Monday, May 19, 2008

Notes From Barnes and Noble

In my Trotskyist days back in junior high school. I learned a lot from the older comrades. Some had been Socialist Workers Party members back in the fifties. I respect them even now for a willingness to adhere to unpopular opinions in an unimaginably hostile climate. I look at being a Marxist as being a sort of childhood disease which when cured imparts a valuable immunity to political folly. The folly of our times is not permitting the legal dissent of extremists. It is when we start to believe them.
One of the recurring themes in the Socialist Worker's Party and Young Socialist Alliance offices was class bias in the media. According to them, the news pages of a newspaper were an extension of the editorial pages. According to them, the choice of news stories and manner of their presentation had an inherent class bias. A class outlook in the Trotskyist view is as innate to news coverage as blood type is to blood. It is a factor to be recognised in reading history or watching the news.
A secret of ideological combat is taking the truths mastered by one's adversary and incorporating them into one's own world view. The Trotskyists I knew were right on target in diagnosing the bias in media. It was only years later that I met people who had lived in the USSR under Trotsky before his exile and knew of the world for which he strived.
I always used to enjoy going to bookstores with my parents. Today I prefer used books, which give me a feeling of faceless connection to a book's previous owner. My parents used to take us to Paperback Booksmith. I'm not sure if it still exists. A trip to a wisely stocked bookstore today gives me the feeling of walking in my parents footsteps when I go there with my own children . Most of my children do not know their grandparents , having been grown up after their passing.
My last deja vu experience in Barnes and Noble was not of my parents but of my former comrades from my Trotskyist days. On the ground floor are display tables of the most recently published books. I ended up buying a book on the history of the English language "The Mother Tongue, English and How it Got That Way. " I spent thirty annoying minutes in their Starbucks trying in vain to get formerly free wireless internet. I was unable to a story from there with their store as an inspirational backdrop. Prominently displayed in their their featured offerings were two books by Barack Hussein Obama. Also displayed was a title , "The Real McCain, Why Conservatives Don't Trust Him And Indepoendents Shouldn't".
There was a prominence given to Democrats, of whom Obama was the clear favourite. Those conservatives who made the display table seemed to be "spoilers" who might well subtract from Republican support in the November election. I could not fault the general selection of the store or the willingness to order titles not in stock. The sales staff was helpful and seemed to enjoy their work. But the display tables seemed to have been put together by someone who was as much a campaign strategist as a bibliophile.
I mention my observations with no rancour. Barnes and Noble has a right to showcase whatever titles it sees fit. I also have my bias. I will continue to shop with enthusiasm at B&N. They may not showcase my book choices, but they carry them.
The wisdom of my Trotskyist former comrades continues to resonate as I read the coverage of the 2008 campaign . I continue to maintain the "Audacity of Hope" that Mr. and Mrs. Barack Hussein Obama will make enough gaffes between them to enlighten the American electorate.
As David Duchovny says on X Files, "The truth is out there." I believe it is not lost in outer space but on the upper shelves.

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