Tag Archive | "Canio’s Books"

Philip Schultz reads from “The Wherewithal” at Canio’s Books

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Author Philip Schultz will read at Canio's Books Saturday.

Author Philip Schultz will read at Canio’s Books Saturday.

By Tessa Raebeck

Poet, author and Pulitzer-prize winner Philip Schultz, of East Hampton, will return to Canio’s Books to read from his latest novel in verse form, “The Wherewithal” on Saturday at 5 p.m.

Called “one of the literary renditions of the Shoah I know,” by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Saul Friedlander, “The Wherewithal” tells the story of Henryk Wyrzykowski, a haunted young man taking refuge from the Vietnam War draft in a San Francisco basement. Using the time to translate his mother’s diaries concerning the Jedwabne pogrom, a massacre in July 1941, during the German occupation of Poland, of over 300 Polish Jews.

Mr. Schultz has authored a memoir, “My Dyslexia” and seven poetry books, earning a Pulitzer Prize for “Failure.” He is founder and director of the Writer’s Studio in New York City.

The reading will be Saturday, April 5 at 5 p.m. at Canio’s Books, 290 Main Street in Sag Harbor. For more information, call 725.4926.

Stories From Your Life

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Essayist and NPR personality David Bouchier leadsd workshop at Canio's

Essayist and NPR personality David Bouchier leadsd workshop at Canio's

By Joan Baum

You just know who wrote up the entries on David Bouchier’s website because the prose has tell-tale signature words and phrases — witty and whimsical remarks on the eccentric and absurd Ways of the World delivered in a humorous, distinctive deadpan style that matches the unmistakable, unhurried baritone of his droll public radio persona. And so one learns online that Bouchier spent 15 years as a lecturer in sociology at the “experimental” University of Essex, after getting a “late-life Ph.D.” from the London School of Economics, and that the experience explains his “notable streak of irony.”

One learns further that a visiting professorship at SUNY yielded a “surrealistic experience” that prompted him to abandon “all hope of earning a proper living, and become a freelance writer and broadcaster.”

WSHU listeners in particular are indeed grateful for his professional turn, and for an earlier decision to take advantage of his marriage to an American citizen, “escape the British climate” and settle in Suffolk County, from which, for many years, he contributed  “Out of Order” reflections to the Long Island section of The New York Times, and numerous other periodicals, and where he situates himself, still, taking quirky Op Ed aim at the various follies and incongruities of contemporary culture, and hosting the popular classical music program, “Sunday Matinee.” As Naomi Starobin, the news director of WSHU notes, David Bouchier “is one of a kind — the wry observations, the accent, the time-learned wisdom.”

Although radio syndication and books and articles ensure that Bouchier’s “curious thoughts” and “idiosyncratic” takes on the Human Comedy in America are heard far and wide, this coming Saturday, he will be on local ground when he leads an all-day workshop on essay writing at Canio’s Books in Sag Harbor. He may be, arguably, one of the best heirs of the familiar essay tradition, where creative and critical writing come together by way of personal voice and conversational manner to provide lively comment on significant subjects. Years of teaching at various universities, including the famous Iowa Summer Writing Festival, have certainly given him perspective on the silly as well as the serious in American society. His essays, admirably original, and his pitches for them, consistently charming, exemplify critical intelligence, casually worn. His most recent book (of seven essay collections), Peripheral Vision: Irregular Essays from Public Radio (2011), has been hailed as  “spot-on” and full of “insightful musings . . . not to be missed.” So, don’t miss them, Bouchier writes, “It’s not too late, and may never be too late to grab a copy.”

For certain, those who have already signed up for his workshop know about him, but can writing be taught? Some say no, and Bouchier allows that there is “a grain of dreadful truth” in this, but he also thinks that “the vast majority” can write something “successfully,” meaning that they can enjoy what they produce and will have learned something about writing from the experience. He’s talking about essay writing, of course, not fiction. What he hopes to accomplish with the Saturday workshop is convince participants that essays can begin from “anything at all, however minor or seemingly trivial,” and that though essay writing, unlike fiction, has no plot or characters, it should nonetheless  “spin out” from the initial small observation and move in a different, “imaginative” direction — in other words, have structure and narrative drive.

He’ll be bringing examples from literary history to show what works (Hazlitt, Dr. Johnson) and what doesn’t, and if participants give permission, perhaps he’ll also engage them in critiquing their own work, the Iowa model. What may go awry with attempting to write a popular essay?

Sometimes people think that a personal essay must stay with the personal — that “I” rules; but beginning and ending with yourself, as though you were writing a memoir, is likely to “tip” self-referencing into “solipsism,” he says. The informing idea is to go “from personal to general,” to risk following an apparent irrelevancy, “not to be rigid,” to let voice lead. As for style, that comes with time and experience. He’s been writing since he was a teen, he points out. Over the years he has had many styles — for print journalism, for academic writing, for radio — bringing to each a refined sense of how style grows out of a sense of self. In Bouchier’s case, it could be said that his style reflects a self that never lets confidence overwhelm modesty, that never forgets that humor lies at the heart of man’s humanity to man.

