Friday, October 21, 2005

The Book Store

There are few indulgences in the world that make me happier than spending time in a bookstore. The hours spent poring over the shelves, thumbing through histories and reference books, reading first chapters, looking at the magazines, drinking some coffee, oogling the pretty book-nerd girls who I know are just perfect for me. Bliss.

Last night, for the first time, my bubble of literary sanctity was broken. How? What could have done such a thing? A loud idiot on a cellphone? Winona Judd on the store soundsystem? The coffee counter closed? Oh no, no, much worse. An evil from within. Betrayed by the very thing I love the most. The books. The very books themselves.

As I entered the Borders bookstore I was confronted with three tables worth of new books, all featured and displayed so that you MUST look them over.

On the nonfiction table I was confronted with a litany of titles and was struck by the two overarching themes of them all. Conflict and greed wrapped in religiosity and tribalism. The great majority of the books were about contemporary conflicts and the aquisition of material wealth.

Behind the dozen or so books about terrorism, Muslims, war, and plastic surgery
were some of the titles that really made me shiver:

Millionaire Republican: Why Rich Republicans Get Rich - And How you Can Too by Wayne Root

Becoming a Millionaire God's Way by Robert Kiyosaki

Zen of Gambling: The Ultimate Guide to Risking It All and Winning at Life by Wayne Allyn Root
How the Republicans Stole Christmas : The Republican Party's Declared Monopoly on Religion and What Democrats Can Do to Take it Back by Robert Press

The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought by John Gibson

My evening at the bookstore was ruined before it got started. My spirit sunk as I was forced to reflect once again on what a sad state of affairs we are in today. How divided and polarized we are as a nation and as a planet. How we have lost the plot in terms of what is important.

These books are very telling. They expose some ugly truths about our country.

-"God the exploited one." God and Christianity are being used to sell and market just about everything today, even how to make a million bucks (have you gotten the emails from "Christian lenders" "Christian Mortgages" etc.?) This reflects the reactionary, hollow, false religiosity and zealotry that is the new law of the land. Without the stamp of approval from the Christian Right you can't have a judge or a toaster oven.

-As middle class jobs that used to pay for a house, car, vacations and college disappear, everyone is looking for the shortcut to fast wealth.

-Both the left and the right think the other is out to destroy Christmas (could you have imagined that plotline 20 years ago?)

-Both the left and right think the media is biased against them

-Our current booklists reflect deep divisions, conflict, shallowness and more often than not inflammatory and just plain wrong "prose" hidden in the costumes of religiosity, self improvement and talking points.

So, having stood at the table reflecting on all of this my mood soured quickly. I could not face the prospect of spending two hours in the this building that had so soiled my mind and mood.

I made a mad dash for the "Literature" section. Grabbed "Farewell to Arms" by Hemmingway, ran to the register, paid and slipped out into the cool, breezy, crisp October night.

Lying in bed and reading about the last days of WWI I was happy to be in another time and place, even if I was covered with mud in a stinking trench on the Italian front.

At least there no one was trying to steal Christmas.