While the Babu was away, other, more conscientious bloggers were working hard for a living. Bookslut Jessa Crispin took on the assignment from hell:
There used to be some sort of myth that a bookstore was the best place to meet a man. But last time I was in a bookshop a fifty-year-old with a nasty sunburn sat across from me as I read my Francine Prose and leered when I accidentally made eye-contact—and that’s the closest I’ve come to “meeting a man” in a bookstore. And yet, when I read that the Book Cellar, a local independent in Chicago that sells wine and cheese along with books, was hosting a speed-dating night I was actually pleased: Shy readers meeting other shy readers! That actually sounds like a good idea!
Or maybe not:
During the break, I wandered by the line for the bathroom, and the women looked shell-shocked. “How’s it going?” I asked. Women nearly crumpled into piles on the floor. “Who are these people?” one woman holding an Alex Kotlowitz book asked me. Joanne had been quizzing the men about what their favorite books were, and the responses were interesting. “One said his favorite author is Donald Trump,” she told me. I guessed that had been a certain balding accountant, and I was right. “But he’s not even like a real accountant,” Joanne said, gripping my arm. “He’s in payroll.”
My favourite bookstore hearts-and-violins memory? Small, respectable bookstore, Lucknow, where a paunchy man wearing huge dark sunglasses in the middle of the day and sporting a red handkerchief in his shirt pocket plus a booger in the appropriate cavity sidled up to me. “You are reader?” I mumbled something vaguely affirmative. “You want to make friendship?” I answered distinctly, in the negative. “Ok, ok.”
Two minutes later, as I’m browsing stacks of Urdu poetry and memoirs, a hand rises up from behind the shelf. It’s holding a copy of The Story of O. “You have read this book? Very very good book. About woman and her life.” I glared at him and indicated I was busy. A minute later, another book was thrust before my eyes. A Nick Carter paperback, the one with the woman on her knees who’s paying particular attention to the hero’s belt. “You have read, no? Very very good book.” I ignored him. He disappeared for a while, clearly rethinking his strategy. Then he came back triumphantly with more local fare. This one was a Hindi pulp fiction classic–Pavitra Nari ki Ajeeb Kahani (The Unusual Adventures of a Virtuous Woman)–which featured a lady on the cover who leered, virtuously, out at the reader, clad in a perfectly inadequate blouse-and-lehenga outfit. She was very well-built. “You have read? This is very very good book..” he began.
This was in the pre-Suitable Boy and Sacred Games era, so I couldn’t find what I was looking for in the fiction section. There was, however, a massive atlas to hand. I hefted its weight meaningfully. “You have read this?” I said. “Very very good book. And if you don’t leave me alone, I’m going to hit you over the head with it.” Lothario looked deeply wounded, but he left.