Wednesday, September 15, 2010

For whom the bell tolls

Today I read an article in the New York Times about a sidewalk bookseller, Charles Mysak, in New York City: In Bookstore's Demise, No Joy for Sidewalk Seller.

A four-story Barnes & Noble is closing in the same area as Mysak and the article explores his determination to maintain his sidewalk business, despite lackluster sales for both him and booksellers in general. There's something beautiful and heartbreaking when someone or something is feverishly trying to hold on to a tradition, practice, or lifestyle when changes are whirling around them. It can be bad, of course, but sometimes, it's just good.

As mentioned many times before, I love love books, especially used books. This man's story has been in my head all day. Checking my email accounts. Watching a movie in HD. Downloading new songs on my iPhone. Turning it all off to curl up with one of my latest used books. He has a passion for knowledge and a devotion to the written word in an age where faster, smaller, shinier is deemed better more often than not. Says Mysak:

"It is apparent that we have a real serious issue, that the life of the mind has been in decline for some time now. ... Ignorance and indolence is the primary problem. If you take care of the mind, everything else follows."

I want to go find his stand and buy out his stock and give books to random people on the street. If they'd rather read it on their iWhatevers, they can pass it along to someone else. Until it finds someone who wants it as it is, who wishes things could be just a tad more simple. Not better, not worse, just simpler.

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