• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies Sometimes I think a meteor could strike the earth and wipe out mankind with the exception of my mother’s Bridge club — Roz, Bea, Bette, Rhoda, and Jackie — five Jewish octogenarians who continue to gather for lunch and Bridge on Mondays as they have for over fifty years. When I set out to learn about the women behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, and most of all the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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THere’s a Land THat I Dreamed Of Once In a Lullaby

I was in a mall today with a Borders. Liquidations signs everywhere. 30% off of everything. The shelves were picked over with the exception of twenty or so copies of the Bush autobiography and a ton of Hello Kitty shit. It was all so depressing, and I was never a big fan of Borders. The thing is it looked like more than the death of a store or the second largest bookstore chain. It looked like the end of our industry as we know it. I hated everyone in there pawing over books and bargain shopping. I heard one young guy, hoisting a Tom Clancy, complain about the cost, even with the discount. “This is what is wrong with books,” he said, “I don’t have thirty bucks.” I’ve tried in these posts never to go negative unless it was about myself. I’m not a sky is falling type, and I truly believe that books are superior to any electronic readers, and when the dust settles books will still be there. But right now, it’s difficult, it not near impossible, to feel that books are anything but an endangered species.

Tomorrow morning, I put my tap shoes on and get back to work anyway. What about you?

40 Responses

  1. sometimes it’s the same old dance steps but the music is altered:

  2. Do you realize that the average Kindle and Nook prices have gone up around 30 percent in the past three months. From $9.99 to 12.99. Soon we’ll be left with unaffordable books (already entrenched) and unaffordable electronic books. All that will be cheap is the reader. This is the strangest industry business wise in the world.

    • Whatever the market will bear. Industry analysts are toiling long hours to determine the exact amount people can stand to be fleeced.

  3. Maybe the form might change from printed books to e-books. Maybe the idea of a “book” might be going away. But people still want entertainment, and the story has been satisfying a need for 3000+ years.

    There’s a period of adjustment. The e-book is disruptive change, but the actual problem (entertainment for a person at a reasonable price) is still going to be solved. People like their stories.

  4. Have you seen the article from the Seattle paper by a former Borders employee? It’s brilliant and heartbreaking. I’m hoping this link will transfer. It’s from a Tweet:

    On the Suicide of Borders: “slithering, pre-offended armies of bargain hunters became our clientele” . http://t.co/cHbWlbV

  5. All people who live long enough find that the world they’ve learned to live in passes at the moment of mastery, just like the mirage it is. Reach out, attempt to grasp it, and as soon as your fingers touch it, it is gone.

    I, too, am old enough to have lost the world I knew. I miss it. But here I am in the world I am in, where tomorrow morning I don my livery and perform my routine and lifelong duties as an acolyte in the temple of Mammon, an ancient god who some say will never die.

    Christ but I’m a crappy, pompous writer once I get going at it. If I were to be wrapped in chains made of flattened tin cans, have my tongue cut out and be driven into the desert at sunset, it would be neither gain nor loss. Just another popped pimple on the ass of the world.

    This is the part of the show where we dance:

  6. I think the love affair with the e-book will be short-lived. (True. I don’t have one, and that could change my mind.) Once people start accidentally leaving their Kindle’s at the beach, things will take a turn.

  7. I have books that I LOVE. My Mill on the Floss is like 488 pages and 3/4 inch thick. The paper is so thin and fine. I coveted it for years and now I own it. I was thinking, do you think the monks that spent all those lifetimes illuminating manuscripts picketed Gutenberg? It’s like going to the movies or watching a DVD. It’s different things. I hope. . .

    But I totally think the Kindle type reading is here to stay. One guy says he would rather read on his phone than his Kindle. Yikes.

  8. Well, I guess y’all can see this is a hot button issue for me. Can’t apologize.

  9. The most frightening book I’ve read is Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451”. I’ve ordered it in book format; Kindle would be sacrilege. However, I do have a Kindle and love it for travel and always having a mini-library in my purse. I have your FFTT and Food and Loathing as real, hand-holding paper books and on my Kindle as well. Many books just must be lined up on shelves and stacked all over my small house, for their physical beauty as well as what’s inside. Others are fine for the Kindle but those that I must digest and re-digest and underline need to live in my home. F 451, the movie is superb as well.

