Same Kind of Different as Me
It can be hard to disagree with the heart and events of this true tale, except for when the movie reveals itself to be mighty…
There is a large electric billboard in the Las Vegas airport, right above luggage area 3, which flashes the following messages, one after another:
Las Vegas Museum of Natural History!
Hands-on for Kids!
Thus it was with a certain anticipation that I returned to the airport, after three days in the unreal city. I was ready for any strange new sight - but there before me in the terminal was a branch of Waterstone's Booksellers, as reassuring as a village rectory.
In the Vegas airport?
You can spot a Waterstone's at 100 paces. The shelves, painted British Racing Green, reach up to the ceiling, the books are and there are real books on them: a full shelf of poetry, for example, right across from the $1 poker machines.
Most airport bookstores specialize in John Grisham, soft-core porn, crosswords and books that tell you How to Live Forever, Become a Millionaire, and Get Lots of Sex. Waterstone's has the complete poems of John Donne.
It is harder to get me past a bookstore than a drunk past a saloon. I bought Robertson Davies' new novel and a collection of poems by Charles Bukowski. On the flight back to Chicago, rummaging through the bag, I found a copy of something called "Op. Cit.," described as "The Waterstone's Newsletter."
As I read it, my eyes grew wide. This is not your average bookstore newsletter, filled with promotional chatter. It defies convention by daring to tell the truth and have opinions. I was so startled by its contents that I looked again at the cover, to be sure it was not an April Fool's joke. Here is some of what it has to say: "We sell a lot of bad books. And more than likely, you've bought one. . . . This past year's The Bell Curve outdistanced them all: A bad book compounded by bad press. Science aside, The Bell Curve was a fairly boring read." On I Want to Tell You, by O. J. Simpson: "Here's what this bookseller thinks about it: The book is a piece of trash; paying O.J. 1 million bucks to help pay Johnnie Cochran is a sick joke; and Little, Brown, of all people, should know better than to associate themselves with such a sleazy enterprise." Sleaze on the shelves: "Look, we do what we can, but with publishing now substantially in the hands of showbiz slickers, trust us, it's going to get worse."
Elsewhere in "Op. Cit." is a list of what Waterstone's thinks are some of the best books now in the stores. By the time I got to it, I was ready for it.
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