April 2, 2012

April 2, 2012

Things I’ve Read: The Last Bookstore in America

The Last Bookstore in America came to me as a free eBook from Amazon. See, they’ll occasionally discount eBooks for one reason or another, at which point I snap them up if they pique my interest. Lots of Titanic-themed books lately, for obvious reasons. The occasional historical drama (which I often get) or romance novel (which I never get). It’s a good way to build a backup library for those times when Metro starts on fire and it takes me two-and-a-half days to get home.

Ironically, this book is set in a world where something called the Gizmo (like an iPhone, I believe) has reduced the number of bookstores in America to the double digits, then to the single digits. Including the Firebreathing Dragon in Eureka, California. When its owner dies (right at the start of the book), his nephew inherits the store and a dilapidated house. Whose caretaker, by the way, is actually growing marijuana in the giant garden. And has been for quite some time.

It turns out the Firebreathing Dragon isn’t really about books. It does $1 million in sales a year, sure. But that’s because people don’t buy books. They enter the store, pick a book, pay for the book, and get the book and a little something extra in the bag, if you know what I mean.

It may just be my ignorance in these matters, but I didn’t figure out what was going on until quite a ways into the book. Several plot threads were introduced (inheriting of the book store, drug-growing caretaker, semi-corrupt local politician, tobacco executive visiting the town) but not really tied together. A bit confusing.

Much of the book, of course, is about the dramatic irony. We the readers know that the bookstore is dealing, but its new owners don’t. When and how they find out, and what happens next, is quite amusing.

I’m not sure whether the author was trying to link the advent of eReaders and cell phones as the downfall of books and/or society. I hope not. If so, releasing as an eBook is hypocrisy with a capital H, innit? There’s also a bit of an anti-big business and pro-legalization tinge, but I chalk that up to the Left Coast setting. Remember, though, that I’ve spent a total of three weeks in my lifetime west of the Mississippi. As far as I know, everyone in those time zones acts like the characters from Portlandia. In my defense, the book’s author and her husband actually do own a bookstore in Eureka, CA. So there.

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