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Bookselling is not what it used to be. Never was, really. For me, it was always what I was willing to make of it. It’s probably that way with most independent booksellers. I’ve known a few and the motivations are as diverse as the individuals themselves.

Maybe an explanation for that is in order. The world is full of unpleasant jobs that have to be done. Bookselling is not one of them—unless it’s made to be that way. Selling books as rectangular objects to be marketed with phony advertising or artificial words such as ‘magisterial,’ or ‘brilliant,’ or even the lowly ‘provocative,’ without regard to the real matters that the authors have spent years of their lives (or too few weeks perhaps) working on, is not a better occupation than selling cars or soap.

Nor is deluding yourself that what you do is worthwhile because someone else has adjudged bookselling as a worthy occupation. Life is too short for that. Better to stack widgets to earn a living and leave your mind free of pretensions as well as your spirit.

I have been incredibly fortunate. My hours of stacking widgets were few, and though earning a living was at times called into question (a question too often answered in the negative), I have managed to get by, through the kindness of strangers, selling the dreams of others and fostering my own.

A Republic of Books, one of several novels I have written that concerned bookselling, holds many of my feelings about all of this. It was not intended for a broad audience, (none of my own books are) and not just because of the libertarian political motivations rampant there, but because in it I am critical of authors, booksellers, and readers alike. I do know that it offended a few of the latter.

At the end of that story the protagonist gives up the ghost of his own pretensions and sallies forth quixotically to see what has become of the world beyond his doorstep while he was busy trying to save the better book for mankind. I am quite jealous of this potential exploit (jealous enough to have written a sequel). But I have waited too long now and cannot undertake such a voyage myself.

I seldom travel far from home when I write, but when I do, as I have done on occasion, the work can take me years to complete. Now, I may no longer presume such time. But I will continue to write and make the most of what I have.