  10. Borders is gone already where I shop. 2 other book stores followed. We used to have 4 major ones – now there’s only 1. I just hope that the 1 left will have such a big market share that it will be fine.

  11. What is this world coming to………….

    Client: Hello. My name’s Pauline and I’m a book sniffer.
    Group: Welcome, Pauline.
    Client: I sniffed my last book 12 months ago.
    Group: ….applause…..

  12. I’m still tapping and typing.

  13. I thought I’d try tapping on roller skates today, ala Gene Kelly — people might think I’m nuts, but they’ll still smile.

  14. I never liked the feel of a garage sale. All those fingers picking over the used and barely used, making their comments about value and the lack thereof.

    When our Borders within walking distance closed, I wrote a eulogy but I refused to pick through it’s closets and drawers.

    • i did.

      i wanted to stand on the counter and scream, “if you guys had been here all along this wouldn’t be happening.”

      instead, i carried out a stack of books as tall as a coffee pot and threw a handful of red foiled Lindt chocolate balls on top to ease my shame.

  15. When I went to a nearby Borders, it was the shortest book trip in my personal history. I left with upwards of twenty books and optimist that I am, I thought perhaps the liquidation sales would be funneled in to a few remaining stores so they could revamp and start again. Alas, little did I know weeks later they’d be closing in full.

    The thing is though, up at the counter with a hardcover of the new translation of Madame Bovary, the cashier told me of her distress in marking the ugly black line across the ISIN on the back, designating it as final sale. The cover is just too beautiful, she said. She made the smallest of black dots and smiled at me, two book lovers in a sea of turkey vultures picking off the last bits of a rotting carcass.

    Some people haggle at estate sales, and some people think about the person who died…

  16. I don’t think that Borders closing means that physical books are going away. I do think that it’s hard to pay $25 for a book in a physical store that you can get it for $10 online. And I feel bad about it, because I love bookstores, but I also have a lot of bills and not a lot of money, and I LOVE buying books, and the fact is I can buy two and a half books online for the price of one book in a store.

    There’s a Barnes & Noble near me that I go to at least once a week with my kids, and I do buy books there because I want to support the store. It’s a great place to spend a morning. But I pretty much limit myself to inexpensive, paperback kids books because then paying 2.5 times more for a book is only $5 more instead of $15.

    I remember browsing in the sailing section of B&N (I love sailing) and seeing this big, gorgeous hardback book about sailboats, and it cost $60. I put it back on the shelf. I went home and checked amazon, and it was $20 there. It’s not a choice between whether to buy it at B&N or amazon: it’s a choice between whether to buy it at amazon or not at all.

  17. In my grandfather’s day, he said the publishing business was going to the dogs with all the trash they were now printing. In my father’s day, he said the book business was going to the dogs when it got around to publishing works by Wolfe and Joyce. Now, all I have to say is that the dogs have had an awfully long wait.

    Cheers,

    Webb

  18. Computers, the internet, cell phones, the Kindle and its kin, as they have proliferated like Tribbles, are simply progressive steps that likely will eventually push physical books onto the ash heep of history of the printed word. It’s inevitable. Physical books will one day be the purview of collectors, and found in antique dealers stores. Brick & Mortar stores will decline into specialty stores, used book stores and eventually they, too, will shutter up.
    Why? Because kids today would rather read a book on an e-reader or their phone or computer than hold a book in their hand. Just as they will never know a time when they could not be in constant contact through their cell phones, notepads, etc., they will find reading a physical book a hassle and something the old farts do. As the old farts fart their last fart that will be that.
    What I fear will eventually happen is that reading per se will also go away. The next step will be audio books. Reading will not be necessary and just as some schools drop or make an option learning cursive writing, reading may one day become an option as audio will be the preferred mode of communication. I am a book lover and I don’t like what’s happening not one little bit. But something along these lines seems to be where we are headed.
    As William Gibson’s world becomes reality, our children’s children will just plug in.