The Master Workshop Series at Canio’s Cultural Café began last August when Mark Doty offered a “hugely successful” poetry workshop, says Maryann Calendrille, co-owner with Kathryn Szoka of Canio’s. The series seemed like a “natural extension of our authors’ reading series,” just as the café itself seemed like a good way to expand programs that drew on the area’s “long literary history.”  Teachers, both of them, Maryann and Kathryn were eager to create an “intimate” setting  — “no one’s competing for grades” — where a “relaxed but still substantive and intensive learning atmosphere” would take place between participants and facilitators. A small group seemed particularly important for workshops on “the writing process.”  The award-winning short story writer Simon Van Booy led a winter workshop, and Marvin Bell, from the Iowa Writers Workshop offered “How to be a Poet Everyday.” Canio’s also offers workshops in other fields. In January, pastoral associate Eda Lorello held a four-week workshop on Thomas Merton, and upcoming seminars will feature Buddhism and Biblical interpretation. And more.

As for how Maryann and Kathryn connected with David Bouchier, they say they’ve been fans for years, and once, after hearing him lecture, and learning that he had worked in a bookshop in London, invited him to Canio’s.

“Somehow this evolved into his spending an afternoon as a ‘shop clerk’ one July day in 2000. The rest is history – meaning he wrote about the experience.

Of course he did — vintage Bouchier.

David Bouchier will be leading the essay writing workshop on April 13, 10 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Reservations a must, space is limited. Call Canio’s for details at 725-4926.

Books: Adjusting to a Changing Readership

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Books Pic adjusted

By Claire Walla

The closing of the Borders chain of bookstores two weeks ago served as another reminder to those in the book biz of how fragile the industry has become in the last few years. And it’s caused some to wonder: what’s the future of the book?

In a serendipitous course of events, last week our local independent chain Book Hampton in Sag Harbor hosted a talk with Harper Collins publisher Jonathan Burnham, called “On The Edge: The Future of Publishing.” In a conversation with BookHampton owner Charlene Spektor, Burnham discussed the elements now plaguing the industry, and what booksellers can expect to see in the future. (The forecast is rather uncertain.)

“What’s happening at the moment is that there is a migration of readers from books [or, what the publishing industry now refers to as p-books] to e-books,” Burnham explained. He said digital sales at Harper Collins started as a nascent trend about a year ago. But, while e-book sales were about five percent of Harper Collins’ overall business last year, that total has now hit around 40 percent.

“What’s interesting to us is how fast that’s happened,” Burnham continued. “There has been a huge change [in consumer spending habits] and we the publishers are finding it hard to keep up.”

While many have blamed Borders’ downfall on the company’s failure to latch on to e-book publishing as early as its competitor, Barnes & Noble, which actually manufactured its own e-reader, the Nook, the boom of the digital market has made waves locally, as well.

Burnham called this “the year of difficult questions,” an assertion with which independent book sellers here in Sag Harbor would agree.

Both Spektor, owner of BookHampton, and Maryanne Calendrille, owner of Canio’s Books just up the way, expressed uncertainty when it came to the future of their business. Though both shops are finding creative ways to increase local interest and up revenue (including upping their online presence and expanding the scope of business to include public speakers), neither can tell what the future will hold.

For Spektor, changing times has meant shifting gears. While she said BookHampton rests on a tradition of personal service, that concept has broadened in the wake of the digital revolution.

In the past year, BookHampton has begun selling e-books to customers, largely in response to the fact that people began walking in the store, taking stock of interesting titles and then purchasing those books online at a later date. The chain has also put effort into boosting its online presence, creating a website that, Spektor said, bears the intimate feel of the store itself. In fact, employees refer to the site as “the fourth store.” (BookHampton has physical locations in Sag Harbor, Southampton and East Hampton.)

What it really boils down to, she said, is that “independent bookstores reflect the community that they’re in. “What we have is a tradition of personal service: making recommendations and listening [to people’s questions],” she explained. “All of those things you don’t really get when you go online. Online, it’s just an algorithm.”

On a warm Tuesday afternoon, Maryanne Calendrille answered a customer’s questions and made literary recommendations at Canio’s Books on Main Street, just up the road from BookHampton.
After noticing a worn collection of Harvard classics lined-up atop one of the store’s many shelves, the customer wondered aloud, “Is anyone interested in this anymore?” As it turned out, Calendrille knew of a local author, Chris Beha, who happened to write a book about his experience reading the entirety of the Harvard classics in a single year, called The Whole Five Feet.

The woman’s husband, Harold Rubin, spoke of his fondness for the store as his wife purchased the book. “Coming here, you can talk to people who are knowledgeable and can give you the feel for a book,” he said. “Online, you get the technical. Here, you get the emotional.”

It’s a notion Burnham referenced last week. He said there are certain genres, like romantic fiction, erotica and—surprise, surprise—vampire books that sell very well in electronic form.

“The Internet is a world of geeks and cults,” he explained. Whereas non-fiction tomes and even business-related texts tend to sell better in paper. For many book buyers, he added, sales are contingent on that idea of the bookstore as a community.

