02 February 2009

Less Wine, More Bourbon! Or How I Quit Worrying and Learned to Love the Bar

Not my photo--found online at gearpatrol.com
I'm not a big wine drinker. Despite what my boss Joan may tell you about my bourbon consumption, most days I'm not even a big drinker, full stop. It might even be true of many booksellers, I don't know. But when you get 500 of us in a room together and offer us free booze we collectively go a little crazy. At the closing reception at Wi4 the bars ran out of wine only about one hour in. They always serve wine at these things. Times are tough and I assume that it's crazy expensive to keep 500 folks in booze, but my suggestion for next time is less wine, more bourbon! A bottle of bourbon will go just that much further than a bottle of wine, after all. Bourbon demands a slower pace (for most of us mortals, anyway. there will always be those exceptions out there, like Willie Morris or Jim Dickey, both of whom could put away a fifth by lunch time if they had the notion).

But I digress. What I really wanted to share with y'all is the publisher dinner sponsored by SPD (Small Press Distribution) that I was invited to on Saturday. Let me start by saying that despite my shyness I *love* being invited to publisher dinners. It's food, it's booktalk, and it nourishes the soul of booksellers. But this one was particularly fun, as the table was fairly intimate and there was no single dominating demographic, save the bizarre chance that all but three of us had been born in Wisconsin. So there we all were: a couple of folks from Buffalo who had been in the bidness for years & years, a handful of outspoken young folks who are the future of bookselling, two folks from the publisher, and me.

You know who wasn't there? A table full of people with the "I'm a funkier-than-thou Bookseller" attitude. *You* know what I mean. Some among our tribe pride ourselves on how funky, edgy, and intellectual we can be, and frankly I find it all a bit tiresome. You know who else wasn't there? People filled to the brim with pretentiousness and officiousness. Compare the following two conversations:

Publisher Dinner #1, with Publisher & Author to Remain Unnamed

Author (slightly paraphrased, but believe me, the essence is true): ...so basically I realized my road trip to the Mississippi was a bad idea when I stopped in this store and they didn't have my books or know who I was. Don't they know my new book has just been translated into 453 languages, including Pig Latin? And don't get me started on all the social problems--those folks are just scary and I couldn't wait to get out of there and back to civilization. (Turns to me) And where are you from?

Emily: Actually, I'm from Mississippi.

Author: Well, thank goodness you escaped, eh? It must be awful to be from such a backwards place. I bet you're glad to be in New England now!

Emily: wtf? Did you just insult me, my home, and my kin with one swell foop?  

Publisher Dinner #2, with SPD:

Bookseller #1: So a few years ago my girlfriend and I were at Disney World and noticed they had a dark Winnie the Pooh ride. I *love* Winnie the Pooh so we went on it.

Bookseller #2: Dark? You mean like they had Eeyore slitting his tendons and a Tigger pelt on the wall?

Bookseller #1: Nah, just literally dark, man. With black lights and shit. It was just random Pooh scenes and then all of a sudden it was Pooh's birthday.

Bookseller #3: Dark Pooh. That could be cool. What if Pooh couldn't leave the Hundred Acre Wood? Like, if there was a fatwa? That's probably why he lived under a sign with somebody else's name on it. So nobody would be able to hunt him down. What was that name? Mr. Sanders? Mr. Saunders?

Bookseller #4: So he'd be, like, Rushdie the Pooh.

Booksellers all: Yeah, Rushdie the Pooh!

I ask you dear reader. Which conversation would *you* rather be participating in?

In other news, there are two more books that I read over the weekend that I didn't get around to mentioning last night:

Valeria's Last Stand by Mark Fitten. He was at the author reception at Wi4 and just as charming as can be. It didn't hurt that one of les grandes dames of bookselling mentioned how much she loved his book during the opening remarks the first day. Anyway, this quiet first novel is a modern day fable set in a small Hungarian village. Regime changes may come and go, but a fool is always a fool and capitalism is no more immune to petty corruption and bribery than communism was. This book really is about hidden longings and shows that at the intersections of romance & practicality and power & ambition, peculiar
and wonderful things can happen.

Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. Alas, she was not at Wi4, but her galleys were. I'd not read her before but she's a favorite with Rebecca Fabian, our children's buyer at the Odyssey Bookshop, as well as our teen readership. It astonishes me how brilliant Anderson is at getting into the mind and under the skin of her characters. Not just another troubled teen story, Wintergirls explores the scary and inexorable downward spiral Lia's psyche takes after her former best friend is found dead, alone, in a seedy motel room. Anderson's language of anorexia is as haunting as Lia's mental anguish and she keeps the reader guessing until the end whether Lia will be able to keep herself from vanishing altogether.

1 comment:

  1. "Rushdie the Pooh" totally gets my vote.... as a fellow southerner now up in NE, you and all y'all other NE southerners out there have my deepest empathy about that "Southerners are so dumb... and where are you from?" scenario. Drives me bonkers... especially living here in oh-so-segregated Connecticut!


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