Bloggers love blogs. We may not be powerful, but we revel in our dashed-off journal entries about books.
And sometimes we have influence. Sometimes publishers reissue books we recommend.
In 2009, an editor at Bloomsbury left a comment on my blog to say that Bloomsbury was reissuing D. E. Stevenson’s Mrs. Tim Christie (under the British title Mrs. Tim of the Regiment) “entirely due to your blog.” I was happy to think I’d had an influence, and other bloggers, too, were thrilled to be contacted about books they’d recommended. I remember Stuck in a Book’s joy over the reissuing of Frank Baker’s Mrs. Hargreaves, a novel he loved and praised often (and still writes about).
I am a fan of lost classics and perfectly good, if not perfect, forgotten books. Hence I was delighted to discover E. M. Delafield’s Provincial Lady books through Academy Chicago Publishers, L. P. Davies’s A Meaningful Life through NYRB, and countless titles published by Virago.
Now Amazon has launched an interesting series of out-of-print books, “Nancy Pearl A Book Lust Rediscovery.” The books to be reissued are selected by Nancy Pearl, the librarian and author of Book Lust. The first two are Merle Miller’s A Gay and Melancholy Sound and Rhian Ellis’s After Life. I look forward to reading them.
But others have great recommendations, too. Now if bloggers and rebel readers could band together as a network, we could form our own publishing company and reissue out-of-print books as (perhaps free) e-books.
But it would be an enormous hassle–sitting around in our pajamas talking on the phone to writers or whoever about copyright… and we’d have to raise money to pay royalties–from whom? But wouldn’t it be fun to find the out-of-print books recommended by bloggers and commenters without paying $50 or something for a rare book?
So here are a few of my choices for “If We Had a Publishing Company…”
1. Nancy Hale’s Dear Beast. I wrote last spring: “In Dear Beast, the heroine, Abby Daniel, the wife of a well-educated, caustic Virginia bookseller, writes a best-selling anonymous novel about life in a small town very like Starkeyville. The difference is that he Starkeyvillians admire it, wondering who wrote it….
“This clever, witty novel is almost experimental in parts, a patchwork of lively Southern dialogue, New York party dialogue, and excerpts from letters, Abby’s diary, and The Rose That Died. … Parts are funny, but the parts about Abby’s marriage to Boogher are painful to read. Hale explores Abby’s observant musings about the South and Boogher’s long-winded Southern oral narratives. They mesh at several points.”
2. Clifford D. Simak’s They Walked Like Men is one of my science fiction favorites. In 2009 I wrote: “Aliens are taking over the world – but not by hackneyed means – they’re buying all the real estate on Earth. They look like bowling balls – and somehow combine with dolls to simulate human beings. The narrator, Parker Graves (love the last name!), is a newspaper science writer who investigates the aliens after he foils a trap they’ve set outside his apartment. He also discovers that all the real estate has been bought up by a mystery man – and that even wealthy people are homeless because once they sell their homes, there’s nowhere to go.”
3. John Thorndike’s Anna Delaney’s Child. I wrote in 2009: his lyrical first novel charts the mourning and gradual healing of a group of characters in Fell River, Ohio, who have suffered a range of losses. Anna Delaney, a farmer, has lost her eight-year-old son, Kevin, in a car accident; her father’s beloved wife, Anna’s mother, has died of cancer; Susan, now a paraplegic after a recent climbing accident, longs for the sports that kept her centered; and Anna’s ex-husband, Paul, has moved to Fell River with his unresolved drug problems.”
An excellent novel.
4. Gladys Taber’s Mrs. Daffodil. I wrote last winter about this humorous novel: “It is obviously autobiographical, or at least parallels the Stillmeadow journals (which may be slightly fictionalized; I can’t find much information about Taber). Like Taber, the heroine, Mrs. Daffodil, writes a syndicated column called “Butternut Wisdom.” She also writes short stories about young love, because she has discovered people are less interested in stories about ordinary older people like herself. And through this writing, she supports herself, her married daughter and graduate student husband, and presumably her housemate, Kay, a widowed college friend who agreed to share the country house after her husband died. Mrs. Daffodil is not good with money: sometimes she absent-mindedly sends two checks to the electric company.”
So those are four of mine. Please let me know your favorites. I’m always looking for good books to read (not publish, right?).