It also reminded me of another iconic year that passed without incident, 1984, and since nothing funny has happened to me in the last 24 hours that I can write about, here are a couple of real things heard in bookstores over the years.
So back in 1984, I'm in a small Barnes & Noble on the Upper West Side -- they were mainly small in those simpler, gentler times -- and somebody asked the sales assistant for a copy of, yes, 1984.
"Who's it by?" asked the assistant. Six customers in the store simultaneously looked up and chorused "George Orwell!"
To be equaled by an even earlier overhearing, back in my local bookshop in Wimbledon, England, in 1979.
"Do you have Clive James's autobiography?" asked a customer.
"I don't know," answered the assistant. "Who's it by?"
There's a point where these stories stop being funny and start being, well, kind of sad, at least when you consider the longer term job prospects of the employees concerned. In the first case, the young woman assistant followed up her customers' prompting of the year's most famous classic by beaming around the store and merrily announcing "I never heard of it." And in the second case, James's book about his Australian childhood Unreliable Memoirs, with which the assistant was unfamiliar, was currently the at top of the British bestsellers list.