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Powell's is so much the booklover's bookstore that I had to swallow hard before diving in, here. When the Borders and Barnes & Nobles do the Calvino bossa nova you describe above and the few independents have to decide whether to imitate them (Christmas is when they basically breakeven, or not) or stubbornly consign themselves to purity and ultimate oblivion, Powell's is like a shining yet dusty beacon (like Foyle's in London).

I commented on Dale's post that I thought a lot of the ennui he was feeling might be laid at the feet of the publishing industry, which has become a slave to Barnes & Noble/Borders and what "sells." (Not what gets read, necessarily; Foucault's Pendulum and A Brief History of Time are both books that made those piles in large numbers and then remained famously unread.) Someone suggested Dale might write a book himself. I for one would rather continue to see him, and you, asking hard questions here rather than going through a year or more of peer review, editing, design (brash? trendy? oh so tasteful?), marketing, sweating over sales figures, and the ultimate ignominious remainders pile. In Powell's or elsewhere.


Pica, I believe you're the first person who's ever told me I shouldn't write a book! How liberating! Thank you!

Miss Bliss

For some reason this post made me think of something that I belive Neil Gaiman suggested, something about a library of books that were all reading each other and then writing new books themselves. I just sort of loved the image of books reading and writing each other without a care in the world for us creatures with the short attention spans.

I have to say that I also have sensed the bitterness and barely suppressed rage of the used books, but I am also drawn to them relentlessly. I'm pretty sure that means I'm crazy.


I love used bookstores, and can honestly say i've never felt any bitterness, emptiness, envy, oppression, lust - well, O.K., maybe a little lust. The thing is, I simply don't feel compelled to read most fiction at all (I don't care how great people tell me it is, it's still just a story - or worse yet, it isn't); books of poetry i have no problem reading cover-to-cover in one sitting; and most nonfiction that i buy i never intend to read straight through in the first place. In fact, I heartily recommend adopting the attitude that nonfiction books are meant to be sampled, dipped into, read like the Bible. If they're boring and badly written, like, say, The Critique of Pure Reason or Being and Time, then no matter how important they are reputed to be, I refuse to read them. Life is too short, and besides, so-called Important Books have always been summarized adequately by someone who CAN write, usually more than once. The books I most enjoy are those I feel no obligation to read at all, like Gerard's Herball that I was rhapsodizing about the other week. Pure fun! I guess this makes me less of a scholar than a dilettante. Oh, well.


Scholars, dilettantes and cruisers for sex are all welcome in the late-modern bookstore. Look at that lovely photo of Powells with its open shelves, cool design, its visual and tactile pleasures. Regard those big open tables to wander through. Leave us not forget the information- based flanuers who stroll and cast their desiring gaze there. Maybe that boy you mention in the cafe is the choicest item to be acquired and the tome is the apparatus of seduction?
For seduction is what the bookstore as public space is about. Not like the old, cold-medium libraries with their tall shelves blocking the views and hushed tones forbidding conversations. Imagine sections as luscious as Urban Planning and Gay/Lesbian Lit. calling to you from every large mall or arcade. The bookstore that inspires ennui is also the place with the cafe and the music, the chairs and couches, the outlets for your computer. Books are now largely another aspect of material culture that has been fine tuned to stimulate consumption and bring you back in. Here your presence proclaims, “I am a literate person”, as you scan the wares, both fleshy and textual. You seek the company of others like yourself....those persons who may change your life; or at least recommend a new title. Vive les flanuers!!


Book stores are places that carefully (or carelessly) house the dreams and whispers of thousands, yet no matter which flavor, ultimately they are also the graveyard for many of the words that will never be read. In fact, sometimes the thought of knowing that a book will remain tightly closed and ignored upon the bookshelf is the only thing that keeps me sane.

I've thoroughly enjoyed this thread, as I've followed it bouncing around from place to place (beginning over at dale's), and it continues to prove one thing we all already know: books touch us, even when they are aren't being read.

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