I swore I would never enter 'Reliance Time Out' after an experience with an overzealous member of the 'literary police'. Thought policing apart, I abhorred the layout of the store which characterizes what may potentially be a librarian's worst nightmare.It is as though the retailer inherited a junk yard full of books,DVDs,watches,perfumes and miscellaneous paraphernalia and decided to host the world's largest garage sale.
Nevertheless, I decided to go in since I was in the neighbourhood and far from being in good humour. The organization of the store didn't help to alleviate my dejection, but the thought of leaving the store with a bundle of books did. One walks in and sees best sellers and potential revenue generators arranged in a pyramid. I was dumbfounded to see that the next two sections had nothing to do with books whatsoever. The third section was titled 'We Recommend', and it had the latest in contemporary fiction. I got the sense of a colonial hangover when I found one section called 'Indian Fiction' and another labelled 'Foreign Fiction'.
I found 'The Castle' by Kafka in the 'Foreign Fiction' section and picked it up. Since I have recently discovered that I derive tremendous satisfaction from the work of Orhan Pamuk, I started to rummage,without much success, through all the shelves to find his work.I don't consider a stroll through a book store complete without a visit to the 'Classics' and 'Literature' sections.I was overjoyed to find 'Orlando' by Virginia Woolf and quite surprised to find 'On Argentina' by Jorge Luis Borges. At this point I wanted to scream,'They have Borges!', as I started to pull out books from random shelves in search of Borges' works of fiction. When I realized that the uplifting feeling was starting to wane, I requested one of the shop assistants to help me find other books by Borges. He ambled to a computer, started internet explorer, refreshed the desktop a couple of times, logged into Amazon, searched for Borges and decided that Borges' work is classified as 'Literature'.
What ensued was plain hilarity.He searched in every shelf for a book by Borges. If you ever go to Reliance Time Out, beware. The classification of books is neither intuitive nor conventional. You may find Kafka in the 'foreign fiction' section,Margaret Atwood in the 'classics' section and perhaps a self help book lurking in the 'literature' section. I was almost sure that I would find 'My Name is Red' in the 'Indian fiction' section next to 'The Inheritance of Loss' (google Orhan Pamuk and Kiran Desai to see what I mean).
Somehow, by some twist of fate, I found 'Istanbul' and 'Other Colors' by Pamuk, placed on the bottommost shelf and books by the 2009 Nobel Laureate on the topmost shelf. I gathered that books by various Nobel winners are arranged in descending chronology. Paradoxically, there was no sign of Mario Vargas Llosa, the 2010 laureate.
I decided to buy two books by Pamuk, one by Kafka and one by Woolf. At first I politely declined the membership card. It's quite evident that,despite my little conquest, I had no intention of returning.It soon turned out that I would have to pay a pittance to become a member;the proximity of the store to the bibliophile's house was another nagging factor.
So there I was, the 'potential gold mine'. The bookworm who came empty handed,nearly launched a defamation campaign, and instead left with four books and a membership card.