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Staying a Step Ahead of the Competition in Publishing: Music Video Book Trailers

Velvet Love by Andy Platon

Velvet Love by Andy Platon

MUSIC VIDEO BOOK TRAILERS: Staying a Step Ahead of the Competition in Publishing

by Claudia Moscovici

Both publishers and authors are becoming increasingly concerned with the question of how to promote books effectively, capture the interest of readers and generate sales. Given the number of books out there, without an outstanding publicity campaign, each given book risks passing unnoticed. Currently, the competition for readers is tremendous. An  astronomical number of books are published each year. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) cites that roughly 2,200,000 books are published annually. Out of curiosity, I looked up the two countries I write about most which, not coincidentally, are also those where I’ve lived: the U.S. and Romania. In 2010, 328,259 were published in the U.S. and in 2008 14,984 books were published in Romania. Given this large number of books published in the U.S. alone, it’s difficult to believe how difficult and competitive the process of publishing can be (as I explain in an earlier article on the subject):

in English:

in Romanian:

And yet publishing your manuscript is only the beginning of the gargantuan task of rising to the surface in an ocean of books. In fact, the UNESCO study probably doesn’t even count the number of self-published books via Amazon Kindle, Lulu and many other self-publishing options. On the one hand, the mass media makes sharing our cultural products easier in some ways, by facilitating access to an audience. For instance, anyone can self-publish and promote a novel nowadays, through blogs, twitter,  youtube and other popular venues on the internet. But this apparent democratization of culture also makes it a lot tougher to stand out from the crowd. Each cultural product–be it a novel, a collection of poems, a song, a film or a painting–competes with tens of millions of others. It’s hard to find or discern anymore what we value and what we don’t in this tidal wave of information that assails us from all directions on a daily basis.

noise

To draw another analogy, it’s as if we heard talented classical musicians playing their instruments at the same time as others howl, scream, talk and yell in various languages. Or, if you prefer to avoid making any value judgments, as if we heard them playing at the same time as other talented musicians practice other songs. Either way you look at it, what reaches our ears will sound like a maddening cacophony, to the point that we can no longer discern the music we prefer from  the surrounding noise we’d like to ignore. In a world of information (and publication) overload, effective publicity and keeping up with the rapid changes in the mass media can make the difference between success and failure.

bordersbooks

When I taught literature and aesthetics at the University of Michigan, I also helped organize a few  panels in the Ann Arbor Book Festival for several years. In this function, I witnessed up close and personal the struggles of one of the biggest book stores internationally, the Borders Group Inc., which was one of our main sponsors for the book festival. As is well-known, Borders faltered in the face of growing competition from Amazon.com as well as its direct competitor, Barnes & Noble. After downsizing for a few  years, the company eventually declared bankruptcy in February 2011. Barnes & Noble swallowed its former rival, taking over Borders’ trademarks and customers.

penguin_books_random_house_a_l

A similar phenomenon can be witnessed in the world of publishing. Two decades ago, when I first began creative writing, there were dozens of small presses in the U.S. Now there are hardly any left, both because they can’t compete with the major publishing houses and because self-publishing has taken a big bite out of their sales. Many of those that survive have been assimilated into larger publishing houses. And they are not alone. During the past decade, even the mainstream publishers often group together into larger conglomerates. For instance, one of my favorite publishers of literary fiction, Farrar Straus & Giroux, which has published internationally renowned authors such as Isaac Bashevis Singer, Tom Wolfe, Jonathan Franzen and  Jeffrey Eugenides, forms a conglomerate with the MacMillan Publishing group. On July 1st 2013, two of the biggest publishing houses, Penguin and Random House, joined forces to form Penguin Random House. This megapublisher is predicted to account for a quarter of book sales in the U.S., as  Julie Bosman explains in her July 1, 2013 article on the subject in The New York Times:

This merger may be partly in response to the fact that starting in 2009, Amazon.com, the biggest online book seller in the U.S., launched several (selective, as opposed to self-publishing) imprints of  foreign and genre fiction. These include AmazonEncore (out-of-pront or self-published books that sell well), AmazonCrossing (books in translation), Montlake Romance and Thomas & Mercer (mystery novels). In May 2011, Larry Kirshbaum, the former CEO of Time Warner Book Group, took over Amazon Publishing to create a new general-interest imprint.

