Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The tragic death of books

So, it's been a long while since I've blogged, and I would like to discuss with everyone the agony I've been facing for the last two years of my life as a bookseller.

My mother has always said that I was a hoarder, a pack rat, a stockpiler. Honestly, I prefer to think of myself as a collector, a connoissuer if you will. So when I moved ten hours from home in a Mitsubishi Eclipse, my cache of books had to be cut down significantly. That included donating about one hundred books, in addition to clothes, and vinyl albums. Needless to say I was crushed; it was like parting with my children. I knew each item as a separate individual possessing qualities that I wanted in my life.   

So when Bruce asked me if I could use my past experience of doing returns to start doing them at the bookshop, I cringed. Returning books can be a relieving experience, but there is also the possibility that the process will turn into a anguished goodbye. I say this because I recently had to come to terms with sending one of my favorite books back to the publisher. Last summer I got recommended Dharma Punks by Noah Levine. I picked it up here on a Tuesday and did not put it down until the early morning hours of Wednesday. Like all good books, it got me thinking about life, and the way things move in circles.

When I was pulling from my list of things to return and came across Dharma Punks, I almost lost it. I immediately walked over to the computer and typed in the information that would tell me how many copies of the book I had sold since I had written the staff pick for it. The numbers, to my surprise,  were staggeringly low. Then it dawned on me that I had not found the right person to send it home with, and because of that, it had to find a new home with the publisher it came from.

The idea then dawned on me that I needed to find closure. Do you know how hard it is to find closure when you know you could've saved something from going back FROM WHENCE IT CAME?! Impossible. Or, nearly impossible. I shed a single tear, packed the book up with its siblings, and marked the box "fragile" so that the package delivery person would know to be extra-nice to it.

Then, all of a sudden, the answer dawned on me: I had failed myself by thinking that I hadn't found the "right person" to send the book home with. What I really needed to look at was that anyone can be the "right person" if you can accept the purest, least-mentioned fact of the book world: all books are good. My job, as a bookseller, is to help other people find the good in each novel, anthology, cookbook, and reference book that they see, so that they can pass on the message.



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