The Rock-Bottom Remainders
Ever been to a rock concert where the merchandise sales tables has more books than CDs? I went to one Friday night in New York: the literary all-star band called the Rock-Bottom Remainders (a remainder, in the publishing world, is a book that the publisher gives up on and sells at a deep discount–these are the fancy $30 art books you see marked down to $8, for instance).
This band consists of people known for their books–Stephen King, Amy Tan, Dave Barry, among others. they did have Roger McGuin of the Byrds sit in for a few songs (and he sounded great!). Missing the introductions while waiting to get in on that looooong line, I couldn’t figure out who the female singer with the black hair was who could actually sing. (I did figure out that it wasn’t Amy Tan, who has brown hair.) Later, my distributor, who came with me to the concert, told me it was Mitch Albm’s wife. But for the rest of them, it’s good clean fun, and the idea isn’t so much to sound terrific as to throw a great party.
And they did, singing mostly songs of the 1960s and early 70s–everything from “My Boyfriend’s Back” to “Don’t Fear the Reaper.”
It’s been a decade or two since I’ve been to a packed New York nightclub–in this case Webster Hall, a fabulous old theater on East 11–and I’d forgotten that in New York, they multiply the legal capacity by several times when they determine the number of tickets to sell. The place was so crowded I literally couldn’t take off my backpack (filled with books and a laptop and probably weighing around 10 pounds). Ever try dancing like that? I could only stay an hour before my feet, worn down by eight hours of walking the BEA show floor, told me I had to stop.
But unlike the typical NYC crowd, nobody was rowdy on that long line to get in. All the booksellers and publishers sedately stood and waited our turn (in our case about 20 or 30 minutes).