Saturday, December 8, 2012

Generally Horrible Questions: Sarah "Buddha" Brown

Sarah's haunt--Changing Hands Bookstore
It's been awhile since we harassed a bookseller, so we decided to mortify quiz Sarah Brown, one of the key players at Changing Hands bookstore in Tempe, Arizona.  Changing Hands is a bookish oasis in the desert and worth the trip if you're hanging out in that part of the world.  Without further ado...

Generally Horrible Questions: Sarah "Buddha" Brown

1. How’d you get into the book business? What’s your job at Changing Hands?
I got into the book business by way of the cafe - I started working in the Chapbook Cafe in
Schuler Books in Okemos, Michigan, and soon moved to the bookstore. When I moved to
Arizona to be a nanny for some family friends, I got a part-time job at Changing Hands, and I’ve
been here ever since. [What happened with the nanny gig? There better be a prison story tied to this tangent (either you or the kid).]

Now that's a title.
Today I am an adult buyer at Changing Hands, and also the Used Book Manager (I run our trade counter). It’s great to be in the unique position of seeing what sells on both the used and new
sides of our business!

2. What’s the coolest part of working at Changing Hands? 
The coolest part of working at Changing Hands is working at the trade counter. Every day some new, hilarious, random title shows up, and we get to marvel at how ridiculous things get published - like a book on eating disorders called Have Your Cake and Eat it Too. Or Antonia Quirke’s unfortunately titled memoir Choking on Marlon Brando. (I know!!!!) We also find funny pictures and keepsakes that people have left in books - it’s what renews my faith in humanity after a long day of retail. [Oh my god, we need to review Choking on Marlon Brando.]

3. Describe your oddest customer interaction. 
Oh boy, how to choose the weirdest customer interaction... I had a man ask me for books on sexual tourism in Asia once; that was pretty uncomfortable. Also, I rang up an elderly lady who was buying an exercise book called Kick Your Way to Better Health that had a bunch of people doing karate kicks on the front cover.  I was hoping it was a gift, but she said, “Now to take it home and see if it works!” I still feel that transaction may have resulted in a broken hip.

4. What book(s) changed your life? 
I think this may be a tie going to Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian
Chronicles. Reading Fahrenheit 451 at age 12 was such a powerful experience, really exemplifying the power of literature to be transformative and political. The Martian Chronicles is just so original in both format and subject, it just blew the boundaries off of story and plot structure for me as a gal.

5. I’ve never read _________ and I’m so ashamed. 
I’ve never read Proust and I’m so ashamed. Hopefully, having that statement in print will amplify the level of shame to such a degree that I will have read him by the end of next year.... [Note to blog: follow up next year. Further shame Sarah.]

6. I’ve read ___________ and I’m so ashamed. 
I’ve read the Twilight series, and I’m so ashamed. It was a bad time for me - I spent a week
sitting in front of my apartment drinking wine and reading those ridiculous books. The bonus was
getting to read Meyers’s inscription to her husband in the front of Eclipse where she thanks him
for his “willingness to eat out.” Editing anyone? [How to please us: mock Twilight. Good move there.]

7. Do you have any author crushes, and if so, are they restraining order worthy? 
Hmm... I would love to meet Denis Johnson and George Saunders, but I’d probably be able to
control myself around them, although I tend to say extremely idiotic things around celebrities I
Author Nick McDonnell, who
was about barely legal when
he published his first book.
admire... I did meet Nick McDonnell at a BEA party once and managed to sound fairly intelligent talking about his book, even though he was so handsome he glowed (Shimmered? There’s that Twilight influence)! So Nick’s the one who should be scared....

8. Liz or Gianna? 
Apologies to Gianna, but I will go with whom I know - Liz! (She keeps my bookseller crack supply coming - aka advance reader copies.)  [Also, the correct answer is always Liz.]

9. What book(s) has you buzzing this holiday season? 
My two favorite handsells right now are We Sinners by Hanna Pylvainen and Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins. We Sinners is an amazing first novel that is great because you can sell it to lit snobs as well as your typical ladies’ book group; we will be hearing a lot from Pylvainen in the future, I think. Battleborn is at the top of my list of great short story collections I’ve read recently, and it is what is truly great about western literature - nothing hokey about manifest destiny and wide-open skies, Watkins truly captures the unique spirit of the west for better or for worse... I am also excited to see how many copies of Chris Ware’s Building Stories we can sell -- it’s getting so much hype, but man that sucker is HUGE! ["We Sinners" is the name of Gianna's other blog, and frequently she posts sentences there like "man that sucker is HUGE!"  Just kidding.  Don't Google that.]

10. Your nickname is “Buddha.” Care to assign deity nicknames to us? (Also, you might want to explain the Buddha thing.) 
That's Sarah on the left, her grandpa on the right.
We think she might be a felon.  What's up with the fencing
around the fireplace? Maybe she's a fan of arson?
(See: Fahrenheit 451)
Ah, the Buddha thing. It is always hilarious to see the customers’ faces in line when I get paged to the registers! It’s a long story, having to do with me sitting in the middle of a highway cross-legged when I was 12. Been called Buddha ever since. How about if I call you guys Thor and Loki? [Liz insists on being Loki.]

11. The strangest place you’ve read a book? 
The strangest place I’ve read a book was hiding behind a tree stump when I ran away from home a long time ago. [Hopefully the running away was tied to hiding from the po-po after that nanny job went horribly wrong.]

12. How much would we (by which Liz means “Gianna”) have to pay you to record a dramatic reading of Fifty Shades of Grey that we can post to the internet? I would gladly do this for free! [That is definitely the right answer.  Gianna needs to be spending her money on Christmas gifts for Liz.]

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