Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Book this Steal

Fascinating piece about shoplifting, for anyone who's ever worked in, or haunted, independent bookstores:

In my eight years working at an independent bookstore, I lost count of how many shoplifters I chased through the streets of Seattle while shouting "Drop the book!" I chased them down crowded pedestrian plazas in the afternoon, I chased them through alleys at night, I even chased one into a train tunnel. I chased a book thief to the waterfront, where he shouted, "Here are your fucking books!" and threw a half-dozen paperbacks, including Bomb the Suburbs and A People's History of the United States, into Puget Sound, preferring to watch them slowly sink into the muck rather than hand them back to the bookseller they were stolen from. He had that ferocious, orgasmic gleam in his eye of somebody who was living in the climax of his own movie: I suppose he felt like he was liberating them somehow.

The author (Paul Constant -- or is that a nom de plume? It sounds suspiciously Bunyan-esque) writes that there is a remarkably consistent list of preferred steals from indy bookstores. "The coin of the realm is now, and has always been, the fiction that young white men read, and self-satisfied young white men, the kind who love to stick it to the man, are the majority of book shoplifters."

I wonder if the list is consistent nationwide -- Constant is in Seattle -- or in the big chains. I used to know a woman who had worked in the local Borders over the holiday rushes and she told me the most stolen book there was the Bible. There's also a radical strain in some evangelical coteries that could believe nobody has the power to make you pay for the Word of God.