The summer is ended and we are not yet saved

September 10, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

That seems like a fairly accurate summary of where things stand in the realm of books and publishing as we move into the second week of September 2013. Joey Comeau’s short novel is also one of the books That Shakespearean Rag missed out on covering during its summer hiatus (or, in the spirit of our federal and Ontario provincial governments, its period of prorogue).

During the summer months, Indigo, Canada’s largest book retailer, released its first-quarter report, which did not paint a particularly rosy picture for the bricks-and-mortar book retailing sector. Sales of physical books were down year-over-year, as – somewhat surprisingly – were sales of e-readers. According to the report, online sales “have seen less erosion as more customers move to purchase books online instead of in-store.” This represents a significant shift in consumer buying patterns, although the fact that sales of e-readers are down indicates the move to digital may not be the panacea everyone hoped for. (This trend could be accounted for by consumers abandoning dedicated e-readers in favour of tablets capable of multitasking and performing other functions besides reading.)

Also this summer, the world’s richest author, J.K. Rowling, won a “substantial” settlement against a law firm that breached confidentiality by leaking her name as the author of a pseudonymously published mystery novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling. According to The Independent, “Ms Rowling’s solicitor Jenny Afia told the court her client, who was not present during proceedings, ‘has been left dismayed and distressed by such a fundamental betrayal of her trust.'” A breach of trust, it must be noted, that resulted in exponentially increased sales of the novel once the author’s true identity had been revealed. To Rowling’s credit, the damages from the settlement were donated to a charity that supports members of the U.K. military and their families.

Bad news comes in threes, or so it is said, and this summer readers lost a trio of beloved writers: Iain Banks, Elmore Leonard, and Seamus Heaney.

Simon & Schuster Canada, which had been cleared by Heritage Canada in May to inaugurate a domestic publishing program, announced its senior staff. The new roster of executives includes former HarperCollins editor Phyllis Bruce, who will run an eponymous imprint. Bruce, who will work with S&S Canada publisher Kevin Hanson and associate publisher Alison Clarke, told Quill & Quire that she wanted her first acquisition “to be a new writer and a new theme, to signal that I’ll be doing what I did at my previous imprint, and that’s to go out and search for new writers.” Bruce’s first acquisition is a novel by Ann Choi, a recent student at the University of Toronto’s creative writing program, about a family of Korean immigrants who run a convenience store in Toronto. Readers who feel a slight sense of déjà vu may be forgiven, though it appears the author had not seen Ins Choi’s award-winning play before writing her novel.

Details about another significant title for S&S Canada came clearer over the past few months. The long-awaited book by Canada’s sitting prime minister, Stephen Harper (who appears as “Stephen J. Harper” on the book’s cover), was given a pub date and a title. A Great Game: The Forgotten Leafs and the Rise of Professional Hockey will appear in bookstores on November 5.

Harper’s is not the only big book to appear this fall, as a quick glance at Quill & Quire’s previews for fall fiction, non-fiction, and international releases will attest. Indeed, the final four months of 2013 comprise the most jam-packed season in recent memory. Major new novels are on the way (or have already started appearing in bookstores) from Margaret Atwood, Joseph Boyden, Michael Winter, Wayne Johnston, Douglas Coupland, Mary Swan, David Gilmour, Craig Davidson, Eleanor Catton, and Catherine Bush. And that’s just the Canucks. International releases include Stephen King’s highly anticipated sequel to The Shining, along with new novels from 2013 Scotiabank Giller Prize juror Jonathan Lethem, Thomas Pynchon, Amy Tan, Chuck Palahniuk, and the much-touted sophomore novel by Marisha Pessl.

There is also a mammoth oral biography of the late J.D. Salinger making its way to bookstores as of this writing. Written by David Shields and Shane Salerno, the volume accompanies Salerno’s new documentary film, which has so far been garnering less-than-positive reviews. Regardless of the book’s critical reception, it is sure to be of interest to readers who maintain a fascination with its eccentric subject, and has already offered one bombshell revelation: five unpublished Salinger manuscripts exist and will begin appearing in 2015.

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