Thursday, June 21, 2012
Signed Encounters of the Firsts Kind: Jess Walter in New York City, June 20, 2012
Walker is one of those authors where meeting them makes you want to keep reading them! I recently finished Citizen Vince and planned on reading The Zero next, though Walter was kind enough to recommend a personal reading schedule (of his work) with a glint in his eye. Maybe I'll read Lives of the Poets next instead, since that's what he told me to do.
Reflecting on the genesis of this novel, Walter told a few amusing stories of his Hollywood encounters over the years and the two speakers reflected on what the decline of journalism as a feeder for fiction means for the future. Several of his novels have been optioned, and Walter once failed an audition to be one of the screen writers for the adaptation of one of his own books. With the devastation of the newspaper business nearing completion, Greenman and Walter worried, we may be losing a key source of novelists and writers, who bring a particular set of skills (such as the ability to write on deadline) and outlooks we may well miss when they're gone.
It has been a busy few weeks at McNally Jackson Books, which is such a great space and atmosphere that I feel moved to mention again how great it is. It is great: thoughtfully appointed, welcoming, creatively organized, an emphasis on signed books for people like me. There is even a little cafe with delicious tiny pies that mocked me from the safety of their case when I finally found a seat. They stage the events and get out of the way, allowing the featured artists to stretch out and take whatever time they need. They don't over-manage the signings.
We may have turned a corner here with the dissolution of Borders and the apparent revival or at least of resilience of the American independent bookstore, but I can't help feel a slight sadness whenever I spend time in stores that have managed to become bonifide community centers in addition to being well run businesses tending to my obsession, such as the Bookshop SantaCruz, the Odyssey in Hadley MA, Elliot Bay Book Company in Seattle, Vromans in Pasadena, Greenlight in Brooklyn, etc. How will these stores maintain their quality or even stay in business? Of course, I do my level best to impoverish myself to keep such stores in business, but it might not be enough.