March 28th, 2015
Just thinking on my way to the store today – we’re closing tomorrow for Semana Santa, so hurry over for those beach books – about the inobsolescence of the book, and of literature itself, contrary to popular opinion. Sales of e-books peaked two years ago, and I can’t tell you how many owners of the device have expressed their final frustration with and abandonment of it – except for when traveling. (Another broadly held misconception, that our clientele are largely travelers and expats. But I’ll address that another time.)
You hear it all over, from cultural alarmists in schools and bars to our reigning titans Roth and Franzen: the novel is dying, or at least becoming the interest of a tiny cult, like we are headed back into a lost Middle Age. The very electronic culture we are so suddenly deep in was given its metaphors, it’s very language, by novels – specifically those of William Gibson and Philip K. Dick – and its favorite nightmares are those glossed two generations ago by Richard Matheson. How much more incomprehensible 9/11 would have been had we not been let in on the new world it made by Don DeLillo. Heaven forbid the same might be said for Cormsc McCarthy’s recent work.
Literature isn’t a weather forecast, but a constant and roiling two-way mirror. There still isn’t a better guide to choosing a life partner than George (Mary Ann Evans) Eliot’s Middlemarch. And though poetry in English lost its way fifty years ago, Whitman is still calling Americans to their better natures and shouting the broken dream at the heart of that experiment. Emily Dickinson and Wallace Stevens are still the strongest hallucinogens available on non-absorbent paper. And there are living poets – Dylan Brennan’s is the only volume we have in stock right now, but that’s soon to change – who are writing after hiphop and taking that genre’s sound sense and zero patience for whiners to remake and revitalize the discipline.
We are working on the small scale here, hand-to-hand, cash-only, and analog. But that doesn’t mean the Long Tail isn’t at play. The crack of a bullwhip begins with a hiccup in the wrist. From small things, baby, big things one day come.
We close for Semana Santa. If you can’t make it here today, we’ll see you on the 6th.