Every time I read or watch an old favorite like The Princess Bride, I notice something new, and last night's outdoor viewing was no exception. (You haven't lived until you've done a communal recitation of the "mawwidge" monologue on the waterfront on a summer night with a bunch of good friends.) This time, TPB reminded me of bookselling.
Most of us have awwwwed over the exchanges between the recently departed Peter Falk and an adorably young Fred Savage as Grandpa tries to convince his feverish grandson to give a book about true love a chance. "Murdered by pirates is good," little Fred eventually concedes. The book sets up a similar dynamic, with a fictionalized younger version of author William Goldman demanding to know if his father's favorite book has any sports in it. "Fencing," returns his father. "Fighting. Torture. Poison. True love. Hate. Revenge..."
I have variations on this conversation all the time in the bookstore. My suggestions are always books that I think the reader will enjoy; I'm not trying to make a tricky sales pitch. But readers and (more often, honestly) adult book-bestowers come with biases about what the right book is and isn't, which puts me in the position of the father and grandfather in the two Princess Brides, looking for the angle that will make a book most appealing. I've found that Graceling is hand-sellable to boys and their gift-buyers (and even had one customer come back and say he loved it), but the more I can say about Katsa before arriving at a gender pronoun, the more likely I am to win the customer over. And Frannie K. Stein? The mother of a sci-fi-and-horror-loving second-grade boy was convinced to give the heroine a chance only when I said, "Yeah, but it's a science girl."
As you wish, readers. As you wish.