Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Annie Barrows

In 2006, the first book in Annie Barrows's children’s series, Ivy + Bean was published. This title, an ALA Notable Book for 2007, was followed by nine others. The Ivy + Bean series appears with some regularity on the New York Times best-seller list and a number of other national best-seller lists. The Ivy + Bean books have been translated into fourteen languages; in 2013 Ivy + Bean: The Musical premiered in the San Francisco Bay Area. A novel for older children, The Magic Half, was published by BloomsburyUSA in 2008. Its sequel, Magic in the Mix, came out in 2014.

In addition to her children’s books, Barrows is the co-author, with her aunt Mary Ann Shaffer, of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which was published in 2008. A New York Times best-seller, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society has been published in thirty-seven countries and thirty-two languages.

Recently I asked Barrows about what she was reading. Her reply:
I am currently reading Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant, which is the fifth of the twelve volumes that make up Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell. Everyone always compares Dance to Proust, specifically to The Guermantes Way, but I came to it via Knausgaard’s Struggle, with which it shares a preoccupation with loss and recurrence, as well as an instinct for social titration. Also, like Knausgaard, Powell is extremely funny, which you can’t say about Proust. “Proust—good for a few yuks!” That’s something you just never hear.

Even though I am perfectly happy reading Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant, I have to give it up on Monday. On Monday, I begin a tour for my new book, and Dance to the Music of Time is no good for touring. Selecting a book to read on tour is a delicate operation, with many conflicting criteria. It must be long, but it must be light. It must distract from the horrors of multiple airplane flights, but it can’t distract from the job at hand. It has to look respectable enough for a children’s book author to carry around (no boobs on the cover) and it has to be respectable enough to sustain my contention that I am, I really am, an author. (Nobody ever believes me.) (It’s because I’m short.)

Dance fails on both the weight and distraction criteria, but I’m not bereaved, because I have Lonesome Dove, a rare bird that fulfills all of them. My copy is an old mass market paperback—light!—and it’s 945 pages—long! I read the first ten pages to make sure it was distracting, and I got to page 25, so it must have been. There are no boobs on the cover; instead, there is a tasteful announcement of its Pulitzer Prize, establishing its and my literary cred. Check, check, check!

Unfortunately, there’s a chance that 945 pages will not be enough. One missed flight equals about 200 pages, more if it occurs at Chicago-O’Hare. My backup book is Misery by Stephen King. Mass-market paperback again, but only 338 pages—you can’t have everything in this world. Definitely distracting, and offering me the added pleasure of seeing how long King can go without using an adverb.

I’m also currently reading Brave Potatoes, by Toby Speed and Barry Root. I’ve read it about a hundred times, but I don’t care. I love it. It’s a revolutionary manifesto, pro-potato and anti-grownup, and it includes a line that has, through years of chanting during catastrophes, become our family motto: “We will never be pot-pie! We will never be pot-luck!”
Visit Annie Barrows' website and blog.

--Marshal Zeringue