Re: Marketing Genius

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L for Lindsay

Those alphabet mysteries are getting a little uninspired, aren't they?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 9:11 AM
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Were they ever inspired?


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 9:48 AM
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I don't know. I don't read such dross.

Maybe the book is about Vachel Lindsay running amok.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 9:58 AM
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I liked the first five or six of those alphabetical things (actually, the first couple weren't great. Maybe C-G?) And then I got suddenly, drastically, bored. Given that I will generally keep reading another book just like the last thirty in the series, forever, I think there was a dropoff in quality.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 10:15 AM
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Given that I will generally keep reading another book just like the last thirty in the series, forever

I'm really bad at stopping reading bad books. I guess I hold out hope for the author to do something with it for too long. I'm not sure if it helps or hurt that I tend to read novels quickly. Sometimes I really should just drop it, but that bugs me.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 10:19 AM
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Somehow I lost the point of 5, which was: this makes me leery of starting long series, for fear I'll have to finish the damn thing and resent it.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 10:24 AM
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This post would have been perfect if it were "The Purloined Letter" you'd been looking for.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 10:33 AM
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Huh. I had a similar experience yesterday. Wanted to find a specific book, looked up the section in which it was likely to be located, wandered around for half an hour trying to find the section, the book wasn't there, left.

I suspect they're organizing the place like a grocery store, on the theory that the longer you wander around, the longer it is that you buy anything, even if it wasn't what you came in for (whereas if it were intuitively organized, then you'd note that they didn't have what you wanted, then leave.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 10:41 AM
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Many, many years ago, I was searching for a copy of Helena by Evelyn Waugh, which I needed for a paper. I finally found it in the romance section, after asking the woman at the information desk where it might be [this, children, was before the day of in-store-computers]. When I protested that it wasn't a romance novel, I was assured that 'Oh, no, she's [Waugh] a famous romance writer!' [banging head on wall]

The Beverly Hills library has somehow decided that Jim Butcher's Dresden series is "fiction", rather than "science fiction/fantasy". They cannot explain why, other than to posit that the SF/F section is "too full". [I say, move all the Laurel Hamilton/Anne Rice shit to "really bad porn for people who want to pretend they don't read porn" section. That would free up a lot of space.]


Posted by: DominEditrix | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 10:54 AM
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I say, move all the Laurel Hamilton/Anne Rice shit to [the incinerator] section.

Fixed that for you. Those ones are why I can't be a SF fan in polite company.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 12:07 PM
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I've wanted to marry you for years, DE, but now I must ask: if I marry you, will you come here and run the local library?


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 12:08 PM
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I've told this story here before, but I was shopping for a child's birthday present, and noticed in the kids section, next to "James and the Giant Peach", a book of adult short stories by Roald Dahl. I pointed this out to a clerk, who looked it up and said that Dahl was a children's author. I suppose it could be worse -- it could have been "My Uncle Oswald" or "Switch Bitch", but still, not very kid appropriate.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 12:09 PM
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More foiled book searching stories! I'm loving it!


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 12:16 PM
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In our library, I swear, some of the European mystery authors' books are divided evenly between "Fiction", "World Fiction", and "Mystery Fiction", so you have to look very carefully at the computer record before going off to look for the book. I get the feeling that there's a war within the librarians over whether the "Mystery Fiction" section should exist at all, since for example none of the books by Henning Mankell are in there.


Posted by: CN | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 12:16 PM
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Part of what's going on there, if it's not just people being dumb, is probably a belief that any genre label is a pejorative-- this is a good book, so it can't possibly go in Mystery/SF/Romance/Whatever.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 12:21 PM
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Part of the problem is with cross-genre writers in general. For example, Henry Miller's Colossus of Maroussi: in the travel section, or in Fiction (or Literature) with the Tropics, etc.? It doesn't really have to be spelled out to see the problem; trying to put yourself in the customer's head only goes so far, as customers will have different intuitions themselves, and there's something to be said for bringing Colossus to the attention of Miller fans who might not know he wrote such a thing.

You get the same thing, certainly, with fiction/lit writers who cross into ostensibly children's literature or into sf/fantasy. Usually they're primarily one or the other, so problem solved. But not always. (Not that I defend the Dahl shelving decision: children's book sections, presumably frequented by children themselves, are a different matter.)

For what it's worth, the L for Lindsay book -- alphabetically in the Mystery/Thriller section? Of course (silly staffpeople), but if you've shelved a few copies there and people have purchased them, I'm not sure how you'd know to grab a few more copies from the display area to reshelve in Mystery/Thriller.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 12:50 PM
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Thinking about libraries: did I ever tell you lot about the guy whose apartment I was in once or twice with an, er, interesting library. He was a bibliophile with at least a few thousand books there. At some point the previous year he had gone on a reorganization kick and reshelved all of his books by number of words in the title (then author).


