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  • I read a lot, and I have a lot of opinions, so I can't believe I haven't made a list like this before. If you are even a little bit like me or you want to get a peek into my psyche (you probs don't), these are the books to read.
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Archive for January, 2010

Contest contest woot woot woot!

Posted on January 27th, 2010 by annakjarzab

Guess what I got today? You’ll never guess, so I’ll tell you: my author copies! Tons and tons of copies of All Unquiet Things for me to do with what I like. Of course, some of those are reserved for VIPs, like the adviser who helped me turn AUT into the book you can read today (Nic Pizzolatto, he’s brilliant, read his book of short stories, Between Here and the Yellow Sea, and then preorder his novel, Galveston, which comes out in June), and others, but some of them are for you guys! Because you know I love you.

I’ve been working hard at my day job and on my second book at night, so I can’t make this too complicated or else my brain will explode and then you’ll get no more books from me. Because of that, if you just leave a comment here on this post you’ll be entered to win. One entry per commenter (not per comment), but if you’d like to leave a few that’s great, too. I’ll run this contest for two weeks, so it will end at midnight on February 9th. Go forth and comment!

Two other, sort of business-y things: would you like me to set up a spoiler thread for people to discuss what happened in the book? I’d be happy to do that, I just didn’t know if people would use it or not, but if you think you’ll use it I will totally make one and we can chat openly about the book with the knowledge that we’ve all read it (or don’t mind being spoiled; some people don’t, I don’t mind at all). That’d certainly be something to comment on, if you’ve read it (or if you haven’t, whatever).

The other thing is that, in tandem with the spoiler thread idea, my wonderful web guy and friend, Eric, is going to create a special piece of hidden content (NOTE IF YOU’RE NEW: There’s some hidden content on the site, and you won’t know what it is until you find it, and I won’t tell you how to find it but it’s sort of easy, just give it the old college try) exclusively for people who have read All Unquiet Things. I’ll let you know when that’s up so you don’t have to go fishing around the site every day looking for it and coming up empty, but it’s coming, just FYI.

This is my first contest for AUT, but it won’t be the last, so if you don’t win this time around, rest assured that you will get another try later. Also, you can enter a contest to win AUT at Teen Reads, and at the Frenetic Reader. So much AUT in the world right now! Go forth and enter. (If you’re giving away a copy of AUT and I haven’t posted about it and you would like me to, email me a reminder and I’d be happy to do it.)

Also, if you were wondering how my dentist appointment went today, I have no cavities! I win this round, teeth.

Some Girls Are

Posted on January 25th, 2010 by annakjarzab

I’m a pretty hard person to impress, literarily speaking. I’m intensely critical of everything I read, which I realize is often to my own detriment and no one else’s. I’m really good at destroying my own enjoyment of the act of reading by being insanely hard on most books, demanding perfection and shaking my head disapprovingly when it isn’t delivered. I spend about 90% of my reading hours being smugly judgmental towards whatever book it is that’s being forced to endure my jaded eye, and I go into most books expecting them to be bad. I know! This is a horrible thing to do. There’s a whole other blog post in here somewhere about how I need to read but don’t love to read most of the time, which is sad and a reason to pause and think about what exactly such a thing is accomplishing, but that post is not this post.

This post is about the few times a year I really get swept off my feet by a book. It happens! And actually, now that I’m looking over my Good Reads (Goodreads? GoodReads? I never know how to write that) list from last year, it happens relatively often. Last year it happened with many titles, including Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers. Courtney is a favorite of mine. She’s a new author like me, although she has one more book out than I do, she’s smart, she’s funny, she’s got a sense of humor about her own work and the business of being a writer, she loves Twilight while simultaneously laughing at it, which is how I feel about Twilight…sometimes I feel like Courtney and I were built to be best friends, if it weren’t for the pesky “growing up in different countries” thing (CS is a Canadian, but let’s not hold that against her–I KID I KID).

On January 11, I went up and down the Upper West Side looking for my book. I KNOW, the pub date was January 12. But sometimes bookstores put titles out early–Kim had found it at a store in Long Island on January 10–so I had to try. I struck out at all three of the stores I checked (all of whom put out their copies the next day), so at the last one, to boost my spirits, I bought Courtney’s new book, Some Girls Are, and gobbled it up in two days, then promptly loaned it to a friend so I will not be fact checking this review against the finished copy. Sorry in advance.

somegirlsareSome Girls Are is narrated by the very cool, very pissed off Regina Afton. Why is Regina so pissed off? Well, she’s been properly expelled from the coolest clique in school, and let me tell you that “mean girls” doesn’t even begin to describe this posse. They’re the world’s most awful humans, and Regina used to be one of them. Regina was terrible, too–there are no free passes in Courtney Summers books. You don’t get to be a martyr just because you’re a victim. That’s why I love Courtney’s books. She insists that even her narrators–especially her narrators, the people you’re supposed to relate to and love–own up to and suffer the consequences of their own actions. It’s some of the most honest work being done in the YA world. Courtney is brutal to her characters, something I really believe in. She forces them to look in the most revealing mirror and get a good look at their true selves before she lets them be redeemed.

Regina really gets it from all sides. She is the victim of an assault that is then twisted by a devious rival into an act of betrayal, which incurs the wrath of Regina’s ex-best friend, Anna (it’s okay Courtney I know it’s totally a coincidence that the evil girl’s name is Anna and I’m not even mad at you!), who unleashes a rain of terror (see what I did there?) upon Regina’s head. Rotting meat stuffed in the locker, physical violence, emotional tyranny…it’s all part of the torture Regina is expected to endure because she purportedly hurt her best friend. Not only is Regina going through that hell, but she’s also coming face-to-face with the horrible things she actually did do, including spreading rumors about a wonderfully sweet boy, turning him into a social outcast and exposing him to ridicule, and helping to drive a former friend to suicide (failed, thankfully). These people–Michael, whom Regina falls in love with, and Liz, whom she struggles to make things up to with little success–stand as monuments to Regina’s horrible legacy, which may or may not be part of the person she still is.

What’s beautiful about Regina and Michael’s love story is that its greatest obstacles are not counterfeited by authorial machination (for the most part), but are absolutely and believably intrinsic to the characters, which is where all actually relationship obstacles come from! Here’s the thing about paranormal romances (and I understand this is an aside, but please go with it): they often come with some sort of problem attached–Edward and Bella can’t be together because he’s a monster whose basest instinct is to rip out her throat and drink her blood like she’s a Big Gulp, etc.–that has nothing to do with the characters themselves, only their circumstances, which they’re not responsible for, so the characters can be unassailable, just victims in all of this. They love each other, purely and entirely, they just can’t be together because it’s forbidden. But, fun as paranormal romances are, that’s their most devious lie. The obstacles are all external, but actual romantic obstacles are mostly internal, but to bring them out into the open is to make the characters, who you’re supposed to like, culpable in their own suffering and each other’s, which is a brave thing to do. More realistic, but less cinematic.

So what makes a true romance great is the presentation of two people who want to be together but aren’t willing to give up some of their own prejudices, resentments, conflicting desires, ambitions, etc, to make it happen, or don’t know if they’re capable of doing so (HELLO Pride & Prejudice). That’s Regina and Michael in a nutshell. He likes her and is attracted to her, but every time he gets close to her he remembers what she did to him and it sends him reeling. She likes him and is attracted to him, but she thinks he’s never going to be able to forgive her, and as much as she wants to there’s a little bit of her former mean girl she might not be able to shake. And Regina’s not walking away from her former life because she wants to–she’s being forced away from it, and he knows that. How can he trust her? How can she trust herself? She certainly never has before. Now that is the stuff of great romance, if your characters decide that they want to be with the other person more than they want whatever it is that’s conflicting with it. If Michael can’t forgive Regina, that’s understandable, but he has to do that in order to be with her–if he can do it, then that’s the most romantic thing I can possibly imagine.

Anyway, this book is simply one of the best books I’ve ever read. I love it more than I love Cracked Up to Be, which I loved A LOT. It’s just right up my alley, Courtney’s stuff. She and I are concerned with the same things: the pain and suffering it takes to figure out who you are in the world and what kind of person you want to spend your life being, and how that’s reflected in how we treat others, and how we learn and grow from our mistakes, or don’t, and how grief be not proud and how people be not perfect, not even close, but how we can love them anyway, in their imperfection, profoundly more in fact because perfect people are dull and nonexistant.

