Our Borders bookstore will die today, September 15, 2011. Every damn book in the store was a buck, or less — so said the email sent earlier in the week. Forty bucks cash in hand, I entered the store — and left a few minutes later with only two purchases. It was a sad scene: three dozen people scavenging over dead carcasses laid out over a couple dozen bookcases. Areas I frequented the most — the cafe, magazines, science fiction, mystery — were all closed off with yellow tape. The sign on the door had said “Restrooms no longer open to the public,” a sure sign of a dying business. (A store somewhere else in the US had posted “No Restrooms. Try AMAZON.” I was disappointed the local store hadn’t been that bitter/clever.) Three cashiers, one other employee watching the shoppers shuffling from bookcase to bookcase like consumerist zombies. Most of us in our middle years or older, either retired or working a differently-shifted job that allowed us to be shopping on a Thursday morning.
The pickings were mighty slim. Writers you’ve never heard of. A few shelves of “local artist” CDs. A single manga from a series I’ve never heard of (not that I read manga, but I have some friends that do). A table of stuffed toys — well, maybe 50 items of the same toy, some kind of stuffed idealized Pound Puppy clone, it seemed. No magazines. No bestsellers. No interesting stuff. At all. The bones had been picked clean. A friend of mine remarked that in his area, the funniest thing left was a Cliffs Notes for Catcher in the Rye. In my store, there was a single copy of a Cliffs Notes for some educational test. GRE, GDE, SAT, I don’t remember. Maybe none of those.
My purchases? Book 4 in Charles Stross’ Merchant Princes fantasy series, The Merchants’ War. (After looking up the series online, I found out books 5 and 6 had been released already!) And a collection of short stories by Gardner Dozois, When the Great Days Come, Dozois being the former editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine and continuing editor of The Year’s Best Science Fiction, among many other anthologies.
The funniest thing left in my Borders? A whole mess of Tim Pawlenty autobiographies. There’s a metaphor about those books being the last in a dying bookstore that I’m not clever enough to write. But I will leave you with this: as I was checking out, I heard another customer ask loudly, “Who’s Tim Pawlenty?”