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

On the hunt for some older hardcover fiction (DorothyAllison, Mark Winegardner), I stopped by Avenue Victor HugoBookstore on Newbury Street. I was neither shocked nor surprisedbut indeed saddened, by the news that Vince [McCaffrey] has decidedto close his 27-year-old shop by the end of the year. I am sureI 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 businessand the odd ducks that people it. In Boston the big chains havenot faired well and that, I suppose, is because of the savvy andcommitment of the so-called independent booksellers like BrooklineBooksmith and Harvard Bookstore. But in the past few years a numberof brick-and-mortar used book dealers have fallen the by the wayside.According to Vince, where there were only about 10,000 such dealersa few years ago, the Internet has expanded used book dealing tenfold. Now Ma and Pa in Sweetwater, Montana can, as Vince pointsout, with little overhead, deal books from their kitchen table…anyway,bad news, indeed.

I was zipping along through Mark Winegardner’snew story collection, That’s True of Everybody, in preparationfor talking to him later this week. I got to the 7th story, "Janda’sSister," and the opening paragraph had me laughing hysterically:

Curt Jansen and I go back to when thehigh school basketball coach shot off the tip of his wife’snose, painted his privates blue, and strode naked through the townsquare of Tulliard, Ohio, waving his revolver and singing selectionsfrom Disney movies, songs first sung by bears, dogs and monkeys.The coach knew all the words. The bars had just closed, and my motherbore witness to the event. The coach she told me later had a thinlovely tenor that you didn’t expect to hear floating from themouth of a fat gun-wielding lunatic with blue testicles.

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