amazonpublishing

To summarize the increasingly competitive and volatile environment of the publishing industry: many authors are choosing self-publishing rather than wallowing indefinitely in the “slush piles” of highly selective and largely inaccessible literary agents; small presses have been swallowed by bigger ones (or gone out of business); large book sellers have faced bankruptcy and even mainstream publishers have had to merge to continue to thrive in the industry. But even these changes may not be enough. More publishers will sink and more publicity is needed–for authors, book sellers and publishers alike–to survive in such a highly competitive environment, where mainstream success is almost as statistically rare as winning the lottery.

Effective book publicity has become a necessity. Unfortunately, even for authors publishing with the big mainstream publishers, a decent publicity budget is not easy to come by. Ebooks continue to grow in popularity, which may be great news for readers but not necessarily for writers and publishers. Even taking into account the fact they largely eliminate the distribution cost and entirely eliminate the shipping and handling cost, ebooks generate smaller revenues than print books, which means, overall, fewer profits. This, in turn, means a general decrease in publicity budgets. Also, please keep in mind that publicity budgets aren’t equally distributed among authors. The major publishing houses allocate most of their annual publicity budget on a handful of books they predict will sell that year, most of which are written by celebrities (like Paris Hilton or George Bush) or authors who already have proven sales. This leaves the vast majority of published authors to fend for themselves and generate their own publicity: through blogs, social networks, twitter, contacting libraries and bookstores, however they can.

This discussion brings us full-circle to the initial problem I broached in this article: the difficulty of standing out in this deluge of mass media communication, where pretty much every author does his or her best to be heard and read. So how can you stand out if you aren’t one of the lucky few who get a major publisher’s annual publicity budget? I’d like to propose a new method–music video book trailers–that is innovative, cutting-edge and appeals to potential readers’ senses and imagination, to awaken their interest books.

I came upon the idea of music video book trailers partly through good fortune (of working with a cutting-edge major publishing house in my native country, Romania, Curtea Veche Publishing)–and partly because I was actively seeking opportunities of getting involved in such a project. Ever since I’ve been a teenager I loved pop music and jazz and was intrigued by the power of music videos to capture viewers’ attention not only through catchy music, but also through spectacular filmic scenes that can rival the best movie trailers.

Cover Intre Doua Lumi

Once I found out from my publisher that  my first novel,Velvet Totalitarianism, would be launched in Romanian translation (under the title Intre Doua Lumi) in September of 2011, I began exploring the possibility of collaborating with talented Romanian composers and musicians for a music video/book trailer of my novel. Via LinkedIn, I met the Romanian singer, composer, director and producer Andy “Soundland” Platon, who ended up doing a wonderful music video based on my novel, called Velvet Love:

 

Andy Platon is a Romanian pop music prodigy.  I say “pop music” only because that’s what he excells at best. But Andy has enormous range both in terms of the scope of his talents–as a composermusic video director and producer andsinger–and in the versatility of his musical abilities, from classical music to pop music and everything in between. Andy made his debut while still only a teenager in 2009 with the song Lost Without You, which became a finalist in the competition Battle of Songs. This show  was featured not only in Romania, but also in France, Russia and Turkey. Lost Without You was also nominated for the Shockwave NME Music Awards 2010. More recently, he’s known for his collaborations with Troy Lynch – The BeatBoyz (T.I.Gucci Mane, 112), Loredana Groza and  Marius Nedelcu  featuring  Alexandra UngureanuIrina PopaXoniaAnthony Icuagu (ex. Insane), Ianna Novac (ex. ASIA, Ladies). Recently, he has established his own production company, called Fonogram Studios and is collaborating with internationally renowned musicians, such as Kris Searle.