I hate having to wrap up reviews because
I always want to leave on a high note, but I can never think of anything cool to say, so it’s mostly like, “Um, yeah, so buy this book and read it because it’s awesome.” Which is stupid, but a sort of Anna Jarzab stupid that I’ve decided to accept.

So, buy this book and read it because it’s awesome. I’m out like trout.

Tough calls

Posted on January 25th, 2010 by annakjarzab

Okay, so yesterday I alluded to an important writing thing that ocurred over the weekend of ALA, but divulged nothing more. I wasn’t being a tease, I was just growing a little weary with that post, so I decided to save it for later.

It’s later.

Now, this discussion might be a little vague because I’m trying not to reveal much about the plot of my second book. There are a couple of things I can tell you, though:

  1. It’s another teen mystery
  2. It has a male narrator
  3. It takes place in California
  4. It’s about an eighteen-year-old boy’s disappearance, which may or may not involve foul play, and his friends’ attempts to search for him

So there’s that. As some of you probably know, it used to be called Murder Burger, but RH’s legal department said that, for various reasons, it emphatically cannot be named that, so we’re at square one with the title. And actually, this thing that happened with the book all started with the news that the title had been nixed. I’d actually been worried about that from the very beginning, and finally brought it up to my editor, who promised she’d ask legal, who told her that under no circumstances was I allowed to name the book that because such a place actually exists (although my version of it was and is entirely fictional) and we’re not in the business of getting sued, which I totally understand. I don’t want to get sued, either.

But the book such as it was (and I was struggling a lot with the book such as it was, because there were obviously problems with it that I could recognize but not think how to fix in a really effective way) didn’t seem to lend itself to a new title. It seems like a petty thing to care about in the face of looming revisions great and small, but the title is the most succinct expression of a book and is therefore important. And I couldn’t think of a single thing to name the book other than MB, which really frustrated me. Revisions were also frustrating. I’d only been working on them a few days, but I knew that if I continued the way I was doing things and turned a new draft in to my editor, she would see that not enough had changed to really take the book to the next level, which was the whole thrust of this round of revision.

So, what to do? Well, I was on my way to work the Friday before ALA and I was getting out of the subway station when suddenly I had a thought: what if I took the events of the very end and moved them to the middle? That sounds crazy because you don’t know what happens at the end, but it was a major brainstorm for me. I was excited about it because it meant that the actual mechanics of the mystery plot–what things get figured out at which time, what people are involved in those revelations, the heartbeats of the story–could stay intact, it was only the perspective that would change. All of a sudden you’d be seeing things in an entirely new way. Over the next two days, I became convinced that this was the game change I needed. I wasn’t going to get any more depth out of my current book, and I needed to flip the script. This was a way to add the depth we were trying to achieve. I was certain of it.

Thankfully, both my agent and editor agree, and even though it means rewriting the second half of the book, I felt a great release of pressure when I cut 150 pages from the manuscript with the press of a button and set forth down this new path. It’s a dramatic change, but one that I think will work out very well, and of course with Joanna and Francoise patiently coaching me through it, I think the book will be great in the end, something to really be proud of instead of a joke repository, which I’m afraid MB ended up being to an extent (although I think there’s a lot of great stuff in this book, don’t get me wrong).

This writing thing, you guys–it’s like the labyrinth in, well, Labyrinth. You know how it’s always changing and it’s never the same maze twice and some meddling worm can send you down the wrong path and you try to figure out which door guard is lying but you’re too dumb and this metaphor is getting both extended and absurd, is it not? Anyway, you know what I mean. People always say that each book teaches you how to write itself, and itself only, and they’re totally right. I guess the other little seed of knowledge I’ve gained from this is that nothing you write is unassailable–I mean, yes, there’s the “kill your darlings” writing advice, which is both cliche and true as many cliches are, but there’s also the sense of being trapped by what you’ve already done. It’s just as hard to write a bad novel, or a mediocre one, as it is to write a good novel, and once you’ve finished you can’t stand the thought of pressing DELETE and watching those days and nights spent not with your friends or family, not watching 30 Rock, not sleeping, go swirling down the drain. That word count means time and sacrifices, and it’s hard to say goodbye to all that and start over.

