Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Well there are classics and there are classics

Jeez, how did I miss this? It's the slow resentful burn of my life.
Paul Constant in the Seattle alt-paper, The Stranger writes:

"In my eight years working at an independent bookstore, I lost count of how many shoplifters I chased through the streets of Seattle while shouting "Drop the book!" I chased them down crowded pedestrian plazas in the afternoon, I chased them through alleys at night, I even chased one into a train tunnel. I chased a book thief to the waterfront, where he shouted, "Here are your fucking books!" and threw a half-dozen paperbacks, including Bomb the Suburbs and A People's History of the United States, into Puget Sound."

The piece puts the bee on "an underground economy of boosted books" whose value is agreed upon and sought out. The idea being that used bookstores will sometimes unknowingly pay for some perennial (and perhaps very lightly "used") favourites. The list?
1. Charles Bukowski
2. Jim Thompson
3. Philip K. Dick
4. William S. Burroughs
5. Any Graphic Novel

In short, "the fiction that young white men read, and self-satisfied young white men, the kind who love to stick it to the man."
I worked for a used bookstore for years and for a time we were party central for turning away hot books. It seemed like every sunny day in the early 90's we'd turn away books freshly knicked from area new bookstores, often given as gifts or just something that didn't meet our guy's discerning tastes.
It was always good fun to quiz the twitchy future video game addict on his favourite Edith Wharton biography or how he came to love that book on dream interpretation so much, and didn't it cause him pain to get rid of it?
I usually settled for something approaching eye contact, before informing the little bastard that we didn't buy stolen books. The quality of the returned invective always disappointed me.
A few years back, we had our only sustained bout of theft when a good chunk of our better art books started disappearing. It turned out that one of our people got a good look at the perp on the way out, and without going into details, the guy had more distinguishing features (bad dental and bad luck) than anyone should bear. Next time we saw him, we told him as much and that was the denouement.
In tribute to the citizens of K-W, inventory shrinkage at Words Worth isn't much of a problem.
It could be because self-satisfied young white men aren't reading much.
Or tacit acknowledgment that Charles Bukowski is rarely worth paying for.

Posted by Dave

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