Monday, April 30, 2012

Trapped by the Desperation Between How It Is and How It Ought To Be

It started out innocently enough. I just wanted to hit Half Price Books on my way home from the old juke joint to check and see if they had any copies of We Need to Talk About Kevin, by Lionel Shriver. I should just add it either to my hold queue or to the My List feature at the library, but it’s always possible that I’ll roll into Half Price Books one day and find a whole stack of them in the clearance section, going for a buck a pop. The clearance magazine section is always worth checking too, even if the meager-to-begin-with selection of clearance literary magazines has now dwindled down to practically nothing. (And you never know when you might find a National Geographic with an excellent map still inside it.)

But then I got to leave early (this past Saturday night), so I decided to roll into Barnes & Noble, too. Their selection of literary magazines was, as usual, underwhelming and disappointing; but I also made it a point to finally find their poetry books. For whatever reason, they had relocated poetry, from the high wall near the newsstand and perpendicular to the science fiction section, to somewhere else in the store; but my past efforts to locate that new section had always been unsuccessful. I thought I had checked every bit of the store each of those times, but I must not have done. Last night, I found the poetry tucked away on the outer wall of the children’s section.

And then I turned around and saw the philosophy section. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, but sometimes, when I randomly pass by the philosophy section in a bookstore (which is actually possible, odd though it may sound), I’ll check to see which titles from the Pop Culture and Philosophy series they have in stock. Two titles caught my eye at Barnes & Noble on Saturday night—The Big Bang Theory and Philosophy and Green Lantern and Philosophy, though at $17.95, I was not about to actually buy either one. I did, however, make a mental note to check the library’s website when I got home, to see if they had either one. I also made a mental note to check the website for the series, to see what other titles had been added recently and which ones might be coming down the pipeline.

Half Price Books did not have any copies of We Need to Talk About Kevin, of course. Novels at the height of their popularity are not often to be found at Half Price Books if one shows up only randomly. There were all of two literary magazines in the magazine clearance section, and those were tucked into some slot for a different kind of magazine, the one specifically for literary magazines having some time ago been repurposed for something far less interesting. So, as is almost always the case when I go searching for these things in a post-Borders world, I went home empty-handed and underwhelmed—though at least a little bit excited about the possibility of getting The Big Bang Theory and Philosophy, and maybe the Green Lantern one too, from the library.

Except that the library did not have it. They have Green Lantern and Philosophy, a single copy of which is checked in at Central...but not the Big Bang Theory one. I can always fall back on the old standby of suggesting it for purchase, but that takes a really long time. What will probably happen in the meantime is that I will just forget about it. I still have a gigantic stack of library books waiting to be read here in my aboveground lair, so it’s not like I would have jumped right into it if the library had had a copy that I had been able to get my hands on right away.

But I did manage to remember my mental note to check the website of the Pop Culture and Philosophy series when I got home...and would you believe what I found? At #57 on the list, published last year...Rush and Philosophy. The Barnes & Noble website thinks they have found the book in stock up in Carmel, though that’s the only relatively nearby store that has it. Amazon’s price is $13.29 which is, amusingly, $6.66 off of the list price. Shipping would cancel out most of that savings—but would also save me a trip to Hamilton County, and so in the end is probably a push.

However, it also gets me back to the problem of buying things from Amazon and giving in to instant gratification rather than taking the road less traveled by and getting the damn thing from an actual bookstore where people who know things about books and literature toil (probably thanklessly) in an effort to maintain some semblance of an outpost of soul in this fading republic. Or I could just forget about it and suggest it for purchase by the library, too; and that would keep my books purchased total at one for the year, which is also good.

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