Harry Potter's Pot of Gold

Look to Toad Hall's most recent list of bestsellers ("Local Bestsellers," p. 49) for corroboration of a recent Publisher's Weekly article asserting that "hardcover children's fiction is hot these days" ("The Harry Potter Halo," July 19). The article largely attributes the buying frenzy to J.K. Rowling, author of the wildly popular Harry Potter series, whose two Harry Potter books that have been released in the U.S. (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone) top the PW children's fiction bestsellers list, respectively, in a neat reversal of the Harry Potter titles selling well at Toad Hall. (Austin writer Louis Sachar's Holes is third on the PW list.) Look for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in September.

But enough of that. Children's books open up so many other discussions, as American poet and critic Randall Jarrell observed with his typical prescience in a July 24, 1965, article in The New York Times. "I have trouble knowing what to do at parties. Prisoners tame mice, or make rings out of spoons: I analyze people's handwriting -- Pierre Emmanuel taught me, saying: 'It will help you' -- or else ask you to tell me what you read when you were a child. (People speak unusually well of the books of their childhood, don't they? Or is this one more life-giving illusion?) I love to see a hard eye grow soft over Little Women, or The Black Arrow, or Grandma Elsie -- yes, Elsie Dinsmore became a grandmother. And, I've found, there's no children's book so bad that I mind your having liked it: about the tastes of dead children there is no disputing." (Jarrell fans can rejoice at what is probably the best publishing decision of the year, the decision by HarperCollins to publish a collection of Jarrell's essays, No Other Book: Selected Essays, $27.50 hard, and Remembering Randall: A Memoir of Poet, Critic, and Teacher Randall Jarrell, $22 hard, by Jarrell's wife Mary von Schrader Jarrell.)

Bad Boy From Rosebud

Austin author Gary Lavergne will be at Book People on Tuesday, August 10, 7pm, to read from his new book Bad Boy From Rosebud: The Murderous Life of Kenneth Allen McDuff (University of North Texas Press, $29.95 hard).

Slam News

Austin's poetry slam team is seeking your donations and presence at a benefit for the team on Sunday, August 8, at Ruta Maya (Fourth & Lavaca) from 7-11pm as the team (Phil West, Vicky Charleston, Mike Henry, and Karyna McGlynn) prepare for this year's National Poetry Slam in Chicago, held August 11-14. Wammo, not a member of this year's team, will nonetheless be performing at the benefit and will travel to Chicago to compete as an indie slam poet. Slam fans can look for scores posted nightly from the nationals at

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More Postscripts
The last time we heard about Karla Faye Tucker, she was being executed; now, almost four years later, there's a new novel about her. Or about someone very like her. And Beverly Lowry's classic Crossed Over, a memoir about getting to know Karla Faye Tucker, gets a reissue.

Clay Smith, Jan. 18, 2002

Not one day back from vacation and the growing list of noble souls who need to be congratulated is making Books Editor Clay Smith uneasy.

Clay Smith, Jan. 11, 2002


Readings, Signings, Claiborne Smith, Randall Jarrell, Harpercollins, J.k. Rowling, Harry Potter, Gary Lavergne, Bad Boy From Rosebud: The Murderous Life Of Kenneth Allen Mcduff, Book People, National Poetry Slam

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