06/05/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Shelf Talker: Naming, Discounting and Hot Chicking

Welcome to the Shelf Talker, a regular rundown of news, gossip and recommendations from and about authors on tour. Send notices, throat clearings and letter bombs to Or ingest at 140 characters on Twitter (@book_tour).

On the road:

TST is happily spoken for but also not made of drywall and has done the math on this study hall called the book business--mostly women, all smart and articulate and eager to argue Lessing v. Lethem. So when outsiders ask why this career choice and expect replies like "I love books or "I'm an alcoholic," truth compels us to answer...

"To hang with hot chicks."

Surplus hotness is only the most obvious reason TST pals with authors Meg White Clayton and Michelle Richmond. Ms. Clayton and your narrator share a hometown, Ms. Richmond and TST a favorite movie theatre. Both write books with a demographic profile about as similar to ours as whipped cream is to a bucket of tar.

We hardly care. Just this spring, we've taken to crashing all-female bookclub meetings chanting "Clayton! Richmond! Clayton! Richmond!" only to vanish into the night like The Shadow after snatching a cupcake from the coffee table.

The pair have been paired for events showcasing the May paperback release of their respective novels, Clayton's The Wednesday Sisters and Richmond's No one You Know in Northern California. Both will be touring separately in the early summer, but, we presume, communicating via Wonder Twin Powers.

Minus the distracted swooning of teenage boys, Clayton/Richmond events tend to be laid back, quirky, and at times, awash in free brownies. Plan on a scrumptious read, during a long ice bath, afterward.

Alain De Botton
is our favorite sort of author: one with an endless curiosity who writes books which could all be subtitled "I wanted to learn more about X. So I did." Also has a name that could work as a gay porn star if you say it slowly.

Saying our name slowly just makes you sound narcoleptic. Or in the middle of reading William Gaddis.

Mr. De Botton applied that treatment to books about falling in love, Proust, architecture and status anxiety (which Brother of TST gave to him. We no longer wonder why.) His latest The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work I shouldn't have to explain.

ADB (we bff'd a paragraph ago is doing four ticketed-not-free events in the U.S. (NYC, LA, SF, and Seattle) June 8-11. Votes now being taken for the (big, diffuse) subject of his next book. Our vote? Walls: Those Things that Hold Other Things Up

Robert Goolrick's new novel The Reliable Wife is getting nice attention and cancels TST's theory that no man has ever written a novel with the word "Wife" in the title. Goolrick's got two dates on the east coast this summer if you'd like to ask him yourself why. Or check his Adam's Apple for proof.


That no one told us about Mystery and Imagination, a fantasy/horror/mystery/gumshoes and dragons establishment in Glendale, CA is a crime on par with the cancellation of Alf. We haven't yet visited, but, until then, friends, nothing makes us happier than a bookstore name that vibrates instead of hanging dead like wet laundry.

You see, Bookstores, like law firms, are not great namers. Were it up to us, we'd call for an immediate ban the "Book + Dumb pun on book" formula ("Buy the Book", "Booked up", "Throw The Book At Em')) or any other moniker possessing the sex appeal of a slanket.

But something exciting happens at a place called "Mystery and Imagination." Something mysterious. And imaginative. Someplace worth going on a first date because, wempromise you dear reader, no one plans a romantic evening at "Bookmart of Greater Suburbia" expecting anything more than a handshake.

Speaking of, Kepler"s Books (Dullsville. How about Kepler's Books and Live Pythons?) in Menlo Park, CA has a great idea--A book club mixer, where club members get to hang out with local authors in a non-hushy non-public radio setting. Meaning conversation, "What are you reading" suggestions and enough cheese cubes to tile a master bath.

Independent bookstores have it tough these days. And a giraffe is tall. The more its community associates a bookstore with gathering rather than solely retail transactions, the more that bookstore puts its best foot and most competitive foot forward.

It's crazy, mad work. But it beats Death by Discount.

Just from asking around, missing the LA Times Book Festival this past weekend was the social equivalent of toilet paper on the shoe. Perhaps there are podcasts and/or videos of key events (and perhaps pigs wear earrings)? Or perhaps next year we make a TST slumber party out of it and storm Westwood together?

I'll be in footie pajamas. Who's with me?


Few things make TST happier than a sex scandal, particularly a good old fashioned one. Meaning if the shocker happened 80 years ago, where the offending parties wore bowler hats and a bare ankle could start a riot, well kiss us in the morning and just walk away!

Our collective knees thus weakened when professor Paula Uruburu (palindrome author names are now a requirement for all books we recommend. When we depart, immediately seek out Nan Race Car, author of "Repaper Level") alerted us to her new book American Eve: Evelyn Nesbit, Stanford White: The Birth of the "It" Girl and the Crime of the Century.

It looks at a chapter of Americana every gossip glutton should know: On the evening of June 25, 1906, on the roof of Madison Square Garden, Harry Kendall Thaw, son of a Pittsburgh coal barron, shot celebrity architect Stanford White in the face, killing him instantly. White, perhaps the biggest slut in New York society at the time, had romanced Thaw's wife, Evelyn Nesbitt, a famous actress/model. The resulting trial, hyped to the heavens by the newspapers of the era was called "The Trial of the Century."

Professor Uruburu's doing several events in the New York metro era through June and July. Allow us to humbly recommend bringing pop guns and lively requests for reenactments.

If only American history had these sorts of highlights when TST was in high school, he probably would have spent less of it arguing over whether Crockett could beat up Tubbs. The win usually went to Tubbs, who probably could have wasted Henry Kendall Thaw with one hand in his pocket.