The State of Literary Capitalism
On Friday, I went to Barnes & Noble in Middletown to see if the store had one or both of the magazines in which my work currently appears. I couldn’t find any copies of Newport Life, and the two copies of National Review on the rack were two-issues old. Well, I just called to ask whether the new one had come in yet, and the associate with whom I spoke said he hadn’t seen it. With the holidays and all, he told me, magazines don’t receive a high priority.
He was very helpful, so I didn’t get the impression that I was dealing with one of those retail clerks whom Jay Nordlinger calls “little suppressors” (after the bookstore chain The Little Professor; see the email at the end of this Impromptus for the archetype). Nonetheless, the young man on the phone implied that he, personally, would have seen any new issues, and yet I had to tell him what section to look in. (At least, that’s how I took his question, “Have you ever been here before?”)
More suspiciously, as he perused the shelves, he asked, “Do you mean ISR?”
“No, what’s that?”
“The International Socialist Review.”
This same store was the one at which I bought Andrew Sullivan’s Virtually Normal some months ago while researching my NR piece. And oddly enough, the clerk who helped me that time looked none too comfortable standing at my side and scanning the hodgepodge of material — from erotic fiction to social science tomes — in the Gay & Lesbian section. (Silly theocon that I am, I had wasted my time searching the Politics & Government and Social Sciences sections.)