Tuesday

I am the cultural elite

I was reading one of the dozen or so Blogs I read on a regular basis, and the author works at an independent bookstore. And she was talking about how her customers always ask her where the Borders or Barnes and Nobles are and so on. Admittedly I like Barnes and Nobles, I’ve taken many long unemployed naps in a B&N. I wasn’t sad the day “book kingdom” on Myrtle Avenue was put out of its misery. But I love indy bookstores; there are dozens around my office, the biggest being the Strand (which is barely an indy book store).

But what I really want to bitch about is the kind of books a corporate bookseller sells. John Grisham, Stephen King, Anne Rice, J.K. Rowling, Michael Creighton, Tom Clancy. Anything that easily becomes an Oprah book club choice or Tom Cruise movie. I was on the train this morning; the woman next to me was reading this John Grisham Christmas book. “Oh I’m an intellectual I read!” she might say.

No you are an idiot, you might as well just watch TV, you’ll learn just as much. Well this book was number one on the New York Times bestseller list; it was profiled in Oprah magazine it has to be good. Lots of people buy cigarettes they aren’t good for you. Lots of people followed Hitler, were they right? They must have been it was a popular opinion.

Admittedly as an employee of a publishing house, I want our books to make it on the NY Times bestseller list. But so far from what I’ve seen my two departments do books that are good, and if they sell well great, but that not what we are about. Especially our learning titles. Next fall we will be publishing a book, that it will be hip to be reading. And the magazines and Oprah will love it. The authors are both super well known, and the story is great and from what I’ve read of it so far it’s going to be huge. Go buy a copy of Peter and the Starcatchers when it drops.

I remember I was in a poetry workshop class in school, and this guy Doug accused another guy of being an elitist. And the guy defended his lame ass “drive by a shimmering lake in the fall type poetry” by saying that hey I might be an elitist and I’m good with that, he didn’t phrase it like that but he embraced being part of the intellectual elite. That guy couldn’t write his way out of a paper bag, using a knife as a pen.

But I kind of agree with not caring if readers on the Billboard top 40 book charts think I’m an elitist or that I’m pretentious when it comes to my reading. Well that’s cool with me. I remember I was working at the Office of Mental health and one of the bosses was talking to us and this dufus who was basically a “meterosexual” except for the fact that he was probably gay, was saying that he just loved the books of John Grisham. I turned to my friend Vanessa, and said “ I though Bill knew how to read.”

So next time you need to buy a book, for a trip or just to read don’t buy any book that you can pick up in Pathmark or at the airport. Try a new un-established writer, or go for one of the classics that you have not read.

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