Friday, August 31, 2007


The following report from the Detroit News:

The chances of a merger between Ann Arbor-based Borders Group Inc. and Barnes & Noble Inc. -- the nation's two largest book sellers -- is more possible than ever in light of a federal antitrust ruling last week, some analysts said this week.

Borders' continuing struggles to make money -- the company lost another $25.1 million in the second-quarter -- also increases the possibility of a future merger, they said.
Last week, a federal court ruled that a combination of the nation's largest organic grocers didn't violate antitrust rules. U.S. regulators had argued that the merger could reduce competition and inflate prices for organic grocery shoppers.

The combination of Whole Foods Market Inc. and Wild Oats Markets closely mirrors a potential deal between Borders and Barnes & Noble and "could be perceived as a potential new precedent and open up meaningful discussions," David Schick, an analyst at Stifel Nicolaus & Co. in New York, wrote in a report to investors earlier this week.
The talk of a potential merger of Borders and Barnes & Noble comes as both firms struggle against online rivals such as and big-box retailers such as Target. Online stores often offer lower prices, and big-box stores are offering a much wider selection than they have in the past.
Those struggles have led many industry analysts to speculate that by combining forces, the two companies might be able to better tackle the competition.
In the face of such difficulties, Borders announced a major corporate restructuring plan in March meant to streamline operations, boost sales and return the company to profitability. So far, the changes haven't yet reversed Borders' losses, though officials note the turnaround plan hasn't been fully implemented.

Spokesmen for both booksellers on Thursday declined to comment on any hypothetical deal between the two companies. Their silence, however, hasn't stopped market speculation.
Matthew Fassler, an analyst at Goldman Sachs in New York, wrote in an Aug. 17 report that Borders stock traded above $20 earlier in the year only because of the potential for acquisition by Barnes & Noble, not on the company's own financial merits.
Since hitting a peak of $22.29 per share on May 31, Borders stock has plummeted 34.2 percent, to a close of $14.66 at the end of trading Thursday.
Barnes & Noble also is struggling on Wall Street. Its shares closed at $35.54 Thursday, down 17 percent since its high of $42.82 on May 24.

Twice a month the International Institute of Modern Letters at Victoria University of Wellington puts out an entertaining newsletter on matters literary.

To visit the newsletter online go to


This from The Bookseller today:

Christmas has kicked off in August this year with Jamie Oliver's latest title already available for less than half price. Jamie at Home (£25) is published on 6th September—a month earlier than last year's Christmas bestseller Cook with Jamie in order to tie in to Oliver's new television series on Channel 4. The earlier release date means vicious discounting of the hardback has already begun, with booksellers slashing their prices in the anticipation that the cookbook will be one of the key performers this Christmas. is selling the cookbook, out next week, for £12.49 with free postage; the book is already number two in its online chart. W H Smith is also offering the book for less than half price, selling it online for £12.49 excluding delivery. It was number one in the retailer's non-fiction chart at the time of going to press. is offering the book for £12.45 excluding postage; it was number one in the supermarket's pre-order chart on Wednesday. The book is at number three on's chart, where it is on sale for £12.49. is selling the book for £14.99 including free delivery. Play does not include pre-orders on its books chart, but books category manager Georgina Stoaling said it is already selling very well. "For such a high-profile title, it's not surprising that such competitive pricing has kicked off so early," she said.

Independent booksellers hit out at the discounting, saying it is devaluing the worth of hardbacks. Stephen Poulter, co-owner of Books@Hoddesdon in Hertfordshire, said the levels of discounting were "ludicrous". "It's incredibly dangerous that this is going on," he said. "People buy hardback books because of their worth. They are perceived as a gift. This is not going to continue for much longer if this keeps happening." Anna Dreda, owner of Wenlock Books in Much Wenlock, added: "It feels like money is being thrown away, from the industry's point of view."
Amazon said its half-price offer on Jamie Oliver fits with its strategy of "offering the best price possible on all titles". A spokesman predicted that its strong sales of the title would continue throughout the Christmas period: "There is a good chance that it will replicate the success of Cook with Jamie, which was one of our bestsellers for Christmas 2006."

Footnote for NZ readers:

Penguin Books NZ advise that publication here is 5 October and that the RRP is $75.00.

For Bookman Beattie, who claims to be Jamie's greatest NZ fan, 5 October cannot come soon enough. I have seen some adavance pages from this new title and I can tell you it is going to be an absolute knockout!


Following my posting of The Little Indie That Could earlier in the week those nice folks at McNally Robisnon have posted the following on their website.

Amber Thody, who used to manage McNally Robinson for Kids in Saskatoon, points us to a great book blog out of New Zealand:

I was very happy to see the familiar logo as I called up Beattie's blog this morning. it's the source for everything one ought to know about the English language book industry down here; everybody in the industry reads it religiously; so now Australia and New Zealand will know about the wonders of McNally Robinson Booksellers!

Graham Beattie is a consultant within the New Zealand publishing industry, a book reviewer, book blogger and a former Managing Director/Publisher of Penguin Books NZ Ltd., and Scholastic NZ Ltd. Former Books & Poetry Editor, Citymix Magazine.

You can read his post about McNally Robinson here and his main blog page here.
Thanks Amber!

Yes Amber, Bookman Beattie adds his thanks too and you'll be pleased to know that as a result my blog has had more than 100 Canadian visitors today.
McNally Robinson has a superb website by the way, use this link to check it out.


This from Associated Press via Yahoo News.Pic from there too.
Former President Clinton will appear on Oprah Winfrey's TV talk show next Tuesday, Sept. 4, his first interview to promote "Giving," a book on philanthropy and civic action coming out the same day.

