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Rob Walker’s Significant Objects, a collection of 100 creative tales attached to unremarkable second-hand finds in the interest of exploring the value of narratives, is launching at New York’s Strand Bookstore this weekend.
From the publisher:
Can a great story transform a worthless trinket into a significant object? The Significant Objects project set out to answer that question once and for all, by recruiting a highly impressive crew of creative writers to invent stories about an unimpressive menagerie of items rescued from thrift stores and yard sales.
That secondhand flotsam definitely becomes more valuable: sold on eBay, objects originally picked up for a buck or so sold for thousands of dollars in total — making the project a sensation in the literary blogosphere along the way.
But something else happened, too: The stories created were astonishing, a cavalcade of surprising responses to the challenge of manufacturing significance. Who would have believed that random junk could inspire so much imagination?
Margaret Atwood has just released I’m Starved for You, a new ebook described as “a tale of love and lust in an Orwellian near future… an entertaining yet harrowing story that lays bare the very real dangers of trading liberty for safety.”
Lavin’s Susan Cain is featured in this week’sTimecover story on shyness—and for good reason! Her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, will debut at #4 on The New York Times bestseller list this weekend. Susan’s book is a rebuff to the Extrovert Ideal, and a manifesto for the under-utilized strengths of the quieter third of the population.
A great piece over at The Atlantic on what two recent bestsellers—Rebecca Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrieta Lacks and Gayle Tzemach Lemmon ’s The Dressmaker of Khair Khana—tell us about the state of publishing. The two books have a lot in common. Both are non-fiction, both were written by first-time female authors, and both received nearly universal praise. But it wasn’t just strong reviews that led to massive sales. Skloot and Lemmon, to an unprecedented degree, both used social media tools to capture the ever-shifting attention of readers and tastemakers.
A few months ago a friend asked me to meet with Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, a former ABC producer, whose HarperCollins book The Dressmaker of Khair Khana: Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe is about a woman who heroically managed life under Taliban rule in Afghanistan. In retrospect, the hour I spent providing advice to Lemmon must have seemed patronizing, since her own outreach turned out to be so extensive and positive, including multiple media appearances and a sophisticated campaign using the full range of social media tools. Still in its first weeks on sale, the book is a bestseller, but the biggest news may be HarperCollins report that the book is the first ever HarperCollins non-fiction title to sell more digital copies than printed ones in its initial release. According to the Wall Street Journal, the book’s editor “credited an extensive Twitter campaign and various social media for the run-up in digital sales. ‘The moms of America finally have Kindles and Nooks,’ she said.”
A good review is still a satisfying coda to all the hard work that went into getting a book done. But success in today’s world takes much more than praise. Ask Ms. Skloot and Ms. Lemmon.