Big-Box Bookstores Don’t Have to Die
You could say I have a sentimental attachment to the chain bookstore. Growing up in an intellectually impoverished American suburb, I spent much of my free time in now-defunct locations of Borders and Barnes & Noble. I read garbage, mostly: popular history magazines, Star Trek novelizations, art tomes whose pages I scoured only for frank depictions of naked women. But I had an intuitive sense that all those “wordy” books sleeping on the shelves, whose spines I raced my finger along while traveling between the café and the restrooms, would some day be the building blocks of a real, adult mind, the cathedral-like dimensions of which I could almost picture emerging through the haze of my juvenile enthusiasms. Inside Barnes & Noble, the figures of great literature literally looked down on me. A large wallpapered mural assembled them all in some grand ahistorical café. It was through that mural that I had my first encounters with the brooding fop Oscar Wilde and the fabulously bearded Anthony Trollope.