Friday, November 20, 2009

San Francisco Booksellers Won't Carry Going Rogue

You know someone's packing some REALLY powerful intellect when every other post on their blog is a Jon Stewart video. Perhaps it's generational change, where we see a lazy kind of media-induced resistance to hard thinking and analytical reasoning, but it's out there, and not just among hardline netroots denizens. I'm tempted to try to place the willfully ignorant in a corner with those cohorts political scientists identify as post-engagement voters or actualized citizens who channel their political activity through increasingly creative and expressive action rather than the more historically hierarchical, yet socially affirming, mobilizations. But it's more likely that radical leftwing ideology -- with its inherent intolerance of differening opinions and hostility to the vigorous play of ideas -- is the real culprit.

In any case, my thinking here is being driven by the non-shocker of an article at the San Francisco Chronicle, "
Bay Area Not Maverick Enough to Read Palin Book":

It might as well have cooties. Hardly anyone wants to touch the thing, or even get close to it.

The new autobiography by moose hunter and failed vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is harder to find in the Bay Area than a hockey mom. Some bookstores figure it's one of those grit-your-teeth First Amendment deals that principled booksellers must put up with from time to time.

But many nonchain bookstores won't handle it.

"Our customers are thinking people," said Nathan Embretson, a bookseller at Pendragon Books in Oakland. "They're not into reading drivel."

There's not a single copy on the shelf. Embretson said no one has asked for it except for one guy, who was kidding.

"He said he wanted to look at it but he also said he didn't really want to read it," Embretson said. "Anyway, he certainly didn't want to buy it. I think he regarded looking at it as a kind of punishment."

There are no copies of the book at Cover to Cover Booksellers in Noe Valley, either.

"Anything like that we wouldn't carry," said clerk Emily Stackhouse. "We're a small store and it would probably gross us all out. Some things you carry because of freedom of speech, but a book like that is just gross."

One customer did put in a special request for the book one evening but, perhaps thinking better in the light of day, failed to show up and actually pay money for it, Stackhouse said.

Sheryl Cotleur, the head buyer for Book Passage, which operates stores in Corte Madera and San Francisco, said the two stores have sold exactly two copies of the book. That works out to one copy per store. Cotleur said two other people have asked to look at the book but no one else has asked to buy it.

"Nobody around here is particularly interested in her politics or her opinions," she said. "There's a certain curiosity, sure. But I don't think that translates into what people are willing to pay money for."
Now this is not simply a generational thing. Mostly, it's a urban secular-collectivist thing. What's so fascinating, is that when people say they're uninterested in reading about Sarah Palin's life they're really saying that they're hostile to heartland American values, respect for nature, hard work, and individual initiative, and especially the notion of a life of personal responsibility rather than socialistic paternalism.

As I noted last night,
reading Palin's book is taking me back to my own upbringing, and it's making me realize how all-American is the Sarah Palin experience -- and by extension, how historically-rejectionist are those who excoriate her as a backwoods yokel. Palin's family roots are actually in Southern California, and then Idaho. From there her father decided to pick up stakes for the lush wilderness of Alaska. I know if it would've been me and my family -- especially my uncle -- I would've taken right to the rugged life of hunting and fishing and cold nestled-in winters. In Southern California in the 1970s, I spent a lot of time engaged in outdoor activities (including cycling, motorcross, fourwheeling, and shooting). Indeed, most of the action sports popular today (skateboarding and snowboarding, etc.), were acitivities that were pioneered by some of my closest buddies at the time. There was an entreprenuerial work ethic about life, whether that be with extreme-sports, business professionalism, or working as a farm-hand at ranches out by Lake Elsinore.

When Sarah Palin writes of how her future husband Todd Palin earned all his own money as a fisherman and an oil-roughneck, enough to buy his own cars and trucks as a teenager, that's just the kind of inititative that'd be expected in my family when growing up. Perhaps identifying with that kind of lifestyle really is what separates radical leftists from people who are, basically, just really normal folks more so than "conservatives." As my good friend Lynn Mitchell noted last night:

Shooting a gun? Camping with bears? Hiking the wilderness? Those are so foreign to many folks ... but for me it was a freedom-loving childhood just as Donald describes growing up in California, and Sarah Palin describes growing up as part of the Alaskan experience.
And with that clearly comes a greater openness to different values and political ideas than you'll find among the haughty radical hypocrites of the contemporary youth cohort.

It's a shame, really. But folks do wise up with age, and I've been encouraged by how many traditional students I've worked with this semester. No doubt Barack Obama's going to be one term president, and in fact, he's acknowledged the likelihood of that outcome. See, "
Obama Tells CNN – He May Not Run in 2012."

See also, Hot Air, "
Surprise: Many San Francisco Booksellers Refusing to Carry Palin’s Book; Update: Palin Apologizes to Those Whose Books Weren’t Signed." Plus Memeorandum.

10 comments:

fauxpopuli said...

You're right, we're just mad because you're so much smarter than us. When we say, "I have no interest in this woman, I'm as familiar with her as I ever care to get and I'd rather not give her my money because she represents things I disagree with wholeheartedly" it's not an example of your vaunted free market at work. You're completely right and you've seen through us; the real reason we don't buy the book even though we really really want to is because we're desperately trying to express how much we hate Middle America.

