This fall, newspapers and book blogs declared the following weird news to shoppers: "October is the new December." What, I wondered, does that mean? The augurs explained that there is likely to be a shortage of books in December.
That sounds unlikely. Maybe a microchip shortage. There might be a shortage of robots. But USA Today, NPR, and The New York Times warn us about the book shortage. Constance Grady at Vox claimed the supply of books is low, but added, perhaps with a twinge of conscience, that the best-sellers are still plentiful. It is the "surprise best-sellers,"she says, that may be hard to find. May I say, as a bookstore customer, I have never seen a "surprise best-seller" in December. And James Daunt, CEO of Barnes and Noble, seems dismissive of her prediction, saying, “There is no book shortage as such at the moment because the nature of the publishing cycle is that these books are planned many months ahead.”
I understand the holiday angst. It is the panic of Christmas somehow going out of control. Tears over the wrong gift. Could a book be the wrong book? There might be a run on the poetry section. Where is Shelley, you might ask. Try the used bookstore, since there is seldom a Shelley shortage there.
One member of our book group - somebody's niece in Burlington - has another form of holiday stress. She said, "Couldn't we meet every week in December? I'm so bored." I do understand boredom in Burlington - there is not much to do in Cedar Rapids,
Bettendorf, Boone, Riverside, or DeKalb, either, where the rest of us live. But expecting a long-distance book group to meet in person every week in December is like expecting us to write a book during NANOWRIMO in November (National Novel Writing Month). We don't recommend such measures, because then we would be a writers' group, not a book group.
Vaccinated, and with flu shots, we will try to meet in December on the heated patio of a friend in semi-hip DeKalb. It will be a long trip, involving car-pooling and a night in a motel, and of course it depends on good health. Because if it's not Covid, there's always something unnamed going around, one of those typical things in the fall and winter. But let us hope that we can get together before Christmas. We need the support, as the silliness of the season swells and the dark nights lengthen.
By the way, has anybody encountered a book shortage?