Andy Platon’s new single and music video,  Velvet Love,  performed by the talented singer Marcel Lovin, captures with feeling and sensibility some of the most poignant scenes of my novel  Velvet Totalitarianism, including the complex dynamics between the main characters, Radu and Ioana, as they struggle with the tension between their love for each other and harassment by the Secret Police. As an art critic I found the video to be very artistic–almost photographic in feel–showing clearly Andy’s eye for capturing each scene in a single image, as well as the talent of his co-producer and Director of PhotographyAnthony Icuagu. The main actors–Ioana Picos as Ioana and Mihai Marin as Radu–did a wonderful job playing the romantic couple in the novel, whose risky love for each other may be saved by their parental love for their son, Lucian, played by Alia Anastasiei.

velvetmoscovici

In general, music video book trailers have the following advantages for generating publicity for both authors and publishers:

1. They appeal to most of our senses. At their best, they’re musically catchy, visually stimulating and dramatic enough to stage a narrative that leaves viewers eager to find out more about your book.

2. They’re international. If posted on youtube, vimeo and other public venues, music video book trailers can quickly reach an international audience. If you wish to target only readers who speak a certain language, such as Romanian, French or Russian, then you can do them in that language.

Seducer Cover

3. Music video book trailers allow for a flexible budget. They can be as expensive as you can afford or as inexpensive as you desire. Before meeting the music composer and producer Andy Platon, I did my own music video book trailers and posted them on youtube. Though they certainly lacked professional filming equipment and original music, they still reached thousands of readers and were effective advertising tools. I’m including below my music video book trailer for my second novel, The Seducer:

4. They involve fruitful collaborations among the arts–music, film, acting and literature–so they’re by nature artistically complex and interesting.

5. They are amenable to various sources of funding, such as donors, investors and crowd funding, which do not depend strictly on the publicity budget your publisher is willing to allocate for your book. In fact, crowd funding has become an increasingly popular and effective way of raising revenues for artistic projects. For information about some of the most promising crowd funding options, I’m including below Chance Barnett‘s article on the subject, published in Forbes Magazine:

6. Best of all, like crowd funding itself, music video book trailers offer a more or less democratic means of advertising. This doesn’t mean, of course, that this method generates equal results for all authors. But it does mean that it’s accessible to every author: whether or not they published with a mainstream publisher, independent publisher, or self-published; whether or not their publisher invested their annual publicity budget in their work; whether or not they have connections in the entertainment industry, and whether or not they have a lot of money at their disposal for book publicity. Moreover, since this method of advertising is relatively new, music video book trailers offer can offer authors and publishers a way of staying ahead of the competition.
Claudia Moscovici, Literature Salon

 

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My Interview about Velvet Totalitarianism and The Seducer in Celebrity Dialogue

Claudia Moscovici: Novelist, Non-Fiction Author & Art Critic PDF Print E-mail
March 11th, 2012
Interview of Claudia Moscovici on CelebrityDialgoue.com
Claudia Moscovici is an American Romanian Novelist, non-fiction author and art critic. Her latest novel “The Seducer” is a psychological story of a married woman trapped in the love of an unassuming psychopath. Claudia is the author of “Velvet Totalitarianism,” a critically acclaimed novel about a Romanian family’s survival in an oppressive communist regime due to the strength of their love.

CelebrityDialogue: What is the basic plot of your latest novel “The Seducer”?Claudia: “The Seducer,” my new psychological thriller, shows both the hypnotic appeal and the deadly danger of psychopathic seduction. This novel traces the downfall of a married woman, Ana, who, feeling trapped in a lackluster marriage, has a torrid affair with Michael, a man who initially seems to be her soul mate and her dream come true. Although initially torn between love for her family and her passion for Michael, Ana eventually gives in to her lover’s pressure and asks her husband for divorce. That’s when Michael’s “mask of sanity” unpeels to reveal the monstrously selfish psychopath underneath. Written in the tradition of Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina,” my novel shows that true love can be found in our ordinary lives and relationships rather than in flimsy fantasies masquerading as great passions.
CelebrityDialogue: What inspired you to write this novel?

Claudia: I have always been a big fan of nineteenth-century fiction that focuses on the theme of seduction: I’m thinking of classic novels like Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina” and Flaubert’s “Madame Bovary”. I also read with great interest the libertine novel tradition of the eighteenth-century: my favorite in this genre being Laclos’ epistolary novel, “Dangerous Liaisons”. I think in his depiction of Valmont, Laclos gets the seducer profile exactly right: he is a dangerous psychopath—essentially a social predator who plays games with the lives of others, having malicious fun at their expense– rather than a libertine maverick (as in Casanova) or a tragic romantic hero (as in Tolstoy). I did four years of psychology research of the most dangerous personality disorders—psychopathy and narcissism—to create a realistic and up-to-date psychological profile of the seducer in my new novel by the same name.
CelebrityDialogue: Would you like to introduce our readers to a non-fiction book, “Dangerous Liaisons”, that you wrote in 2011?