Like BookHampton, Calendrille said the purpose of her local shop is not only to provide a place where people can browse for books. It is a gathering space for those in the community. And it’s a reflection of the creative interests and outgrowth of the neighborhood. Local artwork hangs on the walls, writers speak in the shop on the weekends and Calendrille herself teaches writing workshops in the back.

“You can’t deny the business is changing,” she said. “But, what we have here are the kinds of books that curious readers are interested in. It’s a collaboration of our interests and our customers’ interests,” she continued. “And to me, that’s the beauty of the place.”

As Spektor put it, the survival of independent bookshops is contingent on the communities in which they exist. “In the long run,” she said, “it depends on whether or not you want to see these Main Streets thrive, or whether you want to see Main Street as a concept dry-up.”

Carl Safina Revisits an Environmental Crisis

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Carl Safina

by Courtney M. Holbrook

After the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, 2010 and the subsequent oil spill that affected the coastal U.S. for months, fears of an environmental disaster spread across the country in almost apocalyptic proportions.
Politicians, members of the media and people everywhere wondered whether oil giant British Petroleum, from whose well the spill emanated, had initiated a disaster that would destroy flora, fauna and individual lives with no hope of repair.

Initially, Dr. Carl Safina, a world-renowned ecologist and marine conservationist and co-founder of the Blue Ocean Institute, pondered similar theories. Could the spill be the disaster to shock all others?

“Before the spill ended, we didn’t know the dimensions of the event,” Safina said. “So, there was a lot of panic. It was such a chaotic time.”

After the spill, Random House asked Safina, the author of well-received books such as “The View from Lazy Point: A Natural Year in an Unnatural World” and “Eye of the Albatross: Visions of Hope and Survival,” to write about his experiences in the Gulf. That chronicle became “A Sea in Flames,” which was released on the anniversary of the explosion. On Saturday, July 23 at 6 p.m., Safina, who lives in Amagansett, reads from “A Sea in Flames” at Canio’s Books in Sag Harbor.

“A Sea in Flames” discusses the facts behind the spill, and the problems concerning the clean-up process and BP’s corporate response. In the end, Safina argues that ecological pollution and the release of fossil fuels through daily life into the atmosphere continue to cause more damage to the ocean than that caused by the oil spill. These toxic fuels, he says, release “carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The oils we’re burning aren’t diluting, they’re actually concentrating in the atmosphere. This is an environmental catastrophe that will cause — has already begun to cause — overwhelming problems.”

It is this ultimate conclusion that drives “A Sea in Flames” — the mismanagement of a “cutting corners culture” and lackadaisical attitude to ecological preservation that characterized the spill will lead us to even greater future problems than the spill itself, according to Safina.

The three-part structure of the book follows Safina’s personal realizations of the truths of the spill. The first part concerns the causes of the explosion. As has been well documented, BP has been accused of not taking proper safety precautions to prevent the disaster, causing more than 53,000 barrels of oil a day to gush out until it was stopped on July 15, 2010.

The second part of the book discusses what happened when the oil was flowing, and the emotional consequences of this event. Safina notes there were tremendous “psychological effects on the fishermen and people living [on the Gulf].” He also discusses the efforts he says BP took to prevent journalists from following the event.

After the stoppage comes the perspective — answering the question of what toll the disaster took on the Gulf of Mexico and the men and women who live off its oceans. As of now, some of the worst predictions have not happened. Indeed, fishermen who feared their livelihoods would be dashed forever have returned to the Gulf.

For Safina, writing “A Sea in Flames” was a harsher experience. Unlike the process with his previous works, where the discussion of environmental hazards and life on the ocean took an almost reflective tone, this book is angry.

Some of the “enraged” tone came from the difference in the book’s theme. “A Sea in Flames” deals with a disaster of technology, where a man-made structure caused biological damage. His previous books have dealt more with man’s immediate effects on biology.

Anger also came from the carelessness Safina saw from BP and other officials. Less concern was shown for the victims of the spill, he says, than for monetary downturns BP faced. That constant emotional intensity took its toll.

“It’s an enraged book, and that’s a very different tone for me,” Safina said. “And it was very hard to be so angry for several months in a row. It was a relief to know there was a deadline in sight.”

Though the deadline has come and gone, Safina will continue to remember the lessons of the spill and the conservation issues facing Americans today. He believes another spill is “absolutely inevitable.” Although he cannot say whether safety has improved in the equipment, he believes the mass hunger for oil in America continues to lead us down dangerous paths to find it.

“All the easy places are tapped out now,” Safina said. “We’re having to go into more difficult places with deeper water, harsher conditions.”

Now, Safina is taking a break from books. Instead, he is working on his television documentary series for PBS entitled “Saving the Ocean with Carl Safina.” After an intense year of writing, the PBS series provides a welcome respite. But no matter the medium,

Safina intends to continue his quest to save the oceans from mankind’s harmful practices.
“When it comes to oil, our own addiction to it will hurt the ocean,” he said. “Hopefully, next time we’ll spend less time cleaning off birds and more time changing our habits and addictions.”