March 31, 2009

Teaser Tuesday—March 31

Posted in Book Talk tagged , , , at 7:17 am by The Word Jar

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays asks you to:

* Grab your current read.
* Let the book fall open to a random page.
* Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.

You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from…that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

Please avoid spoilers!

My teaser this week comes from Breathers by S. G. Browne.

Midnight is fast approaching and I’ve got one good arm and one good leg and I’m about to use myself as bait to try to get Tom’s right arm back. But my common sense is countered by a growing need for justice, for the retrieval of Tom’s appendage and retribution against those who took it.

My reading direction takes yet another turn this week, and oooh, I’m excited for this one! According to the back cover, Breathers is a “rom-zom-com” (romantic zombie comedy). The best of two very different worlds. I’m only a few pages into it, and I’ve already chuckled quite a bit. Zombies need love, too…right?

(Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. Check it out for more teasers!)

March 30, 2009

The Price of Paper Books

Posted in Publishing tagged , , at 12:48 pm by The Word Jar

The April 2009 issue of Money has an interesting breakdown of where the money goes when someone buys an old-fashioned hardcover or paperback book. They used John Grisham’s The Associate, which retails for $27.95, as their sample. The breakdown:

$12.58–Retailer [Whether the publisher gets the book into the bookstore through direct sales or through a wholesaler, the bookseller usually receives anywhere from a 45 to 55 percent discount. This is why it is more profitable for smaller publishers to sell their books directly to the consumer.]

$4.19–Author royalties [At almost 15 percent, this is not an accurate representation of the average author’s cut.]

$3.55–Pre-production [Money describes this as the salary for everyone who works on the book for the publisher–editors, designers, etc. As a fellow editor, I can only hope that this is decent money for the always hardworking editors and designers. Oh, to work for a company that appreciates your talent and pays you accordingly.]

$2.83–Printing [When your initial run tops a million, that will bring the printing costs down…per book, anyway.]

$2.80–Wholesaler [The publishing middleman.]

$2.00–Marketing [Again, I think this may be high for average authors. Mr. Grisham may get ads in trade and consumer magazines, as well as a book tour. If Mr. Grisham were Mr. Patterson, he’d also get commercials on TV. Average authors should be so lucky.]

It was interesting to see a dollar-by-dollar breakdown for an individual book. I know general percentages for a breakdown such as this, and I’ve seen publishing budgets for whole print runs, but I’ve never contemplated what those numbers boil down to when you are talking about one single copy.

So, the next time you are at the bookstore (hopefully your local independent), you’ll have a general idea of what you are paying for besides a good read.

March 27, 2009

David Sedaris Talks Author Tours

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 9:54 pm by The Word Jar

In the March 30 New Yorker, David Sedaris muses over author tours and book signings. (You can read the abstract here, though it’s not nearly as funny; registration is required for the full essay.) He describes his latest book tour and his dismay over it beginning and ending in Costco stores.

Even though I’m an avid reader, I’ve only been to one book signing. Perhaps even more tragic, that signing was for Patricia Heaton’s book. I’ve never been a reader who’s felt that I must meet the authors of books I love. In my crazy mind, I think meeting the author might take away a little of the magic.  The authors would no longer be the mythical beings who created the works of art I love so much; they would be mere mortals, subject to schedules, hand cramps, and bad days just like the rest of us.

Sedaris’s essay may have changed my views on book signings. Maybe I’ll try to attend some this summer. There is a wonderful independent bookstore in town, and they always get the hot authors to stop by. Or maybe I just want to go to a David Sedaris book signing. He interacts (and seems to enjoy interacting) with his readers.

I guess I’d have to read a David Sedaris book first. He’s been on my “To Read” list for several years now, but I’ve never gotten around to him. Judging by the number of times his essay made me laugh, I think it’s time to move his name up the list.

What was your favorite book signing? Have you, as either author or reader, had any memorable experiences at a book signing?

March 26, 2009

Book Talk—Mom Lit

Posted in Book Talk tagged , , , , , at 9:47 am by The Word Jar

After the decidedly heavy Night Work, I’ve switched reading directions. I’ve started reading Everyone is Beautiful by Katherine Center. I would classify this book as “mom lit,” a sub-genre of chick lit that deals with the lives and livelihoods of mothers. At this point in my life, mom lit speaks to me much more directly that chick lit in general.

For me, the main difference between general chick lit and mom lit is that a general chick lit story usually only impacts the main character—whether it’s her search for the perfect man or a perfect pair of shoes. By definition, the story of a mom lit book will also affect the children. There may even be a husband or boyfriend thrown in. That makes it a bit more weighty, and more appealing to me, than general chick lit, where the main problems seem to be buying too many things that you either can or can’t afford or trying to find Mr. Right. I’m not a big shopper, and I’m not in the market for Mr. Right.

I’m really enjoying Everyone is Beautifulso far (and from the talk I’ve seen on other book blogs, a lot of people like this one). The reading is fairly light and quick, and I should be able to post a review soon.

March 25, 2009

Word of the Week—Amanuensis

Posted in Word Fun tagged , , , at 7:32 am by The Word Jar

Welcome to the inaugural “Word of the Week” post! I hope to post a new word each Wednesday, as it follows the alluring alliteration of “Word of the Week.” I’ll post and discuss a word I’ve come across while reading, a word I’ve heard recently, or a word that I’m just enjoying at the time.

