Remember that old Chinese curse, “May you live in extraordinary times?” I was reminded of that when I looked for Salman Rushdie’s memoir, Joseph Anton, at the bookstore. It is a hefty book, a 600-page document on that time that a fatwa was placed on Rushdie’s head, all because of his work, The Satanic Verses. Now, in this case, I was in a Barnes and Noble, and Joseph Anton was shelved in biography next to the new biography by former Bachelor-finalist Melissa Rycroft, My Reality, in bubblegum-type with lots of pink trim. It seemed, sort of, to be kind of the embodiment of the times: amazing, crazy things and stories are happening, and then there’s the weird surrealism and mundanity right next to it, of manufactured celebrity stories and how boring they are. It seemed like a particularly evocative and efficient juxtaposition. We live in extraordinary times; we live in boring times.
Of course, this is also why you should support your local independent bookstore, as they do you the favor of not stacking the horrible march of brainless celebrity tie-in books. If you’re a celebrity with a reality show, or a middling comedian with a twitter feed, you are, basically, the legacy application of getting a book deal, right? Other people writing, other people who’ve spent years working on being a good writer, just aren’t in your category or cohort. It sucks that these books are fairly unavoidable and very few of them are worthy reads. Worth spending any bit of time on.
Also, there’s a Shit Girls Say book, speaking of stuff that’s not funny. I feel like that has to make Shit My Dad Says seem like Chekov in comparison.
(I thought this NYT op-ed did a good job of explaining how the current unrest in the Middle East relates to Rushdie’s experience. It’s also interesting to note that despite how ugly free speech can be, banning those ideas would give them an illicit power and allure. How strange is it that a gross - and most importantly - fringe video no more competent than The Room is the chosen flashpoint for conflict?)
Someone more experienced than me probably has an idea of where the bookstore is going to go in the future - I know that I would be gutted if it were to go the way of the record store, but I suspect that, despite bad business models, that shouldn’t be the case, really. E-books to physical books aren’t a 1:1 in some ways and the idea of reading something longer than Gone Girl on my e-reader is semi-horrifying. (The world will always need a print copy of Infinite Jest and other behemoths.) And bookstores function as community centers as well, a place for ideas and learning and curiosity.
I just read Where’d You Go, Bernadette?, and it’s very funny at points and if Lauren Graham isn’t cast in the film version, I will eat my hat. You could make her a movie star with that role! Plus, she’s one of the few actresses who could pull off being depressed and hating a town and making it funny.
How is Joseph Anton, anyways?