“Hi, this is NPR” or: Sincerity is a Virus

Something interesting happens in the brain when you pick up your bookshop’s telephone and a a voice says, “Hi! This is NPR calling.”

Yeah? Pull the other one; it’s got bells on.

But it really was NPR, in the form of a nice lady named Gemma, who in her gorgeous English accent explained they were interested in doing a story about our search for a shop-sitter.

Talk about viral: that’s what happened to our “vacancy” trading full room and board–but no salary–for two months of freedom for Jack and me to run around bookshops, selling my book and enjoying the camaraderie of other bookslingers. The info went into a Swedish literary magazine, several New York publications, the L.A. Times, and then Wednesday I picked up the phone and said, “Good morning, bookstore” and Gemma was on the line.

Happy as we are personally for this publicity, we take it as a sign that reports of bookstores’ deaths have been greatly exaggerated in the media at large (saving Linda Wertheimer’s presence; she was our very professional and kind interviewer). If no one cares about bookstores, or the printed books they sell, why have so many people applied for this position, with we don’t know how many more applying between now and Sept. 7? (That’s a Friday, and the new cut-off date; we want to do final phone calls Monday 10th and have the person by Monday night.) One article called it “The Last Great Job in America,” while a few thousand people online re-posted and re-sent and make wistful comments like, “Oh, isn’t this a dream job!” and “How I wish I could!”

Because we all long for what bookshops provide: honesty, kindness, a human connection, and a literary balance to our lives. Small shops are spaces that let us breathe; books are mind-blowing devices that change our lives. Who could ask for anything more?

Someone congratulated me recently on “successfully pulling off a viral marketing campaign” and I almost hit her. Sincerity is not marketing. We needed a shop sitter, asked Kim at Facebook’s Goodwill Librarian and Robert Gray of Shelf Awareness to help us find one, and hit a societal artery. I wish marketers everywhere would look at what we hit, and stop making assumptions about what Americans need when it comes to books and bookstores. Look again. LOOK!

OK, enough with the soapbox. Just please keep in mind that our shop-sitter will be someone who has that elusive yet easily-observed quality of being genuine. What else are we looking for? Jack and I laugh that we’re hunting someone who has a basic familiarity with the collective library of humanity, a sense of wonder at the stories humans tell and write down, and a brisk efficiency toward cat pee. One of our cats is senile. (Don’t get stars in your eyes; this is a real job involving dog hair, spiders and heavy lifting.)

We need this person or persons Sept. 20-Nov. 20 because the shop wants covering during the town’s annual Celtic Festival. Don’t worry; we will train you in all the other intricacies, but straight sales are the easiest part, and those happen during Big Stone Celtic, when the town is converged on by Celtophiles from around the States.

Potential shop-sitters please send to jbeck69087@aol.com your experience with litter boxes, history with books, proof you are nice but not a pushover, and what you would do if you were suddenly called home for a job or emergency, plus any questions you have for us. Thanks!

(Btw, if anyone wants to enter Caption Contest VI, it’s just a couple of blog posts down, and a lot of fun. The picture is so gosh darn cute. Scroll down if you fancy it.)


Filed under Big Stone Gap, folklore and ethnography, humor, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA

7 responses to ““Hi, this is NPR” or: Sincerity is a Virus

  1. I’m not surprised by this at all- in the few months we’re been open I couldn’t tell you how many people have asked about a job or volunteering.

  2. I’m sure you’ve heard this before, but I would LOVE this job. Alas, I don’t think I’m what you’re looking for (my best recommendation is my absolute obsessive passion for the written word), and I’m allergic to cats. In any case, best of luck finding someone. Whoever gets this job is incredibly blessed!

    I read your Huffington Post article about the importance of indie stores. We have one in my home town of Austin, Texas that I absolutely love. It’s very big and popular, but 100% one of a kind. Perhaps you’ve heard of BookPeople? I love the feeling I get when I walk in–the hand-made signs advertising bookseller recommendations and sporting incredible drawings, the hipsters manning every desk, the incredible upstairs children’s department, and the rad author events (one of which allowed me to meet my favorite musician-turned-author ever, Colin Meloy of The Decemberists). Though my funds are limited, I always try to buy local when I can.

    I also discovered another little bookstore in Dublin when I was there for two months. This one was sadly about to close (unlike BookPeople, whose business is thriving) and I ended up making friends with the owner after commiserating with his plight, having been through a business-closing of my own. THAT was a wonderful bookstore, nestled above a coffee shop boasting the best coffee in Dublin, and it was sad to see it go.

    Anyway, sorry for the novel. I’m a new follower, even though I’ve never been to your bookstore. Perhaps someday I will stop by! Good luck in your sitter search and have a blessed vacation!


    • Thanks, Courtney. Haven’t been to Austin, TX yet, but there is another shop called Book People in Richmond, VA! I’m looking forward to signing books with them in October. Up the bookstores!

  3. Pingback: Want A Bookstore-Sitting Gig? | Geo Travel City

  4. Deborah Mattera

    I would love to apply for this great job for bookstore sales, but have my own pets to care for and cat pee–not so much. But good gig for anyone wanting an opportunity to explore new town, humanity and unexpected peace through books.

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