Mornings have always been my favorite part of the day and my daily ritual of freshly brewed coffee and the New York Times often brings with it an "Aha" moment of inspiration. That happened last week when I read this terrific story about a young woman in New York who is doing her best to keep the independent book industry alive. Her name is Sarah McNally and she owns McNally Jackson Books on Prince Street in New York City. This thriving store is known for its exciting program of events and its 8,30-title literature collection, organized by geography. For example, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese writers are kept in one section, and Germans and Austrians are in another. In an attempt to battle Amazon and the e-book business, she has a print-right-now bookmaker called the Espresso Book Machine. From a cloud library of seven million titles, it prints one book at a time, and can download, bind and trim a paperback in minutes, for a price comparable to that of a typical paperback. The bookstore also offers an online service, so you can shop from home. McNally Jackson seems to have all its bases covered.
But there is so much more that makes this bookstore in Soho very appealing -- many exciting things are happening there! It has an enormous inventory of books, a great events calendar, readings by authors, an engaged staff, chaise lounges for customers who want to browse and a bustling coffee shop. It is my dream book store. We need more of these! You can read more about Sarah McNally and her exciting bookstore here. As I saw on their website, McNally Jackson "aspires to be the center of Manhattan's literary culture." That is exactly what bookstores used to be. Please let's have more stores like McNally Jackson!
The following day I read here (The New York Times) about another inspiring woman of letters who has certainly done her share to keep the genre of mystery writing alive. The prolific British mystery writer P.D. James, at age 91, has written another book, this one a sequel to "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen. It comes out in early December.
"Death Comes to Pemberly" is a murder mystery set in 1803, when Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy have been married for six years and are the proud parents of two young sons. Drama arrives in the form of Elizabeth's sister, Lydia Wickham, who turns up at Pemberley - Mr. Darcy's country estate - with the shocking news that her husband has been murdered.
Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth in the 1995 television series "Pride and Prejudice"
The press release from Faber and Faber says, "The year is 1803, and Darcy and Elizabeth have been married for six years. There are now two handsome and healthy sons in the Pemberley nursery, Elizabeth's beloved sister Jane and her husband Bingley live within 17 miles, the ordered and secure life of Pemberley seems unassailable, and Elizabeth's happiness in her marriage is complete.
But their peace is threatened and old sins and misunderstandings are rekindled on the eve of the annual Autumn Ball. The Darcys and their guests are preparing to retire for the night when a chaise appears, rocking down the path from Pemberley's wild woodland, and as it pulls up, Lydia Wickham, an uninvited guest, tumbles out, screaming that her husband has been murdered."
P.D. James has said about this new book: "It has been a joy to revisit 'Pride and Prejudice' and to discover, as one always does, new delights and fresh insights. I have to apologize to Jane Austen for involving her beloved Elizabeth in a murder investigation but this fusion of my two enthusiasms -- for the novels of Jane Austen and for writing detective stories -- has given me great pleasure which I hope will be shared by my readers."
As a big fan of Jane Austen, as well as P.D. James (there is no one who is better in the mystery/detective genre), I am looking forward to reading "Death Comes to Pemberly." There have been many rewritings of Austen classics in the past few years -- "The Cookbook Collector" by Allegra Goodman and "The Three Weissmanns of Westport" by Cathleen Schine are two examples. They received mixed reviews, though I personally enjoyed "The Cookbook Collector." But this new book by James is a sequel as well as a mystery written by a master of the craft. My mind is filled with all kinds of speculations -- will Lizzie Bennet be the sleuth who solves the crime, will the suspects come from Wickham's group of disreputable friends, or will James create some new Austen-like characters to fill the roles of detective and red herrings? I have a feeling this will be a fresh and original take on a beloved classic. If anyone can pull this off, it is P.D. James.
Thriving independent bookstores and a sequel to "Pride and Prejudice." Those are the kinds of stories that get my day rolling and make me feel very good about life. One thing is obvious to me, women of all ages are doing amazing things and there is no end to the satisfying feeling of reading about their accomplishments and being inspired to follow our dreams.