Saturday, July 16, 2016
A vacation is coming, and whenever one does, the Boys and I end up at a Half Price Books looking for reading material. So, though our mid-August Florida trip feels a half year away, we went to the fine, Ye Olden Half-priced Bookstore with a 40% coupon clutched in our opposable appendage. Yes.
Half Priced books + 40% coupon = even cheaper reading material for the beach.
It’s tradition. Good reading material at a good price. Rub off the sales sticker from the corner (you don’t want anyone on the beach thinking you didn’t pay full price)…ignore the crayon marks on pages 46, 48, and 53…and get reading. But before I could get on with any of that, my plans were demoralized when greeted by this at the door:
half-priced books + 40% coupon ... + clearance fiction?
Clearance Fiction. Something didn’t feel right. Immediately, and probably because I am a struggling author involved in a workshop, I read that as a critique. Clearance Fiction? I quickly looked at the book spines on the cart. Mostly unknown authors to me, but there’s a Tom Clancy…and a John Grisham… Well-known stories, maybe even movies?
Clearance Fiction + cart pushed outside the store + half-priced = Cheaply written Fiction not good enough for anything this world can offer so we placed it on a cart outside our door...?
My partner stayed behind with the cart of badly written fiction – or whatever. He's a Grisham fan. I went inside and stood at the entrance and literally gave the whole store a look over. My mood changed. I was not anticipating a Key West resort or feeling Grills on the Port in Cape Canaveral. I was overwhelmed. Books. Old books. New books. Half-priced. Half-priced books written by thousands of authors and hundreds of years worth of stories. Coupons. Clearance.
All their works; all of their ingenuity; all of their contemporary fame and famously posthumous fame -- reside here at a cost as low as a cost can be. All these page-turning classics and clever knockoffs; all these historical accounts on those page-turning classics and clever knockoffs and written by the most gifted, clever, and advanced authors of humanity: half-priced.
I get it. This is not an opinion or critique on the actual works, having these fine works located here. Used books...overstocked books...new and old editions. But ‘clearance’ fiction?
Why did I have read that as a critique? And why did the store clerks have to clearance already half-priced books...place them on a cart...and push them outside? As authors, are we ready to see our yellowed, dog-eared pages and faded book covers set on a cart outside a store selling our masterpieces half-priced, with an additional 40% coupon, and on clearance?
I’m cool with it all, from actually writing something worthy of being read to it being sold second or third hand for half-price. But not clearance. Please; just give my stories away at that point. Give my characters a good home.
I tried to move on.
I took a right and ended up looking at some older books the store kept under plastic protective covers. My favorite, Arthur C. Clarke, was sealed inside a ‘Playboy’ science fiction collection… Isaac Asimov, too. $6 each. I went down an aisle displaying the fiction classics. Saw Heather’s favorite author, Jane Austen. Newer looking edition, probably about $3.50. I then saw a name that made me do a double take: James Whitcomb Riley. Oh, yeah, I thought; I remember him.
I flipped through it, vaguely remembered some of the poems we had read in elementary school. I always loved his Hoosier stories, but how did they go again? I never really ‘studied’ Riley’s style, or dove any deeper than the humor and the imagery. What was Riley’s style? How clever was he?
Well, I was sold. I bought the book. I’ll be reading it while sitting next to the pool in Cape Canaveral or maybe lying under palm shade behind an old gay resort with clothing optional and you pray that no one actually uses that option. Yet, I'll be buried in my James Whitcomb Riley deeper than I have ever done before. Little Orphant Annie, the Raggedy Man, Still I Rise, The Old Swimming Hole, The goblins will get ya if you don't watch out. Pure talent. Or the result of years and years of perfection? Both? Interestingly…
Since in this post I seem to like to apply math, here is a calculation that I figured out despite my earlier concern of half-priced fiction: What if I found this fine author's story collection on the clearance fiction cart, half-baking in the sun outside a half-priced bookstore?
Half priced book by James Whitcomb Riley + 40% coupon + clearance fiction = James Whitcomb Riley + precious time spent wisely reading James Whitcomb Riley