Clinton's appearance was announced Monday in an e-mail — "The first interview about his new passion!" — sent to members of Winfrey's book club.

Winfrey, who interviewed Clinton in 2004 for his memoir "My Life," has good reason to think highly of the new book. "Giving" praises Winfrey's "Angel Network," which has donated millions of dollars around the world, from money for schools in Africa to relief aid for victims of Hurricane Katrina.
The book also includes comments from Winfrey, who was asked why she started the Angel Network, and another charitable organization, the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls.
"I wanted to give back what I was given, a sense of worth," she replied. "Everyone wants to matter."

Clinton has other interviews planned next week, including one with Larry King on CNN and with David Letterman on CBS television's "Late Show."

By Tim Grant, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette

Seven members of the monthly reading group Sisters That Are Readers (STARS) gather at the Homewood Library. Clockwise from bottom left, are Nichole Jordan, M. Gayle Moss, Mercedes Taylor, Velma Harris, Denice Coker, Vivian Shelton and Donna Stilo.

When it comes to reading, race can matter.
A young black male has a better chance of getting teased for reading books instead of playing sports. Black children are less likely to have parents who read to them at an early age and expose them to books.

Until recently, black adults were largely ignored by some book publishers who believed black people don't read books. And many black people had not been reading books because there were fewer books on the market that appealed to them.
"The racial disparity in reading is a reflection of the differences in the kinds of backgrounds that children enjoy," said Helen Faison, director of the Pittsburgh Teachers Institute at Chatham University.
"We have to surround children early on with reading," Ms. Faison said. "You have to create an environment where books are everywhere."

The audience for black readers has grown, but it seems black women represent the larger reading population among blacks.
As an African-American novelist, Brandon Massey is part of a small cadre of writers who earn a livelihood spinning suspense thrillers that appeal to black people who enjoy fiction.
While the main characters in his novels are black men, his audience, for the most part, is black women.
For the full story go to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from where the above pic was taken.


From the New York Times.............

Beaufort Books, the publisher of “If I Did It,” the recently revived book in which O. J. Simpson hypothesizes about how he might have murdered Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman in 1994, announced yesterday that it would print 125,000 copies and would likely go back to press before the book is released around Sept 13. Eric Kampmann, owner and president of Beaufort, said the company already had orders for 116,000 copies from chain bookstores, independents and online retailers. Although Barnes & Noble announced that it would not sell the book in its stores, advance orders online at propelled it to No. 1 on its best-seller list on Monday, and it hovered between No. 2 and 5 yesterday. Last fall, after a public outcry, HarperCollins scuttled plans for a 400,000-copy print run by its Regan Books imprint. Since then, the Goldman family won the rights in bankruptcy court to publish the book. Separately, Denise Brown, sister of Ms. Brown Simpson, said yesterday in a statement that she was withdrawing from a planned Sept. 13 appearance on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” alongside members of the Goldman family. “At the time of accepting this proposition from Oprah, a publisher was not yet established, and publication was still pending,” Ms. Brown said, adding: “Since then, the Goldmans have retained a publisher who is rushing the book to market as we speak. And thus, has made the show a moot point for me.”
Footnote from Bookman Beattie- Barnes & Noble has announced it is reversing its earlier decision not to stock the book and I suspect this has a lot to do with the increased print run.

Of all the music-related memoirs due this fall, Vivian Cash’s is liable to be the most surprising. With abundant evidence to make her case, Ms. Cash, the first wife of Johnny Cash, explains how her role in his life was expunged by the mythology that sprung up around him. Her book, put together with the help of Ann Sharpsteen, vehemently corrects the impression created by “people of the Nashville mind-set, who prefer that I be written out of Johnny’s history altogether.”

My Life With Johnny
By Vivian Cash with Ann Sharpsteen
Illustrated. 326 pages. Scribner. $27.

Most of this unusual book was actually written by Mr. Cash. After a brief introduction it becomes a string of the near-daily letters he wrote to his sweetheart, Vivian Liberto of San Antonio, during the three years he spent in the Air Force. They met at a skating rink in July 1951, when Ms. Cash was a petite, exotically beautiful 17-year-old schoolgirl. Soon afterward Mr. Cash, then a 19-year-old serviceman, was on his way to Germany. He did not see Ms. Cash again until the summer of 1954.
Ms. Cash died in 2005, after spending much of her life avoiding revisionist versions of Mr. Cash’s life story. With any luck she never saw “Walk the Line,” the 2005 hit movie that presented her as a nagging, ever-pregnant obstacle to his storybook romance with June Carter, who became his musical partner and second wife. The film’s Vivian could not be less like the one described by Mr. Cash in the feverish, obsessive love letters presented here.

This is an excerpt from a longer review that appears in the New York Times today. Use this link..........
Both pics from the New York Times.

Thursday, August 30, 2007


Los Angeles International Airport - LAX

Avoid this airport at all costs. If you are flying with Air New Zealand to other parts of the US then fly to San Francisco rather than LA. It is a smaller, less insane place and the ground staff are much nicer than their southern counterparts.

But if you are flying to Europe then my advice is to avoid the US all together and fly via Asia.

The security measures at US airports are totally over the top and they seem to select especially unpleasant people to administer them.


As in Europe earlier in the year I found that WiFi is everywhere.

Unfortunately both US hotels we stayed in charged for the service (US$10 per 24 hours) as did the Red Carpet Club (United Airlines lounge) whereas Air NZ provide the service free in their lounges.

For a blogger WiFi is crucial if one is going to keep blogging while on the move.
In this regard I was interested to learn that airlines are investigating making WiFi available on flights.
Apparently the technology is not the problem, rather it is the cost which is around US$100,000 per plane. The report I read (Time Aug 20) suggested they would charge pasengers $10 per flight to use the service. Bring it on I say!

I understand Qantas have "converted" one plane to WiFi and are monitoring demand for the service. I'm sure Air New Zealand will be watching the situation.


We flew Business Class with Air New Zealand to and from the US and what a joy it was.
Terrific staff who without exception were friendly and efficient and most helpful.
AND those lie-flat beds are something else. My daughter had recently flown with Virgin Atlantic Upper Class and said Air NZ business class left them for dead when it came to beds and value.
It is not generally known that Air NZ's seat pitch is greater than in those of almost all of its competitors. In business class for example it beats British Airways, Singapore, Cathay hands down. Virgin Atlantic is the same and no one is better.

Good plane reading and nice to see the Arts got 8 pages, one of which was devoted to books including an enthusiastic review for GIVING by Bill Clinton.


In the NZ Listener issue dated 25-31 August there are reviews by Philip Matthews of A Perfect World by David Cohen, Random House $35 and At Home in the Land of Oz by Anne Clinard Barnhill, Jessica Kingsley Publishers, $45, both on the subject of autism.

Matthews has two pages devoted to his detailed and thoughtful reviews. He has a four year old daughter with high functioning autism so he knows his subject. I am sure anyone with an interest in autism will find his comments well worth reading.

If you missed that issue of the Listener use this link.
David Cohen also has a website on this subject. Find him at

Warwick Roger has always been something of a cynical contrarian and I guess when you are a journalist that is not necessarily a bad thing but my goodness he has morphed into a truly grumpy old man. And what is worse he seems to now regard himself as the New Zealand authority on all matters journalistic and literary.

This is a great pity as he has a fine record as a journalist having won many awards particularly for sports writing and feature articles.
And although we Aucklanders perhaps owe him some gratitude for founding METRO magazine back in the 80's I have long grown tired of the pomposity and bombast and sweeping generalities of his writing in recent years.

Until now I have kept my views on his writing to myself, because of respect for his journalistic record, but I'm afraid his most recent outburst in the August issue of NORTH & SOUTH magazine is the final straw and I must speak out.

Here is part of what he has to say on page 98 as part of his column, The Best of New Zealand Books:

I usually bridle when a new book of New Zealand fiction lands on my desk for review. Most New Zealand fiction is crap. There are certainly no more than 10 honourable exceptions among authors currently writing.

What an absolutely ridiculous and insulting comment to make. I suggest to Warwick Roger he wouldn't know a good work of fiction if it bit him on the bum!

I'm not in my office as I write this so do not have access to my library but here are a few names of "honourable exceptions" just off the top of my head:

Maurice Gee, Owen Marshall, C.K.Stead, Lloyd Jones, Witi Ihimaera, Alan Duff, Patriacia Grace, Jenny Patrick, Kevin Ireland, Shona Koea, Kapka Kassabova, Chad Taylor, Catherine Chidgey, Charlotte Grimshaw, Graeme Lay, Marilyn Duckworth, Elizabeth Smither, Albert Wendt, Barbara Else, Chris Else, Joy Cowley, Fiona Kidman, Vincent O'Sullivan, Stephanie Johnson, Elizabeth Knox, Emily Perkins, Keri Hulme, Rosie Scott, Peter Wells, Sarah-Kate Lynch, Sarah Quigely, and among the newcomers Paula Morris, Rachael King, Carl Nixon, Paul Shannon, and James George.
There are 36 authors whose work I admire (and I'm sure I'll think of more) so presumably Warwick Roger would remove at least 26 of these as he regards their writing as crap?

I would remind you that he was the Chair of the Goodman Fielder Book Awards (now Montana NZ Book Awards) back in 1984 when famously the judges did not award a prize to The Bone People which of course went on to become one of the most significant novels ever published in New Zealand and to win the Booker Prize the following year.
So much for his judgement.

To have someone with his attitude to local writing being responsible for the book review pages of a major national magazine is shameful. It is time he was put out to pasture.


The Telegraph reports on the books most frequently left behind by guests staying at Travelodge Hotels.

Alistair Campbell, the former Downing Street communications chief, received an unwelcome literary accolade today.
His book The Blair Years topped the charts of a list of the latest literary works most often left behind in hotel rooms, compiled by hotel chain Travelodge.
Piers Morgan, the former editor of the Daily Mirror, was runner-up with his book Don't You Know Who I Am?
Katie Price (Jordan) was in third place with her book A Whole New World.

Jason Cotta, Travelodge operations director, said: "This review always gives us a good idea of what is going on in consumers' minds during the summer holidays.
"Clearly celebrity is what we all want to know about and Alistair Campbell's diaries were bound to intrigue."

The top 10 most discarded books in hotel rooms were:

1. The Blair Years - Alistair Campbell
2. Don't You Know Who I Am? - Piers Morgan
3. A Whole New World - Jordan
4. Wicked - Jilly Cooper
5. Dr Who Creatures & Demons - Justin Richard
6. The Diana Chronicles - Tina Brown
7. I Can Make You Thin - Paul McKenna
8. Humble Pie - Gordon Ramsay
9. The Story Of A Man And His Mouth - Chris Moyles
10. Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows - JK Rowling


This piece from The Daily Star


More than half the events at the Edinburgh International Book Festival (EIBF) sold out completely, and 80 per cent of tickets were sold across 700 sessions, staff said yesterday.
They claimed another record for the Edinburgh festivals, with 54 per cent of events sold out and more than 200,000 people visiting the Charlotte Square Gardens during the 17 days of the book festival.

