Sunday, October 11, 2009

On Trying to Find Herta Muller Books

At least this year there wasn't that buzz saying "This year is Philip Roth's year." I think the American literary community is pretty much resigned to a relatively obscure European writer taking the Nobel Prize.

And think of all the good that comes from it. Last year, when Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio was awarded the prize, the big winner seemed to be independent David R. Godine. Godine deals with our wholesaler on a nonreturnable basis (we're seeing that more and more, which means deposits for customers who place special orders) but most indies still needed to take a chance and get something in, and I think for a store like ours, it paid off. I'm still a little confused, however, if we ever brought in The Prospector from Verba Mundi. And another thing to ask Jason--do we need a separate non-returnable Ingram vendor?

Well, it seems to have worked out better than that year with Dario Fo anyway. He doesn't even get mentioned in any of these obscure-or-not-obscure debates. I guess it's been a long time, but I still remember our special order person taking months to chase down his plays, only finding one or two customers when he was successful.

So now we've got Herta Muller and she has four books with rights sold in the United States, none of which were immediately available. As I mentioned on an earlier blog, my first pass showed nothing in active or extended from our I-Page database, and sadly, despite the announcements, there's still nothing there. (I have no idea if this is a current jacket of The Land of Green Plums, but I felt chilly without one.)

Per the New York Times, five books have been translated into English (by my math, that means one didn't come out here--I can't even get my facts straight within one blog posting. Macmillan's Metropolitan published In the Land of Green Plums and The Appointment, but sold off the paperback rights. They plan to do hardcover editions, with Northwestern University Press doing a paperback of the former. Now I'd be surprised if we sold many hardcovers if the paperback was out, but I think they are counting on the university press having distribution hampered.

Serpent's Tail, which had some books from former Nobel winner Elfriede Jelinek, including The Piano Teacher, which became the focus book for sales, has the rights to The Passport, Muller's first novel. Hillel Italie has some nice ruminations on these selections in the Huffington Post. I had no idea that the purpose of the Nobel Prize was to make people famous, not honor famous people. Thanks for bringing attention to Saul Bellow, friends!

And for the other two, I have no idea. In the old days, they'd show up in a catalog, but now we're most likely to hear abou them in an email, or a blog post from someone with more info than me. Meanwhile, we wait for Hilary Mantel's Man Booker award-winning Wolf Hall. I told my booksellers that if we only get one (our buy went from one to five upon being nominated to 20 upon winning), it goes to John Eklund, who had the only special order before the announcement.

No comments: