The Rocky Horror Borders Show

I feel as if I'm watching a horror movie unfold. The main character, a young blonde woman awoken from sleep by a loud noise, gets out of bed in the wee hours of the night. It's pitch black. The electricity doesn't work. The phone doesn't work. I know the killer's in the bathroom, because she's been everywhere else, so I'm screaming at her, "Don't go in the bathroom! Don't go in the bathroom!" After a cursory search of her house, what does she do?

Bitch goes into the damn bathroom. Stab! Stab! Spurt! Spurt! She gone, man. She gone.

Now Borders is headed into that same bathroom. Straight into the toilet, skipping past the serial killer. And no matter how loudly I scream there's no turning that dumb blonde around.

Sadly, what killed Borders was Borders itself. Slow on the uptake, the last and most lackluster big bookseller to realize eBooks would soon be taking over the world, it sharpened its own knife. Tied its own noose. Popped the lid off its own bottle of pills. And the rest is: 

CLOSE OUT! EVERYTHING MUST GO! FIXTURES FOR SALE!

History. Dammit, Borders. History. I feel like blugeoning you myself. Too bad the bankruptcy court got there first.

Of course I'm taking advantage of the sales. I'm sad, not stupid. When they slash everything down to 80%, and I still have my Borders Plus card netting me another 10%, you can bet your sweet arse I'll be in there with my wheelbarrow. Until then, every week I'll run in to see if the titles I eyed last week are still there, buying bit by bit. I snapped up an annotated Pride & Prejudice last time, a copy of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (which seemed fitting), Ackroyd's history of Venice and a history of Paris. Today - about half an hour ago, actually - it was a novel by Anna Gavalda, another by Amelie Nothomb, R.K. Narayan's The Guide, The Essays of Truman Capote, and the Booker-nominated The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt. I was left holding Sam Lipsyte's The Ask in one hand, Tessa Hadley's The London Train in the other, asking myself, "Did I buy these when the other Borders closed, or did I just think about it?"

Bloody hell.

Ultimately, the remaining stock will consist of all the literary fiction worth reading (copies of The Help and every John Grisham novel having long ago taken a runner), the classics and the best of contemporary writing. In nonfiction, I may get me some Malcolm Gladwell or equivalent. In history, it's up for grabs, but in biography I'm guaranteed what's left will be the lives of writers and other artists. You know, the reason these bookstores were there in the first place? I learned that from my first Borders Death Watch, when the store further away closed down. I could dither all I wanted over Graham Greene and Saul Bellow. They'd be there 'til the bitter end. But if I wanted anything bestselling or lighter it will have already floated away.

I'm tired of thinking about what will happen when all the brick and mortar stores are gone. All my righteous anger having long ago morphed into despair. I can make jokes about American reading tastes hovering above the toilet with the dead blonde, Borders, and my country's economy, because that covers the depth of my sadness. One thing I can never do is replace what's missing after it's gone.

Once upon a time, there were bookstores. Wonderous places they were, too. I sure will miss them.

4 thoughts on “The Rocky Horror Borders Show

  1. Were you at the Borders in Algonquin? I might need to make a return visit — though when I was there about two weeks ago the Borders Reward card would only be accepted until the end of July.

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  2. Suzanne, yeah, I was there yesterday. They took my Borders card, weirdly enough. I wonder why? Maybe because I had my library lanyard around my neck?!That probably won’t be the case next time, though.
    The Schaumburg Borders would be the place to go to get the great stuff. That one really breaks my heart. I have great memories of time spent there during rough times in my life. Sigh.

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  3. And as I quietly lower my head and slink off to a corner in shame while turning off my Kindle and cradling the store’s gift card I received three Christmases ago, I nod in full agreement with you.

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  4. Dina – there’s no shame! I can say that because I have a Sony Reader I bought myself in honor of earning my Master’s. I use the Kindle app on my iPhone, too. Things are just evolving at an incredible rate, and some of the casualties are inconceivable. Every day it changes. What will the next generation see? I couldn’t even guess.

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