Bookstores: You’ve all heard that Barnes & Noble, the largest bookstore chain in the U.S. with 720 stores, has put the company up for sale.
Even if you’re not a financial wizard, it doesn’t sound good. When chainstores are for sale, it means that somebody doesn’t want them anymore. The upside is that company founder Leonard Riggio may buy the company for a private investors’ group, if he can find the money. Reuters isn’t sure he can.
With all this bookstore uncertainty, it seemed a good time for me to turn investigative reporter and ride my bike to Barnes & Noble. I didn’t interview anybody. I just snooped around.
Business seemed pretty much as usual.
Walk into the store and there’s a huge Nook display. Somebody mans it all the time. There are usually one or two people gabbing to the Nook expert.
The cafe was full, as usual.
Among the new hardbacks I found several books that I’d like to read.
But the new trade paperbacks display table has been replaced by a much smaller table and now features trashy genre books instead of the latest literary & pop fiction and nonfiction. Suddenly it’s all romance novels featuring half-naked women on the cover; vampire books; and a few mysteries. The literary stuff is gone.
A result of the turmoil? I hope not.
They still have a good backlist in the literature and biography sections, though.
Oh, and two clerks have dyed their hair. I would, too. Look as young as possible in this economy.
A Bookstore in Elizabeth Goudge’s 1936 Novel: A few years ago I rediscovered Elizabeth Goudge after Capuchin Classics republished Green Dolphin Country (Green Dolphin Street in the U.S.), a charming historical novel set in the Channel Islands and New Zealand in the 19th century.
This was so enjoyable that I went on to reread some of her other books and loved The White Witch and The Scent of Water. Now I’m reading her third novel, A City of Bells (1936). One of the main characters, Jocelyn Irvin, opens a bookstore. A veteran of the Boer War, he has a bum leg and is psychologically damaged., He moves to Torminster, where his grandfather is a canon, because his “large and impecunious family” can’t support him or put him in a line of work that interests him. Felicity, an actress with whom he is in love, and his grandfather and adopted children insist the house he’s rented is perfect for a bookstore. So he opens a bookstore and finds it rewarding.
If only Jocelyn could buy Barnes & Noble.
Surprise Classic: I’m reading a classic this week but have decided not to breathe a word of it until I’m done. This is so unlike me, isn’t it? Here’s a hint: it’s not Dickens. Now which of the tens of thousands of other classics could it be?
Tune in next week.