Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Salvage the Bones: Fresh & Original Fiction

This week we are honored to have a special guest blogger, George Gibson, Publishing Director of Bloomsbury USA. Here he will discuss a book that has already captivated the minds of booksellers here at Warwick's, and after hearing George's words it is sure to captivate you too.
"I have to confess that, though I am the publisher of Bloomsbury in the U.S., and Bloomsbury publishes a lot of fiction, I have never edited a novel in my life. I'm comfortable editing any kind of non-fiction, even if I don't know the subject; but I wouldn't trust myself to project into a novelist's mind, to be able to see when something isn't working and suggest solutions. That said, I love to read fiction, and experience the same thrill seasoned fiction editors enjoy when discovering a fresh voice, someone who expresses her/himself in a seemingly original way. That's the feeling I got from the first sentence of Jesmyn Ward's novel Salvage the Bones, which Bloomsbury has recently published. It is set in a small, poor town on the Mississippi Gulf coast, in the 11 days leading up to Hurricane Katrina. The narrator, Esch, 14 years old, is pregnant; her mother has died; he father is an alcoholic; her brothers dream impossible dreams; and despite the tensions between them, they manage to hold onto each other, even as the devastating storm strikes. But while the characters are utterly memorable, especially Esch, it is Jesmyn Ward's voice, her skill with language, descriptive and conversational, that pulls one in and keeps the pages turning. I have to say her description of the storm, as Esch's family scrambles to survive it, is better than anything I have read elsewhere about Katrina. All great tragedies have their literature, and now with Dave Eggers' nonfiction Zeitoun, and Jesmyn Ward's Salvage the Bones, Katrina has a literature."

"And now, to top it off, Salvage the Bones has named one of five finalists for the National Book Award, the winner to be announced on November 16th. It is so gratifying when someone you feel has enormous skills and deserves to be discovered by readers everywhere is recognized for that talent."

"It is also enormously gratifying to collaborate with Warwick's. I know this is the store's web site, and I'm therefore preaching to the choir, but it deserves to be said: There simply isn't a better bookstore anywhere in the country. At a tumultuous time in the book industry, one thing is very clear: Our culture absolutely needs independent bookstores to survive and thrive, for without them our communities would lose an irreplaceable anchor. I don't need to tell you how terrific Warwick's is. This holiday season, I would urge you to buy one or two extra books there than you might ordinarily purchase, and give them to someone deserving. The world will be a little better place for that."

-George Gibson, Publishing Director, Bloomsbury USA

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Falling in Love with The Night Circus

There has been much talk around the store on the proper way to describe Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus. Morgenstern herself has commented on her blog about the misrepresentations regarding her novel (someone, please tell the WSJ that it’s NOT Harry Potter). With reviewers glomming onto this stellar debut like booksellers to free books, I questioned my own attempts to discuss it in writing. Yet, despite the fact that I know I just cannot do it justice, I have found that I must make some effort to mention this novel, if only to get its title into the minds of my readers, so that they too can be transported by this magical tale.

I use the word magical, not because, as was mentioned previously, this novel is full of people performing magical tasks, although manipulation and illusion are a basis to the plot, but because the storytelling itself is magical in that it utterly bewitches the reader. It is easy to become enchanted by the characters and their stories, but easier so, to become enchanted by the writing itself. It’s quite simply compelling. Unfurling itself layer by layer, a labyrinth of a tale that one must wander through, much like the characters must wander through the circus discovering new tents and delights with every turn—never fully capable of exploring every crook and cranny no matter how many times they visit.

I hesitate to describe the plot, I can’t do it justice, I can only say that at this base of this novel are a man and women, bound together in a competition. The circus, Le Cirque des Rêves, is the venue. The rules are unclear, the outcome unknown, but their actions will set the course for the impossible to happen. The circus is not just a location or thing; it is a full-blown character, wholly fleshed, a living breathing intricate part of this novel. All things are possible in the world of Le Cirque des Rêves and thus, for the reader of the The Night Circus, the possibilities of this novel and the places it can transport are limitless. The human characters are just as gripping, their stories intricately entwined with the circus and the battle in which they have been caught. These people live and breath for the reader, their actions mysterious, yet oddly familiar by the novel’s close. Morgenstern creates them so that in the end the possibilities for their futures are infinite.

I can say no more, I don’t have the skill, not for such a complex, yet dream-like feat of imagination. I can only praise an author who has made me want to revel in the depths of her pages, visiting them again and again, never tiring of the familiar or ceasing to be amazed by newly revealed treasures. This is a novel whose secrets and hidden depths will never run out. I leave readers then with this quote from the novel; it far better explains the spellbinding qualities and enormity of The Night Circus, as Friedrick Thiessen, describes the captivating allure of Le Cirque des Rêves.

“I find I think of myself not as a writer so much as someone who provides a gateway, a tangential route for readers to reach the circus. To visit the circus again, if only in their minds, when they are unable to attend it physically. I relay it through printed words on crumpled newsprint, words that they can read again and again, returning to the circus whenever they wish, regardless if time of day or physical location. Transporting them at will.”

“When put that way, it sounds rather like magic, doesn’t it?” (The Night Circus, Part V, Divination)