Bookstores in the Visual Age
From my tiny pied-à-terre on the corner of 11th and Broadway in Manhattan, I have a view of Strand bookstore (Corporate tag line: eighteen miles of books). It’s virtually impossible to look at the entrance for more than thirty seconds without seeing a customer enter or leave. Being in a city with eight million people - a million of whom claim to be artists or intellectuals - makes it easy to sell books. But there is more to the story than having a lot of potential customers. You have to know what they want.
Namely: actual books.
The last time I was in New York long enough to become engaged in the city, the Strand was featuring The Interrogation by J.M.G. Le Clezio, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, and Things I've Been Silent About by Azar Nafisi, the bestselling author of Reading Lolita in Tehran.
Meanwhile, a few blocks north, Borders was featuring My Life by Earvin 'Magic' Johnson, a vampire book of some sort (I did not take note of the title) and an Italian hard salami selection. I am not making this up. Magic Johnson is famous for playing basketball and contracting HIV. But it doesn’t matter what you are famous for. You can be famous for being famous, and that is enough to get you a book deal. On the tables of that now defunct Borders, there were books by Julie Andrews, Rachel Ray, Willie Nelson, Tony Danza, Pete Sampras, and Perez Hilton.
Do I sound like a snob? I like Willie Nelson’s singing, Pete Sampras’ serve, and Rachael Ray’s cooking. But I can only read so many books in my lifetime, and I’m not going to waste a slot on people who whose books were published because of their notoriety rather than their ability as an author.
Borders is gone and good riddance. But many indie bookstores have also closed. My hometown has a population of three-quarters of a million people and not a single Indie bookstore. Here in Valdosta Georgia, metro population of a hundred thousand, we have no indie bookstore. We have a Books-A-Million, but that’s more of a gift shop and coffee house with a few books in the back.
People tell me bookstores are doomed. We live in a visual age, they say.
So did the cavemen. Then we learned to write, and the written word extended not only our store of knowledge but also our ability to think. Writing and reading enable us to analyze and understand what we see in a way simply seeing cannot. The only difference between a caveman and many of my students is the latter have I-pads. My students have more ‘visuals’ than the cavemen, but neither group can write. Have we come full-circle?
“Hubert Shuze, pot thief extraordinaire, operates an ancient pottery resale shop, not entirely legally, in the middle of Albuquerque's town square. His activities, both in the selling and creating of ancient pots and their knock-offs, tend to get him mixed up in an assortment of marginally ethical activities, murder generally being the most profound. Shuze operates by a complex set of ethics that allows him to sell questionably legal pots, burglarize, and launder money -- but never to lie, cheat or steal. Along the way, Shuze, a perpetual student of life, educates us on his philosopher du jour. His previous novels featured the philosophies of Pythagoras, Ptolemy and Einstein. "The Pot Thief Who Studied Escoffier" is a quirky repast of piñon-infused chimeneas, New Mexican sunsets, and a delightful band of foodie misfits. It is best enjoyed in the fading glow of a Southwestern sunset, a fire crackling beside you, a faithful dog at your feet.” The El Paso Times
Information about the books:
The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras, The Pot Thief Who Studied Ptolemy, The Pot Thief Who Studied Einstein, and The Pot Thief Who Studied Escoffier are published by Oak Tress Press and are available as paperbacks in many Barnes & Nobles, Hastings, and Independent bookstores and as ebooks on Kindle and Nook readers.
Mike Orenduff grew up in a house so close to the Rio Grande that he could Frisbee a tortilla into Mexico. He came by his love of pueblo pottery during weekends, buying small pots from the pueblos his family visited and – in one case – acquiring one when his sister traded chocolate chip cookies for it. His love of pottery expanded to a general interest in archaeology which he studied as an undergraduate.
While in graduate school at the University of New Mexico, Mike worked during the summer as a volunteer teacher at one of the nearby pueblos. He went on to serve as President of New Mexico State University and as a visiting faculty member at West Point and President of Bermuda College. After retiring from higher education, he rekindled his love of the Southwest by writing his award-winning Pot Thief murder mysteries which combine archaeology and philosophy with humor and mystery. Among his many awards are the New Mexico Book of the Year, the “Lefty” national award for best humorous mystery and two “Eppies” for the best eBook mysteries.
His first book, The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras, was described by The Baltimore Sun as, “funny at a very high intellectual level and deliciously delightful,” and his latest, The Pot Thief Who Studied Escoffier, was called "the perfect fusion of murder, mayhem and margaritas” by The El Paso Times.