Something crucial often gets lost at a literary event. There’s a thrill in seeing an author you admire in the flesh, getting your new book signed and personalized, getting to ask a question during a Q&A. There’s revelation in hearing a sentence uttered by its creator, the inflections you wouldn’t have ascribed to a line. There’s the community of the event, being surrounded by fellow readers. There are often snacks, sometimes free booze, sometimes raffles and giveaways. Sometimes literary events have little to do with literature-see Revolver’s amazing boxing party from a couple years ago. Sometimes the whole point of going to a literary event is just to reassure yourself that people who like to read aren’t going extinct. There are many of us, and we’re not going anywhere. So what’s that crucial missing component?
Oh yeah. Books.
Three Twin Cities bookstore are teaming up to bring a slight twist to the whole literary event idea: no authors, just books, and in the middle of the night. Lit Up Late teams Common Good Books, Magers & Quinn Booksellers, and Moon Palace Books in a triptych of late-night book releases. The first, for Haruki Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, took place at 11:30 pm on, August 11 2014, at Common Good. The official release date of the book is the 12th, which means that at midnight, the book is technically available for purchase. This was literally the earliest that the buying public could procure themselves a copy.
Common Good catered this event to those rabid fans who were willing to forego a few hours’ sleep, and rewarded them amply. In the corner of the store where an author might normally read, a rootsy acoustic quartet strummed and sang pleasant songs. Japanese-themed refreshments resided on a table nearby–Pocky and mochi to nibble on, Sapporo and Saki to wash it down. Just before the book became available, bookseller Colin McDonald announced that there would be a raffle for two Common Good gift cards and two free copies of the book. The winners, announced just prior to midnight, were overjoyed, as was everyone else who secured a signed first edition of the book.
Early returns have been overwhelmingly positive for Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, which comes as a relief to any Murakami fan who struggled through 1Q84, the author’s last outing. Early returns on Lit Up Late are similarly positive: a quick way to reinforce that people are still excited about books, that if you are excited about books you are not alone, and that the arrival of an anticipated book is as momentous an event as the release of a much-anticipated movie.
The second installment of Lit Up Late will take place on Monday September 1 at Magers and Quinn for the release of David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks. The third, for Wolf in the White Van by John Darnielle (of the band the Mountain Goats), will take place on Monday September 15 at Moon Palace Books. Beyond the book-release element and the middle-of-the-night element, these three events have another common thread: if you were at the Common Good event last night, you likely received a punch card with the first of three holes punched. If you attend all three, you’ll be eligible to win a free night at the St. Paul Hotel.