Friday, November 06, 2009

Pretty sure everyone's killed their subscriptions to this mostly defunct blog -- but just in case!

Cassandra Clare, Holly Black & Scott Westerfeld -- three excellent young adult novelists, specializing in fantasy/sci-fi -- will be signing books tonight at 7PM at Trinity St. Paul’s United Church, 427 Bloor Street West.

If you own anything by them, you should get them to sign it! I've got signed galley copies of all three of Cassie's books, and I'd love to get Scott to sign my galley of Leviathan... but I shall be elsewhere. Dammit.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Last night, a parent came into the bookstore to get some reads for her 15 year-old son. He wanted Shutter Island, by Dennis Lehane, because it's being made into a movie & he'd seen the trailer & was enchanted.

"But can you give me some other suggestions?" she asked, after reading the summary on the back of Shutter Island and shuddering a little. "You recommended The Hunger Games & Little Brother last time, and he adored both of those."

"No problem!" I said, flushed with the thrill of having a parent tell me their kid liked my picks. I loaded her up with Catching Fire and An Abundance Of Katherines.

"I'd really rather not buy Shutter Island," she said. "But I better call him first."

She did. She came back five minutes later, Shutter Island still in hand.

"He won't be swayed. He says you've lost credibility, since you recommended Life of Pi and he hates it, and he's not sure he'll like anything else you pick, either."

I must've looked particularly stricken, because she hastened to add "... but I'll buy these two other books anyway."

Please insert my face of woe here! I don't expect to have winning suggestions for everyone every time, but booksellers are story yentas by trade and Lord it stings to have someone tell me I've "lost credibility." Even a 15 year-old teenager, even second-hand.

I want everyone to love books and be happy. Is that so wrong?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I have not posted in a while, because I had started to think that maybe it was time to quit.

But that is not the decision I ended up making! Instead, I'm going to school full-time in September, and booking it part-time, and hopefully that will let me a)pay my bills while b)still having enough study time to get impressive marks.

Fingers crossed!

It's hard, after all, to think of leaving this job. After five years, I've made friends with many customers. Also, the neighbourhood my store is in is home to many CanLit luminaries, which means I get to hear the gossip, and I kind of adore hearing the gossip. (It kills me not to blog about it, but this is The Surly Bookseller, not That Bigmouthed Jerk Bookseller.)

Because I have been wondering if I should quit, I've let several golden blog-worthy moments get lost in the passage of time. It's sad, really, but if anything is a constant, it is the truth (universally acknowledged) that working in retail means there will always be moments of hilarity.

There wasn't one today, but to make up for the lack, the landlord of the building next door came in and asked me to do some spying for him! We had previously met when I had phoned to say "I think your tenants have sabotaged our air-conditioners; please make them stop", an incident which ended with said tenants vindictively sunbathing topless outside our second-floor supply room. (I can't explain.)

Today he wanted to a)sell me an old set of encyclopedias and b)tempt my inner LeCarre into helping him out. He thinks that a tree in the courtyard of a restaurant next door is damaging the wall of this building. He's asked the restaurant owner to trim the tree; she hasn't. Now he needs a cohort!

So tomorrow I'm off to surreptitiously buy coffee and hang out in the restaurant courtyard. Where I will, I am sure, find nothing. Also, I will be extremely surprised if my order gets taken in the first 30 minutes I am there, and also extremely surprised if the waitress brings me the thing I ordered. This restaurant has never once a)gotten my order right or b)billed me for everything I ended up with. I shall bring a book. Isn't that what one does on stakeouts?

Oh, and no, obv, the set of used children's encyclopedias wasn't tempting.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

A very surprising thing happened to me today.

I noticed that we had an outstanding purchase order from Assouline Books, which had been placed in the first week of March. (This is not the surprising thing.)

I then noticed that we didn't have a phone number for Assouline Books. (Still not it.)

So I called my rep and asked for it. (Wait for it.)

And when I called the phone number he gave me, this is what I heard:

"Thank you for calling The Today Company. The Today Birth Control Sponge has been discontinued. For directions on removing the sponge, press three."


