Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Earnest Readers at the Boston Book Festival

Booksmith was back at the fourth annual Boston Book Festival this past weekend. Luckily the hurricane held off so we didn't have to fight the winds and rains, and instead enjoyed a crisp, sunny autumn day. For those of you who didn't make it to Copley Square to wander among the publisher, bookseller, and all-things-book-related booths or to attend one of the author panels, we were parked just outside of Trinity Church, sharing the  main circus tent with Information and WBUR. We had the privilege of selling books for the authors speaking at Trinity's two venues. Those of you who stopped by to say hello or browse our tables would have seen stacks upon stacks of--among others--Junot Diaz's latest This is How You Lose Her, Brookline's own Edith Pearlman's Binocular Vision, Madeline Miller's Song of Achilles, and a pile of books resembling bricks of gold (and weighing almost as much)--that was Eric Kandel's Age of Insight, a beautiful hardcover with Klimt's "Golden Phase" on the cover, which sold out after his event.

In fact, we sold out of many of our books in the charged atmosphere of the festival, as readers met their author idols and shared their favorite reads. It's this particular atmosphere that makes me excited to work the book festival each year. I love wandering among the booths and seeing all of the organizations that make up my writing and reading life in Boston. Everyone around me is, in some form or another, a reader. Don't get me wrong, Booksmith is full of book-loving customers, but at the book festival, there's a particular eagerness to the readers that come by our booth. They're excited about the ideas they just heard, the free book bag they just won, or the prospect of getting a copy of their book signed in person. It's more than eager--there's something earnest about these readers, which instantly endears me to them.

That's why I was so sorry to disappoint one young man who came out of Junot Diaz's event looking for Diaz's novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I had to tell him we had just sold our last copy. He looked at me, stunned. "Are there any bookstores in the area?" he cried desperately. I couldn't think of any close by. "How long will Diaz be signing?" he asked. We both looked at the long line of readers, stretching out of the tent as far as we could see. "I think he'll be here for awhile,"  I guessed.

Not more than thirty minutes later, Diaz was still signing, and the customer was back. "I made it!" he cried, dripping with sweat, completely out of breath, and triumphantly holding up a rather worn copy of Oscar Wao. He told me he had run home three miles to get his copy of the book so Diaz could sign it. I watched him proudly join the end of the now-dwindling line, and when, a few minutes later, I looked up, I saw Diaz congratulate the runner with a hug before signing his book.

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