Monday, April 29, 2013

Soho gains further repute through Times review of "The Tooth Tattoo"

Official cover for The Tooth Tattoo
Benay’s client Soho Press landed yet another laudable review in the April 21st Sunday New York Times Book Review, with the recent release of Peter Lovesey’s The Tooth Tattoo out of their crime imprint. Times Reviewer Marilyn Stasio calls Lovesey’s newest work an “ample display” of his oh-so characteristic “droll humor.” As it goes with most crime fiction, Lovesey’s novel deals with the mysterious murder of a young woman who fits the bill for the classic victim; a young Japanese music lover who has traveled all the way to Bath, England to fulfill her dream of witnessing a world renowned string quartet.

Yet, perhaps as is (again) characteristic to crime novels, not much is what it seems; a statement applicable both plot-wise and stylistically. The novel starts out as such:
“Eleven-thirty at night, sweaty in his evening suit and shattered after a heavy night playing Rachmaninov, Mel Farran plodded out of the artists' exit on the south side of the Royal Festival Hall. Good thing his legs didn't need telling the way to
Waterloo station and the tube. He'd done it a thousand times. Rachmaninov
was said to be the ultimate romantic—miserable old git. The six foot scowl,
as Stravinsky called him, had been a pianist through and through. He worked
the string section like galley slaves to show off the joanna man, and Mel
Farran was a viola-player, so thank you, Sergei.”

Soho Crime author, Peter Lovesey
It is apparent straight from the beginning that Lovesey holds no pretense. For all we know, we are as good as sitting in a theater seat watching the scene unfold in front of us with Lovesey right beside us, in whispering the narrative in our ear as it goes. It is a refreshing way to read, to say the least, and impressive in its let-me-guide-you-while-you-lead mentality.

The accessibility of Lovesey’s writing is only furthered by his cavalierness in the face of ostentation – which is perhaps apparent from the passage above. There’s much of it to spare in the elite world of classical music (at least in Lovesey’s world), and the fact that he takes the back-door perspective through the eyes of the “lowly” viola player, as opposed to the star pianist, says a lot about his character as an author. It’s one of the many things that truly solidifies a readership for an author, and is yet another testament to Soho’s outstanding judgment in choosing their authors.
View the comprehensive excerpt from The Tooth Tattoo by visiting the book's page at the Soho website. You can find more of Peter Lovesey's titles at his page on the Soho website as well.

- Colleen McClintock

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

"It's not just about calling a table, a table." Granta's "Best Young British Novelists" issue is out!

Benay client, Granta, has just released their “Best of Young British Novelists” issue. The issue only comes out once a decade, so it is quite an honor to be chosen. Taken from Granta’s website:

“For three consecutive decades, Granta has foreseen the brilliant careers of the British literary scene, showcasing an array of talent that included Martin Amis, Pat Barker, Julian Barnes, Kazuo Ishiguro, Ian McEwan, Salman Rushdie, Rose Tremain, Alan Hollinghurst, A.L. Kennedy, Will Self, Helen Simpson, Jeanette Winterson, David Mitchell and Zadie Smith.

Here, in a collection of new work by twenty writers, is the future of literature in Britain: Granta’s fourth BEST OF YOUNG BRITISH NOVELISTS.

The List: Naomi Alderman, Tahmima Anam, Ned Beauman, Jenni Fagan, Adam Foulds, Xiaolu Guo, Sarah Hall, Steven Hall, Joanna Kavenna, Benjamin Markovits, Nadifa Mohamed, Helen Oyeyemi, Ross Raisin, Sunjeev Sahota, Taiye Selasi, Kamila Shamsie, Zadie Smith, David Szalay, Adam Thirlwell, and Evie Wyld.”

Granta has also noted that they will be releasing podcast interviews with each author starting today. Episode 58, features Adam Foulds, a former forklift truck driver. He talks about his transition from working in a warehouse to writing novels. 

There is also a small piece by Foulds on writing as a career and how he ventured into author territory. “Writing is not a profession, nor should it be constricted or necessitated by any sense of responsibility.” He poses an interesting, if somewhat unconventional, view of writing. Read more of this here.

