Weekly Bookstore Jamboree – Week 3: Suburban Trifecta October 17, 2008Posted by LHK in Atlanta, bookstores.
Bookstores visited: Barnes and Noble – North Point Parkway in Alpharetta; Waldenbooks – North Point Mall; Borders – Peachtree Rd. in Buckhead
What I bought: Paper Towns, by John Green (at Borders)
What other people bought: At Borders Buckhead, I stood in line for about 10 minutes waiting to check out. One register was occupied by two people who were buying a tall stack of DVDs, a bunch of chocolate bars, and two crossword puzzle books. The other register was taken up by a guy trying to exchange one copy of a coffee table book about African-American hairstyles for another copy of the same book. The DVD people were really amusing. For one thing, who buys DVDs at Borders? The idea that they might have won a “get 20 free DVDs from Borders” contest seemed more plausible than the idea that they were actually buying them with their own money, for their own entertainment. A price check on The Happening was needed. The ladies started eating their chocolate bars while still waiting to pay for their haul.
What I looked at: Plenty. The YA section at the Barnes and Noble was surprisingly massive, especially the shelves devoted to new books. I looked at C.K. Kelly Martin’s I Know It’s Over, which is supposed to be devastating in that most compelling of ways. Kelly Link’s Pretty Monsters was prominently displayed; I really want to read that one, even though it veers way out of my usual fiction-reading territory. On the front table, I looked at a new Anne Roiphe memoir about what happened after she placed a personal ad in a literary journal. I browsed the bargain books. At Borders, the light over the YA section continued to flicker.
What other people looked at: At the front table in Barnes and Noble, a couple lingered over the stack of copies of The Big Necessity: The Unmentionable World of Human Waste and Why It Matters. The woman kept saying things like, “I just can’t — I can’t believe this book exists!” The man went on about the creative ways in which China was recycling its human waste. The woman fingered the top hardback on the stack as though the book itself may have been constructed from human waste in some small way.
The Alpharetta Barnes and Noble is a store I know well. It sprung up in 1993, along with a whole mess of other stuff along North Point Parkway — the mall, a movie theater, and two strip malls that together span the length of the road. It’s your typical ridiculous but all too familiar American shopping corridor, but in 1993, so much of it was new. The stadium-seating movie theater. The mega-bookstore. And – gasp – one of the first Starbucks locations in metro Atlanta. My parents’ house is right around the corner from all of this; I was 13 at the time it was built, and at the time it all seemed very shiny and full of promise. One day, I thought, I would be 16 and I would have a car and I would drive my friends there, and we would all sit around at Barnes and Noble and sip coffee and talk about books. Such were my tweenage fantasies. (I suppose it’s worth mentioning that my eventual car was a 1990 Geo Prizm that I ran straight into a Chevy Suburban the seventh time I tried to drive it to school. The red welts on the side of my face that resulted from said collision didn’t much help with the friends factor.) At 13, I went to the new Starbucks in a blue babydoll dress and ordered a Frappuccino. I took as many sips as I could stand before handing it over to my friend. I don’t think she liked it much, either. To this day, I really don’t care for desserts masquerading as coffee drinks. Just give me my black coffee brewed at home, please.
Of course, before the days of the metro Atlanta chain mega-bookstore were the days of the metro Atlanta chain mall bookstore. Waldenbooks is a dying breed. It once occupied prime real estate in North Point Mall, but in recent months it’s been shuttled back to the Sears hall, cowering behind an escalator and playing submissive to Spencer’s Gifts, its upstairs neighbor. Its former space was taken over by H&M, and, actually, I was surprised that Walden had bothered to relocate rather than just vacate. Anyway, the place looks exactly like every other Waldenbooks I have ever known, from the 80s onward. It was very quiet, save for a reunion between a retired teacher and her former student going on at the register. (This was very sweet.) For a minute I thought I was the only other one in the store, but then I discovered the type of folks that lurked in the aisles. The YA aisle was an uncrossable gauntlet of silent teens reading manga. And in the cookbooks aisle, a white-bearded man wearing overalls frumpily made himself at home while he read about crock-pot cookery.
Next week I’ll be going to Little Shop of Stories in Decatur to see JOHN GREEN (!!!!!).