But I’m telling you that it’s also worth it. At least I think it is. Hell, I know it is, because I spent three years writing the first verison of AUT just to throw it out and start over, and it was still another four years before I saw it on the shelves. So I get it. But I also think that this kind of work, the part of our job that requires destruction, is just as important as the part that requires creation. It’s a leap of faith that in turning your back on something you thought you loved you’re in fact turning your face towards something even better. And it’s kind of invigorating, at least it is for me. Wish me luck!

Still working on the title, though…

The return

Posted on January 24th, 2010 by annakjarzab

Hi folks! Some of you might be wondering where on God’s green goodness I’ve been in the past few weeks, because it certainly hasn’t been at my desk, blogging. I assure you that there is a good reason for this: I haven’t had Internet in my apartment in over a month, because I moved, and our new apartment didn’t have a cable hookup so we had to have one installed, which is harder than one might imagine and anyway, long story short, the guy from Time Warner came today and after a snafu or two with the modem, we are in business!

So I’m back in black, as they say. As you might imagine, the last few weeks have been quite the whirlwind. First, All Unquiet Things was officially delivered to the world on January 12th. My lovely friends have been sending me pictures of it in bookstores. Let me share a few with you:

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My beautiful cousin Emma

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My beautiful sister Fish

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The thing that’s interesting about that last photo (if you can’t see it, it’s in the bottom left hand corner) is that I went to that store on a whim yesterday after buying tickets to see Up in the Air (more on that in a later post, probably). I was afraid it’d be sold out but I’m too cheap to pay the Fandango surcharge (and like I said, no Internet at the homestead until today). I had some time on my hands, so I went to the theater early, bought the tickets (it wasn’t sold out, but seeing Golden Globe/Oscar award-winning/nominated films in New York can be tricky sometimes on weekend nights and I wanted to be sure), and headed over to this store (which shall remain nameless! No favoritism here) just to check to see if they had AUT, because, you know, NEUROTIC WRITER TYPE.

Anyway, I couldn’t find it anywhere–not under J in the Teen section, not in the New for Teens section, nowhere. I was a little frustrated, because of the aforementioned capitalized phrase, and I asked a store associate for some assistance. She told me they had it: it was just in the New Fiction section. The New adult Fiction section. And there it is, posing as a book for adults. Crossover! What an exciting word. I hope adults (and not just adults who read YA) will pick AUT up and read it, just as I hope teens will. I think it’s a great book for both age groups, and they’re pretty fluid anyway.

Other things have happened, too. I had my bookseller/librarian dinner that Random House so very graciously arranged, which was wonderful. Then I had my birthday, which was also wonderful–I truly have the best friends in the world. On Saturday, those same amazing friends threw me a book party. I can’t even tell you how cool it was. I saw people I haven’t seen since college–since high school. And there were even some surprises–people I didn’t even know lived in New York came to wish me luck, and it was so great to see them.

My best friends took the book cover image and blew it up poster sized, then taped it to the wall for everybody to “blurb”. Some people wrote sweet things, some people wrote funny things, some people wrote mock-insulting things (my favorites, inspired by MD’s hilarious “blurbs” from a couple of months ago). I’m going to frame it and hang it on my wall over my dresser–I’ll take a picture when I do so you can see it in all its glory. Oh, and there was also this:

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When I got to the party and saw the poster, I was so blown away, but then Nikki said, “Oh you just wait. There’s another surprise.” I guessed pretty quickly it was a cake, and then was alarmed, because I know that picture cakes cost A FORTUNE, several hundred dollars at least. But oh no, no no. Nikki made one herself. And look at how magnificent it is. Better than anything Ace of Cakes could’ve churned out, that’s for damn sure. That’s a Vanessa Hudgens doll posing as dead Carly, if you were curious.

The next day, I headed off to ALA to attend the “It’s a First!” cocktail reception. I got to take the train, because ALA was in Boston. I’d never taken a train like that (I’ve taken the subway and, like Metra and New Jersey transit and stuff, but never Amtrak) and it was so great. Joanna said called it “romantic”, and that’s exactly what it was. It was sort of a gloomy day, so these photos don’t seem too cool, but when we rounded the bend somewhere in Queens and caught sight of Manhattan, my nose was glued to the window.

