One of the many casualties of corona is the bookstore experience, the one where you can linger for an hour or two at a bookstore and kickback. Now you go in, get a book, and leave. Gone are the times where you could leisurely browse the shelves and then sit on the floor to flip through your selections. Gone is the time when you could sit at the café and rummage through the periodicals. Now it is all business. Get in, get out. Hopefully, leave with a book or two.
Of course, any long list of what I miss due to corona includes other things, including:
- Hugging friends and family
- Live theater
- Attending sporting events
- Going to the movies
- Being able to stand next to someone without fear
- Seeing my kids off to school every day
- Traveling far and often
The list, however is incomplete unless you explore how corona has impacted our experience with books. Though book sales are up in 2020, the book community has been injured. Libraries and bookstores simply don’t invite you to hang out like they used to. There are no in-person writer conferences, seminars, or book signings. We can still touch books, but the gap between authors-readers and members of the book community is enormous.
I know, I know, there are bigger things going on. Millions are infected, hundreds of thousands died. Tens of millions are out of work. Businesses are shuttering. But that does not negate the pain that book lovers are feeling, nor should it.
We must remember all of the little things that make us whole, the habits, events, and interactions that make us human and literate. It is easy to push all of that to the side when we are conforonted by life-death issues, and certainly we must tend to the big stuff. But we must not forget how life used to be, nor give up hope of a return to such days.
I went to Barnes & Noble recently. I bought four books and ordered a fifth. But I did not get to crack open any books and curl up in a corner to delve into other worlds amongst a community of peers. I did not get to smell the pages of any books. I did not get to witness young children reading with a parent. I did not see some seniors sitting quietly, seeking refuge in the store, as they used to, filling their days in a public setting. The words of books need to echo in the minds of customers and in the hearts of readers. I did not hear the chatter from the curious, or the hum of readers socializing.
All that I could see was all of the space filling a room of books, with air that could contain a deadly virus. The pursuit of knowledge could kill you. The bookstore might as well put up a huge warning sign that says: “Learn at your own pace, breathe at your own risk.”
One day we shall return to normalcy, where we don’t have to live in fear, where we can again huddle together and come to a place that holds wonder, knowledge, humor, and hope. I have forgotten what the human face looks like, unmasked and unconcerned with the air surrounding it.
A bookstore should be a sanctuary, a protective place where all ideas, histories, predictions, and imaginations can be explored freely and safely. The disease has invaded all of that, but the plagues before it, whether of the health kind or political or psychological, the bookstore experience shall return. We will defeat the disease – and all of the fear, inconveniences, pain, and frustration it has caused.
I dream of that day, when going to a bookstore is intellectually orgasmic, spiritually awakening, socially supportive, and physically safe. Until then, books will continue to nurture my soul. I will have to live off of my memory of what was --and of my with visions of what could be.
For now, mask up and persevere.
Read, Read, Read!!
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Brian Feinblum, the founder of BookMarketingBuzzBlog, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. His insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are the product of his genius. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert. He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2020. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s The Independent. This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by BookBaby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by WinningWriters.com as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo.