Eat Rice; Buy Books
Everyone in publishing is freaking out as we head into the holidays because the publishing industry figures people won't buy books this year for Christmas or Hanukkah on account of the depression.

The head of Barnes and Noble issued an internal memo to his staff that said (approximately):

"Never, never, never, never, NEVER, NEVER, have times been so tough for publishers and booksellers. If you are hoping to get your pal a seasonal job with us because they just got fired from Cinnabon, tell him or her that they are just going to have to get on welfare."

According to the New York Times, times are so tough that publishers cannot even afford $22 cocktails at Midtown Manhattan hotels anymore, and are thinking about doing something with returned copies of books besides burning them, perhaps even using them to build huts in the East Village for migrant bookbinders who cannot afford return tickets to Paris.

Goofus and Gallant in the bookstore stacks:


Dressed in a black suit and carrying a zippered leather portfolio, Mr. Clough, 36, said he had quit his job at a small brokerage firm on Wall Street six months ago. Fresh from a job interview, he flipped through a "Green Lantern" graphic novel but didn't buy it. "There were probably five books I would have bought if I were not unemployed," he said.


Ms. Belliveau, on the other hand, bought Carole Walter's "Great Cookies," just a day after purchasing Michael Pollan's "In Defense of Food." An architect who was laid off recently, she has turned down invitations to travel and downgraded her gym membership. She has found another job, but Ms. Belliveau, 40, is still being careful about expenses -- except books. "I like to have a collection of the history of what you read," she said.

Lately, everybody is invoking "Gone With the Wind" as an example of a book that sold millions during the last depression, in spite of nobody having a goddamn dime.

But ninety-nine percent of modern Americans only buy books in order to give them away to other Americans who are never going to read them, saying, obliquely: "I think that you are intelligent." These gifts collect on shelves, and perhaps they will be read by children someday who mistakenly think books are important before their minds are corrected and destroyed.

People who ACTUALLY read never buy books for each other, because it is low-class and mean. People who read don't want to read the books you think they should read, and buying them a book they don't want is like buying a homeless person a "Welcome" mat, or lighting their cigarette with a twenty dollar bill when they plead -- shaking, shuddering -- for a spark.

People who actually read buy each other sandwiches and pastries for Christmas or Hanukkah. They know that calories are priceless these days. Food is a good, strong reading accessory.

Writers -- the repellent, shambling foundation of the book trade -- have to buy their own pastries and eat them alone (people are afraid of diseases) instead of paying rent (they are poor decision-makers), singing "Silent Night" at the top of their lungs between ragged, sobbing chews (emotional, awful people, these writers).

Posted by miracle on Tue, 11 Nov 2008 20:43:53 -0500 -- permanent link

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