About This Blog

Don't get me wrong. It's not that I'm not on board with the whole ebook thing. I enjoy books in all their formats. But there is nothing quite like a bookstore with its neatly arranged shelves of books and artfully created displays of new arrivals, best sellers, and suggested reading. I especially enjoy discovering small, independent bookstores and have made it my mission to visit and report back on as many of these gems as I can. That is my focus, but there is really nothing that is off limits as long as it is about books or reading. Hope you enjoy my blog and come back often.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Crazy in the Name of Love

Books and More
of Albion
119 N. Superior Street
Albion, MI

"If you've ever done something crazy in the name of love, R. J. Fox's adventures in Ukraine will strike a chord." So says author Davy Rothbart of the new book Love & Vodka. Well, earlier this month I did something a little crazy for love--the love of bookstores, books, and reading that is. On the coldest day of the season (8 degrees for a high), I set out on snowy roads for a two-hour drive to Albion, Michigan, to revisit Books and More of Albion, a store I blogged about a few years back, and to hear author R. J. Fox talk about Love & Vodka.

Albion holds a special place in my heart as it is home to Albion College. Some of my fondest memories are of visiting my son and attending college events together while he was a student there. Not only did he get a great education, but he also met a wonderful girl, now his wife. Rediscovering Books and More, meeting an author, and a chance to visit Albion College again? There were plenty of reasons prompting me to make the frigid drive.

Steve Sobaski at the coffee counter
If you're going to go to a book signing when the temperature is in the single digits, Books and More is definitely the place to go. I entered the store at about 10 a.m. and was pleased to see that it was still blessed with a wood stove. I was even more pleased to see someone stoking a cozy fire. Nearby at the coffee bar I met Steve Sobaski, who began work as a Books and More barista just this past September. Steve mentioned that his wife teaches at Albion College, so we had much to talk about.

Store owner Dorothy Dickerson
It was nice to once again see store owner, Dorothy Dickerson, and on this trip I was pleased to also meet her granddaughter, Sonnet Newman, who does the website for the store. Yes, Sonnet is her real name. Reading definitely runs in this family.

Love & Vodka is a memoir of R. J. Fox's adventures, or should I say misadventures, traveling to Ukraine to propose to a girl with whom he had spent less than an hour in person. The crazy, fascinating recount of his struggles in a very different culture is often hilarious and at the same time educational as it paints a vivid picture of Ukraine, its people, and their customs.

Before long the man of the hour arrived along with his publishers, Jon and Laurie Wilson of Fish Out of Water Books. I just had time to buy a cup of hot coffee and find a seat before the author began his talk.

Fox was engaging as he read several passages from the book and talked about himself, his writing, and his Ukraine adventure. A native of the Detroit area, Fox now resides in Ann Arbor where he teaches English and video production in the Ann Arbor Public Schools. Love & Vodka, he explained, began as a screenplay, the script for which was at one point optioned to a producer. When the project stalled, Fox decided to remake it into a memoir. He says the book format was more rewarding to write in the sense that it enabled him to include more of the details of his experience than what the limitations of a screenplay allow.

Eventually he would like to see Love & Vodka come full circle and actually become a movie. When I asked him who would play him in the film version, he didn't hesitate to offer ideas, but his favorite for the role is Aziz Ansari, "He doesn't look anything like me, but he would be perfect for the part," says Fox.

The author took time to sign books and chat individually with those in attendance. I learned that in the near future, he will be visiting Bluefrog Books in Howell, another store I have blogged about in the past. As an added bonus, my son and daughter-in-law live in Howell, so I think another visit with R. J. Fox may be in the cards for me.

You can listen to a brief interview with Fox on public radio station, WKAR from Michigan State. And you can also find out more about the book and the author at the Fish Out of Water website.

All in all, my frigid Saturday drive was well worth the effort. It was a delight visiting Books and More of Albion once again and a pleasure meeting R. J. Fox. 

Later in the day, I did take time to pay a short visit to Albion College. My favorite place on campus? The bookstore, of course.

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