Monday, June 18, 2012

Firsts Encounters of the Signed Kind: Jonathan Franzen in Santa Cruz, CA June 16, 2012

We book collectors occasionally enjoy serendipitous episodes of in-the-right-place-at-the-right-time luck, though they may appear to our loved ones as obsessiveness. This weekend, I happened to be in a coffee shop in beautiful Santa Cruz, CA when a fellow at the next table reading Farther Away (FSG, 2012), Jonathan Franzen's recent collection of essays, mentioned that the author himself would be presenting and signing across the street the next night. Moreover, he had heard that this would be Franzen's only appearance promoting this book! Take that, New Yorkers!

Franzen takes Santa Cruz!!

Low and behold, I was able to saunter into Bookshop Santa Cruz, 1520 Pacific Avenue, the next evening and jump in at the very end of the signing line to meet Jonathan Franzen himself. The store was indeed advertising that the June 16th event would be the only book talk for the new book, so we will have to see. I got a kind of laugh with the sometimes too serious seeming American uber-novelist, when I lamely riffed on the suggestion that my parents had named me after June 16. Though I've been reading Franzen since the pre-Corrections days and loved his early work, I haven't followed him so closely lately so I didn't know that he splits his time between NYC and Santa Cruz. It makes sense, given his commitment to bird watching. The book is a collection of essays, some older and familiar, but so far I have enjoyed reaquainting myself with his insights on technology, China-hating, loss, American life, etc. America doesn't love a downer, but Franzen seems determined to carry through his role as a literary guide through our often disappointing American cultural landscape.

You might try calling the Bookshop if you'd like a signed copy, since I believe I saw him signing stock (the number is 831-423-0900).

I have long relished my trips to Santa Cruz. It isn't easy to get to, but the scenery and atmosphere are worth the trip. Of course, I also enjoy it as something of a booking mecca. There are three excellent bookstores right on the main drag, Pacific Avenue, so send your family to roam the shopping area or see a movie and disappear into the world of independent stores and used books. The ginormous Borders that coexisted with the others for so long is gone, unfortunately (I once found a first printing of Harding's Tinkers there, sitting innocently on the shelf), but the three remaining indies more than provide a satisfying hunting experience. Bookshop Santa Cruz is the largest independent on the block and is a refreshingly vital place; the enormous space is something of a community center and they host events, babysit children and provide the other services now required from independents wanting to stay afloat. Normally you can find a few signed recent releases and some remaindered gems in there somewhere. When you exhaust the Bookshop, you could make your way to the enormous used bookstore down the street, Logos 1117 Pacific Ave, and scour their offerings. They sell rare and signed books here in a dedicated section, but these offerings are not always in the best shape, so I recommend dive into their fiction section where you can find some nice surprises at fair prices. Finally, it isn't always open in off seasons, but if you get the chance check out the Literary Guillotine, a tiny but impressively stocked academic bookstore tucked down a side street (Locust St.). Here you can enjoy another dose of serendipity as browsing the well chosen stock will lead you in unexpected directions. Santa Cruz's resiliant book culture--hopefully an inspiration to other communities-- is worth braving the confusing agricultural roads if you're headed up from Southern California, or the big city style traffic if you fly into San Jose.

Above, here is what Franzen's signature looks like these days. Not that different from the one below, taken after a signing in Los Angeles on his Freedom tour a few years back.


1 comment:

Mike Wehmeyer said...

I saw Jonathan Franzen a couple of times during the Freedom tour, and I think he's a hoot! He takes a lot of time to answer questions and gives a straight forward, honest answer... always thoughtful, sometimes a bit grumpy, but I really think he just tries to be honest.

He's been a pretty generous signer, all things considered, though he's not as much of a conversationalist during the signing. I did ask him about David Foster Wallace's The Pale King, which at that time wasn't out yet, and he said he had a galley but hadn't had time to read it.

Thanks for the heads up on the availability of signed stock, I was able to order a signed copy. You can also do it online, just order the book and specify a signed copy in the comments section during checkout.