On a winter's evening, not too many weeks ago, I parked on the avenue and made my way into Barnes & Noble. Shops and restaurants line the streets, but I am under no illusion that this is a typical downtown. This is an illusion, created by a developer for the sole purpose of reminding us of the downtowns of yesteryear with their quirky shops and local restaurants, except that this one is filled exclusively with shops and restaurants you can find anywhere.
I'm not knocking Barnes & Noble. I really am not. I'm a card-carrying member, gladly seeking my discounts and my Starbucks coffee drinks from the Barnes & Noble cafe. Although I love a great independent bookstore, there simply aren't that many around any more, and my problem is more personal. My husband does not understand this difficulty I have in bookstores. For him, shopping is a mere matter of going in, grabbing something you like, paying and getting back out.
How do you explain that in a bookstore it isn't selecting an item as much as it is rejecting 10,000 others? I look at some of these (truly awful) books and think, but they finished. They finished their book and found an agent and a publisher. They poured their heart and soul into this and I am rejecting it? Walking by that plaintive offering of years of someone's work and creativity? Ignoring the silent plea from that title, simply longing to be picked up, purchased and read and appreciated? Wondering if that author is at home right now thinking, If someone doesn't buy a book soon I'll drive off a bridge. Years of my life wasted. My dream in ruins. Someone please buy my book!
I hang my head, hiding from that title, sneaking past, hoping it won't notice my rejection and move on. Despite the slightly guilty feeling I have upon rejecting so many out of hand, I am still drawn to wherever books are gathered for the purpose of allowing me to purchase them and take them home, to be savored from the comfort of my favorite leather chair, throw across my legs and a cup of mocha next to me. Or in the car on a long trip, "Oh no, why don't you drive for a while." I say to my husband, fooling no one as to my reasons. A car trip or an airline adventure is a guilt-free time to sit and read. My carry-on always has two or three books in it. And a pad of paper and pens to write with.
I marvel, as I am book-shopping in one of the megastores, at the shelves filled with volumes from the same author. When an author attains such readership and such popularity that a store such as Borders or Barnes & Noble will allow them three or four linear feet of shelf space, I can't help but stop and imagine my books, with my name on the cover peering out from just such a shelf. And I wonder, should that day come, will people so easily dismiss the plaintive calls of my novels?