Archie Andrews: Looking Good at 75

After seventy-five years, Riverdale’s perennial heartbreaker Archie Andrews got a major makeover. Archie Comics tapped Eisner Award winner Mark Waid (“Daredevil” series) and “Saga” illustrator Fiona Staples to revamp characters who have remained virtually unchanged since their appearance in 1941. The updated look debuted at ComicCon in July, and there’s no mistaking it, Archie is a hot dude. The cover shows young Mr. Andrews stepping out of his (slightly messy) car, looking happily off scene, hair perfectly coiffed, jean jacket tousled just so. Put him in a suit and swap the jalopy for a limo, and you can almost hear the squeals of delight from girls waiting behind velvet ropes for their favorite teen heartthrob to arrive at his movie premiere. Everything screams sexy all-American dreamboat. And why not? He’s been dangling poor Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge along for almost a century, he ought to look the part of handsome stud. It’s not just Archie; everyone is really, really, ridiculously good-looking in the update. (The second issue cover shows a particularly forlorn but beautiful Betty, trying to decide which rebound outfit to wear.) This first issue is an origin tale of sorts, where Archie and Betty have been longtime sweethearts until the mysterious “lipstick event” tears them apart. While the lovebirds are separated, the billionaire Lodges move into town, and though we don’t meet Veronica in issue 1, she’s sure to turn heads shortly.
Archie Cover.JPG
Looking good, my man. (Photo credit: Barbara Richter)
Archie and cast: The Adventures of Archie Andr...

You’ve come a long way, Archie. Archie and cast: The Adventures of Archie Andrews, 1947. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As with most makeovers of major brands, there are significant financial reasons behind Archie’s stronger chin and dreamy eyes. In a Publisher’s Weekly  interview last year, Archie Comics CEO Jon Goldwater said that the new look keeps the characters relevant and also feeds Archie book sales, which account for a major portion of the company’s revenue. Goldwater noted in the article that bookstore sales of Archie titles have increased 736% since 2008, reflecting the publisher’s introduction of over fifty new titles from 2010-2014.  The company has big plans for 2016, with a TV special, a musical, and more book events to celebrate 75 years and over 2 billion issues sold. Not bad for a freckle-faced teenaged Casanova.

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Our Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Anne Steptoe, who recently won the Essay Prize at the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest. Anne collects 20th century Southern literature:

fuqua scrubs pic.jpg
Where are you from and where do you live?

I grew up in the small town of Charles Town, WV. After a decade in the Northeast, I  returned to the South last year and now live in Durham, NC.
What do you study at University?

I was a Classics and English major as an undergraduate at Harvard, focusing on late Republican Latin literature’s influence on twentieth-century Southern literature. After graduation, I made the hard decision to veer away from academia to a career that would allow me to help shape the landscape of the modern South more actively. So, I went on to medical school at Brown University and am now enrolled in business school at Duke University.
Please introduce us to your book collection.  What areas do you collect in?

I started collecting twentieth-century Southern literature in college, as an extension of my academic research. I wrote my senior thesis on the Fugitive poets, and their work remains the cornerstone of my collection. I’ve always been inspired by the notion that a small, ragtag band of Vanderbilt scholars and were among the first to insist that Southern literature should not be a sentimental, apologist look at Southern history. This “small” effort would catalyze an entire generation and revitalize the literature of the South. I’ve expanded my collection over the years to reflect the catalyst moment the Fugitives represent. So I also collect many of the Fugitives’ contemporaries and successors, including William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Katherine Anne Porter, William Styron and their peers.
How many books are in your collection?

Approximately 110 first and early editions, with roughly a third dedicated from Southern literature and the remainder from other modern (mainly 20th century) American and British literature and poetry. I cannot pass up a classic book by an author I love when I come across it, and my collection is a reflection of that.

DukeLibrary_Display.jpgWhat was the first book you bought for your collection?

My first real find was a first edition of Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men - though it’s probably more accurate to say that the book found me. I was living in Boston at the time and got caught without an umbrella in a rainstorm. I happened to walk by a thrift store, and stepped inside for shelter. I was browsing the book section to pass the time when the book caught my attention. It stood out at first because it was older than everything else around it, and very quickly because it was a small piece of home transplanted far from the South. I knew I had to have it, even before I fully understood what I’d found. From there, I was hooking on the collecting experience.
How about the most recent book?

