Saturday, October 23, 2010

Book stuff, good and ugly

Just picked up a copy of WS Merwin's "The Shadow of Sirius"  and it blew me away.  an odd thing, though;  I got through the first five or six very lyrical pieces, and had to stop.  Since then I've been carrying it around like a partially opened treasure, almost afraid to keep going.  It's become my Linus blanket of books.  I need it near me, but not to read. Not yet. 

The ugly is Barnes and Noble, a fairly sturdy candidate in the book chains for their attention to poetry--it's been six months or so since I was there last, and the poetry section which once stretched half the length of the store, now stretches three long bookcases, head  high.  No one bothers any longer to keep the books in order, and if you want, say, Kooser, you start at the first book and hunt until you find one. If any.   By next year, I said to the clerk, there won't be any.  He nodded and said, by next year, if that happens, I'm gone.

I think we're seeing a dark ages coming, one store at a time.  I always wondered what it would be like to be at the edge of a new Dark Age,  and it's not much fun.  It's all coming unglued, faster and faster.  Perhaps the computer will be our monks, our scribes,  storing information until such time as people can remember how to read again, how to turn the damn things on, how to use that information.  Im glad in a strange way to have seen that terribly sinster dark edge,  but even gladder I won't be around to watch what happens. 


  1. One ALWAYS wants a Kooser, who is God (not to dis Mr Merwin, who I know to be one of your faves).

    I'm doing my best to stay out of the B&N behemouth as much as possible (except for coffee & reading good stuff I can't afford or have opted not to buy); have, instead cultivated a very healthy relationship with the indie on Main street, who orders the journals and books I want & serves up a wicked good coffee and apple blossom, too.

    I can stand the slight delay of gratification while my order's pending, and in the meantime, Meagan's always up for a chat, is interested in what I'm writing, and is pretty easy on the eye, too.

  2. The only bookstore behemoth now is B&N, and that's a forty mile trek to Portsmouth, over the Highway of Permanent Upgrading. And two tolls. Border's, which I have given up as a bad deal, is 30 miles the other way. In between is a small delightful used bookstore (only a twenty mile drive which also gives you the choice of Bridge of Permanent Renovation or the Highway of Permanent Upgrading and one toll. We have no indies, sadly. The last one went out of business at about the same time the penultimate last one across the street did, in a sort of operatic suicide/suicide finale...

  3. I seem to trail a "Linus blanket of books" around with me too. Perfect description! Our Barnes & Noble here in East Lansing, which I loved and supported because they committed to a downtown location (I can walk there!), is withering on the vine. Rumors abound that they are closing, and in my disgust and sadness I have turned all of my attention (and dollars) over to Schuler Books & Music, which is a wonderful store. But their poetry section has shrunk to almost nothing. Last year, I commented on the ever-shrinking collection, and the clerk said, meekly, "I prefer to think that it waxes and wanes."

  4. part of the problem is Amazon, E-books, and local book sales which people attend with the intensity of bingo players. Borders automatically 'discounts' every book on their shelves, it seems, I have no idea why, nor do the clerks.

    But book stores are dying. The Big Two and a Half (B&N, BordersandWaldenbooks) have driven out every indie bookstore I know of, and then they go out of business, leaving a gap in the ozone layer. Sort of like WalMart and Home Depot do for retail.

    And poetry is the first to go, isnt it. How sad.