Uneven debut memoir about the author’s more than 35 years in the bookselling business.
Born in Brooklyn, Werris was only four when her father’s career as a comedy writer (for Jackie Gleason, among others) took the family to California. She grew up loving books and planning to be an English teacher. In 1970, she took what she thought would be a part-time job at Pickwick Bookshop in L.A.; it turned into her profession. Werris writes about her experiences at each of the bookstores where she subsequently labored (all independent in those days), then tells how she segued into work as a publisher’s rep. She describes the colleagues she liked and respected; she disses those she didn’t. She remembers Charles Bukowski making a pass at her, and a one-night stand with Richard Brautigan. (Other than these encounters, she reveals little about her love life.) She met famous writers from Hunter S. Thompson to Michael Connelly, and she once “stalked” Kurt Vonnegut Jr. in the street. Werris ends the “career” portion of her tale by explaining her latest gig as a freelance author escort. Her first assignment was accompanying Jonathan Franzen to several locations: She thought he was hot; they shared some quality time. Another narrative strand chronicles the decline of her father’s career and her mother’s frequent unhappiness. Yet another details her 1981 rape by a knife-wielding assailant who was never caught. Werris makes little effort to intertwine these strands, so the memoir never coheres. And she repeatedly relies on the weariest clichés, which diminish every sentence they inhabit.
Some extraordinary moments of great energy, emotion and even terror, too often recounted in very ordinary language.