We know it seems obvious. We’re an indie press. We interview indie bookstores. D.C. is our backyard. So why haven’t we interviewed any of those indie-rific folks over at Politics & Prose? Well, we have. Mark LaFramboise, P&P’s book buyer with a very fancy last name, was gracious enough to take a break from finding the next bestseller to give us (and you) some insights into one of the most beloved indie bookstores in the world.
Atticus Books: We know it’s not for the money (we’re in the book business too), so why work at Politics & Prose?
Mark LaFramboise: Well, you have to work someplace, I guess. I landed at P&P after working at two other smaller bookstores, one in Illinois when I was in grad school and the other in Colorado when I thought I wanted another degree. Finding myself in DC, working with Carla [Cohen] and Barbara [Meade] and some other terrific booksellers, felt like the most natural progression I could imagine. That’s why I came. The reason I’ve stayed this long (fourteen and a half years) is because the job has never ceased to be interesting. I still work with an amazing group of creative and intelligent booksellers and the only other people I talk to all day are either readers or publishing professionals. I look forward to going to work every day. Okay, some more than others, but I can’t imagine anything else I would rather do. The money isn’t great, but it’s not bad. It is, as they say, a living.
AB: What do you think would surprise people about D.C.-ers and their reading interests?
ML: I can’t really speak for the whole district. Because P&P grew organically, expanding as the audience of readers grew, the store represents a combination of Carla Cohen’s original vision and the taste of readers in our neighborhood. To answer your question, though, the height of literary discretion would be the thing most surprising to those unfamiliar. People think of D.C. as a one-industry town, and that may be true closer to Capitol Hill, but where we are, readers are mostly very educated and interested in reading good books, new books and old ones.
AB: What’s the single best thing that’s happened to you while on the job?
ML: I’ve made some good friendships and met individuals (authors mostly) who I would have never met had I not been working at P&P. One single best thing? I hate to dodge the question, but it’s been a continuum of events, experiences, and people. If I had to choose one thing, though, I will say when I was asked to represent our staff at the memorial we held in the store after Carla’s passing. It was televised live on BookTV, and I received comments from many people. I felt I had done right by her honor.
AB: E-books: do indie booksellers go on a Kindle-burning craze or is there some silver lining for the indies in all this e-reader business?
ML: I don’t see the silver lining. Getting mad doesn’t help very much, though. Honestly, I don’t know where all that is heading, but I think this is true: readers will read. They’ll read books on paper, on e-readers, on laptops, on whatever is at hand. So, I guess, neither. Can’t go crazy and no, definitely no silver lining.
AB: If there was one job at Politics & Prose you would NOT want, what would it be?
ML: Wow. There are plenty of jobs I wouldn’t want because I don’t think I’d be any good at them. We have a fantastic group of people who work on social media. I think when it works, it’s amazing. Thank God (or Whatever) we have them because I wouldn’t know where to begin. Also, I’m glad I don’t have to make the schedule. What a pain in the ass that is.
Storefront from Idiots’ Books