On any given day, you can find DuVaure huddled behind her computer in Vroman’s administrative offices, behind the stationery section and next to the aromatherapy candles. The bookstore’s software gives her an instant update on how many copies of any one book have sold that day. Sometimes, for fun and also to “take the temperature” of the buying public, she tracks the speed at which a certain title — the new Cormac McCarthy perhaps, which just won the Pulitzer — is selling. “I like to be aware of what’s happening on the floor,” she says, pulling on the little fingerless black gloves she keeps by her keyboard. “What’s happening in receiving? That’s the real thing. Has a shipment arrived? Sometimes a new batch comes in, and due to the vagaries of shipping, corners get bumped. Or covers are warped.” Ultimately, on “lay-down day,” or the day the book becomes available to the public, her job is to make damn sure the books are there, or to make sure she has a good reason why they’re not.
DuVaure’s favorite concept is cross-pollination. For example, when staff members were setting up the display shelf for the new coffee-table book The Deep: The Extraordinary Creatures of the Abyss, with Claire Nouvian’s dazzling, lush photographs of deep-sea ocean life such as the green globe sponge, spookfish, pigbutt worms, yeti crabs, helmet jellies, glowing sucker octopi, benthocodons and the “vampire squid from hell,” DuVaure thought it would be the perfect opportunity to mix in a book on the culture of sushi. She collaborated with the stationery buyer, who in turn mixed in some bottles of blue bubble bath and note cards featuring drawings of fish. “Not to trivialize it, of course, because then it would be too much, but you want to gently suggest.” You are not shaping an entire culture, necessarily, but rather piquing the curiosity of an individual mind.
Despite her aptitude for it, book buying was not something DuVaure originally planned to do. She thought she would be a pilot, or a United Nations translator. “It sounds so pompous now,” she says, shaking her head. “I will translate for everybody. Or I will go everywhere, even to the moon!” But that sense of discovery remains. “Especially when you find someone who is telling a story in a new way,” she says, looking off into the distance. “You may have read it 20 times, but never heard it told quite that way before.”
That happened recently when a rep asked her to read an “incredible” book he was promoting. They all say that, the reps, but she gave Ron Carlson’s Five Skies a try. “It had this powerful, perfect rhythm,” she says. “Of course, all the reviews say that. Powerful, poignant, perfect rhythm . . . But it was true. It’s about the developing friendship of three carpenters, how they work together, how they evolve.” When she’s on the train home, DuVaure says, she still thinks about that book every day.