Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Algonquin's a Delight
Algonquin Night began in the courtyard of Books & Books and ended in the Library (also known as “The Cowboy Room,” for reasons no more fathomable, for it has neither books nor saddles) at John Martin’s just past the Colombian Consulate, a bracket of booze which left booksellers and booklovers alike buzzed and boisterous.
Gotta get this alliteration thing under control. My doctor has me on a hormone regimen and a strict diet. I’m assured it won’t last long.
The tasting in honor of The Wine Trials was actually just a taste, a finger’s width of three different champagnes. Well, sparkling whites, anyway. When co-authors Robin Goldstein and Alexis Herschkowitsch determined the winner by a show of hands, we found out two of the grapes were not French. The overwhelming crowd favorite was a $9 wine from California, beating out my choice, the $15 bottle from Italy. I didn’t get to taste the Perrier-Jouet at $60 a bottle, but I’m confident my snooty pallet would have found it, even if the group of eighty-plus voted it dead last.
The Wine Trials came about from blind taste-tests of wines from $1.50 to $150.00 a bottle, and suggests the best 150 wines under $15. Soft-spoken and articulate, Robin explained that even as professionals, he and Alexis were as susceptible to wine snobbery as anyone else. If you’re told this is an amazing selection from a vineyard that’s been producing glorious wines for centuries, that the grape was destroyed in a storm and there are only eight bottles in existence, that the wine was prayed into bottles by angels rather than casketed, you’re going to taste it differently than one purchased while filling your gas tank at the Food Mart.
“When you really taste wine, the experience becomes as much about what you bring to it as the wine itself,” Robin said. “We’re trying to encourage you to have that kind of experience with every bottle you drink.”
Oenophiles spoke; The Wine Trials was our best-selling title of the night.
Brock Clarke was as intelligent and witty as his novels, which is saying something. His Q&A session wooed several booksellers to the Brock Club, and copies of his short story collections Carrying the Torch and What We Won’t Do were snatched up. Unfortunately, we sold out of his first Algonquin title, An Arsonist’s Guide to Writer’s Homes in New England. I didn’t want to be accused of over-ordering my favorites, so I just quadrupled what we sold at last year’s Algonquin Night. Clearly, not enough.
I despise when we sell out of a title at an event. If I’d ordered twenty Arsonist's Guides instead of twelve, or ten Breakfast with Buddhas instead of five, would we have made another $70, or $140? Did some customers leave disappointed, or simply choose a different title? I suppose sell-outs are better than the alternative, but they leave me brooding.
Algonquin’s head of marketing, Craig Popelars, is infused with wit, charm, and legendary storytelling ability. He calls to mind Kevin Costner circa Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables. Craig and (oft-mentioned-at-Sweet) Akimbo sang an A Capella version of Starlight Vocal Band’s “Afternoon Delight,” lyrics slightly altered to suit the bookish occasion. Unfortunately, Craig cut his recommendations short in deference to the heat inside and the beer waiting outside (in honor of Robin Goldstein and Seamus Campbell’s The Beer Trials). I could’ve listened all night long, and I think most bibliophile in the audience would agree.
We sold more books than I expected, but not as many as I’d hoped. I wanted to grab every person leaving empty-handed and shake them. Enjoy that presentation, did you? Want there to be an Algonquin Night III? Then buy a freakin’ book!
If you missed Brock Clarke, he’ll be back in the fall, when Exley officially comes out. In the meantime, Books & Books has signed copies. But if you prefer waiting two months to see what the book goes for on Amazon, fuck right off. Excuse me, I meant, feel free. As long as the story gets read, right?
At Algonquin, story is everything.