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There were four debut RH authors at the reception, so I wanted to read everybody’s books before I got there. I almost succeeded! A for effort. I’d read Jame Richards’ Three Rivers Rising (a novel in verse about the Jamestown Flood; Jame is one of my fellow Tenners) a while ago, and I finished Swati Avasthi’s Split on the train. Let me prove it to you:

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Okay, I realize that is just a picture and doesn’t prove that I finished it, but I did. It’s a great book about a teen boy running from an abusive household, and at some parts it was just so terribly sad and gruesome that I wanted to turn away, but I couldn’t, because it was so compelling. I liked how brutally honest it was about abuse and what it can do to the people affected by it, how it can change them and trap them and push them away and pull them back in. The relationships between Jace and his brother Christian were so true, I was very impressed by that. Also, Swati is just a doll; it turned out that she was reading AUT, too, at the same time. Coincidence!

This entry is getting so long, so I’m just going to give you a little rundown of what I did at ALA, with a few iPhone pics to illustrate, and then sign off till next time.

When I got to Boston, I took this picture:

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I took that on the walk from my hotel to the convention center, because I was in Boston for less than twenty-four hours and most of those were nighttime/early morning hours. My cabbie was horrified by this and made me promise to return someday. I assured him I would, because Boston’s been on my long-time to-visit list for a while and now that things have calmed a little maybe my friends and I will make a road trip out of it soon.

I went to the convention for a few hours and mostly hung around the RH and Penguin booths. Here are some pictures of that:

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Okay, yeah, I had to take a picture of my own book. SO SUE ME! Wait, don’t. All the ARCs, of my book and everyone else’s at every house, was yoinked on Friday, so I got next to nothing, but c’est la vie. Must not be greedy!

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Some Penguin-y books as well.

What did people do before iPhones? Oh, carry around actual cameras, you say? How boring.

Then I left the convention and went back to my hotel to ready myself for the reception and meet my editor. The reception was great, as events with librarians always are. I got to meet some awesome new people–librarians are so friendly and love to chat about books, and there’s nothing I’d rather chat about, honestly–and see some awesome people I already know, mostly RH people. My audio editor and producer were there, and it was great to see them. It was also really nice to spend so much quality time with my editor and publisher. I’m really lucky in that because I live in New York, I get many more opportunities to see and talk to my editor than writers who don’t live in New York do. It’s a great thing she’s such a smart, interesting person–I love talking books and publishing with her.

Because I was feeling sick, after dinner with my editor and publisher I went upstairs to sleep. Okay, I watched the Golden Globes, then I slept. I woke up very early in the morning to follow the ALA awards Twitter feed, then went back to sleep. Then I met my editor to get on the train and we went back to New York, where I collapsed from illness and fatigue.

One other interesting, writing relating thing happened at ALA, and I’m going to blog about it, but not now. Now is the time to put this post to bed so that I don’t break everyone’s Google Readers by making it any longer. I’m going to go program our DVR to tape 30 Rock now! Cheers all.

The day after

Posted on January 13th, 2010 by annakjarzab

So, it’s my birthday.

That’s right! I was published when I was twenty-five, and then I immediately turned twenty-six. Couldn’t’ve planned it better myself.

Last night was wonderful. Random House threw me and AUT a dinner at Irving Mill, which is a restaurant I’ve never been to but which was delightful. My publicist picked it because she said it looked like a California wine cellar, and it totally did. The atmosphere was gorgeous and the food was delicious. I met so many wonderful people from RH, not to mention booksellers and librarians. They were all so excited about AUT, which is awesome, because I am excited about it.

I feel really blessed to have so many people behind me, encouraging and supporting and working on behalf of my book. I said that over and over again last night, because it’s so true, and true of so very many people. I’m so grateful, more than I can adequately express. I think I said this a few times last night, that it still feels like a story I’m telling myself in my dorm room at Santa Clara; I can’t believe that the book is in stores and that strangers might actually read it. The concept is just too much for me.

And yet, it’s true. I have proof! Best birthday present EVER.

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All Unquiet Things on-sale today!

Posted on January 13th, 2010 by annakjarzab

Just so you know, I was going to title this post “O HAI”, but then I thought maybe I should take the opportunity to say ON SALE ON SALE ON SALE as much as possible before that becomes grossly self-promoting of me.

