I'm a big fan of Lori Jakiela's writing (poetry and literary nonfiction), so I was excited to read more details about her forthcoming book via The Next Big Thing Blog Hop. Lori tagged me for the Blog Hop for this week, so I'll answer the Next Big Thing's standard questions about my next book project. (See which writers I tagged for next week's Blog Hop at the end.)
TNBT: What is the working title of your book?
Karen: Bagging the Beats at Midnight: Confessions of a New York Bookstore Clerk
TNBT: Where did the idea come from for your book?
Karen: I was in library school a few years ago, and the students around me were arguing that printed books were a thing of the past. Someone said that a PDF or a blog was the same as a book: Just "an information container." Others loved to say that video games and DVDs and books were the same thing, just equivalent forms of “content delivery.” These students were in the majority, and the book lovers among us were looked on as being an outdated generation, people who hadn't gotten the memo, and a hindrance to progress. But I knew that books and book culture had, at times, contained my whole life, and never more so than during the years I worked at St. Mark's Bookshop (1997-2005). I decided to write an account of these years, telling the stories of books and bookstore life and the people with whom I shared books.
TNBT: What genre does your book fall under?
Karen: Literary nonfiction/bookstore memoir
TNBT: Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Karen: I'm going to need a film optioning fee before I discuss that.
TNBT: What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
Karen: Bagging the Beats at Midnight is the bookstore memoir of a budding novelist in New York at the turn of the millennium: one part story of a great bookstore, one part story of a young writer and her adventures through the underground literary world of Downtown and Brooklyn.
TNBT: Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Karen: No agent involved thus far. When I get finished or much closer to finished, I plan to approach my favorite literary presses.
TNBT: How long did it take for you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Karen: I started the book as a monthly column for Tim Hall's Undie Press magazine, in Fall of 2010 (through the Summer of 2011). I'm still working on the book; no first draft yet.
TNBT: What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Karen: I'm not sure I know another book that's doing quite the same thing. It's different from other bookstore memoirs in that it's a series of non-fiction pieces connected by the bookstore, but it's not trying to be a chronological account of my time at the bookstore. It also goes in and out of the bookstore, exploring other aspects of my life with book and print culture: I self-published a novel and went on a book tour by Greyhound, I worked on an anti-war and poetry newspaper after 9/11, I spent my days off at used bookstores, I dreamt of selling books on the street.
I've been getting inspiration from a variety of books: The much talked-about Gutenberg Elegies; Eileen Myles' Inferno: A Poet's Novel; Chloe Caldwell's book of essays, Legs Get Led Astray; Mark Spitzer's bookstore memoir, Writer in Residence; the new oral history about Williamsburg, Brooklyn called The Last Bohemia; and books about customer service work in other fields: Checkout by Anna Sam, and Hey, Waitress by Alison Owings.
TNBT: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Karen: Set at a bookstore which is central to the cultural life of an uniquely creative neighborhood (the East Village), Bagging the Beats at Midnight tells the story of an indie bookstore clerk navigating friendships and the small press lit scene at the height of print culture, just before the internet and social media dominated communication, publicity, and book sales.
The latest excerpt can be found in COMPOSITE ARTS MAGAZINE, Issue 10:
This excerpt is one example of the way the story goes in and out of the bookstore. The chapter revolves around an East Village reading organized by a small press of Russian expats; St. Mark’s Bookshop is used as a lens or an organizing principle, a place where I was introduced to, and made sense of, the poets and small presses who mingled on the shelves and in (and out of) the store.
Blog Hop: Now I get the pleasure of tagging three terrific writers–-Ocean Capewell writes the zine High on Burning Photographs and she has a novel and a manuscript-in-progress I hope she’ll tell us more about. Spencer Dew is the author of Songs of Insurgency (Vagabond Press, 2008), Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres (Another New Calligraphy, 2010), and a forthcoming novel from Ampersand Books, Here Is How It Happens. Eric Nelson wrote The Silk City Series, a zine that became a book (Knickerbocker Circus Publishing, 2010); he has a new book forthcoming from The Crumpled Press in January 2013.