Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Bear Suit Follies

An odd post here. It has been more than three years since I published Bear Suit Follies: the Songs, Stories and Letters of Antonia. It was a labor of love, gathering the writings of a remarkable woman who has been an important part of our lives since 1969, a peculiar urban auntie to our children when they were young, a seminal figure in the Greenwich Village folk scene, and pivotal to the band that has most greatly influenced my musical life, the Holy Modal Rounders. Almost no one in Appleton knows about the book, since in order to represent Antonia accurately I had to include a sampling of the (very witty) porn she wrote along the way (a signing at the local bookstore would not have reflected well on First Congregational). I may one day do some more writing about this interesting corner of my life, but for now it is put to rest.

I write this post because I just received the three additional copies I ordered from my publisher, having given my last copy away over the weekend. I checked the publisher's website and learned that to date nearly 200 copies have been sold, not all of which were purchased by me. Amazingly, selling those few copies puts it in the upper 4% of all books published (most sell fewer than 25), which says something about the state of publishing, and of vanity.

I am in no immediate danger of recovering my costs for this project. But in a pique of curiosity I just Googled the book title for the first time and it was an amazing experience. It is a "print on demand" publication, but one seller claims to have 100 copies in stock (see above: 190 total copies sold to date). It is available in Estonia! The retail price is $14 (as author, I can get them cheaper), but some sellers want as much as forty bucks for a copy (don't even think about buying one in Australia). And many, many vendors steal the reviews from Amazon and give no credit for them.

A word about the power of on-line reviews. Antonia has a grand-daughter she had never met and who knew very little about her. Said grand-daughter - a beautiful multiracial fashion consultant - was traveling in Italy shortly after the book came out. she met an old Italian man in Venice who told her he liked American music by a band called the Holy Modal Rounders. In astonishment she said "Antonia Stampfel is my grandmother!" He patted her arm and said "there is a book about your grandmother." When she got back to the states she went to Amazon and entered "Antonia" into the search field. The first book to come up was Willa Cather's "My Antonia," the second was "Bear Suit Follies." Out of this she ended up meeting her grandmother. That's her story and she's sticking to it...

Because it is a print-on-demand book, it may never go out of print (because it really is not in print), so it may haunt me the rest of my life and haunt my progeny long after I am gone. I am still glad I wrote it. If you want to learn more about it (or even purchase a copy) you can find it at

1 comment:

rick in cos said...

Holy smoke, John, when you Google that book title, the screen lights up like a Christmas tree. You're a celebrity! wow. if I didn't already have 9 books on the nightstand waiting for me to pick them up....guess that's what retirement will be for.
I've fancied doing a book, but then I figured out you need a few things to do that...cogent thoughts, a concept, something you actually know about, interesting stories, etc. So, guess I'll stick to blogging for now.