The Trail of the Spellmans Leads to a Bookstore

I had the extreme pleasure of spending 14 hours yesterday reading a hardcover copy of Lisa Lutz’s latest, The Trail of the Spellmans cover to cover, and have to make a couple comments about it. First, there is a dinner scene that outdoes any Lisa or Janet Evanovich has ever done (even the “shooting the chicken in the gumpy” dinner), in which an 18-month old repeating, “banana” constantly is just the beginning of the story (the only thing that comes close in my mind is Thurber’s “The Car We Had to Push, about a performance of King Lear in Columbus with running counterpoint comments from “the Get-Ready man” mixed in among the lines of Lear, Edgar, and the Fool). I had to call my sister at 1 AM and read this section to her — it was so funny my sister didn’t mind being called at 1 AM to hear it (fortunately, she, too, is a confirmed Lutz fan). I have this sneaking suspicion that Grandma Mazur, and perhaps Ruby Bee, are going to show up on Fisherman’s Wharf one of these days, and Izzy is going to have to deal with them fast and get them out of town (and back to Trenton and Maggody, respectively, making their own relatives crazy, as usual). Second, LL has outdone herself in a number of ways with this book, adroitly tucking a fair amount of serious stuff in among the parts that make my stomach hurt from laughing so hard. She just gets better and better as a writer.

Third is the way LL ends the book, with footnoted acknowledgements (including a mock-diss to David Hayward, her collaborator on Heads You Lose) and a serious shout out to bookstores, actual, real-life bookstores, in which she asks readers: “Even if you’re a diehard e-reader, every once in a while walk, drive, or take a bus to a bookstore and buy a real book off of the shelf. Booksellers aren’t just managing the register; they’re people who love books and, ideally, know how to match the right book with the right person.” Sound eerily familiar, friends?

LL goes on to say, “I don’t have any kids, so I’m not as worried about my heirs as the rest of you, but still: I think the youth of tomorrow might be better off if they knew the physical sensation of cracking a spine and turning the page.” Although much of my professional life is all about “e,” I agree wholeheartedly with Ms. Lutz. I use both print and e-books, and I dearly want the option to read print to continue. So I’m going to go to my local bookstore (Harvard Book Store, “an independently run bookstore serving the greater Cambridge area… located in Harvard Square and … family-owned since 1932” — if you ever come to Cambridge please be sure to stop in there AND at Schoenhof’s, too, if you read foreign languages) this week and buy five print books. I plan to continue to do this indefinitely, until they run out of books in which I’m interested — not going to happen! I’m just putting my money where my mouth is.

So thanks to Lisa Lutz, Izzy Spellman, Janet Evanovich, Stephanie Plum, Joan Hess, Arly Hanks, Claire Malloy, James Thurber, the Get-Ready Man, and all the other writers and their characters, for making life bearable and giving so many of us something to look forward to every day.

More as it happens in both print and in e-,


Cheryl LaGuardia About Cheryl LaGuardia

Cheryl LaGuardia always wanted to be a librarian, and has been one for more years than she's going to admit. She cracked open her first CPU to install a CD-ROM card in the mid-1980's, pioneered e-resource reviewing for Library Journal in the early 90's (picture calico bonnets and prairie schooners on the web...), won the Louis Shores / Oryx Press Award for Professional Reviewing, and has been working for truth, justice, and better electronic library resources ever since. Reach her at, where she's a Research Librarian at Harvard University.