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Monday, August 29, 2016

When Nobody Loves the Book You Love

Have you ever watched your child perform really poorly? Like you're at the soccer field and your kid can't even drink his Gatorade without spilling it all down his front, let alone run fast or kick the ball with any sort of accuracy? How about a television show you love being cancelled after one season? Or when they stop making your favorite brand of novelty breakfast cereal (you broke my heart Rice Krispies Treats Cereal)? All of those feelings of sadness, disappointment, abandonment, and unfairness...those are the feelings I feel every day when I walk by the book I love and you haven't bought it yet. 

Only I feel all those feelings times one million.

I bet you didn't think bookselling involved such angst and anguish. Well, it does, and it's mostly your fault. You see, I read this book, this book I really loved. I told people about it. I staff picked it. I put it on Instagram. It featured on one of our monthly theme tables. But you didn't care. You ignored it. It's like I'm shouting to an empty room. Or a room filled with angry people trying to read the books they bought instead of the book I'm suggesting.

So here's my last ditch effort, and if a hastily crafted, marginally edited blog post won't convince you to buy it, I guess I'm not very good at my job. Fair warning, I'm not above some pretty dubious tactics. Like pilfering words from this New York Times Book Review by Leonard Pitts Jr.:
 The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter... a narrative that sweeps forward (and then back) between World War II and the first decade of the new millennium, touching on the civil rights movement, AIDS, deaf culture, lynching, love and sexuality, that emotional terrain remains the book’s bedrock.
...what Corthron does best in this book. She blindsides you. She sneaks up from behind. Sometimes, it is with moments of humor, but more often with moments of raw emotional power — moments whose pathos feels hard-earned and true.
The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter is a big book that has a lot — arguably too much — on its mind. But it succeeds admirably in a novel’s first and most difficult task: It makes you give a damn. It also does well by a novel’s second task: It sends you away pondering what it has to say.
What he said. 

And what's a little plagarism compared to the exploitation of a good friend's emotional health and job stability? Because, I haven't been entirely unable to sell this book, in fact I convinced a friend to read it and she loved it. She loved it so much she had to call in sick while she was reading it. She couldn't wait to finish and refused to read at work because she didn't want to cry in front of coworkers. Those are real emotions people.

I will even do the thing I hate most about bookselling: the comparison. Here goes:
If you loved Hanya Yanagihara's A Little Life, then you will love The Castle Cross the Magnet Carter even more. They are both super long, super big books. 10 pounds each. Serious. Both have these characters your heart will break for. And both will make you weep. Castle Cross just does it WAY better.
And last but not least... I understand the importance of cover design, so I have updated the original cover with everyone's favorite things in an attempt to appeal to a wider audience.

All joking aside. The Castle Cross The Magnet Carter is a beautiful book. A sprawling, messy, sweeping epic. It gives you the chance to burrow in and really connect with the characters. Weirdly, Kia Corthron does a lot of things I usually hate: child narrators, dialects, switching perspectives, jumping through time. But in her hands they become this perfect conduit for a heartbreaking tale of race, sexuality, disability, familial strife, and the power of brotherhood. These pages deal with a lot of hate, sadness, and confusion but there's also a lot of courage and love here too. I wish this book were 800 more pages, and then 800 more after that.

Please read it. Don't let it be the book on the sidelines with Gatorade all down its front.



  1. I'll buy and read *your* shuttled-to-the-sidelines book if you'll read mine: Scott G. F. Bailey's "The Astrologer" (http://www.mdabooks.com/books-3/the-astrologer/). Deal?

    1. I'm ordering a copy on your website now (no free shipping, sigh). I trust you to get a copy of "The Astrologer" and share your thoughts about it.

    2. Erin, damn you. I started "The Castle Cross The Magnet Carter" late Friday night, and I've scarcely accomplished *any* of the things I'm supposed to get done this weekend thanks to my need to read "just a couple more pages." It really *is* an amazingly engaging book. Thank you for your blog post about it.

    3. Mary, I'm so glad you're enjoying it. I'm waiting on my copy of The Astrologer. should be here this week. I'll let you know how it goes!


    4. Erin, I've just finished it. I thank you *so* much for writing this blog post about it as I'd never have picked it up otherwise (such a weird title and unattractive cover design). The story, though! It was incredible. I admit there are a few bits (257-260, 345-348, and 714-717) where maybe I didn't read every word--and there were a lot of disturbing times when the daily news and the events in the book felt just too similar for comfort. So--not a *comfortable* book, but an incredibly good one.

  2. Okay, you sold me. The burrito did it.

  3. Erin, I'm a fellow bookseller (The Golden Notebook in Woodstock, NY) and have been shoving "Castle" into the hands of everyone who walks through the door. I exaggerate, but believe me when I say I share your zeal. This is one of the most remarkable novels I've read in my LIFE. I wrote Kia a fan letter in which I said it should be winning every prize in the world, including the Fields Medal. Thanks for this! I just posted it to our store's FB page. :)