If I Owned a Bookstore

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In his novel “If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler,” Italo Calvino divides a book store into some amusing sections:

    Books You Haven’t Read

    Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered

    Books You Mean To Read But There Are Others You Must Read First

    Books Too Expensive Now And You’ll Wait Till They’re Remaindered

    Books That Everybody’s Read So It’s As If You Had Read Them, Too

If I owned a bookstore I would probably already be broke and/or insane, but assuming I wasn’t, I would look to Calvino (figuratively, since he’s dead) for guidance in arranging my store.

Near the front of the store, there would be: Books Most People are Too Embarrassed to Pick Up. In-store video would display people sneaking up to this section and making sure they’re alone before hurriedly shuffling through the titles and centerfolds.

In the center of the store, I’m thinking of a section enclosed in barbed wire (to keep the kids out) called Books That Know Where You Live and Will Come to Your House if You Don’t Buy Them. I think a lot of people will look at these books, put them down, and then go home and see what happens. Once something does happen, I’ll start raising prices because people will have to buy the books then.

To prove that my store had a heart of gold, I would have sections called Books Your Friends Keep Borrowing and Never Give Back (with a bulletin board for posting names of your forgetful friends), Books You Need to Keep the FEDs From Hassling You (obviously, a section for those who think we have too much government already), and Books That Are, Frankly, Pretty Damn Stupid (these will sell as beach reads).

There would be smaller sections with tasteful signs like:

PURE SMUT

IMPURE THOUGHTS

DISEASES YOU DON’T WANT YOUR SPOUSE TO KNOW ABOUT

FAKE EMPOWERMENT SECRETS

SELF-HELP FOR THE ENTITLEMENT GENERATION

As for ambiance, it needs to be threatening. People like danger. They want to be able to say, “I went to BAD ASS books and got out without spending more than $250.” A biker-bar motif might work with complimentary booze for anyone who can prove they’re not already drunk.

Even so, I’d probably need a section of my store called Books You Would Buy if You Weren’t Too Hammered to Stand Up Straight. (The shelves in this section would be low to the floor so you could see the titles while crawling.)

Needless to say, we’d require folks to check their guns at the front door.

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