Huge Literary Night in Portland
Last night was fantastic! I gave away 20 copies of Just Kids by Patti Smith at Portland’s Music Millennium in honor of World Book Night. It was wonderful to say “This book is free. It won the National Book Award. Go ahead and take a copy. Enjoy!”
It made perfect sense for me to choose this iconic independent record store to pass out copies of Smith’s book. For one, the author is a legendary singer, songwriter and poet and got started around the same time as Music Millennium at the end of the sixties. For another, Smith has some history with the store. On one of her trips to Portland a few years ago, she gave a free performance there. I heard quite a few Smith stories of her visit while I passed out books: “She rode in my car, she signed my CD, she sang some great songs…”
The main reason it was such a good idea is that I love Music Millennium. I grew up in Chicago-area record stores. My friends owned a few good ones, but nothing like MM. It’s far and away the best of the best, and I’m pretty sure it’s the oldest music store in the Pacific Northwest. It’s owned by the wonderful Terry Currier. The staff knows all things music, and if they don’t know, they’ll find out for you. They are very friendly and come in all ages and backgrounds so everyone feels comfortable browsing the bins. While I was there, someone called to find out how to open tune their steel guitar and Jack walked them through it. He happens to be an accomplished musician on the side. Or his job at MM may be on the side; I’m not sure which it is, really.
Customers were surprised to receive a free book, but all were thankful. One man said he had it on reserve at the library. Several said they had been wanting to read it since it came out. One person had never heard of it or Patti Smith, but became very excited about it as I told her what the book was about. Only one person walked away book-less – he decided it wasn’t his thing, but that was cool.
The icing on the cake was the live music provided by The Northstar Session, a Southern California rock band with wonderful romantic harmonies. You may have heard them on NBC’s Parenthood. Very reminiscent of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, and The Beach Boys.
World Book Night was a tremendous success. Thousands of people gave away thousands of books all across America. It was supported by American book publishers, booksellers, libraries, book distributors and Barnes & Noble. Check out this valuable resource and think about taking part in the giveaway next year.
One other event that made last night such a great lit night in Portland was the announcement of the Oregon Book Award winners. Huge congratulations go to Patrick De Witt for The Sisters Brothers, Emily Whitman for Wildwing, and Joe Sacco for Footnotes in Gaza. The Readers’ Choice award went to Lidia Yuknavitch for her memoir, The Chronology of Water, one of my favorites.
Click on the cover to read my coverage of her reading last year at Broadway Books.