So I work at a book store part time. It is a lot like watching television, except I have to constantly do stuff. Still, from an anthopological stand point, it is interesting. People still read books. They still want to read books and they like reading books that are “Good” and on “Bestseller” lists. People enjoy celebrating winners, and I respect that. Even though I constantly recommend books that they should read, they only want the books that everyone else is reading. Remember Junior-High and Parachute pants? Yep. Just like that.
Customer: “I’m looking for a book to read? You have any suggestions?”
Me: “One of my favorite books of all time is the Known World. Its about blacks owning slaves. Its very enlightening.”
Customer: Blank stare.
Ask a black man about a book to read and that’s what you get. Sorry. However, one of the more interesting revelations I’ve witnessed is the monster that is Mark Levin’s book Liberty and Tyranny. I haven’t read it, but I’m guessing from the title that it is about Liberty and some Tyrant trying to take our liberty away. And, this is just a guess, but I think that the tyrant might be Obama, since he just got elected and everything. This book is a monster, sales wise. Which causes two difficult situations for me. Since the book sells well, I have to push the book. And since the book sells well, I have to answer questions about the book. This is a normal, daily occurrence and it annoys me to no end.
Customer: “What is this book about? Everyone keeps talking about it.”
Me: “Let’s see. A conservative on the cover with a frown and the American flag waving in the back ground and the words ‘Liberty’ and ‘Tyranny’ on the cover. So, and I’m guessing, ma’am. But it might be a conservative book about our liberties being taken away by, I think, a tyrant.”
Customer: “Do you have any more copies?”
This is how the publishing world works. Controversy sales. And that is why most writers will never get a book published and the writers who do won’t see their books sale. Writers don’t want to write about controversy. We want to write about the human experience. The human experience isn’t controversial. The human experience is a changing mystery that a good writer is trying to constantly uncover.
Controversy is easy to write because you already see that part of the human experience and you know that that particular part of the experience is annoying to some people. It is like watching a couple fighting in a grocery store. The author and the topic are fighting. You are the guy with the cart, the reader, reading the book while you pick up a ham for Easter. You keep reading because of the fight. And after you finish reading? You realize that there is a fight and people are fighting it. But you knew that already. I haven’t read Mark Levin’s book, so I won’t make a judgment. But it makes me sad and depressed that a book from a guy who can insult people on national radio and spew hate on national television can get a book printed and sold.
It makes me sad because amazing pieces of literary work sit dusty and untouched for years. We wonder where the good writers are. We wonder why good fiction is so hard to find. Good writers are smart, and they’ve learned that being a banker or a teacher or a clerk is a lot easier than watching a book you’ve worked on for years NOT sale. Still, there are people who continue to try, thank God. As long as they keep trying, I will, too.
Customer: “You got that new Mark Levin book?”
Me: “Sorry, sir. We are sold out.”
Customer: “Man, he is a smart guy. He know where this country is going! He knows what we need to do next! Right, brother?”
Me: (Blank stare)
Customer: (Blank Stare)
Me: “Have a nice day, sir.”