Today in books and publishing: Booksellers turn away Amazon-published books; James Franco releases a chapbook; R.I.P. Han Suyin; Pippa fights for her right to party.
Bookstores won't stock Amazon titles. Booksellers have sniffed out an intruder in their midst, plotting to take brick and mortar bookstores down from the inside. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt's New Harvest line might look like any other publishing operation—but wise booksellers know that it belongs to Amazon. And they don't like the idea of using their stores as a showroom for their largest competitor, so they're weeding the double agent books out of their stores. "At a certain point you have to decide how far you want to nail your own coffin shut," says Michael Tucker, owner of San Francisco's Books Inc (pictured above). He's refusing to stock titles like Timothy Ferriss' The 4-Hour Chef, released through New Harvest. "Amazon wants to completely control the entire book trade. You’re crazy if you want to play that game with them." This embargo probably won't register as much more than a tiny blip on Amazon's radar, but there's evidence that it could sink their designs to become a content creator. Remember Penny Marshall's memoir, My Mother Was Nuts? That book came out through Amazon, was shunned by many stores, and sold only 2,000 copies in its first week. [The New York Times]
James Franco, poet. How to read James Franco? Is this actor-author-director-artist-lecturer a true Renaissance man, a shameless opportunist, or a pop-culture prankster? Who knows, but he just earned himself another hyphen: poet. His first chapbook, Strongest of the Litter, is out now via Hollyridge Press. From the publisher:
These poems, thoroughly beautiful and spare, have the texture of contending angles. Authenticity can be achieved only through different voices: in an investigation of the range and strength of American art, in homage to Williams Carlos Williams, in awe at the cost to American actors of their art (notably Taylor, Clift, De Niro and Brando), in the celebration and limitation of Kowalski love...
Han Suyin dies. The Chinese-born author whose memoir A Many-Splendoured Thing was adapted into a Hollywood romance, dramatizing the Korean War and China's fraught 20th century history for western audiences in the 1950s, has died at 95. Suyin was born in China to a Belgian mother and a Chinese father, later moving to Europe as an adult. Her over two dozen novels and memoirs often straddle the two cultures, translating the history of contemporary Asia for western readers. A Many-Splendoured Thing detailed her affair with Korean war correspondent Ian Morrison, an Australian. Her other books touched on topics like the Sino-Japanese war (Destination Chungking) and growing up mixed race (My House Has Two Doors). She died at her home in Lausanne, Switzerland, and is survived by her daughter Yung Mei Tang. [The Washington Post]
Pippa defends Celebrate. Book critics really piled it on Pippa Middleton's party planning guide, Celebrate, with the New York Post's Carla Spartos calling it the work of a "down-market Sandra Lee." Though getting into arguments with lowly book critics doesn't seem quite befitting of someone connected to the royal family, Pippa has piped up to defend Celebrate. Writing in The Telegraph, the self-described "foodie" says she knows how to prepare fussy, elaborate meals, but she wanted to keep this book simple and accessible. "I could have written a book that showcased the most extravagant or elaborate of occasions," she writes. "After all, I spent three years working for an events company planning parties—but I wanted to produce something that was achievable; something that people would have on their shelves for years." We also learn that she apparently has no vegetarian friends, considering the protein-heavy menu of a typical Pippa-planned soirée:
The last dinner I cooked for friends was slow-braised pig’s cheeks. I didn’t tell anyone what it was in case it put them off, but it was a huge success. Pigeon-breast salad and venison stew also appear regularly on my dinner-party menu.
She counts rabbit casserole and stuffed ox tongue among her other specialties. Mmm, flesh. [The Telegraph]
What's Romney reading on the campaign trail? David McCullough's Theodore Roosevelt bio Mornings on Horseback and Alex Berenson's thriller The Faithful Spy. Nice work getting New York Times reporters to see you toting Berenson's book, Romney. They'll like that, since Berenson was himself a Times reporter. [The New York Times]