Sunday, February 3, 2008

86; Bookstore Optimism

Bookstores can be nerve-racking places. They try not to be, and I give them due credit for their efforts. The atmosphere they try and convey is an inviting one of relaxation and comfort. A worries-away kind of space.

So many bookstores, even the individual ones, as well as every Barnes and Noble or Borders come with coffee and sweets. There's a mythos that nothing's better, or cozier, than spending a day curled up with a beverage, a pastry, and a good book. The stores know this, and they hope that you know this.

As if that weren't enough the Borders and Barnes and Noble places have become not bookstores, but entertainment stores. Movies, music and books all in one convenient place, and hey, don't forget to grab a scone.

(There's something worrisome here. Has entertainment now been parsed down to those things which you read, listen to, or watch? What happened to play? And what happened to do? Can't a hike, a bikeride, or a conversation count as entertainment? In My Documents there's a folder named 'My Videos', another called 'My Music' and a third called 'My Documents'. No sign of 'My Conversations'. Or 'My Adventures'. Yet I might like to have a folder presserving those things the most.)

The bookstore's difficulty, I find, is not the coffee, or the movies, or the music. I can always go to a small store to avoid that stuff. Not even the magazines daunt me. The daunting factor are all the books.

I love to read. Reading and me, we go way back. (Not really. I wasn't a big reder until high school, and wasn't a reading nut until maybe five years ago.) No matter what section I am in, there are multiple books I want to buy. Multiple books worth reading in Science, multiple in Philosophy, multiple in Poetry and History.

Diagnosing this isn't anything new, and I realize that. When we are given too many choices we feel trapped, uneasy, unable to make up our mind. The bookstore daunting is similar to the toothbrush aisle daunting. Over four hundred models of toothbrush to choose from. I remember once just turning to the woman next to me and asking her to choose for me.

Unlike toothbrushes, however, I plan to get to all those books. When getting a toothbrush I expect it to serve me well, have the bristles turn to mush, and be thrown away, afterwhich I get to go through the whole choose a new toothbruch expereince again. Yet, with the books, I won't come back after buying and reading one and looking for the same model. You need to a pick a new one every time. Unlkie toothbrushes, which you can safely gauge as the kind for you, in the Fiction aisle there is no hope.

This whole thing points to two bigger causes, that I must again concede aren't my own discoveries. Choices like these show us, 1) that we are damned lucky individuals who have problems like these to worry and write about, instead of writing about last night's bombing campaign or the lack of fresh water availability and 2) that if you are having these sorts of problems you must be an optimist. Only an optimist would worry about books in this fashion since only an optimist would think they'd get to all of those books 'some day'.

Now we approach the real question, right at the end. Are there such things as pessimists? Just to put my cards on the table, I think the two require one another to exist. But let me know what you think, and that'll be the topic for next time.

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