Thursday, April 22, 2010

Genre Not Genre

I'll admit to it, I have no shame. I used to shop in the store before I starting working for it. Rainy days especially. I'd come in with my brother, buy a stack of books and then head over to the Logan to read and drink by the fire and talk with Philip while he worked the bar. Each trip was the same, especially in Farley's: in the door, turn a hard right and check out the deep-stock of the poetry section. Then down to the middle aisle for the literature. Then the classics. Maybe bio or travel, history or current events, but I'd never make a trip without hitting poetry, literature and classics. But sci-fi or mystery or heaven forbid, true crime? Please, I wouldn't be caught dead in those sections, let alone reading a mass market paperback with the high-gloss cover. Literature, I read literature.

Farley's has humbled me since then. Taking the time to dig through the stacks and most importantly listen to the left-field recommendations of the staff helped turn my head inside out. Literature does not simply exist in the middle aisle or in the poetry section. Some of the best works of literature, especially in the twentieth century, were written and then sold in the sci-fi or mystery/crime fiction genres. Some of the best journalism we've seen is currently sitting in the true crime section. These are books that are so good, so perfect in execution, character and thought that they are elevated above the morass of the potboilers sitting in those genres. These are books that because of their perfections should be filed in that middle aisle. But, because the novels contain an alternate look at our world or future they are marketed by publicists as "sci-fi;" or because they contain a crime they are filed in mystery. Didn't Kurt Vonnegut write about machines, possible futures and science? Didn't Nelson Algren center his National Book Award winning "The Man With A Golden Arm" around a crime? Marketing, it's all done by marketing.

Our job is to turn our customers on to the best books there are. Many of those books are sitting in corners of the store that we unfortunately don't head into. Next time you're in, take the time to dig through the sections you neglect or get a recommendation. We're leaving the books where they're marketed for now, if only to lure you out of your book-searching-comfort-zones. If you want a superb prediction of where we're headed, go through sci-fi. If you want social realism, look for Philip K. Dick or Andrew Vachss. If you need a good biography head into the travel writing section. There's plenty more, plenty more. It's okay, trust us. I did. I'll admit to it, I have no shame.
Farley's Bookshop

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