Monday, January 17, 2011

Borders, Henrietta, New York, 2009

Borders is dying. I'd like to add one more tack to its cardboard coffin. The worst Borders I've encountered -- and since I often travel to small cities without many bookstores, I've been to a lot -- was in Henrietta, NY, an upscale suburb outside of Rochester. To the best of my knowledge, there are no more independent new bookstores in the Rochester area. Borders has taken over a metro area of 1 million people and slowly deprived it of books. The Henrietta store was a case in point. I went in to pick up a copy of The Paris Review. No copies. Sold out? No, said the clerk, they didn't carry that "magazine." Curious, I went back to the lit journal section. What did they carry? Alaska Quarterly Review. Antioch Review. Bellevue Review. Callaloo. Denver Quarterly. Detect a pattern? That's right -- they'd ordered literary journals by picking randomly, A, B, C. I don't think they got further than F.

I asked to speak to a manager. She met me between the fancy chocolate counter and the comic book rack. I asked if she might consider ordering The Paris Review. No, she said, smiling, they had a good selection of "story magazines" already. Look, I said, I'm not really a fan of The Paris Review myself, but it's part of the landscape. Skipping it in a lit journal section would be like skipping Faulkner in the fiction section. Love him or hate him, you gotta have him. She smiled and said nothing. "Faulkner?" I said again, testing.

"Would you like to look that author up?" she asked.

Don't bother, I said. I bought the latest Astonishing X-Men and left.

Borders didn't like books, and book buyers didn't like Borders. I'd say good riddance, but the sad fact is that with its death a lot of people will lose even the chance to buy X-Men and Twilight. What's left?