Furthermore, NPR ran a story this morning, showcasing another author: Sarah Hall. Hall isn’t even 40 yet, has already published five books and is well into her sixth, The Reservation. “It's about a woman who's working with a wolf pack on an Idaho reservation when she's wooed back to the U.K. by an earl who wants her help with a wolf-related project.”

Hall is known for her eloquent language and ability to create strong and moving atmospheres. John Freeman, Granta’s editor, explains, “’I think her language has deepened and richened so that she's not just a writer of landscape, she's a writer of atmosphere.’”

According to Hall, ‘”You have to have a respect for the language and an understanding of its musicality and its structures, its rhythms,’ Hall says, ‘because it's not just about calling a table a table, you know. Just describing the entrails of an animal as plush and red — well, plush is a good word. It's kind of a beautiful image on the one hand, but it's hopefully an image that's successful. It's not just visually accurate, but it's something that will stir the reader, make them feel slightly squeamish.’”

You can listen to more of the short interview here.

To read a story by Sarah Hall click here.

I don’t know about you but all of this talk of successful young writers makes me want to pick up a pen and start writing. I’ll definitely have to check some of these authors out. I’ll also be watching Granta for new Podcasts. You should subscribe to them if you haven’t already.

-Marcie Gainer

Monday, April 15, 2013

TIP: I-9 & COBRA Can Bite You for Incomplete Paperwork

Irked about the new Form I-9? Want to avoid the sting of COBRA non-compliance?

It's better to fill out than pay up - and here's why:

Form I-9 Regs

The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 requires all employers to verify a new hire's authorization to work in the United States by completing Form I-9. Section 1 of the I-9 must be completed on the employee's first day of work for pay, and Section 2 must be completed within 3 business days of the employee's first day of work.

The I-9 form is comprised of 8 pages of instruction, making it a heavy enough load to intimidate new hires from filling it out, so employers might not get it back from them at all. Yet, because it is the responsibility of employers to complete and retain the form, you can potentially suffer a penalty of $110 per day, dating back to the period the forms should have been completed.

Let's put this in context. If you didn't get and retain the I-9 from a hire, say, 2 years ago, and you were audited by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), you might be liable for anywhere up to $80,300 in fines. Believe it or not, there are real cases of companies being fined more than $1 million dollars.

Don't Let COBRA Bite You!

Employers can also potentially meet similar circumstances with the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), the law giving certain workers and their families who lose their health benefits the right to choose to continue their group health plan for limited period of time. Employers that fail to offer the benefits of COBRA in a timely manner can be hit with an excise tax of up to $200 per day - even more than the I-9 penalty.

Fear not, however. All that is needed is an Offer of Insurance letter and proof that the former employee either accepted or declined it. It's amazing how many headaches the price of one stamp can prevent!

Do What You Do Best, and Let Benay Do the Rest!

Our job at Benay is to handle all of these back-office issues for employers.

We make sure that our clients have their new employees fill out the new I-9 forms, which were published as of March 8, 2013, and ensure they are being used by May 7, 2013. Additionally, we retain these records on behalf of our clients for the period required by ICE. 

We also take care of all COBRA letters and documentation for our client's former employees, making sure nothing slips through the cracks.

Benay does all of the behind-the-scenes documentation, filing, and more. If you'd like to spend more time growing your business and less time managing your back office, give us a call.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Napalm: An American Biography by Robert Neer

Napalm. We think we know what it is. We know that, whatever the exact chemical ingredients it contains, napalm burns; human flesh, buildings, trees…everything. A hot, sticky goo that’s impossible to put out.

Sure, you know about napalm. You’ve probably seen Apocalypse Now. But how did we get ahold of this powerful substance? Why was it once considered appropriate for war but now condemned? What are the societal and political implications of napalm and the horrors it has reaped? Robert Neer (Barack Obama For Beginners) answers these difficult to process questions in Napalm: An American Biography.

“Napalm, incendiary gel that sticks to skin and burns to the bone, came into the world on Valentine’s Day 1942 at a secret Harvard war research laboratory. On March 9, 1945, it created an inferno that killed over 87,500 people in Tokyo—more than died in the atomic explosions at Hiroshima or Nagasaki. It went on to incinerate sixty-four of Japan’s largest cities. The Bomb got the press, but napalm did the work.”

