In the last thrilling episode, we discussed catalogs at the Book Fair, as a build-up to letting you know we have a dozen or so Neiman Marcus Christmas Books and one issue of the Frederick’s of Hollywood catalog for next year’s fair. This prompted several people to inquire whether Neiman Marcus still indulges in that annual Christmas Book in this increasingly paperless society, and whether they still do those icons of conspicuous consumption they call Fantasy Gifts. These were invented in the Fifties as a way of attracting more publicity for the catalog. Various officials of the company, over the years, have admitted that although you CAN actually buy these things, they aren’t thought up for saleability but for their ability to grab attention. (No one ever did, apparently, buy the personalized Boeing jetliner.) I suspect there’s also just a TOUCH of “Hey, Texas does it bigger!” in the whole strategy.
I can report that yes, there is a 2019 Neiman Marcus Christmas Book (though I think it’s a less elaborate than its predecessors, since you can, after all, go to their website.) And yes, they have racked their brains to come up with more of those Fantasy Gift packages, chief among which (and this is why I mention it) is a BOOK-related gift, one of the most expensive in the line-up.
Most of the Fantasy Gifts over the years have dealt with Art, Alcohol, and Things That Go Really Fast. If you can rope in a celebrity, even better. And this year, they will sell you an Aston Martin (that’s a car) designed by Daniel Craig (the current James Bond.) To enhance the James Bond connection, the price of this sporty little specialty is $700,007.
Yes, I know, I KNOW. This is meant more as a tie-in to the James Bond MOVIES. But he was a character in books first, so I’m claiming it.
There have not been a LOT of book Fantasy Gifts, but there have been some. There was a collection of fifty first editions of Great American Novels. (The company says more people called in to find out what books were in the collection than how to pay for it.) There was a collection of fifty first editions of Caldecott Award-winning children’s books. They offered a chance to imitate Dorothy Parker or Robert Benchley by sitting down at a table in the bar at the Algonquin Hotel with authors who could be witty over drinks (Christopher Buckley, Nora Ephron, and Delia Ephron were apparently in on the deal. Can’t help wondering how THAT came out. Uncle Blogsy was once himself part of a gift package wherein I would sit at the dinner table and tell fascinating stories about the Book Fair. Yes, someone paid money for that. Yeah, well, same to you.)
I can’t help thinking that we could, with just a little work, develop a few prizes, with enough nerve and cash. Could we offer as a Silent Auction prize a Jane Austen package? The winner would fly to England, don one of those skimpy Regency dresses, and stroll along Bond Street (hot tea, warm blankets, and plenty of aspirin included.) For the folks who adore Tom Clancyesque thrillers, we could offer a package which includes a chance to overthrow a real government. (Not ours: we employ professionals for that.) Enter the government palace through the sewers by night, after having struggled through the jungle with a hardboiled assault team, and declare yourself the provisional government. (Ammunition, bulletproof vests, and bugspray included. Provide your own insurance.)
Some fan fantasies will be easier to promote than others. Those who read cowboy romances could get riding lessons, a trip to the desert, a blouse that will fall off at moments of crisis, can a lot of sunscreen. But there could be trouble with the paranormal romances and horror stories: inviting a vampire to talk the deal over at lunch involves all kinds of scheduling difficulties. People who love technical science fiction are going to have to stay on Earth, but we MAY be able to clone you a Wookiee or a Velociraptor. And we’re still working on the liabilities involved in our Track Down a Serial Killer fantasy prize.
Of course, there’s the ultimate in book fantasies. For a mere, oh, maybe ten million dollars, we could just sell you everything at the 2020 Book Fair. Walk among the tables ALL ALONE for a few hours, and then we just pack everything up again and send it to you. (All the BOOKS, understand. It’ll be another ten million for the records. There are four copies, after all, of the Radio Master Canaries doing Come Back to Sorrento.)