Amanuensis. Isn’t that a gem of a word? I came across this delicious nugget while reading The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett (a fabulous little book that will be reviewed here soon). I had to post this word because I have never seen it before, have never heard of it before, and had no idea how it was pronounced. I did find the pronunciation in the dictionary, but I know that if I tried to say it, it would sound nothing like it should!

As defined in The Uncommon Reader, amanuensis means “one who writes from dictation; copies manuscripts. A literary assistant.” Webster’s offers a similar definition but leaves off the literary assistant designation. And that’s my favorite part!

I guess I was drawn to this word because when I was in elementary school, I loved copying poems and passages that I liked out of books. Just to have them. To read them again and again whenever I wanted. It wouldn’t have been the same to photocopy them; and that would have been much more expensive.

At the same time, in the book this term refers to a boy who helps the Queen of England by returning her library books and looking up words and quotations. A literary assistant. Very helpful.

Keeping that usage in mind, I can’t decide if I want to be an amanuensis or if I want to have one.

March 24, 2009

Teaser Tuesday—March 24

Posted in Book Talk tagged , , at 9:28 pm by The Word Jar

Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays asks you to:

* Grab your current read.
* Let the book fall open to a random page.
* Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.

You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from…that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

Please avoid spoilers!

My teaser this week comes from The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett. (It’s only one sentence, but I think it does the job!)

“The Queen has a slight cold” was what the nation was told, but what it was not told and what the Queen herself did not know was that this was only the first of a series of accommodations, some of them far-reaching, that her reading was going to involve.

Using any excuse to curl up in bed with a good book…that’s a real reader!

(Teaser Tuesday is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading. Check it out for more teasers!)

March 16, 2009

Movie Review: Wordplay

Posted in Word Fun tagged , , , , , at 1:34 pm by The Word Jar

WordplayI recently had the pleasure of viewing Wordplay, a great little documentary about crossword puzzles and crossword lovers—the people who make them and the people who fill them in. Will Shortz, the editor of the New York Times crossword puzzle is interviewed, as are Merl Reagle, crossword constructor extraordinaire, past American Crossword Puzzle Tournament champions, and several crossword fans, including Bill Clinton, Jon Stewart, and recently retired Yankee pitcher Mike Mussina.

The top competitors in the annual tournament are insanely good. They can complete the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle in mere minutes. Minutes! I’m pretty sure I–even as a lover of all words–couldn’t do it in a whole day. With help. And the answers in front of me.

But the most interesting part to me was seeing a puzzle constructor at work. I figured that all crossword puzzles these days were made with complex computer programs. But there is Merl Reagle sitting at his dining room table with a blank grid on a piece of regular paper and a pencil, creating a puzzle on the spot for the Times. And he just starts filling in words. That makes it sound much easier than it must be. You of course have to know enough words to fill in the whole grid and make everything fit nicely. And real words are probably best to use. No making things up here. I thought I had my dream job now, but I may have found a new calling.

Wordplay is a fun film for all fans of words and crossword puzzles. You get to see “behind the curtain” of the crossword machine, and you feel the intensity as the final round of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament plays out. Wordplay may just inspire you to grab a pencil (or pen, if you’re really daring!) and tackle a puzzle today.

Word Fun Fact (from Wordplay): “Intercoastal” is an anagram of “altercations.” I know . . . I just blew your mind!

March 14, 2009

Book Review: Night Work by Thomas Glavinic

Posted in Book Reviews tagged , , , , , , at 10:33 pm by The Word Jar

Night WorkVirginia Woolf may have advocated for a room of one’s own, but what if you had a world of your own instead? Jonas, a thirty-something living in Vienna, inherits just that when he wakes up on July 4 and finds that he may be the last person on Earth. In Night Work by Thomas Glavinic, Jonas is not only the last person left, but also the last living creature. There is no one to be found in Vienna—not a person, not a dog, not a cockroach.

The crux of Night Work doesn’t rest on finding out what happened to everyone else. Night Work is an intense study of how one survives, though certainly not thrives, on one’s own. What happens when you are left to your own devices, your own thoughts—both of your conscious and subconscious mind?

Glavinic deftly and subtly conveys Jonas’s growing paranoia. When Jonas is confronted by such things as his conjured wolf-bear and an intensely creepy character called The Sleeper, his brain realizes he is only paranoid, but it is a constant struggle to keep that paranoia in check. “He must cling at all costs to what existed. To what was definitely verifiable and beyond dispute.” If Jonas can’t do that, there is no way to survive in this new world.

One of the ways Jonas copes with this new world is to examine his life through deeply existential questioning. As he goes through old photographs and visits places from his past, he constantly compares his past self to his current self. There is at once a longing to return to the past, as played out when Jonas recreates his childhood home, and an almost remorseful sense of fulfillment at what he has experienced and accomplished since that past time.

Night Work may leave many readers unsatisfied. Those looking for a resolution to what happened to the world will not find one. It is an existential book following one man into the depths of despair. If readers can keep that in mind, they will find Night Work to be a gratifying, if not deeply disturbing, read.

(Review copy source: Public Library)