Booksellers Rock! Gerry Donaghy, Powell’s

Name: Gerry Donaghy

Bookstore: Powell’s City of Books

Title: New Book Purchasing Supervisor

Brief Bio: I was born in Philadelphia in the late 60’s, graduated from Reed College, and have worked at Powell’s for over 16 years (despite promising my mother it would only be a summer job). In addition to Powell’s, I’ve recently started Glitterbeast Literary Filmworks, which allows me to combine my two passions: books and films. In my spare time, I train and instruct Poekoelan Tjimindie Tulen, an Indonesian martial art.

What books recently rocked my world: Dora: A Headcase by Lidia Yuknavitch (I wish this existed when I was a teenager), Wake Up, We’re Here by Dallas Hudgens (this book of short stories is self-published and well worth seeking out), Fight Song by Joshua Mohr (is it okay to talk about books that haven’t been published yet?), and, not to suck up to Algonquin, but Jonathan Evison’s Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving also recently rocked my world (the reason I wanted to do the video for him is that I was so moved by it). Would I be greedy if I also gave a shout out to Lydia Millet’s Magnificence?

Best damn event(s) we’ve hosted: I don’t do very much with events at Powell’s, but I remember working an event years ago for Evil Dead star Bruce Campbell, where he enlisted the help of audience members to make prank calls and made every one of the nearly 1,000 people who showed up feel like they were the center of the universe. He also insisted that staff be on-hand to distribute candy to customers waiting in very long queues.

Most entertaining author(s) we’ve hosted: Again, I don’t do very much with events, but I was recently asked at the last minute to conduct a Q&A with Carlos Ruiz Zafon in front of a live audience (which he wanted to do instead of a reading). He couldn’t have been more gracious as he wove pure gold out of my amateurish questions. I also have to add that, while I wasn’t present, Lydia Yuknavitch’s recent event was quite the fete.

Strangest question a customer has ever asked: Aside from the semi-yearly question regarding the availability of a Xerox machine for customers, either I’ve never been asked overly strange questions, or I’ve purged them from my memory.

Why our store kicks ass: I believe Powell’s kicks ass through the fanatical devotion of our customers and staff. It’s an awesome combination.

What makes our neighborhood and customers awesome: Portland is a creatively rich city, and our neighborhood, the Pearl District, has really grown in the last ten years, increasing an already diverse clientele.

I promise you won’t find this at any other store: Lots of bookstores think that the world revolves around them. We have a medallion embedded into our floor reminding us that, in fact, Powell’s is the center of the world.

Why I do what I do: Because I’m really unfit for anything else.

If I weren’t selling books I’d be: Either working in a post office or in my 16th year of grad school.

Books that changed my life: Changing my life might be too strong of a phrase, but at different points of my life On the Road by Jack Kerouac, Lanark by Alasdair Gray, The Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelaire, The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann and (most recently) Zazen by Vanessa Veselka have reminded me that I’m not alone.

Top three authors, living or dead, I’d invite to my dinner party: Geoff Dyer, Robert Hughes and Doubleday editor Gerald Howard. All three are the kind of cultural polyglots that make me insanely jealous of their talents. Perhaps after a few glasses of wine I would feel the courage to contribute to the conversation.

Top three songs on the soundtrack to my life: Ask me tomorrow, I’ll answer differently, but for today: Ace of Spades by Motorhead,Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell by Iggy & the Stooges, and Cold Sweat by James Brown.

My last meal request: Anything served with a pint of Guinness would be fine… as long as it doesn’t involve cheese.

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