“On the hunt for some older hardcover fiction…” –Oct. 3, 2002

On the hunt for some older hardcover fiction (Dorothy

Allison, Mark Winegardner), I stopped by Avenue Victor Hugo

Bookstore on Newbury Street. I was neither shocked nor surprised

but indeed saddened, by the news that Vince [McCaffrey] has decided

to close his 27-year-old shop by the end of the year. I am sure

I will be thinking more about this as that unhappy day draws near,

but for the moment it reminds me of the frailty of the book business

and the odd ducks that people it. In Boston the big chains have

not faired well and that, I suppose, is because of the savvy and

commitment of the so-called independent booksellers like Brookline

Booksmith and Harvard Bookstore. But in the past few years a number

of brick-and-mortar used book dealers have fallen the by the wayside.

According to Vince, where there were only about 10,000 such dealers

a few years ago, the Internet has expanded used book dealing ten

fold. Now Ma and Pa in Sweetwater, Montana can, as Vince points

out, with little overhead, deal books from their kitchen table…anyway,

bad news, indeed.

I was zipping along through Mark Winegardner’s

new story collection, That’s True of Everybody, in preparation

for talking to him later this week. I got to the 7th story, "Janda’s

Sister," and the opening paragraph had me laughing hysterically:

Curt Jansen and I go back to when the

high school basketball coach shot off the tip of his wife’s

nose, painted his privates blue, and strode naked through the town

square of Tulliard, Ohio, waving his revolver and singing selections

from Disney movies, songs first sung by bears, dogs and monkeys.

The coach knew all the words. The bars had just closed, and my mother

bore witness to the event. The coach she told me later had a thin

lovely tenor that you didn’t expect to hear floating from the

mouth of a fat gun-wielding lunatic with blue testicles.

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