Book People book release party is enlightening experience for book lovers


Copies of Edward Carey's "Lungdon" awaiting the author's signature at a BookPeople event in Uncommon Objects on South Congress.

Gabrielle Wilkosz

There is no substitute for attending a Book People release party signing.

Cramming into small, bookish places with familiar strangers is a rite of passage and one of the lesser-known truths of being an Austinite.

So I am proud to announce that on Thursday, November 5th, I was baptized into this cult and I didn’t even read the book.

The novel was called “Lungdon” and the author is Edward Carey, a man with a delightful British accent and glasses with lenses so perfectly round, they demanded to be called spectacles.  

The two Book People staff, strangers, Carey and I met not in a reading room or the lobby of a bookstore, but in an antique shop with a large figurine of a cowboy riding a rabbit strapped to the building. You may know it because it is right down the street.

In the hour preceding his speech and the signing, Carey milled about quietly, maybe even shyly, as if he stumbled into the room by accident rather than the reality. Truthfully, he was in a room filled with admirers who read and loved his book, admirers who didn’t read but said they loved the book, and me.

I settled in among piles upon piles of antiques as the projector flickered on. A typewriter missing half its keys, two headless dolls and a painting of our Lady of Guadalupe with black eyes cushioned around me.

“We’re meeting here today at Uncommon Objects because as you know, ‘Lungdon’ is the final piece in a trilogy that tells us one thing: Objects have lives of their own,” Carey said.

The crowd hushed. I looked over at a costume Pickelhaube, the uniform helmet of Germans during WW1. I wondered if it was as curious as I was about what this Carey figure had to say.

“Everything in this room,” Carey said, “has a voice. The pillow you rest your head on at night? And the sheets? They have their own motives some good, some bad. Did you think you were safe? How naive!”

Everyone laughed.

Carey read from “Lungdon”and, meanwhile, his audience of forty adults shrank into small children, our shirts and pants becoming baggier and looser and larger. The tarnished hat stand and the antique chandelier he spoke of became so obviously riddled with life that I’m sure if the anatomies of the headless dolls were intact, even they would blush.

I was over the moon.

There’s a reason why cramming into small, bookish places with strangers is a rite of passage and one of the lesser-known truths of being an Austinite.

Being a child again isn’t for everyone. Once we grow up we think of ourselves as “enlightened” by empirical science. Silently reading from the business section of the Times or watching that documentary your worldly friend recommended over lunch is not only adult, but it’s proper.

We trick ourselves into thinking standard western intellectualism is upper echelon, the highest of highs, methodical, uniform and “grown up.” And maybe it is.

Maybe imagination offers a satisfaction like none other. Maybe it’s nice to walk a quarter mile on South Congress in the dark and be unashamedly afraid of the park bench and the light pole, if only for a night. There is no way to experience the joys of adulthood without a healthy integration of the imaginative benign.

In retrospect, I like how Carey reminded me of what I’ve always known. I’ll probably even read his book eventually.

In the meantime, if there’s one takeaway from the experience it’s this: there is no substitute for attending a Book People release party signing.

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