Tag Archives: books

‘What the hell is that?’: A Thursday at the resale shop

Thursday, 2 July, 2015, at the Leydig Center resale shop, Dixon, Illinois, which shop seems to be located in an old factory. It takes in donations, as below, and what profits it makes go to local charities–a worthy cause. Of course, it’s also a whole store full of stuff people didn’t want, and this gives me a chance to observe the material culture of a certain cross-section of the rural Illinois population.

Exterior, drop-off department.

Exterior, drop-off department.

The sadness of a used "Excellence" poster. Also, note the purple-pink velour folding-wheeled chair -- maybe? -- to the left center. A woman asked the woman carrying it, "What the HELL is THAT?"

The sadness of a used “Excellence” poster. Also, note the purple-pink velour folding-wheeled chair — maybe? — to the left center. A woman asked the woman carrying it, “What the HELL is THAT?”

The world's saddest sample-photo: a dog, possibly abandoned, drinking from a mud puddle.

The world’s saddest sample-photo: a dog, possibly abandoned, drinking from a mud puddle.

 

Wood things.

Wood things.

Sure.

Sure.

In the kids' section!

In the kids’ section!

"Spoons"? How about "Spoons!"

“Spoons”? How about “Spoons!”

Apparently, recycling ceiling fans is a thing to do.

Apparently, recycling ceiling fans is a thing to do.

The first of 2 lavender-velour Bratz wall clocks I saw there today.

The first of 2 lavender-velour-trimmed Bratz wall clocks I saw there today.

An amalgam of a display.

An amalgam of a display. I like to look at such displays as accidental art installations.

Wall o' crutches.

Wall o’ crutches.

Doll on the left is frozen in the moment of being about to shove the doll to her right off the shelf.

Doll on the left is about to murder the doll to her right.

At left, "Solo in the Spotlight" Barbie. At right, "Leaders of the World" action figure of Benjamin Franklin, a "fully poseable figure" with "authentic changeable outfits."

At left, “Solo in the Spotlight” Barbie. At right, “Leaders of the World” action figure of Benjamin Franklin, a “fully poseable figure” with “authentic changeable outfits.”

The wall of fallen price tags. The sign to upper left says "Volunteers GIVE 200+ hours a day for you to have this wonderful store to find great bargains. Please tell someone if you see people changing prices, removing them, or just putting items into their pockets. Stealing is a crime, even worse when it is stealing from charities which is where our money goes. Please help us!"

The wall of fallen price tags. The sign to upper left says “Volunteers GIVE 200+ hours a day for you to have this wonderful store to find great bargains. Please tell someone if you see people changing prices, removing them, or just putting items into their pockets. Stealing is a crime, even worse when it is stealing from charities which is where our money goes. Please help us!”

Seeing this, my mom said "shoes have crept into here." It wasn't clear to me what "here" was: the dolls and Ortho sprayer section?

Seeing this, my mom said, “shoes have crept into here.” It wasn’t clear to me what was the definition of the “here” section: the dolls, Christmas wreaths, and Ortho sprayer section?

In addition to the "Justin Bieber: Always Be Mine" and the "Body Boggle" board games, I also say these titles: Chauvinist Pigs, Jeff Foxworthy's You Might Be a Redneck If..., Think Tank, Duck Dynasty Redneck Wisdom, Mid-Life Crisis, Mulligan Madness Golfers Trivia Game, Strata 5 strategy game, and Speedy Graffiti and Probe word games.

In addition to “Justin Bieber: Always Be Mine” and “Body Boggle,” I also saw these other board game titles: Chauvinist Pigs, Jeff Foxworthy’s You Might Be a Redneck If…, Think Tank, Duck Dynasty Redneck Wisdom, Mid-Life Crisis, Mulligan Madness Golfers Trivia Game, Strata 5 strategy game, and Speedy Graffiti and Probe word games.

The saddest board game in the world.

The saddest board game in the world.

Danielle Steel on sale, "10-4, Good Buddy CB radio board game," and  "Real Basketball in Miniature."

Danielle Steel on sale, “10-4, Good Buddy CB radio board game,” and “Real Basketball in Miniature.”

In the "Amish" section of the book room, Beverly Lewis's The Shunning: "She only knew the Amish ways, but with one visit to the attic, her world began to crumble."

In the “Amish” section of the book room, Beverly Lewis’s The Shunning: “She only knew the Amish ways, but with one visit to the attic, her world began to crumble.”

Bibles by the tub, 25 cents each.

Bibles by the tub, 25 cents each.

The Life After Death section. While in the book room, I heard one volunteer-employee say to another, "For all those fans of J.D. Robb, got a whole bunch in."

The Life After Death section. While in the book room, I heard one volunteer-employee say to another, “For all those fans of J.D. Robb, [we] got a whole bunch in.”

Sheet music selections, from Pat Boone to Richard Hageman to Michael W. Smith.

Sheet music selections, from Pat Boone to Richard Hageman to Michael W. Smith.

Dixon High graduation gown.

“Dixon High School Reagan Dixon outfits.”

This assortment.