The highlights from some 650 authors from 40 countries included Alan Bennett reading from a new satirical novel in which the Queen discovers literature, and Ian Rankin launching Exit Music, the 20th and final Rebus novel. Seven of this year's 13 Man Booker Prize nominees also appeared at the festival.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

John Gardner, Who Continued the James Bond Series, Dies at 80

John Gardner, a prolific British thriller writer who wrote more novels about Bond — James Bond — than Ian Fleming did, died on Aug. 3 after collapsing near his home in Basingstoke, England. He was 80.


This story from the BBC.

Author Roger Shashoua made a fortune in post-Soviet Russia
Russian tycoons are the target readers for a diamond-encrusted book with an estimated value of £3m.
British entrepreneur Roger Shashoua is offering a made-to-order edition of his new book Dancing With The Bear.

The cover of each of the special "oligarch" copies, said to be the most expensive book in the world, features more than 600 flawless diamonds.
The book is an account of how the author made £100m through business in post-Soviet Russia.
Mr Shashoua expects interest from wealthy Russian ex-pats based in the UK.

He said: "There is so much money floating around in Russia that it seemed entirely logical to produce a book designed for the Russian market.
"I am just happy that conspicuous displays of consumption can now be associated with writing, rather than fashion accessories.
"I can only hope that oligarchs will read the book, rather than just keeping it locked away."
For the special edition, the cover has been switched from the standard white to black to show up the diamonds.

Mr Shashoua co-founded exhibitions business ITE, which now trades on the London Stock Exchange with a market value of more than £500m.
Russia boasts 53 billionaires including Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich, mainly in oil, steel, mining and metals, according to Forbes magazine.


Who knew? Clive James wants to be invited to the Sydney Writers' Festival.

At the Melbourne Writers' Festival at the weekend James made plain his feelings regarding this oversight.

On Saturday the poet Craig Sherborne interviewed him about his poetry. The subject turned to whether James, a winner of Australian poetry's great honour, the Philip Hodgins medal, might still be considered by some as primarily an "entertainer". He agreed, before turning to the audience and saying good humouredly but incredulously: "I still haven't been invited to the Sydney Writers' Festival. Not once."

Not that he thought Sydney did not recognise his merits. "It's not ideological, it's because I was born there," he said. "I'm from Sydney so they don't want me."

Rosemary Cameron, in her second year as the Melbourne Writers' Festival director, suggested that "sometimes, as a director, you don't invite someone because you don't expect they will be able to. No one ever sends an invite to J.K. Rowling, for example. Maybe one of us will one day, and she will come. It's the same with James. And it has to do with timing with his publishers as well. I don't think there's been a plot against him."

Read the full story from the Sydney Morning Herald


Loved this headline in The Age on Monday. Hers is the dfirst part of the story:

THERE were poets galore at the writers' festival at the weekend. Many in person, some in reputation.
The biggest name was W. H. Auden, the centenary of whose birth is this year.
Two polished and packed craniums in the shape of Clive James and John Clarke traded their enthusiasm for the great wrinkled face of 20th-century poetry and dazzled with the amount of stuff they knew by heart.
Auden was the giant, said James, his poetry torrential, "he wrote to breathe". His influence was huge. The great Australian poet A. D. Hope claimed to despise him, but Auden's influence was everywhere in Hope's poetry, said James.
The sad thing was that after Auden left Britain for the United States in 1939, the quality of his work gradually declined.
But he still produced masterpieces such as September 1, 1939, which Clarke read. ("I sit in one of the dives/ On Fifty-second Street/ Uncertain and afraid/ As the clever hopes expire/ Of a low dishonest decade.")

Cecil Beaton pic of Auden taken in 1953 from Wikipedia website.

I normally read magazines over lunch and today I faced a real conundrum. In the mail this morning were the latest issues of both THE NEW YORKER and MONOCLE.
Which am I to read first? I decided in the end that as The New Yorker is a weekly and Monocle a monthly I would start with the latter for today's lunchtime reading.

I'm pleased I did because there on page 72 under the heading SLOW ZONE was a piece on New Zealand. In fact a piece on Matakana a place where I spend most Saturday mornings at the Farmer's Market followed by a couple of coffees and the NZ Herald at the Black Dog Cafe .

Here is how the Monocle story starts:
With an eye on the big opportunity, ambitious New Zealanders are discovering that what once was seen as a national handicap - the country's old laid-back pace of life - is now a marketing tool with international appeal.

To read the full piece you will have to buy the magazine.
The appealing pic above is also from the story in the September 07 issue of Monocle.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am a great fan of Monocle magazine and have been posting stories about it, and from it, since the first issue back in March this year.

If you don't know the magazine do check it at your local bookseller or newsagency or visit their website at
I cannot recommend it too strongly, there is about a week's reading in each issue.

Also in the issue today is an interesting story about independent bookseller Fact & Fiction Booksellers in New Delhi.



Brave is the man who bites the hand that feeds him, but Ian McEwan, the favourite to win this year's Man Booker Prize, has ridiculed the annual literary award ceremony as "a sort of posh man's bingo".
McEwan, whose On Chesil Beach is among the 13 novels published over the past 12 months to be "long-listed" for the award, says it is a "wholly arbitrary matter if your number comes up or not and depends entirely on getting the right jury in the right year".

The winner of the 1998 award for his novel Amsterdam - generally agreed by critics not to be one of his greatest works - adds, for good measure, that he wished the judges would announce the winner at the start of the annual awards dinner.
"That way the winner and the runners-up, all dressed up in their penguin suits or dresses, at least have a chance of enjoying themselves."

McEwan, who is attending the Edinburgh International Book Festival, will scarcely have done himself any favours with the judges of this year's award, who will announce the winner at a dinner at Guildhall in London on October 16.

