15 February 2009

Remembering Updike at the register

Permit me to parade my own ignorance once more: When I was away last weekend, as is my custom, I went into a few bookstores. Well, if you count airport varieties, six to be exact. Of those six, only one seemed to have any interest in selling more Updike in the wake of the announcement of his passing -- and maybe it was just coincidence that THE WIDOWS OF EASTWICK was in the front next to other new hardcovers like 2666.

I browsed at two airport bookstores (large and small), 2 branches of 1 indie secondhand bookstore, 1 major chain and 1 major secondhand chain. I pray you believe me when I say I absolutely did not intend to do this research, it was just a lark. (Also I only bought two books among all these stops, and please, where is my damn medal?) One of the indie secondhand bookstores had the best selection of Updike, but you had to go all the way to the back corner to find him properly alphabetized. The small airport bookstore didn't have any; the large one had WIDOWS up front and TERRORIST in the fiction section. The major chain couldn't compete with the secondhand in terms of stock, but it was the only bookstore to have the one I would have bought if I were starting a study of Updike, RABBIT, RUN. (Maybe people in my line of thinking bought out the copies at the other locations.)

I don't think it would be disrespectful to set up a shelf, tag it "Honoring Updike" and have it where casual visitors like me would see it first. I happened to notice at the major chain the display of a writer who is not dead but whose health is a matter of discussion with all of his books -- Philip Roth. My shoppin' buddy asked what book I (though no Roth scholar) would start with, and I noticed the cover turned out on the Roth shelf was THE DYING ANIMAL from 2001. THE DYING ANIMAL is the third in a series, but it was made into a movie last year (with applicable tie-in edition last year. So are browsers more likely to buy the one with Ben Kingsley's name on the cover? They must be banking on it. (I suggested GOODBYE, COLUMBUS, which I prefer over PORTNOY'S COMPLAINT, by the way.)

1 comment:

Emily said...

The day Updike died I went to my local indie/used bookstore and their U section in the literature had a huge gap in it... I realized they had set them all up on the front counter next to the register. I thought it was kind of weird... like way to jump on that quickly! Then a couple days later I was in a Borders and the only thing they had in stock was "Terrorist." Meh. All I have of his is Gertrude and Claudius (unread) and a $1 thrift store copy of Rabbit is Rich which I loaned to my dad.