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February 26, 2007

Lit Links: Philip Roth, Narnia, The Secret, Quotable Quotes

I'm number one!

Philip Roth wins his 3rd PEN/FAULKNER award for Everyman. Finalists included Edward P. Jones (All Aunt Hagar's Children), Amy Hempel (The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel), Deborah Eisenberg (Twilight of the Superheroes), and Charles D'Ambrosio (The Dead Fish Museum).

Obsessed with C.S. Lewis? Happen to be in NYC on March 2, the first Friday of the month? Hang with the pseudo-Narnians.

Has anyone read The Secret? Our Oprah-loving friends won't shut up about it. Also, did author/producer Rhonda Byrne steal the idea from a husband-wife team that channel the spirit of Abraham?

The New Yorker says, "Quotable quotes are coins rubbed smooth by circulation."

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by Sharon Steel | with 4 comment(s)
February 20, 2007

You Cad!: Patricia Marx at the Booksmith TONIGHT

In Him Her Him Again the End of Him, former Saturday Night Live writer and current New Yorker humor scribe PATRICIA MARX offers up a close study on how far a girl will go to get over her hideously self-indulgent college boyfriend. Marx’s unnamed enraptured narrator falls in love with Eugene, a fellow Cambridge University student who has a wandering eye and an ego big enough to fill a singles cruise ship. Will our girl triumph over her obsession, complete her graduate degree, and meet a nice boy who doesn’t treat her like shit? Will she make it on her own as a writer in New York and swear off men forever? Or will she win over the cad/bore/love of her life, who maybe isn’t so bad after all? Find out when Marx redefines the meaning of what it is to be a narcissistic jerk face at Brookline Booksmith, 279 Harvard St, Brookline | 7 pm | free | 617.566.6660.

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by Sharon Steel | with 2 comment(s)
February 13, 2007

TONIGHT: Ken Kalfus at the Brookline Booksmith

KEN KALFUS’s latest black comedy pegs the September 11 fallout against the consequences of small-scale domestic terrorism — better known as the nasty urban divorce. A Disorder Peculiar to the Country follows Joyce and Marshall Harriman as they sue for custody of their two children and their Brooklyn Heights co-op. Both are required to live there till a settlement is reached, so it’s no surprise that when the planes hit the World Trade Center, each rejoices in the possibility that the other has perished. As America struggles to save face and fight back, so do the Harrimans: seducing best friends, sabotaging weddings, faking anthrax scares, etc. Kalfus sweet-talks a national disaster into an intensely funny family portrait, and he reads and signs at the Brookline Booksmith, 279 Harvard St, Brookline | 7 pm | free | 617.566.6660.

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by Sharon Steel | with no comments
February 12, 2007

Avril Lavigne Watch: Hot Topic punk princess now a writer; fights demons

Didn't get a chance to post about this last week, but better late than never. Straight from Publisher's Lunch:

Children's: Young Adult

Grammy-nominated musician Avril Lavigne's MAKE 5 WISHES color manga books, in which an introverted teenager gets a series of wishes granted by a demon go bad and then meets her hero -- Avril Lavigne, who helps her find the courage to conquer her own personal demons, to Betsy Mitchell at Del Rey Manga, for publication in April 2007 and July 2007, by Terry McBride at Nettwerk Management (world).

So, we've been balls-out in love with Av for ages now, and no, we can't justify why. It has something to do with her excessive hair straightening, her ability to finagle a modeling contract out of Ford despite her tiny stature, her weird siren-esque voice, and the fact that she got married young to a "punk" singer who sort of resembles a toad. We have also been playing her leaked single "Girlfriend," co-written by Dr. Luke (the magician behind "Since U Been Gone") on repeat for the past few days. And yeah, we think it's amazing.

But back to Av the author. Check the cartoonish styling on the cover of her new album, The Best Damn Thing. Whoever winds up inking the Make 5 Wishes strip would have no trouble cribbing a comic character Avril off this pic. Pink streaks? Was her stylist asleep on the job?

The new Mrs. Whibley: author, grrrl-power demon-fighter, heroine to introverted young girls everywhere. 
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by Sharon Steel | with 7 comment(s)
February 06, 2007

Newtonville Books is sold

In today's "Lizard Watch," the weekly email blast from Newtonville Books, Tim Huggins, owner and founder of the independent bookstore, and literary man-about-town, announced that he'd sold the place to Mary Cotton, a former employee of the store.

"It's just the right time," Huggins writes. "I felt that the bookstore had arrived at a place where it needed something more and different than I could provide to help it reach the next level of sustainability." The email is below, with Huggins's announcement, a few words from Cotton, and a press release.

A word from Tim Huggins, founder of Newtonville Books:

I hope this finds you well. I am proud to say that Newtonville Books was sold yesterday to Mary Cotton, a former employee of the bookstore and a dear friend.