My friend Mary just called me and was like, “I don’t want to tell you how to run your life, but shouldn’t you update your website?” So this is me updating, although it has to be quick and not nearly as cool as it should be because the computer I’m on is not the greatest and it’s a battle just to use WordPress at this point. Sigh.

First off, Joanna and Danielle sent me some beautiful flowers, which I totally took a picture of and would show you if I could post it. Also, there are about five billion interviews with me floating around the interwebs today, so I’m going to point you to a few:

Sorry to blog and run–more from me later, promise!

One week

Posted on January 7th, 2010 by annakjarzab

Aaaaand now I have the Barenaked Ladies song in my head.

The last time you heard from our intrepid heroine (me, duh), she was trapped in Newark International Airport, rueing the day she first sacrificed convenience for price in choosing a flight to Chicago for Christmas. Then came radio silence all through the holidays. I really tried to use my long break to relax and sleep in and spend time with my family and friends I haven’t seen in a while. I did a good job at that, but as soon as I got back to New York (and trekked home from Newark–NEVER AGAIN!) I hit the ground running, because my friend Brigitte from my good old University of Chicago days was in town with her husband, so I saw them on both Sunday and Monday night.

Any illusions that I might have given my poor, addled mind a rest over break were completely dashed on Tuesday, when I wrote my friend Nikki an email inviting her to my house for “kiesh.” YES THAT IS RIGHT. I didn’t even notice my painfully egregious spelling error until I got an email from my friend Cambria later that night saying, “Still making quiche? What time should I come over?” And I was like, “OMG ‘QUICHE’!” I think that’s the worst spelling error I’ve made in my entire life. It’s like I had never seen the word “quiche” written out before. I was mortified when I realized my mistake–like I said, HOURS LATER.

The quiche was delicious, though, despite the fact that I put too much filling in the pie crust so it spilled out a little from the sides and then rose like a souffle in the oven. Considering I didn’t measure anything and just threw some stuff in it, I think it was a success! It had broccoli, onion and Swiss cheese in it, if you care.

Anyway, on to business. So, now that it’s Thursday, we’re less than a week away from the publication of All Unquiet Things. Surreal doesn’t begin to cover it. I’ve spent the bulk of my free time the past few days answering interview questions and posting on Random Buzzers, which you should totally check out if you’re not a part of it yet. My forum is here, but there are a couple of interesting activities posted here that I can’t wait to check out. I thought the AUT playlist was just a link to the playlist I created, so I didn’t even look at it before, but now I see that it’s a section for other people to post their playlists, which is far more interesting to me.

In other news, I came across this article John Green wrote for School Library Journal the other day and found it entirely fascinating. It’s all about the future of reading, and what it means if books become practically free to produce (i.e. entirely digital) and thus publishers cease to exist and there’s no quality control (or just plain control at any rate; people have their own opinions about whether or not quality has anything to do with it–I’m not one of them, but I’ve heard that a lot, that publishers are just pandering to the lowest common denominator, etc. etc.) and the world of literature falls into anarchy (not democracy, which is different). Basically, libraries rule the world is his argument.

Anyway, I’m not going to advance my own opinions because I don’t really believe that the book world will ever become entirely digital in the way John predicts (okay, I guess that’s an opinion, but whatever), but I will say that last night, for some reason, I got into this discussion about The Future of Reading with three people–two strangers I met at a bar, and my cab driver on the way home. The strangers differed on this issue; one said to hell with publishers, let schools be the gatekeepers (which is not a very good solution, if only because not everyone is in school at any given time, but he’s forgiven because he’s an educator); the other was a big believer in libraries, and also argued in favor of publishers.

Better still, the conversation I had with my cab driver. He was extremely chatty, which I normally do not like, because when I’m in a car, or really on any form of transportation, I like to be silent and stare out the window and sometimes fall asleep. I don’t want to be beholden to a conversation with a stranger. But this cabbie was nice, and he asked me what I did, so I told him, and then he asked me if I thought books would go the way of the dodo, and for a moment I was like, “Deja vu!” but then I said that no, I didn’t think that, I think digital and physical books will find a balance someday and neither will become completely dominant. Then he said, “Oh, that’s good, because books are just so charming.” He was completely sincere, and I fell a little bit in love with him. I never would’ve said that books are charming, but they are! QED, books will never die. (Not at all logically sound, I know, but whatever. I never claimed to be a master of debate!)