Claudia: Although the theme of psychopathy comes up mostly when we hear about (psychopathic) serial killers, it is actually much more commonplace and pervasive, in both fact and fiction. What do O. J. Simpson, Scott Peterson and the timeless seducers of literature epitomized by the figures of Don Juan and Casanova have in common? They are charismatic, glib and seductive men who also embody the most dangerous human qualities: a breathtaking callousness, shallowness of emotion and the incapacity to love. In other words, these men are psychopaths. Unfortunately, most psychopaths don’t advertise themselves as heartless social predators. They come across as charming, intelligent, friendly, generous, romantic and kind. Through their believable “mask of sanity,” they lure many of us into their dangerous nets. My nonfiction book, “Dangerous Liaisons,” explains clearly, for a general audience, what psychopaths are, why they act the way they do, how they attract us and whom they tend to target. Above all, this book helps victims find the strength to end their toxic relationships with psychopaths and move on, stronger and wiser, with the rest of their lives.

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CelebrityDialogue: What exactly is psychopathic seduction?

Claudia: Psychopathic seduction happens when someone is seduced (targeted, lured with false promises or under false premises, deceived, manipulated, isolated and brainwashed) by a psychopathic social predator. Psychopaths are far more common than one thinks. Experts estimate that between 1 and 4 percent of the population is psychopathic. This means that there are millions of psychopaths in the United States alone. The influence of these very dangerous individuals extends far beyond this percentage however. Psychopaths are generally very sociable, highly promiscuous and con countless people: sexually, emotionally and/or financially. They poison tens of millions of lives in this country and far more, of course, internationally.

Claudia Moscovici The Seducer

CelebrityDialogue: Your novel “Velvet Totalitarianism” is about a Romanian family’s survival against communist regime. Since you have Romanian roots, did any true life events prompt you to write this novel?

Claudia: “Velvet Totalitarianism”, which was recently launched in Romanian translation (“Intre Doua Lumi,” Curtea Veche Publishing, 2011), is inspired in part by events in Romanian history as well as by elements from my life and my parents’ lives: including my father’s defection to the U.S., our dealings with the Securitate and our immigration. Nevertheless, I fictionalized both the historical and the biographical elements to give the novel a tighter and more dramatic structure.
CelebrityDialogue: You must have felt proud when this novel was published in Romanian language?

Claudia: I was delighted that “Velvet Totalitarianism” was published in Romania, both because it was written about the history and struggles of the Romanian people and because I have a sentimental attachment and cultural ties to my native country. I was especially happy to see how well-received the novel in translation (“Intre Doua Lumi”) was by the mainstream media in Romania, where it was featured not only in literary and culture magazines such as Scrisul Romanesc and Viata Romaneasca, but also in Forbes.ro, women’s glossy magazines (such as Revista Avantaje), and general interest blogs like Catchy.ro and VIP.net. Since I aspire to being a public writer and intellectual, I wish to reach a wide community of readers, internationally.
CelebrityDialogue: Which are your other major published works?

Claudia: I have published several scholarly books, but I’d consider “major” works only those books that I wrote for a general audience. These include my art criticism book “Romanticism and Postromanticism”, on the Romantic tradition in art and literature and its postromantic survival; my novels “Velvet Totalitarianism” and “The Seducer”, and my psychology book about psychopaths and dangerous relationships, “Dangerous Liaisons”.
CelebrityDialogue: You are the co-founder of” Postromanticism”. For those who may not know, please shed some light on this movement.

Claudia: I believe that art movements are not only diachronic, emerging one after the other, as they tend to be taught in art history, but also synchronic, in that each new art movement borrows from many aesthetic traditions of the past. Postromanticism, the international art movement I co-launched in 2002 with the Mexican sculptor Leonardo Pereznieto, is no exception. It is inspired by several traditions in art history, including Neoclassicism, Romanticism and art nouveau. Postromanticism places emphasis upon beauty, sensuality and passion in contemporary art. You can see samples of postromantic art on my website, http://postromanticism.com.
CelebrityDialogue: Since you write about love, beauty and passion, what does love mean to you in real life? Were you able to find love in your life?

