books

Alison Swan

Alison Swan is a poet and an award winning environmentalist. She's adjunct professor at Western Michigan University.

Not too long ago Swan published her first collection of poetry, Dog Heart. Michigan Radio's Jennifer White sat down with Swan to talk about the new book.

Swan says she finds her inspiration from the wild places of Michigan.

Scott Martelle is a journalist and author. His new book Detroit: A Biography chronicles the history of the city from the 17oo's to the present day. He was also a former staff writer for the Los Angeles Times and the Detroit News.

Martelle believes there was a point in history when Detroit had an opportunity to diversify its manufacturing.

Just over a month ago, I talked about an interesting controversy in the Plymouth-Canton Community School district, a middle-to-upper-middle area of western Wayne County.

The superintendent suddenly banned a popular novel, Graham Swift’s "Waterland", from the Advanced Placement, or AP English curriculum. "Waterland", first published almost 30 years ago, is a highly acclaimed book which has to do with storytelling and history, and which shows how everything is influenced by what came before.

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The Plymouth-Canton school district will not ban Waterland from its Advanced Placement English curriculum.

Graham Swift’s novel is the second book this year the Plymouth-Canton school district put on trial. The district considered banning Toni Morrison’s Beloved last month, but decided against it.

A committee voted anonymously in a closed meeting not to ban the books after hearing from teachers, students and parents during public meetings. (Since their votes are anonymous, we do not know if it was a unanimous vote.)

AP English teacher Brian Read, who has taught Beloved and Waterland for 10 years, says both books deal with the effects of trauma, and contain some mature content of a sexual nature. He says he and his colleague don't choose books because they're sensational, or because there's offensive material in it.

"We choose them because they’re really great works of literature and they really work well in our curriculum, they work well with other pieces that we’re teaching. So I’ll absolutely teach it again and I’m glad that I have that opportunity to teach it again."

Read says both books are worth fighting for, and he’ll continue to defend the books if they come under fire again.

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Another novel taught in the Plymouth-Canton school district is up for discussion this week.

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Two award-winning novels are at the center of a book-banning effort in the Plymouth-Canton school district.

One of the books up for review is Toni Morrison’s Beloved, a story about slavery, rape and the effects of trauma.

Meredith Yancy, 16, is reading the book in her Advanced Placement English Literature class at Salem High School. She says she didn’t have a problem with the book’s mature content.

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For all your late holiday shoppers out there, today's Artpod is filled with ideas for giving local.

I put out a call on Twitter and Facebook to hear your thoughts on Michigan-made gifts you'd like to give (or receive) this year. I also reached out to the owner of an independent bookstore in Grand Rapids, and the owner of an independent music store in Ann Arbor to get their suggestions, too.

So without further ado, here's what you had to say about giving local:

The University of Michigan admits to committing some serious errors in its project to digitize books whose copyright holders cannot be identified or contacted.

U of M officials have stopped their "Orphan Works Project" five days after a lawsuit was filed against the university, according to AnnArbor.com:

a lawsuit filed by the Authors Guild and two other literary guilds, one Canadian and the other Australian, maintains that many works deemed orphans by U-M have living authors or author relatives that still claim copyright rights but do not know about the digitization project.

Aside from U-M, four other HathiTrust participating schools were named in the lawsuit: The University of California, the University of Wisconsin, Indiana University, and Cornell University.

The HathiTrust is a a partnership between dozens of research institutions and libraries "working to ensure that the cultural record is preserved and accessible long into the future."

The University of Michigan digitizes all the material that is ingested into the HathiTrust.

The University of Michigan Library issued a statement on the Orphan Works Project explaining their decision to halt the project:

The close and welcome scrutiny of the list of potential orphan works has revealed a number of errors, some of them serious. This tells us that our pilot process is flawed.

Having learned from our mistakes—we are, after all, an educational institution—we have already begun an examination of our procedures to identify the gaps that allowed volumes that are evidently not orphan works to be added to the list.

University officials say "once we create a more robust, transparent, and fully documented process, we will proceed with the work."

When I first heard that former Governor Jennifer Granholm was writing a book focused on her time in office, I was puzzled.

John Engler, a political powerhouse who substantially remade Michigan, wrote no such book. Neither did Jim Blanchard or Soapy Williams or Bill Milliken. They all had governorships far more successful than Granholm’s, in large part for economic reasons beyond her control. Nor, according to the polls, are Michiganders still enraptured with their first female governor’s every word.

So why would she write this book? I was set straight by a longtime titan of the state Democratic Party. “Jacky boy, this book isn’t going to sell in Michigan. It isn’t written for us. This book was written to solidify her reputation with the New York and Washington media, so she can keep her MSNBC commenting job.” And, he added, to present her version of history to the world.

Well, I always was a trifle naïve. So I decided to read the book, called “A Governor’s Story,” and subtitled “The Fight for Jobs and America’s Economic Future.” Somewhat bizarrely, it lists her husband, the erstwhile “first gentleman” as co-author, though it is written entirely in the first person. Early on, it becomes clear that a more accurate title might have been “Alone,” or more simply, “Me.”

