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In my interview last week with Ron Carlson, he touched upon his thoughts about the future of books and printed material, which looks grim at the moment. "It will be very interesting to see what happens with newspapers and all forms of media," he said, "because I don’t think it’s just going to go one way. I think it will settle down and there will be a little bit of reaction, and we’ll end up with hard copy and electronic copy." Although I have no skill with a crystal ball, I think he's probably right--printed material will continue to exist, but those who want to produce it are going to have to get creative. The items I'd gathered for this week's Roundup looked pretty random at first, but then I realized that they all involve writers, readers, and book organizations trying to do something different. The first of these is Colorado native Todd Shimoda, who will present his new novel Oh! A mystery of mono no aware (Chin Music Press, 310 pages, $22.50) Thursday, June 18 at The Readers Cove in Ft. Collins (6:30 p.m.). Shimoda currently lives in Hawaii, and his previous novel, The Fourth Treasure was a Kiriyama Prize notable book for 2002. Oh! was recently featured in NPR's "Independent Booksellers Pick Summer's Best Reads." Lucia Silva, the book buyer at Portrait of a Bookstore in Studio City, California, described the book in this way: "On a lark, 20-something Zack Hara leaves his tepid life in L.A. for Japan. Following tiny shifts of fate, he quickly becomes fascinated by the ancient Japanese notion of mono no aware — an elusive concept that loosely means 'the beauty of sad things,' a sudden, intense moment of awareness that makes us cry 'oh!' In search of his own moment of mono no aware, and intent on awakening his own emotional life, he becomes captivated by the suicide clubs that meet in the Aokigahara forest. In seamless counterpoint to the philosophical current, Shimoda shapes a delicate mystery that grows darker as the novel progresses. The book itself is a fine work of art, with a gorgeous, embossed cover, rice-paper-thin pages, and textured paper inserts with illustrations that offer clues to Zack's fate — a triumphant kick in the pants for anyone who doubts the future of paper-and-ink books."

Creative Survival Tactics for the Printed Word

In my interview last week with Ron Carlson, he touched upon his thoughts about the future of books and printed material, which looks grim at the moment. “It will be very interesting to see what happens with newspapers and all forms of media,” he said, “because I don’t think it’s just going to go one way. I think it will settle down and there will be a little bit of reaction, and we’ll end up with hard copy and electronic copy.” Although I have no skill with a crystal ball, I think he’s probably right–printed material will continue to exist, but those who want to produce it are going to have to get creative. The items I’d gathered for this week’s Roundup looked pretty random at first, but then I realized that they all involve writers, readers, and book organizations trying to do something different.

The first of these is Colorado native Todd Shimoda, who will present his new novel Oh! A mystery of mono no aware (Chin Music Press, 310 pages, $22.50) Thursday, June 18 at The Readers Cove in Ft. Collins (6:30 p.m.). Shimoda currently lives in Hawaii, and his previous novel, The Fourth Treasure was a Kiriyama Prize notable book for 2002.

Oh! was recently featured in NPR’s “Independent Booksellers Pick Summer’s Best Reads.” Lucia Silva, the book buyer at Portrait of a Bookstore in Studio City, California, described the book in this way:

“On a lark, 20-something Zack Hara leaves his tepid life in L.A. for Japan. Following tiny shifts of fate, he quickly becomes fascinated by the ancient Japanese notion of mono no aware — an elusive concept that loosely means ‘the beauty of sad things,’ a sudden, intense moment of awareness that makes us cry ‘oh!’

In search of his own moment of mono no aware, and intent on awakening his own emotional life, he becomes captivated by the suicide clubs that meet in the Aokigahara forest. In seamless counterpoint to the philosophical current, Shimoda shapes a delicate mystery that grows darker as the novel progresses. The book itself is a fine work of art, with a gorgeous, embossed cover, rice-paper-thin pages, and textured paper inserts with illustrations that offer clues to Zack’s fate — a triumphant kick in the pants for anyone who doubts the future of paper-and-ink books.”

Todd Shimoda’s wife, Linda Shimoda, illustrated the book, and there is a slide show of the artwork on their website. The Shimodas have collaborated on making beautiful books together for decades, and what they are doing reminds me of Reif Larsen’s The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet, a novel with illustrations throughout the margins. Electronic reading devices may be catching on, but those who still value books as beautiful objects will appreciate the graphic touches that writers such as these are adding. (I also enjoyed one simple graphic detail in Rachel Dickinson’s Falconer On The Edge–little falcon symbols indicated section breaks.)

The Colorado Book Awards are trying something different this year—instead of the usual award ceremony in the fall in Denver, the winners will be announced as a part of the Aspen Summer Words Literary Festival next week. The presentation is on Monday, June 22 at the The Doerr-Hosier Center at Aspen Meadows (3:30 p.m.). Winners will read from their work during the presentation of awards, and a book signing will follow. I don’t know if many people who weren’t finalists for these awards attended the ceremonies for them, so this might be a good way to introduce a broader audience to the Colorado Book Award winners.

The third item to mention this week isn’t a new idea, but it strikes me as a pretty effective one. For fifteen years, Vicki Hill of Southern Methodist University has been hosting contemporary literature discussions for the general public. The press release quotes Hill: “‘This is not high falutin’ literary criticism or theory; we talk about the sheer delight of how the novel works,’ Hill says. This year’s theme, ‘Character and Circumstance,’ explores characters who face compelling circumstances in Andrea Barrett’s The Air We Breathe, Debra Dean’s The Madonnas of Leningrad, Alice Mattison’s Nothing is Quite Forgotten in Brooklyn and Ann Patchett’s Run. It sounds like a good opportunity for people who want to participate in a book discussion without getting involved in the politics and extended commitment of joining a book group. Details are on the Godbey Lecture Series website.

I noticed a related tweet on the Twitter feed of Ron Charles, the Fiction Editor of Washington Post Book World. Last month Dave Eggers gave a speech to the Authors Guild in New York, and he said, “If you are ever feeling down, if you are ever despairing, if you ever think publishing is dying or print is dying or books are dying or newspapers are dying … e-mail me, and I will buck you up and prove to you that you’re wrong.” Charles took him up on that, confessing his worry about the future of his newspaper. Eggers wrote back, “…my weird theory, or one of them, is that we need to invest in print, instead of cutting away all the value of print over the web. Seems like every time a newspaper cuts its size, its investigative budget, its art, its comics, its book review (!) we give readers yet another reason to eschew print and get the equivalent on the web.”

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