Sunday, May 28, 2006

Roll On, Little Sister

It’s been one of those weeks. One where not only have you taken the good with the bad, but you’ve gotten both in large, not so easy to swallow doses at the same time. One where you look back and think to yourself, “Well, I’m alive and so is everyone else, and we can still laugh, did still laugh, so we must be good.” Then you nod to yourself as you visualize that word—good—in your mind, take a deep breath and turn to help the next customer.

Good customer service is leaving your life drama at home, your work drama in the backroom, and focusing outwards: on the store, on the customer, and on the product (whatever it may be). The pleasure in having the book that someone has been looking for forever, knowing what that hopelessly garbled summary was referring to, and being on the receiving end of a mostly toothless grin from a small child can make you forget just about anything. And when it doesn’t, good customer service is also knowing when you need to get out from behind that counter to go hide out in the backroom, and having coworkers that understand and facilitate that escape.

As my freight driver always says, “Life is all ups and downs and you just got to roll with it, Little Sister. Go with the flow.”

So whether you’re in the mood to roll on, roll away, or not roll at all this long weekend, here’s some stuff to think about:

According to USA Today, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince will be available in paperback July 26th in a duel release in the United Kingdom and the United States. The price will be $9.99. (B&N backs up this news here.) The news was included at the end of their critics picks for the summer, which included many new releases across the genres.

Marley Youmans emailed me about her interview with Corey Mesler of Burke’s Books—an independent that has suffered severe difficulties as of late—and I thought I would pass along the word. If you are interested in the plight of the small independent store, want to help, or just read the interview, check out what Corey has to say here (you may have to weed through the archives because direct linking may be an issue).

A widely-read book sleuth may have solved a query that has been plaguing this site for quite sometime. Stacey (proving once again that you people rock) believes that the Harlequin Presents that Anonymous was looking for may be Penny Jordan’s Out of the Night.

“It's Harlequin Presents, 1992. The introverted heroine takes shelter in a stranger's vehicle during a snowstorm, and they do have sex. On the cover she's wearing a yellowish? maybe orange or brown? blouse. The hero is wearing a plaid jacket. However, on leafing through it, I don't see anything about the heroine having a makeoever. Still, this is probably the book you want? It's a good one.”

If Anonymous is still out there, I hope this helps.

C. Max Magee of The Millions has a very interesting post (with more links) about book banning called, “Won’t Somebody Please Think of the Children?” Not only do I think that the Freakonomics guys have hit on a great way to get even more readers, but the post brought back fond memories of reading the Awakening in high school. I still remember my A.P. English teacher asking us, “Alright what did you guys think of the sex scene?” and the whole class responding, “Wait? There was a sex scene?!”

The sound of mass page flipping could be heard several doors down, I’m told.

Powell’s is unveiling (or has been unveiling since I’m a bit late to this) author trading cards on their blog. Now you can be like all the cool kids and trade them with friends or put them on your bike to make that awesome slapping sound as you ride around trying to save money by not using gas (money you will in turn spend on books, of course). The perfect gift for the bibliophile that has everything.

I’m sure that there will be more links and such later. I’d actually like to try to respond to some of the points brought up on the “Secretly Starbucks Owns This Blog” thread. Oh, and a clarification on the “Author’s Behaving Badly” thread: the bookseller who told the customer that the author had behaved rudely found the customer an alternative book by a different author. It was not a matter of “cutting off the nose to spite the face” and losing a sale, just deflecting the customer’s attention from that book before recommending another (well liked) author. The problem with working at a bookstore (or library) is that you will never be able to read every book in the store and so sometimes the only impressions you may ever get is from your interactions with the author. Personally I think that we should draw up some kind of code of conduct for all of us to try to adhere to, but until then I’m going to get some food.

Have a great weekend. Be safe, be happy and focus on the good.


quiche said...

Heh. My son's AP English class read The Awakening and had the same reaction. Girls loved the book, boys less so.

Thanks for the heads-up on Harry Potter. That should help our lagging summer sales.

lady t said...

