The Austin Chronicle


By Clay Smith, November 9, 2001, Books

In the Garage

On Monday, Lee, the UPS man, stacked so many boxes of books onto his chest as he walked into Lori's garage that you could barely see his nose. This happens about three times a week, which is why, among local publishing insiders, Lori's garage is a popular place to be even though it is a mercilessly by-invitation-only spot (and that is why, for the purposes of this column, she would like us to use only her first name). Lori is the district sales manager for Random House, so she is always getting copies of books months and months before they arrive in bookstores. These paperback, usually bland-looking items are called galleys, "advance uncorrected proofs," or "advance reader's editions," though publicists are always talking about "ARCs," advance review copies. Most book buyers would consider them pure dross, but for a segment of book lovers who actually work in the publishing industry, they are worth their weight in gold. Lori's primary responsibility is to give her copies to booksellers in her territory -- Texas, New Mexico, and Oklahoma -- so that they will start talking up Random House authors whose books will soon be arriving in their store. "There's something exciting about having a book and reading it before it's out in the bookstores," Lori said after Lee had left. In the garage, "it's like Christmas every day!" Once, Lori had a BookPeople employee over to the garage for a picnic. "We talked about books," Lori told me. "We talked about authors, we talked about reading. That's what you do in this garage."

The garage, which is detached from Lori's house, fits a washer and dryer, a wall of books, and if she is diligent about unpacking all of her boxes and putting her books in their places, a car. More often than not the car has to stay outside. At the back of the garage affixed to the wall is a poster of Groucho Marx promoting Stefan Kanfer's biography, Groucho: The Life and Times of Julius Henry Marx, that says, "Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." Occasionally book bugs have invaded the garage, but that hasn't stopped people from taking the galleys that have been offered to them.

In Monday's shipment there were many titles, but some of them were Willie Nelson's new book, The Facts of Life and Other Dirty Jokes, which is slated to be on store shelves in January, A Collection of Beauties at the Height of Their Popularity by Whitney Otto, whose How to Make an American Quilt was so popular, and Number9Dream, David Mitchell's second novel after Ghostwritten. Lori estimates that there are between 600 and 800 titles published by Random House every publishing season (most publishers have three seasons per year), so there is no way she could pitch each one of them to her customers. "It seems like people are really into the books that are going to make them feel good," she said in a general way, even though the books that arrived on Monday were being produced by Random House far before September 11. "And then there's the other books that people are just wanting to escape into, with a good story."... On Friday, November 9, at 4pm, Barnes & Noble Guadalupe will host Lisa Sanchez Gonzalez, author of Boricua Literature: A Literary History of the Puerto Rican Diaspora; Chronicle contributor Muna Hamzeh, author of Refugees in Our Own Land: Chronicles From a Refugee Camp in Bethlehem; and Mounira M. Charrad, author of States and Women's Rights: The Making of Postcolonial Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco... Douglas Coupland will be at BookPeople on Saturday, November 10, at 3pm to read from his new novel All Families Are Psychotic... The Michener Center is hosting a reading with visiting writer Joy Williams (The Quick and the Dead, State of Grace, Breaking and Entering) and poet Naomi Shihab Nye on Wednesday, November 14, at 7:30pm in the Avaya Auditorium in the A.C.E.S. building at the southeast corner of Speedway & 24th on the UT campus. Parking is available in UT Parking Garage No. 1 at 24th & San Jacinto, approximately two blocks east of the auditorium.

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