I knew this would happen, of course. Response to Wednesday’s blog, in which I tried to explain the principles behind our Biography section, brought forth a certain amount of comment, most of which ran along the lines of the remark of the lady who said, “I see my problem. I was trying to figure out your system, but now I see you simply don’t have one.”
I was preparing to snap back with a withering reply, but she went on, “I guess I’ll just have to look at every book in every section to find what I want.”
Feeling that my vile plot had at least succeeded to that extent, I was able to move on. If the confusion my explanations cause is profitable, I shall go on to tell you about a couple of other categories.
(I may go on to define each of our categories for you, but don’t despair. All you need do is print out these explanations, put them in alphabetical order, fit them into a looseleaf binder, and then forget to bring them with you to the Book fair. Given the number of customers who each year forget to bring their glasses with them to the Book Fair, this will not be difficult.)
The Classics section confuses a few people every year. They expect to find Charles Dickens and James Fenimore Cooper and all the other characters from their old deck of Authors cards in it. But Classics here refers to the works of Classical Greece and Rome: Herodotus, Sophocles, Plato, and those other chaps. It also includes books about the great Greeks and righteous Romans, and books about their world generally. Most people are content with this, but I do always get complaints from people who feel the works of ancient Babylon or early China should be included, as belonging to the same time period. I’m sorry, but China was never part of the Roman Empire.
I also get a few remarks from people who would not read Aristophanes if you paid them. “Why even bother to have a category for something real people won’t buy?” We do manage to sell between ninety-five and one hundred percent of the books in that section every year, so I guess we just have a lot of customers who aren’t real people. I always suspected as much, but it’s nice to have these things confirmed.
The Books and Authors category just drives some people nuts. One otherwise sensible person once asked me, “That’s the category where you throw everything you don’t know what else to do with, isn’t it?”
Um, no. It’s a category for books about books and books about authors. I thought you might pick that up by reading the sign. We mix literary criticism with biographies of authors and discussions of publishing and bookselling. So you can get a life of Robert Browning here, or an analysis of the narrative style in Browning’s poems, or a catalog of rare Browning items, or a book about Thomas J. Wise forging rare Browning items.
I explained this once to another volunteer, who asked, “But what if it’s a book about things browning wrote for magazines? Shouldn’t you call it Books and Magazines and Authors?”
Some people think WAY too much. I think this was the same person who put books about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer into religion. (See, the books take place at Christmas, and Christmas is a religious holiday, and…. Maybe next week I’ll go back to blogging about Smurfs and banana boxes.)