I was the only one there, as usual.
I seldom find interesting books at this diminutive indie, but I struck gold with four paperbacks: Richard Powers’s Orfeo, Ross MacDonald’s The Zebra-Striped Hearse, Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and Emma Straub’s Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures .
I put the books on the counter. The tweedy rail-thin employee, one of several who take turns frowning beside the cash register, looked askance. Was she thinking, Is she crazy to buy all these books?
But no, I often binge on books, as some of you know. I went ALMOST cold-turkey in July and August and am making up for it now.
“We don’t take debit cards,” she said.
“This is a credit card,” I said pleasantly.
Some people command respect. I don’t.
Oh well, at my age things won’t change.
Although I expected her to go down on her knees and thank me for buying, she took a phone call in the middle of the transaction.
I’m a polite Midwestern woman, and I waited. I must say, there is one very good employee at this store, who obviously was not there that day. Eccentric curmudgeons often work here, and once a very earnest woman tried to talk me out of buying a book she didn’t like, which I thought was sweet. Over the years, I’ve seen the whole spectrum of bookstore personalities: super-polite-to-effervescent-to indifferent-to-melancholy to-impertinent.
The thing is, when I’m ready to buy, I just want to pay and get going.
But I was very happy with my loot, because this is my Unintellectual Autumn, and contemporary books are easy to read. Plus the Betty Smith and Ross MacDonald are supposed to be very good.
And Richard Powers’ Orfeo is on the Man Booker Prize longlist. I’m a big fan of the Orpheus myth, so I look forward to seeing what Powers does with it.
By the way, they’re announcing the Man Booker Prize shortlist tomorrow. Stay tuned…