Monthly Archives: November 2010

Issue of November 28, 2010

Hopefully everyone had a good, filling, and satisfying Thanksgiving regardless of whether you ate turkey or oysters, spent time with family or by yourself, read or stared at the television, enjoyed quiet times or joined the crowds at stores. We have three new pieces this week that cover some interesting books and other items.

The world of Homer is one with which Nicki Leone has a long acquaintance. Her early knowledge of it came from old children’s books and collections of Greek myths which, she notes, had almost nothing to do with the Iliad other than one fight. Ever since she has been reading to understand the epic poem that encompasses such a rich, complex story of people in war that makes the Iliad so powerful even thousand of years after its writing in On How to Read the Iliad (Safely).

The joy and pain of memories is brought out in a collection of personal essays the late Tony Judt had not originally intended to publish but as Lindsay Champion points out, he thankfully did. As a victim of Lou Gehrig’s disease, Judt spent much of his time delving into himself and his memories, and the result is a superb trip for the readers he invites along Down Memory Lane.

Part two of Lauren Roberts’s Booklovers’ and Readers’ Gift Guide is up this week, and it is an extensive one. She dug extensively in order to discover numerous literary gifts in categories from Calendars to Home for BiblioBuffet’s readers. Find out what she has in Into the Wild (of Holiday Shopping).

 

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Happy Thanksgiving!

All of us at BiblioBuffet—Nicki Leone, Lev Raphael, Lindsay Champion, Pete Croatto, Gillian Polack, Laine Farley, David G. Mitchell, and me—wish all of you a delicious and hopefully restful holiday weekend. Please take care if you are driving, and do something good for yourself, like reading a book all the way through. That’s what I plan to do for this, my annual Great Thanksgiving Weekend Read. Join me?

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Issue of November 21, 2010

The Thanksgiving weekend is less than a week away no doubt reading and shopping, at least some reading and shopping, is on your agenda. Let’s see what BiblioBuffet has this week that can help. Oh, and have a wonderful Great American Pig-Out Thanksgiving!

Baseball can be an exciting game. It can also be the fascinating subject of books. Alas, Pete Croatto says, despite its subject being rich with possibilities this particular book is not the one to explore The Mysteries of Pittsburgh…and Other Recurring Problems.

Short stories are, according to publishers, a difficult sell. But Gillian Polack found three she loves: a television show, a novel whose opening was “a short story, introducing a novel,” and a real anthology with the resonance of a finely tuned bell, the names of which she shares in Three Thoughts.

The upcoming day of thanks is the right time for David G. Mitchell to include an interview with one of the subjects of a new book about a particular company that was involved in most of the ugliness of the “forgotten” war, the Korean Conflict. The result: Conversation with a Quiet Hero.

Regardless of the type of influence they exert our mothers remain influential throughout our lives. In going through his oversized book review pile recently, Lev Raphael found two memoirs about mothers that, despite their differences, are powerful, emotive pieces of reading which he describes in Mother Love: Two Memoirs.

Holiday shopping season has arrived and Lauren Roberts kick starts her five-week list of literary gift suggestions for booklovers and readers. Ideas ranging from free and make-it-yourself to thousands of dollars are listed and linked (and we will even be giving away some gifts to you) beginning this week in And … We’re Off!

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Issue of November 14, 2011

Take some time out from your holiday pre-preparations to enjoy quiet time and good writing with us at BiblioBuffet. This week, we have several pieces that delve into history, American culture, foreign literature, and books as yet unknown.

Nicki often tackles books that can be hard to place in the usual genre categories simply because they are not … simple. This time is no exception. A book she describes as “part noir, part crime story, part social satire, part black comedy (extremely black), part absurdist fairy tale” was nevertheless a book she loved and highly recommends for those seeking out-of-the-way but superb reading in Existential Nightmares.

Poverty and homelessness are seen as social problems to be treated with a one-size-fits-all solution. But sometimes the solutions have to be as complex and as out-of-the-box as the individuals who are caught in the problem as Lindsay Champion discovers in The Myth of Dee and Tiny.

Bookmarks are often thought of as modern developments, but many famous artists have included bookmarks of the day in their famous paintings created hundreds of years ago. Guest contributor Beryl Kenyon de Pascual shares an overview of some of these gorgeous markers in Bookmark History on Bookmarks.

With Thanksgiving as well as the Great Thanksgiving Read weekend coming ever closer, Lauren Roberts is turning her attention to gathering books along with ingredients and wine. But there’s a twist this year. Instead of choosing books, she turning to BiblioBuffet’s readers and contributors for their suggestions as to what she should read in Help Me?

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Advantage: Point

In tennis, there is a term called “advantage.” This happens when the two players have reached a kind of point stalemate called “deuce,” which requires that one of them win two consecutive points in order to win the game. The player who wins the next point after deuce is said to have the advantage. If that player wins the next point the game is hers. If not, the score returns to deuce. This will repeat itself until one player is able to score two points in a row and take the game.

In publishing, the line between vanity houses and trade houses has until quite recently been firmly anchored. In my opinion, as far as books are concerned, it’s still firm. Most self-published and vanity-published titles are godawful things. The rule of thumb is that somewhere around 95% of all manuscripts submitted to trade publishers are un-publishable. (Unsolicited manuscripts are the stuff of which nightmares are made as anyone who has ever worked with them knows painfully well.) Of that remaining five percent, most of those are rejected for various reasons, leaving a mere one percent or so of all manuscripts in the “pubishable” arena.