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 12:54 PM
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and noticed in the kids section, next to "James and the Giant Peach", a book of adult short stories by Roald Dahl.

If it was Henry Sugar then a similar moment of confusion was one of the happiest accidents of my childhood.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 1:00 PM
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16: Possible, but unlikely. There was nothing at all by Lindsay in Mystery/Thriller, while the end-of-shelf display racks had three of his books: the one I was looking for was the first in a series of three, of which the first was at eye level, the second at belt-buckle level, and the third at knee level. Maybe all the copies of all three of the books they had in stock in the alphabetized section were sold out, but it seems unlikely.

On the general point -- would double-stocking in both sections, or at least putting some kind of cross-referencing label on the section where the book isn't shelved, directing to the section where it is, be workable?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 1:00 PM
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18: Henry Sugar was kind of aimed at teens, at least, wasn't it? But the swan story freaked me completely out at eight or nine.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 1:01 PM
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17: An obsessive-compulsive person came into the bookstore where I worked and started to reorganize the books according to the color of the spines. She was escorted out, but I wish she'd had a little more time to work, because it probably would have looked interesting.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 1:07 PM
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"really bad porn for people who want to pretend they don't read porn"

It seems like you could re-arrange whole bookstore to have section titles like this, but I'm having trouble coming up with more examples. Perhaps a nonfiction section called "Wikipedia entries rewritten to be a little funnier and include personal anecdotes."

"Books that make you feel better about yourself by describing someone who has it much worse."

"Pictures and recipes for food you won't actually make, but will stare at wistfully and imagine making someday."

If we get enough of these, we can redo Parsimon's workplace.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 1:10 PM
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21: Your store would wind up looking like this one.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 1:12 PM
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19.1: Yeah, I suspected as much; I threw the other out as a possibility.

The eye-level thing, is of course, a combination of a hedge and guess as to what people are most likely to come in looking for (popular stuff! people are lemmings!); and what you think you can suggest to people just by presenting it at eye-level. People often come in not particularly remembering that, say, they'd heard about that book the "Dexter" series is based on, but who remembers who it was by.

19.2: Double-stocking certainly only works if you have multiple copies, which is often only the case in new bookstores. But if it is such a store, I at least (we all, I think), would double-stock and cross-shelve.

The cross-referencing labels would probably just be too time-consuming. You'd possibly have silly labels sticking out everywhere, then have to run around removing them when outdated. Nuh-uh. This is what the floor staff are supposed to be for.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 1:13 PM
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If we get enough of these, we can redo Parsimon's workplace.

Unfortunately, we sell chiefly scholarly non-fiction now.

Back when we had an open shop, maybe. Most obvious candidate: "Things you are pretending are philosophy but are not." To wit, Khalil Gibran, Richard Bach, The Little Prince, Atlas Shrugged, etc.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 1:20 PM
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You know how in most bookstores, "metaphysics" means "crazy bullshit"?


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 1:32 PM
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21: Once some people at my high school sneaked into the library in the middle of the night and reorganized all the books by color. It left the librarians in tears and the school administration threatening expulsion and criminal charges (even after the people responsible said they would put things back in order the next night), but for most of us it was pretty amusing.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 1:41 PM
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23: Zackly. So cool.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 1:44 PM
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23: Oh yeah. I was going to mention them.

26: how in most bookstores, "metaphysics" means "crazy bullshit"

I guess it's one solution. Do not argue with the people, man. They know what they're looking for. Succumb, succumb.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 2:01 PM
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The point of 26 was supposed to be: they're right. Metaphysics is crazy bullshit, just not always the self-same crazy bullshit.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 2:02 PM
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Okay.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 2:11 PM
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Excuse me, I had chosen to catch up the news for a bit.

What I mean by "okay" is that the institution of a new "metaphysics" section in bookstores to indicate "crazy bullshit" -- a cross-section between new age, spirituality, folklore/mythology and such, often with an emphasis on self-help -- is a capitulation to contemporary, emergent sensibilities which lends those sensibilities validation. Everybody likes a validation cookie.

Now, there's nothing wrong as such with escorting in the new; however, in some such cases, and certainly in this case, it's a function of pandering to the consumer, nothing more. Customer wants to think his or her pursuits are philosophical, wants to find his or her books in a philosophy section. Yes, then, we will provide this thing.

I'm aware that consumer culture is directed principally to, and dictated by, the consumer, and that attempting to hold fast is considered a fool-hardy exercise in educating the consumer (or voter). This is sometimes termed 'lecturing.'


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 2:45 PM
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WE MUST NEVER CAPITULATE TO CONTEMPORARY SENSIBILITIES


Posted by: OPINIONATED CURMUDGEON | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 2:47 PM
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You might as well edit out the hyphen in "fool-hardy."


