Among his many varied interests, my son Gary Varner is a book lover, rare book collector, and former dabbler in rare book sales. He is also a self-taught computer genius on whom I rely when problems arise that I can’t fix - which occurs frequently. Obviously, he didn’t inherit his computer talent genes from me!
During the Christmas holidays he visited in Boston, New York City and New Hampshire, where he found great pleasure in its unrivaled access to literature and the New England experience in early America. I believe he was smitten in more ways than one.
Of his several web sites. one is a blog format http://inkmuse.com/imblog/ that often includes some meaty subjects worthy of passing along to my own readers. He included the following insert within his recent article, A Book Lover’s Lament - and I thought it so descriptive of what is happening to the America I knew in my younger years (oh-so long ago) that those of you who also are “seniors” will certainly find an appropriate and alarming description of what is unfolding in this darkening of civilization.
Some of you “juniors” might take note as well, and possibly try to do something about it before it is too late.
From THE HOUND, by John Usher, copyright 2004. Permission to reproduce is granted to all upon request with proper attribution.
Ever thankful to those who made the effort before us, with heartfelt apologies to those who are still in the fight and the few who support them — offered upon the closing of Avenue Victor Hugo Bookshop in Boston.
TWELVE REASONS FOR THE DEATH OF MALL AND INDEPENDENT BOOK STORES
Corporate Law (and the politicians, lawyers, businessmen and accountants who created it for their own benefit) — a legal fiction with more rights than the individual citizen, which allows the likes of Barnes & Noble and Wal-Mart to write off the losses of a store in Massachusetts against the profit of another in California, while paying taxes in Delaware — for making ‘competition’ a joke and turning the free market down the dark road toward state capitalism.
Publishers — marketing their product like so much soap or breakfast cereal, aiming at demographics instead of people, looking for the biggest immediate return instead of considering the future of their industry, ignoring the art of typography, the craft of binding, and needs of editing, all to make a cheapened product of glue and glitz — for being careless of a 500 year heritage with devastating result.
Book Buyers — those who want the ‘convenience’ and ‘cost savings’ of shopping in malls, over the quaint, the dusty, or the unique; who buy books according to price instead of content, and prefer what is popular over what is good — for creating a mass market of the cheap, the loud, and the shiny.
Writers — who sell their souls to be published, write what is already being written or choose the new for its own sake, opt to feed the demands of editors rather than do their own best work, place style over substance, and bear no standards — for boring their readers unto television.
Booksellers — who supply the artificial demand created by marketing departments for the short term gain, accept second class treatment from publishers, push what is ‘hot’ instead of developing the long term interest of the reader — for failing to promote quality of content and excellence in book making.
Government (local, state and federal) — which taxes commercial property to the maximum, driving out the smaller and marginal businesses which are both the seed of future enterprise and the tradition of the past, while giving tax breaks to chain stores, thus killing the personality of a city — for producing the burden of tax codes only accountants can love.
Librarians — once the guardians, who now watch over their budgets instead — for destroying books which would last centuries to find room for disks and tapes which disintegrate in a few years and require costly maintenance or replacement by equipment soon to be obsolete.
Book collectors — who have metamorphosed from book worms to moths attracted only to the bright; once the sentinels of a favorite author’s work, now mere speculators on the ephemeral product of celebrity — for putting books on the same level with beanie babies.
Teachers — assigning books because of topical appeal, or because of their own lazy familiarity, instead of choosing what is best; thus a tale about the teenage angst of a World War Two era prep school boy is pushed at students who do not know when World War Two took place — for failing to pass the torch of civilization to the next generation.
Editors — who have forgotten the editorial craft — for servicing the marketing department, pursuing fast results and name recognition over quality of content and offering authors the Faustian bargain of fame and fortune, while pleading their best intentions like goats.
Reviewers — for promoting what is being advertised, puffing the famous to gain attention, being petty and personal, and praising the obscure with priestly authority — all the while being paid by the word.
The Public — those who do not read books, or can not find the time; who live by the flickering light of the television, and will be the first to fear the darkening of civilization — for not caring about consequences.
Thus, we come to the twilight of the age of books; to the closing of the mind; to the pitiful end of the quest for knowledge—and stare into the cold abyss of night. - John Usher