Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Aaron Tries To Celebrate Bloomsday and Fails

Earlier in the day I noticed that Google had customized its logo for the day. It looks like this

I wasn't sure who that was supposed to be, so I clicked and found out, it's James Joyce. Today June 16, 2004 is the 100th anniversary of Leopold Bloom's journey through Dublin in Joyce's Ulysses. I'm told that it's the greatest novel ever written, and a sort of literary K2 with Everest being Finnegan's Wake. So rain having drowned my canvass for the day I decide to search for the book. I stop at Barnes and Noble. I say this with appropriate remorse--no good independent book store. I've asked, repeatedly. They do not have Ulysses. They suggest a used book store. I go there. The woman has never heard of the book, and then tells me it might be in classics. I check. It's not. We proceed to talk about small bookstores and I play the JKD card (well the WKD card really, or even the SK card). And we talk about Ruminator books (a great JKD approved store in St. Paul) she thinks I'm talking about remainder books, and responds with "oh yeah there's good money in that." She then sends me to B. Daltons. They don't have it either. I am in a college town where 68% of the adults have college degrees and nearly 25% have MA or higher and I cannot find a copy of Ulysses. I'm not looking for a cultural analysis of sexual roles of Tuvan throat singers, or lyric poetry celebrating lemon yogurt...just a copy of a fairly well known novel. Exasperated I say to the manager of B. Dalton's (and really this isn't his fault), "Are you telling me that a town of 120,000 people has three and only three bookstores?" Again not his fault, but he responds calmly, "Yes."

So this is my Bloomsday. But wait, there's more. Later this evening because of a meeting I must attend I am back in the book district. All three are within 2 blocks of one another in various strip malls. I decide to stop into B. Dalton's just to buy something to read. I call my friend Jen. I ask her what she recommends. Which I'll admit is largely unfair because you'd want to give some guidelines. We finally settle on a book by someone Garcia, a Dominican author. I march into the store and begin to search for Garcia. Nothing. Lots of Stephen King. Some sorta trashy looking stuff. No Garcia. Having struck out again, I scour the shelves for things I should have read. I'm in the buy something, anything mode. I settle on three leading contenders--The Crying of Lot 49 by Pynchon. I've never read anything by him, but my smart friends Mark and Garrett have...and like I said they're smart, so maybe his books made them smart. I also consider Skinny Legs and All a book by Tom Robbins which FC and FCH highly recommended that first night we all went drinking. And I pick up Breakfast of Champions by Vonnegut. Never read Vonnegut. I'm always being told to read Vonnegut. So I select the Vonnegut book and prepare to check out. At the counter the checkout woman, who has not been party to my various mishaps and failures in book buying asks the innocent question: Did you find everything okay? I respond "no." I say, "no this is the second time today I've tried to find a book and struck out. I found this other book, and I'm sure it's great, but to honestly answer your question, no, I couldn't find several things I hoped to buy." She was shocked but laughed. So it was fine. And thus the sun sets on my Bloomsday. I'm sure I'll like Vonnegut, and it's far more likely that I'll finish it. But still, 120,000 people and three sorry bookstores. Sigh.

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