Thursday, August 23, 2012

Lament for the Bibliophile

A work in progress.  The caption will read, "Book lovers never go to bed alone."  The main image is from Saturated Canary and the smaller images are all from Octopode Factory.

When I saw the sign over the storefront inside of a low-end mall I wanted to reject the notion as illogical.  What would a first-edition bookstore be doing inside a low-rent mall, any mall for that matter?  What cell phone-distracted, under-age consumer will pause for even the blink of an eye, unless to snap a picture of this archaic relic and post on Facebook with the accompanying “LOL?”  But there it sat, a shop filled with books.  And not just any books, books in clear plastic baggies with their top flaps neatly taped down and marked with little rectangular stickers - books proudly bearing their “first edition” status.

I reminisced about a past in which my husband and I frequented such haunts.  We sought them out.  We looked for gems and spent hours rifling pages and scrutinizing the early pages, searching for pedigrees and histories.  Some of our first dates and much of our early years of marriage were spent inside the hallowed walls of bookstores:  new ones, old ones, little ones, huge ones, insignificant shanties, and even one trip to the revered City Lights in San Francisco.
So today, we stepped back in time and stepped up to the glass case to peer through and point out titles and authors before diverging ways to sift through the titles on the shelves.  We picked up two books for our children and left.

As we passed back out into the mall with its frenetic carpet and kiosks devoted cellular media, I realized how much the thought of bringing my kids to the mall to buy a book excited me.  Even as a teen shopping with my friends, I always stopped in at the bookstore, until all the bookstores left the malls.

The death of the printed page has been predicted with regularity, and at I times I think I see it coming.  We lost Borders a year or so ago and the small independent bookstores are nearly extinct.  Thank goodness we still have two large bookstores in town.   But the book collectors, ironically, must resort to the internet to acquire specimens.  How can books cast a spell over potential bibliophiles via cyber space?  Is the bibliophile just another DoDo bird in the making? Are my husband and I the last of a dying breed?   We are not avid collectors, just two booklovers who enjoy stumbling upon an uncommon find every now and then, breathing in the dust and must of a book that has seen many more years than we.

This week, I hope you get lost in a book,  or at the very least a magazine with actual pages.   You know the kind that molt subscription cards and hawk perfumes along their edges.  Let’s see an e-reader do that!


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