Bookish People is a big-hearted screwball comedy featuring an intergenerational cast of oblivious authors, over-qualified booksellers, and a perpetually broken vacuum cleaner — also a russian tortoise named Kurt Vonnegut Jr., capturing the endearing quirks of some of the best kinds of people: the ones who love good books. Sophie Bernstein, owner of an independent bookstore in Washington, DC, is burnt out on books. Mourning the death of her husband (who died at the temple discussion group while quoting Anne Frank’s father, Otto), and rattled by antisemitic events in Charlottesville, she fantasizes about going into hiding in the secret back room of her store. Meanwhile, renowned poet Raymond Chaucer has published a new collection, and rumors that he’s to blame for his wife’s suicide have led to national cancellations of his publicity tour. Only one bookstore still plans to host him: Sophie’s. Fearful of potential repercussions, Sophie instructs Clemi — bookstore events coordinator, aspiring novelist, and daughter of a famed literary agent — to cancel Raymond’s appearance. But Clemi suspects Raymond might be her biological father, and she can’t say no to the chance of finding out for sure.
September 1, 2021
Courtesy of Harper Muse
- Sophie reflects that the world divides into two kinds of people: Those who think books are for reading when there is nothing better to do, and those who avoid other things in order to read. Does this resonate with you?
- What value does comedy bring to difficult subjects, and can you think of other comedies that are set during dark times?
- Mrs. Bernstein struggles with what to do about books that contain material that may offend some readers. This is a complicated subject that even likeminded people do not agree on. What do you think?
- Mrs. Bernstein also struggles with the question of whether the private life of an author ought to impact the way he is received by readers. What do you think?
- Why are vacuum cleaners inherently funny? (Or are they?) Do you have any home appliances that seem ripe for comedy?
- What is the role of independent bookstores in your life?
- Everybody in Sophie’s world wants to write a book. What kind of problems does that create?
- Clemi observes that bookselling is a collegial business, except when it’s not. Does this seem especially true right now?
- Clemi believes the tortoise is talking to her. Is he?
- Have you ever heard of an AGA?
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