Monday, August 31, 2020

You Have Arrived at Your Destination by Amor Towles

You Have Arrived at Your Destination : An exclusive SIGNED short story by Amor  Towles | brookline booksmith

This past Saturday appears to have been "National Independent Bookstore Day," if you can believe that. I mean, come on people, I love books, but do we really have to have an official special day for everything? How does this even happen? Do we all just inherently have the power to declare a day to be in honor of something, and then everyone has to buy into that? Can my neighbor Margaret declare that tomorrow is Snooping Self-righteous Old Hag Day, and then we all have to give her presents? Or can my son-in-law Gerry decree that next Friday is People Who Made Repeated Bad Life Choices Day, and then we all have to get dressed up and pretend that his life still has the possibility of turning out ok? My daughter says that every day is something now, so I looked up an important day in my life, September 26, and found that it is - I shit you not - National Situational Awareness Day. What the fuck does that even mean? All these special days are simply ridiculous, and they take the meaning away from actual important holidays, like National Pickle Day, which is November 14, so write that down.

In any case, Lawrence decided to take me to my local independent bookstore in honor of the day, and you will not be surprised to learn that I wasn't too happy about it. I don't really like going into stores, or being in crowds, or buying things, or interacting with people, or celebrations, so there wasn't a lot going for this. However, I did not want to overlook the fact that Lawrence was still willing to take me somewhere after the Flat Earther incident, so I reluctantly agreed.

I was predictably bored and annoyed at first, but then I saw this book - something by one of my favorite authors that I hadn't even heard about. The disgustingly cheerful bookstore lady explained that this was book was printed exclusively for Independent Bookstore Day and not available anywhere else. I told her that struck me as the stupidest promotion strategy I had ever heard. Why write something brilliant and then try to ensure that people won't buy it? Might as well write poetry. I had promised myself not to let Lawrence trick me into buying anything, just so couldn't think he had done me a favor that I would have to repay some time in the future, but then the idea of having a book that other people couldn't get started to settle nicely in my brain. So I bought one.

It's not a long book, so I went to the coffee shop next door (apparently, for some fuckers, it's already pumpkin spice season) and I read it. And it was great! I was briefly happy, but then it started to gnaw at me that lots of other people might also be reading my exclusive book and enjoying themselves. So I went back to the bookstore and bought all the rest of the copies that they had. And I was happy again! I must say that they make a beautiful pile next to my La-z-boy, and it is tall enough to hold my coffee mug full of gin at just the right height. And if the mug leaves a ring on a book, I'll just rotate that one to the bottom. Plus, I can flaunt them in front of my visitors, use them as bribes, or maybe even sell a few at a profit on Tinder, or whatever it is. As I was admiring my stack last night, it did occur to me that maybe the promotion strategy for this book was more clever than I had originally recognized. Touché, Mr. Towles. And Happy Bookstore Day, everyone!

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Heirs of Deceits by Elizabeth Reinach


This well-written debut novel is a suspenseful Victorian mystery that reminds us that people are not always what they appear to be. Of course, I could have told you that myself. In fact, I am perfect example. People who don't know me assume that I am just a surly old recluse, pissed off at the world, suspicious of my neighbors, looking for reasons to exact revenge on people while brooding away in my La-z-boy, soaking my bunions, eating pickles, and drinking gin out of a coffee mug that says "World's Greatest F*ck You." In reality, however... OK, so this is not as good an example as I initially thought. But let me tell you another story. 

My son came over the other day to take me for a walk. Of course, it was more like a forced death march than a walk - did he ask me if I wanted to go for a walk? No, of course not. I  mean really, what is it with all you people and walks? If I hear one more person tell me that walks are good for senior citizens, I will finally make use of the switchblade I had installed in my cane all those years ago. You think walks are so great - take your own walk! Preferably away from here. We know what's healthy for us - if we didn't, we wouldn't have gotten to be so god damn old! 

In any case, my son is wearing this t-shirt he bought for $200 at some Save the World charity event (I know how much he spent because he told me seven times) that has a picture of the earth on it. At least he got it on right side out and forward, so I should give him some credit. Then this guy walks up to us and tells him how much he likes his shirt, and I am thinking, oh great, here comes some hippie love fest where they talk about how to save humanity by "thinking beyond borders" and buying expensive t-shirts. But before my son can even tell him how much he paid for it, he follows up with "There's just one problem though - the earth isn't round." And now I can smell blood in the water.

My son tries to play it off as a joke, but this guy is set on pushing his flat earth theory, and he is raising the crazy level quickly. I figure he was in town for the Trump anti-mask rally and probably got lost looking for the corner of the world or something, but I was not going to let this opportunity pass me by. "Tell me more," I said encouragingly, swatting my son with my cane as he tried to pull me away. Our new friend, delighted by a receptive audience, expounds on his theory and a few other conspiracies and asks me what I think. 

I took a minute, and then I told him that even though I am old, I still pride myself on having an open mind, but that what he had just told me was the most inane, idiotic bullshit I had ever heard in my life and that I could cry thinking about the time I would never get back that I had just wasted listening to him. And that was just my opening line! Then I really let him have it. Surprisingly, he didn't take my constructive criticism particularly well. In a matter of moments, we were in a full-on public screaming match (my first in months!), and my son was pulling me away and trying to convince the guy that I had dementia. Lawrence and I walked home in silence, and believe it or not, that part of the walk was quite enjoyable.