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 Winegardners
new story collection, Thats True of Everybody, in preparation
for talking to him later this week. I got to the 7th story, "Jandas
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 wifes
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 didnt expect to hear floating from the
mouth of a fat gun-wielding lunatic with blue testicles.