In light of my earlier blogging on the death of Borders Books and Music, I wanted to point out a wonderfully researched and very poignant article about the closing of the very first Borders store, the original location in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The author, CNN entertainment writer Todd Leopold, goes above and beyond the usual “slice of life” type article, interviewing a number of Borders employees who began with the company back when it had only a single store and was still selling mostly used books. The article manages to be both heartbreaking in its illustration of what the loss of Borders means to some people and, in a way, uplifting to those of us who love books and the world that centers around them, by showing the depth of passion that at least a portion of the population feels for the written word and the culture surrounding it. Great article. I hope you’ll take the time to read it.
(Full disclosure: Dara and I were good friends with Todd Leopold’s mother June when we lived in New Orleans. I never met Todd myself, although Dara used to play with him when they both were kids. June should be very proud of her son for having written this article. Go ahead and kvell, June!)
My last-minute purchases at my local Borders during their final three days in business? I will admit to gorging somewhat (although the lure of 90% off makes it hard not to):
Flashback by Dan Simmons
Masked edited by Lou Anders
The Frozen Rabbi by Steve Stern
The Believers by Zoe Heller
Man in the Woods by Scott Spencer
Pied Piper by Neville Shute
The Breaking Wave by Neville Shute
Shirley Jackson: Novels and Stories (The Lottery / The Haunting of Hill House / We Have Always Lived in the Castle) edited by Joyce Carol Oates for the Library of America
Stone Arabia by Dana Spiotta
Flashman, Flash for Freedom!, Flashman in the Great Game (Everyman’s Library Classics & Contemporary Classics) by George MacDonald Fraser
I hope to get around to blogging on some of these books, once I’ve read them (if I can ever find the time to sit and read!).
There was an odd, stressful, and sad vibe in my local Borders on my final two visits there, to the location in Woodbridge, Virginia. Employees were disassembling the furniture while we customers stood in line with our armloads of books. Three or four rented U-Haul trucks were parked right outside the entrance, being slowly filled with bookshelves and display tables and lighting fixtures. Signs were posted next to the bathrooms stating that the bathrooms were closed; the sinks and toilets had been sold and removed. An employee who caught my three boys wandering through the vast, newly empty spaces of what had been the children’s section begged me to keep them close by me, as “the store is no longer a safe environment, not with everything being taken apart.” So I made them sit near my feet as I maneuvered around the other customers who, like me, were hurriedly scanning the remaining shelves of fiction. They sat on the carpet, played with toy cars, and joked with each other. On our first visit, a woman shot me a scathing look and told her husband, “Let’s get out of here! It’s hot as hell (the air conditioning had been turned off) and those are some of the most obnoxious children I’ve ever had the misfortune to be around.” On our last visit, the following day, another woman, a little younger than the first, told me as we stood in line that she thought my boys were adorable and she loved listening to their conversations with each other; when I told her what the first woman had said, she remarked, “She must’ve had some kind of problem not related to you and your kids at all.”
Maybe she was in mourning for her favorite store?
Whatever. Consider this my (very) modest addition to Todd Leopold’s outstanding article.