From time to time, I come across ideas for books that would fill a niche and almost certainly sell well. These are books I shall never write myself, but there ought to be someone out there looking for a likely project. The first idea came from my wife, Susan, who during our many visits to Paris has always been enchanted by the Parisian practice of bringing the family pet to a cafe or even to a serious restaurant. She lost her heart to an otherwise unremarkable bistro called Les Philosophes on rue Vieille du Temple in the Marais because in the old days, the owner had a large dog who sat near the maitre d's post on one side of the main dining room. Susan had the idea of doing a Dog Lover's Guide to Paris that would offer capsule reviews, and perhaps recipes of signature dishes, of Paris restaurants that allow dogs. So common is the practice, by the way, that the Guide Michelin, the fat red book that is an indispensable guide to the hotels and restaurants of France, actually has a little symbol [a dog's head] indicating which establishments allow pets. The great attraction to doing this book is that everything one spent on meals in Paris would be tax deductible as a business expense.
A second idea for a book occurred to me just a week ago when my former student, now Professor Jennifer Jensen-Wallach, came to town with her husband, Charles, for a wedding. Jennifer [who has moved from books on Jim Crow memoirs and Arkansas civil rights organizations into the field of food studies, and is now working on a study of the political, cultural, and racial significance of African-American food traditions] teaches at the University of North Texas in Denton, twenty miles or so north of Dallas-Fort Worth. I offered my sympathies to her for having been exiled to this benighted region of America, and she assured me that Denton has a lively community of like-minded people who gather together for mutual support and manage to keep alive cafes, bookstores, and the like.
I thought, Now there is an idea for a book. We could call it America for the Sane, or something similar. It would be a series of vignettes of enclaves of progressive, culturally literate folk in unlikely locations across America. I am not talking about Cambridge, or Hyde Park, or Berkeley, or Morningside Heights, or Greenwich Village. Those are not enclaves but epicenters of Blue State dominance.
For example, many years ago, when my son Tobias graduated from Yale Law School and was offered a clerkship with a Ninth Circuit Federal Appeals Court Judge, he invited me to drive with him from Connecticut to California. [It was while we were crossing endless miles of one of the Plains states that Tobias looked around at the emptiness and said, with awe and wonderment, "They have two Senators!"]. We stopped overnight in Omaha, and found our way to a downtown street on which, for the space of one long city block, were located a number of funky cafes and countercultural bookstores. This was probably it for Omaha, but it was obvious that there was a small community of men and women -- some of whom, Tobias assured me, were gay -- who had managed to make a home in this unpromising locale.
There must be hundreds of such places in America. Just last Friday evening, Susie and I found our way to a lovely place called The Eddy Pub in the town of Saxapahaw. I figured I would be venturing into the real North Carolina, and foresightedly changed out of my Obama T-Shirt. But the pub turned out to be a gem, with first-rate food and an ambiance that would have fit quite nicely into downtown Chapel Hill.
Well, there are two ideas for books. Any takers?