1 September 2004

Conversation with a Bookseller

(in New York)

n+1: Have you sold your n+1?

Bookseller: n+1! Remind me again.

n+1: It’s the shiny red perfect-bound magazine. I dropped off a copy two weeks ago.

Bookseller: Ah, yes. I still have it. It’s sitting right here on the counter, in fact. Very red. Very shiny.

n+1: It’s still there.

Bookseller: Yes, like I told you, it’s not a hip crowd. It’s not a cutting-edge crowd. These people do not want the new edgy, cutting-edge—

n+1: We’re not—

Bookseller: —they do not want the hip hot new thing. These people, when they’re going to spend however much—

n+1: Nine dollars.

Bookseller: —ten to fifteen dollars on something, they want to know what’s inside, what they’re getting.

n+1: There’s—

Bookseller: This is a baby-stroller and pacifier crowd. Very conservative tastes. This is why we sold so many copies of that loathsomeCorrections. Which, you know, we have a rent of seventeen thousand dollars, so—

n+1: Not so loathsome.

Bookseller: Oh, loathsome, quite loathsome. This just isn’t, you know, it’s just not where things are happening. Maybe things are happening somewhere else. But here, we did some readings, a few years ago, with Open City

n+1: They’re good.

Bookseller: Yes well and I used to invite a lot of people, and they’d say, “Great!” And then I’d tell them where it is and they’d say, “Oh. Sorry.” The most we ever got, I’m saying the very most, was fifty people, and—

n+1: Fifty’s not bad.

Bookseller: —and not one of them bought a book.

n+1: Oh.

Bookseller: Yes, really, I wish that weren’t the case. You know, a friend of mine was going to start something on Avenue A. Now, Avenue A, I was considering that, that would have been a whole other story. But also, in addition to being a mediocre bookseller, I’m also a mediocre literary agent, and the sort of thing that’s going to sell right now, up here, that’s going to help me with this infamous seventeen thousand—

n+1: Per month?

Bookseller: Yes.

n+1: I thought I misheard you. How could you possibly pay that?

Bookseller: I don’t know! But somehow. Somehow we do. And as we used to say around here, jokingly, and as we now say with rather somber looks on our faces, We’re working for the landlord. That’s what we’re doing.

n+1: Yeah.

Bookseller: So, you know, here it is on the counter. Which, frankly, it’s there because I just haven’t found another place to put it. But it’s here. And I’ll keep it another week. And if someone comes in, to be honest, I’ll sell it for whatever price they offer me. And then you can come by, we can use that money, we can buy a Coca-Cola.

n+1: I, uh, I’d like that.

Bookseller: All right. Good. See you then. Bye.


Part II

The Shocking Conclusion

n+1: So, did you sell your n+1?

Bookseller: Yes and no.

n+1: Uh…

Bookseller: Someone came in, but it was a ringer. Some relative of yours.

n+1: A relative?

Bookseller: Yes. Do you have relatives in New York?

n+1: I have no relatives.

Bookseller: Well, he was a close family friend. He knew all about our previous conversation. And so I felt bad taking money from him, and I said, since you hadn’t charged me for it, I wouldn’t charge him for it either.

n+1: You—

Bookseller: I gave it to him.

n+1: You gave it to him.

Bookseller: Yup.

n+1: Wow.

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