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08 February 2007

Has David Streitfeld at the L. A. Times Revealed to Booksellers a New Prophet-Poet? Is the Prose Proselytizer of Books Now in Print?

Shop Lewis Buzbee's book "The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop," (US $17) online if you want to save mucho. Just use the form box at the top of this and every other page on Cheap Priceless Editions.

Streitfeld's piece is a remarkable one-shot summary of the crisis that metropolitan bookstores in North America have been facing over the past 6 or 7 years. Truly, this is not at all like the stereotypical occupational complaint the way hog and milk producers bitch about subsidy programs. On the other hand, there is always the trap of psychosomatic sympathetic identification with the Californication of Culture. You make up your own mind.

Maybe Ron Silliman is the new prophet-poet of what is happening in the book trade. He's at least eloquent and articulate, coming up with apt comparisons with past techno-family challenges.

Quotes from:
Bookshops' latest sad plot twist
By David Streitfeld
Los Angeles Times
February 7, 2007

When sliding sales forced Cody's to close its store next to the UC Berkeley campus, the poet Ron Silliman wrote on his blog that it was once the anchor of "the best book-buying block in North America." But in the discussion that followed, the attitude was one of resignation if not indifference.

"Why would anyone want to perpetuate small independents by paying higher prices?" wondered Curtis Faville, a poet who sells rare books on the Internet. "Most of these proud little independents were poorly run anyway."

Less harshly, Silliman suggested in an e-mail that "we're simultaneously caught in the wonder of the new and true mourning for the losses of the old."

It's an unsettling if inevitable process. Half a century ago, Silliman said, he would play chess and checkers with his grandfather as they listened to the radio. "That stopped once the TV arrived, because now we all had to face the same direction," he wrote.
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hippie cowboy hats
If you think everything '60s started in California, then you probably think everything '60s will end there.

Blogaulaire thinks that the last thing these California scribes will write about is the large number of ex-patriats who have left the state to discover some other New Eldorado elsewhere. Native Californians would much rather believe that Silicone Valley (with, perhaps, a little help from Seattle) still RULES; that we're all into California Dreamin, one way or the other.

On another personal note, Berkeleylost its magnetic appeal along with The Haight so long ago . . it was almost exactly on my 15th birthday. The point is: the demise of these culture icons up and down Shattuck is not the demise of The Culture ipso facto.

I'm even surprised that Cody's survived in that venue for as long it they did. (Blogaulaire still adores North Beach bistros in San Francisco.)

"The bookstore as we know it is in dire straits," said Lewis Buzbee, a novelist who spent many years working in the local shops.

"The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop," (US $17) Buzbee's loving memoir of his time as a clerk in the Bay Area (is) interspersed with a history of the bookselling trade, has become a small but genuine hit. It's just gone into its fourth printing, with enthusiastic crowds flocking to the writer's appearances.

"One thing books do is offer us concrete definitions for sometimes hazy feelings," said Buzbee, 49. "My memoir gives people a venue for sharing their emotions about bookstores."
A good bookstore, he notes, is unlike any other retail space. Where else can you linger, sample the merchandise and then casually reject it if not quite right? Your local pizzeria would frown on such behavior. In a culture that worships money, bookstores are one of the few commercial institutions where cost doesn't trump all other considerations. Massive bestsellers share shelf space with the most obscure tomes.
Buzbee exalts a place where time seems to slow but hours can disappear in an instant, where browsers coexist in a companionable solitude, where a chance encounter with the exact right volume might create an explosion in your head.

"Not only could your world change, but the rest of the world could change," he told an audience at the venerable City Lights bookstore in North Beach."

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