Saturday, July 9, 2011

words surrounded by rumbling diesels

I've been a lot of places and seen a lot of things in my times and travels, but 1 thing I can say I've never seen before: a bookstore located at a truck stop. and I mean a book store. not a news shop. not a portion of a store given over to books. I mean a store devoted entirely to books, and set in a small truck plaza between the travel centers of america and its affiliated motel (along with a barber shop).
well, okay, maybe it offers a little more than books ("now offering baked goods!" reads the signjust offcamera, and the line across the photo is the tail of a balloon that reads "open!"). but the focus is on books, hundreds of thousands of paperback (and a few dozen hardcover) books, neatly arranged into romance, science fiction, adventure, horror, western, mystery, war, children and miscellaneous. the romance section is obviously the top selling brand as the 1st several rows of floortoceiling shelves are nothing but romance, divided into authors like janet daily and danielle steel and others. but the western section was nothing to sneeze at either; at an average 125 books per shelf and maybe 30 shelves devoted to them, that's a lot of horseshit.
it's not a place for people looking for rare finds or for a maven of the odd like me. there was nothing weird or unusual. it was a place that caters directly to its clientele: bored and lonely truckers and travelers and their companions who want something to read. I'd guess nearly every book has been read at least 1ce, if not finished, and there were a number of volumes with bookmarks from places like lansing and atlanta and san diego and thunder bay, some with phone numbers and notes scribbled on them. they are exclusively novels, with a few selfhelp and history volumes thrown in.
I picked up 3 books I didn't really need but didn't have and want to read--neuromancer by william gibson, parable of the sower by octavia butler, and dangerous angels by francesca lia bloch (this last a collection I'd already owned and read in the originals but given away years ago to a friend, saying "you need to relax, this will help"). they put me back $12, more than I'm usually willing to pay for used books, but I wanted to help this place in a practical way. I was astonished when I asked the owner how long she'd been around: she'd only bought it a year ago but the store itself had been there for 30 years. who knew there was such a niche market? if kerouac and cassidy had been around then, flying facefirst through the long american night, I could picture them cocking an eye there and be comforted by what it means, the existence of these mounds of paper and ink among the burping trucks.

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