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In the Pantheon of Literary gods


My parents with Kurt Vonnegut, April 18, 1985, University of Toledo.

This is what my Dad has to say about meeting one of his "literary heros":

...the meeting was fantastic; [Vonnegut] did not disappoint me as other authors I worked with in my long and checkered career selling books have. [Specific person] was the manager of the [big chain bookstore] in Toledo, I the district manager. When she told me that the University of Toledo had approached her about selling books at the lecture and after I changed my pissed in pants I put into motion the idea of a reception. This was not a gig from corporate but one of my own making. I, as district manager, supplied the wine and cheese ([Big Chain Bookstore's] money), [Specific person] and her crew of booksellers assisted: I had them all wear a name tag that included the phrase “HI-HOst” or “HI-HOstess”. Kurt got a kick out of that. We had an amicable chat, both of us decrying the affect of the big chain book stores on the literary scene. After he left, I pilfered a long cigarette butt of his from an ashtray. I still have that Pall Mall, stuck in the base of a bust of Mark Twain. “So it goes.”

It isn’t often that one gets to meet another human to whom one assigns the status of “Hero”, approaching godhood: further it is all too often that upon meeting one’s Hero that there is disappointment or often a tremendous let down at griping the flesh (shaking hands). I was not let down nor disappointed; Vonnegut continues to rule in my pantheon of literary gods.

In the late 1970's - early 80's my Dad owned and operated his own bookstore in downtown Jefferson City, Missouri which he named, "The Mark Twain Bookstore." I was just a kid but I remember he also used the big room upstairs as an art gallery. My Dad was forced out of business when a new concept came to town called "the mall" which came complete with a big chain bookstore and essentially killed most of the downtown businesses. Because he had three young daughters to support he had little choice but to go and work for big chain bookstore. I remember this being a very difficult time for our family because my father's dream of having his own bookstore had been shattered. I also remember going to see my Dad at "the mall" where he took me to my first arcade and taught me how to play this crazy fun new video game called "Pac-Man." He was promoted up the ranks pretty quickly and we followed his promotions to Ft. Wayne, Indiana. His career with big chain bookstore only lasted for a few years before he moved on to other work but his passion for books never waned.



( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 21st, 2007 02:31 pm (UTC)
Apr. 21st, 2007 02:49 pm (UTC)
Thanks for sharing! How very cool.
Apr. 21st, 2007 02:57 pm (UTC)
Great Post.
Apr. 21st, 2007 03:51 pm (UTC)
Great story.

I have Hawksley Workman's (totally awesome Canadian musician) empty beer bottle from his last concert. To do what with? Nothing, but still...
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 22nd, 2007 12:12 pm (UTC)
Booksellin in America (North that is)
You are real close on the demise of the Mark Twain Bookstore. The major factor in me closing the store was the loss of the lease there on the first block of Main Street, one block from the State Capitol. I knew that, in any other location,I would not be able to compete with the mall and Walden Books (I do not change names to protect the mega fucks). I did, as you reported, go to work for the "mega fucks" and with in two years, turned it into the fastest growth store in the chain of one thousand, of course they promoted me and as a district manager I really found out how fucked up the chain was, from the pres right down to several of the store, district and regional manager; and that is why there are around 200 Walden stores left and they are owned by Border's out of Ann Arbor, MI. "So it goes"
Apr. 22nd, 2007 08:13 pm (UTC)
How awesome to have a literary Dad!
Apr. 22nd, 2007 09:13 pm (UTC)
Rad post.

Independent book stores, used and new, have pages of my soul. They've built my childhood and lead me as an adult.
May. 9th, 2007 05:06 pm (UTC)
Kurt with the Curtises!
Ah yes, I kinda remember being that young and that drunk. It was an open bar and I wanted to get my monies worth! Your silly old mother
Glenn Stinson
Dec. 8th, 2010 04:11 pm (UTC)
Mr Curtis, Mr Bayles, John Hall and Shadowfax
Larry Curtis and his bookstore downtown was a local institution, coffeehouse in those days?. Many people in Jeff City were so bummed when Larry, Margo and kids moved away after the bookstore closed. Fondly remember all of the good times at bookstore, the gallery, and at your home on the bluff overlooking the Missouri River. Mr Curtis is truly one of a kind.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )