Friday, July 6, 2007

When Refusing To Do Something Counts As Actually Doing Something, The Shiftless And Inert Become The Upwardly Mobile

There was a time when authors would travel the world, courting death in order to have something to write about. Hemingway went to Spain during the Spanish Civil War. Darwin sailed to the Galapagos Islands in pre-Dramamine days. Superhead worked her way up and down the East Coast having sex with every major label rapper since Kool G Rap. Lately, though, the opposite seems to be true. Authors are now writing books based entirely upon adventures that they didn't embark upon (Doing Nothing: A History of Loungers, Slackers, and Bums in America), foreign products they didn't buy (A Year Without 'Made In China'), and packaged foods they didn't eat (Animal, Vegetable, Miracle).

And this is supposed to be interesting how?

Reading is the lazy intellectual's secondhand way of experiencing life. Books are supposed to transport us places we normally wouldn't go and show us things we otherwise would not have seen. I am able to not shop at Walmart on my own. In fact, I do (not do) so daily, which seriously dampens any interest I might have in reading a book about someone else also (not) doing it. Oh sure, there are some sales to be made to the type of folks who need to have their lives mirrored back to them, but aren't most readers seeking perspectives and experiences unlike their own? Aren't they looking to be challenged and enlightened instead of just mentally masturbating with one metaphorical hand while patting themselves on the back with the other? Publishers would do well to reassess their current methods of unnatural selection, or they risk losing some of their audience to an all-new anti-adventure: readers not reading their books.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Bookcase Chic: Lining The Catwalks Of Milan

Sick and tired of trying to live a hip, modern lifestyle while surrounded by the same old-fashioned bookshelves your great-great-grandmother used to own? Check out these daring new designs, all of which are guaranteed to make your books look bolder, cooler and sexier -- and you along with them.

This $1,899 See-Saw design from BCXSY stands a little over a foot off the floor, comes in a walnut finish, and is sure to make you the envy of all your friends...if your friends are seven year olds. Creepy!

Nothing's sexier than curling up with a good book. Except maybe being forced to -- GRRRRROWL! This next model, The Cave, is great for the s&m shut-ins, as well as those of you living in areas prone to earthquakes. For a change of pace, fill the shelves of The Cave with a bunch of Pepto Bimol-colored books (as pictured), and wa-lah! It's got all the charm of a sanitarium library.

Ooh, look at this hulking beast of a bookcase. Talk about tall, dark and cumbersome! The Eurocentric Bibliochaise holds "up to 5 meters of books," comes in a variety of garish colors, and doubles as a state sanctioned, eco-friendly alternative to the electric chair: the paper cut seat.

Okay, I know what you're thinking. 'But I'm insane and wish to show it to the world via a bookcase that is at once a cry for help and also a desk/chair combo. Is there something like that out there for folks like me?' Of course there is, you silly lunatic. Broken Shelves has just what the doctor (should have) ordered, and in gloomy goth grey, to boot.

This last number is perfect for those of you who only own ten to twenty books, but wish to proudly display your relative illiteracy for the whole world to see. The Pop Bookcase comes in an unsettling, Rainbow Bright-inspired palette, and would be the very definition of 'style over substance' were there even the smallest bit of style displayed in its design. The word 'egads' comes immediately to mind.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Gone Fireworkin'

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

New Bits, In Brief

Sir Salman Rushdie, aged 60, and his 36 year old wife, Padma Lakshmi (host of TV's "Top Chef") are getting divorced. Rumors abound that Sir Rod Stewart and Sir Elton John rebuked Rushdie at a recent knights of the round table meeting 'for shagging a bird as ol' as the Queen 'erself.' This was apparently the straw that broke the camel's back, an untimely addition to the day to day troubles that the couple was already experiencing resulting from A SIXTY YEAR OLD HOBBIT SHACKING UP WITH A HINDU GODDESS HALF HIS AGE.
In related news, middle aged women everywhere have doubled the fatwa offer originally placed on Rushdie by the Islamic extremists. You go, girls!*

Bran Castle -- a.k.a. Castle Dracula -- is up for sale. The former home to Romanian psychopath Vlad the Impaler is expected to fetch upwards of $135 million. Rushdie oughta consider making an offer. It would make a fine place to stow away his next fountain of youth/sacrificial virgin/trophy bride.

*Veils up, though, when you do.

