57 1/2 Gigs + 1
|Dave Bidini |
On Nov 10, 2007, Dave Bidini, author of such books as On a Cold Road and Tropic of Hockey, and founding member of the Rheostatics, made a special all-day appearance in the store window at Pages Books & Magazines. Dave read from his new book Around the World in 57 1/2 Gigs - about traveling the globe in search of rock'n'roll - and he also played songs and signed books. You can read about Dave's many books by clicking on the cover images at right. And below, read Dave's account of his day as a Pages mannequin.
One writes a book, they print it, then the book sits on a shelf at a big-box bookstore, or on a table, if your publisher has invested money buying display rights at one of those stores. Weeks pass, maybe months, and then your book is removed from its big-box shelf and plunked in a shopping cart that is rolled to the back of a loading bay, where it sits unnoticed in the cart until a young person is summoned to fetch it for that curious shopgoer unsatisfied with Slash's new biography, for which the publisher has purchased display rights. The young person plunges their hands into a pyramid of yesterday's new releases stacked high in the shopping cart and retrieves your book, then walks it across the store to where the shopgoer waits turning their eroded debit card over and over in their jacket pocket. The book is bagged, then left, overnight, on the shopgoer's warm living room couch with a single lamp lit and the tv fzzzzing between cable frequencies in the early morning. And to think people ask me why I write...
Because of the nature of the industry - a torrent of books, a thinning reading public, societies more interested in gaming than literature - books are like so many puppies at the pound, staring out big-eyed and hopeful before losing cage-space to tomorrow's new titles. So as my new book, Around the World in 57 and a Half Gigs, was being stamped and greased in some midwestern production plant, I approached Glassy and Smitty and Reedsy (Pages' proprietor and his helpers, represented here by their imagined sporting nicknames) and asked whether they might lend me their storefront window for an afternoon, where I might stand - or at least, sit - and holler to the world - or, at least, the pedestrians of Queen Street - about my latest work, and the need for it to be rescued from orphancy. Because Pages is not a big-box store - and because the nature of managerial "process" here is to simply walk up to Glassy or Smitty or Reedsy and ask them a question - they promptly removed items from their window, cloaked its display shelf in black cloth, and cleared an area where I might sit and read from my book, which, I pronounced, would be completed in its entirety before the evening's sun had set. Glassy and Smitty and Reedsy laughed into their hands, but this only further steeled my determination. Lattes were ordered, water poured. Josh Glover, my publicist, screwdrivered together a stool that he'd bought from a screwdrivering-stool kit.
Dave Bidini in the Pages window
The stool was placed in the middle of the window. I wired up a small, six-channel p.a. system rented from a local music store and placed its two small speakers at the foot of the window. I tuned, then re-tuned my guitar. And then I started reading. I started with the ISBN number, dedication, epigram, and first chapter of the book. The first time I looked up through the window, I noticed that a small crowd had gathered on the sidewalk. The next time I looked up, they were gone and replaced by another. And so the afternoon went. Five hours later, one gaggle had given way to the next, an itinerant listening public stricken with a kind of literary bemusement: "Honey, look at the funny writer!"
At the beginning of the day - around 11:30 am - till around 2 pm, the sun heated the window and sent trickles of sweat from under my hat down to my ear. But then the heat softened, only to find my legs stiffening and throat drying after so many consecutive stool hours. Still, the crowd ensured that the event would be unboring. People stood close near a little gap at the edge of the glass and the entrance to the store and occasionally talked to me the way a child talks to a hamster, offering their newly-purchased books to be signed. I reached out for their books the way a hamster seizes a carrot spear: snatching it with consideration given to how it might serve me should I be forced to make a fire using the book's paper and cardboard in the frigid late hours of the day. But after realizing that two points of exit meant that I could leave anytime I wanted to, I inevitably handed the books back:
Dear Jeffrey (My Pal),
Please Don't Feed the Essayist.
The day passed and lots of books were sold. I never had to pee once. Weeks later, about fifty three tourists returned home and passed around photos of their visit, including curious images of the bizarre reading man. The day concluded, fittingly, with my son, Lorenzo, and his cousin, Luca, waging an imaginary light-sabre battle at the foot of the window as I read the last chapter of the book, a poignant excerpt that lands the narrative on the head of a pin. Nearing the end of the work, I pulled up the reigns, waved my hands over my head and thanked the pavement for coming out. Finishing the book would have meant spoiling its remarkable surprise ending. Besides, my ass hurt. Otherwise, it was a fine day. —Dave Bidini, December 2007
Dave Bidini is the author of nine books, including Around the World in 57 and 1/2 Gigs, Tropic of Hockey, and On a Cold Road. He is a renowned guitarist and singer, and a founding member of the Canadian rock band, the Rheostatics. Bidini wrote and hosted the Gemini Award-winning small-screen adaptation of Tropic of Hockey, called Hockey Nomad, which was first broadcast in January 2003. He lives in Toronto with his wife, Janet, and their two children.
See photos of Dave Bidini in the Pages Books & Magazines store window on our Flickr site.
(Photos above courtesy of Dave Bidnin and Miles Storey of torontoist.com.)