Tuesday, August 24, 2010

THE STRAND LOSERS: books they don't buy

I have a friend who works for one of the Conde Nast magazines. Every few weeks he takes some shopping bags of review copies to The Strand to sell. At one time they bought everything but now with the computers there is always a reject pile of books they have too many copies of and which are unlikely to sell. This week he showed me the pile:

WORLD ENOUGH. Maureen N. Mclane. Poetry. FSG
GO, MUTANTS. Larry Doyle. Novel. ECCO
MOSCOW STING. Alex Dryden. Novel. ECCO
BANANA REPUBLICAN. Eric Rauchway. Novel. FSG.
BEACH WEEK. Susan Coll. Novel. FSG
DANCING BACKWARDS. Salley Vickers. Novel. FSG
PIERCE THE SKIN. Henri Cole. Poetry. FSG

The novels he gives to the building super who sells them for a dollar when he has a sale for cleaning out the basemen storage. My friend has put the poetry in the entranceway of his building where people leave magazines they are finished with. Eventually, the super has to throw them away with the three week old Barron’s Weeklys.

Friday late afternoon at The Strand is when you see the kids at their first jobs in publishing selling their weekly stash of books at The Strand. Most of the kids don’t stick around very long in publishing. They are newly graduated from Ivy League or pretend Ivy League schools, still living off of Mom and Dad, but they need some money for cocktails.

Eventually they get tired of publishing: the smell of formaldehyde is finally too over-powering. They go into real estate or into God knows what else but they have had their year or two years at a New York publisher and now they can think barely about being alive since to be within the walls of a New York publishing house is like being in a South American morgue where it is hard to tell the difference between the living and the dead.

Now that these kids have left New York and can resume reading, something that is not really encouraged in New York publishing, they will look back with a certain fondness at their year or two and realize that it was probably better than working in a bottling plant but they know that if they have children they will not have to discourage them from working in publishing since the publishing of what is now called a book no longer exists.