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High school students from Detroit to Marquette will be participating in this year’s Great Michigan Read, a free, statewide book club put on by the Michigan Humanities Council.

This year’s book is "Arc of Justice" by Kevin Boyle. It’s a true story about an African American physician in the 1920s that moves to an all-white neighborhood in Detroit and defends his family’s right to live there.

Photo courtesy of the author

This week's Artpod features an interview from the "Michigan on the Page." It's a web-only series from Michigan Radio, where authors from around the state are interviewed about their own books, about Michigan books in general, and about what it means to be a Michigan writer.

On today's podcast, we turn the mic over to Brian Short, the series' curator, and author Bonnie Jo Campbell.

Campbell's most recent book is the novel Once Upon a River, which has gotten rave reviews. Her previous book, American Salvage, was a finalist for the National Book Award.

Bonnie Jo Campbell

Bonnie Jo Campbell not only writes great Michigan books, she knows a lot about great Michigan books, too.

Campbell's most recent book, the novel Once Upon a River, earned a profile in Poets and Writers Magazine and was listed on Newsweek's  10 Must-Read Summer Books.

It has received critical acclaim from the New York Times Book Review, the Wall Street Journal, Entertainment Weekly, Parade, NPR, and Booklist.

Her previous book, American Salvage, was a finalist for the National Book Award.

Before coming into the studio, we had spoken about Michigan books, and to my surprise Campbell came into the studio with a big box full of books  - books either about the state or by Michigan writers.

We couldn't talk about all of them in the interview, so here's the list of books that Bonnie Jo Campbell brought:

  • How to Fly by Rachael Perry
  • Wolf Lake, White Gown Blown Open by Diane Seuss
  • Autopsy of an Engine by Lolita Hernandez
  • The Nick Adams Stories by Ernest Hemingway
  • Within the Lighted City by Lisa Lenzo
  • The Feast of Love by Charles Baxter
  • Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon
  • Road to Wellville by T.C. Boyle
  • Freshwater Boys by Adam Schuitema
  • The Legend of Sleeping Bear by Kathy-Jo Wargin
  • Eden Springs by Laura Kasischke
  • Laughing Whitefish by Robert Traver
  • Stitches by David Small
  • Of Woods and Other Things by Emma Pticher
  • Michigan's Eastern Massasauga--An Historic Distribution by Tom Beauvais
  • "Brown Dog" by Jim Harrison
  • "Wanting Only to be Heard" by Jack Driscoll
  • "The Lost Tiki Palaces of Detroit" by Michael Zadoorian

Campbell had a couple of other recommendations, though she didn't bring the books with her: 

  • The Lake, the River, and the Other Lake by Steve Amick
  • The Women Were Leaving the Men by Andy Mozina

We spoke in Michigan Radio's studios about why people are drawn to dark books and what the difference is between why Hemingway's characters hunt and why Campbell's characters hunt. And despite her protest, we think she sounded awfully sophisticated throughout the entire discussion.

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A Michigan book publisher is using social media to update a popular 19th century publishing method made famous by Charles Dickens.

The University of Michigan Press will serialize two new novels using Facebook, beginning July 18.

Fiction Writers Review

Jeremiah Chamberlin wears many hats.

He is a published writer whose work has appeared in Glimmer Train, Flyway and Michigan Quarterly Review, and he is writing an ongoing series about independent bookstores for Poets and Writers.

Photo courtesy of Nicola's Books

Independent booksellers are continuously looking for ways to compete with online retail giants like Amazon.

A recent New York Times article highlights how some independent bookstores are taking advantage of something online retails can't provide: in-person author events. Here's an excerpt:

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On today's podcast, we talk with Michigan author Steve Amick about writing, humor, and the character of writers from the state. It's part of Michigan Radio's occasional literary series, Michigan on the Page.   Amick is the author of The Lake, the River & the Other Lake, which takes place in a fictional town on the west side of the state.

Steve Amick

Steve Amick knows Michigan.

His first novel, The Lake, the River & the Other Lake, takes place in Weneshkeen, a fictional boat town on the western coast of Michigan. The novel is filled with scenes familiar to many Michiganders—the conflict between townies and summer people, between farmers and daytripping Fudgies.

Ann Patchett, Petoskey bookstore enthusiast and award-winning author, has a new book.

Patchett is the author of five previous novels, including Bel Canto, which won the Pen/Faulkner and the Orange Prize.

The plot of her new book, State of Wonder, features a pharmaceutical researcher sucked into an international adventure with a potentially huge-profit-making drug at its heart.

Kevin Rawlings / Creative Commons

75 workers will be laid off from Christian book publisher Zondervan’s distribution warehouse in July of 2012. Zondervan currently employs 325 people.

Scott Macdonald is president and CEO of the Grand Rapids-based company that publishes Bibles, children’s books, and Christian authors.

“We’re a family. We have a long history and heritage (in Grand Rapids). This is a significant impact on our family but it’s one that’s driven by a changing business climate and it’s the right decision for us at this time because of that.”

