Watch List | Newberry

Watch List

Ah, life isn’t all easy for a Book Fair manager, apricot croquette. Some weeks are thoroughly thumbs up, and other weeks you can’t tell where that thumb will wind up.

Last week, besides being called to find out when I was going to pick up those eighty boxes of old reference books, I offended the powerful tea towel lobby. Apparently, there are plenty of people out there who still use tea towels (though they have not necessarily crocheted the edges themselves) and one or two who still drape them over their televisions. I remember way back when televisions were flat on top. If I put a tea towel on mine now, I’d only see the bottom half of the candidates.

And if I pursue that thought, I shall offend someone else.

I can’t do that because last week, besides being called by someone who wants to deliver 60 boxes of discarded library books, I offended several members of Hummers Anonymous. These are people who spontaneously hum when something reminds them of a song, rather in the manner I blogged about. It isn’t that my bringing up the subject makes quitting harder: they aren’t quitting. Many of them carry iPods so their friends won’t question where the sound is coming from.

No, they’re upset because at least they want to hum reasonably current songs, and my mentioning Wolverton Mountain threw them back fifty years. (I do not take this sort of complaint lightly. Next chance I get, I’m going to throw them back to 1891 by discussing Malcolm Gladwell.)

I do not have TIME for all these skids of books and emails of complaint. I have worries, bobolink casserole. I have deep philosophical problems I have to work my way through.

For example, last week I also sorted out books and found myself holding a copy of a bestseller called Watchable Birds of the Southwest. I’ve been worrying about this ever since.

Are there unwatchable birds in Arizona? How come? Do certain birds in New Mexico come punch you in the mouth if they spot the binoculars? I’d expect a birdcall of “Whatchoo lookin’ at, vulture vittles?” from birds in, say, Brooklyn, not so much in Sedona.

Of course, we all have our off days: perhaps birds are watchable at some times and not at others. Perhaps this is a guide to timing more than to bird varieties. Go at 10 A.M. (Mountain Time) if you want to watch them sing and build nests. After dark, they kick back, pull out a sixpack, and throw bits of worm jerky at the screen during American Idol.

Or perhaps some of those birds are just plain boring, and the guide tells you which ones not to bother with. Given the trend of our times, you’d think evolution might result in a few mud-gray birds who fly like buckets and whose spring song is “Glop!” I wouldn’t consider that especially watchable.

Anyway, it takes my mind off of…hmmm? Oh, well, see, among Malcolm Gladwell’s numerous bestsellers, there’s one called Outliers. And the folks at the A.C. McClurg Bookstore were telling me about the man who, never having seen this word before, assumed it was French, and pronounced it “OOT-lee-ay.”

So I can never look at his book these days without thinking “Ta Ra Ra Boom De Ay.” Happy humming.

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