Claudia: Being a novelist and art/literary critic, for many years I looked mostly at fantasy—since, after all, that’s what art and fiction are–to describe love as a romantic ideal rather than as a daily lived reality. But for the past few years, particularly after studying personality disorders, I have come to appreciate much more the pragmatic and ethical dimensions of real love. To me, love implies mutual commitment, supporting one another through thick and thin, fidelity and caring about one another: everything that the wedding vows promise and that my wonderful and supportive husband, Dan Troyka, has offered me in real life for over 20 years, since we met and fell in love in college.
CelebrityDialogue: What are you working on these days?

Claudia: Since my interests are in several fields—fiction, art and psychology—I always work at several projects simultaneously. This “multitasking” keeps me from becoming bored with any one subject or stuck in a rut creatively. Right now I’m researching the psychology of cults, which will be the subject of my third novel, “The Cult”. Since cult leaders are often charismatic psychopaths, this novel will incorporate a lot of the research I’ve already done to write “The Seducer” and “Dangerous Liaisons”. In addition, I have just finished writing the preface for an exciting new science fiction novel called “The Cube”, written in the tradition of Huxley’s “Brave New World” and Orwell’s “1984”, which will be published by my publisher in a few months. At the same time, I’m working closely with the Romanian-born movie producer Bernard Salzman, whom you’ve already interviewed in Celebrity Dialogue, on the screenplay for my first novel, “Velvet Totalitarianism”. Hopefully this will be an American-Romanian production, since a large part of the plot takes place in Romania. I also continue with my art criticism and am preparing for the launch of “Romanticism and Postromanticism”, translated by the writer and critic Dumitru Radu Popa, in Romania next fall. It’s a Latin country so I’m hoping for a warm reception of postromanticism, the art of passion!
CelebrityDialogue: Thank you so much Claudia. It was a pleasure.

Claudia: Thank you for this interview, the pleasure was mine.

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Filed under book review, Claudia Moscovici, communist Romania, contemporary fiction, Dan Troyka Claudia Moscovici, fiction, Intre Doua Lumi, literary criticism, literary fiction, literature, literature salon, literaturesalon, Nat Karody The Cube

My fresh impressions about Romania, thirty years later

Velvet Love by Andy Platon

This is an essay about my fresh impressions about my native country, Romania, thirty years later, published in Litkicks.com and translated into Romanian on Catchy.ro.

http://www.litkicks.com/ReturnToRomania 
http://www.catchy.ro/un-scriitor-care-s-a-intors-in-romania/19370
Claudia Moscovici, Literatureasalon

http://www.amazon.com/Velvet-Totalitarianism-Post-Stalinist-Claudia-Moscovici/dp/076184693X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1323439558&sr=1-1


			

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Filed under book review, Claudia Moscovici, communist Romania, contemporary fiction, fiction, Intre Doua Lumi by Claudia Moscovici, literary criticism, literary fiction, literature, literature salon, literaturesalon, Velvet Love, Velvet Love by Andy Platon, Velvet Totalitarianism

The Multimedia Launch of Velvet Totalitarianism (Intre Doua Lumi) in Romania

I’m happy to report that my first novel, Velvet Totalitarianism, was launched in Romanian translation (by Mihnea Gafita) under the title Intre Doua Lumi (Curtea Veche Publishing, 2011). The presentation will include my talk about the book as well as a book trailer produced by Claudiu Ciprian Popa and a music video produced by Andy (Soundland) Platon (see the below). This was the first multimedia launch, in which a book trailer and music video accompanied the presentations of the novel.

The political commentator Adrian Cioroianu, the literary critic Alex Stefanescu and the film producer Stere Gulea introduced my novel in light of their respective fields. The book launch took place at the Romanian Cultural Institute in Bucharest (ICR Bucuresti) on September 21, 2011 at 18:00 p.m. (Aleea Alexandru nr. 38, sector 1, 011824, Bucuresti, România).  

