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World Book Night

I went to the Bank Street Bookstore on 112th Street and Broadway late yesterday to collect a box of donated books to give away on Monday, April 23rd, designated “World Book Night,” an event that began in the UK and Ireland: http://www.us.worldbooknight.org/about-world-book-night/what-is-world-book-night .

I was greeted by Beth Puffer, the manager and buyer at the Bank Street Bookstore since 1986 and an active member of the American Booksellers Association. Beth is a small, slender, genteel woman with a warm face and a salt and pepper page boy cut. We fell into conversation immediately about the event and all the publishers, book sellers and “givers” who had volunteered. She asked my name, and pointed to a box containing my giveaway choice: twenty copies of “Zeitoun” by Dave Eggers printed by Vintage in a special World Book Night commemorative edition. I can’t wait to give them out to people who don’t ordinarily read or read very much. As per instructions, I’ll have to wait until April 23rd, which is also UNESCO’s World Book Day, the anniversary of Cervantes’ birth, and Shakespeare’s birth and death.

Other book givers came and went as I stood talking to Beth: a Barnard comparative literature student who has kept a book blog since she was thirteen, and three editors from Random House. One was disappointed that she had not been chosen as a giver. “There were so many volunteers,” Beth explained, a good thing we all agreed.

We then got into the murky waters of the electronic book landscape, the fate of the paper book, and the fate of independent book sellers. Everyone seemed aggrieved at the recent court ruling in favor of Amazon except for me, an author, who had recently put up her first e-book on Kindle.

I put my carton of books into the shopping cart, said goodbye to Beth, and headed home. I stopped in Straus park and sat on a bench for a while to relax and think. A large woman on the other side of the flower bed had settled in. She had a big bag and a paper cup of steaming tea or coffee which were laid out next to her; the bench was her coffee table. In fact, she took up most of the bench, more so as she pulled out a portable wooden foot rest and a thick paperback book. Off came her shoes as she reclined at a forty-five degree angle on the bench, moved her bag and coffee further to the right, and propped her bare feet onto the foot rest. She was still there when I left, deeply immersed in her very large book. Though it was already past 7 p.m., it was still light enough to read.

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