Walls & Wallaces: Author Reading and a New Mural

Daniel Wallace arrived at Circle City Books Saturday afternoon and kept an audience spellbound with an artful reading of the first chapter of his new book, The Kings and Queens of Roam. Wallace’s appearance as the chief feature of our Grand Opening was a complete sensation for several reasons. First of all, if an author has a distinctive voice, and Wallace does, he can suffuse a reading with the inflection and tone the story requires. Second, he has a gift for inviting an audience into his world and making it feel welcome. And third, his writing, wry and ironic, smoothly unfolding in bold, picturesque sentences, sparkles when read aloud. The result was an audience eager for more but facing a six-month wait until the book is finally released. When it comes out this spring, it will likely catch the slipstream of the new musical adaptation of “Big Fish” that hits Broadway in May. I was loaned Wallace’s galley and though I haven’t finished it, I’ve read enough to know I won’t be the only reader enthralled by it.

Otherwise, the success of our opening was mostly due to my wife, Virginia, who organized the whole day. She solicited local businesses that generously contributed 25 door prizes, and is still notifying the winners. She ordered 20 new copies of “Big Fish” for the signing, but on Thursday it seemed impossible that they would arrive on time. Because of the hurricane, the shipping center in New Jersey was shut down Tuesday and Wednesday, though UPS wasn’t picking up in New Jersey anyway. But, somehow, the books made good time on Thursday and arrived here Friday. In the end, everyone who wanted one got a signed book.

There were times on Saturday when there was gridlock around the register. It would help, of course, if I learned how to use the register properly; today it froze up after an inadvertent key was struck, and I had to wake up a technician in Mumbai to sort it out.

Today saw the first brushstrokes of our mural applied to our building’s north wall. My daughter Bailey, her friend Emily, and the artist Michael Brown roughed out six books, and by day’s end, had finished painting them. My role is to pick out the books – titles and authors – that will be immortalized on our wall. Each book is a foot or two wide, and between six and eight feet tall. The titles will be completely readable, so I need to be thoughtful in my choices. Mostly I will use North Carolina writers, but I think Faulkner needs a prominent place; what Southern writer over the past 75 years doesn’t have some Faulkner running in his veins? There are, however, more local writers than there is space on the wall; I fear that somewhere along the way this may produce hard feelings.

Circle City Mural
Circle City Mural

I haven’t taken a day off from this project since my father’s funeral in August. I am not complaining; I could take time off if I wanted to. But there is so much left to do before I’ll feel as if the store is a finished product. And I don’t want to go out of business thinking that I might have succeeded if I hadn’t been so slack. I still have thousands of books in storage that need to be sorted, priced, shelved, discarded or filed away to sell later. I still have no inventory system. I have barely begun to deal with accounting, other than logging daily totals. I have no advertising strategy. I have assembled several hundred email addresses from customers that I’ll need to enter and use. I need to organize a system for dealing with the various requests customers have made for books I didn’t have on hand. And, of course, I have to keep finding books. Always, more books.

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