Thursday, February 17, 2011
An End to Borders
It always seemed busy when we went there, which was weekly. Sometimes more often. Usually we go on Tuesdays because that's when they put out the new books that have just been published. My child's school had an early dismissal yesterday so we went then. I got a copy of the Fagles translation of The Iliad.
I read the Fitzgerald translation in highschool, then the Lattimore version in college. That one was something else. Recently I became re-interested in classical Greek literature and philosophy and I plan on reading Homer again, so I wanted a new translation.
The story of the Trojan War is amazingly relevant. It was fought over the most specious argument. Nobody really gave a flying fuck about Helen and Menelaus. He was a crappy leader. They thought the war would be a cakewalk. It wasn't. It consumed too many resources and probably was the beginning of the end of Mycenaean Greek culture. (Sounds familiar?)
Being of a tender age my child presently prefers age-appropriate fiction, but they also have recent books on the Romanovs, ocean waves, Lucy, and other items of non-fiction. Yesterday they got Angelire by Courtney Allison Moulton.
Last week they got I Am Number Four, which they read in a day.
I do not know where we will go to buy new books now. All of the Borders in Phoenix proper are closing. I am familiar with all the local used bookstores but they have far less to offer. And the local Barnes and Noble outlet on Camelback road also closed a few months ago.
I do not blame this on Al Gore for inventing the Intertubules. Of course technology has changed the way a lot of us read. It has augmented the media of written words. I am thankful for that. My kid has an iPad and occasionally downloads books but they mostly read pages on paper. I read an awful lot of stuff on this laptop. But it's not the same.
I love books. So does my child. And my spouse is a writer.
The problem, I am quite sure, is not changing technology. It is rather a general lack of interest in reading, period.
From Orange Crate Art, who got it second-hand from links which he denotes:
Only 32% of the U.S. population has ever been in a bookstore.
42% of U.S. college graduates never read another book.
58% of the U.S. adult population never reads another book after high school.
70% of U.S. adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.
80% of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.
And on an ironic note:
81% of the U.S. population feels "they have a book inside them."
Mr. S. is a Borders employee. He is a writer himself and he is also widely-read; has been all his life. He recommended "The Outsiders" to my kid. He is a stroke survivor. The doctors initially told him that he would never recover, but now you'd never know he'd had one. He was brilliant in his little under-emplyed niche at Borders.
Where will he work? 140 local jobs will be lost when these Borders stores are closed.
Hypatia. A great and widely-known teacher, philosopher, mathematician, and astronomer of ancient Alexandria. She was associated with the great library there. An estmated 600,000 scrolls were housed in it, along with another 40,000 at a smaller branch.
Julius Caesar was the first fucker to really have at go at destroying the great library in 47 B.C.E. The next major blow to all the world's accumulated knowledge came at the hand of the Christians under Theophilus in 391. That's when Hypatia lived. The branch library at Serapis was destroyed then.
Later in 415 C.E. Saint Cyrille's deranged army of five-hundred monks/enforcers killed Hypatia by flaying her alive with clamshells. Then the tore her limb from limb and burned the remains. All because she was an uppity woman who knew more than they did.
I will *never* forgive Christianity for killing Hypatia.
Rachel Weisz. You must see this.
All of Hypatia's works are now lost, as are many many others, having at last been destroyed by that dumbass motherfucking Caliph Omar during his invasion of Egypt in 645 C.E. Tradition has it that he said "If the books agree with the Koran, they are not necessary. If they disagree, they are not desired. Therefore, destroy them," though this is probably a legend created much later.
We may not be destroying books, databases, and computer files in their entirety now. But we are certainly somehow ensuring that the wide distribution of knowledge is relegated to lower rungs of importance. There's virtually no science in daily newspapers anymore. Television news does extremely little to cover science. Literature itself has all but disappeared from the public sphere.
Without that local Borders, where will we buy new books? Where will I buy copies of The Progressive, The Nation, and Acoustic Guitar magazines? At the drugstore? No.
It will all be washed into the tawdry and undiscerning sea of the internet. And the internet can be turned off. Instantly. Capriciously. Maliciously.
Posted by shrimplate at 5:39 AM