Erica Eisdorfer, long-time manager of the Bull’s Head Bookshop, is the funniest person in the Triangle. Seriously. Just ask anyone who lives here. She’s also a talented writer in her own right–her awesome debut novel, The Wet Nurse’s Tale, was published by Putnam last year. The Bull’s Head is the UNC campus bookstore, but it’s so much more than your average student store–it’s loaded with tons and tons of trade fiction and nonfiction books, all the new and recent and essential titles–thanks to Erica’s savvy and impeccable taste. We wish Bull’s Head would consider moving in the building beside ours (there’s space available, Erica!), but not so sure how the students would feel about being 15 minutes away from campus. (Maybe they could just use the free Chapel Hill transit? Yes! Erica, let’s talk.)
What books recently rocked my world:
The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Bailey (an Algonquin book which my husband totally loved)
The Pesthouse by Jim Crace
Charlotte and Emily (A+ historical fiction al a Hilary Mantel, by Jude Morgan who writes like a king but can’t think up a good title to save his soul)
Best damn event we’ve hosted:
There’ve been so many. Was it the time Chuck Palahniuk made some guy faint due to grossness of subject? Was it the time Dave Eggers asked us to supply him with a cot (on the stage) because he was tired? Was it the reading by the courtly Alexander McCall Smith who came in a vastly rumpled, extremely expensive suit and charmed everyone to pieces? Maybe it was the time Elizabeth Edwards corrected my grammar? (I was just trying to be folksy.) Wait. I just thought of it. It was our Survivor-a-Thon with a Southern twist which we called Suh-vah-vuh and which included a carve-your-fave-Southern-book-thing out of grits (the winner carved Boo Radley’s tree); a gospel band; a bluegrass band; a trivia contest with physical challenges like each entrant had to eat some calf-brains-in-milk-gravy from a can; a Tammy Faye Bakker look-alike painting fingernails. Yeah, we’re scholarly, but we like to have fun.
Most entertaining author we’ve hosted:
Jack Palance gave us lots of samples of his new scent, which was made to accompany his book of poetry, The Forest of Love. That was nice. I really liked the self-deprecating wit of Mark Salzman (Lying Awake), who told a story about how he was forced to daily wrap himself in tin foil so the cat would quit jumping on him as he was trying to write. Allan Gurganus, of course, could have had a long full career on Broadway and so every reading by him is a treat. Michael Taeckens of Love is a Four-Letter Word? That guy’s awesome.
Strangest question a customer has ever asked:
Where can I find Virgil’s Anita?
I need help finding out how many calories there are in dolphin.
My coworker Stacie has a good story. One time someone called her to ask for a book and while she was looking it up he asked her if she could smell the country ham he was cooking.
What makes our neighborhood and customers awesome:
We’ve got professors who want books on Middlebrow German Culture in the 1700’s. We’ve got sports visitors who want Roy Williams’s bio, but they want a dozen and they want them signed. We’ve got undergrads who are willing to enter our Write-a-Limerick-in-Honor-of-the-Discovery-of-Uranus contest. We’ve got lady librarians who want bloody books and wrestlers who want romances. Every day it’s something new and unusual.
I promise you won’t find this at any other store:
I’m trying to decide. It’s either The Eskimo (Inuktitut) Dictionary: Revised Edition (Eskimo-English; English-Eskimo) edited by Arthur Thibert or it’s 88 autographed copies of The Wet Nurse’s Tale.
If I weren’t selling books, I’d be:
Scaring little children.
Books that changed my life:
The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth
Kaaterskill Falls by Allegra Goodman
Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All by Allan Gurganus
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Top three authors, living or dead, I’d invite to my dinner party:
I’m too shy to have dinner with authors.
Top three songs on the soundtrack to my life:
100 Days, 100 Nights (Sharon Jones)
What’s Going On (Marvin Gaye)
The soundtrack from The Piano
My last meal request:
Bread and butter. And wine.