Monday, April 30, 2012

Laying Tracks at J and J Books in Madrid

I’ve been back from my trip to Spain for more days than I spent in Spain. But memories from the visit are still fresh in my mind.

One of the highlights of the visit was my first international reading event: a reading from Tracks at J & J Books and Coffee in Madrid. Perhaps “Books and Beer” would be a more fitting name. The bookstore, with a highly literary crowd, seemed as much bar as bookstore. That was a good thing.

J & J Books and Coffee is a popular bookstore in Madrid specializing in English-language books. They’re also known for their Friday Quiz night, two-for-one happy hour specials, and reading events.

When we arrived, the crowd was as lively as you might expect at a neighborhood bar—people talking sports and books and travel, seated at the long bar and at tables and chairs beyond it. The manager and staff kept us supplied with house beer, wine, and cocktails. The manager stood behind the bar and introduced me. I was given a place of honor behind the beer tap. From there, I read an “Idle Chatter” from Tracks.

The conversing crowd became attentive, and during dramatic pauses in my reading it had grown quiet enough to hear a drop of beer splash against the bar.

After my reading, which lasted close to half an hour, I was warmly received by my audience. We talked about my book, my writing process, my visit to Spain and other travels. We talked about their favorite books and their writing. About why they lived in Madrid (most of them were originally from England, Ireland, Scotland, or the United States) and their own travels. It was a good time.

A bit of wisdom picked up during the conversation: “What’s for you won’t go by you.”

A bit of insight on Spanish literature: “Don Quixote was [not a good man].”

I sold out of all the books I brought with me, and signed a good number of them. It was a fine way to cap our visit to Spain.

I discovered after my invitation to read that J and J was written up in a few of the guide books we had on Spain. Here is their write-up in the New York Times:

Visit J & J Books and Coffee at their website.

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