12 July 13 | Chad W. Post

From today’s PW Daily:

Karl Pohrt, founder of Shaman Drum Bookshop in Ann Arbor, Mich., died on Wednesday. He was 65. Pohrt was diagnosed with anaplastic thyroid cancer in October 2012 and wrote about his illness on his blog, thereisnogap.com.

In 2009, plunging textbook sales and the economy forced Pohrt to close 29-year-old Shaman Drum, which had been located on the edge of the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor. He also ran the nonprofit Great Lakes Literary Arts Center, which he founded in 2008.

“Karl Pohrt was a true bookman: a bookseller, compulsive reader, and a publisher as well. He had a very strong sense of the material and spiritual value of the reading experience. He was a man with a mission and an unshakeable devotion to the idea that books could transform human beings and the world for the better,” said Bruce Joshua Miller of Miller Trade Marketing in Chicago. “He was the godfather of bookselling in Ann Arbor and Michigan. He’s already missed,” commented Deb Leonard, executive director of the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association.

A memorial service will be held for Pohrt on Sunday, July 14, at 2 p.m. at the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation, 3257 Lohr Road, Ann Arbor. The family requests that donations be made to the church or to the Children’s Literacy Network.

I don’t think I’m in a mental place where I can properly express myself about Karl’s passing or how much he meant to me. Karl was my partner-in-crime back some years ago when we started the Reading the World program—a special marketing initiative to get independent bookstores to display works in translation throughout the month of May. (Which happens to be World in Translation Month.) We spent a number of days together convincing publishers to go in on our idea, getting booksellers excited, and planning some awesome BEA parties at various consulates. (Including a really swank one at the French Consulate in D.C. And a cool one in the RedCat Theater in L.A.)

I’ll never forget all of the visits to Shaman Drum in Ann Arbor, which was one of the greatest independent bookstores ever. And Karl was one of the greatest managers ever. He assembled an amazing crew of employees, and did more for literature in Ann Arbor than the massive (also now defunct) competitor down the road . . .

And Karl was one of the most well-adjusted people I’ve ever met. A long time buddhist and friend of Gary Snyder, he exuded a certain calm and ease with the world that touched everyone who ever met him.

I hadn’t seen Karl in years. In fact, I think the last time was in 2008(?) when I surprised him by showing up at the special ceremony the University of Michigan held to announced the chair that they had named after him. It was so amazing to see him in, to go out to dinner with him and Gary Snyder and hear about his SDS days . . . And to see all of the wonderful people who came out to celebrate one of the best book people in the world. The days of panels and discussions were interesting, and it was touching to see all the effusive outpourings of praise for Karl—even if he was too modest to fully appreciate this. Still.

Damn. I knew for a while about his cancer, since he wrote about it at There Is No Gap in a way that’s human and impressive in its honesty, but I secretly hoped everything would turn out OK. Or that I’d have one last chance to talk with him in Ann Arbor and to see him smile. He was always smiling. But that’s what we always regret when someone important to us dies . . .

I wish the best to his family, and for everyone who knew him, I know we’re all thinking similar things and suffering the fact that the world is a slightly worse place now that Karl isn’t in it.


Comments are disabled for this article.
....
Faces in the Crowd
Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli
Reviewed by Valerie Miles

At 30, the Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli is already gathering her rosebuds. Faces in the Crowd, her poised debut novel, was published by Coffee House Press, along with her Brodsky-infused essay collection, Sidewalks. The essays stand as a theoretical map. . .

Read More >

Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires: An Attainable Utopia
Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires: An Attainable Utopia by Julio Cortázar
Reviewed by Cameron Rowe

Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires: An Attainable Utopia (narrated by Julio Cortázar) is, not disappointingly, as wild a book as its title suggests. It is a half-novella half-graphic novel story about . . . what, exactly? A European tribunal, Latin. . .

Read More >

Self-Portrait in Green
Self-Portrait in Green by Marie NDiaye
Reviewed by Lori Feathers

Marie NDiaye has created a tiny, psychological masterpiece with her Self-Portrait in Green. In it she explores how our private fears and insecurities can distort what we believe to be real and can cause us to sabotage our intimate relationships.. . .

Read More >

The Madmen of Benghazi
The Madmen of Benghazi by Gerard de Villiers
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

Reading a genre book—whether fantasy, science fiction, crime, thriller, etc.—which begins to seem excessively, stereotypically bad, I have to make sure to ask myself: is this parodying the flaws of the genre? Usually, this questioning takes its time coming. In. . .

Read More >

The Four Corners of Palermo
The Four Corners of Palermo by Giuseppe Di Piazza
Reviewed by Patience Haggin

The Sicilian Mafia has always been a rich subject for sensational crime fiction. The Godfather, Goodfellas, and The Sopranos worked the mob’s bloody corpses and family feuds to both entertainment and artistic value. Giuseppe di Piazza’s debut novel attempts this,. . .

Read More >

Writers
Writers by Antoine Volodine
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

Antoine Volodine’s vast project (40 plus novels) of what he calls the post-exotic remains mostly untranslated, so for many of us, understanding it remains touched with mystery, whispers from those “who know,” and guesswork. That’s not to say that, were. . .

Read More >

My Brilliant Friend
My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
Reviewed by Acacia O'Connor

It hasn’t quite neared the pitch of the waiting-in-line-at-midnight Harry Potter days, but in small bookstores and reading circles of New York City, an aura has attended the novelist Elena Ferrante and her works. One part curiosity (Who is she?),. . .

Read More >

Stealth
Stealth by Sonallah Ibrahim
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

From the late 1940s to the early 1950s, Egypt was going through a period of transition. The country’s people were growing unhappy with the corruption of power in the government, which had been under British rule for decades. The Egyptians’. . .

Read More >

Miruna, a Tale
Miruna, a Tale by Bogdan Suceavă
Reviewed by Alta Ifland

Miruna is a novella written in the voice of an adult who remembers the summer he (then, seven) and his sister, Miruna (then, six) spent in the Evil Vale with their grandfather (sometimes referred to as “Grandfather,” other times as. . .

Read More >

Kamal Jann
Kamal Jann by Dominique Eddé
Reviewed by Lori Feathers

Kamal Jann by the Lebanese born author Dominique Eddé is a tale of familial and political intrigue, a murky stew of byzantine alliances, betrayals, and hostilities. It is a well-told story of revenge and, what’s more, a serious novel that. . .

Read More >

The next few events from our Translation Events Calendar: See More Events >