By 6:15 p.m. the folding chairs at Politics & Prose were nearly filled as the mostly elderly crowd got situated for the Leibo Show. Two seats contained “reserved” signs, so we were convinced they had to be for NYT‘s Mark Leibovich‘s parents or someone equally important. Holy f–king shit! Was Tammy Haddad coming? Eventually an older couple arrived and sat down. They weren’t Leibo’s parents at all – just random psychology professors who placed the makeshift signs and went next door to eat. Very sneaky.
On Tuesday night, the crowd came to hear Leibovich read from his newly released book, This Town — the dumb thing that Politico has only written about 18 times.
To be sure, the scene felt less This Town and more Seinfeld, the Del Boca Vista episodes.
“How much did you have to pay for that front row seat?” an older gentleman asked a male friend he hadn’t seen in awhile. “Well,” replied the balding acquaintance, “my wife had to knock some people over.”
Later on, an elderly woman with silky bright white hair and a cane used her outside voice to gripe to the person next to her, “I HOPE THIS ENDS AT 8!” The Q & A was still going on at 8:06 p.m. Still annoyed, she added, “I’LL STICK IT OUT BUT I THINK SHE’S LETTING IT GO ON TOO LONG.”
Aside from this woman, if Leibovich was looking for love amid some of the harsher critiques he has received lately, accusing him of social treason and such, this was the place to be. Jim Butcher of the “reserved seat” fame gave the book two thumbs up. “I laughed so much!” he said. “I hope it was meant to be funny. We watch Morning Joe and they all show up on there. It’s one of the funnier books I’ve read in awhile and I read only serious books.”
Soon enough, the author waltzed in. He’s hard to miss – tall, with a shiny bald head, one sharp-edged ear and wearing a blue subtly checked blazer, dark T-shirt and jeans. A momentary hush fell over the aging crowd.
“Brad and I had to fight over who would introduce him,” said Lissa Muscatine, one of the store’s owners, who went on about how neither she, her husband nor Politics & Prose were mentioned in This Town. “As ex-WaPo reporters, far be it for us to be so petty — really, it’s kind of a good news bad news thing to be mentioned in this book.” She tried to articulate the mixed feelings people have about it, saying, “You laugh and then you scream.” This Town, she says, “is what Mark has chronicled so devastatingly and brilliantly.” Still, she cracked that the new beer and wine sold at the shop may make the talk more interesting.
Leibovich stepped up to the podium. “I’m not such a bad guy,” he said, looking down sheepishly. Then he proceeded to majorly suck-up to the owners, telling everyone to buy their books here. Which they did. Some 75 books sold that night, 200 in the past two weeks, making it their top seller for the moment. He mentioned Amazon briefly and then tried to press the verbal delete key when that was met with minor hostility. “This is not me trying to curry favor with the owners,” he said earnestly. “This is our family bookstore. I say this has someone who truly loves the store.” On a touching note: One of Leibo’s daughters posed with the book at the store. He hesitated to call Lissa, a former aide to Hillary Clinton, a source or a friend or even a “friend source” and instead said, “Lissa has always been offering valuable guidance to me.”
With the niceties complete, he dove into real the reason they were all there: This Town. Read more