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City of Memory: Acclaimed journalist Kati Marton’s new memoir
Debuting at #14, Kati Marton’s Paris: A Love Story tells the story of two marriages, sudden widowhood, and survival. A former NPR and ABC News correspondent, Hungarian-born Marton (Enemies of the People: My Family’s Journey to America), the daughter of Holocaust survivors, has had a distinguished career, though readers may recognize her name from her long (and stormy) marriage to the late ABC News anchor Peter Jennings, with whom she had two children. Following their divorce, Marton was courted by diplomat Richard Holbrooke, to whom she was happily married for 15 years, ending only with his fatal heart attack in 2010. In its review, PW wrote that the Paris is “[s]aturated with sadness, regret, and Hemingway” as well as “details of a life richly lived.” According to Alice Mayhew, S&S v-p and editorial director, who acquired and edited the book, “Kati Marton has written about her extraordinary childhood. She proposed a memoir that would follow the year after her husband’s death that would deal with grief but also be a testament to the resolve to go on living. We knew that this book would shine with integrity and find a grateful audience. It has more than fulfilled that promise.” After Holbrooke’s death, the grieving Marton retreated to Paris to the couple’s Latin Quarter pied-à-terre. Besides studying in Paris in the late 1960s, the city was the site of her early romance with Jennings, and where she and Holbrooke met as his diplomatic career took him around the globe, including his last position as special U.S. envoy to Afghanistan. In September, Marton’s promotional tour will include bookstores around the country, as well as stops at the La Jolla Book Festival and the New-York Historical Society. Through January 2013, she will tour Jewish community centers for events organized by the Jewish Book Council.—J.C.
The Bluest Skies You've Ever Seen... In Seattle
Maria Semple is used to good reviews, but with her second novel, Where'd You Go, Bernadette, she's got the sales to match. In the two weeks since it hit the stores (and the bestseller list, jumping from #38 to #19 on our Hardcover Fiction chart), Bernadette has sold more than twice the number of copies as her first novel, 2008's This One Is Mine, which topped out at 2,000 in hardcover at the outlets tracked by BookScan. Little, Brown's Nicole Dewey says they are "OVER THE MOON" with this one. Semple drew a standing room crowd on August 14 at Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle and is NPR's new darling, appearing on On Point and Morning Edition. The longtime screen and TV writer, whose most famous gig was for the hilariously twisted family drama, Arrested Development, turns her jaundiced eye on Seattle in Bernadette. By now everyone knows that Semple herself moved from L.A. to Seattle in 2008 with her boyfriend and their daughter, and became lost and depressed in an alien culture of granola and gray hair, a "self-pitying toxic funk," as she told PW. She turned straw into gold with Bernadette, written in epistolary form with 15-year-old narrator Bee, whose reclusive architect mother, Bernadette Fox, has gone missing. There's a chase across Antarctica (and unlike Werner Herzog's film, there will be penguins), jabs at Microsoft culture, and, best of all, a "virtual" personal assistant who lives in India and works for an unloving wage. Semple's been on reading lists all summer, touted nationally and in the U.K., sold foreign rights from France to Taiwan. and is touring through October. Expect Bernadette to move quickly into the top 10. Maybe we should all head to Seattle.--L.E.
The Dog Stars: A First Novel
Peter Heller's debut novel, a postapocalyptic adventure tale called The Dog Stars, bounds into the #15 slot this week. Prior to writing fiction, Heller was widely known as the fearless adventure writer behind books like Hell or High Water (which PW, in its starred review, called "unflinchingly honest"), about taking a treacherous whitewater expedition through the Tsangpo Gorge in Tibet, as well as his numerous articles in Men's Journal, Outside, and other publications. Heller's acquiring editor at Knopf, Jenny Jackson, told us that she was "hooked on The Dog Stars from page one. I guiltily closed my office door, ignored my e-mails, and prayed the phone wouldn't ring." In the novel, which is told in sparse snippets of visceral prose, a man named Hig has survived the superflu that has devastated much of mankind. He occupies an abandoned airport and flies sorties in a vintage Cessna, searching for survivors from the sky. When even his final comfort—a dog named Jasper—is withdrawn, Hig takes flight in pursuit of a voice he once heard on the radio. PW selected Heller's debut as one of 10 fall 2012 "First Fiction" picks and included it in the fall 2012 Announcements long list, calling it "perhaps the world's most poetic survival guide," a novel that "reads as if Billy Collins had novelized one of George Romero's zombie flicks." The novel, an Indiebound Pick for August and an NPR First Read, has also been chosen by Apple, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble as Best Book of the Month.
Heller's novel seems to be connecting with the same readers who embraced Cormac McCarthy's bestselling The Road, picked by Oprah for her Book Club. More recently, Karen Thompson Walker's debut, The Age of Miracles, sets an adolescent girl's coming-of-age against a slow-burn apocalypse. What is it that draws so many readers to the end of times? When we asked Heller if he really thought that our civilization was doomed, he said, "I think the book partly is my way of struggling through that issue. There are 50,000 species going extinct every year. I don't know if we will really have a doomsday for human beings, but if we did, to me, it wouldn't be an unjust outcome." --M. H.
Going Whole Hog -- Literally
Following up on their 2005 bestseller, Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking and Curing (which has sold around 150,000 copies), Michael Ruhlman and Brian Polcyn have landed another unlikely title on the list, Salumi: The Craft of Italian Dry Curing, at #22.
"These two Midwestern cured-meat aficionados focus on the skills and ingredients needed for creating a variety of Italian classics," said the PW review. "Proponents of nose-to-tail cookery, they not only advise going whole hog, in the most literal sense, they also provide detailed instructions on butchering a pig Italian-style with 'minimal sawing of bone.' "
The authors have already done several radio interviews, according to Norton publicist Erin Lovett: "Ruhlman will also be on the Martha Stewart Living Radio station on Sirius later this month. Their tour will include stops in Chicago; Ann Arbor, Mich.; and, of course, Traverse City, where they'll be featured at Pigstock 2012." --M.R.
The big-screen version of Stephen Chbosky’s first novel, 1999’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower, opens in limited release on Sept. 21 from Summit Entertainment. The movie—which the author both scripted and directed—stars Emma Watson of the Harry Potter franchise; Ezra Miller, who earned accolades as the title character in We Need to Talk About Kevin; and Logan Lerman, who plays Percy Jackson in The Lightning Thief and its upcoming sequel. On August 1 MTV Books released a tie-in edition, with the three young actors on the cover, and it makes its debut on our trade paper bestsellers list at #22. The novel, which takes an unflinching look at adolescence, has been a backlist staple for the publisher, consistently selling between 70,000 and 100,000 copies in paper each year through the outlets recorded by Nielsen BookScan. This week, the original edition sits at #10 on the backlist paperbacks list. “It has always been a big seller in the college market,” says Anthony Ziccardi, v-p and deputy publisher of Simon & Schuster. “It’s been listed on the ‘banned books’ list, and this is a big reason for much of the success. It’s also been embraced by librarians, and Stephen has been very active with speaking to the school and library market.” MTV Books will continue to sell the original edition along with the movie tie-in; both versions sold similarly this week—5,493 units for the original, 4,471 for the tie-in—so it remains to be seen which edition will win the popularity contest.—C.J.