After an initial hesitation period of about 10 months, I battled my own fears, and largely motivated by closing of local Borders shop, I decided to enter the only other decently good shop in town, named ‘Avid Book Reader’. Having let ‘life’ and ‘its life-ness’ run rampart on my reading habit in last few years, I hardly define myself as an ‘avid’ book reader. So I was genuinely worried of entering a shop that so loudly describes its target market and patrons in its name. What if they have some sort of test at the gate -a literary bouncer-, starting with questions like, How many books have you read in last one week? Have you read one Shakespeare, and one Karen Jay Fowler in last one month? Who really killed Virginia Woolf? Was he the same the same guy who killed Roger Rabbit? (trick question, don’t answer that). How do you define if a book is literary or pulp? Distinguish between a literary wordsmith and a literary genius? Pick the odd one out: Yann Martel, Chuck Palanhuik, Nicholas Sparks, R.K. Narayan? And if you answer any one of them wrong, the nerd looking, feebly built, thick spectacles wearing literary bouncer sprays pepper spray into your eyes, and directs you towards another bookstore whose name lacks ‘avid’ and includes the word ‘word’ in its name, like, wordstore, wordlab, wordynome, wordstar (sound more like a refrigerator that teaches foreign language too) etc.
Anyways, since Borders closed down, I had no other option but to try my luck at Avid Book Store. Either the owner had relaxed his ‘Avid’ criteria, or the literary bouncer was down with flu, but entering the bookstore was as easy as entering a Subway chain, including the bell that warns/tells owner of customer’s presence. Exuberant as I was that my wit and literary intellect had not been put to test, I started roaming in the aisles, and as always trying hard to figure out the underlying order and pattern in how books are arranged. I was reading back cover jacket of a book detailing a guy’s semi autobiographical account of recovery from drug addiction, when I hear a woman’s voice from other side of book shelf saying, “What this country does not need is socialism!”. I am not a regular eavesdropper but its good to know your world sometimes, so following this logic, I decided to look for the source behind these words of wisdom. I discretely walk around the aisle to other side, and see this group of people, probably part of a book club, busy in a discussion, with one woman’s voice towering over all others. I spend some time around their round table, picking up random books, and pretending to read about houses, horses and at one instant, a self help book in building confidence. The discussion has now moved to poverty among students, Wall Street, and what needs to be done to improve the plight of hapless graduate students, how you can pump money into the economy without redistribution of money, and using an actual pump that pumps coins (last one was probably just voice in my head).
After multiple statements reemphasizing the harmful effects socialism might have on this country, the conversation has become more repetitive than informative, so I start looking through section of book racks that might positively interest me, and while I am flipping through a book that talks about how people who talk to winds end up attempting to fly, as winds tell them that it will take care of them, and then comes betrayal and almighty thud, I hear the socialism-hater-loudest-women say, “If I die in car accident tomorrow…”. I run to the aisle closest to book club table to catch rest of the sentence, but miss it only to catch the words, ‘…it is probably not good for country. ” I am still thinking as to what words in between could be, when I realize that I am uncomfortable close to a book with pink cover depicting a half naked men holding a semi-unconscious women, who probably just had a wardrobe malfunction. I wonder if I am better prepared for the literary bouncer now. I am still not an avid reader, but I know difference between literary and pulp.