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The Book Trade

February 16, 1986|ELIZABETH MEHREN

NEW YORK — Carolyn and James Robertson like to think of their operation, Yolla Bolly Press, as a book farm. After all, they are ensconced in an unlikely sounding spot called Covelo, reputedly north of Willits in a place called Round Valley. They do work in a barn, and yes, every day, the Robertsons do plod across the field to get to work. As for Yolla Bolly, the name derives from the nearby Yolla Bolly Wilderness, a kind of mini-Sierra Nevada of forests, mountains and granite outcrops. Tradition teaches that these words from the Yuki Indians translate to "great white impenetrable mountains to the north."

The truly distinctive history of this 12-year-old publishing concern is featured this month in a retrospective exhibit in the Department of Special Collections at the UCLA Research Library. Handsomely illustrated with woodcuts and other illustrations by contemporary artists, printed on vintage letter presses and bound in fine linen or leather, Yolla Bolly books are priced at $285 and up--the better to make them serve as the lifetime collector's items the Robertsons intend. Nevertheless, as James Robertson has been quoted, "We want our books to be used. A book must be a book first--then it can be art."

Oops: All because of one little missing syllable, "First Love: A Young People's Guide to Sexual Information" by sex maven Dr. Ruth Westheimer, and Nathan Kravetz, has been hastily recalled by Warner Books. Seems that in the book's discussion of the rhythm method of birth control, the book terms the week before and the week of a woman's ovulation a "safe" term for intercourse. Ahem, said an embarrassed Dr. Ruth and Warner Books, but the word should have been "unsafe." Warner publicity director Barbara Uva said 115,000 copies of the $3.50 paperback had been sent to stores since its publication in October, but no one had commented on the error. Then, on Dec. 12, a librarian in Ramsey, N. J., brought it to the attention of the publisher. To avoid marketing copies of the unsafe version, Warner immediately sent mailgrams to all booksellers who had ordered the book. A new edition issued in January bore a bright red cover rather than the original white.

And on the political front, New York Times political columnist Tom Wicker will take on Richard Nixon in a biography to be published by Random House in 1987. The publisher promises that the book will focus on former President Nixon's foreign policy achievements, as well as the degree to which Nixon's approach to leadership in foreign affairs was a product of his personality and family background, his experience in the Eisenhower Administration and the political lessons of a career that spanned nearly 40 years in office.

Following the long-standing European tradition of gathering the works of classical and contemporary authors in uniform deluxe editions, this country's fledgling Bibliophile Library has announced that its first project will be a 20-volume set of the works of Elie Wiesel. First title in what will be called the Elie Wiesel Collection will be "The Jews of Silence," already hailed by Isaac Bashevis Singer as "a passionate outcry" about the plight of Soviet Jewry. Subsequent titles, at $49.95 per English mouton-leatherbound-volume, will be made available on a monthly basis.

Lisa Grunwald always was "a morbid little kid." Her greatest wish, she'd tell her parents, was that they would die in a plane crash together rather than either of them dying alone. Much later, when her mother did succumb to cancer, her neophyte novelist daughter went back to a manuscript she had started as a junior at Harvard and thrashed out a manuscript that is now the forthcoming novel "Summer," from Knopf.

On the other hand, Grunwald does not exactly come from a non-literary tribe. The late Beverly Grunwald, her mother, was a columnist for Women's Wear Daily. Her father is the legendary Henry Anatole Grunwald, editor in chief and ruling power for all the Time Inc. magazines. Brother Peter makes films with Charles Evans, while sister Mandy is a political consultant with David Sawyer.

A writer he was, but obviously no financial genius: "I am all fuzzy with money troubles," wrote Stephen Crane, "and last night a writ was served on me by a leading creditor." The missive is one of 62 letters written by Crane, and 39 scribed by his common-law wife, Cora, and tracked down by Virginia Tech Prof. Paul Sorrentino. The material will be part of a new book on Crane to be written jointly by Sorrentino and fellow Crane scholar Stanley Wertheim of William Patterson College in Wayne, N.J. Columbia University Press expects to publish the new volume in 1986.

There was a knock up at Angela Ortenheim's door in Skokloster, Sweden. Standing on the threshold was the cultural attache to the Soviet Embassy in Stockholm. Ortenheim promptly offered him some chicken casserole. In return, the Soviet diplomat brought good cheer and gratitude from none other than Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

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