Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Editorials: Where I rant to the wall about politics. And sometimes the wall rants back.

Bookstores and political discourse

Jerry Stratton, December 26, 2005

If you hang out with me long enough on-line or off, I eventually give you my rant about how music stores categorize music: a small but significant part of the music I buy doesn’t easily fit into categories. Further, some of my favorite artists cross genres but music stores generally leave them shelved in whatever category they think the artist belongs in, rather than the category I think they should be in based on the one or two songs I heard. The point of the rant isn’t that music stores are dumb and I’m smart, but that it would be a lot easier to find these artists if there was no genre-based shelving in music stores.

This is one of the reasons why, when I’m looking for something on the fringes of genre, I go to Amazon first, and then only go to local stores if I don’t like the prices I find there or if the album is no longer available new. But that’s not what I came to tell you about. I came to talk about politics, and how to find political writing in bookstores.

I walked down to Border’s today to look for a collection of essays by George Orwell and a collection of essays by H. L. Mencken. The most obvious section seemed to be the one titled “Politics”. There I could find essays by Michael Moore and Michael Medved; there were books by Michelle Malkin, Dick Morris, and Trent Lott. Chomsky and Nader were there, as were Marx and Engels. There was even Ruth Kinna’s Anarchism: A Beginner’s Guide. If I had wanted to purchase historical works, Thomas Paine was there, as were the Federalist Papers.

I could even have purchased The Gnostic Gospels of Jesus and Nineveh and Its Remains. Honestly, they look fascinating (especially the latter), but unless there is some secret message there, they were probably misshelved.

But no trace of either Orwell or Mencken.

I eventually tracked Orwell’s essays down: they were in the fiction section, next to Orwell’s novels. Now, I’m not saying this is wrong, per se, but it clearly isn’t exactly right, either. Mencken I couldn’t find at all. According to their online catalogue, there was no H.L. Mencken in stock. If he had been, his essays would have been shelved under either Philosophy or History (United States). I’ll probably pick up either The Vintage Mencken or Prejudices: A Selection at Amazon.

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