Friday, January 08, 2010

When Bookstores Annoy

I happened to be shopping and Reliance Time Out was just around the corner.I decided to go in;partly because it would be my first visit and partly because a friend said that it wasn't 'his kind of place'.I understood what my friend meant the moment I stepped in.The sheer disorganization hits you the way pretentious art does.There are best sellers piled at various angles,as is the norm in bookstore chains these days,followed by the section on music and movies with watches and mp3 players on either side!I realized that it was a rather crass imitation of 'Landmark',but I didn't mind because I have seen P.G. Wodehouse lining shelves labeled as 'Indian fiction' in Crossword.

I made my way to the classics section and then,quite inevitably,to the section on science.They seemed to have quite a collection on theoretical physics,the metaphysics of quantum mechanics,evolutionary biology,genetics and a book on math by Lewis Carroll.I was sufficiently pleased till I noticed a row stacked with self help books.The theoretical physics shelf faces the shelf of travel books and sits adjacent to the self help section without any hint of warning.It's a lot like being in a room with Richard Dawkins talking about the non-existence of a personal God, Richard Feynman giving a lecture on quantum mechanics,William Darymple raving about the forts in old Delhi and Rhonda Byrne saying that quantum mechanics supports 'the law of attraction' and hence the universe provides what you ask for! I tersely picked up a copy of 'Man's Search for Meaning' by Victor Frankel,not strictly self help in my opinion,but nevertheless occupying shelf space in the self help section.The next moment,a rather obnoxious gentleman asked,'Why do you read such books?'. I mumbled something and left the aisle quite annoyed.

The trouble with large bookstores is the loss of a sense of belonging.A large bookstore feels like an airport terminal;impersonal with an air of harried worry lurking at every corner.It is quite rare to find a brand that devotes itself exclusively to books.A coffee shop at the corner is quite inevitable and so are the multitude of other unrelated items.Books end up landing on shelves of different genres thanks to the flippancy of window shoppers who stroll in,pick up a book,forget where they took it from and place it back at an arbitrary location.Store personnel are equally indifferent when it comes to this matter(it is pretty obvious from the vacant stares they give you when you ask for something a little more 'niche').

Finally, the prize for 'The most annoying book chain phenomenon' goes to overbearing customers who take it upon themselves to decide what the rest of the world gets to read.I personally don't endorse the self help market, but I don't hold anything against others who do.The sheer pleasure of shopping at 'Blossoms' has everything to do with its silent,contemplative air(apart from the faint scent of tattered seconds).One can stand in the competitive exam section without appearing pitiful and soak in the mush of a 'Mills and Boon' without appearing desperate. Every reader has his or her quirks and a large bookstore is just incapable of respecting that.

P.S. I think the owner of 'Blossoms' owes me a commission for the following reasons:
- I always say nice things about 'Blossoms' in my blog.
- I have recommended it to all my friends who like to read.
- I have given them a great deal of business myself.


kitoo said...

do you remember premier bookstore?? was a short walk from blossoms. There was total chaos there. Also higgins, again a nice bookstore although semi-large.

La Diva! said...

Premier bookstore was special. The owner knew where to find what book. He is also one of the most well read people in the city. Higginbothams has an old world charm despite being 'semi-large'.Unlike a lot of 'new age' chains,it doesn't get on your nerves;there is also a clear distinction between the books section and the stationery section.