Review: If It Gets Quiet Later On, I Will Make a Display

If It Gets Quiet Later On, I Will Make a Display
Nick Thran, 136 pgs, Nightwood Editions,, $22.95

As someone whose job also involves making book displays, I was immediately interested in Nick Thran’s book-fueled memoir. If It Gets Quiet Later On, I Will Make a Display revolves around Thran’s move from New York City to Fredericton, New Brunswick — in itself a shocking enough contrast that is layered on top of a change in lifestyle (home-ownership) and career (moving to full-time childcare). Later during his time in Fredericton, Thran takes on part-time work in a bookstore, reviving a skillset he had developed at many bookstores over many years.

If It Gets Quiet includes mainly essays, poetry and memoir-style writing reflecting on the role of independent bookstores mixed with a miscellaneous selection of writing projects that feel more fragmented. While each individual piece — a short story or a magazine article about Calgary’s Old Trout Puppet Workshop — is interesting on its own, as a whole they are different enough that it makes reading the book feel a bit disjointed.

The strongest material here ends up being about independent bookstores and what we are losing when they are overcome by Amazon and chain stores. These parts of the book are funny, intimate and familiar. One poem sweetly describes the feeling of bookstore work as being “just a little bit high on the feeling of being of use.” Thurn is a good writer and each individual chapter is interesting, but the full collection is a bit bumpy to read.