McEwan, who will learn next week if he has made the shortlist, has had a long and complicated relationship with the award. He was disappointed when Atonement - often regarded as his most accomplished work - failed to win in 2001 after being a shortlist favourite and Saturday was snubbed in 2005 even though it was lauded by the critics.

Even his inclusion this year isn't without controversy, as many think that On Chesil Beach is too short to be considered a novel. Set in 1962, it tells the story of Edward and Florence who, on their wedding night, are both suppressing anxieties about their immediate and long-term future.
The story continues and can be read in full from The Sunday Telegraph August 26, 2007. Use this link.
And in the Sunday Times of the same date McEwan was featured for another reason, he has written an opera!
To read about this - Use this link.

How did a couple from WINNIPEG end up with the best bookstore in NYC?

These days, it ain't easy being a book superstore. and supermarket chains like Wal-Mart and Costco have put the squeeze on the giants. In May, New York-based Barnes & Noble Inc. reported first-quarter losses totalling $1.6 million, a distressing turnaround from the $10-million profit it posted a year earlier. Borders, which operates 1,200 stores worldwide, posted a $151-million loss for 2006. Its new CEO, George Jones, is shifting course, off-loading nearly half of its 564 Waldenbooks mall shops and its entire British fleet -- a move the Wall Street Journal dubbed a "stunning about-face," coming, as it does, on the heels of six years of aggressive overseas expansion.

True, Indigo Books & Music looks relatively healthy. Because it has the dominant share of the Canadian market, it has not had to offer bestsellers at deep discounts or the rewards programs that are putting U.S. retailers on the financial skids. Its fourth-quarter revenue climbed six per cent and it has cut its losses from 2005's $7.4 million. But its fourth-quarter losses still stand at $4.2 million.

And then there's Winnipeg-based McNally Robinson Booksellers. With stores in Saskatoon, Calgary and Manhattan, McNally Robinson, named bookstore of the year a record five times by the Canadian Booksellers Association, has become one of Canada's largest independent book chains. It has doubled its $30-million revenue since 2000 and will grow again in 2008, adding two new stores, including its first in Ontario, in the Toronto suburb of Don Mills. Two months ago, the Times of London's literary editor, Erica Wagner, named McNally Robinson as her favourite bookstore in New York City on the Charlie Rose show, drawing a knowing nod from the esteemed PBS host.
Also visit the website of the little indie that could -

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


This story tonight from NewstalkZB & TV One News.......

Pic shows NZ actors Carolyn Dando, left, and Rose MvIver who have landed roles in The Lovely Bones.

Captain Corelli’s Mandolin
Louis de Bernieres Cover design by Jeff Fisher
Vintage 1998

Books change their covers with alarming regularity these days, as publishers target new markets. It is, however, sometimes possible for bestsellers, due to their huge popularity and the publisher’s fear of losing the “recognition factor”, to become synonymous with the first-edition cover, a phenomenon perhaps more typical of the relationship between pop music and its packaging.

Jeff Fisher’s lyrical, illustrative 1998 design for Captain Corelli’s Mandolin falls into that category, despite the availability of a film tie-in version three years later.

Another most interesting piece from the weekend edition of the FT this by Phil Baines, Professor of typography at Central St.Martins, London.

Read Phil's full coments and also have a look at the other book reviews and comment on It is a site well worth a look. And for me it was great reading on the long flight across the Pacific from the US west coast.


Through the Children’s Gate By Adam Gopnik Quercus £17.99, Knopf $25

There is the New York that every tourist knows – Fifth Avenue, Central Park, Brooklyn Bridge – and then there is the belief system that every resident of the city instinctively signs up to.

If you imagine this New York as a psychological grid, then the big avenues stand for the positive ideas the city revolves around: meritocracy and multiculturalism, ambition and intelligence.

The smaller cross-streets represent the neuroses that have now been exported to the rest of the world’s big cities, from parental obsessiveness to our fixation with home redesign and gentrification.
I am a huge admirer of Gopnik's writing and so wanted to buy this book last week while in NYC but alas already I had bought eight books and had no room or weight allowance left! However we are going back at Christmas and by then it will be available in paperback so I'll get it then.
Although I have to say the hardback is a beautiful object so I may still buy that edition.

I recommend reading the full review by Rahul Jacob that appeared in the Financial Times on Saturday. Jacob is the FT's travel editor.
The Muse Who Made the Guitars Gently Weep

Pattie Boyd calls herself a muse, and she has the ravishing love songs George Harrison's “Something,” Eric Clapton’s “Layla” and “Bell Bottom Blues”) to prove it. But in Ms. Boyd’s case, being a muse also means never having paid a light bill until she was 45, jobless and suddenly unplugged from the world of rock ’n’ roll royalty.

George Harrison, Eric Clapton, and Me
By Pattie Boyd with Penny Junor
Illustrated. 321 pages. Harmony Books. $25.95

Pattie Boyd with her husbands: George Harrison, above, and Eric Clapton. The two men were friends who collaborated on records.
Now, in a spotty but scrumptious memoir that sounds more like the handiwork of Ms. Boyd’s collaborator, Penny Junor, she is ready to take stock of her amorous adventures. “Wonderful Tonight,” which takes its title from another of Mr. Clapton’s sublime, love-struck songs about her, devotes mercifully brief time to her formative years (“My earliest memory is of sitting in a high chair spitting out spinach”; “My only comfort was Teddy, my beloved bear”) and cuts quickly to the chase.

It meets the Beatles. And it meets them at the point where most of the world met Ms. Boyd: when she appeared briefly in the film “A Hard Day’s Night,” riding on a train and looking fetching in a schoolgirl’s uniform. Mr. Harrison immediately asked her to marry him, in a fit of prescience and snappish Beatle humor.

