30 July 2013

Third and Fifteen

I haven't been in a bookstore in awhile, a terrible shame I know. This past weekend we slipped into McNally Jackson to see if they carried my trusty fantasy football magazine, Fantasy Football Index. I didn't have high hopes because well, McNally Jackson isn't the type of establishment to carry fantasy sports anything.

This despite Fantasy Football Index being the most literary fantasy football magazine of them all, meaning it has (relatively) dense text, non-gratuitous graphics, and enough content to be worth eight bucks. Over the course of the season, I'll dog-ear it and probably read through everything at least three times. Sometimes when I'm back home, I dig into old fantasy magazines I've kept around and take a spin through the Nineties, when Steve Young and Sterling Sharpe ruled the gridiron. Oh those were good times.

Earlier this morning, over computer chat, my friend asked what I was so busy with. "Fantasy," I shot back quickly, and she assumed I was doing book research or productive. It wasn't clear until much later into our disjointed conversation that most of my morning had been spent looking into potential fantasy football trades. If only I were so dedicated to actual writing, I would probably have finished five hundred projects by now.

Then again, some of my greatest work has gone into maintaining blogs for my fantasy leagues. Last season, I finally got into this sixteen team keeper organized by a few of my college friends. They had me on the waitlist for years and owners almost never dropped out. Seriously, these guys discuss passing their franchises down to their kids. Well, I finally got into Maize and Blue last year -- taking over the defending champion's team no less -- and promised them I'd be a one man blogging machine. Since I never break any promises, like ever, I spent an hour or two doing heavy duty research and then wrote the first article of the season, a 750 word opus about a blockbuster for Russell Wilson. Keep in mind that this is a fake league, with an audience of maybe sixteen people, give or take. Some might say that my writing energies are all focused on the wrong places, but to them I say, "Who cares, it's fun!"

During the last NFL season, Alex Pappademas, a non-football fan, did a column for Grantland about following the Cincinnati Bengals. In it he talks about everything but football, dropping references to Piotr Rasputin, James Ellroy, and Steely Dan, among many other wonders. His column was one of my favorite football reads last year and I'd consider aping the idea -- much like I tried to copy Nick Hornby's "Stuff I've Been Reading" Believer series -- but it's hard to watch football with no television. And I generally abhor watching sports in bars. Someone gift me a TV, thanks.

I wish I was better at writing about fantasy, since really that's what my million practice words were probably spent on. I've been playing fantasy for too long to suck this much -- at both the writing and playing parts. I submitted last year to Grantland's Fantasy Island writing competition but didn't even get to sniff a jockstrap. Oh well. I guess it's good I failed since it sounded like a lot of work. And we know how I feel about that word.

Also, I like it when Stephen Elliot interjects fantasy football asides into his Daily Rumpus. I'd like to interject more fantasy stuff into my conversations but there really isn't anything more boring than hearing about somebody else's fantasy team. Unless you're a good writer I guess, like Pappademas and Elliot, then you can talk about anything. So I guess I'll just stick to whatever it is I write about...

Wait, I got sidetracked. I was supposed to be talking about books, not football. What I wanted to focus on was showrooming in bookstores. Actually, not even focus, just admit to that mortal sin. Yes, most of the time when I'm in a bookstores nowadays, I browse real fast and jot down titles of stuff that I'll look up in full later. And sometimes if I'm feeling especially lazy, I'll just take a photo of the cover. I know it's bad, because I always do it surreptitiously, with a glance to see if employees are watching. And not the kind of bad where you feel so good afterwards. This is just bad bad, the guilty kind of bad.

Showrooming is ruining retail, it's leading to the demise of brick and mortar stores, etc. Where will people go to read books if everyone shops at Barnes & Noble but buys discounted online!? These are great questions I have no answers for. All I know is that I showroom and rarely buy a book in stores anymore unless it's a must-have right then or a person I know wrote it. I don't know if this reveal will lead me to being excommunicated from the writing community. Are we supposed to not participate in showrooming? What's the right move here?

Either way, I think I'm super good at picking out intriguing stuff on the fly because I snapped six photos and I batted a perfect one thousand. I picked up Thomas Israel Hopkins' The Year of Living Autobiographically because, well, the title. And the premise. Hopkins wrote one status update per day -- within Facebook's imposed 420 characters -- but never posted it, instead collecting it into this slim self-published volume. I only read a few entries but was charmed by the premise and execution.

Then, with time winding down and dinner reservations waiting, I nabbed photos of the really intriguing Inferno (A Poet's Novel) by Eileen Myles and The Chairs Are Where The People Go by Misha Glouberman with Sheila Heti. On the way out, we swung by the middle grade section right by the stairs and I was sucked in by the covers for What We Found in the Sofa and How It Saved the World, Michael Edna's Momo, and After Iris, another book about a dead identical twin. Identical twins dying is so a trend right now, be careful all you lookalikes!

The lesson I learned during my foray into the bookstore was that covers matter, placement matters (all the books I grabbed were face out on shelves or on tables), showrooming is wrong, and um, buy your fantasy sports magazines at the bodega on the corner of St. Mark's Place. Also, I still don't own any of the aforementioned titles because I'm backed up on everything book related. I can't buy anything until I make at least a small dent in my to-read pile.

Included in the post photo is evidence of my crimes -- those are my thumbs. I have a whole collection of these on my computer from all the showrooming I voluntarily participate in. I'm going to author jail. Oh wait, tautology. Or redundant. Eh, whatever. Closing thought: If the punishment for writers showrooming and buying on Amazon was poor sales for their work, would anyone ever do it? My unwitting answer was obviously "yes." I apparently struck some sort of reverse Faustian bargain. Currently I have no knowledge or power. Maybe I'm destined to live forever or something. Otherwise I demand a refund. Or at least a deep discount.