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.
....
The Indian
The Indian by Jón Gnarr
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

The opening of Jón Gnarr’s novel/memoir The Indian is a playful bit of extravagant ego, telling the traditional story of creation, where the “Let there be light!” moment is also the moment of his birth on January 2nd, 1967. Then. . .

Read More >

Mother of 1084; Old Women; Breast Stories
Mother of 1084; Old Women; Breast Stories by Mahasweta Devi
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

Mahasweta Devi is not only one of the most prolific Bengali authors, but she’s also an important activist. In fact, for Devi, the two seem to go together. As you can probably tell from the titles, she writes about women. . .

Read More >

Tristana
Tristana by Benito Pérez Galdós
Reviewed by Lori Feathers

The prolific Spanish author Benito Pérez Galdós wrote his short novel, Tristana, during the closing years of the nineteenth century, a time when very few options were available to women of limited financial means who did not want a husband.. . .

Read More >

The History of Silence
The History of Silence by Pedro Zarraluki
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

Pedro Zarraluki’s The History of Silence (trans. Nick Caistor and Lorenza García) begins with the narrator and his wife, Irene, setting out to write a book about silence, itself called The History of Silence: “This is the story of how. . .

Read More >

Flesh-Coloured Dominoes
Flesh-Coloured Dominoes by Zigmunds Skujiņš
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

There are plenty of reasons you can fail to find the rhythm of a book. Sometimes it’s a matter of discarding initial assumptions or impressions, sometimes of resetting oneself. Zigmunds Skujiņš’s Flesh-Coloured Dominoes was a defining experience in the necessity. . .

Read More >

Iraqi Nights
Iraqi Nights by Dunya Mikhail
Reviewed by Vincent Francone

In a culture that privileges prose, reviewing poetry is fairly pointless. And I’ve long since stopped caring about what the world reads and dropped the crusade to get Americans to read more poems. Part of the fault, as I’ve suggested. . .

Read More >

Three-Light Years
Three-Light Years by Andrea Canobbio
Reviewed by Tiffany Nichols

I would like to pose the argument that it is rare for one to ever come across a truly passive protagonist in a novel. The protagonist (perhaps) of Three Light-Years, Claudio Viberti, is just that—a shy internist who lives in. . .

Read More >

The Little Horse
The Little Horse by Thorvald Steen
Reviewed by P. T. Smith

The last five days of the eleventh-century Icelandic politician, writer of sagas, and famous murder victim Snorri Sturleleson (the Norwegian spelling, Snorre, is preserved in the book) make up Thorvald Steen’s most recently translated historical fiction, The Little Horse. Murdered. . .

Read More >

Guys Like Me
Guys Like Me by Dominique Fabre
Reviewed by Peter Biello

We all know Paris, or at least we think we know it. The Eiffel Tower. The Latin Quarter. The Champs-Élysées. The touristy stuff. In Dominique Fabre’s novel, Guys Like Me, we’re shown a different side of Paris: a gray, decaying. . .

Read More >

Birth of a Bridge
Birth of a Bridge by Maylis de Kerangal
Reviewed by Christopher Iacono

One hundred pages into Birth of a Bridge, the prize-winning novel from French writer Maylis de Kerangal, the narrator describes how starting in November, birds come to nest in the wetlands of the fictional city of Coca, California, for three. . .

Read More >