Monday, April 28, 2008

A taste of Her Royal Spyness

The author introduces her own novel, reading a short introductory clip.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

The latest volume: Sometimes it's just blockbusters

I'm pretty proud of the way Select Editions finds new books by new authors, bringing to readers fresh voices that they might not otherwise hear. But our main goal is always presenting the best books we can find, wherever we find them, and if sometimes that means using nothing but knockout bestsellers by some of the biggest and best names in the business, I guess I shouldn't be too apologetic.

Robert Harris has written alternate history (what if the Germans won World War II) and novels of ancient Rome; The Ghost on the other hand is, as they say, ripped from the headlines, concerning as it does a former UK prime minister who looks oh so like Tony Blair. Surprisingly enough, this is Harris's first appearance in our series. We're glad to have him aboard.

Nicholas Sparks, on the other hand, has been a Select Editions favorite for years now, and The Choice is, frankly, one of his best. Robert Crais, who is about as far from Nicholas Sparks as a writer can get—his tough private eye stories are seldom accused of bringing a tear to the eye—brings us his latest featuring the iconic tough guy Elvis Cole. (We do love variety!)

And finally, another new voice to us, but a far from new voice to mystery fans around the world, is the award-winning Rhys Bowen, who in Her Royal Spyness introduces a brand new heroine of somewhat royal blood in a fun romp set in 1930s London. Big names one and all, and big books. Sometimes it just happens that way.

This volume is in the mail if you haven't already received it. Enjoy!


Monday, April 21, 2008

The small stuff

Ever think of the word, Stuff? I titled an earlier Word Nerd entry “Silly Stuff,” which got me to thinking about this humble workhorse of a word you’re likely to hear or use yourself a dozen times on any given day.

We use “stuff” all the time to refer to anything and everything. Stuff is a catchall term for things that happen to us, as in, “I can’t believe the stuff that’s happening to me!” It can refer to the things that crowd our closets or the things that crowd our mind. It’s a marvelous little word that has protean power to morph (change shape) into multiple practical usages.

This one is not Greek or Latin. It was brought across the waters from France to England in the 11th century by William of Normandy (that's him above) and his followers in the guise of estoffer. The Anglo-Norman French verb estoffer meant to “cram” or, well, “stuff.” It’s noun variant, estoffe, meant “equipment.” Today we use the descendant of these terms in the same way. But we also use it to signify not just equipment, but any of the things we might stuff into, say, our minds as students, or a duffle bag for a trip to the laundry. By the way, a duffel bag is so called for the cloth such bags used to be traded in Duffel, Belgium. This leads me to another word nerd trail I’ll take up next time: everyday words we use that derive from place names.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

Praying for rain

I used to have a Japanese friend whose grandfather was a farmer on the northern island of Hokkaido. I once asked her if he liked being a farmer, and she said, memorably, “He always used to pray for rain so he could stay inside most of the day and read.” I identify with this venerable farmer grandfather. There is really nothing like being forced to curl up with a favorite book on a rainy day. It’s one of life’s great pleasures. Of course, there can be a little stress involved. Because, as with any good investment, you have to choose wisely. And for book lovers, there is always a tempting list of contenders vying for that precious reading time. My current short, short list includes: Something old (Great Expectations by Charles Dickens), something borrowed (whatever tell-all memoir my wife happens to be reading—most recently: Parched by Heather King), and something new (Lady Killer by Lisa Scottoline) for the perfect marriage of fun and escape when it’s all wet outside. What are your rainy-day faves?


Monday, April 14, 2008

An editor's boggled mind

There are people I know who do not save books. When they're done with them, they throw them away.

The thought boggles my mind.

I think that somewhere around my house I still have my original copy of The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, the first book I clearly remember reading. (Where would we be if it wasn't for Dr. Seuss?) Books on the shelf are not merely items of attractiveness, although they are that. They are little reminders of places where your brain has been, and being surrounded by the books you've read is like living within a map of every imaginary journey you've ever taken. Throw that away? Not on your life.

