I just don’t believe in the End of the World anymore. How many times has that been just around the corner? Never happens. I’m not saying it never will, but I don’t think it’s something on which anyone should still be counting. That gloomy Spenglerian habit of foreseeing The Decline of the West, The End of History, The Coming Collapse, The End of Time . . . what-have-you . . .
We can’t seem to help ourselves; everything must mean something and something surely must signal the end. Hasn’t happened. Tired of waiting, cringing. I’ve sold that book, by the way, in one form or another, for decades. There will be always be another, I should think, and when there is, why then, we’ll sell that one too. Just so much sliced bread to me. More recently, though, things have taken yet another dark turn, and in the past few years, what with the rise in devices on which one may play solitaire without cards, there’s been The End of Reading, The Last Bookstore, The End of the Book, and so on. Rather nearer to home, all that, than say overpopulation and or the collapse of the Euro, no?
Well, I’m not having any of that anymore either. My dears, just how long has all this been supposedly coming down around our dusty heads? I’m not saying there haven’t been losses—remember when the middle class lived in cities, browsed bookstores and taught their children to read rather than reading their children’s books?—but sad as all the bad news has been, independent bookstores still exist, books are still written, published, sold, and so on. People still read and read books; poor people, working people, old people, young people, other people, all of us. If indeed the sky is falling, it seems to be falling no faster than it fell the year before last, or am I wrong?
Wouldn’t be the first time if I was. But you know, don’t you, that those of us in the business of selling books, we are no less guilty of seeing signs and wonders everywhere, are we? How many embarrassing little “bestsellers” have we shied from in horror, but ordered in for the Christmas trade nonetheless? Oh, how we moan, and keep on selling. That’s another thing I intend to abandon, calling for man and beast to be covered in sackcloth every time some awful nobody gets a two million dollar advance on a book he or she will never read a word of, let alone write. Yes it’s dreadful to think of this or that vulgar celebutante being paid to give moronic “advice” on style, or some felon being paid write a book of stock tips, but it’s not the end of the world, boys and girls, not really, is it?
It’s perfectly true that a certain very popular trilogy just now, for anyone not trapped on a suburban compound, actually has all the erotic charge of Esquire pictorial circa the Nixon administration. But, hardly the destruction of Western culture though, is it?
Hell, I heard someone not all that long ago suggest in the bookstore that Snooki of “The Jersey Shore,” had to appear somewhere in The Book of Revelation, or at the very least, in Nostradamus. Now, now. Let’s not exaggerate, people. It’s true that anyone who wants to read Snooki’s “book” deserves to read Snooki’s “book,” but let’s leave it at that. I’ve certainly said worse than that in the past, and not just about the likes of her, but I’m determined to avoid panic hereafter, as much as may be possible in the business we’re in.
For me, it’s hard to be quite so cynical about the state of civilization when I’ve just watched a sunrise on Mars. (Mars and Snooki, by the way? Same color.)
Brad Craft is a bookseller who eats too much, reads too much, talks too much, earns too little, writes too little, listens too little and never really learned how to play the oboe. Craft buys used books at University Book Store in Seattle and blogs at usedbuyer2.0.