Friday, January 25, 2013

so it goes

The other morning the manager at the bookstore where I'm working 10 hours each week asked if I'd ever seen "So It Goes," a tribute to Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.  I hadn't, and because I had my Kindle with me, we watched it there in the store.  That led to a discussion of the Vonnegut novels we'd read--it turned out she'd stopped reading them earlier than I did, and I stopped at Galapagos--but she's rereading the earlier ones and is now in the midst of Slaughterhouse Five, whose movie trailer I showed her.

Anyhow, this wasn't really a memory about Vonnegut so much as about the first Vonnegut novel I ever read--which was Breakfast of Champions--and isn't really about that so much as about where I got it.  Back in the 70s department stores used to sell all kinds of paperback books, from men's espionage to women's love stories (of course--this is where Harlequin Romance made most of its sales) to tracts about current politics to, and this is what I'm really surprised at, literary fiction and essays.  It might be argued that I oughtn't be surprised that Barkers would sell a paperback of Breakfast of Champions--after all, it was a recent bestseller then--but what about Wampeters, Foma, and Granfalloons, the essay collection I bought and read immediately after (and where I first heard about Biafra)?  At that time and in that place, the only stores were department stores, and they sold what people wanted to buy, and how did they know what I wanted to buy was a collection of self-referential Vonnegut essays?

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