First, no, I didn't accidentally send my order for art books to The Today Company.

Secondly, the sponge was discontinued in 1995! There's a Seinfeld episode about it! And yet, apparently, hoarded copies are still in use... and getting stuck.


Sunday, February 08, 2009


May I share with you a poem?

The Book of My Enemy Has Been Remaindered, by Clive James


The book of my enemy has been remaindered
And I am pleased.
In vast quantities it has been remaindered
Like a van-load of counterfeit that has been seized
And sits in piles in a police warehouse,
My enemy's much-prized effort sits in piles
In the kind of bookshop where remaindering occurs.‡
Great, square stacks of rejected books and, between them, aisles
One passes down reflecting on life's vanities,
Pausing to remember all those thoughtful reviews
Lavished to no avail upon one's enemy's book --
For behold, here is that book
Among these ranks and banks of duds,
These ponderous and seemingly irreducible cairns
Of complete stiffs.

in other words, like the one I work at
On Friday, I got this call:

Me: Good afternoon, this is (name of my bookstore), Rachel speaking.

Voice On The Other End Of The Phone (henceforth VOTOEOTP): Hello, do you sell the Twilight books?

Me: God help us, so we do.

(Okay, fine, I actually just said "yes.")

VOTOEOTP: Great! I'm calling from (some company), and we're the official merchandisers for the books. I was wondering if I could set up an appointment with your tie-in buyer.

Me:... Our what?

VOTOEOTP: Your tie-in buyer?

Me: We don't have a tie-in buyer.

VOTOEOTP: Who handles your non-book items?

Me: Um. We don't have "non-book items".


Me: Yep.

VOTOEOTP: Huh. Perhaps I could just send a catalogue?

I said no. And then I hung up the phone and slapped myself. What was I thinking, saying no????

I'm going to track down the company on Monday and ask them to mail me one. And then I will share.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

A conversation I had today:

Customer: Do you have that book, "The Seven Habits of Happy People"?

Me: Do you mean The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey?

Customer: NO. I do NOT mean that book. I mean the one about happy people, written by two authors. One of them is a guy named Rick.

Me: His first name is Rick?

Customer: Yes.

Me: Do you think the other author is Stephen Covey?

Customer: *getting steadily louder & angrier* You are NOT LISTENING TO ME.

Me: I am listening.

Customer: I said that the book you mentioned was NOT WHAT I WANTED.

Me: I think Stephen Covey -

Customer: *banging on counter* That's not what I want!

Me: *enforced calm* As I was saying, I think he trademarked the title "Seven Habits Of..." If the book you want has that kind of title, one of the people is probably him.

Customer: Well, that's not the title then.

Me: ... Okay.

Customer: It has the word "happy" or "happiness" in the title, and one of the authors is named Rick.

Me: I don't know that book, and your terms are too vague for me to use them to search. We could go over to the section and scan through if you-

Customer: I DON'T HAVE TIME FOR THIS. *leaves*

I hope she finds the book she wants. It sounded like she really needed it.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

I try hard to fill my customer's book requests. Really, really hard. Possibly too hard.

A conversation I had tonight:

Girl: I want [a play by August Wilson].

Coworker: Okay, let me check the database. *checks* We don't have it. We could order it for you. It would be $30.

Girl: $30? WTF?

Coworker: Hey Rachel, how come the database says this play is so expensive?

Me: That's the catalogue entry for the library edition. It's the only one we can get, but that play is also available from Dramatists Play Service for about ten bucks. There's another bookstore in town which carries those editions. I write down directions & their phone number.

Girl: Okay, thanks.

Girl wanders away. Half an hour passes. Girl comes back and finds me.

Girl: I also need [book by a South African activist that we haven't stocked for ten years].

Me: We don't have it. We could order it for you, and that would take a month, since it has to come from a US academic press, or you could walk two blocks down the street and get it from [another bookstore that specializes in the African diaspora].

Girl: *squints at me* Huh. You really don't want to sell me any books, do you?