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 2:47 PM
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Parsi-mon does not wish to be associat-ed with the practices of T. Herman Zweibel.

I had a friend who worked as a bookstore clerk who went over to the metaphysics section whenever she had to fart.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 2:50 PM
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What I mean by "okay" is that the institution of a new "metaphysics" section in bookstores to indicate "crazy bullshit" -- a cross-section between new age, spirituality, folklore/mythology and such, often with an emphasis on self-help -- is a capitulation to contemporary, emergent sensibilities which lends those sensibilities validation. Everybody likes a validation cookie.

Right, but what I meant is that philosophical metaphysics is crazy bullshit. You have to imagine me making the observation about bookstores with a knowing tone.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 2:50 PM
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36: I did imagine such a tone.

I don't know who you put in philosophical metaphysics. Where's Heidegger? What was Kant doing?

I almost, but did not at the time, write earlier that I now expected you to rewrite the standard categories of phil. areas of specialization and areas of competence. They could use it, perhaps, but I wouldn't know where to begin.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 2:57 PM
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Where's Heidegger?

Sadly, long dead.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 2:59 PM
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I'm holding out for a bookstore with a pataphysics section.


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 3:02 PM
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I don't know who you put in philosophical metaphysics.

Analytic metaphysicians.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 3:03 PM
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Not safe studying that stuff all alone, though.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 3:04 PM
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39: if there's one thing I hate it's misplaced or even absent apostrophes.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 3:06 PM
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40: I don't know you mean. Names?


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 3:07 PM
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^who


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 3:07 PM
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I can say no more.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 3:08 PM
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Well, it's too much to expect the bookstore to correctly print signs that say 'pataphysics.

OK, I admit it, I just forgot the damn thing. Happy now?


Posted by: essear | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 3:08 PM
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4

I liked the first five or six of those alphabetical things (actually, the first couple weren't great. Maybe C-G?) And then I got suddenly, drastically, bored. Given that I will generally keep reading another book just like the last thirty in the series, forever, I think there was a dropoff in quality.

Assuming we are talking about Grafton here, I liked the first two but otherwise agree about a dropoff in quality. It seems like a lot of series start going downhill at some point.


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 3:09 PM
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45: Ben, you do know how to annoy me. Oh, well.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 3:13 PM
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Yeah, some people can churn them out forever -- I'll read any of the eighteen million Nero Wolfes with pleasure, and without much of a sense of whether they're early or late (barring a couple of weird late ones where Archie is still living in the forties, but is noticeably wandering around the seventies) but mostly writers milk their serieses longer than they can really stand up for.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 3:14 PM
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The mentions of the alphabetical series reminds me that The Cat Who series was probably the first adult-intended group of books I read. Cats who help solve mysteries: objectively awesome to an eight-year-old.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 3:14 PM
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43: The names I think of are people like David Armstrong, and David Lewis. I have the general sense that there is a school out there that can be called "Australian Rules Metaphysics" that they belong to. But in the end I don't know much about this stuff and am no longer professionally required to pretend that I do.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 3:37 PM
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"David Armstrong" should have a link and lack a comma.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 3:38 PM
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I have the general sense that there is a school out there that can be called "Australian Rules Metaphysics"

No pads, and all tackles are allowed?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 3:46 PM
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51: Yeah, I'd constructed a family of philosophers, or of debates, that probably fit the bill. Armstrong and Lewis didn't particularly spring to mind, but yeah, whether those are the same Ben has in mind doesn't matter.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 3:49 PM
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I hate to do it to you again, parsimon, but look at that internet.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 3:52 PM
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You did it again, Sifu. What can I say, I was multi-tasking and dashing about checking this and that gets on my nerves. I find it easier to just ask sometimes. Someday I'll learn.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 3:58 PM
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According to Leiter, there's no such things as analytic philosophy any more, and how I wish that I agreed with him!

I'll shut up. Not one more word! Just total fuckin' silence. We'll just see how you like it.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 4:01 PM
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William Least Heat Moon claims to be the most mishelved living author, since his last name could start in three different places, and Los Highways sometimes turns up in travel literature, sometimes in American history, sometimes in autobiography, and once in Native American. ("Heat Moon, William Least" is correct).


Posted by: unimaginative* | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 5:24 PM
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In the Unfogged bookshop, there will be a section for Children's Novels So Good Adults Want To Read Them (for adults who feel like total idiots hanging around the children's section of a bookshop); Travel Books With Big Glossy Photos And Entertaining Anecdotes Of Places You Will Never Go, and The Big Wannabe Gardener section, especially for people who like to entertain themselves with the notion that someday, if they had a garden, they would have one that looked more like Chelsea Flower Show than flat lawn.


Posted by: Jesurgislac | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 5:28 PM
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It will have a section of Big Fluffy Books that Will Help You Pretend To Learn Technical Skills That Will Probably Be Impressive On Your Resume and Marginally Improve Your Interview Rate.

