Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
especially welcome to extensive readers

Monday, February 27, 2006

I feel a Jules Winfield moment coming on

I was planning on discussing ComicCon this morning(which I will later this week and,yes,there will be pictures)but this story I read at GalleyCat made me so furious that I had to deal with it first:according to an essay in the LA Times(that is linked in the title above),a customer went into the City Lights Bookstore in San Fran and asked a clerk if they had Oriana Fallaci's Force Of Reason in stock. The clerk's response was "No,we don't carry books by facists."

One thing that bothers me about me is the open elitism of that statement-I don't read politcal books(mainly because the whole subject bores me and many times,it's just like listening to a one sided argument)but I was taught that it's not right to insult other people's tastes just because they don't fit in with yours. From what I gathered from the article,Fallaci's book criticizes the radical side of Islam which doesn't sound facist to me but even if it was,it's totally outrageous to also say to a customer"You're welcome to buy her book elsewhere,through...Let's just say we don't have room for her here." I'm qouting directly from the Catherine Seipp article here.

What really pisses me off is that I know this actually happened without ever having been to City Lights or anywhere near the West Coast. How do I know? Because the same kind of attitude is on the East Coast,too. A dirty little open secret about many independant bookstores is their political views on display ,not only with the folks working there but in the stock on the shelves. Not all stores openly do this nor am I against any bookseller expressing freedom of speech but when you alienate people with your own viewpoints in a business situation,I think that's just wrong.

For example,at the bookstore I worked at,we sold Bush Cards(both series)and at one time,Axis of Evil puppets. Axis of Evil Puppets are made by a small company and came out awhile after 9/11. They're finger puppets of Saddam Hussein,Kim Jong Il,Komeini and G.W. Bush(the set's been updated since then). We also had a display of political books that were mainly Democrat/liberal with a sign by one of my co-workers that said"We here at So and So love a good bloody debate-draw your swords!". One of my other co-workers late amended that sign to say"SOME of us here at So and So love a
good bloody debate". We did make sales but we did get complaints and angry people making scenes at times.

Granted,some of these people were the type to make scenes anyway but still,I saw many folks disgusted by the Axis of Evil puppets and they didn't feel right in the same store where Curious George dolls share space with Klutz activity book kits. Many times,I heard customers talking about the issues of the day while I kept my tongue in check when they said something I disagreed with,even when they were chatting with the very same co-worker who made the debate sign. To me,there was a right way to give an opinion about certain books that I disliked-if asked by a customer,I would say"I didn't read it but I saw some of the reviews about it/or it's gotten alot of word of mouth." Which was true-the most I would say about a title that was sort of negative was"It recieved mixed reviews."

It's just sad that some independant bookstores feel that they have to wear their politics on their sleeves-quite a few times,when my boss would place orders with publisher's sales reps and they mentioned a Republican/conservative new title,she would order one or two saying"This is one of my token books that I have to have so I won't be accused of being biased." If you're going to be a general bookseller,you should carry all the books that people want in your area and if even it's not a book you like or agree with for whatever reason,you should never insult someone for wanting it or refuse to get it for them. Independance means allowing everyone to openly disagree with you,just as you would want them to do for you. Freedom of speech is not one sided and neither is the freedom to find the book you want.

No comments: