The Day the Martians Came

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Several times I’ve written obsessively about the tiny, minute details of maintaining my book displays. It occurs to me now that some of you may not, in fact, be riveted by a blow-by-blow account of what books circulate. If you are among those who are not enthralled with the minutia of my book display saga, you have my deepest sympathies, because clearly you are to be pitied. It is sad that you are handicapped with such base sensibilities.

For those of you in this category, those of you whose appreciation for art is on par with that of the common turnip, I offer this brief diversion, related in sentences of simple syntax and elementary construction:

Today at the library I carefully monitored my book displays. I watched the behavior of the people who looked at my books. The people who didn’t take my books were in big trouble. I attacked them with kung fu. The people who did take my books got to have sex with Nicole Kidman or Johnny Depp. The people who took a book from each of my displays got to have sex with Nicole Kidman and Johnny Depp at the same time. Then the Martians came. That was my day.

Now, for the rest of you:

First understand that I have two displays going. One of them is called Real Men Read Fiction. I’m sharing responsibility for it with Alyosha, and between the two of us, there are some very manly books going up there. We’ve got your noir, your military, your hard SF, your Westerns, your blood-n-guts graphic novels, your spy books, your… your everything with too much testosterone.

(It is interesting to note that I like nearly all of the books on the display. Makes for interesting commentary on my gender.)

For the most part, this has been an incredibly successful display. Even books that don’t normally circulate have been going out—books like The Three Musketeers, a fantastic novel, but one which suffers the stigma of being a classic.

The other display is not really mine, though I do have one shelf on it. It is the Staff Suggestions display, and I’ve had a devil of a time trying to get anything to move on it. Quite a while ago I gave up on the idea of promoting quirky, off-the-beaten path titles. Other staff members were having success with approach, but not me. At one point I had actually included an Ann Rice book. That’s cheating, that is. She’s already popular. People are going to check her out whether I recommend her or not.

Except if she were on my shelf. That was the one way to make sure Ann Rice did not circulate.


Today I got fed up with everything and decided to just display some books I really liked, books that probably didn’t have a prayer of circulating. Anansi Boys, by Neil Gaiman, was the only real shot I had. The Thomas Perry was an excellent thriller, but Perry doesn’t have the name recognition he deserves. And Fables: Legends in Exile, was unlikely to move because it’s a graphic novel.

“Too bad so many people won’t even try to read a graphic novel,” I said to Persepolis. “I bet a lot of them would like this book.”

“Okay, I’ll try it,” she said.

I blinked in surprise. I hadn’t been trying to push the book on her, but hey, I wasn’t going to complain.

It was a sympathy circulation, though, and I knew it. But what the heck, I felt good. I felt so pleased that I decided to put my favorite novel ever on the display. No way in hell would The Brothers Karamazov ever circulate, but I had had my victory. Further circulations were beyond my humble librarian station in life.

Then, sometime after lunch, I stepped out of the back room and realized the Dostoevsky was missing.

“Ha,” I said to Assert-y. “Hilarious. Who’s playing a joke on me, you or Persepolis?”

But it was no joke. The unthinkable had happened.

Someone, with absolutely no coercion, had willingly selected The Brothers Karamazov from my display.

Could have died and gone to heaven at that point. I was touched by God. I replaced Bros. K. with Wide Sargasso Sea. Rhys is a brilliant, criminally-underappreciated literary genius and social critic. Seems like no one’s ever heard of her, but with my recent run of good luck, anything could happen,

Real Men Read Fiction has been successful as a whole, yes, but there are a few titles that have staunchly refused to budge. Those books that didn’t circulate after a week were discretely removed and replaced with Michael Connelly.

The one book that didn’t get ousted was an anthology of gay fiction. I knew full well that no one would read it, that some people may have been offended by the presence of the book, but gay men are men too and by golly they were going to be represented on my display.

It took twenty-four days, but someone finally checked it out.



This evening I realized that someone was looking at Anansi Boys. I held my breath. I crossed my fingers. And…

And he put it in his book basket.

I could have cried for joy.


Then, then, then.

He picked up Wide Sargasso Sea.

I felt faint. I walked over to the guy and commended him on his superb reading taste.

We had a lengthy discussion about books and authors. That was the most high-energy readers’ advisory interview I’ve ever conducted in my life.

And, as a final, glorious coda, he picked up the third and final book on my shelf, the Thomas Perry thriller.

Then the Martians came.


2 responses »

  1. I always knew Martians were more literate than Earthlings.Hey! Do Brothers K. You know, that thing you do with booksnstuff on the blog. I’m going to do Carrie.

  2. I live in display minutaeville too. Since we’re a big Costco (e.g. Sam’s Club) sort of place, we move massive quantities of books off our displays (good books, etc), but we just beat all previous records with a terrific display from a directed fieldwork student of Graphic Novels, Women on the Cutting Edge, Slipstream, and Cult Fiction (big display). I do have a little Guy fiction display planned down the road, though I kinda wish I could set it up in the Men’s Room or something… BALSY!


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