The Surgeon General Warns: You're Not Just Reading That Book, But Also Every Other Book That That Person Has Ever Read

Tuberculosis, smallpox, SARS, and the common cold are all possible side effects of bookcrossing -- a hip, new, media-invented trend wherein folks leave their recently read books lying about as gifts for like-minded strangers. Tech geeks (this means YOU, dear reader) can even register their books online and then track their journeys from reader to reader, city to city, country to country. (Or you can always just check the Center for Disease Control for recent outbreaks stemming from your region.)

Monday, July 2, 2007

It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year (cue: gunshot sound fx)

It's the 4th of July weekend, and the tourists have arrived on Cape Cod en masse. Actually, it's the first of two 4th of July weekends, as this year America's birthday falls on a Wednesday, granting it a party that stretches out over an entire week, like Mardi Gras and/or the major holidays in the life of a child with divorced parents. The pictures of the cars stuck in traffic coming over the Bourne Bridge were horrific no matter how you looked at them. In light of current events, it brought to mind the cars abandoned on the highways of New Orleans after hurricane Katrina. If you preferred to look at it through Hollywood's viewfinder, the sight resembled a George Romero film where the zombies had all learned to drive and were now heading to the Cape to eat the tanned flesh of the Kennedy kids. If you were a local, you simply swallowed your vomit and tried to look away.

I imagine the Wampanoags, the original inhabitants of the area, must have felt a similar feeling of woe when the Mayflower first came over the horizon. No longer were they autonomous humans with lives of their own, but complimentary, make-shift tourist bureaus, living solely to give detailed directions to their easily distracted, ADD-afflicted interlopers. I'm sure that the pilgrims had a lot of children who needed to go to the bathroom/have a glass of water/wanted to sit and read books for free with no intention of purchasing them, too. And they were guests, dammit, so why shouldn't they be allowed to? Is it documented anywhere whether the first words out of John Smith's poorly cared for mouth were "Do you have public restrooms?" or "Where's a cheap restaurant where I can get 5 star seafood?" Cuz I've got $5 riding on the first one and I'd really like to collect.

For a small business owner, the tourist season is (seppuku on) a double edged sword. Sure, the money is flowing (well, it was...pre-recession), but so is the unasked for criticism from folks who will most likely never return. Oh, you like espresso and think we should add a coffee shop to our bookstore? That is what you said, right? Because I could barely understand you as you stuffed your face with the complimentary coffee and cookies we laid out for *ahem* paying customers. You say your daughter self-published a novel about a girl who dreams of becoming a writer? Well, gosh darn it, why are we wasting our time planning Harry Potter events when we could be stocking up on print-on-demand books that there is absolutely no demand for? While I agree that having Alice Sebold, Michael Chabon and the cast from Grey's Anatomy in to do a group signing would be nice, I'm afraid that that has already happened. Last week. Sorry.

Another headache is the ludicrous expectations that many of these folks wash ashore with. In what bookstore, save one on the Harvard campus, would you be able to walk in and purchase a specific volume of untranslated 1970's Swedish psychology texts? And yet there are people walking in with requests as ridiculous as this every hour on the hour. You try to let them down easily, (a free cookie is a good way to start), but they will often take offense, as if you purposefully didn't have the book in stock just to make the writing of their thesis paper that much more of a challenge. What's worse is that they then tell you, "I'll try Borders," and then ask you for directions! I offer to tell them how to get to the Massachusetts border and leave it at that.

As strange as it sounds, I am actually able to take some small solace in the fact that the tourist season is still only beginning. Cuz come late July, all of the stuff that threatens to drive each and every one of us locals insane inevitably starts to seem less annoying and more a part of everyday life. The memories of traffic-free side roads fade away, as does the urge to treat crosswalks like checkered flags at the Indy 500. You actually begin to smile at customers -- are they still called customers if they're not buying anything? --when they yell at you and your staff for not allowing pets to roam the aisles unattended, as you know that the experience will provide fertile fodder for countless columns while bookstore blogging in the slower months. I don't have the proper psychology book handy (I think it's one from the 1970's), but I believe they call this Stockholm Syndrome.

Hmn...Stockhlom. Now there's a place I'd like to visit someday.

(The second photo is actually of Falmouth, England, but I thought it apt considering the secession celebrations currently taking place.)

Note: For a longer, funnier critique of local tourism, check out Marcia Monbleau's wonderful The Inevitable Guest: A Survival Guide to Being Company & Having Company on Cape Cod.