November 8, 2016

Once upon a time and a very good time it was there were some librarians coming down along the road and these librarians that were coming down along the road met a nicens little house named Melville House

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IMG_6059Reader, it had been a long and hard five months since we last met with the Librarians, that estimable gang of Good-protecting know-a-lot-ers and friendly faces. And so when the moment came again at last this past Friday, the House called a halt to all non-Librarian activities, in order to present the nice chairs, the fresh cheese and cookies and wine — and the finest bouquet of Spring and Summer Titles, as is the tradition, to our very special guests.

They came in droves, the Librarians. Had they been ravens we’d have called them a murder. Had they been cats we’d have called them a clowder. But they were Librarians, and so we called them a Good Sign, a Heartening Omen for the Future. Ultimately, we were overwhelmed by them, which had been, secretly, the plan all along.

As they arrived, we exchanged pleasantries—one of those rare occasions when pleasantries befit the name—and, eventually, we all took our positions: the Librarians in the Nice Chairs, the Melvilleans of the House aglow in the Powerpoint presentation. And we began, Reader, to tell them of books-that-are(-coming-soon-to-paperback) and books-that-will-be.

Lights down, spirits up, ballpoint pens in hand: that is how it began.

And from there it went. Melville House co-founder and -publisher Dennis Johnson introduced Becoming Leonardo by Mike Lankford, an eccentric take on Leonardo da Vinci, the original eccentric; and Melville House co-founder and -publisher Valerie Merians revealed More Alive and Less Lonely, a sizable collection of writings on books and writers from the one and only Jonathan Lethem, as well as Why I Am Not a Feminist: A Feminist Manifesto by Jessa Crispin.

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Caitriona Lally, author of Eggshells

I felt my heartbeat in my temples. And yet, this was only the beginning.

Later, editor Ryan Harrington presented the first-ever biography of  the veritable giant of American Invention, Norman Bel Geddes, and then Nato Thompson’s Culture as Weapon, which has already garnered praise from Laura Poitras (Citizenfour), Thomas Frank (What’s the Matter with Kansas?), Hans Ulrich Obrist, and Jeff Chang (We Gon’ Be Alright and Can’t Stop Won’t Stop). Editor Taylor Sperry explained how your lives will never be the same after reading Underground Fugue, the debut novel from Margot Singer, First Love by Gwendoline Riley, and Francesco Pacifico’s Class, which she economically (and amazingly accurately) described as “Kanye West meets Virginia Woolf.”

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Ladee Hubbard, author of The Talented Tenth

Caitriona Lally, author of Eggshells, sent her gratitude all the way from Ireland via video, and Rona Jaffe Foundation Writer’s Award-winner Ladee Hubbard, whose The Talented Tenth is due out in the summer, videoed in hers from New Orleans, too.

It was a celebration, one that I interrupted intermittently to test the minds of our guests for prizes. It won’t surprise you, Reader, that we had ten winners.

But really, at the end of the day, it was us here at Melville House who won, having spent an afternoon talking books with the only public servants we really want to share nice chairs, fresh cheese, and cookies with: The Librarians. Dear Librarians, we made a joke of over-thanking you last Friday, but know that the gratitude itself was sincere. We’re extremely grateful for the services your provide. Come hang out with us again sometime soon? I’ll email you.

Chad Felix is the Director of Library and Academic Marketing at Melville House, and a former bookseller.

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