Saturday, October 25, 2008

Book Report

[Totally Lit] A bunch of us from the marketing and editorial departments staffed City Weekly's booth at the Utah Humanities Council Book Festival today at the Main Library.

It ended up being a blast; I was able to engage in may own, private little internal fantasy that I was somehow connected to the literary world ("Here's the critically acclaimed novelist appearing at a book signing. Why, hello, miss: Shall I make this out to 'my No. 1 Fan'? Alrighty, then ...")

I also got to spend some time chatting with marketing intern Melissa Wiener, who is usually so busy out doing things for the paper that I rarely get to see her around the office. She's dynamic and interesting, and the booth was, just, totally gay that afternoon. We met a compassionate and energetic woman who does outreach for LGBT youth in the northern counties, helping the kids cope with their often brutally homophobic home and school lives without dropping out, committing suicide, or succumbing to other self-destructive behaviors. So she does important work but, as you can imagine, the larger community isn't always that appreciative. So we'll just keep the specifics on the DL here. Her husband did have a very nice shirt, though.

On the Hazards of Non-specific Questions

Another gentleman simply wanted to know, "So, what's it like working for City Weekly?" Probably, the guy, going from booth to booth, was just wondering who the hell we were, but by the time he got close enough to read the banner, it was too late--I had already greeted him--so he politely blurted out the most obvious question he could think of.

Little did he know that I'm retarded when it comes to small talk, and I have the tendency to over-interpret open-ended questions in such a way as to maximize their significance on every level. The question I heard was, "Would you please form a genuine personal connection with me, describing your own subjective workplace experience in vivid emotional detail, while also affirming my own value as a fellow human being, keeping in mind that you're also representing not only the paper, but the entire journalistic profession?" Yeah, and would you like me to do all this while juggling several brightly colored balls, humming Sousa's "Washington Post" march and standing on one foot?

Now, the poor guy was only being polite--but, under my own special brand of imaginary, self-imposed pressure, of course I felt unprepared: Where's my stack of Sarah Palin crib notes? If I tell people about the affection I have for my co-workers, people assume I'm feeding them a line of bullshit because, really, it's not very common in this world to love and admire the people you work with. (It's just that they've all been so kind and patient in putting up with my neuroses--perhaps because they're all a little nuts, too--and I'm grateful for that.) So, to avoid gushing, it was more like, "Well, you know, sir, independent media is so important in a democracy, especially now that everything else out there is run by giant media conglomerates, making the existence of non-corporate-controlled voices more crucial than ever ..." Which is also true, but probably sounded really, really canned.

What has the world come to when honesty and earnestness sound false? I refuse to make up a calculated answer ("Just between you and me, we've nearly succeeded in our sinister plan to turn Utah's youth into drunkards, perverts and sex maniacs") merely for the sake of sounding plausibly evil. But, come to think of it, that might at least have made this guy laugh.

Sanders and Weller Reveal the Shocking Truth

After helping Wiener close up the booth, City Weekly managing editor Jerre Wroble and I went to a conference room where Tony Weller and Ken Sanders were doing an "Antique Book Roadshow" thing. Interestingly, though, hardly anybody brought books to be appraised, so it turned into a kind of Q&A panel discussion about the rare-book business, which was very entertaining indeed. Both Sanders and Weller have such strong opinions and vivid personalities, and they bounce so well off one another, that the conversation crackled and sparked for the entire hour. They should have their own TV show.

They discussed their strategies for dealing with book thieves: The meth-heads and women with baby strollers who steal books apparently don't realize what a small world independent bookselling has become. All these dealers know each other. So, if you steal a book from Sam Weller's and try to resell it at Ken Sanders', you shouldn't be surprised if Sanders develops an inkling of what's going on. They have their own ways of dealing with such situations, but it was the first time I ever considered that bookselling consists of more than just sitting among one's leather-bound tomes with a pipe and a snifter of cognac, discussing high-minded matters in low-amplitude tones with the endearingly quirky intellectuals who frequent your shop ("Did you get that first-edition E.M. Forster in?" "Not yet, but you should see this illuminated Chaucer. Just look at the condition of that vellum!"). Evidently, there is also quite an exciting cops-and-robbers aspect to the book biz.

I also learned that Mark Hoffman's forged inscriptions continue to crop up with some regularity, even though Hoffman's been out of business for some time. And, considering Hoffman's fascinating criminal history, there may even be a market for Hoffman forgeries as forgeries. Now I'm wondering whether or not anybody has ever forged a Hoffman forgery. What a twisted world! And so veddy, veddy interesting.

(Brandon Burt)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.