Honest Conversation Is Overrated
Actual Human Interactions Witnessed Or Overheard
In Twentieth And Twenty-First Century America
In Twentieth And Twenty-First Century America
An Erudite Man enters the store. "Well, isn't this just perfection. You work here, correct?"
EM: "My daughter is a graphic novelist."
Not Yet A Graphic Novelist: "No. No. I'm a children's author who is thinking of getting into graphic novels."
EM: "Yes. Well." He gives me the eyeroll. "If, let's say, I was a person who read real literature and thought graphic novels were just a failed rebranding of comic books to intimidate adults into foolishly investing their money in comics until they died. What would you say to me?"
Me: "I would say you sounded so convinced in your argument that it would be a waste of my time to try and convince you otherwise."
EM: "Oh, I like you."
EM: "Gun to your head, what's the best graphic novel in the store."
I look to my left.
Me: "Daytripper. It's a book by two Brazilian twin brothers. I don't want to spoil the joy of reading it, so I'll just say that it's a story about family focusing on a young man whose father is a famous novelist, but he writes obituaries and is trying to find his voice as a writer."
NYAGN: "Oh wow."
EM: "That was spectacular. I grew up in Brazil, where I was a journalist in a newspaper. I didn't write the obituaries, but one of my mates did."
NYAGN flips through the book. "I'l definitely be getting this."
We discuss different art styles, what she's looking for, and she mentions that she's in town to have a surprise conversation with an author she particularly likes, who happens to be a subscriber at our store.
EM: "You seem very well informed. About comics and literature. Do you know anything about poetry."
This is not going to end well.
Me: "Yes, I have spent a great deal of time working in the Cambridge area poetry scene."
EM: "Do you know" name I've never heard of.
Me: "No." I look up the name on the computer. "They are quite dead. And have been since before I moved here."
EM: "Gun to your head. Favorite living American poet."
Me: "Patricia Smith."
EM: "I've never heard of her."
I give him a quick rundown, and tell him to start with Blood Dazzler.
EM: "Do you know Sharon Olds?"
Me: "Not personally, but I love her work, and saw her read once, many years ago."
EM: "Seamus Heaney."
Me: "I'm familiar with him, but I don't know him. He wasn't precisely local."
EM: "Of course, of course."
I return to talking with NYAGN about her influences, and different graphic novel categories.
EM approaches me with a book. The Cantab Anthology, which sits on the front counter.
EM: "Are you Adam Stone?"
Me: "I am."
EM: "I read one of the Patricia Smith poems, and then one of yours. What makes this poetry and not prose?"
Me: "A local legend name Jack McCarthy once said that if you wrote or performed something that everyone agreed was poetry, then anything you write thereafter can be considered poetry." (I'm aware this is not the precise quote.)
EM: "But this is just formatting, then. And repetition. Hemingway used repetition. Would you call that poetry?"
Me: "I'm not a big Hemingway fan, so no."
EM: "So how is this" yeup "Drunken Conversations At Hampshire College poetry, and not just prose with line breaks?"
NYAGN: "What classifies anything in the 21st century? Do you have anything from the mid-seventies? That's when I'm setting the book, so I'm curious as to what comics looked like in that era." She says, saving her father from violent stink eye.
We continue talking about 70s art, and a Very Drunk Cantabrigian comes in.
EM, to me: "Is there a second hand clothing store nearby?"
Me: "The best option in Cambridge is The Garment District."
Very Drunk Cantabrigian: "And how."
EM: "How would we get there?"
VDG: "Take the fucken bus."
EM: "Um. Yes. Is there another way?"
VDG: "You could drive, but parking sucks."
EM: "That's fine, we haven't got a car. Could we walk?"
VDG: "Hoooooo. Could you walk? Can you?"
While VDG gives Horrible Directions, NYAGN and I talk about shipping comics to the UK. She ends up buying "Daytripper" and Guy Delisle's "Pyongyang". She and her father leave, taking down my info.
VDG: "I want a copy of the In The Wind 40th Anniversary Edition."
Me: "I don't know what that is."
VDG: "This isn't a place I could get it."
VDG: "It's a motorcycle magazine."
Me: "Ah. Yea, we don't have that."
VDG: "I know. I know. But where would I get it."
Me: "The Coop is the most likely place to have it."
VDG: "Of course! My mother used to work there fifty years ago. 'Til the towers went down. Then she started making butter soup and she sold my house to the communists."
VDG: "Right on the coast of Oregon, they got her to give half the house to the city to secure her legacy. And then Helen....you know Helen?"
VDG: "Sure you do. She works over at...over at...uhh...Charlie's."
Me: "Oh sure, Helen." No idea.
VDG: "She kicks me out all the time. I don't think she knows that Cheny was behind the towers. People blaming Bush. Barabara was a lovely woman. I never met her, but what a lady. If any of those boys ever did wrong. KRAK! Melania, if Trump ever goes nuts..."
VDG: "Think she'd...KRAK!...him? Helen never hit me or nothing, but you know."
VDG: "They called Barbara The Iron Lady."
Me: "Good old Barbara Thatcher."
VDG: "Get those communists....KRAK!"
Me: "Indeed. Well, I've got to close the store for my lunch hour. You should get to the Coop to get your magazine."
VDG: "What? Oh! The Coop. My mother used to work there."
VDG: "But rent got so expensive."
Me: "Uh huh. See you later."
VDG: "I'm always getting kicked out of places. Thanks for not using your foot."