I think I was meant to be born before the internet. I feel this every two weeks when I remember that Snapchat exists and open it to find long-forgotten snaps, to which I dutifully reply although their jokes are so dead.
I felt it today when I tried to go to Barnes & Noble. I was out running errands and realized with delight that one of said errands would take me next door to the book store. I had cozy visions of wandering the shelves, the air buzzing with literacy and proof that people do get books published.
I wasn’t planning to buy anything, but I did need to check on a few things. See, I’ve been listening to audiobooks (hi, endless commute!) and though they are rescuing me from certain misery, they leave me just a teaspoon unsatisfied. I recently finished The Underground Railroad. It was so brutal and yet so poetically written, I felt I needed to see the words, as though somehow my ears’ attention wasn’t adequate respect to the author. Before that I listened to Hillbilly Elegy, which was fascinating but left me with a nagging question — how does the author spell his wife’s name? He pronounces it “oo-shuh.” Usja? OOSHA? I have googled to no avail. And suddenly, although she is among the most minor of characters, she is the only one I’m left thinking about. My eyes needed answers!
And so I walked out of errand #1 with much anticipation, approached Barnes & Noble to find a horrifying sight: closed doors with ugly white stickers spelling, “NEW RETAILER COMING SOON.”
I stood there for a solid minute, not wanting it to be true. Was there some sort of misunderstanding? Had they merely switched locations? It’s the year 2017 and I’ve had what, a decade to get used to book stores going under? It’s not like I haven’t seen You’ve Got Mail, but what happens when The Shop Around The Corner AND Fox Books go down?
I felt genuine sadness. I wanted to hold Cora’s story in my hands and I NEED TO MAKE SENSE OF YOU, OOSHUH!
The worst part was knowing that I am complicit in Barnes & Noble’s demise; I had no intention of purchasing anything today — I already did so, through the internet. The internet made it possible for me to not only purchase both stories without having to leave the house but listen to them, while I drove. Without the internet I likely wouldn’t have had (read: made) time to read them. Without the internet I couldn’t be complaining to you now!
And yet the internet has taken away my cozy, neighborhood Barnes & Noble. It has filled, but not satisfied my yearning to read books. It has made life easier and yet so much less.
I pulled out my phone to snap a photo of the closed book shop to my Story (crying emoji, angry emoji, book emoji), but decided against it.
I hate you, I love you, dear Internet.