A patron came in today asked for a book recommendation. (I know! A book question! Not an internet question, a tax form question, a "where's the bathroom?" question, or a "how do I use the printer?" question. I turn into a big overenthusiastic puppy with reader's advisory qusestions!) Here's how it went:
Patron: I'm looking for a good book to read.
Me: [walking him out to the fiction aisles] What types of books do you usually like?
Patron: I don't read much, but I want to get back into it. I read Of Mice and Men a long time ago and liked it. What would you recommend?
Me: Cool! What kind of movies do you enjoy?
Patron: Y'know, just tell me what you like to read. You look like you've read a lot of books.
Me: [hedging] Well. . .it depends on what I'm in the mood for. I tend to read all over the place.
Patron: What have you read recently?
Me: I just read this really interesting book about identity theft and the nature of self. It's called Await Your Reply. You might like that. Or, have you ever heard of Neil Gaiman?
Me: He writes these really creepy/cool novels. That movie Coraline was based on one of his children's books. [I hand him American Gods.] This one's good--about what would happen if all the gods of ancient mythology were still around hanging out undercover in the U.S. Or you might like his Sandman series of graphic novels [rush to the graphic novels section and back]. These are neat--look they're narrated by Dream who's like the personification of dreams. [Flip through the illustrations with him.]
Patron: Yeah! That's rad. So what else do you like to read?
Me: Well, you gotta love Sherman Alexie [searching madly for The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven which, of course, is checked out]. Here try The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian. Anything by Alexie is funny and sad and true. He writes really great characters who are just trying to make it through life. You'll love this guy!
Patron: Cool, thanks! [eagerly takes the books from me]. How about that guy who was writing during World War I. Really famous.
Patron: Yeah! That guy! He sounds like a really cool dude. A real man's man, y'know?
Me: [thinking to myself, "yeah, and a misogynist"]: Well, here's The Old Man and the Sea if you want a quick taste of his writing. He really makes you feel this guy's struggle against the marlin he's attempting to catch. Or we have Farewell to Arms if you want something a little more in-depth about World War I.
Patron: I really enjoy tragic heroes. You know, guys who try really hard to do the right thing and die.
Me: Hmm. Let me think on that and get back to you. [He continues browsing.]
I end up giving him The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey by Walter Mosley, because to me, Pitypapa is totally a tragic hero--does what he has to do in the face of death. I also recommend Grapes of Wrath since he liked Of Mice and Men and Tom Joad is a tragic hero, of sorts. Plus, I throw in The Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walter for good measure because it made me laugh, it's current and Matthew Prior is a tragic hero in his own way.
This whole time, the guy is very appreciative and asking for more. Making eye contact. We're having a good discussion about books. Really, he seems genuinely interested and engaged.
Then he asks to use the internet. Talks on his phone and checks his Facebook for an hour. And LEAVES WITHOUT checking out a SINGLE BOOK!
Where did I go wrong? I wouldn't have even minded if he'd taken something I hadn't recommended. Just leave with something, dude. <sigh>
While we're on the subject, though, do any of you have recommendations for books with tragic heroes?