Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I'm Well Prepared

For a siege, or some sort of run on foreign grocery items. I have no idea why I'm shopping for groceries in such an intense way leading up to this vacation, but there you are. My larder is well-stocked. Though to be honest, I've never been entirely clear on what exactly a larder is. However, my fridge and two cupboards are quite full. I've been an errand running machine and yet I still have a few to go!

You name it, I've got it. It's taken a tour of all the local stores, which carry a small and different variety of black market items from the base - since they all have a few different items, you are forced to shop at all of them. I wonder if they plan that? Then I hit up the stores local to my work, in Ichon. Finally, I finished it off with a trip to Itaewon to pick up some sour cream and about twenty other overpriced foreign goods that I had no idea I even needed. I now own apple sauce, for christ's sake! And rather expensive Mott's Apple Sauce at that.

I also went and bought myself a wee (or not so wee, really) Christmas present - I won a gift certificate for What the Book a couple of weekends ago and I finally went in and spent it. Perhaps I went a bit over the 25,000 - perhaps... I also bought myself some Starbucks coffee - which I consider a staple, as it's cheaper than buying a latte every day, but I did get myself one of the fancy ones I've always mildly coveted. I suspect the only thing that distinguishes this stuff from my normal, cheaper Starbucks coffee is the pretty packaging, but there you go.

While P.T. Barnum may not have been the one to actually say, "there's a sucker born every minute," I sometimes like to go ahead and prove whoever uttered those words right. After all, My excessive book buying is finally saving more than just my mind, which has been slowly atrophying after years of bank jobs and students:
Very useful shopping advice from Roy Blount Jr.

We all know that the retailers are in trouble because of collapsing consumer demand. (For years Americans spent too much; now....) We all know that the automakers domestic and foreign are in trouble because people don't want to buy cars. Real estate is in trouble because people can't or don't want to buy houses. The stock market is in trouble because people don't want to buy stock. And, arguably most ominous for the republic, newspapers are in trouble because people are losing the habit of buying papers.

There is not much any one individual can do about this. I'm not going to buy a new house or car just because it would have useful tonic effect on the market. There are only so many papers I can buy per day. But after the jump, Roy Blount Jr, through the years a frequent Atlantic contributor and current president of the Authors Guild, suggests a voting-with-your-dollars strategy that is within people's means and can make a significant difference.

Starting now, I've changing my Christmas shopping plans based on Blount's tips. The presents he suggests are good ones -- and although I can't visit independent bookshops myself where I am, the ones I like and have shopped at (Elliott Bay, Powell's, Politics & Prose, etc) have web-based order systems. Seriously, this is a good idea -- as are, of course, gift subscriptions to our own magazine.

Blount's letter to Authors Guild members* below.

I've been talking to booksellers lately who report that times are hard. And local booksellers aren't known for vast reserves of capital, so a serious dip in sales can be devastating. Booksellers don't lose enough money, however, to receive congressional attention. A government bailout isn't in the cards.

We don't want bookstores to die. Authors need them, and so do neighborhoods. So let's mount a book-buying splurge. Get your friends together, go to your local bookstore and have a book-buying party. Buy the rest of your Christmas presents, but that's just for starters. Clear out the mysteries, wrap up the histories, beam up the science fiction! Round up the westerns, go crazy for self-help, say yes to the university press books! Get a load of those coffee-table books, fatten up on slim volumes of verse, and take a chance on romance!

There will be birthdays in the next twelve months; books keep well; they're easy to wrap: buy those books now. Buy replacements for any books looking raggedy on your shelves. Stockpile children's books as gifts for friends who look like they may eventually give birth. Hold off on the flat-screen TV and the GPS (they'll be cheaper after Christmas) and buy many, many books. Then tell the grateful booksellers, who by this time will be hanging onto your legs begging you to stay and live with their cat in the stockroom: "Got to move on, folks. Got some books to write now. You see...we're the Authors Guild."

Enjoy the holidays.

Roy Blount Jr.
Authors Guild

The Guild's staff informs me that many of you are writing to ask whether you can forward and post my holiday message encouraging orgiastic book-buying. Yes! Forward! Yes! Post! Sound the clarion call to every corner of the Internet: Hang in there, bookstores! We're coming! And we're coming to buy! To buy what? To buy books! Gimme a B! B! Gimme an O! O! Gimme another O! Another O! Gimme a K! K! Gimme an S! F! No, not an F, an S. We're spelling BOOKS!

* I got this via a friend, Robert Ellis Smith, rather than directly on the mailing list. I have been an AG member for years but, as with countless other details of my personal life, renewal forms etc have disappeared in the mail between the U.S. and China as the years have gone buy. Many strands to re-weave on my return.

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