Let me say that it has been an honor serving all of you. I am incredibly proud of the bookstore and her accomplishments over the past eight years.

What was accomplished was due in a large part to your support. The bookstore’s future accomplishments will also be due to your ongoing and inspired support. I am counting on all of you to embrace Mary and her staff (you’ll recognize all of them!). With your support, Newtonville Books will continue to enrich your lives and contribute to the literary community of Newton, greater Boston and beyond.

I will be around for a few weeks, so I hope you will make a trip by the bookstore to shake hands with me, meet the new owners and simply offer your best wishes for all of us. You can continue to keep in touch with me by email at Look forward to seeing you around in the coming weeks.

A word from Mary Cotton, new owner of Newtonville Books:

I’m thrilled to be writing you as the new owner of such an amazing independent bookstore. When I moved to Boston in 2002, one of the first places I discovered was Newtonville Books, and it has remained an integral part of my life ever since. I still remember walking through the door for the first time and feeling the warm pull of the store’s personality inviting me to call Newtonville home. Many of my first friends in Boston were people I met at Books and Brews readingswriters and readers and people of all walks who cared about literature.

Shortly thereafter, Tim hired me to work at the store and I was immediately drawn into the vibrant community of patrons who frequent the store. One of my favorite parts of work was talking to customers about what books they had recently read and loved (or hated!). And as often as I would suggest something to a customer, they would suggest something to me, an exchange that I still think of as uniquely Newtonvillian. I look forward to continuing that dialogue with all who want to participate.

I’m also looking forward to getting to know you more in the coming weeks and months and years ahead. Please feel free to say hello in person or from wherever you happen to be. Below is a little press release about my taking the torch from Tim, an honor I’m both excited and humbled to accept.


Newtonville Books, an independent bookstore established in 1998, has been sold to Mary Cotton. Ms. Cotton, a Williams graduate who holds a degree from the Stonecoast low-residency MFA program at the University of Southern Maine, and who will graduate with an MA in English Literature from Boston University this year, is also a former employee of the bookstore, hired by Newtonville founder, Tim Huggins.

"When I heard the bookstore was closing after the first of the year, my heart sank, not just for myself, but for the Newton community. An independent bookstore is such a vital component of a community like Newton, and this bookstore, in particular, is such an amazing place. Over the years, Tim has built a well-respected cultural institution in service of the community, and when I realized that the creativity and intellectualism that flowed through the store was about to be staunched for good, I wanted to do something about it. It seems like every day you hear about another great independent bookstore closing. I wanted people to hear about one staying open," Ms. Cotton said. "Plus, I met my husband while working at the store."

Ms. Cotton is married to Jaime Clarke, a writer and founding editor of Post Road, a national literary magazine based out of Boston, for which Ms.

Cotton also serves as Publisher and Managing Editor. "Newtonville Books has served as the headquarters for Post Road since the magazine’s inception, so the bookstore and the literary magazine will be a perfect union. And I definitely plan to integrate the magazine as much as possible. I want the bookstore to continue to be a home to readers and writers alike."

When asked about selling his bookstore, Huggins replies: "It’s just the right time. I felt that the bookstore had arrived at a place where it needed something more and different than I could provide to help it reach the next level of sustainability. This sale is a rare situation where needs and opportunities matched perfectly. I find great comfort in knowing that Mary has the right passion, energy, abilities and commitment. The bookstore, as well as its local patrons and greater bookselling community, is incredibly fortunate to have her here. I call on patrons and supporters to embrace her with the same passion shown for me and with an even higher level of commitment and support."

Huggins opened Newtonville Books in 1998, and he is the founder of the award-winning author event series Books & Brews, as well as the cofounder of Earfull and Cover2Cover, two wildly successful events that combined author readings and live rock music hosted in a bar setting. For the past several years, Newtonville Books hosted over 100 authors a year, including such authors as Margaret Atwood, Tom Perrotta, Dennis Lehane, George Saunders, Myla Goldberg, Rick Moody, Jodi Picoult, Anita Diamant, James Salter, Alice Hoffman, Paul Auster among others. In 2004, PEN/New England bestowed to Huggins the honor of the "Friend to Writers" award.

All small businesses experience inner struggles but few capture the energy, creativity and experience the successes like Newtonville Books.

Huggins says: "Even during times of hardship, the bookstore thrived through its staff, publisher and author support and its patrons. It is a successful bookstore in many ways that bring me great pride. This sale was the only way to save the bookstore from a grave hardship and put it in a more viable place again. Mary brings new opportunities and new life to something I feel is a very special part of the bookselling community."

