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Could St. George’s Day Save the Book Industry?

With bookstores vanishing, the Pulitzer committee skimping on Pulitzers, and the Amazon dragon twining its bright yellow coils around every publisher on Earth, the book industry finds itself in dire peril. But lo! What figure rides over the horizon? Is it…could it be…

St. George?

Yes, this legendary warrior, or at least the day named after him, could be the book’s last best hope. Yesterday GalleyCat reported:

[April 23] is St. George’s Day (La Diada de Sant Jordi in Catalan), a holiday for lovers and readers. Like Valentine’s Day in the U.S., the holiday is meant to be spent with your special someone.

But instead of chocolates, according to Catalan tradition, [St. George’s Day] is about books and roses. Specifically, a man buys a rose for his special lady and a woman buys a book for the man in her life.

Why can’t we import this tradition to our shores, and market the hell out of it? (I mean as its own entity, not the romance-free knockoff called World Book and Copyright Day, which has somehow failed to capture the popular imagination.) Over in Catalonia they move 400,000 books every April 23. Four hundred thousand, in a region with 7.5 million people! While you’re doing the math for a country of 300 million, here are some other advantages to consider:

– The holiday commemorates the shared death date (April 23, 1616) of William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes, two gentlemen who can never really be celebrated enough.

– Florists would be happy to participate in the event. America being America, candy manufacturers could probably swing a tie-in also.

– In Spain the traditional gift exchange has spawned the saying, “A rose for love and a book forever”—a ready-made slogan and a beautiful one-line poem in its own right.

– Putting an additional romantic holiday on the calendar would relieve some of the pressure surrounding Valentine’s Day. Screw up the one, and you can always look forward to the other.

Since large swaths of America don’t know who St. George is—and since he turns out to be, inconveniently, the patron saint of England—the holiday would need to be renamed for the U.S. market. Not to worry: “Literary Love Day,” “Nerd Valentine’s Day,” and “Booksgiving” all have a certain ring to them. It was a canny Spanish bookseller who first promoted the holiday in 1923; I hereby call upon our own booksellers, publishers, and readers to adopt it immediately.

Consider the industry saved. Don’t thank me, thank St. George (although come next April, I’ll gladly accept complementary books and roses).

[Image: St. George and the Dragon, Raphael, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.]


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