This assortment.

More knicks with the knack.

More knicks with the knack.

Muppets glassware.

Muppets glassware.

One-handed St. Francis.

One-handed St. Francis.

That bear in the back row -- that can't be good.

That bear in the middle of the back row, its expression — that can’t be good.

 

Note:  I didn’t really take pictures of the people of the Leydig Center, which would’ve been (and could be) a whole other project. Suffice it to say, there’s plenty of local color there. At the checkout, I heard this: “We couldn’t win for losin’ there for a while,” said one middle-aged guy who was talking about taking jobs at places that had closed down soon after he was hired.

 

If you liked ‘Great Gatsby,’ you’ll love …

It’s so thoughtful of retail stores to put up book suggestion displays that are so easy to mess with:

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A fair debate of ideas

I wanted to share a great post about those who seek to ban books with messages they dislike. I particularly like how blogger A.M.B. said this:

If the mere exposure to new ideas is enough for those old beliefs to crumble, then its proponents should stop to consider why their beliefs aren’t more persuasive. In my opinion, an idea that can’t withstand a fair debate isn’t an idea worth passing onto the next generation.

This is an excellent point. Why would someone be afraid of an idea? If one disagrees with an idea, one ought to be able to explain why, with a reasonable argument, no? Rather than condemn ideas outright, as if ideas were so dangerous as to require putting them away on a high shelf, why not just rationally debate them? Do book-banners perhaps lack debate skills? Or do they seek authoritarian solutions to what could and should be democratic decisions?

Amazon, bookstores, and me

This recent article from Salon points out that most people still find out about books not online but from physical bookstores, and so, as physical bookstores find it hard to compete with Amazon’s prices and go out of business, Amazon might be hurt, too.

I have loved bookstores since I first started going to them in high school — I’ve loved finding books at new-book and at used-book stores, I’ve loved sitting in them and reading, etc.

And I used to love buying books — more than I could really afford. But for some reason, I seem to be less interested in books these days, and I think there are a couple, intermixed reasons.

I’m really writing more than reading these days. Writing is what feels natural, like I have authentic energy to do it, and reading long works doesn’t feel that way. I used to really enjoy reading long works, but now I feel less inclined to read both long narratives (of fiction or nonfic) and long works of analysis or philosophy.

I want short texts, like poems, or brief nonfictions (an example by Charles Simic here) — not because I’m busy or my attention span is short, but because I’m not sure I see much value in length, in duration. I don’t know why stories have to take a long time (I don’t read, generally, to escape into a story); nonfiction histories and biographies feel like compilations of arbitrary ideas, and philosophies/”big idea” books seem arbitrary and pointlessly thorough — like the world’s shiniest turd.

The Simic piece prompts a new thought — I’m appreciating that piece for its lack of familiar structure. I’m tired of regular structure — I teach the five-paragraph essay to high-schoolers, and while it’s useful for them to know, it’s a form I want to avoid in my reading and writing.

And when I go to bookstores now, I feel like the books are dead, in a sense. They are works that are complete, that are no longer being edited (with some possible exceptions — Whitman revised “Leaves of Grass” extensively, for over 30 years, after first publishing it). In recent months, I’ve been wondering about how commerce drives publishing form — namely, why it is that most books are carefully written and edited, and then many copies are made — instead, I’ve been writing small, one-copy volumes. These books are texts I can make all at once, in a short time (an hour or so), straight from my mind, with almost no revision — in this way, these books match a writing process that has come to feel right to me: writing spontaneously, writing what comes to mind, writing without having an outcome in mind (I’ll have a filled book at the end, but not be sure what words or ideas or drawings will fill it). This is an aesthetic/artistic choice that has seemed valuable to me recently.

And the wonderful thing about the Interwebs is that, as a form, as a publishing possibility, it too allows for work to be written quickly and published quickly, and revised in an ongoing way, and shorter texts seem to fit well within a blog or other electronic format.

[An aside: As this article points out, e-books are still a fraction of paper-book sales, and

But we do read things differently when they’re on a page rather than on a screen. A study this year found that people reading on a screen tended to skip around more and read less intensively, and plenty of research confirms that people tend to comprehend less of what they read on a screen. The differences are small, but they may explain the persistent appeal of paper. Indeed, hardcover sales rose last year by a hundred million dollars.]

This is not intended to be an argument against books themselves, or against bookstores (where I spent many hours reading and finding books that shaped the mind I have now) — and I still own many paper books, and may publish my own someday.

But right now, I don’t feel the Amazon vs. bookstore thing needs to be a big deal. Books aren’t perfect, and why not question the assumptions of the publishers, of the writers, and of the readers.

Links: Difficult creativity; book eccentricities; “he”; fairy tales

Some links of interest:

1. An article discussing the usefulness of difficulty in creativity, and how the tools we use can influence our writing.

2. A link to a post at The Dish that mentions the idea that we keep books to remind us of our own eccentricities.

3. Also from the Dish: A trend in the changing language: A report that more gender-neutral pronouns being used.

4. A theory of fairy tales being softened up compared to the originals.