Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Monday, June 22, 2009
On Friday we received a phone call from a telemarketer: "Hello sir, my name is Anthony, and I'm calling on behalf of The Association of Richmond Country Clubs with an exciting offer for you!"
We usually receive about 5 telemarketer calls a day, and I'm usually pretty quick with getting them off the phone. But that's because they either have a very tired, depressing tone to their voices, or they are asking for Mayron Chopsuey (obviously the owner of Chop Suey Books). But there was something about the way the man calling on behalf of the Association of Richmond Country Clubs talked that kept me on the line. I'm guessing he was new at the job, because he sounded really excited, like he really believed that this offer was going to blow our minds.
I cut right to the chase. "Sorry, I don't think there's anyone at this store who would be interested in joining a country club."
"Ok, but that's not why I'm calling," he said. "The reason I am calling is to offer you a chance to advertise at 5 of Richmond' s most prestigious country clubs, and only have to pay once! That's five ads for the price of 1!"
"Yeah, sounds like a great deal, but I don't think that we'd be advertising to the right demographic," I countered.
"Oh, why's that?"
"Because," I explained, "our store pretty much stands against everything that a country club stands for."
I wasn't sure what response I was going to get from this man, but it certainly wasn't this: "Oh, I get it. Fuck the Man! Right?"
I was floored, and gave a little chuckle. Even though he sounded really sincere saying "Fuck the Man," there was a chance that he was mocking me. But worse, I was worried for him. He was really excited when he said it, his voice raising in volume. This guy is going to lose his job, I thought.
He, however, was undetered. "Right on, brother! You have a good day." And with that, he ended a phone call that, I'm assuming, made each of our days that much better.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
So come on out to Chop Suey tonight!
Here is the McSweeney's summary of God Says Now, followed by praise it has received:
Gary Gray marries his first girlfriend, a fellow student from Central Florida Christian College who loves Disney World as much as he does. They are 19 years old, God-fearing, and eager to start a family, but a week before their wedding Gary goes into a rest-stop bathroom and lets something happen. God Says No is his testimony — the story of a young black Christian struggling with desire and belief, with his love for his wife and his appetite for other men, told in a singular, emotional voice. Driven by desperation and religious visions, the path that Gary Gray takes — from revival meetings to "out" life in Atlanta to a pray-away-the-gay ministry in Memphis, Tennessee — gives a riveting picture of how a life like his can be lived, and how it can't.
"A tender, funny tour of a mind struggling to do the right thing. A revelatory and sympathetic guide to a misunderstood world."
- Steve Martin, author of Shopgirl and Born Standing Up
James Hannaham's God Says No introduces a groundbreaking new American voice: a writer of spectacular sentences who has trained his sights on a world that has hardly been touched by literary fiction. Topical and ambitious, disturbing and hilarious, God Says No is everything a person could ask of a first novel -- and twice that much.
- Jennifer Egan, author of Look at Me and The Keep
"This novel is an absolute original. Gary Gray's search for wholeness and acceptance is a heartfelt (and often very funny) plea for all men (and women) to be embraced just as they are. A wonderful debut."
- Martha Southgate, author of Third Girl From The Left
“God Says No is a book that was desperate to be written but well out of reach. And then James Hannaham came along and wrote it, with the kind of care, wit, sympathy and fury that the book deserved. Imagine Candide -- okay, imagine Candide as a black man, a southerner, a Christian fundamentalist, middle-class, obese, married, a father, and utterly, even profoundly gay. If a comedy, in the classical sense, is a story then ends in a marriage, and a tragedy is a story that ends with a death, then what do you call a book that ends with a split and a resurrection? A truly daring first novel, and something to read.”
- Jim Lewis, author of Why the Tree Loves the Ax
We hope to see you there! For more information on the author, visit www.jameshannaham.com.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
One of the coolest things about buying other people's libraries is that the collection of books gives you an incomplete view of who they are, enough to pique your interest, but full of holes that you have to guess at. It's like finding the third page of a love letter and having to make up the rest of the story.
