Saturday, February 18, 2006

Browsing the Bookracks

Over at M.G.'s blog a conversation linking several other conversations is going on. Interesting stuff that got me thinking..about bookstores and their stocking/categorizing practices.

I'm a history buff. One of my favorite dates in history is May 23, 1618. Because it's just such a damned bizzare way to mark the start of what might well have been the first "total war".... long before Sherman's slash and burn campaign to the sea. I wanted to read more. I had an idea for a novel, about the effects of such a total war on a very small place that history forgot, a nowhere what represented all the depredations of war, the loss and horror and the ultimate futility of fighting over different interpretations of the same God.

I went to the local B&N. I went to the history section. I found nothing in this category that didn't seem to project that the particular region sprang full grown from the head of Zeus on June 28th 1914.

There were histories aplenty about Celts, Scots, Renaissance Italians, Henry's eight wives, Ancient Greece and Rome, ad infinitum. There wasn't anything I was looking for. There was the Hundred Years War, The War of The Roses, The Spanish American War, the Battle of Bannockburn, ad nauseum. Couldn't find anything there either.

So far as B&N was concerned The Thirty Years war never happened, and Germany began with Franz Ferdinand's assination in Sarajevo and progressed from there to Jackboots where the books were stacked high and deep. I had to go to Amazon and really scour for accessable material.

And even then there is stuff I cannot use in the novel. For one my originally intended frontspiece poem by Andreas Gryphius. Go read. click on the titles and there are translations of the poems. You'll know the one I cannot use even though it is about the full horrors of war. Read all three of the poems. The WWI trench poets have nothing on Gryphius.

Go read. It's the stuff way before the other stuff. It's about people. German people. They (include me on on this one, my mom's paternal grandparents were from Bremen) have hearts too.

But if the novel sees the light of day, I won't use Tranen as a frontspiece, no matter how powerful a poem it is. I would just hope and pray that my writing could do the spirit of the poem justice.


At 9:35 PM, Blogger M. G. Tarquini said...

For anybody reading, I'm Lisa's critique partner with her Thirty Year's War novel and it's a phenomenol and very well written piece. She brings the concept of Total War to a personal and poignant place. I hope she finishes it. She's run into the reality that she can't do anything about the last century and neither can anybody else. Time heals all wounds, some take longer than others.

I've been doing research on Ustache and Chetniks for HINDSIGHT. I finally understand better the problems following the fall of the Berlin Wall, but also despair because this has basically been going on for a thousand years.

Speaking of Renaissance Italians...there's almost nothing out there about medieval Italians, not in the northern city states in the couple of centuries before the Renaissance. Good for me because that's where I'm plopping DEEPEST BLUE, but odd because it's like nothing happened there of any interest to English speaking peoples.

And yes, the Gryphius poems are powerful and that particular one is unfortunate. So is the German National Anthem. I wish I had a solution. I don't.

At 9:51 PM, Blogger Bonnie Calhoun said...

Wow, Lisa, the poems were powerful, but I saw immediately what you mean...the Fatherland poem would relegate your book to the bottom of the slush pile to never see the light of day.

I can understand your pain, I have a kind of my own. My mother and father were always my cheerleaders. They're favorite saying, "Where there's a will, there's a way!" Now all you have to do is find that way, if this is truly the story you want to write.

Look at this as an example (cause ai sorta used this one today, so it's fresh in my mind)

Almost twenty years ago, Oprah broke onto the TV scene...She came into a white-male-dominated industry and literally took over. Why?...not because she was cute...girlfriend looked kinda hard back then..LOL!

but it was because she wanted more than anything and she wasn't taking no for an answer...move foreward twenty years...and hell...she could be President if she really wanted to!

What do you want? And how hard are you willing to work to make it happen?

At 9:52 PM, Blogger M. G. Tarquini said...

Though I died young, if only days are told,
count up my fears, and I was very old.

You know, Lisa. I'm wondering if you should change the title to If Only Days are Told

At 8:33 AM, Blogger Dana Y. T. Lin said...

Wow - those are very powerful poems.

Don't give up, Lisa. It's a brilliant piece, what you have going (of course, I've only read a little, but I see you have a way with words).

It always amazes me how the human soul is able to heal and the heart able to forgive. The things my parents have seen should have embittered them towards the Japanese, but instead, they have learned to embrace that culture, welcome it, and let go what they have suffered during the 1930's-40's. They understand what happened half a century ago is not the responsibility of its descendants.

At 12:47 PM, Blogger E. Ann Bardawill said...

I have SO got to read this thing.