Ms. Boyd had been a successful London model in her dollybird days. She appeared on the cover of a book called “Birds of Britain,” prompting the writer Anthony Haden-Guest, in the introduction, to rhapsodize about “a swirl of miniskirt, beneath which limbs flicker like jackknives and glimmer like trout.”

There is much more in this story from the New York Times. Use this link.

Pics of Pattie Boyd with her two husbands also from the New York Times.


THE BLOOD PRESSURE of some of America's leading novelists no doubt just shot up: James Wood, The New Republic's famously stringent book critic -- scourge of John Updike, Toni Morrison, Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo -- has jumped to The New Yorker, giving him a much wider audience for his coolly incendiary literary sermons.

For a hiring that followed a familiar pattern -- small, good magazine to big, good magazine -- Wood's move caused an extraordinary stir in literary circles. At The New Republic, his immensely learned, barbed essays, utterly unbowed by conventional wisdom, earned him an ardent following and the ire of novelists who failed to meet his standards.
Wood is controversial partly for his unusually clear (his detractors say crabbed) ideas about what a great novel is -- or, rather, isn't. He is especially set against "hysterical realism," his coinage for books that attempt to convey the raucousness of contemporary life through outlandish proliferating plots, allegory, bizarre coincidence, and high irony. In other words: Pynchon, Salman Rushdie, much of David Foster Wallace, the first two Zadie Smith books, and half of "The Corrections," by Jonathan Franzen.
He is not indirect in his criticisms. The Nobel Laureate Morrison's novel "Paradise," Wood pronounced a few years back, "is a novel babyishly cradled in magic. It is sentimental, evasive, and cloudy." DeLillo's "Underworld," he has written, "proves, once and for all, or so I must hope, the incompatibility of the political paranoid vision with great fiction."
Even his detractors concede that such takedowns are the fruits of a love for the novel -- of a certain sort. But what does it mean that the most storied magazine in American history has aligned itself with a critic who essentially rejects the premises of a broad swath of contemporary American fiction?


Pulitzer Prize-winning US author Cormac McCarthy has won the UK's oldest literary award, the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction.

The Road, McCarthy's tale of a father and son in a post-apocalyptic America, was named the best novel of the year.
He wins £10,000, as does Byron Rogers, who won in the biography category for his book about Welsh poet RS Thomas.
The University of Edinburgh has awarded the two prizes since 1919. Past winners include DH Lawrence and EM Forster.
McCarthy, 74, was not at the ceremony at the Edinburgh International Book Festival to collect the award.

The honour comes four months after Road, his 10th novel, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
The other James Tait Black fiction nominees were Sarah Waters, Ray Robinson, James Lasdun, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Alice Munro.

Judge Professor Colin Nicholson, of the University of Edinburgh, said: "Each of the shortlisted authors is prize-worthy.
"But my fellow judge Roger Savage agrees with me that for imaginative impact and page-turning readability, the two winning books are both destined to become classics in their respective genres."
Report from BBC News.

Monday, August 27, 2007


Sunday, August 26, 2007

If you haven't read these by Christmas ...
From Fidel Castro to Germaine Greer, Philip Roth to Alice Sebold,
The Observer's literary team pick this autumn's top 10 must-reads Robert McCrum, Alex Clark and Emily Stokes

Sunday August 26, 2007The Observer

Philip Roth, Exit Ghost, Jonathan Cape £16.99, 6 October
The haunting title, a stage direction from Hamlet, seems to say it all. Philip Roth's first Nathan Zuckerman novel, The Ghost Writer, was published in 1979; now, almost three decades later and after a series that has encompassed such breathtaking works as American Pastoral and The Human Stain, Roth's alter ego makes what sounds very much like his final appearance. This time, Zuckerman returns to New York after 10 years' seclusion on an isolated mountainside and, almost immediately, finds himself sucked into the worldliness from which he has been in flight. Revolving around encounters with a beautiful but fading woman, once the muse of Roth's mentor, the now dead EI Lonoff, a young couple keen to escape post-9/11 Manhattan and a rapacious literary biographer, Exit Ghost conjures a man raging against the dying of the light, in a characteristically Rothian meditation on the nature of artistic endeavour, creative rivalry, inspiration and, naturally, the imminence of the end.


We are spending Friday & Saturday at Rhinebeck a gorgeous small town 95 miles north of New York City. It is on the Hudson River an area greatly favoured by NY'ers for summer & weekend holidays.

Rhinebeck is in Dutchess County and today we attended the Dutchess County Fair which was great great fun. For New Zealanders a County Fair is very similar to the NZ A&P Show. Rides of every kind for the kids and games with soft toys as prizes, junk food stalls everywhere and of course loads of animals ,(loved the goats), hens and ducks, horticultural exhibitions etc etc.
Enormous crowds,perhaps 50,000 people, and very hot - max.95F but felt 105F (according to then local radio which was broadcasting from the Fair) - so lots of water, and home-made lemonade were the order of the day.


Rhinebeck, although a small town, has an excellent independent bookstore called

Oblong Books & Music, where I spent a very happy couple of hours on Friday afternoon.They also have a branch at Millerton, about 25 minutes drive away.If you are in this area be sure to call in, they have a huge range of books, excellent fiction selection, a great children's area, and of course CD's.
They belong to an group of independent booksellers called whose name & motto is:

BOOK SENSE - Independent Bookstores for Independent Minds

In their August newsletter I was interested to read the following:


It matters that you spend money in your local indpenedent bookstore. Why?

Local businesses support each other. Booksellers typically purchase goods from otjer local businesses, services from a local accountant, and hire residents.

Sales taxes come home to work. The taxes collected by a local independent bookstore support your schools, social services, and public agancies.

