Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Proust and Pynchon

How can a book trader admit they have never heard of Marcel Proust?
The conversation went like this...
the shopper (me): Do you have any books by Proust?
the store owner: Who?
the shopper: Marcel Proust
the store owner: Is he a philosopher?
the shopper: He's usually categorized under literature or classic literature.
the store owner: What has he written?
the shopper: Remembrance of Things Past
the store owner: I never heard of him, is he modern?
the shopper: Never mind. Do you have any books by Pynchon?
the store owner: (walking over to the science fiction section) Who?
the shopper: Thomas Pynchon
the store owner: Never heard of him either. Sorry.
the shopper: Thanks anyway.

I have been trying to downsize my library this summer and randomly frequenting various book traders in New Jersey. Believe it or not, there are only a handful and they are too picky or a rip off. Unfortunately, most store owners are also way too pretentious to be of any help or completely clueless. The above conversation is an example of the later.

Why is it that Proust and Pynchon, who are constantly mentioned in the literary world, are unknown to this store owner? Both names rolled off my tongue like Hemingway and Faulkner and I was flabbergasted when I received a "deer in the headlights" stare from this so called reader. I almost wished she were arrogant and corrected my pronunciation of Proust. A few years back a book trader did just that and I thought I was going to throw a shelf of books on him. So, my quest for the perfect book trader continues. One both educated about their product and willing to give at least a dollar credit for a hard cover trade in. Happy reading!