About Me

A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tourism Done Weird

Even as the success of JABberwocky in recent years has expanded the horizons of what I can afford to do, my world seems to be shrinking.

The multiple Borders bankruptcies fill me with a deep sadness not entirely because of the lost places to buy books. The entire business can become electronic but people will still want to read a good yarn and I will still have some role in that business. No, as much or more is the knowledge that these closures will make it harder to fight back against this shrinking world of mine. 

It was 1993, I think, when I first headed out to Long Island on my birthday to visit Borders stores. And over the years, they've been my excuse to see the world. Lots of people went to WorldCon in San Jose. I saw the entire Bay Area from Los Gatos in the South to Fremont to Dublin to Berkley to Emeryville to Sunnyville to Milpitas. It came to be that way in areas around the country.  I know the usual thing is to go and never leave the convention hotel or to leave and visit the museum that everyone goes to. Neither of those is for me, but yet I've seen the world.  

1999 wasn't just the first year of my visiting London Book Fair as I discussed here. It was also when I first went to Australia and was the dawning of the international expansion of Borders into those two markets. Some things like a day trip from Glasgow to Edinburgh I think would have taken place regardless, but not getting out to the Glasgow suburbs. Parramatta in Australia has the first government house and the first sheep farm, but it also had a Borders. 

I feel foolish even writing this because I am talking about behavior that isn't what "normal" people do which is go to the museums, but in actual fact I know plenty of people for whom normal is the inside of the convention center and whatever you see in the cab to/from the airport. So I hold my head high and proudly proclaim I have seen the world one Borders at a time. 

And now what?  The joy of seeing the world one Borders at a time was the maddening inconsistency of the brand. You never quite knew what each new Borders would bring. Who would travel the world to see the boring sameness of each "new" Barnes  and Noble? I like Costco, but so many of those are stuck far from the bus routes in the car required parts of town. Visiting the world one Whole Foods at a time would be very fattening. True joy is still finding there is a Wheaton IL where you can find a Borders and Whole Foods sharing a parking lit, and sadness knowing that this is no longer the case  in San Ramon. 

Even right here at home, I remember how I went six months without stepping foot in lower Manhattan after 9/11 because there wasn't anything to bring me there. Will it be that way again, the entire part of the world south of Houston St. no longer part of the world I inhabit?  

I do like to see the world, and by that the suburbs where people live and the power centers  and strip malls where they exist as opposed to the places where the impressionists and the cubists stare down from the white-walled galleries. I guess I will find some way of doing that still. I hope so. But I'm just not sure. 

And yes, I am sad knowing there are fewer places in the world where Jig the Goblin and Guards of Haven can be found, but that doesn't leave the same emptiness in my heart as does the sense that each shuttered Borders from the Jam Factory to Colleyville and Watford to White Flint closes off a small part of the world


Courtney Simonds said...

It's not strange to me at all, to be honest. My world-travel is rather limited, being of the struggling working-class, but when I watch the Discovery and Travel channels, I imagine that I would prefer to see the places less stained by the hollow cheer of tourism. What's sad is that in a lot of countries (China, Japan and Korea for example, all places I would visit in a heartbeat if I could), foreigners aren't allowed OUT of the tourism zones. If I could go a mile along a road without seeing one McDonald's, I'd be a happy camper.

Myke said...

Seems to me that if what Borders was was an excuse to see the world, then all you need is a new excuse. B&Ns? Bookstores in general?

Either way, you have my sympathies.

Tim Akers said...

Yes, long live Wheaton and its Border/Whole Foods dominance.

This is how I met Joshua: standing next to him at the Tor party at WFC in Madison, and he looks over at my name tag, sees Wheaton IL and says "You know, there's a Borders there right next to a Whole Foods."

"Yes," I said. "And I used to work at the Borders."

And that's how I got my agent. Oh, that and writing a good book. But it was a start.

wannabee said...

There wasn't a Borders handy in my area, but there is a Barnes and Noble,and every Friday night is spent with a group of friends, talking about the latest books and movies. I love just being in the company of REAL books and worry when B&N isn't busy--which is often--forcing me to buy an extra book when I really don't need one. I grieve for the publishing industry, I really do. Hopefully, better times ahead--please....