I just had to follow up on the last post due to the meaning it has for me, and I can’t help but think about that classic romantic comedy with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan (no, not Sleepless in Seattle, and, yes, I do watch romantic comedies from time to time). Which comedy? Oh, the one called You’ve Got Mail. A story about the rise of technology, commerce, and yet it doesn’t seem to bring us any closer than we used to in the past. Interesting film. Interesting story.
What’s even more interesting is the thematic initial plot runner at the beginning about an enormous mega-corporate commerce bookseller (aka Amazon or Barnes & Noble) pretty much taking over the literary scene against an ol’ faithful, tiny, family-oriented bookstore “The Shop Around the Corner”. It’s like David and Goliath — only Goliath wins. The bigger store prevails, providing cheaper books, better convenience, more selection.
I, myself, am a child of the literary pastime. I grew up with the books in the little mom-and-pop store, the scent of the rusty paper, like ancient libraries with their halls of wisdom and the quiet, pristine peace of a Fall or Spring morning with siblings, friends or mom and dad taking me to those tiny bookstores, so compact and personal, capable of perusing and finding one of those golden nuggets you’d never find in a massive outlet of buzz posters, aproned CSRs asking you if you need help, lines and lines of customers wanting to purchase their next Stephen King hardcovers, e-readers, Harry Potters and Twilights.
Back in the day, I thrilled at finding an ingenious piece of literary work never hailed as a bestseller. Never autographed. Author never interviewed. No movie adaptations. No dollar signs. Just a single piece of work designed to be in the hands of a tried and true reader wishing to engulf just one breath of the human experience, the resonation of a universe that can only be contained on paper with words from left to right. History made real, incarnate, immortal.
But I Loved Those “Shops Around the Corner”
I tell you: that’s where fantasy, adventure, horror, whimsy, comedy, romance, drama and sorrow were born. That’s how our books all began. It’s a sad state in the literary industry when those small stores close down for lack of willing readers.
I wish above all wishes that somehow we could preserve such hallmarks. I wouldn’t know how to do it. Like how museums and galleries can preserve such works of art like “Mona Lisa” or the works of my brother Paul Roustan, why can’t we preserve some of those ancient cultural hallmarks of childlike joy in the “shop around the corner”? A bookstore where it’s just more important to enjoy reading together, not for ourselves, not for commerce’s sake, not for fame, or glory, or getting on the NYT bestseller list?
I wish there could be someone who would give me ideas about how to do that…. Tell me…. What can we do to keep our literary pastime alive beyond that of a mega-bookstore aisle?