“One's work may be finished some day, but one's education never.” -- Alexandre Dumas père
And so another year's reading to some purpose other than my own is done. In a "teleconference" of surprising efficiency -- which may have had a great deal to do with most of us being already at work this morning -- the committee of which I am a member concluded our business until next year. To begin, there were the usual good humored greetings, as we all seem genuinely to enjoy one another, a bit of book chat, and then a last round of voting, tabulations, and... done. With little argument as to the final list, and only one voice raised politely in the mildest protest, we did that which we had been instructed to do, said a fond farewell to those of us not returning to the committee next year, thanked our retiring chairperson, congratulated the next, and signed off in short order. The whole final business took all of a half hour.
It was rather wonderful.
Before this brief confab was even convened, I knew that at least two of the books I'd championed would go no further. There had been mutterings, not unfriendly, but skeptical, when last I'd ballyhooed, but my fellow booksellers were sweetly indulgent then and promised to have another go at my favorites. Some time thereafter an email came from "B" dismissing both. Someone else concurred, even as I mounted my high and or hobby horse to reply, and by the time I'd sent off my stirring defense, I already knew. My darlings were doomed. (Today, one dear soul voted with me on one of these in what may have been a kind gesture. I took it as such anyway, bless her; a friendly "Polo" to my "Marco," if no more. Sincere thanks for that.) I was already resigned to seeing them go. Such is the business of committees.
And that, I think, was the magic of this year's crew. The books that were selected are all uniformly good. Honestly. There is not so much as a token compromise in the lot. We were quite lucky in the books we had to consider this year. But good as the books were, this easy process could only have happened in the friendly and respectful atmosphere created and maintained by our excellent chairperson, and with such an amiable group. It worked this well also, of course, because cranky old parties such as myself did not insist on extending arguments in defiance of silence, or extenuating endlessly after the verdict had clearly already gone against. In other words, I wasn't such a curmudgeon as I might have been. (One dear woman today, when I made passing reference to an earlier, equally positive entry here on my committee work, claimed to have read not only that one entry, but elsewhere on this blog. Having flattered me thus, she went on to suggest this project of mine might better be named "Cranky Old Bookseller Guy Says Just What He Thinks." I choose to accept that as a compliment, intended or no. I admit, I like the woman all the better for having said it. She's a darling, really. We've promised, perhaps when we are both at the annual bookseller's shindy in Portland next summer, to have a slumber party together, so I could hardly claim any insult. I promised that we would do each other's hair -- not that I have much nowadays but what's on my chin -- and play 45s all night on our record-player and talk about boys. Her giggle is delicious, may I just say.)
It would seem that I am, at this rather late date, learning how to play well with others at last.
I don't think it unreasonable to think that next year, just about the time I finish my term on the committee for good, if again we are just this lucky with both books and booksellers, I may be able to claim something like a job well done, if never the title of Miss Congeniality. (But then, nobody really likes that dumb girl anyway, do they?)