By now I've managed quite successfully to run out of room for all the books I've read, but I still haven't thrown any away. My daughter at a very early age began furnishing her room with my books (and we had many a discussion of the difference between mine and hers), and now her apartment is where any book I'm happening to look for in my house probably has transferred itself. But that is as it should be. Books are for reading, for looking at and treasuring, but also for passing along. Could there be any greater shared pleasure than a book both of us have read and enjoyed? Not many, at least, not in my book.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

"My latest Leslie Fay!"

At the risk of showing my age, I have to ask: does anyone else besides me remember the magazine advertisements for a line of women’s clothing that featured a stylishly dressed model standing underneath the words “My Latest Leslie Fay”? She seemed to be bragging about her attire as fervently as an art collector would brag about a newly acquired Rembrandt. As a young woman, I found these ads extremely compelling.

So imagine my surprise when I discovered that Andrew Gross, the author of The Blue Zone, is the grandson of the company’s founder. What a jewel to have in your lineage! Gross’s grandfather, Fred Pomerantz, named the company after his daughter, who must either be Gross’s mother or an aunt. My thanks to the whole family for their invaluable contribution to women’s fashion.

As I recently discovered, you can still buy garments on eBay that have the words “My Latest Leslie Fay” sewn into the tag. Nowadays, though, the company makes clothes under the names Haberdashery by Leslie Fay, Joan Leslie, Reggio, David Warren, Rimini by Shaw, Outlander Sportswear, and Hue. They are also a licensee for the Liz Claiborne, Elisabeth, and Cynthia Steffe dress labels.

So the next time you see these brands in a department store, think of Andrew Gross and The Blue Zone—it’s not such a far stretch from the fictional world of advertising to the fictional world of a thriller. Both help us escape from the everyday . . .


Thursday, April 3, 2008

For Sophie Kinsella fans

Fans of Sophie Kinsella, whose hilarious The Undomestic Goddess appeared in Select Editions in 2005, know that she is the author of the bestselling "Shopaholic" series. Our British office has just noted that a Shopaholic movie is in the works, tentatively scheduled for release later this year. There are a few details available over at IMDB. Let's hope the movie is as good as the books!


Is this on your radar?

In a March 21st Word Nerd posting here, inspired by the exotic setting of Rosie Thomas’s Iris and Ruby, I indulged my interest in the origins of the word posh. If the theory that posh derives from the tony phrase from the days of the British Raj “Port Out Starboard Home,” which meant a made-in-the-shade voyage out to India for the wealthy, then posh qualifies as an acronym. Acronyms are abbreviation terms that made up of the first letter of each word in a descriptive phrase, such as NATO, from North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Today, we live in an age dominated by the influence of science and technology, so it is no surprise that acronyms are all around us. Consider the term laser, which comes from Lightwave Amplification Stimulated (by) Emission (of) Radiation. You really wouldn’t want to have to say that every time you referred to a high-speed printer. So familiar are acronyms these days that we tend to forget—or perhaps never even knew—that the letters themselves stand for something else.

A lot of acronyms we use today come straight from the era Rosie Thomas writes about in Iris and Ruby: World War II. Radar is just such an example. It comes from: Radio Detecting And Ranging (device). Another that arose during the 1940s is similarly technical: Sonar, from Sound Navigating And Ranging (device). But not all abbreviations from the Renaissance Age of Acronyms are science-based. Two of the most colorful—and handy in everyday life (especially if you have kids)—are old US Army terms coined by the Greatest Generation: Snafu and Fubar. The sanitized versions go like this—Situation Normal All Fouled Up and Fouled Up Beyond All Recognition. A phonetic acronym from the Second World War is Jeep. It comes from General Purpose (vehicle).

For word nerds like me out there, here’s the etymology of acronym, itself: as many grammar terms do (like phonetic or apostrophe or syntax) it is Greek in origin: akros (on top) and onyma (name).