Monday, October 19, 2009

Process Stories

Janelle asked me over the weekend how I come up with what I write. It was an interesting time to get that question considering that I have been mulling over tone and voice and things of that nature recently. I have never been much of a blog follower. Oh, sure, I have a whole bunch of cooking blogs, but on the whole, I didn't read for style, only for content. Finding out that so many people I know are writing has made me take more time to read.

I'm not going to go through a long, drawn-out, introspective post because, what I said to Janelle, I'll say to you: I pretty much write this on the fly. I'll be in the bathroom, or on the train, or waiting in line for something, and an idea will crop up. When I get in front of a computer, I write it down, check for spelling and grammar errors, add a link or a photo, and bam. That's it. Not to say that I don't think anyone who takes the time to read what I have to write doesn't deserve a more well-though-out process, but sadly, I'm much better with off the cuff than with premeditation.

Sometimes, though, an idea will come to me and I won't remember to use it on a certain day. Frequently, it can be a timeless idea so I can just use it on a day when inspiration doesn't hit me while I brush my teeth.

Today is one of those days.

Once upon a time, I worked for an educational non-profit. Among the things I have retained from my tenure there was a report on how, at the time, there was not a single large bookstore in the borough of the Bronx, and how that had an impact on the educational opportunities for children living in the Bronx. I just thought it was inconceivable. After all, I grew up directly across the street from a sizable bookstore - didn't everyone?

Devoted partner once lamented the loss of a bookstore on Greenwich Avenue, a mom and pop kind of place that found itself redundant in the wake of I couldn't believe there weren't other bookstores, a big Barnes & Noble on the Post Road. After all, the residents of Greenwich had to read. Even though I do the bulk of my book shopping on line, there are plenty of times I want to go into a store to buy things. And Manhattan boasts an astonishing number of bookstores, big and small.

But devoted partner was right. From White Plains to Stamford is a desert of general interest book stores. There is a Waldenbooks in White Plains, but that's going to be small, like the Border's Express, now shuttered, was on Greenwich Avenue.

Recently, we went into the Borders in Stamford, a store that has been around as long as devoted partner and I have been together, and in which we have passed many a moment. Devoted partner needed a book, I didn't, so I looked for the table up front where the "Books You Should Be Reading" display would be. Confession: half the time, I like those displays because I've read their contents; the other half, I like finding something I hadn't yet read.

But this Borders didn't have that table.

I asked devoted partner about its absence and he said, quite assuredly, that only places like New York, where reading au courant fiction was considered a virtue, kept displays like that. Everywhere else, they weren't a revenue enhancer.

This floored me. Mostly because, contrary to my stereotypes, I haven't met a whole host of vacant people since moving. Sure, in the supermarket I can cast a sideways glance at the clueless, but most of the people, dare I say it, look like me. Which means I think they read books and probably like to be recommended books. Not so, claims devoted partner. My new neighbors read mass-market paperback fiction to the exclusion of other fare.

This seems a patently unfair generalization.

So, I'm going to try something different. I'm going to try being the optimist. Fairfield Countians, tell me your recent reads; complain with me that your local bookstore either a) doesn't exist or b) doesn't have that "Books You Should Be Reading" display. I know you're out there. Be not thou shy. Reading, while fundamental, can also be cool, and there must be something you're reading that is neither Nelson DeMille nor a story about teenage vampires.

And I want to know. Because I just finished a book on a recommendation and need another.

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