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Lauren Markham

For Me, With Love and Squalor

Illustration by Matt Chinworth

Lauren Markham | Longreads | June 2018 | 23 minutes (5,790 words)

One recent day, when it was raining and I was feeling particularly blue, I decided to visit my local bookstore. Though bookstores were once among my favorite places to spend time, ever since my own book was published eight months ago, trips into bookstores have mutated into sordid affairs. I’ll walk in the door, feign cool, casual, just your average browser, then drift over to the shelves in the way someone might sidle up to the bar with a good-looking mark in sight. I’m not really browsing, not just refilling my drink — I’m searching, quite shamefully, for my own book on the shelves.

When it’s there, with its beaming burnt-orange cover jammed somewhere near Norman Mailer, Stephane Mallarme, Katherine Mansfield, Javier Marías, I feel a blush of glee. But more often than not, it’s not on the shelves at all.

It turns out that just because you wrote a book doesn’t mean the bookstores will sell it. No matter what accolades my book has received, each visit to the bookstore feels a new test of my book’s worth — and my own.

That rainy day, I was sure that finding my book on the shelves would release me from my blueness. On the other hand, in the likely event that my book wasn’t there, I would have permission to sink lower, reclining into the indigo bleak. I stepped inside the store, delivering flecks of rain onto the floor. As I suspected — as I feared — my book was nowhere to be found. Read more…