But with the technological advances in printing those formerly un-publishable manuscripts are now being printed. I’ve mentioned before that nearly three times the number of “non-traditional” books as “traditional” books are being issued but regardless of their classification they are all looking for publicity. That often includes book reviews.

BiblioBuffet is accustomed to receiving press releases, both print and electronic, e-mail requests, and books for our consideration. Some come from authors, but most are from publicists or publishing houses. It doesn’t matter to us. But what does matter is who publishes the book. Even before we opened our virtual doors, we had set a policy in place that precluded consideration of self-published and vanity-published books. In my previous work as books editor for a local newspaper I dealt with vanity-published books as well as with the slush pile in my earlier work as executive assistant for a local publisher. When the concept for BiblioBuffet started to metamorphose into a real site our submission page, one of the first written, was firmly grounded in those experiences. There are far too many excellent books produced by viable commercial and university presses that we’d never be able to get to so why add to that with books that were unlikely to be worthy of anyone’s reading? The answer was obvious. We excluded them from the get-go. It simply wasn’t worth our time to plow through what were sure to be haystacks of books seeking those very few golden needles.

So when I received a large box filled with books recently from Vantage Press I was astounded. Vantage Press is an old-time vanity house, having been around since long before technology made vanity publishing easy and inexpensive. To their credit, they have never been less than honest about their pay-to-play model, and their products are good-looking and durable. But given our policy, I had to politely e-mail the publicist and let her know that due to the nature of their model and our policies that we could not, unfortunately, consider any of their books for review. I wish her luck in her marketing efforts, and I sincerely meant it. And I assumed that was the end of that.

To my surprise she wrote back a couple of days later. Normally this is not a good thing since it is the point at which, in the past, the answer to me reflects an unhappy person with an urge to snark. But not in this case. She was kind and thoughtful, and had obviously read our policies and understood the reasons for them. And then she went on to point out that this old-time vanity house would, in spring 2011, be opening a new “traditional” branch called Vantage Point, one that intended to be a commercial publisher with all the bells and whistles (editorial gatekeepers, author advances, royalties, bookstore distribution, publicity and marketing) of any other commercial press, and that would compete in the public marketplace. They would offer eight books in their first season, she said, and would BiblioBuffet be willing to consider them for review.

The answer is yes. Yes, we will because it matters not that part of their enterprise is a vanity house. (A number of commercial publishers now offer vanity arms, and the two are kept, so to speak, at arm’s length.) It only matters that Vantage Point is going to have a regular trade division staffed with people from the commercial world.

Frankly, no one is more surprised than I. It will certainly be interesting to see how this works out. And who knows . . .  maybe we’ll find some darn fine books.

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Issue of November 7, 2010

As we begin to move toward year’s end readers will often look back over their reading for the year. What was good? What was great? What was bad? What would I name as the best book of the year? Maybe in this week’s issue we might have some recommendations that you can use when you make your own list.

Boxing and American history are intertwined, but a dislike for one doesn’t have to mean missing the other. Pete Croatto discovered a fantastic new biography of Joe Louis, not only a great fighter  but a symbol of changing race relations, an icon, an athlete, and “a staggering, eye-opening reminder of how sports can change lives and, perhaps, the course of history” in The (American) History of a Fighter.

Science fiction and fantasy. Sword and sorcery. Pyr is a publisher issuing some of the most forward and best books in the genre today, and Gillian Polack got three of their best authors to join her for an enlightening roundtable discussion in Talking to Pyr.

Preserving the individual stories of those who fought in the battles of World War II is important, says David G. Mitchell, but any book encompassing them “needs to . . . place them in a broader historical context.” Nevertheless, he notes in Another Band of Brothers, it’s a fine addition to war literature.

Presented with a challenge to name fifteen authors “who have always influenced you and will always stick with you,” Lauren Roberts rapidly came up with a list. Harder was saying why. But the answer to that provided a fantastic journey into the Land of Literary Memories.

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Saying Good-bye

My favorite movie of all time is Casablanca. I’ve probably seen it more than a thousand times. I can quote every line in it, and I know the biographies of each of the actors very well. One time I even had a boyfriend who upon discovering my love of the film took to quoting the famous line—Here’s looking at you, kid—to me periodically whether that was over shared orange juice in the morning or over a glass of champagne in the evening. I fell hard for that man.

Casablanca is very much about saying good-bye in many ways and to many things. But I always remember the courtliness that accompanied each one and try to incorporate that into my relationships. (I’m not always successful, but I do try.)

So when Lauren Baratz-Logsted e-mailed me late last night to inform me that she needed to stop writing for BiblioBuffet due to her other commitments I mourned for a brief time. It’s hard to lose a writer. It’a harder to lose a writer you respect and like. But I took a deep breath and wrote the response that was right. I told her she was welcome to write for us at any time she liked, and that I wished her the best with all her books.

Lauren is an astonishingly prolific author of tween and young adult novels. She is what is termed a “mid-lister,” meaning she isn’t a NYT bestselling author but she is one who regularly produces books that sell respectable numbers. This is not an easy level to reach. It requires not only producing good books but constant efforts to keep one’s name in front of the book-reading public with social networking and other tools. And those take time.

So while she moves on, her current column, Writer-in-Residence, comes to an end but it will remain available to our readers in our Inactive Columns section. I going to miss it, especially the Disrespectful Interviewer pieces, but even more so I am going to miss her gentle sense of humor and her wonderful support. Good-bye, Lauren, and good luck!

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