There are books that almost never make it to Hijack City. Something to do with UK editions vs US editions, I'm guessing, not that it matters because all the books that do arrive are immediately priced way beyond their US or UK recommended retail prices, which are cunningly covered by the new price sticker.
Some books you search and search for obsessively, never finding them in the shelves, until it's sale time and suddenly there is one copy of the book peeking out from stacks of other remainders. So you buy it, only to see dozens of the same book the next day marked down even lower... Happened to me with a couple of Don DeLillo's and Diana Abu-Jaber.
Some books I've NEVER found, in the last year at least, and we're not even talking backlists here: Laila Lalami's Hope and other Dangerous Pursuits, Jonathan Ferris' And Then We Came to the End, David Leavitt's The Indian Clerk, Gregoire Bouillier's The Mystery Guest,and Frank Portman's King Dork.
I saw King Dork, the lone copy, screaming at me from its multi-font cover, like a rock-n-roll rebel sandwiched between two giggling girls having facials for the first time.
So, here I am, panicking because I have 40,000 words to write in the next week or so, and I'm reading King Dork. I'd read it in two, three hours, if I didn't laugh so much. Frank Portman NAILS high school and has the Losers, Psychopathic Winners and the Seriously Weird Teachers down pat. High school is all the seas of the world + the Amazon river combined, and if you're a loser, stay clear of the sharks and the piranhas and stick close to the gentle dolphins.
Tom Henderson, the King Dork of the title, is also known as Chi-Mo, sometimes mutated to Moe, and I've just discovered why. His friend, Sam, another geek par excellence - their friendship stems from the fact that they are partners in loserhood - sarcastically refers to the rest of the clueless kids (their erstwhile tormentors) as WAGBOGs - What a Great Bunch of Guys. Tom's life changes when he finds his dead father's copy of the Catcher in the Rye.
High school's a cruel place, but I think I'd rather have my kids in the very hysterically dysfunctional Hillmont High School of King Dork than Miss Jean Brodie's Marcia Blaine School.
Earlier this year, I read The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and all the while, Dame Maggie Smith's perfectly precise and prissy voice kept ringing in my head: "I am truly in my prime." It actually is a chilling, disturbing book, all the more so because Miss Brodie's girls - her chosen set - were 10 years old when she first taught them and began to mold them. This was Scotland between the two world wars, and, unsettled as I was at the precocity of these 10 year-old girls, I was relieved that my own 10 year-old had shown little of that same worldliness.
As for me, I am certainly glad I read the book whilst in my prime. I wouldn't have appreciated the complexities and moral ambiguities of Muriel Spark's characters otherwise.