Did you know that for every $100 spent by a consumer, a local business would give back $68 while a chain will only give back $43?

Shopping at an independent bookstore helps to sustain healthy and vibrant community for all.

Shop local. Buy local.
A message from your indpenedent bookstore with Book Sense.

Book isman Beattie thrilled to see indepenedent booksellers getting together in this fashion to ensure their survival.

One of the titles they are currently promoting is:

This beautifully written, heartfelt memoir touched a nerve among both readers and reviewers. Elizabeth Gilbert tells how she made the difficult choice to leave behind all the trappings of modern American success (marriage, house in the country, career) and find, instead, what she truly wanted from life. Setting out for a year to study three different aspects of her nature amid three different cultures, Gilbert explored the art of pleasure in Italy and the art of devotion in India, and then a balance between the two on the Indonesian island of Bali. By turns rapturous and rueful, this wise and funny author (whom "Booklist" calls Anne Lamotts hip, yoga- practicing, footloose younger sister) is poised to garner yet more adoring fans.
The above from their website -

My daughter read this title recently and says it is a must read so I have added it to my list.

Because of the luggage space and weight problem with so many books already bought in NYC I confined myself to one book purchase and half a dozen greetings cards!

The book purchased is:

HUDSON RIVER VALLEY Nikki Goth Itoi Avalon Travel

Link to this website for full details of this and other Moon Handbooks.
The author was born and bred on the Hudson river and her firsthand expereince and honest insight makes this book a must for all interested in exploring this beautiful area so cose to New York City.
We will be back!


I had hoped to visit the wonderful Dutton's this past week during a brief stopover in LA en route NY but sadly time ran out..............
this from their latest newsletter:

Odds and ends

Grace Paley, R.I.P............The literary world lost a star this last week when Grace Paley passed away at her Vermont home. She was 84 and was in ill health, suffering from breast cancer. She will be remembered for her precise prose chronicling the daily life of ordinary people, often mothers. Though some complained that not happened in her stories, most readers agree that it was the very ordinariness of her characters' lives, and the poignant style in which she described them, that was the true strength of her fiction. In addition to her stories - one collection of which was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize in 1994 - she wrote poetry and was a political activist for many liberal causes.

Who needs Amazon..........when you've got the new Dutton's web site? One of the new features we are proud to present is a fully searchable database with secure online ordering. Ordering is a snap: find the book you're looking for and click on the order button to add it to your virtual shopping cart. When you're ready to go, follow the checkout instructions. You'll receive an email confirming your order, and another one when the order is ready to go. You can either pick your order up from the store, or we can send it to you.

Most orders take two to five business day. If we've got the book in stock, even better - we'll notify you as soon as we pull it off the shelf. So, if you'd like to keep your business local, but prefer the ease of online ordering, we've now got the best of both worlds. Visit to see how easy it can be - or, if you just can't wait, use the search box at the top of this email and be taken directly to the site. (And, of course, for traditionalists we always welcome telephone and fax orders as well).

Is there life after Harry?...........That's the question facing J.K. Rowling, whose modern day cultural icon, Harry Potter, has been retired with the seventh and final book in the series. Luckily for her fans, there are reports that she is already at work on a new book - this time an adult detective story. She has been spotted in Scottish cafes working on the project. As of yet, no official confirmation. But if these rumors are correct it means that children who grew up with Harry, Ron and Hermoine will now have new J.K. Rowling creations to greet them in adulthood.
Is there life after Harry?, Part II..........What about all the young children who have only just recently come to Harry Potter and are too young to wait out Rowling's rumored mystery novel? (see above). For them, fortunately, there are plenty of other exciting series to jump into with both feet.

We've displayed a number of them in the East Room for your perusal; but here's a sample: Warriors by Erin Hunter, the Pendragon series by D.J. McHale, The Underland Chronicles by Suzanne Collins, His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, The Lord of the Rings by Tolkein, and, of course, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.

We should note that it is probably not by coincidence that a number of these series have recently been, or are about to become, Hollywood movie franchises.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

How Luxury Lost Its Luster.
By Dana Thomas.
Illustrated. 375 pp. The Penguin Press. $27.95.

I will have to buy this book for Annie but meantime here is the New York Times on the subject.

In the midst of my consumerist crisis, the question I should have been asking was: Dana Thomas, where have you been all my life? In “Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster,” Thomas investigates the business of designer clothing, leather goods and cosmetics, and finds it wanting. Hijacked, over the past two or three decades, by corporate profiteers with a “single-minded focus on profitability,” the luxury industry has “sacrificed its integrity, undermined its products, tarnished its history and hoodwinked its consumers.” Hoodwinked? The truth hurts. After I read “Deluxe,” suddenly my new sundress no longer looked like such a steal. Au contraire, the book’s line of argument suggested, it was I who’d been robbed.
For Thomas, a cultural and fashion writer for Newsweek in Paris and the Paris correspondent for the Australian Harper’s Bazaar, the luxury industry is a sham because its offerings in no way merit the high price tags they command. Yet once upon a time, they most certainly did. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, when many of luxury’s founding fathers first set up shop, paying more money meant getting something truly exceptional. Dresses from Christian Dior, luggage from Louis Vuitton, jewelry from Cartier: in the golden period of luxury, these items carried prestige because of their superior craftsmanship and design. True, only the very privileged could afford them, but it was this exclusivity that gave them their cachet. Although they may have “cared about making a profit,” the merchants who served this pampered class aimed chiefly “to produce the finest products possible.”
All that changed, however, in the last decades of the 20th century, when a new breed of luxury purveyor, epitomized by Bernard Arnault, now the chairman and chief executive of the multibillion-dollar LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton conglomerate, first came on the scene. “A businessman, not a fashion person,” Arnault realized that the mystique of the great brand names represented an invaluable — and historically underexploited — asset. Identifying the luxury sector as “the only area in which it is possible to make luxury margins,” Arnault snapped up Dior, Vuitton and a clutch of other star brands. Then, by spending hundreds of millions on advertising, dressing celebrities for the red carpet, “splashing the logo on everything from handbags to bikinis,” and pushing product in duty-free stores and flagship boutiques all around the world, he turned these brands into objects of global consumer desire. In so doing, Arnault changed “the course of luxury forever.”

