A few years ago, I enjoyed bookstores. The idea of quality writers tossing their wares into the marketplace of ideas had the same allure as a woman lifting the hemline beyond social mores. I’d spend hours scouring the shelves for something intriguing – an escapist fantasy or clandestine crusade – to pass those sleepless hours beneath a descending moon. Oftentimes, I’d plop down in a corner and indulge into the ramblings of some seventeenth century literary steward.
But recently, something changed. Electronic media gives everyone a voice, through blogs and websites and online magazines etc. The entertainment industry, along with the medical and legal fields, all see the literary venue as a new revenue stream. Even social media has become an outlet for creative expression. And so now, everyone is an author. This means the journey through the bookstore is fraught with the danger of purchasing something awful or sensationalized or time-wasting. It is an African plain of literary fare, the nourishing stray gazelle then disappearing into a fabricated wasteland of cardboard cut-outs and stuffed piñatas.
Worse yet, with so many people authoring novels, there is also an increase in the number of quality tales, which means I can’t possibly read everything I want to read. It used to be that I could have a discussion about a bestseller, because everyone I knew had read it. Today, those discussions are rare, as people digest soundbite-sized information from the internet, or devour one of the thousands of bestsellers per week.
The point here is that I no longer enjoy the bookstore. It makes me feel inadequate in ways that old porn films do. I’ve stopped trying to read all the crappy books on the shelf, and I’ve definitely failed to read the seemingly unlimited number of “good books” out there. There just isn’t enough time and no one to discuss them with anyway.
Eventually, I’ll succumb to those awful e-readers, with the vacant liquid-crystal stare and the compassionate feel of a poorly-performed proctology exam. Eventually, I’ll scan unsympathetic websites with computer-generated reviews and unhelpful check-out personnel and start downloading books. I imagine myself reminiscing about the days when the slow turn of a leather-bound cover and the smell of dusty pages could set me into dreamland. Depressing eh?
But then, here I am, writing, like all other idiots who have nothing to say and too much arrogance not to say it.