Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Reading Elmer Gantry and Coming to a Revelation--I Never Want to Read a Mass Market Again

We've got a nice program lined up to tie into the Florentine Opera's Milwaukee premiere of Elmer Gantry. We're having our second Opera Insight program, where a talk about the opera is interspersed with short performances from students in the Florentine Opera studio program. Our first program, for Tosca, was successful on all fronts--a lovely evening that also drew a good crowd of people.

In addition, I've selected Elmer Gantry to be our in-store book club selection for February. It gives me another reason to display the book, and we've actually been doing pretty well with it, having sold about 8 in the last month. I know that doesn't sound like much to you, but...Elmer Gantry? Actually the story of an evangelist who lives a life of "duplicity, sensuality, and ruthless self-indulgence" seems downright ordinary in the age of prosperity gospel.

So here's the problem. The book is only available in mass market. I don't know the last time I've read a mass market, particularly one this long*. The type is small, the spaces between the lines are nonexistent, and the bulking of the book makes holding it uncomfortable.

The book is published by Signet Classics, which is owned by Penguin. So why hasn't the book been done as a Penguin Classic, or at least Plume or Mentor? (These two other old NAL imprints. I don't think Plume is actually linked to Signet anymore but I don't think anybody's thinking about Mentor).

The opera's being done all over the country, and certainly would have had a sales pop in New York in 2008. What am I missing here?**

Some links:

1. Reviews of the "Elmer Gantry" opera when it was performed in New York.

2. A scene from the opera on Youtube. It's set in a bar in Cato, Missouri.

3. Buy tickets to the opera, which is being performed at the Marcus Center on Friday, March 19th and Sunday, March 21st (matinee).

*I could have read Lisa Lutz's The Spellman Files in mass market, but we chose to pretend it doesn't exist, and we're selling it in trade paperback. If you want the mass, we'll order it in for you.

**The only time you see books like this only in mass is when a huge percentage of sale is from k-12 schools that are very price sensitive. If you worry that moving the price point from $8 to $14 will get the school to choose something else, then I think you are stuck. Do high schools read Elmer Gantry?

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