I recently purchased a signed first edition of Katherine Anne Porter’s translation of a French song-book. It’s something I might have passed up in my early years of collecting because, although it’s a rare edition, it’s not traditional literature. However, the longer I collect and grow to know these authors’ bodies of work, I learn details that endear me to these unusual finds. It turns out, for example, that Porter used the songbook project as a way to bridge a period of writers’ block, with some of her most successful work immediately following it. I’ll refrain from the clich√© about books and their covers, but I think it applies.
And your favorite book in your collection?

One of my favorites has to be my copy of Allen Tate’s biography-novel of the Confederate general Stonewall Jackson. The novel itself struggles immaturely at achieving the Fugitive’s new complex, non-apologetic telling of Southern history and wasn’t a particularly successful effort. However, my copy belonged to the Southern publisher and thought leader, Louis Rubin.  Rubin served as a kind of adviser and compass to many of the authors in my collection, and having his copy of one of the earlier efforts at modern Southern literature is particularly special to me. But I’d be remiss not to mention my first edition of To Kill a Mockingbird - to every girl who grew up in the South and loved to read and write, that piece of history is like having a talisman on your bookshelf.
Best bargain you’ve found?

By monetary value, probably my copy of All the King’s Men. However, because I collect twentieth-century Southern literature, I’ve been fortunate to find many of my valuable pieces at thrift stores at bargain prices.
How about The One that Got Away?

I regret not purchasing more or the rest of Louis Rubin’s Fugitive collection when I ran into it at a used bookstore in New Orleans. I was a recent college graduate and reluctant to invest significant money in my new collecting hobby. But the decision haunted me so much that I went back to the bookstore on my next trip to New Orleans, only to find them vanished. Most recently, I was on vacation in Ireland and drove to a small town chasing down a relatively inexpensive copy of Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury I’d seen online. I got there about five minutes after their closing time on the last day of my vacation - I guess I’ll just have to go back to Ireland now.
What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?

I’m still a little bitter about my missed copy of The Sound and the Fury, as it’s my favorite Faulkner novel and, in my mind, the pinnacle of the Southern writing style for which the Fugitives advocated. I’ve also shamelessly neglected Carson McCullers in my collecting, though she’s one of my favorite Southern writers. But the real Holy Grail, from a personal collecting perspective, would have to be the first edition of the Fugitive magazine - the beginning of it all.
Who is your favorite bookseller / bookstore?

A few favorite bookstores, for different reasons. For rare books and its sheer magnitude, I’ve always loved the Strand in New York. For keeping me in used paperbacks and continually reading, I’m grateful to the Harvard Book Store and the Brookline Booksmith in Boston, and Books for America in Washington DC. And I’d be a broke collector if it weren’t for the many small thrift stores and library sales I’ve visited over the years. There’s an extra thrill of finding and rescuing a first edition book among shelves of dingy mass market paperbacks that is hard to replicate even in the best used bookstore.
What would you collect if you didn’t collect books?

Art, especially late 19th century and early 20th century painting (I have a soft spot for the Pre-Ralphelite art since reading associated writers’ work). Or perhaps Roman and Greek artifacts, if I had an unlimited budget and there weren’t complicated ethics around collecting those items.
Coming up for auction next week is, according to the auctioneer, an “apparently unpublished” letter and poem from the hand of American expatriate poet Ezra Pound. Offered by Lyon & Turnbull in Edinburgh, Scotland, the autograph letter (with envelope dated April 21, 1909) was sent to Mrs. Isabel Konody, later known as Isabel Codrington, a painter whose circle of friends in London included many poets and artists. Pound was new to the scene, having moved to London only the year before and still finding his way among the city’s cultural elite. On page two of the letter, Pound pens a 14-line sonnet which begins, “If poets whom you know are not all fools, Methinks my songs but march amid the rout.”

The auction estimate is £7,000-9,000 ($11,000-$14,140).

Image via Lyon & Turnbull. 
One of the top auction lots of the past two weeks was a pair of handwritten letters (ALSs) from James Joyce in which he discusses the notoriously troublesome publication of his masterpiece, Ulysses. In the first letter, dated November 1, 1918, Joyce writes, “As I have been so long absent from Ireland you must forgive me if I say that I am afraid I have forgotten you. Allow me however to thank you for your very friendly letter and for your kind words about my book Ulysses. Eight installments have now appeared in the Little Review of New York but unfortunately the Egoist (London) cannot find any printer to set up these chapters.”

The Boston-based RR Auction offered the lot with a minimum bid of $2,500, but the final sale price was an astonishing $24,650.68.

