Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Great American Book Tour: Week 8, Installment 4

Some years ago Dr. Amy Rosenfield, a GP in between practices and a born bibliophile, decided to switch professions. Like me, Amy loves a good story – she’s a fantastic storyteller herself – so she took a job as a bookseller at Joseph Beth’s Cleveland indie, started several store-based bookclubs, and, in general, dedicated her life to reading, discussing and promoting books. Minutes after my event at Joseph Beth’s ended, Cleveland was hammered by a violent thunderstorm. I didn’t even know it was raining, however, until I left the store. I was too caught up in Amy Rosenfield’s personal take on the opening of one of her – and my- all-time favorite novels: Moby Dick. “You know,” she said, “when I reread the beginning chapter as an adult, I realized that Ishmael is depressed. He’s actually contemplating suicide. So what does he do? Well, he goes to sea to try the geographical cure. Now I imagine him as an old man, sitting in the back of a tavern, telling his great story to a young version of himself, a young Ismael. “Call me Ismael . . . . ”

At this point, gigantic jags of orange lightning lit up the sky. Tornado warnings were coming over someone’s cell phone, but I was so caught up in Amy Rosenfield’s retelling of Melville’s grand saga that I’d have sat there listening if the entire city of Cleveland had blown away and here, I said to myself, right here and now, this is why I set out on my great American book tour, my own geographical quest for readers and books and stories. (“Call me – Howard?” That doesn’t sound right.) Thank you, Herman Melville. Thank you, Dr. Amy and your indie colleagues, including, especially, Jon Welch of Talking Leaves Books in Buffalo, where I concluded the nationwide swing of my tour two nights later. First, though, came Howard’s Excellent and Totally Inexplicable Adventure in Batavia. Please see my blog tomorrow for an account of this eerie and unaccountable experience.

1 comment:

Amy said...

What generous and kind comments, Frank. The sad story is that Joseph-Beth went into Chapter 11 last Fall and after a decade in Cleveland, the store closed on December 30. It was a nice run, so I can't complain. Just mourn its passing.
Best, Amy R