Tuesday, August 29, 2006

I spent two hours today helping the owners of the indie bookstore in my town unpack, shelve and move stuff around in their new location, which happens to be right around the corner from my house. It made me nostalgic for when I worked at Copperfield's books, first in Rohnert Park, where I met my beloved (when he still had a long copper ponytail and that sheen that rises off those who are newly back from the Peace Corps). I also worked at the Sebastopol location, but the first experience was the best because it was new.

The bookstore clerk is the only retail clerk in existence who is treated as more than a peon. This is because customers view you as bearing knowledge about the books they need--like a librarian. I remember people coming in and asking, "There's this book, it's blue and I think the author is a woman." What faith they had in us to conjure that book magically out of such loose information. From time to time, I could, just by chance, and they gave me the look of utter reverence that comes with such an act of book location.

Or else, "I need something good to read on my vacation, can you suggest something?" What trust!

If bookstore clerks made a decent salary, none of them would ever leave their jobs. I can't explain what it is to be around books, and readers, all day. The people like to talk about ideas, and you're constantly being introduced to new material and subjects by dint of having to shelve them and ring them up. You can't avoid it, and I love that. Oh there's a downside too--those people who cant' stop talking about something that bores you to tears, like deck repairs or how to mix your own mortar. And bookstores, like libraries, attract itinerants who just want to crouch in an aisle and let the voices inside their head quiet, or use your bathroom--which is never a good idea.

I know why the e-book never took off. You can't replace the feeling of paper and the smell of ink. You can't ever get satisfaction from a screen that a book offers you. You can't curl up over a computer with your cat on your lap and a cup of tea the way you can with a book. Or rather, with all the new portable technology you can, but why would you? I want something I can bend and fold and hold close to my heart. Something that has no microchips or batteries.

If I had lots and lots of money and time, I'd start a bookstore. Hmmm.



At 9:39 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

My mom works in a used bookstore. It's a very odd scene in there. It sounds like you're settling into your new town. :)


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