Little Review.jpgThis extraordinary sale called to mind the fact that Yale University Press just released The Little Review “Ulysses” which, for the first time, brings together the serial installments of Joyce’s novel the way it was first seen by readers of The Little Review between 1919-1920. Edited by Mark Gaipa, Sean Latham, and Robert Scholes, this new edition allows twenty-first-century readers to enjoy the evolution of Joyce’s prose before the censors stepped in. With a beautiful color insert of the magazine’s covers and essays that contextualize Ulysses, this new edition is a must for Joyce or Little Review fans or collectors.    

E-books are here to stay, but there’s been a shift to reading on phones over e-readers. According to a recent Nielsen study, 54% of polling participants said they chose to read at least part of a book on their smartphone, up from 24% in 2012. In a bid to capitalize on the mobile reading movement, publishers now develop book jackets, font size and promotional materials with the expectation that they will be primarily viewed on a phone. Free multimedia
Jester reading a book

Jester reading a book (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

add-ons like games, recipes, chapter excerpts and even whole books are intended to entice readers to make future purchases. Whether one can actually engage in deep, meaningful reading on a smartphone is hotly contested.

Publishers are even partnering with transportation and hospitality companies to court new customers. Penguin Random House offers free e-book excerpts on Amtrak Acela trains, and HarperCollins gives away books on select JetBlue flights. The industry leader (for the moment) appears to be Simon & Schuster, who is embracing mobile reading as the wave of the future. In May, the publisher used the Foli mobile app to give away copies of David McCullough’s The Wright Brothers at fifty U.S. airports. Now they have joined up with the hotel booking site to reach an even larger potential consumer base. If customers use the site to book at least a two-night stay at participating hotels, Simon & Schuster will provide a free e-book. The seven choices will rotate regularly, and the inaugural titles include Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King; The Ascendant by Drew Chapman; The White Queen by Philippa Gregory; Crazy Love You by Lisa Unger; I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes; You by Caroline Kepnes, and The Glass Rainbow by James Lee Burke.  These e-books are available through Glose, a social reading platform.

English: Taylor Swift performing live on Speak...

English: Taylor Swift performing live on Speak Now tour in July 2011 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While the publisher will undoubtedly reach new readers, one wonders what this means for the authors, who have been increasingly embroiled in disputes with their publishers over decreasing royalty rates and distribution rights. This situation sounds similar to when Apple  rolled out a new streaming music service and planned to give away music without paying royalties. Happily for musicians, their savior was Taylor Swift, and the company changed course. Who will rally for writers?

Andrew Gulli, editor of the The Strand magazine, discovered an unpublished F. Scott Fitzgerald in the Princeton University archives. Gulli released the story in the summer issue of The Strand, seventy-five years after the author’s death in 1940.

The story, entitled “Temperature” is a comedic tale about a 31-year-old writer named Emmet Monsen, who is a heavy drinker and suffers from heart disease. 

“There’s some madcap comedy, some Wodehousian dialogue, some romance, even a little bit of some tragedy in it,” said Gulli about the story in an interview with NPR. “I just was struck by how funny, how interesting it was. And I said to myself, ‘I really have to have this story.’”

Gulli believes the story was never published because it was written in 1939, just a year before Fitzgerald died, when the author had a falling out with his literary agent.

Interested readers can check out the current issue of The Strand to read the Fitzgerald story alongside work by Ian Rankin and T. Jefferson Parker.
frontcover.jpegFor twenty-seven years, a specialty bookshop devoted exclusively to military history thrived on New York City’s Upper East Side. The Military Bookman, owned and operated by husband-and-wife team, Harris Colt and Margaretta Barton Colt, was established in July 1976, after Harris lost his Wall Street job and decided to follow his dream. Margaretta joined him in this endeavor, even though it meant wrangling with a predominately male customer base, including “Soldier of Fortune” types and even some with “SS tendencies.” Her new memoir, Martial Bliss: The Story of The Military Bookman ($19.95), affectionately chronicles the life and times of that bookshop.

Unique characters abound. One mail-order collector interested in Frederick the Great playfully regarded himself, in his correspondence with the shop, as “part-time Marshal of France” and dated his letters 1757 from his “Winter quarters on the Rhine.” The Colts responded in kind because, the author makes clear, the Military Bookman was that kind of bookshop--one where personal relationships with customers mattered. One regular called it “Cheers without the booze.” Even a few celebrities, e.g. Paul Newman, James Gandolfini, and Bette Midler, found their way to this remarkable place over the years.