For the full review use this link...... And for the review from the LA Times go here......

Friday, August 24, 2007


Making Digital Books Into Page Turners .

Despite tepid response to its Reader, Sony sees potential in the market--and Amazon may agree Nearly 10 Months After its debut, the Sony Reader is hardly a game changer. Reviews of the tiny handheld book-reading device have been tepid at best, and Sony Corp. (SNE ) has consistently declined to release sales figures, which just might tell you something. But Sony isn't backing away. In fact, as speculation continues in publishing circles that book e-tailing giant (AMZN ) is planning to come out with its own portable reader, Sony is launching a number of initiatives to give its Reader more sizzle.

For the full story.......


Ten "ambitious, resonant" titles are named today to fight the first round of the £10,000 Guardian First Book Award, which is dedicated to spotting and advancing new writing talent.
Authors on this year's longlist range from Catherine O'Flynn, brought up in her parents' Birmingham sweet shop, to Ethiopian-born Dinaw Mengestu.Themes range from the politically revelatory to the wildly surrealist. The 10 include two of the year's most intriguing titles - St Lucy's Home for Girls Raised By Wolves, and A Guinea Pig's History of Biology.

Full story from The Guardian overnight..........


154 West 10 Street, New York, NY 10 014

Great joy this afternoon when we stumbled upon this "small but perfectly formed" bookstore in the West Village. Established in 1978 the store was bought from the founder by its present owner, Toby Cox, 6 years ago.

Although tiny Three Lives & Company has a very extensive range of literary fiction, and literary journals, and a wonderfully eclectic range of non-fiction.

When I expressed to Toby my surprise and delight at the range he generously gave credit to "our neighbourhood here and the folks who live in it who support the store so well."

He thought he was fortunate to have such a great clientele. Well I think the neighbourhood is fortunate in having such a great bookstore in its midst.

Congratulations Toby, I was so impressed!

Pic shows Bookman Beattie browsing before buying the following, all quarterly literary magazines:

Tin House
A Public Space
The Paris Review
Several novels and Adam Gopnik's latest would have been bought were we not already seriously overweight with our luggage for the flight home.
Next time you are in New York you MUST visit Three Lives & Company.
Meantime visit their fabulous website -

Poetry-only shop well-versed in success

But for Open Books' owners, the most valuable rewards are not financial

Delightful story about a tiny specialist independent bookseller from The Seattle Post. I especially LOVE the final paragraph.............

The sales floor is just 480 square feet, the stock is just 9,000 titles, but somehow married poets J.W. Marshall and Christine Deavel actually make a living in Seattle running one of the country's two poetry-only bookstores.

Those seeking an encouraging antidote to the gloomy Associated Press national survey on reading can find it at Open Books: A Poem Emporium. This specialty bookstore is located in a small Wallingford bungalow on North 45th Street, where the air is often thick with the smell of frying food wafting over from the nearby Dick's Drive-In.
For a dozen years, the two proprietors have operated their verse house with steady sales that bring in what the 55-year-old Marshall describes as "low six figures." Open Books has always made a profit.

"It pays for itself and then some," he said Tuesday afternoon when the store had sold 16 books in four hours. "It has to. If it operates at a loss, it goes away."
Open Books seems a throwback to another era, maybe another century. All of the ledgers are still hand-written, one of the personable co-owners is always stationed at the front desk. The one concession to modernity is the store's rudimentary Web site ( that lists store information and events and some featured titles. But it can't take orders.
The couple is currently remodeling their bungalow, where the store occupies the basement. They plan to move in soon. "It is part of our home life," Deavel, 49, said. "It's about to be our home."
She concedes that stories like the AP report are disheartening, although not surprising to those who love books, as she and her husband do.

"Most people in the book business know they will not make a lot of money," Deavel says. "There's never been a bubble burst here -- we never had a bubble. We find other rewards. There are still poetry lovers. Just a few minutes ago, I had a conversation with someone about Robinson Jeffers and Emily Dickinson. That is a form of payment for me."


From The Bookseller 23 August:

Borders is believed to be keen to clarify the future of its UK and Ireland business before the main autumn selling season begins. The summer lull has seen suitors scrutinise the finances of the company, with W H Smith gaining increasing currency as a potential buyer if the price drops below £25m.
"I can't see it operating as a standalone business," said influential City analyst Richard Ratner from Seymour Pierce. "W H Smith will only take them over for a decent price—and they will strip out the underperforming stores to cut costs."
But there is still confidence within Borders about the likelihood of a private equity funded management buyout led by Borders UK c.e.o. David Roche. Despite the speculation surrounding its future, the retailer has held on to its senior staff.


Though slowed by age, Ray Bradbury still speaks with exuberance. Hobbled by a stroke in 1999, he now dictates his work over the phone to his daughter in Arizona, who records and transcribes it before faxing edits back. Mr. Bradbury works in an overstuffed leather chair in a den lined by shelves of VHS tapes of classic movies and history texts. The room is crowded with models of dinosaurs, rocket ships and Jules Verne’s Nautilus submarine, his own dusty Emmy, a friend’s tarnished Oscar and a 52-inch flat-screen television not unlike the ones he presaged in “Fahrenheit 451.”