Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Generally Horrible Questions: A Bookseller Profile of Nan Graves Goodman

Just like the new store profile feature we've started on our half-assed little blog, Gianna and I have decided to start a regular feature about some of the outstanding booksellers out there.  These people are the taste-makers; chances are if you're reading a great book that's not written by James Patterson, a bookseller was instrumental at some point along the way in getting that book into your hands. These people deserve our love because their passion for reading makes our BookLand possible.

First up, Nan Graves Goodman.  Nan works at the legendary Lemuria Books in Jackson, Mississippi, and is in charge of the reading group there.  Nan is one of my go-to booksellers for literary fiction.  If it's nominated for a major award, chances are that Nan's read it.  Nan writes for the Lemuria blog and helps bring a touch of class to Lemuria every day that she's there.  For that reason (or maybe because we just forgot), we didn't ask Nan about her tattoos.

Here you go, some generally horrible questions for Nan Graves Goodman.

1. How did you get into the bookselling business?
Nan and Misty, her pooch.
When I was just out of graduate school in English, my first job was with University Press of Mississippi. Jump forward about 25 years,and on a spontaneous whim, I barged into John Evan's office (no appointment!) about
5 1/2 years ago, and said, "Hey, John, let me work here this summer, okay?" Since he had been my son's soccer and baseball coach years before, we had been friends for quite a while. John was clearly flustered, but said,"Okay, but you'll have to go through the interview process."
So......I liked the part time book store summer job A LOT!" Long story short.....here I am still, 5 1/2 years later and loving it as much as I did that first summer in 2006! My love of great literature is fulfilled in the fiction room, an English major's dream! 
[John Evans is the owner of Lemuria Books and a bit of a character himself.  That Nan allowed her children near John lends itself to jokes and possibly some sort of insinuation about lower standards for child welfare in the South, but we won't go there....oh, wait.....]

2. What's the best experience you've had working at the bookstore?

By far my best experiences come in talking to the authors one on one and picking their brains as to "why they did what they did" with the characters, plots, settings, and symbols!

3. What book(s) changed your life?

Now that's a hard one....I'm a Faulkner and Percy lover who has added new authors such as Tim Gautreaux, Ron Rash, and Geraldine Brooks to my list. I used to say that Mists of Avalon was my all time favorite book which changed my life, but I'm not sure I would say that now 100%.Although it has been way long since I read it, I was also impressed by Frank Conroy's Body and Soul, and recently I was quite moved by Julie Orringer's Invisible Bridge.

4. What are you currently reading?

I am presently reading: Charles Frazier's Nightwoods, Chuck Palahniuk's Damned, Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad, Michael Ondaatje's Cat's Table,and Erin Morgenstern's Night Circus, and I just finished Diana Abu-Jaber's Birds of Paradise and Amor Towles Rules of Civility. Did I say that I have to be reading more than one book at a time?

5. What's your #1 pick for reading groups?
We really enjoyed discussing Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann,and America, America by Ethan Canin.

Hello, beautiful....
6. Would you rather....Jonathan Franzen, Jonathan Lethem, Jonathan Safran Foer?
Jonathan Franzen
[Interesting.  I admit that I like the nerdy glasses too...and Safran Foer is too short for me.  I'm inclined to agree, but I don't think JFranz and I would share more than a fling.]

7. What's the biggest lie ever told by a sales rep?
"You're just going to love this book................." 

8. What's your second favorite bookstore?
Square Books, Oxford, Mississippi 

9. Gianna or Liz?
Well, that's unfair, isn't it? Both of these go-getter, brilliant, fun people have made and are making great marks upon Lemurians. We miss seeing Gianna and just love it when Liz brings us those wonderful ARCs [Advance Reader's Copies] and chats it up with us and gets stranded by ice storms and tornadoes A LOT in Jackson, Mississippi! Does Liz have that kind of effect upon the weather in Texas, Gianna?
[For the record, one of my accounts caught fire as I pulled up.  Be glad I've only brought inclement weather to Mississippi.  And the correct answer to this question is always, ALWAYS "Liz."]

10. The most depressing book you've ever read?
Hands down: Robert Olen Butler's new release A Small Hotel. I really, really loved his satire on Hell, titled Hell, however.

11. I've never read ____________.  And I'm so ashamed.
War and Peace!

12. Celebrity Memoir (Death is not an option): Snooki, Justin Bieber, Paris Hilton, Kardashian Konfidential. 
Don't EVEN make me think about such nonsense!

13. Dumbest question ever asked by a customer?
"Do you know if Amazon has that book?????"...............Uh! Go take a hike, customer! Lemuria rules!

14. I wanted to be a ___________ when I grew up.
[I'm going to assume this answer opens the door for you to inherit Zorro.  Congratulations!]

15. ________________ is my favorite book ever.
I love Faulkner's A Light in August, but I'm not sure that I have an absolute favorite. That would be like asking someone to choose a favorite pet or flower, wouldn't it? (only pet lovers and gardeners will understand this answer.....)
[...Fluffinella, world's greatest cat, may she rest in peace.  And daffodils.]



  1. I love that picture of nan with her dog! -Lisa of Lemuria Books