Books

new england literary news | nina maclaughlin

Film recounts Grolier story; playing catchup with Mass Book Awards 

Directors Weiying “Olivia” Huang and Mengyuan Lin interview Grolier staff member Elizabeth Doran.
Weiying “Olivia” Huang
Directors Weiying “Olivia” Huang and Mengyuan Lin interview Grolier staff member Elizabeth Doran.

Focus on Grolier Poetry Book Shop

The potent, diminutive Grolier Poetry Book Shop in Harvard Square is the subject of a tender new documentary directed by Weiying “Olivia’’ Huang and Mengyuan Lin, which will screen as part of the Massachusetts Independent Film Festival this week. The Grolier, which celebrates its 90th anniversary this year, is the longest operating poetry-only bookshop in the country, and the storied space has been a gathering spot for some of poetry’s brightest luminaries — T.S. Eliot, Elizabeth Bishop, E.E. Cummings, Jorge Luis Borges, William Carlos Williams.

“The Last Sacred Place of Poetry,’’ filmed almost entirely within the store, features interviews with local poets like Ben Mazer, Patrick Sylvain, Susan Barba, Gloria Mindock, and owner Ifeanyi Menkiti and Carol Menkiti. It also examines the struggle to keep it operating. On a good day, sales could be $300-$400, explains Grolier employee Elizabeth Doran; a slow day means about five books are sold. Menkiti uses his own money to help keep the shop afloat. More than anything, it’s a portrait of an institution and the passionate community that wants to keep it alive. The film screens Saturday, Aug. 25 at 8 pm at the Arlington Regent Theatre.

Mass Book Award winners announced

Better late than never, says the Mass Center for the Book. The organization is having to play catch-up with its annual major prizes. Owing to state funding delays, the Center had to put off giving out its Mass Book Awards last year for works written in 2016 by state residents or about Massachusetts subjects, according to executive director Sharon Shaloo. The winners, who will receive their prizes in a December ceremony, include Margot Livesey’s novel Mercury’’ (HarperCollins), which reckons with obsession, regret, grief, and marriage, took the fiction prize. A Revolution in Color: The World of John Singleton Copley’’ (Norton), Jane Kamensky’s exploration of the American Revolution through the story of painter Copley, won in nonfiction. Martin Espada’s collection Vivas to Those Who Have Failed’’ was the poetry winner. In the middle grade/young adult category, Lauren Wolk’s  Wolf Hollow’’ (Penguin) took the prize, and The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial’’ by Susan E. Goodman (Bloomsbury) garnered the top picture-book honor. Nomination deadlines are Oct. 31 for books published in 2017 and Dec. 31 for those released in 2018, respectively.

Written with dignity

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Donna Hicks, an associate at Harvard’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, translates over two decades of experience boosting dialogue between groups and countries in conflict in her new book “Leading with Dignity: How to Create a Culture That Brings Out the Best in People’’ (Yale). “Our universal yearning for dignity,” she writes, “defines us as human beings.” With engaging intelligence, Hicks makes a lucid case for the importance of acknowledging a person’s worth within organizations and businesses. It’s a useful book, not only for managers and CEOs, but for anyone wanting to better understand how to bring about the best in themselves and those around them.

Coming out

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Between Eternities and Other Writings’’ by Javier Mariás, translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa (Vintage)

After the Winter’’ by Guadalupe Nettel, translated from the Spanish by Rosalind Harvey (Coffee House)

Holy Wild’’ by Gwen Benaway (Book Thug)

Pick of the week

Annie Clymer of Crow Bookshop in Burlington, Vt., recommends “The Thing Around Your Neck’’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Knopf): “These short stories carry you along like a warm wave. Adichie writes with such care and acute observation. Though she is mainly known for her novels, this collection proves she is a master of the short form as well.”

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Nina MacLaughlin is the author of “Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter.” She can be reached at nmaclaughlin@gmail.com.