So, I have completely and totally messed up this whole In Summation posts. I can't even tell you why. However, I can tell you that I am picking it back up and again. I am going to start with a funny story from my last job at the bookstore I worked at for 7 1/2 years. It was a pretty great job. People did silly things all the time and here's a good example.
Team of Rivals- wait this isn’t a sports books?
People have the NOTION of good intentions. They truly want to be more educated and open. Well, at least I think so?
I have days when I’m just not sure and if I feel that way here with Minnesota being the most educated state in the union: I can’t help but wonder how I would feel elsewhere.
Allow me to say the usual disclaimer that people feel the need to give when something can be construed as a complaint from their job. I love my job. I really, truly do.
There is nothing I want to do that doesn’t involve books in some way.
In fact, this little bit I am about to share is also something I love. These dumb little things people do. Watching it happen brings me some sense of weird joy to notice the strange things people say or do without realizing it. The implications of the things people say tend to resonate further than they realize. It’s curious to see the lack of awareness that even some of the more educated population seems to posses when it comes to certain things they say. Not that we all don’t “stick our foot in our mouth” from time to time. But the reality is I suspect, that most people often just really don’t think through what they are about to say. Thus, also not realizing what it says about them.
That out of the way here are a couple of tiny tidbits: I was asked once who wrote “Beowulf”. I explained to this gentleman that in fact, Beowulf was published without an author with a bit of information as to why.
He informed me that books “could not be published without an author” and he “knew” he had seen it somewhere and he’d “find that copy and bring it to me to show me.” That was almost 2 years ago.
Sue Grafton is an author famous for her mystery series which is titled using the alphabet. In order. The most current is “T” for Trespass”. These books have been around for a very long while. Someone held one up to me pointed to the “T” and asked me what letter came next.
I answered the phone and was asked to find a book for someone. They told me the title and author. I was unfamiliar with both. I asked if they knew what genre the book was. I was told it was hardcover.
Now, I could go on like this for a while but I would like to share with you my favourite story from work to date.
Many of you are probably aware that we have been under a presidency for the last 8 years that was what many considered “anti-intellectual”. You can interpret this to mean a lot things but as of late the interpretation has taken the form of reading.
President Obama is a new sort of man to lead in many ways least of which is love of reading. Something that I personally had joy in my heart about until about a week ago when the words “He is to books what Oprah is” were uttered by a reporter and allow me to explain why.
I say with a mix of grand appreciation and trepidation that Oprah sells books.
She has revived many a writer’s career and kicked them off as well. She gets people to read. Love her or hate her- Oprah has done a lot of good in the world all around.
But, the flip side to this is she also responsible for people reading a lot of poorly written books. Things that become mass market printed (never mind the environmental implications) and quickly discarded because it does nothing to further said reader’s intelligence or emotional depth. I suspect, a lot of the books she has never even read herself but gets sold on such stories and decides to roll with it.
You attach Oprah’s name to anything and a lot of the upper/ middle class want to put their hands on it.
Well, Obama’s reading list now has Oprah’s name attached to it. Most noted as of late has been his affinity for the history book “A Team of Rivals”. It is talked about that he has even used it as an influence for establishing his own cabinet.
(A side note to those who may not know what this book is about: It is a book about President Lincoln’s own presidential cabinet. A man who was an innovator in many ways including making sure to not surround himself with people who only agreed with him. It was of tremendous importance that he be also around people who argued with him every step of the way thus creating a system of checks and balances and open view points. A way for him to understand that his way wasn’t the only way. Something I’d be willing to bet regardless of party affiliation we can all agree on.)
Day One, Sunday: A woman comes up to me as I am working. She is a very typical customer in the sense she is carrying a list for her book club. She has a very sensible short haircut and is wearing somewhat urban but not “too crazy” funky glasses and high end all weather sports wear.
She asks me about the book. She doesn’t know what’s it about nor why her book club chose it. I explain what I know and she seems to listen and I take her to where we have it. It is a very nice book. Normally $35 and we sell it for half. It’s of substantial size being a history book. I pull it out and hand it to her. Her eyes instantly glaze over.
“Wow, that’s really long. I think I’ll skip this one and geez, it’s expensive ($17.50).”
I say okay and put it back. Reactions to books considered “too long” are something I am accustomed to.
Day Two, Monday: A male version of the woman comes in the store. Seriously, I think they even have the same REI vest on.
He tells me he heard about this book on NPR. He actually, knows what it’s about. I take him over to the shelf pick up the same copy from the day before and hold it out to him. He looks at the cover and he incredulously states, “It’s written by a WOMAN?”
Very carefully resisting the urge to state “Yeah, and we can also vote. Can you believe it?” I explain that the woman in question is a noted and well-respected historian who also wrote an incredibly well-received book about baseball.
He simply stares at me like I am an idiot at which point I put the book back on the shelf and walk away. This is not a situation I can win.
Day Three, Tuesday: Another man. Me and my poor timing. He too, looks like white Minnesota. He asks me for the book. I pause, considering the possibility that my co-workers are possibly playing a prank on me.
I explain what the book is about on the way to the shelf. I have decided my investment in this situation should probably be minimal.
I get to the shelf, pull the same copy off the shelf and hand it over. He looks at it flips it over and looks straight at me.
“LINCOLN? Why would I want to read about Lincoln?”
“I don’t know sir.”