At 1:48 PM, Blogger Gabriele C. said...

Now I'm really intrigued about that novel of yours. Where exactly does it take place?

I have some good material about the Thirty Years War, but it's in German mostly, and some Swedish. For Fiction, try to find a translation of the Simplicissimus (by Grimmelshausen) and Brecht's play Mutter Courage. The latter should be avaliable in English. I'm a lot less sure about Ricarda Huch's Thirty Years War novel, and Golo Mann's excellent Wallenstein biography. There seems to be some sad truth to the German History in the US begins with WW1, that goes for translations as well. Oh, and Gryphius rocks.

Hehe, I have a TYW plotbunny, too, but it's not very well developed - the time is a bit later than my special periods.

At 7:49 PM, Blogger Lisa S. said...

Where exactly does it take place? Funny but I ask myself the same question. There was something like 254 separate states: principalities, bishoprics, margraveships, free cities, etc, at the start of TTYW.
I stage my story in a place that may or may not have existed, a 255th state somewhere east of Freiburg and west of Vienna and south of Magdeburg.

At 8:33 PM, Blogger S. R. Hatcher said...

Those poems are powerful....especially the first one. Is this the book you are writing right now. Or, are you writing two novels? It seems like a good time for historical fiction. Just started reading a new one-takes place in 1700's.

Had not heard of the poet--interesting. I guess most of his work is published in German.

At 9:45 PM, Blogger Lisa S. said...

Sharon, I'm have two projects "in progress" right now. I'm concentrating on the lighter contemporary one for now. My head doesn't need to be mired in stories of war and destruction right now. Need to keep the spirits up by working on something lighter.

As for Gryphius, I had never heard of him until I started researching the historical. And I had to really dig for the very few translations I could find of some of his poetry.

All I knew of mid 17th century poetry previous to this was the idealistic lace edged goop of The Cavalier Poets writing around the time of the English Civil War and the execrable Puritian sermon-poems of Michael Wigglesworth.

I did a paper on Wigglesworth for a college AmCiv course a gazillion years ago. Don't want to read him ever again.

At 8:29 AM, Blogger M. G. Tarquini said...

Lisa and I met over war poetry...

At 11:18 AM, Blogger Lisa S. said...

Of all the lousy trenches on the battlefields, she had to walk into mine.

At 12:12 PM, Blogger M. G. Tarquini said...

Lisa really liked my story...

At 4:03 PM, Blogger R.J. Baker said...

I cruise B & N regularily, talking to book stockers and anyone who will talk to me.

It is very much up to these frontline minimum wage workers to determine the placement of the book unless the publishing houses pay for placement in the form of subidies or advertising coop $s.

I think a general fiction or mainline genre categorization would be better than a arcane one. I'm still reseaching this but there are many hidden reasons for where a book is placed shelf wise. For example if a new book comes in with five or more copies it is placed in front on the new book table - if less, the the stockers pick where it goes. Important? Don't you think?

At 6:05 PM, Blogger Lisa S. said...

The biggest hidden reason is called the Planogram. Big Boxes do nothing in an haphazard fashion when it comes to display, set up, and shelving. So, one has to make sure ones agent has pull with a publisher who has pull with the Big Box management to make sure that five or more units of your product are sent to seah store.

It's retailing. MBAs at corporate HQ make the decision whenther or not the golden number of units are sent to each store or the stores where the demographic will sell the golden number and less to them that won't.

At 7:40 AM, Blogger E. Ann Bardawill said...

"Of all the lousy trenches on the battlefields, she had to walk into mine."


I though you were making a pun.

At 8:17 AM, Blogger Adam Hurtubise said...


Re: Thirty Years War research.

Have you read "Adventures of a Simpleton" by Grimelshausen?

I'm not sure how to spell it, but it was absolutely fabulous as an account of a war nobody ever studies any more.


At 11:53 AM, Blogger Gabriele C. said...

...somewhere east of Freiburg and west of Vienna and south of Magdeburg.

Hm, that would include Göttingen. :-)

At 9:10 PM, Blogger Lisa S. said...


Just three hills over to the right, across the next valley and a far piece down the creek....


Grimmelshausen is on the "to read" list once I again have the ducats to throw at the bookseller.

At 10:01 PM, Blogger M. C. Pearson said...

Thank you for the b-day wishes! And thanks for putting me in your links...I shall return the favor very soon!

Because I homeschool, I'm always looking for good history resources...there is one publishing house called that has a great selection. Maybe they have something for you?

At 8:40 PM, Blogger M. C. Pearson said...

Okay, you're on my links now!


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