Mending fences where relevant,
While asking around for extreme unction,
Said “Forget I said ‘Form follows function.'”
I’m fairly certain somebody once noted that a clerihew is the last refuge of a scoundrel, but this is a clerihew parable.
I’ve had a few instances in the past month or two where somebody walked into the new warehouse space and said, “You sure don’t have many books.” (Or words to that effect.) This is somewhat true — since I’ve quadrupled the space in which I keep my stock, the once-crowded confines of my home shop have given way to this relatively expansive box of a warehouse space, and the epmphasis I’ve placed over the past six or seven years on pamphlets and ephemera has been brought into sharp relief. So far it seems to do me little good to explain that I’ve got tons (or pounds at least) of interesting material in pamphlet boxes, since this notional customer cannot be brought to look at anything that’s not a book.
I realize that one might put a gentle word into this bookseller’s ear that customer demand should drive the market, and that if the customer comes into a book shop looking for books, it might be in the bookseller’s best interests to provide him or her with same. There is a certain seductive logic to this argument!
But I shall not be swayed. Despite the wide-open expanses of grease-stained poured concrete floor here in the shop, I have continued to stock my shop with pamphlets and ephemera; I have noticed an infusion of some codices over in the Food and Drink section and the Federal Writers’ Project shelves, but otherwise I have maintained my faith in the redemptive power of Jacksonian-era controversial pamphlets. (The mere title of 1828’s Remarks on the Letter from a Clergyman in Boston to a Unitarian Clergyman of that City, and the Reply, and Review of Same, with its vertiable three-fold nested parentheses of controversy, will still make me open my checkbook with a willing sigh.)
We shall see if the books begin to fill the space provided for them (PV=nRBooks) and if the space begins to overrule my perverse desire to make customers buy the material they didn’t know they wanted.
Of course, the idea of a business model in which I maintain a loving yet fundamentally adversarial footing with my customers perhaps will have to await a further meditation.