Usually, we will at least have met the person selling the books, and that solves part of the mystery. But yesterday, we bought a collection of a few hundred books from an estate and never got to meet the person who they belonged to. Judging from the books, however, I can tell you this: he was really into chess, Jesus, and science, possibly in that order. Which gives us an indication of this man's character: he was an intense thinker, a private person who enjoyed the privacy of a deeply theoretical book, and if he was around other people, it was to play chess. As a side note, I was told that this person was a man, but would have assumed the same. And that part about him being at all social. I actually doubt it, having seen the computerized chess board that he owned.
This composite sketch isn't so strange. We've all known someone who could have fit the description, or at least come close. What makes it more interesting are the random books on drug harvesting (marijuana, and some harder chemical recipes) and the history of white supremacy.
Who was this guy?
In any case, there are now plenty of books on chess, on Jesus and his history within both Christian and Jewish theology, and on cutting edge science and math at Chop Suey. Some on marijuana. Oh, and none on White Supremacy.
The following poem is a collaborative effort by the Richmond Young Writers, inspired, of course, by our mascot WonTon:
Ode to WonTon
He is black and white like Michael Jackson.
When he sits down it looks like he has huge feet.
He has green bloodshot eyes.
He has big, long white whiskers.
The clicking of pens intrigues him.
He has a growing interest in writing implements.
The pen is purple, but I don’t know if cats can see purple.
Actually he seems to like all of the pens.
He loves attention.
He prances around the table and when somebody tries to pet him he slinks down.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Terrific, astounding news: on Friday, June 6, Alex Germanotta's recent documentary on Chop Suey Books and the Books on Wheels program WON A FREAKING EMMY!!! The short film was originally produced for VCU-TV/HD and rebroadcast on Richmond PBS affiliate WCVW.
You can watch online in full at the VCU-TV site, or in three parts on YouTube. The VCU press release about the award, which was bestowed at a ceremony in Washington, DC, can be found here.
Our congratulations to Alex, his team, and everyone at VCU-TV/HD! We're just honored that they wanted to put a bunch of silly-looking book people like ourselves on video in the first place...
Hey, here's a side note: we learned about the award this morning when it was announced on WCVE, the NPR station related to WCVW. Together they're known as the "Community Idea Stations." And how'd they announce the bestowing of this honor upon a film about a community business? The award, they said, was won for a documentary "about a local cut-rate bookstore." A local cut-rate bookstore? Thanks, Wayne Farrar! Is it hard for WCVE to say the name of the store? Which is the title of the award-winning movie? They can't call us a used bookstore? Which is what we are? They've gotta use a demeaning term? Listen, we're just thrilled with our Community Idea Stations, whose staff we've never seen in this community bookstore.
For our money, the real community broadcasters in Richmond are the good folks at WRIR. Maybe that's because when we go to events with Chop Suey or do community outreach with Books on Wheels, we actually see WRIR, you know, interacting with the community.
Our good friend Valley Haggard started her Richmond Young Writers class in our upstairs gallery yesterday, and it looked like everyone had a great time. They went on a silent walk through Carytown and ended up writing lots of poetry. Cool. Valley is going to post the results on her website soon. In the meantime: when opening up today, I found a notebook belonging to one of the students set on a random shelf of books. I looked through it to find out whose it might be, and came across a chant-like poem about what the writer's name is and why he might have been named such. Then, on the next page, he talks about why he wouldn't want another name, because then he would have an "alternative ego" and "would hate sports, would never swim, would be stupid, would hate ice cream & candy, and would hate pizza a lot." I think I know exactly how he feels.
If you know a teen who is interested in writing, I can't think of anyone better than Valley to give guidance. There is more information on signing up for her classes on the RYW website.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Here's a digression: Why is it that so many people who come into Chop Suey ask us if Wonton is stuffed? Or else say, "Is that cat real?" Yes, he's real. Can't you see him moving? Did we somehow give you the impression that we enjoy deploying taxidermied animals at strategic points around the store? Because we don't. It's much easier to have one live cat that wanders around the place.