Yesterday I bought twenty novels at the library book sale. I bought The Tortilla Curtain by TC Boyle and two books by Elizabeth Bowen. I bought Zorba the Greek, House of Sand and Fog, The Temple of My Familiar. I bought three books by one of my favorite writers, Kent Haruf. I bought Dorothy West, Raymond Carver, James Elroy and Katherine Porter. I bought a book by Louis de Bernieres, author of one of my favorite books, Birds Without Wings. I bought essays by Ursula Le Guin and letters from my hero, Flannery O’Connor. The books cost only one or two dollars each.
I felt a little guilty about this. I’ve been getting more and more irritated by the market in cheap books. People who wouldn’t think of shopping at Walmart, because they understand the connection between money spent and things that happen in the world, don’t think twice about never spending a penny they don’t have to for books. Who do they imagine supports books, if not book lovers? How do they think publishers decide which books to publish, if not through book sales? I’m being self-serving, but — every book you buy is a vote, it’s a vote that counts. It’s a way of saying to a publisher– we like this. We want more of it.
I’m on a peace listserv, and recently there were posts between some of the members about one of Chomsky’s books. It was the book that Hugo Chavez held up in front of cameras on the news. Some people in the group wanted to read it, and there was a big discussion about how to get ahold of the book– the library had a copy but it was checked out, someone had one copy they could loan, maybe they could find a used copy, etc. For crying out loud, go buy a copy. Not because Chomsky needs the 80 cents he’ll get from the sale, but because your purchase tells the publishing world– we want this. We’ll pay for it.