The rest of this post is navel-gazing-y and skippable.
Oy vey, apparently people are having a really hard time finding Grand New Party in bookstores. This book ain’t exactly an airport thriller by Dean Koontz, so I’m a little worried that it won’t be restocked. The economic dimension of the book-selling business is fascinating and baffling to me. On reflection, books are manufactured goods, often manufactured domestically. They are things that have to be moved around from place to place. The consolidation of the book-selling business presumably means that trend-spotters and buyers at Borders and Barnes & Noble and Wal-Mart make big bets regarding which books will likely move, and of course publishers make bets of their own when it comes to print runs.
I never really thought about the book in terms of selling copies until late last week, when we received what will likely be the most memorable, generous review we’ll ever get. In fact, I brought my parents to a book party that Mark Kirby, Julie Bosman, and Michael Barbaro very generously hosted for us, and I thought: the work has paid off now that my parents get to meet a lot of my friends. I’m quite serious. It was pretty neat, as only a handful of my friends had ever met my parents before, in large part because they work so much. I did sense from early on that the argument would resonate with people, but not necessarily the kind of people who buy hardcover books as soon as they come out — that is, I thought the arguments would resonate with the kind of voters we had in mind, most of whom have a lot on their plates.
One writer noted that Ross and I weren’t working class: he suggested, in fact, that we were indistinguishable from elite liberals. I thought this was interesting at the time: both true and false. Ross and I had the good fortune to attend a great college, but I was able to go because both of my parents worked two jobs for most of my life. They made it through a tough time during which they relied on help from friends and, when my father was hospitalized, public assistance for about a month to keep going during health complications, spells of unemployment, and worse. What people told always understand is that moving from one country to another on your own can be tough and traumatic, particularly if you’re a pioneer. Back in 1976 — my parents settled in this country almost exactly thirty-two years ago — there were virtually no Bengali-speakers in New York outside of a small group of semi-skilled men who worked on ships. It is hard to convey how lonely that was. So while my parents are certainly not Republicans, and because of their educations they are not working class, I had people like them in mind while working with Ross.
Mainly, though, I hope that the ideas get out there. Ezra very astutely observed that our book isn’t very “do this now,” but rather, “here are some ideas.” I’d say it’s, “We’re not sure about exactly what works, but this isn’t working and we need to try something new. Here are some principles, guidelines, and possible prescriptions.” Maybe the book will get a second wind in the fall.