Monday, November 28, 2011
World of Waiting
It may be hard to understand why anyone 12 years old would covet a book on calculus, but I did. I loved books and reading in general, but I also loved mathematics and was intrigued by the meaning of the long S of integral calculus. My eighth grade teacher explained succinctly that it meant sum. Not particularly satisfied, I desired the book to have for my own, however, I was told by my parents that if I wanted it, I would have to earn the money and buy it myself. It was $2.95 and published by Barnes and Noble. I saved my money and in time, came to purchase that book. I still have it.
And so it is that I can never hate Barnes and Noble. And after all, they are a legacy business, founded in 1873, not an empire built on the latest fashion or frivolous merchandise. It is fashionable to hate Barnes and Noble, which is understandable. I do imagine that they have put many small independent book retailers out of business. However, I am doubtful that destroying small booksellers is corporate policy at Barnes and Noble but rather the unfortunate natural fallout when such a large retailer moves into an area.
But in New York City, as elsewhere, the consumer has become very spoiled. Although many bemoan the fate of the small independent retailer and demonize the retail giants/chains, we all want huge selection, late hours, 7-day operations, low prices, liberal return policies, and a plethora of convenient locations. Who but the giants can offer such a thing? Comedian Todd Barry does material on the ironies of the attitudes of New Yorkers towards the corporate behemoths. You can read it here.
My interest in books went beyond that first tome on calculus. I have always been comforted by books, magazines, and the stores selling them. So when I began discovering Hudson News shops in the airports and bus and train terminals around New York City (and eventually outside the city), I always found their neon signs a welcome beacon to reading materials.
I was shocked and fascinated to learn that Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, known for a life of excess, was an avid reader. His personal library has been featured in a book of libraries. He once remarked how surprised he was that Americans read so little. He discussed the reality of touring and how much waiting and down time there was between concerts and how he filled much of his time with reading.
There's a lot of waiting and down time in New York. In a city where most travel by public transportation, many fill their travel time with reading. Perhaps if I am lucky, someday I may meet Keith in Barnes and Noble or Hudson News as we fill our time in a World of Waiting.
Related Posts: Who Can Believe It?, We Read at Night, Book Wars, The Strand