"Fathomless Stupidity" and November Noir

Ash_MalindaLoYesterday, I went in to buy Malinda Lo’s Ash. It’s a relatively new book, or at least I thought so. After all, Lo is still doing book tours. You’d think her hardback might still be on the shelves.

Now usually it’s not my habit to purchase a new book unless it’s something I’m really excited about, and I was very, very excited about a lesbian take on Cinderella. Enough, I’m embarrassed to say, to break my previous vow on this blog to read only the stack of unread books glaring from the living room shelves.

I went into Barnes and Noble in Irvine. Probably Orange County’s most depressing chain book store; Irvine’s B&N is a the kind of dim halogen mall hole where fathers read “Rapture Ready” aloud to their children, and the latest idiocy a la “Why do Men have Nipples?” is prominently displayed.

But I was determined. I looked in sci-fi, in fiction, in YA. Nothing, until hope draining, I slogged up to the counter and asked the clerk, who said, “We do have one copy, I think.”

We returned to the YA section,but the book was still not there. “Hmm,” he said, “Let me check in the back. It might be being shipped back to the publisher.

Huh?

I was just in time, it seemed. After a few minutes, he appeared from the back room, that last copy in hand, rescued from the shredder.

“But, why were you shipping it back?” I asked.

“Got to make room for new books,” he said.

Maybe my eyes aren’t very good, but this book looked new and shiny. It had a dust free jacket and a September 2009 publication date on the inside.

And there was only one left.

I could go into all sorts of Orange County conspiracy theories, that a lesbian-themed fairy tale for teens might be targeted in a bookstore with umpteen mega churches within a ten block radius. But as Ursula Le Guin remarked in a Jan, 2008 issue of Harper’s, it’s probably more that “the stupidity of the contemporary, corporation-owned publishing company is fathomless.”

If a title that was supposed to sell a lot doesn’t “perform” within a few weeks, it gets its covers torn off—it is trashed. The corporate mentality recognizes no success that is not immediate. This week’s blockbuster must eclipse last week’s, as if there weren’t room for more than one book at a time. Hence the crass stupidity of most publishers (and, again, chain booksellers) in handling backlists.

This is far worse than any conspiracy I could dream up. If you’re a lonely adolescent living in Orange County, surrounded by squealing, dimwit fans of Twilight and questioning your sexuality, good luck. Your own vampire romances are being shipped back to the publisher by virtue not of homophobia, but lack of instantaneous profits.

But don’t worry, homophobia will always be there to limit even more of your reading options. I’m talking to you Scholastic, now that you’re in the business of blatantly censoring LGBT children’s books.

Now on to November Noir.

“I met him a corral. He had the jump but I guess hate made me fast.”

RanchoNotorious

This movie killed me. Marlene Dietrich riding piggy back on a cowboy in a saloon, that crazy ballad about the legend of “Chuck-a-Luck.” Do you mean dog food or a defunct sporting goods store?

Actually the song narrates a great Johnny Guitar style piece of Western Noir, referring to a game of chance. Fritz Lang, in fact, wanted to call it “Chuck-a-Luck” but was stopped by Howard Hughes who argued that European audiences wouldn’t understand. Lang retorted that neither would they get the name “Rancho Notorious.”

This movie is insane! See it!

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2 Responses to “"Fathomless Stupidity" and November Noir”

  1. Helen Corcoran Says:

    That’s… unbelievable and a little mind-boggling to me. I work in a bookstore in Ireland and we’re not allowed to return anything before three months has passed since it came in. Even if a book hasn’t sold particularly well in three months, we usually leave one copy of it on the shelf, just in case someone wanders in looking for it. I was under the impression that bookstores in the UK follow the same idea as most of the publishing distributors we deal with are based there.

    Bookstores in the US must have a different returns policy, then. Now it makes more sense to me when authors encourage their readers to really try and buy their book within the first two weeks of publication. While I know that strong sales in the first few weeks always looks good, I used to think, Well, even if sells steadily within the first month or so, it should be okay and kept in stock. Clearly not, if your experience is anything to go by. It’s really a frightening thought.

    • organictriffidfarm Says:

      Hi Helen,
      I’d read about it, but it was my first time experiencing it first hand. Come to think of it though, I probably wasn’t paying attention. I’d always leave bookstores complaining that there wasn’t much selection or diversity, particularly for genre, but if they’ve been sending all the last copies of new authors back, it all makes sense. (anvil drops)
      It’s a crazy system. Ireland sounds much better.

      Le Guin’s article gives more detail on the situation. Here’s a link if you’re interested.
      http://idly.org/post/46439513/staying-awake-notes-on-the-alleged-decline-of-reading

      Thanks for stopping by! (:

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