theodor Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss ) and Beatrix Potter before progressing to C.S. Lewis, L. Frank Baum, Laura Ingalls Wilder and Louisa May Alcott —all the time giving his personal responses. Mr. Handy is an atheist but confesses himself “charmed and persuaded by the religious undercurrent of [C.S.] Lewis’s [“Narnia”] tales—in the sense that I am moved and persuaded not by the theology itself but rather by Lewis’s ability to convey in tangible, organic terms what his religion means to him, what Christianity feels like for him.” All the same, Mr. Handy’s heart, I think, belongs to Beverly Cleary (born in 1916 and thus 101 today) and E.B. White (1899-1985).

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire) Here’s a link to Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult

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