Every morning as I prepare to meet my customer - I touch the books, covet them a little, slip them back into their spot on the shelf. But most of all I look at them and love them. All of them. I don’t pretend that I will ever in a million years read them all – but each and every book is a marvel to me: the thoughtfulness of a title, the beautiful architecture in an artfully sewn spine, the sheer beauty in the simplicity of cover art. Some suspiciously similar, all intriguingly interesting in their offerings of possibilities: could be wisdom, maybe joy, pain, hilarity, whatever – but above all they offer up something through words.
I’ve been a bookseller for many years, before this store I worked in a small, lovely and crazy store on
Robson Street, just crowded with books and people. We saw it all – the book thieves, the junkies, the homeless, the stock brokers, the fashionistas, the film stars, the porn addicts, and of course the ones who come in to rail on us about why we carried a certain title, or why we didn’t carry a certain title.
But never has the chill of censorship struck me such a blow so painfully as here, in a university bookstore. During the time over Christmas we discovered that all 3 of our copies of Mindfucking by Colin McGinn, defaced and torn [see our display]. There, of course, is so much I could say to defend this book in particular (including that it is published by Acumen Publishing, an academic press, described in their own words as: “… an independent publisher of academic books and journals in philosophy, classical studies and history of ideas for students, lecturers and researchers in institutions of higher education worldwide”) and to defend any book, really, or even the concept of the book against such treatment, but mostly our “Freedom to Read” display does that for me.
I guess the troubling thing is that someone thinks it is ok to judge for another what is “ok” to read. Not only choosing not to purchase the book – but trying to arrange it so that no one else will purchase it either!
And yet, I still can console myself. We can purchase more of this book (and have), we can put them up front where all can witness (like, right here) we can purchase it, read it, pass it on to a friend, put the book down, walk away.
We can choose.