I hear you,BSC-sometimes,it's just one of those weeks. Those author trading cards look pretty cool but do they come with a stick of bubble gum:)?

Christine Fletcher said...

Thanks for all the links--wonderful procrastination destinations! My favorite is the article on book banning in high schools. I never can understand this mentality--and thankfully, neither did my own high school. In my all-girls Catholic school, we read books banned by the L.A. public school district. Our teachers felt it was their responsibility not to protect us, but to teach us to think critically--a skill that sadly, many parents and school boards don't seem to have in abundance.

Robin Brande said...

Thank you so much for bringing the book banning issue to our attention. Amazing what goes on out there. We can never stop being vigilant about censorship.

Janny said...

I come down squarely on the side of the pseudo-censors on this a point. Before you run at me with Nerf bats, though, let me explain what that point IS.

Many, many, many, MANY of us are offended by the foul language, raw sex, crude imagery, depressing world view, and morbid outlooks in many of the books that are shoved down our kids' throats as required reading or put on reading lists.

When we protest, however--in between screaming "censorship!" at us--the school officials fall back on the position that these books portray "reality," and that we need to have our kids "aware" of "issues" and learn deep life lessons, lessons these books can teach...which is true, to a point.

What they're ignoring is painfully obvious--only they're hoping they can shout at you loudly enough that you won't remember it. And that is...

...that many, many books can teach some of the same life lessons as some of this nasty, gritty so-called "literature"; that many classic books can represent the human condition in a real, vivid way; and that really good literature will introduce our young people to "the real world"--usually without having to resort to f-bombs, rampant and/or deviate sexual scenes, scenes of abuse, incest, senseless violence, and the countless other things some of us still find unnecessary and pointless in today's so-called "literature." So the question isn't "should this book be banned," but "why aren't there CHOICES out there for these reading lists?"

Because kids won't read classic literature? Because it's stuffy and unreadable, they can't identify with it, it's not relevant to their worlds, etc., etc., etc.?


In the hands of a truly good teacher, classic literature comes alive. In the hands of a truly good teacher, Shakespeare leaps off the page and kids never forget it. In the hands of good teachers, not an f-bomb has to pass anyone's lips or eyes to instruct teens about how the world is a rough place. (Not that they don't know this already.)

Most importantly, in the hands of a truly good teacher, the kids will actually READ the books in question instead of looking for summaries online, Cliff's Notes, or someone else's book report to steal so they know what the book says without having to do something ridiculously uncool like actually READING the thing. Which, in the end, most of them are not doing anyway, regardless of how "important" these misguided school administrations think these books are.

Maybe some of the lack of protest from people about the reading lists in today's schools comes from the fact that, classic or not, the kids ain't reading 'em anyway...or they'd discover some of those nasty undersides that no one needs to fill their heads with.

Or they'd discover that "there's a sex scene" in a book. (Like that's something our kids need more exposure to. Oh, yeah. I'm right on that.)

Or they'd discover that these books are nothing more than more of the same thing they can get from any raunchy cable channel now...and this is preparing these kids to be productive and positive influences on the future HOW?

So isn't it ironic how the very people who shudder the most at the thought of anyone banning a book are the same people who stand behind kids being given a total LACK of choice on whether they have to read THIS PARTICULAR book to learn the life lesson involved...or whether they could choose another, less offensive book that teaches the same lesson? When one teenager refused to read the foul book her teacher wanted to foist upon the class, and asked for another choice to read, her teacher said, "Fine. You can read another book. But you'll still be responsible for the content in this one, so if you don't read it, you'll get an F."

The girl, bless her heart, took the F.

So who's the true censor here? The one who says, "Give my kids a choice if they don't want to read this crap"? Or the teacher who says, "Fine, read anything you like, but you'll only get CREDIT if you read the crappy book and answer my questions on it"?

Yeah. Amazing, isn't it?

We censor our books now, in fact. We just take out all the clean, positive, healthy relationship books, anything with even the vaguest notion of faith in it, and the classic literature instead.

And then we wonder why, once they're out of school, "no one reads."