by Pete Mazzaccaro
This Friday, at Musehouse, 7940 Germantown Ave., Local columnist Hugh Gilmore will read selections from a new collection of short stories, titled Scenes from a Bookshop. The reading starts at 7 p.m.
Below is an interview with Gilmore about the new collection.
Q: You just published a book in December; how’d this come about so suddenly?
The quick answer to that is that I have been in a kind of frenzy of activity since I discovered the satisfactions of independent publishing.
After 10 years of daily writing, I had little to show for my efforts. I’d written three novels and most of a themed memoir and had failed to find an agent who would represent my work.
I hate to admit this, but I was getting very discouraged. I pictured myself as a guy who wrote well and wrote creatively, but as somebody who was destined to write and then stuff his work in a drawer. My only consolation was that I actually enjoy writing.
Q: So that’s how the independent publishing came about?
A: Yes. Last September my friend, the poet and food writer, Lynn Hoffman, told me I was a fool for not at least putting my work on Kindle.
Actually, he suggested I should look into his online publisher, Smashwords.com. He nagged me to the point where I felt like I was a stubborn fool for not at least looking into it.
Once I did, I decided I’d rather go with Kindle (not that one needs to make a choice), since it seemed better known and was directly fed into Amazon.com, the nation’s largest book seller.
Q: What’s the story on the book you’ll be reading from on Friday night?
“Malcolm’s Wine” is 387 pages. Not everyone wants to make that kind of time and energy commitment to a work of fiction.
So I decided to put out a slim book that could be read quickly and didn’t need a dedicated reader. I’d like to follow this “Scenes’” book with one or more sequels.
“Scenes from a Bookshop” is a collection of six stories based on events I witnessed or heard about when I was running my old and rare bookshop down on Chestnut Hill Avenue. Sometimes I call them “stories” (which falls ambiguously on the fiction/nonfiction line) and sometimes I call them “short stories.” Either way, they’re entertaining and the business particulars are 100 percent true to the way old books are bought and sold.
It’s a behind-the-scenes book, meant to be entertaining and yet realistic about some of the sadder aspects of operating a business that depends on other people letting go of their precious books. Let’s face it: people sell books or heirlooms because they need space or money, because someone has died, divorced or downsized.
Every old book has a history of ownership and the story of how that book has changed hands is quite fascinating. There are books I’ve held onto for no reason other than I was quite touched by an inscription. I just felt like I should be the caretaker of that book for a while so its history was appreciated. “Witnessed,” is how I put it.
Q: Is there a theme tying these stories together?
Yes and no. I picked six good stories I’d written about the book selling business. Two have been published (in the Local!). I pulled them together in what I hope is a good order and then decided it would be fun to try to interweave a running story about the bookseller’s love life.
He develops an escapist crush on a woman who came into the shop one day looking for a particular book of poetry. He told her he didn’t do book searches.
She left. He missed her and hoped she’d come back. He even bought a copy of the book online in case she ever came back. The whole time he was pining for her he called her “The Poetry Lady.”
Q: Does she come back?
You’ll have to read the book. Or come to the reading on Friday and try to pry it out of me.
Hugh Gilmore will be reading from and signing his new book, “Scenes from a Bookshop” at Musehouse Literary Arts Center, 7940 Germantown Ave. May 25, Friday evening. at 7 p.m. Free admission. Copies of his books can be purchased.