Saturday, December 30

Empty handed

In addition to the cache of books discovered beneath the tree there was also a rectangular strip made from a substance others more worldly than I knew to be 'plastic.' Apparently I can use this plastic strip to barter for books at Barnes & Noble Booksellers. I know not what possible utility this plastic could serve the purveyors of books, but I am never one to quibble with current trends in bartering--as outlined in the just released Old Barterer's Almanac 2007--especially when, as in this case, I seem to have gained the upper hand.

It may or may not be interesting to note that until just recently I had always been more of a Borders man than a Barnes & Noble man. Borders, as you may know, began in Ann Arbor, and the flagship store on East Liberty really is quite marvelous. When I lived in Boston I used to go out of my way to shop at the Borders by Downtown Crossing even though I lived nearby the BU Barnes & Noble as well as the Prudential Center Barnes & Noble. Just one of those silly quirks of brand loyalty I suppose. But here in Seattle I quite prefer the downtown Barnes & Noble to the downtown Borders (Borders still reigns supreme in the music and DVD departments, but this is Book-Loop, where such ephemera are cast aside in favor of more scholarly pursuits). Perhaps as my college days grow more distant my bond with Borders slowly crumbles. Or perhaps it is simply the case that the Barnes & Noble is more comfortable, their staff far less intrusive as I browse, their patrons far more convivial. Granted, neither of these nationwide behemoths can hold a candle to the local gem that is Elliott Bay Book Company, and so this entire paragraph becomes obsolete.

Because of my allegiance to Elliott Bay it probably comes as no surprise that my Barnes & Noble gift certificate, while received with much appreciation, has caused me some frustration. I stroll through the aisles at Barnes & Noble in search of books I know to be plentiful at Elliott Bay and I come away wanting. No Davies, no Cheever, no Percy, no Marcus. Why, not even Catch-22 or The Brothers Karamazov, two classics that seem to have unforgivably slipped through the cracks of their shelves and mine. At one point I held Richard Ford's The Sportswriter in my hand. I put it back to browse some more and when I returned some time later, deciding that at the very least I could get that for now, it was nowhere to be found. I stormed out, no books in hand. Sure, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt, the holidays scurried away leaving the literature section in something of a drought. Hopefully a restock is in order, or I'll have to shift back to Borders.

But seriously, I did stumble across a Colson Whitehead book of essays regarding New York titled, The Colossus of New York. Not sure if either Bryan or Louis have read this, but seeing as how Bryan is now unashamed to refer to himself as a "New Yorker" I figured this might be of interest. I read the introduction and skimmed (it's true!) through other portions with great delight. If I, who has passsed through New York only a handful of times, find the book of interest, I thought others here might feel even more strongly about it.

Also stumbled across a book called 1001 Books to Read Before You Die, or some such foolishness. It seemed decent. But really, is every novel by Ian McEwan and Don DeLillo worthy of being placed in a top 1001? 1001 isn't really a lot when you consider the list begins circa 600 BC with Aesop's Fables.

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