The fateful lightning of my terrible swift sword

Today I embarked upon a new activity in the bookstore, one which fills my authorial bowels with a strange sympathetic dread.

Pulls. Such an innocuous word.

Periodically, a well-run bookstore has to go around pulling off the shelves books which aren’t selling, in order to return them to the publisher for credit. As a bookseller, this is a grand thing. It’s good for the bottom line; it clears up room to shelve some of the massive stacks of overstock we have; it generally makes my life easier. And yet, I feel sort of uneasy pulling. The realities of the book trade being what they are, I know I’m basically consigning the book, and its author’s hopes of fame and earning out, to obscurity. It’s kind of sad looking up a book that we have nine copies of and taking all nine back to the loading dock.

With the hardcovers and trade paperbacks, it’s not so bad. You can pretend that they all get sent to a farm upstate where they can run and play with the other books (which, as I think about it, isn’t a bad way to think of Ingram’s Oregon warehouse). It’s the mass-market paperbacks that break your heart.

They don’t get sent anywhere. They just get their front covers torn off and mailed back, as if some sort of bookstore mafioso decided an editor needed to be taught a lesson. The rest of the book goes in the dumpster, unless some ghoulish bookseller decides to snag a few decapitated books (What?).

I took comfort in listening to a trio of highly literate high schoolers discussing their next book purchases and their college applications, however. I like it when people too young to drink tackle grand literature; it makes me feel there is hope for the world yet. I conclude, however, that I am indeed getting old, because I think the current cohort of teenagers has just abominable taste. I mean, really; white pumps on a seventeen-year-old?

Originally published on LiveJournal