Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Last of the Rep Nights (for 2010 at Last), #4 in Mequon, Part One, the Random House Folk

One of the nice things about renting a car is that I can get to Next Chapter on Sundays. Alas, the two ways to get there by bus (one of which involves walking three miles) simply don't work. Of course I could have hitched a ride with Jason or Carl, but then they'd have to drive me home. Hey, Carl doesn't live that far from me. Notice the way even temporarily owning a car makes you use gasoline extravagantly. Next thing you know I'll be driving to Indiana because it's the only place I can find my favorite brand of toilet tissue.

It's the last rep night of 2010, and we put together a nice lineup for the booksellers from Boswell and Next Chapter. I felt bad for the folks who did not attend, as the reps were quite generous. Unlike the other rep nights, where I left with a handful of books, this time I had an honest-to-goodness pile. I promise to make the most of them, starting with this blog.

The food was from Panera, and Dave was particularly nice by asking them to leave off the mayo and mustard on premade sandwiches. Isn't he great?

First up was Tim of Random House kids. I wondered what dystopian novel he'd be pushing. It turned out to be Museum of Thieves, by Lian Tanner. It's a series set in the City of Jewel, a repressive society that protects young people for their own good, using a silver chain to imprison them in the Museum of Dunt. The chain is usually cut during Separation Day, but then something goes wrong, and Goldie must cut hers herself. It's set for a slightly younger age group and doesn't look quite as violent. The series might be called "Keepers."

Tim's favorite novel was Rob Buyea's Because of Mr. Terupt, the story of a school seen through the eyes of several students, and the teacher that changes their lives...only to be stricken by a terrible accident caused by one of them. The book was brought to Random House by John Irving, and seems to have that sort of feel about it, at least in Tim's description.

Tim had a lot of nice picture books, but I was immediately drawn to Snowbots, a story by Aaron Reynolds about how robot children got to play on snow day. The kid-bots make snowballs with their chainsaw hands and drink cocoa with axle grease.

And the book I took was Melissa Duke Mooney's The ABCs of Rock, an alphabet book of rock posters. Hey, with everyone buying Keith Richard's Life, it seems like a perfect companion for their kids, or a collectible for adults. It goes AC/DC, David Bowie, Clash, Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello...yes, the book sometimes uses first names and sometimes last.

Our new Random House Green rep (covering the Knopf Doubleday group and assorted distribution lines) just moved to Minneapolis from Nashville so this was sort of our first time officially working with him, but since he won rep of the year (at Penguin) the same year Schwartz won bookstore of the year, he should have been pretty familiar, at least by reputation. And of course, he has a great selection of books.

There were a lot of picks that were quite familiar, and yet great suggestions for customers, like The Tower, The Zoo, and The Tortoise (known inhouse as TZT), One Day, and the new translatoin of Doctor Zhivago*. There was the Ephron (I Remember Nothing) and the Conroy (My Reading Life) and the Bryson (At Home). But I still got some good ideas for new reads.

Jason (rep, not buyer) was strong on Dogfight, a Love Story, by Matt Burgess, a first novel set in Queens about a drug dealer trying to go straight. As it was set in Jackson Heights, where I caught the 7 line while I lived in Elmhurst in the 1980s, I thought it would be fun to spot local color, though I personally never went to any dogfights (Honest, PETA).

I thought Lee Sandlin's Wicked River, a historical adventure about the Mississippi River of the 19th century, might be good for that adventure reader. It was surprising to learn that the author lived in Chicago, as it would have been a cheap date for him to read at one of the Milwaukee stores. Maybe they thought we were too far from the Mississippi. After all, we're on the side of Wisconsin that flows into Lake Michigan.

I immediately thought of a couple of customers who would enjoy Grant Wood, the story of the iconic artist of the Great Plains, who camouflaged his homosexuality with a folksy persona, who only found some personal peace on his trips to Paris. But I thought Cedar Rapids was the Paris of Iowa. R. Tripp Evans is an art historian at Wheaton College, just outside Chicago. Oh, don't tell me these things!

Nice job, particularly for a newbie. Oh, I know he's not a newbie. There's my tunnel vision acting up again. Next up: our last two reps of the year, and daresay I say we saved the best for last?

*For some reason, the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation does not come up easily on our website's search engine. This is the second time I had this problem. Use the link.

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