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The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Borders Group Inc. will move its headquarters from Ann Arbor to the Detroit metro area. The company is currently operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy. From the Journal:

Borders Group Inc. plans to tell publishers and landlords Wednesday it has achieved major cost savings, including more than $30 million in rent reductions, and that it will move out of its Ann Arbor, Mich., headquarters for cheaper office space in the greater Detroit metro area.

Presenting its business plan to an unsecured creditors committee, predominantly made up of publishers and landlords, Borders also plans to say it has now closed about 50 superstores as part of efforts to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, according to people familiar with the matter. Altogether, Borders will close 226 by the end of next month, although a handful of additional stores could be closed, depending on negotiations with landlords, the people said.

News organizations around the state were quick to pick up the report:

Andrew / Flickr

Welcome to part one of our web exclusive series, “Michigan on the Page.”

Over the following months, we will be talking with writers from all over Michigan about what books they think best represent the state.

Writers, like many of the state’s residents, have all kinds of opinions on what kinds of writing really speak to Michigan and its citizens.

Are there highlights? Tons. Way too many to list. But here’s a short selection of recent and all-time favorites:

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

When you think about improvisation you might think of comedy or jazz. The idea of cartooning or drawing comics is probably not what comes to mind. But a little comic book shop in Dearborn is giving artists a space to try out new ideas, together, on paper.

Green Brain Comics hosts a monthly  comic jam.  It’s similar to the writing exercise known as an exquisite corpse. In this case, an artist draws one panel, then passes it to someone who draws another panel, and so forth.  The end result is an entire comic strip, created by eight artists.

Ruthanne Reid / Flickr

This could be a pivotal week for the future of Borders Books with some sources saying the company could seek bankruptcy protection.    

The Ann Arbor-based bookseller delayed payments to publishers and others the past two months.   The company has been trying to negotiate with its vendors and come up with a plan to move forward.    Borders has a half billion dollar financing deal in place, if it can come to terms with its vendors. 

Jeff Manning is a managing director with BDO Capitol Advisors.   Manning’s company closely follows the retail market. 

"The challenge,  if you look at the statistics,  majority of companies that enter bankruptcy do not emerge.  If you look at recent statistics with retailers, an awful lot of retailers have gone straight into liquidation." 

Manning expects Borders’ vendors will decide it’s more in their interest to keep Borders viable. He says, if Borders does file for bankruptcy, the company will probably exit bankruptcy before Christmas.   But Manning says Borders execs must be careful, since the bookseller is in a precarious position:

"One foot in the grave and one foot on a banana peel," says Manning.

 

The Rise and Fall (and Re-Rise?) of Borders Group.

Courtesy Creative Commons

Borders Books has been struggling to survive. 

Yesterday, the Ann Arbor bookseller announced it had lined up $550 million dollars in financing to stay afloat.

The deal is contingent on Borders reaching a deal with book publishers. It's been reported that the company set a February 1st deadline for the publishers to agree to take up to a third of the booksellers debt. A Borders spokeswoman would only say the company has not stated a specific date. 

The deal with GE Capital announced Thursday could help. Or it may not. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Borders is still looking for money to finance the company through a possible bankruptcy filing.

Flickr - Ruthanne Reid

The headlines for the Michigan-based Borders Group Inc. have not been good lately:

And my personal favorite speculative headline:

It seems everyone has been on a death watch for the bookseller.

Today, Julie Bosman writes in the New York Times Borders may be close to a financing deal that might help the company reorganize. From the article:

Borders executives told publishers that they were close to securing refinancing from GE Capital and other lenders, these people said, speaking only on condition of anonymity, and that the company intended to reduce costs, improve liquidity and expand marketing efforts, as well as sell some assets.

Earlier this month, we  posted on a Reuters report that said Borders was working with publishers to work out a deal. Borders is in debt to the publishers for past shipments and the company reportedly wants to restructure that debt as a loan.

Meanwhile, the company is cutting costs. The Detroit News reported yesterday that Borders is closing a big distribution center in Tennessee:

Borders will consolidate the processing and delivery of books, movies, music and other products to two distribution centers in Carlisle, Pa., and Mira Loma, Calif. It is part of a long-term effort to cut costs and make the distribution of products to bookstores more efficient, Borders Group said in a statement.

So will borders survive? What would your future headline say?

Bookstore
Photo courtesy of Nicola's Books in Ann Arbor

Need help finding the perfect holiday gift for the bibliophile in your life?

The folks at the Library of Michigan have come up with their annual "Michigan Notable Books" list: 20 books about Michigan or by Michigan authors.

We interview Randy Riley on this week's Artpod. Riley is in charge of special collections at the Library of Michigan, and he says "there’s something for everybody on this list."

Ildar Sagdejev / creative commons

Update: 2:12pm:

Since we posted this story we found this analysis piece by Sarah Weinman of Daily Finance News. She also calls the notion that Borders Books could buy Barnes & Noble a story that has "entertainment value" not much more. Weinman says of Borders Books:

"If a merger was its plan for saving itself, expect B&N's rejection of the deal to accelerate its downward spiral -- an end that, sadly for the publishing industry, is likely to come sooner rather than later."

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