The Buzz on Bagging

In the latest issue of The New York Review of Books (Vol. 45, No. 20, December 17), Norman Mailer begins a review of Tom Wolfe's A Man in Full by "offering" a long citation of several paragraphs from his book Cannibals and Christians. Maybe it's typical for people who write for and are covered by The New York Review of Books to cite their own works. In fact, copious citation is frequent in Mailer's review -- he also cites a 1989 article that Wolfe wrote for Harper's in which Wolfe stresses that American writers need to "head out into society as a reporter" in order to most effectively write about "the richness of American life." Mailer applauds Wolfe for that sentiment and writes about Wolfe's article, "Only an innocent or a simpleton could fail to recognize that a live hornet was being deposited in the crevice of every literary seat in town." If that remark were amended to state "every bookseller's seat in town," it would just about sum up the November 23 nationwide Bag Day protest against Barnes & Noble organized by the staff of FringeWare and RTMARK, a group established in 1991 to further anti-corporate activism. Organizers asked people angered by the destruction of neighborhoods by corporate chains to don a bag over their head at noon on that day and browse in Barnes & Noble bookstores. Barnes & Noble headquarters in New York released a statement about the protests that takes the putative high road (as if there is such a thing in these matters) by not referring to the protests at all. Instead, it affirms B&N's place in the bookselling world: "Barnes & Noble has been successful because we connect individuals to an expanding world of books, ideas and information. ... Whenever we open a store, our policy is to work with local bookstores. In many of our locations, independent booksellers exist and thrive alongside of our stores." FringeWare's Scot Casey senses the protest was successful; he was at B&N's Guadalupe location for the protest and says that just before the UT Tower clock struck noon, about 20 people were just standing around in front of the store staring at one another, not really certain which of them were going to be involved in the protest. (What an odd, mercurial moment that must have been.) As the clock began to chime, about 20 bags left pockets and backpacks and went over the participants' heads. The protesters browsed to their delight. The best way to describe reaction from B&N booksellers during the protest is "studied ignorance."... Here's a nice and homey example, appropriate to the season, of why we love independent stores: During December, Eleanor Cochran, owner of Congress Avenue Booksellers, will be making lunch for the crowds at the store's author events, which include Mary Willis Walker on December 16, Mike Cox with his new book Historic Austin on December 18, and David Marion Wilkinson reading The Empty Quarter on December 21. All events take place from noon-1:30pm... Suzy Spencer's true crime book Wasted just reached number 32 on the expanded New York Times bestseller list. Spencer's editor Karen Haas says "it's very unusual for a true crime book to show up anywhere on TheNew York Times expanded bestseller list. We're extremely pleased."


"Comix luminaries" Penny Van Horn and Walt Holcombe will be at FringeWare December 12, 8pm; Van Horn's new book is Recipe for Disaster and Holcombe has a new issue of Poot out... Mary Beth Rogers will discuss and sign Barbara Jordan: American Hero at B & N Westlake on December 19 at 2pm.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

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More Postscripts
The last time we heard about Karla Faye Tucker, she was being executed; now, almost four years later, there's a new novel about her. Or about someone very like her. And Beverly Lowry's classic Crossed Over, a memoir about getting to know Karla Faye Tucker, gets a reissue.

Clay Smith, Jan. 18, 2002

Not one day back from vacation and the growing list of noble souls who need to be congratulated is making Books Editor Clay Smith uneasy.

Clay Smith, Jan. 11, 2002


Readings, Signings, Clay Smith

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