Godfather’s Books in Astoria put in another big order for A Nice Piece of Astoria. That makes just over 500 copies sold there in less than three years, which has got to be some kind of record for one book for a bookstore in a small town. In my mind, it is. I truly appreciate their loyalty to me and keeping all my titles on a shelf right inside the front door. That placement has been the key. Below is an abbreviated version of the essay about Godfather’s that appeared in the Astoria book. Thank you again, Godfather’s. I will never forget your generosity toward me and hope we can collaborate again like we did on The Gigging Life and the magazine for the alternative school. I miss hanging out in there.
I first met Charlie Holboke, owner and proprietor of Godfather’s Books and Espresso on Commercial Street, in the fall of 2003. I had self-published my debut book, a collection of essays about Oregon’s unique legacy of publicly-owned beaches, and was hawking them in person to virtually every independent bookstore in the state. It was brutal, unfamiliar marketing work for me back then and occasionally I was rudely rebuffed by the owner of an Oregon independent bookstore who refused to buy a book directly from an Oregon independent publisher standing right in front of them, instead demanding that I use an out-of-state corporate distributor, ship the book out of Oregon to later be sold in Oregon, thereby consigning my publishing business to losing an additional and unacceptable five percent on the sale. The naked hypocrisy of it all was pretty bracing, but then again, it was merely the beginning of my education into the naked hypocrisy of the world of so-called progressive publishing.
Charlie was incredibly kind to me that day, bought five copies, and cut me a check on the spot. We’ve since become friends and I hope one day to help him publish his short stories.
Really, though, Godfather’s is exponentially more than a bookstore in roughly the same proportion as a book printed in Oregon and distributed exclusively through Oregon independent bookstores (and out the back of the author’s truck) is exponentially more than a book printed in China and distributed through Costco.
I liken Godfather’s to a literary curiosity shop, not for the literary curiosities mind you, but for the human ones. If ever there was a perfect mise-en-scene for a reality show or situation comedy about an indie bookstore in rural America in the throes of the dying rural indie bookstore, Godfather’s is it. There is no competition. None. Film it on location. Hire the employees (they’ll barter for food and drink and trinkets). No script. No producer egging anyone on. Everyone just does what they already do. Naturally, I’d play myself, the eccentric local author obsessed with Oregon historical minutia who
visits every day to face his books, position his stock at eye level five feet inside the front entrance, and surreptitiously relegate titles from the famous, non-self-published, progressive authors to the dark recesses of Christian or vampire fiction.
I once asked Charlie his philosophy for running Godfather’s, which opened in 1993. Over the years, I hadn’t seen any rational management strategy at work and the store weathered on anyway.
“I let it run itself,” he said. “I let it go where it wants to take me.”
One time, I also commented to Charlie that the existential dynamic of Godfather’s cast and crew very much reminded me of High Fidelity, the novel and movie.
He laughed. “I’ve read the book and seen the film. I can relate to it.”
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