  19. I can’t help but feel quite differently, Betsy. Maybe that’s because it’s almost back-to-school time and I am awash in books, the promise of reading, excited to get back to my classroom. Maybe that’s because I just ran our town’s library book sale, and people were just so damn excited and eager for recommendations, thrilled to find something new. Kids were lying on the floor and sitting under trees, all sticky from cookies and juice, their lips moving with the new words.

    And today, I head off to school to add donations to my independent reading bookshelf, imagining which books I’ll recommend to which students…

    Piles of books, the smell of school supplies, and beginnings. I am hopeful. I never liked Borders, anyway.

  20. Unless I take the train into NYC, I can’t buy a book in my city anymore (except used books). I’ve resorted to buying books at Target and now they’ve reduced theie book section to a few shelves…popular trade paperbacks and the usual junk. Yes, books are endangered. Thank God for my local library.

  21. Once upon a time, I not only supported Walden Books and Borders, I put some of my IRA dollars in their stock. After an unbelievable encounter with their staff – an imperious bunch that took no responsibility for their lack of customer service skills- I sold my stock and began supporting the local bookstores. When the 2 stores in our area closed, I gladly pillaged the shelves for some lovely leather-bound classics and several volumes on sewing.

    As long as reading and the appreciation of written expression is encouraged, I want to believe books will remain important. The delivery of this product, though, is changing. The music industry, I feel, “missed the boat” on understanding the power of the internet and lost an opportunity to be part of a newer industry. We can only hope the literary world (especially the publishers) noticed this error.

  22. I get library books that I read and enjoy and take back and forget. But I have ancient TinTin Books and Raggedy Anns and Emily Dickenson with Gold Stuff on the cover and an original no space shuttle Nancy Drew. There are books and there are books. Didn’t Michael Connelly have a spaz about the industry standard on the e book thing? What was the upshot of that? Amazon: $2.99. Read. Enjoy. Forget. But maybe buy her next book too. Emily Dickenson? Millay? George Eliot? Maybe not the right venue. That other guy that is considered such a genius that so annoys me. Neither.

  23. Wearing workboots and I’m out in the muck. Books will cease to exist the day mine is published and at the rate I’m going, that appears to be a long ways in the distance.

  24. Four day weekend in Portland Oregon and I spent a fourth of the time in Powell’s wandering the blue room aisles (fiction) and they were crowded not just with books new and old but with readers curious and vibrant. The check out line was long and the store wasn’t permanently closing.

    I bought two used books ( Clarice Lispector’s “Soulstorm” and “The Hour of the Star”. Only place I have seen them outside a library. I have a rule if I check it out more than 3 times it’s time to buy) and two new (Bonnie Jo Campbell’s “Once Upon a River” and “When the Killing’s Done” by T.C. Boyle). The Campbell was signed. Sigh.

    I buy and read ebooks for all the reasons anyone would do that. But you can’t gift them, you can’t give them, you can’t pass them from your appreciative hands to another’s.

    And in the end art is a gift. Change the distribution system, change the industry all you like, and as has been said, it will be changed, has to change to survive. But don’t forget where the words come from.

    Because no matter what they will keep coming.

  25. I believe you’re right and that there is room for both. But I also believe that there isn’t much of a future for me in a traditional publishing house so I left to go freelance hopefully find a way to become part of the solution.

  26. I can’t believe books will become obsolete. They will just change form…like the old record players changed to tape decks, changed to CD players, changed to IPods. The need for new material is still there, It just changes format!

  27. Very Good Book are not endangered. They are a small business and always have been. Corporate publishing and corporate bookselling — both of which always hated good books, let’s face it — are endangered. On the pyre, I’d say.

  28. I want to see those tap shoes. Are they ruby red?

  29. Haaaaaaahaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    So cute love it. Looking for wallpaper is fun.

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