At Book Revue today, he was at the cash register -- a young Tom Hanks, dark-headed, in a flannel shirt, for which I have a thing, the contrary ideas of softness and warmth and hot chocolate, and then, the outdoors and snow and thirst from cutting wood in big blocks -- all this was embodied in a lean young man wearing a flannel shirt. I was in Book Revue on a mission, to sign copies of LIE in order for them to be placed in the front of the store, on the signed book shelf. I was also buying a few books too, including Sherman Alexie's first short story collection, some of the stories I had read, but I wanted them all together, I wanted the book in my hands. He asked me if I had read anything of Alexie, and I said I had. He said that he loved the title story, had been assigned it in his last English class, that he felt it was the one story he read in college that he would always remember, that it stayed with him, you know? He looked at me intensely, and of course, I knew. I knew only a few stories make a difference, change us, and when we find them we want to share them. He was sturdy and sure in that flannel shirt behind the counter at Book Revue.
What I said was that I had just taught Alexie's young adult novel this semester, and even more so, had taken my class to see him at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan. He said he had heard that Alexie was funny in person. A line was forming behind us, a sudden surge of urgent book-buyers, but I wanted to keep talking to this young man in the flannel shirt. With too much efficiency, he was handing me my credit card back, he was putting the books (I had bought other children's books for my kids), in a plastic bag. He probably thought me strange, this woman of a certain age in black sweat suit and dangling earrings, but I continued on about Alexie --sharing how funny like a stand up comedian, but poignant too, and literary, reading only his poems. I ventured further -- asking where he went to school (recent college grad), and asking what he wanted to do with his life (teach). The line pressed behind me, but this young man was of the intense kind, the kind of young man I used to know when I was in college who always had dog-eared paperbacks in their backpacks. The kind of young man I would be afraid to approach, being shy and quiet and into my own dog-eared paperbacks.
Now, at Book Revue, I pushed a postcard for LIE into his hand. Said I had just signed copies for the store. Said he he should check it out. I wanted him to tell all the people in the line behind me to buy my book now, but even more, I wanted him to read it. I wanted him to say to another customer, I just read a book that will stay with me for a long time. I wanted my words to be in him, ruminate in him, turn over in his head. I wanted him, dark-haired, lean, in the flannel shirt -- as a reader, I mean, of course.
Yes, autographed copies of LIE are available exclusively at Book Revue in Huntington, New York. A perfect holiday gift... and look for that flannel-shirted store employee:)!