Critic on the run after trashy Review

photo (2)Fur is flying after numerous catty responses to the handling of a recent book. (For the full review from Lucy, pictured at left, please visit yesterday’s blog post.)

“I trusted my instincts and did what came naturally,” insisted Lucy, the literary agent in the doghouse. “Yes, I trashed the book, but that’s part of my job.”

Not so, said well-known publicist ValKyttie (shown here with the book in question). “What would a bitch like that know about good writing? Crap. That’s all she produces, is crap.”valkyttie with her cover

Speculation has arisen that ValKyttie, who is CEO of the book’s subject (a second-hand book store in a small town somewhere in SW VA), may be personally motivated in her criticism. However, several other voices have joined the caterwaul of protest.

Tallulah, a Southern Literature expert, dismissed Lucy’s comments with a sniff. “This is nothing more than a dogged determination to leave her mark. But I tell you one thing, that pup has ruined her career. This review will dog her every step from this day forward. Her boss will shriek protests if she so much as approaches another book this year.”tallulah

Tallulah is currently visiting The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap with her children: (from top) Clyde Edgerton, Amy Clark, and Silas House.

clydeAmy Housesilas house

Of the trio, House was most sanguine. “Meh,” he was overheard to say.

When she heard of House’s dismissive remark, Lucy suggested they meet face to face to settle their differences. House has not yet responded.

Perhaps the final words on this dog-eat-dog saga belong to Starbuck, a veteran newshound from Richmond, VA. Those who follow the literary world’s movers and shakers may remember when Starbuck made news herself by becoming the first dog under the age of six months to learn to read. starbuck

The Buckster howled with delight when told the story, then sobered to growl, “Lucy better be careful. Biting off more than one can chew is dangerous. These young pups,” she said, shaking her head and returning to her drink. “You try to train ’em, but…”

Editor’s Note: Louise Malpas, normally all ears regarding reviews of Welch’s book, is vacationing in the Hamptons and could not be reached for comment. Friends suggest she would have bounced with enthusiasm at the publicity.

The Sweetest Shop

Ruth, who owns BOOK PEOPLE in Richmond, VA, called the Flatiron Building in NYC about three months ago, and said more or less verbatim “ThisisthesweetestbookaboutlifeandmostaptdescriptionofthewholeprocessofrrunningabookshopI’veeverreadcouldIpleasecontacttheauthor?”
At least, that’s how Laura and Nichole described it to me later. So we set up an event with this lovely secondhand book shop – something publishers don’t do much of, second-hand being somewhat anathema to the idea of selling a new book – and I got to meet Ruth face to face.

I’d had a telephone conversation with her, so the words “cool character” had already formed in the back of my mind, but Ruth is an absolute hoot. She gets things done. She embodies common sense, has a wicked sense of humor, and sports a “don’t let my white hair fool you; I can cut you at the knees if warranted” demeanor.

Two examples: When an accident in downtown Richmond meant we would be breezing in five minutes before the signing was to start, Jack phoned to explain, and she said, “OH! Are you hurt? Are you okay?” Solicitous, maternal.

When we arrived with three minutes to spare and I asked where the rest room was, she said with deadpan demeanor, “This is a small store. We use the bushes out back.”

I like Ruth a whole, whole lot.

And she proves the point of my constant saying that a bookstore is the owner’s heart turned inside out for public display. Ruth’s shop was perfectly alphabetized, the shelves tacked with white cards with haphazard printing of the genres contained thereon. And those shelves went every place, like this season’s corn mazes. Boxes of books in front of them, and a card tacked to the shelf they blocked, suggesting “Reach; it’s worth it!” Boxes of books under the front display table. Boxes of books outside the bathroom door (yeah, in case you were wondering; they did have one). Piles of books stacked spines out at the sides of shelves, neatly continuing the alphabetization.

Like Ruth, the shop was a mixture of practical solutions, a well-mannered chaos, and crafty humor. Ruth had two women working with her, and I regret that I never heard their names. By the time we made the store, about 15 people had gathered. Again, a couple of ex-pat Big Stone Gappers had heard the radio spots on 98 FM (thank you, DJ Kat Martin, a character herself!) and come out to say hi. Two storytelling pals, Linda and Jane, appeared. And Jodi and Tyler came with their spouses-to-be. (For those of you who don’t remember these two, scroll back into September and read the blog about the night the film crew was in our bookshop. Tyler is the kitten wrangler with the cute butt, Jodi the anchorwoman in the Shades of Grey spoof we put on YouTube.)

We chatted with the assembly; now that the book’s been out a week, some people have read it, besides the booksellers. It’s intriguing (and happi-fying) to me that the feud between Val-Kyttie and Beulah–which is a thin cover story for how small towns can act–is one of the first things people ask about. Hunh. Fur covers a multitude of metaphors, but of course the cats will just take the accolades as their due, when we get back to the shop and tell them they’re famous.

In short, last night was sweet. Ruth’s shop felt like home. It felt like our place. And one of the nicest things in the whole evening was my friends who had come out saying, “Wow! I had no idea this was here, but now I’m going to tell people.” Ruth’s shop is not downtown, but oh glory, it’s worth the drive.

And isn’t this the point? Little bookshops everywhere, thriving because people find them, and like them, and bring friends to them. Hallelujah. Or more appropriately, Kum Ba Yah. Often and repeatedly. Because Ruth and her rabbit maze of books are so very, very worth the trip. And there are more Ruths out there, holding civilization together with thumbtacks and white card signs and wicked senses of humor.