Friday, January 8, 2010

I'm struggling a little with my energy level. I started a painting but haven't touched it in a week. I haven't written in a week, but I have been reading. Tom Robbins, one of my favourite authors, has been writing for a couple of decades at least, but I only discovered him a couple of years ago. Oh how I love his irreverence, his hyperbolic use of simile and metaphor all mixed and mashed and wonderful. His philosophy on life, his surrealistic stories. Currently I'm reading Skinny Legs and All, which is my favourite of his so far. If you are not easily offended, please read it. In my less mentally alert moments I flip through magazines. Decor magazines full of white and robins' egg blue are a great disappointment, I don't want icy looking interiors. Odd though that the book I have just mentioned is a robin's egg blue colour....yes that was the connection in my head that seemed so logical to me but was probably a little bumpy for any poor reader.

I am addicted to reading material and magazines are no exception. I am always swearing off them, or at least promising my husband that I will spend less money on them, but like all addicts, I lie. Not a deliberate lie, no it is worse than that. I am simply weak, unable to keep my promise, forgetting in the moment of desire and abandoning all caution. It isn't only decor magazines either. I read Shambala Sun, Fine Gardening, The Skeptic, Psychology Today, Psychologies (UK) Elle Canada, Vogue, Canadian House and Home, Yoga Journal and Veg News. I might be tempted to stray from my regulars by a tantalizing cover. I am never tempted by celebrity gossip magazines or the standard womens' magazines. My husband subscribes to Maclean's magazine, a newsmagazine with somewhat conservative leanings. I find that a bit strange since he is certainly a socialist. He says he needs to understand the perspective of the other side. I have just subscribed to Boho magazine, which I have never seen on any shelf where I live, but was tempted on line.

Magazine articles give me topics to think about. I'm starved for conversation that deeply explores a topic. Nobody I know wants to have those conversations with me. Oh, I guess that isn't completely true. I have a brother in-law who can sometimes be engaged in that way. Recently, around Christmas, my brother-in-law was visiting from the other side of the country. We did get into one topic on which I have not yet formed strong opinions, although I sometimes pretended to just to provoke him. Yes, I'm a little bit evil. I was given some cash at Christmas and declared my delight at the prospect of buying some books. I love to be able to walk into a book store and buy whatever I want-far more than clothes, jewelry or home decor items, I love to buy books. (Shoes might be next, but that is another post.)

I announced that I was going to go to Chapters (For you non-Canadians it is a giant bookstore located in most major cities and with a Starbucks on site. It also has an online store sort of like Chapters has discounts, a rewards card, fantastic January sales and of course a large in-store selection that allows for hours of browsing. Online books can also be purchased
in second hand copies. If I know of a specific book that I want, I walk into my neighbourhood independent book store and look for it or ask them to order it. What I love about Chapters is the experience of browsing for hours. Of the enormous selection which allows me to accumulate an armload of books to purchase. My brother-in-law was horrified, dare I say sickened at my patronizing Chapters.

I am a hypocrite, he tells me, because I won't shop at Wal Mart but I am willing to take money, even food from the hands of starving artists who won't make as much money from their literary efforts when stores like chapters buy in bulk from publishers in order to get discounts they can pass on to their customers. I won't shop at Wal Mart because the company takes advantage of both sweat shop labour and takes drastic measures to prevent employees from unionizing. Apparently, I should be applying this same criticism to a large bookstore. Hmm...this got me thinking about fair market value and how underprivileged people who deserve a fair wage compared to artists who could get a real job to pay the bills.

Don't mistake me, I do value art. The problem I keep coming back to is that it is much more difficult to place a value on art. Does demand alone determine the value or is there something else, something intangible like talent that should be involved here? Who decides what is talent and what is not? I can't be the only person who has noticed that bad novels do get published. At the same time, many talented writers will never be published at all. Even Jane Austen had to self publish in order to get started. Should artists expect to earn a living from their work? Maybe if they didn't it would weed out the bad ones. Only the truly dedicated (okay also the independently wealthy) would pursue it in addition to their other jobs. Is this the same as fair trade arrangements for cacao bean or coffee bean farmers?

I have to clarify that the main attraction a store like Chapters hold for me is it's selection. Big store equals many titles and many available copies. I would be attracted to it even if there weren't January sales and a discount card. While staying in Richmond, the city where I usually visit Chapters, I also found an independent bookstore in a nearby mall. They were having a sale and many books were half the cover price. There was even a room at the back of the store with titles for two dollars. Many independent book stores give discounts to teachers, and I'm glad of that because I frequently buy books for my classroom using my own funds. At the checkout, I received a 15% discount on the already bargain books. I bought five books for my classroom and five for myself at prices much lower than I've ever found at Chapters. Of course I also went to Chapters and bought even more books. Oh happy day!

I still haven't figured out my political opinion on large bookstores like Chapters. I am also just as happy to spend hours and dollars in second hand bookstores. And what about libraries? Surely these too must threaten the livelihood of the literary artist. I am not feeling much guilt-actually no guilt if I'm honest, but I am puzzled by my brother-in-law's intense feelings on the subject

1 comment:

Karen@StrictlySimpleStyle said...

It is a shame that the small bookstore seems to be dying out. Recently the small, independent bookstore my parents took me to as a child and I, in turn, took my own children for story time, closed due to poor business. Maybe they should have put in a coffee shop at the back.

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