Wednesday, August 13, 2014

(Vintage) Book Stores

Nestled down along the river in the city where I live there is a bookstore where they sell used and vintage books. Very simply named. Tucked back on a street people have to use intentionally. I stopped in for a visit the other day.

Appleton's Fourth Reader
The front of the store is mainly a children's section, and ducking into the first room (it is divided into rooms) the first thing that caught my eye (at my eye level, anyway) was a series of Tarzan, the Ape Man books. In hard covers. To which I found myself whispering, "Cool!" Each room was a new discovery, not only of current books (they had an impressive Lee Child selection) but of old, out of print books. With hard covers. Do they even make books with hard covers anymore? And I started to think. Nostalgia set in. I have a collection of hard cover books, not nearly of the same vintage, but I also have my grandmother's primer - Now that's a vintage book. What are we leaving for our children?

My kids read Goosebumps and Bailey Street School Kids (which they had in this bookstore), all of which were released in paperback. A large portion of my bookshelves holds paperback copies, some of which are not withstanding the ravages of time as well as others. I just can't imagine my kids walking up to that bookshelf one day and saying, "Wow, remember when books were made like this?" About paperbacks.

Running off on a tangent for a moment (to make a point, of course). I used to watch Night Gallery, and One Step Beyond, and The Sixth Sense, and The Twilight Zone. There was an episode where Burgess Meredith (an old actor, for those of you too young to recognize the name) was a very myopic man living with a henpecking wife. All he wanted to do was read his books, but his wife kept nagging him to take out the garbage or do everyday life kind of things. And then (remember that many of these shows were set in the 50's, which I'll take a second to note predates me) someone drops a bomb. Literally. The earth is destroyed and Old Burge finds he's the only one who survived the cataclysm. So as he stumbles through the rubble that was once his town, he finds the library. And a mountain of books. All alone in a world with nothing but books to keep him company. And he's ecstatic! Until . . . (this is the Twilight Zone after all), he drops his glasses and inadvertently steps on them. Blind without them, he's now stuck in a world where he can't see, surrounded by the things he loves most and unable to read. Utopia turns into hell with one careless step.

Bringing this all together folks. Walking into that bookstore, I thought about that TV show. About the comforting feeling of finding an old book that I might have read once upon a time. What a cool bookstore! And now? If the bomb drops? With our book collections becoming more and more electronic, we will become like Burgess Meredith. Kindle or Nook in hand, but after a cataclysm and potentially without electricity, that book collection will be rendered unreadable.

Yeah, that's just the way my mind works sometimes. Kinda scary, isn't it? And that's why I continue to buy "real" books from time to time. Generally only the ones I really loved and would read again and again (and yes, my bookshelves are full). Even as paperbacks instead of hard covers, sometimes there's nothing like the feel of a real book in your hand.

"Blessings on thee little man . . " - John G. Whittier

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