Wednesday, October 5, 2011

O Borders! My Borders!

I mourn Borders today. The one time bookstore titan was neither noble nor kind. Over the last fifteen years, it destroyed legions of mom and pops around the country. It served coffee and lattes while hawking pillows and CDs. Those who ran the company seemed largely ambivalent to the written word - an insulting slap in the face to the true book lovers of America.

So why am I sad? After all, I believe in karma and karma really stuck it to Borders. Yet at the end of the day, I love books. Real books. Hold-'em and smell-'em kind of books. I like bending the corners, making notes in the margins, and stacking them endlessly on my bookshelves.

The demise of Borders reflects a shift in how we access our literature. Kindles and iBooks are this generation's Borders and Barnes & Nobles. The implication is clear: paper books are dead or dying.

"Our fearful trip is done."

As I attended the wake of Borders a few weeks ago at the Orland Park store, it was hard to not take notice of the traditional bookstore archetypes: the middle-aged newly divorced woman in the self-help section, the geeky 30-year-old comic book reader who lives in his mom's basement, the eccentric college professor growing frustrated when employees don't know how to spell Nietzsche. They were all there, paying their last respects and picking up a few 80% off deals.

I of course fall into the most offensive of bookstore archetypes: the poser. I am equally happy reading Graham Greene or People Magazine. True literary types hate me, but I am what I am.

"The ship has weathered every rack, the prize we sought is won."

So where does this leave the mom who refuses to read her books with something that requires batteries? All of my batteries are tied up in Leapsters and remote control cars. I will not give in. I am a proud tree-killer when it comes to how I want to view my poetry or tragic memoir. I crave the satisfaction of turning a page. Of slamming shut the final chapter. Of throwing a book across a room to make a point.

Exactly two blocks from where I live on the southside of Chicago (2419 W. 103rd) is a tiny little used bookstore crammed with people and the written word. They offer store credit when you decide you're never going to read that John Grisham thriller your Nana gave you for Christmas. Its name is Bookie's.  I call it my salvation:

"From fearful ship, the victor ship, comes in with object won."
So I toast today the demise of one of the largest Mega Bookstores the world has ever known. I also raise my glass to Bookie's, in hopes that its fate is also in the hands of karma. 

The king is dead.  Long live the king.

(All of the picture quotes are from Walt Whitman's "O Captain! My Captain!"  The poem is really about the death of Abe Lincoln, but I have a history of stretching applicability when it suits my needs.  So here's to Walt, Abe, and any poser archetypes out there who aren't ashamed to read about the Kardashians.)


  1. Oh where do I start? Kindles dont require batteries... Its rechargeable and has an optional nifty light so you won't wake joe at night. Kindle has FREE books!! Yes and many are quite good. I would think you would love that one! Finally, you can take notes on a kindle too. As a fellow english major, I love the feel of a book, but I still buy my kids books. It's Kindle for me!! (PS I'm doing a new years resolution, 52 books in 52 weeks and I would never have a chance without kindle) xoxo


  2. Are you saying you didn't like the book Nana gave you?

  3. Marianne-what a great post! I am with you all the way about the physical book.
    I used to work in the Borders warehouse which did nothing to endear me to the company, but I don't want to see a bookstore go down.
    I also love Graham Greene....
    But not Kardashians.

  4. Robyn - I can't do it. Maybe one day.

    Susan - Shhh. Not a word to Nana!

    Gweenbrick - C'mon. You got to give the Kardashans a chance. It's like watching aliens.

  5. the bookies is great, i recall that when borders open the owner thought it was over for him,hes still here and box store borders gone.