The St. Mark’s Bookshop bestseller list: Franzen and Krauss takeover edition
The last time we swung by the East Village to see what the locals were reading, it was the beginning of August, and the New York University summer-schoolers were going with crowd-pleasers: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire and Eat, Pray, Love. With one Georges Perec title thrown in for good measure.
Well, school is now back in session, and the kiddies are clearly catching the literary award-season fever for improving literature.
Howard Jacobson's The Finkler Question, which won the Booker Prize on Oct. 12th, has already shot to No. 1 on the list.
Is the Booker Prize more important to East Villagers than the back-to-back lauds of the New York Times Book Review? Jonathan Franzen's Freedom is at No. 2, and No. 4 is Nicole Krauss' Great House, each the recipient of similar back-to-back celebrations in that august arbiter of masstige literary taste.
The store likes to talk a big game about the idiosyncrasies of its bestseller list ("The fiercely independent readers that shop at St. Mark's tend to create their own blockbusters," the site crows) but sandwiched between these two is the book that David Sedaris might have finished overnight, and probably should have if he didn't: Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary. It features what is described as "Sedaris's unique blend of hilarity and heart" (oy): " In 'Hello Kitty,' a cynical feline struggles to sit through his prison-mandated AA meetings."
The Zagat 2011 guide is just out, and whether it owes its surprisingly strong placement at No. 5 to the tourists who pass by St. Mark's or to a whole lot of students getting larded up by their parents before they head back to Michigan after dropping the kids off, or to an ingrained habit here and everywhere of buying the thing once a year (isn't this a strange habit in the age of newyorkmag.com and Yelp?)
That fierce independence clutches its way into the bottom half of the list, though. No. 6 is The Enigma of Capital: And the Crises of Capitalism, the hot new romance from David Harvey, whose previous blockbusters have included The Limits to Capital and The New Imperialism. In his Space of Hope, the description says that Harvey "finds in Marx's writings a wealth of relevant analysis and theoretical insight." The publishers, coyly, and the students coming across Marx now for the first time, earnestly, probably are willing to call this news. We're thinking that the "wealth of relevant analysis and theoretical insight" to be found in Marx is more solidly established by more than a century of Marxism and Neo-Marxism and historical materialism still practiced widely in the academy.
The final two books on the list, that Georges Perec one about the Place St.-Sulpice in Paris and Borges' collection Everything and Nothing, are holdovers from the summer. We'll have to visit and ask whether a face-out campaign on the shelves is the reason for these books' success (that would suggest the store performs the feat of making a casual shopper decide on impulse to read Oulipo literature).
THE ST. MARK'S BOOKSHOP BESTSELLER LIST
1. The Finkler Question (Paperback), By Howard Jacobson; $15.00.
2. Freedom (Hardcover), By Jonathan Franzen; $28.00
3. Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary (Hardcover), By David Sedaris, Ian Falconer; $21.99.
4. Great House (Hardcover), By Nicole Krauss; $24.95.
5. Zagat New York City Restaurants (Paperback), By Zagat Survey; $15.95.
6. The Enigma of Capital: And the Crises of Capitalism (Hardcover), By David Harvey; $24.95.
7. An Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris (Paperback), By Georges Perec, Marc Lowenthal; $12.95.
8. Everything and Nothing (Paperback), By Jorge Luis Borges, Donald A. Yates, James E. Irby; $9.95.