"Robert Neer has written the first history of napalm, from its inaugural test on the Harvard College soccer field, to a Marine Corps plan to attack Japan with millions of bats armed with tiny napalm time bombs, to the reflections of Phan Thi Kim Phuc, a girl who knew firsthand about its power and its morality." 

Napalm, which is the first ever history on this terrifyingly powerful substance, debuted in March. Within the book Neer explains the history of napalm, the uses, the horrors, and societal views regarding napalm and its use in war.
Neer explains how the makers of napalm intended for the substance to burn things not people. Despite this, napalm has been used in just about every war since WWII, including Iraq. Neer explores how napalm, once a respected weapon, became the target of outrage and protest during the Vietnam War. Who can forget the horrific photo of Kim Phuc, pure terror on her face, running naked down a Vietnamese street? The photo is too horrific for me to post but a simple Google search should suffice. “Today there is an international consensus against the use of napalm anywhere near civilians, but it’s still part of military arsenals.” 

In an interview with the Boston Globe, Neer explains how the Vietnam War transformed society’s view on napalm:
“Two things happened with Vietnam. For one thing, the United States lost the war, and since napalm had become for the protest movement a symbol of our misguided actions in Vietnam, this loss had profound consequences for the way people perceived the weapon. And the second thing was that coverage of the Vietnam War and specifically descriptions of the effect of napalm on civilians were far more dramatic and extensive than in World War II. In World War II, much of napalm’s impact was in Japan, where there wasn’t much opportunity for correspondents to report on what was happening at the time, because they couldn’t go there.”

“Fieser said that he never imagined napalm would be used against people. He thought it would be used to target things. And he devoted his entire life to medicines and chemicals that could help people. He helped synthesize Vitamin K. He was a beloved teacher to students at Harvard. He was part of team that determined smoking was a cause of death. So he’s a complex person. But with respect to his assertion that he never thought napalm would be used against people, it’s a little bit hard to completely credit that, since many of the tests that they did with the gel that they invented were on residential buildings, specifically on models of German and Japanese houses. The man was a genius, so it’s hard to believe he wouldn’t see the obvious implications of how it would be used.”

Neer has given us a much needed history on this powerful weapon. Napalm is something we think we understand with its many cultural references from Apocalypse Now to video games. But Neer's book provides us with a much deeper, more useful background.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Literary Group International: The Force Behind that Book on Your Nightstand

Do you enjoy autobiographies of pop culture figures like Tia Mowry or Tyrese Gibson?  Is that tome of long-lost Beatles photos on your coffee table the object of your friends' curiosity? 

If you answered yes, you can thank Benay's client, The Literary Group International (that's LGI to countless authors.)

The Author's Agent

LGI  is one of the world's most successful literary agencies.  Their impressive titles range from #1 New York Times best-seller (and movie), October Sky by Homer Hickam to the True Crime book turning future Scorsese movie about the disappearance of union boss Jimmy Hoffa, I Heard You Paint Houses by Charles Brandt.

Founded in 1986 by agent Frank Weimann, LGI's talented team of literary agents includes Katherine Latshaw and Jeff Silberman. The firm's stellar reputation attracts top-notch authors for representation in the tough world of publishing.

New Works from LGI Authors

  • Parenting: Illustrated with Crappy Pictures (Harlequin) by popular blogger Amber Dusick, who says her book is "a place to vent about the funny (and frustrating) day-to-day things that happened to me as a parent." (Details
  •  The New Jewish Table: Modern Seasonal Recipes for Traditional Dishes (St. Martin's Press), by Chef Todd Gray and his wife Ellen Kassoff Gray, serves up favorites from their Washington, DC restaurant, Equinox. We dare you to try Ellen's famous Pickled Vegetable and Minted Lemon Yogurt Falafel. (Details)  
  • The Big, Bad Book of Beasts (William Morrow/Harper Collins) by Michael Largo is an encyclopedic chronicle of the beasts that walk the earth and populate our nightmares. You'll find portraits of scary animals  ranging from the mighty lion to the elusive vampire beast, Chupacabra. (Details

Do What You Do Best, and Let Benay Do the Rest!

For 19 years Benay has provided financial and back office management services to LGI, allowing them to focus on what they do best - finding and developing great authors.

If you'd like to spend more time finding new business and less time managing your back office, give us a call.