Monday, November 5, 2012
Bookstore Visit Helps Block Out Hurricane Sandy
I found myself in a large Barnes and Noble in a White Plains mall this weekend, seeking refuge from the cleanup of Hurricane Sandy. I have power in my house and though my neighborhood suffered numerous trees hitting homes and power lines, we were not like the wind and flood-ravaged seaside towns that got demolished by the storm. But I needed a sanctuary, a place I always think of as home, as safe, as special, to get away from thinking about gas shortages, generators, closed roads, and the potential of another Nor’easter this week. I cushioned myself into the church of the mind, the bookstore.
Ever since Borders closed up I have found myself spending less time than I used to in bookstores. It wasn’t because I liked Borders so much; I actually preferred Barnes and Noble – but because I was abandoning the very place I fear will one day abandon me, I’m in a split universe – purgatory some would say. On the one hand, I want to enjoy the bookstore in a way that I always have. I would like to feel a sense of strength from the bookshelves and from the many information-seeking individuals who form intellectual fences and safely protect me from the world beyond the safe confines of the store.
On the other hand, I know the bookstore world will not outlive me. I am only 45. The digitization of the world marches on, gobbling up magazines, newspapers, and books – and eventually the physical stores that sell physical things. So, because I fear/believe the bookstore will one day leave me as I know my parents will, I am pulling away from the thing and place I love most and feel so natural to be in
So what is one to do? I need a superhero to save the world that I feel is slipping away. But superheroes don’t save an era, do they? The era of bookstores is dwindling and shortening. But the bookstore means so much to a community, on so many levels. E-books or not, there should be some kind of bookstore that survives.
This past Saturday the bookstore was my hiding place for the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. It was clear of downed power lines, crushed roofs, flooded streets, and pleas for help. It was not filled with reminders of an apocalyptic storm. Instead, it’s society at its best. People can be informed, entertained, inspired, and enlightened by the words and photos their books share with them. They are in a warm environment with like-minded people. There is no pain, no debt, no fear, no anger. Only the love of knowledge lives here.
For another day, I got to live in a world of bookstores and the life worth living. What a gift.