Someone improve that.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 5:32 PM
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It will also have a big section for Heidegger that no one visits.


Posted by: Stanley | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 5:33 PM
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You mean Wittgenstein, right? No, you don't. Huh. I always thought Being and Time was Wittgenstein. Shows how much I know.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 5:35 PM
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Don't get me started on the clusterfuck that is Border's handling of my very good friend's children's book about Barack. They have not one, but two displays for children's books relating to the election, but it's on neither of those. There's more, but I'll spare you.

The book was also victim of a totally asinine review in the NYT, second time in 6 months that's happened to him. NYT, why do you insist on assigning people who don't care for/understand children's books to review children's books?


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 8:38 PM
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63: A commenter on my blog just mentioned having seen that book in a store, prominently displayed, of course, next to Meghan's children's book about McCain.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 8:45 PM
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my advisor's 3-year-old daughter is obsessed (OBSESSED) with Presidents. Particularly with George Washington, but she likes them all. She makes her mom (my advisor) play "Sign the Declaration of Independence" for a fun game, and the family goes to Mount Vernon for a special treat. Dressed as George (the daughter), Martha (the mother), and (typically) the horse, Nelson (lucky Dad).

My advisor's chief complaint: "It's so hard to find children's books about the presidency that are appropriate for a three-year-old!"


Posted by: Cecily | Link to this comment | 10-19-08 9:25 PM
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59, 60 Don't forget a huge section on Pretentious Food Books With Which To Impress Your Peers.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 10-20-08 1:13 AM
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Hey, at last a thread where I can tell my boring story of shelving heartbreak!

At the bookstore where I volunteer, there is a perpetual war amongst the proponents of our steadiest-selling books--among, that is, the orderers of books on anarchism, orderers of what we loosely term "theory", and orderers of hipster-punk-kitsch. Whose books will dominate the new books table? Whose suppliers will be paid first, enabling the next order?

...And whose section will hypertrophy, colonizing the shelves around it?

It was here that my troubles began. You see, although I am the theory boffin, I don't actually order from the main theory distributor. So in order, as it were, to get orders of theory, I have to persuade the theory-distributor-orderer to order theory books. She, alas, feels that theory is too expensive and just a waste of time, and I have to cozen and plead just to get a few measly Vintage copies of Foucault. So our theory section waxes thinner and thinner. And our alternate supplier of theories, Verso, has some kind of giant distribution hang-up right now and I can't get anything in.

And last week I came in and the anarchist books had colonized the Frankfurt School section!

My sad little shelf of Minima Moralia and the Arcades Project had been scattered to the winds, jumbled in with the carefully de-alphabetized theory section, itself fused with the Marxism section and a bunch of books that really belong on various history shelves.

I tried to find out who did it, to no avail, although backchannel communication has informed me that the collective's chief anarchist maintains that I "break the nerd spectrum" in my concern for Theodore Adorno.

This is why the left will never win.


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 10-20-08 8:54 AM
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So our theory section waxes thinner and thinner.

Surely this should be "wanes".

(I know nothing of the substance of your comment)


Posted by: Styptic Cred | Link to this comment | 10-20-08 8:55 AM
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Perhaps it should. Like most consumers of theory, my actual grasp of any kind of specific is limited...


Posted by: Frowner | Link to this comment | 10-20-08 9:05 AM
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Technically, "wax" means "grow," so that's valid. An OED quote: 1632 Lithgow Trav. I. 29 Deuotion waxed scant amongst the Christians.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 10-20-08 9:43 AM
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I have the general sense that there is a school out there that can be called "Australian Rules Metaphysics" that they belong to.

"Now, Bruce teaches classical philosophy, Bruce teaches Hegelian philosophy, and Bruce here teaches logical positivism, and is also in charge of the sheepdip."


Posted by: ajay | Link to this comment | 10-20-08 10:12 AM
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"Oh, spit! Those are all cricketers!"


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 10-20-08 10:17 AM
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70+ comments and nobody has mentioned that in big chain bookstores, the displays are not chosen by the bookseller, they are paid placements?

It used to be $300 for an end-of-aisle stand display at Barnes & Noble. I have no idea what it is now.

I never, never trust that any book on display in a chain bookstore is there for any reason other that someone paid for it to be there. Independent bookstores, I'm 80% sure that an actual thinking human being with, like, opinions about books has put it there.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 10-20-08 10:18 AM
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in big chain bookstores, the displays are not chosen by the bookseller, they are paid placements

This is entirely unsurprising. All hail to the independent bookstore, of course, thing of the past that it is.


Posted by: parsimon | Link to this comment | 10-22-08 5:49 PM
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Taking this post at its word, those people Ben overheard were total tools!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 10-25-08 1:45 AM
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Wrong post, I think.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 10-25-08 1:47 AM
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