Cat o’ Nine Tales

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Xena, Warrior Princess Dog
Xena: Warrior Princess has no interest in cat-related eBay handles. Photo/Lorraine Angelo

Online bookselling has rewards I couldn’t foresee when I packed a chain-bookstore plastic price gun years ago and wore a name badge that read “Trotsky.”

My eBay store’s handle timelywriter is a dual reference to my 42-year career as a famous unknown freelance writer and to a successful two-dollar bet on New England champion thoroughbred Timely Writer in the 1982 Florida Derby. Risky businesses all.

My pseudo-scientific study of the names of eBay bookselling handles, scribbled on slips of paper and tossed into a sawed-off cereal box, leads me to believe that the majority of online bookseller handles fall into four broad categories: books, history, Hollywood and, of course, cats.

Books-brothers, fictionaddiction and mybackpages are typical book-related handles. Groaningshelves and needbiggerclosets point out both the dream and the reality of selling books online. An online bookstore is amorphous and no one can be trusted to cull the inventory.

History-related handles such as bookingham palace, susanbactivist, and whiterosebooks, lend a sense of dignity to a fellow merchant. History books are bestsellers to a major part of my clientele, college students.  All sellers would be wise to remind students of the words of philosopher George Santanya: “He who cannot remember that Media Mail coast to coast can take up to 10 business days is condemned to repeat the course.”

Hollywood handles can be homey as in auntbee7469, classy such as garbo1946, or just plain hits like lucabrazzi61. The rumor is The Godfather hitman lucabrazzi61 now reads with the fishes. If so, it can only be Dr. Seuss’s One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.

The biggest bookseller handle category, paws down, is cats, however, and I can see why. Felines exude the independence of a hammocked reader settling in for the season with The Bill James Baseball Abstract, or the supreme disinterest necessary to bypass listening to a passage from The Lazy Man’s Guide to Enlightenment.

Our cats, Marcie and Ptero (short for Pterocactyl the Flying Cat), couldn’t care less about sales figures or the first edition of John Steinbeck’s Travels With Charley I picked up at the library book sale for a quarter. The bottom line with Charley is that he’s a dog.

I recently discovered a kitty nibble to the children’s classic The Stupids Step Out in my inventory.  It wasn’t disrespect.  It was disdain for both book and bookseller. Funny thing… The Stupids Step Out was sampled while we were away overnight.

Chopstickitty, catnip 619 and ilovecrawfish all refer to what feline assistants enjoy most: a business lunch without the business.

I would guess that gentlebendustypaws has minimal cleaning duties in the seldom-used darkened archives. My dusty back-forty shelves contain outdated textbooks with warnings like, “This author is beyond dull. Be prepared for a painful experience,” or the seminal biography of Siamese twins Chang and Eng, detailed in The Two, by Amy Wallace, inscribed “Dear Mark, Don’t let this happen to you. Love, Wendy.”

Ancillary duties are what cats do best. They shred any packing material within reach. They make excellent book warmers. Could there be a more thorough search engine than bookmouser?

I still frequent brick-and-mortar bookstores to see what’s new. I genuinely miss reading Publisher’s Weekly and The New York Times Book Review, but when I set up bookselling newbie oscarwildecat for an online consultation, I advised her to keep her cats away from any paper copy of the floor plan.


About this Author

John Angelo

John Angelo’s humor has appeared in “Publisher’s Weekly,” “Writer’s Digest,” and “American Bookseller.” He is a frequent contributor to the “New Hampshire Business Review.” For a Christmas concert at his Catholic grammar school, the nuns told him to mouth the words and that he’d better not make a sound under any circumstances.