This novel is being made into a movie by the Romanian-American cinematographer Bernard Salzman (http://bernardsalzman.com/)

I’m pasting below the Advance Praise for my novel as well as Diana Evantia Barca‘s article about it in Catchy.ro and Anca Lapusneanu‘s article about it (and intellectual freedom) in Revista VIP.

Advance Praise for Velvet Totalitarianism/Intre Doua Lumi

A deeply felt, deftly rendered novel of the utmost importance to any reader interested in understanding totalitarianism and its terrible human cost. Urgent, evocative, and utterly convincing, Velvet Totalitarianism is a book to treasure, and Claudia Moscovici is indeed a writer to watch, now and into the future.

–Travis Holland, author of the critically acclaimed novel, The Archivist’s Story, a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection.

Claudia Moscovici’s first novel, Velvet Totalitarianism, triumphs on several levels: as a taut political thriller, as a meditation on totalitarianism, as an expose of the Ceausescu regime, and as a moving fictionalized memoir of one family’s quest for freedom.

–Ken Kalfus, author of the novel A Disorder Peculiar to the Country

 (2006 National Book Award nominee), of The Commissariat of Enlightenment (2003) and of PU-239 and Other Russian Fantasies (1999).

Western intellectuals have often blurred the fundamental differences between the imperfect free world they have been fortunate to enjoy and the totalitarian world of communism they never had the misfortune to endure.  Claudia Moscovici’s Velvet Totalitarianism is a powerful corrective to that ivory tower distortion of reality.  Moscovici makes her readers viscerally feel the corrosive psychological demoralization and numbing fear totalitarian regimes impose on those who live under them.  At the same time, with style and wit, and informed by her experiences as a child in communist Romania and then as an immigrant in the United States, she tells a story of resilience and hope.  Velvet Totalitarianism is a novel well worth reading, both for its compelling narrative and for its important message.

–Michael Kort, Professor of Social Science at Boston University and author of the best-selling textbook, The Soviet ColossusHistory and Aftermath

This vivid novel by Claudia Moscovici, historian of ideas and wide-ranging literary critic, traces a family of Jewish-Romanian refugees from the stifling communist dictatorship of their homeland through their settling in the United States during the 1980’s. This fascinating and compelling story is at once historically accurate, exciting, sexy and a real page-turner. Ms. Moscovici is as sensitive to the emotions of her characters as to their political entanglements.

–Edward K. Kaplan, Kevy and Hortense Kaiserman Professor in the Humanities at Brandeis University and author of Spiritual Radical: Abraham Joshua Heschel in America, 1940-1972, winner of the National Jewish Book Award

Moving between extraordinary and ordinary lives, between Romania and the United States, velvet totalitarianism and relative freedom, dire need and consumerism, evoking her Romanian experience in the seventies, the emigration to the U.S. of her family in the eighties, and the 1989 uprising in Timisoara and Bucharest that marked the end of Ceausescu’s regime, Claudia Moscovici offers her readers a multifaceted book—Velvet Totalitarianism—that is at once a love story, a political novel and a mystery. Love is the last resort left to people in order to counter totalitarianism under Ceausescu’s rule. It keeps families united, allowing them to resist indoctrination and hardship and to make sure their children enjoy the carefree beautiful years that are their due. Love gives the protagonist of the novel the strength to overcome cultural differences between Romania and the U.S. and to invent in turn a form of personal happiness in a context that, while far from being as harsh as her initial one, does not lack its own problems.

– Sanda Golopentia, Professor of French, Brown University

Cold historical facts and figures tend to leave us emotionally indifferent. The impact of a nation’s tragic events on one single person or family is much better understood and more profoundly felt. This is what makes Claudia Moscovici’s book, Velvet Totalitarianism, so very special. Her novel is prefaced by a well-researched history of Romania under communism. Depending on one’s point of view, Moscovici’s work could be considered as the fictionalized story of a real Jewish-Romanian family under communism, based on her own recollections and that of her family and supported by true historical facts; or a brief history supported by the fictionalized story of a real family. It’s a book well worth reading. The novel is a page-turner, witty and well written.

–Nicolae Klepper, author of the best-selling book, Romania: An Illustrated History.


http://www.amazon.com/Velvet-Totalitarianism-Post-Stalinist-Claudia-Moscovici/dp/076184693X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1323439558&sr=1-1

 

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