We all have favorite bookshops and even bookshop memoirs. In this bibliophilic sub-genre, numerous stories are relayed about hunting for rare books and buying trips abroad; Martial Bliss ably covers this ground. But unlike other booksellers’ memoirs, it’s not nostalgia that fuels the telling. She shares her memories in a pleasant, matter-of-fact way, as if setting straight the record for posterity--or for her former customers, who will, no doubt, adore reading her account. As will those with an interest in antiquarian books, bookselling, or military history.

“The fine line between passion and obsession was probably crossed many times in the stacks of the Military Bookman,” she writes. Sadly, those stacks were dismantled in 2003. The rise of online bookselling as well as the increased production of cheap reprints of out-of-print military titles combined to make such a specialty shop obsolete in the twenty-first century. For those who missed out on this New York City institution, Martial Bliss invites us in. 

Image: Courtesy of Margaretta Barton Colt.
anthologydeluxe.jpgThe Morbid Anatomy Museum announced on Friday a deluxe limited edition of its very popular (and very cool) Morbid Anatomy Anthology, originally published in 2014. Limited to 110 copies, this revised second edition is housed in a custom, handmade black-on-black slipcase embossed with silver foil. Each is signed and numbered by co-editors Colin Dickey and Joanna Ebenstein. They are taking pre-orders now for November delivery; the price is $150. 

You can read more about this fascinating museum and its programs and events in our spring 2014 issue.

Image via Morbid Anatomy Museum.

Noepe, an Island Writing Sanctuary

Back in the early 2000s, poet and recent graduate of Emerson’s MFA program Justen Ahren returned to his Martha’s Vineyard home and found that while the island was full of writers, there wasn’t a formal space for folks to get together and share their writing experiences. So, after attending a few far-flung workshops, Ahren wondered why he couldn’t foster a literary community in his own backyard.

As we spoke at the Martha’s Vineyard Book Festival in early August, Ahren recalled how his  writing program took shape:  “In 2006, the proprietor of the Point Way Inn in Edgartown asked if I had any ideas for using the space in a different way, and without hesitating I suggested creating a writers residency.” The next year, the Noepe Center for Literary Arts  opened its doors. “We had two attendees that year. This year we’ll welcome 60 writers-in-residence!” he exclaimed.


The nonprofit bills itself as an inspirational sanctuary where writers attend workshops and author lectures, and offers both established and emerging writers space and time to put words to paper. Workshops are open to the public - this week, for example, husband and wife team Author Richard Zacks and ICM Agent Kristine Dahl explain how a book gets published, from conception to publication. Writers interested in the residency program apply through Noepe’s website.

Even with the island literary community well-established, a touch of wanderlust drives Ahren to keep traveling. This November he is inviting ten writers to pack their bags and meet up in Orvieto, Italy, for a weeklong workshop devoted to cultivating a daily writing practice. “I chose Orvieto after visiting the town with my daughter. It’s small enough to feel intimate, yet big enough to offer ample cultural, social and entertainment opportunities,” Ahern said.

The writing center is called Noepe after the Wamanpoag Indian name for Martha’s Vineyard. It means ‘land between the currents,’ and that’s what this place offers its visitors - a small, serene patch of solid ground in an ever more turbulent and congested publishing world.

The Gay Head cliffs in Martha's Vineyard consi...

The Gay Head cliffs in Martha’s Vineyard consist almost entirely of clay and have long been a sacred spot for the Wampanoag. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pope Francis will present a copy of the St. John’s Bible to the Library of Congress during a visit to Washington, D.C. next month.

The Pope is donating one of twelve deluxe reproductions of an original seven-volume edition of the Bible that was handwritten and illuminated by the monks at St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota. With an estimated production cost of $8 million, the St. John’s Bible was completed in 2011 and is housed at St John’s University. Twelve special edition reproduction sets were then reproduced by lay people in the United States and Britain.  One of these sets was then gifted to the Pope, who will in turn give the book to the American people.

The St. John’s Bible is thought to be the only handwritten and illuminated copy of the Bible to be produced in its complete form since the invention of the printing press.

When the Pope addresses Congress on September 24, he will formally give the Bible to Rep. John Boehner, as Speaker of the House, who will in turn transfer the book to the Library of Congress.

Image: Via Wikipedia.

Note: This blog entry corrected 8-14-15 with publication details about the twelve reproductions of the illuminated Bible.

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