These are snatches of conversation overheard in a bookstore. We begin by the bestsellers.
``This is how I'm going to make my fortune. I'm going to get my book published in a red cover, a blue one, a yellow one, and a green one, and then wait.''
The conversation partner says, ``For what?''
A raised finger indicates this plan is labelled genius. ``Because then when customers come wandering in saying, `I saw this book about six months ago, I remember it had a red cover', the clerks will know where to send them. And with a cover in all the big colors, if the customer got confused and thinks she saw a blue cover instead, that's fine, I still get the sale.''
``Right, and what would the book be about?''
``It doesn't matter! It's all in the cover. Plus, all the book store workers are going to love me for giving them the red-cover book.''
A slow head shake. ``But you'll get your royalties six months late too.''
We move toward Humor, where a customer can't find a non-red book, but has found one of the clerks, who has not found how to escape. The store should add occasional chimes to the PA system so clerks can use that as pretext to retreat to the store room.
``Could you check in the back room, though?''
``I could, but I'm really positive we haven't got any Sniglets books.''
The customer pats the shelf, where the Garfield books have woven themselves together with the books of many other comic strips. ``But I remember it wsa right here.''
``They haven't even made a Sniglets book in, like, 25 years. This store's only ten years old.''
The customer nods. ``Maybe it was a different store, but it was right here.''
``I'm sorry, you have to try a used book store. I know a good one on Route --- ''
``I can understand not having it on the shelf, but why wouldn't you keep one in back just in case? It's not like they're going to spoil.''
The clerk breathes with unfelt patience. ``There's a lot of books made the last 25 years. We can't keep them all.''
``It's such a small book ... [ Sigh ] I'll try online, but you know: this is why bookstores are dying.''
We drift to AV, where shiny discs are sold by a separate cashier who has transparent plastic bags. A customer explains the latest sign of our entire and imminent doom.
``Who would buy a DVD of baseball bloopers? I can understand watching sports bloopers that happen to be on. Buying two hours of bloopers to watch as many times as you like: how many times can that be? Twice? Ever? How much enjoyment can someone get from watching a player miss an easy catch? How many flopped catches just in the DVD's full run? And who'll watch all this again? And yet someone clearly believes there is a market for this because there are twelve copies of this in just this store. How many are in just the bookstores of this nation? Either there are unspeakable thousands of people accepting this as entertainment or the entire manufacturing and marketing and purchasing departments of multiple nationwide businesses have collectively --- ''
The customer addresses an audience entirely imagined, or eavesdropping, the latter only to hear how long this eulogy for civilization can go on. It bids fair to go on longer than the Byzantine Empire. Over to Classics, where one customer has dressed in too many layers in a look which might be described as ``pretending to be academic'' and lecturing a partner who might be described as ``present''.
``Edith Hamilton's observation the ancient Greek feared infinity is interesting, but an absence from their pantheon strikes me. The gods named a Greek for every facet of the human experience, every emotion, yet they had no representative for irony. Shush, shush, I know you want to say Nemesis, but she was of divine retribution, not the ordinary irony permeating life. Can irony be something humans have recognized only in the past thousands of years?''
``Who was the god for getting your words mixed up?''
This is why bookstores are wonderful.
Trivia: Manganese was found in ox bones in 1808, in human bones in 1811, and in human blood in 1830. Source: Molecules At An Exhibition, John Emsley.
Currently Reading: The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History Of Empire And War, James Bradley.