Book-Buying: A Success Story, by Justin Taylor, Megan Casella Roth, Michael Kimball, and Dylan Landis
(1) I came across this review of Dylan Landis’s Normal People Don’t Live Like This, by Megan Casella Roth and published in The Rumpus. It sounded interesting so I linked it on this site in a round-up post.
(2) I came across this interview with Landis by Michael Kimball. It was fascinating. I (or somebody here) linked that piece too.
(3) I decided to buy the book, but then I had to go to Florida before I could make it to the store.
(4) Thought: I could order this from Amazon and it will be at my house when I get back. Didn’t do it.
(5) Thought: [in FL] I should get my mom to drive me from Grandma’s to the B&N. Maybe they’ll have it there, or at least checking for it will kill an hour. But then I thought “I’d really rather buy this from an indie store that I like,”and they don’t have those in that part of Florida, so I went back to reading my galley of Witz by Joshua Cohen.
(6) Got back to NYC. Went to St. Mark’s Book Shop on East 9th street and 3rd Avenue. The store had exactly one copy, which happened to be the exact number of copies that I needed. After taxes, it cost $16.33, which in round numbers is about what it cost to see Avatar with the 3D-glasses sur-charge and my half of the bag of popcorn I split with my mom at the Boynton Beach Cinemark Whatever, with the main difference being that the Landis book is not covered in “butter-flavored” floor polish–and unlike the 3D glasses, I don’t have to give the book back when the show is over.
CONCLUSION: It feels like this is how the system is supposed to function. I got interested in something, decided to buy it, and was able to do so in relatively short order. Not immediately, mind you, but that slight delay seems like it was a valuable part of the process. It helped me establish that my interest in the book was genuine, plus it gave me the chance to yearn a little. I didn’t buy the book used. I didn’t bug the publisher for a review copy. I wanted to read the book, and so I bought the book–new, from a store I respect, whose balance sheet I feel good about appearing on.$16.33 isn’t exactly piss in the snow, but it’s not a fortune either. It’s almost $2 less than the price of two Maker’s Mark on the rockses at a bar I like on West 13th street (before tip). It’s almost half of what a weekly subway pass costs.
And I’m writing all of this in advance of having so much as opened the book itself. I guess if I hate it I’ll wish that I’d had those 2 drinks instead, but I purposely chose to post this anecdote before forming an opinion of the book, because I think even if I don’t end up liking it, the acquisition process still counts as a success story, complete in and of itself. (Of course I expect that I will like it, and in any case will report back once it’s read.) Here is a proposal: Every person who cares about literature should start to do exactly what I did, and we should all do it more often. Once a month, go to a local bookstore, and take a chance on a brand-new full-price book that you are interested in. If we all did this, 2010 would probably be the best year for publishing in a decade.