It’s a fine line at Politics and Prose. Each time you go, it’s different.
Will you find an amazing book you’re excited to read, so excited in fact that you pay full price for it, happy that you can support an independent book store in DC?
Or will you be upset with the holier-than-thou attitude of employees and other patrons, annoyed with all the brow-furrowed thought that goes into every little decision, and decide to just go have a beer next door at Comet Ping Pong?
Either way, a good time to visit Politics and Prose is for an author reading. People crowd in and wait in folding chairs for half an hour, letting their spines slowly collapse into the aluminum, applaud when the introduction begins, then pepper the author with questions from two strategically placed microphones in the audience. It’s a spectacle, even if you can’t/hate to/won’t read…the book.
I was at one such event recently to hear one of my favorite living dry, funny, brilliant women writers, Sarah Vowell. Reading from her new book, Unfamiliar Fishes, about the statehood of Hawaii and the history of America as a superpower, Vowell was a rock star among Politics and Prose authors.
Though she brought in a fair amount of 40-60 year olds toting kids, she gets my respect for referencing California Gurls in that company. Vowell strings together seeming stream of consciousness realizations to form a larger idea about American identity, self-loathing, and need for dominance on a global stage, all with culturally recognizable signposts along the way.
What I like most about the author readings at Politics and Prose is not the reading itself, but the Q and A afterwards. People come up with some amazingly random questions, and instead of just responding Uhhh, yeahhhhhh like most people do, Vowell could return any volley with spicy aplomb.
Do yourself a favor and sit down to read a book, especially one of Vowell’s. The Modern Times coffeehouse in the basement is a good place to start, if you don’t just plop down in the aisle at Politics and Prose before you’ve even bought your own copy.