I mean, seriously though? This is the level of rationalization you're willing to go through in order to avoid acknowledging that the most likely answer is that it isn't being stocked because it isn't going to sell well in that area? My god, if you're telling me you actually believe this garbage then you have truly disappeared up your own ass. People tend not to want to use their money enriching people they despise - personally, politically or otherwise. If you can't handle the idea that The Hated Liberals don't somehow turn around and reciprocate your adulation for Sarah then the problem is with you. Stop flailing around for a rationalization. It's not a complicated concept. Get over it or at the very least just shut up.

fauxpopuli said...

ps. Please fill in the blank:

If Obama chooses not to run for re-election in 2012 that will mean he is admitting his presidency was a failure. This is different from Sarah Palin quitting before her first term was finished because ________________.

And I know you're not going to say it's because the media was so mean to Palin right? Because I remember when major cable networks spent extended amounts of time speculating on whether or not Palin is actually the mother of her youngest son.

(And in case you're so much smarter than me that attempting to interpret my primitive hieroglyphs is giving you a headache, the point is that the "Trig is actually her daughter's son" story never made it past Andrew Sullivan while CNN and Fox have both spent extended periods of time on Obama's birth certificate.)

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Money said...

A few things:

Having worked in a bookstore, I can tell you the guy who "certainly didn't want to buy it. I think he regarded looking at it as a kind of punishment," actually did want to buy it but he was pretending it was a joke out of fear.

The book sells. We know that. But either these book stores have long ago driven off any potential customers with their arrogant, condescending attitude toward customers, or the customers looked for the book but were too scared to ask for it because they didn't want a confrontation.

These stores have decided who they want their customers to be. But I doubt they've adequately communicated this sentiment to the customers. They should post a sign at the door: "Anyone who would look at or read any book from Sarah Palin is not welcome in our store."

Then, as they think of new authors or topics they consider off limits, they could post those names also. They could build a whole list of customer types they don't want entering their store. Then, just for irony, at the bottom of the posted list they could say boldly, "Our Diversity is Our Strength"

JBW said...

"...the haughty radical hypocrites of the contemporary youth cohort."

Wow, that may be one of the most unnecessarily vocabulary-ridden, pseudointellectual attempted insults I've ever received from a senior citizen, Don. It's like Old Man Douglas is yelling at me to get off his lawn with a thesaurus in his hand.

Having said that, I think we need to address your Stewart Derangement Syndrome...

fauxpopuli, you're right on with your analysis and I quite enjoyed the snark. I think you might dig Brain Rage. Fair warning, though: All I ever post are Daily Show videos and I'm scared to death of Sarah Palin because she's clearly the embodiment of everything that's good and right and super awesome about America, which incidentally I'm trying to destroy by supporting President Obama.

Texan said...

This is the most absurd thing I've ever read.

Palin can tour every cow patch and corn row in every dusty little town chasing her white populist right-wing fantasy but unless she can play well in the big cities and urban areas she is going nowhere.

Dennis said...

Ah the intellectual Left in all its glory on display. When you draw this type of leftist blah, blah blah and caricature then you know your right.

Pat said...

Sarah's laughing all the way to the bank ... and the oh, so "thinking" crowd can't stand it. I don't think she's wasting much time worrying about San Francisco and how they "don't like her." Thanks to the lame stream media, she's got a pretty hard shell now. And she's using the alternative media perfectly. Getting more "street wise" all the time. Looking forward to what she will become on the national stage.

TonyfromOz said...

This will bite them two ways.

For those book stores who don't carry this because they don't agree with the political side of the fence of the author, more fool them. Raw numbers from first day sales place this already as the second highest non fiction release.

The second bite comes from after they see those numbers and then do start to stock the book. What that will prove is that their original stance then gets shown for the hypocrisy it was as they now seek to cash in on the goldmine this book will generate for all book stores.

See how transparency gets clouded. It has nothing at all to do with principle. It'll just be about the money.

TonyfromOz.

Eclectic Radical said...

As a representative of the actual 'far left' I tend to find the ways that the far right characterizes the center-left, center, and even sometimes the center-right as 'far left' somewhere between confusing and humorous.

I live in Northeast Tennessee. What I see here is generational poverty and welfare dependence that a state government insistent on 'personal responsibility' for /decades/ has only managed to make worse at every opportunity to do so. I see people with few economic opportunities abused by corporate employers who know the depressed economy and buyer's labor market gives them feudal power of their workforce.

When I say the 'depressed economy' I mean just that. The recession has not made a great difference here because this region was economically depressed before the bottom fell out of the credit market. It's just more of the same.

It's not just an urban vs rural issue... nor is it just about secularism vs Christianity. It's about a genuine understanding of the way the world actually works versus freshman microeconomics and a stack of preconceived beliefs derived from an experience that is centered on the self.

It's also about a belief in a system of moral values that is community-based rather than family-based. The modern slogan of the right is 'family values.' Family values are important, but we are all brothers and sisters as we are all children of the same father. Those who reap the greatest benefits from the social framework are those who preach the loudest about personal responsibility, blind to their own dependence on others for their own success.