Friday, April 18, 2014

Gabrielle Zevin on tour for The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry

Sunrise was at 6:15 am, sunset will  be at 8:03 pm.

Here is some of our staff at Eagle Harbor Book Company celebrating Gabrielle Zevin (in the black hat) and her new book, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry (Algonquin Press).  Gabrielle visited 16 stores in three days here in the greater Puget Sound area:  islands, mainland, ferries, freeways and presents from each store that reflect that store's personality.  We presented her with a poem written by John Willson (in the blue shirt and beard) about a dead sea lion on a neighbor's beach, a copy of Ann Combs' book, Once Upon a Two by Four, about raising her five children while rebuilding a house on BI in the '70s (she is in the blue shirt, no beard), and a little box of locally made fudge from Bon Bon candy shop.  (A little bragging about John:  He was recently named a Bainbridge Island Treasure for his work in writing and teaching poetry on the island.).

Gabrielle signing books.  Some have chicken stickers!
Gabrielle and our local rep for her book, Kurtis Lowe, presented each store with a quote from her book and this one is particularly resonant for me: "Books typically smell like Daddy's soap, grass, the sea, the kitchen table and cheese".  There is a moment, just as I step through the door here, the first time the door opens that day, where the soft scent of books and wood, dust, an inexplicable tang of lemon and baby hair, washes over me. I try to remember, as the key enters the lock, to take a deep breath just as the door opens.  That smell is too soon absorbed into the general movement and energy of the day and it will be another 24 hours before I'll smell it again.  So many children and adults tell us how much they love the smell of books when they come in and I'd love to know what that is for them, where the smell comes from, the memories that smell carries for them.  Comfort?  Flannel and cat?  Apples and sunlight?  Gasoline and sand?  All for Kids Books and Music often had an undertone of wet diaper!  And it wasn't unpleasant!  Probably because of the memories of where that smell originated:  BABIES and the books they ingested.

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is a sweet, lovely book about books and bookselling.  Mr. Fikry is a bookseller, a recent widower, sad, unhappy, and his bookstore is a reflection of his feelings: persnickety. Island Books is on the edge of collapse if he isn't careful and the addition of a new publisher's rep for a small, literary house, a perky young woman replacing a long-time rep friend, isn't making him any happier.  Over the course of a couple of publishing seasons and a couple of ferry visits to his northeast island store, relationships are established, a child is left on a doorstep, and a wonderful book is born.

Booksellers love this book and the only concern I have with it is how realistic it is!  What if all our secrets are let loose?  The ARCs and manuscripts that line hallways, stacked 15-20 books tall, tippy piles to be written about, sticky notes to mark a quote that you won't know why you liked when you finally get around to the review.  The notes and three word reminders feathering when the wind lifts, no flat spots to sit, cups stuck to the covers of the last book, book as coaster, furniture.  That galley from 1992 inscribed to you over the third glass of wine. Do you need to know that? 

Wait, I'm not the only one, right?

There's also that small thing about bookseller friendships:  booksellers have very intense friendships with their reps and each other - we don't see each other very often but we are (often) the only people we know and see socially!  So, two or three times a year we have a meal and a two hour visit with each other, trading news and ideas and books read, and fill up to the top with the joy of working with the only other people who understand our language and love to do what we do.

Each chapter opens with a review of a book, a memory for the future, and the motto of the store is No Man is an Island:  Every Book is a World.  SO TRUE!!

Go, buy this book from your local bookseller, get a look at the receiving area and offices of the booksellers who share their favorite books with you, and enjoy.  (And if you have a personal relationship with a bookseller, and all relationships with booksellers are personal, ask to see the advance reading copy of the book - more reviews and thoughts about this book are included in it and they are really fun to read.)

Algonquin.  $24.95.  Available now.  (It is a really pretty book and it feels good to hold. You won't get that on your e-reader, either.)