By M. Scott Morris
TUPELO – Emily Gatlin and her husband have been eating at their couch since May.
They have good reason: Their dining room table is filled with about 150 hardbacks and paperbacks that have been signed by the authors.
A former manager at Reed’s Gum Tree Bookstore, Gatlin is a book reviewer for www.bookriot.com, so it makes sense for her home to overflow with books.
But the ones on her table – “Casual Vacancy” by J.K. Rowling, “A Dance of Dragons” by George R.R. Martin, “The Last Kind Words Saloon” by Larry McMurtry and the others – aren’t Gatlin’s books.
In a way, they belong to victims of the April 28 tornado. The books have been donated by publishers, literary agents and authors.
“Immediately after I got out of the basement that day, I had messages from New York,” Gatlin said. “My friends in the publishing industry asked what they could do to help.”
The result is an online auction on eBay, with the proceeds going to CREATE Foundation’s Northeast Mississippi Tornado Relief Fund.
That signed book by Rowling was on sale for $350, and it came with a batch from Gatlin’s friends at Parnassus Books in Nashville.
The retail price for the McMurtry book, a limited edition, was $250.
Who knows what they’ll fetch at auction?
Bidding will close for most books on Monday, but some will be available until Tuesday. Use the search term “Books for Tupelo” at eBay to take part.
If you’re new to eBay, you’ve got company because this has been Gatlin’s first foray.
“I have an app on my phone, so every time someone bids I get a notification,” she said.
The other day, she tuned in around midnight when two people must’ve been competing. One put down $40, then came $60, followed by $75. The back-and-forth cooled at $150.
“My phone’s been pinging all the time, at the grocery store, everywhere,” Gatlin said. “It’s very exciting.”
Romances are included, as well as how-to books. The Barefoot Contessa’s “Foolproof” is among several cookbooks on offer.
For kids, “Locomotive” by Brian Floca is a Caldecott Medal Book that one of Gatlin’s friends picked up in Washington, D.C.
For serious readers, there’s a copy of “The Orphan Master’s Son,” Adam Johnson’s Pulitzer Prize winner.
Mississippi authors Neil White and Michael Farris Smith are featured, and a friend of Larry Brown donated a copy of “The Rabbit Factory.”
Louisiana writer James Lee Burke sent along two of his books.
“I’ve never met him,” Gatlin said, “but he sent me the nicest hand-written note.”
Tom Clancy? Got it.
John Green? Oh, yeah.
Elizabeth Gilbert? Bingo.
There’s even a book that isn’t a book. The only audio book in the collection is Amy Greene’s “Bloodroot.”
Some are being auctioned individually, and others are in lots of like-minded genres. Browse all the titles at www.booksfortupelo.com.
Those 150 signed books on Gatlin’s dining room table are a literary feast.
She can’t keep her hands off because she unpacked them and will ship them to their eventual owners, but she’s kept her eyes off them.
“It’s been tempting,” she said. “It’s kind of made my ‘to-read’ list grow exponentially.”