Ms. Cotton’s revitalization plan extends well beyond Post Road, though. A customer loyalty program, discounts on select titles, bookclubs, writing workshops, and maybe even a film series of movies based on books is on the horizon for the new Newtonville Books. You can also ask for a fake plastic nickel instead of a bag when you check out, dropping the plastic nickel in on of three donation boxes that support local Newton charities on your way out the door. "Outwardly the store may look the same, but there are a lot of exciting changes afoot," Ms. Cotton said.

Newtonville Books will close on Monday, February 5 and reopen on Thurs, February 8 for a four-day twenty (20%) percent off sale ending Sunday.

Newtonville Books will also host a grand re-opening reception on Sunday, March 4, from 3-5pm.

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by Nina MacLaughlin | with no comments
February 06, 2007

TONIGHT: Vendela Vida at the Harvard Book Store

Girl on the Verge

We’ll admit to being a little jealous of VENDELA VIDA’s charmed writer’s life. She co-edits the Believer magazine, she co-founded the non-profit children’s writing center 826 Valencia, and she lives in San Francisco with her literary-hero husband, David Eggers. Even better, she isn’t afraid to address those huge, ambiguous questions nobody knows the answer to. Her second novel, Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name, follows a young girl’s search for answers when she realizes that nothing she believes is real. Vida blends truth and myth at the Harvard Book Store, 1256 Mass Ave, Cambridge | 6:30 pm | free | 800.542.READ.

Check out our Nina's interview with Vendela -- they talk reindeer blood, writer's block, and violence.

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by Sharon Steel | with no comments
February 05, 2007

TONIGHT: Elizabeth Gilbert at the Brookline Booksmith

Journalist and short-story writer ELIZABETH GILBERT had it all — a cool career, a husband, and a nice house in the ’burbs — but she wanted none of it. Following a nasty divorce and a mind-numbing period of depression, Gilbert went to Italy and stuffed herself with the finest food and wine she could find. Then she moved on to an ashram in Mumbai for endless hours of meditation. Finally to Bali, where she studied with a medicine man and let things get hot and heavy with a new guy. It’s all chronicled in Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia. Gilbert has written quirky pieces about cowboy saloons and her search for the Last American Man. In her writing about herself, however, her prose becomes truly irresistible. She’s at Brookline Booksmith, 279 Harvard St, Brookline | 7 pm | free | 617.566.6660.

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by Sharon Steel | with 1 comment(s)
February 02, 2007

Martin Amis live at the Brattle: Listen to him read

"Read late Amis -- maniacally alert, secular in timbre but religious in the fidelity of his observations -- and stay on your toes," writes James Parker in reference to Martin Amis's latest novel, House of Meetings, set in the deep, dark of Stalin's Russia. Amis came to Cambridge to read from the book, with our own Peter Kadzis giving the introduction. Click below to hear Amis's Brattle Theatre reading.

LISTEN: Martin Amis, House of Meetings, Brattle Theatre, January 31


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by Nina MacLaughlin | with 6 comment(s)
February 01, 2007

FINAL Harry Potter out 7/21

Dig on this: J.K. Rowling's final installment for the HP series, titled Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, is set to be published on July 21, 2007! Also, the new film will open July 13. Translation: July is Harry Mania. From the NYT:

Millions of fans around the world are fiercely anticipating this latest installment. But the end of the series, in which Ms. Rowling has hinted she may kill off one of the main characters, comes as a bittersweet finale not only for readers but also for the publishing companies, booksellers and licensees who have cashed in on the international phenomenon since it began more than nine years ago with “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” It is hard to imagine how the publishing industry will ever replace the sensation that spawned midnight parties and all-night lines to get the books the moment they went on sale. When “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” the sixth in the series, was published in July 2005, it sold 6.9 million copies in the first 24 hours.

Yes, yes, very very sad for the publishing industry. What about sad for us? What about the impending death of two major characters? What about rumblings of Emma Watson quitting her role in subsequent films? And worst yet, what about the fact that Daniel Radcliffe has CLEARLY HIT PUBERTY and has decided to show it off in front of a horse named Equus and a naked British girl. She looks nothing like Cho or Ginny. Oi Oi Oi. West End Theatre will never be the same.

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by Sharon Steel | with no comments
February 01, 2007

Paul Auster live at the Brattle: Listen to him read

In his introduction to Paul Auster's reading at the Brattle Theatre last night, poet and Phoenix contributor William Corbett compares Auster's lastest novel, Travels in the Scriptorium, to an episode of the Twilight Zone. In the opening of the book, Mr. Blank finds himself in an empty room, and begins to be interrogated by people, people who turn out to be characters he's created. Click on the download link, below, to listen to Auster read.

LISTEN: Paul Auster, January 30 at the Brattle Theatre


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by Nina MacLaughlin | with no comments
On The Phoenix's books blog, we obsess over literature so that you don't have to. Reviews, readings, news, and literary gossip. Levar Burton might not have wanted you to take his word for it. But we do.
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