Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Used Bookstore

I love used-bookstores, because I'm a cheap bastard, and supporting authors directly makes me feel all queasy and capitalistic inside; but moreso because they often only carry the 'good stuff' (particularly if in a densely populated area).

It's a bit humbling, of course, when one can't find a single book on their 'to-read' list, it's either the books you want are so sought after that nobody ever sells them; or when they do, they are snatched up; OR, a big OR here, your literary tastes sucks. Which, well, granted, I can't disagree with.

There's that great atmosphere of intellectual expansion in a used bookstore. They got your over-degreed Liberal Arts staff, and over the murmur of some progressive punk band from the 80's you can hear terms like 'Proustian', 'proto-liberal idealization of free-will' and other such heady thoughts that I've never gotten my brain around. But being awash in a limbo of grad students and intellectuals (both pseudo and real) one can figure out where one might stand in the continuum of 'thinkers'. Apparently I fall somewhere between 'guy who has really deep thoughts while getting high in the 7-11 parking lot' and 'Uncle Fred getting kinda poetic and deep about 'Nam right before he gets outrageously racist'.

I know this. I don't want other people to know this, though.

So what if I don't have skinny jeans or know the difference between Hemingway and e.e. cummings (one was a doctor, one was macho as hell, I think) or refer to headphones as 'cans' or have a list of preferences, that, if you were to have any of them, would signal an immediate and irrevocable shunning. I don't wear a blazer with a hoodie and I still suspect Modest Mouse to be a lesser known hero in early Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle comics.

I mean, I'm not that person. But I also have no desire for the general used bookstore population to think it, or, barring that, for them to write me off as some sort of staid, ramrod straight Tom Clancy-idolizing Military Budget-supporting far-right kinda person.

It was with some trepidation that I went to the front counter to get some help. I have, as my previous post can attest, gotten into Patrick O'Brian. So I asked the beardy, ironical t-shirt wearing assistant manager-esque fellow behind the cash register if they might have some. There was a slight pause, as he realized he might be dealing with One of Those Readers (this being a sub-race of readers who read things Slightly Untoward or Crassly Commercial), then he said, 'Oh, you mean those, naval books?'. He waved vaguely around the corner. Naval as in 'military', as in crufty, as in. Well.

I tried to maintain my composure, although the idea to blurt out, "I don't know art, but I know what I like, and that ain't it" while motioning towards his rack of Sandman, did cross my mind. I quietly collected a few O'Brians; then remembered I had some books I wanted to sell. Without thinking I emptied the 10 or so books I no longer wanted. Another staff member, a shorter youngish lady with 'simmering post-doc' written all over her face quickly went through them. In what can only be calculated to lessen the pain of intellectual ostracization, she said, 'These are still yours", pushing 9 books back.

Which is a shame, because I was kinda thinking I'd about keeping the Eggers book.

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