Sunday, October 11, 2009

the lost symbolism

On Friday, I carefully engineered a casual stroll into a bookstore. Most of us have done the carefully casual ensemble and the carefully casual interest thing, but this was a first for me.

I walked purposefully past the cash counter to the fiction section, then stopped by at the humour aisle, and spent a purposeful 90 seconds skimming over travel. After a respectable amount of time on non-fiction and discounted books, I walked back past the cash counter to study the new releases.

That’s untrue. I studied one new release. Still untrue. I already knew what the cover looked like and what the back and fly leaf said, so it was more a grab with a shifty look around.

And then I felt like a fraud.

Like the near obscure author who when questioned about his literary favourites, sneered that he didn’t read the likes of Chetan Bhagat. Or like the people in the audience who tittered in agreement. (Months after the episode, Bhagat continues to occupy the best seller shelves, and the obscure author continues to be just that. Obscure. I like to think I helped the situation in a tiny way by not buying a copy of his book).

Or like all those people who when seen with pulp fiction, launch into an explanation about taking a break between two profound literary masterpieces. Or about needing mindless entertainment on long flights.

All the film makers who turn up their noses at academy award winners. It’s just politics, they say.

The stick figures on the big screen who claim to eat like the rest of us.

University toppers who claim not to have spent enough time studying.

Chee. There are enough of those in the world.

I carried the book to the cashier and slapped it on the counter.

“Oh, you’ve bought the new Dan Brown have you?” A woman who was next in line purred at me. She was wearing an expensive dental job and a priceless smirk.

“Yes” I answered with more enthusiasm than was strictly necessary. “I enjoyed his earlier books, and can’t wait to start this one.”

“Yeah, he’s … well… interesting”, she said. “But I think I’ll wait for the paperback”.

“You’ll wait six months” I answered, feeling the smirk transfer itself to my face.

A couple of browsers turned to eavesdrop openly.

I smiled and nodded at them all and left the bookstore with my new book.